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True to His Ways: Purity & Safety in Christian Spiritual Practice

Chapter Fifteen: The Pursuit of Prophetic Authority

Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord.
—Jeremiah 23:16

How the world loves a prophet!

A young man from Kentucky, a serious Bible student with no medical training, discovered he had a supernatural gift to discern illness in people without any examination. Then he developed a gift of healing which he could exercise even for people who lived far away.

In wonderment this young man searched the Scriptures for understanding. He studied chapter 9 of John's Gospel for insight into the relation between sin and sickness, and formed the conclusion that with sufficient faith in God, all believers can perform healing miracles. Later this young man began to prophesy, predicting future events with amazing accuracy. But despite pressure from others he refused to charge a fee for helping others. He said that because his gifts were from a pure and holy God, he also must keep himself pure, and taking money would be wrong. [1]

Who was this altruistic young man? He was Edgar Cayce, one of the secular world's most renowned spiritists and so-called 'medical intuitives' (a term used by psychics to describe those who have supernatural ability to discern illness). He purportedly worked many miracles and healings, relying heavily on Bible teachings to explain and interpret his work. He died in 1945, but still has many followers.

Then there was a prophetess, also a student of the Bible, who prophesied about the Antichrist. She wrote:

There are those who will try to sound a warning, for he will be glib and egotistical; but others will say that he deserves leadership, and his fame will spread to other areas of the world, so that for a time he will seem to be the promised savior. His strength will lie in his charismatic leadership qualities, for except to those who know him well, he will exhibit a side of his nature that indeed seems benevolent. As he seizes world power there will be some awesome days...[2]

This same prophetess had a vision about the final cleansing of the Earth. She said it will be like "a giant wave, higher than a ten-story building, racing toward shore."[3] And who was she? She was Ruth Montgomery, an occultist who received information from unseen spirit guides. She called these guides her "friends who have been dictating through my typewriter since 1960."[4]

Over the centuries, occultists like Ruth Montgomery and Edgar Cayce have proclaimed themselves prophets, relying upon, and teaching from, the Bible. Therefore, we need discernment to distinguish true prophecy from the occult counterfeit.

Prophecy:  the orthodox vs the occult approach

That there is a biblical gift of prophecy cannot be denied. However, in this matter, as in so many others we have seen, there are right ways and there are occult ways.

Prophecy the orthodox way

Let us turn to the teaching of John MacArthur, who helped me understand the true meaning of biblical prophecy. He explains:

The New Testament prophetic gift (Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:10) primarily has to do with declaration, not revelation. The New Testament prophet "speaks to men for edification and exhortation and comfort" (1 Cor. 14:3). He is a preacher, not a source of ongoing revelation. His task is one of forth-telling, not foretelling. That is, he proclaims already revealed truth; he is not generally a conduit for new revelation.[5]

True prophecy declares, clarifies, repeats and explains doctrine already revealed in Scripture. The gift of prophecy enables a believer to understand, teach and proclaim God's truth accurately and movingly in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts, Luke used the expression "filled with the Holy Spirit" several times to describe people who were gifted to preach; for example, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them"...(Acts 4:8); and Stephen, who spoke with great eloquence to the synagogue leaders, was described as "a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" (6:5).

Real prophets today do not offer new revelation. Nor do they predict the future, for this is divination. Real prophets declare God's Word so others are convicted and convinced, and souls are nourished by truth.

True prophetic utterance may be inspired, in the sense that biblical understanding is given supernaturally to an individual on a particular occasion. For example, I believe I prophesied when, as a newly converted believer who had barely looked at the Bible, I said to my pastor,  "I have confidence that God will complete the work He has begun in me." This was a biblical statement of truth, although I did not realize it. I believe my partner at the time, a man exceedingly hostile to Christianity and furious with me for looking into it, also prophesied. It was the night of my conversion. I was radiant in the Spirit, having received forgiveness and the gift of eternal life only hours before. I asked my partner if he knew who God was and he confounded me -- and likely himself, also -- by answering, "God is love." I then asked if he knew what sin was. He prophesied again -- that is, he declared God's truth again -- and answered, "Sin is a barrier between us and God." To my knowledge he had never read Scripture and no one had explained these doctrines to him. But even if he had heard them before, he never really believed them. In fact, he soon terminated our relationship because I had come to faith.[6]

