Warnings Of Deception
Warnings Of Deception In The Bible
by Hughie Seaborn
The Bible is replete with warnings as to what will take place in Christendom during the 'end time' or the 'end of the age'. It speaks of a time of increasing deception and false teaching as the enemy of our souls makes a last desperate bid to thwart the purposes of God. It describes the types of people who will deceive, and be deceived. It also describes the types of doctrines that will be preached and how those doctrines will be received by a great number of professing Christians.
Most Christians, when they are presented with the Scriptures that tell of gross deception in the end days and that there will be false teachers and false Christs prevailing, immediately imagine that the Bible is speaking of the eastern religions, the occult, the J.W.'s, the Mormons and other groups who are prevalent in our society today. While these groups would also be included in what the Bible is warning about, it is primarily Christendom, the professing church, that the Lord is concerned about. When read in context, the messages of warning in the Bible are clear that God is saying that it is predominantly within the professing church, among those who profess to be followers of Christ, that the deception will exist in the last days.
Before departing on a journey a person will always give final instructions to those who remain behind regarding issues that are important to him. The matters that he wants attended to while he is away are meticulously detailed so there will be no mistakes made. There will be no excuse when he returns and finds that things have not been attended to, as specified by him, prior to his departure.
It is crucial to note that the Lord Jesus, as well as the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter all made the same appeal just prior to their departure from the midst of their friends. In relating the most important things to be remembered by their followers once they departed, they each said to look out for deceivers and false teachers. The Spirit of God was expressly leading Paul and Peter to warn the Christians of deception and apostasy in the closing of the Church Age in exactly the same manner that Jesus had warned the 'twelve' prior to His ascension.
Let us study some examples.
The Warnings Of The Lord Jesus
Two days prior to the Passover and His Crucifixion, Jesus was instructing His disciples on the Mount of Olives. In response to their questions regarding His coming at the end of the age, the words of Jesus are recorded in Matthew 24:4-5.
"Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."
Knowing of the great deception associated with his coming and the end of the age, these were the first words uttered by the Lord in His reply to his disciple's query. The most important sign for the disciples of Christ to recognize as a prelude to His return is deception resulting from false teaching. Beware that no man deceive you. That is the primary sign and is of paramount importance, as far as the Lord was concerned.
The Lord also pointed out that many will come in His name, that is, in the name of Jesus, and deceive many. Let me emphasize that Jesus said many - not a few - would come in His name and deceive many.
Further, in verses 10 and 11 we read,
"And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many."
Jesus was clearly prophesying that the sign of His return and the end of the age would be an apostasy involving many people. Many, Jesus said, are going to fall away from the faith into deception just prior to His return. There will be many professing Christians who will be deceived and who will depart from the clear message of Scripture to follow many teachers and prophets who will be preaching a false gospel. False teaching will be prevalent and many will receive it.
The word 'offended' in the above verse comes from the Greek 'skandalizo', which means 'to entrap', i.e. 'to trip up' or 'to entice to sin, or apostasy'. People will be enticed away into apostasy.
I Am Christ
There have been a number of interpretations put forth by different Bible scholars as to the meaning of Jesus' declaration that many will come saying "I am Christ."
Firstly, the verse can be read to mean that many will come in Jesus' name claiming of themselves that they are Christ. Somehow, these false teachers will convince themselves and a great number of their followers to believe that they are actually Jesus Christ. You might ask, "How could anyone be so deceived? It is not possible that within the professing church anyone would make such an outlandish claim." However, as we will see, this is not as far fetched as one might presume.
As we look at their recorded messages from the last few years we find that quite a few teachers within the Word of Faith Movement would comfortably fit into this category.
For instance, Kenneth Hagin, the recognized 'granddaddy' of the Word of Faith Movement, is on record as claiming,
"Man... was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God's presence without any consciousness of inferiority... God has made us as much like Himself as possible... He made us the same class of being that He is Himself... The believer is called Christ... that's who we are; we're Christ!" (Kenneth Hagin. Zoe: The God-Kind of Life, p35-36, 41.)
Kenneth Copeland, the protege and heir apparent of Hagin, not to be outdone by his mentor, has also claimed,
"I say this and repeat it so it doesn't upset you too bad... When I read in the Bible where He (Jesus) says, 'I Am,' I say, 'Yes, I Am too!'" (Kenneth Copeland July 19, 1987 crusade audiotape.)
