29. Beware false teachers among you, who secretly introduce destructive heresies
The Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles warned that deceivers would be among the true believers:
2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
Mark 13:22 for false Christ's and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray.
Matthew 24:11 "And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.
What kind of results do the ministries of these false teachers and prophets bring? In Jeremiah's day there were many false prophets who were clearly not fulfilling their God-given task. He declared of them:
'But if they had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way And from the evil of their deeds.' (Jeremiah 23:22).
These impotent prophets failed to stand in the counsel of God. True prophets first spend many hours praying and fasting and much time in the Word - reading their Bibles! The false prophet or leader is far too busy with his ego trip and, if he is a preacher, will need to compensate for his ignorance of the Word with spectacularly ignorant eisegesis (reading into the Word what you want it to say, e.g. Benny Hinn) or wildly inaccurate prophesying - which immediately points out that he is not speaking for God.
Since the prophet's task is also to proclaim God's words to the people we will notice when false prophets like Rick Joyner bring a message, because it will contradict the inspired message that the true prophets are bringing - and the Word of God - just as it did in the days of Jeremiah and other true prophets. False prophets declared, 'Calamity will not come upon you' (Micah 3:11-12) and, instead of declaring that defeat and captivity were at hand, they prophesied, 'You will have peace' (Ezekiel 13:10). The situation is the same today - the pastor will not want his prophets to declare: 'God is not pleased with your church and ministry.' He would rather hear a message of unconditional blessing.
The prophet who substitutes his own ideas, visions, revelations, doctrines or anything else for the true word of God fails to fulfil the central requirement of his office. God declared:
'The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?" (Jeremiah 23:28).
Jeremiah tells us that instead of grain (the Word of God - the Bible!) these men give straw! Read books by men like Rick Joyner and you will have enough straw to feed a herd of horses for their dreams and predictions have absolutely no value to God's people. Like wheat and tares, straw and grain look very much alike until you get up close to them and can distinguish between them and see the worthlessness of the deception. It is only ever someone with a strong doctrinal basis in the Word of God whom God will raise up to a genuine prophetic office for, if these prophets had stood in the counsel of God and brought the true Word of God to the people, then they also would have turned them from their evil way and averted the coming disaster. Instead the prophets closed their eyes to the immorality, injustice and idolatry all around them and proclaimed that God was with the people, and that He would fight for them and overcome their enemies. This message of peace and victory lulled them into a false sense of security and God's people did not turn from their sin and were consequently overcome by their enemies and taken into captivity in humiliation. Much later, when Jerusalem was in ruins and her people deported to Babylon, Jeremiah lamented:
'Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; And they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, but they have seen for you false and misleading oracles. 15 All who pass along the way Clap their hands in derision at you; They hiss and shake their heads At the daughter of Jerusalem, "Is this the city of which they said, 'The perfection of beauty, A joy to all the earth'?" 16 All your enemies Have opened their mouths wide against you; They hiss and gnash their teeth. They say, "We have swallowed her up! Surely this is the day for which we waited; We have reached it, we have seen it." (Lamentations 2:14-16).
Israel today is under threat from the same forces of anti-Christ who would use men like Yasser Arafat to bring Jerusalem under their power so that they would again 'hiss and gnash their teeth' against her. We need to pray continuously against the forces of darkness who seek to replay these disasters of history for the work of a prophet will not change as long as God works among sinful man. The prophet who fails to follow God's will to turn His people from sin to righteousness is not fulfilling the task that has been assigned to him. Jeremiah told the people:
'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD' (Jeremiah 23:16).
This message needs to be heard again in these days, but there are prophets and leaders today who differ little from Jeremiah's contemporaries! Too many of today's prophets and teachers never speak out against sin or declare the need for righteousness, but preach 'faith' and 'love', of great victories and miracles - check out some of Benny Hinn's supposed miracles where the hospitals he claimed to have been in have no witnesses who saw him and people who he claimed to have healed actually died after giving up their medication, or were crushed by people landing on them 'slain in the spirit' (at least one victim died!). These false prophets still lead God's people astray!
30. Beware the 'prophesy' that doesn't come to pass?
In the book of Deuteronomy, God declared through Moses:
'20 'But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' 21 "And you may say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' 22 "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.' (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
The prophet who speaks 'presumptuously' in the name of the Lord claims divine authority for his message when in fact it has not come from God at all. However, when his word fails to come true, the people can recognise by this very simple test that he is a false prophet.
This proves the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormon 'prophets', umpteen other cult prophets, such as Ellen G. White of the Seventh-Day Adventists, John Thomas of the Christadelphians, Edgar Cayce (the so-called 'sleeping prophet'), Jeane Dixon, Paul Caine, Rick Joyner, Nostradamus and David Icke - and thousands more unknowns - all to be false prophets.
