It does seem that when people and nations are facing difficult and stressful times that there arises an abundance of those who claim to have a special word from God. And these are often given a hearing. Perhaps this is because people, in troubling times, are generally anxious to know what is going to take place and are more susceptible to listen to someone who claims to have a word from God. The Lord Jesus spoke of such a thing being true in the Tribulation period when He stated: “many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many” (Matt. 24:11). This coming troubling time indeed will produce many falsely claiming to speak for the true God.
FALSE PROPHETS IN THE PAST
In the days when Judah was under the irreversible judgment of God, Jeremiah exposed false prophets who rose up in his day claiming to speak for Jehovah. Jeremiah made observations that were true in his day and in ours as well. Jeremiah noted that they claimed God as their authority; but God said, “I have heard what the prophets have said who falsely prophesy in My name, saying, I had a dream, I had a dream!’ (Jer. 23:25). And also, “they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord” (Jer. 23:16). Their claim was that God had spoken to them through their dreams. But their dreams did not come from the Lord meaning that they were either self-generated or that they came from the Evil One. These false prophets were countering Jeremiah’s message from the Lord that Babylonian judgment was coming; and instead, were saying “you will have peace” and that “calamity will not come upon you” (Jer. 23:17). The consequences of listening to the false prophets were that Judah was “led astray” (Jer. 23:32); that Judah will “forget My name” (Jer. 23:27); and that Judah was led “into futility” (Jer. 23:16). The messages of the false prophets were things that the people wanted to hear, but the end result would be so very damaging. And this is always the case with false prophets.
Ezekiel, who also ministered in those troubling times of Babylonian judgment, also noted that the false prophets were those “who prophesy from their own inspiration (heart)” (Ezek. 13:2). He forcefully emphasized that their pronouncements were “lying divinations” (Ezek. 13:6, 7, 9), and that the result was that God’s people were being “mislead” (Ezek. 13:10). Ezekiel exhorted them instead to “listen to the word of the Lord” (Ezek. 13:2).
FALSE PROPHETS OF TODAY
The phenomenon of troubling times producing false prophets continues today in the church. However, unlike the days of the Old Testament prophets, today we have the internet which has become the fertile ground for producing hundreds of such false prophets. Very recently, I watched a “prophet” tell a group of his latest dream that he had received, allegedly directly from the Lord. To me, the content of the dream was bizarre at best. (Perhaps it was something he ate just before bedtime.) But what struck me in a greater way was the response of those who listened to him. They were enthralled, enthusiastic and excited about this latest word from God. There was no questioning of his claim that this came from God, and an absolute acceptance of the interpretation of this bizarre dream. Zero discernment was exhibited. And there was simply no turning to the Scriptures to give support, or to challenge, this supposed new word from the Lord God.
In watching such false prophets, certain realities are clearly there. First, there is no exposition of the inspired Scriptures. Any passing references to the Scriptures are lifted out of context and generally misused. Second, it becomes clear that the Bible is not adequate in and of itself. This is, of course, the fundamental problem with the claim that the gift of prophecy is for today. The Apostle Peter declared that everything we need to live godly lives is found in the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:3-4). Today’s “prophets” are saying, “no, the Scriptures are not complete and we need more for life today”. Peter could not disagree more. Third, if one would take the time to research these “prophets”, it would be discovered that they often have past prophecies that never came to pass. For example, there were many “prophets” who declared that God had spoken to them and told them that Donald Trump was going to be reelected in the last election (and this includes the “prophet” that I mentioned earlier that I was listening to). Now, of course, reasons are now given as to why they misspoke, but Deuteronomy 18:22 gives no such wiggle room. Moses clearly said that a real prophet of God is never wrong. And incidentally, false prophets were to be executed (Deut. 18:20). Implementing that verse might well cut down on the sheer number of false prophets today.
OUR RESPONSE AND PERSPECTIVE TODAY
The phenomenon of false prophets in times of trouble is a reality for us to deal with today. So, what should be our response and perspective in light of these ever-growing number of prophets?
- REJECT THEIR CLAIMS. The question is not “can God raise up prophets”? Of course, He can. But will He modify what He has said about His own word? The issue is the adequacy of God’s inspired Word. Once the canon of Scripture was completed there was no longer a need for apostles or prophets. The Apostles of Christ were the designated channels through whom Christ’s revelation would come (see John 16:12-14). The Apostles authenticated the truth given to them through the working of miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). These alone were responsible to communicate God’s new revelation to the church. Anyone today can make claims about their visions and dreams, but they are not apostles and are simply part of a long line of false prophets. Always, analyze them, their claims and their “prophecies” in light of the authoritative, inspired Word of God. They will always end up terribly inadequate and erroneous. There really is no biblical reason for accepting their authoritative claims.
- FOCUS ON THE SCRIPTURES AND THEIR TEACHINGS. Of course, the Bible is to be our focus. I would suggest that there are three prophetic areas that we might especially consider as we think about the future of this planet. First, as always, zero in on the nation of Israel. There is no question, that Israel, not the United States, is the focus of biblical prophecy. Prophecies that teach us about the final restoration of Israel are important to think about. God declared that there would be a two-fold restoration of national Israel (Ezek. 34-37). First, there would be a political/geographic restoration out of the nations of the world back to the land given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This geographic restoration, when completed in God’s eyes, would then bring about the second restoration; a spiritual restoration back to the Lord God. This spiritual restoration will take place during the Seventieth Week of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27), also known as the Tribulation. We are seeing what appears to be the final times of the first restoration, which means that the second will likely soon follow.
A second prophetic focus is on Europe. As one analyzes Daniel 7, it becomes apparent that the restoration of the old Roman Empire, to some extent, is the focus of the first days of the Tribulation period. The Antichrist will rise to power and become the dominant ruler of an eleven-nation confederacy, which would put the action in Europe. Antichrist will conquer three of those European nations and, apparently, the other seven will simply acquiesce to his demands and submit to him (see also Rev. 17:12-18). The Antichrist does not arise from one of the 10 nations but comes from an eleventh nation. It is within the realm of possibility that NATO’s return to life in the current Russia-Ukraine war could end up having significance.
A third focus is on the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39, which involves Russia, Iran and numerous Islamic nations. Their massive invasion of Israel will bring about their complete destruction and will be the event that triggers the beginning of Israel’s spiritual restoration (Ezek. 39:22). This passage was discussed in our February, 2022 article. The exact timing of this war is not absolutely certain, but would appear to be just prior to the actual beginning of the Tribulation.
A FINAL THOUGHT. We, of course, have many other prophecies to think about and focus on, such as the Rapture and the Judgment Seat of Christ. So, we are not saying that the above three things are to be the entirety of our focus. But God has given to His people all that we need to know about the future. We, therefore, must also remember then not to give ground to these self-proclaimed men and women who say that God has spoken to them and thus they are speaking authoritatively and prophetically for Him. They are not. We must kindly, but firmly, resist these claims and give due diligence to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and to those Apostles of His who spoke all that we needed to know. Our task is to become better students of His Word.