Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15).
Have you been troubled or puzzled by the proliferation of “new prophecies” and “new revelations and teachings” on TV, Internet websites, or social media, many which are touted as “true” visions, dreams, prophecies, and messages from Jesus Christ? While in the past false prophets had to go to great lengths to publicize their messages, today’s advances in technology allow anyone to effortlessly craft their messages, whether true or false, and at the click of a button the message will be “shared” to their clueless and gullible “followers” and forwarded further to the masses within minutes.
In the opening Scripture above, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself warned us to watch out for false prophets who appear harmless, but are actually voracious, ravaging and savage wolves. The Lord further warned that in the last days, “many” false prophets will arise and lead many people astray (Matthew 24:11). With most people nowadays oblivious to, or ignorant of, God’s Word—the Truth (John 17:17), when a lie is repeated often and long enough, they believe it is truth, and are thereby enslaved by the enemy because only God’s Truth can truly set us free (John 8:32).
False prophets and false teachers have the audacity to twist God’s word and make pronouncements that don’t have a solid Scriptural foundation, yet in both the Old and New Testaments, the Bible sternly warns against adding or deducting from the Word of God:
- “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2 NKJV).
- “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32 NKJV).
- “Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:6 NKJV).
- “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add[b] to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19 NKJV).
Whether these false prophets and false teachers spread their lies willingly or unwittingly doesn’t matter, because the Lord will still hold them responsible for their lies and they will be destroyed, as the Bible clearly states:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (2 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV).
Without studying the Word of God for ourselves and obeying its precepts, we are bound to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). If we read the Word of God but do not do what the Lord has commanded us, the Lord Jesus said we are “like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:26-27). Having been warned of the tragic consequences of disobeying God’s Word, we should, therefore, be extra-cautious not to be quick to believe every self-declared “prophet”, “man of God”, or “woman of God”, no matter how convincing or forceful they may come across! We should not be quick or eager to embrace anyone’s spiritual message, no matter how appealing it may across, without examining the Scriptures for ourselves to check if the teachings are Biblically true, like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). When you see a prophet or teacher adding or taking away from the Word by not speaking in accordance with the Bible, keep standing on solid ground and stick to what the Bible says (Matthew 7:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:15), so that you may not be shaken (Psalm 62:6)!
Examples of False Prophets Mentioned in the Bible
The Bible highlights several examples of false prophets, and we can learn some valuable lessons that apply today:
- The false prophets of Egypt, Jannes and Jambres (Exodus 7:10-12, 22; 8:7, 19): These magicians attempted to resist Moses and oppose the decrees presented from God to free the children of Israel from slavery, leading Paul to liken them with those who resist God’s truth today as “men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was” (2 Timothy 3:8-9).
- Balaam (Numbers 22-24): Even though the Lord was gracious to Balaam by constraining him from cursing the children of Israel, and having him bless them instead, Balaam eventually accepted the bribe from Balak and devised a plan for Balak that led Israel to fall into sin – worshiping Baal, eating food sacrificed to idols, and committing sexual sins with Midianite women – which led to a plague that caused the death of 24,000 Israelites (Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Likewise, the Bible warns that there are false prophets today who, for financial gain or other selfish reasons, teach people to disobey God’s commands (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14).
- The 450 prophets of Baal who contended with Elijah and perished at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:22-40): Even though the false prophets attempted different tricks, theatrics, and hysterics to have their idol respond, it was all in vain. Likewise, today we have many false prophets who stage performances and “miracles and wonders” in order deceive gullible Christians who cannot distinguish acts of Satan from a true move of God.
- The 400 prophets whom King Ahab consulted whether he should go to Battle (1 Kings 22:6-28): Shockingly, all 400 prophets had been collectively deceived by Satan, as the Lord revealed to His only true prophet at the time, Micaiah, whom Ahab had summoned at the request of King Jehoshaphat. Only Micaiah spoke the truth, but the kings ignored his warning and unjustly punished the prophet. Likewise, today there are many false prophets whose teachings are lockstep and in agreement. Unfortunately, well-meaning Christians who are not aware that these false prophets have been deceived en masse, are sucked in. An example was in 2012 when many false prophets, supported by the so-called Mayan Calendar, along with many people having false dreams and visions, declared that something globally catastrophic would happen or that Jesus the Messiah would return that year; they were all clearly wrong!
- Hananiah, who opposed Jeremiah: Hananiah falsely prophesied and gave the false hope that Israel would be delivered from the Babylonian captivity within two years (Jeremiah 28:1-4, 10-11), instead of the timeline assigned by God before restoration and prophesied by Jeremiah, which was seventy years (Jeremiah 27; 29:10). Consequently, the Lord pronounced punishment on Hananiah for teaching the people to rebel against God (Jeremiah 28:12-17). The Hananiah kind of false prophets are perhaps the most dangerous, because they boldly attribute their lies and false prophecies, visions, and dreams to the Lord, and come across as speaking in the name of God. For example, they may declare, “the Lord says…”, or “the Spirit of the Lord says…”, or “the Lord told me…”. Unfortunately, many people are taken advantage of this way and believe erroneous messages, because they don’t take time to confirm with God’s Written Word – the Bible, if those things that are being said are true, just as the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bereans did (Matthew 4:1-11; Acts 17:11).
