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67 | False prophecy or false prophet?

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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast I want to deal with a trending issue among Charismatics: Does a false prophecy mean a person is a false prophet?

I am doing this because of the dozens of rash prophecies given over the past several months predicting that Donald Trump would win re-election as the President of the United States in Nov 2020. They were wrong. All wrong. Horribly wrong. And this included prophecies being delivered by some major Charismatic ministries.

As soon as it became apparent that these prophecies were wrong, several Christians immediately began labeling these individuals as “false prophets.”

Here is a sampling of a few headlines I found after a brief internet search:

  • List of false prophets who prophesied Trump would win
  • False prophets exposed

Then there was an article that compared these false prophets to the plagues of Egypt:

It read:

  • The plague of false prophets over American election.

And the writer of this next article really made sure we got it right by working the word false twice into his headline writing:

  • A compendium of false Trump prophecies by false prophets

And these false prophecies even caught the attention of the New York Times who had an article asking a more basic question:

  • Christian prophets are on the rise, what happens when they are wrong.

And this is a very good question. What happens when these prophecies involving several major leaders in the Charismatic movement are wrong?

Now many who gave these false prophecies have since repented and admitted they were wrong. But others have not and some are even predicting that God would miraculously restore Donald Trump to the presidency even after President Biden’s inauguration

But are they false prophets as suggested by several Christian writers?

Now many of the Christian leaders labelling them as false prophets are cessationists. This means, that they believe the spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues, prophecy and the ministries of the prophets and apostles ended with the apostolic age nearly 2,000 years ago.

Even if a person gave an accurate prophecy, they would still be considered a false prophet, simply because they don’t believe the prophetic ministry is for today.

Now I am not going to get into a big discussion on whether or not the spiritual gifts are for today, other than quoting part of Peter’s speech on the Day of Pentecost after the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples and they poured out into the streets of Jerusalem speaking in tongues.

Talking about this demonstration of Holy Spirit power, Peter said:

And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

He says not only would the people in crowd receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, so would their children and as well, and this is the key, “all” those who are far off.

So while predictably we have the cessationists labelling the people who gave the Trump prophecies as false prophets, several in the Charismatic movement are also doing the same.

Now I completely understand the frustration and anger, because the people giving these false words have caused a lot of damage to the church and brought a spirit of mockery upon Christians around the world.

But does uttering a false prophecy automatically make a person a false prophet?

Well to find out, let’s take a closer look at a passage from the book of Deuteronomy which is often cited as a proof text that a person who delivers a false prophecy is in fact a false prophet under the Old Testament law and should be stoned:

But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 18:20 NIV)

In the following verses, Moses goes on to define a presumptious prophecy as one that does not come to pass.

But as we read this verse it states that anyone who gives a false prophecy OR, big emphasis on the word OR, or who speaks in the name of another god should be put to death.

So at first glance, it suggests that individuals who give false prophecies that don’t come to pass are to be treated the same way as people who prophesy in the name of other gods.

Both are false prophets and should be put to death.

But everything hinges on the translation of the Hebrew word “wa’w” which is translated “or” in this popular version.

And we need to focus on this Hebrew word, because it can also be translated as “and” or “together with. ” In fact, this is wa’s primary meaning and “or” is its secondary meaning.

And if we translate the Hebrew word Wa as “and” instead of as “or” it means that giving a false prophecy on its own was not enough to have a person declared a false prophet, it had to be combined with prophesying in the name of others gods.

And this is confirmed in verse 22, when we read:

22 When the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and the thing does not happen or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you are not to be afraid of him.

In this verse, Moses is referring to just the first problem speaking presumptuously or giving a false prophecy. But notice how Moses ever referred to the person as a prophet (not a false prophet), but added if his word doesn’t come to pass you don’t have to be afraid of him.

Now it would be a bit meaningless to give that kind of warning if the person had already been declared a false prophet.

And the tense of the verb “don’t be afraid’ adds an interesting twist. It is in the imperfect tense, which gives it a continuing sense, in other words we are to continue not being afraid of this individual.

But what this tells us is that Old Testament prophets had to be 100% accurate. One mistake and they were done.

The prophet was essentially demoted.

They were no longer considered to hold the office of the prophet. But they still could be functioning with the New Testament equivalent of the gift of prophecy which is what I believe many of those had who were part of the company or sons of the prophets mentioned in 1 Samuel 19; 2 Kings 9).

These companies of prophets were often associated with major prophets such as Samuel and Elijah. But they were not functioning in the office of the prophet.

At times in Israel’s history, these individuals with a gift of prophecy promoted themselves to the office of a prophet.

It happened in Jeremiah’s day, when the prophet Jeremiah warned Judah not to resist King Nebuchadnezzar when he invaded Judah. God was judging Judah and Jeremiah said it would go better for everyone if the country just gave up.

But, there were several others prophesying that Judah needed to fight the Babylonians. They needed to stand up to Babylon and God would delver them.

These were members of the company of prophets.

They had a huge following because this is what people wanted to hear and in fact, the King of Judah took their advice and chose to fight Babylon.

And just as Jeremiah predicted, Babylon breached Jerusalem’s walls, destroyed the temple and hauled tens of thousands of Jewish people into captivity.

These false prophecies had serious negative consequence for Judah, while it did not mean they were false prophets, it did mean that God had not appointed them to the office of the prophet. They had promoted themselves.

This may also apply to people who prophesied Donald Trump would win reelection. Now it is possible they have a gift of prophecy, but after making such a serious mistake on the national stage, we need to ask if they have stepped beyond their calling.

In Deuteronomy, Moses say we are not to fear those giving false prophecies and in Jeremiah 23:26, the prophet said:

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
    they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:16)

Essentially, these people are speaking their own imaginations and desires instead of the Word of the Lord.

The issue is simply this, there is a difference between those who function in the office of the prophet and those with the gift of prophecy in calling, authority and accuracy.

And, we will know the difference by the fruit of their ministry.

Intro and Outro: Ian Smith

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