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.