Summary: Gullible believers can be misled by false prophecies. We are told in Scripture to judge all prophecy. This message equips Christians with nine tests to determine whether a prophecy, dream, vision, etc. is from God.
During the last two messages, we have addressed the need to judge prophetic ministry. Last week we learned from the story in 1 Kings 13 where the failure to judge a prophecy cost a man his life. It led him astray, and he was killed by a lion.
Jesus warned about the increase in deception that would occur especially in the last days. When asked about the end times, the first thing Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse was “Take heed that no one deceives you” Matt. 24:4).i In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Paul warned about a great “falling away” from the faith that would occur during the last days. He began that prediction the same way Jesus did—with a warning about deception: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.” The tide of society will be a rejection of God and the moral standard of His word. The enticement will include the offer of a false brand of Christianity in which you can live in the lust of the flesh and think all is well. We’ve always contended with that error.ii But it has become very prominent in our current culture. It is now popular to have “a form of godliness” that denies the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5. The religious form is there, but the Holy Spirit’s call to godliness is resisted. This “form of godliness” lets you go to the dance hall on Saturday night with the world and the church service on Sunday morning. It is called Christianity, but it is very different from the Christianity in the New Testament. It is tolerant of just about anything you want to do. It requires little and promises much. It stands in contrast to Jesus’s call to self-denial recorded in Mathew 16:24 where He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
The deception will take many shapes and forms. Some of it will be designed to mislead the world in general. But some of it will be targeted on Christians. In fact, the warnings I have just quoted are all directed at followers of Christ. Be careful that you are not so focused on Satan’s deception of the world that you fail to see the more subtle deception he is working toward you. The lies that mislead the ungodly world are obvious to those who know Scripture. But Satan has much more subtle tactics for the followers of Christ. Don’t get so focused on the world’s news that you miss Satan’s crafty strategies against your own walk with God. Have you ever seen a con artist work the three-nutshell trick at the carnival? You pick the nutshell that has the bean under it. The way the deceiver wins is to get his victim watching one hand while he works the scam with the other hand. Satan knows that trick well. The primary knowledge we need is in the Bible, not CNN.
So, a general theme in this series is that we would be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). This message is designed to equip us in that wisdom from the word of God.
1 Corinthians 14:29 says, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.”iii The NIV says, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” Paul wrote this instruction during an extensive teaching about the vocal gifts of the Spirit.iv He is regulating the exercise of prophecy by insisting that it not be allowed to run wild. After a couple of prophecies, the congregation must take time to weigh the significance of what is being said.v The prophecies must be judged. The purpose of our message today is to instruct from Scripture on how we do that.
I want to share with you nine principles from the Bible on how to test prophecy. I was taught this almost 50 years ago by a teacher named Derek Prince.vi It has served me well for five decades, and I believe it will be a protection for you in the days ahead: Nine Principles for Testing Prophecy—not just in a church service, but wherever you are hearing these messages. We have already mentioned that there is a lot of prophecy being proclaimed on the Internet. We have also discussed some of the challenges associated with that.
(1) According to 1 Corinthians 14:3 the PURPOSE OF PROPHECY is to strengthen, encourage, and comfort.
Any word that does not does not achieve those objectives is to be rejected. The message must always be redemptive! There may be in it an admonition against sin, but the final purpose must be for the wellbeing of the hearers. God told Jeremiah that his ministry would include rooting out and pulling down those things that are contrary to the ultimate wellbeing of people.vii But the end purpose would be for the strengthening of the hearers in their relationship with God.