Prophecy may derive from any of three sources: an evil spirit, the Spirit of God; or the spirit of man.
1. Prophecies from Evil Spirits
I knew the prophets of Samaria were unbelievably evil, for they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel into sin (Jeremiah 23:13, Living Bible).
i) Prophets are cited here who “prophesied by Baal.” The demon spirit of Baal, the idol which the people of the land generally worshipped, inspired those “unbelievablyevil” men to prophesy.
ii) From that scripture, it is further apparent that the wicked lives of those “unbelievablyevil” men predisposed them to those evil spirits; their evil nature offered an open door to the evil spirits.
An evil tree will always produce evil fruits (Matthew 7:20). On Mount Carmel, Elijah contended with 850 of such false prophets (1 Kings 18:19-40).
2. Prophecies from the Spirit of God
9 And it was so, that when he [Saul] had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart…
10 And the Spirit of God came upon him and he prophesied…(1 Samuel 19:9-10).
i) Here again, we find prophecy, but prophecy that was the result of “the Spirit of God” coming upon a person. In other words, prophecy originating from the Spirit of God.
ii) It should be noted also that just as the “unbelievably evil” nature of one people opened them up to Satanic prophetic spirits, “another heart,” a new nature, in this case, predisposed King Saul to the prophetic Spirit of God.
In one of his epistles, the Apostle Paul explained that the scriptures were not the product of prophecy emanating from the spirit or “will of man” (note that) but the product of holy men moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21). In other words, their holy nature was a factor in their being instruments to the Holy Spirit.
iii) Therefore, the quality of a person’s life is a further proof of or a way to test the spirit that operates in any prophet, for“by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). Prophecies purporting to be coming from God through “unbelievably evil”vessels should be investigated again with an electron microscope.
iv) That is not to say, however, that every Holy Spirit-filled person will always have it completely right in all his prophecies. Peter’s experience in Matthew 16:17-29, 22-23 says it all. One moment he spoke by the Spirit of God, only to become Satan’s mouthpiece the next moment. Similarly, the holy Prophet Samuel could have anointed the wrong son of Jesse rather than David, had God not quickly intervened (1 Samuel 16:11-12).
v) On the other hand, not being a holy man of God does not mean that God cannot speak at all to such a person. God speaks to all His creatures, to each in his own ‘language.’ Even a King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and a Pharaoh of Egypt can, in exceptional circumstances, receive authentic dreams originating from God.
vi) The lesson this teaches is discernment, even when holy vessels may be involved.
3. Prophecies From the Human Spirit
i) A true prophet may sometimes be overtaken by his emotions or mind or intellect, which may interfere with God’s true flow; or a person who has no Spirit of God at all may purport to be speaking for God words which he or she has actually premeditated.
…Don’t listen to these false prophets…. They are making up everything they say. They do not speak for me(Jeremiah 23:16, Living Bible).
I have not sent these prophets. Yet they claim to speak for me, I gave them no message, yet they say their words are mine (Jeremiah 23:21).
“Listen to the dream I had from God last night,” they say. And then they proceed to lie in my name. …They are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say (Jeremiah 23:25-26).
So I stand against these “prophets” who get their messages from each other… (Jeremiah 23:30-31, Living Bible).
From 2 Peter 1:21, it is obvious that prophecy may also come from “the will of man.”
ii) The Jeremiah 23:30 reference, about prophets “who get their messages from each other”; who “steal my words, every one from his neighbour” (KJV), may refer to those who hear an inspired or purported prophetic word from somewhere, and presume that God should be saying the same thing through them to another congregation. Their prophecy does not come from God or from devils. It has been plucked off the mouth of another true, false, or presumptuous prophet like themselves. And they have plucked off those words either because they deliberately wish to deceive or merely wish to impress their hearers, or because their mind manages to fool them that God must also be saying those words through them.
Very well therefore does the Bible advise us to try or “test” the spirits, “whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the word” (1 John 4:1).
4. Judging Prophecies
How to identify a true prophet of God has been an age-long issue. The early Jews had that problem, so God had to give them some signs by which to be able to tell the true prophet of God.
Test 1 (a): If someone prophesied a thing but his words did not come to pass, he was a false prophet; false because the prophecy had not emanated from the God in whose name it had come. He may have prophesied from his own head or from an evil spirit (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
(b) In the case of prophecies of judgment, however, a people’s repentance is capable of averting a prophesied judgment, as in the case of Nineveh (Jonah 3:8-10). An averted judgment therefore, does not make a Jonah a false prophet.
Test 2: However, because even a false prophet may sometimes predict something that could come to pass, God puts another check on the first: If his prophecy comes to pass, but his theology deviates from Godliness towards idolatry; if his predictions come true, but the fruits of his ‘powerful prophetic ministry’ are ungodliness, fornication etc. (as with ‘Prophetess Jezebel’ in the early Church – Revelation 2:20), he is a snare (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). By their fruits we shall know them (Matthew 7:20).
For example, some of the fruits of the ministry of the “unbelievably evil” prophets of Baal was spritualised backsliding in the lives of their members; the people were “led... into sin” (Jeremiah 23:13).
The Spirit of God in the true word of God cannot produce the fruits of Satan in the lives of its hearers.
The lifestyle of a prophet’s congregation are therefore vital fruits that testify to the nature (true or false or intellectual/human) of their prophet.
Some prophecies emanate from spirits of devils, some from the Spirit of God, and some from the spirit of man, the human spirit. Therefore, “try the spirits whether they are of God.” Amen.
From The Preacher’s diary,
June 30, 2002.