Benny Hinn also would fit into this category with his blasphemous statement,
"When you were born again the Word was made flesh in you. And you became flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. Don't tell me you have Jesus. You are everything He was and everything He is and ever shall be... It (the new man) says, 'I am as He is.' That's what it says... As He is, so are we in this world. Jesus said, 'Go in My name, go in My stead.' Don't say, 'I have.' Say, 'I am, I am, I am, I am, I am.'" (Benny Hinn, Our Position in Christ #2 - The Word Made Flesh, audiotape 2)
"When you say, I am a Christian, you are saying, 'I am mashiach' in the Hebrew. I am a little messiah walking on earth, in other words. That is a shocking revelation... May I say it like this? You are a little god on earth running around." (Benny Hinn, Praise-a-Thon program on T.B.N.)
Recently, there has been a new twist applied to the historic orthodox doctrine(s) regarding eschatology and the return of Christ in particular. The Restorationists, Kingdom Now, Latter Rain proponents claim that they have a mandate from God to purify the world and make it a fit place for the Lord to return to. However, He doesn't return physically, but spiritually, and becomes incarnate in His obedient followers who then rule the world for one thousand years as Christ.
Kenneth Hagin, on a video that I watched some time ago, also teaches something similar by claiming that, because Christ is the head of the church and we, the church, are His body, then it stands to reason that we are Christ! We are as much Christ as Christ is Himself, so he says.
As time progresses, more and more people are being influenced by these heresies and could very well fulfill the words of Jesus that "...many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." Many shall come in the name of the Lord claiming the title of Christ for themselves and their followers.
Secondly, the verse could be read to mean that many will come in the name of Jesus claiming that they are the 'anointed' ones. The Greek word translated Christ in this portion of Scripture is christos which, can also be translated as anointed.
The Jehovah's Witness leadership in the US claim this for themselves, and because they say that they are the anointed ones the rank and file of the movement are expected to wholeheartedly believe what they teach and obey them - without question. God communicates to the members through the anointed JW leaders.
The Roman Catholic church has the same pyramid structure where God is supposed to communicate to His people through the leadership - the Pope, being at the top, receiving divine revelation from God and passing it down through the ranks.
Unfortunately, in the Protestant churches we have the same thing going on. Men and women claiming an anointing from the Lord which gives them authority over the 'laity'. This is called 'Nicolaitanism' and it is recorded in Scripture, in Revelation 2:6 and 15, that the Lord God hates the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. The word Nicolaitanes is derived from the Greek word nikolaites which means to rule over and be victorious over the people.
This self promoting attitude of being anointed by the Holy Spirit and somehow being a certain level above the common people in the pews is rampant in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles, from which communion I have recently been excommunicated. "Touch not the Lord's anointed" is the catch-cry of these self appointed Apostles and Prophets when pointing out some departure from sound Biblical doctrine. They see themselves as having an anointing from the Lord that allows them to rule over the people and keep them in submission. Submission to those in authority, despite whether they promote sound doctrine or not, is compulsory to remain in their fellowship.
But the Bible teaches us in 1 John 2:20; 26-27 that
"...ye have an unction (anointing) from the Holy One, and ye know all things...these things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
Jesus gave an example of what leadership is about. These many who come in Jesus' name claiming that they are the anointed ones, deceiving many, should re-read Mark 10:42-45.
"Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
So we find that there are many candidates from within the body of believers who could fulfill this interpretation of Jesus' warning, if it is correct.
Thirdly, the verse could be read to mean that many will come in the name of Jesus claiming that He really is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed. We are being warned that even though a person can declare or confess agreement that Jesus is the Christ, it also means that same person can deceive us.
Naming the Name of Jesus and agreeing that He is Christ is not a proof that someone is His follower. It is by their doctrine, what they preach and how it aligns with Scripture that we will know if someone is faithful to the Lord and worthy to be listened to.
Jesus' words as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23 solemnly warn us,
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
If read in context it will be found that most of Matthew 7 is speaking about doctrine. How do we know a false prophet or teacher? It is by their fruits that we shall know them - their 'fruits' being their teachings, the fruit of their lips either accusing or excusing them. (See my article "By Their Fruit You Shall Know Them" on this subject)
Signs and Miracles
As though to reinforce His already explicit warnings, Jesus again declares in verse 24 of Matthew 24,
"For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible."
