Who is a false prophet according to the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


The False Prophet

In the Bible, the concept of false prophets is a recurring theme, warning believers to discern between true and false teachings. False prophets are individuals who claim to speak on behalf of God but deliver messages that are contrary to His truth or seek to deceive others for personal gain. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, various passages provide guidance on identifying and dealing with false prophets. This essay will explore the characteristics of false prophets according to the Bible, examining key references from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

Old Testament Perspectives on False Prophets

1. Deuteronomy 18:20-22

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 provides a foundational understanding of false prophets in the Old Testament:

“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

According to this passage, false prophets are those who falsely claim to speak on behalf of God or who promote the worship of other gods. The test of a true prophet lies in the fulfillment of their prophecies; if their predictions do not come to pass, they are deemed false prophets.

2. Deuteronomy 13:1-3

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 provides an added warning against supernatural works and signs:

“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

According to this passage, the fulfillment of the “sign” or “miracle” is not to be accepted alone as proof of a prophet’s claims. The prophet’s message must be in harmony with previously revealed truth (Isaiah 8:19, 20). The Jewish people were prone to seek signs, even in Christ’s day (John 6:30), and for this the Savior reproved them (Matthew 12:38–45). The apostle Paul also commented on human’s tendency to seek miracles and supernatural works (1 Corinthians 1:22). Through his false prophets, Satan will deceive the world by signs and miracles (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:14).

3. Jeremiah 23:16-17

Jeremiah 23:16-17 warns against false prophets who spread deceptive visions and speak from their own imaginations:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace” ’; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’”

False prophets are characterized by their messages that contradict the word of God and promote false security or prosperity apart from genuine repentance and obedience.

4. Ezekiel 13:1-9

Ezekiel 13:1-9 exposes false prophets who speak out of their own hearts and deceive others with their false visions:

“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God: ‘Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!’ O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, “Thus says the Lord!” But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The Lord says,’ but I have not spoken.’”

False prophets are condemned for speaking from their own hearts and misleading others with their deceptive messages, which lack divine authority and truth.

New Testament Perspectives on False Prophets

1. Matthew 7:15-20

In the New Testament, Jesus warns against false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

False prophets are characterized by their deceptive appearance and destructive intentions, which ultimately manifest in their words and actions.

2. 2 Peter 2:1-3

2 Peter 2:1-3 warns against false prophets and teachers who introduce destructive heresies and exploit others for their own gain:

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”

False prophets and teachers are condemned for introducing false teachings and exploiting believers for personal gain, leading many astray from the truth of God’s word.

Characteristics of False Prophets

Based on the biblical passages examined above, several key characteristics of false prophets emerge:

  • They claim to speak on behalf of God but promote false teachings or the worship of other gods.
  • They speak from their own hearts or imaginations, lacking divine authority or truth.
  • They deceive others with false visions or prophecies that do not come to pass.
  • They exploit believers for personal gain and introduce destructive heresies that lead many astray.
  • They perform Satanic miracles and signs even though their words are not in harmony with the Scriptures.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Bible provides clear warnings and criteria for identifying false prophets. These individuals falsely claim to speak on behalf of God, promote false teachings, exploit others for personal gain and even perform miracles. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, false prophets are condemned for their deceptive practices and destructive influence on believers. It is imperative for Christians to discern between true and false prophets by testing their words and actions against the truth of God’s word. Only by remaining vigilant and grounded in the Scriptures can believers guard against the influence of false prophets and hold fast to the genuine teachings of the faith.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

According to the Bible a false prophet is one who pretends to speak for God but in reality speaks for himself and is moved by his own selfish intentions and evil heart (Jeremiah 14:13–15; 23; Ezekiel 13:2, 3, 10, 11).

A false prophet is he who professes that it is possible for men to enter the kingdom of God by the broad gate and easy way. Such teachers are “thieves” with the goal to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:7–10). The apostles Peter, Paul, and John warned the believers of falling for the unbiblical teachings of these false prophets (Acts 20:28–31; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 2:18, 19).

False prophets appear in sheep’s clothing to deceive the sheep into a false sense of security. But in reality, they are “wolves” that are opposed to truth. It is their purpose to bring harm to the sheep in order to bring benefit to themselves. Moved by greed for gain and for power, they speak lies (John 8:44).

Jesus taught that the “sheep” can certainly detect the “wolves” by the way they act. And He gave the test of character saying, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16). A “prophet’s” life and words must match that of his Master Jesus Christ and be in harmony with His Word.

Jesus promised that the “sheep” who know their Shepherd’s voice (John 10:4) will not be deceived by the good words and even miracles of the “wolves.” As believers live a life of surrender day by day to God’s will, in obedience to His Word, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, they will be safe from all deception (Hosea 4:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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