10 May 2023

Test every prophet.

Every Christian can hear God. (If we listen. Not all of us do, or know how to, or even know to. That’s another article.) And if God gives us something to share with another person, that’s prophecy. It’s not a complicated concept. Every Christian can potentially be a prophet.

No, not specially-anointed individuals who’ve been assigned that specific ministry office by the Holy Spirit. Those folks might be professional prophets, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t do prophecy. Same as monks, and people who run prayer ministries, might be professional petitioners, but every Christian should pray. God doesn’t put limits on who can do what in his church. We do—and shouldn’t.

That said, anybody—literally anybody—can come up to you and say, “God told me to tell you [SOMETHING THEY THINK IMPORTANT].” Or sometimes they’ll go full KJV hairy thunderer and start it with “Thus saith the LORD,” but it’s the same general idea: God told ’em to tell you something.

Well they think God told ’em to tell you something.

Or they don’t think God told ’em anything, because he didn’t, and they’re phonies. Anything real can be faked, especially for personal gain. So of course there are fake prophets, and Jesus tells us to watch out for them. They’ll lead us astray, for fun and profit.

In bible times you could drag them out of town, throw them off a cliff, and throw heavy rocks down on their bodies. And if we could still legally do that, we’d have way fewer televangelists. But we can’t, and that’s probably best. There are a lot of newbie prophets who are just getting the hang of their ability, and they’re making mistakes. Sometimes they’re just plain wrong. We need to be gracious to these people, and get ’em to stop playing prophet till their accuracy rate is the appropriate 100 percent.

And even when they have a 100 percent accuracy rate, they could always slip up. God told ’em one thing, but they put their own spin on his message and said way more than they should have, and bungled the prophecy. It happens. Especially when certain Christians get overconfident, or when politics gets involved. (That’s likewise another article.) That’s why Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets of the bible, tell us to watch out. Every Christian is wrong in one way or another, and we’re supposed to double-check one another anyway. True of prophecy as well.

So here’s how to watch out for fake prophets. And if you wanna dabble in prophecy yourself, you’d better make sure you share the traits of a legitimate prophet.

1. Prophets gotta be Christian.

Which, y’know, duh.

But you’d be surprised how many Christians ignore this rule. Some pagan tells them something profound, and they’re pretty sure God spoke through this particular pagan, because the word resonates with them just so much! And hey, isn’t there biblical precedent for pagans getting it right sometimes? When King Saul ben Kish went to see that medium in Endór, and she got the dead prophet Samuel ben Elkanah to speak to him, didn’t Samuel’s prophecy come true? 1Sa 28.7-19 So, y’know, maybe psychics are an option?

Or astrologers, tarot readers, people who try to read your aura, people who say they talk to angels, and all sorts of “gifted” people. Some of ’em even claim they’re Christian!—they got baptized when they were kids, they were raised Christian, they wear crosses, quote bible, speak Christianese, and might even attend your church.

But once you dig into their so-called Christianity, and start asking questions about what they believe, you’re gonna find they’re utter heretics. They don’t think Jesus is any more significant than any other guru. Some of ’em even think he’s dead, and when he appears to people it’s because he’s visiting from the same astral plane all the other dead live in. They might claim Jesus is God (which he is), but according to their belief system everyone is God, including them. They like Jesus… but they reject his teachings, his apostles, his church, and our creeds. They answer to no one.

Christianity’s just a prop to a lot of non-Christian “prophets.” But none of them get their knowledge from the Holy Spirit. They get it from augury, or other spirits (which they claim are the Holy Spirit, angels, other gods, the dead, space aliens, whatever); or they believe in nothing, and it’s pure trickery on their part.

While spirits might pose as angels, and appear quite knowledgeable, the reality is they’re just as clever as the smartest humans. They’re as good as we are at guessing the future. And some of us are really good at it!—and so are they, which is why so many people are impressed by them. But we don’t know these spirits’ motives. They claim they have our best interests in mind… but the fact is, if we put our trust in them instead of God, they really aren’t looking out for us. They just want our devotion. Our worship.

Hence God told us to stay away from them, as well as from fortune-tellers. Dt 18.10-14 Talk to God, not them.

2. Prophets gotta follow Jesus.

If this sounds like it’s the same as the previous point, it’s not really. There are plenty of prophets who aren’t pagan, who appear to be part of the Christian mainstream. But they’re not personally following Jesus.

Probably the most obvious sign is how they like to buck trends. Now, there’s nothing wrong with bucking the trends of popular Christian culture, which is far more interested in politics, or pushing favorite Christian fads, or selling us books and T-shirts. But these guys like to buck orthodoxy. They borrow Jesus’s statement, “You’ve heard it said, but I tell you,” and use it to denounce all sorts of things we see in Christendom. And while there’s plenty of ungodly stuff in Christendom to denounce, these guys don’t just go after selfishness, gossip, a lack of grace, a lack of goodness: They tell people to stop going to church. They don’t go to church; they go it alone. It’s just them and the Holy Spirit! It’s how we should all be, they claim.

