Judging Prophecy Correctly
There is too much confusion in the Body of Christ with regard to how to properly judge prophecies and prophets today. Some do not bother to judge them at all, and just swallow whatever is fed to them by even false prophets—complete with the proverbial “hook, line, and sinker.” Others are trying to use good discernment in order to avoid heresy and being led astray, but are using the wrong “measurements” to test the “words” given. Only a few seem to grasp the fundamental issues at hand, and can properly dissect a prophecy in order to evaluate its origin.
The purpose of this article is to help increase the numbers of people within this last group above. While no article-length treatment can do this topic full justice (a book-length would surely be required), I will do my best to clear up at least a few misconceptions and to point the direction toward a few good aids in evaluating such things.
Herein, we will expose and eliminate three fallacies regarding testing prophecies (and by extension, testing the people who give them):
- That the “Jesus is Lord” test of 1 Corinthians 12 is sufficient to evaluate a minister/prophecy.
- That all “prophecy” is by inspiration from the Holy Spirit (or some spirit).
- That the “fulfillment test” (i.e. does the prophecy come to pass?) is an applicable test in all situations for determining true and false prophets.
Additionally, we will establish a couple of very powerful and helpful biblical truths:
- How the “Jesus is Lord” test is actually a part of the more comprehensive “doctrine test.”
- That this particular test is critical for correctly judging both prophets and their prophecies.
Let me also provide a quick note for my readers who perhaps know English only as a second language, or who are reading this through one of this website’s automated translations. The English word “prophesy” (with a “s” toward the end) is a verb, and refers to the act of prophesying, i.e. speaking by the inspiration of some spirit. The English word “prophecy” (with a “c” toward the end) is the noun form of the word, and refers to what was said. So I will try to keep my “c” and “s” versions of the word straight throughout this article (emphasis on “try”), but I wanted to differentiate the two forms of the word since they are so similar, in order to avoid confusion.
So with the above introduction in mind, let’s get started.
Who Can Say, “Jesus is Lord”?
The first point we will address is the “Jesus is Lord” test. This is a doctrine of the New Testament (NT) that is often misunderstood by people— especially within the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches.
To unwind this mystery, we will begin with the first eleven verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 12, wherein the Holy Spirit (by the apostle, Paul) began teaching God’s people about spiritual gifts:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
(NKJV, emphasis mine)
Again, there is a common error found among Christians regarding the first three verses above. Too many people think that if some person says, “Jesus is Lord!” then they MUST be doing so by the Holy Spirit. However, this is an example of what I call “two-dimensional thinking.” The Christian’s reading of the above verses has missed the context entirely (which is required for “three-dimensional thinking”); and they certainly have not taken the time to accurately ascertain the intent of God within these passages (which constitutes “four-dimensional thinking”).
So please allow me to first state a biblical truth quite clearly, and then I will prove this point afterwards: ANY human being can humanly say, “Jesus is Lord” out of their own human mind without the Holy Spirit being involved. For example, if a person is being harassed by a poorly trained Christian endeavoring to “street witness,” they may say such a thing just to get the person to leave them alone. Is there faith expressed therein? No! They just want the person to go away, and they are willing to say anything they can to get them to leave.
Here is another example from history: Who said, “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior… I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Answer: Adolf Hitler, in a speech on April 12, 1921.
Was Hitler a Christian? NO! He was a murderer! Jesus did not advocate murder, and He even said such things were of the devil (John 8:44); and the Bible clearly says that “no murderer has eternal life in him” (1 John 3:15). Thus, there is no way that Adolf Hitler was a genuine Christian. In fact, he was part of a satanic cult known as the “Thule Society” and was therefore technically a satanist (which should be obvious to most people by his evil behavior). That evil imposter was merely using such statements to fool Christians to gain their political support. (By the way, click here if you want to be shocked about how well Hitler fooled the Christians in Germany with such statements, and how many of us were similarly fooled by the statements of George W. Bush during his tenures in office. Or, click here if you want to read how an alleged “evangelical pastor,” who is an admitted member of a satanic cult, who uses the same tactic in order to lead people into apostasy.)
