It can be difficult to point out the different between a true believer and a false prophet because a true preacher has all but the last trait. Ted Bundy had all those traits. That is why Jesus said:
“…by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt 7:20).
And John had said:
“…believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist…” (1 Jn 4:1-2).
The words that false prophets rarely use are threatening words or warnings against God, or when they do they candy coat it, such as turning a flat out lie into a misunderstanding.
Realize that it is not only religious people that can lead you to hell. For example, Oprah (notice that Oprah has all 10 of the below traits) argues that we don’t need Jesus to go to heaven, when Jesus clearly said:
“…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6).
The devil is tricky and he is able to give his false preachers the ability to be as sneaky and conniving as he is:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angle of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; who end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor 11:13-15).
Remember what Peter said,
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8).
They say that everything has a beginning and an end, or right and wrong, good and bad, so tomorrow we’ll look at…
1 Thessalonians 4
Living to Please God
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification that ye should abstain from fornication:
“Fornication” – in the 1st century moral standards were generally very low, and chastity was regarded as an unreasonable restriction. Paul, however, would not compromise God’s clear and demanding standards. The warning was needed, for Christians were not immune to the temptation.
They were weren’t immune then and they aren’t now.
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor;
5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
“Defraud” – sexual sin harms others besides those who engage in it. In adultery, e.g., the spouse is always wronged. Premarital sex wrongs the future partner by robbing him or her of the virginity that ought to be brought to marriage.
7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
Another reason for chastity is God’s call to holiness.
8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.
“God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit” – still another reason for chastity is that sexual sin is against God, who gives the Holy Spirit to believers for their sanctification. To live in sexual immorality is to reject God, specifically in regard to the Holy Spirit.
9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
See Mk 12:31.
10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;
11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
“Work with your own hands” – the Greeks in general thought manual labor degrading and fit only for slaves. Christians took seriously the need for earning their own living, but some of the Thessalonians, perhaps as a result of their belief in the imminent return of Christ (see 2 Thess 3:11), were neglecting work and relying on others to support them.
12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.
“Have lack of nothing” – or “not be dependent on anyone.” Christians in need because of their idleness are not obedient Christians.
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
“Them which are asleep” – for the Christian, sleep is a particularly apt metaphor for death, since death’s finality and horror are removed by the assurance of resurrection. Some of the Thessalonians seem to have misunderstood Paul and thought all believers would live until Christ returns.
When some died, the question arose, “Will those who have died have part in that great day?”
“Which have no hope” – inscriptions on tombs and references in literature show that 1st century pagans viewed death with horror, as the end of everything. The Christian attitude was in strong contrast (see 1 Cor 15:55-57; Phil 1:21-23).
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
“Died” – Paul does not say that Christ “slept,” perhaps to underscore the fact the He bore the full horror of death so that those who believe in Him would not have to.
“Rose again” – for the importance of the resurrection see 1 Cor 15, especially vv. 14, 17-22.
“Them also which sleep in Jesus” – believers who have died, trusting in Jesus.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
“We which are alive” – those believers who will be alive when Christ returns. “We” does not necessarily mean that Paul thought that he would be alive then. He often identified himself with those he wrote to or about. Elsewhere he says that God will raise “us” at that time (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14).
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
“Archangel” – the only named archangel in the Bible is Michel (Jude 9; see Dan 10:13). In Scripture, Gabriel is simply called an angel (Lk 1:19, 26).
“Shall rise first” – before the ascension of believer’s mentioned in the next verse.
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
“Caught up” – Greek harpazo, “to snatch away.” Both the dead and the living “in Christ” (believers) are caught up into the air. A “rapture” (from the Latin Vulgate rendering) is clearly referred to 1 Cor 15:51-52 refers to the same event.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Ten Characteristics of False Prophets
One of the most amazing facts of religious life is that although masses of humanity are following spiritual leaders, few people seem to believe that false prophets actually exist.
Today, billions of people worship God in one manner or another. Never have there been more religious people on the face of the earth, never more worshipers of God – and never more False prophets and their followers.
Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all repeatedly warned such men would rise up – even among Christian churches – and lead many astray. They warned that not only would there be many false prophets and teachers, there would be many followers of them as well.
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Cor 11:3-4).
Many have been taught that false teachers don’t exist, that practically everyone is saved, that essentially any doctrine is acceptable if sincerely believed, and that basically any level of morality is satisfactory.
These doctrines are popular for obvious reasons. They are easy to understand, easy to like, and easy to follow.
But Jesus contrasted the “easy path – which He said leads to destruction – with the difficult “narrow path” that leads to eternal life. His was a message of warning and great caution.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: or wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt 7:13-14).
