Read 2 Peter 2.
This chapter predicts strong judgment for false prophets. But the point of the chapter is not to warn the false prophets themselves; rather, the point is to warn US about them. They are sneakily deceptive according to verse 1 (“They will secretly introduce destructive heresies”). They “will exploit you” (v. 3) and “seduce the unstable” (v. 14b). Their judgment is certain according to God’s long pattern of judging the wicked (vv. 4-10), but before that judgment falls they will cause much “harm” (v. 13).
How do we avoid falling prey to these false prophets? Knowing the truth and comparing all truth claims to it is the most important way to avoid them. In addition, though, the scriptures encourage us to watch the outcome of their teaching and the lifestyle that they lead.
- Are they greedy for money (v. 3a, 14c)? That’s a telling sign.
- Does their teaching actually have tangible spiritual results? Or is it merely pious sounding talk with no real substance? Verse 17a says that they “are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.”
- Are they really different–holy–themselves? Verse 19 says that they “promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity.”
There is so much teaching available to us now through books, radio, TV, and the Internet. These mass broadcast media make it harder to know what these teachers are really like, but you cannot hide what you are forever.
So, first of all, keep reading and learning God’s word. But beware–and wary–of the teachers you allow to influence you. Look for the substance of God’s word in their teaching and watch how they live. These things will help you know whether someone is a man of God or a false teacher.