A condensed and summaraized version of notes, from a class I use to teach at Marygrove College on the Prophets
False prophets and teachers are nothing new and they've always outnumbered the real prophets. There's always been "prophets for hire" like Balaam, whose messages centered around peace and prosperity. They've always had a large following. Throughout history, the real Prophets were hated and most were murdered for their message.
They never delivered messages of peace and prosperity, which is what the people always wanted to hear. They were "doom and gloom" because God rarely sent them unless He was calling people back from their sin. When He was fed up and ready to destroy is, more often than not, when He ushered the Prophets onto the stage. It was an act of mercy.
When Jeremiah was confronted by the false prophet Hananiah, Jeremiah pointed something out very interesting...
"From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true.” Jeremiah 28:8-9
What Jeremiah was saying to the false prophet was "take a lesson from history. When did God ever send a prophet to preach peace and prosperity? Not once." But you look around us, even today, and everyone is a Prophet. We are inundated with TV Evangelists and teachers pushing their messages and material to be purchased.
Speaking of the false prophets in Jeremiah's day, God said..."they dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace! Peace!' they say when there is no peace." Jeremiah 6:14
When the message didn't turn the spotlight of truth on the people to expose sin and their need for repentance, these "prophets" were not doing what God required...
"The visions of the your prophets were worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading." Lamentations 2:14
The truth is never popular. By telling the people what they wanted to hear and not what they needed to hear, these false prophets were slapping a band aid on a gaping wound without treating it properly. They're still doing this today and their followers would have it no other way...
"If a liar and deceiver comes and says, 'I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer', he would be just the prophet for these people." Micah 2:11
"Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. yet they lean upon the LORD and say, 'is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.'" Micah 3:11
But send in a real Prophet or teacher and the people turn on them...
"As for the prophets who lead My people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim peace; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him." Micah 3:5
The people loved the false messages and cared well for those who told them exactly what they wanted to hear. When someone delivered the truth they waged a war against him, despised him and, more often than not, had him put to death. Even today, start pointing out the deceivers, start calling out the "prophets for hire" and the majority of professing Christians will turn on you like a pack of rabid wolves.
The false prophets accuse those who point them out of being "heresy hunters" and threaten death for attacking the "Lord's anointed" or "the Lord's prophet". It's simply a way to silence the opposition. But if the Apostle Paul didn't have a problem with the Boreans cross checking what he preached with Scripture, if Scripture praised the Boreans for doing exactly that, why are these "teachers/prophets", and the multitudes who follow them, opposed to it?
"For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." 2 Timothy 4:3
Both the people and the false teachers are guilty. The people gather these false teachers around them, they actively seek them out. To suit their desires, they flock to these teachers and will attack anyone who tries to disrupt it with the truth.
"Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets." Luke 6:26
As Jesus pointed out in the above scripture, the false prophets have always been well liked. Many spoke well of them and many followed them. They were loved and held in high regard by the people, but they were deceivers. Contrast that with how Jeremiah was treated...
"I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the Word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long." Jeremiah 20:7-8
Because Jeremiah proclaimed the truth, because he cried out about the people's sin and coming destruction if they didn't turn from their sin, he was mocked and hated by the people. No one had anything nice to say about Jeremiah. He seemed to have allusions in the beginning that the people would turn after hearing his message, but they only turned on Jeremiah and not on their sin. There was no peace and prosperity in Jeremiah's messages. There was no promises of blessings and health and he was despised for it. This tormented Jeremiah....
"Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, 'A child is born to you—a son!' May that man be like the towns the LORD overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever. Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?" Jeremiah 20:14-18
His calling plunged Jeremiah into despair. It was an irreversible calling and the nature of it was one of condemnation and negativity to the people. He was betrayed and hated, not just by the people, but even his own family.
"You hate the one who reproves you in court and despise him who tells the truth" Amos 5:10
When a real prophet was sent there was always a multitude of false prophets right there with him. For example, Micaiah the Prophet in 1 Kings 22 found himself up against the 400 lying prophets of the King of Israel, Ahab. Elijah was also outnumbered by the lying prophets of Baal. This is a great lesson in following the majority. When the truth is never popular, when the knockoffs always outnumber the real thing then basing a judgment about a teacher on the number of their followers is deadly rather then a safety net.
