Whenever God brings forth a ministry, Satan will bring out a counterfeit. That should not put us off, just make us careful. If we hear that counterfeit money is in circulation, we do not stop using money. We just become more careful. As the prophetic ministry grows, false prophets will become more prevalent. We should not reject prophecy, but be vigilant. Church leaders should guard against false prophets. The best way to do this is to have a fully developed ministry in their church.

True prophets are the best antidote
to false prophets.

Jesus warned that false prophets would come as wolves dressed in sheep's clothing

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them (Matt 7:15-20).

False prophets are not always obvious. At first, they appear to be credible. However, if they are allowed access to the flock, they can do incredible damage.

Nehemiah was opposed by prophets who tried to intimidate him into failure in his calling.

My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat for what they have done, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets who wanted to intimidate me (Neh 6:14).


The Bible has strong warnings for false prophets.

The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: 'Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, O Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, "The Lord declares," when the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, "The Lord declares," though I have not spoken? " 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord. " 'Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, "Where is the whitewash you covered it with?" (Ezek 13:1-12).

"From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the Lord (Jer 6:13-15).

They have lied about the Lord; they said, "He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them." (Jer 5:12,13).

This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, 'The Lord says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.' But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? (Jer 23:16-18).

Then the Lord said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague." But I said, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, the prophets keep telling them, 'You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.' " Then the Lord said to me, "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds. Therefore, this is what the Lord says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, 'No sword or famine will touch this land.' Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them or their wives, their sons or their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve (Jer 14:11-16).

Micaiah continued, "Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?' One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, 'I will entice him.' 'By what means?' the Lord asked. 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets', he said. 'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the Lord. 'Go and do it.' So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you." Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. "Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?" he asked. Micaiah replied, "You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room" (1 Kings 22:18-25).

Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the Lord. "Is not my word like fire," declares the Lord, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? "Therefore," declares the Lord, "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes," declares the Lord, "I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The Lord declares.' Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the Lord. "They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the Lord. (Jer 23:28-32).

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping (2 Pet 2:1-3).

An authentic prophet can admit that he may be untrue, and therefore wrong in many areas. He knows that his protection from error is within the unity of our Lord's body. Conversely, the false prophet confuses his anointing with what he thinks in his soul and heart and mind so that he thinks he cannot be wrong (John and Paula Sanford - The Elijah Task p.36).

Court Prophets

In Old Testament times the most serious problem was the "court prophets", who were part of the establishment and acted as cheerleaders for the King, whether he was obeying God or doing evil (1 Kings 22). The modern equivalent is the "pet prophet" who is so loyal to his pastor that he "barks on command". Prophets must be careful not to become part of the establishment. They must find their security in God. Micah had a serious warning for "good news" prophets.

This is what the Lord says: As for the prophets who lead my people astray, if one feeds them, they proclaim 'peace'; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him. Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them. The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God" (Mic 3:3-7).

I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds (Jer 23:21,22).

There are two kinds of prophets: God's prophets and court prophets. God's prophets serve as prosecuting attorneys of God's covenant lawsuit. Court prophets serve as defence attorneys. Gods prophets announce: "Thus saith the Lord!" Court prophets announce: "We're under grace not law" (Gary North - Prophets, Leaders, Followers, Losers).

Hananiah was much more popular than Jeremiah; a lot of people preferred his prophecies. All Jeremiah had to work with was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He could not make up clever prophecies. Hananiah could (Bruce Yocum - The Judgement of God Today).

There is a spiritual power operating in the unseen behind a vanity prophet, giving him strength and boosting his self-esteem. There are spiritual forces ready to ally themselves with flesh, promoting its ambition to the realm of spirituality. Jezebel twists things out of proportion. This miserable lady drives the ambitious careless and faithless to move far beyond what can be expected by and trusted to the saints. And she does so in the name of Faith. She keeps on distributing visions and dreams with such a pace that no man is able to check for veracity. She conspires to shut the mouth of every true prophet who dares to speak up against her (Lars Widerburg, Prophets without Burden).

