True And False Prophets And Prophecies
TRUE AND FALSE PROPHETS
By Rodney W. Francis.
THE BIBLE has much to say about prophets and prophecies. Prophets and prophecies have had a huge influence in the lives of God’s people over the centuries. Therefore it is very important that we learn to discern the difference between true and false prophets and prophecies, because the “fruit” of prophetic utterances ~ when believed ~ have a very big impact upon our lives. This paper is a self-explanatory one taken directly from the Scriptures (the basis of which is taken from the King James Bible) and came about as a result of an evening studying Nehemiah 6 at one of our “Equipping Station” nights at “The GFM” Ministry. May you be helped to see the difference between true and false prophets and prophecies, and be wide-awake to discerning and knowing those differences.
FALSE, NEGATIVE PROPHETS AND PROPHECIES
When Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, pressure was applied to try and make him stop. His opponents even reverted to using prophecy against him. Fortunately Nehemiah was a wise man and was able to resist the sinister strategies of the enemy.
Wrong prophecy has negative effects:
- To bring fear so as to manipulate.
- To cause sin.
- To bring about an evil report.
- To bring personal reproach.
- To take us out of the will of God.
Saul prophesied under the influence of an evil spirit sent from God!
The false prophets of Baal prophesied, even cutting themselves to make the blood flow (blood-letting to try and appease the spirits).
Ahab, in his bias against the true prophet Micaiah, twisted the prophecy around to try and make it look like it was Micaiah who had the problem (1 Kings 22).
The prophet prophesied harsh things against "the spirit of rebellion against the Word of the Lord," thus fulfilling the Biblical principle that we reap what we sow (v.9).
Those rebellious people actually tried to manipulate and control the seers (“seeing prophets”) by telling them what they did ~ and did not ~ want to hear! (v.10).
God said they would meet with destruction and be broken in pieces (v.12-14).
The prophets prophesied by Baal ~ it turned them away from God unto things that did not profit them (Jeremiah 23:13).
Here is a sad statement that there are those who call themselves God’s people who actually love to have their churches run by leaders who are influenced by false prophets! The question is: “Where will they finish up?”
There were men in Jeremiah’s day who threatened to kill him if he did not stop prophesying in the name of the Lord! Jeremiah, of course, was a true prophet of God.
There are false prophets who prophesy false things in the name of the Lord. They prophesied:
- You shall not see the sword (v.13).
- You shall not have famine (v.13).
- The Lord would give them (the people) assured (“certain”) peace in that place (v.13) (Jeremiah 23:17).
It was God Who spoke to Jeremiah and said:
- The prophets prophesy lies in My name (v.14).
- I sent them not (v.14).
- I never commanded them to say those things (v.14).
- I did not even speak to them (v.14).
- They prophesy a false vision (“a mental sight, dream, revelation or oracle” – Strong’s) (v.14).
- They prophesy divination (that is divination or witchcraft where they charge a fee for their “ministry”) (v.14).
- They prophesy nothing (“good for nothing” – Strong’s) (v.14).
- They prophesy the deceit of their own heart (“to cast the people down, to make them fall” – Wilson’s) (v.14).
To those false prophets God declared they would die by the sword and by famine ~ the very things they said would not happen! (v.15).
But notice what God said would happen to the people who listened to the false prophets:
- They would be forced out on to the streets of Jerusalem because of their hunger and the bloodshed (v.16).
- They would lie dead on the streets with no one to bury them (v.16).
- Their families will have forsaken them (v.16).
- All because their wickedness (“evil, bad wicked acts, morally bad and evil, depravity” – Wilson’s) was so great. This was one reason why they loved to listen to false prophets and prophecies ~ those prophecies spoke of their being accepted by God as they were. Yet in God’s eyes they were depraved! (v.16) (Jeremiah 9:14-15).
Pashur prophesied lies.
This is a chapter that sends out a challenge to pastors and prophets (we’re only looking at the prophets in this paper). The prophets of Jerusalem and Samaria prophesied yet committed adultery, walked in lies, supported evil doers, turned none away from wickedness ~ God saw them as like Sodom and Gomorrah!
