There is no greater foolishness than running after men in the hope that they will somehow deliver us from our dryness and emptiness. The inclination is also to run after men when we are beset by difficulties in our walk, even though we strenuously disagree that we are so faithless. Nevertheless we seek for prophets to speak for us. We seek for prophets to draw us near to God. We seek for prophets to draw back the curtain of darkness and give us a glimpse of the noon sun that has now set leaving us in a perpetual shadow of ignorance. Though in saying this I realise that it may seem harsh, we nevertheless must understand how to walk faithfully ourselves whilst benefitting from the Ministry of the Word of God – and especially the prophetic.
“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” Deuteronomy 13:1-5
This passage of Scripture reveals something vital about the prophetic ministry that every believer should be aware of. A man who calls himself a prophet is not false if he claims to speak for God, and yet is not a prophet, he is simply a liar. He is deceived, and out of that deception, he imagines himself to be a prophet. On the other hand, a true prophet of God is false, if he speaks out of his own imagination. False prophet does not mean not a prophet. False prophet, speaks of leading God’s people astray by one’s own imagination. It is a prophet speaking falsely.
This is not a common interpretation given as to what constitutes a false prophet, in the sense that ordinarily to speak of a false prophet does indeed mean pseudo-prophetic. In short, a fake prophet. However, biblically, whilst such fake prophets are spoken of, there is also another kind of false prophet spoken of as well. This is the person who really is a prophet according to God’s calling, and yet because of sinfulness and self-interest, ministers out of their flesh; having a seared conscience. In such a condition the fleshy prophet becomes false as well. This is because of the effect of their ministry, where the centrality of their ambition, is to lead men away from knowing and comprehending God, towards themselves and their own interests. This is a reality today, and it happened in Israel in the days of the prophets.
In Israel, a prophet could be raised up by God as a matter of individuality. That is to say; God could at any time choose anyone to be a prophet and equip that individual for that purpose of God. At the same time, there were sons of prophets who were physically ready to receive God’s anointing, yet may never know such an anointing. These men, of which there could be many, would still have a part to play and could be used by God in a limited way in their own districts, villages or even in local government. This could be to give advice or simply to ensure an outcome which more perfectly reflected God’s will in any particular situation. Generationally this could mean that there were many hundreds of such men, both fathers and sons who were physical prophets in the land. Of these many prophets, God could anoint an individual for a particular purpose, both for an exceptional as well as an ordinary outcome.
Today in the body of Christ there are also prophets. The difference between Old and New Testament prophets is that every New Testament prophet has a renewed spirit. This has one definite advantage. It means that anyone who is called to the prophetic ministry today and falls badly could be brought to a right mind in an instant by simply repenting of their past attitudes and mistakes. In such a circumstance of personal repentance, a prophet today could be quickened in their spirit in an instant of time, and speak for God in a particular place or occasion despite their previous mistakes. That is the grace of God.
Sadly they may also fall into a fleshy and selfish life for extended periods of time. If such as these fleshy prophets begin to minister in the local churches their calling of God would be quickly recognised whilst their inwardly grievous condition may be missed. Without discernment of the elders, they would soon be able to persuade and influence the local church or any given believer to their detriment. The fact that this happens is self-evident in the many cases of reported abuse by believers who have come out from under such an abusive man and told of the loss and heartache that they have suffered. I am not concerned with sound right minded, spirit filled prophets. I am concerned primarily with those prophets who are other than right-minded and are not spirit filled. I am worried about those who are able to speak so well that they lead God’s people away from God and the true purposes of God to their own self-centred interests. We are all familiar with the signs and wonders business of false prophets. How they love to make a show of these things and by them, impress other believers for the purpose of personal gain. The extent to which this happens is truly shocking. Yet God does have his answer to these things.
In speaking about the prophetic man, in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, where we read,“and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass” this points to a true prophet of God, yet because the words that accompany the sign and the wonder are, “let us go after other god’s,” the true prophet is proven to be false at that hour. To be found true, or else, false is not whether God has called or else given a man to be a prophet. True or false are whether a prophet speaks so as to lead God’s people astray, or else to lead God’s people to God. The sign and the wonder that accompanies the man does not establish the validity of what he says even though such outward evidences spoken prophetically do have that meaning when the direction is towards God.
Again, in this passage, the reason given as to why God allows these things is, “for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” This is God’s mercy to the one who prophecies because to be proven is a most blessed reality. It builds up faith and makes a saint more confident to speak from their heart as well as their spirit. It is also God’s way of glorifying His own Name, because, “that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God.” God must judge His prophets for His own Name. If you say you are a prophet or in your heart, you believe it, expect to be judged and tested by God always. If you move beyond this, you will be proven false in the end.
