|DECEIVING EVEN THE ELECT
"For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." Matthew 24:24 (NKJV)
"He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived." Revelation 13:13-14 (NKJV)
We have already had more than a few people who claimed to be Jesus Christ in contemporary society. The Bhagwan Shree Rajineesh brought his cult to Oregon and while there declared himself to be Jesus Christ. He also stated that Hitler was a great spiritual leader. David Koresh claimed he was Jesus, as he married and molested twelve-year-old girls, and Sun Myong Moon has also stated he is Jesus, as he continues to exploit and deceive his devotees, commonly known as "moonies." However, in reference to the Scripture quoted above from Matthew 24:24, it is quite obvious that these frauds lack the accompanying signs and wonders that would seem to verify their pronouncements. As a matter of fact, only those most lacking in spiritual discernment and who have opened themselves up to deception would be taken in by their absurd claims.
Nevertheless, it is a certainty that the prophecy Jesus warned us with will eventually come to pass. And this means that some time in the future there will be those who will claim to be Jesus Christ and who will perform astounding signs and wonders that will be so convincing they will have the potential to deceive even dedicated Christians. Moreover, the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will be the deception of Israel by the Antichrist and the False Prophet, one of whom will convince the Jews that he is their divine leader. Jesus alluded to this in the Book of John, when He told the Jews:
"I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive." John 5:43 (NKJV)
The Cause of False Teaching
Understanding that the advent of these deceivers is at hand, Christians need to prepare themselves spiritually so that they will not be taken in by false teachings. In the Book of 2nd Peter, we read more information about this problem:
"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3
The word "heresies" here means "to choose" in Greek. It carries the understanding that when people decide they will believe in a false doctrine it is by their own free will. Generally, there is a conflict in their heart with the true word of God - something they do not wish to conform to. This opens them up spiritually to deception, because deep down they are seeking a way to avoid coming under the complete authority of God and His Word. This applies to the leaders as well as their followers. In describing the leaders, Peter tells us that "by covetousness they will exploit you," and this phrase contains a Greek word that has a special meaning.
The word used here is "pleonexia", and it means more than covetousness. It means "evil ambition," or "the desire to have more." It is by no means always a sin to desire more; there are many cases in which this desire can be honorable. We should desire more knowledge and wisdom. We may even have a business and want it to expand in the context of desiring to be industrious. However, pleonexia means the desire to possess that which no man has the right to desire, much less take. It is an unholy ambition which desires to not only have what other people own, but also exploit them both in the lustful sense, and in the sense that they may be controlled. The word perfectly describes the perverted ambition of cult leaders. The man or woman who has this ambition essentially desires to usurp the place of Christ in people's lives. In this respect the leader is filled with the same unholy desires as Satan.
The Method of False Teaching
Peter says the method of false teaching is deceptive words, which could also be translated as "cunningly forged arguments." Recently in the newspaper there have been reports of a group of polygamists who claim to be Christians and are not associated with the Mormon Church. They use the Old Testament in their attempt to justify their sin. Although it is clear that they use Scripture in a deceptive way, we also know that people would not fall for such perverseness unless they desired deep down to be involved with such a situation. Therefore, we see that false teaching seeks out those who want to justify their sin against God.
The Effect of False Teaching
The effect of false teaching is blatant immorality. The Greek word "aselgeia" describes the attitude of people who have lost their shame and have lost the fear of God and man. It is used in Jude 1:4 as "lewdness" where we read about ungodly men who, "…turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ".
The press has run national articles on this small group of polygamists, but since they only number thirty or forty, we might wonder if they are worthy of a story. And, of course, any responsible journalist would know that since their beliefs are so antithetical to true Christianity, these people should not be called Christians. Nevertheless, the media's agenda is clear; they want to discredit Christians. And this small group certainly gives them the ammunition by which to do so.
King David's sin with Bathsheba had the same effect. God said to him in 2nd Samuel 12:14: "However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." And Paul advises young women in Titus 2:5 "to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands," but for what reason? He ends his advice by giving the reason: "that the word of God may not be blasphemed."