He cautioned His followers to be on the lookout for False prophets, and warned them these prophets would appear as sheep, but would in fact be wolves.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt 7:15).
Tragically, few people ever bother to do their homework on their own preachers, a fact that misguided preachers, televangelists, and spiritualists have used to keep millions in their blinded state.
Traits of a False Prophet
Some False prophets aren’t sincere, but many are. False prophets have often convinced themselves that they have the truth—or at least that their behavior is fully acceptable to God. Because they are so sincere, they are extremely convincing, one of their most dangerous traits.
False prophets typically are highly intelligent individuals, able to discern and make the most intellectual arguments.
They use this talent to convince others to follow after them. And don’t think their followers are fools either.
Intelligent people attract intelligent followers. Intelligent individuals in our society often occupy positions of success and influence in the world, and their busy schedules give them little time to examine for themselves the legitimacy of what they are being told.
False prophets are typically well-liked and gregarious. They are social butterflies. It’s hard to get much of a following otherwise.
They are characteristically wise to the ways of politics and social interaction.
It is not uncommon for them to seek the praise that comes from men more than the praise that comes from God. As a result, they put great effort into their social relations.
Charming, Attractive and/or Appealing
False prophets are sometimes attractive or charming, but always appealing.
They often possess traits that naturally draw people into their circles of influence: charisma, humor, joviality, positive attitudes, conversational personalities, and the like.
Since most folks are attracted to materialism, possessions, and outer appearances, being charming, appealing, and even wealthy bodes well for a good following. And housing their flocks within the walls of incredibly expensive and attractive structures doesn’t hurt their cause.
False prophets obviously possess the knowledge required to convince their unsuspecting followers they know what they are talking about. False prophets sometimes come armed with secular education, sometimes even seminary training.
False prophets don’t want their flocks to leave, or to waste too much time investigating the truth. To keep them from this, False prophets reassure their followers not to worry, and that everything is ok.
The message often is: “Listen to me, rely on my sermons and my message, and you’ll have everything you need.”
Their discourses frequently master in soothing messages and small alterations of scriptures.
Few people desire to follow a person who is unsure of himself or lacks confidence, even if he appears to be knowledgeable and intelligent.
Therefore False prophets are frequently confident individuals, sometimes extremely confident, to the extent they believe nothing else could possibly be right other than what they personally believe and preach.
This often produces an unteachable attitude in the False Prophet which sometimes extrapolates to his followers.
Because false prophets often sincerely believe their doctrines and are followed by others who agree with them, this reinforces the prophets’ self-confidence, and in turn can give rise to more confidence still.
This larger dosage of self-confidence in turn appeals to yet more people who are enticed to follow after them, and the vicious cycle continues to feed upon itself.
False prophets have followings, sometimes large multitudes of adoring listeners that hang on their every utterance of guidance.
The mere fact so many people adore them likely helps fuel their motivation. Several objects can motivate a false Prophet, including money, power, and even sexual favors.
Sometimes it’s merely a desire to be popular, sometimes they are simply deceived thinking they are doing God’s will, and this deception alone is their motivation.
Harmless in Appearance
False prophets don’t look dangerous. They don’t act dangerous. They don’t seem dangerous. They look harmless. But false prophets are the most dangerous “species” on earth.
Their words mislead millions into an abyss of eternal destruction. False prophets—whether intentionally or unintentionally—probably believe their messages help others, even if they realize their messages are false.
After all, if nothing else, the message of a false prophet provides his followers momentary happiness and reassurance. They typically don’t intend to harm others—but neither did the farmer’s wife who fed her husband sausage, bacon, and eggs for 35 years until he keeled over with a heart-attack from cholesterol-clogged arteries.
Naturally, “False” means “Wrong.” False prophets are incorrect, they do not have the truth. But they are rarely totally wrong—such would not produce much of a following. Their teachings represent a deformed version of truth.
Depending on the degree of the distortion—these deformities of truth often lead to treacherous, warped, and evil behavior magnified far beyond the norm. Jesus said:
“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt 7:16-20).
As their power increases, so often does their level of corruption. Their behavior can range from deceit, lying, selfish ambition, and immorality (all in the “name of God”)—to hatred, prejudice, racism, violence, killing, torture, wars, mass homicide, genocide, gross immorality, and terrorism (all in the “name of God”).
Such warped behavior—which is often passed off as “the will of God”—has sadly been witnessed in modern times and has been repeated throughout history. Indeed, such behavior is the reason some have rejected all forms of religion and have turned to atheism.
…how not to be a victim to a false prophet.