Christians and Heathen Prophecy

Heard someone’s perspective on this recently, and it seemed a good blog topic. Frankly, it’s been on my mind for a long time, so this is likely going to be a long one. You might want to get some coffee–I can’t guarantee it will be exciting enough to keep you awake…

Is it OK for Christians or Christian teachers to cite heathen prophecies–that is, to refer to them? Of course it is. There is nothing wrong with simply referring to them. We’ve done so in the Tomorrow’s World magazine, for instance, when Pope Francis I was elected. We mentioned the so-called St. Malarkey… (oops! sorry…) Malachy “prophecy” of the list of popes building up to the supposed final pope “Petrus Romanus.” The list, by the way, is surely fraudulent and is easily demonstrated to be a rather inaccurate “prophecy” likely motivated by Catholic politics (actually, the Wikipedia article on it is not bad; I personally think that Louis Moréri had it right), but it is still a curiosity and there is nothing wrong with mentioning it. Also, Mr. Meredith mentioned as 2012 arrived that, given the hoopla surrounding the date drummed up by ninnies and “spiritualists,” it would be interesting if demons took advantage of the year and the sentiment, though nothing on a grand scale happened at all (breathless commentary and predictions by non-prophets notwithstanding). And in the past, Mr. David Jon Hill authored an article for the Good News magazine about how some heathen, Catholic prophecies looked like deceitful perversions of the true prophecies of the Bible. (Some say he wrote two different articles, but on reading them it is clear that he did not. It is one article published twice with some “sprucing up” done to the later version to add contemporary news information.)

There is nothing wrong with simply referring to heathen prophecies, especially if it is to show them for the junk they are. Jeremiah exposed Hananiah in Jeremiah 28, just as Micaiah does to Zedekiah in 2 Chronicles 18, both pointing out that lying spirits were at work in the false prophecies of their contemporaries. (I note here that they did not use the false prophecies for anything; they simply exposed them for what they were: lies.) We have no record of Peter, Paul, or the other apostles doing anything too similar in the New Testament–Paul quotes the “prophets” (poets) Aratus and Epimenides in his speech at the Areopagus (Acts 17) and in his letter to Titus (Titus 1) but does not quote any real “prophecies”–but we can comfortably say, I believe, that if a false prophecy were being actively spread in their presence that needed to be addressed, they would have no problem addressing it.

But the context in which I heard about this question recently presented it as a straw man to attack. The problem isn’t simply referring to heathen prophecies in such manners. The problem is wallowing in them and seeking to obtain new prophetic information from them. The Bible makes God’s abhorrence of such activity plain and ties the use of heathen prophetic sources in that manner to false prophets misusing the name of God. I’ve heard many excuses from those addicted to divining new details about the future from heathen prophecy, and none of them pass muster. Let’s look at some, and I will mention the things we need to keep in mind among my responses.

Excuse: But sometimes the devil may inspire true prophecy! If we use the Bible to discern truth from error, perhaps we can learn new details about the future from what the devil may have inspired.

Answer: The devil loves excuses like that. But it doesn’t fit the Bible, and for multiple reasons.

For instance, in Acts 16, a demon-possessed slave girl keeps following Paul and Silas and proclaiming, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” We note that (1) the “spirit of divination” that possessed the girl may have been accurate sometimes, as her owners apparently made a very good profit from her “fortune-telling” (v.16), and (2) she was actually saying something true! Paul and Silas were servants of the Most High God and they were proclaiming the way to salvation!

What was Paul’s reaction? After all, some would say that this girl’s comments added to their credibility.

But rather than allow it to go on and on, Paul couldn’t withhold himself any longer and he commanded the spirit to leave the girl, in the name of Jesus Christ. In essence, he said, “Shut up!”

True servants of God do not need the testimony of demons or demon-inspired prophecy. God’s word can stand on its own just fine.

Does it matter if heathen prophecy is true? Does that mean that it is OK to play with it and to try and sneak information out of it, past the devil’s nose? To build new knowledge on it? No, it simply does not. No one can read Deuteronomy 18 and come to any different conclusion:

“When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” (Deut. 18:9-14)

Can God be any clearer? The heathens have their soothsayers, diviners, etc. But the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.

If God Almighty has not appointed those heathen prophets, fortune tellers, diviners, etc. for us, then are we not in opposition to Him if we seek to pull knowledge and information about the future from their words? Even if we use God’s word to “filter” it, has He appointed that “information” for us to filter?

