For five lessons we’ve been investigating Matthew 24, the signs of Jesus’ return. Several lessons ago the topic was that of deception in general, world-wide deception that would infiltrate and seek to undermine the Church. After the disciples had asked Jesus “what is the sign of the end of the age?” Jesus did not respond with signs such as social injustice, political unrest or world hunger. Jesus’ response may have actually shocked His disciples, and the wording in the Greek definitely reflects the fact that He did intend to shake them up. Jesus’ immediate response was, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4). Chilling words. And just as a reminder to us, Jesus was warning believers not unbelievers.
It goes on to say in Matthew 24, “5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.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.25 Behold, I have told you before.26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”
In Matthew 7, Jesus had already touched on the topic of false prophets, saying, “21 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.22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
The Great Deluge of False Prophets
It may seem odd to discuss false prophets. After all, what have they to do with us? What have we to do with them? Are there really prophets still today? Is the gift still in operation? The long and the short of it is, Jesus warned us that at the end of the age – and we are there in the last of the Last Days – there would be false prophetic activity. Now there are some churches that believe that prophecy has ceased. But, according to Jesus in this passage, prophecy would not have ceased but would still be active at the very tail end of the age just before His return.
Prophecy Then & Now
And so, Matthew 24 states clearly, “11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” And many means just that. There will be a great number of false prophets just before Jesus comes back. Now, that is beyond alarming if you ask me! That’s downright scary!
Before we get into what false prophecy is unfolding today and how to handle it, let’s take a look at the Old Testament to see what God has to say about both godly prophets and false prophets. God never leaves His people in the dark. He always lets us know what He’s thinking and what’s on His heart. As Jesus said even in Matthew 24:25, “Behold I have told you before.” With God we don’t ever have to guess. All we have to do is read the Bible for what it says and take it seriously.
Numbers 11 gives us God’s heart about prophets and prophecy, “24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.25 And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”
And this very desire of God took place on the Day of Pentecost in the Upper Room as related to us in the New Testament book of Acts 2. “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy…”
The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 14 explains the important role of the prophetic in church services. We don’t often see this gift in operation in our western churches today, but this does not mean it is unimportant. Actually, according to Paul, ““1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy…”
God’s heart is that true, godly prophecy would be normative in the Church body, for according to I Corinthians 14:3, it builds the Church into a holy temple wherein a holy God might dwell, for God only dwells in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 96:9); it aligns us with God and His word, and it comforts our hearts with the open revelation of the mystery of the gospel. Prophecy is not merely teaching of the Bible, as some have attempted to define it. God calls that gift “teaching”. It is not exhortation, for God calls that gift exhortation. It is not pastoring nor the shepherding of the sheep, for God calls that pastoring. Rather it is a Holy Spirit inspired utterance that pierces the heart with conviction, as it says in Jeremiah 20:9, “9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” The inspired utterance also calls one to holiness as it says in Isaiah 1:18, “16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And furthermore, true, godly prophecy turns one back to perfect alignment with God’s word and gospel, for the “testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). It never contradicts Scripture. And though it is not always about future prognostication, when the prophesy actually does predict something, it always comes to pass, for the Holy Spirit is never wrong.
False vs. True
A quick comparison between false prophets and true prophets reveals this. There are always a host of false prophets up against a handful of true prophets. In I Kings 18 we see the prophet Elijah up against 450 prophets of the god Baal and 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah. I Kings 22 read.
Godly prophets though more than likely will be well-known they will also nearly always be looked down upon as judgmental, narrow minded, and negative, while false prophets will be popular and praised for their optimistic message of “peace, peace” though there is no peace.
What is Prophecy and the Message of a True Prophet?
Paracalesis (3874), the call to align with God, to come alongside God/His word
Paramuthia (3889 with the help of 3453 from which it is derived), to come alongside God’s mysteries/be comforted by His open
Revelation, i.e God’s word
Oikodome (3619), the act of building a suitable dwelling place for God, a place
where the Lord is “at home” through instruction and constructive criticism. And God dwells in holiness (Psalm 96:9, Isaiah 57:15, Ezekiel 43:12)
I Corinthians 12
It’s one of the gifts of the Spirit given for edification
I Corinthians 14
“1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy… 3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort… 12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church… 24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth… 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
2 Thessalonians 2
“8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie…”
2 Timothy 3:13-14; 4:3
“13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them…3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
“11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
“Lessons on True and False Prophets (Jeremiah 28),” http://www.baptisttheology.org/white-papers/lessons-on-true-and-false-prophets-jeremiah-28/
“7 Characteristics of False Prophets You Should Watch For,” https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/79191-7-characteristics-of-false-prophets-you-should-watch-for
“The Message and Ministry of False Prophets in Jeremiah,” https://www.delreychurch.com/blog/post/false-prophets-in-jeremiah