God’s heart was broken because of the prophets (v.9).
Because of the corruption of the prophets, the land was full of adultery, swearing and evil (v.10).
The prophets and the priests were profaned (“polluted, defiled, corrupted”).
They were spreading (through their preaching) wickedness right inside the house of the Lord (v.11).
Therefore God pronounced His judgment upon them:
Their ways would be "like slippery ways in the darkness" (v.12).
They would be driven until they fell (v.12).
God would bring evil upon them (v.12).
They would experience the year of visitation ~ not of revival, but of retribution from God (v.12).
God saw the evil and madness in the prophets of Samaria (v.13).
He said “they prophesied in Baal”; that is they were prophesying under the influence of evil spirits, the same spirits of the occult realm (v.13).
They cause God’s people to go astray (v.13).
God also saw what the prophets of Jerusalem were doing:
They were committing adultery (v.14).
They were walking in lies (v.14).
They strengthened the hands of the evil doers (v.14).
They carried no conviction to turn the people from their wickedness (v.14).
God saw them as Sodom and Gomorrah! (v.14).
Therefore God declared:
He would feed them with wormwood (“bitter plants, growing in waste, usually desert places. They were an emblem of calamity and injustice” – Unger’s Bible Dictionary) (v.15).
He would cause them to drink the “water of gall” (intensely bitter) (v.15).
Those prophets of Jerusalem had caused profanity (the defiling of things holy) to spread through the land (v.15).
God’s true prophetic word went forth:
Do not listen to the words of false prophets who prophesy unto us. If we do, they will cause us to become vain (“insignificant and worthless people” – Wilson’s).
They will cause us to believe in a false vision ~ their own vision and not God’s (v.16).
(They said the same as what the false prophets of Jeremiah 14:13 said!)
False prophets entwine their lies in their dreams ~ “I have dreamed a dream” (v.25).
God says they are prophets of the deceit (“to cast down, to make fall, to fraud” – Wilson’s) of their own lying hearts! (v.26).
They try to make people forget the name of the Lord by their dreams (v.27).
They subtly talk to people, sowing their evil spirit of Baal (witchcraft, manipulation and control) among them (v.27).
Then God gives a comparison between the false and the true prophets. The false is “chaff,” the true is “wheat” (v.28).
The true is a “hammer,” the false is the “rock broken in pieces” by that hammer (v.29).
God is against the false prophets, because they steal the true word of God out of the hearts of the people (v.30).
God is against those who prophesy lies in the name of the Lord! (v.31).
God is against those who prophesy false dreams, who share them and cause His people to go astray by their lies and instability (v.32).
God did not send them (v.32).
God did not command them to speak (v.32).
Therefore they would be useless to the people! (v.32).
God would no longer carry a burden (“oracle – NIV; “sad news” – TLB) toward the people, because He would have forsaken them (v.33).
God will punish those who listen to and believe the voice of the false prophets (v.34).
Those false prophets had “perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts (“warfare, service”) our God” (v.36). “Perverted”means “deviating greatly from what is regarded as normal and right; distorted” (Collins Dictionary). They actually prophesied in the name of the Lord to keep people in their sin and rebellion, which in turn releases, not the peace, but the anger of God upon them!
God said He would forget (“forsake, neglect” – Wilson’s) them (v.39).
God said He would forsake them and their city. “Forsake” here means “to be loose; to relax the ties of an obligation, to leave in a neglected, abandoned, exposed condition, loose and open to any injuries or sufferings; to cast off, reject, put away from one: it is used of God rejecting His people; and of men forsaking God” (Wilson’s) (v.39).
God said He would cast them out of His presence (v.39).
God said He would bring an everlasting reproach upon them (v.40).
God said He would bring a perpetual (“an unknown or great length of time” – Wilson’s) shame (“disgrace” – Strong’s) upon them (v.40).
That reproach and shame would not be forgotten (v.40).
The prophets and the people rejected Jeremiah’s true prophecy, even threatening his death.
