Since the Bible teaches both these realities, we can’t automatically assume that someone who does a supernatural feat in the name of Jesus is from God.
The only sure test we have for these people is their teaching. What teachings accompany their ministries? Are they sound teachings that come from the Bible? Or are they unbiblical teachings that have another source?
The Bible gives us this test in Deuteronomy 13:1-5, where it says that if a prophet gives an accurate prophecy or performs a miracle, but he encourages his followers to worship another God, then he is a false prophet. The apostle John tells us that there are many false prophets, so we must test their teachings (1 John 4:1-3). We are also told in Matthew 7:21-23 that many people will not enter heaven — even though they called Jesus “Lord” and cast out demons, prophesied and performed many miracles in Jesus’ name. In Revelation 13:11-15 and 19:20, we are told that, in the end times, the False Prophet will perform mighty miracles that will deceive many people into following the Antichrist.
So, now, let’s apply this test to some of the “prophets” in the apostolic-prophetic movement. How about Chuck Pierce (pictured here)? I chose him because he is a key player in movement. Pierce is the vice president of Global Harvest Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colo. (C. Peter Wagner’s organization), and he’s the president of Glory of Zion International Ministries in Denton, Texas (both are apostolic-prophetic ministries). He’s also on the executive boards of the International Coalition of Apostles (a network for apostles) and the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders (a network for prophets).
Pierce claims to be a prophet. According to his Glory of Zion Web site, he is “known for his accurate prophetic gifting which helps direct nations, cities, churches and individuals in understanding the times and seasons we live in.” The book Understanding the Fivefold Ministry (Charisma House, 2005) — endorsed by Jack Hayford — holds up Pierce as a true prophet of God and states that he accurately prophesied Saddam Hussein’s capture a week before he was captured.
Right now, we won’t focus on the fact that Pierce, himself, has admitted that he has given inaccurate prophecies in the past (which would disqualify him as a true prophet of God, according to Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Instead, we will focus on his teachings. When we do, we will discover that his ministry is built on the promotion of teachings that have no basis in the Bible and that contradict the Bible. Let’s briefly consider some of those teachings.
First, let’s look at his ministry’s doctrinal statement on his Web site. Notice how it doesn’t even address essential Christian teachings, like the Trinity and Jesus’ death and resurrection. Of course — from this sparse doctrinal statement — we can’t conclude that he doesn’t believe in these essential doctrines. But we can see that he doesn’t seem to emphasize them. One may rightly wonder why doctrines that are so crucial aren’t included here?
Side note: I am sometimes contacted by people who want to know if so-and-so is a false prophet. The first thing I often do when researching Christian teachers is look at their ministries’ doctrinal statements. If they don’t affirm essential Christian doctrines, then there may be cause for concern. However, even if their doctrinal statements are orthodox, that doesn’t necessarily mean the teachers are. I’ve found that many false teachers have orthodox doctrinal statements, but what they teach at their conferences and write in their books is anything but orthodox.
Now, let’s go to a second step in evaluating Chuck Pierce’s claim to be a prophet. Let’s look at his writings. In his book The Future War of the Church (Regal Books, 2001), Pierce claims God gave him a vision of the end times that shows that God is establishing a new government for the church. This government is led by apostles (with great authority) and prophets (with new revelation). Their goal is to form an end-times army to establish God’s kingdom on earth before Christ returns. Pierce compares the current church to a prison that Christians need to be freed from (and the church leaders, by implication, are compared to prison wards). He says, soon, all church leaders will have to submit to these new apostles and prophets.
Pierce’s teachings are consistent with those of the apostolic-prophetic movement and the Latter Rain movement of the 1940s (which was declared heretical by most evangelicals). In his book, Pierce directly ties his teachings to the apostolic-prophetic movement, stating on page 35: “I have come to believe that this new Church structure, the Church of the Future, is what C. Peter Wagner has termed the New Apostolic Reformation” (another name for the movement). Interestingly, this book is endorsed on the back cover by Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals — yet, Haggard denied any involvement in the movement during a 2005 radio interview aired on “Issues, Etc.” in St. Louis, Mo. Listen to the interview here (at the end of the interview). Windows Media Version or MP3 audio
Yet, nowhere in the Bible do we see a great end-times army led by apostles and prophets with unquestioned authority and new revelation. In fact, we are warned about false teachers who seek to take the place of the original apostles and lord it over us (Galatians 4:17). We are also told to test all teachings by comparing them to the teachings of the original prophets and apostles as recorded in the Bible (2 Peter 1:19, 3:2 and 2 Timothy 1:13, 3:14-17). If their teachings deviate, then we are told to reject them. We are also told that Scripture contains everything we need to lead the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Furthermore, the Bible teaches in Revelation (and in other prophetic passages) that Christ must return to earth to establish His kingdom Himself. Christians won’t establish it before He returns.
All Pierce’s teachings add up to significant departures from orthodox Christianity. Yet, Pierce has dedicated his ministry to them. Similarly to the founders of Christian cults — like Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism — Pierce argues that Scripture is not sufficient for us, but that we need new doctrinal revelation from new prophets (like himself) for victory in these last days.
So, if Pierce gives a prophecy that is fulfilled, then does that make him a true prophet? No.
Other people who claim to be prophets — or miracle workers or whatever — can be tested in the same way.