1 John 4:1 – There are Many False Prophets in the World

John commanded his readers to “test the spirits” in order to avoid a teacher who is not speaking from the spirit of God. He then focuses on those who are speaking from a different spirit, false teachers. This refers to those who left John’s churches, those who have already been called antichrist and sons of the devil. How is it that these people can speak God’s word in the Spirit?

It is quite possible these people are not actually Christians and are under the inspiration of demonic forces to appear to be from God, or they are faking the ecstatic speech in order to give their teaching the appearance of spiritual authority. They may not even be aware their activity is false; ecstatic speech can be learned and a person could be fooling themselves into thinking their speech is from God.

Who Is the Antichrist?It is also possible the opponents are well-meaning Christians who are genuinely trying to teach accurately about Jesus, but they sincerely disagree with John about who Jesus was. In the Gospels themselves it is clear even the disciples were not exactly clear on who Jesus was or what he came to do. When Peter finally confesses Jesus as messiah, Jesus tells Peter the purpose of the messiah is to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Peter rebukes Jesus since this is not what he expected messiah to do! When the false prophets “go out into the world” they have demonstrated their rebellion from God. In John’s Gospel the world is a place of darkness and it is the domain of Satan.

There are many warnings to not believe every teacher who claims to be teaching the truth about Jesus in the New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter into the Kingdom of God (Matt 7:21-23). These people will claim to have prophesied in the name of Jesus, cast out demons and other miracles in the name of Jesus. Jesus says he will “tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’”

In the Olivet Discourse Jesus says many false prophets will compete with the Gospel until he returns to establish his kingdom (Matt 24:22). In Matthew 24:24, the false messiahs will do “great signs and wonders in order to deceive.” In the final three parables in Matthew 25 there are a series of people who think they ought to be in the kingdom at the time of the final judgment yet are left on the outside, in the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. In 25:11, the foolish virgins say “Lord, Lord” yet remain in the darkness; in 25:30 the foolish servant is cast out into the darkness, and the ones who failed to help “the least of these brothers of mine” will be sent off to the hell prepared for the devil and his angels (25:41; 46).

Paul warns the Corinthian church about “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13-14). He draws a parallel to Satan who disguises himself as an angel of light. Although Paul does not specifically mention it 2 Corinthians, it is quite likely these “super apostles” did the same kinds of signs which accompanied the Twelve Apostles in order to authenticate their message. In fact, Paul included “lying signs and wonders” in his description of the coming man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2.

The book of Revelation has much to say about deceptive signs and wonders. The Lord comments the church at Ephesus for testing the who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (2:2). This is important since 1 John was written to the churches in Ephesus at the same time Revelation was written. In the church at Thyatira there was a false teacher John calls Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess and deceives people (2:20). During the tribulation period itself the false prophet will do great signs which will deceive the people of the earth and convince them to worship the image of the beast (13:11-15).

John is therefore consistent with the rest of the New Testament when he tells his congregation to “test the spirits” by not believing everyone who claims to be a Spirit inspired prophet. In this context he gives only criterion for testing a teacher, “what do they confess about Jesus?”

4 thoughts on “1 John 4:1 – There are Many False Prophets in the World

  1. It’s an interesting thought that there may have been individuals that were spreading false teaching without realizing what they were doing. I think we take for granted what we know about Christianity. We have had years of scholars and theologians read over these texts. We have whole Bibles put together from thousands of manuscripts. We have undisputable evidence of people walking with Jesus and who probably knew him best and the books that were created from these people and the people nearest to them. The people who lived in the time so close to Jesus did not have this luxury. They had limited information and word of mouth. Many may not have been able to read or see the letters that the apostles had written. They had to base their teachings on their limited resources.
    On the flip side of this were the ones spreading false teaching out of ignorance were the one Jobes talks about that the author refers to as “antichrists”. Antichrists were those who are going out of their way to spread false teaching. This is who Jobes says the elder is referring to in 2 John when he expresses that the need to be hospitable does no apply to these people. Jobes goes on to say that the author does not want them to be given “even the slightest consideration”. I think that this shows the authors recognition of the importance to stop this type of cancerous teaching so that the early church could be confident in what they were learning, and reduce the amount of confusion being caused by false teaching.

  2. Jesus warned us that false teachers or false prophets will come and will attempt to deceive even the believers of Christ (Mat 24:23-27). However, the best way to guard ourselves against false teachers and false prophet is to know the truth which is the gospel of Jesus Christ that come as the flesh into the world. And the praise spirit of the antichrist is found in (1 John 4:2-3); “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

    Jesus teaches us that a tree is recognize by its fruit (Mat 12:33). When looking for fruit we can determine the accuracy of his or her teaching. What does the teachers say about Jesus? Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist, and he denies the Father and the Son.

    Addition, does the teacher preach the gospel? The gospel is defined as the good news concerning Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Apostle Paul said, “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned” (Galatians 1:9.

    Furthermore, Does this teacher exhibit character qualities that glorify the Lord? Jesus said to beware of such people and that we would know them by their fruits (Mat. 7:15-20). The believers job is to test the spirits carefully (1 John 4:1). We should not automatically embrace the message of any preacher or teacher simply because his or her reputation or credentials, rather, we must listen cautiously to their Christology that what they say about Jesus is the greatest importance.

  3. This was a very thought-provoking blog post from beginning to end, the part that I think I would have to agree with the most would be that of testing the spirits. This is very eye opening and somewhat scary to me because there will be times where I think God is talking to me or telling me something, when in reality it could have just been my own thoughts or feelings. Thus, I test my spirit and really call out to God and make sure that I know for certain that it is something that God has called me to do. I think it is very important to test the spirit of others as well, because there are so many lawless people out there that try to tell others what to do, what is cool, or what one needs to do in order to be happy; when they have no clue how to do it themselves. These lawless people are like antichrist and conformist to this Earthly world and everything they are mentioning are things of man, and those things have no real value. It is very important that we consistently praise God, Talk to Him, and live our lives in efforts to please Him and only Him; no man on Earth should get the same amount of time and focus that we give to God and Jesus. To answer the question at the bottom of the blog post, in regard to what they profess about Jesus is that He came from the flesh, and He is of God. “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” (1 John 4: 2-3). This is important because those who have faith and believe in God and that Jesus is the Son of God will inherit eternal life while those who do not believe this will be with the Devil and His angels.

Leave a Reply