In 2 Kings 2:11, the prophet Elijah is taken up to heaven on the chariot of fire. This miracle is often portrayed as a highlight of Elijah’s ministry, but it seems evident that God took Elijah away before time to protect Elijah from the consequences of his disobedience.

Common explanations for the chariots of fire include God rewarding Elijah for his obedience. But that seems unlikely, as before that, Elijah had refused to obey God’s command to anoint three leaders.


Elijah’s disobedience

We all know the story about the prophet Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal and Asherah on the Mount Carmel and fire coming down from heaven to burn his sacrifice. 

In 1 Kings 18:1 it says, 

After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, ‘Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.’

Because of drought the famine was severe in Samaria. 

Elijah doesn't tell Ahab about the coming rain, but challenges the prophets of Baal to a confrontation. The fire falls from heaven on Elijah’s altar, and Elijah slaughters 450 prophets of Baal. But after a threat by Queen Jezebel, Elijah flees to Mount Horeb, fearful and depressed. 

In 1 Kings 19:11-18 God speaks to Elijah, 

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ 

This is after Elijah had had killed 450 Baal’s prophets with a sword. But as he is full of fear, Elijah is saying that all God’s prophets have been killed with a sword!  

The first thing Elijah is asked to do is to go to the wilderness of Damascus and anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Then he is asked to anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, over Israel, and then to anoint Elisha to be a prophet in his place. 

The Hebrew word translated here as “in your place” is also translated in the Old Testament as “under”, so it is not conclusive whether God was terminating Elijah’s prophetic office, or if he was asking Elijah to begin to prepare for succession but with Elisha under Elijah’s leadership. But there is a strong sense that God is dissatisfied with Elijah's response to his encounter with God.

But rather than going to Damascus to anoint Hazael, Elijah goes to find Elisha. And rather than anointing Elisha, he only throws his mantle over him. 

There are several acts of disobedience. 

First, he doesn’t go to anoint Hazael. In human terms, this could have been understandable, as Hazael was an enemy of Israel, and Elijah would have anointed Hazael to attack Israel. But God doesn’t give us the freedom to disobey commands that we dislike. 

Second, Elijah doesn’t anoint Jehu.

Third, he goes straight to Elisha, but he doesn’t anoint Elisha either. Instead, he throws his mantle over Elisha.

In fact, Elijah doesn’t anoint anyone. And he gives Elisha his mantle without anointing. 

A mantle without anointing. It seems that Elijah might have wanted Elisha to fail. Because he would have known the significance of anointing. 

But God had already anointed Elisha. He only wanted Elijah to recognise that anointing.

We often talk in the charismatic church about receiving someone’s mantle in a celebratory manner, but in fact what we celebrate is an act of disobedience, or at best, an act of partial obedience.

Perhaps Elijah became angry at the thought of Elisha replacing him. We don’t know. But Elijah never anointed Elisha. Instead, Elisha became his disciple and servant. Perhaps Elisha was supposed to be anointed to serve “under” Elijah to become a prophet “in his place”; perhaps both translations of the Hebrew word are correct.

This is not dissimilar to what often happens in our churches. So often, leaders are happy to serve as long as they remain the main protagonist of the narrative. But if God asks them to step aside and give someone else space to operate on the same level, that they won’t accept.

But it is clear that Elijah is taken to heaven prematurely, without completing the assignment God had given to him. 

After a long time Ahab repents, fasts, and puts on sackcloth, and 1 Kings 21:28-29 says, 

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

This story begins with God sending the prophet Elijah to Ahab after he promises rain for Israel. But rather than telling Ahab that, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a confrontation.

We can see that all this time it was in God’s heart to bring Ahab to repentance.

There have been situations in my life when God has asked me to give a good news prophecy to someone who has maltreated me. I wonder if God was testing Elijah to see if he was willing to bring positive news to his persecutor. 

Would Ahab have repented earlier had Elijah given him the good news? But now I am reading between the lines as someone who has a prophetic ministry.

