False Teachers, Preachers and Prophets
How can I recognize a false teacher or false prophet?
False prophets claim to receive messages from God, but they usually prophesied only what people want to hear. False teachers and false prophets are just as common today as they were in Jesus day and are motivated by money, fame, or power. These false prophets and teachers will come in among the believers like wolves who are disguised as harmless sheep. Jesus warned us that false prophets would come.
Let’s look at some scriptures.
Mar 13:22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to
deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Mar 13:23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
Mat 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly
they are ferocious wolves.
Mat 7:16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or
figs from thistles?
Sheep are an emblem of innocence, sincerity, and harmlessness. To come in sheep’s clothing is to assume the appearance of purity, goodness and innocence, when the heart is evil.
Wolves are opportunists. They test their prey, sensing any weakness or vulnerability. Highly skilled and organized in battles they are ferocious and aggressive in bringing down big enemies.
Jesus warned us that “false Christs and false prophets” will come and will attempt to deceive even God’s elect. The best way to guard yourself against falsehood and false teachers is to know the truth by studying the Bible and judge all teaching by what the Scriptures say.
Let’s take a look at a few more scriptures:
2Co 11:13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of
2Co 11:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
2Co 11:15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.
Their end will be what their actions deserve.
1Jn 4:1 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.
Mat 24:24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and
wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Mat 24:11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
Are There Still Prophets Today?
Today, we hear of modern day prophets prophesying about things to come that are outside of the Word of God. Are these true prophets of God? What does the Bible say about prophets?
Heb 1:1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in
Heb 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all
things, and through whom also he made the universe.
In the New Testament, the gift of the office of a prophet was a temporary one granted by God for the purpose of building His Church. Different from the apostles, who had broad ministries, these men had localized ministries within local churches as we see illustrated in such places as Acts 11:21-28 and Acts 13:1.
Scripture shows us that the prophets of the New Testament had two primary purposes:
• They were gifted men given to the Church and appointed by God (Eph. 4:11-12, 1 Cor. 12:28) for the purpose of helping to lay the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20).
• They, like the apostles, received God’s revelation (Eph. 3:5) and truth and proclaimed it to their churches. It is important to remember that the early Church did not have a completed Bible, so God granted this revelation for the purpose of teaching His message to the Church.
So, are prophets still needed today? Looking at the two functions listed above, we can see that the office of prophet is one that is no longer necessary and has ceased within the Church because:
• The foundation of the Church was laid long ago.
• God’s revealed Word was completed with the close of the New Testament.
The Church’s foundation does not need to be laid again, and there is no need for further revelation beyond what God has provided for us in His complete Word, the Bible. Today we are blessed to have Scripture as our complete and final authority in all things (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If someone now claims to have received a “special revelation,” we must test it against Scripture. If it is contrary to the Word of God, then it must be rejected. If it is consistent with Scripture, then we have to ask why an “extra” word was necessary if its truth is already contained in the Bible. So while we always need men who are willing to proclaim boldly the Word of God as contained in Scripture (as pastors, teachers, and evangelists), there is no need for the office of “prophet” as it existed in the New Testament.
Once God had finished giving the New Testament which took several years (the last book being written no later than about A.D. 90), the gift of prophecy ceased.
10 Common "False Prophet" Characteristics You Should Know About
Here are a few traits False Prophets commonly possess that you should be aware of.
Characteristic #1: They are Sincere
Some False Prophets aren't sincere, but many are. Don't expect a shifty-eyed person who looks like a prototypical serial murder or Nazi war criminal on trial for crimes against humanity. False Prophets have often convinced themselves that they have the truth-or at least that their behavior is fully acceptable to God. Because they are so sincere, they are extremely convincing, one of their most dangerous traits.
Characteristic #2: They are Intelligent
False Prophets typically are highly intelligent individuals, able to discern and make the most intellectual arguments. They use this talent to convince others to follow after them. And don't think their followers are fools either. Intelligent people attract intelligent followers. Intelligent individuals in our society often occupy positions of success and influence in the world, and their busy schedules give them little time to examine for themselves the legitimacy of what they are being told. This presents an ideal situation for the acceptance of the False Prophet's false teachings.
