5 GUIDES FOR IDENTIFYING TRUE PROPHECY
This is the third post in our Prophecy Series. The first two are:
Do read these posts before delving into today’s topic.
And let me know what you think of each post in this series. Kindly share them too however you can to enlighten as many as possible. You are richly blessed in Jesus’ name.
In our society today, prophecies are rampant. Whole church services are often turned into spectacles where forecasts are dished out on personal and public affairs. In some churches, regular teaching of the word of God takes the back burner because fortune telling draws in the crowds. And even if you don’t seek these prophecies out, you are confronted with them on every media.
But there are true prophecies and false ones. People of other faiths or no faith at all may see this differently but we as Christians have our own parameters for distinguishing true from false prophecy, the most fundamental of which is the source of the prophecy. We consider a prophecy true if it comes from the Spirit of Almighty God. We consider prophecies from contrary spirits as abominations for reasons we shall soon see.
The year was 588 B.C. The nation of Judah was in crisis but the people didn’t know it. Their sister nation to the north, Israel, had been sent into exile by the Assyrians for abandoning God and Judah was towing the same path. God had sent them prophets who ceaselessly urged them to return to Him. Jeremiah was one of those prophets. He spoke to the people in the temple, at the gates, out in open country, and used the sternest language but the people didn’t listen. Rather, they saw him as a pest. The kings and the priests plotted against him. They imprisoned, beat and humiliated him. Only by God’s mercy did he escape death at their hands, the fate of many a prophet over the years. Yet, he continued to rebuke sin and point the people back to God.
But there were other prophets whom the people loved. These ones prophesied peace, prosperity and invincibility on the nation. The people showered these prophets with gifts and carried on in their wicked ways. Then suddenly, the Babylonians attacked. They laid a siege on Jerusalem that lasted sixteen months. Even then, these prophets kept up with their cheery note. Until what was left of the once mighty nation was carried into exile. Just like God had warned through His prophets, going back to Moses at the birth of the nation of Israel (which then included Judah).
It is important to note that the distinction we are about to make between true and false prophecy is not primarily an academic exercise. False prophecy is dangerous. It promotes sin, lulls people into a false sense of security and ultimately brings destruction, both physically and spiritually. That is why some of the strongest language in the Bible is God warning against false prophecy and denouncing false prophets through His faithful servants.False prophecy destroys people by promoting sin & lulling them into a false sense of security. Click To Tweet
We as Christians need to make this distinction daily and flee the traps of false prophecy and prophets. In this regard, these 5 guides are crucial.
5 Guides For Identifying True Prophecy
1. The Lord of the prophet:
Who is he or she serving? Many claim to be gifted but they are not serving the Almighty God. Some are messengers of Satan and lesser gods. This is very important because nothing pure can come from the impure.
“11. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12. Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.” – James 3:11-12
It’s not enough that someone calls the Almighty God if they also pay allegiance to other gods.
“3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” – Exodus 20:3-5 (emphasis, mine).
Besides the presence of idols, you can tell who is speaking from strange powers through the tools of their trade: e.g. cowrie shells; mala beads; crystal balls; tarot cards; ouija boards; reflective surfaces for scrying like water, fire, glass or dark stones.
A true prophet of God works with the Bible and acknowledges Jesus Christ as the Son of God who shed His blood to redeem mankind.
“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” – 2 John 1:7
The power the prophet is subject to is so important when we realise that by going to strange powers for prophecy, we are more or less opening ourselves up to those powers and pledging allegiance to them. Note that before such consultations are over, there are usually rituals to perform like chants, sacrifices, baths…. And in most cases, they insist on regular consultations to renew the power of their enchantments for their customers or outright membership of their flock or else …. What else do we need to convince us that this is worship and therefore very offensive to our Creator God?
“10. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord” – Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
“Do not go to mediums or fortune-tellers for advice, or you will become unclean. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:31 (NCV)
However, in spite of the foregoing, God in His sovereignty can choose to use anyone to reveal His word as He did with Balaam in the book of Numbers, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
2. The words themselves:
Do they align with the Bible? And do they reflect a desire to honour God and worship Him in truth? Or is it all about immediate benefit, e.g. making money no matter how, snagging a spouse with no care as to the state of one’s soul in the end?
People are usually most concerned about their success, happiness and other temporal stuff when seeking personal words of prophecy. But as children of God, we must realise that the reason God would rather be the one to help us choose our spouse, job, home, etc. is to enable us maintain our relationship with Him. For example, there are certain people you marry and you can kiss your faith goodbye. Similarly, there are certain jobs that will steadily pull you away from God and some homes may have heavy demonic presence that you are not yet strong enough to fight.
“And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.” – Exodus 34:16
So any prophecy that is assuring you of success in any venture while being silent on how God actually feels about it (how it will affect your right standing with Him) is a false prophecy.
Moreover, true prophecy will not contradict the revealed word of God in Scripture. So a prophecy that encourages someone to go on a robbery or perform money ritual, that they will succeed, is not from God, no matter how often it seems to work for them. When they least expect, that word will fail them and the consequences will be fittingly disastrous.
The Bible is full of warnings against such wickedness and the judgment that awaits the perpetrators.
“Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished” – Proverbs 11:21.