Of course, not everyone in the church today who speaks in prophecies is claiming to be a prophet! Some believers accept that the gift of prophecy in Corinthians is not the same as the gift of a prophet in Ephesians. So that to exercise the gift of prophecy, having received it according to the gifting of the Holy Spirit, is a lesser requirement than is the one who believes he is a prophet. The gift of prophecy is given by faith and is exercised in grace. No one should condemn a believer for faithfully speaking through a gift of the Holy Spirit. Others can easily cover all such speech and thereby a believer with this gift can grow without condemnation. Nevertheless, some do believe that they are prophets. Some even style themselves according to the Old Covenant prophets. Such as these may manifest signs and wonders, and they understand the influence which they have. Some become like Balaam and labour for profit, and others labour for profit and for personal glory amongst men. Other believers, who know that they have been given as a prophet to the Body of Christ, have no desire to be recognised at all. They have no style, and their speech bears witness to itself. In their speech these men are recognised, yet they themselves seek for no recognition, they are content with knowing whom they serve. Yet even such a prophet as this, if he speaks to turn God’s house away from God, has become false.
We should all take comfort from the fact that God Himself will judge those who are prophets even unto death if they lose sight of God and cease to fear Him. Read 1 Kings Chapter thirteen completely. It makes for a very sobering read. See that there were two real prophets both had their words established by God, one unto death of the other, and one unto the proving of a King’s heart to be faithless. The one rebuked a King at the altar of God, and the other wept for his brother. The one spoke truth and God’s judgment on a king; the other lied to his brother. The one who lied, lived, and the one who prophesied the truth, died. There is profound wisdom in this passage for anyone who believes he is a prophet.
I see and believe that many today are beginning to seek for real prophetic ministry which divides error from the truth and makes straight God’s ways in the hearts of men. This is wonderful, yet we should not lose sight of what this will mean when it comes. It will mean judgement unto death, both for those who seek and those who are given. May the Lord Himself keep us and preserve our hearts and minds for His names sake. Amen.
I want to expound the point that it is possible for a prophet to speak ‘other than’ and yet not be directly accountable for lying as is demonstrated in 1 Kings chapter thirteen in the ‘old man’ and the ‘man of God’s account. You can understand my concern at sharing such a thing, or of having to explain it. This has nothing to do with a man’s heart to desire deceit or else to deceive. It is a function of the Prophetic Office that a prophet can say that which will prove to be contrary to the outcome, yet still, know the outcome. There is another side to this same reality, and that has to do with a prophet’s speech generally.
Loose speech when uttered by a prophet can have real consequences and may prove to be very costly to others. At the same time, wilful speech can be even more harmful. The reason for this has to do with God’s choosing. No one can choose to be a prophet, whereas all can ask for the gift of prophecy. No one can choose their father and mother, so likewise, no one can determine to be a physical prophet or the time of anointing. Once chosen the prophet has real authority to speak.
Moses cursed Israel in the desert and struck the rock twice. His speech would have carried real consequences for Israel if God Himself had not judged Moses instead. Elisha cursed forty-two youths who were then devoured by bears. Should Moses really have cursed Israel? Should Elisha actually have cursed the youth? All speech carries with it consequences, for the greatest and for the least of Israel. Moses bore the consequences of his disobedience in his own body, whereas the youth bore their foolishness in theirs. Moses bore the cost because he was a picture of Christ to come, whereas the youth bore the cost of their words in calling Elisha ‘baldy’ because Elisha was a picture of God’s judgment. We must comprehend that these two sides of God’s purposes are evident today, and indeed they are set to become clear in His own house. We are not little children, and if we imagine that the Lord will always overlook our faithless walk or the harm that we do, we are deceived to a point of imbecility.
When the King of Israel in 1 Kings chapter twenty-two asked concerning whether Israel would be successful in war, four hundred prophets of the king agreed that he would prosper. The king of Judah then asked, “is there not yet one more prophet here that we may inquire of him?” In sending for Micaiah, the king of Israel expected to hear the truth because he was accustomed to Micaiah resisting him. This was Micaiah’s testimony. Yet he also agreed with the four hundred prophets. Micaiah was warned not to contradict the other prophets, and he declared that he would speak, “only that which was given to him by God.” Then he lied against the outcome of war.
When the king of Israel rebuked Micaiah, he declared the real outcome of the war. However, note that Micaiah then prophesied the explanation as to why he had lied.
“Therefore hear thou the word of Jehovah: I saw Jehovah sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And Jehovah said, Who shall entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead? And one said in this manner; and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before Jehovah, and said, I will entice him. And Jehovah said unto him, wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said. Thou shalt entice him, and shalt also prevail: go forth and do so. Now, therefore, behold, Jehovah hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets; and Jehovah hath spoken evil concerning thee.” God Himself had asked, “who will go up and entice Ahab that he may go up and fall?”
