Answer this to yourself right now—don’t think too hard about it, just give the first answer that pops into your head: True, or false? The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.
If you said, “true,” it’s probably because you know by heart what the Master says in John 10:10, and what you’ve heard (or taught) a thousand times from the pulpit, “the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.” Unfortunately, there’s just one tiny, little problem…
That’s not what it says. At all.
John 10:10 doesn’t actually speak directly about “the devil,” nor “Satan,” nor “the enemy.” Open your Bible and see for yourself. What it actually says is, “The thief does not come, except that he may steal, and kill, and destroy” (emphasis added).
So, it says, “the thief”; not the enemy, not the devil.
“But,” you might argue, “the thief is the devil, or the enemy. After all, a thief is your enemy; and Matthew 13:39 says that the enemy is the devil; and 1 Peter 5:8 says that the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; and devouring involves killing and destroying. Therefore, the thief is the devil!”
That seems reasonable, but is it right? Is “the thief” actually “the devil”? Let’s find out. We can start in chapter 9.
The account begins with Yeshua healing a man blind from birth. The man is brought before the Pharisees, where he is challenged concerning the veracity of his claim to healing. The Pharisees ultimately reject the man’s testimony, officially refusing to recognize Yeshua’s authority, and throw the man out. When he once again encounters Yeshua, the Master proceeds to denounce the Pharisees, declaring that they are actually the ones who are not only “blind,” but—because they claim the “sight” of authority—sinners.
This is the whole backdrop for Yeshua’s teaching in John 10, in which, following His judgment of the Pharisees, He introduces the allegory of the sheep pen, and juxtaposes the thief with the shepherd. Jumping ahead, then, to John 10:7-10, our answer begins to come into focus:
“Amen, amen, I say to you: I am the door of the sheep. All—as many as came before Me—are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone comes in through Me, he will be saved, and he will come in, and go out, and find pasture. The thief does not come, except that he may steal, and kill, and destroy. I came so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” (mjlt)
So, Yeshua does not speak of a single thief, but of “many.” And these “many” thieves—whose voices the sheep did not recognize (10:5)—”came before” Yeshua, attempting to breach the sheep pen and steal the sheep.
So, who are the thieves?
They are the Pharisees—and more generally, the guardians of the religious institution—who tried to steal the sheep of the Great Shepherd through their false teaching that their authority was the true authority. Wow!
My brother, my sister, I am bringing this up, not as a matter of doctrine, but to illustrate a far more crucial point: We have been under the influence. For all our Bible study, congregational attendance, and commitment to God, we are far more susceptible to outside influences than we realize. Without even being aware of it, we have granted authority to voices—even well-intentioned voices—and given them the power to persuade us to believe something other than what the Bible actually says. So now think about it: if you have been misled over this one simple Scripture, shouldn’t you be wondering how much more of what you believe and practice is founded on a lie?
I ask you this not to cast doubt on your faith, but so that you might consider the true standard by which you walk. Watch out for the “reasonable” voices of religion and the “logical” teachings of men, by whose thieving hands you may be destroyed. Instead, seek the pure, simple Perfect Word of God, and find abundant life through the Scriptures alone.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below.