“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 hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto 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 thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.”
A word of warning, you say, to an ancient people; but which has no significance for the church of another, a new dispensation?
Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Not only is the people of God one in all ages, but the word of warning is echoic as it is addressed to the church of the new era. True, the words are slightly different, but the meaning and implications are precisely the same.
Listen to the apostle Paul (II Thess. 2:7-12): “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who letteth will let until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Or, hear the warning which the Lord Jesus gave to his disciples while delineating on the signs that would be precursory to his parousia. “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; in so much that, if were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before.” (Matt. 24:23-25).
And if you will receive it, pay close attention to the last prophetic announcement of Scripture, as foretold by the seer of Patmos (Rev. 13:13-14): “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”
Awesome, indeed, shall be the power of the Antichrist, who also shall perform wonders and signs, that many may be carried away in a great apostasy!
Clear it should be that what Moses declared to that ancient people is just as pertinent to the present generation as it was to them.
Lying prophets and lying wonders!
Who and what are they?
That we may know who and what they are, it is necessary first to consider who and what are true prophets. And what is so striking in Scripture is the fact that when the true prophets of God appear, most generally you find the false prophets make their appearance with them. We will have occasion to show you presently how true this is. So that it should not be difficult at all to observe the differences between them.
The true prophet, according to his true nature and calling, was that man of God who was so full of the Word of God and of divine thoughts, that they bubbled over and poured from his mouth. He was not able to contain within him the Word and revelation of God. Moreover, the true prophet was ordained and sent of God to speak his Word. So burdened was he with the Word of God that he could not rest until he had unburdened himself and delivered God’s Word to those to whom God had sent him. Authoritatively he could stand before the people and declare: “Thus saith the Lord.” Fact is, the Hebrew word which is translated “prophet,” comes from a root word, which literally means: “to bubble over.” Not only, therefore, was a prophet such a man of God who could predict what was in the future as God desired that his people should know it; but he was mainly one whose calling it was to declare all the counsel of God. And along with that authority to speak the pure Word of God, the prophet was also generally given the power to perform wonders and signs, to confirm the veracity of the Word he was ordained to speak. Men such as Elijah and Elisha are worthy examples of this.
It must be observed, moreover, that true prophecy as well as the Word of God itself, undergoes historical and organical. development. Already in the antediluvian world we learn of the prophet Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesying that the Lord was coming in judgment with thousands of angels; while also then we read of the man Noah, who foretold the waters, of the flood, But of all the prophets in the old dispensation, none stands out more than Moses, whose prophecies appear as being the basis upon which all that followed stood. It was he also who spoke of the Prophet which was to come, like unto himself, to Whom all would, give ear; namely, the Christ of God. In the light of Him, all who preceded were merely types and shadows, while at the same time all their prophecies reflected on Him. While all the old dispensation looked forward to Him, all the new looks back to Him. For in Christ Jesus is all the revelation, the Word of God.
Now, as we said, alongside of the true prophet, the lying prophet with lying wonders appears.
Lying prophets, dreamers of dreams!
That these prophets dreamed dreams, was not in itself evil. That did not make these prophets false prophets. Although a dream was the lowest form of revelation, God also spoke to the true prophets through this medium. But what made dreams of the lying prophets evil was the fact that they were evil dreams. Their contents were false. “Let us go after other Gods, and let us serve them,” could not be a revelation of God, but of the evil one. The purpose of their prophecies was not to lead to the true God, but away from Him.
Lying wonders! We are not told here what these wonders or signs were, but they evidently refer to great acts with mighty power. They were signs and wonders that work. If they failed to work, there would not be much danger in them. They could not serve as a medium to deceive. But, behold, the signs come to pass. They not only claim to have power, these false prophets, but they also are able to display that power.
