15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15–20)
I know that this warning pertains to God’s program with Israel. But I am wondering just what kind of things these “false prophets” are going to say and teach?
The “fruits” of these particular false prophets will fall into more than one category. This is one reason why the Lord uses the plural word “fruits” when He tells the remnant of Israel, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Moreover each category of their false teachings and prophecies will have a direct connection to the major progressive developments that will be going on during the final installment to the climactic stage in God’s program with Israel.
Now in Matthew 7 the Lord only sets forth a basic warning to the remnant about the coming of these “false prophets,” along with basic instructions on how they will be able to detect them. And at the beginning of the remnant’s edification, (which is what the Lord is giving them in His ‘sermon on the mount’), this is all that they really needed to know. For at the outset to the climactic stage in the program they just needed to know that such “false prophets” would be coming, and that they would not be detectable either by how they looked or by how they acted. And with this being so, the remnant will not be able to go by what they will ‘see.’ They will have to go strictly by what these characters will say; i.e. by the “fruits” that will come out of their mouths as they function as the prophets of God that they will claim to be. This will be the key to identifying them, just as the Lord said by His ‘tree and its fruit’ analogy in verses 16–20.
Now though at the outset to the remnant’s edification the Lord did not describe these “fruits” in any real detail, He did do so later on before returning to the Father; as, for example, in Matthew 24. Moreover the Lord also provided for even further details about these “false prophets” and their “fruits” to be given to the remnant after He departed, which He gave to them particularly through the epistles of their apostles Peter, James, John, and Jude.
Briefly and simply put, in Matthew 24 the Lord set forth to His disciples the basic outline of the events that will transpire in the final installment to Israel’s program. In so doing He also set forth the basic outline regarding the coming and functioning of these particular “false prophets.” And according to what the Lord set forth, there will be three main categories of these “false prophets,” and the three categories will correspond with the three major stages of development during the final installment.
The first main category of “false prophets” will be those that will begin to function early on in the opening stage to the final installment of Israel’s program, during which time, (as the Lord says in Matthew 24:4–5), “many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” The main thrust and focus of their deceitful false teachings will be that of contradicting and denying that Jesus of Nazareth is the real Christ. Likewise they will also pronounce other teachings of the remnant to be untrue. Furthermore these “false prophets,” and others like them, will also seek to infiltrate ‘the ranks of the remnant,’ so to speak. They will do this in order to seduce, deceive, and corrupt them from within by teaching contrary doctrines of their own concoction, as well as by teaching contrary doctrines that come from their mishandling, misunderstanding, and misapplying of what is set forth in the law and the prophets.
As previously noted, further details about these “false prophets” are given to the remnant in Hebrews through The Book of The Revelation. Hence more information about the function of this first main category of “false prophets” is set forth, for example, in II Peter 2:1ff; I John 2:18–27; and 4:1–6.
The second main category of “false prophets” and their ‘fruit’ will be those that will begin to function a little later on in the development of the final installment, particularly when “the beginning of sorrows” of Matthew 24:7–8 is underway, with its turmoil of the nations that the Lord describes, and also its accompanying turmoil in the environment.
Now in Matthew 24 the Lord does not actually deal in any detail with this second category of “false prophets.” This is because their primary focus will not be on the remnant of Israel. In other words these particular “false prophets” will not specifically be coming to the remnant for the purpose of deceiving them. Rather this second category of “false prophets” will be focusing upon the nations in order to provide for the success of the Antichrist. These will deceive especially in connection with ‘putting an acceptable spin,’ so to speak, on the things that lead up to Israel’s acceptance of the Antichrist, as well as supporting the things that are involved in the implementation of the Antichrist’s policies during the opening portion of his reign and also leading up to his establishment of “the abomination of desolation.” As is set forth in Revelation 13, the second “beast” that arises after the “first beast,” (who is later on called “the false prophet”), is the specific “false prophet” that provides for the success of the Antichrist. However as the prophets also set forth concerning that time, there will be other “sorcerers” with their “sorceries,” and the works of many others with their deceiving “signs” and the like, by which the nations will be deceived.
The third main category of “false prophets” and their ‘fruit’ will be those that will particularly function during the latter stage of the final installment to the program, just as the Lord talks about in Matthew 24:23–28. The main thrust and focus of their false teachings, prophesies, and “great signs and wonders,” will be that of attempting to deceive the members of the remnant who will be in hiding at that time. They will work to deceive them into thinking that the Lord has already returned and that they should come out of their places.
_ K.R. Blades