Pet Prophets

When pastors see a prophet emerging in their church, they are tempted to bring the prophet under their control and use the prophet to support their ministry. The pastor will give the prophet a platform to speak and in return will expect the prophet to speak in support of his ministry and his plans for the church, and against those who oppose him.

I call this the temptation to become a "pet prophet" or "platform prophet". Pet Prophets travel with the pastor as a prop to support the pastor's ministry. This is a very real temptation, but it is a prostitution of the prophetic calling. A true prophet must be free to speak only what God has given them to say, when and where God has commissioned them to speak.

When a pastor gives a young prophet opportunities that would make them into a recognised prophet, it leaves them dependent on him and under his authority. A true prophet must allow God to establish them in their ministry.

This can be a hard choice for the young prophet, if their pastor, often with good motives, asks them to speak and tells them what to say, even though God has not given them a word. Refusing to do that could be costly, because it could cost them a platform that would elevate your ministry in the church.

The true prophet will wait for God to provide opportunities to speak, when he wants them to speak. It may not be as often as a pet prophet gets to speak, but it will be more powerful, because God provided the platform, not the pastor. It will take longer, but it is much better than being a pet prophet.

Platform Prophets

The root problem with one-man leadership is that those who get to the top often feel insecure, so they surround themselves with sycophants and "Yes Men". Anyone who might challenge their authority is kept at a distance.

The other side of this problem is the platform or pedestal prophet. The senior pastor who has no prophets in his church brings one in from outside and puts him on a pedestal. From that platform, the prophet is allowed to give encouragement to the people and challenge those that need sorting out, but the senior pastor always stands behind the prophet, safe from his words.

The pedestal prophet has authority because the senior pastor testifies to their credibility. In return for this authentication, the platform prophet must submit to the authority of the pastor/manager and honour him. The prophet is kept on the pedestal where their ministry can be controlled. The platform prophet must go along with this charade, or be kept in silence.

End-times Industry

The most serious form of false prophecy in the modern church is the "end-times" industry. Their teaching that

  • the world will get worse,

  • Jesus is returning soon,

  • the kingdom will not be established soon,

  • America is God's servant to control the world,

has been Satan's best scheme for crippling the church. Although these prophet's "dates" and predictions have been wrong again and again, they are still accepted by the Church. They were wrong about Y2K, but they never apologised.

I have before me conflicting reports of a coming revival and a coming judgement. One prophesies a blow-out revival to eclipse all we've seen so far. Another prophesies a coming destruction of cataclysmic proportions. Of course, each says the other is in error, maybe not directly, but if you take what they say to heart there exists such a dichotomy that one automatically excludes the other. Oh yes, this is a screwy business, this prophetic wrangling back and forth. No one knows who or what to believe. I call it "Prophetic Dissonance"- a cacophony of conflicting voices, all claiming to speak for God, that merge into a mind-numbing, paralysing buzz (Chip Brogden - Prophetic Dissonance).

We must be men and woman who like the sons of Issachar, "understood the times and know what Israel should do" (1 Chron 12:32). Because Christians have failed to adequately comprehend the present age, our contributions have been meagre and out prestige only slightly higher than insignificant.

The problem can partially be attributed to an escapist mentality that has encouraged many sincere Christians to be passive and pessimistic over their role in the earth. Rather than "occupying or doing business, until he comes," (Luke 19:13) many Christians have abdicated their responsibilities, as they await a rapturous rescue to heaven. Sometimes things seem so bad that we wish we were not only, not of this world, but not even in the world. We must vigorously apply ourselves to enhance our impact on society (Joseph R McAuliffe).

Gullible Age

Despite the apparent sophistication of our technological age, we live in a highly gullible generation open to false prophets and false messiahs (Clifford Hill).

While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as 'vision', 'dynamism', 'creativity', and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial - virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. 'Vision' is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere (C.S. Lewis - The Poison of Subjectivism, Christian Reflections).

