I wrote a while back about YouTube preachers, calling what they do “spiritual porn”, and so it is. They want to titillate in order to gain clicks and subscribers rather than to genuinely inform God’s people. As a follow-up, I’ve made a short list of the main signs to watch for when you’re discerning whether or not a preacher or teacher who claims to be sent by God (that is, inspired by God’s Holy Spirit) is in fact a false prophet. These are by no means the only signs, but they are the key ones.
Here they are, in no particular order of importance (because they are ALL important):
1. A false prophet conflates God and Jesus. This is huge. The claim that Jesus is God rather than the son of God is one of the main signs that you’re dealing with a false prophet. Jesus never referred to himself as God, saying only that God was in him through God’s Holy Spirit. If you’re genuinely born-again and you know God as your Heavenly Father and Jesus as your Messiah, then you know they are two very separate beings. I’ve written before about why this push to conflate God and Jesus is growing stronger. It has to do with the false prophet who will sit on a throne in the third temple in Jerusalem, claiming to be Jesus and demanding to be worshiped as God. This is scriptural prophecy. Jesus sits at the right hand of God, having lordship over creation, but he is not God.
2. A false prophet asks for financial donations. Like Judas, false prophets love money and are driven by it. All professional preachers (that is, preachers who get paid a salary to preach) are false prophets. For unsalaried independent false prophets, I guarantee you that somewhere on their website or YouTube account is a “Donations” button. I have yet to see a false prophet who hasn’t asked for money in exchange for preaching. And yes, I realize I include every professional minister, pastor, priest and dime-store preacher in this sweeping condemnation, but I stand by it.
If you genuinely love God, genuinely follow Jesus, and are genuinely born-again, you will NEVER ask for money to preach and teach the Word. Nor will you ask for money or suggest a donation for praying for people or ministering to their spiritual needs. “Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s, and unto God those things that are God’s.” Jesus accepted donations, but he never solicited them. If someone wants to give you money with no strings attached, take it. It’s a gift from God meant for your use, and you will bless the giver by taking it. But soliciting money or charging for your services as an alleged minister of God is a big red flag that you’re not what you say you are.
3. A false prophet preaches that Jesus is coming back soon to set up a worldly kingdom. I’ve written on several occasions about this. God’s Kingdom was set up by Jesus 2000 years ago and is a spiritual kingdom, not a worldly one. When Jesus comes back in glory (oh, what a sight to behold that will be!), he will not be hanging around to set up a worldly kingdom. Scripture says he’ll be sending his angels to the four corners of the earth to gather together the last of the faithful. There is no word about Jesus touching down on Earth, let along settling in for an extended stay.
Remember that Jesus has a glorified body now. He lives entirely in the heavenly realms. He told us he will appear in glory, which means he will appear in his second coming as he appears in Heaven. He will be in his heavenly glorified body. These bodies are not the same as flesh and blood bodies. They are not made for Earth. Are we to expect that Jesus gives up his glorified body for an earthly one? Scripture says nothing about Jesus doing that.
4. A false prophet over-quotes and misapplies scripture. Just before beginning his ministry work, Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil. One of the main tricks the devil and false prophets like to do is throw reams of scripture at you, usually citing chapter and verse to dazzle you with their knowledge. The truth is, however, that most of their quotes are misapplied and sometimes even shortened or cobbled together with other shortened quotes to change the context, giving them the opposite meaning to what God intended. Jesus easily dealt with the devil’s misapplied quotes because Jesus knew scripture. Most Christians these days don’t know scripture, which makes them easy to deceive. The better you know scripture, the less likely you’ll be able to be deceived by those who misapply it.
5. A false prophet has the whiff of BS. Like a slick snake-oil salesman, there’s something vaguely off about false prophets. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but they’re trying too hard to sell you something they can see you’re hesitant to buy. Something just doesn’t add up, regardless of how many Bible quotes they throw at you to convince you of their sincerity or legitimacy. As a woman, when I hear a false prophet, I’m reminded of some men I used to date before I was born again. After they’d dropped me off at my door at the end of the evening, they would use every line in the book to get me to invite them in. False prophets have the same slimy aggression, saying whatever it is they think you want to hear in order to get what they want. A prophet from God gives you the sense that Truth is being spoken, not lies. It may be uncomfortable at times to hear the Truth (because it convicts you and forces you to re-examine and re-evaluate your choices), but you still have the sense that it is Truth. This sense of Truth does not come from false prophets.
