How to Recognize When a False Prophet is Producing Thorns and Thistles

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How to Recognize When a False Prophet is Producing Thorns and Thistles

In the last chapter, we discussed the fruit of a true prophet, which would be restoration and blessing (grapes) as well as repentance and evidence of righteousness (figs). This is the “fruit” that should nourish those who seek out the ministry of a prophet. Now we’re going to discuss the bad fruit that people receive when they interact with a false prophet. This goes way beyond the “surface-level” idolatry, sexual immorality and greed that you see in today’s charismatic circles.

Like the grapes and figs, thorns and thistles have a much deeper meaning.

Thorns & Thistles Work Together

Unlike the grape and the fig, thorns and thistles are a little more difficult to assign individual symbolism to. After all, they are almost the same in their characteristics and appearance. Rather, we see in the Scripture that they work together as a team to accomplish the same purpose – to choke the Word planted in your heart. really hits the nail on the head with this commentary on thorns and thistles:

Many thorny plants, nettles, brambles and thistles are considered to be weeds. These are usually the first invaders of broken-up or abandoned (fallow) soil. We know the reason for this is because many of these plants are the product of cursed ground (Genesis 3). Weeds have the ability to grow in harsh conditions and have abundant seeds with well-engineered dispersal mechanisms for populating open areas. Weeds will steal the essential nutrients from the soil the intended crop requires. By definition, weeds overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.[1]

This is a very rich chunk of text with several points worthy of their own study, but time and space prevent me from commenting on each one. The first thing that stood out to me is that thorns and thistles are a product of cursed ground. This is backed up by the Word of God.

Genesis 3:17-18
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.”

This is a vital point to understand about the words and ministry of a false prophet.

Many people write to me, saying “Prophet so-and-so may have started out with his/her heart in the right place, but then they were lured away because of the money/fame/etc.” As much as I wish that were true, I have to disagree. You see, soil will produce fruit from whatever seeds are planted in it – all you have to do is add a little water.

Matthew 7:17-18
Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

If we take this analogy further, it would be only logical to assume that a bad tree comes from a bad seed and a good tree comes from a good seed, or “like-begets-like.”

Of course, there is always room for repentance, where you can allow God to destroy the bad tree and uproot the evil seed, but unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the norm. Nobody wants to face (or admit) that their entire ministry is based on lies and deception.

That would definitely be a bitter pill to swallow.

Let’s go back to thorns and thistles.

Thistles Damage the Growth of the Word

Other than its destructive partnership with thorns, the Word doesn’t have a lot to say about thistles. The word “thistle” comes from the Greek word “tribolos” [G5146] which, according to the Strong’s definition means “a thistle, a prickly wild plant, hurtful to other plants.”[2]

What caught my attention right away with this definition is that a thistle is harmful to other plants. Thistles will damage any growth that you may have as a result of the seed of the Word being planted in your heart.

“Tribolos” is a combination of the words “treis” [G5140 – three][3] and “belos” [G956 – missile, dart, arrow].[4] When you research further into the root of “belos,” you find that it is derived from the primary word “ballo” [G906].[5]

According to Strong’s Concordance, the primary definition of “ballo” is “to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls.” I believe that this has become the standard in the modern day prophetic movement. With the way that prophetic words are spoken, prophetic ministers are trained and prophetic ministry is executed, the evidence of thistles is there – in abundance. Perhaps it has something to do with the “three arrows/darts” in the main definition? I’m not sure.

Let’s discuss the thistle”s “partner in crime” – the thorn – this is where things get deeper.

Thorns Choke the Word

The “Parable of the Sower” (see Mark 4:1-20) is a very important parable to understand. Yeshua Himself said that if you can’t understand this parable, then you won’t be able to understand any of His parables! This includes parables about the End Times, the Kingdom of Heaven, etc.!

Mark 4:13
And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”

If the fruit of false prophets is associated with thorns and thistles, then the primary consequence of listening to them, and partaking of their teaching/prophecy/ministry, will be the choking of God’s Word in your life, and YOU WILL YIELD NO CROP. We see this stated in the “Parable of the Sower.”

Mark 4:7
And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. (Also see Matthew 13:7 and Luke 8:7.)

We know that the seed is the Word of God (Mark 4:14). The seed of the fruit of the false prophet, when it enters the soil of your heart, “chokes” the seed of the Word, leaving you distracted, confused and unfruitful.

