“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” – Rev. 3:18
“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.” – 2 Peter 2:1
In these last days, the enemy is assaulting true Christians with many false teachers. There are in fact so many false teachers that I can spend hours and hours every day exposing them and I still wouldn’t have enough time to expose them all.
Is it important to spot out false teachers? Absolutely. The Bible is clear that we are to mark those who put obstacles in our way that are contrary to the teaching that we have learned (Rom. 16:17). The Lord Jesus Christ warned that if a blind man leads another blind man they both fall into the pit (Matt. 15:4). Sadly, many are going to end up on the broad road to destruction because of false teachers. They shut up the Kingdom of God according to Jesus (Matthew 23:13).
These false teachers are not just in the United States but in all parts of the world. This spiritual war that we are all in is a worldwide affair. The Bible is clear satan deceives the whole world (Rev. 12:9), that is why one must be vigilant as satan is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). It is unsettling that the enemy can be operating right behind the pulpit via a Pastor, evangelist, teacher, etc., and that is why we should be a “fruit inspector.” Jesus warned us 2,000 years ago that we will know false prophets or teachers by their fruits; a good tree will produce will good fruits, but a bad tree will produce bad fruits (Matt. 7:15-20).
Note: if an X teacher falls under one more of the following points (with a few exceptions) it doesn’t always necessarily mean he or she is a false teacher since no one is perfect. The following are merely certain red flags that can make one consider to avoid him or her if applicable.
“Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice.” – AW Tozer
One blatant indicator of a false teacher is self-promotion. If the ministry named after himself or herself it could be a red flag. They will tend to give themselves lofty titles and emphasize such titles such as “Reverend,” “Apostle,” or “Prophet.” The teacher or preacher will usually have written books (which are likely to be theologically bad), and their face will almost always be on the front cover.
Jesus and His teachings are supposed to be central. Jesus, who humbled Himself as Man, made Himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:7), and didn’t come to be served but to serve (Mk. 10:45). Jesus didn’t come to seek His own glory (John 8:50). How do such popular Christian figures have any resemblance to Christ when it seems to be all about themselves?
Be wary of those who boast about their success and achievement. This is an indicator of pride and pride is an abomination to God (Prov. 16:5). The Bible reads God will not share His glory to another (Isa. 42:8). A true Christian walking with Christ will be humble and Glorify God first and foremost. No man should be elevated above another when we are all supposed to be brothers (Matt. 23:8). Jesus Christ said the greatest of all is the one who is the least (Luke 9:48).
2. Tickles the Ears
“A popular evangelist reaches your emotions. A true prophet reaches your conscience.” – Leonard Ravenhill
False teachers will tell people what their itching ears want to hear (hence they “tickle the ears”). Our flesh wants to hear smooth sayings. Exhortation to obedience to God’s commands is rare. You will never feel conviction by his sermons or teachings. Such teachings can be so insidious because it just seems so “right” or “true.”
Does the preacher frequently emphasize God’s love but tend to ignore the “offensive” characteristics of God? Yes, God does love the world (John 3:16), and God is love (1 John 4:7). But God is also a God of wrath and judgment (John 3:36; Isaiah 26:21; Rev. 20:15). Sadly, we have heard God loves us so much that many sinners are going to be surprised to find himself that this God who is love sent them to hell. Jesus said that on that day many will say to Him “Lord, Lord…,” but Jesus will say to them “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23).
If Jesus had many hard teachings then surely should preachers. One preacher once said, “if Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.” A few examples are when Jesus said if you don’t love Him more than mother, father or even child you are not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37). Jesus said to strive to enter the narrow gate because broad is the road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). Jesus said that if your eye or hand causes you to sin then it is better for you to gouge out your eye and cut off your hand than to end up in hellfire (Matt. 5:29-30). Jesus said to not fear man who can only kill the body but fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell, and He said this to His friends (Matt. 10:28). Hard sayings from the meek Lamb of God. Remember, this is the same God that destroyed all human life but 8 people with the global flood (Gen. 6:17) because of sin (Gen. 6:5). The God of the Bible is a holy (1 Pet. 1:16), jealous (Ex. 20:5), judgmental (Is. 61:8), who hates sin (Heb. 1:9).
How many people in the pews know that to be blessed is to be persecuted (Matt. 5:10-12)? The Apostles thanked God for being persecuted for Jesus (Acts 5:41). Jesus said if you lose your life for His sake then you will gain it (Matt. 16:25). In fact, that is said in all 4 Gospels! Do you ever hear such a message from X preacher? If his sermons or teachings routinely focus on what God can do for you rather on what we can do for God, and rarely, if ever, preach against sins, such as fornication or pornography, which widespread these days, then that’s a teacher you may want to avoid.
