When Paul was saying his final goodbyes to the elders from Ephesus, he warned them to pay careful attention to themselves. Why? Well he answers that question:
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30 ESV)
The aspect that should get our attention and cause us the most alarm, because it is so subtle, is this part that says, “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things.” The translations run the gamut from perverse to just plain wrong.
The scariest part of this is the subtlety of the situation. Because this person comes from among us, we do not expect them to fill our eyes and ears with perversion. Is it a perversion like pornography is a perversion? No, it can be a subtle twisting of the gospel, or the occasional adding of words as though they were part of God’s original thought. Allow me to give you an example.
I attend Bible Study Fellowship.
I have always had the impression that anyone who attended BSF was into a university level bible study; I know I am, but what I have found is that there are both skillful members and those who do not open their bibles, but because we have guided questions we are all able to get to a comparable result when we answer.
However I have met with a problem that comes from the top. My expectations were dashed with our recent reading assignment which was generated by the high counsel in Texas.
We were directed by the “homework” to read Deuteronomy (13:1-5;18:18-22). These texts , they allege, “offer five key tests for a true prophet.” If this seems like a fair statement to you, then you need to know it seemed fair to me too, and I was interested in finding out what they had to say; that is until I read the statements that they derived from these verses.
“He must be an Israelite” (18:18).
On the worksheet my immediate response was NO! Now, why would I have that understanding? Because I read my bible, but I was willing to go to the source given, as should you, as I need to be humble and I am human capable of error. So allow me to show you what that verse says:
I will start with the old school version.
“I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brothers, one like you, and will put My words in His mouth. And He shall speak to them all that I shall command Him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18 MKJV)
I am struck by some obvious questions as I read this.
Who is doing the talking?
Who are they talking to?
Who are the brethren?
Does anything about this place limitations upon prophecy?
And what is the context of the conversation?
None of those questions can legitimately be answered based upon this scripture alone. As you might surmise, the answers to the questions are there in scripture, and if I were writing out the statements I would have directed you more appropriately.
On my computer I have about forty translations of the bible. The majority say something comparable to the what I have shown you, and of those, none say anything to indicate that prophets have to be exclusively an Israelite.
If you have the ability to do a comparative look at scriptures, as I do, then you can find one that fits your theology, and the God’s Word bible is one of those. Check this out:
Deuteronomy 18:18 GW So I will send them a prophet, an Israelite like you. I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. (This translation is comparable to the Living Bible, which was written simplistically so the authors grade school children could understand. I would not base my life on it, but at times it works.)
Does that make it right? They have taken a word that has the potential to be translated as not only brethren, but countrymen, and distant relatives. If this verse is speaking of Jesus, and I truly believe it is, then is it true that God raised up another prophet that was an Israelite? Yes. Does that mean that the limitations of the phrase, “an Israelite like you” is proper? No, and when you look at this verse in the majority of the translations, you do not get a sense of limitation, but freedom and potential. Sadly, potential is not what BSF wants to convey. They – like radio teacher Hank Hannegraf – apparently want you to believe prophecy is only through scripture and that there is no one walking this earth today speaking as a prophet.
He (the prophet) must pronounce his predictions in the name of the Lord. (18:19)
Allow me to start off with a little piece of wisdom. If you do the religious thing, and say, “thus saith the Lord” you have just placed a pre-qualifier upon what you say and there is no way to separate the man from the message. God gives stern warnings about people who attribute something to God when he did not give the message. It is highly possible that you are just speaking out of your own personal frustrations in a desire to make things go your way. Try using phrases such as: I believe I hear this in my spirit; I think I have a Word for you. Let them be the judge of whether it is from God. Besides that, I can assure you that God has already been speaking to them and he has only sent you to confirm his Word to them.
The passage they refer to is this:
Deuteronomy 18:19 ESV And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
If the word was legitimately from God he will make it come to pass, and hold the recipient responsible for not appropriately responding to it. It is not your job to make anything happen.
This verse has nothing to do with you, and is very much wrapped up in Jewish tradition. Lighten up just a shade. If you think you are a prophet know this, God is not and will not ask you to carry a sword, and like Samuel the prophet, go hack up a king. We are walking this earth – wise as serpents, and gentle as doves.
He (the prophet) must be able to predict the near and distant future. (18:22)
This is another example of impossible demands, that make either think acting in the prophetic is hopeless, or certainly not for today. In a few minutes you will see that BSF twists the word of God to convey that the man must conform to the message. They take this from Revelation where it says:
Revelation 19:10 ESV “ ….. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
This verse merely conveys that God’s Words, coming out of your mouth, are in essence, the spirit of prophecy. You do not have to jump through hoops to speak prophetically to people. I can almost assure you that if you are listening to the Holy Spirit, that He will surprise even you, as the recipient will say, how did you know that?
