“But false prophets also appeared among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies…” (2 Peter 2:1; NAS)
In the seventh chapter of the book of Matthew we are shown yet another engaging truth. In this parable, the Lord is referring to the “good and the bad fruits” as well as the many who will attempt to enter into his presence through the “wide gate”. All who seek the wide gate will be leading themselves to ruin.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Many teachers will claim this verse is simply referring to believers and non- believers. That is to say, “Christians” and “non-Christians”. The Christian enters heaven through the straight gate and the narrow way (which is Christ), where the un-believing world tries to enter heaven through the wide gate and the broad way (spiritual gurus, religions and worldly philosophies that deny Christ, anti-Christs, etc.) But this is not the case. We can know this passage in Matthew 7 is referring to the true followers of Christ (the narrow way) and those who falsely proclaim Christ for one reason or another (the broad way). These are the people whose hearts have been far removed from the true gospel message but continue to claim the name of Jesus. We know this because in the very next verse it states the following.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:15-20; emphasis in bold mine throughout this chapter)
If this wide gate whose participants produce bad fruit is referring only to those outside of the Christian faith, then why does the Lord tell us the false prophets will come to us in sheep’s clothing?
We find many references throughout the bible where sheep are not mentioned as un-believers, but as those sheep who belong to God. It was the psalmist who said, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
In John 10:14 the Lord says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep”. Later in the same chapter of John the Lord reiterates this concept with even more clarity when he says, “I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. 26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. (John 10:25-27)
Again, regarding his sheep, Jesus instructs Peter that if he loved him as he proclaimed, he should feed his sheep. “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).
These are not isolated passages. This theme of God’s people being “His sheep” is continuous throughout the Lord’s teachings.
Knowing the context of the “sheep” in scripture, we can see Matthew 7:15 is showing us that among His sheep, we will see false prophets rise. The very people Jesus is telling us to beware of are the false prophets masquerading as His people – His sheep.
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