False Shepherds at the End of the Age
At the end of the age there will be a satanic onslaught — Jesus said many false prophets will appear (Matthew 24:11) and deceive many people (but not necessarily believers). He added that false Christs and false prophets would perform great (false) signs and miracles in order to try and deceive the elect – but He adds, “if that were possible” (Matthew 24:24). It is not usual for the elect to be so easily deceived, but it all depends on their hearts.
I would make a number of points about the coming proliferation of false prophets and Christs, etc.
Firstly, this is no different to the initial apostolic age of the church, which had to struggle to sort out the false from the real in many matters. This is to be expected in a time when God is working to bring about great things in a new way, since the enemy seeks to control the gains of the Kingdom of Christ. The apostle John gave this report of such false activity in the days of the first apostles. “Many deceivers… have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully” (2 John 7-8).
Secondly, the number of false prophets or apostles will be minimal compared to the number of genuine apostles and prophets released into the church in the last days. This, as we observed earlier, is just as it was in the times of the New Testament authors.
Thirdly, they are a counterfeit. There can only be a counterfeit if there is also a genuine, otherwise the counterfeit is meaningless. Counterfeit money only has value if it is an attempt to copy real money. No criminal produces a $99 note, or a $110 note, because these do not exist. If at the end of the age there will be a resurgence of false apostles and prophets, it will be because the genuine article abounds. Satan will only be attempting to copy what God is doing. Furthermore, criminals counterfeit the more valuable notes, because this is worth more to them.
This can only mean that apostles and prophets will be of great value to Christ and the church at the end of the age.
Avoiding the Counterfeit
We are most safely kept from being deceived by a counterfeit when we are completely familiar with the genuine. In a bank, the employees easily identify counterfeit banknotes simply because they are so familiar with the real, which they handle everyday. They know the feel of good money. In their hands and before their eyes, they can tell the difference easily. It is the people who do not handle money constantly that are fooled by the counterfeit.
Likewise, this principle is true in every spiritual matter. The way to guard against false prophecy is to be, by constant use, completely familiar with genuine prophecy. I have often advised that the way to protect the church from false intercessors is to train, not just the volunteer intercessors, but the whole church, in intercession, and the way to protect against false prophecy is to train, again, not a few but the whole church in prophecy. Then, if someone with false motives, claiming to be an intercessor or prophetically gifted, begins to fellowship with the saints, say in a cell or a prayer meeting, their falseness is readily apparent to the saints – it
‘smells’ to them . Potential problems are cut off early, and these wolves will not have power to draw sheep after themselves. Those churches and pastors who avoid these matters are far more likely to be deceived by the false.
Today, leaders and churches need to be fully informed and totally involved in the restoration of apostles and prophets to the church. In this way we can most safely guard our people against falsehood and deception.