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Holman Bible Dictionary
Old Testament While the term “false prophet” does not occur in the Old Testament, references to false prophets are clear. The pages of the Old Testament are filled with men and women who fit the description of a false prophet given in Jeremiah 14:14 (NAS): “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.” Other examples are in Jeremiah 23:21-33 and Zechariah 10:2 . Punishment for prophesying falsely was severe. False prophets were cast away from God's presence and permanently humiliated. They suffered the destruction of their cities (Jeremiah 7:14-16; Jeremiah 23:39 ).
A false prophet was also one who prophesied on behalf of another God. A familiar example is the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-39 ). In a test against Elijah and the true God, the prophets of Baal suffered humiliating defeat.
Israel could not always distinguish between the true and the false prophet as seen in 1 Kings 22:1; Jeremiah 28:1 . The prophet could only say, wait and see whose prophecy proves true in history (Deuteronomy 18:22; 1 Kings 22:28; Jeremiah 29:9 ). Compare 1 Kings 13:1 .
New Testament Jesus and the apostles spoke many times about false prophets. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the marks of a false prophet and the consequences of being one (Matthew 7:15-23 ). He also cautioned His followers to beware of false prophets who would arise during times of tribulation and in the end times (Matthew 24:11 ,Matthew 24:11,24:24; Mark 13:22 ). He said to be careful when the world loves a prophet's words, because a prophet who is false is apt to be popular (Luke 6:26 ).
The apostles instructed believers to be diligent in faith and understanding of Christian teachings, in order to discern false prophets when they arise (2 Peter 1:10; 2 Peter 1:19-2:1; 1 John 4:1 ). The tests of a prophet are: 1) Do their predictions come true (Jeremiah 28:9 )? 2 ) Does the prophet have a divine commission (Jeremiah 29:9 )? 3 ) Are the prophecies consistent with Scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21; Revelation 22:18-19 )? 4 ) Do the people benefit spiritually from the prophet's ministry (Jeremiah 23:13-14 ,Jeremiah 23:13-14,23:32; 1 Peter 4:11 )?
Punishments for false prophets were just as severe in the New Testament as they were in the Old. Paul caused a false prophet to be stricken with blindness (Acts 13:6-12 ), but most other punishments were more permanent in nature. Jesus said the false prophets would be cut down and burned like a bad tree (Matthew 7:19 ). 2 Peter 2:4 describes being cast into pits of darkness. The ultimate punishment appears in Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10 —the false prophet, the beast, and the devil will be thrown into a lake of fire and brimstone and be tormented forever. See Prophets.
Donna R. Ridge
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'False Prophet'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/f/false-prophet.html. 1991.