Beware of False Prophets

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. –Matthew 7: 15-23

We are almost at the end of the sermon of Jesus that He references within the Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. This portion of His speech comes after His mentioning of the “straight gate and narrow way.”

Why did Jesus make this interjection? This is a warning.

Up until this point, we have been learning about His righteous standards—standards which are easily corrupted by false prophets.

What is a prophet?

A prophet is someone who claims to speak for their god. They might foretell events that their god has ordained or they might speak to the sins of their time and encourage repentance. Sometimes prophets serve as examples of enduring suffering with patience or live lives that act out a message from God in real time.

We know that many false prophets exist today, but do true prophets exist today?

This is worth considering because many teach that all prophets today are fake because this gift is no longer in effect. I do not believe this to be true. God always raises up prophets early before times of trouble for His people. We see a New Testament example of this in Revelation 11. Paul the Apostle also wrote about the gift of prophecy, and all might prophesy at times if they are filled with the Spirit of God. However, not all who prophesy at times hold the office of a prophet.

Though we all might prophesy and although true prophets can exist in any time as God deems necessary, many false prophets do exist and many will continue to come as Jesus stated.

What are the false prophets of today and how do we know that they are false? What should we look for in a true prophet?

Jesus says that we will know them by their fruit. This seems to have a double meaning based on the context given above.

Firstly, we can consider the “fruit” in terms of what the prophet produces.

For example, do they produce good things that are in alignment with what we have learned from Jesus thus far within this series, or do they bring forth fruit that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus?

Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh, so there is no greater prophet than Jesus and all prophecy should point to Him and all that He stands for. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Anyone who positions themselves as a moral authority that calls others to repentance according to their moral authority is a prophet—and if they do so in a manner that is at odds with Jesus, then they are a false prophet.

We have many false prophets today. There are false prophets of social justice, for example.

What about false prophets in the church?

These exist too. There are many who seem to encourage righteousness, call people out of sin, and claim to speak for God. However, they do not really stand by the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.

Many of them lay heavy burdens on Christians, banning and condemning people for matters of conscience. Many lay heavy burdens of sin by forgoing basic Christian teachings of the cross, of sin, and instead speak feel-good messages that inflate the listener with pride, self-love, and complacency. Some encourage Christians to participate in practices that are not appropriate for Christians. The “word of faith” movement is one example of many.

There are many false prophets, so much so that it is better to become familiar with Jesus than it is to study all the ways of the false. If we can identify what is true, then we can identify what is false by comparison. Therefore, we must get to know Jesus and His ways. We must also trust Him to help guide us away from false teachers and false prophets.

In addition to comparing the prophet with the teachings of Jesus and His apostles, we can also remember what He said above.

They “come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

All false prophets seem to stand up for good causes, but their true motivation is not to care for people, for the truth, or for God. Their true motivation is to devour people. They like to consider themselves as something great, powerful, and necessary. They also relish in the destruction of those who oppose themselves or their god. They are blood-thirsty and vicious.

True prophets might appear to be destructive, especially if given the task of casting plagues like Moses did and like we read about in Revelation 11. However, this is not done in the spirit of power-hungry pride and vengeance of man, nor is this done deceitfully. They will not devise plans to destroy people secretly, lay traps for people, or claim to be for the oppressed while stabbing them in the back. Most importantly, as mentioned above, they will not oppose the teachings of Jesus.

Some of the teachings of Jesus are stark. For example, the other “fruit” of a false prophet is the end that they will meet.

All “trees” that bring forth evil fruit are cut down and cast into the fire. This is a picture of the judgment of God.

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

In the end, Jesus will judge the false prophets. These tall and important trees will be cut down at their roots and destroyed by the Almighty Himself.

It’s ironic. I’ve seen several false prophets online use the above passage to deceive people into their brand of legalistic Christianity. They love to use this passage to make Christians who struggle with sin fearful, and they especially love to gain a following of people who have been hurt by traditional Christianity and turn them into resentful and loyal followers of high and mighty “real” Christians. Yet, unless they repent, they will find themselves judged by this judgment.

This scripture seems to be for false prophets specifically, so that is something we might keep in mind, especially when we encounter one of these wolves.

I wrote somewhat of this in Jesus is Near the Brokenhearted. So are the Wolves.

As someone who has had problems with mainstream Christianity and sought answers online, I have encountered this several times. Look for pride, false claims of being some great figure like Moses or Elijah, accusatory tones that abuse liberty, false love that abuses grace, and a desire to gain a following for themselves. Tones of this are also true for many pastors, but I cannot judge them. It seems to me that our Christian world is seeped in false teachers, false prophets, and corrupt pastors.

Having experienced this, I know that if we seek Jesus, He will keep us from the false. I also know that there is not much good in spending too much time trying to take them down. For one, there are simply too many. For two, many are true brethren that need space and time to repent.

This being said, there are some “trees” who are not false and their fruit is good. Though, I can only think of one. Maybe two. A few seemingly sincere pastors. I try to refrain from judging any man but I also try to rely on Jesus’s judgments because I’ve been fooled much in my youth. In any case, I’ve personally stopped looking for true prophets, teachers, and pastors, but I cannot say what anyone else should do. That’s between the individual and Jesus. I do want to drive home one idea for emphasis.

If we draw near to Jesus, He will not allow us to be deceived. If we have been deceived, He will reveal this to us and there is mercy. I believe there is also mercy for false prophets it they repent.

There are many false prophets in the secular world and in the Christian world and there will be many more. The false prophet and false god “beasts” will have theirs also (Revelation 9), but the true prophets and the true church will stand against them. These are “the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.”

If we keep the ways of Jesus, we will be as buildings on a rock and not sand. We will not be overtaken by the flood of false prophets.

We are almost done with this series. Apologies for this long article and I know that it could be more organized and informative. I have a limited amount of time, so all writing is impromptu and mostly at the end of long days. I try to do the best I can with what I am given.

There is a lot that could be said on this topic, and as with many things, my experience brings up a lot for me and it’s difficult to condense it.

Thank God that the words of Jesus are condensed and to the point and thank God that the Holy Spirit can inspire understanding in us all according to our individual needs. The main thing to know is that false prophets are all around in some form, but Jesus will keep us if we put our trust in Him!

This article is part of a series that considers the Parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the statements Jesus made during His Sermon on the Mount, to which He referenced in His Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. Visit the link for quick access to all articles written within this series.


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