After Elijah has been taken up to heaven, 2 Kings 8:7-15 says,

Elisha went to Damascus while King Ben-hadad of Aram was ill. When it was told him, ‘The man of God has come here’, the king said to Hazael, ‘Take a present with you and go to meet the man of God. Inquire of the Lord through him, whether I shall recover from this illness.’ So Hazael went to meet him, taking a present with him, all kinds of goods of Damascus, forty camel loads. When he entered and stood before him, he said, ‘Your son King Ben-hadad of Aram has sent me to you, saying, “Shall I recover from this illness?”’ Elisha said to him, ‘Go, say to him, “You shall certainly recover”; but the Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die.’ 11 He fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was ashamed. Then the man of God wept. Hazael asked, ‘Why does my lord weep?’ He answered, ‘Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel; you will set their fortresses on fire, you will kill their young men with the sword, dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their pregnant women.’ Hazael said, ‘What is your servant, who is a mere dog, that he should do this great thing?’ Elisha answered, ‘The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Aram.’ Then he left Elisha, and went to his master Ben-hadad,[a] who said to him, ‘What did Elisha say to you?’ And he answered, ‘He told me that you would certainly recover.’ But the next day he took the bed-cover and dipped it in water and spread it over the king’s face, until he died. And Hazael succeeded him.

Elisha doesn’t want to anoint Hazael to attack Israel. Instead, he weeps. We don’t know how much he knew about the assignment God had given to Elijah. But perhaps God didn’t ask Elisha to anoint Hazael, but only to prophesy to him, so he probably didn't disobey God. But even Elisha found it hard to prophesy to Hazael.

In 2 Kings 9:1-3 it says

Then the prophet Elisha called a member of the company of prophets and said to him, ‘Gird up your loins; take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. When you arrive, look there for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi; go in and get him to leave his companions, and take him into an inner chamber. Then take the flask of oil, pour it on his head, and say, “Thus says the Lord: I anoint you king over Israel.” Then open the door and flee; do not linger.’

It is Elisha who completes Elijah’s tasks because Elijah refuses to anoint three people. But even now Elijah delegates the task to one of the prophets who are in his company. Perhaps God didn't ask Elijah to perform the anointing personally. 

But how many leaders have lost their anointing because they have refused to leave the centre stage and honour someone else that God wants to lift?

Many people are willing to die with public glory, to get their names etched on the tablets of history, but how many people are willing to die the way of John the Baptist, by decreasing? 

What happens to us when we refuse to do God’s will? It seems to me that because Elijah disobeyed God, his ministry was on its way to destruction, and that God took Elijah to heaven before he would encounter the consequences of his disobedience. After all, God has no use for a prophet who refuses to do God’s will. 

Some time ago I visited a large church in an event where there were many great speakers. I must admit that I felt a pang of jealousy when I listened to these speakers. But each time I felt jealousy, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Marko. If you were doing what they are doing, I would have already taken you from earth.” I didn’t get the message immediately, as each one of these speakers was doing great things in their real life, and they weren't just conference speakers. But I got the sense that my days on earth would already have been over had I even tried to do what they were doing. I have survived accidents where I could easily have died, so I don’t think God was talking about being taken up in the chariots of fire. 

As I reflected on this, it became clear to me how much God values obedience. I heard the same response of the Holy Spirit again and again. But I think it was the voice of God’s love.

No matter, how successful we might be on the outside, God has no use for prophets who don’t do his will. And it was God’s love that took Elijah up in the chariot of fire, because he wanted Elijah to finish well.

You can connect with Marko on Twitter @markojoensuu and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mpjoensuu/ or by visiting markojoensuu.com. 


The devil’s three main weapons are fear, sin and deception. In John 8:44, Jesus says that the devil is a murderer and a liar. As a murderer, he releases violence against us, and this brings fear. As a liar, he releases deception against us. And he has always tempted us to sin.

All these three weapons get their energy from a demonic presence that accompanies them. God has an unlimited Presence; the angels and demons have a limited spiritual presence, and their presence is qualitatively different from God’s.

The presence of God bears fruit, and so does the presence of the enemy, but of a rotten kind, if we allow it to operate in our lives.

Galatians 5:22-23 says that the fruit of God’s presence in our lives is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The fruit of demonic presence in our lives, if we allow it to affect us, are the works of fear, sin and deception.

