Virtually from the beginning of the existence of man there have been those trying to deceive man with false doctrines and teachings. We are even told that one of the last enemies of God to be put away is the False Prophet. Whoever these people are, we need to be aware of their existence and to work steadfastly to keep our minds free from their false teachings. This author hopes to guide the brethren in their quest to be one of those who it is impossible to deceive in the end.
We first need to understand that false statements about God have been the tool of Satan from the beginning. Even in the Garden of Eden, Satan, in the form of a snake, caused our first parents to doubt what God had said by phrasing the deception in a question, “Has God not said…?” Satan tried the same thing with Jesus (Matthew 4 and Luke 4).
We can read of people like Balaam who attempted to curse Israel, and to lead them astray. Jeremiah (23:16) showed that God knew who those false prophets were during Jeremiah’s day.
In Ezekiel, a prophet sent to the House of Israel (which tribes had been gone over 130 years at the time of that prophecy), we read that the false prophets were making misleading predictions and having false visions, saying all was well when all was not well (Isa. 13:9-10).
We know that a particularly evil False Prophet will show up at the very end of this age. We can read that an evil spirit like a frog would come from the mouth of that False Prophet and that he will end up in the lake of fire with Satan (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). Is there any reason to believe that false prophets do not exist in this day and age?
The English words “false” and “prophet” derive from the Greek word, pseudoprophētēs. We derive our English word “pseudo” from the first part of that Greek word. Pseudo means not genuine or sincere, despite appearances. Anything labeled as “pseudo” is not the “real deal” no matter how much it may look like it.
The second half of the word is “prophētēs” from which our English word prophet is derived. It means a foreteller or by analogy an inspired speaker. From the combination of these two words we can derive that a false prophet is one that appears to be genuine but is not speaking according to the inspiration of God but by another spirit, a pseudo god.
In 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 2, we are warned that this particular False Prophet will put himself above every god or object of worship and will sit down in God’s Temple and claim to be God. We are also told that he will come with the power of Satan and will perform miracles and wonders. We are also told that Jesus will destroy this False Prophet at His coming. This is undoubtedly the same False Prophet we read about in Revelation.
But, we get something very interesting about this character in 2 Thessalonians 2. This enemy of God will sit down in God’s Temple and claim to be God! We know that Paul wrote that we are the Temple of God. If we can take a bit of license with the joining of texts, it is pretty easy to come to the conclusion that the False Prophet of Revelation will come from within a group of people alleging themselves to be a part of the Body of Christ, i.e., the Temple of God. I certainly do not see any temple being rebuilt in the land known as Israel today and even if there were would it really be “God’s Temple?” I think not, which leaves the only conclusion possible to this mortal’s thinking that this False Prophet will come from within those alleging to be the Body of Christ.
In Acts 13 we read of a false prophet who was confronted by Barnabas and Saul (Paul). This particular false prophet was a Jew named Elymas. But, he was calling himself “Bar-Jesus” or “son of Jesus.” This Elymas claimed he was a prophet. Indeed, he was apparently claiming he was the son of Jesus! The first century church certainly had its share of false prophets! But, what about today? Do they exist today?
Jesus warned us, through the apostles in Luke 6:26, that false prophets would be well spoken of. He issues a “woe” to those of whom men speak well. That happened in the past where kings had been deceived by false prophets while the true prophets of God were horribly abused and killed.
Further, in Matthew 7, Jesus tells us to be on guard against these false prophets who will come to us looking like sheep! They will come looking like one of Jesus’ own! But, Jesus with the warning also told us how we can recognize them—by their fruits. We may not recognize them by what they say but by looking at what they are and do we will see that their actions and attitudes are not of God.
It is in these verses that we find the statement that "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of heaven…” I’ve heard that verse used to denigrate people who don’t think the same thing as a particular group or denomination. But, the context is false prophets, not people who think differently! In the end Jesus will tell them to “Get away, wicked people!”
Can we be fooled by false prophets? Jesus said that MANY would be fooled (Matthew 24). He said there, also, that there would be many false prophets! These false prophets will cause many people’s love to grow cold! The only way this can happen is to distract the brethren with some “new” teaching or other idea designed to, like Satan, spoon-feed a dollop of truth wrapped around a bitter pill of hate that divides brethren.
False prophets will come in many forms! We could be told that the “church” needs to collect a “tithe” so that the “church” leaders can “preach the gospel,” which then tends toward a lavish lifestyle of jets, gifts and other extravagances while widows and orphans are told to go on government assistance. This has already happened in the past under the guise of “doing the work” when the work designed by men was never shown to be the Work of God except through a twisting of the scriptures—the very thing that the Devil attempted with Jesus in the desert.
For instance, in Mark 13:10 we read that the gospel must first be “published” among all nations, breaking into the thought there. This verse was twisted to mean that magazines and radio or television shows were the work God wanted done. This author feels fairly comfortable in saying that the apostles of the first century never knew about a “Plain Truth” magazine or a “World Tomorrow” television show. Was it wrong to do those things? Of course not! What was wrong was making that verse into a mandate to order impoverished brethren to collect more than a biblical tithe and send it in for that purpose! It was a False Teaching! The ends never justify the means!
