How to Recognize a False Prophet
Yesterday the Holy Spirit asked me to write down my experience with false prophets so that others may have the courage to recognize and stand in authority when a false prophet attempts to lure them from God’s plan for their life. Both the New and Old Testament warn God’s people about false Prophets and teachers. As the pastor of a new ministry, I have had two such false prophets attempt to infiltrate the church in two years. Recognizing them as false and putting an end to their access to the church took much longer than I would have liked. In releasing this article, the hope is that others may recognize and remove false prophets and teachers sooner rather than later. We will use the work of the first false prophet to study how to recognize them.
This is a challenging assignment. One of the reasons it took me so long to accept the call of a pastor was a feeling of unworthiness to be in a place of authority. Although I came to know the Lord at 13 years old, I did not walk closely or truly give him control of my life until I was 38. I led a prideful and rebellious life and did not turn to him until all was taken away from me and I finally realized anything I did on my own, without God, was useless. Satan used this to keep me from my calling as a pastor until 2016. Now the authority with which I preach is not my own, but the Holy Spirit who speaks through me. Without God and His spirit, I have no authority, but it is His words that are delivered.
Recognizing a False Prophet
The prophecy given by true prophets comes true
False prophets are walking in the flesh, not spirit
False prophets distort the truth for self-promotion
Revelations must not contradict the word of God
Over the past several years, many are being called into the ministry who do not have traditional “ministry” backgrounds, such as myself, but we are willing to follow the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. Free from a religious background or doctrine, God is moving the newly-called to call others into a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ free of religion and doctrine. For me, this has been a little like trying to complete a graduate course and introductory course at the same time. When I was called into the ministry God revealed that He wanted me to be taught by the Holy Spirit instead of the current interpretations of the bible taught in seminary that have sometimes been handed down by tradition rather than by the leading of the Spirit. This is supported by the word of God in 1 John 2:27: “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him”. I spend hours every day reading the word of to gain knowledge of God, who He is, how He worked in the past, and what that can look like today. Paul also makes it clear in his second letter to Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:16-17:“16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
This is the key to exposing a false prophet and using God’s authority to remove them from the church. We are to find the answers in the Word of God. As we look into the Word of God, He gives the first method we can use to judge if the prophet if from Him or not: A prophet is true if their prophecy comes true. The old testament tells us in Deuteronomy 18:21-22: “21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.” It often takes time to reveal if the prophecy is true which is the first method of discerning if a prophet is true of false.
This was how I sought to deal with the first false prophet whom we will call Sue. At this point she will remain anonymous for she is someone close to me and God has revealed that He is dealing with her and I am not to step in and confront her. As I was called into the ministry and started Sandcastle Church, Sue sent me a picture of a little girl by the ocean in tears as the waves destroyed her sandcastle. Sue told me that this would happen to the church I was planting unless I turned from the flesh and submitted to God in all things. Since Sue was claiming to be a prophet, I took this warning to heart and sought God and His will for my life and my walk at all times. Unfortunately, Sue had known me when I was rebellious and not walking with God. Because of this, she refused to see me and the reborn creature in God I had become and became very condemning. Her prophecy or her interpretation of the prophecy was proven false when Hurricane Harvey hit Port Aransas, where I live August 25, 2017. The following is how the falseness was revealed.
A little over a year after the hurricane I reached out to Sue hoping to share with her how God has been working in my life so that we may repair our relationship as is instructed in Matthew 5:23 23:24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Sue texted me the following as a response: “Remember that picture I bought you. Remember what God said? When did that hurricane hit the town and beach where your ministry is located? God has judged the situation and I stand with him.” She went on to say that she wanted nothing to do with me.
What Sue does not know is that God brought abundant blessings to Sandcastle Church and me through that horrible storm. This is evidence of my favorite promise from God in Romans 8:28: “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What Sue did not know is that Sandcastle Church was not hurt by Harvey. We are a home-based church that meets on the beach when possible. The beaches were fine, and my house was one of the 15% in the whole town that was habitable after the storm.
As a result of God’s great grace in sparing the property where I lived, Sandcastle church was able to use another property owned by my husband to collect donations from around the country and distribute them to those in need in our community. This allowed me to minister to my community in ways I didn’t see possible. People would come for a donation and we would lead them in prayer and healing. We ministered to visiting youth groups and people coming to offer aid. By the end of 2018, our church of 5 people dedicated to serving the Lord had received over $750 thousand in donated help pass through us to the community while giving God all the glory. God used this terrible disaster to give Sandcastle Church a standing in this community and a way to reached out where before very few knew about us. Church attendance has grown and 8 people have come to know Jesus as their Savior and been baptized.
