The Form of False Prophets

imagesThird, they conduct miracles. Jesus said,

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.’ (Matt. 7:22-23)

They prophesy in Jesus’ name. They cast out demons. They are “charismatics”—people who emphasize the miraculous gifts such as prophesying, casting out of demons, and doing miracles. I’m not talking about charismatics who obey God’s Word, but charismatics who are false prophets. Jesus said in Matt. 24:24, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray.” They perform many miracles. But Jesus said, “I never knew you.”

Fourth, they come in sheep’s clothing. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Sheep are the metaphor of the people of God (Ps. 78:52). The sheep are the followers of Christ (Matt. 10:16). But false prophets appear like sheep—like true believers. Jesus said they look like sheep outside. But they are really “ravenous wolves” inside.

The adjective, “ravenous” (harpax), means, “vicious, ravenous, destructive, like a wild animal.” (Friberg) Thus, the false prophets look like sheep on the outside. But they are really destructive on the inside.

They are hypocrites—people with two faces. They have the face of the sheep outside. But they have the heart of a wolf inside. They harbor false motives—ungodly, sinful motives. They may teach biblical doctrines on the outside. Yet they keep false doctrines on the inside until they start teaching it.

These false prophets have the form of godliness. That is the problem. By their form alone, we cannot identify them. But whatever form they come, we must beware of false prophets.

Yet Jesus gives us the key to knowing them.

Whatever Their Form, We Must Beware of Them

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but false-prophetinwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). The verb, “beware” (Gk. prosecho), means, “be on one’s guard” (Gingrich); or “watch out for” (Friberg). It is both a command and a warning. We are to be on guard against false prophets. We are to watch out for false prophets.

The verb is in the present tense. Hence, we are to beware continuously of false prophets. We are to be on guard constantly against false prophets. We are to watch out continually for false prophets.

The “false prophets” are primarily preachers and teachers.[1] They are preachers who claim to speak for God. But they actually speak for themselves. They spread their own false teachings. Beware of false prophets, Jesus said.

What is the form of these false prophets? First, they come visiting. Jesus said in v. 15, they “come to you.” In Jesus’ time, there were traveling preachers going from place to place teaching people. Jesus said in Matt. 10:41, “The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” (cf. Acts 11:27; 15:32–3; 21:10). Jesus is probably talking about receiving traveling prophets. If you receive a traveling prophet, you receive a prophet’s reward.

In 2013, I traveled to Davao City to attend the IBCP General Assembly. A dear couple received me into their home. They gave me a room, fed me, and fellowshipped with me. They received a Pastor. They shall receive a pastor’s reward.

Jesus said, “they come to you.” False prophets come to people’s houses or places of worship.

Second, they call Jesus, “Lord, Lord.” Jesus said in Matt. 7:22-23,

22 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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

The false prophets recognize Jesus as Lord. But Jesus does not recognize them. They have no relationship with Jesus.

[1] D. Hill, ‘Christian Prophets as Teachers or Instructors in the Church’, in Prophetic Vocation in the New Testament and Today, ed. J. Panagopoulos, NovTSup 45, Leiden, 1977, pp. 108–30.

Beware of False Prophets

beware_of_false_teachers_png_by_madetobeunique-d30spqtJesus said,

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus teaches that the narrow gate of heaven leads to life. But the wide gate of hell leads to death. Then in vv. 15-20, Jesus warns against false prophets. Why does He warn against them? The reason is that the false prophets lead people into the wide gate of hell.

I remember visiting Bangkok, Thailand for the first time. We went to a night market located inside the “red light district” in Patpong. The red light district is a place full of nightclubs and girly bars. I saw salesmen standing outside the doors of the bars. They wore long sleeves and ties, looking decent.

But these salesmen were selling sex. I recall seeing one salesman holding up a signboard. On the signboard were written all kinds of sex acts with a price. The salesman announced the sex acts in a loud voice.

The false prophets are the salesmen at the wide gate of hell. They call on people to enter the easy way. In effect, they prevent people from entering the hard way. (Davies/Allison) That is why false prophets are dangerous!


You Must Seek the Narrow Gate

19d669744e33d07ecf0e57fdbd5c0802.jpgThird, the narrow gate is found by few people. Note that in v. 13, many people enter the wide gate of destruction. But in v. 14, few people find the narrow gate of life. Jesus said the few followers of Christ find the narrow gate. The narrow gate, the kingdom of God, the way of Christ, is to be sought and found. You cannot find it by sitting down. You find it by exerting an effort. You exert an effort to seek first the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the will of God in your life. You do your best to obey God’s will.

What do you discover when you find the narrow gate? In the parable of the hidden treasure, a man digs up the soil. He discovers the hidden treasure. The treasure was so priceless. It was worth everything that he went home and sold everything he owned. He came back and bought the land. After he bought the land, he claimed the hidden treasure.

Are you following Christ? Do you live the lifestyle of the kingdom? Do you obey God’s will? If so, then you have found the hidden treasure of God’s kingdom. It is more valuable than all the things you own. It is so valuable that you are willing to give up everything for it.

Are you yet undecided to follow Christ? Enter the narrow gate. It is hard. But it leads to eternal life. It is worth giving up everything in order to gain Christ. But when you follow Christ, you gain everything.

The Narrow Gate Leads to Life

da2cda6d671a0caefa6e73ec31f03d9fSecond, the narrow gate leads to life.

“An elderly couple were killed in an accident and found themselves being given a tour of heaven by Saint Peter.

Here is your Oceanside condo, over there are the tennis courts, swimming pool, and two golf courses. If you need any refreshments, just stop by any of the many bars located throughout the area,” said Peter.

“Heck, Gloria,” the old man hissed when Saint Peter walked off, “we could have been here ten years ago if you hadn’t insisted on exercising three times a week and eating that stupid oat bran, wheat germ, and low-fat food!”[1]

Life in heaven must be enjoyable and eternal. In Matthew, the word, “life,” refers to eternal life that is yet future. Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29). The narrow gate leads to eternal life in the future.

But John writes that whoever believes in Christ has eternal life (John 6:47). This life is possessed in the present. Yet while this eternal life is possessed in the present, it shall be received in full in the future. It is a life that is already here, but its full consummation is not yet. It is a paradox. You have eternal life already. But you will still inherit eternal life.

[1] “Still More Jokes,” May Jesus be Praised Now and Forever.” Cited September 4, 2015. Online:

The Narrow Gate is the Hard Way of the Cross

narrowgateEnter the narrow gate, Jesus urged, for two reasons. The first reason is that the wide gate is easy and leading to destruction and death; and many enter it. The second reason is the narrow gate.

Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14). Jesus gives three descriptions of the narrow gate. First, the narrow gate is the hard way. The adjective, “hard” (thlibo), means, “press, rub together, hence, compress, make narrow.” (Friberg) Friberg translates the Greek, “literally restricted is the road that leads to life, i.e. in order to receive eternal life, one must live as God requires (MT 7.14).” The word, thlibo, is related to another word in Matthew, thlipsis. Jesus said, “Yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation [thlipsis] or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matt. 13:21). The hard way is linked with tribulation.

The narrow gate is the hard way. It is a way of trials and tribulation because you follow Christ. It is a way of pressure and persecution because you obey God. It is the way of the cross because you honor Christ. In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, the Christ-follower is one who suffers great hardship and persecution in Christ (Matt. 5:10-12, 44; 10:16-33; 24:9-10).