Jesus said, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." (Matthew 16:6) The term "Beware" is in 26 verses in our King James Bible. No verse is more vivid nor is any warning more strong then when Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matthew 7:15) False prophets are to be understood as those religious teachers who are teaching contrary to the will of God. They claim to have a message from God, but God did not speak it. In Ezekiel 22:28 we read, "And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken." Jesus spoke of false prophets who would come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

          False prophets have always existed and there are false prophets today. 
False prophets are those who claim to have knowledge of God's will while speaking something other than what He has commanded. Often they do not even blush as they teach damnable doctrines. "How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them? Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD." (Jeremiah 8:8-12) Jesus warned, "many false prophets will rise up and deceive many." (Matthew 24:11) The most popular religious belief in our day is that any church, any doctrine, any worship or any religious practice is acceptable to God. Peter wrote about false prophets saying, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Peter 2:1-2)

           Who is a false prophet? Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matthew 7:15) But just before he said that He said, "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) One reason so few will find the straight and narrow way is because of false prophets. False prophets teach people to do contrary to the will of God. Yet Jesus said, "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. (Matthew 7:21)


           What does sheep's clothing mean? The false prophets look good and sound good. They seem very religious and right. Likely they quote a little Scripture or maybe a lot of Scripture. They seem very believable. These people are convincing. Yet, they would utter from the heart words of falsehood. (Isaiah 59:13) They speak smoothly, but they speak lying words. Jeremiah wrote, "Trust ye not in lying words." (Jeremiah 7:4)


           Who are these ravenous wolves? False teachers are never what they appear to be. They seem to be a good tree, but they bear only bad fruit. "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." (Matthew 7:16-18) The reason these false prophets are ravenous wolves is because all who follow them will hear the Lord say, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:23)


           Are you certain that what you believe and practice in religion is from the Lord? We are told in 1 John 4:1, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." To be saved from sin hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus (Mark 16:16), repent of sins (Luke 13:5), confess Jesus as Lord (Matthew 10:32), and be baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-4)  After baptism, live in Christ and have Christ in you (Galatians 4:19) It will be sad indeed if on the Judgment Day you learn that you depended on a wolf in sheep's clothing. You had better study the Bible for yourself to be sure!


By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street,

Greenville, Alabama 36037