Profile of a Prophet: How To Discern Between a True and False Prophet

In recent years, while on my peculiar faith journey learning to listen and lean on God, I thoroughly studied the prophets of the Hebrew Bible to help me understand prophecy and to discern between true and false prophets. I was experiencing many unexplainable and seemingly prophetic occurrences, which I attributed to God’s Spirit moving on my life and directing my steps, all of which prompted me to explore such concepts in the Bible. In the ancient days, the Hebrew Bible reveals there were numerous true prophets as well as false ones (1 Kings 19:14-18; 2 Chronicles 18:5). If God doesn’t change as the prophet Malachi proclaims (Malachi 3:6) and does nothing without revealing it to His prophets first as the prophet Amos says (Amos 3:7), it is likely God indeed still speaks though His revelation may be less common like it was reported in the days of Samuel’s early life (1 Samuel 3:1). Consequently, unlike most branches of Judaism today who believe God stopped speaking after the prophet Malachi, I believe God still speaks and there are still true prophets today. As a former Christian, I also studied the New Testament as it reports various prophets, namely John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and a few others. Due to these reports of prophets and apostles, some sects of Christianity breed a plethora of false prophets. These variables prompted me to investigate the prophets of the Hebrew Bible to discern who is a true prophet and who is a false prophet in both the New Testament as well as in modern day life. We can glean much from a careful study of the Hebrew Bible, the foundation for which all theological concepts must be judged by.

Note: The Scriptures listed below do not capture all the appropriate verses that could be applied to said concepts, but they are an extensive list for readers to research and reflect on.

