Avoid false prophets

liarAvoid deception

Nobody wants to be deceived. But at the same time we want to follow instructions that come from God, whether we understand them or not. However, we are aware, that in some cases God’s enemy may try to deceive us by a delivery of the massage that supposedly comes from God. Are we at the mercy of demons in such cases, or God has provided the means of avoiding deception?

When we doubt the source of the message that it supposedly comes from, we are on guard. But if the message comes from someone who is God’s prophet or appears to be one, what should we do?

First, I will present a few cases where God’s prophets who delivered messages proved in the past to be God’s messenger, but at some stage disobeyed God. This kind of a prophet is probably the most dangerous one, but also provides the most beneficial case to learn how to avoid deception.

God communicates

God communicates with people through nature, the Bible, other people, prophets, conscience, etc.. In some cases it is extremely important that God’s message is understood correctly, and often must be immediately acted upon. Unfortunately, such cases are also great opportunities for God’s enemies to deceive us. Fortunately though, God told us what to do to avoid deception and their results, that may be very harmful, including eternal death.

False prophets are most powerful tools in the hands of demons, because they pretend to carry God’s personal message. People who believe in God treat prophecies as the highest manifestation of communicating with human beings, and act upon them as the most important and urgent advice. God understands the danger and has advised people to test everyone who approaches us with a prophecy.

Bad prophets

The Bible provides us with examples of prophets who talked presumptuously. Balaam who was hired by king Balak to curse Israelites, told him that he will only say what God tells him to say.[1] On 3 occasions Balaam blessed Israelites and he never failed God’s instructions.[2] Before departing, Ballam repeated to Balak that at the very beginning he declared to speak only what God told him to say.[3] One could be sure that Balaam was really God’s prophet and may be fully trusted. Unfortunately, later on we learn that Balaam returned to Balak and taught him how he may incite Israelites to join Moabite ladies in the feast dedicated to false gods. They ate sacrifices offered to their gods, and bowed down to them.[4] Balaam did not directly curse Israelites, but told Balak how to corrupt them from the inside.[5] In any case, Balaam proved that it is possible for God’s prophet to disobey God and act in favour of God’s enemy.

When Jeremiah proclaimed God’s advice to submit to the king of Babylon, prophet Hananiah of Gibeon[6] ignored the prophecy given by God and presumptuously proclaimed freedom from Nebuchadnezzar’s bondage in 2 years time. Jeremiah left the meeting because he did not receive anything from God to say at the meeting, but soon after the meeting God sent him to tell Hananiah that he made people to believe lies, and he himself will die.[7] So, Hananiah, claimed himself to be God’s prophet, proved to be a liar.

The Bible also records a case where a prophet deceived another prophet. A prophet from Judah came to Bethel[8] to prophesize against wrong practices introduced by king Jeroboam. After his mission was fulfilled, he was on his way to Judah. An old prophet who lived in Bethel learned what has just happened, found the first prophet, introduced himself as a prophet, and lied to him that God has changed the first prophet’s mission.[9] The first prophet believed it, acted accordingly, and the second prophet prophesized about the first prophet that he disobeyed God and will die.[10] Although the first prophet lied (he should not have done it), he received the message from God to pronounce the death of the first prophet.

If true prophets of God could betray God, talk presumptuously, or even deceive other prophets and yet talk on behalf of God, can we avoid the message from false prophets? Yes, we can. In the third case above, the first prophet should not tell anyone what God instructed him to do except what God intended for him to say and do. Also, the prophet should not tell anyone what God instructed him not to eat, drink, or return home via a different way.[11] But the prophet did it not only to the king, but also to the old prophet.[12] If it was not for this information, the old prophet could not deceive the young one. If the old prophet did not know anything from the young one, he could not produce deceitful words “Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water”[13] and the young prophet would be safe.

The above examples show us that even true prophets of God may be deceived (or speak words that help others to deceive them), therefore we must be very careful when we hear the message directed to us by a prophet, and make sure that the message is indeed initiated by God. To do this difficult task we need to listen to God’s advice described in the Bible and ask God (prayer) for wisdom in discerning the truth from error.

Testing a prophet

A very general yet important advise comes from Paul who noticed that people in the Galatian church began to accept teachings that did not agree with the teachings that were preached by Jesus and apostles. He warned so strongly against false teachings that he cursed those who taught false teachings even if it was an angels who did it.[14] Paul clearly teaches here that all teachings or instructions from God must agree with the Bible. If something does not agree, it is most likely false and must not be taught as the truth.

God instructed how to discern whether the person who claims to be God’s prophet really speaks the message that God gave or he speaks presumptuously. The test bypasses the condition that a person is aware of delivering a false message or not, does it deliberately or not, etc..

The first test is to ascertain if the person can predict the future. If a prediction fails, a person speaks their own message and we do not need to worry about them or their messages. But chances are that someone may manage to successfully predict the future, whether by trick or fluke, or it is only incorrectly assessed as being successful. Then another test must be applied: does the person lead us away from God, including any weakening of our relationship with the true God, or any strengthening of our relationship with false Gods, directly or indirectly.

Both tests are extremely important because our eternal life depends on them. God cannot appear to us in a physical form to convince us of the verity of the message, because demons can also do the same. Ap. Paul made us aware of deceptions that may involve miracles performed by demons who appear as angels with the purpose to deceive us. So, better be aware![15]


Even a series of successful predictions does not prove that a prophecy comes from God. Each prophecy must be tested individually. If it does not agree with what is already taught in the Bible, it is false and the person presenting it must be accursed for pretending to have a message from God.

[1]      So Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak.” Nb22:38nasb

[2]      Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times!” Nb24:10nasb

[3]      ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the LORD speaks, that I will speak’? Nb24:13nasb

[4]      While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the LORD was angry against Israel. Nb25:1–3nasb

[5]      But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. Rv2:14nasb

[6]      Now in the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and all the people Jr28:1nasb

[7]      Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD.’” Jr28:15–16nasb

[8]      Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. 1K13:1nasb

[9]      He said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. 1K13:18nasb

[10]     and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you, but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’” 1K13:21–22nasb

[11]     “For so it was commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’” 1K13:9nasb

[12]     “For a command came to me by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.’” 1K13:17nasb

[13]     He said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. 1K13:18nasb

[14]     But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Gl1:8–9nasb

[15]     But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Gl1:8–9nasb

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