Characteristics of False Prophets or Teachers

We have entered into the days the Bible refers to when it says that even the very elect will be deceived:

“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” – Matthew 24:24

Trust me when I tell you that it is HARD to know them because they come across as great leaders of God.

And here’s what I find so hard to understand: many real leaders of Jesus Christ are being deceived by them! And I cannot blame them, as my eyes have only recently opened, so I know how hard it is to differentiate them…

But the danger is that if you listen to them (and some come across as really wise), you will start to come under their veils and believe their teachings, and they teach a different Jesus to the real one.

Because of this, many people in their churches think they are saved, but they are not because they are following a false gospel and have no idea who Jesus really is.


Start by understanding the characteristics of a false prophet or teacher, but be sure you don’t jump to conclusions, because if you do, you may harm a real teacher of Jesus Christ. 

Characteristics of False Teachers

  1. Very eloquent. Captivating. Popular. However, many great, real Godly leaders are, so don’t make the mistake of thinking this is the only qualifier of a false teacher.
  2. They strive to win over people with their opinions. Their aim is to please people. Will not ever say anything that could cause a stir or detract from their popularity.
  3. They make money off their followers to live a lavish lifestyle.
  4. Usually have a large following because people like to listen to what they say.
  5. Are often TV teachers.
  6. They don’t respond well (don’t act as Jesus would) to people questioning them.
  7. They will never mention sin or repentance.
  8. Jesus won’t get too much airtime on their show.
  9. They use clever language to distract their followers from the truth.
This is a video by Inside Edition which shows the opulence some of the world’s most popular preachers are living in. Watch this and ask yourself how much of Jesus do you see in these leaders?

But…Don’t Jump to Conclusions

But before lumping someone into the false teacher pool, make sure you do this:

1. You have to know the Bible to be able to see that what they are teaching is wrong.
2. Learn about the issue before making a judgement. Do research. But…
3. Bear in mind that there could be a disconnect between what you find on the website of a false prophet, and what you hear them speaking about in their sermons. 
4. Begin with foundations. Start with their attitude towards the Bible.
5. Consider their fruits, because the Bible says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” – Matthew 7:15-19

Types of False Prophets

False prophets or teachers, can fall into these categories:


The heretic is the most common type of false prophet today. This is usually a great Christian leader who started out well, and then began to add false teaching into the mix.

Challies words it succinctly: “He is a gregarious figure, a natural leader teaching just enough truth to mask his deadly error.”

It is difficult to identify these types because they know the lingo because they used to preach it well.


The businessman – or woman – uses Christianity to make money off his followers.


There are genuine prophets today, but there are also many who claim to bring “new” revelation to Biblical truths.

Sexual Abuser

The sexual abuser is one who takes advantage of his position in order to prey on women (and/or men).

Examples of False Prophets Today

Bill Johnson
Heidi Baker
Joel Osteen

Claire Carradice

Claire Carradice is the founder of Reset Exchange, a resource that helps people reset their minds in order to experience the fullness of life and the wonder of God.

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