False Prophets

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Dt. 13:1-5 π Dt. 13:5 π Jer. 23:16 π Mt. 7:15-20 π Mt. 22:39 π Mt. 24:11 π Jn. 3:5 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 13:34 π Jn. 14:17 π Jn. 16:13 π Jn. 17:20-24 π Acts 5:32 π Acts 16:6-7 π Rom. 8:5-7 π Rom. 8:9; 2nd π Rom. 8:13 π Rom. 8:14 π Rom. 8:15 π Rom. 14:17 π 1 Cor. 2:12 π 1 Cor. 12:4 π 1 Cor. 12:7-9 π 2 Cor. 3:17 π Gal. 3:13 π Gal. 4:6 π Gal. 5:22-23 π Eph. 4:3 π Eph. 4:13 π 2 Ths. 2:11-12 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Tit. 2:1-15 π Tit. 3:5 π Heb. 9:14 π Heb. 10:29 π 1 Jn. 2:21 π 1 Jn. 4:6 π 1 Jn. 5:7 π Jude 16 π Rev. 19:10

Jesus warned that, in the days before His return, "many false prophets will rise up and deceive many." ( Mt. 24:11 ) He had earlier given a description of false prophets when He said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." ( Mt. 7:15-20; top )

When we hear the phrase "sheep's clothing," for some inexplicable reason, we often immediately imagine that the false prophets Jesus is describing will come looking like sheep and that is how they will deceive us. This is not the case. What they come looking like is a well-dressed man in a wool suit, a well-dressed, well-heeled "shepherd." They will stand behind a pulpit and mouth great swelling words that flatter people to gain advantage. ( Jude 16 ) - whether that advantage be the simple taking of the crowd's money or just to have the status and privilege of such a public position or just the enjoyment of so much public attention and followers. They will frequently compliment their audience on what "wonderful Christians" they are even though there is no spiritual maturity to be found and very little genuine spiritual fruit to be found anywhere in the congregation. These false prophets will tell stories (fables - 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ), taken even from the Bible about God and Christ, because their audience doesn't want to hear sound doctrine, that is, that they have a responsibility to God and the people around them. (see Tit. 2:1-15; top for a description of what "sound doctrine" really is.) The false prophets do not need to be denied access to the pulpits as so many "pastors" proclaim - the false prophets already own the pulpits saying "This is what God says..." when God has not said that and certainly is not saying it in the way they're saying it.

A false prophet can be recognized by one of two things. The first is a false word. John wrote, "No lie is of the truth." ( 1 Jn. 2:21; top ) If any part of a prediction given in the name of the Lord fails to come to pass exactly as was spoken by a supposed prophet or his message in any way contradicts the rightly divided Scriptures, you can know he has spoken falsely.

But predictions are not the primary function and purpose of a genuine New Testament prophet - speaking what is on the mind and heart of God for His people for the current time and season is. The Lord said to Moses:

"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst." ( Dt. 13:1-5; top )

Often, we see that the punishment for being a false prophet is death in the Old Testament and we conclude that, because the punishment has been taken away in Christ (who took all the curses of the Law upon Himself - Gal. 3:13 ), so too has the standard been removed. As is the case with the other elements of the Law, not only is the standard not removed, the standard is raised. (compare Mt. 22:39 with Jn. 13:34; top for example.) In this case, the standard remains and it is essential to know, not only the Law's requirements, but also the standard to which we will be held in Christ. If a prophet speaks a true prediction - or even teaches a truth gleaned from the Scriptures or from life experiences - but he causes you to follow any other god but Christ, he is a false prophet. In the days when false prophets will deceive many, it is imperative that we know what the real standard is that we must follow.

Some look to the notion of "essential doctrines" to guarantee adherence to the gospel of Christ. This falls far short of the mark because many people have an empty knowledge about the things of Christ but they have none of the real power of God to bear the fruit of the Spirit - and such people we are commanded to turn away from! (see 2 Tim. 3:5; top ) Their inner lives remain unchanged though they can probably quote the Bible rather extensively and may have even memorized a rather accurate list of creeds that correspond fairly well to what the Bible says.

