What Does the Bible Warn About False Prophets?
News bombs us every day: Buy this. Do that. And when it comes to messages about questions of faith, we can often be confused about what is true and what is not.
In the days of the Old Testament, God often spoke through prophets, special people, whom he used as instruments to convey his messages. People like Isaiah, Daniel, and Jeremiah were torn from their normal lives and entrusted with the great responsibility of being a spokesman for God. Many of these prophets were highly respected and treated with deep respect, while others were ridiculed, despised, and even martyred.
But what is the difference between a prophet and a false prophet and how can we tell the difference?
What does the word prophet mean?
The word "prophet" comes from the Hebrew word "nabi" or "nabiy" to blow out like a fountain or to make an announcement, to speak or "to emit". Other words – hozeh and ro & # 39; eh, which means "seer" – are also used for prophets. The term is meant to mean that the person receives an announcement directly from God, and that word or vision then "bubbles" out so that others can receive it.
What is the purpose of a prophet in the Bible?
A prophet should receive a message from God – be it verbal instruction or another word or vision or dream – and then share that message with the people. God often sent prophets to warn or guide people. They often served as representatives, ambassadors or spokesmen for God. The kings of Israel would seek the advice of the prophets before making important decisions, such as war, to ensure that their actions were in accordance with the Lord's wishes.
In other cases, a prophet received a vision from God for the king and then went to the king to convey this message. For example, in 2 Samuel 7, God revealed to the Prophet Nathan in a dream that David would not build the temple of the Lord, but David's descendants would. Nathan then reported this to David, who followed God's command. Many of God's prophets have written Old Testament books such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Habakkuk.
In the New Testament, the apostle Peter called a true prophetic message something "absolutely reliable". As he said, "You will do well to pay attention, as to a light that shines in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your heart" (2 Peter 1:19).
The origin of a prophecy does not lie in human will, explained Peter, but rather: "Prophets, although human, spoke of God when they were taken away by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
What is the difference between a prophet and a false prophet?
While a prophet is someone who receives the word of God and then offers it, a false prophet is one who receives a word in other ways, such as divination, divination, or sorcery, be it a word from his own mind or from another. false gods. These corrupt, dishonest messages are not from God and therefore cannot be classified as trustworthy.
Sometimes people pretended to be true prophets to mislead, as in Nehemiah 6: 10-15, when a false prophet tried to convince Nehemiah to hide in the temple, but Nehemiah recognized that it was a trap. In other cases, false prophets offered signs and miracles to induce people to follow other gods instead of the Lord (Deuteronomy 13: 1-3).
What does it mean to be a false prophet?
God speaks harshly against false prophets, occult practices, and other magic. God describes a false prophet as one who "assumes to speak in my name everything that I have not commanded, or as a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods" (Deuteronomy 18:20).
In Jeremiah 14:14, God says that these evildoers prophesy lies and offer "false visions, divination, idolaters, and the delusions of their own minds".
What Does the Bible Say About False Prophets?
In Deuteronomy 18: 9-20, God warns His people not to engage in divination, to cast spells, to consult the media, or to listen to someone who speaks on behalf of other gods. These false prophets should be killed, he says.
God expresses his displeasure in Jeremiah even more – both about the false prophets and about those who listen to them.
“That is why the Lord says about the prophets who prophesy in my name: I have not sent them, but they say: 'No sword or famine will affect this country. & # 39; The same prophets will perish by sword and hunger. And the people to whom they prophesy are thrown on the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword. There will be no one to bury her, her wives, her sons and her daughters. I will pour out the misfortune they deserve on them ”(Jeremiah 14: 15-16).
God states in Jeremiah 23: 30-32 that he is "against" false prophets, and in Zechariah 13: 3 it is said that they must be stabbed by their own parents.
Are there false prophets in the New Testament?
False prophets were not only a problem in the Old Testament; They also plagued the New Testament apostles. For example, Acts describes an occasion when Barnabas and Paul met a Jewish magician and false prophet when the apostles offered the word of God to the proconsul of Paphos. When the wizard tried to resist their teaching, a Paul filled with the Holy Spirit verbally struck the man and made him go blind. The proconsul believed astonished.
The apostle Peter warned of "false teachers," similar to false prophets, who will "secretly introduce destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2: 1).
These evildoers are "repaid with damage for the damage they have done" (2 Peter 2:13).
Are there false prophets today?
Jesus spoke to his disciples about the end times and warned that false prophets would indeed appear to deceive even God's elect who the Son of God had returned (Matthew 24:24).
Do not listen or follow their instructions, we are told. Better stay alert and be ready, said Jesus, because "no one knows about this day or this hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father" (Matthew 24:36).
In 2 Timothy 4: 3-4, the apostle Paul warns that a time will come when people will turn away from the truth and instead entertain teachers who say what they want to hear and offer myths instead of God's Word.
But Jesus tells us that we have a way to God: through him. As he said in John 14: 6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the father except through me. "
And in his Sermon on the Mount, he said his path was completely rooted in the Lord and insisted, “Don't think I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them ”(Matthew 5:17).
How can we tell if someone is a false prophet?
God offers instructions on how His people can determine true false prophets. In Deuteronomy 18:22 he explains: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or becomes true, it is a message that the Lord has not spoken. This prophet spoke arrogantly, so don't be alarmed. "
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says we should beware of false prophets who appear gentle but are not.
"They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inside they are wild wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Any tree that does not bear good fruit will be felled and thrown into the fire. You will recognize it by its fruit. "–Matthew 7:15 – 20).
The bottom line is that false prophets bring a message that is not from God. Your message contradicts God's instructions and often appeals to our earthly desires or passions. And ultimately they produce "bad fruit".
Instead, trust in Jesus and the Word of God as given to all of us in the Bible.
Photo credit: © iStock / Getty Images Plus / elijah_sad
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian writer, journalist, editor, blogger and writing coach and received the Genesis Award from the American Christian Fiction Writers for her novel The Memory Garden in 2018. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more at http://jessicabrodie.com.