Earlier in February, I made some comments about the situation in US politics following the defeat of Trump, the election of Biden, the Capitol insurrection and public prophetic predictions that failed to materialise. Since my comments were largely off the cuff, I thought I should give a more considered account and some pointers to helpful material by others.
Acts 10 is a textbook case of a divine appointment, occurring between Peter and Cornelius. A divine appointment is a meeting set up by the Holy Spirit where someone encounters the good news of the kingdom. What leaps off the page is the clarity of the revelation.
Here we have an open vision; the angel of the Lord giving specific instructions; a trance; another strange vision with a puzzling riddle; possibly an audible voice; the Spirit reassuring and giving more detailed instructions. All very accurate.
We belong to a movement that values hearing God’s voice. This is one of our practices and something we work hard to help people do well. How do we discern God’s voice from all of the other voices?
Yet at this time the charismatic movement, especially in the United States, is in turmoil due to two major failures from many prominent trusted prophetic voices.
Dozens of high profile prophets predicted that Donald Trump would be the President of the United States for a second term. This did not happen. These same prophets also failed to predict the COVID-19 pandemic (did God not see it coming?).
When Trump was not elected, rather than fessing up and apologising, most of these prophets doubled down, claiming with the sore loser former President that the election was stolen—without evidence and in spite of 50 court cases heard by mostly Republican-appointed judges who investigated and found no evidence of voter fraud.
A few prophets, Kris Vallotton of Bethel, Jeremiah Johnson and Loren Sanford, have apologised and admitted their mistake. Their webpages and inboxes filled up with hate mail and death threats—from people who profess to be followers of Jesus!
What the heck?
Deuteronomy 18 gives a very simple test to determine whether a prophetic word is from God or not:
22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
It is quite easy to check whether or not these prophets spoke a word from God. Turn on the TV news. Joe Biden is the President. Trump was soundly defeated. More Americans voted than in any previous election. There was no fraud. There was an attempted coup at the Capitol led by people waving Jesus flags, praying and constructing a scaffold to hang Vice-President Pence and Speaker Pelosi. Trump was impeached for a second time.
The words that the prophets spoke in the name of the Lord were false.
The effect of the false prophecies
This is as serious as it gets. These men and women spoke predictive prophetic words to a national and international audience. Not only that, they were delivered before the election (that’s what a prediction is) in a way that was calculated to influence how Christians would vote. These words were not given to a small group or a local church. They were widely publicised and deceived many thousands of Christians.
Many Christians have been left bewildered and confused about prophetic ministry. Some have left the church or given up on the faith thinking God can’t be trusted.
The false prophecies and the refusal of the culpits to show humility and repent has brought prophetic ministry into disrepute. God’s name is ridiculed by unbelievers. Cessationist christians are confirmed in their unbelief about the gifts of the Spirit.
And most seriously, the witness of the American church has been compromised.
How did so many trusted voices get it wrong?
I pay no attention to some of these prophets. However, some are trusted voices whose books we have read and whose training materials we have used. Dutch Sheets. Lance Wallnau. Robbie Dawkins. How could they get it so wrong and then double down even when their error is obvious to the whole world?
There is biblical precedent. Before the fall of Judah, with Babylonian forces amassing, all of the court prophets predicted that God would deliver Jerusalem. Jeremiah alone prophesied that the city would fall, with 70 years of exile to follow. Guess who got it right? Court prophets prophesy what the King wants to hear. Micaiah, Jehoshaphat and Ahab also come to mind.
Sometime even experienced prophets get it wrong. False prophecy arises in three ways—a true revelation is wrongly applied; the prophet confuses their own thoughts or opinions for God’s; and demonic deception.
In this case we see evidence of the latter two. Let me explain.
The prophets who made false predictions prophesied their own thoughts and opinions (as well as what the church wanted to hear). It is difficult to hear God correctly when we are strongly invested in an issue. A prophet must maintain a certain degree of neutrality or independence otherwise they may miss what God is saying.
But something deeper is at also work. I believe that God allowed deception to come upon the prophets to expose evil that has taken root at heart of the white evangelical church.
For those of us who live outside the USA, the last four years have been very strange. How is it that so many American christians could support a man who is diametrically opposite to everything the Bible tells us to look for in a leader? This is not rumour, he boasts about his ungodliness. Some christian leaders claim that Trump is a christian or became a christian while in office. There is no evidence of this in his behaviour. Even so, many within the white church seem to look to Trump as some kind of messiah figure. This is idolatry.
The white evangelical church already has a saviour. His name is Jesus, not Donald, and when you stand the two men side by side, there are no similarities.
Since the late 80s, elements of the white evangelical church in America have lost sight of their God-given mission and sought political power and influence for base motives. This quest for worldly power is anchored in some uniquely American errors, notably dominion theology, American exceptionalism and white christian nationalism. Though American christianity has been a source of great blessing for the world, God has never made a covenant with America. It has no special favoured nation status.
And at the heart of it all is a cancerous connection to white supremacy. White American christians fear losing their privileged place because for the first time in history, they are outnumbered by people of colour. The MAGA movement has deep roots in white supremacy—make America white again. And Trump hits all the right notes to stoke this fear.
A lying spirit deceived the prophets to expose the sin at the heart of white evangelical Christianity.
Prophetically gifted people need to be in the church and under the leadership of a mature pastor who understands prophetic ministry and loves his or her prophetic people fiercely and enough to bring correction when it is needed.
Prophets should prophesy. Teachers should teach. We need to get prophets and teachers together like the church at Antioch (Acts 13.1-3). And we need to get prophetically gifted people together to listen, learn and develop their gifts to maturity.
Prophetic words should be weighed and tested in a safe, respectful atmosphere and not just by other prophets, but by those who listen—holding fast to the good. Protocols should be put in place for this to be done in a healthy way.
What should we do about prophetic ministry in light of the prophets’ failures?
Prophets who publicly prophesied a Trump victory, must repent publicly. Their repentance must be as public as the false prophecy. If a prominent prophet prophesied Trump’s victory and has not repented, then stop following them, do not fear them and stop listening to their stuff until they do.
Paul gives us the last word on prophecy:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you should prophesy (1 Cor. 14.1).
Do not despise prophecy, but test everything. Hold fast to what is good (1 Thess 5.19-20).
If you’d like to pursue this further, these links will get you started:
A Response to Prophets Apologising for their Trump Prophecy
When Political Prophecies Don’t Come to Pass – Craig Keener
The American Church must Choose the Way of the Cross
Remnant Radio videos (pretty long, but charitable, balanced and worth the trouble)
‘Making Sense of Prophets and Politics’ (90 min) with Mark Chirrona and Randy Clark.
‘Testing the Prophecies given in 2020’
(with Craig Keener, Sam Storms, Ken Fish; and Jack Deere) 8 hours long, but the scroll bar is broken into segments so that you can listen the bits you want to hear).