Types of false prophecies: misunderstanding of true prophetic words

And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.  (Acts 21:4 KJV)

misunderstanding of true prophecies showing a man with a book

I will conclude this mini-series on false prophecies with the most confusing and challenging of all the types of false prophecies. It is when a prophet actually hears God accurately but misunderstands the words or vision and thereby declares a message which is different from what God originally showed him.

A classic and astonishing example of this is seen in Acts 21. The Lord wanted Paul to go to Jerusalem and had shown the believers that he will suffer and be imprisoned there. Acts 21:4 above says when these prophets saw the vision, that is, suffering ahead, they assumed God was telling them to tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem. They spoke to Paul “by the Spirit”. When a more mature prophet called Agabus came to where Paul was, this is what happened:

And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.” (Acts 21:11–12 KJV)

Listen to what he said. He did not interpret the prophetic message he got. He simply said the Spirit is saying Paul will be bound in Jerusalem. Then the brothers there heard the message, and assumed suffering in Jerusalem meant the Spirit was telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem. When Paul finally went to Jerusalem and was bound and thrown in prison, the Lord appeared to him and said “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11 KJV).

It is possible to have a true word from God and misinterpret what it means. This kind of false prophecy is considered false because the actual message communicated is false though the original message was from God. The way to fix this is to tell people the exact words or dream from God as Agabus did rather than interpret what it means.


Were these prophets who told Paul not to go to Jerusalem “false prophets”?


Surprisingly, those who are most prone to this type of false prophecies are major and established prophets. It sometimes occurs. However, this false prophecy does not make them a false prophet just as when your pastor is not a false teacher because he misinterpreted a verse and preached a sermon based on that wrong understanding! It reminds all of us the prophet is still a human being with flesh just as you and it is your responsibility to be sensitive to the Spirit of God and not allow  yourself to be carried away.


Ask the Spirit to help us as we continue to struggle with this type of false prophecies in God’s house. 

Understanding False Prophecies

Deshen Live Bible Studies

This Teaching is a summary of the false prophecy mini-series here in Deshen Daily. I encourage you to take moment to watch, think and double-check the things I share in this insightful teaching!

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