A Prophet Hath Been Among Them
Or, How to Discern a True Prophet From a False Prophet
by Tom Stewart
"And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them"
hether it was in the days of the Old Testament prophets, at the time of our LORD's First Advent in a Bethlehem manger, or in these Last Days, the True Saints of God have always needed to know how to discern a True Prophet from a False Prophet. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1John 4:1). This article will attempt to develop a Biblical framework to discern between a True Prophet and a False Prophet, so that the True Saints can gauge who ought to be believed. "And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry" (Habakkuk 2:2-3).
ho can we trust? Certainly, mere man is not to be trusted. "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:5). Obviously, God is the Only Safe Person of Trust. "By terrible things in righteousness wilt Thou answer us, O God of our Salvation; Who art the confidence of all the ends of the Earth" (Psalm 65:5).
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners
spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken
unto us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed Heir Of All Things, by Whom also He made
the worlds" (Hebrews 1:1-2). When
God spoke "unto the fathers" in an earlier era, He spoke through the prophets. Now, the LORD Jesus Christ,
Whose "Name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13), is The Foundation of our modern
certainty of Who can be trusted.
Which brings us to the connection between the Word of God and the Prophets of God. "We have also a more sure Word of Prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the Day Star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2Peter 1:19-21). The Word of God that we affirm to be the very substance of our Christian experience, initially came through the prophets.
The test of whether or not a prophet is a True Prophet is based upon how consistent they are to the Word of God. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no Light in them" (Isaiah 8:20). Scripture is consistent with Scripture because "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). Likewise, a True Prophet's prophecy must be consistent with Scripture. "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). We may misunderstand Scripture or a prophecy, but that does not diminish the value of that Scripture or prophecy. "And it is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass, than one tittle of the Law to fail" (Luke 16:17).
Historically, the Canon of Scripture (i.e., the measured and accepted books of Scripture) was agreed upon by the Church by the end of the 5th century. The Old Testament Canon of 39 books was already established before the time of our LORD's First Advent. The remaining 27 books of the New Testament Canon were accepted in different parts of the Church beginning in the 1st century until their general acceptance between the 4th and 5th centuries. However, neither council, synod, or learned theologians are the foundation of our confidence in the Word of God. "Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy Word is Truth" (John 17:17).
The same rules that determined the authenticity of the New Testament Scriptures can be employed to determine the authenticity of contemporary prophecies.
he following passage gives us a Biblical framework to identify a false prophet.
"1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3 thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear Him, and keep His Commandments, and obey His Voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him. 5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee" (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
Identifying a false prophet will identify a false prophecy.
How should we respond to a false prophet?
Our Present Circumstances
he Apostle Peter's Pentecostal sermon of Acts 2 was taken in part from Joel 2:28-32. Peter was led to call the time of his preaching "the last days" (Acts 2:17). He then cites the prophet Joel. "28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the Name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call" (Joel 2:28-32).
His main point was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. "I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17). The result was the multiplication of prophecy through the young and the old, both sons and daughters. This condition exists today.
It was evident that Joel's prophecy was only partially fulfilled on that Pentecost in 32 AD, because many signs and wonders were yet to be fulfilled before the coming of the day of the LORD. "And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the Earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the LORD come" (Acts 2:19-20).
The one result that demonstrated the love of God in Joel's prophecy was the availability of the salvation promised through the LORD Jesus Christ. "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the Name of the LORD shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). Remember, a prophecy is not to be judged solely by whether it comes to pass, but whether it encourages the love of God.
Since we are distinctly living in the Last Days, we are seeing the Spirit of God being poured out upon all flesh (Acts 2:17). Consequently, we will encounter both True Prophets and False Prophets. "For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24).
We are not allowed to sit idly by and wish that we did not have to make hard decisions about whether or not to believe a prophecy. We are already engaged in a war for our spiritual existence. "10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the Whole Armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the Whole Armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:10-13).
The Need for Spiritual Discernment
he LORD Jesus' injunction against judging was actually against falsely judging. Hypocrites use the weapon of false judgment. "1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye" (Matthew 7:1-5). Our own prior repentance qualifies us to help "cast out the mote out of [our] brother's eye" (7:5).
With the humility that only the LORD Jesus Christ gives, we are to judge all things. "But he that is Spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man" (1Corinthians 2:15). We are not to lightly exercise this office of judgment. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matthew 7:2).
Hypocrites will not only falsely judge, but will be incapable of properly discerning the times in which they live. "Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the Earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?" (Luke 12:56). "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" (1Thessalonians 5:4).
We need not despair that we cannot make these necessary discernments. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are Spiritually discerned. But he that is Spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man" (1Corinthians 2:14-15). The unconverted, or natural man, does not possess the discernment of the Spirit of God. Built into every child of God is the discerning capability of the Holy Spirit. "The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17) is the means by which the child of God discerns.
Do not allow anyone to persuade you to feel that man's opinion is necessary for you to make correct judgments. "But the Anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same Anointing teacheth you of all things, and is Truth, and is no lie, and even as It [He] hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him" (1John 2:27).
Our basic tool for discernment is the Word of God. If we are to believe the Scriptures, the Word of God is able to discern the "thoughts and intents of the heart". Why can we not use It to determine a True Prophecy from a False Prophecy? "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a Discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
Immaturity is our basic problem with Spiritual discernment. Because we have judged so infrequently or unknowingly, we lack the confidence that we can actually judge or discern without becoming, what so many have accusingly called, a Judge. "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14). Purpose, by the grace of God, to boldly judge with the help of the Spirit and the Word.
f it still feels like an awesome thing to stand behind a prophecy that announces the soon Coming of our LORD, then we have not considered well the great hazard of friends and reputation that our brethren or sisters, the prophets, have made to give us that prophecy. Without puffing up the prophets, it can be truly said,
"Of whom the world was not
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