23. What is the test of a true and false prophet?

A true prophet is 100% accurate. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22 we receive guidance on how to discern false prophets: ‘But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.. You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.’

This is for your protection. Anyone who is not 100% accurate and claims to be a prophet is self- deceived!

This is why the prophet Jonah was so upset: see Jonah 3:10-4:11. He prophesied Nineveh’s destruction but then God was merciful and relented. Since it did not come to pass right then that means the LORD would never use him again in the prophetic office. God’s response was if you lost your ministry and thousands of lives were spared wouldn’t that be worth it? Jeremiah 23 verses 16-40 warns of people who say ‘thus says the LORD’ and interpret or ‘prophesy something the LORD has not spoken.’ They are ‘deluding you’ and speak ‘out of their own minds, not from the LORD.’ They ‘prophesy lies and deceit of their own heart and steal my words from one another.’ God says ‘I am against those who lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or appoint them.’ (NRSV) Ezekiel 13:1-14:9 ‘To those who prophesy out of their own imagination, thus says the Lord GOD, Alas for the senseless prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! They have envisioned falsehood and lying divination; they say, ‘Says the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations; You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death persons who should not die who listen to lies. Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, and you have encouraged the wicked not to turn from their wicked way and save their lives; therefore you shall no longer see false visions or practice divination; I will save my people from your hand. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’ Ezekiel 14:9 ‘If a prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him, and will destroy him, and they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the inquirer and the punishment of the prophet shall be the same (NRSV).

These are the ones who sincerely think God is speaking through them, but it is really their imagination. They do more harm than good. Misusing God’s name in this way is breaking the third commandment. See Exodus 20 verse 7. Notice also that the ones seeking after those prophets will be punished just as severely as the prophets themselves.

Deuteronomy 13 verses 1- 3, 5: ‘If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you’. (NRSV).

In 1 Kings 22 four hundred false prophets tell Ahab to go to battle and the LORD will make him victorious, Micaiah the son of Imlah, the true prophet, who speaks only what the LORD tells him, says in his vision ‘The LORD allowed a lying spirit to go in to the mouths of the prophets to lead Ahab to battle so he would be killed.’

In 1 Kings 13 God sent a prophet from Judah to rebuke Jeroboam. ‘The Word of the LORD said not to eat or drink anything in the land of Israel, just rebuke then go home to Judah and not go back. An old prophet heard of it and went to Judah and found the young prophet and asked him to come back and fellowship, eat and drink. The young prophet told him why he could not. Then the old prophet said an angel appeared and told him to go get the young prophet and bring him back, but this was a lie. The young prophet believed the old prophet and went back with him. The LORD said because he did this he would die. On the way back home the young prophet was killed by a lion’. Just because someone, even a true prophet, says ‘the LORD said’ or ‘an angel told me’ does not mean he is not deceived. Follow this checklist to make an informed decision:

  1. Is what has been said in agreement with the Holy Scriptures. To do this you must be very familiar with Scripture! 2. Think about what God has already told you! Your life is deeply affected by what you know and how you act. The prophet Hosea said ‘we perish because of the lack of knowledge.’ Hosea 4 verse 6 3. The book of Revelation chapter 19 verse 10 gives us the true test of a prophet from God. It says ‘Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus Christ.’

In Acts chapters 16-18 we find a woman prophesying the truth, and yet Paul knew she was under the influence of a demon. Paul observed the fruit of her life. He discerned the error in her spirit.

Jesus said in Matthew 7 verses 15-23 ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them. ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you, away from me, you evildoers!’’ (NRSV)

Paul said: 2 Corinthians 11 verses 13-15 ‘For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve’. In Galatians 1:8 ‘But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.’

The Apostle John teaches us that we should test the Spirits to see if they are truly from God, and not lying spirits. He writes in 1 John 4 verses 1-6: ‘Beloved, 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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.’