That word “published” is derived from the Greek “kērussō” which means “to herald, such as a public crier.” That verse was telling everyone that in order for the prophecy to come to pass the message would be taken by word of mouth to the world, and nothing more. The use of that verse to extract money from the brethren under the guise of it being “God’s tithe” was simply a false teaching! There are more false teachings yet to come if the past is any guide to the future.
Something to watch for, as seen in Matthew 24:23, etc., is that these false prophets and false christs will be able to deceive by great signs and wonders, just like the False Prophet of Revelation. But, we are told that if a prophet speaks against the Word of God that such a prophet is not of God and to ignore them no matter how convincing they may seem!
These false prophets will bring plausible-sounding “doctrines” with which to do their dirty deeds. As an example I point out the doctrines floating around one of which proclaims that we must use the “sacred names” of God, and another of which proclaims differences in calendars. There are more but these two suffice to show how the false prophets will work.
We read in 2 Peter, Chapter 2, that the false prophets will bring in “destructive heresies.” That word “heresy” merely means “causes disunion.” It doesn’t mean that what is said is a lie so blatant that a biblical novice could spot it! The heresies brought in are those which may have a foundation in some truth but which are used to divide.
Some proclaim that you cannot be worshipping the same God as they do if you don’t use those “Sacred Names.” This attitude drives a wedge between themselves and brethren who see that Jesus said to call God “the Father” and that Paul called Him “Abba.” There is no love between brethren when they divide over these kinds of things.
Finally, there are those claim you are sinning because you keep a standard Holy Day calendar, as well as those who claim you are sinning if you don’t keep the postponements. This attitude drives brethren apart.
Perhaps one or more of those insights could have some validity in the scriptures. Where the False Prophets or Teachers come into play is that they use those differences, which have nothing to do with what God wants from us, to cause division within the Body of Christ.
These attitudes of false prophets will cause the Way of Truth to be evil spoken of, and if this author may take a little license with 2 Peter 2, the Way will be trashed by those within and without the Church. Peter goes on to say that these false prophets use the brethren for gain! He says further that they despise dominion and speak evil of it. They promise the brethren liberty when all they bring is the slavery of corruption of the simplicity of the Word of God.
Paul dealt with False Prophets in Galatians 5. In that letter, Paul deals with the circumcision issue, about which we can read in Acts, also. Paul proclaims that circumcision would take away the profit of Christ. But, was Paul saying circumcision was bad? Of course not, yet that is how some have twisted his words. It was the reason for circumcision that Paul was challenging, saying that relying on such for righteousness was tantamount to attempting to be justified by the Law, and nobody can be justified that way. Paul makes it clear when he says that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength.”
Paul also gives us a hint at what we need to do to avoid the false doctrines in Galatians 5. He says that we should “let love make you serve one another.” Moreover, he says, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-21, that we should have joy always, pray, praise God, don’t put out the light of the Spirit, pay attention to the words of the prophets and to prove all things, holding onto what is good.
John tells us the same thing in 1 John 4 where he tells us to test the spirits to see if they are from God. He says this because even then many false prophets had gone out everywhere. John’s solution, like Peter’s and Paul’s, is to love the brethren. If we do, we won’t allow the divisiveness of the false prophets to affect our love for one another.
In Revelation 12:17 we read that the dragon will make war with the remnant of the seed of the woman, which remnant keeps the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. We know what the commandments of God are. But, what is the testimony of Jesus? I submit that we find it in John 13:34-35 where Jesus tells us that He gives us a new commandment, that we love one another.
We see the same testimony in John 15 where Jesus calls us “friends” and not servants and then commands us to love one another!
The deception can be more subtle and perhaps not recognized by the brethren. A church “leader” may seem to be righteous but behind the scenes secretly hating some of the flock he is supposed to be serving. With that hatred comes the gossiping and maneuvering that drives wedges between brethren. This happens when a “leader” thinks he is over the flock instead of serving them. It has happened all too frequently by these false teachers who still exist today both in large corporate organizations and in smaller unaligned groups. When you find a leader like that fomenting unrest among the brethren, then hiding behind the “don’t level an accusation against an elder” scripture, you know you have found such a false prophet and should run from that one as fast as you can—unless, like Paul and Barnabas, you have the power from God to blind them as a sign of their deception!
The solution to surviving the deception of our modern day false prophets and The False Prophet is this: we must be obeying God, showing love for Him by obeying His commandments and we must be loving our brothers and sisters. If we are doing this, then there is no way that any false prophet can bring any doctrine, true, somewhat true or even false, that will allow us to be distracted from the simplicity that is the Way of God. We will spot these false prophets by their fruits which invariably cause division in the Body. To answer the question posed by the article’s title, “Yes, there are false prophets working today.”
We don’t all have to believe exactly the same thing. None of us have all understanding or perfect knowledge of the mind of God. God can and will correct errors in understanding. What He can’t create in us is the love that He wants to see in His children; that has to voluntarily come from each of us. While the false prophets are continually fomenting division we need to be overcoming that with love. Love overcomes all things. It is never the source of division.