The prophecy given was in fact simply a statement of how God has always operated. If we are following God with our entire hearts without allowing our flesh to distort His will, his blessings follow. If we turn from him back to our sinful ways, we can expect that Satan will be allowed to come in and take the blessings. The prophecy Sue spoke out did not come to happen. The fact that she sees the hurricane as a judgment of me not walking with God is a problem. If Harvey was God’s judgment, Sandcastle Church was blessed, not destroyed.
Which brings me to the second way to recognize a false prophet. Prophets should be walking in the Holy Spirit and free from gratifying fleshy desires as Paul wrote about in Galatians 5:15-20: “16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
Sue’s desire to see me fail and proclaim it is evident. It was a part of her flesh when both she and I walked far from the Lord, she often resented my outgoing nature and was jealous of the ease I had with people. Her refusal to see my growth in God is rooted in old resentments and feelings of jealousy. It is that flesh mentioned Paul was speaking about in Galatians. Her heart was hardened toward me. The Lord has taught me that living in the flesh can distort what we hear from the Holy Spirit. God is still talking to us, but we hear it through the hardness instead of love which does not allow us an accurate picture and how we need to apply what he is telling us. Paul tells the Galatians that the spirit is in conflict with the flesh, you cannot have both. Galatians 5:25-26: “25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
We are called to put our own wants aside and keep step with the Holy Spirit so that we are not conceited, provoking and envious. When a follower of Jesus allows the flesh and feelings like envy to harden their heart, they become rebellious to God as stated in Hebrews 3:15: “As it has been said: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion.”
After it became obvious that Sue was having problems interpreting what God seemed to be telling her because of the flesh, I began to look at other information she was getting from God to see if there were similar problems. This brings us to the third way we can recognize a false prophet. False prophets can be recognized by their self-promotion. This vanity will show as they set themselves above the average Christian by distorting the truth to draw others to them, not Jesus as stated in Acts 20:29-30: “29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
Paul warns the church in Corinth about using the imagination instead the knowledge of God and instructs them to cast down imaginations that exalt itself against the knowledge of God in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
As I reviewed the messages Sue was receiving, it became evident that her teachings were a distortion of the grace and simple truth of salvation through Jesus but instead promoted a system she imagined. it started in 2017, when she began writing about the Courts of Heaven. In her own words from her website:
“The most common question I get from Christians when I speak about the Courts of Heaven is “Why do we have to go to the Courts? Didn’t Jesus’ blood take care of all that?” Yes, it is the blood of Jesus that blots out our sin, but we must appropriate it. Jesus paid the price so that we can go boldly before the throne… but we must go! But why do we have to go there if Jesus is at the right hand of the Father? Can’t He take care of it for us? Actually, it takes two to establish a thing as fact: “By the mouth of two or three witnesses a thing shall be established” 2 Corinthians. 13:1. "
When seeking to verify or refute a teaching, it is important to read the scripture along with surrounding verses to understand the context in which it is written. Then rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal if a verse in taken out of context and distorted. Let us look more closely at the verse Sue quoted and understand how it is being applied in 2 Corinthians 13:1-3: “13 This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” 2 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, 3 since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me.”
Here Paul is talking to the church in Corinth. He is talking about correcting those in Corinth who are in sin. He is reminding them of the current law stating when testimony is given to condemn someone, there must be two or three witnesses. He then states that he will deal with the ones who sinned when he returns. Can you see the distortion of God’s word? This passage talks about dealing with sin and problems within the church here on Earth, not between us and God. This is a complete distortion of the grace provided by Jesus and the instruction he gave his disciples. Jesus is quoted in all of the Gospels as saying that if we ask the Father in his name, it will be granted. He does not tell us to go to court, but simply to ask. John 14:12-14: “12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Jesus broke curses, cast out demons and miraculously healed thousands. He tells us that if we believe in him and are truly following him, we will do the same. Nowhere in the message that Jesus came to give and seal with the sacrifice of his death on the cross did he mention the need to go to the Courts of Heaven. Instead, he offered freedom by our belief in Him and following his commands. There is a reference to Jesus saying to take two witnesses, but it has nothing to do with breaking curses or healing. Matthew 18:16-17: “16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
Here Jesus is not talking about God needing two witnesses. This passage is talking about someone who is in sin and needs to be confronted by the church. It is this teaching that Paul was using when dealing with the church in Corinth. The witness is for the worldly system of the Jews who demanded two witnesses to build a case against someone so that their sin may be dealt with within the church.
Satan is good at using God’s word to tempt us to fall into sin. When he tempted Jesus in the desert, he quoted scripture twice trying to get Jesus to doubt God’s love and plans for him. Satan still uses that same tactic today which is why we must study the word of God and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us. Paul warns the Corinthians in a letter about Satan subtlety beguiling or tricking followers away from the simplicity of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 3 “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
We are warned by Peter in 2 Peter 2:1 about false prophets teaching heresies. Any teaching that we need any system other than our belief, faith and dedication to Jesus with revelation through the Holy Spirit is pushing the bounds of heresy. 2 Peter 2:1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.”
