The last days.
Most believe the last days prophesied in scripture are not too far off. One of the many signs Jesus told us to look for is that of false teachers. And they seem to be in more abundance than ever before.
For those who have been brought up reading God’s Word and are grounded in the Truth, false teaching can often be easily discernible.
But what about the lies that are not so obvious? What about when there is a lot of Biblical truth mixed in? How can we recognize — and protect ourselves from — false teaching as the last days approach?
False teaching is not a new problem.
God warns His people not to listen to false prophets in Jeremiah’s day.
False prophets fed King Ahab what he wanted to hear and led him to his death.
False teaching is as old as the world itself. Well, at least as old as the sin-cursed world.
False teachings are dangerous and the more bits of Truth mixed into a false theology, the more treacherous it becomes.
But when the lies are oh, so subtle, even the most mature and Scripture-steeped Christian can fall prey.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
“God does not create evil.” No, of course not. “This means that God has nothing to do with evil, He does not use it, He is not in control of it. God is not making good out of evil in your life, it is solely the oppression of the devil, which you must resist.”
Wait. Is that right?
“God wants the best for you.” Yes, He does. “So, if you’re experiencing anything bad, that’s not God’s work. You just need to believe God and resist that evil work of the devil.”
Okay, something doesn’t sound quite right here. But I’m not sure…
“God is love. He doesn’t want anyone to go to hell.” Absolutely! “Which means you just have to believe in God and do your best, and He’ll forgive you. Afterall, He promised to.”
Now, that doesn’t sound like the God of the Bible. What about his holiness?
Is it true that God does not create evil? Of course He doesn’t. God cannot look upon evil. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:” Habakkuk 1:13
He could not even look at His Son while He bore the evil of the world. But does this mean that God does not use or direct evil? Does it mean that God is, in fact, not sovereign, as many popular false teachers present?
“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Genesis 50:50
You mean God didn’t intend to use Joseph’s suffering for His good? Of course He did.
Is it true that God has your best at heart? Absolutely!
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” So does this mean that anything I view as bad is not of God, or that God cannot/will not use it for good?
“There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Did not God tell Paul that he did not view this thorn in the flesh as a bad thing, but as something by which He would use to glorify Himself?
Is it true that God does not desire anyone to go to hell? “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”1 Peter 3:9. “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:11
Clearly, God doesn’t delight in sending people to hell.
But does that mean He will just excuse everyone’s sin in the end?
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
He cannot. His holiness will not allow Him to let unrepentant people into His heaven. Only through Jesus are we justified.
See, false doctrine can be very tricky. Wolves in sheep’s clothing, right? So, how can we discern what it Truth and what is not?
How do we know for sure whether we are interpreting God’s Word rightly? How do we know who is right and who is wrong?
As always, we must turn to Scripture.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” I John 4:3
1. John says that we know if a teaching is not of God if they deny that Jesus is God in the flesh.
One of the fundamental beliefs of a true Christian is that our God is a triune God, three in one, and that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God – fully God, and fully man.
If anyone preaches anything even slightly contrary to this, we can know for certain that he is not of God.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:7-8
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:17-18
2. Paul reminds the believers that if anyone offers anything that is in anyway contrary to the gospel they originally received from the apostles, it is false no matter who is preaching it.
There is no new gospel, no newly revealed Truth, no unmasked secrets.
The gospel, in its entirety, was communicated in Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection.
It is not being added upon, or changed. If anyone offers you something new or different than this plain and simple gospel of Jesus, do not listen, “no not for an hour.” (Galatians 2:5)
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” Philippians 3:17-20
3. A key attribute of a false teacher is their focus on themselves.
Paul tells the Philippians to look for and follow godly examples, but he also warns them to be careful of whom they follow. He points out that there are many who seem to be walking for the Lord, but who are really serving themselves.
Paul always drew His followers attention to Jesus. He told them to do things because God said so.
If a man or woman is promoting his or her own teachings, or, if the followers of these people constantly refer to the teachings of _______, or make statements like “as ______ says,” beware!
This person is most likely not drawing you to follow Jesus, but themselves. Never follow a person. Follow Jesus, and learn from other people who are following Jesus.
“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. Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” 1 Timothy 4:1-3
4. If a teacher or preacher tells his or her followers they must do anything extra to gain salvation.
God’s very nature does demand holiness and purity. There are laws (the Ten Commandments) that must be obeyed in order not to violate His character.
However, the whole point of the gospel is that we are unable to keep those rules and that is why God sent Jesus.
Believing in Him, Who He is, and what He has done, and giving Him control of our heart and life is all that we have to do.
The rest is done. Forever.
We could never and can never earn acceptance with God.
Either we believe that He has accepted the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf and live by grace and in obedience to that Truth, or we don’t. To assert that we can or should do anything else to be right with God is a serious affront to His just and merciful character.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering 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.” II Timothy 4:2-4
5. If a preacher or teacher tells his or her hearers only what they want to hear, beware.
The gospel is beautiful, wonderful, and gloriously simple.
But it is also difficult to hear.
It requires believing that you are a sinner by nature, not a good person at heart. It requires humility to admit that you can never be right with God by your own merit. It requires giving up control of your life to a God you can’t see.
It’s beautifully simple, but it’s not easy.
If any person communicates that the gospel is whatever they want to hear, that God is love and He forgives everybody automatically, this is false doctrine.
It ignores the vital aspects of God’s absolute justice and holiness and man’s total depravity. It puts man on an equal plane with the God that created him.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
6. Jesus clearly told His followers that this life would not be easy, that He did not even come to bring peace.
He told them they would suffer persecution, as well as loss of houses and lands and families for His sake. Many of Jesus’ followers suffered from illness, natural disasters, and other troubles.
Any person teaching that to follow Jesus means that we will not have problems, that we will be happy, healthy, wealthy, and that we will, essentially, experience heaven on earth, is grievously wrong.
It is a false promise, giving many false hope.
Jesus didn’t die to give you what you want. He died to give you a relationship with God.
It is extremely short-sided, self-centered, and arrogant to assume that Jesus’ will is our will.
If God wanted us to have no more problems as His children, He would’ve taken us straight to heaven.
But instead, He left us here with the far greater gift of His peace, His grace, and His very presence that sustains us through the various struggles of life on a cursed earth.
“For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” Acts 5:36-39
7. Finally, false teachers will not last.
They may amass thousands of followers, but in the end, they will fail.
The true colors of their doctrine will be revealed. Their followers will be devastated, even destroyed.
But followers of Jesus Christ, alone, will never be disappointed. We will face trouble, persecution, grief. But God’s promises will always come true. He will never let us down.
If you are giving heed to any person teaching any kind of false doctrine, beware!
It is only a farce. You are standing on thin ice, and when it cracks, you will be in the devil’s hands, not God’s.
“Test every spirit.” 1 John 4:1
“Examine the Scriptures.” Acts 17:11
But don’t take my word for it, or anyone else’s. Listen to God’s eternal, unchanging Word for yourself.
This is a hard message my friend, but it is oh, so vital. It is your soul that is at stake.
Do not let the devil pull the wool over your eyes. The Truth is there, for those who want it. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Brothers and sisters, let us be faithful to the end!
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For the time will come when people 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 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. 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. (II Peter 2:1-3)”