The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10 (NIV)

For years I have heard it taught that the thief in John 10:10 is Satan. I’ve even referred to Satan as coming only to steal, kill, and destroy, implying that Jesus is talking about him in John 10:10. However, I’ve been wrong because the thief Jesus is talking about in John 10:10 is not Satan.

As with all Scripture, it’s all about the context. We might think the context for John 10:10 starts at John 10:1. If we did, we’d be in error.

John 10:1 starts with Jesus continuing, rather than starting a new subject.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

John 10:1 (KJV)

The Greek word used here for “verily” or “truly” depending on your translation, is Amen. We’re used to saying amen when we end a prayer or as a means of agreeing with something that’s been said. Since Jesus says this here at the beginning of John 10, He must be referring to something that’s been said. What comes before John 10?

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

John 9:41 (NIV)

Jesus has healed a man born blind in John 9, and the Pharisees want to know how it happened. This is what we see in John 9, and I invite you to read it if you’re not familiar with it. For our purpose, we’re not going to go back through all of John 9. However, we’re going to go to where the start of the context for John 10:10 begins.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

John 9:35 (NIV)

The man who had been blind had been thrown out of the synagogue for believing that Jesus was a prophet sent by God. After he had been thrown out, Jesus encounters him and asks him the question we see in verse 35.

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

John 9:36-41 (NIV)

The man who had been physically blind was healed and given the ability to see with his physical eyes. The same man also sees that only someone sent by God could have healed him. However, the Pharisees refuse to believe Jesus was sent by God and is the Son of God. Therefore, they have eyes to see the physical things of this world, but they are blind to the spiritual things of this world because they refuse to see. They claim that they do see and because they make this claim, they are guilty of sin because they do see, but do not believe.

This is where John 10:1 starts.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.

John 10:10 (NIV)

We see that Jesus is talking directly to the Pharisees. It might not seem like it, but this is the start of a parable.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

John 10:1-5 (NIV)

Jesus could see that the Pharisees didn’t understand what He had just said to them, so He explains it.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:7-11 (NIV)

Now we’ve encountered our subject. John 10:10. In verse 8, Jesus declares that everyone who came before him was a thief and a robber. He’s not talking about the Prophets or anyone else sent by God. The thieves and robbers are false teachers like the Pharisees, who, for their own sake, have corrupted the word of God.

Therefore, when Jesus tells them what the thief does, “steal and kill and destroy,” the thieves He’s referring to are all of those false teachers who have come before Him (including them).

We can’t ignore the other things that Jesus has said. For example, He’s the gate that the sheep pass through. Jesus is the only way to God and to Heaven. In addition, His sheep, those who know His voice, will not listen to strangers. Those who are not sent by God.

Anyone who tells you there’s more than one way to Heaven is lying. If that sounds harsh, well, it’s the truth that we need to hear. We’re talking about the salvation of our souls and of the salvation for those with whom we might come into contact. This world is full of ideas about Heaven and how to get there.

Now, is there a way to reconcile the teaching we’ve heard that tells us the thief in John 10:10 is Satan? After all, doesn’t he want to steal, kill, and destroy?

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul has this to say about false teachers and apostles.

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

1 Corinthians 13-15 (NIV)

If those who accurately teach the word of God are ambassadors of Christ we can call those who purposely teach the word of God inaccurately, emissaries of Satan, and the work they do for him is to steal, kill, and destroy.

Peter tells us this:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

We can say that Satan seeks to devour, steal, kill, and destroy. We can also say that Satan is a thief and a robber who wants nothing more than to see everyone go to hell. However, for the sake of clarity and correct Scriptural interpretation, we cannot say the thief Jesus was talking about in John 10:10 is Satan. I don’t see misinterpreting the thief as Satan in John 10:10 with the same severity as other Scripture, but I think it’s important to know the truth.

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.