Todd Bentley, Lakeland Revival
Todd Bentley at a Lakeland Revival service

False prophecies. When a “prophet” proclaims “God said it,” his or her words are usually accepted uncritically by all. The words are rarely tested. The prophet gets affirmation, and even acclamation, from the crowds, and few people seem willing to ask the hard questions. Those who do are put down with responses such as, “If God has said it, isn’t that enough?”

Unfortunately it’s not enough, for there are many verses in Scripture warning about the dangers of false prophecy. And they are there for a reason. The vessel through which all prophecy is given is fallible, and both he and his words need to be tested.

Ezekiel 13 warns that when prophets say, “Hear the word of the Lord,” they may be prophesying out of their own imagination. Such words are described as lying divinations. Jeremiah 23:16 tells the people not to listen to what the prophets were saying. For those prophets were filling the people with false hopes, speaking visions out of their own minds.

God said: “‘I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied’” (Jer.23:21). In all these cases the severest judgment of God is spoken on those who lead the people astray through false prophetic words.

I passionately believe in prophecy, but I test prophetic words and their sources carefully to avoid being deceived. This is not doubting God, and it is being obedient to Scripture. It is in the context of prophecy that Paul commands his readers to “Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

Ignorance of the enemy’s devices. Satan is a master deceiver. He takes advantage of the sins we commit to gain power in our lives and uses the hurt and bruised soul as a generation point for demonic power. If leaders do not understand how he operates, they will not be in a position to truly care for their people by protecting them from the devices of the enemy.

For example, when people are led to believe that certain demonic manifestations are from God, they are conditioned to want those manifestations. When they receive them, they think they are receiving God’s blessing. In reality, what they receive is a spirit that causes the manifestations and that has been validated by others as a sign that God is at work.

Certainly physical signs can indicate that God is at work in a person’s life to bring healing or deliverance. But we can’t assume it’s Him when everyone (or many people) get the same sign and it is passed around the body of Christ like a commodity.

The occult world knows all about anointing, transference and impartation. In the Scriptures an anointing is for service. But the idea of mass impartation as an experience to be clamored for is foreign to Scripture.

The enemy clones his followers into “sameness” through such deceptive impartations. This is the foundation of many cults and false religions. God, on the other hand, releases His children into the uniqueness of their gifts and anoints them specifically for their individual destinies.

When something is described as a transferable anointing, or there are attempts to impart to all and sundry an anointing so that they can take it away and give it to others, you can know that this is very dangerous ground. There is no biblical foundation for transferable anointings and mass impartations. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is for all, but the impartation of an anointing from God is uniquely for the person receiving it.

Lying signs and wonders. Satan has power and uses it to great effect. And when a leader has an unhealed heart that gets its affirmation and significance through being a person with power, then the enemy can have a field day by using demonically inspired soul power to put on an impressive show.

“Minor miracles” such as gold dust and gold fillings are welcomed as being evidence of a visitation of the glory of God. Yet anyone who has researched even the basics about occult power knows there are many deceptive things the enemy can do—even healings.

No wonder Jesus warned that in the end times “false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). We are living in those days He described.

It is no big deal for a person who is sick with a spirit of infirmity to be healed by a more powerful demon—who either dismisses the spirit of infirmity (demons casting out demons) or controls the lower spirit so that it is inactivated for a season. Such “instant healings” are often proclaimed as miracles. Though people who receive them may claim to be healed, the healing often comes at the price of more powerful demonic control in their life, which can take them into yet deeper deception.

Healing and Discipleship

Healing without the discipline of discipleship leaves people and churches vulnerable to many deceptive influences. Healing, not Jesus, becomes their focus.

On the other hand, discipleship without healing forces leaders in the direction of heavy shepherding to control unhealed people. People then lose their capacity to exercise their own free will. Inside they become weak and have to be propped up by the rigidity of external rules. They then become vulnerable to temptation and may suddenly fall victim to pornography, drugs, an affair or many other things.

Healing with discipleship is the biblical norm for the body of Christ. When we elevate unhealed people into positions of power and authority, they become more vulnerable to the enemy’s temptations, thereby increasing the possibility that further deception will be released in the church. But when the Lord truly heals broken people, whatever their backgrounds may have been, they develop a spiritual strength that gives them inner security, and they have no need to depend on the false to substantiate their lives or ministries.

Whenever we are faced with a need to test a person’s ministry, a revival or a movement to determine whether it is of God, it is essential for us to heed the words of Jesus: “ ‘Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” ’ ” (Matt. 7:22-23). These words are a reminder that we must ever be on our guard, for outward manifestations may be rooted not in the power of God but in the deceptive power of the enemy.

Peter Horrobin is the president of Ellel Ministries (USA) and international director of Ellel Ministries. He is also the author of Healing Through Deliverance (Baker).

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