Because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of My mouth! –Jesus, Revelation 3:16
Listen to the Holy Spirit in your heart! (1 John 2:27). And judge for yourselves the things I am going to say (1 Cor. 14:29). Blow the trumpet in Zion and sound the alarm! (Joel 2:1). Many churches have pastors, but the Lord has not sent them. They have sent themselves! (Jeremiah 23:21). You will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16). They are false prophets in deed; and also in word (in sermons). How can you tell if a pastor is preaching a sermon under a false prophetic spirit? Let me tell you that reading or quoting from the Bible is not sufficient grounds to render a pastor a true prophet of the Word–he needs to be eaten up with the Spirit of the Word, which is holiness and righteousness. Lend me your eyes for a moment as I lay down some rules for judging or highlighting aspects, or should I say, manifestations of a false prophetic spirit in a sermon that you may harmlessly and even casually allow in a Sunday morning church service. Beware! For the craftiness of Satan is always so cunning, subtle, and deceptive. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
1. No Fear of Hell. False prophet sermons never have a sense of the fear of Hell; there is no dread of the Judge; no vision of the flames of eternal damnation. If anything, there might be a very rare reference to “the fear of the Lord” as a reverence, awe, and respect for God. But never what Jesus said: “I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him” (Luke 12:5). That is Jesus’ definition of the fear of God!
2. Humanistic, Self-Help Psychology. False prophet sermons often take on the character of a self-help book from the supermarket. They may very well use Biblical buzzwords, and even name a few sins, and say the word “repentance,” but they will not belabor those words for long; or go into great length on the nature of virtues and vices. They preach like guidance counselors, like Bible-toting pulpit psychologists, who can give you some pointers on how to live an emotionally healthy life in a crazy, busy world bent on pursuing economic success. Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
3. Lightheartedness and Joking. In a false prophet sermon, because there is no fear of Hell, even in the backdrop; there is no weightiness, no gravity, no truly serious spirit of reverence in the sermon. The pastor succumbs to the role of a church comedian; it comes to be expected of him. After all, “a merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). He is a fool; and can’t be taken seriously when he handles the Word of God. Sometimes joking is good; as when you are mocking sin, as Elijah mocked Baal (1 Kings 18:27)–but that’s all the Bible seems to allow for in the context of preaching.
4. Brief References to Very Carnal Movies. False prophet sermons will occasionally have brief references to extremely carnal movies, which are usually used to make some lame illustration for a point the pastor is trying to make in his sermon. But “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34); and these false prophets reveal the carnality of their hearts, when, although their illustrations might be clean, the movie that they reference is the most diabolic, fleshy, rotten trash of Hell. A quick look on the imdb.com Parents Guide will show that the movie probably has 25 cuss words and sexually immoral scenes or references. Colossians 3:8: “You must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” “Oh, its not a sin if I watch someone else cussing in a movie; its just to make the story more realistic; its not like I’m repeating what is being said.” Oh, aren’t you? In your mind? Do you think Jesus doesn’t judge the thoughts and intents of your heart, pastor? (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus said, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Most of these extremely carnal movies, pastor, are enabling you to commit spiritual adultery with women in the comfort of your family room. Then you go and preach your false prophet sermons on Sunday morning; bad job! Jeremiah 23:11, 14: “‘Both prophet and priest are profane; Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,’ says the Lord…Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
5. Dry, Historical Background of the Bible. False prophet sermons are often peppered with historical background knowledge of the Bible. Roman and Jewish context, Josephus, and blah, blah, blah. To show off to others that they know more about the Bible than the common man does. This is the modern version of the Catholic priest’s Latin mass. There is nothing spiritually profitable about this; barely ever is there anything moral taken from this historical Bible background information. Its just factual; almost like filler material for the sermon, because they have no meaty spiritual things to say. You can also hear a dry, bored, tone of voice, as they tell you about these historical facts. Imagine Ben Stein’s “Clear Eyes” commercials. “Wowww.” 1 Corinthians 8:1: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Better to be wise in righteousness, and wise in love, than to be simply knowledgeable about historical facts.
6. Idolatry of Being a “Church Leader.” A true prophet is eternity-conscious in basically all of his ministry activities. But a false prophet in his sermons will occasionally reveal how earthly-minded he really is when he speaks about being a “church leader” or a “leader” when he speaks of “leaders” and “leadership.” All of these un-Biblical phrases cropped up in ministry books around the 1970s; and started to become part of the vocabulary of pastoral ministry ever since the “church growth” movement gained headway. In the old KJV, the word “leader” is usually referring to king David or some other political leader; only once is Moses, the prophet-governor, called a leader–and that’s in the apocrypha (2 Esdras 1:13). Yet, you will find the word “leader” all over the modern Bible versions. The lines of distinction between a pastor and a business manager or supervisor are often blurred; their attributes are often shared; and their similarities highlighted and capitalized on. Its a spirit of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. Its all over The Maxwell Leadership Bible; might as well say, “Leader” means “Controller of Others.” Its no wonder why such pastors take on a business savvy spirit, because “their god is their belly” (Philippians 3:19); far from feeling shame by preaching on tithing, they openly flaunt Malachi 3 and its Old Testament tithing law. They would do well to live up to the requirements of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus; and put down their business leadership pastor books–at least for a moment. But they won’t, because they are too distracted by the praises of men (and women) in their churches. “Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right” (Jeremiah 23:10). Far be it from them to issue scathing rebukes for sin to save their souls from Hell! ITS ALL VANITY!
