Beware of False Apostles and Prophets

By Brannon S. Howse

Given that the New Apostolic Reformation is growing so rapidly, even within mainstream evangelicalism, it is critical to understand the biblical basis on which I and others who recognize the problem take issue with the movement. NAR members claim that Christians must yield to their leadership because God has appointed them to be apostles and prophets to lead the church in establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth. 

Lest you think this is simply a squabble between Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals, please note that an August 6, 2001 report released by the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal denomination) included the following statement:


It is also clear that while the apostles (with the elders) were established leaders in the Early Church, there was no provision for their replacement or continuation…It is instructive, however, that nowhere in the New Testament after the replacement of Judas is any attention given to a so-called apostolic succession. No attempt was made to replace James son of Zebedee (John’s brother), executed by Herod (Acts 12:2). Other than the original appointments by Christ himself, there is nothing concerning the appointment of apostles. And apart from the criteria set for the selection of Matthias (Acts 1:21-26) and the criteria implied in the actions of Jesus and the account of Paul (1 Corinthians 15:3-11), there are no directions for making such an appointment. By contrast, there are clear qualifications and instructions for the appointment of elders/overseers and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). It seems strange that apostles of Jesus Christ, concerned about faithful preservation of their message (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2), would provide for the appointment of overseers/elders while ignoring their own succession if such were indeed to be maintained…In fact, there are certain exegetical hints the apostles of Jesus Christ are not to have successors.


You will notice in Scripture that there are three kinds of apostles (I’ll discuss apostles first, then prophets): apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, apostles of the Church, and false apostles. I’ll explain each in turn and then tell you why NAR leaders fall into the third category.  


Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ 


First Thessalonians 2:6 says, “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.” The crucial phrase “apostles of Christ” shows that the apostles were not appointed by man but by God. Yet NAR leaders declare themselves and those they designate to be apostles. 


Scripture is clear that there were 12 Apostles. Judas hung himself after betraying Jesus, and so another apostle was added to bring the number back to 12 living at the time. To be very specific, Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ was a messenger sent by God, so in that sense, you could even say Jesus Christ Himself was an Apostle, but we will focus on the thirteen, Paul being the special—and final—Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. 


Apostles of the Church 


The first apostles of the Church were the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, but after them came the second tier apostles of the Church. Second Corinthians 8:23 references Titus in this regard: “He is my [Paul’s] partner and fellow helper concerning your or our brethren being inquired of. They are the messengers of the churches and the glory of Christ.” 


Another word for (small “a”) apostle is “messenger” or “sent one.” So, do we have apostles of the Church today? Yes, within this meaning of the word, your missionaries would be considered a messenger, a sent one, or an apostle. But it’s important to understand that an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ is very different than an apostle of the Church. The office of the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ is closed. Today we have apostles of the Church by the more generic meaning of the word “apostle”—those who are sent. In fact, we are all to be messengers, sent ones proclaiming the Gospel, but none of us are Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ or the equivalent. This is clearly a biblical notion as reflected in Philippians 2:25, which says, “Yet I suppose that necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and companion in labor and fellow soldier, but your messenger and he that ministered to my wants.” 


John McArthur offered an entire biblical series on this and points out:


Messenger [as used in Philippians 2:25 and 2 Corinthians 8:23] comes from the same word that yields the English “apostle.” He [Epaphroditus] was not an apostle of Christ, but an apostle (“sent one”) in the broader sense that he was an apostle of the church in Philippi…


McArthur’s view underscores the small “a” of church apostle versus the big “A” of an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.  


False Apostles 


The third classification of an apostle is that of false apostle. The Scriptures tell us in 2 Corinthians 11:13 that “such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”


Isn’t it interesting that this passage says they transformed themselves into Apostles of Christ? It doesn’t say they transfer themselves into the apostles of the Church. They don’t transform themselves into being a messenger or a sent one from the Church but Apostles of Christ—the context showing that those who do such a thing are by definition false apostles. This is indeed what the Scriptures say will happen in the last days. Revelation 2:2 supports this understanding: “I know your works, your labor, your patience and that you cannot bear those who are evil and you have tested those who say that they are Apostles and are not and I found them liars.”