Denying the absolute power of faith in Jesus Christ and that alone as a path to the Father is denying the cross and all it has done. The Courts of Heaven being promoted by Sue is not supported by the word of God, therefore, we can call it false. It also sets up a system where she is an expert an you need to listen to her to learn to gain access. That is a vain imagining for self-promotion. When Sue first came up with this revelation from God, I went along with it for a while. Imagining God as a Judge seemed to add a real feel to Him. But every time I went to the courts, the Holy Spirit was uneasy. It wasn’t until after I realized how off her other “revelations” did my eyes open to the distortion in the Courts of Heaven system. In my love for my friend, I did not want Sue to be wrong, and refused look to closely at her teachings or speak plainly against them. Listening to the Holy Spirit when considering “revelations” from people claiming authority is the absolutely necessary. Let it guide you to finding the truth in God’s word.
This brings me to the fourth and final way to reveal if a person claiming to be a prophet is false. People having revelations, visions, and dreams be in line with the word of God. A person who gets revelation from God, should be able to back it up in God’s word. Sue does this, but she often misinterprets the meaning. For example, in one of her latest visits to the Courts of Heaven, Jesus told her:
“You cannot be placed before the Throne of Grace and Mercy because you are an Officer in the Courts of Heaven.”
I had heard a teaching from Robert Henderson about God’s Court having lesser judges and him receiving his judge’s robes so I asked, “Does this mean I’m a judge?”
He told me to look at the verse in Revelation where I had seen that there would be judges that come out of the Tribulation.” The verse she quoted was Revelation 20:4 “Then I saw thrones, and sitting on them were those to whom authority to act as judges and to pass sentence was entrusted.”(quoted from her website)
When I read this, the Holy Spirit once again became uneasy, and this time I was more confident in knowing that her application of this scripture was off. Immediately, I went to my bible to Chapter 20 in Revelation to refresh my memory of what the chapter was referring to. Revelations 20 is talking about the 1000 year reign of Jesus after he returns. These thrones Sue refers to are after Jesus returns, not now. A few days later as I was doing my daily bible reading, I read a passage where Jesus also refers to the thrones in Matthew 19:28: “28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
The thrones Sue referred to are for Jesus’ apostles who will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel when he returns. The word of God will reveal what is false through the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth. If you are listening to a preacher, or prophet and they quote God’s word, look it up, especially if that small quiet voice of the Holy Spirit is uneasy. Don’t just read the one verse, read the whole chapter until you understand what the Word of God is saying. If you are still unsure, ask God to help with His knowledge and understanding through the Holy Spirit. Once you are certain you understand what the meaning is, if it is different, what should we do? Jesus tells us how to handle the situation. Matthew 18:15-17 “15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
If someone has sinned against you by bearing false witness (false prophecy), these are the steps Jesus says to take: talk to them alone, if they won’t see your point, bring two or three others. This is important. The others need to be mature believers who also agree with the offense. This is to guard against letting the flesh control us and create conflict unnecessarily. If they still refuse to see, let the church talk to them. If this still does not convince them, treat them as an unbeliever or tax collector. Jesus was talking to Jews, so we need to know what it meant for the Jewish community to treat someone like a “pagan or corrupt tax collector”.
Jews were forbidden to eat, nor keep any friendly and familiar acquaintance with gentiles or pagans and intimate friendship with them to be avoided. Although tax collectors are not well though of in our community, it the time of Jesus, the corruption of the tax collectors was like that of the Mafia. They were brutal and extorted money from everyone, even the poor. The Jew who took the position of publican or tax collector would be excommunicated. With that in mind, we look at the advice Paul gives the church at Corinth when dealing with a believer who refuses to turn from sin. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2: “1 I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. 2 You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.”
Keep in Mind, that we serve Jesus who is full of mercy and grace. He ate with sinners and tax collectors to bring them salvation. Ministering to an unbeliever is different from having a fellowship with them and allowing them a place in your church or your life. It is important that we do not harden our hearts to the person who has sinned and allow a way back if the consequence of being removed has been enough to convince them. 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 “5 I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. 6 Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. 7 Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. 8 So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.”
By putting distance between yourself and someone who is giving false prophecy should be in hope that they will recognize their sin and turn back to God. This is how I have dealt with Sue. After she became actively condemning of me, speaking lies in the name of God, I request in July of 2017 that she have no communication with me. Then a little over a year after Hurricane Harvey, I reached out to her, hoping we could work through the breach in our relationship. Her adornment assertion that God was judging me and she would not associate with me made it apparent that she had not realized her error, but I still wait with an open door for a time that she will be free of the flesh and return.
If you are struggling with someone in your life that is speaking against you or leading you away from God please take action. If you have a church family, go to them first. I will also be happy to answer and questions or talk to you if you like. You can comment on this blog or message me privately. We have been warned by Jesus in Matthew 24:24 " 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."