In this verse the warning is clear that 'signs and miracles' are not a criteria for discerning if something is, or is not, of God, as is falsely supposed by a growing number of church goers. False Christs and false prophets will be operating in 'signs' in the days just prior to our Lord's return. In fact, they are a primary indication of the Lord's near return. These 'signs and miracles' will deceive many people into thinking that those who are performing them are true ministers of the Gospel. Signs will be prevalent. And so will sign seekers!
However, the Bible records Jesus as saying in Matthew 16:4 that, "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign." This was Jesus' response to the Sadducees and Pharisees who came specifically requesting that he perform some supernatural feat.
An adulterous person is one who has a relationship with someone other then their spouse. The Lord has said through Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:2, "...I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Seeking signs and wonders is a sure sign that one is not satisfied in their relationship with Christ and is willing to play the field, so to speak.
If the foundation for our believing in Christ and becoming a Christian was based on some miraculous sign or wonder, then we are deceived. Jesus continued on in the same verse to claim that the only sign that was necessary for our faith was the sign of Jonah. "...but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus was indicating His death and resurrection. The fact of His crucifixion as a payment for the sin of mankind and His resurrection from the dead is sufficient.
It is absolutely amazing, in the light of what we have just established from Scripture, that there are so many meetings and conferences advertised in our current church publications that stress signs and wonders. Signs and wonders are sought as confirmation to the community at large that God is really among us. It is declared by well intentioned church leaders that the evidence of signs and wonders taking place will draw the unbelievers into the churches. It is a fact that "Signs and Wonders" conferences, such as those conducted by the likes of Benny Hinn or Rodney Howard-Browne, draw the largest crowds - usually of church leaders.
That being so however, signs and wonders and miracles are not our criteria for believing in and serving the Lord. To make them our criteria will open us to a deception by ministers of Satan who will lead us away from our purpose and calling in the Lord into seeking after subjective experiences. The Gospel is the power of God to Salvation to everyone who believes, not miracles, and as the account of Abraham and Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 enlightens us "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."
As demonstrated in these notes, the Lord Jesus warns us very clearly that false teachers and false prophets will come to deceive many and entice them away from the Truth. In verse 25 of Matthew 24, Jesus even goes so far as to say, "See, I have told you ahead of time." It's as if He is saying, "I hate to say it, but see, I told you so!"
Unfortunately, many Christians are ignorant of the Scriptures because of a lack of regular Bible reading. Reading is not a popular pastime in our culture today. People prefer to have someone read to them, usually from the television set. The Bible is a prophetic message to God's people - but we must carefully read the Bible if we are to be aware of its warnings. We are to study it, according to 2 Timothy 2:15, if we wish to rightly divide the Word of Truth. It is absolutely vital that we also consult our Bibles when sitting under the ministry of our pastors and teachers to see that what is presented to us is so. If we profess to be Christians, that is, followers of the teachings of Christ, then we should not simply take for granted that what is presented to us by our teachers is in absolute accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus has clearly warned us of deception and false teaching in these final days of the age.
The Warnings Of The Apostle Paul
As with the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul also had some urgent things to say about deception and apostasy prevailing in the church at the end of the age. Once again, in the same manner as the Lord Jesus, Paul, just prior to his departure from the midst of the elders and disciples in Miletus, on his return journey to Jerusalem, also made compelling pleas for the believers to be sober, alert and discerning, even giving details of what to be alert for.
Paul's Final Words Of Warning
In the Book of Acts, in chapter 20, reading from verse 17 and through to verse 38 we discover that Paul, after much travel and ministry, has arrived in the city of Miletus. We will allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves in the following verses:
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, "Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
"And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God."
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
"Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears."
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.
In this passage of Scripture we see that Paul has arrived in Miletus and has sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus which is situated about 60 kilometres away across a bay. If the elders came by land it would perhaps be something like a 120 kilometre journey. Whichever way they came, by land or by sea, the journey that Paul expected them to make, simply because he wanted to tell them something, was quite significant. Paul had something of utmost importance to relate to them, something that would justify his expecting the elders to endure the discomfort and inconvenience of a long journey.