Micaiah was not numbered amongst the four hundred prophets but stood alone. He was not accounted by God as a liar, yet the four hundred were. The four hundred were given a lying spirit, Micaiah was not, yet he spoke the same words which the four hundred spoke. The lie was God’s will for the purpose of God. God cannot lie yet there are spirits willing to serve God in a delusion. Micaiah, in fact, declared prophetically that which was God’s hidden will and was at the same time able to know the reality of time and space. He was aware of the outcome of the war, yet spoke other than. This I accept is a difficult thing to grasp. But I share it simply because there is coming a time of unprecedented falsehood. In it there will be the hidden purposes of God which when expressed will not amount to the actual events seen.
Thus those who are true will appear false, and those who are false will appear true. May God have mercy.
If you are asking or seeking for strong men and strong prophets, do so in the knowledge that the outcome will not be as you imagine it will be if your heart is not right before God. Even so ask! God Himself will send deluding spirits upon this generation such as the world has not seen before.
Those who are called to speak for God in this generation will speak so as to lay snares at every turn. Thereby will God Himself bring to account all men who in their vanity will not repent. So will false prophets be brought down, as of old, and the pure of heart will fear God and worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
The spirit who came forward to accomplish the task of enticing Ahab “to go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead” was appointed by God by reason of God asking. An enticing spirit is not a lying spirit precisely, yet to entice that spirit must come upon the prophets as a “deceiving spirit in the mouths of the prophets.” In short, there had to be a deception which amounted to a lie before Ahab could be snared by God. Ahab had to hear the lie and the only people who could deliver it were the prophets. “Go up for the Lord will give it (Ramoth-Gilead) into the hands of the king.”
This word spoken by the four hundred prophets was a straight forward lie because Ahab did not receive Ramoth-Gilead into his hands. Instead, he died by an arrow through the joint of his armour and bled to death. A dead man cannot receive a city into his hands. Micaiah said, “go up, and the Lord will give it into the hands of the king.” Again this is directly a lie, yet something happened here which needs to be clearly understood today because of the times which are coming upon us.
Consider Zedekiah who made the horns of iron and prophesied saying, “thus says the Lord, with these (the horns) you shall gore the Arameans until they are consumed.” This same Zedekiah is the prophet who struck Micaiah on the cheek after he revealed the truth concerning Ahab and Israel, and said to him, “How did the Spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?” Micaiah, whilst he was renowned for speaking against Ahab, was not regarded by the other prophets. He was not included in the four hundred, which did include Zedekiah who made the horns of iron. Making the horns of iron, and thereby taking the lead, Zedekiah showed that he was the preeminent prophet amongst these four hundred. Therefore he alone used the words, “Thus says the Lord.” These words make certain what is being said, and can have no other meaning than, ‘the Lord says.’ Micaiah, on the other hand, is alone, set apart and sent for by name. Yet he does not say, “Thus says the Lord.” Instead, he simply answers, “go up and succeed and the Lord will give it into your hand.”
It is a remarkable thing that Micaiah, who hated King Ahab’s sins, and who was certain to speak truthfully and fearlessly, was, despite such confidence, unable to contradict God’s purposes, but had to speak ‘other than’ in the first instance. Had Ahab not rebuked Micaiah, saying, “speak nothing to me but the truth in the Name of the Lord,” Micaiah would not have been compelled to have shared the vision which explained how it was he had lied, and thereafter the prophecy which gave the real outcome its visibility and true meaning. Yet despite Micaiah explaining the actual outcome, Ahab was already deceived by reason of the four hundred prophets.
Today there are more men and a few women claiming to speak for God than at any time in human history. Not only this, but it will be getting much worse still. In the end, a false prophet will deceive countless men and women to worship the beast of Revelations, as true Christ. Those who claim to speak for God say, “thus says the Lord” without any restraint, at every thought of their imaginations. No doubt some of these are deluded in that they are not prophets at all, yet some of them will be prophets. Many are prophets after the prophet Balaam and not after men such as Micaiah who was able to speak without desiring an effect, that which was a true reflection of God’s hidden will, and still tell the truth plainly when adjured to speak, without destroying God’s purposes. Some are false, and others will learn to speak according to God regardless of appearance. In the end, Ahab did go up to the battle, and he did die, and Israel was scattered without a shepherd. And each man did go unto his own home in peace.
When men or prophets are deluded in some way or other the outcome is often evident in their manner and dress. Some saints believe that a true prophet of God would of necessity lead an unusual life. This is exactly how deluded men think when they seek to assert that they are prophets and are not, or else how real prophets act when they are deluded. Imagine if you were to ask God Himself, “Lord what is it that you have made me be to the body?” And God answers that, “you are a prophet.” What then? Should you go off to the wilderness or grow long hair? Look unkempt or else wash in a river? Believe it or not, this is a possible reality for those who understand they have been called by God to the prophetic ministry. Such a calling makes a prophet want to be separate in this way, yet if unusual were the mark of the prophetic, things would get very ‘unusual’ indeed.