As we suggested above, the false prophets often appear with the true prophets; and display their powerful signs alongside the display of the wonders performed by the true prophets. Think, for example, of the time when Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh in Egypt. Moses demanded in the Name of God that Pharaoh let the people of Israel go from their bondage. Pharaoh asked for a miracle or sign that Moses spoke in the Name of Jehovah. Aaron was told to cast his rod to the ground before Pharaoh, and behold, it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh called for his sorcerers and magicians to perform their enchantments. They also cast their rods to the ground, and they also became serpents. As the Lord had forewarned, Pharaoh would harden hisheart. And the occasion for this hardening of his heart was the fact of the wonder of the magicians. That the power of Moses and Aaron was greater, was displayed in the fact that the rods of the magicians were eaten up by the rod of Aaron. And so it was with the plagues, at least the first two of them, that the magicians were able to duplicate the wonders performed by Moses and Aaron.
Or, think of what we read in Jeremiah 28, where the false prophet Hananiah denies the true prophecy concerning the bondage of Judah in Babylon. Jeremiah had predicted that seventy years shall pass before Judah would return from captivity. Hananiah, however, boldly but falsely predicts that Judah shall return in two years. Jeremiah rebukes Hananiah, saying, “The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou has taught rebellion against the Lord. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.”
And, if these examples are not enough, note also those which appear in the new dispensation. Alongside Paul the apostle, appear Hymenaeus and Alexander. Beside an Athanasius appears an Arius. Beside an Augustine appears a Pelagius. Beside a Luther appears an Erasmus. Beside a Calvin appears a Servetus. Beside a Gomarus appears an Arminius. Beside those who declare the Word of the Living God in our day are those who prophesy God is dead. And so it shall be unto the time of the end, when the beast and the false prophet shall appear, as is plain from the passage quoted above in Revelation 13.
And what is God’s purpose with them?
Never should we conclude that these lying prophets with lying: wonders have power of themselves. Awesome as their power may be, and as powerful as their words may seem, they have no power of themselves. Even Satan himself, though he inspires these lying prophets, and exercises his power in them, has no power of himself. Never must we conceive of the power of darkness dualistically, as a power next to God and opposing Him. Though the devil may foolishly imagine that he is powerful to destroy or to frustrate the power and purpose of God, he cannot SO much as move without the power of God. Each moment God must sustain him or he cannot continue to be. The same is true also concerning these lying prophets.
Rather must we understand that back of Satan and back of the lying prophets is God, Who realizes His sovereign purpose through them.
That purpose of God is twofold!
In the first place, to prove His people! Not to find out from them whether they love and obey Him. God does not need to find this out. He knows that. He knows what is in man. He knows the end from the beginning. He is the omniscient One. But He proves His people, to bring out of them what He has put in them by His grace. His purpose is that they shall serve Him, and that, too, by denying the idol which the lying prophet proposes. According to this purpose they shall become confirmed in their faith and love toward their God.
But in the second place, just as sovereign is His purpose m the lying prophets with lying wonders, to lead through their deception those reared in the organical development of His covenant who are wicked and perverse, to their destruction. Indeed, it is not only true that God realizes this purpose through the pure preaching of His Word, which is not only a savor of life unto life, but also a savor of death unto death. It is just as true that the lying prophet is a divine instrument to lead to a great apostasy. We realize that this truth finds little acceptance in our day and age; but this does not change the truth one whit. We should realize that reprobation is just as divinely sovereign as election. Witness Israel’s history as recorded in Holy Scripture. Even with many who were delivered from the bondage in Egypt God was not pleased, and their carcasses fell upon the sands of the wilderness. Witness the great apostasies throughout Church History, as well as in our own day. And do not fail to grasp the significance of the great apostasy that must yet take place in the day of Antichrist as predicted in Revelation 13.
What then should be our attitude toward these false prophets?
Do not listen to them! To give heed to them is to depart from the way of life. Though it is impossible for the church to put them to death, as the church of the old dispensation was commanded to do, for church and state are no longer one, yet, from a spiritual point of view, as far as the true church of Christ is concerned, these lying prophets with lying wonders will be ineffective when they are given no audience. The Apostle John goes so far as to say, “Do not even allow them to come into your house.”
Positively, we will cleave unto our God and His way! God’s Word and Law will be our sufficient light, and in that light we will walk by His grace.
By that same grace, we will appropriate through faith our spiritual weapons necessary to fight for, not against the truth.
In that battle there can be no doubt as to the outcome!
Victory through the way of suffering. Final and glorious salvation, through the way of the antithesis.