We should have expected supposedly Bible-believing Christians to know that a false prophet is one whose words do not come true! Unfulfilled prophecy is quite common today in Christian denominations because of the ignorance and liberalism tolerated by leaders. Hundreds of words spoken in the name of the Lord never come to pass and are just conveniently forgotten. Instead of 'testing the spirits' (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 1 John 4:1-3) and then dealing with the error, few leaders today would actually declare a person a false prophet, or even suggest that the prophet may have been mistaken or misunderstood. People forget that a large part of the test for a false prophet or leader is that 'he shall speak in the name of other gods' (Deuteronomy 18:20) and this is amplified in Deuteronomy 13:
1 "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD IS TESTING YOU TO FIND OUT IF YOU LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL. 4 "You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 "But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. 6 "If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. 9 "But you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 "So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11 "Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such a wicked thing among you. 12 "If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that 13 some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom you have not known), 14 then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. And if it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword. 16 "Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt. 17 "And nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers, 18 if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.
How can anyone fail to notice the severity of the warning when death is the punishment? Notice also that the test applies even if the sign or wonder comes to pass! Sadly, people try and excuse the false prophet today by criticizing the harshness of the punishment. Certainly, we no longer stone the deceiver to death - in fact we do next to nothing about them! Does Paul Cain still get invitations to orthodox Christian meetings? How could Dr R.T. Kendall be so dull as to collaborate over the writing of a book, 'The Sword and the Spirit,' with Cain?
Is it too much to expect God to give those who he gifts 'small tests' to prove to others that they have the gift of prophecy? It would be foolish for us to hear and believe a prophecy that was predicted to occur hundreds of years from now for, if we heeded the 'prophet,' he could send us after another god, or gods, who we might follow until the day we died - and our fate in eternity would have been decided! This is why it is so important to know that the Bible is the infallible guideline we follow and not revelation or experience. In this way people's confidence will grow in the prophet until we can be confident when they predict something major - but the test is still 'if it comes to pass' and 'does it send believers after other gods.' Most of the false prophets, some of which we named above, are easily discarded by their proclamation of other doctrines which send us after other gods who are no gods, but merely demons impersonating God.
31. Be aware of the 'if-but' principle of Scripture
Leviticus 26 demonstrates what has been called the "if-but" principle which was often found laid down at the conclusion of vassal treaties in the Near East, having a section on blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The manner in which God treats the Israelites at any given time is determined by Leviticus 26 (related passages to the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Law include Exodus 23:22-23; Deuteronomy 28; and Joshua 24:20) and the punishment and chastening which the Israelites received is predicated on the "if-but" principle laid down here and careful examination of the verses in this chapter reveal this fact. Beginning in verse 3:
"If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. . . . Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, . . . your threshing shall reach into the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safety."
Verse 7: "Ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight."
Verse 12: "And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people."
God gave tremendous promises to the inhabitants of the land which we read through the passage to verse 13 before picking up the "but" section:
Verse 14: But if you will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments,"
Verse 16: "I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption."
Verse 17: "I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies."
Verse 19: "I will break the pride of your power."
Verse 20: "Your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits."
Verse 22: "I will also send wild beasts among you."
Verse 24: "Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you."
Verse 25: "And I will being a sword upon you."
Verse 28: "Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins."
Looking forward prophetically to the time when they would be sealed up in their cities because of the siege laid to the city by an enemy, we read:
Verse 29: "And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat."
Verse 32: "And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it."
Verse 33: "And I will scatter you among the heathen."
Verse 34: "Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths."
Not only does chapter 26 contain the "if-but" principle, it is also prophetic because it details the activity which will take place from the latter part of the fifteenth century B.C. down until the early part of the sixth century B.C. during the invasion of the Babylonians, for the principles of chapter 26 will apply for the next eight hundred years. As the children of Israel failed to obey God, He brought all of these calamities upon them. Enemies invaded and famine ravaged the land as drought caused the crops to shrivel and invading enemies and occupying forces surrounded their cities and forced the inhabitants within the cities into cannibalism.
32. Beware of accusing true prophets such as Jonah of false prophecy
Discerning false prophecy is often misunderstood by Christians. Too many are duped by the same spirit which leads the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah's Witnesses in their translations. They say - didn't the prophet Jonah foretell the destruction of Ninevah; yet when the people repented, God spared the city for a period of time? Therefore this was a prophecy that failed to come about, they claim, and therefore conclude that a prophet can make mistakes!
The New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses renders Jonah 3:4-10 and 4:1,2:
"Finally Jonah started to enter into the city the walking distance of one day, and he kept proclaiming and saying: 'Only forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown.' . . . And the [true] God got to see their works, that they had turned back from their bad way; and so the [true] God felt regret over the calamity that he had spoken of causing to them; and he did not cause [it]."
