“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
After speaking about judging others and about entering by the narrow gate, Jesus begins to speak about false prophets. Christians are to be loving of others, but we must also be discerning. Jesus knew that after he ascended to heaven, many would come after him who were false teachers. We’ve had Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard, Hare Krishna’s and countless others preach a message that is different from the one that Jesus spoke. Some of these false prophets would even profess to be Christians. If people are doing “good” and “moral” works, how are we to distinguish truth between false and true prophets?
Jesus gives the answer to this question with a great metaphor above. In a culture that refuses to accept absolutes, Jesus gives us (and those listening to him in this sermon) a challenging statement. Healthy trees bear good fruit, and diseased trees bear bad fruit. If you want to know the authenticity of someone claiming to be a prophet, observe what they do. Are they trying to use the Bible to point people to Jesus? Or are they using it to make themselves look powerful or gifted? Are our pastors preaching from the Bible each Sunday, or are they preaching a “new” message, one that revolves around man instead of God? These can be difficult things to determine, and it is only by reading the Bible ourselves that we can distinguish false prophets from men of God.
We are warned by Jesus that these false prophets are inwardly ravenous wolves, but they appear in sheep’s clothing. Unfortunately, many of these wolves use their pulpits, platforms and television stations to deceive people on a large scale. Again, I would encourage you to be in the Bible each day to avoid such deception, for until Jesus comes back, evil men will continue to masquerade as harmless sheep. Jesus warns us what the price is for those who produce bad fruit; they will be cut down and thrown into the fire. If we are to avoid this same fate, we must place our trust in Jesus, who is far greater than any prophet, true or false.