Consider someone who is seeking for clarity in a genuinely difficult situation and a man, who appears as though he washes in the river – looks at you straight and tells you everything about your situation. Suddenly you feel release from the situation. What will you do? Worship God? Or have the thought ‘this man is a prophet?’ If this were to be true in your life would this prophet be a prophet because you have believed his words? Or would he be a deluded prophet who spoke the truth? After all, why would a prophet need to live an unusual life? The woman at the well in Samaria said to Jesus “I know that you are a prophet because you have told me all the things I have done.”
One of the central points which I am seeking to make is the distinction between a true prophet and a false prophet. It is an understanding that there are physical prophets that may become anointed of God and that the anointed prophet becomes false when he leads people away from God. At the same time, a true prophet can speak that which is contrary to the eventual outcome and still be a true prophet. In the natural mind, a person can be received as a true prophet by simply appearing to be one. In spiritual reality, a prophet can only be known by speech, yet if their words stand in contradiction to what others perceive to be true, they may be accused of being false. If Micaiah had not been commanded by the king to speak nothing but the truth, he would have been left in the place of all the false prophets who lied to the king. When the king died in battle in contradiction to his original words, Micaiah would have been seen as false, as the 400 were found to be false by testimony of Scripture.
Again, to the natural mind, what if a man does reveal your heart and at the same time looks every bit the great prophet? Will you receive him and be twice as deceived? I have to say the answer to the natural mind would be a resounding yes, though he may not be a prophet at all. Now ask yourself did Jesus seem quite ordinary in His appearance to men? The answer is a resounding yes. He had no comeliness. Jesus didn’t have an image. He came among us and was of no consequence of appearance to men. “He has no stately form or majesty, That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Isaiah 53:2
All around the world, there are those claiming to be God’s prophets. Many leave in their trail destruction and misery. Some of these men are actually called to the prophetic ministry, and some of them are deceivers to the core, being both deceived and deceiving. It is not difficult to believe that someone, who is not a prophet, is a liar, but how will you deal with someone who is a believer and a prophet, and is, therefore, able to deceive you? It is too simplistic to say that there are no more prophets, and it is equally too simplistic to say that a person who is abusive or else speaks falsely cannot be a prophet. In all of this, we need the wisdom of God to learn how to judge wisely and faithfully.
In the Scriptures, we are told specifically that a prophet is known by their fruit. Known what? Known to be a prophet, or known to be a true or false prophet? One could paraphrase the same words and say, ‘A prophet (tree) bears fruit. You will know whether he is true or false by the fruit. But he is still a prophet (tree).’
Do you imagine that Zedekiah was not a physical prophet? He definitely was because it is written, “and there were about four hundred (prophets).” Zedekiah was a prophet. Otherwise, he would have simply been a deluded liar. But because he was a real prophet, that day he was proven false. Yes, he spoke a lie, but he was proven false, he wasn’t proven to be a fake prophet. The tree bears good fruit or else it may bear bad fruit. But the tree is always a tree. A true prophet is always a prophet regardless as to how he may speak. On the other hand, a thorn bush cannot produce figs.
Hence why I have said beware the days which are coming. God Himself has a plan for His church. He is going to lead a remnant and enable them to make themselves ready for Christ. Satan knows this very well and has his own counterfeit. It will look so much like the real thing that many will not be able to judge rightly. True prophets and the prophetic will feature in that counterfeit, even unto the false prophet of Revelation. God’s faithful prophets will feature in what God Himself will do to make His people minded to dress in readiness. When a person is first called to the prophetic ministry by having been given to the body for that purpose as a gift of prophet, they may serve Satan one moment and God the next. They may see God work through them one day, and the next realise that because of the flesh they have served Satan as well. They may curse a man and see him suffer loss and then bless a man and see him filled up. Unless we ask God Himself to show us in the spirit, and through the Scriptures, this reality, we will never know how to judge rightly in the days to come. That means in effect, how to reject a man’s words but accept the person as one of God’s children – If he is indeed one of God’s children. Yet God will also raise up other prophets to snare the disobedient and faithless prophet, even as God is able to snare or entice a disobedient and faithless king.
Prophets who love the world, love the praises of men and are lovers of money will find in the end that they have served Satan and not God, even though they may have raised the dead, healed the sick, cast out demons, &c. They will be serving Satan. Satan doesn’t deceive those who are already deceived; he deceives those who know the truth. Satan has no real power of his own which he is willing to share with men; he depends on men to act for him. He especially looks for men who are saved, yet rebellious or covetous, and through vanity and visible pride he seeks to lead them against God Himself.