This is Jesus Himself speaking to that church and commending it for pointing out those who are false teachers or false apostles.So is it appropriate that we, too, point out false teachers and false apostles? The answer from this scripture is, “Absolutely!” Jesus commends the church for calling out false apostles. To make sure we know how to identify false apostles the Bible is clear about the distinctives of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Distinctive #1: Apostles of Jesus Christ were appointed by God. 


In Galatians 1:1 Paul, an Apostle says he was appointed “Not of men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.” So under what authority is Paul an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ? By the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. Luke 6:13 is also decisive about who qualifies: “And when it was day He [Jesus] called unto him His disciples and of them He chose 12, whom He also named Apostles.”


So an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ is called by God—God the Father or Jesus, God incarnate. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul elaborates: “And God hath set [appointed] some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”


Paul emphasizes that “God has set [appointed]” these specific offices. This should not be confused with the office of apostle or the office of prophet associated with the spiritual gifts mentioned later.


After apostles and prophets, 1 Corinthians 12:28 says, “thirdly, teachers.” We have teachers today that we also call shepherds, pastors, or elders. There are people in the Church we would not classify as holding the office of shepherd, pastor, or elder, but they do have the spiritual gift of teaching. Such individuals can be found teaching Sunday school, writing books, and speaking at Bible conferences (or at Worldview Weekends), or hosting a radio program.  


Distinctive #2: Apostles of Jesus Christ had to have seen the risen Lord.

The Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ at some point saw the risen Lord. Acts 1:22 articulates this requirement: “Beginning from the baptism of John unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection.” 


So to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, you had to be appointed by God and you had to have seen the risen Lord. That makes it a little hard for people today who claim to be Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ to qualify. They have not seen the risen Lord. 


Distinctive #3: Apostles of Jesus Christ were used by God for a limited time to establish the doctrinal foundation of the Church. 


Apostles laid the foundation, the correct doctrinal teachings of the Church. And, of course, a foundation is laid only one time. Ephesians 2:19-20 expounds on this idea of foundation:


Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.


The foundation for the Church was built by the Apostles and the Prophets—once. That means we do not need foundation builders today. 


Distinctive #4: Apostles of Jesus Christ received Scripture from the Holy Spirit and proclaimed God’s Word. 


The job of an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ was to receive the Word of God as the Holy Spirit moved. The Bible they authored is God-breathed and uniquely God-inspired. These men wrote the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit led them. It was a unique job of an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  


Are we receiving new revelations from God today that are equal to the Bible? No! Jude 3 is clear that Scripture is “once for all” delivered to the saints. Scripture also says that we don’t add to or take away from Scripture. Because the canon of the Bible is complete, we do not need Apostles today when it comes to receiving the Word of God or revelations from Him. 


The false Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ we looked at in the last chapter believe they receive new revelations equal to the Word of God, contrary to scriptures such as Ephesians 3:4-5:


By which when you read you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed by the spirit through His holy Apostles and Prophets.


The mysteries of our faith have been revealed to us, therefore making them no longer mysteries through the ministry of the Prophets and the Apostles who received and wrote down the word of God as the Holy Spirit moved upon them.


Distinctive #5: Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ had the gifts of signs and wonders. 


The Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ had the gifts of signs and wonders for what purpose? To bring glory and honor to themselves? Was the purpose to pack an arena using signs and wonders and to take up huge offerings and sell books and handkerchiefs, as we see some false apostles doing today? No and no. 


The true Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ were given power from God to do signs and wonders in order to bring credibility to the message they proclaimed. It was not to glorify their own flesh or their own egos. It was simply to make the Gospel believable as they preached. 


Today, the clowns, freaks, and charlatans who call themselves apostles and prophets are not performing signs and wonders. In fact, Scripture tells us that these false apostles will perform lying signs and wonders and will not preach a biblical Gospel. For instance, 2 Corinthians 12:12 says, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” One of the signs of an Apostle was that he could do incredible signs and wonders. And 2 Peter 2:2-3 warns of the danger from those who say they do but don’t: “Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. In their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words….”


