There are records of several false prophets in the Bible, and their stories have been quoted in various occasions as a warning to God's people. It appears that God's punishment on false prophets is fast and severe, probably because they have not only committed sins, but have also led people away from God.
But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6
We will study several cases of false prophets here. Some of their stories have been recorded in much detail, and we can learn a lot from them.
(Jeremiah 28) When Jeremiah prophesied that Israel will be taken captive by Babylon, false prophet Hananiah spoke against him, stating that God will instead shatter the power of Babylon in two years, and restore the treasures king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken away. He even broke the physical yoke Jeremiah had put upon himself as a public denial against his prophecy.
God immediately pronounced His judgement through Jeremiah. He said since Hananiah has made Israel to trust in a lie, He will cast him off the face of the earth. According to God's Word, Hananiah died in the same year seventh month.
2. Ahab and Zedekiah
(Jeremiah 29:21-23) Around the same period, there were two other false prophets, Ahab and Zedekiah. In addition to giving false prophecies in God's name, these two have also taken their neighbor's wives. God's judgement on them was severe. The Lord pronounced that they would be given into the hands of king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who would burn them in fire. Their fate will also be used as a curse by all the captivity of Judah in Babylon who will say, May the Lord make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab.
(Jeremiah 29:24-32) During the same period, another false prophet Shemaiah who was not sent by God also gave false prophecies. In addition, he wrote to the people in Jerusalem and to the priests to put Jeremiah in chains. God's judgement on him was as follows:
Therefore the LORD said: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed. He shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, says the LORD; because he has taught rebellion against the LORD. Jeremiah 29:34
(Amos 7:10-17) Amaziah was not a prophet but a priest at the time of Israel king Jeroboam. When prophet Amos prophesied about Israel going into captivity, Amaziah tried to stop him, and he was judged as follows:
Now therefore you hear the word of the LORD: You said (to prophet Amos), Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not drop your word against the house of Isaac. Therefore the LORD said: Your wife shall be a harlot in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided by line; and you shalt die in a polluted land. And Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land (as prophesied by Amos). Amos 7:16-17
(Numbers 22-24) There was another prophet in the time of Moses, prophet Balaam who had been offered a handsome financial reward by King Balak of Moab to put a curse upon Israel. However, since the prophet claimed that he could only speak what God permits, he was led by God to speak blessings on Israel instead. But probably unwilling to give up his financial reward, Balaam later led Israel to commit adultery and idolatry (Revelations 2:14). By doing so, Israel brought a curse upon themselves without Balaam directly cursing them.
Strictly speaking, Balaam could not be called a false prophet because he did eventually speak the truth and proclaimed God's words. However, his love of money led him to work against the will of God even though he did it so skilfully that he did not break any of God's commandments. Nevertheless, it should be noted here that he was in fact almost killed by an angel had God not opened the mouth of his donkey to warn him of his coming danger.
6. Barjesus (Elymas)
Is there any false prophets in the New Testament? Of course there is! In Acts 13:6-12, it was recorded that a false prophet and sorcerer named Barjesus had tried to prevent the deputy of a country from hearing the Word of God. Apostle Paul who was filled with the Holy Spirit immediately struck him blind and pronounced that he will not be able to see for a season.
God's Judgement on People Who Hinder His Word
From the above examples, we can see that God is very serious to get His message across to His people. Anyone who intentionally hinders or distorts His message will be severely punished. His judgement on these people is also fast, and often proclaimed in public to prevent His people from further deception.
However, even though God's position towards false prophets is very clear in the Scriptures, there are still many false prophets and false teachers in the world today. I hope Christian teachers will be very careful before delivering any Gospel message or prophecies. As Christians, we must also take up the responsibility to study the Scriptures well so we will not be deceived.
Do not all be teachers, my brothers, because we teachers will be judged more strictly than others. James 3:1