Near the end of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issued this stark warning to His listeners: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
False prophets were not new to Israel. As long as God has had true prophets, Satan has had false ones. They are seen from the earliest times of redemptive history. Moses warned:
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 13.1–5″ data-version=”nasb95″>Deuteronomy 13:1–5)
Elsewhere in the Old Testament, God told the prophet Jeremiah:
The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. (Jeremiah 14:14)
At times, the Lord would judge His people through false prophets. He warned the prophet Zechariah:
For behold, I am going to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for the perishing, seek the scattered, heal the broken or sustain the one standing, but will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off the hoofs. (Zechariah 11:16)
Paul warned the Roman believers: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16.17–18″ data-version=”nasb95″>Romans 16:17–18).
In other parts of the New Testament false prophets are spoken of as “deceitful spirits” who advocate “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).
They are called false brothers (2 Corinthians 11:26).