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… (Matthew 7:15-16).
The earmarks and nature of false prophets and pseudo activities need to be identified. In the Old Testament, the phrase “false prophet” is not found—though there are a number of Scriptures that identify them. The word “false” in the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus means not genuine, artificially made or assumed, intentionally untrue; adjusted or made so as to deceive, tending to mislead, and deceptive. The realm of false prophets and prophecy is synonymous with being artificial, bogus, fake, imitation, phony, mechanical, a sham, synthetic, unnatural, crooked, deceitful, fraudulent, spurious, inaccurate, erroneous, and inexact.
In religion, a false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or who uses that gift for evil ends, greed, manipulation, and sorcery. False prophets are people who teach destructive and false doctrine in order to lead people away from the true gospel message and teaching of God found in the Bible.
Jesus warned about false prophets in Matthew 24:24 stating that in the last days many false prophets would arise and deceive: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
Most religions and cultures in the world, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, ancient Greece and others have had prophets. Out of all the world religions that have prophets, only the prophets of Jesus Christ’s Church are the true messengers of God. The origin of the prophetic is in Christ (Revelation 19:10). Any prophet or prophecy that leads you away from Christ Jesus is a false prophet and prophecy.
An important function of a true prophet is found in a statement from God to the ancient Israelites through Moses, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him…” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). God was foretelling that, like Moses, Jesus Christ would come as a true Prophet and God would speak through Him. The Bible explains that, in addition to true prophets, there would also be false ones. Anyone who falsely claims to speak God’s words or who teaches errors in His name is not a true prophet.
Why are there false prophets and prophecy? We know that satan is the father of lies and has deceived the whole world (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9). His goal has been to twist and falsify the truth of God and to discourage humanity from following the path of Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and eternal Life (John 14:6). To assist him in this effort, the devil manipulates and influences people to become counterfeit prophets. Also, some people speak from their own imagination. God says, “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” (Ezekiel 13:3-4). Throughout the centuries, numerous false prophets have emerged because of their own desires and satan’s influence.
Preceding the apostle Paul’s death, he predicted that some brethren would be easily led astray by false teachers:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
God warned through Moses of presumptuous prophets. “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” (Deuteronomy 18:20).
Peter explained that false prophets had come in the past and that false teachers would continue to come with harmful and destructive messages. “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” (2 Peter 2:1).
The following are some signs of false and pseudo prophetic operations:
- A warning for the generation just before Christ’s return
- False anointing upon the prophets and teachers
- Destructive heresies and doctrines of men and devils (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
- Lying (deceiving) signs, wonders, and miracles
- Counterfeit spirits masquerading as genuine prophets
- Emergence of false prophetic anointing and prophetic voices
During His earthly ministry, Christ described conditions in the last days just before His return to earth in glory to set up His Kingdom. He said false prophets would have power to show great counterfeit miracles that would almost deceive even the faithful. “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand” (Matthew 24:24-25).