All Bible quotes are from The Message unless otherwise noted
Because "The Message" is a paraphrased Bible version, we also give references to other Bible versions and an Interlinear version (INT) to clarify meaning when necessary.
The Bible reminds us to beware of false prophets who could mislead us from the true worship of our God (Matthew 24:11, 2 Peter 2:1). These false prophets will perform signs and wonders just as convincing as a true prophet would (Matthew 24:24)(ESV, KJV, INT). Along with the false prophets, we need to be wary of the false teachers, for they will also quietly lead people into acts of loose conduct and speak abusively of true worship (2 Peter 2:1-3). We are reminded that merely claiming to be men of God does not make it so. Many will make that claim along with great signs and wonders, yet the Kingdom of God will not recognize them as true (Matthew 7:21-23). These men will be like wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15), (KJV, AMP, INT)so we'll need to be very careful of whom we put our trust in.
TRICKERY TO WATCH
The worst kind of false prophets will be the ones who either claim to be Christ or who claim Christ has come before his actual time. We are warned about these ones at Matthew 24:4, 24, and Mark 13:22. The passages following these Scriptures go on to tell us that if anyone says 'Look, Christ is over here!" or "Look! He is in the wilderness over there!," we are not to heed their words. The Bible also reminds us that
"So if they say, 'Run to the country and see him arrive!' or, 'Quick, get downtown, see him come!' don't give them the time of day. The Arrival of the Son of Man isn't something you go to see. He comes like swift lightning to you! Whenever you see crowds gathering, think of carrion vultures circling, moving in, hovering over a rotting carcass. You can be quite sure that it's not the living Son of Man pulling in those crowds." (Matthew 24:26-28)
A carcass is a dead body. Therefore these false prophets and false Christs will be as useless to us as a dead animal along the roadside. Just because others, the "carrion vultures", are flocking to them does not mean they will be true prophets. We must remember, the Scriptures indicate that when Christ does indeed show his presence, it will be an event that the entire world understands, not just a regional group of people (Matthew 24:30, Mark 13:26).
TESTING THE TEACHINGS
Because of the existence of these false ones, we are commanded in the Bible to test out the inspired expressions we are taught, to see if the "inspiration" is really from The Lord (1 John 4:1), and we are to make sure of all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and to keep testing as to whether we are still in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Therefore, we need to corroborate what they say with what the Bible says. If the two don't agree, then the person is speaking beyond what is written in the Scriptures, which is a grave sin (1 Corinthians 4:6, Galatians 1:8-9). Some may even claim that more than the Bible is necessary for complete understanding of God's ways. Again, this is false information, for the Bible is complete, therefore nothing additional is needed (Proverbs 30:5-6, 2 Timothy 3:16-17) (KJV, NIV, INT).
Christ said that another indication whether a prophet is true is by their 'fruits." A true prophet will produce fine "fruit," a false prophet will produce rotten "fruit" (Matthew 7:15-20). What exactly is "fruit"?
"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely." (Galatians 5:22-23) (CEV, KJV, HCSB)
Those who display all these qualities are more likely to be true. The Scriptures also show that the fruitage of true Christians includes walking in goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:9)(ASV, DARBY, INT). The fruits of righteousness are sown under peaceful condition by those seeking peace (James 3:18)(KJV, YLT,WYC ). There is also the fruit of one's lips, which publicly declares the Holy Name of God (Hebrews 13:15)(AMP,KJV, INT). Those abiding by these things are more likely to be a true prophet.
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF FALSE PROPHETS
The Bible gives examples of false prophets who arose, and how God Almighty dealt with them. Let's take a look at two examples:
Jeremiah 28:1-17 Hananiah was the son of a prophet named Azzur. Apparently, this made Hananiah decide since his father was a true prophet, that he could be a prophet too, so he proceeded to make proclamations in Yahweh's name. Yahweh's true prophet, Jeremiah, then went to speak to Hananiah about his proclamations. Hananiah continued to make false prophecies in Yahweh's name, so Yahweh gave Jeremiah a message for Hananiah: Yahweh had not commissioned Hananiah, and thus he will have to die for being a false prophet and misleading the people. Later, that same year in the seventh month, Hananiah did die. Interestingly, before this happened, Yahweh had given the message through Jeremiah that a false prophet would come to give the false prophecies that Hananiah spoke (Jeremiah 27: 15-22).
Jeremiah 29:24-32 Shemaiah also attempted to speak in the name of Yahweh, stating that he was to replace another man as priest and grand overseer. So, Yahweh gave his true prophet Jeremiah a message for the people who listened to him: Yahweh never commissioned Shemaiah to speak for Him, therefore Shemaiah was to receive God's punishment.
As we can clearly see, false prophecy is a very serious matter in Yahweh's eyes (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). We must therefore be very careful of whom we listen to, and be sure we don't fall into becoming a false prophet as well. If we keep our faith well guarded, we will be victorious.
GUARDING ONE'S FAITH
How can we guard our faith? One way is by keeping our love for our God in our hearts (Joshua 23:11, Ephesians 5:15-19). We must make sure to not be snared into the wicked ways of non-believers (Exodus 34:12). We must not fall into the snares of idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:23). We must take care to follow God's commands instead of men's (Deuteronomy 12:28, Acts 5:29 ). We must also keep alert so the false ones don't make us fall (Matthew 7:15). We can guard our faith by watching who our companions are (1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Corinthians 15:33).
In summary, always pray to our Father for wisdom, (1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 1:5-8) understanding, and perseverance. Remember, whatever you ask of Him, He will give you (Matthew 21:22, John 14:13-14). He will help you sift the bad from the good.