10 Characteristics of False Prophets

Fixed: In sheep clothing

Christs tells believers in Matthew 7:15 to beware of false prophets and warns they will come to us disguised as believers. They will outwardly appear to be His followers but inwardly they are “ravenous wolves” seeking to destroy the flock. How can we know if someone who appears to be a fellow Christian is in actuality a false prophet (or teacher)? One helpful resource is the Book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a priest called by God to be a prophet to Judah in the sixth century, B.C. In the thirteenth chapter of his writings, Ezekiel speaks against the false prophets of Israel who were leading the people away from God and into judgment – just as false teachers and prophets do today. Though his message is hundreds of years old, the characteristics he describes continue to be true of those who attempt to lead believers astray.

False prophets:
  1. Follow their own spirit rather than God (Ezekiel 13:3). Today we might say they take Disney’s advice and follow their heart rather than the scriptures.
  2. Claim God has spoken to them or through them when He has not (Ezekiel 13:6-7). In Ezekiel’s day this meant claiming to hear from God outside His chosen channel of revelation – His prophets. Now we should be wary of anyone claiming extra-biblical revelation from God.
  3. Are liars (Ezekiel 13:8). People for whom truth flies out the window the moment it is inconvenient or unpopular.
  4. Speak “peace” when there is no peace. In other words, they give people false assurance regarding their standing before God (Ezekiel 13:10).
  5. Whitewash evil. They dress up wickedness trying to make it presentable (Ezekiel 13:11-12).
  6. Will eventually be exposed and judged by God (Ezekiel 13:13-16).
  7. Utilize good luck charms and other superstitious methods (Ezekiel 13:18). They are syncritists – dabbling in the practices of false religions. This is seen in such things as efforts to mix new age practices with Christianity.
  8. Do not really care for those they claim to minister to (Ezekiel 13:18). The false teacher’s main concern is himself, not those sitting under his teaching.
  9. Spare the guilty and punish the innocent, often for financial gain (Ezekiel 13:19). Is the teacher willing to compromise truth or cover up wrong-doing in order to avoid personal loss or achieve personal gain?
  10. Encourage sinners to continue sinning leading to their destruction (Ezekiel 13:22). False teachers encourage people in their sin rather than pleading with them to turn from it.

Notice how many of these concern their approach to truth. The primary characteristic of false teachers is that they hate God’s truth and therefore they use their teaching to undermine it. Nothing is more dangerous to the church than truth-haters in positions of authority. Like Ezekiel, we should be quick to call out such teachers. The protection and health of Christ’s church demands it.

Have you encountered a false teacher in the church? If so, how did you handle it?

20 Replies to “10 Characteristics of False Prophets”

  1. “They are syncretiste– dabbling in the practises of false religions” – So in order to use this rule it is necessary to know which religion is false and which (if such one exists) is not. But how do I know that voodoo is false, for example?

  2. Actually it’s not necessary to know which one is true to know that they both cannot be true. If voodoo (or Islam or Buddhism, etc.) is true then Christianity is false – since they teach contradictory things. People claiming to be Christians who want to merge the teachings of other religions with those of Christ are false teachers because they are not teaching biblical Christianity, which claims exclusivity among the world’s religions.

  3. What about music. The music of people like Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend, Michael W. Smith, and Graham Kendrick is spreading like wildfire throughout churches. These people are ecumenical and are marching in lock step with the one world church. Their ecumenical, one-world-church goal is to “bring everyone together musically”. They want to “bridge the gap between the traditional and contemporary”, but Bible-believers should know that this is a “gap” that must not be bridged, as it is a gap between Christ and the world, between the Spirit and the flesh, between true churches and false ones. I believe compromising on music by saying it isn’t that bad and shouldn’t divide us, will lead us down a slippery slope to compromising on other things. You have to not only watch what people do but listen to what they say and pay attention to who they keep company with. These people have also joined hands with the likes of Matt Maher and Leonard Sweet, also noted one-world-church ecumenists. But many churches sing their chorus’s and songs. What will they compromise next? There is already compromising on homosexuality and abortion. It’s definitely a slippery slope.