In Ephesians 2:2, Paul writes about the pervasive presence of the demonic forces around us, and how it brings sin into our lives.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

This demonic atmosphere around us makes it harder to believe in the Word of God, makes us forget His promises, and seeks to disconnect us from the flow of the Holy Spirit within us through making it difficult for us to experience God’s presence.

Enemy is the master of attacking us through manipulating our emotions. This is because our emotions are more intertwined with our beliefs than we realise. Through affecting our emotions, the devil can affect what we believe and influence our behaviour. Robert C. Solomon, Professor of Philosophy, writes on the philosophy of emotions.

Beliefs and emotions are related in many important ways: belief as precondition or presupposition of emotion, and belief as brought about by emotion (say, by way of wishful thinking or rationalisation).

This is quite an illuminating point of view. I don’t know if it happens to you, but when I feel low, facts look different from when I feel optimistic. When I feel low, nothing seems possible; when I feel hopeful, even impossible seems possible.

I reason in an entirely different way when I feel hopeful than when I feel depressed. That is because our emotions affect our beliefs. They affect our thought processes deeply, and they manifest in our thoughts.

Paul writes in Romans 12:2,

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

In Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul says that “the spirit of your mind” needs continual renewing.

 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

The Spirit-filled state of your mind is continually bombarded with deceitful lusts, fear and arguments. These attacks come from the inside—what Paul calls flesh—but also from demonic beings.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5,

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

One of the main weapons the devil uses against you is releasing fear-filled arguments. These are some of the fiery arrows Paul asks us to use the shield of faith against in Ephesians 6:13-18. Their goal is to disconnect your mind from the continual indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If they achieve to do that, the devil knows he will be able to defeat you.

These fiery arrows are not just facts; they are burning with demonic poison. We accept them because they sound factual, but they are at best only partial facts and immersed in fear, and in other emotions such as anger and a sense of guilt.

The main goal of releasing fear and guilt is not necessarily to make you submit to them, but to make you vulnerable to sin and deception. Here, the enemy is using our psychological defence mechanisms against us.

The only way to combat demonic fear and guilt are the presence and promises of God; all attempts of self-defence without the Holy Spirit can lead to destructive or addictive behaviour.

If you breathe in the demonic fear produced by the prince of the air and his vassals, the fearful emotion itself will become a factory for fear-filled thoughts, and your fear-filled mind will end up doing the devil’s job for him.

I have the gift of discerning spirits, and I can often discern how a demonic disturbance seeks to encapsulate my mind like a bubble or a sphere that begins to interfere with my thought processes and produces a diversity of fears or other negative emotions.

When under this demonic disturbance, for example, on the way to work, I can fear a multitude of things from a relationship breakdown to financial ruin, and whatever else, depending on what news headlines I read in the paper. It is as if the atmosphere of fear was able to seep deep in my thought processes and dig up even my deepest subconscious fear, and articulate it clearly.

The enemy might not necessarily feed me these individual fear-filled thoughts, but instead, he surrounds me with a spiritual environment that begins to feed my imagination and reasoning processes. He doesn’t need to read my mind, but simply surround it with his presence, and my imagination will do the rest.

Our reasoning and emotions aren’t that separate from each other. Contrary to common understanding, emotions and thoughts don’t displace each other.

So, the enemy often attacks our faith through manipulating our emotions that begin to warp our beliefs, which will in turn begin to affect our behaviour. But because emotions and beliefs are so interwoven, the enemy can also attack our emotions through arguments—the process also works in reverse.

The apostle Paul saw many arguments as spiritually loaded. He writes in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6,

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 

Emotions also appear to behave like arguments. Robert C. Solomon writes,

Emotions are in fact assessments that are perceived as particularly important for the agent . . . For this reason, emotions play a crucial role in the process of decision-making.

If the enemy can affect your emotions, he can influence your decision-making. Robert C. Solomon concludes,

An emotion is a system of concepts, beliefs and attitudes, and desires, virtually all of which are context-bound, historically developed and culture specific.