Frankly, that’s the same excuse many give for keeping the pagan practices of Christmas, Easter, etc. “Yes, they are from heathen sources, but we only use them in good ways and we discard the bad, based on God’s Word.” But what if God says it is all bad? What if He says that it isn’t appointed for you in the first place? Who do we think we are to say, “Well, God, don’t worry–I know what I’m doing…”?

Consider, too, Isaiah 8. Verse 19 is often quoted when it comes to identifying false teachers and false prophets, as well it should be:

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:19)

In fact, several self-appointed (false) prophets over the years who have come from the Church of God tradition like to quote v.19 because they feel it backs them up (which technically, it can’t do; it can shoot down others, but, alone, it can’t validate them). “After all,” perhaps they surmise, “I keep the Sabbath! I keep the Holy Days! I love the commandments! Isaiah 8:19 doesn’t apply to me!”

Ah, not so fast. Isaiah 8:19 does not exist in a vacuum. It is, actually, the climactic statement of a paragraph that gives it context. If the false prophets Isaiah was writing about were failing to keep to the law and were contradicting the testimony, where were they failing? If they were not speaking “according to this word,” what mistake were they making? The verses immediately before give the answer! Look at it again, but look at the preceding verse, not just v.19:

“And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:18-19)

So clear! Someone who tells you to consider what a heathen prophet is saying, because the devil may have inspired something in them that could be true–or because we can use the Bible to “decode” the heathen prophecy to our benefit–so that we can glean new, potential details about the future is, essentially, saying, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter…”

“Hey, look at what Dead St. So-and-So said about the future! And look, here, at what Nostradummy divined! Since we know the truth in God’s Word, we can avoid the devil’s traps and maybe learn some details about his plan for the future!” Wrong, but thanks for playing… Isaiah 8:18 says that a “prophet” who wallows in such mire is to be avoided (again, the words of Dead St. So-and-So and Nostradummy “are not appointed for us,” God says — Deut. 18:14.) How ironic that some out there addicted to divining new information from heathen prophecies will quote Isaiah 8:19 when their violation of v.18 shows that v.19 actually condemns them.

In fact, the very idea that we should somehow “mix” holy, biblical prophecy with the heathen prophecies of pagans and apostates in an effort to divine new details about the future beyond what God’s Word reveals should be nauseating to us. Paul said very clearly, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:14-16). What communion, indeed! The idea that Christians–let alone anyone claiming to bear Christ’s standard as a “leader” of Christians–would make a common practice to mingle the unclean and the clean, the prophecies of Christ and of Belial, in an effort to somehow divine additional knowledge and extra-biblical details of future events is simply vomitous. Paul’s command in that passage is quite the opposite and is very clear: “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17).

Be separate! Come out! Do not touch what is unclean! Hardly the same as, “Well, go ahead and dive deeply into the devil’s prophecies looking for new details about the future, as long as you use the Bible to, you know, sort it all out and stuff.” Ridiculous, isn’t it?

I’m spending a lot on this excuse, but let me make a personal observation based on a woman I spoke with once. She was a woman who had been very deep in the occult and demonism. She was seeking to get out of those things, but old friends of hers were often trying to get her back into them. Once, she said, some of her friends mentioned a book they had gotten that explained people could supposedly capture a demon and trap him in your basement so that you could use him for your purposes but he would be unable to harm you if you stayed out of the basement. Her response, based on her experiences, was instructive. She saw through the foolishness of her friends’ claims, and said, “That’s the thing with the devil. He tricks you into thinking you have him and you can safely use him. But it’s always the other way around: he has you.”

Those who think that, armed with their Bibles, they can wade into the prophecies of heathens to glean new possible details about the future have fallen into the devil’s trap. Deuteronomy 18 and other passages make it clear that God does not give us permission to use His Word to help us divine new, extra-biblical details about prophecy from the realm of the devil, and we are spiritual morons if we think that God is bound to honor our actions and bless our understanding if we seek to do so.

Enough of that one — let’s look at a different excuse…

Excuse: But the Apostle Paul used the writings of heathens to relate to heathen cultures. Shouldn’t we strive to be “all things to all people”?

Answer: Yes, it’s a great idea to strive to be “all things to all people,” but it is not an excuse to sinfully wallow in heathen prophecies seeking to divine extra-biblical insights into the future, which Paul never, ever did.

Why in the world would someone think Paul dabbled in interpreting heathen prophecy to divine details about the future?

