The Rise of False Teachers and Prophets
Since the old testament era, the world has never fallen short of false prophets who purport to be the messengers of God. Their prophecies, either man-made or inspired from the pit of hell are not without a cause. What they claim as prophecies are predictions that are guided by probable events that might occur in relation to the current events.
Through their predictions, they've ensnared innocent souls from seeking the truth.
In Mathew 23, Jesus laments at the fallacy of teachers and Pharisees. He says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are." Through their false prophecies and teachings, they lead earnest seekers into the gates of hell - the kingdom of Satan - rather than leading into the kingdom of God.
Jesus indicated there would be an upsurge of false prophets who will deceive many including Christians. "For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." (Mathew 24:24) H
He cautions us to be alert so as not to fall prey to their tricks. "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves."
Characteristics of False Prophets and Teachers
As an earnest seeker of God's truth, how can you spot a false prophet or teacher? There are three distinct characteristics to look out for. They are:
1. By their deeds
Satan and the false prophets have succeeded in deceiving many Christians and nonbelievers throughout the ages by disguising themselves as messengers of God. Apostle Paul says, "...For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds" (2nd Corinthians 11:13-15)
As pointed out by Apostle Paul in the above verses, we can pinpoint false teachers and prophets through their deeds. Jesus said, "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..." (Mathew 7:15-20)
It is through their deeds (fruits) we can identify them. Do their teachings (doctrine) or prophecies align with the Word of God? Whenever a prophet declares occurrence of an event, his prophecy should be supported by the Word of God. When a pastor teaches a certain topic, the topic should have foundation validation from the Bible.
How do they respond to issues, both Biblical and non-Biblical? Are their responses in relation to what is written in the Bible? All of us have different viewpoints but we should be careful not to be swept away by reasonings that oppose the teachings of the Bible.
How is their lifestyle? Is it characterised by the finer things of the world than service to God? Are they always ambitious to own things in the pretext it's to advance the kingdom of God?
It worth noting, if the members of a church are struggling to live but their leader's life is characterized by lavish lifestyle, the leader is lacking. He isn't a true shepherd of God.
2. Their prophecies doesn't materialize
There is a difference between prophecy and prediction. Both have common similarity as they are based on events that will happen in the future. The difference is that prophecies always come from God while predictions are made by man (or Satan).
God's prophecies aren't based on probability of an event occuring or not. They happen irrespective of whether the future event will correlate with the current event (s) or not. This is opposite to prediction which is based on probability, the certainty whether the event will occur or not.
In Deuteronomy 18, we are informed how we can distinguish a true prophet from a false one. "You may say in your heart, "How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?" When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him."
When a prophet dictates an event will occur but it fails to materialize, you should disregard the prophet. He can't be relied as a prophet of God. In addition, as noted above, prophecies should be authoritatively backed by the Word of God.
3. Sweet-coated Prophecies and Teachings
A prophet's job is not only to dictate what will happen in future but to teach and warn people from rebelling against God or erring from the path of light.
God's prophets don't mince with their words. They don't spice their prophecies and teachings to please people.
Many Christians throng churches to hear what they want to hear, not what God has to say to them. They avoid churches where prophets and pastors don't play around with God's word.
In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul foretells a time when people will avoid teachers who speak the truth. Instead, they will turn to teachers who will say things they want to hear not what God wants to say. He tells Timothy, "For 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. They will turn their ears from the truth and turn aside to the myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Isn't this the reason why some churches command a large membership of Christians? Isn't it because the teachings and prophecies from these churches are sweet-coated?
In Luke 6:26, Jesus says, "Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets."
In Jeremiah 23:16, God tells His people through prophet Jeremiah, "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.'"
The Goal of False Teachers and Prophets
There are two categories of false prophets:
1. Man-made prophets
2. Satan's agents
Man-made prophets are prophets who predict future events based on current events. They look closely at events that are likely to happen and falsely state God has told them to deliver a message to His people and the world. The predictions made by these prophets are mostly positive to make them likeable and to gain trust from listeners.
Satan's agents are those who are inspired by Satan and his evil forces to predict certain events. Most of the predictions are positive to entice people to believe the false prophets.
What do false teachers and prophets aim to gain from their deception? Fame, authority and wealth.
Pastor John Miller in his article 'Faith Focus: True and False Teachers' that was published in The Sentinel Newspaper states, "False teachers are not concerned for the good of others or for the glory of God, but only for their own gain. Their goal is to use and devour other people for their own selfish purposes. The danger of false teachers is not merely physical harm (as in the case of mass suicide for the followers of Jim Jones), but grave spiritual harm. Through false teaching, they poison your soul by turning you away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ to something else that will lead to your own eternal ruin. Beware of false teachers."
© 2020 Alianess Benny Njuguna