Just because a prophetic word has a valid and true message to it does not mean it is a true prophetic word. There are many words spoken that contain truth and are accurate that the Bible would say are false prophecy.
And, just because someone can move in power and perform miracles, signs, and wonders does not validate their prophetic words as true and from the Spirit of Christ. Jesus stated: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders so as to lead many astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). In other words, those who are false prophets and apostles will sound good and look good thus deceiving many, even the elect of God, as they will be able to perform miracles that will be impressive and amazing.
Paul continues this thought when writing to the Church in Corinth when he states, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13).
True and false apostles and prophets can do similar miracles, signs, and wonders. And, when they speak and declare something “prophetically” they will sound like the real deal, their words will line up with Scripture, and what is spoken can come to pass – even though some of them would be declared as false workmen.
In Acts 16, we see Paul and Silas confronts by a young woman who is speaking prophetically about them.
“One day, as we were going to the house of prayer, we encountered a young slave girl who had an evil spirit of divination, the spirit of Python. She had earned great profits for her owners by being a fortune-teller. She kept following us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Great High God, and they’re telling us how to be saved!” Day after day she continued to do this, until Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit indwelling her, “I command you in the name of Jesus, the Anointed One, to come out of her, now!” At that very moment, the spirit came out of her!” (The Passion Translation)
Here we see a prophecy being given publicly by a young lady. Her words were: “These men are servants of the Great High God, and they’re telling us how to be saved!” That was true. Paul and Silas were men of God, called by God, and empowered by God’s Spirit. And, they were declaring the Gospel of the Kingdom and thus the way – the only way – to salvation. So, the words she spoke were true but it was a false prophecy.
Many of the words spoken over people by those who call themselves witches, warlocks, and psychics also are true and come to pass. Otherwise, people would not continue to use their services and pay large sums of money to hear about their future. But these words would be considered false prophecy as well.
What makes a prophetic word false? There are three things that determine if a word is true or false even when the content might be true.
1> What is the motive of the person giving the word. In this case it was to earn money for her masters. Paul writes that the gifts, including the gift of prophecy, is freely given by the Holy Spirit and those who move in this gift use the gift to benefit all others and not themselves (1 Corinthians 12). So, the motive of the prophetic ministry and minister help us to determine if a word is a true prophecy or a false prophecy.
2> Secondly, we look at the source of the words. In this case in Acts 16 it is an evil spirit or what we refer to as a demon. This young girl is definitely possessed and the source of her ability to speak truth is thus a demonic force. Some scholars will tell you that this young girl is under the influence and power of the python spirit. We know it is a demon as Paul eventually tires of her following them and casts the demon out of her.
3> The third reason it is a false prophecy is that the focus is wrong. The words spoken by the young lady are drawing people’s attention to Paul and Silas. A true prophetic word will draw attention to Jesus. So, the focus is wrong and thus her word is false.
Jesus, the early church, and the apostles chosen by Jesus all warn of false apostles, prophets, and teachers as well as false prophecies and how easily true believers can be deceived and drawn away from the faith and lose their salvation. We should heed their warnings and carefully examine all the words given and the people who speak them.