3. Materialism, Wealth, and Health
“The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality and popularity” – Leonard Ravenhill
The prosperity Gospel has spread like a plague all throughout the world of Christendom. One study claims that 4 out of 10 churches in America preach prosperity.
Be careful about those who are making a profit out of their ‘ministry’. Teachers of the prosperity Gospel will teach if you give money to their ministry God will bless you. The teaching that you will receive health and wealth if you sow a seed into their ministry is unbiblical. They will often use manipulation and coaxing to have people give to their ministry. They will give self-centered motives for so-called seed faith offerings, but we should give to glorify God and to benefit others. Yes, God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Yes, we should give as the apostles did (2 Cor. 12:15). But if the seed-faith doctrine is true then why didn’t it apply to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 4:10-11)?
If the supposed Christian figure lives lavishly and luxuriously, such as having a fleet of expensive cars and a mansion, then that is a tell-tale sign to avoid the individual. Jesus, despite being King, was very humble. In His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He didn’t ride on a regale horse but instead a lowly donkey (Matt. 21:5). The Apostles and the early church were poor in the material sense but were spiritually rich, such as the Church of Smyrna (Lk. 18:28; Acts. 2:45; Rev. 2:9).
These prosperity preachers are materially rich because God is blessing them, right? Actually, no. The devil has blessed many of his people with riches and wealth. Jesus said to store your treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21) so why are some of these preachers living in luxury? During His ministry, Jesus couldn’t even find a place to lay His head (Lk. 9:58) so it should raise red flags when a preacher lives in a mansion. Jesus said woe to those who are rich (Luke 6:24), and it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom (Matt. 19:24). Jesus said you can’t serve both money and God, you will hate one and love the other (Luke 16:13). The Bible also reads the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). I seriously doubt the Spirit of the living God is working behind a preacher who would be so wealthy when there are millions of Christians throughout the world living impoverished.
What about good health? Well, good health is not promised by God either. Timothy was certainly a man of faith, but the Apostle Paul nevertheless advised him to drink wine for his infirmities (1 Tim. 5:23). Paul said nothing of a divine right to be healed or to “claim” ones victory over sickness. Paul exercised the gift of healing on several occassions but he left Trophimus sick (2 Tim. 4:20). Why didn’t Paul miraculously heal him if it’s God’s will for everyone to be healed? Paul was also sick (Gal. 4:13). God even allowed a messenger of satan to be a thorn in his flesh to buffet him to keep him humble (2 Cor. 12:7). God will have mercy on whom he wants to have mercy (Rom. 9:15), as He did with Epaphroditus, who was ill near to death but recovered (Phil. 2:25-27).
Paul went through trials that contradict the health and wealth message some preachers teach:
“24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:24-28).
Didn’t God love the Apostle Paul? Of course, He did. But as the Bible reads “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
Yes, God can bless a person with money and supernaturally heal a person if He chooses to, but false teachers will tend to emphasize those aspects of God making Him out to be a sort of Santa Clause. Jesus, however, said one’s focus should be on seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness first and things will be added onto a person (Matt. 6:33).
We should learn to be content (1 Tim. 6:6-10; Phil. 4:11-13). Peter warned about such false shepherds who fleece the flock: “through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Pet. 2:3). The New Testament focuses more on the hereafter rather than on earthly rewards. Indeed, the Bible reads to look at the things above and not on earthly things (Col. 3:2). The name it and claim it, and prosperity Gospel is not scriptural as it focuses on the things on Earth instead of making God Himself our reward (Phil. 3:8).
4. Lying Signs and Wonders
“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. 24:24
Jesus warned there will be false prophets showing great signs and wonders who, if possible, will even deceive elect (Matt. 24:24). Such false teachers will publicize their supposed miracles. Jesus, however, told people He healed to not tell the general public (read Mk. 1:41-44). They will claim they can do all kinds of miracles, but are there verification for such supposed miracles? Sometimes their supposed power involves exaggerated, theatrics of display. Some of these false teachers use fake miracles to boost themselves or their ministry up. Don’t be deceived.
If they do have genuine supernatural power (and some really do) is it really of God? The devil has supernatural power too. If the people prayed for are convulsing on the ground or laughing hysterically then it is likely not of God.
