Every once and-a-while someone will leave notes at the front door of the Church. Most of the time they are left in the afternoon when know one is here, and so, I never get to see the person’s face who leaves them. This past July, one of those notes was left. Whereas most notes are tracks, flyers, or some sort of advertisement, this one was different. This one was a written prophecy. In the first two paragraphs the writer tells of God’s judgment on America because it has rejected him. The writer points to Covid-19 and what has happened since March, as the beginning of God’s judgment.
But it’s in the third paragraph where the prophecy happens. This what the writer states, “The Lord Jehovah has issued this warning. America has less than four months before a massive earthquake will devastate the State of California and there will be more destruction to follow.”
So the prophecy is that, by either the end of October or the end of November, depending on when the four months starts, there will be a massive earthquake that will devastate California and more destruction will follow.
It seems to be a pretty specific prophecy: four months, massive devastating earthquake, located in California.
If you went through our summer series in 1st Corinthians, you should know that I believe what the Scriptures teach, that all gifts are give by the Spirit at his discretion, that includes the gift of prophecy. And so the question must arise, how do we know that this prophecy is true, and that the writer is indeed speaking on behalf of God?
It’s this question that brings us back to our current sermon series, Counterfeit, where we’re learning to see the counterfeit teachings around us, and that are specifically coming from the progressive or woke church.
Last week, as we began this series, we talked about the need, especially today, to be on our guard for unbiblical teachings that would call us away from God and his Word. To do this, we came to an understanding that the best approach to recognizing counterfeit teachings, is to know the real teachings of Scripture so well, that we can easy tell the difference when a false teaching comes into our life.
We also talked about how combating counterfeit teachings must start with us. Before we can truly dive into combating the counterfeit teachings that surround us, we must ask God to root out anything that we believe of his Word that isn’t found in it. Because if we’re not willing to have ourselves face the crucible of being changed by God’s Word, we will fall to the counterfeits that desire to draw us away.
But before we dive into the specific counterfeit teachings that are making their way throughout churches, let’s take this week and focus on those people that would draw us away. The false prophets, teachers, and as John puts it his first letter, the antichrists that go out from among us.
To really understand those who are false prophets, teachers, and antichrists, we must understand God’s simple standard by which to judge such people. The person who left the letter containing the prophecy of the massive earthquake in California at the entrance to the church building, puts themselves in a position of speaking future events on behalf of God. Will it happen? We will have to see. But let’s look at three passages from the Bible that speak to the clues that God gives us in determining if a person is speaking on God’s behalf or their own.
First let’s take a look at Deuteronomy chapter 18 verses 15-22. Moses is speaking to the Israelites about prophets that come after him. In fact, the point of the passage is to talk about a specific prophet that will parallel Moses in many ways. Let’s read about this prophet in Deuteronomy 18, starting in verse 15.
15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.
This is future prophet is fulfilled in Jesus. Now we cannot go into all the details of why, but here are a few. Both Moses and Jesus were saved from the infanticide carried out by a king. Both Moses and Jesus were brought out of Egypt. Both Moses and Jesus spoke from a mountain giving commands from God. Both Moses and Jesus performed miracles in front of God’s people. And in Moses’ ministry things like the serpent being raised for people to be healed, and Jesus’ death through crucifixion parallel each other.
In fact this is why Jesus says in John 5:39-40, 45-47, “39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life…45 But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
And so, Moses’ prophecy of a future prophet like him, is fulfilled in the life of Jesus. But then what about false prophets? False speakers on behalf of God. As we continue reading, we are given our first two clues as to how to distinguish a false representative of God from a true one. Let’s keep reading in verse 20 as Moses continues to relay to the people what God had said to him.
20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”
21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
The first two clues that we have from this passage are these. First, a false messenger makes prophecies that do not end up happening. Who remembers Harold Camping, who predicted the the rapture in May of 2011? Billboard signs were all over the US, warning people, that Jesus was soon to come. But it didn’t happen. Yet if we knew that he had predicted similar things back in 1994 and 1995, the Church would’ve not even have blinked at him, because we already would have known that he was a false prophet. Why? Because he had made future predictions, on behalf of God, that didn’t come true. Now, are you ready to hear some names that have made predictions, on behalf of God, that never came true? Pat Robinson of the 700 Club fame, predicted in 1976 that the world would end in 1982. Ed Dobson who was a Dean at Liberty University, who led the group the Moral Majority, and was a pastor for a number of years, predicted that Jesus would return in 2000. There are more, but these were Christian pastors making future predictions, on behalf of God, that were not fulfilled. In biblical times, those men would be taken out of the camp and stoned to death. But today, they and men and women like them, sell books, telling us when the world will come to an end, and when it doesn’t, they wait, and try it again later, telling those around them, that it was a spiritual coming, or a spiritual destruction.
Should we take seriously future predictions? Yes, in fact Jesus in Matthew 24:42 states this, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
We as believers, must always be prepared for the hour of Christ’s return, and we must take seriously every claim from those that say they know of something that only God would know of. Because if it comes to pass, we can praise God, because we were already ready, even before the prediction. And if it doesn’t, we know that the one who spoke it was not speaking from God, but from themselves, and we should not give them room to continue in their false ministry.