Prophecy the occult way

In any of its forms and varieties, occult prophecy is really divination and includes "new revelation." It includes giving words about things "seen" or experienced through occult practice, or under occult influence. It includes the belief that truth is revealed in our actions or behavior (see Chapter 19). Channeling "teachings" from spirit guides or angels, necromancy (speaking with dead people), reading minds, discerning illnesses, revealing the past or the future from "knowledge" gained through visions or dreams, advising people through reading tea leaves, devising symbolic behavior ("prophetic acts") to meet with God or deliberately "opening" yourself to receive mental impressions: these are occult ways.

Scripture teaches that false prophets may speak under the influence of Satan (see Jeremiah 2:8) or from their own hearts and imaginations (Jeremiah 23:26). There are many false prophets, literally thousands among charismatics worldwide. Pastor MacArthur says:

The contemporary charismatic perspective that makes every prophet an instrument of divine revelation cheapens both Scripture and prophecy. By permitting these so-called prophets to mix error with messages supposedly "fresh from God's lips," charismatics have opened the floodgates to false teaching, confusion, error, fanaticism, and chaos.[7]

One telling verse in Scripture divides the true prophet from the false. Jeremiah said:

"The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the Lord. "Is not My word like a fire?" says the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (23:28-29).

Here Jeremiah is saying that false prophets who tell their dreams are like "chaff." Chaff is the dead skin of a kernel of wheat, the part which does not nourish. On the other hand, those who have His Word and speak it faithfully are like "wheat" -- their words nourish life because the Word is powerful, like fire to convict, and like a hammer to destroy strongholds of false beliefs.

God hates false prophets

Scriptures fairly burst with the wrath of God against false prophecy. Verse after verse warn against this sin:

I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!" How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal (Jeremiah 23:25-27).

Here Jeremiah describes false prophets as people who speak lies in God's name, from the impulses of their own hearts, and lead His people astray. A warning to these:

"Both prophet and priest are profane; yes, in My house I have found their wickedness," says the Lord. "Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; for I will bring disaster on them..."  (Jeremiah 23:11-12).

I need to pause here, and acknowledge that I personally fell into sins of false prophecy, both under the influence of occult spirit (as I explained in chapter 1), and by speaking out of my own imagination. For some reason the latter is more disturbing to me. I was forced to my knees to ask forgiveness when I realized I had proclaimed my own ideas before other people as if they were divine prophecies. I still cringe to think about it. I wrongly and pridefully claimed prophetic authority, motivated by the desire to please or impress. Even worse, I modeled occult practice before young believers who considered me a leader.

Vain pursuits: dream interpretation

The Bible contains stories of genuine prophets who received significant dreams from God, or were given insight to interpret dreams. I believe God still speaks to people through dreams at special times, and that He enables others to interpret. However, there is an occult counterfeit of these God-given gifts, namely the practice of sifting through dreams deliberately and purposefully to identify and analyze symbols for guidance and understanding of problems: This is divination.

A fascination with dreams goes hand-in-hand with occultism. Witches and shamans have for centuries probed dreams for guidance and hidden meaning. New Agers usually own at least one dream dictionary. Now, leading charismatic "prophets" rely increasingly on their dreams for personal and corporate guidance, and even national and international guidance. A leader posted on the Web details of a "prophetic dream" he had concerning a pending missile attack on the U.S. He said that when he awoke he heard a "stern, loud" voice say, "This will happen; you must warn them." He was so genuinely concerned, he considered warning the U.N., but was advised by an associate that the time was not right.[8]

 Many charismatics take dream analysis as seriously as pagans do. Elijah House includes dream analysis in its counselor training program. Indeed, many charismatics now offer dream analysis to individuals for personal and counseling purposes; one group has made a real ministry out of it, offering an on-line bookstore and courses on "Dream Interpretation Mentoring." They even posted "Dream Interpretation Guidelines" on the Web.[9] But, so have many secular groups.

