Long, long before Jesus warned that false prophets would arise during our time (Matthew 24:11, 24) — and long, long before the apostle Peter warned about the same threat to true Christian believers (2 Peter 2:1-2) — there had been many false prophets in Israel (and in the world, for that matter).
“But there were false prophets also among the people [the ancient nation of Israel] even as there will be false teachers among you [God’s Church], who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (2 Peter 2:1-5, NKJV throughout, unless otherwise stated).
God’s faithful prophet Jeremiah, for example, had to confront many false prophets and teachers in Judah (Jeremiah 14:14-15; 20:6; 23:25-26, 32). The same was the case with God’s prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 13:3-16; 22:28).
Why many false prophets?
Why does it seem like there have been more false prophets than true ones in all of mankind’s history? And why have false prophets seemed to have convinced the vast majority of mankind to follow their false teachings?
The answer can be traced back to the Garden of Eden. We find the familiar story in Genesis 3. Before there ever was a false prophet, a spirit being had already been nursing and promoting ideas, attitudes and a lifestyle that were contrary to — and in many ways the opposite of — our Creator’s way. This was Satan, in the guise of a serpent, that caused our first parents to believe and follow a lie instead of obeying the word — the truth — of God. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and Where Did the Devil Come From?] Satan got Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” which God had forbidden them to eat, by convincing them that they would not die as God had warned. Result? They died, just as God had said! God told the truth, while Satan told a lie.
In John 8:44 Jesus says this of Satan: “He…does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” And what a father he has been! Satan has “sired” many liars like himself — and many of them have caused most of mankind to love and live a life of lies! Truly, as Revelation 12:9 says, Satan has deceived the whole world! How? By using his “ministers” who masquerade as “ministers of righteousness” while being “deceitful workers” — “false apostles,” claiming to be “sent” by God (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-14).
A stern warning about false prophets
Quite devastating in its effect was the testimony of a false prophet who lied to a true prophet of God. This should be a stern warning for any true teacher of God’s Word today to not ever be swayed from God’s original revelation to some contrary thing which another teacher who claims authority from God may proclaim. This is the lesson from God’s prophet — for some reason unnamed — who turned out to be disobedient.
The account is recorded in 1 Kings 13:1-32. This man of God came to the altar at Bethel, with the first king of the newly independent kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam, standing by. Here the prophet proclaimed God’s judgment on the priests of Jeroboam for his sin of idolatry, into which he had led the people of Israel (1 Kings 13:1-2).
The prophet had been charged by God: You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came” (verse 9). But a local “prophet,” through a lie — which God allowed — persuaded this man of God to disregard God’s word to him (verses 18-29). Result? The man was torn by a lion, and he died (verses 23-24). Isn’t it significant that the apostle Peter compared Satan to a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8)?
Satan, whom Jesus called “the father” of lies (John 8:44), has his ministers — apostles — today busily proclaiming lies in the guise of truth as they have been doing over the past centuries. “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). They openly claim to be “apostles of Christ” (literally meaning “sent by Christ”) but in reality are not (verse 13; compare with Ezekiel 13:6)! They are Satan’s instruments of deception!
God calls Satan that “subtle” or cunning serpent (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9). He works in clever ways. Peter describes Satan’s ministers as working “secretly” (2 Peter 2:1) to bring in “damnable” or destructive heresies — lies passed off as truth — to the Church. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) renders this verse: “False teachers will also sneak in and speak harmful lies to you.” It’s by some imperceptible method — like some parasites worming their way into a body — that these false teachers infiltrate the Church. One is not aware of their entry — until their destructive work becomes manifest in the body. So it has been, over the centuries, with heresies in the Church of God which Jesus has built.
The apostle Paul concurrently observed this in the congregations of the Church which he ministered to. He told the brethren in Thessalonica that even in their time “…the mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). “Mystery” describes the private, secret or sneaky way in which lies have crept into the Church — and the world at large as well. (See also: 2 Timothy 2:15-18; 4:14-15; Titus 1:10-16.)
Peter describes the cargo that these false teachers bring in as “pernicious ways” (King James Version), “impure practices” (Diaglott New Testament), “shameful ways” (New International Version). The CEV says, “Many people will follow their evil ways and cause others to tell lies about the true way.”
Because of the lies people have told about the truth — about what Jesus really said, for example — the truth has been made to appear bizarre, preposterous — even “cultish.” [See: Spiritual Dyslexia and Is Jesus Your Lord — Really?]
The lies would seem so very convincing that, as happened to the God’s prophet in Jeroboam’s time, even true ministers of God could very well be fooled! Unless they woke up to reality in time [see: Drunk With Strange Wine.]
Save yourselves from the devourer
Jesus warned long ago, “Beware [be aware] of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Before it’s too late, let us save ourselves from the mouth of wolves — or lions (1 Peter 5:8; Psalm 10:3-10). Hosea 9:8 compares a false (or “foolish,” verse 7) prophet to a fowler [bird-hunter] who has set a “snare in all his ways — enmity in the house of his God.”
David, that “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), gives us these encouraging words, from Psalm 11, assuring us of help in the face of false preachers and teachers, instruments of Satan, who is out to destroy and devour us.
“In the LORD I put my trust; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain?’ For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string, that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.”
Let’s “flee as a bird” to God’s “holy mountain” — to God’s heavenly throne — from where God teaches us His true way to salvation (Hebrews 12:22; Micah 4:2), through His truly appointed servants (Romans 10:13-15) . This way we will never be deceived by the lies that the destroyer Satan and his ministers are busily passing off as “truths.” Instead, we will hold fast what God has shown and proven to us to be His true word and revelation (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
As we come to God’s holy mountain in prayer and earnest study of God’s Word, and thus seek God’s face — seek to have a personal relationship with God (Psalm 27:8-9) — the God of our salvation will keep us safe from the onslaught of Satan’s lies. Thrice the psalmist prayed: “Restore us, O God; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved! (Psalm 80:3, 7, 19). God will lead us to His true and faithful servants who uphold and teach His true Word today! [See: About Pool of Siloam and Fake News.]
Who knows that God may be calling you and inviting you to become part of His “elect” during this time? [See: Predestination.] These are God’s chosen ones who “are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). They are the true “sheep” who hear and follow the voice of their Great and Good Shepherd and perfect Teacher, Jesus Christ. They will flee from “strangers” and not heed their voice. (John 10:4-5).
God’s chosen ones will be aware of — and shun — false prophets!
False prophets to be banished!
When Christ returns, He will “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). Mankind has been destroyed through a lack of true and right knowledge (Hosea 4:6). And that is because of the lies which Satan has promoted through his agents — false prophets. Jesus will destroy the great “false prophet” and his companions along with Satan and his demons (Revelation 19:17-20:4).[Watch for: “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie”.]
Any false prophets who may survive will then take a different tack: “And it shall be in that day [of Christ’s return] that every [false] prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair [feigned humility and seeming “righteousness”] to deceive. But he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth’ ” (Zechariah 13:4-5). [See: When One Who Preaches Christ Plants Corn.]
With the great deceiver Satan and his company all put away, only the true way of God will be taught by Christ and His glorified saints to all mankind when God’s kingdom rules this world. The pure knowledge of God will eventually fill the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
And with that knowledge, humanity and all of the earth will be transformed into the perfect world that most everybody dreams about but never really sees happening today! That’s the good news about God’s coming kingdom! [See: “The Next Chapter of History.”]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.