Our six basic emotions are: fear, disgust, surprise, sadness, happiness and anger. The devil can manipulate each one of these emotions to weaken our faith. I focus on fear here, because it is one of the main weapons of the enemy. But the devil can use all these emotions to disconnect us from the presence of God.

I often find that the enemy seeks to use my memories against me. By bringing certain types of memories to my awareness, the enemy will also bring the mood associated with the memory.

Our emotions affect the way we see the future. Fear makes the future seem hopeless.

Jean Paul Sartre, an atheist existential philosopher, writes,

The meaning of realism, of naturalism, and of materialism lies in the past: these three philosophies are descriptions of the past as if it were present.

Often, when the enemy fights against God’s promises in your life, he leads you to focus on the material and financial limitations of your life. If he can make you think about your life mainly on materialistic terms, he can easily kill any God-given dream in your life through bringing a sense of determinism, so that you become a prisoner of the past. He will whisper to your ear: “Look at your life. Things might change, but they will change so slowly that you will never make it to the future God has promised to you.” But God is the Master of multiplication. He doesn’t multiply seeds from 1 to 2, but from 1 to 30 or 100. Matthew 13:8 says,

But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

But the devil will tell you that you will only add from 1 to 2, and even that, only with the greatest of your effort.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is indispensable in our battle against the enemy. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:13,

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Hope, faith and love are all attributes of God Himself, and that is why, when we are full of His Spirit, we are also full of hope. And hope is the greatest weapon against depression and despair. But the fear of future is the opposite of hope for future.

Can you see why the devil loves prophecies spreading fear? Can you see why our media can’t get enough of doom and gloom? The devil likes to feed our thought factories of fear, so that we would live our lives in an atmosphere of fear.

The enemy attacks the emotions to colour the narratives and the metaphors through which we perceive our lives, and through connecting your emotions to false memories that are only partially based on reality.

The reality is that no matter what happened in the past, God is still with us, and God was in control even in the past. And He will also be in control in future.

Satan is an expert in fear, because he has lived in fear for thousands of years. He and his demonic army know every nuance of fear. They have been in the presence of God, they know who God really is, and they know that, one day, they will be judged.

The apostle James writes,

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! (James 2:19)

The demons fear God, and this fear goes to their very core. Hence they can’t help but to radiate fear. And a demonic spirit that spreads fear will also spread rebellion, unbelief and deception.

All Christian leaders are under heavy spiritual attack, at all times, but many of them are not even theologically open to an idea about a negative, supernatural force influencing them. Hence they respond to a supernatural attack in the natural, self-medicating against the symptoms but never really dealing with the real cause. This can lead to all sorts of addictive and destructive behaviour, including alcoholism, addiction to sex and pornography, and drug use.

1 John 4:18 says,

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

This isn’t a word of judgment for those who feel fear, but a word of encouragement. But isn’t it interesting that the apostle John positions fear as the enemy of God that must be overcome by the power of God?

I used to be of the opinion that a little bit of fear in my life didn’t really matter. But I have come to realise that fear can easily bring disobedience into our lives. Abraham sinned because of fear. King Saul sinned and lost his anointing because of fear.

Also, fear opens up all kinds of other emotions and wrestles our mind out of submission to the Holy Spirit. It weakens our resistance against the demonic powers and the power of sin. Sometimes, the devil just hates to see you blessed and wants to rob you of joy, so he attacks you with fear.

There are many negative emotions, but fear is perhaps the most destructive one, as it is very deceitful, and we don’t always realise that it opens the door to demonic influences in our lives.

This article has been extracted from my book Supernatural Love: Releasing the Compassion of Jesus Through the Gifts of the Spirit.

You can connect with Marko on Twitter @markojoensuu and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mpjoensuu/ or by visiting markojoensuu.com. 


After the wholesale failure of the prophetic movement in the political arena and the consequent escape from reality by many prophetic leaders into the alternative reality created by QAnon and conspiracy theories, it seems worth revisiting the biblical standards for prophecy.

Old Testament standard for prophecy

The Old Testament standard for prophetic accuracy is clear. Deuteronomy18:21-22 says,  

You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

1 Samuel 3:19 says,

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

The prophetic standard of the Old Testament was that a true prophet spoke only the words given by the Lord and they came to pass. Anything else was presumptuous and caused the prophet to lose their authority. 