If we compare their teachings we discover that both charismatic and non-Christian groups who promote dream analysis hold similar beliefs as to the significance of dream symbols. Both hold that certain symbols have universal meaning and others are uniquely personal. Both advise keeping dream journals.  Both offer "expert interpretation" and personal counseling, for a fee. Both also offer courses for a fee.

Vain pursuits: training prophets

Another pursuit common among mystics, pagan and charismatic alike, is the attempt to develop divination gifts in new initiates, including powers to foretell the future, discern illness, know what others are thinking and receive divine revelation.

Charismatic leaders believe it is their responsibility to raise up prophets for the church, and that prophetic gifts can be enhanced through practice, training and testing. For example, self-proclaimed prophetess Cindy Jacobs, who says she has possessed supernatural insight since childhood, writes books teaching Christians how to prophesy the occult way. She believes any child of God can cultivate this "gift." My own church taught a course based on Cindy Jacob's teaching, and I have seen her books in Christian bookstores everywhere.

But secular stores are jammed full of their own books teaching the same thing, only using different terminology. In most you will find books on "developing ESP," reading auras, or "becoming a prophet." In the course of my research I looked through the shelves in a used bookstore and found so many New Age, magic and Wiccan books on prophecy that I hardly knew where to begin. Everyone wants to be a prophet.

For example, let's turn to a self-styled "magic primer," which contains a chapter entitled "The Art of Prophetic." The author instructs people in the art of "precognition," meaning that branch of divination which involves prophesying the future:

Precognition therefore is nothing less than the conscious mind's awareness of the timeless vision presented to the subconscious...In general these glimpses of the future are quite involuntary, so that the primary aim of divination is to encourage the voluntary departure of the subconscious into absolute time. The conscious mind has then to be kept in a state of receptive passivity so that it will accept whatever images are conveyed to it...[10]

Here we see the occult practice of waiting on mental impressions - visions or words - like charismatics do. The only difference is that charismatics claim the God of the Bible is the source of their "knowing," while Mr. Conway credits the "subconscious." I'll mention just one more secular book, by a self-proclaimed "seer" who wrote The Reluctant Prophet. The inside flap says:

Are we all reluctant prophets? Do we all possess the latent talent - a sixth sense - to predict the future, to communicate with the spiritual world? Daniel Logan, the young and widely-known American mystic, firmly believes that we do! He believes every intelligent human being possesses this psychic ability - an ability, when cultivated, that can manifest itself in extraordinary ways for the benefit of mankind as well as the individual. (emphasis original)[11]

 A comparison of The Reluctant Prophet and Ms. Jacob's books (such as The Voice of God) reveals that both authors believe they were gifted with paranormal perception from childhood. Both teach how to cultivate the gift of prophecy. Both appear to be well-intentioned, wanting to help others. But, one calls herself a Christian, apparently not realizing that her practice and beliefs are glaringly occult.

Necromantic visions

Receiving prophecy

The Muslim prophet Muhammad believed God gave him the content of the Islamic Scriptures, the Koran, by revelation during trance states over a period of time. An historian writes as follows:

Muhammad had no control over the flow of the revelation; it descended on him independent of his will. When it arrived he was changed... Both his appearance and the sound of his voice would change. He reported that the words assaulted him as if they were solid and heavy: "For We shall charge thee with a word of weight" (chapter 73, verse 5, the Koran). Once they descended while he was riding a camel. The animal sought vainly to support the added weight by adjusting its legs. By the time the revelation ceased, its belly was pressed against the earth and its legs splayed out.[12]

Muhammad also claimed he met the angel Gabriel during trance states.