God has always chosen the broken to lead his kingdom. His character has not changed, and I can say with confidence that there is no such qualifier that says you “must be able to predict the near and distant future.” The verse they try to pull this out of is:
Deuteronomy 18:22 ESV when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
So you finally get bold enough to speak out; perhaps declaring that someone you care about who could have no children will have a baby. Sadly, it does not happen. That just means that it was not from the Lord, but out of the concern of your heart. I get it, and so does God, but God does not have to work according to our plans and hopes. And nothing says that God would not hear you and because he is God respond anyway.
When the prophet Samuel walked this earth, my bible says, that none of his words fell to the ground. EVERYTHING he said came to pass, even the simple quiet curses we fling about, like damn this or that. He was so zealous for the Lord that he hacked up King Agag when Saul, Israel’s King would not. When he quietly went to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king, the elders, out of fear asked, “do you come in peace?” They legitimately feared him. You do not need people fearing you, you need them seeking you out, but they should certainly respect the God you serve. That will only happen when you live a consistent life in front of them.
His signs and wonders must be attributed to the power of the Lord (13:1-2)
Initially it sounds good, why it’s probably even sound wisdom to attribute what you are saying, to the Lord. Are you sincere? Do you attribute what you saying, before or after you say it?
Look at the verse and tell me if it says what BSF claims it does:
Deuteronomy 13:1-2 ESV “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, (2) and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’
Let’s tear the verse apart and see.
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, (2) and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass
Our admonition was not to fear the prophet if what he says does not come to pass, but in this case his word did come to pass. There is the strong possibility that this guy is among you and up to this point, trusted.
“and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,”
The context of the verses is not about a demand that your signs and wonders must be attributed to God, as it is about leading people away from God.
His words must conform to the message or principles of previous revelation (13:2-5)
Let’s just assume for a minute that you walked into the room and this person is prophesying. Number one: you may have missed his introduction where he said, this is from the voice of God. However you do catch the part where they say, a meteor will blow up over Tanguska Russia tomorrow, and it does, but you have no knowledge of what the message was, or of any previous revelations. How could you possibly find out that this person conformed? You couldn’t, so they must be trying to tell us that the prophet must conform to some message from God’s word, or some underlying principles that must be mined from God’s word, that somehow align with what this person said.
Let me give you a hint. There is nothing new under the sun, nor is there nothing new under God’s Son. What does that mean? While there are exceptions to everything, such as a word of knowledge that is given to a person where God has given you some current or past information about that person. You won’t find that information in the Bible, but generalized statements about how God feels about us, his people, and future events are very detailed in scripture. Since the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy, then speaking God’s word over someones life is very scriptural, proper, and safe. In this case you would clearly be conforming to the message and earlier revelation.
Now, can we find this in the scripture reference given:
Deuteronomy 13:2-5 NIV and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” (3) you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. (4) It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. (5) That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
First thing I want you to see, is that there is a context for everything, and in this case they have cut the context out, so let’s include it.
Deuteronomy 13:1 NIV If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder,
So a person speaks over the audience about a potential future event. Some find that weird, but it is perfectly legitimate. Television personalities have made prophesying a bit of a joke, but they can still be okay.
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place”. This alone should command respect, or at the least, attention. Now if it did not come to pass, then we do not have to fear them. Does that mean if the thing comes to pass we are to fear them? No, the word also means to respect.
Unfortunately this takes a dark and sinister turn.
“and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” So this so-called prophet has another motive. Do we have examples of things like this in scripture? Certainly.
Acts 13:6-11 shows us, not only someone on the inside, but when you ask, did he “conform to the message or principles of previous revelation.” The answer is clearly NO, and yet he was identified by Saul/Paul as a false prophet. Since we have this improper demand to judge a persons prophetic “gifts” based upon BSF criteria, then how could Paul come to a decision so quickly, as he did not have these written guidelines? An obvious answer to this lies in testimony of locals, the character of Bar-Jesus, and Bar-Jesus’ own words and actions (we like to think of this combination of things as fruit, and the man’s fruit was rotten.)
Acts 13:6-11 ESV When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. (7) He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. (8) But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. (9) But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him (10) and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? (11) And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.
Bar-Jesus/Elymas did that one thing that is clearly laid out for us as something to warn and alert us; he tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Deuteronomy lays out a course of action for such men, but Paul prophesy’s a blindness over Elymas for a season. Did Paul’s response conform to the message or principles of previous revelation? Perhaps but you have to dig to find a directive like that.
One other thing that challenges this directive “conform to the message or principles of previous revelation” comes from what we know about Elisha, the prophet.
2 Kings 2:23-24 ESV He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” (24) And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.
Boys mocked him, and for that “he cursed them in the name of the LORD.” Not everything is so cut and dried.
Since point number (5) directs us to think a certain way – “his words must conform to the message or principles of previous revelation” – let’s ponder that a moment. Clearly that is not the case in Revelation 13:11-14. While the verses give us multiple images to tangle with, the bottom line is this, this is the false prophet that we are warned about in scripture.