The calling of a real Prophet was anything but glorious as opposed to stories false prophets tell. To be a Prophet meant being ridiculed, ostracized and hated. Family members and friends would be their greatest betrayers and enemies...
"Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies are the members of his own household." Micah 7:5-6
They were often isolated, characterized as freaks, beaten, stoned, imprisoned and murdered for speaking the truth and crying out against sin. The life of a Prophet resembled a curse rather than a blessing. Not one of the major or minor prophets were excited to be called to the office of Prophet. Not a single one yelled "Amen!" Prophets like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel cringed and had the attitude of "Not me! I'm not opening my mouth!"
Compare this reality with those who proclaim peace and prosperity. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news especially when you have to tell an entire nation their sin is bringing divine judgment. Nevertheless, prophecy not only proved God was Sovereign, but demonstrated God's mercy.
"I warned you when you felt secure, but you said 'I will not listen'. This has been your way from your youth. You have not obeyed Me." Jeremiah 22:23
Jeremiah's message should have been taken as a blessing that God was giving them an opportunity to repent, but instead the people rebuffed it and God had no choice, but to destroy.
There is never a shortage of "revelations" among false prophets. God is always "doing something new" and only they have the answers. There's always a secret that they've unlocked or special knowledge they've been given that leads the hearers right into destruction. Instead of teaching the people how to apply the old revelations from God, as all the Prophets had done, they were throwing on top something "new" and "secret". That in itself is a warning. False prophets and teachers notoriously twist and distort the bible to back up their lies and ignorant masses flock to it.
This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear His word? Who has listened and heard His word? See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He fully accomplishes the purposes of His heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, they would have proclaimed My words to My people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds." Jeremiah 23:16-22
Just as prophets were peddling their dreams and visions back then, so they are still today. The pushing of dreams and visions over the Bible was and is still wrong and a huge red flag...
“'I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in My name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make My people forget My name, just as their ancestors forgot My name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has My word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?' declares the LORD. 'Is not My Word like fire,' declares the LORD, 'and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'" Jeremiah 23:25-29
In reality, visions and dreams were only a small part of the office of Prophet. A Prophet is one who speaks the unadulterated, non-sugar coated Word of God that exposes sin, calls people back to the Lord and insists on the need for repentance. Yet today, everyone has a dream and vision they use to appoint themselves as Prophet. A dream or vision compared to the Word is like straw to grain. The Word exposes sin and breaks it like a hammer, but a dream or vision does nothing for the hearers. It's useless on its own. That's not to say God doesn't give dreams or visions, but they aren't to be toted as a seal of acceptance or given precedence over Scripture.
Often time when these dreams and visions are held up to Scripture they fail miserably because they don't line up with the Scriptures God's already given. Their accuracy fails. Popular "prophets" like Nostradamus, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Hagin, etc., have poor, at best, accuracy. With the real Prophets of the Bible there was a 100% accuracy rate. These men were getting their messages from a Sovereign God who controls all of history. If their accuracy is off then they're simply not hearing from God. God gave a command in Dueteronomy 18 to safeguard the people from lying prophets that would come...
"But a prophet who presumes to speak in My name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death. You may say to yourselves, 'How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?' If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed." Deuteronomy 18:20-22
God doesn't settle for a 40%, 50 % or even 95 % accuracy rate. It's either 100 or none. If they are speaking directly from God, they will hit the mark every time. Many "prophets" today have been proven wrong repeatedly yet very few take the time to judge the message by Scripture. Today, just as in the past, people are constantly searching out and running after new revelations when they haven't even learned how to apply the old. There is nothing new for us today. Everything God had to say He's already said. Every word, every dot, every comma is relevant for us today, but that's completely ignored. All "new" words of revelations do nothing but lie to the hearers and go beyond what's already been written...