From the context of the Scriptures we learn that:
1. Paul wanted to impress upon them the importance of presenting the right message - turning to God in repentance, faith in our Lord Jesus and the gospel of God's grace.
2. Paul was preparing the people for the sad news that they would never see his face again. He was going back to Jerusalem where he was warned by the Spirit that persecution, and eventual death, awaited him. This would be his last meeting with them and there was something of great importance that they needed to hear.
3. Paul emphasized the importance of preaching the whole counsel of God to the hearers.
4. Paul warned of their responsibility, as shepherds, to protect themselves and 'all the flock' from the danger of false teachers. The Holy Spirit had commissioned them with the responsibility to oversee of the church, which God, through Christ, had purchased with his own blood.
5. Paul warned that 'grievous wolves' would enter into the church and mercilessly plunder the members.
6. Men will arise, distorting the truth for the purpose of building up their own following. They will preach lies to suit what the people want to hear, and great numbers of people will turn away from the truth to follow them.
7. Of utmost importance is that Paul reveals for us where these false teachers and heretics will come from and where to look for them. It will be from our own number - from within the ranks of the redeemed. We are not to look outside the walls of Christendom, but within, to find these hypocrites and perverters of the Gospel who will entice many undiscerning and trusting people away from the God who led them out from under the bondage of the enemy.
8. Paul urgently exhorted the people to 'take heed' and to 'watch.' People are blasť about these warnings in the Bible today and have some mystical idea that they have nothing to do with the fellowship to which they belong.
9. Paul "ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" about the danger and the terrible consequences of falling under the spell of these false teachers. How important this subject must have been to Paul to harass the people with the same message for three years. "Take heed and watch! Grievous wolves will come among you and not spare you."
10. So heavy was this matter upon his heart that it continually brought tears to Paul's eyes. We gloss over this piece of Scripture and miss the spirit of what the Lord is saying through Paul. Paul shed many tears over the issue! Is this simply sensationalism? Or did the great apostle, Paul, really shed tears over this? Did Paul, the man who bore the physical marks of his apostleship upon his body, really cry over this issue? Could a man who, for the sake of Christ, endured being flogged with thirty-nine lashes five times, belted with rods three times, stoned and left for dead on one occasion and shipwrecked and left drifting in the ocean for a day and a night on another, actually grieve over this to the point of shedding tears? God's Word says he did! We read this scripture in our attitude of security and spiritual safety missing the importance of the whole thing.
11. Paul did not see his ministry as an opportunity to relieve the people of their gold or silver. This is not to negate that God allows for people to make their living from preaching the gospel (1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:1-19). However, we need to be aware that the Bible gives us clear warning that wolves masquerading as sheep, servants of Satan posing as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15), will arise in the last days who will use the gospel message to financially exploit the congregations of believers (2 Peter 2:3). They are men and women who are full of greed, ready to take advantage of gullible and ignorant Christians.
If we had no other Scripture than the above, it should be cause enough for us to be discerning and wary in these last days, but God understands that He needs to repeat Himself a few times to get a message through to us, so He has not left us without further witness. Paul's letters to Timothy, the second also written as a farewell caution, are worthy of consideration here. They also contain some of the most revealing warnings with regard to false teachers being in the church who, by their own deception, lead the people away from the true God.
Demons, Liars And Hypocrites
For example, in 1 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul wrote to Timothy,
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron."
Hypocritical liars! People who teach one thing but practice another, or perhaps, people who preach something that they know to be false, and do so because of some agenda that they might have, somehow convincing themselves that God will wink at such behaviour because of their good intention. Whichever, the evidence is that both types are prevalent in Christendom today.
Paul's Final Words To Timothy
In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul exhorts his dear 'son in the Faith':
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
So much is revealed for our instruction and edification in these few verses of Scripture.
1. As with the words of the Lord Jesus and with the previous Scriptures in this article, Paul was instructing Timothy with final warnings. In verses 6 and 7 we read Paul's words, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
2. Paul wrote these verses testifying that he was giving Timothy instruction in the presence of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The gravity of the situation was established.
3. Paul said, "I charge thee." The original Greek for the word 'charge' is diamarturomai, which carries an intense meaning of 'to attest or protest earnestly.' What Paul was saying to Timothy was of utmost importance and he was calling Timothy in the presence of God to execute his following commands.
