6 Characteristics of a False Prophet
What are the characteristics of a false prophet? How do we identify a false prophet?
Jesus warned us several times to beware of false prophets and teachers. Christ Himself taught us that we would be able to judge, discern or identify the characteristics of a false prophet by their fruit.
In the Bible a false prophet is a person who spreads false teachings or false prophecies while claiming to speak on behalf of God.
We live in a world where many self-proclaimed prophets have uttered many failed prophecies. Some have had the audacity to predict a specific date concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ. Others have made failed prophecies about the outcome of political elections, to making failed predictions about the end of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
For example late church leader and self-proclaimed prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua popularly known as TB Joshua falsely prophesied that Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 American Election when he tweeted the following: “I want to tell you what i saw. I saw the new President of America with a narrow win. And the new president will be facing challenges over many issues, including attempted vote of no confidence. In order not to keep you in suspense, i frankly saw a woman.”
In 2020 a few months after the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in China, TB Joshua falsely prophesied that the Covid-19 coronavirus would disappear by 27 March 2020. However this prophecy did not come to pass.
TB Joshua was quoted as saying: “This month, 27th, it will be over. By the end of this month, whether we like it or not it will go the way it came. If it is not medicine that brought it to the world, then medicine cannot take it out.”
These are a few examples of false prophesies which have been made by the likes of the late TB Joshua and many other self-proclaimed prophets that exist in the world today.
From deceased false prophets such as Charles T Russell, William M Branham, Ellen G White, Joseph Smith to various living televangelists in the Word of Faith and NAR movement, there are many false prophets around the world who have made many false predictions whilst claiming to speak for God.
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says: And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
According to Deuteronomy 18:21-22 and similar scriptures, a true prophet of God must utter prophecies that are 100% accurate every time. Therefore a true prophet of God should never utter a false prophecy if he/she claims to speak for God because God’s character is that He cannot lie and He does not speak in error.
In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus said the following: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Jesus further warned about the dangers of following false prophets and He warned us that as the end times approach, there will be an increase of many false prophets in the world and that these false prophets will lead multitudes of people into deception.
In Matthew 24:11 Jesus says: “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”
So what is the mark of a false prophet? How do we recognize a modern-day false prophet? What criteria does God give us through His word to determine the characteristics of a false prophet?
Below are 6 characteristics of a false prophet
1. They Prophesy Lies in the Name of God
According to Jeremiah 14:14-15 false prophets speak lies or falsehoods in the name of God.
Jeremiah 14:14-15 says “And the Lord said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart”
So according to Jeremiah 14:14-15 false prophets will prophesy 4 things:
(a) a false vision; (b) divination; (c) a worthless thing and (d) the deceit of their heart
(a) Prophesying a false vision means that a false prophet will prophesy things which God has not shown him. The false prophet will prophesy ideas and visions which God Himself has not revealed.
(b) Prophesying through divination means that a false prophet will use demonic occult techniques and methods to foresee the future or to receive hidden knowledge.
(c) Prophesying a worthless thing means that a false prophet will “prophesy” irrelevant issues which have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God or the Gospel. For example, many false prophets have been known to “prophesy” or predict the score results of football matches; or “prophesy” a person’s I.D number and date of birth; or “prophesy” the type of food a person ate that particular morning etc.
(d) Prophesying the deceit of their heart means that a false prophet will speak from his own deceitful imagination and individual passions (for deceitful gain) and not the true mind of God or word of God.
2. They Perform False Signs & Wonders
In Matthew 24:24-25 Jesus said: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.”
Jesus Christ warns us that the performance of miracles by an individual is not an indication that the individual is a true prophet. Therefore a false prophet is capable of performing false miracles either through a well-planned and well-staged illusion / trick – or through the use of occult methods and techniques.
We live in a world that seeks a quick-fix for its problems. We live in a world that seeks instant miracles (Matthew 16:4). We live in a world that is increasingly succumbing to all kinds of deception that tickle the ears because the world refuses to listen to sound doctrine in these last days (2 Timothy 4:3).
Many false prophets are known for performing false miracles in order to deceive people. Performing false miracles helps in their deception to falsely legitimize or reinforce their authority and spiritual status amongst their deceived followers.
False prophets ultimately desire popularity. Therefore performing false miracles helps them to gain new followers or increase the size of their cult following.
Therefore God encourages people to discern and test anyone who claims to be a prophet, even if they perform signs and wonders.
3. They Preach & Prophesy For Financial Gain
Many false prophets have simply become modern-day fortune tellers. Therefore there is usually a monetary gain whenever they preach or prophesy.
Micah 3:11 says: Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.”
Therefore they will request that you pay or “seed” money in order to supposedly activate God’s blessings. They will teach that your “breakthrough” is attached to the amount of money that you give or “seed” towards them and their ministries.