Hananiah, in trying to upstage Jeremiah by his prophesying, fell “victim” to Jeremiah’s more true word ~ Hananiah died that same year according to the Word of the Lord through Jeremiah.
The Word of the Lord challenged Israel, “Let not your prophets and your diviners (“those who practice the art or gift of discerning or discovering future events or unknown things as though by supernatural powers, i.e. prophecy” - Collins) that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in My name: I have not sent them, says the Lord” (v.8-9). It seems the people were encouraging the false prophets by their own desires to have their dreams interpreted. They spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon as a result! (v.10).
- Today we must guard against moving into presumption with those who strongly desire you to “give them a word.”
The people believed those false prophets. They believed God had sent them! (v.15). The consequences of that deception were enormous:
God sent the sword (v.17)
God sent famine (v.17).
God sent the pestilence (“any epidemic outbreak of a deadly and highly infectious disease, such as the plague . . . an evil influence or idea” - Collins) (v.17).
God would make them like “vile figs that cannot be eaten, they are so evil” (v.17).
God said He would persecute them with the sword (v.18).
He would persecute them with famine (v.18).
He would persecute them with the pestilence (v.18).
He would remove them to all the kingdoms of the earth to be:
- A curse (v.18).
- An astonishment (“to be astonished, amazed, affrighted; often joined with hissing, derision” – Wilson’s) (v.18).
- A hissing (“a derision” – Strong’s)
- A reproach (“disgrace, shame” – Strong’s) among all the nations (v.18).
“Why?” you might ask?
We need to let God answer that one:
“Because they have not hearkened (“to hear intelligently with implication of attention and obedience, to consider diligently, discern” – Strong’s) to My words, says the Lord, which I sent unto them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but you would not hear, says the Lord. Hear you therefore the word of the Lord . . .” (v.19-20).
God then named two specific false prophets, Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah. They prophesied lies in the name of the Lord. Their prophecies caused dreadful damage amongst the people of God. Therefore He pronounced judgment upon them ~ they would be slain by Nebuchadnezzar right in front of the people (v.21). Their names would become a curse amongst the people (v.22). Those false prophets:
- Committed villainy (“an evil, abhorrent evil act or deed” - Collins) in Israel (v.23).
- Committed adultery with their neighbour’s wives (all spiritual deception finishes up in immorality) (v.23).
- Spoke lies in the name of the Lord (v.23).
Similar things were spoken against Shemaiah the Nehelamite for his negative letters (v.24-32).
The Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel to prophesy against those who “devise mischief” (“mischief” is “a coming to nothingness; also trouble, vanity, wickedness” – Strong’s) (v.2) and who “give wicked counsel” (“bad or evil advice” – Strong’s) (v.2). The “fruit” of those things filled their minds with wrong advice (v.5), which, in turn, caused the death of many people (v.6); the sword would devour many (v.8-10) as a result of the judgment of God falling upon them. Through it all they would know that He is the Lord (v.10, 12).
Why would those things happen to them?
They had not walked in God’s “statutes” (“something decreed, prescribed; a statute, ordinance, law; usually applied to the positive statutes appointed by Moses . . .” – Wilson’s) (v.12).
- They had not executed (“actioned”) God’s judgments (v.12).
- They had not separated themselves from the ways and actions of the heathen (v.12).
- Then a demonstration of the power of the prophetic took place ~ Pelatiah died when he heard the “thus saith the Lord”! (v.13).
After the time of judgment the Lord would draw the people together with a changed heart and a new spirit (v.16-20).
The lesson from this chapter is that God requires and expects obedience from His people. He set the standards for Israel, so they could live in a God-glorifying way. However, they chose to listen to those whose lives were no different to those not under the covenant of God. They believed their lies ~ it cost them dearly. Today it still comes down to “What are we doing with the Word of the Lord?” We stand or fall by that. Are we listening to a false voice through false prophets, or are we listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, the voice of Truth, and living to please God through Jesus Christ our Lord?
Ezekiel was told by God to prophesy to those prophets who prophesied “out of their own hearts” (v.1-2).
- They were foolish (v.3).
- They followed their own spirit (v.3).
- They had not seen anything (from God) (v.3).
