Devco Baptist Church
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The pillar and support of the truth
The Truth about False Prophets
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
The Bible is clear in its teaching about the condition of the church in the last days before the Lord comes back. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, the Bible is talking about what we call the rapture of the church – the coming of the Lord and our gathering together to Him. The Bible says that we are to let no one deceive us, the rapture, which is clearly joined to the day of the Lord, will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed.
So then, the prophesied condition of the church before the Lord comes back is one of apostasy (a turning away from true saving faith) and deception. Apostasy is not a time of irreligion but of much religion – apostasy is a time of holding to a form of godliness while denying its power.
The Bible gives us the symptoms of apostasy in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, where men are religious but not redeemed. Men are powerless professors of the faith, professing to know God but denying Him by their deeds.
The Bible gives us the sources of apostasy in 2 Peter 2:1-2. The sources of apostasy are false prophets and false teachers proclaiming false and destructive heresies.
Jesus in Matthew 7:15 said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The Bible is emphatic that we should know the differences between true prophets and false prophets; between true teachers and false teachers. We are to put them to the test (Revelation 2:2). We are to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). We are to be on guard against false prophets (Acts 20:28-31).
Imagine that your church needed a pastor or your community needed a missionary, would you be able to determine that the man you are calling is a true prophet or a false prophet? If you were in the situation of needing a pastor or missionary, which of these two men would you call?
He knows how to inspire hope.
He is committed to people in need.
He counsels prisoners and juvenile delinquents.
He starts job placement centers.
He opens rest homes and homes for the retarded.
He has a health clinic.
He organizes vocational training centers.
He provides free legal aid.
He opens community centers.
He preaches about God.
He creates a warm Christian community.
His membership quickly exceeded 1000.
He is “too regimented” and attendance dropped to below twenty people.
He literally could not preach one Sunday night because he was so depressed.
He began to pray that some members would leave because they were so set on their own agenda.
He helped to answer his own prayers by suggesting that members consider another church.
He saw the church grow from less than twenty to forty or forty-five.
He sometimes felt like he could not possibly face another Sunday.
He preaches about God.
Which one did you choose? ___________________
In Matthew 7:13-27, Jesus tells us the truth about false prophets and He even gives us a litmus test to determine the difference between the two.
Let’s consider together what Jesus had to say on the subject of the truth about false prophets.
The False Prophet’s Message
Since it was Jesus the Son of God, the True Prophet, who told us that the true gospel was the narrow gate and the narrow way that leads to life then it is of necessity that all true prophets preach the narrow gate and the narrow way and that all false prophets preach the wide gate and broad way that leads to death.
Simply put, this means that in the false prophet’s message there is no narrow gate and no narrow way. The false prophet preaches a wide gate (easy salvation) and a broad way (easy discipleship).
The false prophet’s message is one of a wide gate easy salvation. With the false prophet you can respond to Jesus without genuine repentance. With the false prophet you can be saved and still be your own lord doing your own thing. The false prophet’s message seeks to improve the “old-self” instead of crucifying the “old-self”.
Here is where the false prophet tricks people. He claims to be preaching the narrow gate because he is preaching Jesus Christ as the only name under heaven given whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). But in all honesty, he is preaching another Jesus, not the Jesus of Scripture. He is preaching a Jesus that will save you and allow you to be the lord of your own life or else he is preaching a Jesus that will be your Lord and let you be your own savior. He may even use the terms, “Jesus is Lord and Savior” but he is certain that you can be saved without having to die to sin and self.
The false prophet thinks that you can be justified (saved) without being sanctified (purified). But the apostle Paul, the apostle of grace, said, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
The false prophet preaches an easy salvation of just turning to the Lord without turning from sin and forsaking all idols. Jesus Christ knew nothing of saving someone who was unwilling to turn from self and sin. “And someone came to Him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?’ “And He said to him, ‘Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ Then he said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to become complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.’ But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property” (Matthew 19:16-22).
Jesus would not let the rich young man be saved and still hold onto his god of gold (riches). The narrow gate requires death to self and sin in order to enter and the person who dies holds on to nothing.
Today’s false prophet would have said to this young man, “Just add Jesus to your life and you can enter in.” He would have told him, “The gate is wide enough that you can bring your love of self and your love of money and your love of pleasure right on in.”
The false prophet offers turning to Jesus without turning from sin. That is a false repentance that will not save. True salvation requires the forsaking of self and sin and idolatry. The false prophet’s repentance isn’t actually repentance but instead is response without repentance. His is an easy salvation through a wide gate.
The apostle Paul knew nothing of an easy salvation. He knew that true salvation meant coming through the narrow gate with true repentance. He told the Thessalonian believers that they had “turned to God from idols” to serve a living and true God.
