By Bill Cloud
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2:9-12)
The Bible is clear: at the end of days the Adversary will employ the miraculous in an effort to deceive the world. Y’shua warned that false prophets would arise, showing signs and wonders intended to deceive, if possible, “even the elect” (Mk 13:22). John the Revelator recorded that the false prophet will perform very impressive albeit deceitful signs (Rev 19:20), even causing fire to fall from heaven (Rev 13:13). The Bible also makes it clear that the reason these lying signs will be so effective is because the people did not want the truth but “had pleasure in unrighteousness” willing even to take the mark of the beast. So then, what distinguishes a true prophet from a false one? How can I know if the sign is from God or not?
The Bible is very specific about what a prophet is. According to the Word of God a true prophet will never speak presumptuously or entice God’s people to turn away from His commandments (Deut. 13:1-5, 18:20-22). In short, a prophet of God will always call the people of God to teshuvah or repentance. Teshuvah is what Elijah called for, as did others including John the Baptist. Even Y’shua initiated His ministry with a call to “Repent!” (Mt. 4:17). God’s prophets have indeed supported this message with the demonstration of signs and wonders, even predictions of future events. However, these supernatural manifestations were always intended to serve as evidence that the one speaking had indeed been sent by God. Thus, a true prophet is one who calls the people to return to God and His Torah.
In contrast, a false prophet is one who seduces God’s people away from His Word, and by that I mean, any part of it. The Spirit of Truth will never speak or operate in contradiction to anything written in the Word of Truth. Notice, however, that God makes it clear these false prophets will sometimes make accurate predictions of the future (Deut. 13:2) and will perform signs and wonders (Mk 13:22). The only way to detect if they are false or not is to listen to (hear) what they say and observe what they do and determine if their “hearing” and “doing” lines up with the Scripture. Y’shua said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16) and the fruit will always reflect the seed that wrought it. In other words, a true prophet will faithfully exhibit fruit that is borne of the seed of the Word of God (Mk 4:14). They will in no wise teach as God’s Word anything that is plainly contradictory to the Word.
So then, even if they make blind eyes see or deaf ears hear; even if they accurately predict a future event or call fire from heaven, those things in and of themselves do not offer conclusive proof that they are a prophet of God. The measuring stick is what they say and what they do - is it in harmony with God’s Word or no? Furthermore, we need to understand that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). When God imparts a gift or calling upon someone – in this case, that of a prophet – He doesn’t revoke that gift just because that person is not walking in accordance with God’s will. Sadly then, the gifts of God can be misappropriated. For example, consider Balaam the son of Beor and King Saul. In both cases these men possessed a genuine gift from on High. Yet, in both cases, they possessed character flaws that neither could overcome, but that overcame them. In the end, they misappropriated both their anointing and gift.
In the case of Saul, the Bible says that he was a very attractive man anointed of God to be king (1 Sam. 10:1). Furthermore, Scripture tells us that the Spirit of God would come upon him and he would prophesy even to the point that men wondered if Saul was one of the prophets (1 Sam. 10:10-11). In spite of these auspicious beginnings, Saul apparently possessed or grew to possess a great deal of pride and that is what eventually led to his downfall. In time, God removed His Spirit and permitted an evil spirit to come upon Saul and trouble him (1 Sam 16:14). Still, even when the evil spirit came upon Saul, the king continued to prophesy even if the unction came from a different source (1 Sam 18:10). The point is that the gift and calling of God is without repentance and so we must be spiritually discerning and scripturally sound if we are to detect the true prophet from the false one. Remember, Paul warned against being as children, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph 4:14).