I have found, however, the number one target of the false prophetic is the wounded or offended. They are the most vulnerable because offended people isolate themselves. Proverbs 18:19 tells us: "A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city." (John Bevere - Thus Saith the Lord p.154).

Comfort Prophets

Prophets who only give positive messages are dangerous. There are too many comfort prophecies and not enough prophecies that have come out of the council of God.

Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord 's instruction. They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!" (Is 30:8-11).

Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord. He said, "Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfil the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord 's house and all the exiles Back to this place from Babylon. Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognised as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true." (Jer 28:5-9).

Clifford Hill warns that this is one of the dangers of the revival prophecies that are coming out of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.

Each fresh wave within the charismatic movement for the past twenty years has been accompanied by promises of revival. Each one was said to be preparing the people so that they would be ready for the great national outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But each wave ended in disappointment, as the promises of revival were never fulfilled

In biblical times promises of revival always came from the false prophets. Jeremiah continually battled with them in an attempt to undo the harm they were doing by instilling a dangerous attitude of complacency among the people at a time of great danger. Many times Jeremiah had to say, 'Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord' (Jer 23:16). His complaint was that none of these false prophets had stood in the council of the Lord to see or hear his word' (v 18) and that if they had done so they would have proclaimed the word of God which would have turned the people away from their evil ways and saved them from the disaster which was coming upon them (v 22).

The record of prophecy throughout the Bible shows that God never sends prophets to foretell times of peace and prosperity. He raises up prophets in times of trouble to prepare the people to be able to withstand the difficult days that lie ahead, or to call them Back to faithful trust in the Lord so that God can intervene and miraculously change the situation. (Clifford Hill - Shaking the Nations, p.216).

Jeremiah had to tell those who were prophesying good news that God was against them and would hold them responsible for the harm they were doing to the people who believed their false prophecies (Clifford Hill - Shaking the Nations, p.218).

There is no record in the Bible of God ever sending prophets to prepare the people for revival or to foretell good times that lie ahead. The prophets are the watchmen of the people and their job is to give forewarning of danger, not to encourage excitement or contentment. There are instances where the message of warning and strong calls for repentance and change of behaviour resulted in revival, but this followed directly upon the warning being heeded and the word of God being obeyed. (Clifford Hill - Shaking the Nations, p.217).

If leaders making these false promises of revival would only read the accounts of earlier revivals they would see some startling contrasts with the present situation which give some understanding of why genuine revival does not, and never will, flow out of the experiential waves of the charismatic movement (Clifford Hill - Shaking the Nations, p.219).

For Jeremiah, the false prophet is a man of immoral life and he places no barrier to immorality in others whereas the true prophet seeks to stem the tide of sin and to call people to holiness. The message of the false prophet is one of peace, without regard to moral and spiritual conditions which are basic to peace whereas the true prophet has a message of judgement upon sin (J.A Motyer - NBD).

The modern prophetic message is quite a comfortable one. God is going to act mightily on behalf of his people. Allow yourself to adjust to what God is doing today. It never pushes people into action. It describes the future in bright terms. It predicts the near future in generalisations and vagueness to be interpreted and applied in any situation with greatest liberty—one size fits all. If the prophet misses the mark, he is easily and carelessly excused and continues to be endorsed and recognised as a true prophet among the rest of the band who dismisses the issue of standards. No correction, don't touch the prophet (Lars Widerburg, Prophets Without Burden).