Contrast this with the standard of the modern-day Apostolic-Prophetic Movement that seems to accept quite a high level of errors. In 1988, Bob Jones, who has now passed, and Mike Bickle, considered by many to be leaders in the movement, recorded around five hours of informal dialogue titled Visions and Revelations

In the recordings, Mike Bickle asks Bob Jones about his prophecies: “So there has been errors. There has been a number of errors.” Bob Jones says, “Oh, hundreds of them.” Mike Bickle asks: “The Lord will correct them?” to which Bob Jones responds, “Absolutely.”

I deal with this in more detail in my book Supernatural Love, but it is enough to say here that the practice in the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement is that it is not a big deal if a prophet has a few failing prophecies. This is because in their model, prophets don’t receive their authority from fulfilled prophetic words but from alignment with the movement itself, as the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement is in essence a governmental rather than missional model. Its main purpose is to exert authority over the believers.

Hence the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement holds annual prophetic roundtables where the prophetic word for the year is produced from the consensus between the prophetic leaders recognised by the movement. And it is being in alignment with the apostles and prophets in this movement that will bring a blessing to individual believers under their authority, not the fulfilled prophetic words.

Looking at what Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says, this appears to be quite a different standard to that set for the Old Testament prophets. But are these Old Testament standards applicable today? Or are they out of date?

New Testament standard for prophecy

Some teachers take 1 Corinthians 14:3 to be the sole guideline for prophecy in the New Testament:

On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

If this was the only guideline, prophecy in the New Testament church would have lost nearly all its predictive nature and the responsibility for accuracy.

But presenting this verse as the only guideline is contradictory to the evidence of the New Testament as a whole. Nowhere does it say in the New Testament that the demand for accuracy has now been forfeited. For example, in Acts 11:28 Agabus prophesies that there would be a great famine over the whole world, and this came to pass under Claudius. 

We don’t know for certain how widespread this famine was, but it affected at least the people of Israel and Syria where the early church was concentrated at the time. So, Agabus made a clear prediction about a world event, and it was fulfilled.

One of the most visible failures of the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement was their nearly unanimous prediction that Trump would be elected for second term in 2020. This collective prophecy turned out to be a catastrophic failure.

In one sense, if the role of the prophet in the New Testament is merely to encourage, encouraging voters to vote for Trump would have been enough for the prophets to fulfil their function, even when Trump was not elected. But that was not how these prophecies were presented, as they were presented as predictive prophecies rather than election campaigning, so making the retrospective argument about the merely encouraging function of prophecy that some have done to defend the movement is dishonest.

Deuteronomy 18 in more detail

Looking at Deuteronomy 18:21-22, different Bible translations translate the Hebrew text slightly differently: if a prophecy turns out to be presumptuous, we should not be afraid of either the prophet or the prophecy. So, it could be argued that it is either the prophet or the prophecy that have lost their authority due to a failed prophecy.

An understanding that it is a prophecy rather than the prophet that loses the authority when a word is not fulfilled seems to be shared by Kris Valloton, who apologised for prophesying about Trump being elected for second term in 2020. 

Effectively, Kris Valloton admitted that he had spoken this word presumptuously.

“I take full responsibility for being wrong. There’s no excuse for it. I think it doesn’t make me a false prophet, but it does … create a credibility gap. A lot of people trust me, trust my ministry and I want to say I’m very sorry for everyone who put their trust in me.”

According to this view, apologising for the word spoken presumptuously might be enough to restore prophetic authority if the prophetic leader only takes full responsibility for the failure.

But looking at Deuteronomy 18, this would not be enough to restore prophetic authority, as verse 20 says,

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.

This speaks for heavy prophetic responsibility. Getting only one prediction wrong will lead to the death of the prophet. Because the Torah spoke for death penalty in various occasions, many have interpreted this as a death sentence actioned by the Jewish community. But in fact, the text only says that the prophet shall die, implying that it is God himself that will take their life. So, it wasn’t just the prophetic word but also the prophet who lost their authority.

