The fruitful man in Psalm 1 meditates upon God's Word "day and night," and not from a sense of duty but because it is his "delight." In his heart and on his mind continually, God's Word guards and guides him. How essential this is! Common sense and logic are helpful. However, without God's Word (which transcends human wisdom) to guard and guide us, we are susceptible to temptation and error, especially when the latter is presented convincingly "in the name of God" by those looked up to as Christian leaders.
God works through His Word: "[M]y word...shall not return unto me void..." (Isa:55:11); "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps:119:11). Satan works to snatch God's Word from the heart: "[T]hen cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart" (Mat:13:19). If it suits him, Satan quotes the Bible (Mat:4:6) and attempts to pervert it in order to deceive. He also inspires false prophets with "new revelations" which subvert the Word. We have many such "prophets" in the church today.
God's Word repeatedly warns about false prophets. We need to heed those warnings. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets" (Mat:7:15); "[M]any false prophets shall rise...and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Mat:24:11, 24). Christ clearly warns of a last-days false signs-and-wonders movement promoted by false prophets. Paul likens the latter to Jannes and Jambres, who opposed Moses and Aaron (2 Tim:3:8) with signs and wonders done by the power of Satan.
Peter warned that just as there were false prophets in Old Testament times, "there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies..." (2 Pt 2:1). The Apostle John declared that already in his day "many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 Jn:4:1). How much more must we beware of false prophets as the prophesied last-days apostasy reaches its climax in preparing the world and a false church for the Antichrist. Knowing, loving and obeying God's Word is the only sure way not to be led astray.
Any one of the Bible's six marks of false prophets is sufficient identification: 1) through signs and wonders they lead astray after false gods (Deut 13:1-4); 2) their prophecies don't come to pass (Deut 18:20-22); 3) they contradict God's Word (Isa:8:20); 4) they bear bad fruit (Mat:7:18-20); 5) all men speak well of them (Lk 6:26); 6) they deny that Jesus, the one and only Christ, has come once and for all in the flesh (1 Jn:4:3).
How tragic that God's personal letter of love and guidance to His own is so neglected today by those who call themselves Christians! Many who profess to know God and to serve Him have little or no thirst for His Word. Instead, they seek signs and wonders, emotional experiences, new revelations, the latest "move," or the gifts rather than the Giver. As a result, they are susceptible to "every wind of doctrine" (Eph:4:14) and fall prey to false teachers who "through covetousness...with feigned words make merchandise" (2 Pt 2:3) of them, "supposing that gain is godliness" (1 Tim:6:5). The popular lie of "seed faith"—that a gift to a ministry opens the door to miracles and prosperity—deceives and promotes covetousness among millions ignorant of God's Word.
The fulfillment of biblical prophecies is the great proof of God's existence, that the Bible is His Word and that Jesus Christ is the promised Savior. The false prophecies of many of today's Christian leaders are a loud warning. Heed it! Most cults are founded upon false prophecies. When proven false, it offers an effective way to open blind eyes and rescue cultists.
Among the false prophets throughout history were a number of the popes. As one example, Pope Gregory XI's papal bull of 1372 (In Coena Domini) pronounced papal dominion over the entire Christian world, secular and religious, and excommunicated all who failed to obey the popes and to pay them taxes. In Coena was confirmed by subsequent popes, and in 1568 Pope Pius V swore that it was to remain an eternal law. Instead, in 1870, two months after the Vatican pronounced papal infallibility, Rome was liberated from papal dominion by Italy's army and Pope Pius IX took refuge in the Vatican, all that remained of what had been a vast empire.
Mimicking the popes, Sun Myung Moon prophesied decades ago that he would take over the world. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, declared that 1975 was the first year in "The Age of Enlightenment," 1977 was "The Year of the Ideal Society," and 1978 "The Year of Invincibility of Every Nation." No comment is necessary. Herbert W. Armstrong predicted that his Worldwide Church of God would be raptured to the ancient city of Petra in 1972 and that Christ would return to the earth in 1975 (a favorite date of many cults). In the 1970s Elijah Muhammad prophesied to his Black Muslim followers that God's return to North America was imminent.
Mormonism boasts of its prophets—but they have all been false. In 1833, founding prophet Joseph Smith prophesied that the United States would suffer unparalleled multiple disasters ("pestilence, hail, famine and earthquake") which would sweep the wicked (non-Mormons) off the land, leaving Mormons safe in their Zion haven in Missouri. Instead, they fled to Utah. Among Smith's many other false prophecies was the declaration in 1835 that Christ would return within 56 years and many living then would "not taste of death till Christ comes."1 Smith's successor, Brigham Young, prophesied that the Civil War would not free the slaves.
Charles T. Russell's false prophecies formed the basis for what became The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the Jehovah's Witnesses. Russell declared that the Second Coming had taken place invisibly in October 1874, and the Lord was truly present, and that in 1914 the faithful (the 144,000) would be translated to heaven and the wicked destroyed. Armageddon (which began in 1874) would culminate in 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth's rulers and the end of the world. C. T. Russell, still on earth, died in 1916.
In the early 1920s, JWs zealously distributed on the streets and from door to door a book titled Millions Now Living Will Never Die. It was prophesied, "The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914...we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old...to the condition of human perfection."2 The JWs even built a house in San Diego where the patriarchs were to live and tried to deed it to King David. (The house was quietly sold in 1954.)
