In these modern days, many people love to add the title of Prophet to their names. Towards the end of the Jesus’ earthly ministry, His disciples came to Him with several questions concerning the future: “Tell us … what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus responded: “Take heed that no man deceive you.”
It is it is our duty as watchmen and watchwomen on the tower, to warn Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to deceive and to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony.
How could the people in biblical times tell the difference between a genuine prophet of God and a fraud? The mere claim that someone had the prophetic gift certainly did not make it so. How would the people know which person spoke for God and who did not? What were they to do?
The Lord made provisions for this problem. The Bible lists certain tests for a genuine prophet of God. Moses recorded God as saying:
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?”
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. Do not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18.18-22 NIV).
There are a number of things we can learn from what the Lord has said about who had the prophetic gift and who did not.
- They Were To Speak In The Name Of The Lord
From this passage, we observe that a prophet of God must speak in the name of the Lord. The prophet shall not encourage the people to follow after false gods.
No matter how correct a prophet may seem to be, if he, or she, does not encourage people to follow the Lord, the God of Israel, then that person cannot be considered a prophet of God. Merely getting some future events correct is not enough to be considered a genuine prophet of God.
This is primary.
- They Were 100% Right 100% Of The Time
Another characteristic of Bible prophecy is that the biblical prophet must be 100% right 100% of the time. If a prophet is representing the Lord, then their predictions will always be without error.
As soon as a so-called prophet makes one mistake, then that person is no longer able to be called a prophet of the true and living God. God’s prophets did not make mistakes! The prophet Habakkuk wrote:
“The LORD answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 CSB).
The words of the Lord, through the prophets, will indeed truly come to pass, and they will not be late! Indeed, when the Lord predicts the future what He says always comes to pass.
- They Had To Give Evidence Of Authenticity Of Their Gift In Their Lifetime
A practical question arises. How would the people know if a particular prophet was sent by God? Anyone could claim to have the prophetic gift.
What if someone claimed to be God’s prophet, yet predicted events that would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years? How could the identity of the prophet be established?
God provided a simple method so that the people would know if this person was actually speaking for the Lord. Their authenticity, as a genuine prophet, would be demonstrated by making a specific prediction of something locally that would happen in their own lifetime.
In other words, before that person could be received as God’s prophet to the people, they had to give supernatural evidence of their calling. This would be evidence which everyone could weigh and evaluate.
An Example: The Local Prediction Of Isaiah
For example, Isaiah the prophet spoke to King Hezekiah about the possible attack of the Assyrian army. He made the following prediction:
“Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the king of Assyria: He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or build up an assault ramp against it” (Isaiah 37:33 CSB).
The prophecy was clear. Although the city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the Assyrian army, there would be no destruction whatsoever.
Furthermore, there would not even be one arrow shot into the city by the enemy. This specific prophecy was literally fulfilled. The Bible says:
“Then the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. When the people got up the [next] morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and left. He returned [home] and lived in Nineveh” (Isaiah 37:36-37 CSB).
Therefore, we have an immediate fulfilment in the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah that demonstrated he was speaking for God. His words came to pass exactly as he said that they would.
The same test held true for other biblical prophets. They had to make a specific, local prediction which would be literally fulfilled in their lifetime before they could be considered as one of God’s true prophets.
Consequently, the people of God would never have to wonder who was truly speaking for Him. A genuine prophet would always be right, would encourage the people to follow the Lord, would command them not to follow other gods, and would accurately predict some event in their own lifetime. Those who passed all of these tests would qualify as a true prophet of God.
The Prophet Could Not Play Any Part In The Fulfilment Of His Or Her Prediction
We should also emphasize that those men and women who gave the divinely-inspired prophecies, the biblical prophets, could not play any part in their fulfilment.
In other words, the predictions they made had to be completely fulfilled apart from anything that they said or did. Consequently, the genuine prophet of God could have absolutely nothing to do with the precise fulfilment of their predictions. This had to be the work of the Lord and of Him alone.
This sums up the tests that the biblical prophets had to pass.
Summary To The Question: What Are The Biblical Tests For A Prophet?
While many people in the ancient world rose up and claimed to be prophets of God, the Lord provided a way in which their claims could be tested.
Indeed, there were a number of tests the Scripture gave to identify a genuine prophet of God. These tests made it clear who was speaking for the Lord and who was not speaking for Him. We can summarize them in the following manner:
According to the Lord, a true prophet of the living God would always be correct in everything that he or she predicts. They could not make any mistakes when making predictions of the future in the name of the Lord.
If they made a mistake, then they could not be speaking for Him, for God does not make mistakes. This test must be passed.
In addition, the biblical prophet must encourage the people to follow after the Lord. This is crucial. It is not enough for the prophet to correctly speak of “things to come.” The prophet must also urge the population to serve the God of Scripture. Otherwise, he or she could not be considered as a genuine prophet.
(Main Source: Don Stewart – God Wants Us To Know The Future)