“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.”
onsiderable confusion concerning the issue of prophecy reigns among professed followers of the Master. Among some communions, people self-identifying as “prophets” are honoured, adulated, and exalted in the eyes of adherents. Almost inevitably when people speak of prophecy, they are thinking in terms of foretelling future events. This is especially true in those communions that boast of prophets among their number. The reason for this idealisation of prophecy results from a dearth of teaching from the pulpit concerning biblical themes. Thus, untaught people readily confuse prophets with seers. There is a difference, and the difference is significant.
It is popular among some groups for people to claim to prophesy. When we speak of prophesying, almost inevitably we are speaking of telling future events. In fairness, most of the prophesies are rather puerile, rather plebeian, rather pedestrian. This is not a new phenomenon; since earliest days, there are people who think they can predict the future. False prophets were a problem even as Moses led the people out of Egypt and toward the land God had promised to give them. Moses was compelled to deal with the problem of prophesies. That is to our benefit, because God, through Moses, has provided us with a fair test for those who think they can prophesy. Let’s study the matter together.
FALSE PROPHETS SOMETIMES GIVE SIGNS AND PERFORM MIRACULOUS DEEDS — Unquestionably, false prophets can sometimes appear to be connected to the Holy One. They can perform signs and wonders. Moses admits this when he writes, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass…” [DEUTERONOMY 13:1-2]. However, such supposed evidences of intimacy with the Holy One are superficial.
Consider one stunning example from the days when God delivered His people from slavery. When Moses first approached Pharaoh, demanding that he release the Israelites, Pharaoh refused to listen to him. God directed Moses to have Aaron throw his staff on the ground, and it became a serpent. Pharaoh’s magicians each cast down their staff and they became serpents. They appeared to match what Aaron had done until the serpent that had been Aaron’s staff swallowed up the serpents that had been their staffs [see EXODUS 7:8-13].
Likewise, when Moses directed Aaron to strike the water of the Nile, turning it into blood, the magicians of Egypt performed a similar miracle [see EXODUS 7:19-24]. Again, at God’s direction, Moses commanded Aaron to call up frogs to fill the land. However, the magicians of Egypt were able to perform a similar miracle, calling up frogs [see EXODUS 8:1-7]. It was not until God sent the plague of gnats that the magicians were compelled to confess, “This is the finger of God” [EXODUS 8:19b].
This account points out an essential truth that is important to recognise. First, Satan is an imitator; he is incapable of originality. This should not be surprising since he is a created being. God is the Creator; originality is a facet of God that Satan cannot duplicate.
Again, Satan’s power is limited by God’s permission. An example of God limiting the power of the evil one is witnessed in the trials Job suffered. You will recall that Satan sought to dishonour the Living God by inducing Job to curse God. Satan had to ask permission even to test Job as he did. This is the initial account. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD” [JOB 1:6-12].
Satan could do nothing against this godly man without God’s permission. God limited what could be done against His servant. Make no mistake, the trials Job would face would be severe. Undoubtedly, were we able to ask him, the tortured saint would say that he had experienced all that Satan had to throw at him. You, when you are passing through trials may imagine that things could not get worse! Know that God restrains the evil one so that he is unable to go beyond what the Lord permits. Satan cannot do anything without God’s permission, and the Lord is watching over His own.
Listen again to the Word of the Lord. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” [1 CORINTHIANS 10:13].
Satan was not finished with attempting to disgrace the LORD God. We read, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.’ Then Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life’” [JOB 2:1-6].
Satan’s power is limited by the will of God. In a practical sense, this means that the child of God is immortal until God has determined that his work is complete. I am confident in God that I shall serve Him so long as He is pleased to allow me to do so. And when the work I have been assigned is completed, the Lord will then call me home. My life is not an accident and my death shall not be an accident. The Lord whom I serve has given me purpose and when the work He assigns is complete, my death will be the means by which I shall be ushered into His presence. Each child of God can have this confidence in the providence of the Living God.
Christians scattered by the persecution that arose after Stephen was martyred travelled outward from Jerusalem. One such believer was Philip, of whom we read, “Those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed, or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.
“But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed” [ACTS 8:4-13].
