One One of the most amazing facts of religious life is that although masses of humanity are following spiritual leaders, few people seem to believe that False Prophets actually exist.
Today, billions of people worship God in one manner or another. Never have there been more religious people on the face of the earth, never more worshipers of God—and never more False Prophets and their followers.
Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all repeatedly warned such men would rise up—even among Christian churches—and lead many astray. They warned that not only would there be many False Prophets and teachers, there would be many followers of them as well. (1)
Many have been incorrectly taught that false teachers don't exist, that practically everyone is saved, that essentially any doctrine is acceptable if sincerely believed, and that basically any level of morality is satisfactory.
These doctrines are popular for obvious reasons. They are easy to understand, easy to like, and easy to follow.
But Jesus contrasted the "easy path—which He said leads to destruction—with the difficult "narrow path" that leads to eternal life. His was a message of warning and great caution. He cautioned His followers to be on the lookout for False Prophets, and warned them these prophets would appear as sheep, but would in fact be wolves. (2)
Tragically, few people ever bother to do their homework on their own preachers, a fact that misguided preachers, televangelists, and spiritualists have used to keep millions in their blinded state.
10 Common "False Prophet" Characteristics You Should Know About
Here are a few traits False Prophets commonly possess that you should be aware of.
Characteristic #1: They are Sincere
Some False Prophets aren't sincere, but many are. Don't expect a shifty-eyed person who looks like a prototypical serial murder or Nazi war criminal on trial for crimes against humanity. False Prophets have often convinced themselves that they have the truth—or at least that their behavior is fully acceptable to God. Because they are so sincere, they are extremely convincing, one of their most dangerous traits.
Characteristic #2: They are Intelligent
False Prophets typically are highly intelligent individuals, able to discern and make the most intellectual arguments. They use this talent to convince others to follow after them. And don't think their followers are fools either. Intelligent people attract intelligent followers. Intelligent individuals in our society often occupy positions of success and influence in the world, and their busy schedules give them little time to examine for themselves the legitimacy of what they are being told. This presents an ideal situation for the acceptance of the False Prophet's false teachings.
Characteristic #3: They are Popular
False Prophets are typically well-liked and gregarious. They are social butterflies. It's hard to get much of a following otherwise. They are characteristically wise to the ways of politics and social interaction. It is not uncommon for them to seek the praise that comes from men more than the praise that comes from God. As a result, they put great effort into their social relations. (3)
Characteristic #4: They are Charming, Attractive and/or Appealing
False Prophets are sometimes attractive or charming, but always appealing. They often possess traits that naturally draw people into their circles of influence: charisma, humor, joviality, positive attitudes, conversational personalities, and the like. Since most folks are attracted to materialism, possessions, and outer appearances, being charming, appealing, and even wealthy bodes well for a good following. And housing their flocks within the walls of incredibly expensive and attractive structures doesn't hurt their cause.
Characteristic #5: They are Knowledgeable
False Prophets obviously possess the knowledge required to convince their unsuspecting followers they know what they are talking about. False Prophets sometimes come armed with secular education, sometimes even seminary training. Surely, their unwary followers doubtlessly think, a person with such advanced religious training cannot be incorrect or misleading. Yet one need only to hark back to the Pharisees, who were by far the most religiously educated of Jesus' day—and also the most deceived. Indeed, it was the highly educated Pharisees themselves from whom was spawned the infamous quotation: "if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the
Characteristic #6: They are Reassuring
False Prophets don't want their flocks to leave, or to waste too much time investigating the truth. To keep them from this, False Prophets reassure their followers not to worry, and that everything is ok. The message often is: "Listen to me, rely on my sermons and my message, and you'll have everything you need." Their discourses frequently master in soothing messages and but often minor in content, truth, and spiritual challenges. They long ago realized that maintaining an appealing, undemanding, and reassuring message is paramount in sustaining their following. (5)
Characteristic #7: They are Confident
Few people desire to follow a person who is unsure of himself or lacks confidence, even if he appears to be knowledgeable and intelligent. Therefore False Prophets are frequently confident individuals, sometimes extremely confident, to the extent they believe nothing else could possibly be right other than what they personally believe and preach. This often produces an un-teachable attitude in the False Prophet which sometimes extrapolates to his followers. Because False Prophets often sincerely believe their doctrines and are followed by others who agree with them, this reinforces the prophets' self-confidence, and in turn can give rise to more confidence still. This larger dosage of
self-confidence in turn appeals to yet more people who are enticed to follow after them, and the vicious cycle continues to feed upon itself.
