Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1, NIV).
In the end times (which we are in now), there will be many legitimate prophets and also false prophets.
How do we discern the difference?
I believe there are prophets today, not necessarily the Old Testament variety pronouncing judgment from heaven, but as the Apostle Paul writes . . .
The one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3, NIV).
I’ve received remarkable prophecies that came true and some that were false. I’ve observed followers stepping out in faith based upon a prophecy with amazing results while others were led astray into tragic consequences.
How do we discern the difference between true and false prophecy?
Let’s look at several guidelines given in the Bible . . .
- If a prophet, teaching, or book demeans Jesus, it is false teaching!
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God (1 John 4:2, NASB1995).
- Look at the lives of the prophet or teacher. What fruit do they produce? Do they have a great family and friends? Are they in debt? Do they like The Ohio State Buckeyes (I admit this sentence needs discernment)?
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 (Matthew 7:15-16, NIV).
- If a prophet gives specific events and dates that don’t come true, this is a false prophecy.
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 18:22, NIV).
- If a prophet, teacher, or preacher doesn’t walk in unity with other faithful believers.
Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3, ESV).
- If a prophet can’t discern between his or her own opinion and the actual word from God. Even the Apostle Paul said . . .
I give my opinion in this matter (2 Corinthians 8:10, NASB1995).
God speaks through the gift of prophecy.
God also gives revelation through the Bible. The difference between the Bible and a prophet is that the Bible is perfect and complete while the prophet is still being sanctified!
I believe a prophet can make a mistake, a preacher can miscue a sermon, and a teacher can run rabbit trails. They need to mature in their spiritual gifts.
But in the last days, there will be prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are many around today. Why?
Some would say it’s because of the evil one seeks to deceive. I would agree, but that’s not the main reason. We read in 2 Timothy 4:3 (NLT) that . . .
The time will come when people 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.
Today, the number one reason for the increase of false prophecy and teaching is receptive believers who desire their passions rather than the Word of God!
I will continue this discussion on the danger of false teaching in tomorrow’s Interruption.