To begin, in this article, I will use the word "message" to refer to prophecies, visions, dreams, and revelations in general. This will allow me to use a single word for the sake of conciseness, rather than having to repeat this entire series of words. I will also use the word "messenger" to refer to those who deliver such messages.
There is ample evidence of it in Scripture that God still speaks to us in supernatural ways like He did in Bible days. We know that there are both true and false messages today. The key is to discern properly, so that we may know which ones are true and which are false.
Our Lord warned us to beware of false prophets, and He did so with good reason. He said, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (Mat 7:15). We would do well to heed His warning.
Likewise, the apostle Paul taught us to judge prophecies. He said, "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment." (1Co 14:29). This refers to how we conduct ourselves in corporate gatherings, but it also teaches us the need to judge prophetic messages of all kinds at all times. No matter who gives a message, they must accept the fact that it must be judged, and there are no exceptions. It doesn't matter if the person is our pastor, favorite preacher, best friend, proven prophet, relative, or famous minister. We must not show favoritism when judging.
Weirdness or oddity of a message is not enough alone to disqualify it, as I explained in my article, Discerning the Things of the Spirit. All the factors I mentioned in my article about testing the spirits must be examined.
Once a person has received a gift of prophecy, or a genuine revelation from the Lord, and others judge it to be valid, the first thing that happens is that they establish a reputation. That reputation may cause others to elevate them. While we are not supposed to do this, the fact is, it happens.
When people know of a person who has been to heaven or hell, or who has received a visitation from an angel, or had a face-to-face encounter with the Lord, or a vision from the Lord, the tendency is to esteem that person more highly than others who have not had such supernatural experiences. The tendency is also to accept any future messages that person may deliver, either as from the Lord or their own opinion. Once they have established credibility with their audience, then people tend to believe nearly anything they say and follow them. I know for a fact that this happens, and it is more common than you may realize.
The devil knows this, too. He knows that people will easily follow a person, and trust a person, once they have received a supernatural message, whether it was genuine or false. Therefore, the devil targets those who have received genuine messages from the Lord. He knows that if he can deceive that person, he can use them to deceive all the people who are following them. The opportunity for the devil is too great for him to pass up. Through one person, he can bring down many others.
Another reason the devil targets those who have received a genuine message from the Lord is to discredit their message. If he can deceive that messenger with a false message, and the person delivers the message, then when people judge it to be false, they will also tend to assume that the previous message was also false, even if it was genuinely from the Lord. Likewise, if the devil can corrupt that messenger's life, so that the person falls into sin, then this also discredits the person's previous, genuine message. Therefore, these people become big targets of the enemy.
No "Blanket Approvals"
That is why such messengers must remain vigilant and be very careful themselves to avoid being corrupted. They must also always test the spirits, so they can be sure that any future message they receive is truly from the Lord, and not from the enemy. Likewise, their followers must also be careful to do so. There are no "blanket approvals" allowed. In other words, just because someone has received a message previously that has been proven to be genuine, that does not give them a free pass on all future messages they deliver. We still need to judge all their messages in the same way we judged the first one.
Even if someone has been proven to be correct on many messages they have delivered, and they have done this over the course of time, and no message of theirs has ever been found to be false, that does not mean that we can let our guard down. Each individual message must be judged separately, based on its own merits. If it is found to be false, it must not be accepted, no matter how excellent the messenger's "track record" of accuracy has been in the past.
That may be difficult for the messenger to accept, which is why they must always walk very humbly before God. It may also be difficult for their followers to accept. That is why it is possible that if a message is proven to be false, by use of the methods we are taught in Scripture, and the messenger has pride in his or her heart, that messenger may still insist that the message is genuine. If that happens, and they are not willing to accept that their message is not genuine, then others who trust them can easily be led away to follow them in their error.
Conversely, if the messenger is humble, and accepts that a given message of theirs is not valid, and they repent before the Lord for delivering it, then they can still be used by God in the future. So just because a person has once been wrong in a message they have delivered, it does not mean that we need to reject all future messages from him. But we should be all the more careful with that person afterward.
In my opinion, once a person has been proven to be a false messenger by their fruit, then unless they repent for the bad fruit in their lives, you should not listen to any further messages they give. You can assume they are corrupted and that all their messages are tainted as well.
