Excerpt From The Book, Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing
False Prophets Fooled You?
10 Things You Should Know Expose Them
False Prophets: You Can Identify Them
No segment of society boasts more false prophets than politics. Commonly called pundits and politicians, they abound. These false prophets predict the rise and fall of people and policies that affect you and me. By a wide margin, their prophecies fail.
The world of sports possesses nearly as many false prophets as politics. Sportswriters and sports’ broadcasters, or false prophets, predict the winners, losers, and point differentials of every sport imaginable. They, too, mostly fail.
Religious false prophets populated every era and gathered followers who esteemed them. Their presence has increased to significant numbers today. It seems that wild proclamations, often based upon nothing more than imagination, enhance their popularity.
During the time of God’s anointed prophet, Jeremiah, Israel progressed deeply into sin, rejecting God’s laws. In chapter five of his book, Jeremiah recounts their injustice, hypocrisy, idolatry, and adultery. At the close of this chapter, Jeremiah identified the underlying cause of the people’s condition:
“The prophets prophesy falsely…” (1)
The false prophets and priests of Jeremiah’s day fostered the spiritual decline of Israel. As Jeremiah bewailed the spiritual condition of Israel, he described the characteristics of the false prophets that furthered it.
False Prophets: They Declare a False Message
When they said, “God said,” they lied. They spoke their own messages. Further, when the priests failed to correct the prophets, the priests gained support from the prophets for their lavish, wicked lifestyle. Moreover, the people loved it that way. (2)
False prophets today abound with their messages of deceit. They void previously sacred doctrines:
- doctrines of salvation;
- the sinfulness of humanity;
- the authority of the Scriptures; and
- the nature of God.
These represent only a short list of the doctrines they avoid to please people. Their disregard for truth has made their preaching a sham.
In similar fashion to Jeremiah’s day, pastors and Church leaders today defend their erroneous beliefs for financial gain. They gain authority by the influence of human effort. Like Jeremiah’s day, the Church seems to approve and applaud them. Scores of people find satisfaction and security in fallacies. Countless Church members cannot discern the difference between the true and the false.
Many who call themselves followers of Christ do not want to hear the truth. They would rather hear stories and problem solving techniques than messages on sin and the great doctrinal truths of Scripture. They have an aversion to sermons on the Lord Jesus and the holiness of God and His demands upon them.
To satisfy their desires they look for teachers who will make them feel good. These erroneous endorsements further encourage the deceptive prophets to continue their sinful ways. (3)
False Prophets: They Deride God’s Word.
The shameful practices of Israel’s leaders resulted in the people viewing God’s word to them with derision. (4) When God spoke to them through His prophets, the Israelites rebelled against Him and departed from His word without fear. Every level of society, rich and poor, defied God. His warnings fell on deaf ears and hard hearts.
They had no interest in God’s word. They traded God’s word for the messages of the false prophets and priests. Naturally, this brought about a dearth of the knowledge of God. Doubt and unbelief followed.
In our day, we reflect the same attitude in a different fashion. We have replaced reliance upon God’s word with cheap imitations to instruct and guide us in life:
- retreats; and
Without exception, when people consult me with problems in their lives, they ask me to recommend a good book that will help them.
Persuasive false prophets urge us to buy their publications and attend their meetings, with glowing promises that offer solutions to all of life’s problems.
A friend of mine shared this experience with me. As a young man, new to the realities of life in Christ, he went to the one whom God had used to introduce him to these truths and asked him for a good book to read. After some deliberation, the man’s teacher wisely replied, “I recommend a book that usually comes in a black leather cover entitled, ‘The Holy Bible.’”
The mere writings of man cannot replace the Bible, God’s word to humanity. He provided all that we need for life and godliness in its pages. Further, His words are alive. The writings of Godly men and women can help us, but nothing can replace God’s word.
