Why study a group like Jehovah’s Witnesses? One of the primary reasons is to protect the church against error. Jesus warned His disciples about false prophets who would come and act as if they were true followers. Matthew 7:15-23 (NIV). “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
What is a false prophet? It is a person who speaks deceptively about things of God or is speaking for God falsely. In today’ church we need to warn people because these false prophets can do eternal harm. Statistics say 70-80% of all Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses are from either Catholic or Protestant Churches. According to historic Christianity both of these groups qualify as false belief systems. In order to protect the church we must expose false teachings of organizations like the Watchtower and the Latter Day Saints.
Jesus warned that these teachers would give the appearance of being like them. He said they are wolves who would come in sheep’s clothing. Matthew doesn’t say they are wolves coming in wolves clothing. Why? Because if they did everyone would yell wolf! And all the real sheep would run. Instead they are to come in sheep’s clothing and say only things that sound like they are Christians. Many times they use the same theological words but with radically different definitions. To the untrained ear they can be very convincing.
An example of a wolf coming in wolves’ clothing would be if someone knocked on your door and said would you like to become a god? You would immediately know this person is a wolf. Or how about this one, “Joseph Smith says you belong to the Church of Satan.” Would you be ready to sign on and become a Mormon? You wouldn’t be fooled because these are radical beliefs. The point is false prophets come as sheep and try to look like us by using the same religious words we do and by calling themselves Christian.
Now what is the fruit of the false prophets? I believe the word “fruit” is referring to disciples of the false prophet; people who are convinced by their heretical teachings. Jesus says good fruit can only come from a good tree (true church). True believers of Jesus Christ can only come from churches that teach sound doctrine. In contrast bad fruit comes from a bad tree; from religions that denies the core or essential doctrines of the church. The bad fruit believes the teachings of a false prophet. We read about the future for the false prophets and their followers in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day [Judgment day], ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' [sure sounds like Christians, doing miracles, etc] 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Matthew is referring to people who sincerely believe they are followers of Jesus Christ. On the day they die they will receive a major surprise. They will not be in heaven as they thought they would. They will spend eternity separated from the love of Christ.
The verses from Matthew are directed at cults of Christianity, such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jesus was not addressing world religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism but only those groups who claim to be Christian. This is why we say they belong to a cult of Christianity. So what does the word cult mean?