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Why did Jesus liken false prophets to whitewashed tombs in Matthew 23?
Jesus taught many things in parables while preaching the good news of the kingdom of heaven. The reason He used parables was to make the truth known only to those who had been given the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 13:10-15, 34). Many parables told by Jesus are teachings directly related to our salvation. The parable of the "whitewashed tombs" also contains the profound meaning of salvation.


The term "whitewashing" usually refers to applying a coat of white paint. It is used metaphorically in the Bible to refer to a person or a group who attempts to make falsehood look like truth.

Let''s take a look at some Biblical records concerning this. In the Old Testament times, the false prophets promised the Israelites peace, but the prophet Ezekiel said that it was like covering a wall with whitewash. Saying that, he prophesied that they would be condemned to destruction.

Eze 13:10-15 " ‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth . . . I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the LORD. So I will spend my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, "The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, . . ." '' "

Apostle Paul said to the high priest Ananias who sinned against God by hindering the gospel, "You whitewashed wall!"

Ac 23:1-3 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! . . ."

Whitewashed Tombs

Jesus compares the hypocritical teachers of the law and Pharisees to whitewashed tombs.

Mt 23:27-28 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men''s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

False prophets make a habit of doing detestable things, deceive people and shut the kingdom of heaven in their faces. They are like whitewashed tombs, which look clean and beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of everything unclean. So, they can never escape the punishment of hell.

Mt 23:14-15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men''s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."

Mt 23:33 "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?"

Thus, the Bible likens false prophets and their denominations to whitewashed tombs; for even though a church is very big and gorgeous on the outward and it has long history and tradition, if it has no truth, it can never be a place of salvation.

Today, there are so many churches led by false prophets like whitewashed tombs in the world; they shut off the kingdom of heaven from people by deceiving them with falsehood and lawlessness while calling God, "Lord, Lord" (Mt 7:21- 23). The Bible refers to the false churches as spiritual Babylon. God wants His people to quickly come out of Babylon—a home for demons—which is full of wickedness and lawlessness, before the Judgment Day comes, so that they will not be condemned with them.

Rev 18:2-5 With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes."

Now is the time to lead our heavenly brothers and sisters, who are dying in spiritual Babylon like a whitewashed tomb, into the refuge of salvation as quickly as possible. Then, where is the place of salvation God has prepared for us?

Jer 4:5-6 "Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: ‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!'' Cry aloud and say: ‘Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!'' Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction."

Zion, the safe refuge where God gives us salvation while dwelling with us, is the true Church that keeps the feasts of God.

Isa 33:20-22 Look upon Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the LORD will be our Mighty One. It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams. No galley with oars will ride them, no mighty ship will sail them. For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.

Giving thanks to God for allowing us to know the secret of salvation and leading our dying souls on the path of life, we should fulfill the mission of a true prophet entrusted to us in this age by leading many souls to Zion where we celebrate the feasts of God.

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