5. False Prophecies
“And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” – Deut. 18:21-22
There seem to be scores of self-proclaimed prophets these days. There are a plethora of them on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet. They claim to receive direct messages from God and it supposedly occurs quite often. They seem to be so very special that God “talks” to them more frequently than any prophet in the Bible. But God gave us a test to know if a prophet is really from Him or not. In Deuteronomy 18:22-21 it reads that if a supposed prophet gives even one false prophecy then he or she is rendered as a false prophet since God knows the beginning to the end (Is. 46:10).
I find it interesting many of these supposed prophets almost always “prophesy” very good things to people. This is reminiscent of the days of the prophet Jeremiah when God said “16 ….Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you’…. 21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them,
yet they have prophesied” (Jer. 23:16-17; 21).
Many times their supposed “prophecies” sounds very appealing to the flesh. Test all things and use the litmus test God gives in Deuteronomy 18.
6. Unbiblical Lifestyle and/or Behavior
“2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” – 1 Timothy 3:2-7
“6 if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” – Titus 1:6-9
Is the preacher or teacher really following Jesus? If he is a Pastor at a local church you are attending have you spent time with him outside the church setting to see how he treats his family? Do his actions betray what the scriptures teach? Is he very worldly? Has the teacher ever been involved in a scandal? Does he preach one thing but practice another thing?
Jesus strongly disliked hypocrites (Matt. 23:1-29). This should be a blatant indicator of a false teacher. Sadly, some people are so blinded by their loyalty to their Pastor that they will stick by him even when caught in a gross scandal. Blind loyalty to man can in itself be a form of idolatry. The Bible reads to avoid any believer who lives an unruly life (2 Thess. 3:6). The Bible even goes as far as to read that one should not even eat with a person who is sexually immoral, a swindler or who is covetous (1 Cor. 5:11). That would also include any teacher, pastor, evangelist, etc.
7. Twists or Ignores Scripture
“But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” – Luke 11:28
They may be great orators but the content of their messages or sermons are really hollow and empty fluff that appeals to the flesh and not inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are essentially motivational speakers. They are the people that teach from man’s wisdom rather from God’s wisdom. He or she will take scripture out of context or doesn’t exegete scripture at all. Such teachers will misinterpret scripture to fit man-made doctrines.
Sadly, it has been reported that there is a significant percentage of Pastors who don’t even have a Biblical worldview, which consists of the belief that absolute moral truth exists and that it is based upon the Bible. They deny core beliefs such as the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone, and the personal responsibility to evangelize. Such a Pastor you may want to avoid. If a Pastor is reluctant to take the Bible seriously then such a Pastor shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Does X teacher exceedingly emphasize or go to the extreme with certain doctrines or scriptures? Does he add on to scripture his own doctrines? If yes, those are apparent red flags. One end of the spectrum there are false teachers who don’t preach against sin, but on the other end of the spectrum, there are false teachers who are exceedingly legalistic. The scriptures warn to not exceed what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). Some even wrongly teach that one must keep the Old Testament laws to be saved rather than repenting and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ (read Gal. 2:16; 2:21; 3:11).
I have never in my life heard the Pope read from the Bible (I have doubts he has ever read a whole page out of the Bible). If the preacher doesn’t read scripture at all then completely avoid him.
Christians should never take for granted the importance of studying God’s Word. Jesus said a man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Matt. 4:4). Indeed, the Words of God are life (Jn. 6:33) and food (1 Tim. 4:6). One must do his due diligence to study the Bible (preferably with the aid of the Holy Spirit) to judge whether the preacher’s message lines up with scripture. Make sure to know the full counsel of God as the Apostle Paul taught (Acts 20:27).
“If you want to be popular, preach happiness. If you want to be unpopular, preach holiness.” – Leonard Ravenhill
Since Jesus Christ was hated by the world (John 15:18-23), how is it that certain preachers are loved by the world? It is not biblical for there to be celebrity pastors. Contrast the popularity and celebrity of some the preachers to the words of John the Baptist who said: “He must increase and I must decrease.” Jesus said the world loves its own (John 15:19), and woe unto them when men speak well of you (Luke 6:26), so if the preacher is embraced by the ungodly that should raise red flags.
If a certain teacher or pastor is embraced by the world, which is run by the devil (2 Cor. 4:4), then he probably watered down the teachings of the Bible, or not preaching from the Bible at all. A lot of what it is in the Bible is offensive to the common person because the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14). How popular would a preacher be if he strongly condemned premarital sex and preached that fornicators will end up in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8)? Prophets in the bible were killed because they taught what people didn’t want to hear. Almost all of Jesus’ 12 disciples were martyred because the world hated them.
