Sabbath, April 18, 2020
Lesson 16 – False Claims and Tests of the Prophets
“In these days of peril we are not to accept everything that men bring to us as truth. As professed teachers from God come to us declaring that they have a message from God, it is proper to inquire carefully, How do we know that this is truth? Jesus has told us that ‘false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.’ Matthew
24:11. But we need not be deceived; for the word of God gives us a test whereby we may know what is truth. The prophet says, ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:20.” –Selected Messages, book 2, p. 99.
The Lord sees and warns about false prophets
- What do the Scriptures tell about the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day? What did the Lord say would be the consequence of their great wickedness?
Jeremiah 23:9, first part, 11, 12 Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets;… 11For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord. 12Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.
“Through Jeremiah the Lord had declared of the wicked men who presumptuously dared to stand before the people in His name: ‘Both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in My house have I found their wickedness.’ Jeremiah 23:11. In the terrible arraignment of Judah as recorded in the closing narrative of the chronicler of Zedekiah’s reign, this charge of violating the sanctity of the temple was repeat ‘Moreover,’ the sacred writer declared, ‘all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which He had hallowed in Jerusalem.’ 2 Chronicles 36:14.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 449.
- What else do the Scriptures say about false prophets in Samaria and Jerusalem? What clear instruction did the Lord give to the people even if so-called prophets claimed that they were His spokespersons?
Jeremiah 23:13-16 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. 14I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. 15Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the proph- ets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. 16Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.
“Jesus has raised His voice in warning: ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.’ Matthew 7:15, 16. ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.’ Jeremi- ah 23:16. ‘If any man shall say to you, Lo here is Christ, or lo, he is there, believe him not; for false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall shew signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things.’ Mark 13:21-23.” –Selected Messages, book 3, p. 341. “Those who hold the truth in righteousness will arouse, and put on the gospel shoes. Their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, they will make no false paths in which the lame would be turned out of the way.” –This Day with God, p. 311.
- What did the imposters prophesy to gain the people’s favor? How can one distinguish between what is true and what is false?
Jeremiah 23:17, 18, 21, 22 They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. 18For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?… 21I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
“The leadings of the Lord were marked, and most wonderful were His revelations of what is truth. Point after point was established by the Lord God of heaven. That which was truth then, is truth today. But the voices do not cease to be heard – ‘This is truth. I have new light.’ But these new lights in prophetic lines are manifest in misapplying the word and setting the people of God adrift without an anchor to hold them. If the student of the word would take the truths which God has revealed in the leadings of His people, and appropriate these truths, digest them, and bring them into their practical life, they would then be living channels of light. But those who have set themselves to study out new theories, have a mixture of truth and error combined, and after trying to make these things prominent, have demonstrated that they have not kindled their taper from the divine altar, and it has gone out in darkness.” –Selected Messages, book 2, p. 104.
Tests to be applied to prophets
- Even if a person claims to have received a message in a dream, what principle should one apply to test the claim? How does this apply not just to dreams but also to messages?
Jeremiah 23:25-27 I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. 26How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; 27Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.
“Literary societies are almost universally exerting an influence contrary to that which the name indicates. As generally conducted they are an injury to the youth, for Satan comes in to put his stamp upon the exercises. All that makes men manly or women womanly is reflected from the character of Christ. The less we have of Christ in such societies, the less we have of the elevating, refining, ennobling element which should prevail. When worldlings conduct these meetings to meet their wishes, the spirit of Christ is excluded. The mind is drawn away from serious reflection, away from God, away from the real and substantial, to the imaginary and the superficial. Literary societies–would that the name expressed their true character! What is the chaff to the wheat?” –Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 541.
- What is another test that one can apply to an assumed prophet and his message? What should be one’s attitude toward a person whose prophecy is not fulfilled?
Jeremiah 23:28, 29; 28:9 The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. 29Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?… 28:9The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.
Deuteronomy 18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
“The judgments of God are soon to be poured out upon the earth. ‘Escape for thy life’ is the warning from the angels of God. Other voices are heard saying: ‘Do not become excited; there is no cause for special alarm.’ Those who are at ease in Zion cry, ‘Peace and safety,’ while heaven declares that swift destruction is about to come upon the transgressor. The young, the frivolous, the pleasure loving, con- sider these warnings as idle tales and turn from them with a jest.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 53.
“Those who prophesy lies will encourage men to look upon sin as a light thing. When the terrible results of their evil deeds are made manifest, they will seek, if possible, to make the one who has faithfully warned them, responsible for their difficulties, even as the Jews charged Jeremiah with their evil fortunes. But as surely as the words of Jehovah through His prophet were vindicated anciently, so surely will the certainty of His messages be established today.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 442.
- Over and above the fulfillment of a prophecy, what is an even greater test to apply to a prophet and his message? If his messages and life do not agree with God’s law, what can be known about that so-called prophet?
Deuteronomy 13:1-4 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2And 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; 3Thou 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. 4Ye 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.
Matthew 7:16-20 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
“‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:20. The people of God are directed to the Scriptures as their safeguard against the influence of false teachers and the delusive power of spirits of darkness. Satan employs every possible device to pre- vent men from obtaining a knowledge of the Bible; for its plain utterances reveal his deceptions.” –Darkness Before Dawn, p. 36.
“From this statement it is evident that it becomes us to be diligent Bible students, that we may know what is according to the law and the testimony. We are safe in no other course of action. Jesus says, ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’ Matthew 7:15-19.” –Selected Messages, book 2, p. 99.
Know and follow the Scriptures
- What will be the end of all who preach human messages and claim that they come from God? To what must every Christian adhere strictly in his preaching and teaching?
Jeremiah 23:30-33 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. 31Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. 32Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord. 33And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the Lord? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the Lord.
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
John 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
“There are persons who believe that they are right, when they are wrong. While claiming Christ as their Lord, and professedly doing great works in His name, they are workers of iniquity. ‘With their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.’ He who declares God’s word is to them ‘as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear Thy words, but they do them not.’ Ezekiel 33:31, 32….
“Obedience is the test of discipleship. It is the keeping of the commandments that proves the sincerity of our professions of love. When the doctrine we accept kills sin in the heart, purifies the soul from defilement, bears fruit unto holiness, we may know that it is the truth of God. When benevolence, kindness, tender- heartedness, sympathy, are manifest in our lives; when the joy of right doing is in our hearts; when we exalt Christ, and not self, we may know that our faith is of the right order. ‘Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.’ 1 John 2:3.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 146, 147.
For additional study
“The truths that have been unfolding in their order, as we have advanced along the line of prophecy revealed in the Word of God, are truth, sacred, eternal truth today. Those who passed over the ground step by step in the past history of our experience, seeing the chain of truth in the prophecies, were prepared to accept and obey every ray of light. They were praying, fasting, searching, digging for the truth as for hidden treasures, and the Holy Spirit, we know, was teaching and guiding us. Many theories were advanced, bearing a semblance of truth, but so mingled with misinterpreted and misapplied scriptures, that they led to danger- ous errors. Very well do we know how every point of truth was established, and the seal set upon it by the Holy Spirit of God. And all the time voices were heard, ‘Here is the truth,’ ‘I have the truth; follow me.’ But the warnings came, ‘Go not ye after them. I have not sent them, but they ran.’ (See Jeremiah 23:21.)” –Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 103, 104.