A false prophet is a swindler who fleeces the flock of God. Essentially, he is a prophet for hire, one who is more concerned with his bottom line than God’s bottom line. He takes advantage of those who are unlearned and gullible. He expects payment for his services and like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, he desire places of prominence. False prophets twist Scripture to manipulate offerings in order line their pockets and live lavish lives, while claiming they are simply blessed of God. Instead of speaking as oracles of God and ministering according the ability given to them (see 1Peter 4:11), they prophesy out of their own hearts while abusing the ministry and selling the abilities given to them. All the while glorifying themselves, and not God through Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen!
2Peter 2:1-3 warns us, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned (false, cunning, fictitious) words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (KJV). Verses 14-19 clarifies their motives and methods, “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage”(KJV).
Verse 15 said that false prophets and teachers follow the way of Balaam. Question, what is the way of Balaam? Revelation 2:14 tells us that Balaam “taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (KJV). Numbers 22-24 gives the account of how Balac desired Balaam to curse the children of Israel, in order to drive them out of the land of Moab. At one point, Balak promised Balaam that he would promote him, and do what whatever Balaam desired. However, Balaam could not curse the children of Israel because they were blessed of God. Ultimately, Balaam taught Balac how to get the children of Israel to curse their own selves instead. By leading them to marry the children of Moab, Israel would be seduced into worshipping their false gods; hence, bringing a curse on them. The bottom line is that false prophets lead people astray, and in some cases, they lead them to destruction.
One advantage of a false prophet is that God can use him to expose what is in the heart of the individual who listens to him. Remember, in Deuteronomy 13:3, God said, “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that (false) prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (emphasis added, KJV). For example, if there is covetousness in the heart of a believer, he will be more apt to be lured in by the false prophet. We read in 2Peter 2:18 that he will allure through the lust of the flesh and much wantonness. Sometimes individuals have a blind side, and something needs to happen in their life in order for them to see it for themselves. This is especially true for those who refuse to see or receive correction. In the case of our example, the false prophet takes advantage of what is in the heart of the individual, and takes him for a ride financially. When it finally runs its course, the deceived wakes up to the truth and repents of his covetousness. A person cannot be tempted with something that is not in his heart. We all must be encouraged to know that the Lord can use a negative experience to lead someone to repentance, and deliver him from self-deception (remember Romans 8:28).
Some final thoughts: every believer needs to know the Word of God; otherwise, false doctrine and deception can creep into their life. That means that each of us must spend time in the Bible, studying the Scripture as the Holy Spirit leads. It also means that we must compare everything with the Word of God to see if what we are told or taught is true. Also, keep in mind that some people do wrong things because they were taught wrong. It does not mean their hearts were not pure; it means they were misguided. There are true prophets of God who may not have handled the gifts of God properly, but their intent was never to deceive anyone. They did what they knew to be true. A telltale sign is whether they love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. A false prophet will never operate out of the love of God; conversely, a true prophet of God will.