The second clue that a person is a false prophet, is that they speak in the name of other gods. That means that they are speaking as if other gods are telling them to do it, or to point us away from the God of the Bible to other things.
In the ancient world, this was literally pointing to the worship of idols of stone and wood. In our modern world, we can see this when teachers or speakers use pop-psychology as a basis for their teaching. Need based sermons that make us feel good about how God is going to take care of us, and make sure nothing happens to us. Or sermons that are more interested in helping us achieve the best life now, with riches of monetary and physical value.
Today the gods of comfort, ease, and wealth in this world are the gods that some pastors preach, and who live in homes that would make the most wealthy of ancient kings wonder at. People like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and Jim Bakker to name a few. Though recently Benny Hinn did repent and ask forgiveness for not preaching a biblical Gospel.
Listen to what Peter says about such false teachers in his second letter, “1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping (2 Peter 2:1-3).”
This is why I say that the modern gods, are gods not of a religious pantheon, but of greed for the things of this life.
Let’s look at two more clues in two other passages of Scripture. The first of these and our third clue, comes from Deuteronomy chapter 13, in the first 4 verses. Moses relays this from God, “1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
Our third clue comes out of our first two. In the first clue, God tells us an obvious way to tell when a prophet is false: if their prophecy doesn’t happen, they’re not from God. The second clue, is if the prophet speaks in the names of other gods, then they’re not from God. We might think, these are simple to recognize and reject. But what if the prophet says something will happen and it does? Well, God also gives us a clue to recognize if that prophet is from him or not. And it’s a simple question, does the prophet point us to God and call us to repentance before him, or does the prophet call us to worship other gods?
See this is the slippery slope, we see the signs of the prophetic word, and we say, it came true, then we must follow what this person says. Cultists and Mediums work on this very thing. They make, usually, a mild prediction that could happen at anytime. Something vague, like a heatwave in Arizona, or an earthquake in California, or a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. And when it comes true, people flock and believe anything and everything that person says.
People want the flashy predictions and miracles so that they can know that what they believe is real. This is why, in an interaction with some Jewish leaders, Jesus is quoted saying this in Mark 8:12, “He sighed deeply in his spirit and remarked, ‘Why do those living today demand a sign? I tell all of you with certainty, no sign will be given to this generation.’”
But even if the prophecy comes true, God gives us a way to recognize, if a person is truly talking on his behalf. If they make the prediction and it comes true, and then they point us back to God, they are from him. But, if they point us to other gods, then they are not from God and should be treated as a false prophet and teacher. This is why, in the vision that God gave us as a church here, the last part of it is to point everyone back to Christ’s life. Because that’s our job, to point others back to Jesus and his work.
The final clue that we’ll talk about today, comes from 1st John chapter 4, verses 1-3, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
This final clue to know if someone is a false prophet or teacher is that they deny the physical work of Jesus in salvation. This denial comes in several ways. They might deny that Jesus was a historical figure. They might deny that Jesus was physically human, believing instead, that he was just a spirit masquerading as a human. They might deny that Jesus died on the cross. They might deny that Jesus’ work on the cross was complete for salvation. They might deny Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead. Or they might deny Jesus’ physical return one day.
In other words, they are rejecting the core of the Gospel. This is why earlier in 1st John, John writes these words, “22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (2:22-23).”
And so, from the Scriptures we can glean at least four clues to see if a person is falsely representing God. They make prophecies that don’t come true, they call people to follow other gods, then there’s the possibility that they’re prophecies do come true but they still call people away to other gods, and finally they reject the work of Jesus in it’s totality, picking and choosing what they desire to follow, rather than what God has said.
And so, when someone says they speak on behalf of God, we must look for the clues to see whether they do or not. This is why I make the pledge to never make a prediction on my own accord, to never call you away from the God of the Bible, and to never diminish or deny any part of the Gospel message.
We need to be on guard for the false teachers and prophets in this world that would desire to expand their own kingdoms rather than the kingdom of God. We need to hold accountable those that speak presumptuously on God’s behalf, so that the truth would not be seen in disrupt in the world’s eyes, as the Scriptures say in 2nd Peter 2:3. We must vocally speak out and reject those that speak on behalf of God, yet are found to be a false prophet and teacher.
So, this is my challenge for you today, we all have our favorite pastors or teachers we follow that build us up in the faith. This week, apply these four clues to distinguish a true speaker of God from a false one, to your favorite pastors and teachers. Apply it to me as well, because I am not a perfect teacher, and you need to keep me accountable in that. But if you find one that fulfills even one of these clues, reject their teaching and influence in your life. Because, though they might make you feel good and might speak godly truths, they’re slowing creeping in counterfeit teachings into your mind that is distorting the Word of God in your life. There are many good godly biblically based teachers out there, let us reject those that are not. Don’t hold on to ones that are peppering their teachings with counterfeits, getting fat of their congregations. Instead hold tightly to the unchangeable Word of God.
Because if we are willing to examine those that we follow, then we will be better at knowing the godly from the false, when they speak. Let us be people seeking godly teachers, those that God has raised up to help us seek him deeper. Amen.