Identifying False Prophets

Our Lord Jesus explicitly warned us against false prophets who will lead many people astray in Matthew 24:11

“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray”.

These false prophets appear very attractive and yet are extremely destructive. In Matthew 7:13 to 23 we read:

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

How do we avoid being deceived by these false prophets?

Firstly, we should not think that because there are great multitudes, including many pleasant people, following these prophets that they are God-sent. The Lord Jesus clearly said that the way to life is narrow and that few people find it.

Secondly, we are warned not to be deceived by their attractive appearance. False prophets always look good; they wear sheep clothing. If they would have appeared bad, few would have followed them. Their good appearance is however all hypocrisy.

Thirdly, we must not be misled by signs and wonders, not even by them driving out demons. The Lord Jesus said many will say on the final day that they have done mighty works in Jesus’ name and yet he will say to them, “I never knew you”.

Fourthly, we must not think that these prophets are true prophets because they proclaim Jesus as Lord. The Lord Jesus clearly said that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven.

How then do we identify false prophets?

Firstly we should observe whether they are pointing people to the narrow gate or not. This narrow gate is not narrow-mindedness, as some people think. Niether is it legalism with its many do’s and don’ts. This gate is Jesus Christ. If prophets do not point people to Christ alone for salvation they are not true prophets.

In John 10:9 Jesus said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Jesus also said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Putting our hope in Jesus Christ alone as savior and mediator and not in legalistic requirements nor in the traditions of man is the only way to be saved and to experience an intimate love relationship with our Heavenly Father. Prophets who do not teach faith in Christ Jesus as sufficient for salvation prevent people from becoming children of God and from experiencing a sweet personal relationship with God.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
John 1:12

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
1 Timothy 2:3‭-‬6

(Please also refer to the book of Galatians, the book of Romans, Ephesians 1 – 3 and Colossians 1-3).

Secondly, the Lord Jesus said we will recognise false prophets by their fruit. We should carefully look how these so-called prophets act and react and see if the fruit of the Spirit is evident. Galatians 5:19-22 tells us what the fruit of the Spirit is.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

If all these fruit of the Spirit are not evident in their lives, then we need to know that they are not from God.

False prophets can do many “good deeds”, but if these are not the result of the fruit of the Spirit, those deeds are futile. As stated in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If a prophet does not love and pray for his enemies, he is not from God. Our Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 5:44-45a: 

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven”.

Thirdly, we should observe whether listening to the so-called prophet and being in his presence brings about the fruit of the Spirit in people’s lifes, or not. If a prophet causes people to live in fear or despair or to suffer from depression, we should stay far away from that prophet. Those conditions of mind are contrary to the fruit of the Spirit of love, joy and peace. The Bible says that God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and that God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).

We should also observe whether we are strengthened in our faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and if our love for Him and others is increasing or not.

1 Corinthians 13 says that tongues and prophesies will pass away but faith, hope, and love will abide, the greatest of which is love. 

May God give us the grace not to be led astray by the false prophets and deceitful spirits of this time. May we stand strong in our faith and hope in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and may our love for Him increase more and more.

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