In this series, we are going through a detailed investigation of what the Bible calls false prophets. To fully grasp the totality of the investigation, please read part 1 here
In the first part of this article, we saw that the devil used a cunning strategy by implanting emotional imagery to deceive Adam & Eve away from God. However, God made an assurance that He would deliver a new seed that would bring new fruit, and His new seed would crush the devil and all the devil’s seeds (see Genesis 3:15).
The word fruit in the Bible is not meant to be taken as simply physical food. It is food, but there is more than mere food going on here with the word “fruit.” Rather, fruit’s greater meaning is a metaphor for a certain teaching. Therefore, when Adam & Eve ate from the rotten fruit, the author is indicating they aligned themselves with a bad teaching that would usher in negative consequences.
We can pick up a few clues of what type of fruit this new seed will give us. After Adam ate the bad fruit (bad teaching), God tells Adam that: “Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field” (Genesis 3:18). So, this bad fruit brings forth thorns and thistles – which are associated with emptiness and pain. However, the next verse after this is revealing: “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). Therefore, since God made man from the original holy ground, what God is indicating is that – you are going to have to eat bread until you come back to that sacred place I made you from. So, we can conclude that this new seed God is replanting into humanity will have something to do with bread.
Then, a few chapters later in Genesis we see the first time the word priest appears in the Bible. Now, a priest is the mediator between God and man. And this particular priest (named Melchizedek) is called “priest of God most high.” What does this high priest bring with him as a sacrifice to connect man with God – bread and wine (see Genesis 14:18, Hebrews 7: 1-17 says that Christ is like this priest). Also, in Exodus 16 we read how God brought down heavenly bread to his people (see also Psalm 78: 23-25, 29, Wisdom of Solomon 16: 20-21) So, God coming down with bread is a significant theme throughout the Bible. In fact, the word “bread” appears roughly 360 times in the Bible. There is also countless references of bread in the Bible when we see words such as flour, wheat, and grain that describe where this bread comes from.
Additionally, there is a famous prophecy that Isaiah declares: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).
The two words I want to focus in on are “branch” and “fruit.” I propose that this “branch” poetically represents the original tree of life in Eden and the “fruit” this branch produces is the fruit of life – exactly what the original fruit intended in Eden. It is significant to point out that the word “branch” in Hebrew means Nazareth. So, this branch Isaiah is talking about is supposed to come from Nazareth. Also, In Zechariah chapter 3, God says that He will bring His servant, the Branch, to remove human sin, and thus revive the human soul to its original state back in Eden. So, this branch will have a major role to play. Interestingly, God mentions that all people are sitting under a fig tree when they are called by “the Branch” out of the fig tree to remove their guile/sin (see Zechariah 3: 8-10, 6:12).
Recall, in the first part of this article, I showed that the fig tree is most likely the bad tree that Adam & Eve ate from. Thus, all people who have sinned are represented as sitting under a fig tree. The Zachariah prophecy is fulfilled by Jesus as Jesus came from Nazareth. Additionally, there is the scene in John’s narrative when Nathan realized that Jesus was “the Branch.” Nathan knew this because by knowing the Zachariah prediction, he made the Nazareth connection when Jesus (the Branch) said he saw Nathan sitting under of all trees – a fig tree (see John 1: 45-49).
Also, there are more clues other than coming from Nazareth (Branch). God also made it clear that the town the Branch was to be born in was Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2, 1 Samuel 16: 1). Well, Bethlehem in Hebrew means “house of bread.” So, branch and bread are interconnected. We can safely assume that in order to remove the sin of humanity the Branch will bring forth fruit and this fruit will have something to do with bread.
Did Jesus Himself say anything about what type of fruit He will give us? Yes, He tells us directly, “Truly, truly I tell you unless a grain of wheat falls and falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12:20-33).
What “fruit” does a grain of wheat bear? If an apple seed’s fruit is an apple what is a grain of wheat’s fruit? A grain of wheat’s fruit is bread. And notice Jesus talks about dying to bring forth this fruit of bread.
We also see the word fruit associated with wheat and bread throughout the Old Testament. In the book of Leviticus, as God is describing to Moses the way worship is connected to the growth and changing seasons of the earth, God instructs “to present a new cereal [bread] to the Lord” and “to present your first fruits to the Lord you shall bring two loves of bread” (Leviticus 15:17). If you had any doubt about the bread being the original fruit, Moses connects that this bread is their “first fruit.”(Leviticus 15:20). Might this “first fruit” of bread literally be the original good fruit in Eden?