Nonetheless, professing Christians throughout history have used such a “Jesus is Lord” litmus test to satisfy themselves that another person is speaking by the Spirit of God—or even to determine if a particular person is born again. Thus, such a erroneous use of 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 constitutes a method and mindset that leads people into deception when “wolves in sheep’s clothing” decide to take advantage of such ignorance, as Hitler clearly did.
So let’s see what is really being said within that passage of Scripture in 1 Corinthians…
The Clear Context
The context of the above passage from 1 Corinthians 12 is regarding “manifestations of the Spirit.” Note how the passage says, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” The subject throughout the chapter is the Holy Spirit and His manifestations among the saints. The Holy Spirit (by the apostle, Paul) is intending within this chapter to teach Christians about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and how to discern His manifestations from counterfeits performed by demons.
Note how Paul begins this chapter:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
This statement above MUST be understood in the light of what was written earlier within this same letter to the Corinthians:
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.
(1 Corinthians 10:14-21, NKJV, emphasis mine)
Paul had explained to the Corinthians earlier in his letter that pagans worship demons when they worship idols. Thus, when Paul wrote, “You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led,” he was referring to the demonic influences that lead people into idolatry.
In other words, the Holy Spirit is NOT the ONLY spirit that can move upon a person to “prophesy” within a meeting. This is clearly understood when we look at the very next verse in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
So to reiterate this point: The context of this entire epistle, coupled with the context of chapter twelve itself, reveals that what Paul was trying to explain to the carnal Corinthian believers is that NOT every prophetic utterance is of God. Some are given by demonic inspiration.
Furthermore, he was explaining that whenever a spirit is manifesting, ONLY the Holy Spirit will affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Demons will NEVER admit that, and thus, any prophecy given under the influence of ANY spirit must be tested in regard to the doctrinal content of the prophecy—and especially in regard to the exclusive and supreme Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Thus, the “Jesus is Lord” test is actually a part of the “doctrine test” regarding the content of spirit-inspired prophecies only. It does not apply, however, to “utterances” that were simply made up within people’s own imaginations.
This last point needs a bit more elaboration. However, let me first clear up another fallacy so common within the church regarding judging prophecy…
There is another error very common within Christendom wherein people think that the KEY test for whether a prophet is true or not is in regards to whether their prophetic “sign” comes to pass. This concept is based almost entirely upon this passage:
And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?”— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
(Deuteronomy 18:21-22, NKJV)
I call this the “fulfillment test”, and it is certainly ONE test of the genuineness of a prophet’s ministry. After all, if a man or woman is going around making predictions that never come to pass (Harold Camping being one that comes to mind, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own “Watchtower” being another), then that would certainly indicate that the person is a fruitcake and not a genuine prophet.
However, the fact that they are failing so much in their prophesies is NOT a proof that they are operating by demonic spirits, but may possibly indicate that they are making up what they say out of their own minds and twisted imaginations:
Thus says the LORD to this people, “Even so they have loved to wander; they have not kept their feet in check. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account.” So the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.”
But, “Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “Look, the prophets are telling them, ‘You will not see the sword nor will you have famine, but I will give you lasting peace in this place.’” Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.
(Jeremiah 14:10-14, NASB, emphasis mine)
Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the LORD.
(Jeremiah 23:16, NASB, emphasis mine)
So please do not misunderstand me: If a person keeps giving false prophecies that fail to come to pass, then they are certainly a “false prophet” in the respect that they are not true prophets giving sound prophetic words that may really occur. However, this “fulfillment test” is not the best test of true vs. false prophets, as we shall see more clearly shortly.
But first, let me highlight what we have already covered: We have eliminated two fallacies so far; and we can now re-state (reiterate) them in the affirmative as follows:
- The “Jesus is Lord” test only applies to spirit-inspired utterances, and not human speech capability in general.
- Some false prophecies are given by people merely out of their own minds and imaginations, and are not the result of a spirit inspiring the speaker.
In fact, this second point above is clear whenever you happen to run across a charlatan (con artist) who uses gimmicks to fool people into thinking they have a prophetic “gift” or are a “prophet.” I will provide you a link shortly where you can see such a hustler working the crowd with such fakery. But for now, let’s return to our teaching.
The “fulfillment test” that I mentioned briefly above is a genuine test, but ONLY a very limited one; and it is certainly NOT the best way to tell whether a person is a true or false prophet. Why?