It is certainly true that Paul sought to approach his listeners from their point of view. In my opinion, from what we have recorded, he was a master. We see him arguing in the synagogue with the Jews from the Scriptures in Acts 13. And we see him in the Areopagus arguing with the gentiles from reason and logic in Acts 17, even though his goal was a biblical one (to help them realize that God disapproves of idolatry).

To that end, at the Areopagus he apparently quotes a couple of heathen poets: Epimenides and Aratus. Here is the passage in Acts 17:26-28:

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

Aratus of Soli (Wikipedia)
Aratus of Soli (Wikipedia)

The statement “For we are also His offspring” from one of “[their] own poets” seems to come from Aratus, who wrote in his Phaenomena:

“Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbor are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring…

While it is possible that it may be a poet other than Aratus, by Paul’s own words it is some heathen poet.

Also, Paul says “some of your own poets,” indicating that he may have been referring to the comments of more than one. And, in fact, the statement he makes right before that, “for in Him we live and move and have our being,” does match precisely to a pagan poet–indeed, a specific paragraph (“stanza” for sticklers) of a pagan poem–we know from a different part of Scripture Paul was familiar with: Epimenides. Here is the paragraph from Epimenides’ Cretica:

“They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,
Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.
But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,
For in you we live and move and have our being.

Epimenides of Crete
Epimenides of Crete

Not only does the last line (in a passage also about Zeus) match Paul’s own words, but the additional line I placed in bold, about Cretans, will be familiar to those who remember Paul’s words to Titus: “One of them, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons'” (Titus 1:12).

So, Paul did, indeed, use turns of phrase from the culture of the Greeks in his efforts to preach the truth to them. When Paul said that he strove to “become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22), he wasn’t kidding.

But to conflate Paul’s wise and effective approach with consorting with the devil’s prophecies and seeking to divine new prophetic details from them is to abuse both the man and the Scriptures–and for several reasons.

Here’s one (and not even the biggest): As one writer I read many years ago noted, it is foolish to take these statements as evidence that Paul studiously poured over the writings of the heathens to put these statements together. These statements were very possibly (even probably) very commonly known and recognized statements of the day. Not only is this idea bolstered by the observation that both of Paul’s quotes come from the very same paragraph of Epimenides, but it is also bolstered by common sense. (Admittedly, common sense is in short supply today, but still…) How many of us can quote, “Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” or “Et tu, Brute?” without being even half-way diligent students of Shakespeare? How many of us talk about the (admittedly disputed) Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” without having studied Chinese culture? How many know the proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” without having gotten a Masters Degree in Klingon culture?

It makes sense that Paul was not using some obscure poems and uncommon texts to appeal to the crowd but, rather, was using statements that would have been commonly heard at the time–all the better to warm the crowd to his message, by using turns of phrase that were common knowledge with which they were all familiar. No diligent study of Greek poetry (let alone prophecy) necessary at all.

But that isn’t even the most important point. Even more damaging to the excuse is the fact that these couple of quotes are FAR from examples of Paul using pagan prophecy to divine additional details about the future. They are not even close. As we’ve already highlighted, such attempts at divination would be forbidden by God, and Paul clearly does nothing of the sort. To try and dissect heathen prophecies–human-inspired at best and demon-inspired at worst–to discover new, extra-biblical details about the Two Witnesses, or the Beast Power, or the final Antichrist, etc. and then to point to Paul’s quotes of Epimenides and Aratus as supposed “examples” is a hideous perversion of what Paul actually did and an insult to the Apostle.

Rather, what would be the real equivalent of Paul’s quotes from these men? Easy enough! I’ve heard some in the Church quote from the famous and well-known poem (or “proem” as it may be, since some tellings do not rhyme), “Footprints in the Sand” (or just “Footprints”). C’mon–you know you know it! A person is walking with Christ along the beach, symbolizing his walking with Christ, and at times there is only one set of footprints instead of two, etc. It’s a moving depiction, commonly known in our culture, and easily accessible to those in our culture. Using that poem to help explain the comfort Christ provides in difficult times would be an example of what Paul did. Also, using a choice quote about God or manhood from C. S. Lewis in a sermon might be an example–taking advantage of a good turn of phrase that would carry weight in the culture, but without endorsing everything the man said or wrote. Mr. Armstrong’s quoting Huxley on occasion would be an example.

Here’s an example from Jerome, a Catholic “luminary,” I could quote: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” And it’s true! Such a turn of phrase could be helpful to reaching some Catholics, perhaps. No problem.