Though Simon amazed the people with his magic, his conversion was deficient. He brought a curse upon himself. “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity” [ACTS 8:20-23].
When Paul and Barnabas set out on the first missionary journey, they moved quite deliberately in a westward journey. We read of their travel in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. In Paphos, on the Island of Cyprus, they encountered a magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. This man had obviously beguiled the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, until confronted by Paul who denounced him, saying, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Then, we read, “Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand” [ACTS 13:9-11].
Looking forward to those dark days of the Tribulation period, Paul has written, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” [2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-12].
When the antichrist is revealed, it will be with “signs and wonders,” miraculous demonstrations of power. These dramatic demonstrations done by this man are identified as “false signs and wonders,” and as “wicked deception.” This is meant to deceive those who are destined to perish. This tells us that signs and wonders may be meant to deceive! From earliest days of the Faith, false prophesies accompanied by marvellous signs and wonders have been witnessed; and such phenomena shall continue to the end of days.
Peter acknowledges that this was the case in the past and cautions that such shall be true in days that lie ahead for the saints when he writes, “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” [2 PETER 2:1].
That this is already the situation we face in this present day is apparent from John’s warning that cautions, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” [1 JOHN 4:1-3].
LOOK FOR THE MESSAGE — John’s warning provides the appropriate lead-in required in order to move smoothly to the next point. And this is the vital point that must become standard practise for each one who follows the Master—look for the message. The Apostle of Love instructs any who has the desire to honour the Lord and who would not wish to be deceived, to look at the message presented. If the spirit speaking through the supposed prophet fails to point us to Christ as Master over life, that speaker is a phony and the message the speaker brings is errant. The spirit of that false prophet is identified as “the spirit of the antichrist.” False prophets are energised by Satan himself!
To be certain, the Spirit of the LORD can deceive the individual who is herself or himself attempting to deceive. Anyone imagining that they are able to manipulate the Living God for their own ends deceives himself, and he only make things worse for himself. We’ve already seen how earth dwellers will be deluded by God after the Rapture has occurred. They will accept a lie to account for the disappearance of the redeemed of God, perhaps even a lie to account for graves and tombs that are mysteriously emptied.
Consider one instance when the LORD deceived a king and even the false prophets the king had gathered in an effort to bolster his opinion. The account of the incident is recorded in the FIRST BOOK OF KINGS. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, had been invited to form an alliance with the king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was tentative about any alliance with Ahab, and especially since the King of Samaria proposed war against Syria.
Despite the united testimony of four hundred prophets, all purporting to speak on behalf of the LORD God, and all the prophets united in predicting success in the war with Syria, the King of Judah was uneasy. He asked Ahab, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire” [1 KINGS 22:7]. There was something amiss; somehow these prophets didn’t “feel right.”
Ahab, King of Israel, allowed, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil” [1 KINGS 22:8].
The writer continues by noting that Micaiah was summoned; and when he appeared, he appeared to agree with the false prophets. The four hundred had followed the lead of a man named Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, who prophesied, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed’” [1 KINGS 22:11]. This Zedekiah was not alone in promoting this view of what would happen. We are informed that “All the prophets prophesied so and said, ‘Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king’” [1 KINGS 22:12]. Thus, when Micaiah stood before the kings, he intoned, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king” [1 KINGS 22:15b].
There was something about the way the prophet spoke that disquieted these kings. Perhaps it was that the man of God actually agreed with the king’s inclination to go to war rather than pushing back against him. Perhaps Micaiah’s tone was sarcastic. Perhaps it was the terseness with which God’s prophet spoke. Perhaps it was the simple arithmetic of the situation—four hundred to one—that disturbed the king. Something in Micaiah’s response gave the king of Israel pause. Therefore, Ahab blustered, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD” [1 KINGS 22:16]?
This stern rebuke from the king at last elicited the prophetic Word of the LORD. “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace’” [1 KINGS 22:17].
Ahab was clearly frustrated, but what Micaiah said next truly put the icing on the cake. Micaiah boldly said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you” [1 KINGS 22:19-23].