6. A false prophet will guarantee you’re going to Heaven just for “having faith” or “believing”. There is no greater reward than Heaven. Imagine saying to an athlete competing in trials to qualify for the Olympics that he’d won a gold medal simply for showing up at the trials. You’d be laughed to scorn if you claimed this, and yet false prophets have no problem handing out spiritual gold medals to anyone who shows up to listen to them. For a false prophet, the reward of Heaven is so cheap and easily achieved, all you have to do is “believe” and “have faith” and you’re in.
When Paul argued the primacy of faith and belief, he was using it in two ways: 1) in contradistinction to the Law (meaning that, since Jesus’ sacrifice, simply fulfilling the 600+ dictates of the Law was not enough; you had to be washed by the blood of the Lamb Jesus, that is, be born again and receive Jesus as your Messiah), and 2) in showing that gentiles, not just the children of Abraham, could enter the Kingdom. Gentiles entered God’s Kingdom by faith (that is, rebirth through God’s Holy Spirit) rather than genetics (that is, as children of Abraham).
Yes, having faith in God and believing that Jesus is the Messiah are necessary mindsets for admission to Heaven, but they’re not all we need. Jesus tells us that we’ll be held accountable for our every word and every thought, and that he will “give every man according to his work”. False prophets deny this, claiming that belief and faith are all we need to get into Heaven. Genuine belief and genuine faith do not come solely from doing God’s will. In other words, you don’t gain belief and faith simply by doing God’s will. That is the realm of the Law, and we are no longer in that realm as born-again believers. We are in the kingdom, with admission by spiritual rebirth only. If faith and belief came solely from doing God’s will, demons would be in the kingdom and on their way to Heaven, because they do God’s will. They have no choice. But clearly, demons are not going to Heaven.
The truth is that you do God’s will because you believe and have faith, not the other way around. Your belief and your faith come from God, not from your works. Even so, if you genuinely believe and have faith, you will be obedient to God and do his will because you love him and cannot conceive of doing anything except what pleases him, like Jesus did. So if you say you have faith and believe but at the same time do things that are contrary to God’s will, you’re lying about your faith and belief: You’re lying to yourself and you’re lying to others. Your acts (that is, your words, thoughts and deeds) show your faith and belief, and you can’t fool God. He knows exactly who genuinely believes and who doesn’t.
But you can fool people, and that’s what a false prophet does in claiming that all you need to do is believe in Jesus and off you go to Heaven. Don’t be deceived.
7. A false prophet preaches the importance of family. Jesus was not a family man. In fact, he said that those who are worthy of the Kingdom neither marry nor are given in marriage, that they become “eunuchs” for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. Eunuchs don’t have a wife/husband and kids. They give up having those relations. Jesus also said that his family were not blood relatives but those who did God’s will. These statements were as clear as Jesus could make them, and yet false prophets surround themselves with family members working in their ministry, especially their spouse, and pride themselves in their children and grandchildren.
Consider also that none of Jesus’ disciples and pre-resurrection followers were his family members. He had been rejected by his family as resoundingly as he had been rejected by Nazareth. He said that a prophet was not honored in his own family or country. Even John the Baptist was not a follower of Jesus, and Jesus did not choose him as a disciple. And he said that those who do not hate mother, father, sister, brother and children and spouse are not worthy of the Kingdom. I’m not sure how he could have made this any clearer.
8. A false prophet is surrounded by worldly wealth. This goes hand-in-hand with asking for donations, but a false prophet is easily spied by how much wealth he or she is surrounded by and how much store he or she puts on that wealth (including preps – I’m talking to someone here). Followers of Jesus are to live as Jesus lived, which is being constantly on the move, beholden to no-one, owning no property, and having no worldly ties. Followers of Jesus should live “with loins girded” and always ready to leave at a moment’s notice with nothing but the clothes on their back. God will provide for all needs. Prepping, unless directly instructed to you by God, shows a lack of faith in God’s ability to provide for you. Surrounding yourself with worldly wealth does not reflect the gospel message to live like Jesus and his disciples.
