With the huge explosion of prophets today, what do the Scriptures say about whether they’re from God or not?
A New Age of Prophets
Prophets, the Freedom of God, and Hermeneutics, a Westminster Theological Journal (52.1), by Dr. Willem A. Vangemeren from Prophets, the Freedom of God, and Hermeneutics is an essential as far as relating to those who believe that they either have the gift of prophecy or they know someone who is a self-proclaimed prophet. One recent example was a young lady who was considering marriage with her boyfriend who was battling pornography. At the time that this young woman contacted me, she stated that her boyfriend needed help in overcoming his addiction to pornography. He just couldn’t seem to quit, and it was affecting their relationship in negative way. Then she told me that someone that nearly broke my heart. She said someone in her church had prophesied that they were to be husband and wife, and she was confused as to whether to marry this man or not. I tried to explain to her that the age of the prophets, as with the cannon of Scripture, is closed. We have no need of any new revelation today. We already have the sufficiency the Bible, where it says, “Thus says the Lord.” It was clear that this woman received a false prophesy from a false prophet because she had prophesied over her that she was to be married, despite the young man’s ongoing, unrepentant addiction to pornography. A year later, this prophetess’ “prophecy” would utter fail.
To be a prophet of God is a narrowly defined office, and rightly so, because someone who had been called by God spoke the words of God, directly from God, but they also spoke in His name, and that’s one of the weightiest responsibilities there are. The prophets of old were nearly always an Israelite, and they primarily spoke primarily, though some to other nations, but that was in the context of their direct contact and relations with Israel. If someone claims to be a prophet, they stand in the tradition of the Mosaic covenant and which encourages loyalty to the Lord and condemns apostasy while authenticating their office with “signs” (81), so what agreement is there with this self-proclaimed prophet’s prophecy to this woman and the fact that a year later, the man would marry another woman? Dr. Vangemeren says that false prophets encourage “a selective lifestyle…and the ability to adapt to the cultural changes” (82). In this young woman’s church, this “prophetess” apparently “enjoyed popular support” because she “represented the theological perspective of [their] contemporaries” (83). This false prophet failed to live up to what God’s Word says that a true prophet says, and whether it comes true or not, so her prophecies depended on things working out between this couple, which they did not. Just like their “appeal to Moses,” this self-proclaimed prophetess enjoyed a large support base in her church (84), and in this woman’s church, failed prophecies or not, this prophetess is popularly accepted by this church and many other churches (83) today. This church is deceived because it will not look at the criteria for a prophet, and so, they lose the help they need “in discerning the true from the false” (85). I see that this so-called prophet is unlike those of the true prophets in the Bible because her prophecies are always accepted and highly popular, however the prophets of old came with messages that were mostly rejected and the prophets were treated with disdain, and many were killed. From a biblical viewpoint, this self-proclaimed prophet did not have the qualifications to be a prophet because she soundly rejected what Scripture teaches regarding prophets.
According to Dr. Vangemeren, the problem with this woman “prophetess” or self-proclaimed prophetess was that there was no “adherence to…ethics [or] regulations pertaining to holiness,” since her boyfriend’s refusal to counsel about his ongoing addiction pornography, were not seen as impediments for them to have a “blessed marriage” (in her own words). This false prophet did not see the application of “God’s warnings, judgments, and conditions to the people of God,” to live a sanctified, holy life (85) as God commands (Lev 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7; 1st Pet 1:16). Instead of speaking the “whole counsel of God,” she spoke her own counsel by “advocating a…human response…to fix whatever [appeared] wrong, so as to perpetuate the human power” (86). She thought, once the couple was married, he would lose the desire for pornography, but rarely do marriages fix addictions, but no one was about to rebuke this woman because of the power and popularity she held (85). Dr. Vangemeren writes that false prophets have ruled out any “change in God’s relation with His people,” like their striving for holiness, so false prophets like this woman have actually often have “undermined the purposes of God” (87)! These prophets teach human-centered ethics as interpreted by popular conceptions, so just like in the Old Testament, false prophet’s base their prophecies on good things that people love to hear. Rarely is it a call to change. Pragmatism is the prophet’s doctrine; they assess their theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. If it works, it must be right. If it draws people to church, then it must be right.