But what all of these, along with Paul’s quotes, have in common is that they are not what the perverse purveyor of pagan prophecies claims is “OK” in the name of being all things to all people: Attempting to divine additional, extra-biblical details about the future from heathen, ungodly prophecies.

To one who says that we should be able to dip ourselves into the muck of heathen, potentially devilish prophecies to hunt around for new insights into how the future might unfold and who point to Paul’s couple of quotes as supposed “examples,” I would ask: “Please show me where Paul has done as you do by delving in great depth into obscure and generally arcane heathen prophecies to divine additional potential details about future prophetic fulfillment in contradiction to God’s Word?” There can only be two possible responses to such a question: silence or lies.

So, the excuse maker would be 0 for 2! Let’s consider another excuse one might give…

Excuse: Well, the Church of God has derived new prophetic details from heathen prophecies before! Look at David Jon Hill!

Answer: Actually, no, the Church of God has not. If you think that you are either self-deceived or being deceitful…

Don’t take my word for it. Read Mr. David Jon Hill’s 1961 Good News article for yourself. Click here for a PDF copy of the original article. It is a good read, and it’s point is a good one: There are some heathen prophecies out there that look as though they are perversions of true, biblical prophecy — painting the conquering Messiah as the Antichrist. (Many people have noted the same thing about “aliens from space” movies, like “Independence Day.”) It’s a great article! It was reprinted later in a 1964 Good News with an updated introduction.

However, that article is not only a rarity (one article and one updated reprint in more than half-a-century’s worth of articles), it is also not at all what some are doing with heathen prophecy. That is, it is not an attempt to divine a host of new prophetic details from extra-biblical prophecies. Notice what is actually done in the article… It never divines “new” prophetic details about the future from the heathen sources. Mr. Hill is consistent: He establishes what will happen from the Scripture and biblical prophecy, and then only uses the heathen sources (mostly Hippolytus) to show how those things can be twisted to deceive. He never uses Catholic “prophecies” to determine a menagerie “new possibilities” about the future, sticking only to God’s Word for such things.

The idea of swimming in one heathen prophecy after another like a rat in a sewer is simply not a practice seen in the publications of the Church of God over the better part of the last century and certainly not in the Bible. About such an obsession, some may wish to argue that their perverse fascination should be acceptable, but we can use the words of the Apostle Paul: “But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16).

And we don’t. Again, we’ve referred to heathen prophecies (ancient frauds like the Malarkey…(there I go again!)…the Malachy “Prophecy” and modern frauds like the non-Mayan non-pocalypse), and there’s nothing wrong with pointing them out as curiosities, as frauds, as hoaxes, as counterfeits, etc. But seeking to derive new prophetic knowledge from them? Determining that one of the Two Witnesses will like wearing dark suits or the name of his hometown or whether he will be thin of fat? Sorry — that’s divination. And God is clear: It isn’t appointed for us.

One last excuse comes to mind, for now…

Excuse: Paul says that we shouldn’t be ignorant of the devil’s devices! By exploring all of these pagan prophecies, we can come to understand his plan better–in fact, we’re actually obeying Paul’s command by doing so.

Answer: Wow. That is just… Wow. The devil must be giddy that you actually think that. Is that really what Paul is telling us to do? Let’s look at that…

First, instead of just grabbing a convenient verse and paraphrasing it in the way we believe it will suit us best, let’s read the actual verse in its context:

“Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:10-11).

Taking this statement and turning it into an endorsement of using pagan prophecies for delving into future events is vastly more than a simple “stretch”–it does violence to Paul’s words and pridefully turns them into license for sin. (We’ve already established: God says that those diviners, soothsayers, fortune-tellers are not appointed for us, remember?)

Yes, we are aware of his devices, and lies are definitely among his devices, including lying prophecies. But does that mean that we should give ourselves license to ignore God’s Word, delve into the arcane details of heathen prophecies, and try to divine additional details about the future? Who would be so insane as to suggest that this is what Paul meant?