So do we have people today who are apostles in a sense that they are messengers sent by God? Yes. Are there people today who have spiritual gifts of teaching or being a pastor, shepherd, or elder? Yes again. But the offices of Apostle and Prophet are closed


Why Is the Office of Apostle Closed? 


There are several straightforward reasons why the office of Apostle is closed today, as I review below.


No one sees the risen Lord today. 


These guys who claim to be Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ today are not, simply because they have not seen the risen Lord. In 1 Peter 1:7-8 we see why this is so:


that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.


“Though now you do not see Him.” People no longer see Him in the way the Apostles of Jesus Christ saw Him. Hebrews 11:6 proclaims that this “not seeing” is essential to our spiritual well-being: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” People do not see the risen Lord today, and you would have to see the risen Lord if you were going to be a true Apostle. You would also have to be called or appointed by God as an Apostle. 


(2) The foundation was laid, and we don’t lay a foundation twice. 


Each of us lives in a structure that has a foundation. And how many times did the builder lay that foundation? Once. You do not lay the foundation of your house again next week. That only needed to happen one time, and the job was assigned to the biblical Apostles of Jesus Christ. 


(3) We are commanded not to add to the Word of God.


The Word of God is complete. We don’t add to it, so why would we need Apostles? Jude 3 speaks of this:


Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.


Proverbs 30:5-6 also makes it clear we are not to be adding to the Word of God: “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”


Despite what people like C. Peter Wagner claim, no one is receiving new revelations from God. Deuteronomy echoes this truth 12:32: “Whatever I command you be careful to observe it. You shall not add to it nor take away from it.” Similarly, Deuteronomy 4:2 says, “You shall not add to the word, which I command you, nor take from it that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”


(4) There are no Apostles mentioned in the epistles. 


The epistles give us the specific requirements and practices of a New Testament Church and yet the topic of apostles being for today’s New Testament Church is never addressed. What comprises the function, authority, purpose, and duties of the Church? John McArthur answers this way:


In fact, if we need apostles today and we need prophets today, how come it never says anything about them in the epistles to the founding of the churches....In all of that about how the church is to be run, and how the church is to be governed, and how the church is to operate, and who is to lead the church, and who is to guide the church, and who is to serve the church, there’s never a word about an apostle, never a word about a prophet. And we don’t need apostles today. You know why? We already have doctrine. Is that right? Do we need new doctrine? Do we need new truth? Do we need a new pattern for the church? No!


Why Is the Office of Prophet Closed? 


Similar to Apostles, the office of Prophet closed because there is no need for prophets today. Please understand that this does not mean that we no longer have people in whom the gift of prophecy operates. The office of Prophet is different from the gift of prophecy. Do people still have the gift of prophecy? Yes, they do. And what does that mean? The word “prophet” means “one who speaks forth or speaks out.” People with a prophetic gift speak the truth of God’s word. Many people confuse the office of prophet that is closed with this spiritual gift that is active today. 


As another helpful bit of background regarding prophets: associating the term prophet with someone who predicts the future did not come about until medieval times. So it’s a rather new concept to say that someone who is a prophet is someone who foretells the future. Do prophets warn about God’s future judgment to nations? Yes, they do because they know the Word of God. They can study Scripture and say, “Look, if we continue down this path, the Bible is clear about what will happen to a nation. Here is what we’re doing when we go against the character and nature of God.” We set ourselves up for judgment, and God always warns when He’s getting ready to judge. He does that in order to give people a chance to repent. But the “gift of prophecy” referenced in Romans 12:6 means “speaking forth,” not predicting the future. 


Facts about Prophets


To understand the biblical nature of what constitutes prophets and prophecy, it is helpful to outline nine basic facts about prophets. 


Fact #1—Prophets, like Apostles, were appointed by God.