You’ll find a lot of things these guys denounce, are things the apostles taught. Things Jesus teaches. Things which make ’em antichrists, but they think they’re fine because “they hear God.” Things which make them stand apart from the rest of Christendom, with nobody to confirm their prophecies but other heretics, and they think they’re right to be lone wolves because weren’t the biblical prophets like that too? Like Jeremiah, Elijah, John the baptist—solitary voices in Israel while everyone else went astray.

Thing is, these “solitary voices” in the bible weren’t the only voices. God always has a remnant of followers. They’re not hard to find. Find ’em, compare the prophets with ’em, and see whether the prophets hold up.

3. Prophets gotta let you test them.

Real prophets are fully aware God expects us to test them. They’ve read their bibles, which of course say this:

1 Thessalonians 5.19-22 KJV
19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

So they’re ready for people to second-guess them. They can stand up to scrutiny. They don’t mind when we get a second opinion from a fellow prophet, and often encourage us to do it: We’re supposed to!

All they’re doing anyway is passing along God’s messages. It’s not their job to enforce the message, or make us believe it, or make us honor them. Cults do that.

But y’know, some prophets get really culty. To them, testing them challenges their authority, and they won’t have it. “You must listen to me. I’m God’s anointed. Raise not thy hand against God’s anointed,” and authoritarian, fascist crap like that. That’s not Christian; that’s antichrist talk. If your church is ruled by such a person, get out quick.

Real prophets will love this article—and likely have preached something just like it already. Fake prophets will order you to never read TXAB again, and rebuke you for doubting them. Even though your doubts are from the Holy Spirit.

4. Prophets gotta be fruity.

“Fruity” as in fruit of the Spirit. Which is a big requirement, ’cause Jesus explicitly taught it. But far too many lists skip this one. Probably because those prophets aren’t all that fruity.

Matthew 7.15-20 KJV
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. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

If you’re listening to the Holy Spirit on such a regular enough basis that he’s made a prophet of you, I would expect him to have weeded a lot of immature behavior out of you, and now you’re overflowing in his good character. Doesn’t this simply make sense? And therefore your lifestyle, and prophecies, oughta exhibit and encourage love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, emotional stability, and self-discipline.

True, God can speak to Christians who aren’t all that fruity. He speaks to kids, like Samuel; he speaks to newbies, like Paul of Tarsus; he speaks to everyone. And sometimes he needs these people to share his messages to people who don’t listen to him. Sometimes we’re gonna hear legitimate prophecy from people of iffy character.

But here’s the problem: If someone keeps their salad dressing in a pee jar, I’m not touching it. For obvious reasons. And that’s just as true of immature Christians. In their hands, God’s messages aren’t trustworthy. They suck all the grace out of them. Which is why these prophets are nothing, 1Co 13.2 and should be treated as nothing. We can’t trust them!

Every so often I see a dark Christian dabble in prophecy, and in their hands, the good news turns bad. They use God’s word to tear down, denounce, humiliate, manipulate, and hurt. There’s no grace, love, patience, kindness, nor goodness in them. There’s just rage, frustration, bitterness, name-calling, offense, out-of-control emotion, bad behavior excused as “I’m just so worked up about this, you understand?” and wrath, and vengeance. We see plenty of Old Testament examples of this… and there’s plenty of good reasons why nobody listened to them. Who wants to follow an unstable person, with no integrity and rotten character?

With such people, anything God tells them, they taint. And plenty of the things they proclaim are things God never told them. They presume God hates what they hate. It’s human angst, not divine grace.

So we need to be automatically dismissive of fruitless Christians. Even if they heard God!—we can’t trust them to share him properly. Best to go with a prophet who actually follows the Holy Spirit, who actually displays grace and kindness. If the fruitful prophet says, “Yep, that angry Christian has something there,” then fine—listen to the fruitful prophet. You can still safely ignore the angry one.

5. Prophecies of the future gotta happen.

By “prophecies of the future” I don’t mean End Times predictions. Fake prophets tend to only make End Times predictions. Some of ’em are “prophecy scholars” who are following their timelines instead of bible or the Holy Spirit—and all of ’em expect to be raptured or dead long before they’re ever called on their claims.

Nope, I’m talking about near-future prophecies. Most prophecies about the future are gonna happen within the next hour, day, week, month, or year. Gonna happen soon. In my experience, sooner than you think. It’ll start happening, and you’ll flinch: “Wait, this is happening now?” Yep, now. Hope you’re ready!

