Scripture’s Witness of True vs False Shepherds
A. Throughout the Scriptures we see a tension that results in a dramatic confrontation between the True and False servants of the LORD. The mark of validity that a servant had actually been called by God or was speaking by God, was the Spirit of God. In the Old Testament, leaders were anointed with oil as an external acknowledgement that they were acting under the leadership of the Spirit of God, to do God’s will and not their own will. The tension lies in that there were also many imposters, wolves in sheep’s clothing, who also claimed to be acting under the Spirit of God.
Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! 3 Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. (NASB Ezekiel 13:1-3)
B. Oftentimes, the True Prophet was called in a time of crisis, as a result of God’s contention with His people or the nations. The prophet was called to warn of impending calamity, and to turn the people back to God in repentance.
But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. (NIV Micah 3:8)
C. The tension was accentuated by the reality that the people often preferred the message of the false prophet as it appeased the flesh and the wisdom of man. To make matters worse, prophets were bribed to give false words. (cf. Num. 22)
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it? (NASB Jeremiah 5:31, cf. Dt. 32:29, 2 Tim. 4:3)
D. The call to be God’s True Prophet was not eagerly received because God’s message would inevitably be rejected by a hardened people. Moreover, the Prophet would be accused as the one who is false, and be marginalized, persecuted and martyred. (cf. Jer. 20)
E. This is why it would require God’s Spirit and power to be God’s true witness, the prophet would need the courage to suffer and endure backlash. Therefore, the strength to suffer on account of bearing a true witness is a defining mark of the true prophet.
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (NASB 1 Peter 4:1-2)
F. To reveal the depravity and hardness of people’s hearts in seeking after falsehood, God would go to the extent of allowing false signs and wonders, to test His people. (cf. Dt. 13:1-3, Mt. 7:22-23, Mk. 13:22, 2 Thess. 2:9-12, Rev. 13:13-14)
9 that is, the [Lawless One] whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (NASB 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
G. In the New Testament, we see that this tradition and narrative is a continuum that carries forth in the days of the Apostles who carry forth the witness of Christ Crucified. We are promised that the tension will culminate in the last days before God comes Himself to settle the controversy and vindicate His true servants. (cf. Rev. 6:9-11)
18 And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name… (NASB Revelation 11:18)