Beware Of False Prophets
BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS
Some of the things that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount are so encouraging and uplifting…and some of the things He teaches are difficult. Today’s text is just unpleasant.
- It is unpleasant because it is a warning…a warning about false prophets.
I think it is interesting that Jesus speaks this warning here at this time because in the two verses just before this He has talked to us about the “narrow gate” and the “narrow way” and proceeding on the path that leads to life…but now he warns of those that can mislead us from that narrow path.
- Those who are adept at blurring the issue of salvation.
- Those that muddle or distort the gospel so that they make it harder for seekers to find the narrow gate.
- Those who try to make out that the “narrow way” is much broader than what Jesus implied.
- Those who assert that all roads lead to God regardless which one you travel.
Jesus says, “Beware of the false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
- The first thing to notice is that Jesus says they exist.
- There would be no reason for the warning if this wasn’t so.
- In the O.T. scriptures you find reference to “false prophets” several times…and in the context of this sermon Jesus seems to regard the Pharisees and scribes in the same light.
- In the N.T. you find reference to “false prophets” in nearly every letter.
The term “false prophet” in the Greek is “pseudo – which is the Greek word for “lie” – profetos” and it refers to an imposter…a pretender…someone who pretends to be a prophet of God.
- He is a self-appointed prophet.
- He is one who claims to speak for God, but God has not put His words into the heart or mouth of the speaker.
- A false prophet is not simply someone who makes a mistake in his teaching or preaching (some refuse to teach at all for fear of making a mistake….this word “prophet isn’t the word for teacher or for the word Rabbi…it is the word “Prophet”); this is talking about a “lying teacher”…one pretending to be inspired.
- It is speaking of someone who deliberately and maliciously deceives others and leads them astray.
- Those that know the truth and intentionally teach otherwise.
One other thing to note is Jesus in warning about the “false prophet” tells us that there is such a thing as a standard of truth from which the falsehood of the false prophets is to be distinguished.
- If there was no “truth” it would be meaning less to warn of false prophets.
And notice, “they come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
- “Ravenous wolves” – greedy for satisfaction; rapacious, greedy, grasping, willing to use unscrupulous means to obtain what they desire.
- They are vicious; destructive…predators.
And notice what makes them so dangerous…”they come in sheep’s clothing.”
- You see, you can’t necessarily tell by looking at them if they are wolves.
- Outwardly they are un-recognizable for what they are.
- They come in appearing to be meek and gentle, interested in the spiritual welfare of others.
- The false prophet blends. You won’t know them when they walk in the door.
- You won’t sense that they are a ferocious wolf.
- They do not announce themselves as a wolf…they do not announce their intentions.
- Your instinct will be to accept them and welcome them because they look like you.
- They seem to be like all the other sheep.
So, how do you recognize them?
- Well, Jesus says the only way you can recognize them is by their fruit…by what they produce.
- So it is going to take some time to see it (it takes time for a tree to produce fruit).
- Sometimes it takes a long time…sometimes it is pretty immediate.
- And if they are a “good tree” they will produce “good fruit”…but if they are a “bad tree” they will produce “bad fruit.” (The word “bad” in the Greek speaks of that which is “rotten, worthless, corrupt)
So, what kind of fruits will they produce?
- One realm by which false prophets reveal their true identity is in the realm of character and conduct.
- So here are some fruits that you might see in the false prophet:
Gal 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
- The false prophet may be able to conceal himself for a little while and hide his true face behind a mask of seemingly pious words and deeds.
- But that will not last…his true nature will eventually reveal him for what he is.
- When you see these kinds of fruits in a man’s life they are a pretty good indication that he has no life changing foundation in the word of God…because the word of God will not produce this kind of fruit.
But a false prophet’s fruits are not only revealed in his character and manner of life…but also in his teaching. Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 12: 33 – 37:
“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 “The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. 36 “And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”
- The words he speaks reveals what is in his heart…but it also reveals what kind of a tree he is.
- If what he speaks is contrary to the teachings of Jesus then he is not a good tree.
Let me give you some ideas or concepts you might hear from one who is a “false prophet.”
- “Heaven and hell are myths.”
- “The God of love will not permit anyone to be punished everlastingly.”
- “Satan is a myth.”
- “Sin is a sickness.”
- “Homosexuality is inherited. If it is a sin the homosexual is not to blame…the blame rests on his parents or on society.”
- “Faith alone is what saves you.”
- “Jesus is not the Savior or Lord.”
