What does the Bible have to say when it comes to false prophets? In Matthew 7, we see these words:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” – Matthew 7:15
This is a warning from Jesus himself – to beware of false prophets. What is interesting about this statement? Notice how He says “in sheep’s clothing.” What is so special about sheep? And why does Jesus use this terminology?
Sheep are symbolic of true followers of Christ, as Christ is the good shepherd. False prophets, by this definition, will not be easily recognizable. They will outwardly have all of the trademarks of true Christians: caring, genuine and sincere in appearance, knowledgeable of things relating to the faith, etc. They may appear to be Christians, but what are they in reality? Jesus tells us, “but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul writes of false prophets, calling them “false apostles”:
“But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” – 2 Corinthians 11:12–15
Paul makes reference to “false apostles…transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” He also mentions “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” With deception of such magnitude, how are true Christians to recognize the “wolves in sheep’s clothing”?
“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.” – Matthew 7:16–20
The saying “you can judge a tree by the fruit it bears” holds true. What type of fruit are these false apostles/prophets bearing? In 1 John 4, we are given yet another command:
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” – 1 John 4:1–3
James is warning us not to believe every spirit, but test it to see if it is from God. Paul made reference to “angels from heaven” bringing false gospels in Galatians 1:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” – Galatians 1:6–9
Paul forewarned us that some will come, even supernatural beings and apparitions, that will deliver perversions of the gospel of Christ. What is to be said from all of this? The Scripture is clear: If anyone, even an “angel from heaven,” should appear and bring a false gospel, let him be accursed (damned). With such stern words from Paul, we get a feel of the seriousness of the satanic deception in the world.
Narrow is the Way
We see another warning from Jesus:
“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.” – Matthew 7:13–14
Jesus tells us that many will enter through the wide gate leading to destruction, but few will follow the narrow path leading to life. How can this happen? The tragic reality is Satan is the master deceiver and many will be deceived into believing lies, whether they be false gospels or false Christs.
“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. 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? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” – Matthew 7:21–23
Jesus tells us here clearly that not everyone who professes to be a Christian will be admitted into heaven. He even goes as far as saying that some of those professing “Christians” will have prophesied in His name, cast out devils, and have done many wonderful works in His name. But, they missed the mark. What mark did they miss? They missed the gospel.
The Remedy for Deception
It is clear from the Scripture that we must decipher between good and evil fruit, as well as to test the spirits to determine whether or not they are from God. How is a Christian to do this? By what measuring stick do we measure? The answer: Scripture.
The Scripture is the “yard stick” by which all teachings, doctrines, and dogmas (i.e. the fruit) are measured. If they do not measure up to the Word of God, they are discarded. Not only is the Bible our measuring stick, but it is also where we find the true gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The gospel is a gospel of simplicity (2 Corinthians 11:3). Where can we find the gospel in the Bible? See 1 Corinthians 15:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” – 1 Corinthians 15:1–4
The gospel is the fact that Jesus Christ, being both fully God and fully man, died for our sins. Being sinless, without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19), He was offered as the perfect sacrifice once, for all sins forever (Hebrews 10:12). He bore our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). Eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23) and cannot be merited or earned (Ephesians 2:8–9), as our righteous acts are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). All those who realize that they are sinners (Romans 3:23) and trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross (Hebrews 10:10–12) will have eternal life (John 3:16).
Speaking of eternal life, can a Christian know with certainty that he/she has eternal life? Yes, they can.
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” – 1 John 5:13