Okay, so the title isn’t part of an actual Bible verse, but it very well could be.  In Deuteronomy 13 it says that if a prophet or dreamer among the people attempts to lead people away from the God of Israel, that he or she must be purged from the people.  A bit later, Deuteronomy 18:17-22 says it in a bit more detail, saying:

 

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.  I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.  But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to 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, so do not be alarmed.”

 

God calls some people to be prophets, and if someone says something is from God and doesn’t happen, then clearly it isn’t from God.  If they tell people things God didn’t command them to say, or if they are a prophet for a different god, then they need to be killed.  And how do we know if a prophet says something God didn’t command?  Obviously, if it didn’t happen, God didn’t command it.

 

Here’s the problem:  What about all those times that God tells a prophet to say something and then people repent and/or pray against it because the prophet sent a warning from heaven, and then it doesn’t happen?  Does that make him a false prophet?  I mean, what we are saying here is that Jonah, who is clearly understood by the Scriptures to be a prophet sent from God, is actually a false prophet according to Deuteronomy 18 because the destruction he prophesied over Nineveh never came to pass.  While we don’t know exactly what God told him to say, we do know that all of Nineveh repented in fasting and prayer when they heard the message Jonah gave them, and God was pleased with their change of heart.  So how can Jonah be both a prophet and a false prophet all at once?

 

He can’t.

Which means that the Bible broke the Bible’s false-prophet detector test.

Now what??

 

First, I suggest we need to differentiate between a few similar-appearing people:  the false prophet, the young prophet, and the effective prophet.

 

The false prophet’s motive is deception.  The goal is to lead astray.  If one prophesies with an intent to lead astray and/or with wrong motives, this is a good sign one is a false prophet.  These prophecies are likely to be false, but it is equally possible some of the prophecies could come true—just enough to lead people successfully astray.

 

The young prophet’s motive is typically at least mostly-pure, and he or she wants to encourage people in the Lord.  Mind you, we call this individual a “young prophet” irrespective of linear age because this isn’t based on age, but experience—this prophet simply isn’t very good at it.  Well, at the very least his or her accuracy has something to be desired.  I suggest he isn’t a false prophet because his motives are pure and he has not intent to lead people astray, but he does have some growing to do.  Thus, his prophecies might come to pass and might not—it’s entirely hit or miss depending on how accurate that particular word was when he received it, which makes things tough because how on earth is someone else to know if he received it accurately?  That’s the tricky part, and why we each have to discern prophetic words.

 

The effective prophet is a different breed entirely.  His words might come to pass and they might not—but when they don’t come to pass, it is for an entirely different reason than because he is false or young.  No, if the effective prophet’s word doesn’t come to pass, it’s because he was, well, effective.  Think about it.  Many prophecies are encouraging, directive for the future, comforting, and more.  Some words are warning words though, giving us insight on a need to turn away from a current course of action.  If people turn away from a current course of action and the negative consequence in the warning does not occur, the prophet wasn’t false—he or she effectively incited the people to pray and act, and a crisis was averted!

 

I recall years ago I was at a church and each member of our intercessory group received a similar prophetic warning about a building project.  We shared these words with one of the board members who was the head of the intercessory group at the time, and she told the senior pastor about it.  The multiple prophetic warnings were disregarded, and years later the words did indeed come to pass.  An effective prophet’s goal, at least when it comes to warning words, is to appear wrong each and every time!  After all, while his reputation might be put into question by some, those with wisdom and insight will realize that instead of the prophecy being false, a calamity was averted.

Courts of Heaven, spirit travel, intercession, prayer, visualization, IanClayton, MikeParsons

This sort of thing often happens when prophetic warnings have dates attached.  If a date comes and goes it can be one of a few different things:  It can be that the word was false to begin with, or the date was wrong.  Or it could be that prayer was effectively mobilized through the release of the word and the outcome changed.  The difficult part is that we in the Church are often so quick to judge one another based on appearances that we have to take a step back and discern from the Lord what actually took place.  After all, it would be silly to tell someone he was wrong if in fact he was not only spot-on, but the reason he appears to be wrong is because of how incredibly accurate he was AND how effective he was at it!

 

Some people believe we need to start holding false prophets accountable in the church, and while it sounds really good on paper, it really makes no sense.  Look, a false prophet isn’t interested in accountability.  He doesn’t really care if you tell him he is wrong or deceived or whatever other potentially accurate label you might give him.  His motives are impure and his heart is in the wrong place to begin with.  Do you really think telling him as much is going to positively influence the situation?  Not likely.  On the other hand, if mature prophets decide to take a more active and discipling role with young prophets, it is quite probable they can pass some of their wisdom and maturity on.