7. No Moral Energy. False prophet sermons have no moral backbone; there is no unction, no thrust, no power. They never pound the pulpit while making a strong moral point. If they do ever pound the pulpit, its because of hype and stupid, non-moral false emotion: what we call “false fire.” Take, for example, the false prophet Hananiah. He prophesied false words about king Nebuchadnezzar’s power being broken and the Jews coming back to their land in 2 years–thus weakening the sense of divine punishment on the Jews for their impenitence and rebellion. And he apparently did this with quite a show of emotion and hype, because he went so far as to break the yoke that Jeremiah was wearing on his neck (Jer. 28:1-4, 10-11):–but Jeremiah said to him, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies” (v. 15).
8. Boring, Lukewarm Spirit. God intends preaching to be that of preaching righteousness, as with Noah and John the Baptist (2 Peter 2:5; Luke 3:1-20). But when Biblical righteousness is not preached in the pulpit by a fervent God-indwelt saint, then the sermon will be preached by a limp false prophet in a boring, lukewarm, pathetic tone; an insipid, dry, calm spirit–a ‘when will this boring sermon ever end’–kind of spirit. Often sappy, Hallmark card type of metaphors, family-friendly, dads and kids illustrations, stuff that makes you want to gag, because it is so sappy and so syrupy; and not Biblical holiness. Why do people choose to endure this instead of sound doctrine? You got me. Oh, I know–they love their sins and don’t want to give them up, so they are willing to have a pastor who will scratch their itching ears and not preach against their sins (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
9. Rambling Thoughts; Not Focused on the Biblical Text. False prophet sermons have to have some Bible in them, otherwise, people would catch on. People still have enough respect for the Bible to require that it be used in sermons. Thank God for that! But when a false prophet handles the Bible, he does so deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2), so as to lessen the impact of moral responsibility; and allow his thoughts to ramble this way and that. Even if he does say something moral, it is so brief, and so incomplete a thought, that there is no way to drive home the point; no way for the church member to draw a conclusion and make a personal application, because there is just so much rambling. False prophets also do not focus for very long on Biblical passages, because if they did, then they would be confronted by the Scripture, and its ethical requirements.
10. Allowance of Sexually Immoral Images. False prophet sermons, as I said before, in an indirect way (or even a direct way) will make casual references to activities in which there are sexually immoral images of young women. Carnal movies, trips to the beach or pool (bikinis, etc), romantic, sexually intimate illustrations, etc. All of this is okay? These things should just not be in a sermon–much less normal Christian conversation. It encourages sexually immoral thoughts (fornication; adultery); which again, brings us to the words of Christ, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Jesus said, “15Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. 22Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (antinomianism).’”–Matthew 7:15-23
In the Bible, false prophets are known for their…
1. Speaking in the name of another god, the occult, or the New Age (Jer. 23:13).
2. Speaking from their own hearts (Jer. 23:16); motivated by selfish ambition.
3. Prophesying for money only, like Balaam (2 Peter 2:15).
4. Watered-down, weakened, or non-existent Bible teaching (Isa. 8:19-20).
5. Rejection of lordship salvation through Jesus (Gal. 1:8).
6. Encouraging sexual immorality–either obviously or indirectly (Jer. 23:14).
7. Bribing people to apostatize from lordship salvation (Deut. 13:5).
8. Downplaying moral responsibility before God (antinomianism) (Matt. 24:11-12).
9. Humanizing Jesus–rejecting His divine nature (1 John 4:1-3).
Price, Paula. The Prophet’s Dictionary, “False Prophets.” – Jeremiah 23; 28; Micah 3:6; Ezekiel 13; Deuteronomy 13:1, 5; 18:20-22; 1 Kings 13; 1 John 4.
Antinomianism is at the root of all false prophet sermons. Here are some godly polemics against this false prophet heresy. I think a lot of the New Calvinists are antinomians; and that would render part of it a false reformation and false revival.
Baxter, Richard. The Scripture Gospel Defended…In Two Books…The Second Upon the Sudden Reviving of Antinomianism. London, 1690.
De Fleury, Maria. Antinomianism Unmasked and Refuted; and the Moral Law Proved from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, to Be Still in Full Force as the Rule of the Christian’s Conduct. 1791.
Fletcher, John. Checks to Antinomianism. Edited by Peter Wiseman. Abridged Edition. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1953.
Jones, Mark. Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.
Luther, Martin. “Against the Antinomians, 1539.” Edited by Franklin Sherman. Luther’s Works: The Christian in Society IV. Vol. 47. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1971.
Rutherford, Samuel. A Survey of the Spirituall Antichrist. London, 1647.
Wesley, John. A Blow at the Root.
—–. “A Dialogue Between an Antinomian and His Friend.”