So, how does the fruit of a false prophet choke the Word of God in your life? Let’s look at this key verse first:

Mark 4:18-19
Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (also see Matthew 13:22, Luke 8:14)

The false prophet will shift your focus away from hearing the pure Word of God through their false teachings and prophecies. Look at (or listen to) any of the prophecies from today’s big name prophets and you will find the focus shifted from the Word of God to any of the following distractions.

The Cares of This World

When we think of “the cares of this world,” we usually think of worries, troubles and hardships that could distract us from our focus on the Word. I don’t necessarily think this is a wrong way to view this portion of Scripture, but I do think that it is a very narrow view.

Let’s look a little more closely and try to get a more complete picture of what Yeshua was trying to say.

How would the modern day false prophets choke the Word by using “the cares of this world,” as they are defined above? At first glance, with all the focus on creativity, feathers, gold dust and angels, it hardly seems a close match.

I was trying to find a good way to answer this question when I stumbled upon the following quote from a “word” the Elijah List put out in 2014. I have to say, the timing was perfect!

When God begins to speak of the future… that is, when God prophesies to us, the devil is right there trying to give us “his own prophecies”. The devil’s prophecies are always a bold “in-your-face lie”. The devil attempts to convince us that God is telling us dreadful things await us.[6]

This perfectly demonstrates how a false prophet (and a false prophecy) will use the “cares of this world” to shift your focus away from the Word – by assuring you that God would NEVER say anything negative to you. In fact, the false prophet assures you that any “negative” you hear must be from the devil!!

What does that have to do with the “cares of this life?” I’ll tell you.

This flies in the face of Scripture that says people WILL experience tribulation in the End Times, and that there ARE consequences of sin (both national and individual). When you constantly read false prophecies like this, you will grow accustomed to tuning out the Holy Spirit’s voice when He convicts you of sin (John 16:8) and warns you of things to come on this earth.

You will even attribute it to the devil.

After all, the false prophet’s reassuring message (“Hey, everything is gonna be alright! Be at peace! God has nothing but GOOD things for you!”) is so much easier to swallow!

But Jeremiah, a true prophet, says:

Jeremiah 6:13-14
Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, “Peace, peace!” when there is no peace.

The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day would always preach peace instead of repentance.

Obviously, not much has changed. Steve Shultz even supports this false message in his intro to the article:

In this word from the Lord, Sandie (Freed) speaks of the wonderful things God has planned and then she gives a warning about a lying spirit that is called ‘A foreboding spirit.’ This is that same spirit from the devil with a special mission – to lie and bring fear about the future. Ignore any spirit or flooding of thoughts that suggests God is not bringing good to His people in this 2014 year.[7]

Can you see the obfuscation and outright lies that are being promoted here? In order to steer you away from truth of the Word, you are being told to ignore anything that contradicts their “Word of the Day” because, according to the false prophet, it’s either “fear” or “a lie.”

Lamentations 2:14
Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not uncovered your iniquity, to bring back your captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.

Jeremiah 14:13-14
Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’
And the LORD said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.

Rather than uncover your iniquity, a false prophet will prophesy to you false prophecies that comfort your flesh, but come straight out of the pit. One of these delusions is that God’s people will have nothing but good, nothing but peace and safety!

Tell that to Peter, Paul, and John. Tell that to the believers in China and North Korea. They would laugh in your face… or weep at your gullibility.

So Then What is the Role of a True Prophet?

Jeremiah 23:21-22
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.

It’s really quite simple. The role of a true prophet is to cause you to hear God’s words (see Jeremiah 6:10, Acts 7:51 to read more on uncircumcised ears) and to turn you from your evil way (by following God’s ways)… always. Any other focus is just “thorns and thistles.”

Ahhhh, yes… let’s get back to thorns and thistles.

How does the message of the false prophet “choke the Word” like a thorn or thistle and cause you to be enslaved to “the cares of this world?”

Understand this: if you are not warned of any danger, you will not prepare (spiritually or otherwise) for it. If you are not admonished for your sin, you will grow complacent and justify your own ways.

Just like the false prophets of old, the modern day false prophets will spoon feed you soft, comforting words, gradually lulling you to sleep. The flowery false prophecies that comfort your flesh leave you convinced that you are “setting your mind on things above” as you go about your daily routine.

But the truth is that you are consumed with the “cares of this life,” and are dictating to the Holy Spirit what He can and cannot say to you.

This is sin.

And the false prophets don’t really care. The truth is, they would rather keep you happy and deluded than consecrated and righteous.

What About the Deceitfulness of Riches?

