• Word for the Day: from 1Th 5:20-21 – Do not euthanize prophecies, but test all (of them) and hold fast to the good. (CSRV)  That is slightly different than what you heard read from the lectern a few moments ago, particularly the substitution of “euthanize” for the word “despise” rendered in the ESV.  But it is a faithful translation of the Apostle Paul’s word to the Thessalonians. We will spend a few moments investigating how to test prophecies we hear. We need to be prepared to be able to discern what is of the Lord and what is false.  Whatever is true and good is what we need to hold on to and reject all that is false.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord Jesus, we need to listen to prophecy, because Your sheep hear Your voice.  But, there are so many false prophets uttering lies, how can we tell if You are speaking to Your sheep. Send the Holy Spirit that through faith, we can test all prophecies to verify which are Your word.  We then need the Spirit, in order to trust in prophecies from You.  We entrust this petition to You Lord Jesus, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
  • Background: What is a prophet?  Does a prophet predict the future?  That latter question is one of those things like fingernails being run down a chalkboard.  A weatherman predicts the weather.  Pollsters predicted the outcome of recent elections.  We see how that worked out for them.
    • A prophet sent from God foretells (not predicts) what is to come based upon the message God gives to that prophet.  God made this clear when Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, questioned Moses’ authority to exclusively speak on behalf of the Lord to the Israelites. The Lord was not pleased with their sudden questioning of Moses’ authority, because God Himself called Moses to speak.  Remember the scene at the burning bush toward the beginning of the epic movie, “The Ten Commandments”?  God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.   His siblings were called to assist Moses in the ministry in which he was called.  [God] said [to Aaron and Miriam in Num 12:6], “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.
      • Furthermore, God sends a prophet to a specific people with His message.  All throughout the OT, prophets were sent to different places with a specific message addressed to that group of people.  For instance, Jonah and Nahum were sent to Nineveh at different times, each with the same message – repent from your evil ways. Nineveh listened to Jonah’s call to repent, but about a 150yrs later, despite Nahum having the same message, Nineveh did not repent.  They were eventually destroyed in 612BC.
  • Prophesy: We’d like to think we would know a false prophet when we hear one.  How do we test a prophet and his message to verify it is a message from the Lord?  Jesus once said of Satan - 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies[1].  With Satan on the loose, there is the potential for a lot of false prophecies.
    • A good and faithful prophecy from God is one which is 100% true.  Every aspect of the prophecy *must* be true, or it didn’t come from God.  God devoted the entire chapter of Deu Ch#13 specifically to defining how to discern a true from false prophecy.  I will read from the first five verses so that we can settle on a definition of a prophet - “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst[2].
      • Notice the Lord stated through the pen of Moses a false prophet could indeed provide a sign of something to come, and then it actually happens.  I would suggest that the sign is a prediction and not a foretelling, but let’s say for the sake of discussion, the false prophet was able to foretell something and it came true.  So far, so good on our criteria for determining a prophet – until the prophet then went on to suggest following another god other than the one true God. God was pretty clear on what I just read from Deu Ch#13 that there was one God, who with the ten plagues leveled against Egypt, not only destroyed Egypt in order to redeem His people, but also humiliate the gods of Egypt.  The gods the Pharaoh of Egypt put his trust in had nothing to answer the plagues leveled against them by the one, true Almighty God.
      • Being able to see a prophecy come 100% true is why many prophesies throughout the Bible have both a short- and long-term prophecy.  For example, around this time each year, we read from Isa 7:14 - 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel[3].  There was a virgin at the time God gave that prophecy to King Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah.  We know this, because in the very next chapter of Isaiah, we read from the Orthodox Study Bible – 3Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son, and the Lord said to me, “Call his name Quickly Despoil, Swiftly, Plunder; 4for before the child shall know how to call for his father and mother, one shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria in the presence of the king of Assyria.[4]”  Later in Isa 8:8 there is a reference to this child being a sign of “Immanuel”.  These passages confirmed 100% true the short-term prophecy of God’s word through Isaiah.
      • The Gospel of Matthew in the first chapter provides a lineage of Jesus through Joseph, because Jesus was brought up in the house of Joseph.  Both Joseph and Mary came from the house and lineage of King David, but through different branches after David.  As you remember from the Christmas Story, Mary, mother of Jesus, became pregnant before Mary and Joseph had relations.  Joseph felt as anyone in that situation would feel betrayed. He decided he didn’t want to go through with a wedding with Mary, because, well, he knew he wasn’t the father of the child Mary was carrying.  An angel came to Joseph in a dream and clarified the heritage of the unborn baby in Mary’s womb, and encouraged Joseph to keep his pledge of marriage to Mary.  Matthew then wrote - 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)[5].  Matthew is making clear, by the same source of inspiration Isaiah received over 700yrs earlier, that “Behold the virgin shall conceive…” was also being fulfilled through the conception and birth of Jesus.
    • Now that we’ve established some criteria God gave us in order to be sure about whether a prophecy came from Him, let’s see if we can pick out a prophecy given by what appeared to be a Godly man and test whether it was a prophecy from God or just another false prophecy from another sinful man.
