In the Church
seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them,
saying, 'Thus saith the Lord GOD,'
when the LORD hath not spoken.” (Ezekiel 22:28)
Divination was expressly forbidden in the Old Testament. It was included on a list of serious occult practices that were to be avoided:
(Deuteronomy 18:10, 14)
Despite the prohibition the Israelites practiced this occult art, especially in the context of other idolatries, and it is one of the sins that caused God’s judgment to fall upon their land:
(2 Kings 17:17)
The prophet Jeremiah warned about “prophets [who] prophesy lies in My name… a false vision and divination” (Jer. 14:14). Jeremiah warned that idolatry was deceitful, wicked, vanity and folly. He said the people were guilty of walking “after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim” (Jer. 9:14). Baalam’s sin? Divination (Numb. 22:7, Josh. 13:22, etc.). Ezekiel spoke of the prevalence of “lying divination” (13:6,7) and “false divination” (21:23; see also 22:28).
In the New Testament the apostles encountered “a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination” who “brought her masters much gain by soothsaying,” indicating that divination can be a very profitable enterprise (Acts 16:16). The ancient Romans practiced a form of augury, examining flights of birds and the entrails of sacrificed animals, in order to ascertain their future fate. They also tracked omens, strange births, unusual natural phenomena, shooting stars in the sky, etc. Plutarch’s Lives, a historical account of many ancient Greek and Roman warriors, described how many battles were waged based on generals divining the “signs.” (See an example of this in Ezekiel 21:21.)
The ancient Greeks relied upon their oracles, most notably the Oracle at Delphi, which delivered obscure predictions about future events. These murky “prophecies” were believed to be inspired by the gods. Hence there is a strong correlation between divination and the gods of idolatry (and astrology). Any failure of a prophecy to come to pass was blamed on misinterpretation of the hearer, not the priestess who delivered the oracle.
Occult encyclopedias say divination is any method of finding out what will happen in the future. These methods can include Tarot, Runes, I Ching, fortune-telling, horoscopes (astrology), palmistry, reading tea leaves, etc. In our modern-day world many of these old forms of divination still exist, and some have been revived as the New Age Movement has risen in influence.
There has also been a notable increase in various forms of “divination” coming into the church. Much of what passes today for “prophecy” is, in fact, divination. So how can one tell the difference?
Divination is reliance upon reading “signs” in order to ascertain the future. But God’s Word has already told us everything we need to know about the future. Christians are in danger of putting too much stock in trying to read the “signs.” In fact, in the New Testament there are stern warnings about looking for “signs.” Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees that “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 16:4)
Ironically, a true sign of the endtimes is an increase in believing false “signs and wonders” and following “false prophets.” This will become such a severe deception that it could “seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22). 2Thessalonians 2:9 warns of the coming Antichrist, “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.”
It is true that there will be signs in the heavens – drastic and dreadful signs at the very end of this age – that will be unmistakable in their indication of God’s imminent judgment. According to Scripture, the entire earth will be engulfed in a fiery chaos. Peter wrote:
If you knew for certain that tomorrow the sun would turn to darkness and the moon to blood, wouldn’t you want to spend your remaining hours pleading with and warning your family and friends to accept Jesus as their Savior? Yet there is no certain day or date given in Scripture: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13; see also Rev. 3:10). Therefore, we are to live as though every day were our last. And not waste time trying to read (divine) the “signs” when we already know that “the hour is coming” (John 5:25). Jesus repeatedly told us, “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20).
Here is one way to sort out the truth. False prophets base their false prophecies on reading (divining) spiritual-sounding “signs.” If their teaching makes you fearful and scared, it indicates the error of divination. Note that producing fear can be quite a lucrative business. But Jeremiah warned the Israelites that the idolatrous practice of reading “signs” in the skies can provoke fear, and not to fall victim to it: “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them” (Jer. 10:2).
What should be feared? Jeremiah wrote:
Peter, after describing the terrible day of the Lord in 2Peter 3:11, calmly assures believers to have no fear but rather hope. We who “look for such things” should be even more diligent in making sure that we are living holy and godly lives:
This article has been adapted from the published version in the most recent March/April/May edition of the Discernment Newsletter. For further reading see the following previous posts:
False Profits & False Prophets
That Wicked Be Revealed