How to Distinguish Between True and False Prophecy

Lorraine Day, M.D.

The majority of the Christians in America are dispensational believers who espouse geographical literalism.  What does that mean?  And is this prophetic interpretation correct?

“The literalists, who refer to themselves as dispensationalists, consider the year 1948 as the beginning of the final generation of the Israel of God.  They appeal to Christ’s statement to His disciples:  ‘This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” Mark 13:30.  Taking the duration of a “generation” as 40 years, many concluded that the year 1988 would be the year of ‘Armageddon.’ Hal Lindsey wrote in his best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth  (New York: Bantam Books, 1972):

What generation?  Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the
signs--chief among them the rebirth of Israel.  A generation in the Bible is something like
forty years.  If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these
things could take place (p. 54). 

We are the generation He was talking about! (The 1980s Countdown to Armageddon (New York: Bantam Books, 1982). P 162

In keeping with this calculation, some reckoned that their rapture to heaven would take place seven years before 1988 and actually prepared for their lift-off from earth in 1981.
”Chariots of Salvation, Hans LaRondelle, p 14

Geographic literalism especially has great appeal for dispensational believers who embrace the idea that there is a present era of the “Gentiles,” who they interpret as ethnic non-Jews who they believe are now in charge of the nations of the earth,”  that will be followed by an era, the millennial era, when “the Jews,”  supposedly God’s “Chosen People,” will rule the earth.

“Today a host of modern prophets in Christianity--especially in religious fundamentalist circles--announce to the world that we are living in the last generation before doomsday.  Their interpretation of Biblical prophecies arises from one common assumption: We must read the prophetic visions of the Hebrew prophets as a literal description of history in advance!  In other words, the interpretational guideline or presupposition is a rigid literalism.  It allows only a literal application of the words and images of the Old Testament for their modern end-time fulfillment.  This implies that all the ethnic and geographic descriptions of Israel and her ancient enemies in prophecy must have absolutely literal fulfillment in our time.  The assumption further claims that the modern State of Israel will again become the theocratic (God-ruled) nation among the Gentile world.”  Chariots of Salvation, Hans LaRondelle, p 16

Shortly before the Babylonian exile, some “prophets” asserted that Israel would not be exiled, instead God would soon restore and bless the Jewish nation.  They pointed to the marvelous Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, as though it and the nation of Israel were inseparably one, no matter how Israel related to God.

In other words, they believed that God’s promises for Israel’s occupation of the land, were unconditional.  The nation of Israel could do as they pleased, ignore and defy God, and they would still be God’s “Chosen People.”

These prophets were clearly False Prophets, as pointed out by the True Prophet, Jeremiah:

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the gate of the temple, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord.

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings and I will cause you to dwell in this place,

“Trust ye not in lying words, saying The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these,

“For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbour;

“If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:

“Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever.” Jeremiah 7:1-7

In addition, after the “Jews” were exiled, other self-appointed prophets arose proclaiming an early return to Israel to the Promised Land, arousing a spirit of rebellion.

One day in the Temple court Jeremiah suddenly stood face-to-face with a passionate opponent, the patriotic (false) prophet Hananiah.  Hananiah even went so far as to announce that in only a brief time God would fulfill His promise to restore Israel, a claim in direct opposition to Jeremiah’s prophetic word that Israel’s exile in Babylon would continue for a full 70 years (see Jer 25:11; 29:10).

Boldly Hananiah predicted, in the name of the Lord, that within two years God would bring back the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon (Jer 28:11).  In reality, it was his OWN prognostication!

“What turned Hananiah’s prediction of an early restoration of Israel into a false prophecy?  Was it the brief time he set before the return of Israel from Babylonian exile in contrast to Jeremiah’s 70 years of captivity?  A more fundamental difference characterized the false prophets: they applied God’s covenant promise of peace and blessing in an unconditional way to Israel’s future restoration, completely ignoring and denying that God had made genuine repentance and a faithful return to the Lord the explicit prerequisite for Israel’s regathering and restoration as the theocratic nation.” LaRondelle, p 18 

“For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I caused you to be carried away captive.”  Jer 29:10-14

Moral repentance was the keynote of all Jeremiah’s prophecies (see Jer 18:7-10).  Hananiah, on the other hand, preached “rebellion against the Lord” (Jer 28:16), causing Israel to :trust in lies” (verse 15) when he in 593 B.C. solemnly announced an unconditional peace for Jerusalem.

