Beware: False Prophets

Beware: False Prophets

Beware: False Prophets.

“Watch out for false prophets! They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. By their fruit you will recognize them.”  (Matthew 7:15).

Here is Jesus once again announcing Watch out! Be careful! Beware! Be on your guard! When Jesus warned the people about false prophets, He was standing on the shoulders of a long line of Hebrew prophets who spoke of the same danger. Moses had false prophets executed for preaching rebellion to the Lord in the name of other gods (Deut. 13:5, 18:22). Isaiah warned his listeners of false prophets who misled them through their lies (Is. 9:15). Jeremiah spoke often of how the false prophets were dishonest and spoke out of delusions in their own mind (Jer. 2:8, 23:16). Ezekiel condemned the false prophets for following their own spirit and speaking out of their own imagination (Ezek. 13:2,22:28). Hosea called the false prophet a fool and a maniac (Hos. 9:7). And Zechariah accused the false prophets of lying in the Lord’s Name, an abhorrent act. So Jesus speaking of the dangers of false prophets was a good reminder to His Jewish audience.

Speaking from the Hebrew prophetic tradition, then, He warned of false Christs and false prophets who would perform great signs, and in fact would be miracle-workers who might even deceive believers (Matt. 24:24). Jesus said to take special note of their fruit, of the personal life of the prophet, and consider carefully the fruit of his so-called ministry. Peter goes into great detail in expanding on this warning as he describes the fruit of false prophets and false teachers, in 2 Peter 2. They introduce destructive heresies. They deny the sovereign Lord. They follow shameful, immoral ways. They bring the way of truth into disrepute. They exploit others with deceptive words. They walk according to their fallen nature and in the lust of twisted sexual desires. They are arrogant, selfish, and despise authority. They scoff at things they don’t understand. They delight in deceptions. They are well-trained in greed. They engage in empty boasting. They are slaves to corruption. They reject the command to live a holy life. They earn wages by wrongdoing. And the list goes on. So Peter gets very specific about the bad fruit of false prophets and false teachers. All these warning are sadly true today.

So what are we to do today if confronted by false prophets like the ones Peter describes? Should we wonder about some of the televangelists, the radio preachers, the notable authors, or what we hear from the pulpit? We would be wise to follow John’s instruction in 1 John 4:1: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God. If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. These people belong to the world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God…”

So whenever we receive instruction or direction regarding the Faith, it’s time to put your thinking caps on and test the spirit of the prophet, if it lines up with scripture. Think about his apparent motivation for speaking God’s word. Examine the life and behavior of the prophet. Consider the fruit of his ministry. In identifying false prophets, we have our work set out for us. As in all things, ask God for wisdom, and He will provide it. (James 1:5).