Because is is possible that a “prophet” can speak by demonic influences, and it MAY actually come to pass…
Doctrinal Errors Indicate Demonic Origins
The premise of this article is not that unfulfilled prophecies should not be examined. They must surely be examined as part of a wider inspection of the alleged prophet. However, now we will see that there are severe limitations to this particular form of test that, if not understood, could lead a person into deception to follow a false prophet unaware.
This is because even demonic prophecies can come true:
“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.
(Deuteronomy 13:1-5, NKJV, emphasis mine)
Please note within the bold text above that this alleged prophet’s doctrinal content within his prophecy is designed to lead people AWAY from the Lord God of the Bible; and yet his or her prophecy’s “sign” could still come to pass! Consequently, if a person is judging prophecy by the “fulfillment test” alone, they are likely to be deceived.
However, note what the passage above DOES point out is a solid and irrefutable test of the prophet: The doctrinal content of his or her prophecy. So this brings us back to discussing the “doctrine test” more fully.
The Doctrine Test
The Spirit of God points out within the passage above the type of false doctrine that is typically evident within teaching and inspired utterances of false prophets. They will say things that deny the Lordship of the ONLY True God (i.e. the God that is found in the Bible), and will attempt to lead others into idolatry:
“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams…”
Did you notice how similar this is to the combined text from 1 Corinthians chapters 10 and 12 that we discussed before?
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry…. What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. (Chapter 10, emphasis mine)
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. (Chapter 12, emphasis mine)
The key thing to identify within the prophecies (or teaching) of ANY alleged prophet or prophetess is the content of the doctrine within what they say. (Of course, this would apply toward any teacher, pastor, apostle, evangelist, elder, etc., as well.) This includes subtle doctrinal errors, as well as obvious ones. The passages above should not be considered limited to blatant blasphemies, but should be understood to be informing us even of the subtle errors that meet those same criteria.
In fact, let me illustrate this by pointing out that the passage above mentions that demons would call Jesus “accursed.” This is a subtle twist on a biblical doctrine. Note:
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:13-14, NKJV, emphasis mine)
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV)
The scriptural doctrine is this: Jesus, the sinless Son of God, Who was God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16), was made a curse for us as He bore our sins upon the Cross. However, He did not remain there; God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father about forty days later.
So Jesus is portrayed in the Bible today as being in His full Deity, sitting at the right hand of the Father in Heaven…but the demons Paul referred to in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve made one slight twist to their doctrine, and pictured Jesus as eternally damned in Hell. This may have been only a subtle change in words, but the affect is a diametrically opposite picture theologically.
Consequently, this brings up a fact that should be of no surprise to any thinking person: Demons are heretics by their nature, and they have their own doctrines:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…”
(1 Timothy 4:1-2, NKJV, emphasis mine)
Paul warned Timothy regarding how “deceiving spirits” (demons) will lead people astray in the last days. This ties in nicely with his warning to the Corinthians to monitor the doctrinal content of spirit-inspired prophecies, and Moses’ warning that demonic “prophets” can come along demonstrating “signs and wonders” that are designed to lead people into apostasy. In short, whether such heresies are obvious or subtle, they are indicative that a demon spirit is “inspiring” that person through whom they speak and/or teach:
“Moreover, among the prophets of Samaria I saw an offensive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led My people Israel astray.
“Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; and they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one has turned back from his wickedness.
All of them have become to Me like Sodom, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah.
(Jeremiah 23:13-14, NKJV, emphasis mine)
[Referring to the False Prophet of the Last Days] He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
(Revelation 13:13-14, NKJV, emphasis and notes mine)
So even the famous False Prophet of the very Last Days will perform signs and wonders with the intent of leading people into idolatry. Thus, doctrine is the key thing that indicates the origin of the spirit-inspired utterance that any prophet speaks.
By the way: Baal worship, as mentioned in one of the passages above, is at the heart of higher-level Freemason doctrines. Thus, not only are Freemasons heretical in the fact that they are really Deists (i.e. believe that there is one god, but that all forms of worship that embrace only one god are equally valid; Islam, Wicca, Christianity, etc.), they are also heretical in the sense that their doctrines include Baal worship and related symbolism (plus other blasphemies). Thus, any Freemasons masquerading around as prophets (or as “Christian” ministers or theology professors) are directly addressed within the above passage of Scripture also. And the best way to identify them (since they are so secretive about their true beliefs) is to examine the doctrinal content of their alleged prophesies, statements, and teaching. Where spirit-inspired prophecies are concerned, you obviously should NOT to rely whether their demonically inspired predictions come to pass or not…because they just might.
