Introduction: There is a very curious thing these days in
Christianity. If a church claims a modern-day prophet, then
all other modern prophets are false prophets. If a church
does not have a modern-day prophet, then all modern prophets
are false prophets. Why is “false” the default setting for
modern prophets when Joel 2:28-29 and Romans 12:6 seem to
say the gift will be widespread? Let’s dive into our study
and see if common notions about evaluating prophets are
- Test One – the True God?
- Read Deuteronomy 13:1-3. Let’s say the prophet
tells us that in 90 days a meteor will destroy Las
Vegas, and that happens just as predicted. Is this
a true prophet? (According to this text, we don’t
have enough information to decide.)
- What additional information would be required?
(You would have to know whether that prophet
led people to the true God.)
- What prophetic “test” arises out of
Deuteronomy 13? (Being accurate in your
predictions proves nothing. The true test is
where you are leading people to the true God.)
- Read 1 John 4:1-3. Would John agree with the
Deuteronomy 13 test? (Yes! If a prophet
acknowledges that Jesus is from God they are a true
- Test Two – One-Way Accuracy?
- Read Jeremiah 27:16-22. What problem is facing the
people of God? (They have prophets telling them two
very different things. Jeremiah tells them that
Babylon is going to steal more of the temple
furnishings. Other prophets say what has already
been stolen will soon be brought back.)
- Would “Test One” help sort out this conflict?
(No. All the prophets say they are relying on
the true God.)
- In Jeremiah 28:1-4 we find a specific illustration
of this conflict. A prophet named Hananiah
contradicts Jeremiah on this point. Read
Jeremiah’s reaction in Jeremiah 28:5-6. What is
Jeremiah’s reaction to this prophecy which he
considers to be false? (He says “I hope you are
- Is there a lesson in this for us today?
- Which message do you think the people would
want to believe: that of Hananiah or that of
Jeremiah? (Hananiah. He is saying positive
things about the future. He is giving the
“pro-country,” “pro-God” message.)
- Read Jeremiah 28:7-9. We just learned that being
accurate proves nothing. Is Jeremiah saying
- Isn’t Jeremiah’s test a little self-serving?
He says to Hananiah “You are a true prophet
only if your prophecy comes true, but I’m a
true prophet whether or not what I say comes
- Is there an issue about whether a prophet is
saying things the people want to hear?
(Assuming you are claiming the true God for
your source, Jeremiah says being accurate only
proves something if you are saying what the
people want to hear.)
- Is there any logical reason why two different
tests should apply depending on the message?
Why would we have a different test depending
on whether the prophet is saying something
that is popular? (The natural heart would say
the popular thing. That is why being accurate
is important then.)
- Read Jeremiah 18:5-10. What problem arises with
using accuracy as a test of a true prophet? (The
people can change. If they repent they can avoid a
bad prediction, if they sin they can lose a good
- If you are not confused by now, you should be.
Can you ever use accuracy as a test of a true
prophet? (Considering all that Jeremiah says,
it seems that accuracy (whether the prediction
comes true) only works as a tie-breaker.
Instead of applying a one-sided test, Jeremiah
is saying to Hananiah “We both acknowledge the
true God. In a conflict between two
apparently true prophets, you decide who is
speaking for God by the accuracy of the
- How much help is that? You cannot tell who
is a true prophet until whatever they have
been disputing happens. (It doesn’t help
on that problem, but it would tell you who
to depend on in the future.)
- Let’s look at one last text on prophetic accuracy.
Read Deuteronomy 18:21-22. Would this prophet be
leading people to the true God? (It seems so – for
the prophecy is in the name of the true God.)
- Doesn’t this reinstate accuracy as a proper
test of a prophet?
- If so, of what is accuracy a test here?
(It seems we are looking at an otherwise
true prophet who gets carried away and
says things in the name of the Lord that
reflects the prophet’s own thinking.)
- What do we do with a presumptuous prophet?
(Read Deuteronomy 18:20 and compare it with
Deuteronomy 18:22. Why would we be told not to
fear someone who is dead? What I think is
being said is that prophets who speak for
other gods are to be put to death, but a
prophet of the true God who speaks
presumptiously (inaccurately) should not be
- Test Three – Divine Intervention
- Read Jeremiah 28:15-17. What bright-line test do
we find here? (This is a nice and clear test: God
removes the false prophet.)
- Test Four – Past Revelation
- Read Isaiah 8:19. If you want to get accurate
answers, where should you look? (Ask God.)
- How can we tell whether God is speaking to us
through the Holy Spirit or through a prophet? (Read
Isaiah 8:20. You check the accuracy of the current
message by past revelations you believe are from
- What are the “law” and the “testimony?” (I
believe the law is the gold-standard Ten
Commandments (written personally by God). If
you read through Isaiah 8, testimony refers to
testimony about God. Thus, this is the
familiar test of whether the prophet is
leading people to the true God.)
- Read Lamentations 2:14. How is “exposing our sin”
consistent with the law? Are prophets supposed to
embarrass us? (The problem with the natural heart
is that we have an amazing ability to deceive
ourselves that what we are doing is consistent with
God’s will. Part of the work of the true prophet
is to strip away this self-deception. Only when we
see our sins clearly will we repent.)
- Test Five – The Tree/Fruit Test
- Read Matthew 7:15-19. What “fruit” is produced by a
prophet? (This must mean the results of the
prophet’s work. The result of their lives, the
result of their words, the result of their
- One Standard?
- As you consider these tests, are some more
important than others?
- Are some easier to apply than others?
- Is there a uniform standard or overarching
test that arises?
- If not, is there an order in which these
tests should be applied?
- Let me suggest the following multi-part test:
- The most obvious and easy test is whether they
promote the true God – Jesus. If they do not,
they are not a true prophet.
- If they support God, then you must take a much
closer look to make a judgment. The closer
look is whether they speak in accord with
existing revelations from God and whether the
results of the prophet’s work is Godly people.
- The last, and least reliable test, is whether
the prophet predicted something that did not
occur. It is difficult to know whether the
prophecy failed because God changed His mind
(because the people changed), or whether the
prophet was false or just presumptuous. I
would not reject a failed prophecy prophet out
of hand if the prophet met the first two parts
of this test. Instead, I would carefully test
each subsequent statement.
- Friend, the default setting for modern-day prophets
should not be “false.” Instead, when we find a
“prophet” who is promoting the gospel of Jesus, we
need to seriously consider whether that person is
bringing us further light from God.
- Next week: The Work of the Prophets.