Most of us who have been watching the prophetic and prosperity movements (both known for their false prophets) would think, “Oh, this is easy!” Along with the blatant charlatanism, the buying, selling and the resulting excess should make it obvious to everyone. The only ones who don’t seem to notice are the ones benefiting from it.

So how do false prophets (and false prophecy) choke the Word in your life with the deceitfulness of riches?

Here is what happens. The false prophets will bring you a one-sided message, telling you that God wants to make you RICH and help you walk in ABUNDANCE. They will quote Scriptures such as:

Philippians 4:19
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

…but will conveniently leave out verses like:

Proverbs 11:4
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:28
He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage.
Proverbs 22:4
By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.
Proverbs 23:5
Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.

Now, in case I gave you the wrong impression, I’m not against walking in abundance and prosperity. There is nothing wrong with money and riches – it’s the LOVE of money that is “the root of all evil.” But unfortunately, we human beings are just too prone to this kind of covetousness.

Many will deny this – but many are liars!

Before you get offended, let me say that I fall into this category as well. The idea of never having to worry about finances is more than appealing to my flesh! Who in their right mind would NOT want to have the finances necessary to pay all their bills, plus get everything they ever wanted? It’s just the way fallen man is wired.

Paul’s letter to Timothy gives us some great instruction.

1 Timothy 6:9-12
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

What we cannot deny, no matter how hard we try, is that we ARE covetous, and live among covetous people. We want stuff that has no eternal value and soft, fluffy, deceptive prophecies appeal to that want.

So what are we to do with verses like Philippians 4:19 and 2 Corinthians 9:8 that, in theory, promise God’s “endless supply?”

I think a great place to start would be to analyze the epistles in their entirety to determine exactly what kind of “need” Paul was addressing in its proper context. Next, we should take a good, hard look at our actual needs and separate them from what we think we need. Once we do this, I believe our view of these promises will change drastically.

Prophecies of abundance and provision without the consideration of maturity, obedience and humility are a breeding ground for misplaced hopes and desires, turning the hearers’ ears and eyes away from the Word of God and robbing them of potential good fruit.

1 Timothy 6:17
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

The Desires For Other Things

I realize that, at first glance, it may appear that I have blended “the deceitfulness of riches” and “the desires for other things” together in the last section. And it makes sense. “Riches” and a strong desire for “stuff” often go hand-in-hand. I believe Jesus already knew that when He spoke the “Parable of the Sower.”

When I looked up “other things” in the Strong’s Concordance, I found that the Greek word used here, “loipos,” does not refer to stuff like “material possessions” or “women” or other things that we usually associate with the word “lust” (although I’m sure it COULD include the items mentioned). No, the definition is much more general.

We see that “loipos” means “the rest” of something, or “whatever is remaining.” If we fit this definition into the verse, it would read like this:

Mark 4:18-19
Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things less important than the Word (Seed) entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

This fruit is abundant in the prophetic movement. False prophets have an arsenal of diversionary goods to offer the hungry:

  • Beautiful music from skilled artists with melodic voices, using state-of-the-art instruments;
  • Eloquent messages from a variety of personalities – from tattooed “free spirits,” to kind and gentle old men;
  • Daily “Words from God” that seem to promise the most wonderful rewards to EVERYONE who will grasp them “in faith”;
  • A virtual cornucopia of teaching materials – books, CDs, mp3s, DVDs, videos… all at your fingertips!
  • Good, solid bible teaching? [sigh] Well… I guess you can’t win them all…

All of the above material is coupled with a focused emphasis on the following phenomena:

With all of that “loipos” (residue, other things), the seed of the Word infrequently, if ever, gets planted. On the rare occasion a seed ever DOES implant itself, the “loipos” quickly smothers it, rendering the hearer “unfruitful.”

Tying It All Together

In the last couple of chapters, we have discussed the fruit of false prophets and how they stand opposed to the fruit of the true prophet. Those who seek to partake in the ministry of a false prophet hear tales of (and are promised the rewards of) restoration and righteousness. What they are actually given is teaching and phenomena that may feel really good at first (I knew this feeling first-hand), but which actually robs them of the seed of the Word sown in their hearts, leaving them confused, barren and destitute.

To those who have devoted their lives to the dissemination of these “movements,” I would say:

Jeremiah 4:3b-4
Break up your fallow ground, and and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

And keep in mind, thorns pierced the brow of our Messiah.