- The slave girl who was possessed with a spirit of divination and brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling (Acts 16:16-19): This a shocking example of the devil deceiving people by uttering statements that are true, such as the slave girl did when she cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). However, such seemingly theologically-sound statements are meant to “hook” and hoodwink believers and drag them into sin – in this case sorcery, witchcraft, divination and fortune-telling – sins which the Bible clearly condemns (Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Leviticus 19:26-31; 20:27; Micah 5:12; Jeremiah 27:9; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 22:15). It is also interesting to note that when the slave girl’s masters (apparently, she had many benefactors!) realized that her deliverance from Satan’s bonds resulted in their loss of “hope of profit”, they viciously retaliated against Paul and Silas by dragging “them into the marketplace to the authorities” (Acts 16:19 NKJV). Likewise, today many false prophets have built profitable enterprises online or on TV around their false teachings and garnered hundreds of thousands of “followers”, even millions, and will, therefore, fight tooth and nail, by hook or by crook, to retaliate against those who expose their false teachings.
How to Identify False Prophecies and False Visions
In the previous section, we highlighted a few ways that we can relate some prophets mentioned in the Bible to today’s environment. Here are additional guidelines from the Bible to help Truth-seeking Christians avoid being deceived by false prophets, false teachings, and false messages:
- Pray for discernment and wisdom regarding certain teachings, teachers, and prophets: Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:3-5 NKJV). If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5). Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day (Psalm 25:4-5 NKJV). In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6 NKJV).
- Test their teachings against the Word of God; if they don’t line up straight with the word of God, discard them: “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” (1 John 4:1 NKJV).
- If they don’t speak according to the word of God and the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no light in them: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20 NKJV).
- Their prophetic utterances don’t materialize, or are vague and not specific: “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22 NKJV). The prophet Jeremiah also wrote that: “As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent” (Jeremiah 28:9). However, if the prophetic utterance, wonder, sign or dream comes to pass, but tempts you into sin, idolatry (including idolizing man), and enticing you to turn away from the ways of the Lord God, “… you should not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3). As we shared in the message “Do Not Be Anxious“, we should pray for God’s protection and guidance wherever we live, and seek refuge in Him (Mark 13:7-8; Psalm 91; 121).
- Observe the kind of fruit they are exuding; if they are not bearing good fruit per Galatians 5:22-23 and Colossians 3:12, they are false prophets: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad 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. Therefore by their fruits you will know them (Matthew 7:15-20 NKJV).
- Beware of false prophets claiming that Jesus Christ has come! “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:23-27 NKJV).
- False prophets deny the deity of Jesus Christ or do not acknowledge that Jesus has come in the flesh: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 John 1:7 NKJV). “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4 NKJV).
- Watch out for false prophets who lie in God’s name: “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal. “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the Lord. “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? “Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the Lord, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:25-32 NKJV).
- False teachers do not teach according to the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles: Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds (2 John 1:9-11 NKJV). This includes ministries that require you to follow their pastor and read other literature or books by their leaders as authoritative sources.
- Watch out for false prophets who claim that Jesus has come, set dates of His coming, or send false alarms regarding His return: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 NKJV). But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mark 13:32 NKJV).
What About Dreams Supposedly from God?
According to the Bible, both prophecy and dreams are legitimate forms of revelation. While the fulfillment of a prophecy or sign/wonder might validate a prophet’s message, dreams were an infrequent mode of divine revelation to a true prophet of God and must thus be received cautiously (Deuteronomy 13:1–3; Zechariah 10:2). Additionally, dreams can be corrupt depending on how you spend your time; for example, if you spend countless hours watching false prophets on TV or horror videos on YouTube, chances are you will have nightmares or other forms of scary demonic dreams. From our own experience, we have noticed that if we have been watching or discussing certain news, we might get vain dreams related to the news (Ecclesiastes 5:3). However, if you spend most of your free time meditating on God’s Word, you will most likely enjoy peaceful sleep and have good dreams (Psalm 127:2; Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 3:21-24). Since we might not know fully and truthfully know what the dreamer of dreams feeds his spirit, we should therefore not receive every “incredible dream or vision” as coming from God.
There are also people who chase after dreams and visions, instead of being content with studying God’s Word and heeding His instructions. There are other people who regard dreams and visions as the authoritative source of truth and will defend their dreams or visions even when clearly, they don’t completely line up with what the Bible teaches. If you trust in dreams and visions, instead of testing the dreams and visions by God’s Word, chances are you will have false dreams and visions, no matter how realistic they may appear to you. In these last days, we should scrutinize even our own dreams and visions against the Word of God. This is one of the prime ways the enemy is deceiving the flock since most people don’t think they can be deceived through their own dreams and visions. King Solomon warned that “in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
In conclusion, be careful not to be deceived! The Lord has given us His written Word, the Bible, and has provided a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to protect us from falling into error. Here are some encouraging words:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13)
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14).
Be strong in the Lord and cling to His Word!
Abes and Janet.