If you are familiar with my ministry, you probably know that I believe fully in the nine manifestation gifts of the Spirit that are listed in 1 Corinthians 12, one of which is the gift of prophecy. I also believe that all five of the ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4—often called the fivefold gifts—are active in today’s church, including apostles and prophets.
While the Bible is clear about the importance of genuine prophecy, it is also clear in giving us several warnings about false prophets. One example of this comes from 1 John 4:1: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Not just a few, but many false prophets have gone into the world. We are not to accept every prophecy as from God or receive everyone who carries the title “prophet.”
A whole lot could be said on the subject of false prophets. But I want to highlight what I believe to be two types of false prophets: Balaam and Jezebel. Though these are not the only type of false prophets out there, they are specifically singled out by the Lord in the book of Revelation.
To the church of Pergamos Jesus says this: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14).
The next church that Jesus addresses is Thyatira, in which He gives this reproof: “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20). I find it significant that Jesus names these two in addressing back-to-back churches. I also find it interesting that while Balaam and Jezebel operated in very different ways, they both led the people of God into idolatry and sexual immorality.
To me, Balaam represents the merchandising prophet. It seems that he had genuine prophetic gifts at some point, but that he was caught by the trap of greed. He became a “prophet for hire.” The book of Jude deals with false prophets/teachers and says that they “have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit” (Jude 1:11).
The error of Balaam is turning the gift of prophecy into a means of financial gain. I am leery when someone offers to give a prophetic word, interpret a dream, or give a special blessing for a certain price. I am concerned when it is stated (or even implied) that those who give into a certain offering will receive an impartation or special word from the Lord.
We should not see the gifts of God–including prophecy–as a means to financial gain. Anyone who moves in the prophetic gifts must be on guard against allowing greed, desire for fame, or other impure motives to slip in.
Jezebel was a woman who came into covenant relationship with the king of Israel, and then began to control things from that position of influence. My understanding of Jezebel is that she represents, among other things, the usurping of legitimate authority. Jude 1:8 says that one of the characteristics of false prophets is that they “reject authority.”
It is concerning to me when a “prophet” or “prophetess” has a problem with authority, does not see a need for any accountability, or has a low view of the local church. It seems that these types wander around looking for those who will come under their influence. Prophecy is used to manipulate and control instead of edify and build up. They never come under the authority of a local congregation; or if they do, they seek to undermine the authority that God has put in place.
Both Balaam and Jezebel represent the misuse of the gift of prophecy; one for financial gain and the other for control. While God is restoring the genuine gift of prophecy today, these two forces are seeking to hi-jack the prophetic gift. When Balaam and Jezebel are tolerated, the result is that the people of God are drawn into idolatry and sexual sin.
Could it be that we have lacked the discernment and boldness to confront these issues in the church? I pray that God will give us the wisdom to receive the genuine and reject the false!