Church leaders talk about "making a place for the prophetic" in their church like it was some tame little dog that they need to find room for. Just another little flavour to add to the mix. But it was never supposed to be that way. The prophetic was supposed to threaten and shake everything. The time has come for truly radical prophets of God to arise. The hour is late and the time for measured and mild words is at an end. Prophets, let the fire of God consume you, and come forth bearing words that will shake the church. Nothing less will do. A tepid and insipid prophetic? -Away with it forever!! (Andrew Strom - ANZAC Prophetic List)

There is no doubt that it is easier and more 'popular' to simply give out revelation. For it is easy to "wow" the crowds and get them coming back for more when you are dishing out the "latest and greatest" words, visions and prophecies. It seems clear that the Prophetic movement worldwide has abandoned its original mandate, preferring the acclaim and popularity of thrilling crowds with visions and revelations of the "great things God is about to do", etc. Thus the people end up constantly flocking to hear "some new thing" just as they did with the false prophets of old. We have turned the Prophetic into a "sideshow". People come to have their ears tickled - to be titillated rather than convicted. (Andrew Strom - ANZAC Prophetic List)

There are many prophecies of revival. They tend to assume that the church can have revival as it is, without changing. They take no account of the evil forces at work in the world or that we have allowed these a place in his church. There is an implicit assumption that God will reward lethargy and lukewarmness with revival and blessing. This is a dangerous message.

Internet Prophets

With the advance of the internet, there has been a terrific flood of prophecies flowing out to the global Christian community, via mailing lists, websites, blogs, youtube and facebook. The problem is that much of what is shared is poor quality. I read the prophetic websites frequently, looking for something that really stirs my heart or provides a clear message for our time. I am usually disappointed by their tameness. Even those by the "big-name prophets" often seem weak and insipid. This is a serious problem for the church and could seriously damage the credibility of the prophetic ministry.

Bryan Hupperts shared a vision that is relevant.

Several years ago the Lord showed me a vision of prophetic ministers urinating and defecating into a beautiful, flowing stream. Downstream, people were dipping silver cups into the flowing waters and were gagging on the human impurities and waste! Because of the prophetic pollution problem upstream, there was precious little 'clean water' to drink.

The prophetic office has certain functions and should yield very specific kinds of fruits. First, they should be for the work of the ministry bringing about the unity of the faith. Next, they should bring increasingly clearer revelation and knowledge of Jesus. They should also hold up the pattern of Christ as the mark for which to grow and model our lives after. And why? So that we grow up and can stand fast so that we can discern a genuine move of the Spirit of God from often hurricane-force winds of doctrine interjected into the body of Christ by tricky, crafty, deceitful men.

Much of the church needs to embrace this verse: 1 Corinthians 14:29, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge." Indeed, let the prophets speak! However, prophetic forums, especially those with global reach, need to obey the second half, the counterweight, of this verse. "Let others judge." Here judge means to weigh, evaluate, to discern.

I am asking the body of Christ to begin exercising some spiritual discernment and begin holding those responsible who publish and promote alleged words from the Lord that prove false. I'm not suggesting we stand with a stone in each hand waiting for someone to trip over their tongue, but I am strongly advocating that there be accountability. Beloved, if the prophets can't tell which 'word of the Lord' is genuine, then how in the name of love can the everyday saint discern such things! How can we even know if this man's "40%" word was right? Such foolishness is human waste and impurity that is polluting the river of God, and it is the downstream saints who are suffering for it (Bryan Hupperts SheepTrax).

The internet has been a marvellous vehicle for the distribution of prophecy. There is now a need for prophets to take up the other aspect of their ministry—testing prophecy. Otherwise, God's people will be swamped with chaff and begin to despise prophecy.

Horned Prophets

God has always had a problem with prophets with horns. These are prophets who love war. More on this topic can be found at Horned Prophets

Hebrew Calendar

A prophetic distraction that has emerged among Christians in recent years is to take the Hebrew calendar and look at the meaning of the number for a year and use that to explain what God is going to do. I have several problems with this practice.

  1. The Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures. He has not inspired a calendar.

  2. There is no guarantee that the Hebrew calendar has numbered the number of years since Adam's birth correctly. Biblical scholars have considerable disagreement about how a Biblical chronology should be calculated, so the number of years that elapsed during certain parts of history uncertain. Estimates of the year of Adam's birth by serious biblical scholars vary by a couple of hundred years. Jewish scholars disagree about the date of the first temple and the exile. All this means that we cannot be absolutely certain about the number of years from the birth of Adam. If several years were missed in a couple of places, we might be a year with a different number, so the connection between current events and the meaning of the year number breaks down.

