“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. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1–5 NIV).

Often, someone who is considered a “true prophet” by some people is simultaneously considered a “false prophet” by others, even within the same ‘religion’ as the “prophet” in question.
False Authority: False prophets always claim to have access to information you can’t otherwise access without them. If God had a message for you, don’t you think it could be conveyed by a mean other than through a guy with perfect hair, capped teeth and a $5,000 suit or robe WHOM YOU CANT REACH DIRECTLY?

False Hope. Along with this authority, there is some sort of reassurance or certainty offered. But it’s always transactional or conditional in nature. Buy tickets to my show, purchase my book, come see me on tour or put your check in the offering plate and I’m make sure you get the hope you’re looking for. But that’s another thing about this brand of hope: it’s always hope for something. But God isn’t a vending machine. God doesn’t sit back and wait for us to pray hard enough or earnestly enough before giving up the goods. True hope is independent of conditions or circumstances, just like real love doesn’t require anything in return. Both simply exist for the sake of themselves. Conditional, contingent hope is really just a wish.

False Perfection: All of the folks who take on these personas (yes, they’re playing characters) put on an air of flawlessness that seems kind of grotesque and cartoonish from arms-length. But this is a very necessary part of the formula, because they represent the absence of every problem that you or I seek to escape. They have unique or weird clothing and they are never, ever sad not prone to much smiling. If they just seemed like a regular person, why would we want to emulate their lives?

False Gospel: Your life could be so much better, more meaningful, more complete, if only (fill in the blank). This kind of good news hucksterism, which is hardly the sole purview of Christian preachers, always suggests that all of the imperfections, problems, senses of lack, want, etc, can all go away if you get the formula right. Ultimately all of these schemes are about chasing a fleeting feeling or some nonexistent sense of total fulfillment which simply isn’t real. And to suggest that Jesus’ primary message was that it’s all about you, and that your happiness is what matters most, is a gross distortion of the Gospel.

False Healing: Along these lines, there’s a temporary sense of fulfillment that comes from throwing yourself completely into the illusion that this person can give you everything you want or need. There’s a rush, not unlike doing drugs, or skydiving or having sex. But just like those things, the good feelings fade and you’re still you in the end, with all the same longings, scars and imperfections. Only now, you still have the lingering realization that the thing you tried to heal yourself from all of these woes didn’t work. So you’re left with trying to chase after the next thing that promises the same kind of healing, or with the knowledge that you’ve been suckered. And by then, the false prophet has already moved on to the next mark.

A true prophet is a truth-teller, one who sees and names things for what they really are, not for what we want them to be. They’re often unpopular for their claims, because they challenge the false constructs of a culture that it tries to use to distract itself from dealing with its real issues. But even if the truths such prophets claim aren’t necessary pleasant, they do present an opportunity for liberation: from the illusion that suffering or pain is your fault; from the misconception that the goal of life is personal satisfaction; from the wasted time, energy and money expended on trying to achieve such nonexistent aspirations.

1 John 4:1-6
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.

1 John 4:1
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Matthew 7:15
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 24:24
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

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