- They were like “foxes in the desert” (“jackals among ruins” – NIV)(v.4).
- They had not repaired the breaks in the walls (to give the people safety and protection from the enemy) (v.5).
- They had seen “vanity” (“desolation, destructive evil” – Strong’s) (v.6).
- They had seen “lying divination” (“to divine, to practise divination, used in the verb only of false prophets of the Hebrews, of necromancers, of prophets of the Philistines, of Balaam” – Wilson’s) and were lying “in the name of the Lord!” (v.6).
- They gave the people false hope! (v.6). And God had not spoken at all!
God deals with false prophets!
1. His hand is against them (v.9).
2. They will be rejected from the assembly of His people (v.9).
3. There would be no remembrance of them in Israel’s history (v.9).
4. They would not enter into the land of Israel (possess their inheritance) (v.9).
5. The people would know that God is the Lord (v.9).
6. Those false prophets had seduced (“to lead astray from the right path”) God’s people (v.10).
7. They brought a false peace (v.10).
8. The people built wrongly, and therefore their work was overthrown (v.10-15).
9. The people themselves would be consumed (“to be brought to a destructive end” – Wilson’s) (v.14).
10.The people were told they would know the Lord ~ would see a demonstration of his judgment and power against the lies of
false prophets (v.14).
11. God would pour His wrath upon those false prophets, the people and their works (v.15-16)
There then followed a word against the women prophetesses who “prophesied out of their own heart” and caused a spiritual pollution among the people (v.17-23). God said He would deal with them in such a way that the people “would know that He is the Lord!” (v.21, 23).
In this chapter God is promising to cleanse the false prophets and the unclean spirits (they bring) out of the land. They bring lies and shame (v.3-4).
THE PROPHETIC SEES THROUGH FALSE RELIGIOUS VENEERS
Jesus declared there would be those who prophesied in His name, yet He never knew them!
The prophetic sees through the false religious veneers in people. The Prophet Isaiah (29:13) saw in the Spirit how hypocrisy manifests itself. Jesus picked up on Isaiah’s prophecy and taught from it that:
1. Hypocrites honour God with their lips, but not their hearts (v.6).
2. Their worship is vain (“foolish and fruitless” – Bullinger’s) (v.7).
3. They teach the commandments of men more than God (v.7-8).
4. They hold to the traditions of men (v.8-9).
5. They reject the commandment of God in favour of their own traditions (“the handing down from generation to generation of the same customs, beliefs, etc., especially by word of mouth” – Collins) (v.8-12).
6. They do not honour their parents (v.10-12).
7. They make the Word of God useless through their traditions (v.13).
Eliezer prophesied to Jehoshaphat why he was not successful in his shipbuilding business venture. He went into partnership with the wrong man who caused Jehoshaphat to compromise his spiritual convictions.
THE PURPOSE OF TRUE PROPHETS AND PROPHECIES
The Apostle Paul exhorted his spiritual son Timothy to be mindful of the prophecies that had been spoken over his life. Through those prophecies he would be able to:
- War a good warfare (v.18). That is being able to fight the enemy with the knowledge of God’s plan and purpose for his life as had been revealed through those prophetic words.
- Hold on to faith (v.19). My personal belief is that it is referring to “the faith” (Jude 3), the major canon of Biblical teaching that enables us to know the purposes of God.
- Have a good conscience (v.19). The state of our conscience determines how much we will step out and obey God. No one will publicly demonstrate the power and purposes of God who is struggling with an impure conscience.
When two prophets, Azariah and Oded, prophesied to Asa, he took courage and put away the idols of the land. From there they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord (v.12).
True prophecy brings to us knowledge and understanding of what is God is wanting, or going to do.
True prophecy is for our profiting (“a cutting down of impediments that are in one’s way; hence, progress, a going forward, advancement” – Bullinger’s) that all can see (v.15).
True prophecy is a “more sure word” that we need to take heed to. It comes through holy people moved by the Holy Spirit. It brings God knowledge to us.
True prophecy brings the testimony/presence of Jesus into our midst.
