“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
There is an unusual emphasis in the New Testament about false prophets. The Greek word pseudoprophetes appears 11 times and has no corresponding word in the Old Testament.
Of the 298 usages of “prophet” in the Hebrew Scriptures, eight of them are connected to “false” prophets, and only in relation to visions and dreams. In the New Testament, the pseudoprophetes are workers of “miracles” and “signs and wonders.”
John gives the warning to “try the spirits” because many false prophets are now here. Prior to Christ’s coming, the false “dreamer” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5) would readily be exposed when his prophecy did not come about. Such a false prophet was to be executed!
But the prophets of the “last time” (1 John 2:18) will perform great wonders (Matthew 24:24) and can “seduce . . . even the elect” (Mark 13:22).
Here’s the problem: They come from among Christians! Peter warns us in 2 Peter 2:1-3 in five ways:
- They come from a “Christian” background.
- They deny the biblical Lord Jesus in some way.
- They will become very popular, especially with emotionally motivated people.
- They will degrade doctrines of the Bible.
- They will stimulate greed to attract followers.
We are warned to test every one of them, and when they do not abide in the doctrine of Christ, we are to reject their teaching and not have any fellowship with them (2 John 9-11). They are dangerous (Matthew 7:15)!