 

After all, how do false prophets become false prophets anyway?  I suggest part of it is through rejection by the church.  After a while, the inner wounding leaves just the right opening for the enemy, and through pride, envy, and other negative emotions the demonic are able to begin a long process of twisting and perverting the prophetic gift, turning a young prophet into a false one.

 

Maybe the problem isn’t so much that we don’t hold false prophets accountable, but that we don’t encourage young prophets to be disciple-able.  Or worse yet, maybe we don’t expect or encourage effective prophets to do any discipling.  After all, one can want discipleship all day long, but you can only follow when someone else is leading.  Maybe the problem isn’t even false prophets, but a system that values the prophetic gift more than it values the person who carries that gift.  Most likely it is a combination of all of these, together with the schemes of the enemy and the wounded hearts of men.  However, I believe if we aim to do things a little better on our end we won’t have to worry so much about stoning the false prophets among us—I imagine that deep down they don’t really want to be that way either, but need help finding their way back home.

3 Comments

  1. Dirt Road Cowboy

    About 25 years ago, when I was young in the Lord (born again 5 years, Spirit filled 2 years), I was teaching in our church’s adult Sunday school and gave a prophecy that the church was going to be changing and growing. I saw a vision where I was standing in front of young people, bikers, outcasts, etc. during an interim period where there would be massive growth.

    It never happened, and the church property was sold to the world/devil for his uses. At the time, it was the only church in that town that actively pursued the miraculous, and when it fell apart, the congregation had nowhere to go but to the mediocrity of the religious churches in town.

    The pastor and elders confirmed the prophecy, and the pastor said that he hadn’t openly disclosed the fact that God had been preparing him for a traveling ministry.
    There was some prideful contentions between him and the future pastor, and it all fell through. The pastor used the money from the sale of the church property to fund his traveling ministry, and the other pastor eventually quit ministry.

    For a long time I was bitter that my prophecy failed (pouting just like Jonah), and was really uncertain about hearing from God. Also, things in my life have not gone well since all of this happened.

    About a week ago, I brought it up to God during a visit to Heaven. He asked me if I remembered what I saw, and when I told Him what it was, He told me that I was supposed to be the interim pastor! That’s what I saw, but I didn’t recognize what He was really saying, so the failure was mine, not His! The prophecy failed because I failed to see that it was my call, not theirs!

    So, I would have to say that I was a young prophet, and didn’t understand the full picture. Now, He has given me a new vision for my life and call that is about to begin, and it has to do with raising the dead and my call as an apostle.

  2. Ted Mangini

    Let me just say, I believe today’s false propets are morivated by money. Deception is a part, definitely a product. Too many of us are in love with our own voices. Flattery and false grace, pays well. The bigger the paycheck, the larger the platform. It doesn’t take long and corruption takes hold. Listen to God, let His spokesmen and women confirm His word. Scripure will be a a good guide too.

  3. Donna

    I enjoyed reading this. Thought provoking. I think people want to be right. Thus it causes great straights in that we are fearful of being led wrong. Especially if you have been misled before, then you tend to err on the side of caution. Plus you have those cases of the’ way out there people’ that drank Kool-Aid and died…and all the other extreme cases. So living in this day and age we tend to trust what appears to be trust worthy which can be fake news. A lot of obstacles our
    Grands in the past did not have. Easier times in the Churches with dinners on the ground Sundays, stores were closed, and people actually rested. NOW we are in the fast lane and the faster lane. We don’t know our neighbors. We have the social media stuff that say all manner of things. How many read their bibles now days? or actually pray? Then you have what Ted Mangini wrote- which is also a factor and true- so it is just a lot to take in. I read prophecies almost daily. I questioned God about, ” How can all these be right?” And I heard from HIM! He told me, “Don’t believe everything you read.” Heard it clear as crystal. So God speaks. But not through every prophecy you may read or hear. Fact is we tell trees by the fruit they bear. That, for me, is the most compelling factor of how to tell what ya’ got a hold of. Paul warned us to beware. Not a lot has changed in that arena. I am not wanting to stone anyone. But I also know we are called sheep for a valid reason. Sheep are not the wisest of creatures. Sheep follow wolves they don’t know are wolves until…CHOMP! So, Jesus will always be the Shepherd we can believe at all times and rely on. He knew what was in the heart. He was never fooled by words or behaviors. As long as we hold to Him and His word we will know the truth.

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