Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge.” - 1 Corinthians 14:29 (KJV)
Shalom friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from our Most High , because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of yahushua: Every spirit that acknowledges that messiah has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge messiah 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.” – 1 John 4:1-3
Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22
When we study the New Testament to see how prophecy functioned in the early church, it is clear that they did not accept every prophecy brought in a church gathering as being from God (that is, as being authentic or legitimate).
Let us look quickly at the passages above. 1 Corinthians 14 contains the most extended discussion in the New Testament of prophetic gifts and their operation in the church. Several members or leaders in that church brought prophetic words in their meetings. It is a little unclear whether Paul’s reference to “two or three” refers to the number of people who can prophecy in a service (that is how the majority of modern translations understand the original Greek text), or if Paul meant that prophets should share two or three points at most and then allow for the others to evaluate (rather than allowing a prophetic to go on and on). In either case, for purposes of this study the point that “others should judge” is completely clear. In other words, in the apostolic era of the church, which gave us the pattern we should follow today, they had some process of testing every prophetic word in the church. The decision about whether a prophecy is true must come from others – not the person who delivered the prophecy.
The second passage above, from 1 John, warns that there are many false prophets around, including in the churches, and that we have a duty to test and determine the source of a prophecy. In the first-century church, two heresies were particularly prevalent: those teaching that Christians needed to follow John’s letters address mostly the second type of heresy – the mystics often denied that Jesus had a physical body when he came to earth, because they believed he was just a spirit. Today, we have other heresies causing problems, but some of them treat messiah mostly as an idea or a spiritual force, not as a person who calls us to obey him. False prophecies tend to point people in the direction of whatever heresy is current at the time, and away from the person of Jesus. They do not “acknowledge” messiah in the fullest sense, but instead deny or ignore certain things the Bible says about him. From this passage we glean that we should categorically reject prophecies that contradict Biblical doctrine, or that support heresies by telling people to follow someone who is teaching false doctrines. The Old Testament contained the same warning (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
The third passage, from 1 Thessalonians, warns against rejection of all prophecies (some traditional churches have fallen into this trap). Instead, we are to “test everything” (evaluate every prophecy), hold onto the good ones, and throw away the bad ones (“avoid every evil”).
As mentioned above, the passage in 1 John teaches us to reject outright any prophecy that contradicts Biblical doctrines or statements in the Scriptures. If someone has a prophecy telling someone they are authorized to commit some sin (like adultery, or divorcing their spouse to take up with another person.
Ancient Israel had this problem, as described by Jeremiah: “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity.” (Lamentations 2:14). In the end, the consequences of false prophecies – even those that come from the believer’s imagination rather than a demonic spirit – result in devastation for Yahushua’s people.
The Old Testament also warns against predictive prophecies that do not come to fulfillment (see Deuteronomy 18:22).