One Error Does Not Make All Messages False
At the risk of being redundant, I want to be very clear about something. In the same way that one genuine message does not automatically mean that all other messages from that messenger are genuine, likewise, one message that is found to be incorrect does not necessarily mean that all other messages from that person are false. Just because a messenger has given a message that is questionable or unbiblical, this does not invalidate any previous message that has already been judged as genuine. Put differently, once we have properly judged a message and found it to be true, then even if that messenger later delivers a separate message that we determine is not true, that does not mean we should discard the previous, genuine message.
Nobody is Above Correction
We must all be accountable, correctable, and teachable. There are no exceptions! The apostle Paul said, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!" (Gal. 1:8). Even Paul, who had received all of what he preached through divine revelation according to Gal. 1:11-12, said not to listen to him if what he said did not agree with the gospel he had preached. Even Paul, one of the greatest apostles who ever lived, realized that he could be in error.
The Bereans realized this, too. Even though they received what Paul said that had been given to him by divine revelation, they still "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." That was in no way held against them. In fact, they are commended in Scripture for doing so. It says: "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11) They did not believe it simply because Paul was an apostle, known for receiving divine revelations from God. This seems to be a mark of noble character, versus those who blindly accept divine revelations, without testing them against Scripture.
And even when an apostle, such as Peter, was found to be in error, he was not shown favoritism. Paul wrote, "When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned." (Gal. 2:11). No one is above correction in action and belief, even if they have had a great revelation and they are a well-known follower of Jesus, or a leader in the Church.
Since we are all human and subject to mistakes, nobody is infallible, nor does any one disciple possess all knowledge. "For we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Cor. 13:9). Even if Jesus actually appears to someone and shows them things, these things that are revealed must be filtered through an earthen vessel, which still only sees and interprets things in part. Therefore, based on these Scriptures alone, we should not blindly accept everything a person testifies to, proclaims, and practices just because they have had a divine revelation.
The Lord does not give to any one person a revelation of all truth. Rather He reveals these truths to various members of His Body by the Holy Spirit, according to His will. Just because one person receives a divine revelation about certain truths, and has partial knowledge, it does not mean that if they did not receive a revelation that was given to someone else about certain other truths that the other person's revelation is false. Therefore, we cannot compare one person's message to another person's message, in order to judge whether it is genuine. And we cannot rely on any single messenger to determine for us whether all other messages are genuine or false. We rely on the Word of God through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Judge by Scripture Not Your Theology
Finally, I want to caution you not to judge messages according to your theology, or your Church's theology, but according to Scripture. There is a difference. If your theology or doctrine is not perfectly Scriptural in some area, then it can lead to a wrong assessment of someone's message, if you use your theology to judge their message.
For example, some people believe in "once saved always saved." According to this unbiblical theology, once a person is saved, they can never drift away or perish in hell. They are guaranteed to make it to heaven. If such a person hears a message about corrupted Christians, who have perished in hell, they may incorrectly reject it, since it does not agree with their theology. But if they go to the Word of God and search the Scriptures to see if these things are true, they would find that it is indeed accurate. For more on this example, please see my articles Drifting Away and Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian.
So you must lay aside your own doctrines and beliefs, and prayerfully use the Scripture alone to judge messages, as the Holy Spirit guides you. For more on this, please see Scripture Alone and By the Spirit of God Alone.
Putting it All Together
This means our task is a difficult one that requires great carefulness. The enemy doesn't take a vacation from trying to deceive mankind. We must be vigilant and diligent. As Peter said, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1Pe 5:8)
Therefore, in closing, I would like to leave you with these words from the apostle Paul: "Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good." (1Th 5:19-21)
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. I want to express my sincere gratitude to my wife, Jennifer, whose positive feedback on this article was the basis for the section, titled "Nobody of Above Correction."
Author's note: Also see Testing the Spirits of False Prophets, Discerning the Things of the Spirit, Exposing Heresy, Accountable Correctable and Teachable, A Warning to the Nay Sayers, Scripture Alone, The Rise of Antichrists, By the Spirit of God Alone, and Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit: What's the Difference? And I invite you to visit Eternal Destinations, where you will find many testimonies of people claiming to have a revelation from God, a vision, or a dream. You can find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog collection of blogs at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.