Baseball legend Casey Stengel once insisted that we should “never make predictions, especially about the future.” But we do, don’t we? Human history brims with such things. And in our world right now, when the religious and political and social and economic turmoil and division seem to have reached a fevered pitch, we’re constantly 24/7 aware of it; the “prophetic” voices are blaringly loud with their predictions as to what will come to pass.
About a decade ago, a man by the name of Harold Camp made the prediction (“prophesied”) that the world would begin its ending on May 21, 2011, the day when all true Christians would be snatched away and rapturously transported to heaven. Everyone else, unfortunately, would be left to suffer an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world scenario with the same world completely ending on October 21st of that same year. Now, unless we’re all stuck in some sort of a weird dream, Camp’s prophecy did not come true. In other words, Camp is known as a “false” prophet, among other things.
There was the yoke of Babylon, prophesied by Jeremiah, which involved war and disaster and plague. And then there was the joke of Babylon, which ended up being the prophet Hananiah who predicted something entirely different and much more pleasant to the human ear: peace (Jeremiah 28:1–4). But here’s the deal when it comes to prophecies of peace: “Only when the word of the prophet comes true will the prophet be recognized as one the LORD has truly sent” (v.9). Jeremiah said as much in the presence of all the priests and all the people, and Hananiah. Everyone hoped for peace, including Jeremiah (v.6), yet such predictions are only validated once the peace comes, not before. In other words, Hananiah turned out to be a false prophet.
In days like the ones we’re living in right now, days full of supposed prophetic voices to the right and to the left of us, it’s wise to practice a little—okay, a lot—of biblical discernment. We all want peace, but we need to beware of premature and misguided hopes. Before we attribute the word “prophet” to anyone, their predictions must be measured against God’s Word and the truths found therein. That is the only way to distinguish between a prophet the Lord has truly sent—and a joke.
Written by John Blase