In the early 1940s, JWs were declaring that Armageddon, only months away, would end World War II and the defeat of the Nazis would usher in God's rule on earth.3 Their book, Children, suggested that plans to marry and have children be postponed until after Armageddon. It's been a long wait! Not giving up, they later prophesied that God's millennial kingdom would commence in 1975. Again JWs were told not to engage in any plans for this world, including marriage and having children. Many quit their jobs, sold their homes and dedicated themselves to going door to door.
Seventh-Day Adventism (SDA) originated with similar false prophesies about Christ's coming. (We offer an excellent book.) It began with William Miller's prediction that Christ would return in 1843 (revised to October 22, 1844). Miller admitted his error. However, SDA prophetess Ellen G. White (EGW), who had repeatedly endorsed Miller's prophecy, insisted that Christ had indeed come, but not to earth. Instead, He had entered "the holy of holies" in heaven "to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits."4Entitled? Many quotes could be given to prove that EGW taught salvation by works. Here are a few:
Our acts, our words, even our most secret motives, all have their weight in deciding our destiny...though ...forgotten by us, they [our works] will bear their testimony to justify or condemn. 5
When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life....6
Each one of you needs to...[be] working with your might to redeem the failures of your past life. God has placed you in a world of suffering to prove you, to see if you will be found worthy of the gift of eternal life.7
This teaching of the "investigative judgment" is the foundational doctrine and major heresy of Seventh-day Adventism: that the atonement was not complete on the Cross but was begun in heaven in 1844 and depends upon our works. According to EGW, the blood of Christ, instead of making "an atonement for the soul" (Lev:17:11) and "cleans[ing] us from all sin" (1 Jn:1:7), brought sin into heaven: "[O]ur sins are, in fact, transferred to the heavenly sanctuary by the blood of Christ."8 Thus Christ had to begin the work of cleansing the heavenly sanctuary (of sins His blood had brought there!) through the "investigative judgment." EGW declared that "Ministers who would not accept this saving message" were hindering God's work and "The blood of souls is upon them."9 Millerites who adopted this delusion became Seventh-day Adventists.
EGW made numerous false prophecies: that "Old Jerusalem never would be built up,"10 that she would be alive at the Rapture,11 that Christ would return before slavery was abolished,12 that Adventists living in 1856 would be alive at the Rapture,13 and many more. Yet her writings are revered like Scripture. Number 17 of the "Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists" states,
The Gift of Prophecy: One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.
False prophets continue among us and are often seen and heard on Christian television and radio. For example, toward the end of 1975, Kenneth Copeland prophesied, "As you move into the month of January , you shall see more of the outpouring of God's glory than...in the history of this world...limbs that have been amputated put back on by the power of God...instantly...[bald] men's hair grow to a full head of hair...eyeballs replaced where there were no eyeballs....God will cause your automobile...[that gets] 10 miles to the gallon to get 70 miles...the same old car!" These are but a few of Copeland's false prophecies, to say nothing of his false doctrines.
The false prophecies and "words of knowledge" by those associated with John Wimber and his Vineyard churches would fill several volumes. The laughing revival from Toronto and its latest variation (spreading like wildfire) in the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, has spawned a new generation of false prophets. Failure of fulfillment is excused because today's prophets are "different" and errors are normal during the process of learning to become more proficient. Imagine Jeremiah saying, "I'm often wrong, but I'm improving"!
Benny Hinn is the most popular televangelist/healer today, and many of his false prophecies are documented in The Confusing World of Benny Hinn . On December 31, 1989, Benny said, "The Lord also tells me...about '94 or '95, no later than that, God will destroy the homosexual community of America...by fire....Canada will be visited with a mighty revival that will start on the west coast of British Columbia...in the next three years." It only takes one false prophecy to make a false prophet, and Hinn's are legion. He can't even get his testimony straight. In PTL Family Devotional he says, "I got saved in Israel in 1968," but in a 1983 message in St. Louis he said, "It was in Canada that I was born again right after '68." Yet in Good Morning, Holy Spirit, he says he was converted in 1972, during his senior year in high school. But he dropped out before his senior year. When was he saved?
For three years, night and day, Paul wept and warned the Ephesian elders of coming apostasy and that some of them would be among its leaders (Acts:20:29-31)! How feeble is our concern for the state of the church in comparison with Paul's! And what was the remedy he offered? Not spiritual warfare, not prayer and fasting, but obedience to God and His Word: "I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace" (v 32).
There is a growing movement of "prayer and fasting for revival." It sounds so good! But the leaders of this movement refuse to heed God's Word, and promote ecumenism and heresies! We need no revival of that! We need repentance for not heeding God's Word. We need reformation, not revival! There are times when prayer and fasting are wrong. After the defeat at Ai, God told Joshua that prayer was inappropriate because Israel had sinned (Jos:7:10-13). How tragic to have a revival led by false prophets promoting false doctrines!
Not all Seventh-day Adventists embrace EGW's heresies. Pray that SDA leaders will admit to EGW's false prophecies and repent of wrong doctrines. Pray that evangelical leaders will face up to the fact that their ranks are filled with false prophets. Pray for a great outcry against unbiblical doctrines. Pray that today's evangelical leaders will faithfully correct false prophets.
And may the rest of us be faithful in our small spheres of influence. May God help us to love His Word, to meditate upon it day and night, to obey it in our daily lives, and to stand firmly against the perversion of that Word by the false prophets and false teachers of our day. May His Word truly be our guard and guide! TBC