Characteristic #3: They are Popular
False Prophets are typically well-liked, outgoing and friendly. They are social butterflies. It's hard to get much of a following otherwise. They are characteristically wise to the ways of politics and social interaction. It is not uncommon for them to seek the praise that comes from men more than the praise that comes from God. As a result, they put great effort into their social relations.
Characteristic #4: They are Charming, Attractive and/or Appealing
False Prophets are sometimes attractive or charming, but always appealing. They often possess traits that naturally draw people into their circles of influence: charisma, humor, cheerful, positive attitudes, conversational personalities, and the like. Since most folks are attracted to materialism, possessions, and outer appearances, being charming, appealing, and even wealthy goes well for a good following. And housing their flocks within the walls of incredibly expensive and attractive structures doesn't hurt their cause.
Characteristic #5: They are Knowledgeable
False Prophets obviously possess the knowledge required to convince their unsuspecting followers they know what they are talking about. False Prophets sometimes come armed with secular education, sometimes even seminary training. Surely, their unwary followers doubtlessly think, a person with such advanced religious training cannot be incorrect or misleading. Yet one need only to hark back to the Pharisees, who were by far the most religiously educated of Jesus' day-and also the most deceived. Indeed, it was the highly educated Pharisees themselves from whom was spawned the infamous quotation: "if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch."
Characteristic #6: They are Reassuring
False Prophets don't want their flocks to leave, or to waste too much time investigating the truth. To keep them from this, False Prophets reassure their followers not to worry, and that everything is ok. The message often is: "Listen to me, rely on my sermons and my message, and you'll have everything you need." Their discourses frequently master in soothing messages and but often minor in content, truth, and spiritual challenges. They long ago realized that maintaining an appealing, undemanding, and reassuring message is the key in sustaining their following.
Characteristic #7: They are Confident
Few people desire to follow a person who is unsure of himself or lacks confidence, even if he appears to be knowledgeable and intelligent. Therefore False Prophets are frequently confident individuals, sometimes extremely confident, to the extent they believe nothing else could possibly be right other than what they personally believe and preach. This often produces an unteachable attitude in the False Prophet which sometimes extends to his followers. Because False Prophets often sincerely believe their doctrines and are followed by others who agree with them, this reinforces the prophets' self-confidence, and in turn can give rise to more confidence still. This larger dosage of self-confidence in turn appeals to yet more people who are enticed to follow after them, and the vicious cycle continues to feed upon itself.
Characteristic #8: They are Highly Motivated
False Prophets have followings, sometimes large multitudes of adoring listeners that hang on their every utterance of guidance. The mere fact so many people adore them likely helps fuel their motivation. Several objects can motivate a False Prophet, including money, power, even sexual favors. Sometimes it's merely a desire to be popular, sometimes they are simply deceived thinking they are doing God's will, and this deception alone is their motivation.
Characteristic #9: They are Harmless in Appearance
False Prophets don't look dangerous. They don't act dangerous. They don't seem dangerous. They look harmless. But False Prophets are the most dangerous "species" on earth. Their words mislead millions into eternal destruction. False Prophets-whether intentionally or unintentionally-probably believe their messages help others, even if they realize their messages are false. After all, if nothing else, the message of a False Prophet provides his followers momentary happiness and reassurance.
Characteristic #10: They are False
Naturally, "False" means "Wrong." False Prophets are incorrect, they do not have the truth. But they are rarely totally wrong-such would not produce much of a following. Their teachings represent a deformed version of truth. Depending on the degree of the distortion-these deformities of truth often lead to treacherous, warped, and evil behavior magnified far beyond the norm. Jesus said "by their deeds you will recognize them." As their power increases, so often does their level of corruption. Their behavior can range from deceit, lying, selfish ambition, and immorality (all in the "name of God")-to hatred, prejudice, racism, violence, killing, torture, wars, mass homicide, genocide, gross immorality, and terrorism (all in the "name of God"). Such warped behavior-which is often passed off as "the will of God"-has sadly been witnessed in modern times and has been repeated throughout history. Indeed, such behavior is the reason some have rejected all forms of religion and have turned to atheism.
