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Donald Trump’s Presidency and False Prophecy

False prophecy is common in Church history, and most often involves very good Christians and communities who misinterpret or exaggerate God’s direction. Paul is careful to encourage prophecy in New Testament Church and recommend it to Christians as the most important gift of the Spirit (1 Cor 14:1). But Paul put discernment boundaries around it, as in having the prophet submit their visions and prophecies to the church for discernment. It is also clear that Paul in 1 Corinthians principally refers to prophecies that uplift and correct at the local church (1 Cor 14:3), not global, trans-church issues.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged (1 Cor: 29-31).

But that does not necessarily exclude prophecy about national or international issues, In Act 11:28 the prophet Agabus prophesied that there would be a large scale famine, and the Church had to prepare for it. It happened. Similar valid prophecies have occurred throughout Church history. For Instance, Demos Shekarian, the founder to the Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship International, recounts how his family immigrated to California from Armenia due to warnings in the early 1900s by a local prophet. That prophet warned that the Armenians must leave to avoid slaughter. Some, including his parents, heeded the warning and escaped the Armenian genocide by the Turks of 1915-1916.[7]

Are there examples of false prophecy in church history?

The discernment of prophecy is both a grace and a matter of experience. That is, having a discerning community that both cherishes prophecy as possibly direct words from God, but is aware of the danger of false prophecy. I have treated elsewhere the difficulty of practicing prophecy and having a church that is at ease with the gift. Even Pentecostal pastors are often unsure how to allow and correct spontaneous prophesies in their congregations.[8]

The consensus of the discernment literature—Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal—is that, especially in the local church, short prophetic utterances can be of the Holy Spirit, (all must be discerned) but as they get longer they tend to bring in elements of the prophets’ subconscious wishes, prejudices and preferences.[9] So accepting the long and long-range prophecies about Trump should be especially cautious.

But before I proceed further, let me cite from Christian history some false prophecies that influenced the Church to its determent.

A major false prophetic movement was begun by a prophet call Montanus, about the year 170 A.D. His prophesies, and that of two women prophetesses who aided him, spread in the Roman Empire during a period of severe persecution.[10] Montanus and his prophets predicted the very soon coming of Jesus, and predicted that a “New Jerusalem” would descend from heaven and alight in their home town of Pepuza – a sleepy one-horse, or one-chariot village in the mountains of Phrygia (modern Turkey). That his hometown would be the center of the Second Coming is an example of the provincialism and vanity that often seeps into false prophecy. This may be part of what Paul refers to as “itching ears” in 2 Tim 4:3.

False prophecy is common in Church history, and most often involves very good Christians and communities who misinterpret or exaggerate God’s direction.

Montanist prophets caused divisiveness and the real conflict with the majority of churches and their bishops through the prophets’ moral rigor and legalism. They claimed, through repeated prophetic utterances, that the Holy Spirit decreed that those who had broken under Roman torture and renounced the Christian faith could never be accepted back into the Church. The Montanists claimed that these had committed the “unforgivable sin.” Most of the bishops of the Church disagreed, and saw a need for leniency, including restoration of these persons into the Church after a penitential period.

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2020

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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