Today we have come into this season when lawlessness is increased and increasing, where individuality is the fruit of collective and individual pride, where an unwillingness to repent of these things is leading to an exceptional day of wickedness. The enemy of God comes as an angel of light. In such a circumstance, how will we discern the day and flee from it if we do not walk in the true light of Christ, by the leading of the Holy Spirit? In the end, Satan will give his power to a man, a prophet, proven false by his words, yet able to cause men to worship the beast and his statue.
This article is a challenge of that which is false in those who call themselves prophets. Fake is a lie and can be easily shown to be a lie. False is leading men astray by the authority and power of God. It is also a warning. All power and authority belong to God. Even Satan has no authority of his own, and his power comes from God’s first choosing Him to serve Him as a covering Cherub. The corruption of his trade is the beginning of the corruption of the power and authority of God given. And the gift and calling of God are without repentance. God does not change His mind. As God Himself is sovereign, that corruption becomes effectual for God’s purposes in that those who are corrupt are ever willing to deceive men, even men of God, for their own ends of the flesh. Just as Ahab, as king and prophet, by his own mouth commanded the truth from Micaiah, yet still fell into the trap, so today the prophetic man can command the truth, but present a lie.
The stray arrow which brought Ahab unto death was not directed at him by a man, but by God Himself. In bleeding to death, he becomes a symbol of the shed blood of Christ, unto the scattering of the sheep, by the bringing down of the shepherd. And the sheep thereafter go each man unto his own home in peace – even as we have found peace with God through the death of Christ, and the scattering of His sheep when He was crucified. Only then can we be brought into the household of God in peace.
That Ahab took note of Micaiah is evidenced by the fact that he asked the king of Judah to wear his royal apparel in battle with the intention that he would hide under his armour. The Assyrian arrow that struck Ahab was shot off randomly in frustration by a man who chased the king of Judah and found that he had chased the wrong man. With God, there is no escape.
If this makes us tremble then, so it should. We should tremble and cry out to God. We should put aside everything, even ourselves and seek God for the Knowledge of His ways. Only then will we have the confidence to serve God even unto death.
Needs must be that it is understood that the Lord will not permit the present state of affairs to continue indefinitely, or else those who are called prophets, and who become carnal and disobedient will find that because they are harming the flock, rather than serving the flock, a separation will have to be made.
For those with a right heart, despite their mistakes and foolishness, God will produce faithful servants for His name’s sake. For those who have hardened their hearts, they will be judged unto death. A few will go on to apostasy and open rebellion. May the Lord have mercy on all who take His name.
We live in the day in which we live. We do not live in the time of Jeremiah or the time of Paul; we live in the time of you and me! We don’t even live in the moment of yesterday or last week or thirty years ago. We live today, and we will live tomorrow if it pleases God. It is both today and tomorrow which should concern the prophet. Today because he can serve today, and by faith, he labours towards tomorrow. Most of that will be in speech, and most of it will be unknown even to the prophet.
New Testament prophets are born of the Spirit of God. They have Christ in them by the Spirit of God, and they themselves are alive in Christ Jesus. As are all who believe. This is much more than Moses had, and all the Old Testament prophets had. Only one Old Testament prophet has exceeded the limitations of their day, and this is Elijah, who to this present hour lives in his physical body, yet in heaven. As such, New Testament prophets have the potential to do as (Christ has done) and greater than Christ has done. Yet this same claim is also true of everyone who has received Christ if they have sufficient faith to believe what the Lord has said.
There are peculiar realities concerning New Testament prophets, yet these peculiarities are of no account. The thing that matters is whether the calling is a real one or an imagined one. And if it is real, how to work that out with fear and trembling. The boastful words of many, who in all but saying it, declare themselves to be prophets by using a gift of prophecy given by the Holy Spirit, weave a cover which amounts to shouting from the rooftop, ‘I am a prophet.’ Many who are like this don’t even have the courage to say what they imagine in the vanity of their hearts. Some no doubt are deluded, yet for all that they may still have a gift of prophecy. Others, who have a certain knowledge of God’s calling and understand that the prophetic calling is not the same as a gift of prophecy, may not say, ‘I am a prophet’, because they are restrained from doing so at that hour.
