Jesus gave a clear and stern warning about false prophets in Matthew 7:
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
The nature of false prophecy is destructive yet it nearly always finds place among the people of God. In studying two passages from the book of Jeremiah I noticed there are five spiritual strongholds that accompany the work of false prophets. These prophets bring a destructive spiritual atmosphere along with their misguided words and actions. We must be on our guard to properly understand what God is truly saying. He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit is saying to His people.
“Then said I, Alas, Lord God! Behold, the [false] prophets say to them, You will not see the sword, nor will you have famine; but I [the Lord] will give you assured peace (peace that lasts, the peace of truth) in this place. Then the Lord said to me, The [false] prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, nor have I spoken to them. They prophesy to you a false or pretended vision, a worthless divination [conjuring or practicing magic, trying to call forth the responses supposed to be given by idols], and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the [false] prophets who prophesy in My name–although I did not send them–and who say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land: By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword; and they shall have none to bury them–them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them [and not on their false teachers only, for the people could not have been deceived except by their own consent].”
Jeremiah 14:13-16 AMP
“Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I will feed them with [the bitterness of] wormwood and make them drink the [poisonous] water of gall, for from the [false] prophets of Jerusalem profaneness and ungodliness have gone forth into all the land. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the [false] prophets who prophesy to you. They teach you vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility) and fill you with vain hopes; they speak a vision of their own minds and not from the mouth of the Lord. They are continually saying to those who despise Me and the word of the Lord, The Lord has said: You shall have peace; and they say to everyone who walks after the stubbornness of his own mind and heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should perceive and hear His word? Who has marked His word [noticing and observing and giving attention to it] and has [actually] heard it?” Jeremiah 23:15-18 AMP
1. Stronghold of Lying
The [false] prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, nor have I spoken to them.
This first one is obvious – they speak lies. Many people do so, but a false prophet will do so in the Name of the Lord. When we attach the Name of the Lord to something we must be cautious to ensure it is truly something from the Lord. Just because someone says, “Thus saith the Lord . . .” it does not mean it is from the Lord. First and foremost it must align with the written Word of God. I would encourage everyone to read, Thus Saith the Lord by John Bevere as he covers this quite extensively and well. God warns,
1 Timothy 4 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.
There will be those so bound in deception that they refuse to listen to or heed the truth. Lies and deception will grow in strength the longer we allow them to hang around. Those who refuse the love of the truth or refuse to accept the truth will be deceived and deluded to accept all that is antichrist.
The motives tell a lot about those who teach or prophesy. Why are they doing it? Results are not a mark of genuineness. God tells us to look at the fruit to really know and test someone. Character still counts. We have to bear in mind that we know people by their fruit and not by the perceived fruit of their ministry. Ministry and life flow from the vine, but the fruit of the Spirit must be produced through the branches.
2. Stronghold of Divination
They prophesy to you a false or pretended vision, a worthless divination [conjuring or practicing magic, trying to call forth the responses supposed to be given by idols], and the deceit of their own minds.
False prophets will draw on a supernatural power that does not come from the Holy Spirit. They will operate through divination, some even charging a fee for their ability to speak or give words. This is clearly demonic and destructive. Heed this warning.
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 18:10-13
Often the strongest and most dangerous reality of divination is mixing the holy with the profane. The woman in Acts 16 was attempting to associate herself with the things of God as she followed Paul and Silas around making declarations about God. Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8 wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit because to him it looked like a golden ticket. Some ministries want you to believe that they have all that anyone needs. If you add what they have to Jesus you can be someone or something special. True prophetic ministry, however, will draw out of you what Jesus has already placed in you. It will build on the foundation of Christ. Divination on the other hand will seek to manipulate and control.
3. Stronghold of Death
By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword; and they shall have none to bury them–them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their wickedness upon them [and not on their false teachers only, for the people could not have been deceived except by their own consent].
A stronghold of death seeks to destroy as many as possible. When we consent to what is prophetically declared we consent to the ramifications. False prophets bring death with and through their word. In 2 Kings 4 Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son to life. Death had been defeated over one young man and next we find death coming against the sons of the prophets, against a gathered group.
2 Kings 4:38 And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39 So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. 40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41 So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.
False prophets and false prophecy will bring death as opposed to the life intended by and through the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and He is the spirit of prophecy. We must guard against the death that accompanies false prophets, for as we give consent to their false words we embrace the death they bring.
4. Stronghold of a Perverse Spirit
Behold, I will feed them with [the bitterness of] wormwood and make them drink the [poisonous] water of gall, for from the [false] prophets of Jerusalem profaneness and ungodliness have gone forth into all the land.
False prophets will be accompanied by a perverse spirit, causing many to err and follow after things they normally would not follow.
The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit. Isaiah 19:14
This is the only time this word perverse appears in the Bible. It means distorting, perverting, or warping. The root of the word means to bend, to twist, or to distort. It is the same root as in the word iniquity which refers to crookedness. Perverse means showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences. A perverse spirit will cause a person to justify his thoughts or his actions. It will cause the individual to make things fit into the shape he wants them to be.
Proverb 15:4 says that a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. There are many who live with a broken or crushed spirit as a result of the perverse spirit that is speaking through the false prophets. The tongue of a false prophet speaks in a manner designed to overthrow or ruin. The truth is perverted and leaves the hearer in despair, despondency, or destruction. Peter warns about false prophets and false teachers in a strong manner:
1 Peter 2:18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
It is imperative that we discern truth and not allow prophetic perversion to trap us to the point of becoming slaves of corruption.
5. Stronghold of a Seducing Spirit
They teach you vanity (emptiness, falsity, and futility) and fill you with vain hopes; they speak a vision of their own minds and not from the mouth of the Lord.
A deceiving or seducing spirit means wandering, raving, or misleading. It means to be led into error by an imposter or a deceiver. To seduce means to attract someone to a belief or into a course of action that is inadvisable or foolhardy. We must be careful that we do not place a greater emphasis on charisma than we do on character. Jezebel was a woman of charisma, volume, and influence, but she is obviously not someone you would want giving you a prophetic word. How many like her, however, are embraced today as being a prophetic voice? In Revelation Jesus rebukes the church in Thyatira for allowing Jezebel to remain in a place of authority and to lead many astray.
It is necessary that we know the Truth of God’s Word. Those without a solid and strong foundation of truth will be more easily deceived. If you do not know the truth, you cannot recognize a lie. We have gotten to the place in the Church where lies are more easily received than truth. Truth is often considered judgmental. This is quite a high point of deception.
The seducing spirit will accompany false prophets causing people to be more drawn to the apparent signs than they are to Jesus Himself. Jesus warned in Mark 13 that there would be many false teachers and false Christs in the last days that would deceive even the elect if possible. Satan has always been subtle and seductive in his approach toward leading man away from the truth of God. This has not and will not change. We must discern what is truly taking place when someone declares a prophetic word. Do not allow the false prophet to speak or lead you to a place of death through his seductive work. The Holy Spirit will enhance what Jesus has begun in you. Do not be deceived.
The bottom line is that false prophets will operate on their own authority and with their own agenda. They will speak and they will act as though directed by God but the fruit will prove otherwise. We must walk in discernment and understand what God is and is not saying. In conclusion, consider God’s declaration from our Jeremiah passages:
For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should perceive and hear His word? Who has marked His word [noticing and observing and giving attention to it] and has [actually] heard it?”