It is unimportant how eloquent an individual may appear. It is not significance how much education an individual may claim or even where they may have studied while preparing for service before the Lord Christ. The letters following an individual’s name are meaningless if they are ignorant of eternal matters, they can only mislead and destroy in that instance. Listen to hear what they say concerning Christ the Lord!
Remember the warning that John delivered to us who walk with the Master. “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” [2 JOHN 7-11].
I cannot emphasise enough that all who follow the Master are responsible to listen for His voice. The dragon can speak in dulcimer tones that fall lightly on the ear. The unwary are easily deceived by the tone of what they may hear. This is the reason it is critical to examine the message. It was this willingness to examine what was said that commended the Bereans. Recall what is written in Luke’s history of the advance of the Kingdom of God as Paul and Silas ministered in Berea. “The brothers [in Thessalonica] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” [ACTS 17:10-12].
The Jews in Berea heard the message that was preached, but though the message was appealing, they were unwilling to accept what was preached uncritically—they scoured the Scriptures, studying carefully what was written to determine the veracity of what was written. This is the characteristic that must be cultivated in the heart of the child of God, a determination to verify what is preached through appeal to what God has delivered in His Word! Christians must study to become theologians, reading the Word and depending on the Spirit of God to reveal the mind of the Lord. Listen to the message that is preached and see if that message agrees with what is written. If it does not agree with God’s written Word, it is the voice of the dragon speaking.
This lack of critical appraisal of what is preached has allowed the rise of false teachers that are so popular. They tell us that the Bible teaches things that were never in the mind of the Lord. They lead people astray, deceiving them. They thrive in this day because of a dearth of critical study of the Word of God.
The rise of false teachers is not something that has occurred only in recent decades; this insinuation of error was apparent soon after the resurrection. Peter warned, “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words” [2 PETER 2:1-3a].
How scathing is the condemnation of such people as Jude begins to expose them. “In like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” [JUDE 8-13].
I am reminded of a story of a modernistic preacher who attempted to explain away the teaching of the Word. This infidel was preaching from the Book of Jonah on this particular Sunday; and he was explaining, as those who do not wish to believe what is written are prone to do, that Jonah was never swallowed by a great fish. He explained that the Hebrew did not say Jonah was swallowed, despite the Bible’s declaration that, “The LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” [JONAH 1:17]. He pompously stated that the Hebrew meant that Jonah was “around, nearby, close to” the fish, but he was not “in” the fish.
After the sermon was finished and the preacher was greeting people at the door, one listener approached the preacher and said, “Thank you for your sermon. It comforted me greatly. I once worried that sinners would be cast into hell, but now I understand that they will only be ‘around, nearby, close to’ the lake of fire.”
Dear people, a little lie leads to great condemnation. There is no such thing as an insignificant lie when it comes to the declaration of the Word of God. When we are speaking of the message of life, there must be no error permitted to be delivered.
It is not enough to destroy the arguments of the false teachers; we must replace the error they bring with truth. As Lynda and I watched a movie concerning a difficult court case in Great Britain, this truth was prominently displayed. A young man from a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, had been diagnosed with leukemia and would require a blood transfusion. The family objected, though the hospital was fighting to save the boy. The law is quite clear in this instance, and the judge ruled that the hospital had the right to do all that was necessary to save the boy’s life, even over the objections of his parents.
The judge did a most unusual thing during the hearing—she went to the boy’s hospital room to consult with the young man. In the course of her discussion, the young man acknowledged that he did want to live, to explore life.
After the case was settled and the young man received the transfusions and the medications that would combat the disease, he was restored to his family. However, his faith in the religion in which he had been raised was destroyed. He did live, but he no longer believed as he had been raised to believe; he no longer shared the religion of his parents. Consequently, he was shunned by the Kingdom Hall because his blood was “contaminated” because he had received blood.
The storyline continued with an account of the leukemia returning. This time, as an adult, the man refused treatment, choosing to allow the disease take its course, killing him. His rationale was that the judge had destroyed his faith in the religion in which he had been raised, but she had nothing with which to replace it. As a member of the Jehovah’s Witness cult, he felt he had something to which he could cling midst the storms of life. When that was destroyed, there was nothing for him to cling to. In effect, the judge, enmeshed in a secular humanistic overview of life, had no stable foundation on which to stand midst those storms that sweep across our lives.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult, but though their religion is errant, those who hold to this cult at least have the possibility of providing a platform on which they may found their lives. I am not suggesting that this vile cult is correct—there is little about it that even approximates truth, I am simply saying that we have been created by the Living God to find fulfilment only when we have a religious basis for our lives. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, has accurately written, “Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.” 
