The Good Book is filled with stories about prophets. But what is a false prophet? And how do we avoid them or disclaim them?
What Is a True Prophet?
Before we get into false prophets, let’s look at a one of the true prophets in the Bible. His “agenda” was God’s Will. He literally did have conversations with the Lord. HE told him what to say, to whom, and why. God chose Elijah, as He chose other prophets.
The Prophet Elijah
Elijah is inarguably the most prominent prophet in the Old Testament. He performed miracles in God’s name, like the three and a half year drought in Israel that caused famine throughout the kingdom.
“Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” I Kings 17:1
Elijah was a true man of God with a deep, unyielding faith in the Lord. He was just a mortal human being like we are, but his faith was pure. The apostle James described Elijah later in the Book of James:
17 “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:17-18
What is a False Prophet?
Conversely, false prophets are those who have their own agenda, not God’s will. They claim that God speaks to them and that they’re speaking on behalf of God, but they really aren’t.
There are even alleged “prophets” who charge a fee to “see the future” or tell you what God supposedly said to them. Their agenda is to make money from desperate people looking for any hope to hold on to.
They’ll literally pay to hear what they want to hear, and false prophets are ready to take their money to tell them what they want to hear.
God Warns His People Against False Prophets
Christians are repeatedly warned by God against false prophets.
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” Deuteronomy 18:20
The apostle John also had severe warnings against false prophets, even those who may be among us today:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God…” 1 John 4:1-2
What is a False Prophet? Four Ways to Tell…
We only need look to God’s Word to determine if someone is a true or false prophet.
1. Does this person’s conduct resonate with what God wants?
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, warned us about those “who come to you in sheep’s clothing.”
2. Does what they predict actually come true?
With very few exceptions, unless their predictions take place, they are not speaking the words of God.
However, God does have the ultimate authority to change His mind, so there are exceptions. Jonah predicted events for the city of Nineveh that did not happen. Jonah was instructed by God to make the prediction that Nineveh would be destroyed. God eventually changed His mind about that after the people of the city repented.
3. Do They Speak the Truth of God’s Word?
Not “their truth” in their own words, but God’s Truth. Do their words reflect the Scripture? Or do they consider themselves “mediums,” “seeking the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19)
4. Is There Spiritual Prosperity in Their Teachings?
The Lord wants His children to benefit from His teachings. If a “prophet” claims to be teaching God’s word, but instead it causes the people to sin, he or she is a false prophet.