      • Before I get into one example, I have a shocking revelation to make to you today: False prophesy *must* exist in order to refine the saints so they can clearly hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.  That is our understanding of what I read in Deu 13:3 which I repeat - For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  Biblical misinterpretation and outright false prophecy are principle reasons why there are so many religions in the world, many purporting to worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
      • I have an example of a false prophecy from the 1800’s that nonetheless wound up forming a religion which still exists to this day.  A person named William Miller predicted the end of the world would happen on 22 Oct, 1844[6].  He lived in up-state New York, and claimed to have this revelation in 1831.  He then preached about this specific date.  Time doesn’t allow me to go into details on how Miller came to this conclusion, but in short, he took one verse of the Bible, Dan 8:14, and changed the 2300 days mentioned in that verse to 2300yrs to predict with “certainty” God meant the world would end in 1844.  Crowds of people from all around the northeastern part of the US wanted to learn more about this prophecy.  I think today is 13 Dec, 2020, and I think we are all real and in this church at the moment.  If that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest William Miller didn’t get that revelation from God. :-o   The prophecy wasn’t even 1% true and certainly not even close to 100%.
  • Application: Here’s our first chance in the sermon to apply what the scriptures just taught us about testing the prophecies. In Miller’s case, we have a prophecy of Jesus’ second and final coming. How do we test this?  Recall one of the tenets of Lutheranism is that scriptures interpret the scriptures.  Taking one verse and creating an entire church doctrine or prophecy is already going someplace we would not go.
    • William Miller hit the scene in the early and middle 1800’s.  However, someone came up with a somewhat related prophecy back in the 50’s AD and tried to deceive the church at Thessalonica.  The Thessalonians had been deceived into thinking Jesus had already come as we read from 2Th 2:1-2 - 1Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.[7]  There were Thessalonians who thought Jesus’ foretold return for a second and final time to earth had already come.  The attitude they were expressing was one of what’s the use in working hard?  Paul later admonishes them with the familiar axiom of – you don’t work; you don’t eat.
      • How did these Thessalonians get deceived?  They didn’t look at the scriptures in their entirety.  Jesus is quoted in Mark 13:32 - 32But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone[8].  The Gospel of Mark was written potentially after Thessalonians, but the Gospel of Matthew has a similar quote from Jesus.  We know that was written in the 50’s AD, so it had to be known throughout the Christian church about Jesus’ return after His ascension into heaven.
      • The same can be said for the followers of William Miller.  Daniel Ch#7 is a prophecy about kings who would come after Daniel’s time. Millerite prophesy of the 2300 days had already been fulfilled centuries before William Miller. The Maccabean revolt is described in the OT Apocryphal book 1 Maccabees, chapters 1-4.  It was in this revolt the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah was begun.  One could say the 2300 days reference was a short-term prophecy, and I would agree.  However, if God the Father didn’t tell His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus, about when Jesus would be sent to return to harvest the earth, why would anyone think William Miller would know when the world was going to end?  Think about this whenever anyone suggests to you a date for when the world would end: only God the Father has in mind when He will call for the end of this Age. Jesus’ own words verifies this fact.
  • Conclusion: When Jesus was born in that stable some 2000yrs ago, He was the fulfillment of a promise of a prophet to be sent from the Israelites.  That promise was made in Deu 18:18-19 - I will raise up for them a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him[9]. This prophecy from Deuteronomy is one of many OT prophecies fulfilled on Christmas Day.
    • Jesus is truth in which we can put our confidence.  He is Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].  (John 14:6) All the prophecies about a Messiah came true, which is how Jesus can be truth.  Jesus answered Pontus Pilate the morning of Good Friday by testifying He was truth - 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” To which 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  Jesus could have punched Pilate in the face and Pilate wouldn’t have recognized truth, so blind he was to truth.
    • Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy and He is truth. That is a winning combination, because whatever the Good Shepherd says, the sheep who hear His voice can trust in it 100%.  We are the sheep of His pasture and so what was written by Paul to the Thessalonians applies to us as well.  We close with the last verses of our Epistle for today - 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it[10]Amen.


 


[1] John 8:44 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%208&version=ESV

[2] Deu 13:1-5 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deu+13&version=ESV

[3] Isa 7:14 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isa+7&version=ESV

[4] Isa 8:3-4 from Orthodox Study Bible, Thomas Nelson (publisher), Nashville, TN, 2008, p1064

[5] Mat 1:22-23 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+1&version=ESV

[6]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millerism#:~:text=The%20Millerites%20were%20the%20followers,roughly%20the%20year%201843%E2%80%931844.

[7] 2Th 2:1-2 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2th+2&version=ESV

[8]Mark 13:32 from https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Mark%2013:32&version=NASB 

[9]Deu 18:18-19- https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Deuteronomy%2018:18-19&version=NASB 

[10] 1Th 5:23-24 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1th+5&version=ESV