5 Things You Can Do to Keep From Being a False Prophet's Victim
False Prophets prey on all economic classes, races, and degrees of intellects. Don't make the mistake thinking that because you are smart, you are immune. Few are invulnerable to their sometimes colossal gravitational spiritual pull. However, there is absolutely no good reason anyone need fall victim to a False Prophet. Just a few simple precautions can ensure this won't happen to you.
#1: Don't be a tradition-follower-Be a Bible-follower
Many people in the religious world practices and worships the way they do for one simple reason: tradition. This seemingly innocent concept can claim many spiritual victims on the Day of Judgment.
Why? Because people seldom question the faith they are raised in. Apparently they think their parents, grandparents, and other ancestors couldn't have possibly been wrong. Additionally, some feel that by following in the path of their ancestors they are somehow honoring their memory. Furthermore, if they chose to take a different spiritual path than their family has chosen, they may be subject to disassociation. This is a greater sacrifice than most are willing to bear.
Because the "tradition trap" is so powerful, False Prophets probably enjoy their easiest success at the expense of tradition-oriented Christians. The wide path that leads to destruction is perfectly suitable to them. Indeed, most False Prophets have fallen victim to the same influence, for it would have been difficult for them to have successfully completed their religious training had they failed to bow to the traditional views of their religion.
#2: Arm Yourself With Knowledge
Religious people who lack knowledge are an easy target for False Prophets. It is only a matter of time before one of the many False Prophets of the world will find his way into the life of a person who is unarmed of spiritual knowledge and truth.
God said in Hosea 4:6 that His people were destroyed due to a lack of knowledge, and the same is certainly true today.
Sadly, far too many Christian religious people are perfectly content to listen to religious leaders but never bother to do their own homework, never bother to examine the preacher's message against the word of God. They make the tragic assumption that "False Prophets always happen to someone else," not realizing that maybe these leaders are off track of truth.
The action Christians can take to arm themselves against False Prophets is to continually grow in knowledge of God's word by studying his word. We must also possess an honest and open mind, and the courage to make any necessary changes to our lives as the Holy Spirit leads us.
#3: Don't Be Complacent
False Prophets prey on the complacent, self-satisfied, and unsuspecting. Complacent individuals
are those who are satisfied and not aware of the potential danger and do not have a sense of urgency regarding their eternal destiny. They feel saved and secure. Thus, they make easy prey for False Prophets who are perfectly contented with complacent followers, especially since complacent followers provide the much needed financial support essential for the success of their ongoing work.
#4: Take the Time To Do Your Spiritual Homework
False Prophets prey on those too busy to "check out the facts." Many people fall into this category. It's far easier to rely on a seemingly intelligent, knowledgeable spiritual leader, than it is to take personal responsibility for one's own salvation-as God commanded Christians to do.
#5: Be Alert For Suspicious or Illogical Messages from your Preacher
Sometimes logic itself makes it obvious your preacher or someone you watch on TV is a False Prophet. Certain "red flags" of warning are sometimes raised in their sermons and personal advice to their followers.
If someone tells you they are receiving messages and prophecies directly from God, you should be extremely wary. Why? Because God's word plainly teaches that all instructions regarding our Christian living were completed long ago. In the Bible we have the completed will of God, and have had since Christ's century.
And one more important piece of Biblical advice: Don't keep listening to the messages of those you know by research are false teachers.
Most people consider it important to examine all the facts when it comes to buying a car, a home, or making a significant investment. But nothing is as important as closely checking the facts when it comes to that which will determine your eternal destiny. As uncomfortable as it may be, you absolutely must take the time to check up (independently) on your religious leaders. Be absolutely sure their message is perfectly accurate with the word of God and never underestimate the value of good ole' common sense.
We have seen from Scripture that false prophets are in it for the money, fame, or power. they want to seduce people to follow them, they want to deceive others, they strengthen the hands of the evil doers, they do not turn people away from their sins, they introduce heresies, they are motivated by greed, and they crave self-glorification. The end is not a pretty picture for them. God will judge them at His return.
For further study, review those books of the Bible that were written specifically to combat false teaching within the church: Galatians, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude. It is often difficult to spot a false teacher or false prophet. Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and his ministers masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15). Only by being thoroughly familiar with the truth will we be able to recognize a counterfeit.