"Do not go beyond what is written" 1 Corinthians 4:6
"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you." Deuteronomy 4:6
Every word of God is flawless....Do not add to His Words or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6
"Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case" Galatians 3:15
The revelations already given from God are sufficient. Anything that contradicts or changes it in any way is sin and can't be tolerated. If what one is teaching isn't found in Scripture, these are "destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1)
The Problem With the Health, Wealth and Prosperity Gospel
"God wants His people rich! God wants His people healthy! God wants His people at peace and comfortable! God wants you to have your best life now!"
This is not only deceitful, but is a form of trying to manipulate a Sovereign God. God never plays "Let's make a deal". Everything you and I have doesn't even belong to us. It's all God's anyway so who are we trying to bargain with? Jesus had no place to lie His head. Paul only had a cloak, books, spent much of his ministry in prison and was often sick. What's more ridiculous, the audacity of the preacher or the blatant ignorance of the listeners?
"For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:9
"Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort." Luke 6:24
"Keep yourselves free from the love of money and be content with what you have." Hebrews 13:5
Being content with what we have is a foreign concept to most of us. We want more and we chase after it. We love anyone who promises us a way to get more. The Bible has a lot to say about money and rarely is it ever anything good.
"For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.2 Peter 2:18-19
Sickness and disease is a product of sin that all of us are subjected to. Not one of us will ever be without some form of sickness. Not one of us will avoid death. Living free of sickness is never promised to us while on earth. It's only after we're ushered into heaven will we finally escape it. That doesn't mean God doesn't heal, but it does mean weexpect a healing every single time we're sick or demand one. After all, our healing may not be His will and fall in line with God's purposes. We are to be content with all we have and praise God in all situations whether we're sick and/or poor.
"we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that." 1 Timothy 6:6-8
"each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him" 1 Corinthians 7:20
"I have learned the secret of being content in any situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want" Philippians 4:12
"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower." James 1:10
"Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom?"
When Jesus ministered how many people were "saved" by being the recipient of healing? How many became disciples witnessing His miracles? Not many. In fact, He gained His largest following while healing and providing food, but the moment He began to preach most of those same followers deserted Him. They were only interested in what they could gain from Him materially and physically. Those who truly repented and followed Him came not by witnessing miracles, but by listening to Him.
"many are called, but few are chosen" Matthew 22:14
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Matthew 7:13
Jesus Warned About Coming False Prophets
We are warned repeatedly in Scripture about false prophets especially the magnitude which they would show up in the last days.
“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. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, 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. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:15-20
False prophets don't show up and announce themselves. They sneak in unnocticed. They look, act and sound just like real sheep. They claim, and even seem, to be doing God's work. They'll speak well of Jesus, but they're false and Jesus warned us to keep an eye out for them and look for the fruit of the Spirit in them. That fruit will show up in a real teacher and the lack of fruit will betray the false. Since the Spirit will never go against Scripture, we're also to weigh what we're taught by Scripture. Jesus followed this warning by telling us that not everyone who calls Him "Lord" will enter the Kingdom.
"Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many." Matthew 24:11
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." Matthew 24:24
Judging someone by miracles, signs and if they call Jesus "Lord" is not the standard to be used yet that's what millions do every single day who are being led astray. Instead of just believing everything they say we're to...
"test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1
Peter warned..."But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves." 2 Peter 2:1
Peter also warned that many would follow these false prophets thus bringing the "way" into disrepute. They're ruining the reputation of Christianity. They're maligning it, causing others to despise and mock it.
The driving force behind these teachers is greed..."In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up."2 Peter 2:3
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion." Jude 1:11-13
Notice Jude says they've gone in the way of Cain, ran after the error of Balaam and Korah's rebellion. Cain was lawless and murdered his brother Able out of jealousy, Balaam was a false prophet for hire and Korah caused a rebellion against Moses thus against God.
All their dreams, all their visions, all their revelations, secrets and stories, crusades, miracles and trinkets for a love gift are deceitful. They've lied to and exploited the followers to make money. We are warned to test everything we hear and see. It's our duty to do so and to study the Bible. No part of it is irrelevant today. We don't need anyone to teach us something new when we struggle to apply the old. That's only loading us down with burdens.