What Does The Bible Say About False Prophets?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

The Bible has a lot to say about false prophets.  What can we learn from these Scriptures in order that you might not be deceived?

Nothing New

Today there are false prophets just as there were in the days of ancient Israel in the Old Testament.  This is nothing new because there have always been false prophets around but there seems to be an abundance of them today.  What separates false prophets from the true teachers of God’s Word?  It is theological truth.  It is sometimes what they don’t say more than what they do say.  For example, false prophets will not usually speak about sin, repentance, God’s wrath, sanctification, abhorring sin, the cross, the blood of the Lamb, witnessing, and things that are essential to sound doctrine (Rom 3:10-12, 23; 6:23, 10:9-13).  What is left out are things like Jesus is the one and only way to be saved (Acts 4:12) and that there is a need for everyone to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15) or God’s wrath on those who refuse to believe (John 3:18, 36b).

What Does The Bible Say About False Prophets

Jesus’ Warnings

Jesus spoke many times about false prophets such as in Matthew 7:15-16a “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.”  The word “beware” is from the Greek word “prosechō” and gives the idea of “to turn the mind to” or “to be attentive toward” and would be like a sign at a waterhole that is full of poison or where there is a dangerous unseen curve around the corner.  It usually means that there is a hidden danger that isn’t seen.  The word Jesus uses for prophets is not one that means predicting future events but one, like the Greek word for teaching is “prophēteuō,” means “truth telling” or putting forth truth such as biblical doctrine.  In the context of Matthew seven it is obviously not talking about foretelling the future by divine means but foretelling biblical truth by means of speaking.  These come dressed in sheep’s clothing, meaning that they look like sheep, smell like sheep, and even speak like sheep because Christians are often referred to as sheep by Jesus, (see John 10) however they are not sheep, they are only dressed like ones because inwardly (and unseen) they are like ravenous wolves.  Wolves were the number one enemy and threat of sheep in Palestine and today by implication, they are the number one threat to Jesus’ sheep.

False Prophets of Old

As I wrote earlier, false prophets are not new to us today any more than they were new in Jesus’ day.  There were prophets in ancient Israel as with Ahab (1 Kings 22).  In Jeremiah’s day there were more of them than true prophets as he wrote that “the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction” (Jer 5:31) which caused God’s judgment as He told Jeremiah “they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you” (Jer 27:15) but God’s “hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations” (Ezk 13:9).  Peter refers to these false prophets in the Old Testament times by writing “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 Pet 2:1).

Many False Prophets, Not Few

We don’t have to look very far today to see that there is an abundance of false prophets, just as Jesus predicted in Matthew 24:11 that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”  Indeed, there are many false prophets around today and many are being led astray (Matt 24:24).  Just look at many, but by no means all, of the mega churches.  This is why the Apostle John warned Christians to “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).  The danger is that “many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (1 Pet 4:2-3).  Peter’s point is that they are in it for the money and they blaspheme “the way of truth” and “exploit you with false words.”  The most dangerous lies are when there is truth mixed in or mostly truth mixed with a bit of falsity.  It is most dangerous because many more will swallow it because it looks good and sounds good to the naked ear and eye but inwardly, these are lies.  Jesus, Peter, and John all repeat the fact that there will be “many” and not few.

Why False Prophets?

The Apostle Paul gives us much of the reason for the rise of false prophets aside from the fact that they are in it for the money.  Paul writes that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Tim 4:3).  People don’t want to hear the hard word of truth from the Bible.  It has been said that the Word of God comforts the afflicted but afflicts the comfortable.   It is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12) but it has to cut in order to heal.  The result of hearing soft words is that it produces hard hearts so they want their ears scratched, so to speak.  The result will be, and in fact already is, they “will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:4).

Jude warned that “certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).  This has caused a “turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6b-7).  Some state that they had a vision, God spoke to them or they had a dream but once again Jude warns that those who are “relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones” (Jude 1:8) and have “abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error” (Jude 1:11) meaning that they do it only for the money and not for God or His sheep.

Conclusion

How can we avoid being deceived by these false prophets or what I think they should be called by “false profits?”   We should be in the Bible on a consistent basis, we should have regular patterns of prayer, we should be learning from good Bible teachers in a biblically solid church or in a Sunday school class and even a Wednesday night Bible study.  The FBI trains their staff to look for counterfeit money but how do they do it?  It is by hours upon hours of studying the real thing because only by being exposed to real money can they easily identify the counterfeit.  The same thing goes with discerning the true teachers of God, from God, and the false ones, from Satan and his minions.  All they are is “shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 1:12b-13) so believe me, you don’t want to go with them or be them on the day when God judges the unsaved (Rev 20:12-15).

More about false prophets here: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.





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