False teaching may not at first seem to lead to immorality. It may even appear to originate with strict legalism. However, the spirit behind a deviation from the Word of God will find its extremity in overt sin. This is why any major false teaching or prophecy is a serious matter. The recent Y2K situation is a case in point. It is one thing to speculate on the possibilities of what might happen with such an unprecedented situation, but there were also many prophecies from well-known Christian leaders declaring an irreversible societal collapse.
Many were deceived themselves, and had no agenda. However, many of the so-called prophets profited immensely by selling books and other merchandise, and this is where the immorality of greed and deception came into play. One radio ministry used fear-mongering to sell thousands of preserved dinners, water purifiers, and other items for huge sums of money, and many deceived believers took out their life savings to stock up on such items. All of this has made the church a laughingstock and brought it into disrepute in the world. What, then, will happen if a real calamity is about to befall the world and true prophets attempt to give warnings? Is it not likely that the world, perhaps with good reason, will disdain what they say because of the falsity of the Y2K warnings? And let us not be further deceived with claims that a calamity was prevented; small businesses and foreign countries that made no preparations had virtually no disruptions.
We should know from this deception that many Christians, particularly the leaders who were drawn in, were not in prayer. Not all profited financially from books or other merchandising, but they were obviously listening to men and not God. Moreover, even if Y2K had turned out to be a calamity, is it not true that Christians, above all the people in the world, should have had peace, and not reacted like a bunch of frightened children?
The Next Y2K
The overreaction and irrational fear that characterized the response by some to Y2K will probably occur again in some other guise. The same leaders remain susceptible if they have not repented, because by hardening their hearts they open themselves up to further deceptions. Some speakers on Christian radio are presently warning many about the corruption of the United States government. They talk endlessly about the New World Order, the Illuminati, the Tri-lateral Commission and the United Nations. Some of what they say may be true, although most is hysterical drivel; but even if all of it were true, what is the reason for it to be discussed? Is not salvation the message of Christianity? And when Christians rant and rave and say the government is after them, might this not become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Moreover, if we are so frightened by these things, where is our faith? Do we not believe that Jesus will get us through the trials that we may face? Perhaps some of these "prophets" on the radio need to read the following Scriptures:
"If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?" Jeremiah 12:5 (NKJV)
"If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small." Proverbs 24:10 (NKJV)
All That Glitters is Not God
In some churches we find that "miracles" of golden dental work are occurring. Moreover, some have even discovered that "gold dust" is falling from their hair and hands when they pray. However, when this "gold dust" was laboratory tested, it was found to be gold glitter, and the dental work, in some cases, has been proven fraudulent. In spite of this, we are told by some that even the plastic glitter is a sign from God.
Again we are made a laughingstock. One dentist said that a man's claim to a supernatural metamorphosis of old silver dental work into shiny gold was actually his work. The pretender then claimed that he had forgotten the dentist had actually done the work. This dentist, not a believer, but having some modicum of common sense, thought that if God were going to perform such a miracle, He would have made the tooth a natural tooth, not a gold one.
Let us stop and consider what is happening to Christians around the world. While the affluent church in America indulges in a multitude of gourmet luxuries, Christians in third world countries are barely getting sufficient nutrition. While American Christians spend more time shopping for trinkets and watching television than praying and reading the Bible, Christians in many countries are withstanding terrible persecution, with some risking their lives to keep a Bible in their home. While many American Christians go to church perhaps once or twice a month, Christians in China are risking their lives and liberty to meet in underground churches. Does it then make sense that to reward us for our great sacrifices and dedication, God is performing supernatural signs by changing our dental work into gold?
Add to this the fact that gold just happens to be the metal used by most dentists to fill teeth in the first place, and we must see that such claims are exceedingly convenient. In fact, the whole concept of God giving Christians literal gold as a supernatural sign seems to contradict the spiritual symbolism of the Bible. Gold and the wealth of the world represent the fleshly or carnal nature, while spiritual gifts are the only true "gold" to the Christian. In Proverbs 16:16 we read: "How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver." Yes, as a motif, gold is just the metal for the materialistic Western church, and it may remind us of something that Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?" Matthew 23:17 (NKJV)
The Bible Will Have the Last Word
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" Revelation 22:13
"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book." Revelation 22:18(NKJV)
Recently a well-advertised movie about a Bible code was produced by a Christian television company. In it, there is a search to find a code to the Bible that will give special power to the one who discovers it. This movie has been heralded as a wonderful Christian movie. However, the truth is that it is neither wonderful nor Christian.