Charismatics believe similar claims by Rick Joyner, one of their favorite prophets. Mr. Joyner believes God gave him the content of his book The Final Quest by revelation during trance states over a period of time. He also claims to have spoken with Jesus, angels and even a talking eagle during these visions. In his own words:

Some of [the book] came under a very intense sense of the presence of the Lord, but the overwhelming majority was received in some level of a trance... Once the experience became so intense that I actually got up and left the mountain cabin where I go to seek the Lord, and drove home. Over a week later I returned and almost immediately I was right back where I left off.[13]

Popular Mormon prophet Joseph Smith also said God gave him the content of his books, the Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price, by revelation over a period of time. He said he spoke with an angel named Moroni, and even Jesus Himself. Here is part of Mr. Smith's story:

The year 1820 proved to be the real beginning of the prophet's call, for in that year he was allegedly the recipient of a marvelous vision in which God the Father and God the Son materialized and spoke to young Smith as he piously prayed in a neighboring wood... he reveals that the two "personages" took a rather dim view of the Christian church... and announced that a restoration of true Christianity was needed... With the appearance of the angel Moroni at the quaking Smith's bedside [Smith] began his relationship to the fabulous "golden plates"...the progression of [the] "translation" and spiritual zeal allegedly attained such heights that, on May 15, 1829, heaven could no longer restrain its joy; and so John the Baptist in person was speedily dispatched by Peter, James, and John to the humble state of Pennsylvania...[14]

Mr. Smith believed he merited the privilege of being God's prophet to restore Christianity due to his great religious zeal. Mr. Joyner also believes God chose him to express His dim view of the church, claiming Jesus spoke these very words to him:

My church is now clothed with shame because she does not have judges. She does not have judges because she does not know Me as the Judge. I will now raise up judges for My people who know My judgment. They will not just decide between people or issues, but to make things right, which is to bring them into agreement with Me.[15]

These so-called prophets certainly consider themselves exalted in God's eyes.

Spiritism and necromancy

It is noteworthy that Mr. Joyner and Mr. Smith both claim to commune with the spirits of dead people. Numerous times in The Final Quest Mr. Joyner said that, while in a trance, he saw or communicated with Adam, Martin Luther, Luther's wife and the apostle Paul. Joseph Smith, in the quotation on the preceding page, claimed he spoke with John the Baptist.  But what do Scriptures say about communicating with dead people? In fact, it is spiritism and necromancy, and is abominable to God:

When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who... practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord...(Deuteronomy 18:9-12).

While nonbelievers may be forgiven for failing to recognize the sin and danger of communicating with the supposed spirits of dead people, professing Christians should know better. Charismatics usually condemn spiritism, but at the same time blindly condone it in their favorite prophets. Mr. Joyner has been crowned prophet and judge by an undiscerning church; my former pastor told me The Final Quest is advanced reading -- for mature Christians only.

Messianic prophets?

Cindy Jacobs and some of her associates posted a lengthy "group prophecy" on the Web in 1999, which they called "Word to the Nation."[16] They waived copyright, and I have attached the script to my book as an Appendix (at p. 303), for reference and as an example of charismatic teaching that suffers profoundly from occult influence.

Ms. Jacob's group included John and Paula Sandford, Rick Joyner and Bill Hamon, teachers we have already considered. Dutch Sheets, a popular prayer teacher, was also part of the group. These people wrongly predicted that in the year 2000 there would be "disruption of communication like the Tower of Babel, and for a season, communication will be shut off."

But Ms. Jacob and her associates did more than falsely predict a communication catastrophe. They demonstrated such an exalted view of themselves we can be certain they have accepted the serpent's temptation. Under the influence of occult spirit they have been led to believe that they are equal to God. Below, we will examine how they worked up to this amazing self-estimate. (Please pause here to review the Appendix [in the book, True to His Ways] if you like.)

God's counselors?

In their prophecy (p. 303, Appendix), the Jacobs group claims to be counselors with God. Cindy says:

Finally in the day, John Sandford began to share something that he has shared with me in private, and I won't go into the whole thing, but essentially that God takes counsel with his people and his prophets, that he doesn't move in a vacuum...He is looking for a people to take counsel with (p. 308, Appendix),


as we began to pray and we began to worship, a sensing came in our midst, the Lord was calling us up together in His throne room. It was such a holy moment, I do not have words to describe it to you. I don't know how everybody else felt. But God began to share how the Lord was putting like chairs in heavenly places, and we were coming up together. That He would speak to us about the judgments and the things to come, to take counsel together. It was such a holy moment (p. 309, Appendix to the book).

Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Sandford reveal here that they consider themselves so wise, and their understanding so godly, divine and exalted, that Jehovah God, the holy and mighty One, whom no one can see, He who created the universe and whose thoughts and ways are far above ours, has chosen them with whom to "take counsel." God, they say, called them together and set chairs for them in His throne room. Is this possible? Decidedly not; it is eminently delusional. God does not take counsel with His creatures. In his letter to the Romans, Paul indicated that we are so far beneath the Lord, the very idea is absurd:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his counselor?(Romans 11:33-34).

These verses tell us plainly that no man or woman could ever hope to take counsel with God. Indeed, in case we didn't already realize it, only a fool would entertain the notion:

O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this (Psalm 92:5-6).

The Bible teaches, and true Christian experience confirms, that the closer a man comes to God, the more he realizes his own sinfulness and unworthiness. When he saw the Lord high upon a throne, Isaiah cried, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips" (6:5). Job said, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I will lay my hand over my mouth" (40:4). But Ms. Jacobs says, "It was such a holy moment!"

New saviors?

However, there is a claim even more startling in the "Word to the Nation" published by the Jacobs group, namely a claim to Messiahship (see Appendix). These self-proclaimed prophets and counselors to God again blow the trumpet for themselves, this time to announce that God is raising them up to take Jesus' place! How so? They say they are saviors, collectively a new, divine "light" from God. Incredible. Here is exactly what Mr. Hamon said:

God is raising up saviors on Mount Zion, and we're to be that light and that person, Amen (p. 316, Appendix to the book).

Ironically, this pronouncement of personal messiahship was expressed by Bill Hamon shortly after he said that God had spoken to him "deeply" about the "need for humility." How can anyone, let alone a person who professes to follow Jesus, take these people seriously? Yet many do. When I complained to a charismatic teacher about this, I was warned not to criticize God's anointed.

Many will come in His name, claiming to be the Christ

What, we might ask, would Jesus say about a group of people who claim to be saviors, collectively a "new Christ"? In Scripture is a warning, one that warrants close attention:

Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying,"I am the Christ," and will deceive many (Matthew 24:4-5).

Jesus warned that people will come in His name - that is, confessing Him as Savior - but they will also claim that they are the Christ. How, we might ask, could they get away with both professing Jesus as Lord and also claiming to be the Messiah themselves? Well, Mr. Hamon and his crew made such a claim in 1999...and are still getting away with it.

These prophets profess Christian faith. They give lip service to the need for humility. But at the same time they make the incredible - some might say insane - claim that they are messianic saviors. But who has realized it? For as Jesus said, they will deceive many.

God tests his people through false prophets

Moses warned the Israelites:

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them," you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

From this we must understand that God allows signs, wonders and false prophets, even permitting them to speak accurate words. By these He tests us, to prove whether we love Him or them; whether we will be wheat, as those who love His Word, or chaff, as those who follow teachings that tickle their ears.


[1] Jess Stearn, A Prophet in His Own Country: The Story of the Young Edgar Cayce (New York, William Morrow & Company, 1974); 157, 259.

[2] Ruth Montgomery, Strangers Among Us (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1979), 220.

[3] Montgomery, 229.

[4] Montgomery, 14. Ms. Montgomery, through her guides, wrongly predicted a World War in the 1980s that would dramatically reduce the earth's population from billions to millions (see p. 228).

[5] John F. MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 81.

[6] There is biblical precedent for inspired prophecy from the lips of an unbeliever. Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the nations (John 11:49-52). Balaam also prophesied (see Numbers 24:1-9).

[7] MacArthur, Chaos, 82.

[8] Alistair Petrie, "Lion on the Wall: Prophetic Dream" - Wednesday, May 29th/02, 4:00 a.m., Watchman, South Africa, Web reference removed here.

[9] From Lapstone Ministries, Web reference removed

[10] Daniel Logan, The Reluctant Prophet (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968), on the dustcover.

[11] Daniel Logan, The Reluctant Prophet (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968), on the dustcover.

[12] Smith, 232-233.

[13] Joyner, Quest, 11.

[14] Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, 15th ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, 1974), 150-152.

[15] Joyner, Quest, 128.

[16] "Cindy Jacobs Word to the Nation," Rocky Mountain Awakening, National School of the Prophets, Web reference removed

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