Look again at Ephesians 4:11: “And he gave some Apostles and some Prophets, and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers.” In the Church today we still have the office of evangelist, pastor, and teacher, but we don’t need the prior offices of Apostle and Prophet for the reasons I have outlined earlier. 


Fact #2—Whatever the Prophets of the New Testament said had to be consistent with what was proclaimed by the Apostles. 


Prophets proclaimed a message consistent with the foundational doctrine laid down by the Apostles. Prophets have to agree with the biblical foundation, the biblical theology, the biblical doctrine set by the Apostles. 


One reason we know that the men and women of the New Apostolic Reformation are false prophets is that much of what they say does not line up with the foundational doctrine of the Apostles. They do not proclaim a message that accords with the Apostles’ theology and doctrine. In fact, false prophets speak against the foundational doctrine laid down by the Apostles. As 1 Corinthians 14:37 notes: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”


Fact #3—Prophets, along with the Apostles, laid the foundation for the Church. 


Again, you lay a foundation only once. Some of the same arguments we’re using for why we don’t have Apostles today are the same reasons we don’t have Prophets today. 


Fact #4—Prophets were God’s spokesmen to reveal doctrinal truth about what we are to believe and the practical truth regarding how we are to live.


Fact #5—Prophets could perform miracles to confirm the authority and source of their revelation. 


 Fact #6—Prophets had to be 100 percent accurate, or they were killed. 


Countless prophecies given by Cindy Jacobs, Rick Joyner, the New Apostolic Reformation, or the International House of Prayer have not come true. According to Scripture, a “prophet” only has to be wrong one time in order to be considered a false prophet. The Bible explains that a prophet who gives a false proclamation is to be executed. 


I have read blogs and books by NAR people, and some argue that when a prophet is maturing, he or she makes mistakes. Rick Joyner, for instance, has written: 


There is a prophet named Bob Jones who was told that the general level of prophetic revelation in the church was about 65% accurate at this time. Some are only about 10% accurate, a very few of the most mature prophets are approaching 85% to 95% accuracy. Prophecy is increasing in purity, but there is a still a long way to go for those who walk in this ministry.


Rick Joyner says that giving a wrong prophecy does not make someone a false prophet even though the Bible says otherwise:

One of the greatest hazards affecting maturing prophets is the erroneous interpretation of the Old Testament exhortation that if a prophet ever predicted something which did not come to pass he was no longer to be considered a true prophet (see Deut. 18:20-22). The warning was that if this happened, the prophet had been presumptuous and the people were not to fear him. If one predicts something in the name of the Lord and it does not come to pass, he probably has spoken presumptuously and needs to be repented of, but that does not make him a false prophet. No one could step out in the faith required to walk in his calling if he knew that a single mistake would ruin him for life.”


In other words, today’s false prophets are trying justify their false prophecies by saying “Hey, we’re going to give prophecies that don’t come true, but that is part of the process of spiritually maturing.”


I suggest that the reason these contemporary “prophets” are not accurate is that the office of Prophet is closed. According to the Scriptures, you have to be 100 percent accurate, or you are not a prophet. It was unhealthy, to say the least, for Old Testament prophets to be wrong, as explained in Deuteronomy 18:20-22: “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”


It is very serious to say you are a prophet when you don’t meet the biblical qualifications, and I believe today’s false prophets will find themselves under severe eternal judgment for the souls they have misled and the heresies they have proclaimed. 


Fact #7—Jesus warns about false prophets. 


What did God say about false prophets? Jeremiah 23:16 reports: “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.”


In other words, be aware of these people who set themselves up as prophets. They are false prophets and do not speak according to the Lord.


In Matthew 7, the disciples ask Jesus for a sign of His second coming, and Jesus warns again and again that one sign of His return will be an increase in false prophets and false teachers. More than war, rumors of wars, plagues, famines and pestilence, the number one thing He mentions is false teachers and false prophets. Matthew 24 also makes several references to this:


Verses 3-4: “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.’” 


Verse 11: “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.”

Verses 23-24: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”


Fact #8—False teachers and prophets proclaim unbiblical doctrine. 