For instance, among Satan’s devices is to pull us away into sexual lust. Must we study and explore all the perverted means by which Satan does that? Every enticement, every perversion, every–whatever? Or is it simply necessary to know the truth about godly sexuality and to ensure we are fortified in what God’s Word has to say about it? Isn’t that sufficient? As in recognizing counterfeits, isn’t the key to know the truth thoroughly and not to memorize every possible counterfeit? (Hmmm… I’ve seen a telecast that talks about that…)

In fact–and I will try to talk more about this when I wrap up this post–other than the fact that it is sin to wallow in the mire of diviners and soothsayers, one of the strongest reasons why we should not try to filter details out about the future from the devil’s prophecies is precisely because we know his devices! Let me explain…

The devil is a liar. He is the father of lies. Jesus describes lying as an essential part of the devil’s very nature, saying that “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44-47). However, that does not mean that he is unwilling to use the truth. In fact, a great quote comes to mind: “The devil will tell a thousand truths to sell one lie.”

I’m not disputing the idea that the devil’s prophecy contains both truth and lies. The devil is unimaginably skilled at using truths in the service of lies. Of course there will be elements of truth in his lying prophecies. Those things that contradict Scripture will, of course, be lies. But those things that do not contradict Scripture aren’t necessarily truths, either. All of it is part of the spider’s web. And those who are not ignorant of his devices will avoid the web altogether. They will not fall for the lie that the fly can decide which parts of the web are safe and which parts of the web trigger the spider. They don’t believe, in pride and vanity, that they can tease the relevant truths out of the lies and not be tainted and caught in the trap.

That is the path of fools–those who claim to know the devil’s devices but clearly do not truly understand them. Such fools think they can use the devil for their own purposes, even press him into service for God. But the young woman I talked to is right: You think you have him, but he has you.

God’s advice is universally the opposite in Scripture: Put distance between you and the devil. Don’t dance with him, thinking that you are leading. Don’t play games with him, thinking that you are winning. Don’t linger in contact with him, thinking that you remain clean. Those who think they can do otherwise are flies in the web, and by telling those around them, “See, look at what I found!” all they do is get those who pay them any mind entangled in the devil’s web with them.

Yes, Christ gives us victory over Satan and his demons. Yes, there are times when demons must be confronted, just as Christ did. But the purpose for confrontation is to cast out–“out,” as in “away.” We never say, “Demon, be gone! But, you know, not too gone… Hang around a little so that I can squeeze a few facts out of you at my own discretion, OK buddy?” We just cast them out.

The devil wants us to do otherwise. He wants us to see some of what he has done, or some of what he inspires within the latitude God allows him, as useful to us in some way. That way, rather than cast it completely aside, we will hold on to it a bit. “Sure it’s the devil’s, but it can be made useful if we’re careful, right?” No. Not right.

Jesus said that Satan had “nothing in him” (John 14:30). When the devil offered Him a shortcut to world rulership, Jesus shut Him down and wouldn’t touch his offer for a moment (Luke 4:5-8). He didn’t strike a bargain. He didn’t use the devil for anything. He lived uncorrupted by the ruler of this world, and He died uncorrupted by Him. It is His example we are to follow.

We don’t dive into the prophecies and visions of heathens and pagans in order to try to divine the devil’s plan. We avoid getting caught up in such things and binding ourselves to them because we are already aware of his devices. And we know that such foolishness is exactly what he would want us to do.

Really, think about it… Imagine you have your Bible open on your study desk as well as a book of Catholic, Buddhist, New Age, [fill in the blank] visions, divinations, and prophecies, while you try to use God’s Word to help you tease out some true tidbits and details about the future in addition to what God’s Word reveals. Which do you think is likely true…

(A) Satan the Devil is watching you figure things out and is cowering and trembling in a corner, saying, “Oh no! Oh NO! He’s going to figure out parts of my plan! Oh whatever shall I DO?!?!” Or…

(B) Satan the Devil is watching you as a big grin starts to form on his face?

I’m sorry, but to me the answer is obvious.

But apparently it isn’t to others.

It is easy to imagine someone who has delved very deeply into the prophecies of heathens, far beyond the boundaries of what God would ever allow–perhaps, caring more about the private prophecies of Catholics than even Catholics do. I could easily imagine such a one. I can imagine him beginning to see himself in those “prophecies”–with the obscure word here and the pleasant coincidence there combining with the prideful self-esteem he already held toward himself, but enhancing it… strengthening it. Next thing he knows, he is looking for other passages that could confirm his suspicion that he is a Prophet–even one of the Two Witnesses. “I’ll use the Douay translation there–I like the way it spells that word more like my own last name… That literal description fits me there!… That description there doesn’t, hmmm… BUT, it could be speaking symbolically instead of literally, so it actually could fit me!…” He doesn’t actually think those words, of course, but those are the whispers of his Jeremiah 17:9 heart. The crazy dance would go on, with him and the devil. As time goes on, he would believe that he is using God’s truth to whittle away the lies and reduce the devil’s prophecies down to useful, precious, additional little understandings and details, but–in actuality–like someone wading through the muck of the sewers looking for some morsels of undigested food, he would find that some efforts aren’t worth the price you pay. As Paul warns us, little leaven leavens the whole lump, and the corruption would spread. Thinking he could use the Bible to help him sort the truth from the lie in the devil’s prophecies, it would work the other way around, and the corrupt touch of the devil’s prophecies would begin to infect his own understanding of the Bible. In time, it would be almost impossible for him to see anything clearly anymore.

