What is a False Prophet?

by Dr. Ken Matto

To gain an understanding of what a false prophet is, we will look at some passages in the Old and New Testaments, because false prophets are mentioned in both. The term “false prophet” is uniquely a New Testament Term. However, there are mentions of false prophets among the children of Israel which we shall see. The term “false prophets” is the Greek word “pseudoprophetes.” It is used 11 times in the New Testament. The essence of the false prophet is to draw you away from Christ and/or true biblical teachings. The false prophet may show a grand elocution which will enable him to not only persuade the weak minded but also the educated. The false prophet knows how to play to the emotions and to the intellect, plus they use fear as their main weapon. The false prophet also speaks with authority, but it is assumed authority, not delegated authority. The false prophet is unaccountable to anyone and therefore has free course to continue their false teachings. This is why God brought the organized church into being so there would always be a system of accountability and heresy would have a hard time taking a foothold.

(Jer 14:14 KJV) Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.

Notice in this passage the false prophets which were among the people of Israel. God is saying that He never commanded them nor did He speak unto them. Yet in their bold defiance of truth, they began to teach out of their personal repositories of evil.

(Jer 23:32 KJV) Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.

God declares that He is against these false prophets who cause His people to stray. God is warning the people that they will not prosper if they embrace the false teachings which are spewed forth from the false prophets.

(Jer 28:11 KJV) And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Here we read that Hananiah was falsely prophesying that God was going to return Israel after only two years instead of the seventy years in Babylonian Captivity. Basically, Hananiah can be considered a date setter, since God declared one thing and he declared a different time.

During the time of the Old Testament, dreams and visions were an accepted method of God speaking with His children. This, of course, was because the Bible was still being written and was not to be completed till about 95 AD. So the method of dreams and visions would be akin of someone taking the Bible today, which is the revelation of God and from God, and bringing a false interpretation to the Scriptures. Let us look at New Testament examples.

(Mat 24:11 KJV) And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Notice there will not only be one specific false prophet but there are going to many who are going to attack the sheep and try to deceive them. It seems that there are false prophets both inside and outside the church. On the inside you will have the charismatic movement, dead orthodoxy, homosexuals in the pulpits, etc. On the outside you have the cults, radio and TV preachers with their political and watered down ecumenical gospels. This is why Jesus warned us that there will be many false prophets who will try to draw the people away from Him. This is why in the same chapter Jesus warns His children to flee to the Kingdom of God when we see such works of Satan in many of the churches, which are considered the abomination of desolation, which are the works of Satan. Satan is not omnipresent, so he cannot be in all the false churches at once but his works of deceit can be in various places simultaneously. When a church has died, then it is like Satan taking his seat because his false gospel is well-entrenched in that local assembly. This is when we flee the dead church and go to a living church where the true gospel is still being preached, which would represent the fleeing to the mountains, which represents the Kingdom of God.

(2 Pet 2:1 KJV) But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

The Apostle Peter is warning as there was false prophets among the people of Israel, there was going to be false teachers among the church. This is where the danger lies. We can look at the cults with their strange teachings and their accompanying books which are supposed to be equivalent to Scripture because they were written by the cult leader. When the false teachers enter the arena of the church, they cloak their false teachings with gospel sayings and false interpretations. The Allegorical method was and is the most easily abused and a false teacher can make the Bible say anything they want to. This way the easily duped and the older Christian in the faith may adopt the teachings.

(1 John 4:1 KJV) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

John gives us warning that we are to test the spirit. In other words, we are to test the teaching against Scripture and it is to be done objectively, not subjectively as most cultic teachings are presented. If we find dead ends and no harmony with other parts of Scripture, then that teaching is to be rejected. If the teacher of the false teachings refuses to recant what they have taught, then they are to be considered a heretic and treated as such.

We have seen that false prophets and teachers lead the flock astray. They create interpretations and feign their own importance. They set themselves up as being spiritual people so they can win the affections of those they are trying to reach. False teachers always skew the Scriptures toward their teachings.