There is a neglected truth in the storyline of the movie Lynda and I watched—society is hostile to religion. Modern society does seek to destroy religion, to compel those living within society to embrace the contemporary religion of secular humanism. There may be exceptions—modern social justice warriors do appear as if they are prepared to give a pass to the Religion of Peace, but the supposed truce is truly temporary. When secular humanism is fully in control, when at last the Faith of Christ the Lord appears to have been so weakened that it can no longer threaten secularists, society must snuff out all religion save for the religion it represents.
I confess that I endeavour to destroy false teaching. I make every effort to tear down error—whether the error is secular humanism, or whether the error is one of the major cults, such as Hinduism, or Islam, or Buddhism, or whether the error is one of the “Christian cults,” such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses or liberalism among professed followers of the Master. However, I know that should I fail to replace the error that I seek to destroy with truth, I have done those enmeshed in that error no favours.
Man is not an empty box waiting to be filled; without religious mooring, people are prone to self-destruct. Without religious mooring, people inevitably fall into despair. Thus, I am obligated to present the superior truth of freedom in Christ the Lord; I am responsible to declare the ultimate truth of life through Jesus as the Son of God. I am charged to plead with those coming out of error to turn to Christ as Lord, to receive the grace of God in Christ Jesus; and you also are charged to point all people to Christ Jesus.
This is the message Paul delivers in the Second Letter to the saints in Corinth. There, he writes, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” [2 CORINTHIANS 10:4-5].
We who follow the Lamb of God are always endeavouring to destroy strongholds, but they are mental strongholds. Without apology, we do destroy false arguments! We do labour to destroy lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God! However, we do these things with a specific goal in view; we do these things in order to permit us to take every thought captive to obey Christ. We deal with our own lives first. Never forget that as followers of Christ, our purpose is to point people to the light of life that is revealed in Christ as Master over life.
The wicked know that our purpose is to assault the precincts of the mind. Why else would there be laws created to halt conversion therapy? We come against wickedness, against arguments that are illogical and unreasonable, against opinions that seek to supplant the Living God from life. The god of this world, the wicked one is terrified at the thought that Christ Followers would refuse to submit to his reign over their lives. That the servants of the Lord of Glory would live as free people, calling those enmeshed in the snare of the evil one to freedom and shining the light of the Living Saviour into the darkness that has so long blinded the eyes of the lost, is abhorrent to the devil and to his minions.
APPLYING THE TEST — Let’s get practical in these closing moments of our study today. Let’s think through the issue before us in order to prepare ourselves for those who would, whether deliberately or ignorantly, lead Christians astray. Together, let’s formulate a test that will permit us to assess those who imagine they are able to foretell what the future holds. The test that Moses presents is incredibly simply, though we attempt to make it complex. God calls us to know His Word, and knowing what He has said in that Word, to hold those who claim to speak in His Name to the standard that He has revealed in the written Word. In short, apply the test written in the Prophecy of God’s court prophet, Isaiah. “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” [ISAIAH 8:20]. Underscore the test in your mind—hold every teaching to the standard of the written Word. If what is taught does not agree with the Word of God, it is errant and must be rejected.
Even when an individual has batted a thousand by telling a dream, or even by performing a sign or a wonder, our standard is fixed—how does the message delivered align with the Word of God? We are not overawed by what we see or even by what we hear—our standard is the Word of God. Therefore, we are to ask some revealing questions. What message does the supposed prophet bring? Does the message exalt the Son of God? Or does the message exalt the messenger?
Peddlers of what is commonly known as “the prosperity gospel” are notorious for turning the Gospel of Christ the Lord into a commodity with which to enrich themselves. One such hawker of religious snake oil is a man named Benny Hinn. Recently, Mr. Hinn has been sending mixed signals to those who follow him. After years of enriching himself through soliciting what he called “seed money” from those who followed him, he apparently renounced the prosperity gospel he has preached for so many years.
