Christian Prophets Are on the Rise. What Happens When They’re Wrong?
They are stars within one of the fastest-growing corners of American Christianity. Now, their movement is in crisis.
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Jeremiah Johnson, a 33-year-old self-described prophet, was one of the few evangelical Christians who took Donald J. Trump’s political future seriously back in 2015.
This track record created a loyal audience of hundreds of thousands of people who follow him on social media and hang on his predictions about such topics as the coronavirus pandemic, the makeup of the Supreme Court, and the possibility of spiritual revival in America. And they took comfort ahead of the presidential election last fall when Mr. Johnson shared a prophetic dream of Mr. Trump stumbling while running the Boston Marathon, until two frail older women emerged from the crowd to help him over the finish line.
So when Joseph R. Biden Jr. was certified as the winner of the election, Mr. Johnson had to admit he had let his followers down.
“I was wrong, I am deeply sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness,” he wrote in a detailed letter he posted online. “I would like to repent for inaccurately prophesying that Donald Trump would win a second term as the President of the United States.”
The desire to divine the future is a venerable one, fueling faith in figures from ancient Greek oracles to modern astrologists. Christianity in particular is a religion whose foundational text is filled with prophecies proven true by the end of the book. Whether the gift of prophecy continues into the present day has long been the subject of intense theological debate. But in recent years, self-described prophets have proliferated across the country, accelerating in stature over the course of the Trump era. They are stars within what is now one of the fastest-growing corners of Christianity: a loose but fervent movement led by hundreds of people who believe they can channel supernatural powers — and have special spiritual insights into world events.
Many are independent evangelists who do not lead churches or other institutions. They operate primarily online and through appearances at conferences or as guest speakers in churches, making money through book sales, donations and speaking fees. And they are part of the rising appeal of conspiracy theories in Christian settings, echoed by the popularity of QAnon among many evangelicals and a resistance to mainstream sources of information.
The prophetic imagination roams far beyond national politics. It follows the Super Bowl and the weather; it analyzes events in pop culture, like Kanye West’s recent turn toward evangelism, and global events, including a particular fascination with Israel. Many prophets caution followers against trusting what they read in the news, but in its place they offer a kind of alternative news cycle, refracting and interpreting events in the real world through a supernatural lens.
“In my lifetime — 49 years as a follower of Jesus — I’ve never seen this level of interest in prophecy,” said Michael Brown, an evangelical radio host and commentator, who believes in prophecy but has called for greater accountability when prophecies prove false. “And it’s unfortunate, because it’s an embarrassment to the movement.”
The past year has been riddled with prophecies that did not pan out. As the coronavirus swept the United States in the spring, several prophets issued public assurances that it would decline by Passover; Cindy Jacobs, one of the most influential American prophets, led a global day of prayer to “contain” the virus in March. And by the fall, so many prominent prophets had incorrectly predicted the re-election of Mr. Trump that the apologies and recriminations now constitute a crisis within the movement.
The backlash to Mr. Johnson’s apology was immediate. On Facebook, he reported that he received “multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry.” He also said he had lost funding from donors who accused him of being “a coward, sellout, and traitor to the Holy Spirit.”
But the popularity of self-appointed prophets shows no signs of waning.
As denominational Christianity declines almost across the board, magnetic independent leaders have stepped into the void. “There’s this idea that you can’t trust anybody except these trusted individuals,” said Brad Christerson, a sociologist at evangelical Biola University. “It’s a symptom of our time. People don’t trust institutions, and people think that all mainstream institutions are corrupt: universities, science, government, the media. They’re searching for real sources of truth.”
The result is that many congregations are awash in misinformation. Almost half of Protestant pastors frequently hear members of their congregations repeating conspiracy theories about current events, according to a survey released last month by Lifeway Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Prophecy is a facet of the fast-growing charismatic Christian movement, which has an estimated half-billion followers worldwide and is characterized in part by the belief that the “gifts of the spirit,” which also include speaking in tongues and supernatural healing, continue into the present day, rather than being an artifact of biblical times.
