exegesis · false teachers · firstworldchristianity · scripture · theology · theology thursday

Theology Thursday: John 10:10

John 1010

I wasn’t going to do a Theology Thursday post this week, but then this somehow surfaced in my Facebook feed on Wednesday:


This “Bible verse” was posted by the “Christian” radio station K-Love. And like last week’s verse, I have about had it with people completely misusing this verse and leading people down the health & wealth “gospel” path.

(apparently my goal is to see how many sets of parentheses I can use in one post)

The comments under this particular picture just made me sad. Two – count them! – two lonely women took the time to try and patiently explain that this verse does not mean AT ALL that people will be happy and rich if they have Jesus. But literally dozens of other people posted prayer request after prayer request begging for Jesus to heal them from everything from serious illness to financial ruin of their own doing.

A Quick History Lesson on the Book of John

This verse appears in the tenth chapter of the book of John. John was written by the apostle John, who also penned I, II, III John, and Revelation. He was one of the twelve disciples (“the one whom Jesus loved”), the disciple to whom Jesus directed Mary to while He was dying on the cross, and the disciple whose book is most well known as the book  you turn to if you really want to know Jesus.

John himself says in the last chapter of the book, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30-31 NASB). He was an eyewitness to just about everything Jesus did and said.

The Context of Chapter 10 Verse 10

In this chapter of John, Jesus gives two of His seven “I Am” statements. The second one is actually in verse 11: “I am the good shepherd.” But the first statement has to do with what John 10:10 actually means. Let’s start with verse 1:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because the know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;  I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:1-10 NASB)

Other Important Information

In the original manuscripts of Scripture, there are no verse of chapter divisions. There are just blocks of text. The original languages had fewer punctuation marks than we have, and chapter divisions weren’t added until the 15th century. They are sort of…arbitrary, which is why if you start a chapter, it’s really a great exegetical practice to go back and check out the chapter beforehand to see what might have happened, and if it is relevant to what is happening now.

In John chapter 9, Jesus heals the Jewish man who had been blind since birth, and He heals him on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are beside themselves with indignation, and Jesus calls them out. He then goes right into this section on thieves.

Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of being thieves – and this is a fascinating word in the Greek.

The word “thief” that is used throughout the first ten verses of John 10 is the Greek word kleptes. It literally means “embezzler,” but throughout that time, that particular word had been transferred to mean “false teachers who do not care to instruct men, but abuse their confidence for their own gain.” (source)

The word “thief” in John 10:10 means false teacher. There is no other conceivable meaning if you properly exegete the passage.

This passage is NOT talking about Satan. There is absolutely zero indication anywhere about Satan in here. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. I am sorry, every female Bible teacher everywhere who insists on teaching this passage as being about Satan. There is no Satan in this passage as “the thief;” there are only those who do not hold to the honest and true teachings of Scripture.

Jesus is saying that false teachers try and sneak into the sheep pen, and steal (filch), kill (immolate or slaughter), and destroy (render useless, fully destroy) the sheep.

Furthermore…Jesus came so they (the sheep) may have life abundantly. This comes from the Greek word perissos. This means “over and above, something more, more eminent.” What is this over and above life that Jesus wants to give the sheep?

Eternal life. Life with Him forever. If you read the first ten chapters of John, you can easily see that Jesus has come to bring eternal life to those who believe in Him, and what is more abundant that life with the King of Kings? See John 20:30-31 again. If you believe, you can have eternal life in His name.

So What Does this Mean for Us?

First, please don’t use the NLT version of Scripture. Ever. Never ever ever. I know that sounds harsh, but it feeds you junk like the picture above. The picture above says that Satan wants to destroy you but Jesus wants to make you rich and happy.

What does the actual Scripture say? False teachers want to lead you away from Jesus and completely destroy you, but Jesus wants you to remain with Him and have eternal life.

What a stark contrast.

And what a beautiful picture Scripture actually paints: a shepherd, guarding the door, leading His precious flock to safety, protecting them from predators trying to sneak in and slaughter His sheep.

Be on your guard; don’t let false teachers lead you astray with their prettied up pictures of poorly exegeted Scripture. It’s dangerous, and you’ll end up useless and fully destroyed.


3 thoughts on “Theology Thursday: John 10:10

  1. Before you blame the NLT for someone’s interpretation of scripture. Hatmaker also pulled this out of context in the NLT too. Looking at the NASB side by side with the NLT, you can see that the NLT also leads you to the same conclusions you made in your post. I always look at 2-3 translations at once when someone is reading to me or someone has quoted scripture. No English translation has the whole package in terms of understanding it well (without a dictionary to define words) and keeping in tune with the Greek and Hebrew language. And totally agree that context is so key in understanding any scripture. Again, during a sermon or Bible study, I always start a few verses before the text they will be reading. Context, context, context!
    “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
    6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me[a] were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:1-10 NLT


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