If there is some sort of cult of personality surrounding a Christian figure it should also raise red flags.
9. Yokes Up With False Teachers
“14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15
A true Christian should have nothing to do with the Pope, Islam, or any prosperity preacher or teacher who teaches doctrine contrary to scripture.
It seems satan is trying to set up an ecumenism among the various faiths of the world in preparation for the Antichrist. Several very popular teachers have yoked up with people of false religions. For instance, the burgeoning so-called evangelist Todd White has been seen yoking up Roman Catholics and blatantly false teachers such as Bill Johnson, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and Heidi Baker. Mainline Christianity should have nothing to do with Roman Catholicism, Islam or any other faith or religion that contradicts the eternal Gospel.
Sadly, there are more than a handful of influential leaders in mainline Christianity who are yoking up with those who preach another Gospel and/or another Jesus. The Bible reads to not put up with a person who preaches such things (2 Cor. 11:4). In fact, the Bible reads those who preach another Gospel is accursed (Gal. 1:8)! If a Pastor is to shepherd his flock then he wouldn’t be shaking hands with the wolves. If such a leader doesn’t have the discernment to see who is a false teacher then he probably not fit to be in a leadership position in the first place.
10. Preaches Another Jesus and/or Another Gospel
“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” – 2 Cor. 11:4
Perhaps the most important and strongest indicator of a false teacher. No matter what if the teacher denies Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God (Matt. 16:15-16) and He is God (Is. 9:6) one should avoid him!
There have been very influential people who came under the guise of being a follower of God that founded their own religion or cult, namely Muhammad, Joseph Smith, and Charles Taze Russell. Today there are millions of followers of their respective religions or cults. They believed in a Jesus that wasn’t the Biblical Jesus Christ. Every false teacher will deny the eternal Gospel, which is the Good News concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4), but instead preaches another Gospel.
Or the preacher will pervert who Jesus is character-wise. Their Jesus maybe a Jesus who doesn’t judge because He just loves everyone. However, the Bible reads the wrath of God abides on unbelievers (John 3:36) and commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
The Roman Catholics will profess Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and that He is God in the flesh, but they will deny the sufficiency of His shed blood to cleanse us from all sins and will elevate Mary equal to or even above Jesus.
It’s vitally important for every person to personally know Jesus Christ of the Bible so it would be easy to spot the counterfeit Jesuses taught by false teachers.
11. Too Proud To Be Corrected
These type of teachers has a tendency to take themselves too seriously – they think so highly of themselves they believe they are always right even if the Body of Christ comes in agreement against that person on an issue or issues. He is always right in his own eyes. If one rebukes him, he retaliates. The Spirit of God is not behind such behavior (Pro. 12:1). Unwilling to heed correction is a sign of pride and pride is an abomination to God (Pro. 16:5).
Of course, correcting or restoring someone should be done the Biblical way (1 Tim. 5:19; Gal. 6:1).
12. Lack of Love
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” – 1 Cor. 13:1-8
Ah, we cannot forget the most important characteristic a teacher (or any Christian for that matter) ought to have: love. Jesus said the 2nd greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39).
Does the Pastor really care about his flock? Would he take time to personally minister to a person? Does he have compassion for people, and is humble as the Bible commands a Christian to be (1 Pet. 3:8)? Does he esteem others over himself (read Phil. 2:3)?
If the teacher is really operating by the Holy Spirit a marked characteristic of the person should be love because God is love (1 John 4:8). All of the law is fulfilled when one loves his neighbor as he loves himself (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 10:13). If he does love others then he does well (James 2:8).
If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can receive Him into your heart, and He can deliver you from darkness and sin and have your name written in His Book of Life.
If you are sincere, you can say this simple prayer to the Father (it doesn’t have to be word for word):
“God, I recognize that I have not lived my life for You up until now. I have been living for myself and that is wrong. Please forgive me of all of my sins just as I forgive others. I need You in my life; I want You in my life. I acknowledge the completed work of Your only begotten Son Jesus Christ in giving His life for me on the cross, I believe in my heart Jesus is Lord and was raised from the dead and I long to receive the forgiveness you have made freely available to me through this sacrifice. Come into my life now, Lord. Take up residence in my heart and be my king, my Lord, and my Savior. From this day forward, I will no longer be controlled by sin, or the desire to please myself, but I will follow You all the days of my life. Those days are in Your hands. I ask this in the Lord and GOD Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.”