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False Prophets and Deception

The existence of false prophets is one of the most important issues discussed in the Bible, especially in the epistles of the New Testament.  The epistles were written for two primary reasons:  to encourage other Christians to resist sin and live holy lives and to warn them about false teachers.  The following verses describe false prophets, while showing God's people how they can recognize them.

Among the Church

Many people think that false prophets can only be found in strange cults and other religions.  In these verses, the apostles warned that there would also be false teachers within the Christian church.
Empty Words

The Bible contains many verses describing how false prophets teach people.  They use "empty words," "fair speeches," "meaningless talk," and they "speak from the viewpoint of the world."  Their preaching is not backed by the truth and power of God's wordit is empty.  There is no conviction, no passion for serving God, and no real love.  This is why so many people don't like going to church and can't stay awake during the sermons.
Acts 20:29 - "Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them."

2 Pet. 2:1 - "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."

Jude 1:4 - "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."
Rom. 16:18 - "...by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." (KJV)

Eph. 5:6-7 - "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them."

1 Tim. 1:6-7 - Some people have wandered away from love, a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith and have turned to "meaningless talk."  "They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm."

Titus 1:10 - Paul calls some false prophets "rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers."
2 Pet. 2:3 - Some teachers exploit people with "stories they have made up."

2 Pet. 2:18 - "For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error."

1 John 4:4-6 - "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood."


There are numerous verses in the Bible that describe how deceptive false teachers can be.  This is one reason why Paul tells the Thessalonian church to "test everything" (1 Thess. 5:21), and why John says "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).  The following verses describe the extent of this deception, and most of them are warnings written to God's people to prevent them from being deceived.
Acts 20:29-31 - "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears."

2 Cor. 11:3-4 - "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough."

2 Cor. 11:13-15 - "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
Mat. 7:15-16 - "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them..."

Mat. 24:24-25 - "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time."

Luke 11:44 - Jesus told the Pharisees that they were like "unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."

2 Tim. 2:17 - Concerning some false teachers, Paul warns Timothy that "their teaching will spread like gangrene."

2 Tim. 3:13 - "...evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived."

2 Pet. 2:2 - "Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute."
Deut. 13:1-4 - "If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.  It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him."

Deut. 13:6-8 - "If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him..."

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.

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