You think you have him. But he has you.

Very easy to imagine… Thankfully, if I were ever to get delusions of grandeur and think I were one of the Two Witnesses (haven’t yet, by the way!), my wife would be quick to pitch in and douse the flames of my insanity. “Don’t get the big head,” she would say. “I’ve seen you in your underwear.” Yes, she actually does say that sometimes, and we laugh when she does, but it always does the trick! 🙂 [French essayist Michel de Montaigne also had a quote that helps put in perspective those who think they are high and mighty, but it is a bit crude to write in a post in a family blog.]

But not everyone has a wife kind enough to put him in his place when needed and remind him that, “No, the Bible is not actually talking about you. And, no, those Catholic / Buddhist / Alien / Whatever prophecies aren’t talking about you–put them down, leave them alone, and back away.” And, admittedly, if I were so inclined to delusions of grandeur, it might be that nothing she said could keep me from such lies. We all have free will. The devil, aided by our personal ambitions and our Jeremiah 17:9 hearts, can do a lot of damage to us if we choose to let him. And, sadly, some do.

I’ve gotten off track a good bit. Suffice it to say: We avoid the trap of trying to decipher the prophecies of heathens to entice new prophetic truths out of them because we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices, not because we need to indulge in them to discover his devices. That is simply not sane. At the very least, it isn’t biblical.

Frankly, the idea that we must gluttonously feed on the prophecies of deceived heathens in addition to the Bible in order to fight the devil more effectively sounds very devilish, indeed. I won’t fall for that. Will you? Are you ignorant of his devices?

In summary:

Anyone who engorges himself in a multitude of the prophecies of those deceived by the devil in order to discern new tidbits of prophetic understanding is violating Scripture, disqualifying himself according to Isaiah 8:18-19, corrupting his understanding, and falling for the devil’s tactics while deluding himself that he is somehow uncovering them. Self-delusion is almost certain to follow. Those who so engorge themselves are not working to be all things to all men. They are working to be of no use to anyone but the devil. Saying that, “Well, the end times are here, so we now need to do these things,” is a lie. God’s commands don’t change.

Yes, the Church of God has noted from time to rare time that there are such “prophecies” out there. It has noted them as curiosities. It has shown them as false and deceptive. It has noted that the devil has counterfeited the truth in some of them. And it has spent far more of its time on other things. It has not made a habit of wallowing in such “prophecies” and in the words and writings of heathen seers and deceived mystics in a satanic effort to divine numerous additional details about the future from such sources, in defiance of the commands of God Almighty in His Word. It has not returned like a dog to its vomit or a washed sow to its mire, after escaping such pollutions through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 2:20-22). Who in the world would wish to set aside the mercy of God in order to do such a thing?

God says plainly and simply that such things are not appointed for us (Deut. 18:14). And if God has not appointed them for us, then who has?

No, wallowing in the prophecies of the heathen to discern new prophetic possibilities is not for Christians. May God have mercy on those who give themselves over to doing so. It is a mercy they will surely and sorely need.

21 thoughts on “Christians and Heathen Prophecy

  1. WOW. 😀

    You may be interested to learn (if you haven’t caught wind of it already) of an Old Aramaic text which was found (as I recall, written on a rock or some such hard surface) and which describes itself as a prophecy by Balaam. My impression of it was, “here is ‘the Apocalypse of Balaam’ if there ever was such a thing. It sounds like a distortion of what John in particular received from Jesus Christ much later.” I ran across it in BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGIST (now NEAR EASTERN ARCHAEOLOGY) quite a few years ago now.

  2. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler. No button pushing, actually. Like I mentioned at the top, it is a topic that has been on my mind for a long time, so think of it more as pent up posting. 🙂 Also, it was written with starts and stops over a period of time rather than all at once. Still, hopefully it is coherent.