They cite this verse to prove that biblical prophets sometimes made mistakes in their predictions. After all, what Jonah predicted about Nineveh's destruction did not come to pass. And Jonah was not condemned for this. The Watchtower Society, then, should not be condemned for its prophetic errors. The answer is quite simple though: Jonah did not make a mistake - he told the Ninevites exactly what Jehovah-God told him to say (see Jonah 3:1). Since Jonah was speaking the very words of God how can the Watchtower Society say he was in error?
What the Jehovah's Witness fails to recognise is that there was a well known "repentance clause" built into Jonah's prophecy to the Ninevites and, in view of how the Ninevites responded, it seems clear that they understood the final outcome of things to be dependent on how they responded. The Ninevites understood that their city would be toppled in forty days unless they repented (Jonah 3:5-9). Based on how the Ninevites responded to Jonah's prophecy, God withdrew the threatened punishment - thus making it clear that even He viewed the prophecy as hinging on how the Ninevites responded. This is related to God's Word in the Book of Jeremiah:
"If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned" (Jeremiah 18:7,8).
This principle is clearly illustrated for us in the case of Nineveh. It is noteworthy that God is often seen showing mercy where repentance is evident (Exodus 32:14; 2 Samuel 24:6; Amos 7:3,7).
We must conclude, based on the account of Jonah, that God sometimes chooses to withdraw a punishment when the people in danger of judgment decide to repent and the grounds for the threatened punishment have disappeared, otherwise He would go against his essential quality of justice and his responsiveness to any change that he had planned to bring about.
There is another point to be made from the clear reading of the text in Jonah. In Jonah 1:1 we read:
1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
2 "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."
3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
Jonah clearly recognised what the "word" concerning "crying against" Nineveh was about - because he ran away to Tarshish to escape from the presence of the Lord (as if this were possible!). So when the Lord miraculously transported Jonah, via a great fish, to Nineveh he made him carry the same message to the city:
(Jonah 3:1) Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you." 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days' walk. 4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." 5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.
Scripture makes it clear that the same message is given to Jonah (the one he was given at Jonah 1:1-2) and he walks through the city taking the message: "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown."
And what do we find - the people fear God and repent and as a result we read:
Jonah 3:10 When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.
Now we can accuse Jonah of being a judgmental, even self-righteous, person when he reveals his reason for running away in the first place:
Jonah 4:1 But it greatly displeased Jonah, and he became angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. 3 "Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life." 4 And the LORD said, "Do you have good reason to be angry?" 5 Then Jonah went out from the city and sat east of it. There he made a shelter for himself and sat under it in the shade until he could see what would happen in the city. 6 So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. 7 But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 And it came about when the sun came up that God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life." 9 Then God said to Jonah, "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" And he said, "I have good reason to be angry, even to death." 10 Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 "And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"
Verse 2 makes it absolutely clear that Jonah ran away to avoid having to carry this message to the Ninevites - and he was so angry about the outcome that he wanted to die! Notice how God makes the point about Jonah's compassion for the plant, which had such a fleeting existence - and compares this with His mighty compassion for more than 120,000 people - and animals - who were clearly ignorant about the extent of their sin, for the Word of God tells us they did not know "the difference between their right and left hand."
It is clear that Jonah's prophecy does not in any way lessen the guilt of the Watchtower Society in its numerous false predictions - none of which were akin to the conditional prophecy in the Book of Jonah. And because Jonah spoke exactly the words God gave him to say, it is clear that the Watchtower Society is wrong in saying that Jonah made a mistake. This passage thus lends no support to the Watchtower Society, or the growing army of Charismaniacs who clutch at this passage to excuse their false prophecies.
Christians need these tests to ensure that we do not act upon a prophecy or a vision given by a 'prophet,' only to find out much later, and after painful suffering, that the prophecy was false. In some cases irreparable damage has been done by the time the false prophecy is recognized. The false prophets of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society have never admitted their false predictions for 1874, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1925, or that they prophesied that the world would end in 1975 - we will deal with their excuses and hypocrisy in another section of this site (Jehovah's Witnesses - 'Lovers of Truth'). Many Jehovah's Witnesses made great financial sacrifices. Some decided against buying their own homes while others sold theirs and gave large sums of money to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Young people decided against going to college and married people decided not to have children because Armageddon was so close! Some of these people are almost penniless today, others confused or disillusioned, but the Society declines any responsibility and still maintain authority over these people. It is no coincidence that cults like the Jehovah Witnesses have a very high incidence of mental instability and alcoholism amongst their ranks. The pressures of everyday witnessing, to keep up their quota of door-to-door work and their standing in the congregation, coupled with the pressures of following a false prophet who predicts falsely combine to damage their psyche. Oh, that they knew the loving Lord Jesus Christ personally as a friend who said : 'My yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matthew 11:30). When you know the truth of being 'in Christ' the striving is over and everything is so much easier - even torture and persecution!