Many false prophets especially in Africa have been known to request a monetary fee if a follower requests a personal prophecy, one-on-one counselling or prayer for healing and deliverance.
The Bible does not show any scripture where God’s true prophets, nor Jesus, nor His disciples ever asking for a monetary fee in order to pray, heal or counsel someone who needed God’s help.
However many self-proclaimed prophets subscribe to false teachings such as the prosperity gospel heresy and seed-faith doctrines. Therefore they will always find creative ways in order to gain money from the people they supposedly assist.
4. They Make Merchandise of their Followers
2 Peter 2:3, KJV says: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
Many false prophets have turned their followers into customers by selling their followers supposedly “anointed” objects and merchandise.
Therefore many false prophets will sell “anointed” oil, so-called holy water, wrist bands and even picture portraits of themselves. Many of these false prophets will sell the so-called “anointed” products with the promise that such products will provide protection, blessing and good fortune to the followers who purchase or consume them.
However the selling of so-called “anointed” merchandise and objects in exchange for blessings or protection is a form of witchcraft and occultism. (read: Is The Selling of Anointing Oil & Holy Water Biblical?)
5. They Do Not Preach The True Gospel
False prophets rarely preach the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. They do not point people to Jesus Christ. Instead false prophets will draw people to themselves so that they have a cult-like following.
John the Baptist was an example of a true prophet. John the Baptist did not desire to be followed by men and nor did he desire popularity. Instead he desired to speak the truth of God’s word and repentance and he pointed people to Jesus Christ.
In John 3:30, John the Baptist says the following about Jesus Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
As a true prophet John the Baptist pointed people to the Gospel and the purpose of Jesus Christ who came to die for the sins of the world. He said in John 1:29 about Jesus Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Therefore throughout the Scriptures including the Old Testament, the true prophets of God ultimately pointed people to God alone and to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.
However many modern-day false prophets have consistently preached false gospels and heresies such as seed-faith offerings, prosperity gospel heresy, Word of faith movement theology and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) teachings.
Galatians 1:8-9 says: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
6. They Are Narcissists & Have A Cult Following
False prophets tend to exhibit narcissist characteristics and spiritual abusive behaviour. They tend to be authoritarian in their leadership style. Their prophecies or teachings cannot be questioned or challenged. So they portray themselves as being beyond criticism.
Criticizing or questioning them is equated to questioning God.
Many false prophets will misinterpret and misapply such scripture quotes as “Touch not my anointed” as an attempt to threaten or prevent criticism or scrutiny concerning their false prophecies and teachings.
It is through believing these false heavy shepherding teachings or spiritual covering doctrines that many false prophets are perceived by their followers as a “little christ” or a type of saviour, or a spiritual father, or a spiritual deliverer.
Many false prophets still command a cult following from their followers even when shown undeniable evidence of their deceptive teachings, false miracles and false prophecies.
1 Timothy 2:5 says: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus
Hebrews 1:1-2 says: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.
According to Hebrews 1:1-2, since the first coming of Jesus Christ, we should no longer seek for a “prophet” to foretell the future as was done long ago. Instead “in these last days He (God) has spoken to us by His Son” Jesus Christ.
Because of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins, we do not need any self-proclaimed prophet to serve as a mediator between God and man. Jesus Christ alone serves as the only Mediator between God and man.
Through Jesus Christ we have direct access to God; direct communication with God; and a direct relationship with God because of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
The issue of false prophets should always be taken seriously. Why? Because Jesus Christ Himself took this issue very seriously.
Jesus Christ constantly addressed the issue of false prophets and false christs. Furthermore He was constantly opposing false teachers in the form of the Pharisees during His earthly ministry (Matthew 23:1-39).
Most importantly Jesus took the issue of false prophets seriously because He knew that the souls of many people were at stake.
If people followed a false prophet, it had the impact of sending both the followers and the false prophet straight to hell.
In Matthew 15:14 Jesus warned that “… if the blind lead the blind both will fall into a pit”
Everything we need to know about God and what He intends to do in the future is found in the Scriptures. God’s word for mankind is found in the Scriptures; in the 66 books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Jesus Christ Himself is the ultimate Prophet whom we should seek and listen to. It is Jesus Christ alone whom we should follow and seek deliverance, healing and salvation.
We no longer seek to follow men – but we seek to follow the ultimate Prophet – Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 says: If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing… imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
1 John 4:1 says: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
We are encouraged by God Himself to practice discernment. We should test the spirits and distinguish between good and evil. We have God’s authority to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who used the Scriptures to distinguish false teachings from true teachings.
Why? Because our spiritual life is at stake. The souls of many who follow deception and false teachers are headed for destruction where there is a failure to distinguish between good and evil.
Jeremiah 23:16 says: Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.”