Mr. Trump supercharged the public profile of this already ascendant stream of Christian culture. His evangelical advisory council included unprecedented numbers of charismatic leaders, including his primary faith adviser, Paula White, a charismatic pastor and televangelist. A few weeks before the 2020 election, he attended services for the third time at a “healing, prophetic” megachurch in Las Vegas, where speakers shared predictions and visions about his second term, to applause from Mr. Trump and the congregation. (The charismatic movement over all is notably multiracial, although the most successful politically oriented prophets of the Trump era were white and appealed to an audience that resembled Mr. Trump’s base.)
Christian prophets are meeting a hunger for reassurance and clarity that can be observed in other corners of American culture. Astrology is exploding in popularity. More than 40 percent of Americans believe in psychics, according to Pew.
Prophecy, similarly, is not only a predictive tool, but an analytical lens for making sense of the past and current events. The most successful prophets can connect seemingly disparate pieces of data in a grand narrative, adding new layers of interpretation as events unfold and inviting others to contribute.
In Crystal River, Fla., Scott Wallis had read Mr. Johnson’s prophecies on Facebook and was encouraged by them. He trusted Mr. Johnson in part, he said, because of two recent prophecies that had proven true, including one about the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series. (Mr. Johnson reported the prophecy two days before the team clinched the championship.)
For Mr. Wallis, a pastor and prophet himself, it made perfect sense that God would be involved in the outcome of the American election, just as he is involved in every human life. “Some people, like deists, believe God created the earth but abandoned the people and left them alone,” Mr. Wallis said. “I don’t believe that.” When a friend prophesied to him in 2014 that he would soon marry, he did not even have a girlfriend, but he was married by the end of the year.
The internet has made it much easier for prophets to disseminate their visions, with many more outlets at their disposal: social media, podcasts, books and a traditional media ecosystem that remains largely under the radar even to many other evangelicals. An appearance on “It’s Supernatural!,” an interview show hosted by the octogenarian televangelist Sid Roth, can be career-making for prophets. So can an endorsement from the venerable Elijah List newsletter, which claims 240,000 subscribers. Charisma magazine and the Christian Broadcasting Network both cover prophetic predictions as news.
Jennifer Eivaz, who calls herself “the Praying Prophet,” realized in college that she could hear God’s voice in a way she could “prove out.” When she and her husband started to lead a church in Central California, she would have dreams and receive specific information about people who attended. She was careful not to scare people, she said, often opting to check in with them rather than launch into specific predictions or insights into their lives.
She also started recording training videos on prayer and prophecy, which caught the eye of Steve Shultz, who had founded The Elijah List and invited her to contribute. As her profile rose, she became an internationally sought-after conference speaker at events with names like the Inner Healing and Deliverance Institute and the Prophetic Wisdom & Prayer conference, where believers pay to gather for music, prophecy and inspiration.
Ms. Eivaz occasionally offers public prophecies about national or international events. In May 2015, she announced that the yearslong drought in California was over and that “the rains are coming back.” The message tied together the biblical prophet Elijah’s experience on Mount Carmel; Ms. Eivaz’s recent trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.; a vision of a mother bear fighting for her cubs; the California state flag; and Gov. Gavin Newsom. (The drought did not formally end until 2017, although the state experienced unusually high rainfall over the summer of 2015.)
But those kinds of visions come to her only once every year or two, she said. She has watched with alarm as predictive prophecies like these have come to dominate the prophetic movement. “It’s like fact-shopping,” she said, adding that social media rewards “buzz and sensationalism” over wisdom, and pressures independent prophets especially to churn out fresh predictions every few days.
Mike Killion, who was a charter-bus driver in North Carolina until the pandemic dried up his business, pays attention to what he calls “synchronicities,” and others might call coincidences. He believes God is intimately involved in world events, and closely attuned to the prayers of his people.
If Mr. Killion’s phone is on the table and he mentions wanting to go on a cruise, for example, the phone “hears” him and starts offering advertisements for cruises, he said. “God works the same way,” he explained. “He’s listening to everything you say.”