- “Justification by works.”
- “According to the Mayan Calendar the end will come on Dec. 22, 2012.”
If they intentionally and maliciously teach and preach what they know is contrary to the word of God…and in 1 John 4 if they deny that Jesus is the Messiah, man, and deity….and Deut. 18:20ff if they speak something that God has not spoken…or if they speak in the name of a different god…or if they fore-tell something and it does not come to pass…they are false prophets.
And then a third realm in which a false prophet reveals his fruits is his influence on others.
- What effect has his teaching had on his followers?
Look at this passage in 2 Timothy 2: 16:
16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some.
And remember what Jesus said the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
- You may not see it in the false prophet but watch those that he influences.
- The “fruit” he produces will tell you what kind of tree he is.
Let me give you a list of individuals that through their conduct and character, through their teachings, and through their influence that have shown themselves to be false prophets…
- Muhammed Joseph Smith Warren Jeffs Jim Jones David Koresh Robert Tilton Harold Camping Benny Hin Hal Lindsey Joel Osteen The Watchtower
- These are just a few…there are literally hundreds and hundreds today that are proving themselves to be false prophets.
- And that is one reason why Jesus says, “Beware”…they are real…they are many…they are deadly.
Now, look at verse 19. As unpleasant as it might be…Jesus says in verse 19, that they are “to be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
- If they come in they are not to be left to spread their wicked influence any longer…and they are to be removed to face the judgment of God.
- Do you know what this means…the most common place that we encounter false prophets is the TV. If you are going to “cut them down” you will have to quit watching them. Don’t sent them any money. Don’t buy their books.
Now, let me give you just a few personal thoughts about false prophets:
- The person who comes in in sheep’s clothing, the false prophet, always has one goal…to gain control over people…your family…over you…over the church…
- And they will do about anything to get it. They will sneak around. They will lie. They will use innuendo, gossip, and slander.
- They will use manipulation…they will burn you…watch out for people who want to sidle up next to you and get you off to themselves alone and privately begin to whisper in your ear about things.
- And the things they want to whisper to you usually pertains to two things: One, they want you to agree about something they think needs to happen here….something that needs to be done. And the second thing is somehow it is always negative.
- Even though the wolf is a powerful, strong hunter they always, always target the weakest among us. They will begin to gather around themselves people who are flattered by their attention…and then they begin to separate the flock.
- The nature of a wolf is to keep moving and once they have bitten and devoured and done all they can they tend to move on.
- Jesus says, “Watch out.” They are imposters. They are pretenders. They look like sheep.
We need to watch out for ourselves. Who is it that is trying to manipulate, or use us, or abuse us? Who is it that uses flattery, or attention, or who whispers in our ears? Who is it that wants to take us to coffee and who wants to sit and visit and begins to steer the conversation toward things they don’t like about the church, or about the leaders…and pretty soon you are caught up in it.
We have got to watch out for our families. Did you notice that when Jesus started teaching about “watching out for false prophets”, notice that He didn’t say “in the church.” He just says, “watch out!”
- When Jesus taught this the church was at least 3 years away.
- Families need to be careful about wolves in sheep’s clothing.
- People who want your attention…who want your loyalty to their things, to their cause.
- And if you are not careful they will get their roots into your family and they will turn you against each other.
We certainly need to watch out for our church.
- Sometimes it may be someone who has sat on the pew for years and they were dormant…but then the opportunity comes for them to step up and be a leader and they have all kinds of ferocious wolf-like behaviors.
- At first they look good, and they look holy…until the sheep skin starts to come off and then you see them for what they really are…but by then it is too late and there is hardly any way to stop them.
- 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are the best three places in the Bible when it comes to false teachers and prophets and what to do…and in 1 Tim. and Titus there is strong teaching on why the local church needs strong godly men as shepherds and elders.
In the same way that you wouldn’t pick up a cobra and play with it….in the same way you would pick up a rabid, vicious dog and pet it, it is the same way that we cannot allow wolves in sheep’s clothing to come in…we have to be on our guard and make every effort to protect the body of Christ. We have to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit of the bond of peace.
- Not a witch hunt, not because people are different, not because people think differently, not because people act differently, but because people have a dark spirit in their heart and they work out of demonic influences and if they can they will turn people against each other and they will devour.
- And they are to be run off at all cost.
- You cannot let it get started in your church, or in you, or in your family.
The false prophet is not always someone who is new. The false prophet isn’t always male. And the false prophet isn’t always someone else.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023