Characteristic #8: They are Highly Motivated
False Prophets have followings, sometimes large multitudes of adoring listeners that hang on their every utterance of guidance. The mere fact so many people adore them likely helps fuel their motivation. Several objects can motivate a False Prophet, including money, power, even sexual favors. Sometimes it's merely a desire to be popular, sometimes they are simply deceived thinking they are doing God's will, and this deception alone is their motivation.
Characteristic #9: They are Harmless in Appearance
False Prophets don't look dangerous. They don't act dangerous. They don't seem dangerous. They look harmless. But False Prophets are the most dangerous "species" on earth. Their words mislead millions into an abyss of eternal destruction. False Prophets—whether intentionally or unintentionally—probably believe their messages help others, even if they realize their messages are false. After all, if nothing else, the message of a False Prophet provides his followers momentary happiness and reassurance. They typically don't intend to harm others—but neither did the farmer's wife who fed her husband sausage, bacon, and eggs for 35 years until he keeled over with a heart-attack from
cholesterol-clogged arteries. Remember, Christ said False Prophets would appear not as wolves, but as sheep-disguised wolves.
Characteristic #10: They are False
Naturally, "False" means "Wrong." False Prophets are incorrect, they do not have the truth. But they are rarely totally wrong—such would not produce much of a following. Their teachings represent a deformed version of truth. Depending on the degree of the distortion—these deformities of truth often lead to treacherous, warped, and evil behavior magnified far beyond the norm. Jesus said "by their deeds you will recognize them." As their power increases, so often
does their level of corruption. Their behavior can range from deceit, lying, selfish ambition, and immorality (all in the "name of God")—to hatred, prejudice, racism, violence, killing, torture, wars, mass homicide, genocide, gross immorality, and terrorism (all in the "name of God"). Such warped behavior—which is often passed off as "the will of God"—has sadly been witnessed in modern times and has been repeated throughout history. Indeed, such behavior is the reason some have rejected all forms of religion and have turned to atheism. (6)
5 Things You Can Do to Keep From Being a False Prophet's Victim
False Prophets prey on all economic classes, races, and degrees of intellects. Don't make the mistake thinking that because you are smart, you are immune. Few are invulnerable to their sometimes colossal gravitational spiritual pull. However, there is absolutely no good reason anyone need fall victim to a False Prophet. Just a few simple precautions can ensure this won't happen to you—but you must follow each of them closely.
#1: Don't be a tradition-follower—Be a Bible-follower
The vast majority of people in the religious world practices and worships the way they do for one simple reason: tradition. This seemingly innocent concept will probably claim more spiritual victims on the Day of Judgment than any other.
Because people seldom question the faith they are raised in. Apparently they think their parents, grandparents, and other ancestors couldn't have possibly been wrong. Additionally, some feel that by following in the path of their ancestors they are somehow honoring their memory. Furthermore, if they chose to take a different spiritual path than their family has chosen, they may be subject to disassociation. This is a greater sacrifice than most are willing to bear.
Therefore, few ever take the time to honestly locate the truth—and then follow it—which Jesus said would "set us free."
Because the "tradition trap" is so powerful, False Prophets probably enjoy their easiest success at the expense of tradition-oriented Christians. The wide path that leads to destruction is perfectly suitable to them. Indeed, most False Prophets have fallen victim to the same influence, for it would have been difficult for them to have successfully completed their religious training had they failed to bow to the traditional views of their religion.