Prophets are not always right about every prediction, Mr. Killion said, and they are certainly not always right immediately. “There’s this idea that prophets have to be right all the time, and have to be right next week,” said Mr. Killion, “when there are prophets in the Bible who had prophecies who weren’t fulfilled in their lifetimes.”
Mr. Killion scoffed at Mr. Johnson for walking back his prophecy about Mr. Trump’s 2020 victory. “Jeremiah Johnson should have kept his mouth shut,” he said a few days before Mr. Biden’s inauguration. “It still may happen.”
Mr. Johnson, for his part, appears to remain chastened. This week, he began a new YouTube series titled “I Was Wrong,” in which he plans to survey what the prophetic movement is, and where, in his view, it has gone awry.
In the first installment, he reviewed some of his past prophecies about politics and national events, and picked apart how he had erred in 2020. “Not everything that God speaks to us privately should have been public knowledge,” he said somberly. “I got caught up in the moment.” He spoke about his hope for “reformation,” and his concerns about God’s judgment to come. And in future episodes of the series, he promised, he will share what God is showing him about what comes next.
Bible prophecy clearly reveals that in the last days prior to the rapture of the church, four powerful kings will race onto the world stage with two objectives.
1. To conquer the world, and to reign as global dictators. These dictators will strip you of your freedoms. They will take your civil liberties, and you will become property and slaves of the state.
2. To conquer Israel and destroy the Jewish people. Their desire is to control the city of Jerusalem and prepare for the anointing of the false Messiah.
Israel is currently surrounded by nations that are screaming for their blood. Anti-Semitism is raging through Europe and the United States, often celebrated in liberal universities among our young people. Jews are being targeted around the world for assassination, and their synagogues are being vandalized as worshippers are being killed. It is a sickening sight to be sure!
This massive prophetic, geopolitical drama is unraveling across the front pages of your news feed each day. The Gog/Magog War mentioned in Ezekiel 38-39 has begun!
This war is the beginning of a series of wars that will engulf the world in what many will call World War III. The Bible calls it Armageddon. You don’t need to be a geopolitical expert to know that our world is coming apart at the seams. We are racing toward the end of the world as we know it.
Revelation 13 describes the beast rising out of the sea.
In prophetic terms, “the sea” means the nations of the world. John is telling us that he is looking at the nations of the world. John is pulling back the curtain of time to reveal the pending apocalypse. This is something that was foretold over 2,000 years ago and is now coming true in our lifetime!
The four kings mentioned in Revelation are, right now, taking center stage for the first time in world history.
The King of the North is Russia. Although the name Russia doesn’t appear in Scripture, the geographic location is given in the Bible to pinpoint accuracy. I have given you all of the details for this final showdown, walking you through both history and Scripture in my latest book “Earth’s Last Empire.”
Vladimir Putin is currently trying to rebuild the Russian Empire. With it, he thinks he can conquer the world. They have certainly started working on this with their far- reaching military encampments.
The King of the South is Egypt and the Arab Islamic forces. Keep in mind that all directions given in the Bible are with regard to the city of Jerusalem. In God’s mind, Jerusalem is the epicenter of the universe. When Ezekiel speaks of Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya, he’s speaking of the Arab Islamic nations.
The King of the East is China, a military superpower that neither fears nor respects the U.S. The Bible’s word for “east” simply means “sun rising.” This lets us know that it is describing China. This king, as described in Revelation, will lead a massive march of an army numbering over 200 million soldiers.
The King of the East is distinguished by his number, color, and flag. The three frogs or three demonic spirits that seduce him will get them to come to the Battle of Armageddon. Armageddon is the mother of all wars.
It will be fought on the sacred soil of Israel for global supremacy between the King of the West and the King of the East. The pending prize is the throne of the earth, to rule and reign.
The King of the West is America and the United Kingdom. This king will be led by the antichrist, who will force every person to receive his mark on their right hand or forehead. Those who do not comply will be decapitated.