4. "Preach the Word." Paul said to Timothy. Preach the doctrine of Christ in other words. Many 'preachers' today don't think that doctrine is so important any more. We need to be led more by the Spirit they say. People who stick to the Word are pharisaical, according to these modern 'preachers'. Some have even gone so far as to say that we have had too much Word in the past which is why the church is 'dead' (according to them). We need to get away from the Word and seek the Spirit (according to them).
5. Timothy is charged to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. Why was Timothy called to do this?
6. Because the time was coming, according to Paul, when the congregations will no longer 'put up' with sound doctrine. Truth will not be the criteria by which to judge. What caters to the desires of the people will become the criteria by which to judge. Situational ethics will replace God's absolutes. External, subjective manifestations and experiences will become the yardstick by which to measure validity.
7. The people will reject the preacher who comes teaching Truth. If he is not entertaining or lacks in charisma he will also be rejected. If the teacher can't make you feel blessed and excited as a result of his preaching then there is something wrong with him.
8. The people will gather around themselves a 'great number' of teachers who say what they want to hear. The Bible graphically portrays these people as having 'itching ears' that require scratching. The preachers will soothe the itch with messages from Satan that will eventually cause the people to shipwreck their faith.
9. The false teachers will be presenting stories and myths which will be gladly accepted by the congregations.
10. Paul exhorted Timothy to 'watch thou in all things'. Be sober, discreet and vigilant. But we are exhorted by the modern 'teachers' to be 'drunk in/on the spirit' and not to question things. We must empty our heads, they say, because our minds are a stumbling block to the things of the Spirit.
Rodney Howard-Browne, one of the current 'preachers' involved in the present 'revival' that is sweeping the world has said that we should not try to understand with our minds the things that are happening. He misquotes 1 Corinthians 2:14 by saying that the natural mind cannot understand the things of the Spirit. However, the Scripture actually says, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." If Rodney would have just looked to verses 15 and 16 he would have found "He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." If we are born again and filled with the Spirit of God, then we are not a natural man but a spiritual man and we are commanded to test all things, not empty our minds and go with the flow.
We are to keep our minds alert in all situations. It is hypnotism and the meditation techniques of eastern religion that require a person to passively empty their minds. This has no place in the Christian experience.
The Warnings Of The Apostle Peter
In the previous two sections of this article we have looked at the warnings regarding deception which were made by both the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul just prior to their final departure from the presence of the disciples. The urgency and seriousness with which they viewed deception and false teaching in the 'last days' is clearly obvious. In this section we continue with the theme of deception and false teaching looking at the letters of Peter. We are establishing that there are clear warnings given to us in Scripture, prophetic warnings that need to be carefully thought about and examined.
Peter's Parting Concerns
In 2 Peter 1:12 - 2 Peter 2:3 we read,
Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
From this passage of Scripture it is obvious that Peter is preparing the disciples for his departure. He is stressing that there are some important things that they need to remember once he is gone. This is identical to the procedure employed by the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul.
From the context of the Scriptures we see that:
1. Even though the disciples already knew about the things of which he was about to speak, and even though they were firmly established in the truth, nevertheless, Peter intended to remind the disciples about them once again. The things that he needed to put in writing were vitally important to the disciple's spiritual safety and Peter was ensuring that they would be remembered. He does not apologize for employing repetition to reinforce his message.
2. The Lord Jesus had made it clear to Peter that he would soon die. Tradition holds that Peter died as a martyr in Rome around 60 AD. Peter knew that his time with the disciples was coming to a close. He needed to set things in order and ensure that the disciples were not left unprepared or uninformed.
3. True to the character of both the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul, Peter was making every effort to be sure that once he departed from the company of the disciples they would always be able to remember what it was that he considered to be so noteworthy. The letter was written to be a permanent reminder of things that were immensely important. It was not his intention that the disciples should forget these things or simply gloss over them as irrelevant at some future date. The Lord, through Peter, has left a permanent and clear warning for His disciples down through church history.
4. The message preached by Peter was not some cleverly invented fable or myth. He was an eye witness to the things of which he spoke.
5. Prophecy of Scripture does not have its origin in the will of man, but from God to man through the Holy Spirit. Holy men of God 'spake' as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
6. Just as there have always been false prophets in the past, there will also be false prophets and false teachers in the future. It is our responsibility as Christians to test all things. We are to judge what is spoken by people who claim to be speaking on behalf of God. The message is to be tested in the light of Scripture.
