“An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?” Jeremiah 5:30-31
I’d like to share a tragedy with you that’s going on right now in our land. It truly is “an astonishing and horrible thing.” Preachers are lying from the pulpit, religious leaders are ruling God’s people in their own power and, sad to say, God’s people love it that way.
Even though these are the words of God to Jeremiah the prophet more than 2,600 years ago, they may as well be God’s words to the Church today. What a mess.
God has managed His household of faith in different ways through the centuries. He used prophets and priests in the Old Testament and bishops and elders in the New Testament. However, being called a prophet, priest, bishop or elder doesn’t mean God is pleased with what they do. Here’s why.
God is well aware how Satan gets involved with God’s people and messes up things (e.g. Genesis 3), so God has been abundantly clear how His people can discern who are true prophets, priests, bishops and elders and who are not. God has given His people spiritual “tests” to discern the spiritual “source” of their service.
Let’s look at “prophets” and “preachers” to see what tests we can use to discern the source behind their words and actions.
“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 theLord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.” Deuteronomy 13:1-5
“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.” Deuteronomy 18:20-22
“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.” Matthew 7:15-20
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 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 24:23-25
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20:28-31
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
“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.” 2 Peter 2:1-3
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3
Let’s start a list about how we can discern whether someone is a true or false prophet (preacher).
- If a prophet is able to give a sign or a wonder and the sign or the wonder comes to pass but the prophet calls you to go after other gods to serve them, do not listen to the words of that prophet because they are a false prophet.
- If a prophet speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die because he is a false prophet.
- If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing they say does not happen or come to pass, they are a false prophet.
- You will know false prophets by their fruits. A bad tree bears bad fruit and cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
- False prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect, but don’t believe them. We’ve been warned.
- Spiritual wolves will attack the Church from outside and inside, not sparing the flock, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. Overseer/shepherds in each church are responsible to God to protect Christians from the attacks. How? Standing strong, preaching truth and driving out the wolves. We’ve been warned.
- Paul said that false preachers call people to a gospel message that’s different than the one he preached. Their purpose is to trouble you by perverting the Gospel of Christ. Even if a great preacher or even an angel from heaven preaches any other gospel to you than what Paul preached, let him be accursed (cut down and thrown into the fire).
- False preachers secretly bring destructive heresies into the Church, even denying the Lord who died on the Cross. Those false preachers bring on themselves swift destruction, but not before many people follow their destructive ways. The truth will be blasphemed because of them. These false teachers will exploit people with deceptive words and they will be destroyed (cut down and thrown into the fire).
- Many false prophets have gone out into the world, so we need to be careful not to believe every spirit but instead test them to see whether they are of God. The test is this – “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” The spiritual source of the lying preacher is the spirit of the Antichrist.
God has made identifying a false prophet/false preacher fairly easy. All we have to do is open our eyes to see and ears to hear. The fact that we have a spiritual enemy is clear. God warned Israel and the Church about false prophets, so we should expect them to be actively involved in churches and religious organizations. The sad part to me is this: “And My people love to have it so.”
False prophets and religious leaders who rule by their own power was the norm in the years leading up to the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. False preachers and religious leaders who rule by their own power is becoming the norm today – in the years leading up to the spiritual demise of our society.
If you compare some of the most famous preachers in the world today with the list about false prophets (above), you will find that many of them are false preachers. That’s not hard to see. What is hard to see is that God’s people “love to have it so.” If you’ve ever wondered how the people of ancient Israel could have been fooled by false prophets, just look at the people of the modern Church. Millions are being fooled by the false prophets of the present. And they love it. “But what will you do in the end?“
I’ll leave you with these words in Jeremiah about lying preachers. Sounds like something God may have told one of His prophets this morning.
“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is making profit dishonestly. From prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated My people’s brokenness superficially, claiming, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they acted so abhorrently? They weren’t at all ashamed. They can no longer feel humiliation. Therefore, they will fall among the fallen. When I punish them, they will collapse, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 6:13-15 HCSB
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers.