By Pastor Tom Hill, President of MMII
False prophets make danger to the helpless and gullible. For centuries, they have fooled multitudes to follow their errors. No one can calculate the damage false prophets have inflicted upon not just Christians but also non-christians.
The Bible records their presence and popularity even though it provides ample warnings against them. Jesus issued prominent warnings about false prophets. For example,
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (1)
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#1: False Prophets: A Precaution: “Take Heed”
When Jesus warned His followers of false prophets, He used the phrase, “Take heed.” This phrase gives the warning, “Beware, look out for…” It also means “Discern.” His caution took two forms: the usual warning as well as counsel to discern the appearance of false prophets.
#2: False Prophets: Their Presence
Jesus did not say that false prophets might come. He said they “…shall come.” He described their coming as a certainty. Jesus reiterated their sure coming in Matthew 24.11 and 23-25. He warned that false christs, i.e., false prophets, would arise.
Biblical and Church history confirmed this statement. God’s people have always faced false leaders, centuries before Christ and after Him as well. They still exist today.
#3: False Prophets: Their Prevalence
Some imagine that these imposters would appear occasionally – a few “kooks” and “nuts” with emotional instabilities. In that case, you might just dismiss them easily.
However, Christ warned that many would come. The condition of today’s Church not only verifies their presence but their prevalence. Many false teachers and leaders confuse believers and lead them astray.
#4: False Prophets: Their Persuasiveness
With their impressive manners, they will sway multitudes. They will deceive crowds that will clamor after them. Their deceits will prove so effective and winsome that the true Children of God will almost fall for their deceptions. These false prophets will enjoy great popularity.
I have seen the reality of this in my lifetime. I have watched men and women practice their deceitfulness to huge crowds. In city after city, multitudes swarm their meetings with enthusiastic responses, following them like sheep to the slaughter. Their books climb the bestseller lists. Some have even formed international denominations. Without question, the warning of Christ applies to our day as well. We must heed it.
#5: False Prophets: Their Power
Jesus warned that false prophets would arise who would perform great signs and wonders. (2) What does Jesus mean by this description?
The word “great” holds two meanings. One of them describes quality, like a great meal, tasteful as well as healthful. It also means quantity, abundance. Thus, a great meal can include the quality of the food as well as the amount of the food.
In like manner, false prophets will provide signs and wonders of high quality and abundance. They will not produce a trick or slight of hand, but many, high quality demonstrations of power.
What does the word “signs” mean? It describes some unusual occurrence that transcends the common course of nature. These false prophets will do magnificent things, beyond the ordinary. They will use those displays as evidence of their calling.
Not only will they have attesting signs but wonders, too. “Wonders” speak of the miraculous. A false Church leader may have the ability to perform miraculous and supernatural things. Some false prophets will exhibit astounding manifestations and claim a special anointing of God upon them.
Moses described this very thing in Deuteronomy, thirteen centuries before Jesus’ birth, long before this dreadful error arose. Moses’ warning helps us know how to discern between the false and the true, the true messenger of God and the false prophet of God. They sound so much alike, so how can we know?
Moses issued this warning:
“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass…” (3)
Then Moses delivered the discerning moment. If along with the sign and the wonder that (s)he performs, if (s)he also says, “Let us go after other God’s…” do not follow that one, because (s)he is a false prophet.
Note the point that Moses made. When someone comes in the name of Jesus and instructs to you to follow his/her teachings, examine not only the supernatural demonstrations, but also the actual teachings of this person.
- Do the teachings lead you to Christ?
- Does (s)he develop the doctrinal truths of Scripture and point out to you what the Bible says?
- Does (s)he give another gospel, something not presented in Scripture?
Isaiah the prophet counseled God’s people on this issue, too. He said,
“And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony.” (4)
When Isaiah mentioned the “law and the testimony,” he meant the Scriptures, referred to as the law and the testimony in that day. In essence, Isaiah instructed the people of God to go to the Scriptures.
“If they (the false prophets) speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (5)
The Word of God becomes the final authority. Take the message proclaimed by the attractive false prophets of our day and evaluate whether it agrees with Scripture.
What do they say about the gospel? Their interpretation of the gospel identifies the first point of error with the following deviations:
- they reject the cross;
- they reject salvation through Christ alone;
- they reject salvation through His blood; and
- they reject the payment of blood of Jesus for the penalty of sin for people like you and me.
Many offer salvation outside the authority of Scripture. Jesus warned against the deceits of powerful false prophets who would deceive many.
#6: False Prophets: Their Presumptions
Close upon His warning of the powerful demonstrations of false prophets, Christ cautioned against those who would come in His name.
“Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ.” (6)
Some will state that they come as the messenger of Jesus, declaring validity for their messages. They would use their signs and wonders to confirm their presumptions:
“I told you I was the Christ. I told you I was from Jesus, and I had His message. Look what I have done.”
Now, you can see how they will sway many people to follow them. No wonder many will conclude, “This Christian leader coming in the name of Jesus is so good, so clever. The messages we hear are often about Jesus. We see wonderful miracles that could only be of God. This person must assuredly be a prophet of God whom we can admire and follow.”
Other false prophets will come who will claim to be Christ. Throughout history, many have made this claim. They take the name of Jesus for themselves, yet reject, deny, and denounce the Jesus presented to us in Scripture.
The Bible describes the characteristics of the promised Savior and Messiah that only one person has fulfilled, Jesus as revealed in the Bible. No one else has fulfilled all of the signs, prophecies, and predictions given to us in the Bible regarding the Messiah except the Jesus described for us in Scripture.
Further, historians have recorded His life and have described Him exactly as the Bible described Him. Scriptures confirm that Jesus satisfies all criteria. Anyone can assume the title of the King of Kings, but none fulfills the criteria except Jesus. Jesus as described for us in Scripture is the true Messiah.
Everywhere that men and women have proclaimed the gospel of Christ it has produced the same response, without regard to color, nationality, social standing, education, or wealth. People throughout history, who have called upon the name of Jesus as described in Scripture, have experienced the exact same life change, without variation, always, always, always. He alone is our Deliverer, our Savior.
Jesus loved His disciples, and He gave to them a warning,
“Take heed that nobody deceive you. For many shall come to you with my name saying, ‘I am Christ.’” (7)
False prophets shall come in the name of Jesus saying, “I am the messenger of Christ. I am His prophet, His apostle, and His teacher. Observe what I can do, and see that I am an anointed messenger of God. Follow me.”
With increasing faith in the Word of God, the followers of Christ must regard His warnings. We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern the false prophets from the true, so that we may again experience God’s glorious manifest presence in our lives.
False prophets, pastors, and teachers abound, and they influence multitudes with their deceits and apparent confirmations from God. The evil one uses them to divide and destroy the Church. We must heed the warnings from Jesus and reject false prophets.
- Matthew 24.3-5.
- Matthew 24.23-25.
- Deuteronomy 13.1-3.
- Isaiah 8.19-20.
- Isaiah 8.20.
- Matthew 24.5.
- Matthew 24.4-5.
Thomas P. Hill, M. A. in Ministry, Luther Rice Seminary; author of 3 books: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing; Homosexuality, Christians, and the Church; and Keys To A Revolutionary Life (available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Tom’s web site). To invite Tom to speak at your college, church, or group, contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Thomas P. Hill (www.masterministries.org)