The target of the King of the West is Israel. He will set up his image and proclaim that he is god in the city of Jerusalem. The antichrist will demand that the world worship him. His false prophet will call fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice laid upon the altar, emulating the Prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel.
These kings who are currently jockeying for position throughout the globe will come face-to-face with the King of kings and Lord of lords in all of His glory. Our God is the Creator of the Universe and promised to rule and reign for all eternity! He has all power in heaven and on earth. He holds the seven seas in the palm of His hand and He calls the stars by name. Who is greater than our God? Absolutely no one!
As a believer in Jesus, all you need to know is... OUR SAVIOR WILL NOT BE DEFEATED BY ANY ARMY OR ANY KING.
Only HE can dictate the future of Jerusalem. And only HE can forgive you of your sin and save you for all eternity.
While this is a very real picture of the future of our world, as described throughout the Scripture, those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior are going to be raptured. We live with the confidence that in HIS Kingdom, there shall be no end. Are you ready?
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Each Friday this month we have tied the “signs” Jesus gave to us in Matthew 24, to documented recent history and current events. I want to share three more prophecies from the Scriptures.
First, Daniel 12:4 “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Because of huge advances in technology in this past century, there is more running to and from than ever. (Just prior to the COVID-19 virus), from the International Civil Aviation Organization – annual passenger travel totals by airplane were at approximately 3 billion. Today we can travel to anywhere in the world within hours. There are now over 1.4 billion cars running the roads worldwide.
Knowledge has also increased greatly within recent history. Almost every discovery and advancement in medicine, communication, and invention we use today, has been accomplished since the 20th century. At present there are approximately 25,000 research institutes and universities in the world. Never has the world been more educated.
Another prophecy of our times is in II Timothy 4:1-4… “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (wanting to hear only gratifying words of affirmation, rather than the truth which would convict them for their sin). We find this liberal message in many once-Christian Universities, and even so-called churches today. And tied to this is II Thessalonians 2:1-12…”that day shall not come, except there be a falling away first…”
I’ve lived more than a half century, and I have seen an avalanche of moral decline in this nation. America is falling away from God! Even many of those calling themselves Christians are living in so much sin that you can tell no difference between them and the unbelieving. Church attendance and Bible study in America has also dropped drastically in the past decades. According to Barna Group, as of 2019, prior to COVID, less than 30% of American’s attend church. Just 26 years prior it was at 48%. The surveys also showed there has been a consistent decline for the past 19 years, with presently only 1 out of 4 Americans practicing Christianity. Wikipedia has documentation of “a falling away” in Christianity in Europe, and other countries too.
Has anyone been taking notice of the unnatural events in Nature this year?
The Western part of our country is on fire, record-breaking hurricanes, flooding, drought, tornadoes. Psalm 148:8 says, “Fire, and hail; snow, and vapors; stormy wind fulfilling His word.” And also, Nahum 1:3, “…the Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm.” I truly believe God is calling our nation, and the world, to repent and to turn to Him.
Consider the culmination of all these “signs” plainly evident in our lives today. To recap false christs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilence (diseases), earthquakes, persecuted christians, abundant sin and “cold” hearted crimes against our fellow man, this Gospel of Jesus preached throughout the world, Israel reborn as a nation again after 1,900 years, and millions of Jews coming home, many running to and from, an increase in knowledge, and a falling away from Christ.
When you look at recorded history, solid facts and figures, and visible proof in the world’s current events right now in our lifetime, it is only rational that the Word of God is truth.
Some 2,000 years ago Jesus gave us several specific events that would come to pass in our generation today, and they are actually happening and verifiable, and fulfilled exactly as He foretold. Shouldn’t that convince you that Jesus’ word is absolute truth?
And this is what He said about Himself in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me.” I myself believe and am sure, with every fiber of my being, that He is the Christ, the Son of God. I hope you are “fully persuaded” in your faith in Him. Make Him your rock, and your salvation, now, before He returns for His church; then that Great Tribulation begins. Acts 2:21 states “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Pray the prayer!
George Randall Jr. is the minister to youth at Rocky Ford Christian Church in Cana, Virginia.
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