True prophecy is a sign the Spirit of God is resting on a person.
Prophecy can be imparted and/or “caught” when in company with other prophets. (1 Samuel 19:20-24). It can change us into a better type of person.
There is an important area of prophetic music, where the anointing of the Holy Spirit is released as musicians and singers release the prophetic through their instruments and voices.
Haggai and Zechariah’s prophesying brought encouragement, help and strength to build the house of God.
The elders prospered (“to accomplish successfully, to reach the goal” – Wilson’s) through the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah, which enabled them to finish what they had started.
Prophecy can carry the power of death.
In this passage we see the heart of God to restore His fallen people. The prophetic word would cause a new heart and a new spirit to come forth into them ~ that out of the spiritual, sinful chaos, God would raise a people ~ “a holy flock” (v.38) ~ and all would know He is the Lord!
This account of the valley of dry bones shows us something of the power of the prophetic realm. Prophecy can bring about miracles ~ life out of death. Prophecy brings restoration and the fulfilling of the promises of God, regardless of the negative circumstances that may prevail.
Here we read of the Prophet Joel prophesying a great visitation of God:
“I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy . . .” In the New Testament Church God wanted to continue to speak prophetically through His people the wonderful Word of God. Peter spoke of the fulfilling of this on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was outpoured upon those 120 gathered in the upper room (Acts 1 and 2). God has always wanted His people to be prophetic ~ to be inspired to speak by the anointing of the Holy Spirit that is within us.
In this section of Scripture we have an amazing account of the prophecy of an old man of God who had just been released from the bondage of strong unbelief. When Zacharias was obedient to the Word of the Lord (regarding the naming of his son John), the Holy Spirit came and filled him with a new release of life. He prophesied a wonderful prophecy (Acts 19:6): Let’s break down his prophecy and see what the ingredients of a true prophecy can contain:
- His prophecy blessed God (v.68).
- It spoke of God’s visitation to His people (v.68).
- It spoke of redemption (v.68).
- It spoke of the horn (“strength” - NIV) of salvation being raised up (v.69).
- It confirmed what other holy prophets spoke (v.70).
- It spoke of deliverance from our enemies (v.71).
- It spoke of deliverance from those who hate us (v.71).
- It spoke of the mercy promised to our fathers (v.72).
- It spoke of remembering God’s holy covenant (v.72).
- It spoke of God’s oath (“promise”) to Abraham (v.73).
- It spoke of serving God without fear from our enemies (v.74).
- It spoke of living holy and righteous before God all our days (v.75).
- It contained personal prophecy for his son John (v.76).
- It prophesied John as a prophet of God (v.76). Prophecy can predict a person’s calling and ministry gifting(s).
- It spoke of John preparing people in the ways of God (v.76).
- Zacharias prophesied John would give knowledge of salvation through the remission of their sins (v.77).
- He prophesied this would happen through “the tender mercies of our God” (v.78).
- He prophesied of God visiting us (v.78).
- He prophesied that God would give light to “those in darkness and the shadow of death” (v.79).
- He prophesied that God would “guide our feet in the way of peace” (v.79).
This prophecy can help us to see some of the ingredients of what a true prophecy can contain. In all prophecies, though, we must learn to discern the spirit that they are given in, so we can then know whether they are of God, the flesh, or the enemy (1 John 4:1-6).
Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for His nation and the whole world. That prophecy provoked the Jews to put Jesus to death!
The Old Testament prophets prophesied of this New Testament day of grace.
When believers at Ephesus were filled with the Holy Spirit they also prophesied.
- speaks to men and women to build them up (“edifying”), exhortation (“stirring up”) and to comfort (“solace, cheering up”).
- True prophesying edifies the church.
Prophecy is not always for a long time ahead ~ it can happen very quickly also.
I think there is sufficient Scriptural evidence mentioned in this article to make us to see that prophecy has to be judged. It should also be recorded so that if there is need for it to be checked out, submitted to other spiritual people, then that can happen. We cannot rely on memory alone, as it is so easy to interpret things according to what we are wanting to hear.
I trust this will prove helpful to all who read.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-23, NKJV).