Definition: Individuals and organizations proclaiming messages that they attribute to a superhuman source but that do not originate with the true God and are not in harmony with his revealed will.
How can true prophets and false ones be identified?
True prophets make known their faith in Jesus, but more is required than claiming to preach in his name
1 John 4:1-3: “Test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world. You gain the knowledge of the inspired expression from God by this: Every inspired expression that confesses Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh originates with God, but every inspired expression that does not confess Jesus does not originate with God.”
Matt. 7:21-23: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name . . . ?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
True prophets speak in the name of God, but merely claiming to represent him is not enough
Deut. 18:18-20: “A prophet I shall raise up for them from the midst of their brothers, like you [like Moses]; and I shall indeed put my words in his mouth, and he will certainly speak to them all that I shall command him. And it must occur that the man who will not listen to my words that he will speak in my name, I shall myself require an account from him. However, the prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die.” (Compare Jeremiah 14:14; 28:11, 15.)
Jesus said: “I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.” (John 8:28) He said: “I have come in the name of my Father.” (John 5:43) Jesus also said: “He that speaks of his own originality is seeking his own glory.”—John 7:18.
If any individuals or organizations claim to represent God but decline to use God’s personal name, and make it a practice to express their own opinions on matters, are they measuring up to this important qualification of a true prophet?
Ability to perform “great signs,” or “miracles,” is not necessarily proof of a true prophet
Matt. 24:24: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs [“miracles,” TEV] and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.”
2 Thess. 2:9, 10: “The lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
On the other hand, Moses performed miracles at Jehovah’s direction. (Ex. 4:1-9) Jehovah also empowered Jesus to perform miracles. (Acts 2:22) But more than the miracles gave evidence that God had truly sent them.
What true prophets foretell comes to pass, but they may not understand just when or how it will be
Dan. 12:9: “Go, Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end.”
1 Pet. 1:10, 11: “The prophets . . . kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these.”
1 Cor. 13:9, 10: “We have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially; but when that which is complete arrives, that which is partial will be done away with.”
Prov. 4:18: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”
Nathan the prophet encouraged King David to go ahead with what was in his heart regarding the building of a house for Jehovah’s worship. But later Jehovah told Nathan to inform David that he was not the one who would build it. Jehovah did not reject Nathan for what he had said earlier but continued to use him because he humbly corrected the matter when Jehovah made it plain to him.—1 Chron. 17:1-4, 15.
The pronouncements of a true prophet promote true worship and are in harmony with God’s revealed will
Deut. 13:1-4: “In case a prophet or a dreamer of a dream arises in your midst and does give you a sign or a portent, and the sign or the portent does come true of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us walk after other gods, whom you have not known, and let us serve them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or to the dreamer of that dream, because Jehovah your God is testing you to know whether you are loving Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul. After Jehovah your God you should walk, and him you should fear, and his commandments you should keep, and to his voice you should listen, and him you should serve, and to him you should cling.”
Since the Bible says that “a friend of the world” is an enemy of God, are clergymen who urge their parishioners to get involved in the affairs of the world promoting true worship? (Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17) The true God said that the nations “will have to know that I am Jehovah,” and the Bible states that God would take out of the nations “a people for his name,” but are religious organizations that minimize the importance of using God’s personal name acting in harmony with this revealed will of God? (Ezek. 38:23; Acts 15:14) Jesus taught his followers to pray for God’s Kingdom, and the Bible cautions against putting one’s trust in earthling men, so are clergymen or political organizations that urge people to place their confidence in human rulership true prophets?—Matt. 6:9, 10; Ps. 146:3-6; compare Revelation 16:13, 14.
True prophets and the false can be recognized by the fruitage manifest in their lives and the lives of those who follow them
Matt. 7:15-20: “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them. . . . Every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit . . . Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those men.”
What characterizes their way of life? “The works of the flesh are . . . fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. . . . Those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom. On the other hand, the fruitage of [God’s] spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Gal. 5:19-23; see also 2 Peter 2:1-3.
Have not Jehovah’s Witnesses made errors in their teachings?
The Scriptures provide time elements related to Christ’s presence, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have studied these with keen interest. (Luke 21:24; Dan. 4:10-17) Jesus also described a many-featured sign that would tie in with the fulfillment of time prophecies to identify the generation that would live to see the end of Satan’s wicked system of things. (Luke 21:7-36) Jehovah’s Witnesses have pointed to evidence in fulfillment of this sign. It is true that the Witnesses have made mistakes in their understanding of what would occur at the end of certain time periods, but they have not made the mistake of losing faith or ceasing to be watchful as to fulfillment of Jehovah’s purposes. They have continued to keep to the fore in their thinking the counsel given by Jesus: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”—Matt. 24:42.
Matters on which corrections of viewpoint have been needed have been relatively minor when compared with the vital Bible truths that they have discerned and publicized. Among these are the following: Jehovah is the only true God. Jesus Christ is not part of a Trinitarian godhead but is the only-begotten Son of God. Redemption from sin is possible only through faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice. The holy spirit is not a person but is Jehovah’s active force, and its fruitage must be evident in the lives of true worshipers. The human soul is not immortal, as the ancient pagans claimed; it dies, and the hope for future life is in the resurrection. God’s permission of wickedness has been because of the issue of universal sovereignty. God’s Kingdom is the only hope for mankind. Since 1914 we have been living in the last days of the global wicked system of things. Only 144,000 faithful Christians will be kings and priests with Christ in heaven, whereas the rest of obedient mankind will receive eternal life on a paradise earth.
Another factor to consider regarding the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is this: Have these truly uplifted people morally? Are those who adhere to these teachings outstanding in their communities because of their honesty? Is their family life beneficially influenced by applying these teachings? Jesus said that his disciples would be readily identified because of having love among themselves. (John 13:35) Is this quality outstanding among Jehovah’s Witnesses? We let the facts speak for themselves.
If Someone Says—
‘My minister said that Jehovah’s Witnesses are the false prophets’
You might reply: ‘May I ask, Did he show you anything in the Bible that describes what we believe or do and that says people of that sort would be false prophets? . . . May I show you how the Bible describes false prophets? (Then use one or more of the points outlined on pages 132-136.)’
Or you could say: ‘I’m sure you’ll agree that specific evidence should back up such a serious charge. Did your minister mention any specific examples? (If householder refers to some claimed “predictions” that did not come to pass, use material on page 134, and from the bottom of page 135 to the top of 137.)’
Another possibility: ‘I’m sure that if someone accused you of something similar, you would welcome the opportunity at least to explain your position or point of view, wouldn’t you? . . . So may I show you from the Bible . . . ?’