Who are the "wolves in sheep's clothing" and are we safe from them today?
warns his followers that wolves would come in and tear some of his flock apart
(Matthew 7:15). And remember, Jesus said in John 10:16 that he had sheep in
another sheep pen. Many interpret this to refer to the Gentile believers that
would eventually become followers of Jesus. About 20 years later, Paul reports
that these “wolves” (the same which Jesus warned about) would come in soon
after his (Paul’s) death and they would be from among his (Paul's) Gentile
followers (Acts 20:28-30, Romans 16:17-18). Many people wonder who these
"wolves" were or will be, but Paul gives us an important set of clues
to guide us so that guessing becomes unnecessary: 1) the wolves would be from
among Paul's own Gentile followers, 2) they would appear after Paul's death,
and 3) they would try to deceive Paul's true followers with false doctrines.
Not only this, but Paul says they would be teachers – but they would in fact be
false teachers. Jesus even calls them false prophets. Thus are the words of
this verse fulfilled again: "Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them
by false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'This is what the Sovereign
LORD says'--when the LORD has not spoken" (Ezekiel 22:28).
The Apostle John in the late 1st century (80s or 90s AD) implies that the wolves were already coming in during his own lifetime. The wait was over, they had already arrived: "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church” (3 John 1:9-10).
What is John saying here? A Gentile church, perhaps even one that John himself had founded (or Paul) was ignoring John’s letters and would not permit John’s agents to enter the congregation. When certain local congregants tried to let John’s agents inside, Pastor Diotrephes prohibited them and cast them out of the church. Not only this, but Pastor Diotrephes went totally rogue by speaking wicked things against the Apostle John! John himself even says that Diotrephes did not receive “us” (John and his associates). Who is the “us” referring to? It could include any of John’s friends but it could perhaps also refer to the Jewish leadership headquarted in Jerusalem, since we know that John had stayed in Jerusalem with James and Peter even when many of the other disciples fled from Paul’s persecutions (Acts 8:4, 8:14, Galatians 1:19, 2:9). We know from other historical sources that James, Peter, and John were the top three leaders at that times. So... what we are witnessing here is the beginning of the coming in of the wolves. Diotrephes was one of these wolves – but he was certainly not the last.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, writes in his epistle during the late 1st century: "it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3). Why all of the sudden did they need to start earnestly contending for the faith that was "once" delivered to the saints. Perhaps because it was no longer the faith being taught. It "once" was, but not anymore. Or perhaps because the true faith was given "once" and did not need to be re-given again by these false teachers. Regardless, Jude saw the need for people to be on guard and strengthen themselves in the true faith - not giving heed to false teachers.
Jesus prophesied around 30 AD that wolves would come in; Paul warned around 60 AD that wolves were about to come in and that they would come in after his death in the mid 60s. John then says in the 80s or 90s AD that the wolves had already begun arriving by giving us the example of Diotrephes, a rogue pastor who rejected the authority of the Jewish leadership centered in Jerusalem. Jude makes his exhortation in the mid to late 1st century. Thus, the wolves started coming in at sometime between 60-90 AD.
One needs only to look at who the teachers of the late 1st century and 2nd century were to discover who Jesus, Paul and John were talking about. Historians call these rogue Gentile teachers “the Early Church Fathers.” Some of the more famous ones were Justin Martyr, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Melito of Sardis, and Augustine just to name a few.
These men were responsible for bringing heresies into the body of believers and deceiving the masses – just as Jesus and Paul had prophesied and just as John had described decades before. And remember, Paul said the heresies would start 1) after his death (60s AD) and they would be spread by his Gentile followers – i.e. not any of the Jewish disciples. This means that the heresies and false doctrines would only be among the Gentile believers, not the Jewish ones. The Jewish believers had faithfully maintained the pure doctrine that Jesus taught. The Gentile believers, however, did not. They were corrupted.
These so-called “Early Church Fathers” formulated many of the major doctrines of Christianity including 1) the replacement of Israel by the Church in God’s plans, 2) the Trinity/ deity of Jesus, 3) the replacement of Passover with Easter, 4) the excommunication of all Jewish believers from fellowship with Gentile believers, 5) that one must be a Christian (as defined by them) to be saved. Being an observant Jew means nothing, 6) the Torah (Law) is abolished/ fulfilled by Jesus and one is cursed for following it (therefore Jews became thought of as a "cursed race")… and there are many many more examples of heinous theological mistakes that they committed against the unsuspecting, unknowledgeable laypeople.
Finally, let us hear the words of the prophets.
Jeremiah prophesies of mass Gentile repentance taking place in the latter days. What are the Gentiles repenting of? They had inherited lies from their "fathers"... “O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the Gentiles come from the ends of the earth and say: “Our fathers have inherited nothing but >>>lies<<<, worthless things in which there is no profit.” (Jeremiah 16:19).
There is also the testimony of the prophet Zechariah who affirms that the Gentiles will repent and turn to the Jews for teachers (since the Gentile teachers had deceived them): “And many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem and to pray before the LORD. 23Thus hath the LORD of Hosts said, In those days it shall come to pass that ten men of all the languages of the Gentiles shall take hold of the robe of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:22-23). What have they heard? They have heard the Good News and they have heard that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The king of the Jews has become king of the whole world!
Remember, both Jesus and Paul warned that these false Gentile teachers would lie to their followers. Then Jeremiah says that someday the Gentiles (i.e. the decedents of the deceived followers) would realize that they had been lied to and cry out in repentance! Zechariah then says that these deceived Gentiles will come to the Jewish people seeking God because they are seeking the truth. According to Paul, one advantage of being a Jew (rather than a Gentile) is that God had entrusted His “oracles,” or “divine revelations,” exclusively to the Jewish people (Romans 3:1-2). They are the guardians of the true religion. (also see Psalm 146:6)
It is my personal belief that these verses written by the prophets are being fulfilled in our days, in this very unique time in history. Never before in world history has there ever been so much love for Jews from Christians. In fact, even just identifying oneself as a Christian in a Western society will probably make people think that the person supports Israel – because Christian Zionism is such a common phenomenon nowadays! This has NEVER happened before. EVER.
Not only this, but the rise of the Messianic/ Hebrew Roots/ Torah-Observant movement(s) has only strengthened this belief, for me anyway. This global repentance, this mass awakening, this widespread realization that folks have been lied to for generations upon generations – and then the cries of repentance and loving attachment to the Jews – is a total reversal away from the terrible, fatal lies promulgated by the Early Church Fathers. Our modern repentance is a “teshuvah” – a repair, a healing, a repentance – for their sins and the consequences thereof.
May this be a blessing to you and your family, and may the God of Israel bless you with spiritual and physical blessings. May He guide us all to the Truth and help us to walk therein! And the Truth will set us free...