The Time Factor
There is another weakness to using the “fulfillment test” alone. Namely, what about the time factor?
Not every false prophet is as stupid as Harold Camping was in naming dates. Obviously, when one is that open and their prophecy fails to come to pass as predicted, it is a probable indication that something is amiss with the guy. “So and so will happen on day such and such.” Just wait, and see. Simple.
However, most prophecies of Scripture are based upon signs, such as surrounding circumstances or other characteristics. They are typically not based upon dates on a calendar (though some were time oriented, e.g. “within three years” or “by the time of the harvest”). Thus, some people who are leaning too heavily upon the “fulfillment test” may find themselves in a quandary when there is no date or time frame given. They may even miss a true prophecy from God when they are emphatically asserting, “If it doesn’t come to pass, they are false prophets! Stone them!”
For example, Malachi prophesied, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD” (4:5, NASB). That was fulfilled about 400 years later initially in the ministry of John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:14), and will be ultimately fulfilled when the actual man, Elijah, returns just prior to the Second Coming of Christ (see Revelation 11; I believe that Elijah is one Witness, and Enoch is the other…but others may disagree with me on that point, and I do not have the space to expound upon this here beyond this brief note). So when should they have stoned Malachi to death for a lack of fulfillment? Four years after his prophecy? How about forty? It took four hundred years for it to come to pass…and even then, most people did not recognize John the Baptist as the initial fulfillment of that prophetic word.
Then there is Enoch. According to Jude, he prophesied before the Lord took him to Heaven (see Genesis 5:22 and Hebrews 11:5), and said, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him”(verses 14-15, NKJV). That will not happen until the Second Coming of Christ, which has not happened yet. Thus, the time delay in the fulfillment of that prophecy is about 5,000 years. At what point should people have concluded that Enoch was a “false prophet” and have stoned him?
Likewise, I have heard of people who received true prophecies from true prophets, but the fulfillment took years…sometimes decades…before they eventually came to pass. So at what point should the recipients of such true prophetic words decide they are untrue? Patience is certainly a factor when trusting God for the fulfillment of His written promises, so it is not surprising it is likewise when awaiting prophetic words to be fulfilled. (Note: There are other aspects related to the fulfillment of true prophecies that I just do not have time to address within this single article.)
Returning to our “test” discussion: Most prophecies are general, and not date specific. Thus, how can the “fulfillment test” be applied to them correctly? Since there is not hard and fast “rule” about how long one has to wait in order to test the prophecy, it is obvious that this method only works well when an actual date is named or some time frame indicated.
However, even then, one must be cautious if the prediction DOES come to pass. Again, when we connect this point to what we covered above before: It is a real possibility that one could inappropriately label a true prophet as a false one, simply by leaning too heavily upon the “fulfillment test”; while they could also name a false prophet as “true” because the demonically inspired prediction came to pass.
Thus, I think most readers can see that the “fulfillment test” is generally limited in its scope and usefulness, especially whenever specific dates or time frames are not included therein. So let us return to the “doctrine test” and see what we are to look for within the content of spirit-inspired utterances in order to determine their origin.
The Holy Spirit Says…
Again, the primary test to see if a person is a genuine prophet, verses a demonically inspired prophet, is the content of their doctrine. That doctrine could be expressed through an inspired utterance (prophecy), through teaching, or even side comments that reveal the person’s beliefs on certain topics. (Some heretics get quite talkative when they think nobody is listening, or when they feel over confident in their influence over their hearers; so private comments are a good time to see where people really stand on some issues.) A true prophet (or any minister of God) is consistent in their love of Truth, and desire for doctrinal purity (though none of us are omniscient, so we are all growing in God’s grace on such things). A false prophet (or minister) is typically motivated by pride and/or greed, and thus, God’s Truth tends to go crosswise with their evil personal agendas.
