Throughout the years Christian ministers of all denominations and backgrounds have made prophetic predictions based on their beliefs of what they believed God was saying to them. In some cases these men and women have truly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit and the events or circumstances they spoke about have come to pass. Then there are the “prophecies” that have turned out not to be accurate and these have been problematic not only for the minister who makes them, the church members who follow the minister but in many cases the body of Christ at large.
Nothing quite piques the interest of the general public like a person saying, “thus saith the Lord.” Harold Camping and his followers have come under the watchful and mocking eye of the media and the general public for their false or inaccurate rapture prediction(s). Having obviously inaccurately predicted May 21, 2011 as the day of the rapture Mr. Camping has readjusted the date to October 21, 2011. This has provided comedians, talk show hosts, atheists, agnostics and even good old church attendees with quite a bit of ammunition to not only fire at Mr. Camping but at the Bible, the Lord Jesus and the prophecies concerning the end of the age.
I cannot defend Mr. Camping in his predictions of dates he claims to have knowledge or special revelation of. I wrote last week why all such prognosticating comes into direct conflict with the words of Jesus. I also cannot support lampooning the man or the people who follow him. The church far too often engages in friendly fire; driving people away from Christ when they are in error instead of bringing them truth, grace and repentance.
What is the Biblical response to such events?
1. If you are going to say, “thus saith the Lord” you need to have heard from God.
Prophecy must be tested by scripture. If someone says they have heard from the Lord what they have heard must be sound biblically on the levels of doctrine, principle and practice. The Holy Spirit does not contradict His written revelation when speaking through His servants.
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. (1 John 4:1)
Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. (1 Corinthians 14:29)
One of the fastest and surest ways to lose the respect of those to whom you speak is to claim your words and ideas as those that came from God. The power of God’s Word is absolute it does not change and He cannot lie.
… And God never tells a lie! (Titus 1:2)
God cannot tell lies! And so his promises and vows are two things that can never be changed. (Hebrews 6:18)
Does this mean that men and women who have heard the voice of the Holy Spirit should not speak what they have heard God say? Absolutely not!
It does mean that we should be careful, prayerful and accurate when speaking in the name of the Lord. It also means that those who hear have a duty to search the scriptures and judge whether or not what is said adheres to the truth of scripture.
When ministers claim to have special or extra-biblical revelation you can be sure that error exists. Error is allowed to exist in an environment where men and women do not study and know the scriptures for themselves.
…When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch. (Matthew 15:14)
2. Correct the false teaching or doctrine by declaring the truth not by attacking the person.
You combat error by teaching and preaching truth. You do not combat error by mocking, protesting and name calling. Friendly fire in the body of Christ is a widespread problem that has wounded many and has driven sincere seekers away from the church.
Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
It is people who believe incorrect things when they are taught and it is those people that the truth of the gospel needs to be spoken to. It is people who are offended and hurt when they have believed lies and false prophecies and it is those people who need the love, grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:5-6)
3. Never abandon the truth of the Gospel because others within the church have entered into error concerning that truth.
There are many who will shy away from speaking of the end of the age or the rapture of the church because they do not want to be lumped in with Mr. Campbell.
This is a false premise and rings of a spirit of fear and timidity. Truth cannot be abandoned because others have taught it incorrectly. Prophecy cannot be eliminated or ignored because there are false prophecies and false prophets. Spiritual gifts cannot be quenched because there are those who operating in the flesh and call it the spirit.
God’s Word remains unchanged regardless of anyone who misinterprets it, slanders it or abuses it for their own purposes. Our faithfulness must be to God and His Word, regardless of the errors believed or taught by others.
Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. (Jude 3)
We live in a world of imperfect people who all need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, ourselves most of all.
In this world we will contend with those who do not believe the Bible and at times we also will contend with the errors of those who have believed it incorrectly. There is not one person who has the full revelation of God. As I read the Bible that is something that takes place for each of us on the other side of glory (1 Corinthians 13:12).
As a believer you will have to endure the persecution and mockery that arises when those who are Christians make claims about God, scripture, events that are not true. Use these events as a pulpit to share truth, do not allow yourself to engage in friendly fire.
If you are not a believer please do not judge the Lord Jesus based on the behavior of His followers (me most of all). Just because the truth has been propagated incorrectly or insincerely does not mean that there is no truth. I encourage you to bypass people in your search for truth and turn directly to God and His word.
God’s Word is alive and accurate; it has stood the test of time because it has been truthful and accurate in its predictions. Do not allow the opinions of men, even Christian men, to cause you to doubt the inspired Word of the Lord.