Some modern interpreters maintain that this punishment of death was only for those prophets who deceived the Israelites to follow false gods, but the text makes it clear that the same punishment was reserved for those who spoke in the name of Yahweh presumptuously.

The word translated in Deuteronomy 18 as presumption is also translated in the Old Testament as arrogance or pride.

This gives us an important insight into the nature of presumption. Prophetic words spoken presumptuously are spoken arrogantly. An arrogant person feels entitled to his or her view. He or she takes for granted that they are right. They don’t have to consult the Lord to check their view, but instead, they speak it out.

Were there any mitigating circumstances?

The most extreme example of what happened to false prophets is the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal which led to the slaughtering of four hundred prophets of Baal by Elijah. Perhaps the following depression was posttraumatic stress disorder!

But mostly, the consequences of false prophecy weren’t administered by the hands of the prophets. In case of Jeremiah 28:15-17,

And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: I am going to send you off the face of the earth. Within this year you will be dead, because you have spoken rebellion against the Lord.” In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.

Jeremiah prophesied the death of Hananiah, and the prophet Hananiah died what might probably have looked like a natural death had you not heard the prophecy.

There are incidents in the Old Testament where a prophet spoke presumptuously but where the consequences weren’t that significant. 2 Samuel 7:1-4 says,

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.” But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?

Here, we can see that Nathan spoke presumptuously although it doesn’t seem that he prophesied. It seems more like a blessing. He didn’t inquire of the Lord but assumed that because God had anointed David, his plan would also be of God.

Looking at the contemporary church, this is an area where presumption often happens. This is also the weak point of the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement, which emphasises the authority of the office rather than the accuracy of the word. There is an assumption that the plans of the apostolic and prophetic leaders will automatically be blessed, even when they don’t inquire of the Lord.

A good example of presumption based on office is when Bill Johnson, Che Ahn, John Arnott, and Rich Joyner prophesied over Todd Bentley just before his public fall from ministry. 

Delayed prophecy

There are two mitigating factors, and one of them is time.

Jeremiah 25:1-3 says,

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah (that was the first year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon), which the prophet Jeremiah spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened.

Jeremiah had prophesied about the impending destruction of Jerusalem for twenty-three years, but it had not yet taken place. Many Jews would have probably classified Jeremiah as a false prophet through all that time. This shows that we must be careful with prophesies that don’t have a clear time limit.

But this doesn’t justify the prophecies that clearly said that Trump would win a second term in 2020. 

Unlike Kris Valloton, so many charismatic prophets have resorted to lies and conspiracy theories to cover up the fact that their prophecies were false. They would rather change their description of reality than admit they were wrong.

Another mitigating factor is the symbolic nature of many prophetic dreams and visions. I have looked at this in detail in my book Understanding Revelation.

In this case, a symbolic prophetic vision is interpreted literally. Again, this doesn’t justify the QAnon theories of Trump still being the president secretly, as none of the prophecies predicted any sort of secret presidency. 

Sometimes genuine prophecies are misinterpreted. That is another issue. But when you inspect the original prophecy retrospectively, it should be clear that misinterpretation has taken place. Most Old Testament prophecies about Jesus were misinterpreted by Jesus’s contemporaries, but that didn’t make them false. Often it becomes clear that a prophecy has been misinterpreted only after it has been fulfilled.

False prophets in the New Testament church

Let us now turn our attention to the New Testament. When the New Testament books and epistles were written, the main reference point would have been the Old Testament, which was the only written Word of God. Consequently, the writers of the New Testament sought to apply the Old Testament teachings in the new context and through the lens of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus had some sharp words regarding false prophets. Matthew 7:15-20 says,

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

In Jesus’s words, the false prophets could be recognised by their fruit. This passage doesn’t refer to the predictive element of prophecy, but you could say that a false prophecy is also a bad fruit.

Verses 21-23 say,

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

It seems that there has been a change of emphasis. It is possible to do mighty works in Jesus’s name including prophesying, and yet to be an evildoer not known by God.

This is remarkable. But what is noteworthy is that it doesn’t justify false or presumptuous prophecy. In fact, it seems to say that even the false prophets can get their prophecies right, but it doesn’t mean that they knew Jesus. So, Jesus is not reducing the biblical standard but upholding it.