On the other hand, Hananiah and the other false prophets, popularized the promise of Isaiah’s message (God would destroy the yoke of Assyria from the neck of Jerusalem - Isa 10:27), ignoring the condition inherent in each prophetic message of salvation; they changed the sure promise for an Israel that would faithful fulfill her calling into an unconditional promise of security for all times.

During the reign of the last Judean king, Zedekiah, more false prophets arose.  Their messages of peace and of no harm not only created false hopes but rather hastened the judgments of God on the impenitent city.

They dress the wound of my people
As though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say,
when there is no peace (Jer 6:14). 

They keep saying to those who despise me,
“The Lord says: You will have peace.”
And to all who follow the stubbornness
Of their hearts
They say, “No harm will come to you.” 

But which of them has stood in the
Council of the Lord
To see or hear His word?
Who has listened and heard His word?” 
(Jeremiah 23:17,18) 

I did not send these prophets,
Yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them
Yet they have prophesied
(verse 21).

 Israel’s self-appoint prophets believed with a passion that they were true prophets, but God judged them

“Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. . .

“So I will spend my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash.  I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 13:10,15,16)

From the start, Moses taught specifically that the decisive criterion for distinguishing between true and false prophecy was its agreement or disagreement with God’s previously revealed will (see Deut. 13:1-5): 

          If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder

          And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying,

Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them:

Thou shalt not listen unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Ye shall follow after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and ye shall serve Him, and hold fast to Him.

And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to entice you from out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in.  So shalt thou exterminate evil away from the midst of thee.

After the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., God revealed the deeper cause for the failure of the false visions of peace:

The visions of your prophets
Were false and worthless;
They did not expose your sin
To ward off your captivity.

The oracles they gave you
Were false and misleading (Lam. 2:14). 

But it happened because of the sins of
Her prophets
And the iniquities of her priests,
Who shed within her
The blood of the righteous (Lam 4:13). 

The false prophets in Israel apparently lacked real concern for the welfare of God’s people.  Ezekiel exposed them even more rigorously:

Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations.  They say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says” --- when the Lord has not spoken

The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger
bringing down on their own heads all they have done,
declares the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel 22:28-31).

Notice that the way God “pours out His wrath” is by allowing them to reap what they have sown!

“Those self-proclaimed prophets even arrogantly forbade God’s true prophets to speak the true words of the Lord! Micah complained, “Do not prophesy,” their prophets say.

“Do not prophesy about these things; disgrace will not overtake us” (Micah 2:6; Amos 7:16)  In response he announced the very opposite of peace for Israel:

Therefore because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
The temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets
(Micah 3:12).

“What then was the essential difference between true and false prophecy in Israel’s history? It was not the idea that true prophets utter only doom for the future while the false prophets predict merely peace and prosperity. God’s prophets definitely promised hope by announcing the abiding peace of the coming Messianic kingdom (see Micah 4:1-5; Amos 9:11-15, Jer 23:5).

“The essential difference was the fact that true prophets stressed the holy prerequisite of true repentance if the nation was to avert the Lord’s retributive justice.  Consequently, only a spiritual remnant would experience the promised peace and blessing of Israel.  False prophecy glaringly omitted this moral precondition by stressing the fulfillment of God’s restoration promises, as if these were unconditional guarantees.  Such prophets did not expose Israel’s sins.  They did not call for faith and covenantal obedience.  “Thus, false prophets did NOT recognize Israel’s historical hour of apostasy!  They merely passed on their favorite dogma of Israel’s unconditional election, showing no proper concern for her all-important relation with God and with the Messiah of prophecy.”  LaRondelle, p 22

****Today we can recognize the FALSE PROPHETS
of Evangelical Christianity
by the same unqualified assertions of divine election and restoration
for the modern State of Israel.****

Fortunately, some Bible scholars are now beginning to recognize the fact that the Old Testament as a whole is NOT primarily Israel-centered, but Messiah-centered, Christ-centered.  The heart of Israel’s prophetic and historic mission is Christ, NOT Israel!  After all, Jesus said in John 5:39:

You search the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: but they (the Old Testament Scriptures) are they which testify of Me!”

The entire Old Testament is about Jesus, the coming Messiah, which is fulfilled in the New Testament.  This reveals that we can understand the prophecies of the Bible properly ONLY when we relate the predictions to God and to His Messiah, Jesus Christ.  (see 2 Cor 1:20)

Those who refer to themselves as “New Testament” Christians are sorely misled in their interpretation of prophecy precisely because they DO NOT understand that a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament is critical in understanding the New Testament.  “New Testament” Christians believe the Old Testament is “for the Jews,” but the Old Testament is actually ALL ABOUT Christ!  It is NOT Israel-centered!