The false prophet’s message is a wide gate false gospel that says turn to God but fails to mention turning from idols. In essence, the false prophet’s message says that you can be saved and still have your sin and still have control of your life. There is no narrow gate in the false prophet’s message although there appears to be one because he offers a counterfeit and false repentance that turns someone to God without demanding the death of self and sin.
If you will listen closely you will discover that the majority of today’s evangelism is of the wide gate false gospel variety that leads to destruction and perpetuates the apostasy that the Bible says must take place before the Lord returns.
Not only is there no narrow gate in the false prophet’s preaching, there is also no narrow way in the false prophet’s preaching. The false prophet offers a wide gate easy salvation and a broad way easy discipleship.
The false prophet will not dwell on or deal with the hard and negative teachings of Scripture. The false prophet only preaches partial truths – the ones that make people feel good or comfortable. He will not proclaim the whole counsel of God.
The false prophet is never persecuted for his preaching. He has a comfortable and comforting message which is not offensive to the natural man and is especially not offensive to deceived religious people.
The false prophet is praised by just about everybody. The false prophet is all things to all men in the sense that he makes it “easy” for people to enter and easy for people to follow because in his preaching there is no narrow gate and no narrow way. The false prophet preaches without the offense of the cross. He preaches comforting self-help messages. In his book, An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, Arthur Pink (1886-1952) said about false prophets, “There is nothing in their preaching which searches the conscience and renders the empty professor uneasy, nothing which humbles and causes their hearers to mourn before God; but rather that which puffs up, makes them pleased with themselves and to rest content in a false assurance” (Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, Michigan) 1959 [First printing 1950]).
The false prophet preaches about good things that are non-confrontational and non-threatening while leaving out that best things that are at the top of God’s priority list for His people.
The false prophet is interested in getting large crowds through the wide gate and not in growing loyal Christians. He is interested in people's happiness and not their holiness; he is interested in people's pleasure and not their purity; he is interested in quantity and not quality and therefore he omits major parts of God’s Word.
The Bible says that the false prophet’s message never disturbs and never makes you feel uncomfortable – that it is a message of comfort and hope and not a message of conviction and holiness.
The Bible makes it plain that in the last days – during the age of apostasy – people will desire the preaching and teaching of the false prophet and the true prophet will not be liked but will be looking for a place to preach. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
False believers don’t like true preaching that has sound doctrine that disturbs. Instead of enduring sound doctrine, the so-called believers in the last days (which we are in) will heap to themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires who will “tickle” their ears.
This is exactly what happened in the Old Testament too and we are told in the New Testament to look at the false prophets of the Old Testament because New Testament false prophets will be the same type as the Old Testament false prophets, preaching the same kind of messages. “But false prophets also arose among the people (the Israelites of the Old Testament), just as there will also be false teachers among you (2 Peter 2:1).
So, what were they like? This is how they are described:
The false prophet’s message is one of easy salvation (no narrow gate but a wide gate) and easy discipleship (no narrow way but a broad way).
The False Prophet’s Motive
The false prophet’s message as found in Matthew 7:13-14 is one of easy salvation and easy discipleship. He uses a wide gate and a broad way that leads to destruction. It is from the false prophet’s message that you can begin to understand the false prophet’s motive. The false prophet uses the wide gate and the broad way because his motive is quantity and not quality. The false prophet wrongly assumes that God is more interested in quantity than He is in quality and therefore he brings many people through the wide gate false gospel.
Jesus is saying in Matthew 7:15-20 that the false prophet’s motive is quantity. Jesus said, “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? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
Notice that our Lord Jesus Christ said that the false prophet has no quality of fruit – He did not say that the false prophet didn’t have quantity. Jesus made a “qualitative” statement when He called the fruit either “good” or “bad”. The Lord is interested in quality and not quantity but the false prophet is interested in quantity and not quality.
Jesus said the way to know a false prophet is by his fruit – if you want to know whether or not a man is a false prophet who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, look at his fruit; look at his church members.
The false prophet proclaims a wide gate false gospel and a broad way false discipleship that perpetuates false Christianity, producing church members who are powerless professors of the faith, holding to a form of godliness (Christianity), although they have denied its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
The false prophet may have quantity but he will not have quality. Jesus didn’t say that he wouldn’t have fruit, but that he would have “bad” fruit.
The way to find out what kind of fruit a man is producing is to ask, “Are his church members more interested in pleasure than they are in purity?” – “They will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Are His church members more interested in the lottery than they are the Lord? – “They will be lovers of money” Are his church members more interested in their comfort than they are their character? – “They will be lovers of self.” Do his church members know that God’s top priority for the Christian’s life is his or her purity? “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Do his church members know that God’s top priority for His church is its purity? “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Do his church members know that Christ died for purity (quality)? – “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13-14).
The false prophet’s motive is quantity and not quality – but God desires quality and it can only be obtained through the narrow gate and narrow way which produces the quality God wants.