God has not promised to authenticate man’s writings, but He has given the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds to understand His word and its role in our lives. As disciples of Christ, we must return to God’s word and let the Holy Spirit instruct and edify us that we may grow.
False Prophets: They Desire Possessions.
Jeremiah 6.13 identifies another characteristic of the false prophets, the desire for possessions. The false prophets of Jeremiah’s era loved money and sought positions of prominence. Their unbounded indulgences of the flesh drove them to dishonesty.
Their sin infected everyone, from the poorest to the richest, so that covetousness contaminated their whole society. No one denied his or her own selfish interests.
As in Jeremiah’s day, this characteristic helps identify false prophets today. No doubt, you observe distinctive and well-known preachers on television and hear them on the radio. Have you noticed how many of them urge you to prove your devotion to God by sending money to them?
It is interesting that they insist on money; no other demonstration of devotion will suffice, e.g., service or volunteer work. Further, these teachers entreat people to give money to them, not the local church, or some other Christ honoring ministry. Such practices have become common in the Church today.
False Prophets: They Disregard Duty.
False prophets in Jeremiah’s day disregarded their duties. Verse 14 of Jeremiah 6 talks about healing the hurt of God’s people slightly.
Imagine a physician treating someone with a broken bone piercing through his flesh. Rather than taking the time and effort to set the bone straight, this doctor merely wraps it and puts a band-aid on the injury. This is an appalling thought, isn’t it? Instead of really fixing the hurt, he just patches it up and hopes it heals a little.
As inexcusable as this sounds, it describes how the false prophets in Jeremiah’s era treated the spiritual ills of Israel. They made no attempt to apply God’s word to the people, which would bring healing to the spiritually suffering. Instead, they pronounced false messages to them.
A legitimate spiritual leader, or prophet of God, demonstrates to God’s people how to cleanse hearts, eradicate sin, and set straight errors in order for the Church to be healthy and strong.
False Prophets: They Declare a False Peace.
In addition, God accused the false prophets and priests of saying, “Peace, peace,” when no peace existed. (5) The priests and prophets attempted to cover up their failures by proclaiming that everything was good enough. God said that no peace existed despite the declarations of Israel’s leaders. Their problems underwent only a slight repair.
Scripture records in other instances where God warned the leaders of Israel of their similar failures to address the true problems of His people.
- Jeremiah 23: God likened the false prophets and priests to shepherds who scatter and destroy their sheep.
- Ezekiel 34: God described them as shepherds who fed and cared for themselves, but left the diseased and broken sheep without care.
Today, many pastors and teachers follow the same pattern. They proclaim the same message: “Peace, peace. Everything is successful. There are no problems here.” By avoiding the emphasis upon sound doctrine, God’s people have become spiritually sick and malformed.
Seldom do you hear a preacher over television or radio point out sin and call for repentance and reformation of life in conformity to God’s demands. They heal the wounds of God’s people only slightly, providing false help and hope.
As in Jeremiah’s day, this deceit fails to minister to the real hurts of God’s people.
False Prophets: They Defy God’s Ways.
When God chastised false leaders who had forsaken God’s ways for their sinful acts, they responded with defiance. They experienced no shame for their sins. In fact, when their behavior failed to bring satisfactory results, they felt no disappointment or perplexity for their failures nor did any sense of humiliation lead them to repentance. They did not even blush. (6)
This same attitude helps to identify corrupt leadership today. They indulge their appetites for money and possessions as if they deserve them. They defend their practices by misusing Scripture. When their sin finds them out, they make mournful excuses for their behavior and strike repentant poses while continuing their life style.
They reveal a disinterest in correction and repentance. Many defend themselves with the mantra, “The ends justify the means,” as if stated spiritual aims can justify evil practices. They can’t and don’t.
False Prophets: They Deny God’s Ways.
