“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15 KJV)
In the sermon that became known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus taught his disciples about the Kingdom of God and gave them practical instructions for a godly life. Among those teachings, Jesus warned them about the false prophets that would be in their midst (Matthew 7:15-23). Let’s take a look at what Jesus said about those people.
#1 Who Are the Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?
Jesus began his message with a clear warning: “beware of the false prophets.” Then, He used an illustration to show how deceitful those false prophets can be, saying that they “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15 KJV). So, the false prophets are the “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” as we call them.
The illustration that Jesus used made it clear that the false prophets look like legitimate disciples. We are talking about people who look like true Christians and attend church. We cannot tell the difference just by looking at them. They speak as Christians do. They pray as Christians do.
They fool a lot of people, especially those who only look for outward appearances. Jesus also said that “false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22 KJV). That’s how deceitful they are.
#2 Who Are the False Prophets?
A false prophet is, by biblical definition, someone who speaks in the name of the Lord something that He didn’t say (Jeremiah 23:16-17; Ezekiel 13:4-8). Some writers also refer to them as “false teachers,” “false apostles,” and even “false Christs,” depending on the role those false prophets want to claim for themselves.
False prophets speak false prophecies (false messages from God). They also spread false teachings and heresies. They usually claim to have a revelation from God that no one else has. They quote the Bible, but they distort its meaning, so they can lead people away from the Lord (Matthew 24:11; Mark 13:22).
The apostle Peter wrote to warn the Church about these false prophets and teachers that would arise among the Christians. He said they “privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Peter 2:1 KJV). He anticipated that many would follow their ways (2 Peter 2:2).
Paul wrote that some false prophets of his time were “deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13 KJV). When he warned the elders of the Church in Ephesus, he told them that “of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30 KJV). The danger was so severe that Paul told them to “watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31 KJV). We, too, must take those warnings very seriously!
#3 How We Can Identify a False Prophet?
When speaking about false prophets, Jesus said that, on Judgment Day, many will come saying, “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?” (Matthew 7:22 KJV). Jesus didn’t deny that they did those things. But He answered, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23 KJV).
Indeed, some false prophets do miracles and wonders (Mark 13:22). But that’s not a sign that they are true disciples of the Lord. They might do miraculous signs, but they have never repented of their sins and never had any relationship with Jesus.
So, we know we can’t trust how they look or talk. We can’t trust when they call Jesus their “Lord” (Matthew 7:21). And we can’t trust the signs and wonders they might do. How, then, will we be able to identify the false prophets? Jesus answered this question by saying, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16 KJV). The fruits will tell us who a person really is.
A true Christian who repented of their sins will show fruits of it (Matthew 3:8). They are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), so now they produce good fruits, the ones that please the Lord. They obey what He has told us through the Bible (John 14:21,23). They fail sometimes, but they repent and ask God for forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9).
They seek to love the Lord with “all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37 KJV), and “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39 KJV). They preach the gospel (Mark 16:15) and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). They show the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). And so on…
These fruits can only be produced through Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8). That’s how we will be able to identify the false prophets. They may speak about it, they may pretend to do it, but they won’t be able to truly show those fruits.
The warnings that Jesus and His apostles gave about false prophets still echo in our days. Now, with the Internet and social media, it is so much easier to spread any message. That makes the damage that false prophets can do even worse. That’s why we need to be alert and selective with the Church’s leaders and teachers. We need to look for the good fruits, as Jesus taught us to do. And we need to seek to produce those fruits as well.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.