#2: Arm Yourself With Knowledge
Religious people who lack knowledge are bright-red, loudly-quacking sitting ducks for False Prophets. It is only a matter of time before one of the many False Prophets of the world will find his way into the life of a person who is unarmed of spiritual knowledge and truth.
God once said that His people were destroyed due to a lack of knowledge, and the same is certainly true today.
Sadly, far too many Christian religious people are perfectly content to listen to their religious leaders—but never bother to do their own homework, never bother to examine their preacher's message against the word of God. They make the tragic assumption that "False Prophets always happen to someone else," not realizing their own leaders are off track of truth. (7)
So, probably the key action Christians can take to arm themselves against False Prophets—is to continually shore up their faith by constantly upgrading their knowledge of God's word. And along with that, we must possess an honest and open mind, and the courage to make any necessary changes to our lives.
You'll never be able to identify a False Prophet if you don't know how to identify one—as defined by the word of God. Recognizing False Prophets therefore requires knowledge. And knowledge requires a study of God's word. (8)
#3: Don't Be Complacent
False Prophets prey on the complacent, self-satisfied, and unsuspecting. Complacent individuals do not have a sense of urgency regarding their eternal destiny. They feel saved and secure. They don't think purity of faith and doctrine is important. Thus, they make easy prey for False Prophets who are perfectly contented with complacent followers, especially since complacent followers provide the much needed financial and support network essential for the success of their ongoing work. Yes, the Bible clearly speaks of greed as a motivating factor of Christian false prophets (2 Peter 2:3).
#4: Take the Time To Do Your Spiritual Homework
False Prophets prey on those too busy to "check out the facts." Many people fall into this category. It's far easier to rely on a seemingly intelligent, knowledgeable spiritual leader, than it is to take personal responsibility for one's own salvation—as God commanded Christians to do. (9)
#5: Be Alert For Suspicious or Illogical Messages from your Preacher
Sometimes logic itself makes it obvious your preacher is a False Prophet. Certain "red flags" of warning are sometimes raised in their sermons and personal advice to their followers.
For example, if your religious leaders tell you they are receiving messages and prophecies directly from God, you should be extremely wary. Why? Because God's word plainly teaches that all instructions regarding our Christian living were completed long ago. In the Bible we have the completed will of God, and have had since Christ's century. (10)
And one more important piece of Biblical advice: Don't keep listening to the messages of those you know by research are false teachers. Yes, we must "test everything," and then hold on to what is good and true (1 Thessalonians 5:21). By continually listening to clearly false prophets, you open yourself up to being "re-convinced" of something that is false. The Bible warns against this. Once a person is established as "firmly convicted" in his Biblical wrongness, we should be wary of that spiritual source. (Ephesians 4:14)
Other messages or activities to be suspicious of are:
(a) Discouragement from thinking for yourself;
(b) Discouragement from listening to opposing viewpoints or honestly examining the arguments of spiritual opponents (remember: the truth has nothing to fear; however, once truth is clearly established from the Bible, we are warned against continually listening to deceivers);
(c) Encouragement to listen only to the religious leaders' views;
(d) Church leaders altering church history and documentation in order to hide events and doctrines they now deem unattractive (remember: God's word is completed and never changes, so if they are changing God's word, something is very wrong). (11)
Most people consider it important to examine all the facts when it comes to buying a car, a home, or making a significant investment.
But nothing is as important as closely checking the facts when it comes to that which will determine your eternal destiny. As uncomfortable as it may be, you absolutely must take the time to check up (independently) on your religious leaders. Be absolutely sure their message is perfectly accurate with the word of God. (12)
Jesus commanded His disciples to be "wise as serpents but harmless as doves." We must be cautious (without being cynical), alert, and never underestimate the value of good ole' common sense. Make sure 2 + 2 = 4 in your preacher's spiritual messages.
Don't recklessly give to others power over your soul and the souls of your children. Blindly follow no one.