7. According to the Scripture, the false prophets are within the congregations among God's people. In each of the portions of Scripture that we have studied in this article we see that this is clearly indicated. As with the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul, Peter was not speaking of the JW's, the Mormons or the Muslims. He was speaking of professing 'Christians' who would be led away into heresy and apostasy even denying the Lord who purchased them with His own blood.
8. False prophets and false teachers introduce their heresies 'privily', that is secretly - by stealth. It was Irenaeus who said, "Error, indeed is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more truth than truth itself."
9. False teaching is damnable - destructive - not only to the hearer but to the teacher. God will bring judgment upon the promoter of false doctrine. Satan beguiled Eve with his subtilty! Eve was deceived with wrong doctrine. False teaching is likened to leaven (yeast) in Scripture and God especially hates it. It may sound sounds good and right, but it is poison and as yeast permeates through the whole mixture, false teaching will permeate through the whole message.
10. Many will follow the cancerous doctrines of the false teachers. In each case that we have studied we see the Holy Spirit is warning that a vast number of trusting, imperceptive, professing Christians will follow after these teachers and be corrupted by their teachings.
11. The way of truth will be evil spoken of and brought into disrepute in the eyes of the unsaved. Romans 2:23-24 tells us, "You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."" It was secular sources that exposed the ministry of Peter Popoff, the fake Pentecostal faith healer. It was also secular sources that exposed the false claims of healing promoted by Benny Hinn. Secular sources are also exposing the shonky activities of the likes of Killpatrick and Hill of Pensacola fame. These people bring ridicule and a reproach upon the body of Christ, but, even when exposed and the truth is made known for all to see, multitudes of 'Christians' defend them as 'honourable men of God'.
There is perhaps another very pertinent way of interpreting the verse of Scripture which reads "...by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." If the 'whom' is referring to the false prophets and teachers of verse one, then the context would indicate that the false teachers and their followers will be the ones to speak 'evil' of correct doctrine. And they will speak evil of any person who would dare to stand fast and promote correct doctrine in the face of their heresies - exactly as we see happening today. Has anyone heard it said from the ecumenist camp that we should not mention doctrine, that doctrine divides? The doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is according to godliness, causes disunity and brings to naught the great achievements that man has made in advancing unity, love and acceptance among the worlds diverse religions. Picture the person who would dare to mention some valid doctrinal concern at an ecumenical 'love and unity' gathering? The way of truth is, in this day, evil spoken of!
12. The false teachers and false prophets are motivated by greed and they will financially and physically exploit shallow and gullible Christians with fanciful stories that have been designed specifically to appeal to their 'itching ears.' Our society is motivated by "...all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." The Scripture continues on to say that this "...is not of the Father, but is of the world." Unfortunately, this 'self-love mind-set' has come into Christendom and is being accepted as normal for Christian living. 2 Timothy 3:1-2 warns us that "...in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves..." and anything that caters to this love of self will be greatly accepted. In their greed the false teachers are ready to exploit these people who are motivated by materialism and self-indulgence. A conditioning has taken place in these last days to prepare the people for a strong delusion.
Further in 2 Peter 3:15-18 we read:
"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
This particular section of Scripture points out that:
1. Some things in the Bible are difficult to understand. Everything is not so cut and dried. It is interesting to note that most of the big names in the Faith Movement have no academic qualifications, nor do they have any formal training in the area of Biblical exegesis or understanding of Biblical Greek and Hebrew. This is not to say that we have to be academics to be saved or to understand God's purpose and direction for our lives, however, it is important to understand the Bible and the basic rules of interpretation when exercising the serious calling of teacher. Peter was a simple Galilaean fisherman before his conversion. However, he did undergo intense, personal training for three years in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. His Tutor indoctrinated him with pure, unadulterated Scripture. He was not sitting under false teaching.
On the other hand, Paul was an academic. In Acts 22:3, Paul tells us that he was "...brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers." Gamaliel was a highly regarded Pharisee who was a member of the Sanhedrin and the grandson of the great Rabbi Hillel whose teaching and emphases have largely determined the direction taken by Judaism since his era.