Actual messages from God about distant events are actually rare. Rare because God wants us to test prophecies, and how are you gonna test a prophecy about a distant event? If I claim God told me something’s gonna happen to North America in 200 years, who among us is gonna be alive to confirm anything I predicted?

Now yeah, the LORD told Isaiah stuff that’d happen five centuries later, with Jesus. The LORD did that a number of times with his biblical prophets. Couldn’t confirm those prophecies back then either. But why’d the ancient Hebrews keep the books anyway? Because these guys had a solid track record for their more common near-future prophecies. If you got someone with a 100-percent average for every other prophecy, it’s a safe bet their distant-future prophecies have something to them. Hence the Hebrews kept those books… and we Christians kept Daniel and Revelation for the same reason.

God states prophecies of the future, when they truly come from him, come true. Dt 18.21-22 This isn’t a valid test of a prophet unless a prophet makes near-future prophecies, which’ll be fulfilled soon. Not later. Soon enough for them to count as valid evidence.

I should add: Legitimate near-future prophecies won’t be something obvious, easy to predict, stuff any guy who invests in the stock market could foresee. Nor will they be vague Barnum statements, like the ones we see in horoscopes: “You’ll have a fortuitous day tomorrow.” If anyone could see this stuff coming—like a series of lunar eclipses, a large political shift, a war, a huge technological advance, a growing trend in popular culture—this isn’t miraculous. God does the miraculous, not parlor tricks.

A legitimate prophecy will be something only God could say. It’ll be obviously God-triggered, God-directed, something only God can do, something only God would catch. It’ll require divine insight.

6. Legit God-statements don’t take bible out of context.

I know my bible, so I catch fake prophets all the time with this one. And if you know bible, so will you.

The Holy Spirit inspired the bible. He’s never gonna misquote or misinterpret his own bible. Yeah, he may appear to at first, like when he told Ezekiel to cook his “Ezekiel bread” over his own feces. Ek 4.12 (Good thing the folks who manufacture Ezekiel bread don’t follow that verse.) But when God ignores his own bible, these are tests. Ezekiel correctly responded he would never. So God took it back Ek 4.14-15 —’cause if “God” doesn’t take it back, it’s not God.

To be fair, often prophets get only a brief message from God—say, “Love your neighbors”—and because it’s so short, they try to pad it a little. It’s a common mistake that if it’s serious, it oughta be long. So they might quote bible. And they might quote bible wrong, ’cause they’re prophets, not bible scholars. (Although they absolutely need to fix that!) In these cases, which happen all too often, their messy mishandling of scripture is gonna drive people to say, “Wait, the bible doesn’t mean that,” and dismiss them and their prophecies. In their own defense, these foolish prophets often object the critics are too nitpicky. But good grief; these very same prophets claim all the time, “Prophecy never contradicts scripture”! Does it or doesn’t it?

It does, in fact. Prophecy and scripture confirm one another. But this requires these be properly-interpreted prophecies, and properly-interpreted scriptures. This is why prophets need to study their bibles. If we can’t trust a prophet to quote bible properly, how can we trust them to interpret God’s direct messages properly? It’s bad fruit.

7. Prophecies are practical.

There are a lot of self-proclaimed prophets who don’t really prophesy; they encourage. That’s their ministry, they claim: They’re sympathetic. They share a lot of nice proverbs, sayings, slogans, and mantras. Stuff you can easily find on bumper stickers and Christian T-shirts. Or, for that matter, pagan bumper stickers and T-shirts.

What do I mean? Well, stuff like “You’re blessed and highly favored,” or “You’re a daughter/son of God, and your Father loves you,” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle” (which isn’t true, y’know), or “God hears you when you pray; you’re not just praying to nothing.” Stuff which Christians have been saying forever to encourage one another, but plenty of prophets will claim, “Oh, you need to hear this right now; this is a ‘now’ word from God,” then quote greeting-card stuff.

Nope, ’tain’t prophecy. This is basic encouragement. Which we Christians oughta already be doing for one another; we don’t need the Spirit to prompt us, nor do we need specific greeting-card stuff to share with one another. We don’t need the Holy Spirit to tell us to quote bible at one another, nor tell people we’re praying for them, nor tell people God loves them. We know this stuff already, and oughta be saying it!

And if you read your bible, you’ll find no greeting-card prophets in there. Nor should you in the church. God doesn’t share something through a prophet which anyone can find anywhere and everywhere. He shares stuff people need to hear. These are practical words from God—stuff which specifically pertains to us individually, not stuff which generically applies to everyone, and can make anybody feel good.

Legitimate prophecy is divine knowledge. It’s grace. It’s power. Fluff ain’t power, and it’s not prophecy either. Prophecy empowers us to follow God, and discourages us from sin. Seek that, not platitudes.