Ravaging Wolves

Photo credit (PD)
Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
-Matthew 7:15-16

I had a dream with two scenes that were connected. In scene one, I observed a conversation of sorts, where a person or persons were possibly leading a person, in my care; astray. I knew I needed to talk to my person, my son. A man behind me encouraged me. I was about to talk to my son, when the people in question re-appeared, so I said, to my son, "let's go for a walk", intending to school him about what these others were possibly up to.

Then, we got up to walk, into scene two; and I saw 3 or 4 wolves attacking and ravaging one alone sheep. It was terrible and I only got the chance to notice and see this, then I awoke. The two scenes were so different, yet were about the same thing.

Beware of false prophets. These are people who:
  • In God's name, teach what is false.(Strongs)
  • Pretend to speak the word of the Lord (prophesy) but in fact are phony (an imposter).(HELPS)
  • Specialize in "the art of misimpression," like about how they were "commissioned" by the Lord to touch the world with their message. But when in fact, they operate by self and for self so they must be exposed for what they are – and are not!(HELPS)
  • Are, "Acting the part of a divinely inspired prophet, utter falsehoods under the name of divine prophecies, a false prophet"(Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravaging wolves. The word ravaging means robbing, as in snatching. The same word is translated, in Luke 18:18, and elsewhere, as robber (HCSB, NIV), swindler (NASB), and extortioner (ESV, KJV).

A ravaging wolf steals life. It snatches an animal that can not defend itself. Ravenous means hungry to snatch. The picture that the NT authors give us, by using the same word to describe a wolf's activity or motivation and a human's, is a desire to steal, rob, or take from others. Swindlers and extortioners are on the lookout for targets to rip off.

Jesus says that false prophets are secretly (inwardly) robbers, swindlers, or extortionists. Rapacious is a synonym for the same word that is translated "ravage". Rapacious means "aggressively greedy". Greedy is defined as, "intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food."

We might think of false prophets as people that make predictions that don't come true. False prophets, at their core though, are people who counsel you towards the wrong path. They counsel you towards idolatry, selfishness, immorality, and false religion that does not make Jesus Lord.

The false prophet has an appetite for hurting people, by luring them away from the path of Christ. And they might preach Christ, but it is "pseudo" or phony.

The false prophet does not need to claim they are a prophet. Sometimes they do, but often, and I think more often, they are in the flock, in the church, with the other sheep. You can meet a false prophet anywhere. The marker is not where you find them, but that they are a fake, a fraud, or an impostor. Inside and underneath their facade, they are wolves.

Wolves are hunters, killers, wild, and not at all related to sheep. Wolves kill and eat sheep inhumanely, cruelly, and savagely; because that is who they are. A hungry wolf hunts and kills aggressively and mercilessly.

How do we spot these people?  They will have bad fruit in their lives.  All Christians are called to be fruit inspectors or observers.  We can do this without being condemning or handing out grades.

People who are garden variety false prophets, who are not in any way famous, who are right next to you, who have crossed your path in your life; might look and sound like a Christian, so how do we discern?  It's the fruit.

Now, many Christians do not have good fruit.  It is not all bad, but there is room for improvement.  That is just called immature.  We are all on the path to maturity and we all have imperfect fruit, but we have good fruit.  Bad fruit is something else.  Jesus didn't say they don't have fruit, but implied that their fruit gives them away.  What is their life producing?

True Christians, who have Christ, have His Spirit, who grows the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.  The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) is:
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control
I believe that the context of a text helps us interpret the text.  Right before Jesus warns us about false prophets who come to us in sheep's clothing, but are really wolves; he says this:
Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.  How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.
What or who is the narrow gate?  True Christians encourage each other about the narrow gate.  Even if a person is the most creative seer-prophet, they will encourage you to go through that narrow gate, which is Christ.  False brothers and sisters want to get you off that path and into the wide way.

And what is it that Jesus says after his "watch out for false prophets" saying?  It is his hard word, "I never knew you":
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’
This is a scary saying of Jesus. He says there are folks that he will have to say, "I never knew you!" to.  When I fellowship with someone and exchange encouragements, I want to hear that they know him and he knows them.  I want to see authentic relationship in that area.

I recently had a family member of mine share that they prayed to the Lord.  That is something that thrills me, because Jesus is able to say, of that person, that he knows them.  I cannot fathom what it would be like, it is so horrible to think of, that Jesus would say, "I never knew you!"

False prophets don't "know him", and he (Jesus) does not "know them".  This means there is no meaningful, intimate (in-to-me-see) relationship.  That person may quote scripture and teach, while not knowing him, or being known by him.

The shocking picture in Matthew, that I also was shocked by in my dream, are people who are hungry, greedy, swindlers, extortioners, and robbers.  Wolves don't rob sheep or rabbits of their cash of jewelry.  They rob them of their lives and they do not do it nicely and they are in a hurry to do it.

When we bring the metaphor over to people, we have selfish people who are hungry to rip people off, but, like a swindler or extortionist they are charming, at least at the beginning, when they want to draw you in, before they have robbed you.  These people do not just have a differing opinion about theology or salvation, but they are opposed to authentic Christianity, and want to destroy it.  And they do it through deceit.  That's the big one that Jesus warns us about.

When someone is playing nice, but lying, it is a rude awakening to realize you are being lied to and deceived.  It happens every day, in the world.  And the enemy brings it to the church through people he uses to be deceivers.  Sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, the deceivers are themselves deceived; but they are still deceivers, liars and practicing evil.  Jesus warns us, "Watch out!"

Can a nice person be a deceiver?  Yes.  Can they yet be saved?  Yes.