THE WORDS OF JESUS
Creative, Causative, Prophetic, Instructional – Part 31
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruits.” – The Words of Jesus, Matthew 7:15-20.
Pseudoprophḗtēs – False Prophets. Someone pretending to speak the word of the Lord (prophesy) but in fact is a phony, an imposter, acting as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, specializing in “the art of misimpression,” like about how they were “commissioned” by the Lord to touch the world with their message. But when in fact, they operate by self and for self, so they must be exposed for what they are – and are not! (Strong’s Concordance).
Another example of warnings against false prophets, found in Matthew 24:4-5, is when His disciples asked Him about the end of the age and the sign of His coming. Interestingly, before He answered their questions, Jesus issues this warning: “Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:4-5.
So, what’s the big deal? Why is this so important? After all, “once saved, always saved”, right?
This is a warning against ‘roaming from safety, truth, or virtue; against being led astray, being seduced to wander’. This comes from the Greek word “deceive” or “deceived”.
First, Jesus is specifically instructing and warning His disciples. Jesus is telling them (and us), in Matthew 7:15-20, that false prophets will appear among up in disguise, as ‘in sheep’s clothing’, a reference perhaps to appearing gentle and more likely appearing to be one of you – Jesus’ disciples. But inwardly, they are ravenous wolves.
A ravenous wolf is an angry predator, hungry to devour its prey. His or her nourishment is your destruction and the subjugation of the Gospel. Beware.
Jesus then instructs that “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.”
This is simple to read and easy to understand. The problem comes once you are ‘under the spell’ of a false prophet. It is hard to break away. It is hard to leave the ‘other sheep’ or friends you have made in that fellowship. But all are in danger, and you must listen to these words of Jesus and follow them.
I cannot recount all the times I have experienced or seen, what appeared to be a good man, a pastor, after years of ministry, finally reveal that he was inwardly a ravenous wolf. He had been stalking, planning, and preparing his prey for years, and now he strikes, leaving broken lives, broken souls scattered around ‘his church’.
More grievously, I have witnessed hundreds and hundreds of faithful Christians’ lives and souls devastated as they fell prey to these men and women who are inwardly wild, dog-like, spiritual carnivores. I heard one woman in such a situation say that their family could not leave this man (the preacher) and that church because they had been there so long. “I cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater”, she cried. Others just ‘go along to get along’ and pay the awful price required, becoming more like the wolf than they realize, day-by-day “becoming a diseased tree, bearing bad fruit.” (The Apostle Paul also warned, “Do not be misled; bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you should, and stop sinning. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34)
What Jesus says next has been grappled with by theologians since it was spoken, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Beware, indeed!
What follows is Jesus’ gravest of warning to those who believe they are His followers and disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Then, Jesus’ final words on this matter will be to “Build your house on the Rock”, which we will visit in the next few episodes.
Your Brother and Friend,
“But understand this, that in these last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3)