Warning signs are all around us. Danger Falling Rocks. Deer Crossing. High Wind Area. These signs don’t guarantee what is coming next but what may come our way. Were we live deer are a problem. You never know when one will race in front of your car. While there is always a certain level of alertness while driving, it gets kicked up a few notches during twilight and evening hours. Not only am I watching the road, other traffic, and navigating but also scanning for eye-shine. That tell-tale glow when an animal is near the roadway. It’s that kind of alertness Jesus is commanding when He says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Matthew 7:15–16, NASB95)
A false prophet is not one who simply misspeaks or has a different understanding from us on certain theological issues. But one who is hiding their true motive. False prophets are often the most sheep-like, at first anyway.
Jesus says that we will know them by their fruits. We must maintain a basic assumption that folks really are trying to follow Jesus until their fruit bears them out. Light will always penetrate darkness no matter where it tries to hide. So, eventually, the false prophet’s true nature and motives will be revealed. How do they handle being lovingly corrected? What is the outcome of their words? Do the fruit of their actions glorify Jesus, themselves, or something or someone else? But even those are just glimpses which can be misused.
We can’t always go by someone’s words. Even Jesus said a few verses down that on the day of judgement many will cry out “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’” (Matthew 7:22, NASB95) To which Jesus will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:23, NASB95)
The fruit is whether what is said and done is the will of the Father (verse 21). Jesus was not condemning all prophecy, or spiritual warfare, or performing miracles. He was condemning the hearts that did these things in the name of Jesus without ever bothering to ask, seek, knock, and listen for the direction of the Holy Spirit. They were on their own agenda and not on the Father’s agenda.
Jesus command doesn’t include an “if…then.” If while being alert you discover a false prophet then….” He commands us to beware and to rest in His judgment. Unless they repent they will bear the ultimate consequences of being rejected on that last day.
False prophets and teachers exist, even today. They can be found in the lone wolves declaring strange doctrine and in organizational piety that no longer seeks God’s will or kingdom. Many will cry “Lord, Lord!” and be sent away with the bone-chilling words of “I never knew you.”
Jesus says beware of false prophets