How to Identify a False Prophet
Or, A Guide to Keep You From Opposing a True Prophet
by Tom Stewart
"When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him"
he Saints of God are unique in that they have been given the Holy Spirit to teach them the very Scripture of Truth (Daniel 10:21) that is a "Light unto [our] path" (Psalm 119:105) to guide us away from the snares of false prophets. "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 hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him" (1John 2:27).
The inability to discern
a false prophet from a true prophet, will open the way for the deception of the
False Prophet-- the beast "out of the
13:11)-- who is the End Time co-worker of the
Antichrist. All the marks of a false prophet should be understood by the Body of
Believers and applied to our daily discernment of who ought to be believed and who
ought to be rejected. "13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the Word
of Righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 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 5:13-14).
Our LORD did not excuse the hypocites for their lack of discerning the "signs of the times" (Matthew 16:3). Nor will He excuse the world for allowing the False Prophet to deceive them into worshipping the Antichrist. "And he [the False Prophet] exerciseth all the power of the first beast [the Antichrist] before him, and causeth the Earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed" (Revelation 13:12). Then, why should the LORD allow those of us that name the "Name of Christ" (2Timothy 2:19) to be ignorant of the false prophets, who are currently deceiving the "Flock of God" (1Peter 5:2)?
Disobedience and a False Prophet: He Hath Spoken to Turn You Away From the LORD (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
A "prophet, or a dreamer of dreams", who gives a "sign or wonder" (13:1) recalls the signs the LORD gave to Moses to convince the Children of Israel that Moses was truly sent from God-- turning Moses' rod into a serpent and back again (Exodus 4:2-4), and turning Moses' hand leprous and back again (4:6-8).
We are to not think it strange that even a false prophet can make the "sign or the wonder come to pass" (13:2)-- by the supernatural power of Satan.
Of course, the Almighty must first give permission
to Satan before Satan has the slightest ability to accomplish anything. Or, as the
LORD Jesus plainly explained to Pontius Pilate concerning the limit of Pilate's control
over Himself: "Thou couldest have no power
at all against Me, except it were given thee from Above" (John 19:11).
Pivotal to the concept of identifying false prophets, is that a false prophet seeks to turn people away from the LORD Jesus Christ, i.e., "Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them" (Deuteronomy 13:2). If we understand that our loving obedience to the Word of God is the basis for our certainty that we belong to Him, then we also know that anyone who is clearly in disobedience to the commands of our LORD Jesus Christ, is a liar.
Just as we are to "prove all things; [and] hold fast that which is good" (1Thessalonians 5:21), the LORD desires to prove us "to know whether [we] love the LORD [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul" (Deuteronomy 13:3). Not only does our proving "all things" (1Thessalonians 5:21) keep us away from evil, but it confirms to us what is good.
This points to the First and Great Commandment (Matthew 22:38), which is, "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (22:37). As can be seen, it is morally impossible to love God and serve worldly treasure at the same time. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13). If we "cleave unto Him" (Deuteronomy 13:4), Who is "[our] Life" (30:20), then we will not sin against our God. "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not" (1John 3:6). In fact, at that moment, we cannot sin because we will not sin-- as we are kept by His Spirit.
Though the New Testament Church has not been given Old Testament Israel's commission to slay the false prophets, we are to mark and avoid those who give offence to the Body of Christ.
Devotion and gratitude to the LORD that "bought [us] with a price" (1Corinthians 7:23), will keep us from faltering from the LORD.
When assailed with doubts-- "without were fightings, within were fears" (2Corinthians 7:5)-- if we would cling in loving obedience to the LORD Jesus, He will deliver us from our fears.
Lack of Fulfillment and a False Prophet: If the Thing Follow Not (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
The so-called prophets of the LORD lied to Ahab about his upcoming success against the Syrians.
The prophet Jeremiah did prophetic battle with
Hananiah the prophet (Jeremiah 28). Jeremiah contended that the LORD would punish Judah 70 years in
servitude to the king of Babylon. "And
this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall
serve the king of Babylon seventy years"
after those 70 years would Judah be allowed to return into the land. "For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years
be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My Good Word toward you,
in causing you to return to this place" (29:10). Hananiah objected to Jeremiah, and declared "in the presence of all the people" that the LORD said, "Even
so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations
within the space of two full years" (28:11). To this Jeremiah responded,
now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust
in a lie. 16 Therefore
thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the Earth: this
year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD" (28:15-16). And, the result
was predictable to the Righteous. "So
Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month" (28:17).
