True & False Prophets (2 Peter 2)

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Introduction

I want to remind everyone that the chapters and verse numbers originally didn’t exist in the bible, they were added later, and aren’t inspired by the Holy Spirit – which means that at times it’s easy to separate portions of scripture in a way as to lose their context.

Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury in 1227 A.D. Added chapters to the bible, then a Jewish Rabbi called Nathan divided the Old Testament chapters into versus 1448 A.D., followed by Robert Estienne who divided the New Testament into versus in 1555 A.D.

2 Peter 2 is an intense portion of scripture – but it’s only understood in the context of the whole letter. Peter finishes of chapter 1 highlighting the power, reliability and importance of the prophetic word – written down by true, reliable prophets. These prophets spoke from the Lord, they made predictions about the future – they declared what God was saying, they were tested and tried, and were shown to be true and accurate.

2 Peter 1:19

“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Peter transitions from the true Prophets to warnings about the false.

Attributes of Prophets

Prophets are not restricted to a particular gender. In scripture there are many example of female Prophets alongside male prophets:

  • Miriam (Exodus 15:20)
  • Deborah (Judges 4:4)
  • Huldah (2 Chronicles 34:22)
  • Anna (Luke 2:36)
  • Philips – the Evangelists Daughters (Acts 21:8)

Harsh penalties were put in place for Prophets that prophesied falsely.

Deuteronomy 18:18

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” 21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

The Israelites were a people set apart from the pagan cultures around them. At the beginning of Deuteronomy 18, God commands the Israelites not to have anyone among them who engages in sorcery, divination, or any form of occult practice whether it be forms of witchcraft, demonic rituals – or predicting the future through other spirits. The surrounding nations did this, and so the evidence that God was not speaking was inaccurate prophecies. God never says something that isn’t true. There is no deceit found in the word of God.

The penalty for false prophecy was extremely severe in the Israelite camp – death. This reveals the way that God feels about mixture.

In Numbers 12, God tells us ways that he reveals things to Prophets.

Numbers 12:6

When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. 7 But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. 

God is able to communicate to people through spiritual visions, dreams and even face to face. Prophets were also called ‘Seers’, and saw what was taking place spiritually.

So Peter, in the context of the true Prophets God gave Israel, the true visions, dreams – and commandments God gave to Moses face to face goes on to explain that amidst all that, false Prophets were among the people.

Jesus said Matthew 7:15;

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

False prophets appear in the likeness of true and genuine converts. Christians who love God, who serve God, and who even hear from God, and sometimes who genuinely have a relationship with God, as we will discover shortly when we investigate the life of Balaam.

“2 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.”

The problem with false Prophecy – is that it almost always is truth mixed with error. Mixture is Satan’s number one tool to deceive Gods people. No one would believe an outright obvious lie – but if the lies are hidden amidst truth, people often swallow it all unaware.

“Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.”

One of the most important strategies of Satan is to disempower the body of Christ with regards to communicating the message of salvation to a lost humanity. He does this through different means:

  1. By appealing to the desire of human beings to be comfortable, respected, and highly though of.
    1. a.      “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
    2. b.      This can become a form of idolatry. We can value more highly the praises of men than God himself, and the honour, obedience and respect he deserves.
    3. Emphasizing signs, wonders and miracles above their right place – so much so that the message to turn away from sin is for the most part entirely neglected. I have observed this taking place in many church circles.
    4. Teaching people that there are many paths to God. This removes the burden from the church to go into the entire world and preach the good news – because people believe that others will find God anyway.
    5. Teaching people that God is not a God who would punish sin, diminishing the justice of God, or in some cases removing it entirely.

Other truth’s Satan loves to attack amidst many others is the deity of Jesus. He would have people believe that Jesus is not God. He introduced this idea in Islam, Jehovah’s witnesses, and the growing New Age movement believes along these lines.

  “3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.”

The word; ‘fabricate’ means to invent something for the purpose of deception. Prosperity preachers often will take Gods word out of context, and transform it’s true meaning into something that appeals to our fleshly desires, usually magnifying this life over and above eternal life.

If you read through Hebrews 11, there is no denying that all of the patriarchs, those who have been placed in the hall of faith – they had their focus set not on this life primarily, but the next.

That perspective serves as a pillar – that’s why alongside repentance, faith, and baptisms – the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment are considered the most elementary principles of Christ, and the foundations for true biblical faith. Because these act as anchors in a sense, we constantly go back to them.

“Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 

We know that God is ultimately in control. But we also have a vital responsibility to be aware that in these days in which we live – we are going to see a dramatic increase in false prophets, false teachers and that they will be very persuasive. There will be lying signs and wonders – even in Church. Jesus taught a lot about this in Matthew 24, and Paul again stresses the importance of being prepared for this in his letter.

10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.

Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. 

It’s important to realize that Angels and Demons do exist. There are ruling spirits, leaders, princes, all of whom having varying degrees of authority and power in the heavenly realms – and they are far more powerful than we are. Of course all of them are nothing compared to the authority of Jesus, but these beings are hugely powerful. Angels don’t even dare heap abuse on certain celestial beings. 

“12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish. 13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.”

God will judges us all according to the works we have done, whether good or bad. As Christians, are bad deeds have been atoned for through the blood of Jesus, and so that has been dealt with, but for those that haven’t applied the blood of Jesus over their life (through repentance and faith in Jesus), they remain under condemnation – and as Peter says so clearly, “they will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done.”

 “Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”

Balaam

The story of Balaam is recorded in Numbers 22. He was a Prophet from Pethor in Mesopotamia. He had a personal relationship with God, heard Gods voice, spoke with God, but at the same time practiced divination.

A good summary verse that could be used to capture who Balaam was – is Numbers 24:1

“Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness. 2 When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him 3 and he spoke his message”

Here in this verse we can see the mixture that existed in his life. We’re told that at other times – Balaam would resort to divination – fortune telling through demonic spirits. But in this instance, he heard from God.

The context is that Israel had left Egypt, and they destroyed the Amorites and Canaanites. Balak, the Moabite King was terrified of Israel, and so sent his men to Balaam, a well known occult supernatural practitioner from the land of Mesopotamia – they brought a diviner’s fee (money) before Balaam to get him to curse Israel. God told Balaam that Israel was blessed, and he could do nothing. Balak persisted with his bribes, and eventually, Balaam went with them and explained how Balak could undo Gods favour over Israel.

17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

Here we have very clear warnings about people departing from the faith. Often it’s obvious, explicit, and visible – but this isn’t so here. Peter is warning people about those who turn their backs of God subtly, in a compromising sense. They turn away from being disciples of Jesus – to being disciples of corrupt human beings who twist and distort the word of God. Rather than being counselled first and foremost by Gods Holy Spirit, that look to men to interpret Gods word. Rather then following the commandments of God from a personal relationship with God, that turn aside, like Balaam did – and desire money, wealth, respect and honour more highly than God.

The good news is that we have the true, unchanging, trustable word of God.

“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

We’ve also been given Gods Holy Spirit so that we can discern truth from error, good from evil, mixture from purity.

God’s word is our weapon in the fight – and we’ve been given it for a very important, practical and powerful purpose.

“The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

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I love God, love people - and want to see as many people come to know God as possible.

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