Condemn False Teachers

The nation of Israel and the Jewish people, have experienced more suffering and greater difficulty, than perhaps any other people in the history of the world. Sadly, a considerable number of these trials were caused by their callous disregard for the Lord. In all of their adversity, Israel had one specific period that is most noted in the scriptures. As the nation had grown and prospered, they began to forget the Lord. For 490 years, the Jews neglected their relationship with Yahweh and did not worship or obey Him. The people began to worship and serve the false god’s of the pagan nations that surrounded them. Israel forgot to keep the laws that God had commanded His people to follow. One of these principles was the law of six and one. For every six years that they planted and harvested their crops, on the seventh year; the land was to rest. God would give the people double their harvest at the end of the sixth year so that they would have enough to make it through the entire seventh year without a crop. Out of greed, the people refused to obey this command. After 490 years, the land had built up a rest-debt of seventy years (70 X 7 = 490). As a result of their disobedience and worship of other god’s, the Lord sent His prophets to warn the nation of His coming judgment.

Jeremiah and Haggai predicted the invasion of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, five years before it took place. In Jeremiah, chapter 25, the prophet said that Judah would be in captivity at Babylon for seventy years. In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar began the Captivity of Judah. Precisely seventy years later in 536 B.C, the Persian King, Cyrus, orders the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the second temple. Construction does not begin for another 17 years; in 520 B.C. Just three years later, the temple is completed in 517 B.C. See the chapter: Arrival of the Messiah, for detailed information and charts that illustrate the events that took place during this time.

Zechariah began his ministry in 520 B.C., when the temple was completed.

As Zechariah writes this next prophecy of the Messiah, he is thinking about two different “shepherds.” One, the shepherds (leaders) who had neglected the flock of Israel and failed to teach them the word of God. This resulted in the people falling away from the Lord. This caused the seventy year captivity in Babylon. Second, Zechariah is thinking of the future “Good Shepherd,” the Messiah, who will come to Jerusalem and also find that false shepherds are once again ruling in Israel.

This is a prophetic principle that is often repeated in the Prophecies of the Messiah: an earlier application and fulfillment of a prophecy that affects the people near the time that the prophet writes; and a second fulfillment, occurring much later, during the time when the Messiah arrives.

Old Testament Prediction:

Zechariah 11:4-5 Thus says the LORD my God, “Feed the flock for slaughter, whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich’; and their shepherds do not pity them.”

The “slaughter” described in this verse is defined for us in verse 5. The sheep (the Jews) will be bought as slaves by foreign conquerors. This is the earlier fulfillment, during the time of Zechariah. As with a majority of all Messianic prophecies, there is also a later fulfillment that will take place during the time of the Messiah. This was fulfilled in 70 A.D., when the corrupt leaders of Israel did not recognize the “time of their visitation” by the Messiah, (Jesus) and were taken captive and killed by the invading armies of Titus. See the chapter: Not One Stone Upon Another.

Jesus warned the leaders of Israel that their actions would mean a fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy.

Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ” Matthew 23:34-39

Jesus condemns the people of Israel; from Abel, the first person killed in the Old Testament, to the prophet Zechariah in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, the last person murdered; covering the entire period of Israel’s Old Testament history.[1] Jesus’ indictment against the current leaders of Israel, is the same as God’s charge against the nation during their entire history; these men killed every prophet that God sent the Jews. Now as the Messiah stands before these men, in fulfillment of their prophecies; they will also kill Him and cause the nation to be destroyed, once again.

False Shepherds

One of the most scathing accusation against the scribes and the Pharisees was the charge by Jesus that they were false teachers, who led the people away from God. On the outside, these men appeared perfect; while on the inside, their hearts were corrupt and self-serving This seems to be a primary point of contention for Jesus regarding the religious leaders of Israel. It appears that above all other issues, those who guide people away from God by false teaching is a very serious matter for the Lord.

Jesus’ entire indictment against the scribes and Pharisee is included in the following text, from Matthew 23:13-39. We should carefully study these verses ourselves and make certain that we never imitate the behavior of these men to whom Jesus has such great displeasure. Each verses is listed separately to make the reading of each indictment by Jesus easier to follow.

Matthew 23:13-39
13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”
17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?
18 And, Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.
19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?
20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.
21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.
22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
30 and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”
31 Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,
35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
38 See! Your house is left to you desolate;
39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”

Jesus pronounces eight “Woes” upon the religious leaders in Israel.

Verse 13: Preventing people from finding salvation, by false teaching.
Verse 14: Taking advantage of helpless people and pretending to be holy.
Verse 15: Leading people into damnation by failing to give them the truth.
Verses 16-22: Misleading, by religious ritual instead of simple worship of God.
Verses 23-24: Following the letter of the Law without understanding the purpose of the law: Mercy, Justice, Faith.
Verses 25-26: Appearing righteous externally while having a heart that is evil and corrupt—within.
Verses 27 and 28: A second time: appearing good outwardly, while inside the heart; these men were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Verses 29-37: Honoring the prophets of old by monuments while killing them when they brought indictment against the sins of their religious leaders.

Verses 38-39: Jesus pronounces His judgment for their many failures

“Their house will be left to them a desolation.” Within one generation of judgment (40 years), the Temple will be completely destroyed and the city of Jerusalem leveled. Further, because they missed the time of their visitation by the Messiah, they will not see Him again until the end of the seven-year Tribulation when the say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.”

Jesus predicts the encirclement of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple. These events would happen within the 40 year generation of those who heard this prophecy.

Luke 19:43-44 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

Matthew 24:34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

The context of Jesus’ revelation to the disciples, in Luke 19:29-21:24, is directly after Palm Sunday, 32 A.D. Jesus is describing the judgment that will come upon Israel for her rejection of Him as the Messiah. The fulfillment of this prophecy occurred within one 40-year generation, in 70 A.D., as Titus brought his army against Jerusalem, sacked the city, and destroyed the Temple, leaving “not one stone was left upon another,” just as Jesus had predicted.

Matthew Chapter 24 is essentially the same account that Luke records, as Jesus is seen at the Temple with the disciples. He tells those in attendance that “not one stone shall be left upon another….” This took place exactly as Jesus had predicted.

Matthew 24:1-2 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

The blindness of the leaders of Israel, their inability to see Him in light of the prophetic word that God had delivered by His prophets, and their evil desire to put Him to death, greatly grieved Jesus. Although He had known about these men long before He arrived in Jerusalem; it seems by His language that Jesus was deeply affected by their impoverished souls. Finally, when it is clear that these men will fulfill all the words of this prophecy from Zechariah 11:4-5, as He can bear their destitute hearts no more, Jesus begins to weep for the eternal loss of their souls.

Luke 19:41-42 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

It was because these men were so maligned and corrupt, that they not only failed to recognize their Messiah when He arrived; but they also killed Him. Jesus’ final indictment against the scribes and the Pharisees: they always kill the prophets, wise men, and scribes that God sends to them. Jesus is telling these men that it was He who sent them all—the prophets and messengers of God—while they would not listen; instead, they killed all those whom God sent, just as they would also do to Jesus.

Matthew 23:34 “Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, hat on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

The entire nation of Israel is going to suffer the judgment of complete ruin and be disbursed throughout the world for 2,000 years; because their leaders killed the messengers that God sent to them, including the Messiah. The blindness that the Jews have had towards Jesus as their Messiah, during the past 2,000 years, is due to these leaders of Israel; who rejected Jesus as the Messiah when He came and presented Himself to them.


[1] The last book in the Hebrew Canon; 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. Zechariah is referred to as: “Zechariah, the son of Berachiah,” in Zechariah 1:1.