Everybody, it’s time to celebrate! A cure for COVID-19 has been found! Several days ago, prosperity gospel preacher Kenneth Copeland wanted us to know that he has used the power of God to defeat the virus. I’ll let him tell you in his own words (watch it here, starting around 29:00):
COVID-19 … (blowing/spitting) … I blow the wind of God on you. You are destroyed forever, and you’ll never be back.
Sounds great, except that COVID-19 is still here. Days after his pronouncement, it’s still killing thousands of people every day, including Christians. But wait, all hope is not lost! Copeland also practically spoke the vaccine into existence ex nihilo just a few days earlier:
In the name of Jesus, standing in the office of the prophet of God, I execute judgment on you, COVID-19! I execute judgment on you, Satan! You destroyer! You killer! You get out, you (mumbles) break your power, you get off this nation, I demand judgment on you! I demand, I demand, I demand a vaccination to come immediately! I call you done, I call you gone gone! … You will destroy through COVID-19 no more! It is finished! It is over! And the United States of America is healed and well again, saith the Mighty Spirit called Peace, who is also the Prince of War, the Lord Jesus Christ.
This quote came before he supposedly destroyed COVID-19 with the “wind of God” (which sounds like an awesome superpower in a video game). But here’s where I need a little clarification: if you can defeat COVID-19 with the breath of God, why do you need a vaccine? And since doctors still don’t have the vaccine yet—and probably won’t for at least several months—do they need to keep working on it if you have executed judgment on it (whatever that means)? This is the problem faced by every false prophet.
Copeland’s heretical views are well-known. He is one of many false prophets who have profited handsomely from gullible followers. But throughout Scripture, Christians are called to exercise discernment concerning biblical teaching (Ephesians 4:14). Leaders, preachers, and teachers are commanded to maintain sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; Titus 1:9; 2:1). Of course, the Christian faith does not need modification (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3).
History is replete with men and women who pervert the gospel. Many centuries before Christ’s birth, the Bible established the criterion for determining whether a prophet is true or false:
And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
This passage is especially relevant for a couple of reasons. First, Copeland has pronounced COVID-19 defeated. In truth, the peak in the United States has yet to hit. He is a false prophet on this count alone. But also, the biblical text says, “You need not be afraid of [the false prophet].” Copeland and other Word of Faith preachers have a long history of saying that they would kill their enemies, or at least watch them die. Consider the following from Hank Hanegraaff’s book Christianity in Crisis (p. 23):
- Speaking “under the anointing of the Holy Spirit,” Benny Hinn once claimed, “The day is coming when [our critics] who attack us will drop dead … Hear this: today they mock us; tomorrow they will fear us.”
- Paul Crouch, the founder of Trinity Broadcast Network, said that if God didn’t shoot his enemies, he would. (See some other examples here and here.)
- Copeland himself said that his critics would meet untimely deaths from cancer, presumably as a punishment from God.
There is another passage in Deuteronomy that instructs God’s people in how to evaluate a prophet:
If a prophet or someone who has dreams arises among you and proclaims a sign or wonder to you, and that sign or wonder he has promised you comes about, but he says, ‘Let us follow other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us worship them,’ do not listen to that prophet’s words or to that dreamer. (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)
How does this apply to Copeland? Simply put, he preaches a different God and a different Christ. Hanegraaff quotes him as saying, “I was shocked when I found out who the biggest failure in the Bible actually is … The biggest one is God,” “Satan conquered Jesus on the Cross,” and Jesus went down into hell as an “emaciated, poured out, little wormy spirit” (p. 25). This is not the Almighty God of Scripture, nor is it the triumphant Christ presented in the Gospels. It’s a cheap knock-off from a spiritual snake oil salesman.
Copeland’s views are not only heretical; they are nonsensical. For instance, Copeland’s wife, Gloria, claims that her husband can control the weather. Kenneth Copeland and fellow Word of Faith prosperity preacher Jesse Duplantis claim that God gave them private jets because they can’t pray on commercial airliners—in fact, they couldn’t do 90% of their ministry unless they had personal planes, because they shouldn’t be bothered by other people Copeland calls “demons.” He later denied saying this, telling one interviewer, “don’t you say I ever did!” (Don’t worry, Kenneth. That’s what the magic of Youtube is for!)
Scripture warns about false prophets (2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1). Not every false teacher will be as laughably misguided as Copeland and his cronies. Many will be far subtler and much more spiritually dangerous (cf. 2 John 9). After all, the devil himself knows how to twist Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11) and has enough restraint to mix in only as much deception as is necessary to be effective (Genesis 3:1-5). Sadly, there will be some who follow in their master’s footsteps while claiming to be followers of Christ.