You don’t have to spend too long watching Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and similar networks to realize that these people are not teaching sound biblical theology and doctrine. I watched Benny Hinn one night in his TV-audience costume and realized that he is a perfect example of the false teacher and false prophet Jesus warns of in Matthew 24.

Hinn and many Word of Faith, Name It and Claim It (what some have called “blab it and grab it”), other prosperity gospel proponents, and New Apostolic Reformation members are confirmation that we are living in the last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ. These false teachers are notorious for taking Scripture out of context for their own gain. 


Matthew 7:16 offers another measure by which to judge false teachers: “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” The fruit Jesus refers to is their doctrinal fruit. 


Fact #9—False prophets and false teachers will grow worse until Christ returns. 


This fact is clear from 2 Timothy 3:13: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”


Mathew 24:11 is similar: “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”


These verses don’t say some or a few false teachers will arise but many false prophets will rise. So what should our response be to this increase in false teachers? 


Warn the Church and Warn the Unbeliever 


One of our responses certainly should be to warn the Church of false teachers. To that end, I received an email one afternoon from a lady who wanted to encourage and thank me for exposing false teachers. She said someone had given her one of our Worldview Weekend Digest magazines. She opened it to an article in which I expose the false teachings of Rob Bell. A few days later, she attended her ladies Bible study and discovered they were preparing to read a book by Rob Bell. Because my article, she was able to reveal Bell’s falsehoods. As a result, the study agreed not to read Bell’s book. The email thanked me for the Worldview Weekend ministry and encouraged me to continue exposing false teachers like Bell. She said if she had not read the article, she would not have been able to protect herself or her Christian friends from this instance of false teaching. 


All Christians should be about this type of work and warning. Unfortunately, some people tell me, “Howse, you are divisive. Who has called you to do this?” My answer is simply that if we are people who follow the Lord Jesus Christ, then He has called all of us to do this. It is the job of a disciple to address falsehood in the Church. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose it.”


If we don’t, false teaching will lead many people astray. If we love the Gospel and biblical truth, we will not want people to follow another Jesus or believe another gospel. 


We should also warn unbelievers about false teachers. If we have a heart for Jesus, we will have a heart for reaching the lost, and we will expose false teachers for what they are, because we are burdened by the fact that so many people are being deceived right into hell by false teachers.


Another sign that we are living in the last days is the Great Apostasy or a great falling away from traditionally held biblical truths. This apostasy will have a form of godliness but will deny the true God. Scripture is very clear that apostasy will come, and I believe it is here. 


We are going to see more and more people claiming to be prophets and apostles. But we must go back to the Word of God and explain that the office of Apostle is closed. The office of Prophet is closed. I suggest using this book to reveal the importance of studying biblical theology and doctrine and studying the Word of God in context, because only doctrine can reveal the will of God for our lives. Doctrine brings discernment, and doctrine convicts those who contradict the truth. 


The number one reason people today cannot recognize false teaching is that they don’t have biblical discernment. They haven’t studied theology and doctrine—which is why we have baby Christians who are easily deceived. Others don’t see the deceptions because they are false converts. They may attend church and hang their salvation on walking the aisle or praying a sinner’s prayer, but they never truly understood what it means to repent of sins.


By contrast, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 speaks of the godly sorrow necessary to produce repentance unto salvation:


Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.


A key component of the religious Trojan horse is false apostles and false prophets. They have and will continue to declare open war on true believers of Jesus Christ. 


Christians who are biblically minded and make the Word of God their standard will be accused of being judgmental, for hindering unity, and for being harsh and unloving. Yet the most loving thing we can do is to point out unbiblical doctrine which leads to an eternity of God’s judgment. 


You will likely see the real Church, the real bride of Christ, persecuted and maligned by popular “Christian” authors, well-known pastors, and “Christian” speakers who are a part of this false church. It is all the more reason we must know the Bible, be steeped in biblical theology and doctrine, and understand the foundation laid by the Apostles and Prophets. Only then will we be ready to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 


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