The false prophet of the end times is described in Revelation 13:11-15. He is also referred to as the “second beast” (Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). Together with the Antichrist and Satan, who empowers both of them, the false prophet is the third party in the unholy trinity.
The apostle John describes this person and gives us clues to identifying him when he shows up. First, he comes out of the earth. This could mean he comes up from the pit of hell with all the demonic powers of hell at his command. It could also mean he comes from lowly circumstances, secret and unknown until he bursts on the world stage at the right hand of the Antichrist. He is depicted as having horns like a lamb, while speaking like a dragon. The horns on lambs are merely small bumps on their heads until the lamb grows into a ram. Rather than having the Antichrist’s multiplicity of heads and horns, showing his power and might and fierceness, the false prophet comes like a lamb, winsomely, with persuasive words that elicit sympathy and good will from others. He may be an extraordinary preacher or orator whose demonically empowered words will deceive the multitudes. But he speaks like a dragon, which means his message is the message of a dragon. Revelation 12:9 identifies the dragon as the devil and Satan.
Jesus Calls Out Their True Identity
Having called out their unrighteousness, he appropriately describes and labels the false teachers. In Matthew 23 alone, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” six times. Besides that, he calls them “blind guides,” “blind fools,” “blind men,” “whitewashed tombs,” “sons of those who murdered the prophets,” “serpents,” and “brood of vipers.” You get the point. Jesus does not shy away from calling false teachers exactly what they are. “Jesus meek and mild” sinlessly expresses divine wrath toward those who would speak truth in the name of error, who would teach doctrines of demons under the banner of heaven.
In recent years there have been several news features on the phenomenon of pastors who do not believe. The report has essentially been that, in anonymous surveys, some pastors admit to being atheists/agnostics. Why would an atheist/agnostic want to be a pastor? While some reported that they enjoy the control and authority the pastoral role gives them, the majority stated that, while they themselves do not believe, they understand that the Christian message can be a help to weak-minded people; therefore, they are willing to teach it. What does the Bible say about “pastors who do not believe”?
In a word, “Woe!” “Woe to you, you hypocrites…woe to you, blind guides…” (Matthew 23:14-16). “Woe to the shepherds who only take care of themselves…” (Ezekiel 34:2). “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13).
It is the height of hypocrisy to teach a message you do not believe. It is dishonoring to God for anyone—especially pastors—to consider the Christian message a psychological crutch for unintelligent and needy people. Proverbs 6:16-19 declares, “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” If the Christian faith is a lie, it is not a “useful psychological crutch.” Rather, it is useless, vain, empty, futile, and pitiful (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).
Jesus ensures his listeners know the full gravity of this deadly doctrine. He knows that adhering to such faulty teaching will have the most dire consequences, so six times he repeats the word “woe.” This is a word of divine judgment, of abject misery that portends a final, miserable end. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:32). They will not, and neither will those who submit to such odious error.
As we have explored throughout this series, false doctrine is deadly doctrine. It leads both teachers and hearers to destruction. It is good and loving to warn them of this destruction, so that “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). Source
“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 thornbushes, 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.” (see also Luke 6:43–44)
Jesus says it twice so that we won’t miss it: You will recognize them by their fruits. His warning may sound clear and simple at first, but as we all know, trees don’t bear fruit overnight. Eventually, however, the fruit (or lack thereof) will be manifest. And so it is with ethical compromise. What may begin as mere whispers in a private room will soon enough be proclaimed from the housetops (Luke 12:3). And so Paul instructs leaders not only to pay careful attention to their people and to their teaching, but also to their own lives (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 4:16).
No doubt, false teachers may be difficult to recognize in the moment. If we don’t have access to their personal lives, or their doctrinal compromises haven’t yet been manifest publicly in their behavior, we may find it difficult to know whether they are true. But time will tell. They will be known by their fruit — not the fruit of ministry quantity and numbers, but quality and endurance — and ultimately the quality of their own lives.
Finally, the Speculator is the one obsessed with novelty, originality, or speculation. The author of Hebrews warned his church of these “strange teachings,” while Paul told Timothy to protect the church against any “different doctrine” (Hebrews 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:3). Teaching focused on speculation displaces the sure and steady doctrine of Scripture. The Speculator tosses aside the bulk of the Bible’s content and the weight of the Bible’s emphasis in order to obsess about matters that are trivial or novel. He grows weary of the old truths and pursues respectability through originality.
Today, as in every age, the Speculator obsesses about the End Times, and somehow his failed predictions dissuade neither himself nor his followers. Recently we saw him obscuring the clear message of Scripture to search for hidden codes in Scripture. Sometimes he plants himself in academia, where one of his recent masterpieces is a re-imagined God who is unable to see and know the future. Well did Paul label the Speculator a contradictory, irreverent babbler (1 Timothy 6:20-21).
Satan’s greatest ambassadors are not pimps, politicians, or power-brokers, but pastors.
Satan’s greatest ambassadors are not pimps, politicians, or power-brokers, but pastors. His priests do not peddle a different religion, but a deadly perversion of the true one. His troops do not make a full-out frontal assault, but work as agents, sneaking into the opposing army. Satan’s tactics are studied, clever, predictable, effective. Therefore, we must always remain vigilant. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16a) Source
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