The Bible teaches us in both testaments about the existence of false prophets and the dangers associated with their teachings. Over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to look into the characteristics of false prophets and their teachings.
First, let’s look at the characteristics of the false prophet.
Jesus tells us in Matthew, chapter seven to beware of false prophets.
Beware – properly, have towards, i.e. to give full attention; to set a course and keep to it.
The best way for us to identify false prophets and false prophecy is to give our full attention to the Word of the Lord.
To learn how to recognize a counterfeit, you are taught to recognize what is authentic.
False prophets look like sheep. They categorize themselves as being followers of the Lord, but Jesus said that truly, they are ravenous wolves.
What does a wolf do to a sheep? Feed on them. Why? Because, they are hungry.
What are they hungry for?
That’s the rub! To recognize a false prophet, you discern where their hunger takes them away from the truth of the word of God.
The prophet Jeremiah was surrounded by false prophets in his day. In chapter 23 of Jeremiah, he lists some characteristics of the false prophets of his day:
- They commit adultery and walk in lies
To understand this trait requires some biblical knowledge. We know that the commission of adultery is a specific act. But, scripturally we also know that adultery is committed spiritually against the Lord when we put things before Him.
Peter describes these individuals:
With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed–an accursed brood! 2 Peter 2:14
Peter characterized them by saying that they: follow the desire of corrupt flesh and despise authority. Verse 10
They profess to teach the truth but live a lie. A lie is a falsehood used to promote the desires of the speaker.
A false prophet will tailor the truth to justify the desires of his own flesh.
Their teachings will seek to justify the indulgence of the flesh and even use scripture to make those indulgences spiritual.
- They seek popular acclaim
False prophets want to be recognized. How do they do that? More often than not, they do this by preaching a message that supposedly leads to outcomes desirable to their listeners.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3
Inside the teachings of the false prophet resides a very dangerous component:
An unconditional pledge of immunity from disaster.
Repentance of sin is not usually a part of their pathway to God’s blessing. To have the widest appeal, they must tailor the message to include both sincere seekers and rebels, so they replace repentance with attitude adjustments, life coaching, and commands to “do something”.
- They fail to distinguish their own dreams from a word from God
Since their desires are corrupted, their words are usually corrupted by their own desires. They tell of dreams and encounters that bolster their goals and often, exalt these dreams and experiences to the level of biblical revelation.
Thus says the Lord of Hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart not from the mouth of the Lord. Jeremiah 23:16
Any teacher or prophet can miss God or have to clarify where a word is coming from. The apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians contains examples of that (1 Corinthians 7). With the anointing comes great responsibility for its presence. Dreams/visions/words are to be tested by God’s word. Any prophet who claims infallibility is to be rejected.
- They steal words from one another
False prophets will seek the “wow” factor. The anointing creates what they are looking for but if they are false, they will need another source. They often are voracious readers and listeners of others. In and of itself, this is not wrong. But, false prophets are looking for manipulative words and methods through which they can make people think they are speaking from the anointing when in reality, they are using motivational speech to bolster their goals. People who seek to motivate others are always looking for new buttons to push!
In closing, Jesus said that a false prophet may do wonders, give great words, and even appear to cast out demons, but you cannot fake doing the will of God, which is contained in the entirety of God’s Word. This is what marks the true prophet of God. They teach it and live it.
Next time, we’ll look at the message of the false prophet.