  3. Over a long period of history, calendars can easily go wrong. According to our Gregorian calendar, which was maintained during the dark ages by careful Christian monks, the years are the number of years since the birth of Jesus. We now know that was probably wrong. Matthew says he was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC. Luke dates his birth against the first census of the Roman provinces of Syria and Iudaea, which probably took place in 6 BC. If these dates are correct, we need to add about five years on to get the true the number of years since the birth of Jesus. That is why I did not get excited about the year 2000. I knew it was not actually the year 2000, but probably the 2005th year or thereabouts.

  4. The truth is that we cannot be absolutely certain about the exact number of years that have elapsed, either since the creation of Adam, or from the birth of Jesus. That does not matter. We can get on and do God's work, without having an exact answer to that question. However, it does become a serious problem, if we want to use dates in either the Gregorian or Hebrew calendar to predict the future. The dates are just too uncertain for much significance to be placed on them.

  5. God works out his plans in history. His plans are not determined by planets or by numbers, but come from his heart. The idea that events on earth are shaped by the numbers on a calendar is only one step away from the belief of the astrologers that events are on earth are determined by the movements of the planets. It is an insult to the character and power of God.

  6. The Holy Spirit loves to speak. He can speak clearly. He said to Agabus, "A severe famine is going to spread throughout the Roman Empire" (Act 11:28). That is just an example of what he is capable of doing. Christian prophets should focus on learning to hear the Holy Spirit speak. Looking for signs in dates and shadows is a pointless distraction.

Bible Codes

The Bible code is another prophetic distraction. It is a series of messages supposedly contained within the Bible text, that when decoded into words and phrases demonstrates foreknowledge and prophecy. The primary method for extracting messages is the Equidistant Letter Sequence. A starting point is chosen (in principle, any letter) and a skip number are chosen. Beginning at the starting point, letters are selected from the text at equal spacing, according to skip number. For example, if the skip number is ten, then every tenth character is taken. Most people using this method work with the Hebrew text of the Torah.

This method has a couple of problems.

  1. The most serious problem is that we do not have a completely accurate version of the Hebrew Bible. Even the Masoretic text, which is generally considered to be the most reliable, is full of minor errors. In places, words are missing, and in other places words appear to have been added. This is the natural consequence of copying by hand over many centuries. This does not matter for understanding the message, as most of these glosses do not affect the meaning at all. However, it becomes a serious problem for counting sequences of characters. Just one missing, character will change the rest of the sequence.

  2. If we had the original Hebrew text, the equidistant letter sequence would give a totally different set of words and phrases. The fact that we do not have the original text, means that even if God had put words into the original Hebrew Text, we cannot get at them, because we do not have that text.

  3. There are a huge number of starting characters and a huge number of skip numbers that can be chosen. What comes out of the process will be determined by the original choices. I am suspicious of any method that relies on trawling many options to get something meaningful. You can only find what you already know.

  4. I came across an article in a statistical journal that used the equidistant letter sequence method in Tolstoy's massive novel called "War and Peace". The authors found a whole lot of predictive words and phrases. War and Peace is a wonderful novel, but I do no believe that Tolstoy was so inspired that God used him to hide a message.

The Bible Code is a bit of a distraction. Even if Hitler's name is hidden somewhere in the Hebrew Torah, it does not help me to be a better Christian. I would prefer ten clear words spoken by the Holy Spirit to a thousand words from a Bible code.

Israel determines History of the Church

In recent years a strange doctrine has gained widespread acceptance. The belief has emerged that what happens in the church is determined by what happens in the nation-state of Israel. Some Bible teachers urge Christians to watch what is happening in Israel to understand what is happening in the church. This is a false teaching.

