God’s just judgment against false teachers and false prophets is swift, sure and fierce. Throughout the Holy Scriptures God warns His people to stay away from false prophets and false teachers. The falsehood they broadcast leads God’s people astray and brings reproach upon the name of Jesus Christ. If we look at the Old Testament, we see that God proscribed death for those who dared to prophesy falsely in His name.
1 “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder; 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. Deuteronomy 13:1-4
It was certain that false prophets would arise doing wonders to lead God’s children astray. They were not to listen to these false prophets but they were to show their whole-hearted allegiance to God by fearing Him and walking after Him by obeying His commandments and His voice by serving Him and holding fast to Him. The penalty for the one who was trying to mislead God’s people was death.
5 “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst. Deuteronomy 13:5
We see the parallel to false prophets in Peter’s second epistle where he warns of the certainty that false teachers will arise to lead God’s people away from Him and lead them into sin and gross immorality.
12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. 16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 1:12-2:3
Peter, the elder, wanted to keep his beloved brethren safe from the damning destruction of false teachers, and so he wrote this epistle. Peter is at the end of his days on this earth, as witnessed to him by the Lord Jesus Christ, and he wanted to keep fellow believers safe from the twisting of Scripture through the private interpretations of false teachers. Peter encourages believers to pay close attention to the Scriptures as a safe-guard against the wiles of the enemy disseminated apostasy through the work of false teachers. The fact that these false teachers would receive God’s just judgment does not keep them from speaking lies and teaching destructive heresies so as to exploit God’s people for their own monetary gain. Don’t we see this happening in spades as all manner of false teaching is spread abroad through treacherous works of wicked men in the form of books, seminars, movies, music, empty preaching and deceptive words on the internet? We can be encouraged that God is bringing and will bring His judgment upon the wicked deceivers. How do we spot these false teachers so we won’t be led astray?
First and foremost we must be serious students of the Bible. If we don’t know God’s Word how will we know if it is being misrepresented and twisted from God’s intended meaning?
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 2 Timothy 2:15-16
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work….2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 4:2-4
As time goes on false teachers will only get more deceptive and more destructive. Some are deceived to be sure, but that doesn’t relieve them of the responsibility before God for being false teachers. Following are verses that give notable characteristics of false teachers.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:13
False teachers are evil impostors who deceive others and are deceived themselves. Their error will result in greater and greater depravity. Don’t we see this abounding in the visible church today?
15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:15-18
False teachers are unstable and untaught. They twist the Scriptures promoting their own wicked error. They have never studied under a godly man, nor do they have the Holy Spirit. They are doomed to destruction, since they do not fear God or His judgment against false teachers. Don’t we see this abounding in the visible church today?
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine that accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. 1 Timothy 6:3-5
False teachers will substitute their own words and false doctrines for God’s word. Their false teaching promotes all manner of evil behavior and their whole goal is to become financially wealthy. Don’t we see this abounding in the visible church today?
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17-18
False teacher use their personalities and deceptive words to gain an advantage over those who are ignorant of God’s Word. They cause divisions and offenses teaching contrary to the godly doctrine of the Scriptures. Don’t we see this abounding in the visible church today?
43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do the things which I say? Luke 6:43-46
Now there are some within the visible church who come to the conclusion that even if an individual has all of the hallmarks of a false teacher, we cannot say categorically they are because we can’t see their hearts. Here our omniscient Lord and Savior contradicts this false notion by establishing the fact that a person says what is in their heart. If they have all of the characteristics noted above we can conclusively state they are a false teacher and attach their name to that apt label. All false teachers give lip service to the Lord Jesus Christ but refuse to obey Him. Don’t we see this abounding in the visible church today?
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:15-20
Finally, when we see someone within the visible church exhibiting the fruit that has been cataloged here from the Scriptures we can be sure they are doomed to just destruction. God will not wink at their wicked work of trying to lead His children into bondage to lies and under the dominion of Satan. Praise God for His judgment against false teachers. Amen!
If we find “Christians” held captive to the lies of the enemy we are exhorted by Paul to make an effort to rescue them in humility with the truth. Jude likewise gives this same admonition.
23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keeping yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Jude 1:20-23
Lord Jesus Christ please protect Your precious sheep from the wiles of wolves who are led by the devil who goes about as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. May we resist these evil workers led by Satan as we stand fast in the faith holding to the sure Word of prophecy, Your Holy Scriptures. Amen!