“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” – Genesis 9:6True prophecy agrees with the revealed word of God in the Bible. Click To Tweet
3. The character of the ‘prophet’:
Does it reflect God’s character? The Lord Jesus explained this clearly in the book of Matthew.
“15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” – Matthew 7:15-17
(Related: 3 Attributes Of Jesus In Isaiah 42 – To inspire and encourage us)
The fruit is also referred to as works. Basically when someone is saved and living in obedience to God, they bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, otherwise they bear the fruit of the flesh.
“19. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20. Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21. Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. U22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:19-23
Three common traits of false prophets are lying, lust for money and sexual immorality. Lying is fundamental to them because it is the signature of the devil under whose influence they operate. We also hear of prophets extorting money from people, threatening them if they do not give. Similarly, we hear of prophets sleeping with women who come to them for prayer. By preying on these needy women, some acquire a harem.
“44. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” – John 8:44
“But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” – Jeremiah 23:14 (ESV)Common traits of false prophets are lying, lust for money and sexual immorality. Click To Tweet
4. The motivation of the prophet: We’ve touched on this while explaining the numbers above.
Does the prophet hope to ensnare the hearers spiritually by driving a wedge between them and God? Does he or she aim to extort money/exploit the hearers in some other way or to declare God’s counsel truthfully?
“26. How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, 27. who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams ….” – Jeremiah 23:26–27 (NKJV) emphasis, mine
The aspect of exploitation was a big problem in Israel of old and God constantly warned against prophets who were more concerned with gain than faithfully speaking His word.
“5. Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths. 6. Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination. The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them” – Micah 3:5-6 (ESV).
A verse from the Epistles quoted earlier in this series is also relevant here.
“Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” – 2 Corinthians 2:17 (NIV)
We are not supposed to charge fees when we bless people via our spiritual gifts.
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” – Matthew 10:8
So if you go somewhere and there are price tags for prophecies, run away from there. A gift willingly brought is appropriate though.False prophecy aims to alienate people from God Almighty & ensnare them to Satan. Click To Tweet
5. The fulfilment of the prophecy:
Does it come to pass? – (Deuteronomy 18:22) A priest in Nigeria prophesied that a governor will die in a certain year; that he will never be elected for a second term in office. He went as far as saying he will leave the priesthood if his words didn’t come to pass. The fellow didn’t die that year, he not only won a second term in office, he was subsequently elected into the Senate. And he’s still alive. In case you’re wondering, the priest didn’t disrobe as a result. Wow!
Some ‘prophets’ adjust their predictions by hindsight when they fail, lol! God is omniscient and He does not lie or make mistakes. If He says a thing it will surely come to pass (Numbers 23:19). We can easily verify this when the time for occurrence is close and specified like in the case above. Some prophecies, however, are for the far future, meaning that they may manifest long after the generation that heard them. Only posterity can tell if they were true or not.
15. Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. 16. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord. 17. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.” – Jeremiah 28:15-17If the word of a prophet does not come to pass, the Lord has not spoken it. - Deut. 18:22 Click To Tweet
This does not mean that God wants all His words fulfilled. When he sends warnings of judgment, He hopes to see people heed those warnings and repent of their sins to avert the impending doom. Remember the case of Nineveh. God had mercy when the people repented and did not destroy the city as Jonah had prophesied.
But except in such extenuating circumstances, when someone prophesies things that do not happen, we can safely say their prophecies were false.
The guides presented in this post need to be considered together when we evaluate prophecies. For example, a prophecy may come to pass, but if its source is polluted, you need to flee pronto. Otherwise, it may open you up to overwhelming temptation, lead you into deep spiritual bondage and eternal damnation. Remember Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the three witches. A little truth, a rhyme here, a riddle there and lo, you’re ruined. Macbeth did become the Thane of Cawdor as the witches predicted but ambition and pressure from his wife led him to murder King Duncan to fulfil the witches’ second prophecy. Further consultation yielded three prophecies: beware of Macduff (fair enough!), none born of woman shall harm him (awesome!) and he won’t be defeated till Birnam Wood came to Dusiname Hill (impossible, right?).
Macbeth left that encounter anticipating certain triumph in the battle/s ahead of him only to realise before he was killed that the witches’ prophecies were actually about his imminent death at the hands of Macduff (the ally of Malcolm, son of Duncan), who was born through a C-section and had his troops match to Dusiname Hill under the cover of trees they cut from Birnam Wood. What a twist! What deadly duplicity! But you better believe that art imitates life!
I want to end this post by reiterating the theme of our first post in this series, “You Are Your Own Best Prophet.” While it is important to receive counsel from those ahead of us in the Lord and other brethren, we should not delegate knowing God by and for ourselves. There is so much fraud in the world today and, sadly, it has crept into the church.
(Related: Intimacy With God)
Ensure that you cherish and nurture your relationship with God. Let nothing come between you and He. Immerse yourself daily in His word. And when you absolutely must ask Him questions on the issues of your life and whatever else that matters to you, He would answer and direct your paths. So when someone tries to sell you a lemon, you will laugh because you already know the truth.
The scriptures used in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise stated.
I would love to know if there’s anything you’re taking away from this post and do help me share it widely, if you will. You are richly blessed in Jesus’ name.
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