There is also a mysterious reference to this holy bread in Exodus 25 and Leviticus 24 that many translations call “showbread.” This bread was significant because it was to be placed in the holy Tabernacle that God instructed Moses to make. The Tabernacle was kind of like a portable tent of worship for Israel during their time in the desert. There were to be three sacred objects to be kept in the Tabernacle. 1. The Ark of the Covenant. 2. The golden Lampstand known as the Menorah, 3. The Golden table where this showbread was placed. Now, in the Bible these three objects are especially significant since Moses saw the pattern shown to him when he was close to God (see Exodus 25:9, 40). It is interesting to note that the sacred Lampstand (commonly called menorah) was to be decorated like a tree. What is also interesting is that this holy bread was placed next to the tree an like image of the Lampstand. Could this be a vision of the original tree of life in Genesis and the holy fruit of bread that will bring man back to God?
The fruit being bread also makes sense when we plug in the fact that Jesus says He is the bread of life (John 6: 36, 48, 51) and that this bread of life will bring eternal life of the soul (John 6: 50-51). Furthermore, He explained that this bread is His actual flesh (John 6: 51), and that unless you eat this flesh and drink this blood you have no life in you (John 6: 53-55). And if the reader completely missed this Jesus then sums it all in the next verse by saying:
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him . . .so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died, he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6: 56-58).
Also, when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, Jesus taught them the Our Father prayer. The first part of the prayer is who God is, and the second part of the prayer is asking God to give us what we need. And what is the first petition that Jesus tells us to ask for? “Give us this day our daily bread“(Matthew 6:11).
So, we have all these bread passages associated with fruit. Additionally, we also have the famous statements in the climax of the Gospels when Jesus takes bread and says “this is my body” (see Matthew 26: 26-27, Mark 14: 22, 24, Luke 22: 19-20, 1Corinthians 10: 24-25, 16). The early Christians knew that there was something special about this bread (see Acts 2:42, Luke 24: 35, 1Corinthians 10: 16-17). In John’s vision of heaven Jesus declared to him, “To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna [bread]” (Revelation 2:17). In fact, if you study the letters of the early Church, you’ll see that the teaching of Jesus’s real presence in the bread was a given for the first 1500 years of Christianity. This means the real presence in the Eucharist must be true. Should we think these early Christians got the Eucharist wrong and the Holy Spirit fell asleep for the first 1500 years until God finally told Luther and others that the bread was only a symbol. This is not likely as throughout the Bible “bread” and consuming important food is a means to connect people to God.
For example, we notice a lot of passages that talk about consuming the word of God through eating (see Ezekiel 3: 1-3, Psalm 34:8, Revelation 3:20, 10:9-10) and coming closer to God through a great banquet meal (see Exodus 12:8, 11, 24: 11, Isaiah 7:7, 25: 6-9, 55:2-3, Proverbs 9:5, Luke 14: 16-18). These images of banquet meals are a metaphor to take us beyond a physical meal to a spiritual reality through consuming God’s very being. In other words, just like our physical bodies are dependent on physical food, our soul requires God’s actual soul in us. Given that the human person is a body soul composite, the physical food points us to a spiritual reality – an eternal soul. Thus, to not consume God in your soul, is as problematic as someone who refused to consume food or drink in their body. This would result in a death of the physical body, and not consuming this spiritual “food” would result in a lifeless soul (see John 6:50-53, 56-58). Or, for our sake putting food in your body parallels putting a certain teaching into your soul. If one puts junk food into their body, there would be a negative effect. Similarly, if one attaches themselves to a lousy teaching (self-worship, entertain me), they will experience a negative effect in their soul.
As we add these clues up of “bread” and “eat,” we notice that Jesus is masterfully connecting what God instructed to Adam by saying “you shall eat bread” until you come back to where you came from (see Genesis 3:19). In other words if eating bad fruit (figs) caused the problem in Eden, then eating good fruit (bread), is God’s way of fixing the problem.
This makes sense because in Genesis bad fruit killed man’s original God-breathed soul. So, to restore our soul and usher in eternal life, God will bring forth a Branch from Nazareth in Jesus to give us good fruit – His actual body and soul in us just like back in Eden. So, just like the word “fruit” in Genesis holds deeper meaning than simply food, the word “bread” (bread is the fulfillment of fruit) holds much deeper meaning than simply food. Both words attach themselves to a teaching and thus, a person. And both words are actually a description of putting that person’s teaching literally into our soul. The bad fruit in Genesis is the false prophet and the fruit in the Gospels is Jesus in the Eucharist.