Much like in the Old Testament, there is a blurred line between false prophets and false teachers in the New Testament.

False prophets according to John

1 John 4:1-3 says,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.

In my book Understanding Revelation, I look more deeply into John’s definition of antichrists as false teachers. But for John, the main feature of false prophets is that they don’t confess Jesus Christ as come in the flesh from God.

Again, this doesn’t reduce the biblical standard; it only places false prophets leading the believers astray in the 1st century context of emerging heresies within the Church.

Revelation 2:18-23 says,

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze: “I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead.

Like Jezebel in the Old Testament, this Jezebel of Thyatira led believes astray to a syncretistic religion. I write about this historical development in more detail in Understanding Revelation.

Revelation 22:18-19 says,

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

We can see how John upholds a very high standard of prophecy. In his case, his words must be preserved word for word.

Peter

2 Peter 2:1-3 says,

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Peter equates the Old Testament false prophets here with New Testament false teachers.

Paul says in Acts 20:29-30,

I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them.

Much like Jesus, Paul referred to the false prophets as wolves.

What is behind this emphasis on false teachers rather than false prophets in the New Testament? From the perspective of the apostles, the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Jesus had been fulfilled. Their focus was on defending the revelation about Jesus rather than predictive prophecy. The principles of prophetic ministry had already been well outlined by the Old Testament prophets. In fact, the Book of Jeremiah is the best manual for prophetic ministry that you can find, and it details the prophetic processes much better than most contemporary manuals written by anyone claiming to be a prophet. There was simply no reason to duplicate this work.

Ambiguous visions

Much of the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement has escaped the demands for accuracy to the spiritual realm, as the events happening in the invisible world are by nature directly unverifiable and they can be verified only indirectly.

There is a reality to the spiritual battle in the heavenlies, but Paul says in Colossians 2:18-19,

Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

There is no way of knowing whether a prophet who says he or she has met an angel has in fact met one, although the false doctrines that many of these people boasting about meeting an angel demonstrate that if they did in fact encounter an angel, it wasn’t an angel of the Lord.

Much of the so-called prophetic in the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement is in fact empty boasting about spiritual experiences, which are unverifiable by nature.

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul seems to refer to his spiritual experiences in third person:

It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

Paul implies that sharing some of our spiritual experiences even if genuine can be damaging to the hearers, and he has more important things, such as preaching the gospel, to do. In the charismatic world many new and dangerous doctrines have been generated out of false spiritual experiences. And some dangerous doctrines have even been generated out of genuine spiritual experiences.

In Revelation 19:10, an angel says to John.

Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

The greatest prophecy in the Bible has always been about Jesus, and the apostles were totally consumed by this revelation.

We can see that New Testament has in no way reduced the standards for accuracy. But what has changed is that the whole church has now become a prophetic community. When Peter explains the first outpouring of the Spirit in the First Pentecost (Acts 2), he chooses the word of the prophet Joel, which say that everyone who will receive the Holy Spirit will prophesy. The New Testament church is supposed to be a prophetic community where prophetic gift will proliferate.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:29,

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.

What can be said is that the because of Jesus’s work, the consequences of false prophecy are less severe, and that false teaching is perceived to be more dangerous than false prophecy in the New Testament. Yet, there is still a seriousness about sharing prophetic words, but there is more security because the prophetic Spirit has been released on the whole community.

But if the consequences of false prophecy in the New Testament are less severe, neither can the prophets in our era claim the authority of the Old Testament prophets. Yet some contemporary prophets claim Old Testament authority even when their words have been proven wrong.

1 John 2:27 says,

As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.

In the end, the spirit of the prophets should be the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit never lies. And if a prophet doesn’t speak in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he will either speak presumptuously – that is without the Holy Spirit, or under an influence of another spirit.

It is my view that the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement is in a need of much repentance for speaking presumptuously rather than in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We dishonour God when we speak presumptuously in his name.

May God help us find our way back to biblical understanding of prophetic ministry.

You can connect with Marko on Twitter @markojoensuu and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mpjoensuu/ or by visiting markojoensuu.com. 

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