The English word prophet is used to translate the Hebrew word pronounced naw-bee, and the Greek word prof-ay-tace. Both original words mean an inspired speaker. While there were many true prophets of God in Bible History (e.g. Elijah and
Elisha), there were also many false prophets who were "inspired" either of themselves, or by Satan. The same holds true for our time, as it will increasingly in the days to come.
False Prophets Of The Past
"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." (Jeremiah 14:14 RSV)
"Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles false and misleading" (Lamentations 2:14 RSV)
"And her prophets have daubed for them with whitewash, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord God,' when The Lord has not spoken." (Ezekiel 22:28 RSV)
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name, and do many mighty works in Your Name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you evildoers.'" (Matthew 7:15-23 RSV)
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." (Matthew 24:24 RSV)
It would be very convenient if all false prophets appeared as ranting, wild-eyed weirdos such as the one portrayed in the illustration (see also Jerusalem Syndrome), but unfortunately, as the Scriptures make plain, many appear (see What Does Satan Look Like?), and sound (see Sweet Nuthins'), perfectly good and righteous:
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness." (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 RSV)
So, how do we protect ourselves?
- Don't Believe Anyone Who Ignores, Or Disagrees With, God's Word
About 30 years ago, I recall hearing a preacher bellowing, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible." The honest logic of that man's statement cannot be refuted or argued with. Humans can be, or go, wrong. God's Word will never fail you, because God will never fail you.
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Luke 21:33)
- Prove All Things
Never just take someone's word as "gospel," regardless of how educated or exalted they may be, or appear to be. True Christian servants ("minister" means servant, "apostle" means messenger, "evangelist" means announcer) are not offended if you check to see if what they say is correct, or question them if you find something that you think is wrong. In fact, they expect you to do so:
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1 RSV)
"test everything; hold fast what is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21 RSV)
- Know Your Bible
Familiarity with the Scriptures, all of the Scriptures, is a vital defense. Amazing as it may seem, many Christian-professing people actually have not read all of The Bible at least one time. Once each year should be the minimum for everyone.
Daily Bible Study has an easy and enjoyable daily Bible reading plan, requiring only a few minutes each day, that covers the entire Bible in 1 year. See 1 Year Reading Plan
- Follow Christ, Obey God
God's true servants want you to obey God, not them. Follow them only if they follow Christ.
"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21 RSV)
"But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ ... and the head of Christ is God." (1 Corinthians 11:3 RSV)
- Beware Of "Miracles"
While in the end time God's true prophets will perform great miracles (see The Two Witnesses and Down Without A Fight?), there will also be great Satan-empowered "miracles" which will deceive many:
"It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men; and by the signs which it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast, it deceives those who dwell on earth, bidding them make an image for the beast which was wounded by the sword and yet lived" (Revelation 13:13-14 RSV)
- "Prophet" Doesn't Mean "Profit"
Money is of course necessary to pay for living and operating expenses, but acquiring great personal wealth from one's service to God cannot be justified. There are many honest and righteous ways of earning a lot of money. Christianity is not one of them.
In the Old Testament, Abraham was considered righteous by God (Galatians 3:6), and at the same time he became very wealthy (Genesis 13:2). But his personal wealth came from business activity. It wasn't given to Abraham as a way of worshipping God.
Later, the apostle Paul, a man who actually wrote a large part of the New Testament, although having to accept occasion help because of his difficult circumstances, worked whenever he could, as a tent maker, at the same time of his ministry (Acts 18:3).
According to Paul, "For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ." (2 Corinthians 2:17 RSV)
God's true servants are not interested in taking from you. They want to give to you, not worldly money that is quickly spent, but true wealth, the knowledge and understanding that will enable you to obtain the eternal spiritual riches that will last forever. God's true servants don't want your money. They want you to obey God.
Fact Finder: What will be the fate of The Great False Prophet, and all of the lesser false prophets, at The Return Of Jesus Christ?
Great false prophet - Revelation 19:20
The rest of the false prophets - Revelation 19:21
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