Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Suffering on Earth is one thing, and good comes out of it. Suffering beyond Earth is a different thing. No good comes out of it--ever. For that reason, false prophets are the greatest danger in our world today. Not dictators, warlords, drug kings or human traffickers, though all contain evil--even to monstrous degrees.
But they are evils we can see and fight. God's heroes work diligently in these mission fields, and every victim will be freed. All wrongs will be righted. 'For I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrong doing' (Isaiah 61:8). Jesus came 'To set the oppressed free' (Luke 4:18). He did. He does and He will.
But what about the oppressed in so-called Christian churches across the world? Those who are 'Distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd' (Matthew 9:36): What about them? Are they in a 'Synagogue of Satan' (Revelation 3:9)? 'And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Their leaders? 'Hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves' (Matthew 23:15). They are false prophets profiting from their own congregations.
Jesus called them 'Ravenous wolves' (Matthew 7:15), 'Blind guides' (Matthew 23:16,24), 'Serpents... vipers' (v.33), 'Which on the outside appear beautiful... righteous to men' (v.27), but inwardly are 'Full of hypocrisy and lawlessness' (v.28).*
False prophets are subtle, mixing a lot of truth with a little lie. But what happens when one drop of poison is released in a well of water? It's all contaminated and thirsty people suffer.
'Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right' (Charles Spurgeon).
Our King wants us to recognize false prophets: to leave them, even expose them--but absolutely not to follow them. How can we know them? By their fruits: their work and their lifestyle. Are they living in luxury--encouraging their followers to follow them? If so, they cannot follow Him--because this practice directly opposes the work and lifestyle of Jesus.
To Be Continued...
*Read Matthew 23 to see the extent of Jesus' anger toward false prophets: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2023&version=NASB
'False Teachers and False Prophets:' http://so4j.com/false-teachers-false-prophets-bible-scriptures.php
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Sermon On The Mount series.