For many years Benny Hinn has lived a life that his nephew, Costi Hinn, describes as a “greedy, lavish lifestyle.” Now, the prosperity marketeer appears to be taking tentative steps that could lead to renouncing the polluted doctrine that he has championed so long. In an interview with long-time friend Steven Strang, the founder of Charisma Magazine, Hinn claimed that his renunciation of what he had preached for so many years has nothing to do with increasing criticism from others (including his nephew Costi Hinn), but rather he is becoming concerned about his legacy. Reading God’s Word has begun to create doubts in Mr. Hinn’s mind. 
Hinn now admits that his past teachings were “grieving the Holy Spirit.” Recently, on Facebook Live, he declared, “The gospel is not for sale.”  However, despite renouncing what he has taught, financial requests are still airing on Benny Hinn’s shows. Though he is apparently uncomfortable with what he has taught in the past, the fruits of repentance are not yet evident in the manner in which he is conducting his life. Though he feels sorry because he is getting bad publicity, there is no indication that he is decisively turning away from the lifestyle to which he has grown accustomed through years of fleecing a gullible public.
I certainly wouldn’t discourage someone like Mr. Hinn from putting an end to the errant teaching he has promoted for so many years, but I would be remiss if I didn’t urge such a one to repent. When religious people were coming to John hoping that identifying with his message would enhance their standing with the world, John excoriated them and called them to do what was right. John’s stern language was identified in the Word as “preach[ing] good news to the people” [see LUKE 3:18]. A false message can only offer false hope, and false hope is no hope at all.
We have already seen that Peter warned followers of Christ to be wary of individuals whom he identified as false teachers. Concerning these individuals, he cautioned, “They will exploit you in their greed with made-up stories” [2 PETER 2:3a CSB]. Peter warned that there would come people who lived only to extract wealth from gullible people who thought they were honouring God through enriching these false teachers. Throughout my lifetime, there has been a succession of such individuals who gain popularity, but never deliver the message of life in Christ the Lord. What they do present is a twisted gospel of personal prosperity in this life. Let me say quite clearly and without hesitation—Christ Jesus did not come to make us wealthy; Christ the Lord came to give His life as a sacrifice to redeem fallen people. Jesus gives us new life, eternal life, and the knowledge of the forgiveness of sin.
For all who follow the Master, the message points us to hold all who teach to the perfect standard of the Word. That admonition applies even to this pulpit. The consequences of error are too great to tolerate even what you imagine to be just a little bit of sin. Of course, there is no such thing as “a little bit of sin.” Sin was the cause of the death of the Master. It was because of our sin that it was necessary for the Son of God to present His life as a sacrifice in our place.
Recall what is written in the Letter to Roman saints. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” [ROMANS 5:6].
And again, the Scripture declare, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [ROMANS 5:8].
It is on this basis of the sacrifice of Christ the Saviour that the message of the Gospel to any willing to receive it is, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” [ROMANS 10:9-10].
What the Apostle has written in this passage leads him to cite the ancient prophet, Joel. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” [ROMANS 10:13].
The message we declare calls each one who hears this Gospel to believe the One who gave His life because of their sin. You, because you stand as a sinner before the Living God, are helpless. Yet, He extends grace and mercy, promising the forgiveness of sin and calling you to life as you receive Jesus, God’s own Son, as Master over your life. Amen.
 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. E. B. Pusey (Logos Research Systems, Inc., Oak Harbor, WA 1996)
 See Stephanie Martin, “Benny Hinn Doesn’t Want to Be Rebuked When He Gets to Heaven,” ChurchLeaders.com, September 9, 2019, https://churchleaders.com/news/358635-benny-hinn-doesnt-want-to-be-rebuked-when-he-gets-to-heaven.html, accessed 10 September 2019
 Stephanie Martin, “Has Benny Hinn Repented of the Prosperity Gospel,” ChurchLeaders.com, September 5, 2019, https://churchleaders.com/news/358465-has-benny-hinn-repented-of-the-prosperity-gospel.html, accessed 10 September 2019