The False Prophet’s Methods
Since it is true that the false prophet’s motive is quantity and not quality (their motto is: “you have to get them there however you can”), then it is also true that his message will be one of easy salvation and easy discipleship – he will preach a message of a wide gate and broad way false gospel.
But what also is logically true of the false prophet, are his methods. Since the false prophet is after quantity and not quality, his methods are out of line with God’s word.
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells us the differences between the false prophet’s methods and the true prophet’s methods by comparing a wise man (true prophet or true Christian) to a foolish man (false prophet or false Christian).
The wise man hears the words of Jesus and acts on them while the foolish man hears the words of Jesus and does not act on them. The meaning and understanding of the passage is simple – the true prophet follows instructions and the false prophet ignores instructions. The true prophet trusts in the Lord with all his heart and does not lean on his own understanding while the false prophet trusts in himself with all his heart and leans on his own understanding.
The true prophet goes by the Book while the false prophet does it his way. The true prophet says that you are to do nothing on your own initiative, but you are to look to see where God is at work and join Him there in His strategy for His purpose while the false prophet says that you are to discover the purpose of God and then you strategize how to fulfill it.
The true prophet teaches you how to walk in faith – trusting the Lord with all your heart. The false prophet teaches you how to walk in the flesh – leaning on your own understanding.
So the first and most obvious method of the false prophet is he does not follow instructions – he does it his way leaning on his own understanding. He attempts to do the will of God his own way not following the Lord’s instructions. He uses his own ingenious ideas and thinks that the Lord is going to be pleased with his ingenuity. He has no time for instructions – he can figure this thing out. He is interested in quantity and not quality so the instructions only serve to hinder his efforts.
Another comparison between the methods of the true and false prophets is the true prophet isn’t in a hurry and doesn’t take short cuts while the false prophet is in a hurry and does take short cuts.
The false prophet does not take the time to dig deep and lay a solid foundation taking whatever time is necessary to get the job done right. The false prophet isn’t interested in quality – he just wants quantity.
The false prophet does not take the time to find out all he can from the Word of God and from history – his is a shallow foundation on sand. He is in a hurry and takes shortcuts in order to get “results.”
For the false prophet, “if it works it must be right” so any method that seems to work he will use – even if it reeks of the flesh and the world.
The false prophet thinks that God will allow any method as long as it works – but he has forgotten to check the instruction manual to see that that isn’t so.
The false prophet ends up deceiving himself and others because of his results. Men are prone to judging by appearance instead of making a righteous judgment and because the false prophet has “results” (quantity) he appears to be the true man of God when in reality he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The true prophet is not in a hurry and takes the time to build on a solid foundation regardless if the false prophet appears to be a better and faster builder. The true prophet knows that the storm of the trying fire of God’s judgment is coming!
One last comparison between the methods of the true prophet and the false prophet leads us to the true prophet’s method of completing his assignment from the Lord while the false prophet’s method is of competing to see who can build the biggest, the fastest, and the most.
The true prophet doesn’t care what men think about his progress, he is only concerned with what God thinks and is interested in bringing glory to God by building God’s way.
The false prophet does care about what men think about his progress, and believes that if men are pleased then surely God will be pleased also. But the sad reality is, the false prophet, is seeking his own glory, and not the glory of God. If he were seeking the glory of God, he would follow God’s instructions and take the time necessary to lay a proper foundation so that God would have the quality He is after and then God would receive the glory for His wisdom in the correct way to build. But the false prophet is too busy competing and never ends up completing God’s assignment because he believes that God is interested in quantity and not quality.
All through this passage of Scripture the truth jumps off the pages that God is interested in quality and not quantity. That is why the true man of God uses the narrow gate and the narrow way and the true man of God listens to and follows instructions, is not in a hurry, and is seeking after God’s glory and not his own.
Jesus' litmus test to determine a false prophet is this – is he interested in quantity or quality. If he is interested in quantity then he is a false prophet. If he is interested in quality then he is a true prophet.
Which of the two pastors did you choose as your pastor for your church or as your missionary for your community? Go back to the characteristics of the two pastors and put them to the test with Jesus’ litmus test. See which one is interested in quantity and which one is interested in quality.
Pastor # 1 was Jim Jones who was the pastor of the People’s Temple Christian Church. Jim Jones and over a thousand of his most loyal followers committed suicide in the jungles of ,
The information on the ministry of Jim Jones is quoted in John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7: Moody Press:
Pastor # 2 is Jim Cymbala the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Jim Cymbala was obedient to Christ who says that because He loves He reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19). He was obedient to what the apostle Paul told Titus to do: “Reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). Cymbala was more interested in quality than he was quantity.
Jim Cymbala has been the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle for more than twenty-five years. During that time the congregation has grown to nearly 10,000.
The information on the ministry of Jim Cymbala is taken directly from his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Zondervan Publishing House (
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).