Jesus warned us about false prophets and said that they would appear and perform great signs and wonders deceiving many, even believers (Matthew 24:23-25). Today we see the fulfillment of that prophecy because false prophets are popping up everywhere around the world. What we need to learn is how to discern false prophets so that we will not fall into their deceptive traps.
False prophets do not prophesy by the Spirit of God, but by a spirit of divination, and then expect God to confirm what they have said (Ezekiel 13:6). God has not sent them but they have appointed themselves as prophets. Here’s what God has to say about false prophets.
Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Jeremiah 14:14
How Do We Discern False Prophets?
To discern is to detect with senses other than vision. This means that you will discern a false prophet using your spiritual senses, not your eyesight. God is the one who gives you the discernment to understand things that are not visible in the physical realm.
The Word of God should be your first stop over in discerning false prophets. It will guide you on the action steps you need to take to protect yourself from them.
Below are five things you can do to discern false prophets.
Test the spirits by which they speak
To discern a false prophet, test the spirit by which they speak. Such a prophet does not speak by the Holy Spirit but a contrary spirit. 1 John 4:1 tells us not to believe every spirit but to test them to see whether they are from God. The reason this Scripture gives is that many false prophets have gone out into the world.
It is not possible to identify a false prophet by looking at them with your physical eyes, you have to discern them your spiritual ones. You can test their spirits by praying and reading the Word of God to discern whether the words they have spoken are biblical.
Do their words bear witness with your spirit?
1 John 2:20 says that you have an anointing from the Holy One and you know the truth. This means that the Holy Spirit will alert you to a false prophecy so that you do not hold on to it. He will reveal the truth to you. The words of a false prophet will not resonate with your spirit. The Spirit of God bears witness with your spirit that something is true or false.
When you establish that a prophet is false, do not hold on to their prophecies. They will defile you because they do not come from God, and they actually lead you away from Him. If you discover a prophet you thought was genuine is actually false, avoid seeing them again.
Do their words align with what God’s Word says?
Always weigh the prophecies you receive against the Word of God, which is the truth. Anything that does not align with the truth is a lie. Those prophesying by the power of the enemy will speak lies and their words will be contrary to Scripture.
It’s interesting to note that when Paul preached in Berea, the Jews there searched the Scriptures to make sure that what he said was true (Acts 17:11). This is what we should do whenever we listen to prophets so that we can discern those who are genuine and those who are false.
Many false prophets fool people with false signs and wonders and hardly refer to the Bible. They are full of stories that are meant to sound like they have divine wisdom. They like to puff themselves up with the great and mighty things they have done in the name of the Lord, yet they are only lying. Beware of ministries that do not focus on preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ. When you know God’s word well enough, you will know whether they speak for God.
Does the prophet lead you toward God or themselves?
False prophets will always lead you toward themselves and away from God. Their words are meant to show you how great they are, and not how great God is. They seduce people with their carefully crafted words that lead people astray (Ezekiel 13:10).
One way to discern false prophets is to pay attention to whether they glorify God or themselves. Jesus said they are ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing and this means that you will know them by the fruit they manifest in their lives (Matthew 7:15). Their true colors will always show and their falsehood will be evident.
Pray for discernment
God is always willing to show you the truth about anything that brings you confusion. If you suspect that a certain prophet is false, you can ask for God’s confirmation. He will give you the wisdom to know what to do if you have been in the company of one (James 1:5). He will show you ministries run by false prophets.
Pay attention to the prophetic words that you listen to and pray over them before receiving them into your spirit. You will save yourself the trouble of acting on false prophecies and shipwrecking your faith.
Follow God’s Guidance
You don’t have to be scared of falling prey to false prophets. God has equipped you with His Word to help you identify them. His Spirit will guide you as encounter prophets out there so that you will know how to discern the false ones.
The world may be full of false prophets but God will always reveal their motives and expose them. 1 Corinthians 4:5 says that God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and will expose the motives of the heart. With God’s help, you will discern false prophets.