The errant prophets and priests of Jeremiah’s day showed their true colors by a denial of God’s ways. In Jeremiah 6.16-17, God instructed them through Jeremiah to return to the old ways and walk in them, but they rejected His demands. In addition, they refused to heed the warnings of the watchmen He sent to warn them. They refused to walk in God’s way.
In our day, popular television and radio teachers evidently prefer the world’s methods to God’s ways. In their quest for crowds, they adopt worldly schemes that contradict God’s word. They teach that our new day demands conformity to its mores in order to reach the current populace.
They reject the old ways of God and replace them with tactics from business and politics. Calls for reform from Godly leaders who preach a return to Biblical teaching go unheeded.
Some say, “That is Old Testament. That doesn’t have anything to do with us.” To a certain extent that is true. We are studying Old Testament scripture where God dealt specifically with the sins of Israel and of Judah at the time. He pointed out how the priests, prophets, and kings:
- failed to seek God;
- led the people astray; and
- set up idols to worship.
God has not changed.
False Prophets: God Will Judge Them.
Although this prophecy pertains specifically to a time in the history of Israel, it gives us a glimpse into the heart and mind of God. He the false prophets and Church leaders of our day just as He did then.
- He will not long endure the foolishness that is going on presently in the Church.
- He is the same today as He was back then.
- He is not smiling and patting the heads of the pastors and teachers of our day who abuse the sheep.
God will hold accountable the false teachers, pastors, and spiritual leaders of our day for their sins. They have led people astray and refused to repent of their sinful behavior. They have not healed the hurts of God’s people, and He will judge them.
False Prophets: God Will Replace Them.
God will raise up shepherds who will feed the sheep and not themselves, who will fully heal the hurts of people. They will take care of believers and seek after the lost, too.
False Prophets: Application
As this story from Jeremiah unfolded, it describes the present condition of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church today desperately needs revival.
A few years ago, I talked with a pastor of a large church who spoke casually about revival. He said, “I have read a couple of books on revival, isn’t it interesting?”
Then he asked me “Why do you think we do not see revival?”
I responded, “The pastors of our day do not have the courage to stand up for the truth.”
He turned his head a little bit and moved the discussion to another topic. It takes sacrifice to stand up for the truth.
The day will come when God will remove the false prophets from the Church. I yearn for the day when He will install true shepherds in their places. It will mark a day of revival.
Dear Heavenly Father, we face a crisis in the Church today. Its believers follow in the footsteps of the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. I pray for mercy. I ask You to dethrone the false leaders and raise up those who seek after You and Your ways. I make these requests in the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.
- Jeremiah 5.31.
- Jeremiah 5.31.
- 2 Timothy 4.3-4.
- Jeremiah 6.10.
- Jeremiah 6.14.
- Jeremiah 6.15.
Questions For Study
- What dangers arise from believing false prophets in the political or sports arenas?
- What dangers arise from believing false prophets in the spiritual realm?
- Why do false prophets fool professing believers so easily?
- Review these signs of a false prophet, examining them against a current spiritual leader.
- Does (s)he declare a false message? Can you find Biblical support for what (s)he says?
- Does (s)he minimize the value of reading and studying the Word of God?
- Does (s)he desire money and want to appear prosperous?
- Does (s)he fail to fulfill expected duties of a spiritual leader?
- Does (s)he seem to pretend that “everything is all right” when it clearly is not?
- Does (s)he tolerate sin? Does (s)he skip God’s demand for repentance?
- Does (s)he practice worldly methods to accomplish God’s purposes?
© Thomas P Hill. Website: www.masterministries.org.
Personal Information: Thomas P. Hill, M. A. in Ministry, Luther Rice Seminary; author of 3 books: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing; Homosexuality, Christians, and the Church; and Keys To A Revolutionary Life (available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Tom’s web site). To invite Tom to speak at your college, church, or group, contact him by email at email@example.com.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, in whole or in part, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, whether in whole or in part, a link to this document on our website is preferred but not necessary. Please obtain permission from Tom Hill for all exceptions to the above request.