Others are wicked because they know that they are able to lead and influence the brethren, yet are not walking straight, and would still have glory and honour amongst men. Their affairs are known about, yet they have no shame, and still insist on honour amongst the brethren. Their financial misdeeds can’t be challenged because they constrain others from speaking the truth, by calling it ‘negative.’ Or else they require submission to God’s authority. Or else they say rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. The fear which is produced by such restraints – where there is also a wicked man – gives ground to demonic oppression, which amounts to abusing the flock. And this is nothing compared to what these ones do themselves out of their own flesh; wilfuly and cruelly. On the other hand one who is given as a prophet to the body, and walks not after their own imagination, but in fear of God, can stumble and fall, and still act against themselves so as to judge themselves rightly, and in that judgement marvel at God’s hand to use them for good things. This is a difficult thing to understand, but Ahab is an example for us to learn from. He repented of the murder of Naboth and so God withdrew the full meaning of the curse that Elijah spoke over him. Yet Ahab was in the end still caught by a random arrow shot off in battle due to his own deception. David is a more simple example because he had a heart after God’s own heart. So we easily understand how it could be that David is a case of a man who falls badly and yet whose throne can still become the inheritance of Christ. Ahab, on the other hand, is said to have been the most perverse and wicked king of all. Understanding how Ahab can still symbolise God’s sovereign purposes is much more challenging.
These prophetic kings of Israel show precisely why it is necessary for believers to understand the prophetic today, whether the gift of prophecy, by grace (Romans 12), by faith, a gift of the Holy Spirit (Corinthians 12), or by calling of God (Ephesians 4).
No one who is born again needs to be taught or prophesied to with regard to knowing who Christ is in His person. In this sense, we are all taught by God. When we first believed it was God Himself who led us by the Spirit, and the life we received is Christ Himself, by the Spirit. When we speak of having been taught firstly by the Law and the Prophets and lastly by the Son, this is what is meant in part. This saying also speaks to the fact that the Law of Sacrifices disclosed Christ as the Prophets prophesied of Christ. This was all in the past during the time of Israel. Then He of whom the Law and the Prophets foretold, came, and Israel was taught of Him, even the Son. Today we are taught by the Holy Spirit and by that means we know Christ is indeed Lord. Everything which is given thereafter has another purpose. So that teacher and teaching, prophet and prophecy, whilst having the same meaning regarding Christ Himself, the effect must be different to the Law and the Prophets given to Israel.
Being taught of God means that there can be no special class of believer. No one can boast, because we are all taught of God Himself. And having been taught concerning the Son, who humbled Himself and became a servant, anyone claiming to be a teacher or a prophet must have this same attitude and mind. Otherwise, we would have to say that they have become false. If they are not like-minded with Christ, then these men would inevitably become false because they would begin to lead God’s people astray.
Unless we are all led of the Spirit, as well as taught of the Spirit, we will none of us understand anything which exceeds our understanding the day we first believed. This makes us vulnerable precisely because God Himself requires us to submit to those in authority, of whom there are teachers, pastors and elders. None are silent, and many are false. We all know of the extraordinary difficulties and abuses which have happened even by some of the greatest of God’s servants. No one is impervious to falsehood if they allow themselves to be puffed up or else lose sight of Christ’s example of servanthood.
The most singular reality of the Old Testament prophets that established them as true prophets was their authority. It is also true that all such prophets in the Old Testament were given honour among the people by and large. At times they were also feared, even as God Himself was feared. All of this, however, did not hinge on the man himself, but rather of God choosing him and speaking to him in visions or else in his heart, which visions and thoughts when expressed, came to pass in the sight of men. Yet for Israel having God’s prophets was not sufficient. So they asked for a king as well.
When Israel asked Samuel to pray for a king, he sought God accordingly. 1 Samuel Chapter, eight through Chapter twelve, covers this request for a king as well as how that king would be known and what the consequence of having a king would be, both for Israel as well as the king himself. It also covers Samuel’s attitude in dealing with this asking for a king. Samuel understood that by asking for a king, Israel, was effectively rejecting God as their true King. It is easy to understand that once Israel had come under a king, they would be thereafter subject to a king’s authority. There are many kings of the earth, and they all have authority. Yet only the king of Israel can speak for God Himself because he is in place of God. Israel rejected God as King over them, but Israel did not reject God outright.
One of the strangest parts of this account has to do with Saul receiving a prophetic spirit and taking his place amongst the prophets. Samuel told Saul to take a particular journey and that when he arrived “the Spirit of the Lord [would] come upon [him] mightily and [he would] be changed into another man.” There is a real insight in this verse which points to something of the reality of the prophet. No one would say that today the gift of the Holy Spirit, of prophecy, causes one to change into another man. As a matter of truth all those who are born again, regardless of any gifts which they have been given, have become a new creature which is a far better thing. Many people have testified how a person was completely changed after they were born again. In revivals of God, this phenomenon is often more visibly evident. Sometimes a person is saved whilst in a truly wretched condition, and the change is also truly evident.
Saul also changed from being simply Saul who was chosen by God to be a prince of Israel, into one of the prophets. He didn’t become a new creature, but he did become ‘another man.’ It was necessary to become another man because he would have the authority of God to be king over Israel. Something which could only belong to God Himself, yet it was given to a man, and so that man had to be able to speak for God, as well as be in place of God before the people.
