One of the enemy’s master strategy is counterfeiting. Anywhere you have an original, someone out there tries to duplicate it. An example is when a designer makes an original piece, and within a short while, you see copies of the same piece littered everywhere. The original article is the authentic piece, while others are just facsimilia copies; similar, but not the same thing.
Counterfeiting is also applicable to spiritual matters. For every gift of the Spirit, r calling of the Lord, satan comes around to masquerade and deceive as if he has the gifts or offices to distribute as well. Deception has always been one of his primary tools of choice. Satan began right from the garden of Eden, where he deceived Eve by telling her lies which led her to eat from the forbidden tree, convincing her that she will surely not die (Genesis 3: 1-5). However, we later see that the Lord’s word is always true. Adam and Eve surely did die according to the initial warning given to them by the Lord. As a matter of fact, they died a twofold death: spiritual death and the physical death. Spiritual death because they were separated from God Almighty when they were driven out of the garden (Genesis 3 vs 23) and physically when the breathed their last (Genesis 5: 5). But thanks be to God for the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary to be a propitiation for our sins (1 John 2: 2).
Prophecy or rather the gift of prophecy is one of the gifts the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10). A prophet is one who has been called into that office (Ephesians 4: 11) by the Almighty God to speak his words to his people and lead/guide them to a closer and deeper walk with Him.
The term false prophets refers to an instrument of satan who masquerades as the true prophet of God and entices the hearts of men and the people of God away from the true and living God. The tool of deception is what the devil to achieve this purpose. The truth is no child of God will by himself choose to align with satan if he shows up and presents himself as the devil. The whole idea is for the false prophet to cunningly present himself as the shepherd of Christ when in reality, is the wolf destroying the sheep. (Matthew 24: 11 & Matthew 7: 15).
How to Identify a False Prophet
Jesus Christ while speaking about false prophets said that by their fruits we shall know them (Matthew 7: 15-18). Fruits refer to the products of a tree. In this scenario, the Lord Jesus used the word fruit in the description of the sum total of a person’s character. Therefore, the fruits a person bears are the real person, when all veils and facade are uncovered. It, therefore, means that we can identify a false prophet by his character.
We can also identify a false prophet by the spirit of discernment. Discernment is the gift of the Spirit that enables us to judge and decipher a person or situation not by our physical senses, but rather by the leading of the Holy Spirit. An example is when Paul identified the evil spirit in the slave girl that was enabling make divinations (Acts 16: 17).
The following are the character traits of false prophets:
- They are Worldly (1 John 4 vs 5): Worldliness refers to the systems and patterns of the world. The Bible reminds us that satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4: 4). They base their preaching on the politically acceptable standards of this world. They rarely ever base it on the authority of the word of God. They compromise their messages to make them appealing to their audience. The preach messages that are sweet to the ‘flesh’ and without the power and backing of the Holy Spirit.
- They are Very Greedy for Material Gain (Matthew 6: 24): They have an unhealthy desire for the material things of this world and refuse to be accountable for the things they use the finances of the people of God to do. They are in the ministry for their material gain and pleasure and therefore have no sense of integrity. They transfer this same attitude to their followers and look the other way when shady financial deals are carried out by their members and will not reprimand them.
- They Perform Signs and Wonders (Matthew 24: 24): The entire thrust of their ministry is based on signs and wonders. They depend on signs and wonders to maintain and lure gullible folks. Of course, we know that Jesus Christ promised believers that in his name signs and wonders shall follow them (Mark 16: 17-18). Satan knows this too, so one of his major gameplans is to ensure that the false prophets he anoints can do signs and wonders. This is to enable them to deceive people to think of them as legitimate.
- They are Perpetual and Compulsive Liars (Jeremiah 23: 14): Jesus Christ told us that satan is the father of lies and that when he lies, he speaks his native language (John 8: 44). Lies and deception are the stock in trade of false prophets. They regularly and unrepentantly lie. They use information they get from people they plant as snitches or those who are flippant, to carry out their nefarious schemes. Their lies are so well crafted, that it is very easy to mistake them for reality. This is the exact opposite fruit of a true prophet of God who speaks only the truth from God, for it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6: 8).
