As we are walking through the Sermon on the Mount, we have discovered that there are two different kinds of righteousness; the righteousness of God and the righteousness of man. The entire sermon compares and contrasts the two kinds of righteousness. In this article, we are going to focus on false prophets, specifically, how they fit in to the entire sermon and idea of the righteousness of God and the righteousness of man. Our last lesson was all about confronting sin according to the will of God. Naturally, since preparing for and teaching this lesson, I have had more opportunities to apply it than I have ever wanted.
The root of the Greek word that is translated “false” is pseudomai. From this original Greek word, we get our word “pseudo”. Pseudo means something that imitates the real thing yet is actually false. It seems to be the real thing but in reality, it is as false as a direct contrast.
A prophet is someone who explains a message from Lord. He reveals what is hidden, or in other words, when God’s message is hidden from a group of people (i.e. they do not know it or have never heard it) the prophet explains or expounds on the message. A genuine prophet takes the genuine message of the Word of God explains it to people just as it is, without changing anything. A false prophet, on the other hand, looks very similar to a genuine prophet, he claims to be speaking God’s message, yet he changes the meaning of God’s message in his explanation.
II. Description by Jesus
False prophets are described in the Sermon on the Mount, by Jesus, Himself. I would like to take a look at the false prophet and his message. Clearly, the false prophet lives according to the righteousness of man. Take a moment to read Matthew 7:13-29.
- He is on the broad path, having passed through the wide gate.
- He is part of the many.
- He will teach people about the broad path.
- He will appeal to people on the broad path.
- He is dressed in sheep’s clothing (he looks similar to people who live according to the righteousness of God).
- Inwardly, he is a ravenous wolf. He is on the path of destruction and he will lead you to destruction.
- His fruits will reveal who he really is.
- He calls Jesus Lord.
- He will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
- He does not do the will of the Father.
- He serves “in the Name of Jesus”.
- He does not know Jesus.
- He practices habitual sin.
- He hears the words of Christ but does not act upon them.
III. Biblical description
I would like to take a look at other passages in the Bible and see what we learn about false prophets, what they teach and how they live. As Jesus mentions in the Sermon on the Mount, we will know them by their fruits.
- Matthew 24:6-24 False prophets take advantage of people’s fears, suffering, and emotional vulnerability. They will teach a message that touches the felt needs of people who are afraid or who are suffering, and especially if they are emotionally vulnerable.
- Mark 13:16-26 False prophets will use signs and wonders to deceive people, especially during difficult times.
- Luke 6:26 – A false prophet will be loved by all because his message will not confront sin. His message will be a feel good message that meets the felt needs.
- Acts 13:6 – He will practice things that the Word of God calls a sin. He claims to be speaking on behalf of God yet does things that the Word of God prohibits. God forbids His people to practice magic yet the man we see here in Acts, a prophet, is also a magician. A false prophet’s life will not match up to the Word of God. Or, as Jesus says in Matthew 7, they practice lawlessness or habitual sin.
- II Peter 2:1 – They will be outside the church and also inside the church. Their teaching will be destructive because it will seem like the Word of God but it will be changed. They will teach what they want instead of the Word of God. They will deny the Lord Jesus. That means that they disregard Him and His teaching, even though they tell everyone that they are following Him, calling Him Lord, and teaching in His Name.
- I John 4:1-6 – A false prophet may acknowledge Jesus but they will not acknowledge Jesus for who He really is. They may teach that He was a good man or a great teacher, maybe even a god but not God. There are plenty of people out there who admit that Jesus is special but deny that He is God. False prophets will not listen to Truth because they do not know the Truth, even though they claim to be teaching others about God.
- Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10 – The false prophets serve the evil one. They perform signs before the people and their entire game is deception.
- Ezekiel 22:22-31 – They do what they do for monetary gain. They take advantage of others. They lie to people, saying that it is coming from God. They tell people what they want to hear in order to make them feel good about themselves, saying that what they say is coming from God.
- John 10:12 – The false prophet does not care about people. He will teach them things that will destroy them or set them up to be destroyed by others.
- Acts 20:29 – False prophets will teach perverse things, they will draw people away from Christ and to themselves.
False prophets may or may not know that they are false. Many of them are so deceptive that they have actually deceived themselves. After living a life that deceives others, they stand before the Lord and claim to have done all kinds of things in the Name of Jesus. They even call Jesus Lord yet Jesus tells them that they never knew Him and that they need to depart from Him because they lived in habitual sin. Do you know how to recognize false prophets and their teachings? In order to be protected from false prophets, we need to spend as much time as possible in the Word of God so that we can immediately detect the false. May the Lord help us and protect us from the false. I pray that we will do our part as God will always do His.