GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURES
JESUS’ WORDS ABOUT FALSE PROPHETS
By Keith L. Estes
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
In one of the fables we find the wolf dressing up in a sheepskin and in thus fooling the sheep he was able to enjoy a good meal. He was successful in that he appeared to be one of them.
Just before Jesus made the statement concerning false prophets he spoke about two ways: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
C. S. Lewis in his book, The Great Divorce, (A fantastic bus ride from hell to heaven- A round trip for some but not for others) writes:
“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”
So then, the warning that Jesus gives: “Beware of false prophets,” fits appropriately with the concept of the two ways. Since many are being led in the wrong way, they are obviously being led by the wrong people. False prophets were prevalent in the Old Testament, whereas God’s true prophets were often in the minority. False prophets appear in sheep’s clothing but are in reality ravening wolves. This is a perfect description of those preachers who have denied or distorted the truth of the gospel. They look like lambs but act like wolves.
Jesus continues by stating, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
A true test of a prophet was the conformity of his doctrine to the Scriptures. Their fruits refer not only to actions of their lives, but also to the doctrines they proclaim. The two trees are contrasted in relation to the fruit they produce. Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit consistently, while a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit continually. Therefore, the normal and consistent production of fruit, whether good or evil, in a person’s life will bear evidence whether or not that life is of God. The fruitless tree illustrates the unfruitful life of the unregenerate who is cast into the fire, a picture of eternal punishment in hell.
Walter Martin in his book, The Kingdom of the Cults, says: “Christ pointed out that the false prophets would come. There was not a doubt in the mind of the Son of God that this would take place, and the history of the heresies of the first five centuries of the Christian Church bear out the accuracy of His predictions. Christ further taught that the fruits of the false prophets would also be apparent, and that the Church would be able to detect them readily. Let us never forget that “fruits” from a corrupt tree can also be doctrinal, as well as ethical and moral, and a person may be ethically and morally “good” by human standards, but if he sets his face against Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and rejects Him, his fruit is corrupt and he is to be rejected as counterfeit.”
Ref: Matt. 7:13-23, The Annotated Study Bible, KJV.