The Bible code deception started several years ago with the publishing of a book by a non-believing Jewish journalist, who stated that he had found secret messages in the Bible. Soon after his publication, many well-known Christian prophecy writers jumped on the bandwagon, and wrote similar books. One writer claimed that if it could be shown to him that codes like the ones he found from the Bible could be found in any other publications, he would stop writing on the subject and admit his errors. As a matter of fact, messages such as these may be easily found in any publication.
The method is quite simple if one has a powerful computer and the appropriate software. All one has to do is select a pattern from what is written (generally from the original language) and see what it spells. For instance, every fifth letter could be chosen, or every third and seventh, or any other pattern. In seconds the computer can check thousands of patterns until something is spelled out. It is a matter of random chance, and if people search long enough, they will find all types of "secret messages." People who do not believe in Christianity have already used this method to spell out words that deny the deity of Jesus Christ. And, as far as other documents go, with the same system researchers have been able to spell out "John Wilkes Booth" and "Abraham Lincoln" in Lincoln's Gettysberg Address.
Just after the release of this movie, the couple who produced it with their son was hosting their Christian television program, which included an interview with a Bible code "expert." He told them that their first names were encoded in the Bible, in addition to words which said that multitudes would go to see the movie they produced. Here, obviously, the enemy has overplayed his hand, for surely even the shallowest Christian can see how absurd this claim is. Let us also not forget the promise of judgment for "anyone who adds to these things," stated in Revelation 22:18 (quoted above).
Not of Any Private Interpretation
"And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation" 2Peter 1:19-20 (NKJV)
The message of the Bible is clearly written in the Bible. There are no secret messages. If there were, the Scripture above would be invalidated. Moreover, we read in Second Timothy that the Bible is complete to equip us, and nothing is said about needing a computer.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
In fact, when Jesus corrected the Pharisees, He spoke to them about the reading the Scriptures. He did not ask them if they had ever analyzed them with a computer.
"Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the Scriptures?'" Matthew 21:42 (NKJV)
The movie in question is spiritually flawed in a major way. It exalts superstition, New Age thinking, and the occult through its message. It uses the Bible as a magic charm, rather than a book written with godly rules by which to live. And it mocks the power of God, relegating it to a matter of possessing something, rather than crediting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Many seem impressed that this movie appears to be monetarily profitable. However, this should be no surprise - when we trade the truth for the world's ways, we may well get the world's rewards. Furthermore, the true message of the Cross will never be popular to the world at large, because it requires repentance and sacrifice, the combination of which is unlikely to ever bring in multiplied millions at the box office.
Prone to Deception
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)
We know the world is deceived because they do not realize their need for God's forgiveness. However, many Christians are also deceived, for the Scripture quoted above from Jeremiah does not refer only to the unregenerate. Satan does not give up on the Christian after salvation; it is quite the opposite. In fact, it is then that the true battle begins, and his most effective ploy is to make us feel that we are not susceptible to deception.
Humility is Our Defense
The alcoholic who says he can quit any time cannot be delivered until he realizes his weakness. In the same way, we remain exceedingly vulnerable to deception until we can accept that fact that we are vulnerable. When the truth of our potential for spiritual blindness dawns on us, the effect should be that we are deeply humbled. We then understand the drastic limitations of our knowledge - and rely instead on the One who knows all.
The Bible is quite clear about deception increasing in the world, and we have seen that many in positions of leadership are not hearing God very well. Consequently, let us be very careful to compare everything we see and hear with God's Word, and not believe everything that is proffered by men. God will not allow us to live on the advice of others. Rather, it is His intention that we learn to get our guidance from the Holy Spirit, which is accomplished only when we diligently seek Him and wait on Him. He promises that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6) and will not let us down if we wait patiently for Him.
This is all the more important when we realize that Satan has a deception that is tailored to each of us. We may not be taken in by some things, and may even feel proud that we have discerned error in certain cases. Nevertheless, we all have different personalities and proclivities, and unquestionably there are tailor-made deceptions just for us - ones to which we are particularly susceptible. God is allowing flaws to be revealed, such as the Y2K stir, because in His mercy He seeking to warn us for the future.