By John C. Carpenter
When asked by His disciples about the signs of His coming and of the end of the world, Jesus Christ said, And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many (Mat 24:11). In the last few years the Lord has put it upon my heart that there are many false teachers and prophets teaching many false things to innocent, scripturally unlearned and sometimes naive, sheep in the Christian church. I have seen so many individuals trust anyone and everyone that preaches to them as well as believe, without examination or questioning, everything they are told. Listening to and automatically trusting ministers has completely replaced personal prayer and bible study. Many Christians have become too busy, disinterested, or just too plain lazy to check out what they hear or see. This is not only dangerous and deadly, but totally unscriptural. Before I start, let me humbly clarify that I do not have all the answers, and I do not always know if a minister, doctrine, prophecy, or pulpit message is false. Christ is still teaching me about discernment, and how to tell what is of God and what is not. I believe that the discernment tree does not fully mature overnight. Only God is fully matured, perfected and omniscient [all knowing]. However, there is one thing that I do know for sure - God has warned us all many, many times in the Scriptures that false ministers have always existed, and that there will be "many" false ministers in the last days before Christ returns to earth. I want to warn you today of the dangers we are all in by reminding you of God's scriptural warnings of thousands of years ago. Just because an individual says they are Christian, appears to be Christian, or even does miracles, does not mean we should automatically trust or follow them.
Jesus Christ, as well as scripture, warns us many times about falseness, spiritual seduction and deception in the church, particularly during the end times. Christ warns us that false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs [miracles] and wonders [omens], to seduce [to lead astray, to cause to err], if it were possible, even the elect (Mark 13:22). The apostle Paul warned Timothy twice about the seduction of believers, saying, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart[desert, draw away] from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Tim 4:1) and But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13). The apostle John warned us about the worldly spirit of antichrist saying, These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you (1 John 2:26), whereas Jesus Christ said to the church in Thyatira, Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols (Rev 2:20). My friend, many a spiritual seduction is taking place in the church today. When asked about the end of the world, the Lord immediately said,And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive [to cause to roam from truth or virtue, seduce to err] many (Mat 24:4-5). Paul warned Roman believers against those that cause divisions and offences 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 [unsuspecting] (Rom 16:17-18). Warning the Ephesians about those who promote erroneous doctrine, Paul warned, That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Eph 4:14), as well as men who will deceive you with vain words... (Eph 5:6). Speaking to the Thessalonians, Paul warned, Let no man deceive [to seduce wholly, beguile] you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [defection from the truth, forsaking of the truth] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Th 2:3). Paul warned that in the last days, there would be men like Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses, who were reprobate [unapproved, rejected] concerning the faith, and who were evil men and seducers [who] shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13). Simon Peter warned that there were false prophets and teachers who were sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you (2 Pet 2:13). Referring to those that do not walk in charity, the apostle John said, For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not [do not assent, covenant, acknowledge; resist] that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (2 John 1:7). Finally, John describes the beast [that] was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image (Rev 19:20). It is apparent that the church of Jesus Christ has been adequately warned in the scriptures that believers have been, are being, and will be in the future, subjected to falseness, seduction, and deception.
We have not only been warned in scripture specifically about "false prophets," but have also received many general warnings about false individuals, believers, and workers in the church. Although I am sure I will not cover them all, let me list a few of the characteristics of false prophets first. Jannes and Jambres were Egyptian magicians [false prophets] who withstood Moses and Aaron in Egypt (2 Tim 3:8). As Moses and Aaron had done in the power of the Lord, these false prophets of Pharaoh performed a physical miracle through the power of Satan, For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents... (Exod 7:12). The Lord told the prophet Jeremiah The prophetsprophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart (Jer 14:14). Jeremiah tells us that the prophets of Jerusalemhave seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity [sin], to turn away thy captivity [bondage to sin]; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment (Lam 2:14). Despite the fact that God did not send them, false old testament prophets claimed they were sent from God, and prophesied lies, false visions [revelations] and divination [sentence, outcome] in the name of God. They prophesied false, insignificant things that actually came from their fraudulent, evil hearts. Christ told us that false prophets come to you in sheep's clothing [appear like the sheep], but inwardly they are ravening wolves, and they are corrupt trees that bringeth forth evil fruit (Matt 7:15-18). He further describes that they profess Christ as Lord, prophesy in the name of God, cast out devils, and do many wonderful works, but in reality they are false and Christ does not know them because they do not do the will of the Father in heaven (Matt 7:21-23). Although they appear Christian and perform many wonderful so-called Christian works, including miracles, their outcome is damnation. Jesus Christ also tells us that at the end of the world as we have known it, many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many (Matt 24:11) and For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs [indications, tokens, miracles] and wonders [omens]; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Mat 24:24). Christ later said regarding false prophets, For wheresoever the carcass [a dead thing] is, there will the eagles [false prophets] be gathered together (Matt 24:28). The eagle can easily scratch and pick some small nourishment from a carcass that does not know what is happening to it. False prophets gather around spiritually asleep and dead persons and congregations who cannot tell the difference between what is true and what is false, and as a result are "easy pickings." The apostle John tells us that “many false prophets are gone out into the world”. John goes on to explain that these false prophets do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and have a spirit of Antichrist (1 John 4:3), are of the world, speak of worldly things, and the world understands and agrees with them (1 John 4:5), do not understand nor accept the doctrine of true believers (1 John 4:6), are not truly born of God (1 John 4:7), do not have love nor show charity (1 John 4:8), do not have God's Holy Spirit and, as a result, do not dwell in Christ nor does Christ dwell in them (1 John 4:13). The false prophet spoken of in the book of Revelation wrought miracles..., with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image (Rev 19:20). New testament false prophets are as dangerous as old testament false prophets. Both are deceptive, cunning, and self-promoting, and may even perform miracles.