- They are Mean-Spirited (John 10: 10): They have no love like their master satan, and therefore cannot manifest the characteristics of love (1 Corinthians 13). They are wicked and unforgiving and are always quick to threaten their followers with curses and destruction for any perceived disloyalty. They, like their master satan, steal, kill and destroy. They steal in the sense that they strip virtues and material goodness consistently from their followers. They kill because they are diabolic in nature and will stop at nothing to prove to their followers their powers. They destroy because they constantly devour because of their wolfish nature (Matthew 7: 15). Jesus Christ is the good shepherd because he protects, nurtures and consistently lays his life down for the sheep (John 10: 11).
- They are Immoral (Jeremiah 23 vs 14): They are unrepentant fornicators and adulterers. They do not have any qualms about polluting their bodies (1 Corinthians 6 vs 19-20). They obey their master satan who tempts/encourages men to fulfil the cravings of the flesh (Matthew 4: 3); just the way he lured Eve to satisfy her cravings and she did not take into cognisance the terrible consequences of her actions. This spirit of immorality cascades down to their followers, and lustful passions fulfilment are rampant in their ministries.
- They Relegate to the Background, the Power of the Blood of Jesus Christ and Salvation of Souls: They deliberately draw attention away from the ultimate price Jesus Christ paid on the cross and do not emphasise the need for the salvation (Hebrews 9: 28). They do these in subtle ways which may not be easily observed except by those with the spirit of discernment. They create the atmosphere that leads people to believe that the once and for all sacrifice on the cross of Calvary was not enough and other ways are required to have access to the throne of God. They do not emphasise the need for the salvation of the souls of men, but rather the divert attention from the power in the blood of Jesus Christ unto salvation (Titus 1: 16).
- They are Men-Pleasers (Isaiah 30: 10): False prophets have a penchant for preaching what men love to hear (1 Thessalonians 2: 1-4). They do not speak for the Lord God Almighty, rather through head knowledge using crafty and cunny words to entice the hearts of men. They specialise in half-truths, which is more dangerous than outright lies because the sheep can easily spot a lie, but a half-truth is very difficult to identify. False prophets always seek to please men and not God (Galatians 1: 10).
- They Lead the Sheep into Evil (Jeremiah 23 vs 21-22): A prophet’s main calling is to turn the people back to God in genuine repentance. He is an oracle of God ordained to speak the heart of God. God’s ultimate desire has always been to save and deliver the souls of men from eternal damnation (John 3: 16). A false prophet does not give heed to this major calling because he is a servant of a master whose aim is to kill, steal and destroy (John 10: 10) so he always deliberately leads the sheep into disobedience and evil.
- They Seek to Scatter and Destroy the Sheep (Jeremiah 23 vs 23): The false prophet is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7: 15). The wolf comes into the midst of the sheep or gathers sheep around him in the guise of being a shepherd. He then begins to quietly and systematically devour the sheep. He scatters the sheep in many ways such as trying to take up the function of the only mediator between the sheep and God almighty. He does not train the sheep to grow from milk to solid because he is fake and without content. He alienates the sheep from that intimate relationship with the ultimate shepherd of his soul by not encouraging a life devoted to studying the word of God. The false prophet rather introduces substitutes.
Brethren, there are so many other character traits of false prophets which we have not touched on. The Lord Jesus Christ informed us that they (false prophets) will multiply in the last days and if possible deceive the very elect (Matthew 24: 24). This calls for sober reflection by every child of God. We must also always be on guard always. We must become excellent students of the word of God if we are to be equipped to identify false prophets and their erroneous teachings.
We must also humbly ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of the spirit of discernment because ultimately this is what will enable us to identify false prophets and put a stop to their devouring of the sheep of Christ (Isaiah 11 vs 2-3).
May the Lord have mercy on us all in Jesus’ name. Amen.