These things need to be taken into consideration when interpreting the Scriptures. The Word of God encourages us in 2 Timothy 2:15 to "...study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Truth is not based upon some extra-Biblical revelation, dream or vision. It is based upon the unchanging and inerrant Word of God. The Bible also warns us of the seriousness of God's calling to be a 'teacher' of the Word. In James 3:1 we read the warning, "be not many masters (instructors or teachers), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." In other words, teachers will be judged more strictly. And again in 2 Timothy 2:2 we read Paul's instruction, "...And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Commit the teachings to faithful men who are reliable with the truth and qualified to teach!
2. Unlearned and unstable (ignorant and vacillating) 'teachers' distort the Scriptures, shipwrecking the faith of their students as well as their own. They cause the people to fall from the stedfastness in the truth that they received in their conversion to Christianity. They teach to their own destruction and the destruction of those who would accept their doctrines. Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:7 that these teachers of false doctrine desire "...to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." These 'teachers' are prevailing in Christendom today, in great numbers.
3. Peter warns us, as do the others, to beware, to be on our guard. If we are lax in our vigilance we will be carried away by error and fall from our position in Christ. We are to test all things. We must not simply accept something because we trust the preacher. He may be genuine with a heart toward God, but he may also be genuinely deceived.
4. Peter exhorts us to "...grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." This growth is accomplished by regular daily prayer and the partaking of the Word of God - not by regularly watching the televangelists or listening to endless audio tapes from this great teacher or that. This is not to say that all televangelists are teaching heresy, but we need to check against Scripture what they are serving up on the table. You may be surprised to find quail among the manna.
The Warnings Of Jude
Finally, in this article, we will examine what Jude has to say in warning to us. It is most likely that we can identify Jude as the half brother of Christ, a son of Joseph and Mary after Jesus. His letter declares him to be the brother of James (verse 1), also a half brother of Christ.
In Jude 1:1-4 we read:
"Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
I want to focus upon verses 3 and 4 where we are exhorted (urged, implored) to earnestly contend (struggle) for the faith as it was delivered or entrusted (given over, as a man put into prison) to us. God wants us to resist men who will change the Scriptures, men who distort the truth for their own agendas. The Scriptures have been delivered into our trust and we are to struggle against those who would defile and adulterate them. We see, once again, that the ones who will violate the purity of the Word come into our midst by stealth. They are secretly amongst us and they are secretly propagating their damnable heresies. If we are not discerning, vigilant and exercising all sobriety we will be ensnared.
The phrase in verse 4, "denying...our Lord Jesus Christ" is not directed against the unsaved people who will say they do not believe in God or Jesus. Jude is speaking of professing believers and he is indicating that this denial will come through doctrinal error. Fiddling with the truth of the deity of Christ and also with His atoning sacrifice is denial. These two foundational truths of the Christian faith are greatly under attack by influential 'teachers' today.
Further, in Jude 17-19 we read:
"But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit."
In these verses we see that Jude recalls our memory to the predictions of the apostles of Christ who specifically warned that 'scoffers' or 'mockers' would come. In the Greek, the word empaiktes is used which, according to the Holman Greek Dictionary, has a meaning of "a derider, a false teacher, a mocker or scoffer." They will mock truth as portrayed in the Word of God and consider doctrine to be irrelevant.
The false teachers will be motivated by worldly lusts and sensual desires (wealth, fame, position, etc.?), according to these verses.
We have been repeatedly warned in the Scriptures of what it is we are to be vigilant for and what it is we are to beware of for our spiritual safety. Do we recognize any of the attributes described in this article evident in any of the prominent 'teachers' and 'prophets' within Christendom today? The evidence clearly demonstrates that a host of false teachers are among the 'people of God' in these days. They are promoting gross heresies and, like some modern day Pied Piper of Hamelin, they are amassing a multitude of supporters who are following them into perdition.
In Jeremiah 6:16-17 we read,
"Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken."
Unhappy with the old ways and the doctrines that have survived to nurture the children of God down through the ages, a new generation seeks after new things. "The Church is changing!" they announce. They want "New names! New methods! New worship expressions!" They also want new foundations upon new apostles and prophets! The old foundations are no longer relevant for our contemporary society.
Friends, we live in perilous times indeed and more than ever we need to urgently return to the Word of God and find the old paths where is the good way, and walk therein. Let us hearken to the sound of the trumpet!
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