What God is doing is re-creating our soul with new fruit in a way that mirrors His original creation of mankind from the dust of the ground. Notice how a seed comes from the ground and that the soul penetrates to us via the fruit – or bread. A simplified version of this creation looks like:
In the original creation, God called the good tree “the tree of life.” God also referred to this tree of life as “good for food.” What did all the early Christians call the cross? They called it the “tree of life” (cross reference Acts 5:30, Deut 21:22, Galatians 3:13). Also, Revelation reveals that the tree of life is connected to God’s very presence (see Revelation 22:2-4). So, when we add these lines together with the Eucharist, we have the good food that will connect us with God’s presence. This idea would only make sense if the tree of life’s fruit is the Eucharist – the actual presence of God. Once we assume the Eucharist is true then all of a sudden everything makes sense. In fact, the prophet Hosea hinted that the Eucharist was the original recipe God intended for people, and since people didn’t know this, it now has to be hidden: “Since she has not known that it was I who gave her the grain, [bread], the wine, the oil [sign of confirmation] . . . therefore I will take back my grain [bread] in its time and my wine in its season” (Hosea 2: 10-11). Interestingly, when Hosea begins to talk about restoring the original recipe of God guess which thing does God now want to destroy? “I will lay waste her vines and fig trees” (Hosea 2: 14).
When Jesus cursed the fig tree during His passion week (see Matthew 21: 18-19) He was doing something stunning. He was taking down the old, crummy, fig tree because this tree and its fruit (its teaching) takes us away from God. He then, took on the negative effects of the evil tree to deliver us the original tree of life.
Effects of bad tree in Eden Jesus takes on these effects at the cross
Thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18) Crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29)
Sweat of your brow (Genesis 3:19) Sweat of blood (Luke 22:44)
Naked (Genesis 3:7) Naked (John 19:23)
The new tree Jesus is implanting is the original tree of life back in Eden. This tree comes in the form of self-giving love, not Eve’s mistake of self-getting. This new tree comes with new fruit that is “good for food” and will deliver God’s presence and soul back into us – just like in Eden. This new tree is the cross, and it’s fruit is the Eucharist.
Interestingly, the tree imagery in Eden can be seen in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel 4 King Nebuchadnezzar has this dream of a tall tree touching heaven. The tree was wide with its branches filling the whole world and the best of fruits in greatest abundance. However, the tree was then cut down because of Divine judgement (the Fall), and was stripped of its fruits. The only thing that was left of this once beautiful tree was it’s stump and roots. (see Daniel 4:10-15). If we combine this dream in Daniel with Isaiah’s prophecy that a “shoot shall sprout up from the stump and from it’s roots a branch will bring forth fruit,” we now see that the original tree of life is restored in Jesus who will bring back it’s original fruit – the Eucharist. In other words, the original “tree of life” is the cross and its original fruit that was “good for food” is the Eucharist.
Now, there was more than bread going on with this new fruit. We also see wine/cup imagery into blood because this whole process was done as a “fruit” through a vine or branch description. (see Matthew 26: 27-29, Mark 14:23-25, Luke 22:17, 20, 1Corinthians 10:16, 11: 25-29).
After Jesus took wine and said “this is my blood” at the Last Supper, He then said: “Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine [wine] until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14: 25). Then, what did He do the moment before He died on the cross? He said, “In order to fulfill the Scriptures, I thirst” (John 19:29). What drink did they give Him? They gave Him sour wine (verse 29). Notice Jesus said He would not drink any wine until He entered God’s kingdom. Then, right before He died on the cross, He drank the very fruit He said was associated with God’s kingdom. We now come to the beautiful conclusion that when He drank this wine and died, He was bringing us back to the original paradise and giving us the real tree – the cross, with the real fruit in the Eucharist – God Himself literally in us just like when God breathed His soul into man in Eden.
It’s critical to note that the Eucharist Jesus comes from actual fruit. Jesus describes rather elegantly that He comes as the fruit of grain (bread) and the fruit of the vine (wine). You might be tempted to think, well but bread and grapes do not come from trees. First, recall that the early Church referred to the cross as “the tree of life.” I suspect the original “tree of life” in Genesis was not the standard tree we think of today. Also, remember how God originally created man “from the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Ultimately, every fruit comes from the dust of the ground. So, Jesus is re-creating us through the fruit of bread and wine that do come from the dust of the ground. The cross is the new tree that delivers this beautiful creation into reality
Now, to focus in on the bad fruit of the false prophets we have to zoom in on some more vine and wine imagery in John 15. Jesus delivered this sermon during the Last Supper, so this message is packed with Eucharistic coloring. Here, instead of the Branch, Jesus is referring himself to the vine and the Father as the vinedresser.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit” (John 15 1-2).
