1 ¶ 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. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
After stating emphatically that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation Peter goes on to give a stern warning about false teachers. Paul warned about those already corrupting the word of God in his time.
2Corinthians 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. [the word for corrupt in Greek, from a word meaning a huckster, which refers to a wineseller watering down wine for dishonest sale, has been mistranslated in modern versions to peddle as if to condemn all Christian Bible sellers who make a profit.]
There is no private revelation under the New Testament, as in God gave you a special knowledge accessible to no one else. That is how great and terrible cults are started. God’s wisdom and understanding for us is here in His Bible and is available to any man or woman who cares to hear from God. Someone might see something in a way that others may have missed but it is unlikely that you will discover a great truth not seen by anyone else in history.
A prophet is a preacher in that prophets preach.
Nehemiah 6:7a And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem…
To prophesy is to foretell something that is to happen or to tell forth something that God has spoken. As Peter pointed out in the last chapter holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. We don’t refer to preachers today as prophets because they do not have the special verbal connection to God where they speak of things that will happen, unless what they are saying is straight from the Bible. We have the Bible today and that is our final authority in all matters of faith, practice, and doctrine. We have a calling to preach from the Bible and not from our imaginations of a mountaintop experience with God giving us special instructions for the people. Everything we are told must be judged by the Scriptures.
Acts 17:10 ¶ And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
There are two types of meanings for any text. There is the literal, what it says in context. That is its first meaning. Then, there is its significance to you or some other application. There are two types of interpretation, one good and one bad. In the one, the teacher or preacher relies on the context and the literal meaning of a passage to explain it and apply it to a more immediate situation. For instance, Joseph’s faithfulness or Job’s self-righteousness as applied to a Christian’s faith and daily walk with God. The other kind simply rips a concept or word or phrase out of context to make it apply to something totally not in keeping with what was originally meant but to brace a point the preacher or teacher wants to make.
As an example, in the following passage the reference is to a preacher or teacher being faithful to God’s word, to the mysteries of God. It is dishonest to apply the word faithful here to your church attendance.
1Corinthians 4:1 ¶ Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
An example of twisting the Bible, this time out of ignorance, would be a preacher declaring that Christ paid a ransom to the Devil for our souls. The Bible clearly says;
Exodus 30:12 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
More examples of twisting the Bible include going back to a Greek or Hebrew word, mistranslating it, and then misapplying the mistranslation like the fundamentalist preacher who placed an inordinate distinction on the word agape and then preached that women weren’t capable of loving that way. That preacher later turned out to be a criminal who committed crimes against women and committed suicide in prison. It was not only wicked what this wicked man preached but tragic that people in the congregation didn’t know their Bible well enough to dismiss what he was saying as rubbish. I don’t care if your man o’ God sweats honey and rose petals come out of his mouth when he preaches if he distorts the word of God he has a spiritual problem.
In this passage false prophets and false teachers are linked, uniting the Old and New Testament offices as synonymous in a way. These false teachers will bring in heresies and even deny Christ’s divinity and His resurrection and thereby destroy, in the believer’s mind who hears them, the grounds for salvation or make them question whether they are saved.
In World history, Mohammed is a classic example of this as is Madame Blavatsky. A false prophet is noted in Revelation as instrumental in getting people to worship the beast and his image. In American history we have false prophets/teachers like Joseph Smith, Alexander Campbell, William Miller, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell, and Joseph Franklin Rutherford, among others, who have led many would-be Christians far astray due to Biblical ignorance, a secret agenda, or self-aggrandizement.