14th August 2009, hej
This Article: (3 Pages)
2) False prophets
The Greek word for 'false prophets' translates directly into English pseudoprophētēs. Pseudo now means 'fake', but in ancient Greek it meant 'deceitful' and 'a liar'. In Greek prophētēs not only meant foreteller, but an inspired speaker (including a poet). The Hebrew word for prophet nâbîy means one 'who speaks by inspiration' and nâṭaph one who oozes gradually (words of) inspiration. Whereas we would first think of prophets predicting, but in the past they were first preachers and teachers.
Peter, John and Jude were concerned about pseudoprophētēs. The word was used by Matthew in his record of what Jesus said to his followers. (we quote at some length for context)
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.(Mathew 24:4-14)
Two things to note,
Jesus is speaking to the people who were alive then, and
that the specific end that Jesus speaks of is the end of Jerusalem. See what he says next,
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:..
And woe unto them that are pregnant, and to them that nurse infants in those days!
But pray you that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 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; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:16-24
Jesus is speaking of Judea (not Israel!) So it has no modern context as Judea does not exist. Secondly it was in the days when you couldn't travel on the Sabbath or in winter. Thirdly simple comprehension says that when Jesus was speaking of 'your flight' he mean the flight of the people in his audience. All the particulars answer specifically to the events from 66-73AD, especially the fact that some in Jerusalem ate their children to survive, as was predicted also by Moses (Deut. 28:53-57). This means that the false Messiahs (the Hebrew for Christ) and false preacher (prophets) would arise before 70AD. Peter, Jude and John's letters confirm that such false preachers did arise.
Mark also records Jesus' reference to false prophets,
And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he has chosen, he has shortened the days.
And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ (Messiah); or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs (Messiahs) and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. (Mark 13:18-22)
Unless we expect to flee violence in Judea and are worried about travelling by foot in winter to flee the days of affliction in Judea, as they did in 70AD then it's not for us, except to note. It was written for the generation that heard Jesus that day. Luke doesn't mention the false prophets, and there is a reason for this. Luke wrote for Greek speakers in the diaspora. It seems they weren't so exposed to false Messiahs. Matthew wrote for the Jews, and there were even fragments of his account in Hebrew, and Mark also was a Jew who, it seems, had a house near Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). It was in Judea and among Jews that there arose false Messiahs.
A history of False Prophets
Luke records another reference by Jesus to false prophets (preachers)
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:24-28)
Jesus was saying that the Jewish audience he was speaking to had fathers that had spoken well of false prophets. Listening to false prophets was a historical problem for Jews before the time of Jesus. Jeremiah writing 600 years before Jesus puts it like this,
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jeremiah 5:31)
False prophets are mentioned by Jeremiah many times (Jer. 6:13, 8:10,14:14, Lam 2:14) and also Micah
If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto you of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people. (Micah 2:11)
These all were in the days preceding the end time of the Babylonian captivity. In other words similar false prophets to those Jesus spoke of had existed in Jewish tradition at a previous end time of the nation of Judah (Judea). Some Jews supposedly preaching the word of God, had been false.
Peter also speaks of Israel's long history of false prophets being among the people, or within the congregation, pre-dating the Christian era.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not.(2Peter 2:1-3)
These false teachers are similar to John's anti-christs, they are within the congregation of the faithful. Matthew records the only other reference to false prophets there is in the New Testament. Jesus said,
Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Matthew 7:13-16)
Jesus is speaking of the 'way' of the faithful. He points out most wouldn't find the way, and this would be due partly to false preachers. It is among the faithful that people must be wary and 'know by their fruits', or the outcomes of their deeds, whether the preacher is false or not.
'Antichrist' was coined by John as a label for a specific subset of false prophets, relating to a specific false teaching. In every case the term false prophet is only used of those who are supposedly sincere followers of Christ, or in the past history of Israel had been within the true faith.
But what about THE FALSE PROPHET?
The false prophet (singular)
There is an instance when we have an example of a false prophet.
And when they (Paul and Barnabas) were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain magi, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul(Paul), and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magi (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. (Acts 13:5-8)
We note two things. Firstly the false prophet was a Jew and had heard of Jesus, as he called himself 'son of Jesus'. Possibly he had been trading on Jesus' miracles to create his position of authority. The coming of Paul exposed exactly where BarJesus' was false. BarJesus was called a 'false prophet' as he tried to “turn away” this pagan ruler, Sergius Paulus, from the true understanding of Jesus as Messiah. This helps us understand the False Prophet
There is reference to THE FALSE PROPHET in Revelation in the last chapters.
And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
For they are the spirits of demons, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. (Revelation 16:12-16)
The false prophet is last (and least) on the list of 3 entities who speak 'sprits', or, in modern terms, ideologies. They all speak and their words have a practical effect of bringing nations to the last great battle. If we were to look for the false prophet we need to see also who the more important dragon and the beast are. In any case this is Jesus speaking, and it is to John who both use the term false prophets elsewhere to mean people who say they are true servants of Christ, but are not. This prophet will be no different, but also be a supposed 'Christian'
Jesus refers to the false prophet 3 times. The beast and the false prophet survive Armageddon but are cast into a lake of fire.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Rev. 19:20)
This says that the beast and the false prophet are linked together. The false prophet had made people worship the beast. The first rule of understanding a symbol is to find on what basis the symbol is made. As Jesus based all his teaching on the Old Testament, the definition of the beast will be consistent with that. In the Old Testament humans, who may attain great positions, but who don't know God, are likened to beasts.
Man held in honour, and who understands not, is like the beasts that perish. (Psalm 49:20)
Daniel, the Hebrew prophet, uses images of beasts for specific ungodly, non-Jewish supra-national empires. There are 4 of these which are called 'beasts', which correspond to the world empires,
The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. (Daniel 7:23)
The fouth world empire after Babylon, Persia and Grecia was Rome. No other kingdom before it, or after it, ruled so absolutely and extended its power so far as Rome.
As 'the beast' is not an individual but a super-national state, so too the false prophet is unlikely to be an individual, and very likely to be an organisation. In simple terms, the false prophet will appear to be a servant of Christ but will try to make people worship the base human political power of a non-Jewish empire. In other words this so called servant of Christ will elevate, and give power to, obviously pagan nations and their leaders.
Lastly we are told who the dragon is,
behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. (Rev. 12:3)
This red dragon could be identified easily by early Christians as Pagan Rome. But we are told more of its fate,
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the slanderer, and adversary, and bound him a thousand years, (Revelation 20:2)
The dragon is seen in the nations who promulgate lies and slander against God, who speak things such as the serpent did in Eden saying 'you shall not die', when God said Adam and Eve would die.
And the slanderer (verse 2 = the dragon) that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be pained day and night until the age of the era (the full duration of the era). (Revelation 20:10)
This is symbolic language, and the fire is explained more simply as 'the second death'.
And death and the grave were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)
Who is the dragon-slanderer if its fate is linked to the end of all death and people going to the grave? The last book of the Bible draws heavily on the images of Genesis 1-3. The dragon represents all humans who slander God's word, and who lie to people and so lead to their death.
Putting together what Jesus said to us, the False Prophet is the organisation of false servants of Christ who worship human political power (the beast), and will be found in the company of those that lie against God and slander him (the pagan dragon). The three symbolise ideologies/organisations, though they may be led by individuals. The idologies of all three, the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, may appear anytime after the drying up the Euphrates (Ottoman Empire) in 1918. All three will bring real nations of the world to a real war, in a real place on earth, in Israel.