07/27/T – False Prophecy

Jeremiah 23:21-24:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Psalms 83:9-18; Proverbs 20:4-6

OT: “I did not send out these prophets, yet they ran. I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. If they had really stood in my council, they would have enabled my people to hear my words and would have turned them from their evil ways and their evil deeds… I have heard what the prophets who prophesy a lie in my name have said: ‘I had a dream! I had a dream! ’ How long will this continue in the minds of the prophets prophesying lies, prophets of the deceit of their own minds? Through their dreams that they tell one another, they plan to cause my people to forget my name as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship… Now when these people or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the Lord? ’ you will respond to them, ‘What is the burden? I will throw you away! This is the Lord’s declaration.’” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭23:21-22, 25-27, 33‬ ‭CSB)

In Jeremiah’s day, “prophetic words” from God were a dime a dozen. If you wanted a confirming word from the Lord that you were going to be OK, you could find a “prophet” that would give it to you. It probably wasn’t too dissimilar from the flurry of competing “prophetic words” that we have experienced – especially in the United States – over the past few years. Judah had been invaded by Babylon and Jerusalem was under siege. The people wanted to be assured that everything was going to work out… that Babylon would be defeated, Jerusalem would not be taken captive, and life could continue on without any disruptions to their pursuit of pleasure. Not wanting to run away from an opportunity to promote their “ministry,” the self-proclaimed prophets of the day were happy to give the people the words they wanted to hear. The only problem was, that was not what the Lord was saying to His people. He was saying quite the opposite.

Jeremiah was the lone voice actually bringing the message of the Lord to the people – and it wasn’t a message that he wanted to deliver. It was a message that he grew weary of delivering – and even tried to stop delivering – but it burned inside him to the point that he couldn’t hold it back any longer. The true word from God was a burden to carry and a burden to deliver, and it was not well received – especially with all the other “prophets” saying the exact opposite. It got to the point where the false prophets and priests actually began to belittle Jeremiah and make fun of the “burden” he was carrying. The prophets, priests and people would facetiously ask Jeremiah, “What is the burden of the Lord today?” That callous and disrespectful attitude toward the word of the Lord actually angered God. So God told Jeremiah, “When they ask you what the burden of the Lord is, you tell them ‘You are the burden of the Lord – and the Lord will deal with you as such.’”

As believers in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, we need to make sure that we aren’t just saying the things that people want to hear… that we aren’t avoiding the hard and corrective words for fear of offending people and having our ministries cancelled. We also need to make sure that we aren’t joining in with the chorus of popular opinion and disrespecting what God is truly saying. God loves His creation, and He loves His people – and many times, He will speak a corrective word to draw people back to Himself and away from the things that lead to death. His corrective words may not be easy to say or easy to hear, but they are always loving. Looking back through history, we honor Jeremiah for his faithfulness to deliver the true word of God. Those other prophets are now nameless examples of what not to do. What kind of voice will we be?

NT: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God… The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with every kind of miracle, both signs and wonders serving the lie, and with every wicked deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:1-4, 9-10‬ ‭CSB)

Based on what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians, one of the subjects that he taught the believers, the short time he was in Thessalonica, was about the return of the Lord and the signs leading up to His return. That was a subject that Jesus taught on as well (Matthew 24-25). Apparently, as the persecution in Thessalonica increased, some in the church had a “prophetic word” that the day of the Lord had come. And that “prophetic word” was apparently followed up with a letter, claiming to be from Paul, that said the same thing. This caused the Thessalonian church to be troubled and confused. That is one of the main reasons Paul wrote this letter: to clear up the confusion. When people attempt to lay current events on top of Biblical prophecy to try and create a calendar of events, people get upset, troubled and confused. One commentator put it this way: “The purpose of Bible prophecy is not for us to make a calendar, but to build character.”

To address the false prophecy and clear up any confusion, Paul explained that there are events and spiritual changes that must occur before the Lord returns, and those events had not happened yet. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he explained that when Christ returns, the dead in Christ will rise and those who are alive in Christ will be caught up to meet Him in the air. That had not happened yet. Also, before Christ returns, the “man of lawlessness,” the “man doomed to destruction” will be fully revealed. John refers to this person in the book of Revelation as the Antichrist. Whether the Antichrist is a literal person or not, I don’t know – but I do know that it is a spirit. Anti means against – but it also means instead of. The Antichrist spirit seeks to oppose Christ and it seeks to set itself up in place of Christ – to move Christ completely out of the picture and make itself the subject of everyone’s worship. The Antichrist spirit has been working since Satan rebelled against God and was cast from heaven to earth… but there has always been someone holding the Antichrist spirit at bay. There will come a time when the cup of the world’s iniquity is filled up and the Antichrist spirit is no longer held in check. When that happens, those who have not accepted the love and truth of the gospel unto salvation will be overcome by the full display of the Antichrist and will be drug into deep wickedness and deception. Those things must happen before the coming of the day of the Lord.

Instead of trying to predict when the end times will come, we should instead allow the Biblical prophecies of the end times to help build our spiritual character… to help prepare us for what is ahead, so that we will be among the ones who through all the tribulation, will be found faithful and not given over to the Antichrist spirit.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You desire to speak to me – and when You speak to me, You speak in ways that I can understand. I thank you for the gift of Your Holy Spirit within me that enables me to hear Your voice and speak out words of prophecy to build up, stir up and comfort others. Help me to always be true to Your words and not be influenced by the spirit of the day. Help me also to know Your voice and not be led astray by false voices that are not from You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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