Deuteronomy 18:10–22—How can false prophets be distinguished from true prophets?

Problem: The Bible contains many prophecies which it calls upon us to believe because they come from God. However, the Bible also acknowledges the existence of false prophets (Matt. 7:15). Indeed, many religions and cults claim to have prophets. Hence, the Bible exhorts believers to “test” those who claim to be prophets (1 John 4:1–3). But what is the difference between a false prophet and a true prophet of God?

Solution: There are many tests for a false prophet. Several of them are listed in these very passages. Put in question form, the tests are:

1. Do they ever give false prophecies? (Deut. 18:21–22)

2. Do they contact departed spirits? (Deut. 18:11)

3. Do they use means of divination? (Deut. 18:11)

4. Do they involve mediums or witches? (Deut. 18:10)

5. Do they follow false gods or idols? (Ex. 20:3–4; Deut. 13:3)

6. Do they deny the deity of Jesus Christ? (Col. 2:8–9)

7. Do they deny the humanity of Jesus Christ? (1 John 4:1–2)

8. Do their prophecies shift the focus off Jesus Christ? (Rev. 19:10)

9. Do they advocate abstaining from certain foods and meats for spiritual reasons? (1 Tim. 4:3–4)

10. Do they deprecate or deny the need for marriage? (1 Tim. 4:3)

11. Do they promote immorality? (Jude 7)

12. Do they encourage legalistic self-denial? (Col. 2:16–23)

(See Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody Press, 1986, 241–42.)

A positive answer to any of this is an indication that the prophet is not speaking for God. God does not speak or encourage anything that is contrary to His character and commands. And most certainly the God of truth does not give false prophecies.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.