  3. It’s coherent enough for a fellow potential explosion in a spaghetti factory (me) who can keep things pent up (again, me) to follow. Really well done for such a flow of consciousness, hence the WOW.

    Keep on letting God use you the way you can be most naturally used, and don’t worry about it. 😀

  4. Steven

    Mr. Smith, FINALLY…..you write about this subject. Excellent! Very interesting and educational. One of my favourite topics. In order to prove how serious this matter is and how important it is to God, I like to reference the story of “Bar-Jesus” Acts 13:4-12. I think that sums it up rather nicely, don’t you? God bless!

  5. As the Passover and spring Holy Day season approach, a question from the Apostle Paul comes to mind, ‘Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?’ (1 Corinthians 5:6). In other words, mixing a little bad with any amount of good makes everything bad.

    If it took two molecules of cyanide in your cup of coffee to kill you, would you try just one molecule to see what would happen? Not sure about anyone else, but if I even saw a bottle of cyanide next to my full cup of coffee, I would through the entire cup of coffee away – including the cup 🙂

  6. Loni Oliver

    It is surprising to me that any of God’s people would dig into these pagan texts for true prophecies/enlightenment. Are not the scriptures adequate? Why would God use pagan texts to enlighten us? And, the big question is: How do you propose to discern the accurate/truthful parts from the lies?

  7. Howdy, Loni, and I agree. Thankfully, I don’t know too many who do. I have been sent an e-mail or two from some who seem to mean well, but generally folks seem to know better. However, there are actually some out there (thankfully, not in LCG) who are actually deluded enough to accuse the Church of letting down on the job of protecting God’s people and preaching the gospel by not wallowing in such junk. It is sad. And I know of one (also, thankfully, not in LCG) who has been so corrupted by his obsession with such things that he now suspects that he is of the Two Witnesses–in part, due to his personal interpretations of those heathen prophecies. It really is an upside-down world. When the devil gets his teeth in someone, sometimes everyone else can see it but the victim, himself.

  8. Yes, Lori, agreed. What is even weirder is the assumption that the Devil would even tell us what he really has in mind. Assuming that – so far as I can see from the Bible – either disqualifies someone as being one of God’s people or is a warning flag that he’s rapidly heading in that direction.

    The Devil is a master of subterfuge, of false leads, of working in secret, of the “Phantom Menace”. He only declares himself openly to those foolish enough to want him to do so.

  9. obeirne

    Thank you for saying some things that needed to be said and clarifying things that needed to be claraified on this thorny subject. I had concluded that a certain false prophet was treading on dangerous ground when he was using prophesies from a source other than the Holy Bible to augment Bible prophecy. As we know, Bible prophecy stands on a solid foundation of God’s word and the last thing it needs are prophecies from ungodly sources!

  10. Thanks, obeirne, for your comment and for that choice of words. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way, but that is exactly what some seek to do: Augment Bible prophecies with heathen prophecies. As if God’s prophecies needed “upgrading”! As if Christ won’t mind if we use Satan to fill in gaps God chose to leave unrevealed!

    Thanks, again!

  11. All I can say is, “Spot on!” I’ve actually written myself along the lines one of your more minor points (or, a point within a point, according to the organization above). However, you took that point (and the others) to a whole new level! It is long, and I’ll need to re-read it, but I’ll probably put out a pointer to this article!

  12. Thanks for your thoughts, marchhare! It’s hard for me to be concise when talking about something like this, so I apologize for making it so long. If I had planned the writing more I probably could have made it shorter, as I’m afraid at times that going on too much dilutes the impact. At the same time, knowing me, if I had done that it would probably still be sitting in my head instead of on my blog. 🙂 Thanks, again–I appreciate it!

  13. Dear Mr. Smith: Some comments you’ve made above and some questions asked by others here came to mind when I was searching through the Ante-Nicene Fathers last night. Clement of Alexandria in particular drew a great deal on “heathen” prophecy, poetry, epics, and philosophy in order to defend and support what he argued was the “true Gnosticism” (my paraphrase of his worldview), Catholicism. He paid attention to the pagan sources because he argued in part that the Gentiles had borrowed from the Hebrews or their ancestors, one way or another. In another part, he seems to argue that pagan prophets bear witness to the same truth independently, regardless of their spiritual source. The really telling thing for me is his attitude that only the “Gnostic” can come to truth and for him, “gnosis” required the illumination of the Bible through philosophy and through comparison with these other source materials, even as he argued for the primacy and supremacy of the Hebrew sources. (“The Greeks are children compared to the Hebrews”, he argued in effect – so much for Greek pride in his eyes.)