  1. A true prophet will acknowledge the One True Living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel and Him alone. Exodus 3:6,15-18; Judges 5:1-3; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6; 45:21-22; Jeremiah 11:1-3; Hosea 13:4. Be aware even some false prophets acknowledge the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and can even accurately hear/see things of God, such as Balaam (Numbers 22-24; 31:8); nevertheless, all the following criteria should be measured when discerning who is and isn’t a prophet/prophetess of God.
  2. A true prophet will not just be all about serving the One True Living God, but they will also be all about His way, being Torah, also known as God’s instructions, to hit the mark, or God’s laws/commands. Deuteronomy 13 warns that if a prophet comes along and instructs you to worship another god or worship another as if they are God (like Jesus), do away with God’s commands as Paul teaches in his letter to the Galatians, follow another voice such as Jesus’ or Paul’s voice, etc., then you will know they are a false prophet. That same text says even if the prophecy manifests or some miracle is performed and they use that to convince you to worship, follow, serve, listen to, trust and obey anything other than what God’s Voice already said in His documented Voice, being Torah, you will know they are a false prophet. When one studies the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, it is glaringly obvious they all beckon their audience to repent and return to the One True Living God and His Torah, which is His Voice, His instructions for how to live (Deuteronomy 28:1+; Genesis 26:5). Furthermore, Scripture reveals false prophets can indeed perform signs and wonders such as the ones that battled Moses for Pharaoh’s decision (Exodus 7:11, 22), but it does not mean you ought to believe their message. Should you come across an alleged prophet, whether in written text or in person, it will behoove you to discover if the alleged prophet or teacher is for or against God’s law/instructions/commands, all synonyms for Torah, as it will be a huge clue to aid your discernment. 1 Samuel 7:3; 12:14-15,20-25; 13:13-14; 15:22-24; 1 Kings 8; 1 Kings 18:36-40; 2 Kings 17:13-23; 2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 34:21-33; Isaiah 30; Jeremiah 9:12-16; 10:1-16; Jeremiah 11:1-7; 16:10-12; Ezekiel 3; 11:19-21; 33; 36:26-28; Daniel 9:4-13; Hosea 4:6; 9:17; 14:9; Amos 2:4; Jonah 3:3-10; Malachi 2:5-9
  3. A true prophet will be called by God and or receive instructions through typically a vision or dream versus their own wishful thinking. Consequently, God’s prophets were called “Seers”. If you evaluate all the prophets of the Bible, the LORD spoke to the vast majority of them through a vision, dream, or some type of visual experience. Numbers 12:6; Genesis 15:1; 17:1; 26:2; 31:10-13; 32:22-32; 37:1-36; 40-42; Exodus 3:2-6; Judges 5:12; 1 Samuel 3:3-15,21; 9:3,19 ; 2 Samuel 7:4,17; 24:11; 1 Kings 3:5,15; 9:2; 2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chronicles 7:12; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 16:7,10 ; 2 Chronicles 26:5; Isaiah 1:1; 2:1, 13:1; 30:9-11; Jeremiah 1:11-13; Ezekiel 1:4, 28; Daniel 7:1; 8:1,15; 9:20-21; Hosea 12:10,13; Amos 1:1; 3:7; 7:1,4,12; 8:1-2; Obadiah 1:1; Micah 1:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; 2:2; Zechariah 1:8; 2:1
  4. A true prophet does NOT want to be a prophet. Whereas, a false prophet promotes themselves and their status as a prophet, their merchandise, their books, etc. True prophets are hated, persecuted, isolated, lonely, and usually killed not to mention, carry the burden of the prophecy itself. A false prophet wants to be a prophet for fame, respect, power, and control. True prophets are humble, often isolated (especially when being called by God and refined before ministering), often lowly in position, seem peculiar or different from the world (think of David and Amos how they were just shepherds of no status or Moses hanging out in a desert). False prophets want the glory and strive to be popular. They often are flashy, showy, performance driven, and driven by money. They often prophesy about their follower’s material possessions versus a person developing a heart that actively seeks God. Jeremiah 1:6-10; 20:7-10; Daniel 6; Amos 7:14-15; Habakkuk 1:1-4; Nahum 1:1; Jonah 1-2; Micah 2-3
  5. A true prophet will be sent by God (usually to leaders, but also to lands, and individuals not in authority). Genesis 37-42 (Joseph forcibly sent) ; Exodus 3; 1 Kings 17:3,9; 18:1; Jonah 1 (Jonah forcibly sent); Isaiah 7; Amos 7:14-15; Jeremiah 2:1; 4:5; 5:1; 7:2; 11:2; 18:2; 26:2; Daniel 1-2 (Daniel forcibly sent); Haggai 1:1, 12
  6. A true prophet will most likely tell you what you NEED to hear, not what you WANT to hear. Hence, why the prophet was sent in the first place. Whereas, a false prophet will be all about telling you want sounds good to you. They can read the idols of your heart and therefore, tell you what your heart desires making you like them and that word. A true prophet’s message will be about cultivating a circumcised heart, open to relationship with God, serving Him with your whole heart, walking in God’s Torah, and not nearly as concerned about material fleshly things. Although a true prophet may at times provide an encouraging positive word if that is what God tells them you NEED to hear, it will more likely be a message of repentance, warning, or judgment. What I call a “Reflect. Correct. Direct.” type of message. Be leery of prophets who give you words of ‘peace and prosperity’ than prophets who correct or warn you. Always analyze the overall message though – does it point your heart towards repentance? 1 Kings 18:16-19; 22; 2 Kings 20:1; 2 Kings 22:14-20; 1 Chronicles 17:1-5; 2 Chronicles 16:7-10; 2 Chronicles 25:15-16; 2 Chronicles 28:9-15; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Isaiah 38:1; Jeremiah 2; 5:15-18; 10:1-25; 12:17; 13:9-10; 14-15; 22:1-5; 23:9-40; 28:1-1-29:32; Ezekiel 2; 13-14; Hosea 8:1-3,8; 11:5; 13:4; Nahum 1-3
  7. A true prophet will be all about “REPENT & RETURN, Serve the LORD.” whereas a false prophet will be all about “RECEIVE & REJOICE, The LORD serves you!” Again, a true prophet is less concerned about your worldly goods or fleshly things and will be focused on the issues of your heart that need aligning to Abba Father and His Word first and foremost. 2 Samuel 12; 1 Kings 20:35-43; 2 Chronicles 12:1-12; 2 Chronicles 16:3-17; Isaiah 55:6-7; Isaiah 56:1; Jeremiah 4:1-4; 13:9-10; 18:1-11; 23:9; 23:9-40; Jeremiah 18:19; 28; 31:21-22; Ezekiel 14; 16; 18:30-32; 20:7-32; Daniel 9:4-13; Hosea 4:6; 6:1-3; Joel 2:12-14; Amos 4:6-13; 5:4, 14-15; Jonah 3; Micah 6:8; Zephaniah 2:3; Zechariah 1:3-4; Malachi 2:5-9; 3:6-7; 4:4-6
  8. A true prophet will tell you a very specific word from the LORD. 1 Samuel 3:11-21; 1 Samuel 10; 2 Samuel 7:4-17; 2 Samuel 24:11-25; 1 Kings 17:8-9; 21:17-24; 2 Kings 3:15-4:7; 2 Kings 5:10; 2 Kings 19:2,5-7,20-37; Isaiah 7-11; 41-46 (notice Isaiah in chp 45 predicts a Gentile King named Cyrus will help restore the temple after the Babylonian captivity of Jews-See Daniel 9 predicts the same thing/compare to Ezra 1); 48-56; 60-62; 65-66; Jeremiah 6; 16; 29-33 (notice in 29:10 Jeremiah predicted Jews would be in Babylonian captivity 70 years, which indeed manifested/Daniel 9:2); 50:4-5; 51:1-6; Ezekiel 9-12; 34-48; Daniel 11-12; Hosea 3:4-5; Joel 1-3; Amos 1-9; Micah 4-5; Zephaniah 1-3; Haggai 1; Zechariah 12-14
  9. A true prophet’s prophecy  will probably** manifest whereas a false word will fall to the ground (fail). Deuteronomy 18:18-22; 1 Samuel 3:19; Jeremiah 18:1-11; 28:9.

