It has been said time and again by Church leadership, specifically under the umbrella of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation, also called Third Wave) that modern prophets are learning, and that even if their prophecies are incorrect this does not make them false prophets. However, how does God handle this?
In Jeremiah 28 an interesting story unfolds. Before a group of people and priests, a prophet named Hananiah dramatically prophesies that God is going to break the Babylonian yoke of slavery off of the Jews. To make this more vivid, he places a wooden yoke on Jeremiah, then takes it off him and breaks it. The prophet Jeremiah agrees, saying, “Amen: the LORD do so: the LORD perform thy words which thou hast prophesied,” (Jeremiah 28:6). However, he also added, “Nevertheless, hear thou now this word…the prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him,” (Jeremiah 28:7a, 9). Jeremiah agreed with him, but gave the disclaimer that everyone would know if the prophecy was true if it came to pass. Thus, he referred them back to Deuteronomy 18:20-22 which states, “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?” (Deuteronomy 18:21). And God answers that if the prophecy does not come to pass, then the prophet has “spoken presumptuously” and the people are not to respect that person as a prophet. First John 4:1 agrees with this when it says that we are “not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
The story in Jeremiah then takes a twist. God speaks to Jeremiah at home, telling him to go back to Hananiah to tell him the yoke is made of unbreakable iron. “Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now Hananiah, the LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust a lie…this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD. And Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month” (Jeremiah 28:15,16b-17).
So, let’s get this straight. Hananiah had thought he was right. “I am sure this prophetic word was well received by the people. It brought edification and comfort. It promised blessings and restoration. It spoke kindly to those who had suffered loss and assured the fulfillment of God’s promises. Most likely the people were praising God and some even weeping for joy” (John Bevere, “Thus Saith The Lord?” pg. 100). It did not seem even slightly false…………but…….. it was NOT a word from the Lord!
Not only was it NOT a word from the Lord, it taught the people to rebel against what God had said. For in Jeremiah 27 Jeremiah prophesied that the Jews were to serve Babylon and not resist. But they did not want to hear that! That certainly could not be a word from the Lord! But, when Hananiah spoke, certainly that was the word of the Lord for it promised good and not evil! Thus, Hananiah’s arrogant words led the people to believe a lie and to rebel against what God really had said.
But perhaps Hananiah had not been prophesying long. Couldn’t he have just gotten it wrong and yet not be a false prophet? He meant well, right? Perhaps he and all those dreamers just needed to be a part of a “school of the prophets.”
Here then is the real question. Is prophecy of the Holy Spirit or of man? It says in 1 Corinthians 12 that prophecy is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. This means, that it is the Holy Spirit speaking through the person that is prophesying. Can the Holy Spirit get it wrong????? “The Holy Spirit is not in training, and He only speaks the true and the pure. The error comes when we speak when He has not or we are silent when He is speaking…Samuel, when he was only a boy, gave a pure and fully accurate prophecy his first time (1 Samuel 3:11-19). He did not have to “grow in the gift”.” (John Bevere, Thus Saith The Lord? pg 98). The Holy Spirit DOES NOT EVER GET IT WRONG.
“In the latter days you will understand it clearly. I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied” (Jeremiah 23:20b-21). God goes on to say that He is “against those who prophesy lying dreams…and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them” (Jeremiah 23:32). Truly, “They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word,” Ezekiel 13:6. Wrong prophecy is divination, plain and simple. “Simply put, these prophets speak their own oracles as though they were God’s. Yet the words are not God’s but their own. This is another way of describing the imitation or counterfeit of the true prophetic word of the Lord” (John Bevere, Thus Saith The Lord? pg 90).
The Hananiahs are not gone. There are modern day Hananiahs who prophesy with great fervor and emotion, and more often than not they are wrong. Dead wrong. Yet they have no fear of death, for they say that God does not judge them based on the O.T. any longer. But….. God does not change, and He honors His word above His name (Psalm 138:2). Thus, “Concerning the prophets: My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake…because of the LORD and because of His holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns, and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up…both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:9a,c 10a, 11-12). Truly, judgment starts first at the Lord’s sanctuary (Ezekiel 9:6).