If "essential doctrines" are not the criteria by which we can assess a prophet's genuineness, what is? The fruit. Jesus said we will know false prophets by their fruits - and this is equally true of the average person claiming to follow Christ. If the fruit of the Spirit is not present in a person's life, that person is deceived about their supposed life in Christ. (see Rom. 8:9; top )

But it still goes deeper than this. All the fruit of the Spirit - "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness" ( Gal. 5:22-23 ) - can be imitated and duplicated, at least in outward, superficial appearances, by normal people and especially by demonized people. (see Rom. 8:13 , Tit. 3:5; top )

Consider the following:

The new birth is a birth of the Spirit - and this is the initial entry into the kingdom of God. ( Jn. 3:5; top )

God is Spirit. ( Jn. 4:24 , 2 Cor. 3:17; top )

Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ is not one of His. ( Rom. 8:9; top )

The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey Him. ( Acts 5:32; top )

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God ( Rom. 8:14; top ) What does that make those who are not led by the Spirit of God? Think about it.

The Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of having been adopted by God. ( Rom. 8:15 , Gal. 4:6; top )

The Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus (all these are interchangeable throughout the Scriptures - see Acts 16:6-7; top for example) is most often called the Holy Spirit because His primary characteristic is holiness.

He is also called the Spirit of truth. ( Jn. 14:17 , 16:13 , 1 Jn. 4:6 , 5:7 ), the eternal Spirit ( Heb. 9:14 ), and the Spirit of grace. ( Heb. 10:29; top )

The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. ( Rom. 14:17; top )

The Spirit is the One who causes us to know the things we have in God. ( 1 Cor. 2:12; top )

All spiritual gifts are given through the One Spirit. ( 1 Cor. 12:4 , 7-9; top )

The mind renewed and controlled by the Spirit is life and peace but the carnal mind is death and enmity against God. ( Rom. 8:5-7; top )

The central role of the Holy Spirit ought to be obvious to any serious reader of the New Testament. If someone has all the "essential doctrines" but does not have the Spirit of Christ, he has missed more than the point - he has given away his priceless inheritance and embraced a bowlful of soup that is filled with worms and every vile thing. It is the Spirit in me that will recognize and embrace the Spirit in you and we will all know that we can endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace - the peace that passes all our understandings of creeds and doctrines. Yes, there will come a time when we will "all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God" ( Eph. 4:13 ) - true doctrinal unity - but we must notice that this comes after we have obeyed the command to preserve the unity of the Spirit. ( Eph. 4:3 ) We must recognize clearly that the unity of the Spirit is a spiritual thing of genuine holiness, righteousness, truth and eternity found only in our genuine unity with Christ, the Spirit and the Father (see Jn. 17:20-24; top ) - it is not the false unity of agreement to some list of creeds or beliefs nor is it the false unity based on our having common interests or common personality characteristics nor is it the false unity of our tolerance of one another's sins and deceptions.

When we live our life in the Spirit, we will live the very life of Christ. When we practice any other kind of "spiritual life," we are only manifesting the deception that Satan wants us to practice.

"The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." ( Rev. 19:10; top ) A prophet speaking under the impetus of any other spirit will lead us to serve, worship and/or obey a false god - the god of self, the god of money and wealth, the god of religion, or the god of the "church" and "clergy" (the spirit of antichrist who deceives us into substituting anyone or any thing into any place that rightfully belongs only to Christ or His Spirit.)/p>

There is only one God, only one Christ, only one Spirit of God. Anything else is a deception that will have devastating consequences in our life. The Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, said to the people of Israel, "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD." ( Jer. 23:16 ) The false prophets wearing nice suits behind their pulpits and on their television programs - do not even listen to them for they will give you a false hope. Either they will deceive you into believing that you possess eternal salvation when you have nothing of the Spirit of Christ in your life as evidence, or they will cause you to believe some other lie that has nothing to do with true life in Christ and this will make you eligible for the delusion that comes from God in judgment against those who prefer lies and unrighteousness. ( 2 Ths. 2:11-12; top )

The best defense against the false prophets is the same command the Lord gave through Moses: "You shall put away the evil from your midst." ( Dt. 13:5; top ) We do not need to put the false prophet to death - he will surely come to a far worse judgment when he stands before the Lord. But we do need to remove his words and influence away from our eyes and ears and hearts and remove the man from our circle of fellowship. Anything else in an open invitation to the spirits of darkness to have power over our life.

Let he who has ears hear.

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

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