  4. This is not helpful. These are mostly not readily discerned. The truth is most of our church leaders are not teaching truth. They are teaching the world’s way, while claiming to be completely devoted to “the Word.” That’s why Christians are held in such low regard. Mostly they deserve to be – they are not at all like Jesus. That is not a goal of most churches. The goal is to follow formulas (which Jesus hated and kept getting into conflict with the religious leaders of his day over them) and follow their leadership, and hate everyone who doesn’t toe their line.

    We can also see the failure of most of Christendom because the supposedly Christian nation of the USA, where a large majority profess to be Christian, is an empire very like the one which crucified Jesus. The biggest enemy of Christ in our society is the churches.

  5. Hello my dear Christians, who believed and followed the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary may peace and blessings be upon them.
    I do not find any of these characteristics of a false prophet in prophet Muhammed peace be upon him.

  6. Hi Abdulla, I would respectfully disagree. Muhammed is found in characteristic #2. He claims to have received revelation from God after God spoke finally through Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament is clear that Jesus is the final, perfect revelation from God. There are no more prophets coming. Any claims that Christ is not sufficient or that additional revelation from God is needed are therefore false teaching.

    1. I would disagree that there are no more prophets, and I consider that a dangerous heresy. There are genuine prophets in any age. We are promised that in the New Testament. So an argument about Muhammed would have to rest on whether he was true or false prophet (or some combination thereof).

      1. Depends what you mean by prophecy. Prophecy in the New Testament and indeed very often in the Old Testament as well is forth-telling – teaching the people what God has already revealed – as opposed to fore-telling – revealing new information from God. Sometimes in the Old Testament and during the time of Christ and the Apostles prophecy was God providing that revelation through a human agent so it could be written down for future generations. Now that we have His Word in complete form, we no longer need, nor should we expect new revelation from God. Scripture claims to be sufficient, providing everything we need to please God and follow Him ( Deuteronomy 29:29, II Timothy 3:16-17). We can either believe scripture is sufficient or that we need more information from God in order to follow Him but we can’t believe both and be consistent.

        Every false religion and cult in the world from Islam to Mormonism is the result of someone believing scripture was not sufficient and God therefore needed to provide additional information.

        Doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit doesn’t work in the world still today but the only way we can be sure we’re hearing from God is to read the scriptures.

        1. I believe you seriously – dangerously – misunderstand the scriptures. The Prologue of John tells us very clearly that Christ is the Word of God, but you – like most fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals – insist instead a book is the Word. The more important Word is the living Word, which Jesus promised to send us – and He has been faithful. The scriptures are useful, and point us to the true Word.

          As Robert Barclay pointed out, the scriptures “are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself.” We need to be always drinking from the fountain. As the early Friends also said, we can only understand the scriptures if we are in the Spirit which gave forth the scriptures. Our faith – like that of the religious leaders Jesus quarreled with – is dry and even harmful if it is based on a legalistic reading of scriptures instead of the fresh anointing of the Spirit.

  7. I take it you miss the irony of appealing to scripture to make the case that we shouldn’t appeal to scripture. You set up a false dichotomy when you play Jesus Christ the Word made flesh over and against God’s revealed Word.
    It’s not possible to have a high view of Christ and a low view or scripture or vice versa.

    Besides if “the fountain” declares through the scriptures that they are authoritative and sufficient then any voice coming along later saying otherwise must by definition be a false teacher – unless “the fountain” made a mistake.

  8. Great! let me ask about pastors, teachers, apostles and prophets who specialis in threathening the audience or congregation that if they dont give, God will not prosper or heal them. All they do is giving sermons and instil fear in people

  9. Hi Abdulla I also disagree with you because Muhammad as you have said falls in #2 of the attributes. Heb.1:1 proves that God had spoken to us in this last day through Jesus and not Muhammad. Also, Heb.8:6 prove that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice than any other. When qu’ran says one to save the word would be born,kill,buried and resurrect ,who killed Muhammad because of his doctrine,who crucified him and when did he resurrect. we see that all these that is attributed to Muhammad is lies.

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