A Biblical Test
Maybe someone in that church should go up to that prophetess, and say, “I have a ‘word from God’ for you: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him” or her (Deut 18:22). This so-called “prophet” was wrong because the man ended up marrying another woman (and later, divorcing her) so the woman’s prophecy of her being happily married within the year was wrong…now, seven-years wrong (and counting). The Bible allows prophets one strike and they’re out. God does not send prophets who get 9 out of 10 right. They are always right or they are not a prophet, so the counsel this woman received from this “prophet” is not authoritative in the sense that she spoke for God. Did this prophet actually believe that a marriage would solve this man’s addiction to pornography? Jeremiah’s test for prophecy is the same as others; “when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet” (Jer 28:9). This prophetess had once chance, and she blew it…and the subsequent other failed prophecies now label her, according to Scripture, as a false prophet.
Deuteronomy 18:22 and Jeremiah 28:9 have certain conditions affixed to them, and there is only one of two options; one is true prophet and one is false prophet. Moses wrote, “when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him” or her (Deut 18:22). In Jeremiah’s day, Hananiah was a false prophet and he was uttering all sorts of wonderful things for the people of Judah to hear. They couldn’t hear enough from him, but “Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord’” (Jer 28:15-16), and “The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms” (Jer 28:8), so prophets today who prophecy that your mortgage will be paid off, your bank account will double, and other such nonsensical things, had better swallow the truth that “the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet” (Jer 28:9).
Thus Says Man
I doubt very seriously whether these self-anointed prophets ever read Deuteronomy 18:22 and Jeremiah 28:9 when they’re teaching or preaching. Maybe they’re afraid to since only the true prophets of God never missed…even once. Soo what harm is there? Many of these false prophets leave in their wake, hurting people, ruined relationships, and hopes and dreams dashed to the ground. We know that the Scriptures are now closed (Heb 1:1-2; Jude 1:3; Duet 4:2; Rev 22:18), so these so-called prophet’s enter dangerous territory when speaking for God. God warns, “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:19), so “Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar” (Prov 30:6), and even in the time of Moses, it was understood that “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you” (Deut 4:2). Has this woman, and other “prophets” considered that in the Bible, what a prophet spoke was considered Scripture? Is she (and others) willing to believe that prophecies are considered part of the Word of God? In the Old Testament, when the prophets uttered prophecies, they became part of Scripture…every time! I wonder if they’ve ever thought about that.
When this young lady asked me about this woman’s prophecy about her engagement, an engagement to a boyfriend that was addicted to pornography, I used Jeremiah 28:9 and Deuteronomy 18:22 to show here that prophesying for God is speaking for God, and speaking for Him means speaking what God would speak. The Bible itself gives evidence of whether a prophet is actually speaking the words of God, and if the words are from God, and several descriptive Bible verses reveal that we have no need for further or newer revelation because we already have all the revelation necessary in the written Word of God (Heb 1:1-2; Jude 1:3; Duet 4:2; Rev 22:18). Don’t we think that’s enough? Do we really need more from God outside of Scripture? And finally, the church was built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, and Jesus Himself was the Chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:20, so it seems foolish to me, even dangerous, to try and place more prophets, meant for the foundation, on top of a building which God has been building for over 2,000 years. A foundation belongs at the bottom, doesn’t it? Isn’t a foundation laid at the very beginning? I’ve never seen my own grandchildren build a block tower with another foundation at the top. Even they knew it would fall!
Jesus Christ has not stopped teaching His church and God’s Spirit is still illuminating Scripture, but I don’t think we need new revelation from a source other than God. I believe God will illuminate what has already been written. I see no evidence in the Bible that God is going to give us a “new Word.” God speaks to us now, beginning in Genesis 1:1 all the way to Revelation 22:21. He will not use human imaginations, human divination, nor will He use man-centered ethics, popular interpretative conceptions, pragmatism, human schemes, counsel or plans. I prayed that this so-called prophet would come to the realization that prophets of God spoke words that were considered as part of the Word of God itself, and that the fatal price that Aaron’s sons paid in bringing a strange fire before the Lord (Lev 10:1-3). This is ground where even angels would fear to tread, so how much more fearful for those who proclaim themselves to be prophets of God. Believe it or not, this false prophetess is still in that church, at this writing, and despite her many failed prophecies, she is more popular than ever. I guess this church loves having their own prophet in the congregation. It gets attention and draws others to the church, but tragically, that’s not a good reason because Jesus rebuke those who sought after “signs and wonders” (Matt 12:39, 16:4; Mark 8:12; Luke 11:29). Yes, she’s a prophet, a false one, and clearly many of these prophets are in it for the profit, so my question is, if they’re a prophet, they’re a prophet from where? And from whom? Answer me that? And remember, you can only be wrong once.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.
Vangemeren, Dr. Willem, A. Prophets, the Freedom of God, and Hermeneutics. Westminster Theological Journal, 52.1 (Spring 1990): 79-99.