together to catch Jesus in a verbal trap over the divisive issue of paying taxes to Caesar. (Mark 12:13)
So, besides the influence of wealthy patrons, the leaven of Herod could refer also to political alliances and political influence in the church -- particularly alliances that lead church leaders into compromise with corrupt politicians.
After Jesus finished his earthly ministry, his faithful apostles fought against the infiltration of the Church by corrupt elements. Paul told the elders of the church in Ephesus, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30 NIV) This would result in a proliferation of sects claiming to be Christian but teaching distorted doctrine, each group following the teachings of a its own leader.
Paul also wrote that "the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV) This, too, would give rise to denominations with teachings popular among one group or another.
The Apostle Peter added similar warnings: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them -- bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. " (2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV)
And so there is plenty of reason to expect that there would be an impostors in the Church and wicked men doing things in the name of Christ. In fact this is what Jesus, too, said would happen: "many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. ... For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect -- if that were possible." (Matthew 24:10, 24 NIV)
Still, down though history there have always been faithful believers who truly belonged to Jesus. Some of these were great preachers who spread revival through the land and stirred whole populations to pick up their Bibles and turn to Christ. Others died in the fire, clutching copies of the Holy Scriptures, while they were branded as heretics and burned at the stake by false 'Christians' in positions of church leadership.
How can you tell true Christians apart from impostors? Jesus said to look at the fruit that they bear: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matt. 7:15-20 NIV)
So, if Jesus says to false 'Christians' that 'I never knew you,' and 'get away from me!' (Matt. 7:23) it would not be right for us to associate such people with Jesus by accepting their claim to be Christian. Despite the fact that they do things "in his name," we can recognize by their fruits that they are not followers of Jesus.
Paul listed among the perils that he faced "danger from false brothers." (2 Cor. 11:26 NIV) So a distinction must be made between individuals who claim to be Christians or who use the name of Christ and belong to so-called "Christian" organizations, and those who really walk in Jesus' footsteps and belong to him.
So the division of Christendom into many sects, and the existence of false teachers and false "Christian" sects and people doing wicked things in the name of Christ are NOT proof that Bible prophecy is unreliable. Rather, these all prove that what the Bible said would happen did, in fact, come true. Christ and the apostles all warned in advance that such imitation Christians would abound, and they have indeed sprung up everywhere. This is reason, then, to take seriously what the Bible says will yet happen in its other prophetic passages.