Beware of False Prophets

Prophecy, as given by the Spirit of God, is a gift and is for the good of believers and unbelievers alike. It is a gift be desired and a gift to be used in the Church. But like all of God’s gifts Satan will try to counterfeit it in the hopes of leading some to destruction. Consequently it behooves us to watch out for false prophets.

*   (Mat 7:15-23 NIV)  "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. {16} By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? {17} Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. {19} Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. {20} Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. {21} "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' {23} Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

 

You might think that identifying a false prophet is an easy thing. If the prophecy doesn’t come true you are dealing with a false prophet. Yes, but the nature of prophecy is that it speaks of events in the future, sometimes years into the future. Another problem is in understanding the prophecy, as in the book of Revelations for example. You can look at the, “Fruits” of the prophet as in verse 20 that I read a moment ago. But then bad people can sometimes do good things.

*   (2 Cor 11:14 NIV)  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

But let’s say the prophecy comes true. Surely this cannot be a false prophet. But the Bible warns against just such a prophetic event.

*   (Deu 13:1-5 NIV)  If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, {2} and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," {3} you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. {4} It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. {5} That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow.

 

Holman’s Bible Dictionary says this: “While the term "false prophet" does not occur in the Old Testament, references to false prophets are clear. The pages of the Old Testament are filled with men and women who fit the description of a false prophet given in Jer. 14:14 (NASB): "The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds." Other examples are in Jeremiah 23:21-33 and Zechariah 10:2. Punishment for prophesying falsely was severe. False prophets were cast away from God's presence and permanently humiliated. They suffered the destruction of their cities (Jer. 7:14-16; 23:39).”

 

“New Testament Jesus and the apostles spoke many times about false prophets. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the marks of a false prophet and the consequences of being one (Matt. 7:15-23). He also cautioned His followers to beware of false prophets who would arise during times of tribulation and in the end times (Matt. 24:11,24; Mark 13:22). He said to be careful when the world loves a prophet's words, because a prophet who is false is apt to be popular (Luke 6:26).

    The apostles instructed believers to be diligent in faith and understanding of Christian teachings, in order to discern false prophets when they arise (2 Pet. 1:10; 1:19-2:1; 1 John 4:1). The tests of a prophet are: 1) Do their predictions come true (Jer. 28:9)? 2) Does the prophet have a divine commission (Jer. 29:9)? 3) Are the prophecies consistent with Scripture (2 Pet. 1:20-21; Rev. 22:18-19)? 4) Do the people benefit spiritually from the prophet's ministry (Jer. 23:13,14,32; 1 Pet. 4:11)?

    Punishments for false prophets were just as severe in the New Testament as they were in the Old. Paul caused a false prophet to be stricken with blindness (Acts 13:6-12), but most other punishments were more permanent in nature. Jesus said the false prophets would be cut down and burned like a bad tree (Matt. 7:19). Second Peter 2:4 describes being cast into pits of darkness. The ultimate punishment appears in Revelation 19:20; 20:10--the false prophet, the beast, and the devil will be thrown into a lake of fire and brimstone and be tormented forever.”

 

You might think the best policy would be to simply ignore prophecy. But that’s not possible. Much of the Bible itself is prophetic! Besides prophecy is a gift from God and so should not be rejected. Consider these scriptures.

*   (1 Cor 12:8-10 NIV)  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, {9} to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, {10} to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

*   (1 Cor 14:1 NIV)  Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

*   (1 Cor 14:22 NIV)  Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.

 

So prophecy is alive and well today. However, false prophecy is still alive also. So beware of false prophets.

*   (2 Th 2:1-3 NIV)  Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, {2} not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. {3} Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

*   (2 Pet 1:20-21 NIV)  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

*   (2 Pet 2:1-3 NIV)  But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. {2} Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. {3} In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

 

But God wants us to know certain things.

*   (Amos 3:7 NIV)  Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

 

The number one reason for prophecy is that the plan of salvation be made known.

*   (Rom 16:25-27 NIV)  Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, {26} but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- {27} to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

 

So be open to prophetic utterances but test them against the Word of God.

1.      Is the prophet in line with the Word of God?

2.      Is the prophecy in conformance to the Word of God?

3.      What purpose does the prophecy fulfill?

*   Greed?

*   Revenge?

*   Ego satisfaction?

4.      Does the prophecy agree with other established prophecy?