Although my cessationist brethren don’t believe in the modern day gift of prophesy, or of prophets, I’m sure they agree the un-gift of false prophet flourishes today.
If we really knew how God views false prophets, we may be less likely to finance their operations and even less likely to claim such exalted titles for ourselves.
A false prophet comes in at least two guises. He (she) either claims falsely to speak for the true and Living God or they claim to speak for another god altogether.
Many of the biblical writers speak strong and sober words regarding false prophets including our Lord Himself but Jeremiah Chapter 23 gives a good rundown on those who would presume to speak words in His name.
One of the obvious characteristics of false prophets is their incessant clamouring for funds.
Kenneth Copeland some time ago bragged that he was the first preacher in history to become a billionaire! That hasn’t stopped him from continuing to beg, plead and threaten his followers to give to the “ministry” I went to my concordance and couldn’t find one example of a billionaire prophet in the scriptures. Certainly not one who made their fortune off the backs of God’s precious people. Maybe this is a “new revelation”.
On the other hand there are plenty of examples of persecuted, hounded and martyred prophets.
The fact is those who feel called to be a prophet of God won’t need to worry about retirement funds.
Neither do the pentecostal parlour games of the modern continuationists reflect the biblical view of prophecy, prophets or any of the Holy Spirit’s precious gifts. This light hearted tendency to make predictions over each other and preamble well meaning advice with a “Thus saith the LORD” is, I believe, a dangerous practice. But it is not what the bible refers to as false prophets. More a case of immature believers. (Incidentally, for my pentecostal brethren, don’t let anyone teach you how to prophesy. Man can’t teach what only the Holy Spirit can give.)
No, misguided words over each other is not false prophesy. A false prophet is a far more serious and deadly issue. Jeremiah outlines some important clues in his Spirit inspired writings.
Chapter 23 outlines God’s rebuke on the false prophets who:
Steal words from one another
Declare their dreams as divinely sanctioned
Pervert the words of Yahweh
Scatter God’s people and cause them to err
strengthen the hands of the wicked
and cause spiritual pollution to fill the land.
God’s judgement on them is clear, concise and fearful.
I wonder whether those who claim prophetic or apostolic rank for themselves today have ever read Jeremiah 23 or the numerous other passages in the Old and New Testament that cover the same topic.
Jeremiah clearly pictures the false prophets dreaming and visioning and conjuring up words from their own deluded minds while the true prophet speaks the word of God faithfully.
God’s written word is the touchstone for all Spirit-filled proclamations. It is the constitution of the Christian, the unchanging rule for the redeemed, heaven birthed truth for the holy people of God.
The false prophet hears other voices or claims to. He loves the power of office and the temporal benefits that go with the man appointed title.
The false prophet is popular and speaks light and frivolous words. Words that tickle itching ears and boost the esteem of men. The false prophet defiles the house of God by endorsing forbidden practices. Moral and spiritual activities that the LORD of Hosts has declared cursed.
The false prophets of today live in their mansions and drive their Rolls Royces bought from funds raised from pensioners, single parents and orphans.
This raises the issue, “Are there some today who can rightfully be called true prophets of God?”
Well the fact that false prophets are biblical, logically assumes there must be true prophets as well.
Now the argument for the “No” case is that the canon of scripture is closed and we no longer need this gift. While it is true that no one today can add to or subtract from scripture, this argument ignores the scriptural fact that many biblical prophets did not write scripture. There were whole companies of prophets referred to in scripture who had the approval of the living God. They didn’t write any of the words we now have in the Bible. And even the writing prophets didn’t have all the words they spoke formalised into the scriptural text either. So that cessationist argument that rightfully honours the Word actually ignores the word to hold to that position. Never a good idea.
A true prophet may well speak words of challenge, rebuke and correction but plain meanness is not a sign of the Holy Spirit’s work. His words may be strong but they are propelled by love. Love for his Lord and love for his brethren. Nastiness is not a fruit of the Spirit.
There are those who vehemently warn of the dangers of extrabiblical revelation and yet claim a calling to the ministry. What is a calling if not a direction from the Lord to exercise your gift. There is no extrabiblical revelation that can add to the word of God…but Jesus said His sheep hear His voice not just read His words. If all a person has is an academic understanding of the scriptures and doesn’t hear the echo of Christ’s voice behind them, they don’t belong to Him.
The people of God are not all prophets (for He gave only some to be prophets) but there is something prophetic about all God’s adopted children. They speak more than just a recital of words on a page, they declare living words that they have heard in the secret place.
And every preacher/teacher needs a prophetic edge to their ministry. There is a current application of the word that needs to be proclaimed. God speaks to His church today. There are some who think He spoke in the past but since the last verse of the book of Revelation was penned, He has been silent. No, He speaks still.
I have never met a prophet as far as I know, but I have met a few false prophets.
But the fact that I have never met one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I prefer to bring my experience under the submission of His theology.
There is much more (much more)needs to be said about this area and maybe I’ll visit the topic again soon, but for now a word from the word.
1 Thessalonians 5:20
Do not despise prophecies