So how do we determine where a person stands? One of the best ways to determine if the Holy Spirit is speaking is to see if it lines up with what Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would do:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
(John 16:7-15, NKJV)
You can meditate upon the above passage further in order to get the fullness of what the Lord was telling us all. However, let me give you a quick bullet list to point out some key things that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He came:
- The Holy Spirit would bring “conviction” for sin, and address issues of judgment and righteousness. Take time to examine the messages of the prophets who spoke throughout Scripture, and note that is exactly what they did. They were themselves “holy men of God” (see Luke 1:70, Acts 3:21, Romans 1:2, Ephesians 3:5, 2 Peter 1:21, and etc.) and thus, their doctrine/messages were constantly geared toward promoting holy living before our Holy God.
- He would “guide” us into “all truth.” In the next chapter (John 17:17), Jesus said unto the Father, “Your Word is Truth.” Thus, the Holy Spirit will teach sound doctrine that can be verified by the Word of God (i.e. the Bible alone, and no other alleged “holy book” or “higher truth”).
- He will “tell you things to come.” There will be a future-oriented content to many of the Holy Spirit’s messages. That would not be an absolute, because He often addresses present and past circumstances too; but even then, the Holy Spirit would typically point toward either a future judgement or blessing, depending on the situation being addressed.
- The Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus! This includes His Cross and sacrifice, as well as His position at the right hand of the Father and His Lordship over all.
In contrast, demons tend to say the opposite. Whether subtly or blatantly, they will do one or more of the following:
- They will usually encourage sin, often by talking about “blessings” for those who are practicing sin; i.e. rather than the judgment that will necessarily follow transgression of God’s commands. (Note again what the Jeremiah 23:13-14 passage further above said about those who prophesy by Baal.) So when you see an immoral person being given an “ear tickling” prophecy about how God is going to “bless” them—but without warning about their sin and loose living—beware! That is a VERY likely indication that the prophet is either operating by demons, or is merely a con artist fake. (So watch them closely thereafter to see if that assessment is confirmed in other ways.)
- Demons will lead people toward idolatry and away from God’s Word (as we have discussed above already). This would include encouraging the “love of money” (i.e. “covetousness, which is idolatry” —Colossians 3:5).
- They will often mimic telling “things to come,” but will more often try to impress the hearer with information from the past or present in order to lead them astray (e.g. their name, place of birth, job, activity the previous day, etc.). Note: Demons do often know past and present things about people and circumstances, but are VERY limited on anything “future” oriented because they cannot truly know the future (only God does, and He is not telling them). Demons can fake a future prediction, however, by predicting something that is likely to happen: For example, “You will receive a letter in the mail from an old friend”—but the demon simply knows that the old friend had already put it in the mail the day before, and it is only a matter of the U.S. Postal Service getting the letter to the person…which itself may take a miracle, but we won’t “address” USPS delivery problems at this time (pun intended). A future “sign.” however, is a different thing. These are demonic “miracles” that are merely announced beforehand.
- Demons will glorify ANYBODY except Jesus: That would include the alleged prophet himself (i.e. making him or her look super spiritual); the hearer of the prophecy (i.e. pumping up their ego, by appealing to the lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life); some cult they are pushing, or a false “addition” to the Bible (such as the Book of Mormon); or anything/anybody by which they can turn attention away from Jesus and His Truth, and toward idols.
So when someone speaks some sort of a spirit-inspired utterance, do they genuinely uplift the name of Jesus Christ, and His Lordship? Do they acknowledge His resurrection and ascension to the right had of God? Do they give proper place to His redeeming blood? Or do they openly or subtly promote doctrines that are contrary to these?
We have discussed “prophets” and “prophetesses” largely in this article, but again, these points apply to ANY professing Christian who stands up to give a prophetic utterance in a service, or offers a “personal prophecy” to any individual. (Again, this also applies to teachers, pastors, etc.) If the doctrinal content of their message is heretical, then they are speaking by a demon spirit (either directly in prophecy, or indirectly through teaching the doctrines of demons). However, if the content is pure in its doctrine, and truly uplifts the Deity of Christ and sound biblical teaching, then they are speaking by the Spirit of God.
Again, I am primarily discussing when a SPIRIT manifests through a person, and not merely when someone makes up a prophecy out of their own head. Though these things do apply to teaching, the title of this article is “Judging Prophecy Correctly” and I am especially addressing prophetic utterances within this article, and how to evaluate them.
