False or True Prophets?
By Nita Johnson (http://www.worldforjesus.org/) ó date: February 2001
How do we distinguish between a false prophet and a true prophet? Can a true prophet miss it and give a false word? Why would God allow such a thing? In this hour when the prophetic ministry is becoming more widely accepted and is more visible, we are seeing proportionately more mistakes, miscalculations and even untrue words being uttered. The first response that many good hearted Christians have to hearing a prophet miss it, is too reject the prophet. In fact, some might argue that that is what the Lord wants us to do based on Deuteronomy 18:20:
ďBut the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.Ē
In one sense those who believe that are right. In another, they are not. Let me explain:
What is it that the Lord really wants us to reject? He wants us to reject the false prophet! What distinguishes a false prophet from a true prophet? Is it that a true prophet never makes mistakes? Not at all! That question is handled in the same text:
ďAnd if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.Ē Deuteronomy 18:21&22
The Earmark of a False Prophet
The earmark of a false prophet is one who has it in his heart to deceive the people of God and eventually lead them into worship of someone or something other than the one true God. False prophets may prophesy many correct things and be false still. If a person has a prophetic gifting but is unsaved, the enemy can distort it and use it for his own gain. Further, a person can have a prophetic gifting and be a Christian but have a wrong heart, which will incite those persons to use the gifting wrongly.
I once met a man who had a very clear prophetic gift. When he spoke under the operation of that gift, he could give accurate words that would cause you to believe he was quite a prophet. Yet, I felt something was amiss. Whenever I was around him I felt very uncomfortable. I didnít want to let him prophecy in my services even though every word that I had heard him speak was correct. I didnít understand my mixed emotions so I felt a little guilty. Finally in my frustration I went to the Lord and cried out to Him until the wee hours of the morning for understanding of the situation. At last He spoke to me. He said, ďThis man was once a true prophet, but like Balaam he sold his gifting for the love of money. He prophesies to rich women whatever they want to hear so they will give him their money. As a result he has opened the door to a spirit of the occult.Ē I was shocked and grieved, and I wept and wept. The next day I confronted the man on his practices and told him that if he ever wanted to flow in the pure again, he better repent and turn his soul over to God for discipline. He had become a false prophet speaking many true words by way of this spirit from the occult. What made him impure and false? the love of money. The other sad thing about such a failure is that following someone like that can hurt the people of God who do not have discernment. Eventually he will begin to miss the mark of true prophecy more than not and ultimately lead the people who follow him astray.
I once sat in a service when I was but a babe in Christ. The speaker was a popular speaker and had been on Christian television shows many times. I watched the audience as he spoke and then began to prophesy. Everyone was overwhelmed with his gifting. He would call out peopleís names and speak about very specific things in their lives. It was quite amazing! Again, I was very young in the Lord and found myself quite amazed that God would speak to people like that. When he was done, the pastor raved about him repeatedly then called him up to take up his own offering. The next hour was spent taking up offerings for this thing and that. He wanted tires replaced on his motor home among other things. The offering he gathered for that one item far exceeded the true price of the tires. He lied to the people about the cost of each thing for which he took an offering. I was shocked and hurt. Further I couldnít understand why the Lord would give such a gift to someone who would later steal from the sheep. So, I went to prayer.
Early in the morning the Lord finally spoke to me in a vision. I saw that this man was impure in many ways. He was an adulterer, and his gifting was impure. In part, he operated with a team of people who would feed him information about individuals in the audience. So he obtained his information in that manner. What he didnít get in that way, he received through a connection with an unclean spirit of soothsaying which in the vision I saw standing beside him in the services. I started a fast on his behalf the next day. After a lengthy fast I felt a release that God was going to deal with him. When he finally did many years later He exposed him and brought his ministry to an abrupt end. He had made himself a false prophet through the love of money.
Up to this point I have spoken only about false prophets in the Church. Many and varied are the false prophets outside of the Church. They often eventually become leaders of their own cults. Most true Christians know to stay away from them. But even so they can be recognized by the fact that their doctrine does not line up with the Bible. They cannot bear the true fruits of the Spirit, as they do not have the Holy Spirit. Discernment can reveal that anything that would remotely assume the guise of true holiness would in the end be false.
I once met a man who had fallen from grace and continued in what he called the ministry. He traveled around with a team of people holding meetings in hotels. Again he gained information on people through trickery and used the information in the services to come across like a true prophet. His doctrine was very impure and he milked the people who attended his services for every dime he could get. Finally, the Lord gave me a corrective word for him. It was a strong warning of impending judgment if he didnít repent and humble himself before the Lord for discipline, and give his life back to Him and walk before Him in purity. I happen to run into him a couple of years later and he told me that he had taken the Word seriously and did what the Lord required of him. He further assured me that his life was now clean before the Lord.
