In the gospel of John, Jesus differentiates between Himself, the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep, and a hired shepherd, who leads the sheep but has no commitment to them:
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired man and doesn’t care about the sheep. John 10:11-13 (HCSB)
Alluding to His coming crucifixion, a voluntary sacrifice which will atone for the sins of His believers, Jesus continues:
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:14-15 (HCSB)
Despite Jesus’ deep willingness to die for our salvation, the actual act of rejecting and betraying Him was still a tremendous afront to God. The prophet Zechariah wrote of Messiah’s rejection and physical wounding at the hands of the Romans, whom temple authorities had handed Jesus over to for execution.
6 If someone asks him: What are these wounds on your chest?—then he will answer: I received the wounds in the house of my friends.
7 Sword, awake against My shepherd,
against the man who is My associate—
this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.
Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will also turn My hand against the little ones. Zechariah 13:6-7 (HCSB)
When Jesus was struck down and crucified, His disciples were scattered in fear until they saw the risen Christ. After His ascension into heaven forty days later, they gathered together in an upper room in Jerusalem to pray and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had instructed them. Ten days later, they would receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the feast of Pentecost. From here onward, they would preach the gospel of salvation with great boldness wherever they went.
But despite rapid growth of the church through their witness of the risen Christ, much of the world rejected Him, and still do today. With their rejection of the Good Shepherd, God the Father will permit the rise of a false shepherd, the Antichrist, whose spirit is already in the world wherever Jesus is being mocked, attacked, and rejected. Antichrist will appear to be a great and wonderful leader but will have nothing but evil in his heart.
16 I am about to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are going astray, and he will not seek the lost or heal the broken. He will not sustain the healthy, but he will devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves. Zechariah 11:16-17 (HCSB)
The book of Revelation speaks of the rise of this physical Antichrist, called the beast, who will be a very popular world leader in the last days. This false shepherd will assume and hold authority through the power of the devil, who is referred to in Revelation as the dragon.
Antichrist’s seven-year reign will be split into two parts. The first three and a half years will bring world peace to the amazement of his many followers. But his final 42 months will bring great war and suffering in what is called the Great Tribulation period, which according to Jesus will be a time of great trial unlike any the world has ever seen. Antichrist will finally be defeated when Jesus returns to earth to establish His eternal kingdom.
The apostle John writes about the dragon, or devil, and the beast, or Antichrist:
4 They worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?”
5 A mouth was given to him to speak boasts and blasphemies. He was also given authority to act for 42 months. 6 He began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme His name and His dwelling—those who dwell in heaven. 7 And he was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. 8 All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered. Revelation 13:4-8 (HCSB)
Because of a global rejection of the Messiah, the Bad Shepherd will be permitted to flourish in the end times with the full approval and praise of all those under him. But like the devil himself, Antichrist’s time to mislead and bring suffering to the nations will be limited. Neither the dragon nor the beast will ever be permitted into the kingdom of God, which will be under the complete authority and protection of the Good, loving, and ever-committed Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He will rule and reign from Jerusalem forever.
Jesus told a parable about a good shepherd with 100 sheep. When one of His sheep became lost, He left the ninety-nine to go search for it until He found it. When He found it, there was great joy on earth and in heaven.
The Lord is still searching for lost sheep today, be it in a lonely flat or apartment, a bar, a jail or prison, in a crowd, or anywhere someone has lost their way or their purpose and is searching for a solution. Jesus is there to fill the emptiness inside with His loving presence. He is right there.
Lord, keep us safe always from the bad shepherds. Grant us discernment and wisdom to keep us away from their lures and charms. Help us to walk closely with You, the true Good Shepherd, bathed in Your great light and love, and surrounded with Your protection. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.