Firstly, what happens in the church is determined by the Holy Spirit. He is not constrained by political or national leaders in any nation. The only thing that constrains his work is the unwillingness of Christians to go with him. We can hold back his activity by refusing to trust and obey him.

Secondly, the leaders of the nation of Israel are not Christians. They have refused to acknowledge that Jesus is their messiah. They do not walk in the Spirit, so they do not hear his voice. Many are totally secular. They do not acknowledge God. They do not honour his law. The leaders of Israel continue to disobey the law, so they are living outside the blessing of the covenant. A nation in this state cannot be the determiner of the Holy Spirit's work on earth.

The truth is the reverse. What happens on earth is largely determined by the church. When the church is weak and lost, the world goes down hill. When the church is in touch with the Holy Spirit and walks in his power, the world is changed.

Many Christians see the emergence of Israel as a marker for biblical prophecy. The reality is that it was just one event that had to happen. At some point God will open the eyes of the Jews and they will acknowledge Jesus as saviour and Lord. This event, often referred to as the "Calling of the Jews", is the next epochal event in history. Before it can happen, at least some of the Jews had to Return to the land of Palestine.

However, the process by which this happened was probably not God's perfect plan. There are many prophecies in the Old Testament, but most speak of people coming to faith and returning in peace and blessing. These have not been fulfilled yet. We have not yet seen the real miracle that God promised.

Ezekiel 38:8 seems to speak of God's second best.

In the latter years you will come into the land that is restored by the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste.
This is not a return in peace and blessing, but a return "by the sword". The birth of the nation was accomplished by secular men and women using political and military power. It was the work of a well-organised nationalism rather than an act of God. The expansion of Israel has been accomplished by political alliances and military power. God allowed this to happen, because he can use all things for good, but that does not mean that it was his perfect plan.

The emergence of Israel had to happen so that God's greater purposes can be achieved, but we cannot be sure that the timing of these events happened exactly according to his plan. They may have happened before God intended. Therefore, it is risky to turn the years 1948 or 1967 into markers for prophetic history.

Jesus is Coming Soon

Another prophetic distraction is the belief that Jesus is coming soon.

The strange thing is that Christians in every age have believed that they were living near the end of the world. For example, Martin Luther thought that he was living near the end of the world. He assumed that Jesus would return during his lifetime. He was not alone in this view. It has been common since the days of the early church.

Looking at the whole of history, most people who have believed that Jesus was coming soon were wrong. That suggests that we should be careful assuming that Jesus is returning soon. It is easy to be wrong about this.

A belief that Jesus will return during the lifetime of my generation is quite arrogant. It assumes that I belong to a pivotal generation in the purposes of God. I doubt that this is true for me. Looking at the western church, I cannot see how it can be the peak of God's work on earth.

Humans can only see their own time in history clearly. Even the previous generation seems quite dim. Earlier generations fade into irrelevance. Our limited perspective means that we get deceived about our own importance. In contrast, God sees all generations from the same perspective. I suspect that from his perspective, we are just not that important.

I believe that Jesus' return is thousands of years away. I will be ready, if I am proved wrong, but I do not believe that Jesus is coming soon. When I study the scriptures, I see thousands of prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. I cannot see how they can be fulfilled in one generation. One prophecy is that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jesus. If such a glorious season were to last only a few years, it would not really be glorious. I can imagine this glorious time lasting for thousands of years.

Does it matter? Yes it does. When Christians believe Jesus is coming soon, they fall into short-term thinking. Many in my generation gave up their university studies, because they believed that Jesus would return before they graduated. Short-term thinking prevents people from investing in activities that will only bring benefits to future generations. This lack of a long-term commitment has crippled the church and held back the Kingdom of God.

Cultures that lose hope for the future collapse inwards and die. That is what seems to be happening to the Western church, as belief in the imminent return of Jesus has become pervasive.

Of course, there is one sense in which all those who died believing that Jesus would come soon were correct. Jesus came for them on the day that they died. Given that death was never far away throughout their lives, it was true that Jesus was coming for them soon.