**Please note!

IF the prophecy manifests, that could be a very good indication it is of the LORD. UNLESS, the overall message of that prophet is telling you to reject God’s Torah/Law, serve the idols of your heart, worship another god (like Jesus), obey man’s doctrines (like Paul’s), or be all about more worldly things (like most modern prophets) versus the One True Living God and His ways, His laws, His will!! THIS IS A TEST FROM GOD. Deuteronomy 12:32-13:10

IF the prophecy does NOT manifest, that could be due to a few reasons:

  1. It came from the so-called prophet’s/person’s heart (imagination) not God. Jeremiah 23:16-17
  2. The person/prophet added to or subtracted from the word itself. Deuteronomy 12:32; Jeremiah 26:2
  3. The people repented or disobeyed, depending on if the prophecy was a call to repentance (much more common) or a prosperous prophecy (very rare), and so it was a prophecy conditioned on the response of the people. Book of Jonah; Jeremiah 18:1-11

The end goal of all true prophets who prophesy repentance, warning, and judgment is that the prophecy NOT manifest for that means the people repented. Jeremiah 18:1-11. Jonah, for example, was a successful prophet, because the Gentiles/ Ninevites repented and avoided devastation. Then again, a successful prophet is also one who is obedient in giving the word of the LORD. It is not the job of the prophet to get or somehow manipulate the people to receive the word; it is merely his/her job to deliver the message.

With these criteria, I encourage you to carefully consider and judge those who may have been said to have been a prophet in the writings of the New Testament as well as modern-day prophets or alleged prophets of old. People like Saint Paul, Emperor Constantine, Joseph Smith, David Koresh, and many others have had mystical visual experiences, myself included, some have claimed to be prophets, but how do they measure up as a prophet according to the criteria we studied above? Based off the criteria of the Hebrew Bible, the vast majority of today’s prophets are false as were the ones of days gone by; additionally, the alleged prophets of the New Testament have proven they are false considering they all encouraged their audience to worship the man, Jesus, as God and most, especially Paul, encouraged God’s Torah to be ignored (that is assuming such characters actually existed to begin with and the stories written about them are indeed how they presented themselves).

Prophets, both then and now, are sent by God as a test. Learn to discern.

Updated January 2021