That was a happy ending but many such false prophets simply end up heading their own cult. Remember the tragedy of Ghana so many years ago.
The day is coming when it is going to be very difficult to recognize the true from the false if we do not have discernment. The false will speak many true things. They will perform many miracles. The doctrine that they will teach will initially be true, but as time goes on they will begin to filter their own doctrines in with the pure until they take their hearers totally away from the true faith. They will even have what initially appears to be humility. But it will be a false humility. They will reject correction and answer to no man. Although they will teach on love, they will do it to gain the hearerís love and devotion not because they practice true Christian love. Only the gift of discernment will help the Christian know the true from the false in the days ahead.
There will be those who have never known Messiah. Others will be of the type who once knew Him, but for love of money opened themselves up to deception and the occult. In both categories once they get your heart, they will go after your money, after they get your money, they will go after your soul.
Of the true prophets there are two categories. The first is the immature prophet. The second is the mature prophet.
The Immature Prophet
We will begin by discussing the immature prophets, as those who are in this category are the ones who unwillingly cause the most trouble in the body of Christ.
There is a true recognizable call on the lives of these men and women. They love the Lord and are in various degrees of refinement, therefore their love for the Church will vary according to their divinely given ability. The Bible says we will know them by their fruits. So there will be fruits to their ministry. One thing that will always accompany the true mantel of a New Testament prophet is the gift of healing. That doesnít mean that every prophet who flows in the gifts of healing are true. But every true New Testament prophet will flow in the gifts of healing. An immature prophet will not always manifest the fruits of the spirit and as a Christian we need to give room for that if we see him trying to learn the ways of the Lord. On the contrary, if we see that he is not attempting to grow in the graces of the Lord, and he continues to hurt people as a result, the Church needs to make him accountable for his behavior.
He will at times prophesy amiss. One thing that can happen is that he hears a word from the second heaven, perhaps a word depicting Satanís intention, but he doesnít know to press on through to hear the Lordís wisdom about the revealed secret.
Once in a service I saw a vision of a man in a coffin. Well, that isnít the kind of word you want to run and tell everybody. So, I stopped and asked the Lord why I was being shown this about this individual. Then I waited desperately hoping for an answer. Finally, the word of the Lord came to me saying, ďThis man is about to engage in this particular sin. (He named the sin) If he does, it will cost him his life. If he will stop and turn back now, I will heal him and save his life.Ē So, I drew the man aside and shared what the Lord had given me. He immediately repented, and his life was spared.
Someone who didnít know that the Lord would speak in this manner might have spoken out the word of coming death because of the vision and given the hearer no hope of a future. All those who would have heard would have said surely this person is a mature prophet for they spoke of the manís death, and it came to pass. Whereas a prophet a little more familiar with the Lordís ways would have sought to spare the manís life, and if others had known about the prophecy of this manís potential death, perhaps would have been called by others a false prophet because the man lived and did not die.
I can remember once at the very beginning of my ministry I called out a word of knowledge about a healing. A woman came up and received prayer for the issue I named. After the service she found me and asked me if she was healed and if she could quit taking her medicine. I asked her how she felt, knowing that if she was healed of the particular thing she came up for she would know it immediately. She said great. So I foolishly told her that she could discontinue her medication.
A couple of days later her husband tracked me down and asked me to come to their home for she was having a seizure. We ended up calling emergency services to get her help and she went back on her medicine. I asked her why she lied to me. The healing she came up for was not her problem at all. She explained that it was because she was embarrassed to tell her real need. Her embarrassment nearly cost her life. Further, I nearly left the ministry. I felt that I could no longer be trusted with the gift because of my mistake. Thankfully some friends who had been around the ministry for many years talked me through it. I showed my immaturity in the way I handled the whole episode.
An immature prophet is more likely to prophesy in part, and in doing so at times look like a false prophet. As he better learns the ways of the Lord, his prophecies will be more complete. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 13 that we all prophesy in part as though looking through a dark glass. As a rule the more mature the prophet the clearer his word will be. But even at that, sometimes the very mature prophet will still hear some words in riddles just like Aaron and Miriam did.
Sometimes an immature prophet will simply prophesy amiss. The Lord will allow it for the prophetís refining. He may prophesy out of his soul and miss the mark of a true prophecy. Again, Deuteronomy tells us not to fear him, he is prophesying in presumption. What then is the Church's responsibility in such a case? Donít turn against the prophet. Pray for him or her that the Father will continue to purify the gifting in the vessel.