Let me note briefly that in the case of a “head prophecy” (i.e one out of a person’s own mind), there may or may not be any harm done by the alleged prophecy (it depends on what was said, and how it was received); so you don’t have to label them a “false prophet” and run them out of town if they are simply a baby Christian making a minor mistake (i.e. not Harold Camping making a fool of himself, but a real sincere Christian making a mistake with good intentions and reasonably sound doctrine). Even new prophets make mistakes on this point—though they SHOULD be corrected by senior ministers, when possible (note 1 Corinthians chapter 14).
However, when a spirit is manifesting…and it is determinable that a demon is the source…then the person who gave that prophecy needs to be sat down and dealt with strongly and directly. They may need deliverance from a demon, and/or to get saved; so Christians (especially leaders) should minister to them with such redemptive goals in mind. Regardless, they should NOT be allowed to minister “prophetically” to any group or individual anymore, and others should be warned about the person—particularly if that person resists godly efforts to get them saved and on track spiritually.
And if a church’s or group’s leadership fails to address such things, then Christian individuals and families should leave that congregation and never return. It may indicate that the other leaders are complicit with the demonic false prophet. On the other hand, it could simply mean they are incompetent as leaders. In either case, leave there…and take as many people with you as possible. Nobody should be subjected to demonic manifestations merely because the leaders refuse to properly control their meetings.
Here is a quick bullet list of additional tests. Some of these are ones that I do not have time to address within this particular article, but should surely be known and utilized where applicable. I have listed these in order of priority, along with the ones already mentioned—but this is not an exhaustive list by any means (just the key points):
- The “doctrine test”: This includes the “Jesus is Lord” test (as we discussed herein).
- The “fruit test”: This applies to individuals more than their prophesies, and it was mentioned by Jesus in Matthew chapter 7. It includes really all the tests in some measure, but also the “fruit of the spirit” in Galatians chapter 6.
- The “character test”: See the family and integrity requirements for ministry found in 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus, for more on this one. For a teaching on “The Family Test” (as I call it), which is a part of the character test, then see my article here.
- The “fulfillment test”: This is particularly handy for exposing con artists and idiots, but has its limitations otherwise (as we discussed herein).
You can look those tests above that we did not cover, and study them for yourself. I am confident that the Holy Spirit will give genuine Christians reading those Bible passages the idea of how to apply those tests towards individuals and their prophecies.
Lastly, let me now refer you to a few other articles on other websites. Therein, you can see some examples of both true and false prophecies:
- Can I Buy A Vowel? This is a somewhat funny (and witty) post by Chrystal Whitt, which exposes a man who appears to be a con artist and NOT a true prophet. It is funny, in how Chrystal points out the ridiculous nature of his alleged “prophecies.” It is sad, because some people actually follow this guy and consider him a true prophet.
- A Prophetic Warning by Stanley Frodsham (one of the great founding Pentecostal generals of the Twentieth Century). This is a true prophecy, given by a true man of God. What makes this one particularly interesting is that he describes how heretics and false prophets will emerge (as has been happening the last decade or so in fulfillment of this very word he gave back in 1965).
- Kenneth Copeland’s history of false prophecies and teaching. Some of these are merely ridiculous, but most of the others are blatantly blasphemous.
- The late Dr. Walter Martin’s Warning to the Church (1988): This is a great teaching about how wolves and false prophets operate. Thus, I am including it in this list despite the fact that it is not a uttered prophecy per se. However, it is truly “prophetic” in the sense that this man of God knew what he was talking about in light of God’s Word (which is prophetic by its nature and substance). Thus, this is inspired teaching of sound doctrine, that can be traced to the working of the Holy Spirit (as we taught above).
I hope this article of mine provides some benefit to all our readers. Please feel free to comment and/or ask additional questions below. I will try to “fill in the blanks” within the comment thread for any issues that need to be addressed more fully, as can be reasonably done within a commentary (and as my time constraints allow).
Lastly: Are you interested in learning more about logic and biblical reasoning? Then let me recommend that you spend some time studying that particular sub-page of our new Recommendations section, which entitled Logic, Apologetics, and Evangelism.
And now for a closing benediction:
Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
(Ephesians 6:23-24, NKJV)
Always in Jesus,