False prophets preach of a god who is fundamentally different from Israel’s Redeemer and Ruler, a god who does not require the moral obedience and repentance the Lord insists on in His Torah (see Deut. 30:1-10).  The false prophet “has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow” (Deut. 13:5).

Jesus even warned, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if possible” (Matt 24:24).

“Just as false prophecy in the Old Testament had as its sole emphasis God’s promises of peace, while ignoring the conditional aspects of Israel’s moral return to the Lord, so false prophecy in the Christian era stands identified by its failure to connect God’s covenant promises to Israel with faith in Jesus as the Christ.  This is now God’s irrevocable condition for the fulfillment of prophecy. 

“Consequently those who declare ‘peace’ for Israel and the church while ignoring the divine prerequisite of faith in Christ for the fulfillment of Bible prophecies do not proclaim the God of Holy Scripture.  Paul writes in the true prophetic style when he warns against the False Prophets in the last days. “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thess 5:3; Jer 6:14; 8:11; Eze. 13:10).  LaRondelle p 25,26

Christ solemnly declared to the “Jewish” leaders of His time, “I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Matt 21:43).

“What brought Jesus to such a shocking conclusion that God would remove from the ‘Chosen People’ the blessed privilege of being a theocratic nation”?  Christ explained the reason in His parable of the tenants.  They had decided concerning the son of the landowner, ‘Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance’ (verse 38). 

“Thus the ‘Jewish’ builders rejected the Foundation Stone of Israel:  the Son of God (verse 42)!  The people who would receive the kingdom of God were NOT some future generation of ‘Jews,’ but those in His time who accepted Jesus as the Messiah of prophecy.  Christ assured His own disciples, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give YOU the kingdom’ (Luke 12:32).

“Christ ordained exactly twelve of them as His apostles to represent the NEW, Messianic Israel, which He called ‘My church’ (Matt. 16:16-18).  The apostolic church represented the Christ-believing remnant of ancient Israel.  The apostle Paul therefore taught, ‘So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace’ “(Rom. 11:5).
La Rondelle p 26

Jesus has stated that “he who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt 12:30).  Jews who persist in their rejection of Jesus as the Lord of Israel remain in the scattering even when they are living in Palestine.

The time of the Roman siege of old Jerusalem shows how vitally important it is to know who the true Israel of God is.  Just before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, False Prophets arose in the city, promising the Jews imminent deliverance from the Roman Army.  The Jewish historian, Josephus, reports how such self-appointed prophets only further bolstered the stubborn resistance of the Jews in Jerusalem until the last fatal moment.

“A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the Temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance.  Now, there was then a great number of false prophets suborned (bribed) by the tyrants to impose upon the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God” (Wars of the Jews 6.5.2. in W. Whiston, trans., Josephus: Complete Works, p 582)

Such prophets insisted that divine deliverance, promised by the Hebrew prophets to Israel on Mount Zion, would soon be fulfilled.  They expected God’s imminent deliverance of the city in trouble.  However, time demonstrated them to be erroneous interpreters of biblical prophecy and thus False Prophets, doomed to a miserable death.

What was the basic error of their False Prophecies?  It was their application of the restoration promise as an unconditional guarantee to ethnic Israel. 

The principle of a geographic literalism that maintains that physical Jerusalem is still the center of prophetic fulfillment makes old territorial boundaries the fulfillment of prophecy instead of Christ Jesus.  The person of Christ is, however, the real “holy place.”  Jesus Himself declared that “one greater than the Temple is here!” (Matt 12:6; Luke 17:20,21; John 4:21-24)

Consequently, ONLY a Christ-centered interpretation of Old Testament promises, NOT literalism, NOT an Israel-centered interpretation, is biblically correct.

This study clearly demonstrates, based on biblical documentation, that the loudly heralded and massively followed Evangelical Christian leaders who preach prophetic interpretations that are Israel-centered, rather than Christ-centered, are False Prophets!  They interpret the Bible prophecies as focused on Israel, rather than on Christ!

They have replaced Christ as the Messiah, with the nation of Israel!  According to their interpretation of Scripture, the present-day nation of Israel has become the “Messiah”! 

The Bible clearly states that when someone, or some group, replaces Christ, they are the ANTICHRIST!  Therefore, the present-day nation of Israel, according to Evangelical Christian prophetic interpretation, is the ANTICHRIST!

© Lorraine Day, M.D. 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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