    Well, there you are. I think someone you’ve alluded to in recent posts has let exposure to this material and this attitude rub off on him. Why, someone asked, would a true servant of God get into this? Why, the temptation to become a “gnostic”, of course. Pride in knowledge and competence combined with pride in personal meaning (vanity and jealousy): that so far as I can see is the root of Gnosticism, although the forms of pride called lust and greed got in there too (Simon Magus famously illustrates the greed part).

    Paul warned Timothy and the members in Colossae about Gnosticism, and Peter, John and Jude warned about the Gnostics too. Simon Magus didn’t start Catholicism, he started Gnosticism. Catholicism conquered Gnosticism in part because most of the Ante-Nicene Fathers were either Samaritans themselves (like Justin Martyr) or were associated with the Samaritan community. It absorbed or else overreacted to the Gnostics, becoming essentially Gnostic itself while discrediting the actual teachers of Gnosticism. Lovely tactic that, discrediting Simon Magus while apparently taking his tomb as the tomb of Simon Peter. (But I digress.)

    Gnosticism? There but from the grace of God I could’ve easily gone. My temperament is a lot like Clement of Alexandria’s appears to be. From my late teens onward, I would’ve become a thoroughgoing New Ager, or worse, what C.S. Lewis called a “materialist magician”, had not the Eternal hit me between the eyes with a solid iridium 2-by-4 to get my attention. And every day, whether in a large way or in a small way, I thank Him that He did.

  14. Wow! Thank you for posting this article. You provide such well-founded arguments, this should be required reading for anyone tempted to dabble in this stuff. “True servants of God do not need the testimony of demons or demon-inspired prophecy. God’s word can stand on its own just fine,” says it all.

  15. Pingback: You Can’t Out-Surprise Captain Howdy | Conscript's Registry

  16. Thank you, Brownie, for the encouraging words! That couple of sentences you highlighted seem to me, too, to summarize a great deal of the truth on this. I actually heard someone (not in the our Church, I should say) try to imply that Christians needed to delve into demonic prophecy in order to learn the devil’s plans and counter them/preach against them/etc., and I thought to myself, “What a demonic argument!” Ironic, isn’t it? Just like the devil to convince someone that we “need” his prophecies — as if God is powerless to inspire and guide us without our choosing to dirty ourselves with the occult, the demonic, the diviners, and the apostate. Describing it as vomitous doesn’t do it justice. Demonic or diabolic seems the only sufficient description I can come up with. And concerning anyone who were to forcefully make such a hideous argument–that we should delve deeply into potentially demon-inspired prophecies to dig out details God has not otherwise revealed about the future and about details of the devil’s plans–I would say that such a person should be expected to be heavily deceived and self-deceived… Subtly, perhaps, but thoroughly and deeply. I would not trust a word that comes from his or her mouth, pen, or keyboard. As Peter said to Simon Magus, “I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

    Sorry to go on! 🙂 Thanks again for your encouraging words.

  17. This is an excellent post you have given us, Mr. Smith – I wish everyone in the Church of God would read it.

    I actually like the length of the post. I don’t know what I would want cut out. Sometimes the same point is repeated in different words, but that is a good form of reinforcement and education. If someone doesn’t get your point the first time, he may get it the second time when you word it differently. And the reader who will benefit most from this is not the one, like you or I or the majority of your readers, who agrees, but the one who disagrees, and may therefore need a little repetition to see the light. After all, how often does God repeat the same points in the Bible, but in different words, or even the same words? How often does God tell us to trust Him, to obey Him? Good job.

    This post can help serve as a warning for those inclined to “wallow”, as you put it, in non-biblical prophecies, and this post can be seen as your obedience to God’s instructions to warn the wicked of his way, as God talks about in Ezekiel chapters 3 and 33. If those who practice seeking and teaching pagan prophecies continue to do so, their blood will not be on your head.

  18. len

    I cannot help but agree with you entirely. I must add that prophecies in the book of revelation have already occurred. Therefore, prophecy is not necessary…only discernment….The exact date that the two witnesses were killed is 11/16/2005…..If you go to ch 13 rev.: that 1260 day period ended at exactly 04/30/2009. Please do some research on the Iraq war using these dates and consider a different view of the two witnesses. Hint: Pope Francis recently said the god of this world is money…..In addition God himself tells us he creates the good and the evil.

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