9. A false prophet has a YouTube channel. I wrote here before about people who host YouTube channels being false prophets, every last one. I stand by that assertion. I don’t include videos that have been posted by a third party without the knowledge or permission of a preacher or teacher; I mean videos posted by people or organizations claiming to be inspired by God, whereas their real inspiration is clicks, subscribers, getting attention, and making money from their videos and ministries. These types of false prophets either make videos that are mostly just Bible quotes strung together out of context, or videos of themselves “hearing from God” or prophesying apocalyptic future events. None of these Bible-quoting or doom-and-gloom videos offer practical guidance for everyday life as a born-again believer, but instead catch your attention with apocalyptic and end-time warnings. In other words, their message is fear-based rather than instructional, which is a big red flag that you’re dealing with a false prophet.
False prophets like those on YouTube are not a new phenomenon. Both the old and new testaments make reference to them, with God stating that many claim to be from him though he didn’t send them, and Paul reminding us to test the spirits. Unfortunately, too many Christians believe that anyone claiming to be from God and quoting scripture is actually from God, despite Jesus’ direct warnings about false prophets, and despite evidence in the Bible that even Satan himself quotes scripture. We need to discern real from false, right from wrong, genuine from fake. We need to test the spirits and compare with scripture what people tell us, not just swallow whole whatever message is served up on the latest YouTube platter.
10. A false prophet is not born-again. Jesus says you must be born-again to enter the Kingdom. If false prophets were born-again, they wouldn’t be conflating God and Jesus, asking for donations, claiming that Jesus is coming back soon to set up a worldly kingdom, misapplying scripture, giving off a scent of BS, insisting you’re going to Heaven just for “believing”, preaching the importance of family, surrounding themselves with worldly wealth, and/or hosting a YouTube channel. If you ask a false prophet if they’re born again, most will say something like: “Yes, I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal savior”, but none will have a compelling rebirth story.
Spiritual rebirth is an even bigger event than physical birth. All mothers remember in intimate and gory detail the circumstances surrounding the birth of their children, just as all those who are genuinely born again remember in intimate and glorious detail the circumstances surrounding their rebirth.
Being reborn is the most defining moment in your life, and every detail is permanently etched in your mind as if it just took place today. It is by far the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to you and is inexplicable in human terms because it is a miracle – that is, the immortal realm acting directly on the mortal realm, the spiritual on the earthly. False prophets have no such story and can provide no evidence that their lives changed drastically in an instant. Instead, most of them have a history either of attending Bible college or seminary, or a background they’d rather not talk about.
Sadly, not all false prophets know they’re false prophets. Some are demon-driven and think their “spiritual gifts” are from God, while others are just looking for attention and find that spiritually hungry people are easiest to attract and fool.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of how to discern a false prophet, but it covers the main points. Paul warned us that wolves would be coming for the sheep, and the wolves are everywhere these days, masquerading as believers. Don’t be fooled by them. It’s important to know whether or not the people you’re taking spiritual guidance from are false prophets, because they will lead you down the proverbial garden path, whether purposely or not. Their habit is to mix scriptural Truth with lies, leading you to err on the side of believing them solely for the small measure of Truth they do speak. This is how they get their hooks in you and this is also how they will lead you astray.
Not every body of water can be drunk from, just as not everyone claiming to be born-again or from God is actually born-again or from God. Discernment is key. The ten signs of a false prophet mentioned here should be applied to anyone you’re taking spiritual guidance from, even on a casual basis.
The wolves will soon outnumber the sheep. Best to cling tighter and tighter to the Good Shepherd. Best to rely on the source itself (the Bible) than on interpreters of it. Best to spend time with God and Jesus in prayer and reading the Bible than on ear-tickling worldly entertainment provided by false prophets on YouTube or TV or elsewhere.
But the choice is yours. I have stated here what is in your best interest if Heaven is your goal. What you choose to do with this information is up to you. I hope you choose what will lead you to eternal life, because that is the good and right choice. Everything else leads to eternal death.