He then brings up fruit again as the way to “abide” or “be with him” when he says, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Recall, we heard “abide in me” in John 6: 56 where he was linking flesh and bread together as a way to be with Him. The references to “abide in me” means to be in direct contact with God.
Then, Jesus goes further, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch that withers (15: 5-6).
So, if we add up the references to “abide in me” in John 6 as bread and in “abide in me” in John 15 as wine, we come to the fascinating conclusion that to have Jesus in you is to have the very bread and wine he consecrated at the Last Supper. Only if the Eucharist is, in fact, the real presence do these two teachings of Jesus make any sense. Therefore, the holy fruit that Jesus wants us to have is the Eucharist – His actual abiding presence in us. When we realize how beautiful the Eucharist is we also realize how bad it is to water down the teaching of the Eucharist and to reject its significance.
Recall, that Jesus said of false prophets, “by their fruits you shall know them.” What type of fruit do non-Eucharistic churches have? Sadly, they have a slice of the same old crummy fruit that the serpent gave them in Eden. They have no Eucharist, but simply arousing sermons that sound pleasing to hear, but remember this is just want the serpent gave to Eve – an arousing message that pleased here senses. Recall that the devil’s main goal is to pull people away from God by distorting God’s message using emotionally charged words. Well, this is exactly what we see from most non-Catholic churches; they twist God’s instructions by denying the Eucharist. They cleverly change God’s instructions and give you emotionally charged messages that sounds attractive, but, in fact, takes you away from the Eucharist. And since Jesus is in the Eucharist, when you walk away from the Eucharist, you simultaneously walk away from Jesus. These false prophets are doing part of the work of the devil whether they know it or not. So, what Jesus is saying is false prophets will be easy to spot – if they don’t have me in the Eucharist, there you go – you’ve found your false prophets.
St. Ignatius was a student of the Apostle John. This guy was close to the source so we need to take him seriously. Let’s see how he told us to identify false prophets:
“But look at those men who have those perverted notions about the grace of Jesus which has come down to us. They even abstain from the Eucharist because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the same body of our Savior Jesus Christ.” -Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6, 7 (written in 106 AD)
Now, most people will object to this idea by saying that these men and women in non-Catholic churches are good people that lead many to God. While they may in a generic sense lead people to God, if the Eucharist is true, they are in fact literally driving people away from Jesus when they deny the Eucharist. Recall that God warned that these false prophets will come as “wolves wearing sheep’s clothing.” They may appear nice and harmless on the surface, but inwardly their teaching will hurt you.
Because I attend an evangelical seminary I know from experience these “good” evangelical teachers will show their inner wolf within when you mention the Eucharist. Instead of applauding your effort to be with Jesus, they’ll make efforts to downplay and distort the Eucharist teaching so as to remove you from Jesus presence in the Eucharist. Sadly, these modern false prophets have been duped by the devil’s crummy old seed. They are playing a part in the devil’s grand game of deception.
An important passage in Scripture that will reveal how the devil operates is in Matthew 16. Here, when Peter tried to rebuke Jesus’ instructions to give up His life, Jesus replied by saying to Peter, “get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23). In other words, the second Peter tried to distort God’s instructions, Jesus knew that Satan entered into Peter. Now, if Satan temporarily came into St. Peter, than no one is off limits from Satan’s deceptive tricks – including a well meaning preacher.
It is interesting to realize that back in Eden God gives humanity the instructions to “not eat” because if we do, it would drive us away from God. Humans did eat the bad fruit, and the result was a divorce from God. So, to correct the problem God gives us the instructions in the Eucharist to “eat this” to bring us closer to God. However, to prevent us from eating this we have the same problem we had in Eden that took us away from God’s instructions – false prophets.
Recall, how God declared that the serpent would also deliver us bad seeds that will try to deceive us and take us away from God the entire time (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 12). Now we see that these false prophets today are apart of those bad seeds. Whether they know it or not, these false prophets are doing the work the devil wants – taking people away from the Eucharist, thus away from Jesus. It is simply a fact, that the second a preacher rejects the Eucharist, he is distorting God’s instructions, and he is literally pulling people away from God – just like back in Eden.
In the next part of this blog, we’ll zoom in on the methods of today’s false prophets and give even more evidence of how they might seem nice and innocent on the surface, but inwardly cause more problems.
To be continued. . . .