Summary: Christians are warned against being deceived by false prophets.
A Wise Warning
A. “If you are going to place poison on a shelf where you have healing medicines, you had better label it clearly.”
B. Life is full of warnings.
1. Cigarette packs warn of lung cancer and other medical problems.
2. Medicines warn against taking them if you have high blood pressure, heart trouble, prostate trouble, stomach trouble, take certain other medicines and about giving it to an underage child.
3. Warning signs along the highways, interstates and roads (railroad, bridges freeze faster, sharp curve, incline).
C. President Wilson’s warning to Germany before he entered U. S. in World War I.
1. After the sinking of the British passenger liner, the Lusitania, on which were some Americans.
2. Then the sinking of the Sussex, a French passenger ship on which were some Americans.
3. Sinking of American merchant ships.
4. Finally asked Congress for a Declaration of War.
WARNS US AGAINST DECEIVERS
A. False prophets were not new to the Jewish people.
1. Moses has warned, “If a prophet or dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.” (Deuteronomy 13:1ff)
2. Jesus taught the same thing, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.” (Matthew 24:4)
3. John, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)
4. When Paul met with the Ephesian elders on the beach near Miletus, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you…Therefore be on the alert.” (Acts 20:29)
B. False prophets usually gain a hearing.
1. People are always looking for someone or something to believe in (why else would thousands have followed Hitler and committed the crimes he led them to commit).
2. Jesus warns us against false prophets.
3. Need alertness against those who would deceive us.
C. The most dangerous thing about false prophets.
1. They claim to speak for God.
2. They are often received by God’s people.
3. God in speaking to Jeremiah, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule in their own authority, and my people love it.” (5:31)
4. More dangerous to God’s people than one who claims to be ungodly.
5. They are on the inside.
6. They destroy God’s people instead of caring for and nurturing them.
7. Sometimes God’s people allow Satan and the forces of evil to use them to wreak havoc in God’s churches.
D. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were prime examples.
1. Pretended to care for the people and to have their best interests at heart.
2. Pretended to be interested in their souls and to represent them before God.
3. Had their own interests at heart and were looking out for themselves.
E. Jesus says to beware of such people.
1. Not merely to notice them or sense them but to guard against them.
2. They are like beasts that prey on the weak and unsuspecting.
F. Wolves were the common enemy of sheep in Palestine.
1. They searched for the stray or straggler.
2. They are clever and wily like false prophets.
3. We need to place ourselves on spiritual alert.
G. False prophets often come in sheep’s clothing.
1. Prophets were often recognized by what they wore.
2. Elijah wore rough and uncomfortable clothing.
3. John the Baptist wore a coat of camel’s hair.
4. Shepherds also wore clothing made of wool.
5. Like the wolf in the cartoon that dresses like a sheep to catch a sheep.
6. By impersonating a shepherd, the false shepherd can deceive the sheep.
7. Some in God’s churches are false prophets and can deceive if we are not spiritually alert.
H. Didache, one of the earliest Christian writings after the N. T., gives several ways to distinguish a true from a false prophet.
1. True prophet would not remain a house guest for more than two days.
2. A true prophet would only ask for bread and water.
3. Their lifestyle would correspond with what they taught.
I. Other ways to tell a true person of God from a false.
1. They don’t proclaim one must enter the narrow gate to be saved.
2. Their doctrine doesn’t disturb.
J. The People’s Temple Christian Church led by Jim Jones.
1. Many of his followers had been raised in Christian homes.