*Pastor’s Note: This is a continuing excerpt from an article I posted last week from one of my favorite prophecy teachers, Mark Hitchcock, from his book, The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy.
As I have stated time and again and will do so here, with any of these articles that are not mine, the credit is listed at the end of the excerpted article and all rights are reserved to the author and publisher.
*Pictures were added for this post.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-21, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” KNJV (Bold emphasis, added).
THEMES OF A PROPHET
As you can imagine, the messages the prophets spoke were as varied as the situations they encountered. Yet there are several key themes in the prophetic messages, repeated with amazing regularity throughout Israel’s history. These messages or themes can be distilled under four main headings:
Impending Judgment A consistent diatribe of the prophets is that God will rain his judgment and wrath on those who fail to repent of their evil ways. God’s judgment reaches its climax during the coming Tribulation or Day of the Lord, of which the prophets spoke so frequently.
Social Reform The prophets repeatedly called the people to have love and compassion for their fellowman.
Condemnation of Idolatry The people of Israel worshiped idols again and again. One of the main prophetic themes was to call the people to put away their false gods and to turn in faith and dependence to the only true God.
The Coming of Messiah and His Kingdom The prophets consistently spoke of the coming of Messiah and the future kingdom he would bring. This message of hope and comfort radiates through all the prophets. The first prophecy announcing a coming deliverer is found in Genesis 3:15. Hundreds of later prophecies fill in the details of his person and his work. There are more than three hundred prophecies that Christ fulfilled at his first coming, while there are hundreds of presently unfulfilled messianic prophecies associated with the last days and the second coming of Christ.
THE TEST OF A PROPHET
Imitators and counterfeiters have always plagued the true Word and way of God. For this reason the Lord established a clear set of tests a person had to pass in order to be received as a true spokesman for God. There are four main passages in the Old Testament that deal with the subject of false prophets: (1) Deuteronomy 13:1–18; (2) Deuteronomy 18:9–22; (3) Jeremiah 23:9–40; and (4) Ezekiel 12:21–14:11.
In examining these four passages and many others, Scripture presents at least seven marks of a true prophet. While all of these marks may not have been present in every prophet, certainly some prophets had each one. However, for any follower of God who really wanted to know who was true and who was false, there would have been no question about a prophet’s authenticity.
The Seven Distinguishing Marks of a True Prophet
- The true prophet never used divination, sorcery, or astrology (Deuteronomy 18:9–14; Micah 3:7; Ezekiel 12:24). The source of the prophet’s message was God himself (2 Peter 1:20–21).
- The true prophet never tailored his or her message to cater to the cravings or desires of the people (Jeremiah 8:11; 28:8; Ezekiel 13:10). The false prophets, or “pillow prophets,” as some describe them, spoke a message that would bring them popularity and money. They were the Fortune 500 prophets, the religious opportunists (Micah 3:5–6, 11). The true prophet spoke God’s unadulterated message regardless of personal loss, shame, and even physical harm.
- The true prophet maintained personal integrity and character (Isaiah 28:7; Jeremiah 23:11; Hosea 9:7–9; Micah 3:5, 11; Zephaniah 3:4). Jesus said that true and false prophets would be known by their fruit—that is, by what they did and said (Matthew 7:15–20).
- The true prophet was willing to suffer for the sake of his message (1 Kings 22:27–28; Jeremiah 38:4–13; Ezekiel 3:4–8).
- The true prophet announced a message that was consistent with the law and with the messages of other true prophets (Jeremiah 26:17–19). The message never contradicted nor disagreed with any previous revelation of truth but confirmed and built upon that body of truth (Deuteronomy 13:1–3).
- The true prophet, when predicting future events, had a 100 percent success rate (Deuteronomy 18:21–22). Unlike modern psychics, any success rate short of perfect was not good enough! If the alleged prophet was not 100 percent accurate, the people were to take him outside the city and stone him to death (Deuteronomy 18:20).
- The true prophet sometimes had his or her message authenticated by the performance of a miracle or miracles (see Exodus 5–12). This test was not conclusive evidence, however, because false prophets also produced miracles on occasion (Exodus 7:10–12; 8:5–7; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). Therefore, Moses gave a further aspect to this test in Deuteronomy 13:1–3:
Suppose there are prophets among you, or those who have dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles take place. If the prophets then say, “Come, let us worship the gods of foreign nations,” do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you love him with all your heart and soul. (NLT)
The true test was the content of the message, not the miracles. The true prophet spoke only in the name of the Lord and called people to God, not away from God.