Again, Israel was to kill the false prophets from among them.
Also, Jehu magnificently executed the will of God in cleansing the prophets of Baal from the land.
Always compare everything to the Word of God. "Thy Word is Truth" (John 17:17) was the LORD Jesus' certainty about the trustworthiness of God's Word.
Remember that even false prophets are known to have successful fulfillment of their prophecies.
So, fulfillment-- or lack of fulfillment-- must be viewed in light of the false prophets' call to obvious disobedience of the LORD, i.e.,
Notice the phrase, the "prophet hath spoken it presumptuously" (Deuteronomy 18:22). This indicates the spirit of the passage, i.e., the character of the prophet is arrogant, proud, and rebellious. The very fact that the prophesied event does not come to pass is proof that the prophet was either,
(1) not from God (i.e., "hath spoken it presumptuously"), or,
(2) that a situation developed which changed God's mind (i.e., "that I may repent Me" [Jeremiah 26:3]).
But, before a prophet is labelled a false prophet because of the lack of fulfillment of his prophecy, we would do well to carefully study Jeremiah 26.
Misunderstood True Prophets: Jeremiah and Micah (Jeremiah 26:1-19)
The prophet Jeremiah was commissioned to speak "in the court of the LORD's house, all the Words that [the LORD] command[ed him] to speak unto them; [and to] diminish not a Word" (26:2). God's prophets have been called upon to correct defects in the worship of God in both Israel and now the Church.
The Apostle Paul succinctly told the Ephesian elders, "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). Even so, Jeremiah was faithful in delivering his commission.
The Holy Jehovah declares to Jeremiah some of His purposes and counsels.
"If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way" (Jeremiah 26:3), demonstrates that "God is a merciful God" (Deuteronomy 4:31). Though it is completely just for the Almighty to reward the "wages of sin" with death (Romans 6:23), it is "according to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5).
God deals with His moral subjects as those who should use their "image of God" (Genesis 1:27), i.e., their moral agency, to freely choose right from wrong. "4 If ye will not hearken to Me... 6 Then will I make this house like Shiloh" (Jeremiah 26:4,6). Their disobedience is threatened with the abandonment of His Temple in Jerusalem-- in the same way as He did to the Ark of the congregation at Shiloh--
God's prophets already understand that their lives may be forfeit for their faithful reproduction of the LORD's message to His "stiffnecked people" (Exodus 32:9).
And, the LORD Jesus warned us that "whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2).
The prophet Jeremiah fearlessly proclaimed his credentials in the hearing of all the people, i.e., the "LORD sent me" (26:12). Ezekiel also knew the same type of audience that Jeremiah addressed.
Jeremiah's message was uncomforting to the hearers because it spoke of God's judgment for their sin.
The familiar Words of God's Prophet, the LORD Jesus Christ, rings out, "Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). Likewise, Jeremiah clearly and faithfully delivered the LORD's message to sinful Israel.
Jeremiah was giving away God's merciful favor, but at the cost of the sinners' repentance.
But, back to the physical reality of Jeremiah's situation, i.e., "I am in your hand" (26:14).
Further, Jeremiah warned them that ill would happen to them if they killed him.
Thank God for His opportune intervention!
The prophet Micah's foretelling of Zion's judgment is here remembered by certain princes and elders of the land. Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah during the reign of Hezekiah.
King Hezekiah humbled himself before the LORD God of Israel.
What was the point of the recounting of Micah's
prophecy? Just as Jeremiah threatened God's judgment upon Jerusalem, i.e., "4 If ye will not hearken to Me, to walk in My Law, which I have set
before you... 6
Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the
nations of the Earth" (Jeremiah
26:4,6), Micah had previously pronounced the
certainty that "Jerusalem shall become
heaps" (26:18) to Hezekiah-- who believed him and caused reformation in
The point was that Micah had pronounced the certainty of judgment against the land during Hezekiah's reign in Jerusalem. Micah prophesied that the "LORD cometh [present tense, is coming] forth out of His place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the Earth" (Micah 1:3). The result will be that "Jerusalem shall become heaps" (3:12). Hezekiah led Judah in repentance before the prophecy could be fulfilled. "Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah" (2Chronicles 32:26). But, who was complaining about the lack of fulfillment of Jerusalem's destruction, since "the LORD repented Him of the evil which He had pronounced against them" (Jeremiah 26:19)? A situation had developed which changed God's mind.
