Testing the Prophets
Author: Professor Walter J. Veith, PhD
Publish date:
Summary: The Bible gives us clear criteria for determining who is a true prophet.
 
 

If God communicates His intention through His servants the prophets, and Satan counterfeits the messages of God through false prophets, then it is vital that we test the prophets to see if the message is indeed from God. On one hand, the Scriptures admonish us to "Despise not prophesyings" (1 Thessalonians 5:2) and to "Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chronicles 20:20).

On the other hand, there are warnings against false prophets:

For false christs and false prophets will rise and will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24 NKJV).

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1 NKJV).

False prophets claim to have dreams and to see visions, so the Scriptures must provide criteria whereby the authenticity of the prophets' statements may be tested.

Do not despise prophecies, test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 NKJV).

The Bible lists a series of tests that can be applied to prophets to determine whether they are genuine or not. Many of these tests can be individually counterfeited, but collectively, they provide an impassable barrier to false prophets. False prophets can quote Scripture or have some of their prophecies come true, but they can still be false prophets—subtly using every opportunity to lead God's people astray.

A true prophet of God will meet all the Biblical criteria, which can be summarized as follows:

1. A true prophet's message will be in complete harmony with the word of God and the law of God.

To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20).

Most modern-day prophets would fail this test. A prophet cannot negate what God has revealed in His Word, and all the precepts of the law are binding (James 2:10). When the law is not observed, the gift of prophecy is withdrawn (Lamentations 2:9).

2. A true prophet's predictions must come to pass.

A depiction of the prophet Jeremiah by Horace Vernet Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SA_160-Jeremia_op_de_puinhopen_van_Jeruzalem.jpg

...when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:22 NKJV).

A word of warning: A prophet's predictions may occur, and may even be accompanied by miracles. But if they do not pass the other tests, the prophet is still false.

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying 'Let us go after other gods'—which you have not known—and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him (Deuteronomy 13:1-4 NKJV).

Signs and wonders do not prove a prophet's validity. As in the above Scriptural example, prophets' words are not always in harmony with the law of God. Satan will work miracles in the last days to deceive many (Revelation 16:14).

3. A true prophet prophesies to edify the Church, counseling and advising in religious matters.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification and exhortation, and comfort...but he that prophesieth edifieth the church (1 Corinthians 14:3-4).

A true prophet will not condone sin (1 John 3:4).

True prophets will exhort the church to a higher standard, and will exemplify God's principles in their own lives. False prophets, such as 16th-century seer Nostradamus, do not live according to God's Word and do not build up the Church with their prophecies.

4. A true prophet will exalt Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of humankind.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us...Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God (1 John 4:12,15 NKJV).

After His resurrection, Jesus expounded the Scriptures to His disciples, revealing to them the prophetic proclamations regarding Himself (Luke 24:27).

Again a word of warning regarding this test. Many false prophets will say to Jesus in the last judgment, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works" (Matthew 7:22)?

The Lord will not recognize them as His, as they practiced iniquity (Greek: anomia — against the law of God). They seem to pass the test, but fail in regard to the law.

5. The true prophet will speak with authority (Matthew 7:29).

Jesus is the supreme example, and He spoke those things which He had seen and heard from the Father (John 8:26,28,38). A prophet will likewise reveal those things with authority that have been revealed to him by God.

6. The true prophet will bear good fruit.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them (Matthew 7:20).

This test is compelling. Does the prophet live a life in harmony with the will of God and are the lives of those touched transformed so that they too live godly lives? Once again, a word of warning: No one is without sin, and all fall short of the glory of God.

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months (James 5:17 NKJV).

Although Elijah had faults and passions just like us, he strove to live a godly life and the fruits of his labor testify that he was truly a prophet of God.

7. The true prophet, when in vision, will exhibit physical signs.

In vision, the prophet's eyes will be open.

The utterance of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open (Numbers 24:4 NKJV).

Daniel 10 describes the physical state of the prophet Daniel while in vision.

And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words; and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face to the ground (Daniel 10:7-9).

Daniel had "no strength," and he must have fallen to the ground as he lay with his "face to the ground." The prophet does not, however, remain in this helpless state on the ground, but he is lifted up by God, and while still in vision, stands up on his feet (Daniel 10:10-11).

In vision, the prophet will have no breath in him, and no strength.

And suddenly one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, My Lord, because of the vision, my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my Lord talk with you my Lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me. Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me (Daniel 10:16-17 NKJV).

No mention is made of the restoration of breathing while in vision. The prophet is sustained by God while in vision. In summary, a prophet in vision shows these signs:

       i) Falls down weak

       ii) Is raised up and strengthened by God

       iii) Has the eyes wide open during the vision

       iv) Does not breath, even when speaking



These signs cannot be readily counterfeited. In fact, modern so-called visionaries tend to fall down with their eyes closed, and they have breath in them, because only God can sustain life without breath. Read about some of the 19th century's prophets—true and false—in our next article

This article is adapted from Truth Matters by Professor Walter J. Veith, an international speaker who has studied Biblical issues in-depth in his quest for truth. His popular series Genesis Conflict brings the debate between Creation and evolution to a new climax as he dissects the arguments with a scientific eye. His highly-acclaimed series Total Onslaught sheds light on the state of the world today as we move to a one-world government and an anticipated apocalypse.
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