With regards to false teachers, the apostle Simon Peter warned us, But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily [to snatch secretly by stealth] shall bring in damnable heresies [choices of faith], even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious [ruin, loss, damnable] ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness [fraud, extortion] shall they with feigned [artificial, false] words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not (2 Pet 2:1-3). Peter further explains that these false teachers walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness [contamination], and despise government [being ruled and controlled, particularly by God]. Presumptuous [daring] are they, selfwilled [self-pleasing], they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities (2 Pet 2:10). Peter says they speak evil of the things that they understand not, sport [reveling in] themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable [easily influenced, vacillating] souls: a heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; ...These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling [insulting and despising] words of vanity, they allure [entrap, entice, delude] through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error [deception, delusion]. While they promise them liberty [freedom from bondage], they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage (2 Pet 2:12-19). In the next chapter, Peter says these "scoffers" are walking after their own lusts and that they wrest [stretch, twist, and pervert] the scriptures (2 Pet 3:16). However, Peter tells us the end of these false ministers when he says, But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption (2 Pet 2:12). These ministers shall perish in their own corruption.
In addition to warning us about false prophets and teachers, scripture also warns us about other false servants and individuals in the Church. Certain individuals, false believers, in Jewish synagogues resisted the apostle Stephen, and when they"were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake (Acts 6:10) they suborned [secret agreement or cooperation for an illegal or deceitful purpose] men (Acts 6:11), stirred up the people [to violence against Stephen] (Acts 6:12), and set up false witnesses (Acts 6:13) against Stephen. This same thing is happening in the Christian church today. Barnabus and Paul encountered a sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus (Acts 13:6). Scripture immediately tells us that Barjesus was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God (Acts 13:7). This deputy was a powerful and influential man, and false ministers often associate with powerful and influential men (Acts 13:7), and seek to turn away and keep men from true faith in Christ (Acts 13:8). Paul said the sorcerer was full of subtlety and mischief, was a child of the devil, was an enemy of all righteousness, and did not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord (Acts 13:10). As they did with Christ, false leaders shall also bear false witness (Matt 26:59) against you, and while they speak evil of you, all men shall speak well of them (Luke 6:26). The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about false workers saying, But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion [a starting point, an opportunity to deceive]; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers,transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Cor 11:12-15). Paul talked to the Galatian believers about "false brethren" who were unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage [to keeping the law] (Gal 2:4).
Jesus Christ considered the Pharisees of the Jewish church to be false servants of God. Specifically He called them thieves and robbers (John 10:1), strangers (John 10:5), and hirelings"(John 10:12). Christ explained that these false ministers were not called by Christ but climbed into the sheepfold [became ministers] by some other way (John 10:1), that true sheep will not follow these strangers but will flee from them for they know not their voice (John 10:4-5). These false servants place themselves in importance before Christ (John 10:8), they steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and flee when they see the wolf [false prophet] coming because they care not for the sheep (John 10:13-14), do not believe because they are not the Lord's sheep (John 10:26), and are unable to pluck [catch up, catch away by force] true believers out of the hand of the Father (John 10:29). Argument is often made that this "thief" who steals, kills, and destroys is Satan. Truly, Satan is behind the actions of these men, but scripture makes it clear that these thieves and hirelings are men, false servants of God. Jeremiah told us Therefore, behold, I am against theprophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour (Jer 23:30), Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD (Jer 23:1), and Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness (Jer 12:10). Referring to the shepherds [religious leaders] of Israel(Ezek 34:2), Ezekiel also said, Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock (Ezek 34:3). Isaiah told us As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths (Isa 3:12). Scripture makes it clear that prophets, pastors and religious leaders are the ones doing the stealing, killing and destroying. Another characteristic of false ministers is that they conspire together, steal for themselves, and do not separate evil from good. Ezekiel prophesied of Israel, There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; ...Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane... (Ezek 22:25-26). Doctrinal error is also prevalent in false individuals. Paul warned Timothy that the time will come when they will not endure sound [truthful] doctrine (2 Tim 4:3), and that some shall give heed to doctrines of devils (1 Tim 4:1). One last characteristic found in false ministers is that they glorify themselves. Referring to false apostles (2 Cor 11:13), the apostle Paul said, But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we (2 Cor 11:12). False apostles and ministers talk consistently about themselves, their ministry, their activities, their interests,and things happening in their lives. Ministers that are truly sent by the Lord consistently talk about and glorify the Lord. Jesus told us, He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him (John 7:18). Look for and listen to the minister who consistently talks about and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will have found a true shepherd.  AMEN.
TCH Mini-
                    A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy
God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will
uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all
they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and
confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with
thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find
them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against
thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the
LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not;
I will help thee
(Isaiah 41:10-13).