Matthew 24:24 (KJV) 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Our world today is unfortunately filled with many false prophets, and the worst are still to come and their embodiment’s are still growing. Rather than focus on specific false prophets today in our life, it is more important that we learn how to recognize it so that we will not be deceived now or in the future. We must be careful here when we talk about others, as God rebukes a slanderer. What I mean by this is that you have to be careful of getting into a “Who’s Who” of false prophets, as I could sit here and write about someone and their teachings, and that person may not teach that any more, or may have come away from something after realizing that it was wrong and didn’t stack up to the Word. I would always recommend putting in solid research into a person or preacher before coming to a conclusion, and avoid trivial information such as YouTube sound bite clips that deem people “the devil” as part of your research.
It is also important to know that I in no way advocate that you should live in fear and white knuckle your life due to this warning. Rather, see it more as testing things to the Word that we live by as a guide so that we may not be deceived.
Often times, these false prophets are so good at leading you astray, you don’t even notice it. A simple analogy is to imagine walking from point A to B, and that distance is only 10 feet. A few steps astray left or right won’t hurt you from reaching point B sufficiently. Now, imagine the distance is hundreds of thousands upon thousands of feet that takes you years to traverse. A few steps astray left and right over that long of a time and distance will lead you way off the mark. That is just one of the most subtle ways you may see these false prophets work.
The Word warns us many times about false prophets and how they will come in great numbers. Matthew 24:11 (KJV) 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
Jesus warned us of them and also stated that many will follow them unknowingly, as they will appear to be of God and preach the Word, but may teach one or two things wrong, or their personal life may be a wreck. Examining one’s personal affairs can sometimes give you insight, and can be one of the most basic things we can do when examining someone. If you see a priest or bishop committing adultery, sexual immorality, money laundering, theft, practicing things or acts in life that go against the Word, ect - you can make an informed discernment that they may fall into the category of these false prophets that Jesus talked about. Remember, according to the Word, one must possess certain attributes to minister:
1 Timothy 3:1-7 (KJV)
1 This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
We can also examine the doctrines someone teaches, and test them to the Word. Often times, you will see a false prophet teaching a doctrine of demons. These can be very tricky to discern at times, and you may be shocked at first when you see them once you realize the true evil behind them. Be wary of these doctrines, especially those that change views on the Trinity, or teach of a “work around” in the Word, or change the Word, or add to it.
A common one practiced that a lot of us likely grew up with is the way confession is often practiced. This is not to say confession of sins is unwarranted, but the manner in which it is done should be examined. If you are like me, I grew up telling a priest my sins, you know, the super legit grand total of 5 sins that I committed that I felt like saying, and then was told to say a few Hail Mary prayers, which I blew through so fast under my breath that it couldn’t even count as praying, and BOOM all my sins were absolved, right? It’s totally OK that I go RIGHT back to my sinning ways, because I can just go to confession and I’ll be all good again next time after my few Hail Mary prayers, correct? WRONG! That is not repentance of sins, and that is not seeking Christ. That is a work around in the Word to fit what you want to do in fleshly life, but shockingly many, many people do this and never give it a second thought. This practice is a demonic doctrine that sets you up to sin continuously over a lifetime and falsely believe all your sins are absolved because you told another man, and said a few Hail Mary prayers, to only continue on with the same sins or worse, over and over. Another man such as a priest or bishop cannot save you - ONLY Jesus Christ can save you! And seeking Him does not include committing sins over and over with no effort to get better or live better.
Demonic doctrines are all around us. I have touched on this several times in past articles as well. Simply put, it is anything that sounds good and of God, but actually does not stack up to the Word or what God commands, and seeks to pull you further away from Christ. They often appear as a loophole in the system that seems too good to be true, because it often is! Another one commonly taught today is that Hell does not exist, and that no one will go there. I could, and likely will, write another article entirely pertaining to this, but know this - Hell is real, the Word speaks of it often, and to teach someone that it doesn’t exist leads them to live a lifestyle full of sin without fear of reprimand, and that is another classic demonic doctrine because at the end of it all, you are the one suffering for it.
Adrian Rodgers wrote a very good article regarding false prophets - as he discussed a very good method on discerning between these false prophets. We should examine their motive, method, and manner in which they conduct matters.
By their method:
2 Peter 2:1-3 (KJV) 1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
Peter was discussing how they operate. “Privily” means to do something secretly in a manner that is hard to see. The devil is clever in his methods - his helpers present false teachings alongside the Word in order to ultimately confuse you or trick you into unknowingly doing evil. Also see the word “feigned”, seen here as in “feigned words”. Feigned, in Greek is “plastos”, or “plastic”, meaning it is pliable and can mold itself to fit and imitate.
By their motive:
Adrian writes, “What is the false teacher’s motive? They want to use and manipulate you. Why? Because they themselves are covetous. For their own motivation and wicked heart, Peter says, they make merchandise of the Gospel. You’ve perhaps seen some of these hucksters on TV who merchandise the Gospel of Christ. In my estimation, the hottest part of hell is reserved for these plastic preachers who, for whatever reason, merchandise God’s people. With great swelling words they exploit the ignorant. They are prophets, spelled P-R-O-F-I-T-S.”
Now, this is not to say that ALL Christian stores or merchandise falls into this category, but I bet some come to mind that do. If their motive is purely profit, as in money, and not leading others to Christ so that they might be saved too, then tread carefully. You might still see this today in the form of late night “Christian” infomercials that are constantly going back to the BUY NOW! BUY NOW! Ads selling prayers. Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve seen preachers sell their “power to pray for you” online and on TV. You send them your prayer written down along with $50 and they “Guarantee direct delivery to God!”.
By their manner:
Adrian also writes,
“And many shall follow their pernicious ways… (v. 2) Pernicious is a word we don’t use much today. It literally means “unbridled lust.” The center, sum and substance of their message is themselves.
Have you noticed that apostasy and immorality go hand in hand? Often you’ll hear about false teachers being caught in adultery. Or, within their belief system, they advocate immorality, multiple wives, or some sort of “free sex.” We see it over and over again. We hear news reports of a cult under the spell of a leader who, it is revealed, has been engaging in shocking immorality with members of his flock. High-profile evangelists preaching easy-believe-ism or a health-and-wealth gospel have sometimes been exposed as leading double lives.
They call themselves prophets, but they’re living in sin. Note their methods, manner, and way of life. Are they above reproach?
Success in ministry does not necessarily mean they’re doing God’s work. Statistics are no proof that something is of God, because “many will follow” (2 Peter 2:2). Some people love the sensual rather than the spiritual. Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 7:21). Many people lead double lives. They are counterfeits.”
2 Timothy 4:3-4 “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
The most sure way we can be prepared is to keep our heart and soul on Jesus Christ. Actively seek Him and to live by His commands of us in the Word, and test everything to the Word so that we may not be deceived. Jesus will never steer us wrong!