Today we are all chosen of God, yet not all are prophets. All may prophesy, but all are not able to reflect God’s visible will and purposes, both in their countenance and their speech. It may well be that all should be able to reflect in their lives the fullness of Christ. And were this to happen I have no doubt that there would be no need for prophets at all. In the kingdom, there could be no need for prophets, as Christ Himself would be both Prophet and King. In Saul’s day, as today, God’s people do not trust God, nor desire Him to be King of their lives, nor do they cease from denying Him. Many of God’s people are ever willing to go after a man rather than follow Christ Himself. As long as we are ready to go after other men in preference to God Himself, we will not only cause those men to stumble, but we will have already stumbled ourselves by proving to be faithless.
Just as Israel was faithless in their day, so many saints are faithless today. Just as God gave Israel a king, who also becomes a prophet, so today we, who have the True King, demand prophets. If they speak for us, and tell us what God is thinking we imagine we will be delivered from our own faithlessness. The giving of prophets to the church has to do with dealing with this problem, just as it was a requirement of the prophet under the law. In this regard, there is no distinction. The real distinction would have to be that of a false prophet and true prophet. The false will flatter and rule over, the true will stir up and serve, so as to cause God’s people to turn to Him and be faithful.
Today, saints do not ask for a king as this would be too blasphemous. Instead, they are ever willing to go after men who say ‘Thus says the Lord.’ It is too easy to look for prophets and deny Christ who is both prophet and King; to go after a man, than to deny one’s self and follow Christ. Nevertheless, God has given gifts to men. Some He gave as apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers. Amongst these gifts of God to men are prophets; they are given for the express purpose of causing growth, which when perfected is manifestly Christ Himself. By which forming, God is glorified in heaven and on the earth.
There is a malady of the flesh which when expressed always denies God. There is a sickness in man’s heart which always tends to evil. There is an inclination of the faithless man to seek after other men. There is a vanity in men which always inclines to take comfort from signs and wonders. There is a madness in men which always denies God. There is a way in men which causes others to stumble. There is an evil in men that rejects God who is Spirit, preferring flesh instead.
“Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9
Israel asked for a king. In the end, their own conduct caused the king to stumble. His fear of the people caused him to disobey God. Saul was not a man after God’s own heart. God in His mercy and for His own name, raised up a man after His own heart, even David the son of Jesse.
What God has chosen He can also reject, what He raises up he can also pull down. They that call themselves prophets cannot do as they please. If they do not serve God in obedience to God Himself, how will God overlook it? God will raise up faithful men and through them He will bring to nothing those who imagine in the vanity of their hearts that they serve God, when they are serving themselves or else evil and faithless sons.
In writing in this way my prayer is that it speaks to those who are still wondering about the real and challenging issue of false prophets. My sincere hope is that the true prophets of God in the New Testament church, where ever they may be, learn how to resist the mistakes of the past as well as the shallowness of this day.
Also that whosoever has rejected God’s provision for the body will realise that there is such a thing as true, not only in the prophetic ministry, but in the teaching ministry also, and that saints will test and learn from those who are given to the ministry of the Word and not reject God’s gifts in the local church. No prophet can harm you if you yourselves are not inclined to being faithless.
If we are faithful ourselves then we cannot be deceived. Going after men is faithless because we should always go after God Himself. No true minister of the Word will ever seek to turn God’s children away from the Father in heaven. Yet many who say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ have and many will continue to do so.
Although some people say that they do not seek for prophets, the reality is that many people do. It is the very nature of the flesh or the natural mind to seek after those who are able to speak well, and with their speech draw people into an understanding which may be sound in content, but may also be subtle and divisive. Whilst this idea is of no great substance it is nevertheless very real. Much more real than this idea is the experience of being born again, and the reality of the position it places believers in if they do not hold fast to the Scriptures. When a person is born again, there is a godly desire to be with other believers. Not only does this become real and tangible to the individual believer, but the individual themselves, by their confession of faith become tangible to others.
When a person is saved, at least two real outcomes begin to work in and through them. The one is an expression of their first love of the Lord Jesus Himself which is something truly wonderful to witness. This initial condition will keep the new believer, even as Christ Himself can keep them by the Holy Spirit. The other outcome is a need to be received by other saints. The one brings you into a life relationship with God through Christ Jesus, and the other into an expression of a life relationship with other saints through Christ Jesus. The one is the Head, even Christ and the other is the body, even the brethren.
What you cannot understand at that moment of conversion is the risk which comes with the reality. As far as the Lord is concerned, there is no danger at all. In fact at that moment of believing you receive to yourself everything which pertains to eternal life. Yet all that which you receive is in Christ Himself, and your possession of this treasure is in your spirit as “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Even though by believing you have received the gift of eternal life, this gift is Christ Himself. Salvation is not only a matter of your possessing the gift of life in your own spirit; it is more profoundly the same as being possessed of Christ .