The prophets of today are not of the same caliber as the Old Covenant [Testament] prophets. I was once taken to heaven and escorted behind a thick royal blue curtain where I found waiting for me every Old Testament prophet sitting at a long dinner table. The table was fit for a King. I was told to sit down and commune with them for a while, which I did. The presence of Yahweh was so overwhelming I couldnít stay there long. I wanted to stay forever, but my spirit was not able to bear the Shekinah presence that seemed to dwell within that veil. It was too weighty for me.
After a short time the angel that had escorted me behind that veil to dine with the Old Testament prophets came and escorted me out of the room and to another room, hidden behind a blood red veil. Behind this veil was another dining room table. Seated at this table were the New Testament prophets. Again I was in awe but I immediately noticed that the presence behind this veil was not nearly as weighty as the presence behind the other. I was immediately able to bear this presence and could have stayed as long as I wanted without trouble. I asked the angel why this was so. He instructed me that the New Testament prophet does not bear the same weight as the Old because each believer now has the Holy Spirit in himself or herself. The Lord now expects the believer to live by the life and direction of the Holy Spirit rather than by the prophet, like the Old Testament believers had to do.
Especially after entering in behind the second veil and finding less of my Fatherís presence I wanted with all my heart to remain behind the first veil, but I knew that I couldnít. I couldnít because of my own limited capacity and because the lesson was complete with what I had been given, so it would not be permitted.
Because the New Testament prophet carries a lesser weight of responsibility, the Lord chooses to refine them in the presence of the Church instead of off in some cave somewhere where they are unknown to all but Himself. As a result, he uses the refinement of His prophets as a tool to further refine His Church. This teaches us to keep our eyes on Jesus and not on man. Further, it teaches us to love authority even when they miss it and to cover the prophet in love while they are being refined and purified by the Father in our presence. It is much more difficult for all of us this way. It is very humbling to the prophet to miss it. Further, the more mature the prophet is, the more they grieve over any injury that may be done to the Church if they give a false word. As for the Church, we have to keep putting our love blankets out there to cover the failures when all we wanted to begin with was a pure word. So, it is difficult for everyone, but the Lord is ever patient and wise, and His ways are perfect. And we learn to trust Him through it all.
There are I believe a couple of different ways a prophet can miss on a word. First, might be that he may hear many other prophets giving a word for a specific time and feel in his heart that it is a good word, so he joins them believing that he and they are all giving a pure word from the Lord. Something similar happened to me a couple of years ago. I had sought the Lord diligently about an issue that many were prophesying about. Everyone I heard said this event would occur. Still I believed it would not and that is what I told everyone. Then one day I either listened to a tape or read a memo from a very trusted prophet that concurred with everyone else saying this seemingly inevitable event would in fact happen. So, I thought I must be missing it if he is saying it is going to happen, I must be off. I sought the Lord again. That night I had a vision saying, ďTell My people to have the faith of Abraham.Ē I automatically thought Messiah was saying that the event was going to occur and the other prophet was right, I was wrong, and the people needed to have faith and they would make it. Following that I began to read up on many reasons why it would by necessity occur, the chance of avoiding it was all but impossible. I watched Christian T.V. shows that all agreed. So I published an article trying to help people deal with the coming woe. It was more a teaching article than prophetic, however, it had enough prophetic dialogue that people construed it as such. When it didnít occur I felt terrible. I didnít know who I might have hurt, I was in agony. Again I wanted to leave the ministry. I couldnít understand why I allowed myself to be swayed even by the very respected prophet, who incidentally changed his mind some time later, I just didnít know that. With much prayer the Lord was able to encourage me to stay in the ministry and learn the lessons. Many months later the Lord told me in a vision that He allowed me to be wrong on this issue. He said, ďAs hard as it was for you to be humiliated in that manner, you are a better person today for it.Ē I donít know if I will ever get over that one, but I understand that the Lord had a reason for allowing it as He does for all prophets who have not yet reached the high pinnacle of maturity. I donít miss it often but it seems when I do, it never ceases to be utterly painful. I am sure I felt what Ezekiel felt when the Lord reprimanded him for missing it.
A second way a prophet might miss it is by interpreting a Word the Lord has given. The Lord may give a vision or dream or simply a word. The prophet might give the word then attempt to explain it by giving his own interpretation.
A wonderful elderly man who is a prophet and highly respected in the body of Messiah, said recently, the only time he misses it is when he tries to interpret the word of the Lord.
The Mature Prophet
The Lord once showed me in a three‑part dream that the mature prophet will not miss the mark ever. I donít know if we have any in that category today in America. That is the mark of a mature prophet, he is always right in the prophetic word.
The Church may not necessarily realize that every word is correct for one reason or another. But the mature prophet will not miss it ever!