The Sovereignty of God in the Fulfillment of Prophecy
he key to understanding how God could instruct His prophets to prophesy the certainty of an event that does not take place is seen in Jeremiah 26:3, "If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent Me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings." In other words, the LORD is instructing His prophets to give us prophecies that cause the hearers to act in a desired manner, i.e., repentance (Hezekiah), testing at the hands of a false prophet (Hananiah). As the LORD of All the Earth (Joshua 3:13) is sovereign in His judgments, He is completely justified in holding back the fulfillment of a prophecy-- that He promised by the mouth of His prophets. "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not" (Jonah 3:10). God can rightly and sovereignly change His mind about the fulfillment of something He said He would do. "And the LORD repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people" (Exodus 32:14).
But, lest we think that God acts arbitrarily, i.e., rewarding evil and punishing good, the Unchanging God (Malachi 3:6) always acts consistently with Himself, for "He cannot deny Himself" (2Timothy 2:13).
In particular, for those who have felt compelled by modern prophecy to expect the fulfillment of an End Time event, such as the Rapture of the Church or the judgment of America, the Sovereign God has chosen not to bring these events to pass-- yet-- to accomplish His purposes in us and in the world.
We are aware of some of Jehovah Jesus' purposes in sovereignly choosing not to have yet brought to pass the fulfillment of some End Time events (that we expected already to be fulfilled):
(1) testing and refinement of the Saints in the delay of the Rapture, i.e., "When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10),
(2) greater opportunity for repentance of the ungodly in the delay of the judgment of America, i.e., "The LORD is not slack concerning His Promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9), and
(3) filling of the cup of iniquity of those who will be ultimately damned and destroyed, i.e., as the LORD Jesus said to the hypocrites,"Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers" (Matthew 23:32), and as the Almighty told Abram, "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Genesis 15:16).
he inability to discern a false prophet from a true prophet, will open the way for the deception of the False Prophet. "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:11). Since the LORD Jesus will not excuse the world for allowing The False Prophet to deceive them into worshipping the Antichrist, why then would He allow His people to be ignorant of the false prophets of today, who are trying to deceive His sheep? Even the four-legged sheep-- beasts that they are-- recognize and follow their own shepherd.
Can there be any excuse for us, who are made in the "image of God" (Genesis 1:27), and led by a totally selfless and Divine Caretaker, to not know Him?
"Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13). It is morally impossible!
The fundamental concept in identifying false prophets, is that a false prophet seeks to turn people away from the LORD Jesus Christ, i.e., "Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them" (Deuteronomy 13:2). It is not enough that "the sign or the wonder come to pass". The success of the prophecy, its fulfillment and timing, does not define the character of the prophet. The fulfillment-- or lack of fulfillment-- must be viewed in light of the false prophets' call to obvious disobedience of the LORD, i.e.,"Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them".
Therefore, in evaluating a modern prophet, your defining question should be, "Does this prophet provoke me to disobedience of the sure Word of God?"
If "yes", then mark and avoid them.
If the prophet does not provoke me to disobey God, but rather, he does "provoke unto love and to good works" (Hebrews 10:24), then you have your answer.
The defining question should not be, "Did this prophet's words come to pass?" Because, if the answer is "yes", we are to not think it strange that even a false prophet can make the "sign or the wonder come to pass" (13:2)-- by the supernatural power of Satan.
And if the answer is "No, this prophet's words did not come to pass." Then the prophet was either,
(1) not from God, i.e., "hath spoken it presumptuously" (Deuteronomy 18:22), or,
(2) that a situation developed which changed God's mind, i.e., "that I may repent Me" (Jeremiah 26:3).
God is completely justified in holding back the fulfillment of a prophecy-- that He promised by the mouth of His prophets.
So, fulfillment-- or lack of fulfillment-- must be viewed in light of the prophets' character and call to obvious disobedience of the LORD, i.e.,
Remember, before a prophet is labelled a false prophet
because of the lack of fulfillment of his prophecy,
we would do well to carefully study Jeremiah 26.
Does GOD Test People Like That? ---New Window
Biblical Examples of Failed Prophecy, Testing, and Refinement
For the Elect's Sake ---New Window
That a Merciful God Will Shorten the Tribulation Week
Rapture And Judgment Are At Hand ---New Window
The LORD's Response is to Silence the Scoffers
A Prophet Hath Been Among Them ---New Window
How to Discern a True Prophet From a False Prophet
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