Your mind and your body do not possess this treasure of eternal life even though it is written that we have this treasure in earthen vessels. It is a spiritual possession and will always be a spiritual possession. The mind is not born again. It must be renewed. And the body itself still has the law of sin and death working in it, so that the power of sin in the body needs to be taken into account in order to guard against sin.
Whilst understanding that it is needful to take account of the law of sin and death working in the body, as well as the need to be renewed in your thinking, it is likely that your first love of the Lord Himself will keep you from harm in this short season of time. Your focus at this stage is of Christ Himself, and even with regard to other believers, what you see is Christ in them. It is a profound and wonderful season.
Unless you are taught to continue in your reliance on Christ Himself, and taught the importance of taking account of your physical body with its lusts and desires, you will soon begin to find yourself looking to yourself as you realise the struggle which is now going on in your body and mind. This struggle is nothing less than the Holy Spirit waging war against the members of your body so that you will not do the things which your fleshy mind and body are naturally inclined to do. Yet this struggle is just one reality which you will become aware of. You will also become conscious of the sin itself. This awareness if it is not made sense of will lead you to look into yourself and take your eyes of Christ. This moment is your most vulnerable moment. Not only are you aware of your own sin, but you are more susceptible to deception than at any other time in your life. It is only possible to become vulnerable to deception after you have received the Truth. Before that, you were not susceptible to deception you were in fact deceived.
More than this vulnerability there is also another more thorny problem of needing to be taught those things which will turn your gaze back to Christ Himself and away from your own self. The conviction of sin and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit ought to be sufficient. After all, the Holy Spirit has come to lead us into all Truth.
There is no escaping the fact that in experience, every believer needs to be taught to walk by faith. We cannot teach ourselves. We may read the Scriptures, and we may well begin to understand that we need to confess our sins and walk in the light. But what if someone says, follow me! What if this man is a wolf and is no believer at all? What if he comes into the flock to comprehend your liberty so that he can once again bring you into the bondage of the flesh; a place where there is no liberty at all? How will you know that he is a wolf after he has seduced you? The reality is that this is not a fiction, nor an exaggeration.
As a young believer or unlearned you are not able to make distinctions of this kind. Unless God Himself purposes to keep you from harm to the extent that He sets aside the prophets and the pastors and teachers, and the wolf is destroyed, you may encounter all of these men yourself. This may well be what some saints have come to believe. That God by some means or other will set aside the ministry of the Word of God in the body and at the same time drive the wolf from our midst. That once again we will become brethren, Philadelphia, the church of brotherly love. A time when we will be no longer Laodicea, the church of individuality, boastings and riches! Rather the church of the apostles and prophets, where equality is sought and desired, and no one lies against the Holy Spirit except that he or she shall taste death in the presence of the brethren. Well, one would have to say that if the Scriptures taught that God is building the church Himself without labourers, we would be able to take our place in the faithful wait on God. We do not know what the church is! It has not yet been revealed because it has not yet been fully built. Yes God is building the church, and his tools are workmen.
The living temple of our God is the church, but the Bride of Christ is in the Church. The Groom is in heaven and will come to receive His bride at the appointed hour. Moreover, the Bride must make herself ready. She cannot be forced to dress in readiness. She is not taken by force but must come in love for the Groom and in a willingness of submission and high hopes. When the Bride has made herself ready, the Groom returns to gather his Bride from the church to the marriage feast of the Lamb. There is a dual responsibility for every saint of God and Christ. Firstly to labour according to God’s calling, secondly to dress in readiness. The labour is collective and distributed amongst the many according to God’s own distribution and determination. The dressing in readiness is personal and carried out in secret, which is to say in the heart. It is not possible to put aside the ministry of God’s Word any more than it would be wise to refuse to dress in readiness. Neither will the labourers be put aside nor will God compel anyone to dress in readiness. The unfaithfulness of either the labourer or the member will not pass without consequence or cost. The greatest responsibility in the body of Christ lies with those who are given as gifts to the body in the ministry of the Word of God. Many of these men will continue in their greed and unfaithfulness right until the end of this age. Only persecution will sift them. And even then some will deny Christ rather than obey. They will not go away, however, and so we have to know how to walk ourselves and at the same time trust in God’s choosing of His labourers for the purpose of building His house. Of these labourers, no one is more equipped to cause stumbling than the prophet. Not a fake prophet, but a false prophet – One who turns God’s people away from God! God Himself will permit it and by that means He will sift the hearts of men. Those who love truth will become the visible church and those who have become faithless will believe the lie and fall away.
That is the character of the time in which we live. Even saying such a thing amounts to a prophecy. Therefore, in seeing this as it is, I am always willing to be judged if by that means of accountability others may be released from any harm that comes from this man. No one should seek to remove that in a compassionate response but should turn their backs and serve the Lord in their release – thanking God always.