Revelation 13:11-14 MKJV (11) And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. And it had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon. (12) And it exercises all the authority of the first beast before him, and causes the earth and those dwelling in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. (13) And it does great wonders, so that it makes fire come down from the heaven onto the earth in the sight of men. (14) And it deceives those dwelling on the earth, because of the miracles which were given to it to do before the beast, saying to those dwelling on the earth that they should make an image to the beast who had the wound by a sword and lived.
Because of the miracles which were given to it to do, it deceives those dwelling on earth. Watch how deep this goes.
Revelation 13:16-17 ESV Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.
When you sort out all the implications of what Revelation 13 is showing us, ultimately God is in control and allowing this all to happen because He has a purpose. The character that empowers this person directly is the dragon – which you should know because you read – is Satan himself. Now, is Satan going to comply with BSF rules or God’s demands? No, he is going to do the opposite. (Note: there is power in the name of JESUS, and every knee must bow. Let that empower you.)
When we talk about the idea of “conforming to the message or principles of previous revelation”, this has Jewish tradition written all over it, because to the Jew, prophecy is pattern. What does that mean to us – the New Testament church? It means that the Apostle John knew full well that he was writing to Jewish converts, and that they were not going to give up the richness of their Jewish heritage. It means that what we see here in Revelation 13 had to have already presented itself on at least one other occasion, and it had, and we find him in Daniel 7:25.
Daniel 7:25 KJV And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
Alright, so you read this and now you are saying, Daniel 7:25 does not define what we see in Revelation 13. It does if you understand that Islam has its own set of prophecies, and fully expects a Jesus to come and save them as well. Their Jesus (I am pulling this from Wikipedia):
“ʿĪsā ibn Maryām; English: Jesus, son of Mary is considered to be a Messenger of God and (the Messiah) in Islam. To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles (such as healing various ailments like blindness, raising the dead to life, casting out demons, etc.) which no other prophet in Islam has ever been credited with, all according to God’s will. According to the Qu’ran, Jesus, although appearing to have been crucified, was not killed by crucifixion or by any other means. This view disagrees with the foundation of the Gospel. Instead, the Qu’ran says “God raised him unto Himself,” which happens to agree with the Gospel message of Isa ascending into heaven.
Jesus mission – According to Islamic texts, Jesus was divinely chosen to preach the message of monotheism and submission to the will of God to the Children of Israel (banī isrā’īl).”
So the Islamic Jesus will “preach” the message of submission to the people of Israel. Since we know that Islam demands only a submission to Allah, then this “Jesus” will demand submission also. How would that work out since they are not allowed to be “friends” with the infidel? It is said in Islam that this “Jesus” is a Jew from the Levitical tribe and is a priest. That means he is already here and probably in training to serve in the new temple. Since he is a priest, and a respected Jew, causing Israel to turn away from God and serve other gods should be relatively easy. Since he is a priest serving in the temple, it should be easy for him to desecrate the temple, set up the image of the beast, and because he is empowered by Satan, cause that image to speak, call fire down from heaven, command the rain to return, and do what ever is necessary to impress and delude Israel. Islam considers this man the enforcer of Sharia law (ISIS, it seems, is doing that right now.) Sharia is the law that demands the death of the infidel (anyone outside of Islam.) Perhaps you can understand why God gives this character the title of false prophet, as he is everything bad wrapped into one package, and he comes from inside.
I opened with these words from Paul:
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30 ESV)
Although the false prophet seems to be blatantly obvious, he will spring upon them suddenly, after having been groomed slowly. But what about the not so obvious that is destroying and weakening the body of Christ from the inside.
It is not all so blatant, it comes from bastions of biblical learning like Bible Study Fellowship, where men go to learn a more excellent way. It comes from the local bible study teacher who twists God’s word so that it conveys the message he wants to push, such as what lousy sinners we all are. It comes in a way that teaches people to think improperly about God, never learn what His character is, and then spread that hatred to others. It teaches people to believe that God cannot be understood, and that ultimately His character, if filled with mercy, is beyond our comprehension.
Since God himself said:
Matthew 18:12-14 ESV What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? (13) And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. (14) So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
How dare you preach anything else.
What is most upsetting is that people believe everything they hear. Bsf is great, but notes and lectures must be approached with a berean attitude- as with all books and sermons today
. I’ve also heard many opinions and theories at Bsf taught as fact- and they are wrong. I’ve seen, quite often, that many in Bsf only do Bsf. They believe every word they hear and at times become so arrogant they they know more because they heard it at Bsf. Ugh…. It’s important to read and study the bible and not rely on one study over and over again for 20 years. I’m in Bsf now to walk my kids through revelation and teach them to consider all things but only scripture if fact. Test all things. Thanks for. Speaking up I hope more people read this.
Thanks for corresponding. Some days I feel like I am just being critical. I am surrounded by false teachers, no wonder things are falling apart. Ozzie
Watchmen never hold their peace
They never keep silent
Day or night
Until Jerusalem is made a praise to all the earth