[1] “Thorns and Thistles” (Source)
[2] Blueletter Bible definition of the word “tribolos” [G5146] (Source)
[3] Blueletter Bible definition of the word “treis” [G5140] (Source)
[4] Blueletter Bible definition of the word “belos” [G956] (Source)
[5] Blueletter Bible definition of the word “ballo” [G906] (Source)
[6], [7] Elijah List: “Sandie Freed: Prophesy to the Dry Bones: ‘The Time to Access the Unseen is NOW'” (Source)
[8] Blueletter Bible definition of the word “loipos” [G3062] (Source)
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4 replies on “How to Recognize When a False Prophet is Producing Thorns and Thistles”

  1. Oh that “good ole'” prosperity gospel, and that wonderful “feel good gospel”, is what they love to hear. There seem to be many itching ears this day and age. Just tell them what they want to hear, make it sound good, sweet, and soothing. They don’t wanna worry about anything do they? No, for goodness sakes, they shiver at the thoughts of that big bad Antichrist, or that awful horrible mark of the beast, or that nasty false prophet that performs miracles…Tell them they will escape all these things and they will show up week after week for more of the same.

    After all they don’t really want the TRUTH that will set them free, they just want to live their lives in peace and sleep at night.

    Good article Kevin…

  2. Your very lives are being dramatically affected by 3 torments called on this earth. (1) record disasters (2) unprecedented calamities (3) mind-numbing stupidity of various leaders and select individuals. After all torments , The Kingdom of Yahweh , SHALL reign on the earth. Like it or not.

  3. Yes Brother, and not to forget the Cross (of course not the ‘idol’ or ‘sign’ of it).
    Your mention of the thorn on Jesus’ head reminded me that the ‘cross’ is a vital part of a believer.

    To quote from a book by JTClarence :-
    The gospel workers of today are paid workers, working for their belly. But his servants are bond servants like clay in the hands of the potter. The bond servants have no ambitions, no rights, no desires, but their only desire is to work for His Kingdom and please the Master in every thing.
    Why can’t the present day gospel workers follow the Lord ? Because knowledge of Christ brings obedience to follow His footsteps. In short we can say ‘knowledge plus obedience brings abundant life.’ But our present day gospel workers believe that ‘abundant life’ is meant prosperity in this life.
    First of all the present day ministers of God ‘needs freedom from sin’ and this is the first promise which Lord brought to us. No sin can now have the mastery over us, if we live under His Grace (Rom 6:4), and abide in His Word (John 15:7; 5:38; Pslm 107:11; John 8:31), and walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:6,18). As priests under the New Covenant (1 Peter 2:9), we are called to offer sacrifices to God. In the Old Testament period, the bodies of animals were offered as sacrifice unto God, but today we offer our own bodies to God as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1). Today the Christians are afraid to sacrifice their bodies unto God, because they look for comforts in life. But God is interested in our character and wanted to make us a ‘new person’ in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). The supreme task of the church is to ‘Glorify God’ in this world. How Christ was glorified ? The same way we should be glorified, no other way (John 17:4; 4:34; 5:35; 19:30 ; Acts 20:24 ; 2 Tim 4:7). Those who have glorified God in their earthly life will “follow the Lamb”, wherever He went, even unto a violent physical death (Rev 14:4).
    The early apostles of God taught the disciples that they should go through many tribulations in order to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Whereas today, the teaching is that the Christians should not suffer but prosper and be wealthy and healthy in this world. But I wish to remind you all that “we should enter into fellowship with Christ in His sufferings first, before we can share His throne with Him in His kingdom (1Peter 2:21, Phil 1:29; Psalm 119:71). Salvation does not come in ‘easy way’ – one has to pay the price. Salvation is a process : Saved – being saved – and finally saved. Remember the words of Christ (Math 24:13). We must possess the ‘gift of salvation’ till the very end of life Rom 13:11).

  4. Catching up on my reading online and finally getting to these studies on false prophets. Thank you for these. They are very good. For years we had a pastor who admonished us all the time (not lulling us to sleep, so to speak). But he was constantly reprimanding us for ‘not entering into’ what ‘God had for us’ (manifest sons of God type of doctrines). It was so ‘high’ (and actually heretical) that it just left us constantly feeling as if following the Lord was beyond our reach. I have left this church and know better now. But we were not admonished to live our lives the way the scriptures taught. The simple, basic (very important things) were left out. Homes broke up, children went out into the world. The Lord is merciful to all those who seek Him and He has not left us completely (I remain friends with many). I think this study you are doing is great for His people. Thank you.

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