I once gave a word about the great evil spirit known as Basilisk. I prophesied about many calamities that he had planned for a certain year. Shortly after publishing that prophetic word I was invited by a group of intercessors to join them to intercede for America against this spirit. We opened the invitations up to the nine‑targeted states hoping to get qualified intercessors from each state to stand in the gap for their particular state. As it turned out each of the nine states were heavily represented but one. That one state which was North Carolina was not at all represented. So we all spent the weekend in worship, repentance and intercession on behalf of the nine states. As a result the eight states that were represented were all spared the calamities for which they had been targeted. North Carolina experienced a hurricane that year that nearly wiped out an entire city. The estimated damages were in the millions. So, the one state that was not present had no protection against the beast.
However, because there was no crop damage done to the other states, I was accused of being a false prophet. When I brought the hurricane damage done in North Carolina to the attention of my accusers and shared that it was the only state that did not attend the weekend of intercession, they were silenced. I bring this up because many are the times that Yahweh will give a strong word of warning, and with it He will give the wisdom to avoid the prophesied disaster. If heeded, the prophecy will never come to pass. Jonah experienced the same quandary regarding the tender mercies of the Father. He prophesied the complete destruction of Nineveh. Yet he knew all along that if the people repented Yahweh would not send destruction. He didnít give an either/or kind of warning. He simply said that Nineveh would be overthrown in 40 days. When the people repented Jonah got angry because he knew the city would not be overthrown, and he would be made to look like a false prophet. Yet, that was exactly why he was sent. He was sent to spare the city of its final judgment. Jonah may have walked away looking like he had mud on his face, but the Fatherís precious will had been achieved.
The mature prophet sits under a strong discipline from the Lord to insure that his heart will stay humble enough to stay pure. He either has or will go through many rough roads of chastening by the Lord to keep his eyes centered on the Lordís glory instead of his own, thus the Lord can afford to use him in that manner. A mature prophet will walk in an uncommon love, and the fruits of the spirit will be markedly manifest in his life and ministry.
First and foremost the mature prophets live in splendid isolation in prayer before the Father. Because they live so close to Him, they are men and women who know the heart of Yahweh. They know his heart and live to protect and defend it. They live in absolute obedience to Him. They have gone through the boot‑camp of intense training in the area of obedience and will suffer great hardships to honor the Lordís ownership of them. Paul speaks of the very heart of the mature prophet when he writes:
From now on let no man trouble me [by making it necessary for me to vindicate my apostolic authority and the divine truth of my Gospel], for I bear on my body the [brand] marks of the Lord Jesus [the wounds, scars, and other outward evidence of persecutions Ė these testify to His ownership of me]! Galatians 6:17 Amplified Bible
Todayís mature prophet, like the prophets of old, lives in an uncommon consecration to the Lord. He is their love and their life, whether married or unmarried they are married to Him. This sort of devotion requires a rugged and uncompromising individualism. The Lord once showed me in a profound vision that the personality of the prophet can be seen in Esau. They are marked by a rebellious individualism but honest in their own sort of way. They tend to say whatever they see with no holes barred. They donít mince words, many times to the chagrin of the listener. They say what they mean and mean what they say even if it is all wrong. Like Esau knowing that his parents didnít like the idea of him marrying the foreign women, married them and brought them home. He wasnít the type to do it behind his parentsí back. Therefore, even though it was wrong, he was still honorable about his wrong.
The Lord takes these personalities and turns them into John the Baptist in their maturity. And like John they are men and women who are capable of standing against the wind of popular thought and ideology and definitely not reeds blown by the wind. The greatest difference is that they are individualistic before man but uncommonly humble before the Lord.
Their message is first to the bride of Christ, then to the rest of the Church, and finally to the lost. Their song is the song of the spiritóa call to life in the spirit. They are preachers of righteousness, revealers of future events, and they can literally be said to be Godís mouthpiece on earth. (Isaiah 40:3)
There are various levels of immature prophets, as well as mature prophets, just like there are various levels of immature and mature men in the natural. However, once a prophet reaches what the Lord considers to be mature, he moves into a whole new dynamic in the prophetic. The Father will then trust him with things he will never trust another with, and like I mentioned earlier, they will never miss it. Their word, like Samuelís, is always a sure word.
Until a man or woman reaches that level of maturity however, they will occasionally give an incorrect word. Out of thousands of words that I have given in the last ten years alone, I can say I have probably missed it four or five times. It is always painful, and always I weep many tears, but I know that the Lord uses these painful times to refine me.
As part of the body of believers, we are to have patience and mercy upon those prophets who are still being developed. We are to pray for them and cover them until the Lordís work in them is finished and they, like the beloved Samuel, come to a place where their word will never fall to the ground. This pleases the Father and will keep us, His children, from raising man too high in our hearts and will keep Him on the throne of our hearts where He belongs. Remember we are all being fine tuned in the Church, wherever and whatever we do in His name. Therefore, we want to give the same grace we desire to receive in our mistakes.