Jesus continuing his sermon on the mount, giving us the hard truth that not all who claim his name will be what they seem.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. This was a hard teaching of Jesus that remains difficult. Beware of false prophets. Remember the teaching that just preceded this, “”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14 ESV. Jesus goes right from this into teaching about the false prophets, those who might teach exactly the opposite of this. ‘Follow Jesus – he will give you everything you want!’ ‘If you want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, Jesus has a plan for you!!’
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. They don’t teach about loving enemies. They don’t talk about turning the other cheek. They don’t teach the hard truths about forgiveness, the truth that most of the time, we are to be the forgiving one, not the forgiven one. These don’t make people feel good, they don’t inspire “generous giving“. They don’t teach the hard things, because while they may look like sheep on the outside, they just come eat the sheep, using us for their own purposes, to fulfill their own desires.
They might even teach the hard things. The thing about the wolf in sheeps clothing, sometimes you just have to ignore what they say, but watch instead what they do. 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. What is the state of their own relationships?? How well do they apply the teachings of Jesus in their own lives? Are they forgiving of others themselves? Do you see them holding grudges, bearing anger? Do they respond to evil with evil? Or do they exhibit those fruits of the spirit, “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 ESV. Do you see the fruit of obedience in their lives??
Now, I just can’t leave this out. Because false prophets still exists today, inside our own churches for sure. But what about the false prophets outside the church. The false prophet we are far more prone to fall for in this day and age. The false prophet of empire…
“And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.” Revelation 16:13-14 ESV. From the mouth of the dragon and the beast, and the false prophet, the spirits like frogs. The frogs of empire. Yes…in Revelation the dragon and the beast are symbols used for empire, those large, rich, powerful nations who claim a manifest destiny to rule the nations and shape the world as they would have it, in their own image. And from their mouths come the frogs of empire, croaking out with glee the anthem of the beast. Every conflict, every riot, every shooting, now more than ever, we listen to the demonic frogs of the empire. We have a 24 hour news cycle, 24 hours of talking heads telling us who’s side we should be on, who’s right and who’s wrong, which “us” we are for and which “them” we are against. This is who we are for, that’s who we are against. They make their own disciples among all the nations, pitting one group against another, all to their own glory and benefit.
Know one thing for sure, we are not called to be disciples of the frogs of empire. The manifest destiny to rule the nations does not lie with the dragon, it does not lie with the beast, or any if its false prophets or frogs. God reserves that power to his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All those frogs of empire will fade away, but the name of Jesus Christ will go on forever. The beast thought it had him killed, they even had him buried. The beast keeps trying to kill Him. But He just keeps rising again.
We are not called to be disciples of the frogs of empire. We are called to be disciples of the slaughtered little lamb who defeats the dragons and the beasts of empire by the shedding of his own blood.
“”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 thornbushes, 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.”
Matthew 7:15-20 ESV
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Acts 20:29-30 ESV
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV