There is a crisis of false prophets in our world right now. With all the turmoil and distress in the world, everyone wants to provide an answer. The media uses it to promote their own opinions and gain viewers. Leaders use it to promote their platforms and gain votes or followers. How much of this do you think is sincere and truthful? How many of their answers are true? There are going to be many movements that spring up and lead people astray. This should be no surprise. Jesus and the Apostles repeatedly warned us to beware of false prophets.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:11)
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” ( 1 John 4:1)
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1)
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” (Mark 13:22)
These are just a few examples of warnings about false prophets. The last example I gave says that even the elect could be led astray. Even people within the Church could be deceived by false prophets. It is obviously a serious subject, but why are false prophets so dangerous? If we look to the Old Testament we can see some examples.
“Then I said: “Ah, Lord God! Here are the prophets saying to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you true peace in this place.’” And the Lord said to me: The prophets are prophesying lies in my name; I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name though I did not send them, and who say, “Sword and famine shall not come to this land”: By sword and by famine those prophets shall be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword. There shall be no one to bury them-themselves, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them.” (Jeremiah 14:13-16)
This example shows us that false prophets can give us a false sense of security. These people tell us that all will be fine, even though there is a grievous hemorrhaging wound and destruction is imminent. It’s as if someone was about to get hit by a bus and you stand there smiling and waving at them instead of warning them of the impending danger. Our country and our world is in danger right now, and destruction is something that comes quickly. It comes when we least expect it.
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)
Here is another Old Testament example of why false prophets are bad.
“The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the Lord. They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” (Ezekiel 13:1-7)
“Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:22-23)
Here is another example of God’s condemnation of false prophets. Again, the false prophets are not protecting their people, and here they are also not warning the wicked of their sins so that they can repent and escape destruction. We can see that false prophets don’t want to speak the truth. They only say things that will benefit themselves, and often this is simply what makes people feel good. Does that sound familiar? It should. Our culture is full of these kinds of messages. “Do whatever makes you feel good. Truth is whatever you believe it to be.” These ideas come from false prophets who want your allegiance to themselves and not to God.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” (1 Timothy 4:1-2)
So we’ve established that false prophets are dangerous and we’ve determined why, but how do we recognize them? When FBI agents are trained to spot counterfeit bills, they don’t get presented with a bunch of the fakes. They get to know the real one so well that they know instantly when they see a counterfeit. This is the same with God. If we spend time in prayer, fellowship, and reading the Word, we will get to know Jesus so well that we will be able to point out the false prophets with ease.
“The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand. “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 33:1-9)
Here is an example from Ezekiel that describes true vs. false prophets. It gives us an understanding that the world will never give. We can see how studying passages like this can help us discern the truth from lies. So what does that mean for us right now? As stated at the beginning, there is a lot of turmoil in our world right now, and possibly more false prophets than ever before. We need to know the Lord closely so that we can distinguish the true from the false and escape being led away to destruction. Our country doesn’t need comforting messages that will make us feel good. We need people who will stand up and proclaim the truth so that we can repent. There is an incredible amount of wickedness that needs to be addressed; sexual immorality, abortion, racism, drug abuse, alcoholism, sex trafficking, idolatry, selfishness, murder, greed, gluttony, and a host of other issues. If we don’t repent of these things, the situation in our country and the world will only get worse. We We will face worse pestilence, worse famines, and potentially even war. We need to ask God to come back into our lives.
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.” (Jeremiah 18:1-10)
Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!
William Joseph Scheremet