By A.M. Kisly
Continuing on in our study of, Living in the Last Days, the next two parts will be discuss the rise of False Teachings and Deception, as well as Christian Persecution.
Just a few words before we begin. Today we are seeing a multitude of false teachers and prophets rising up in the Christian church. When we think of false teachers our minds automatically take us to bizarre cults, that of Jim Jones and David Koresh. Though it is true that false teachers often prey outside of the Christian church, we are seeing more and more rising up from within. They bring with them a false gospel and a false religion. As a result, great multitudes are being led away from the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ into a deluded deception. Jesus warned about false prophets in Matt. 24:24 stating that in the last days many false prophets would arise and deceive, if possible, even the elect. There are many examples of modern day false prophets, each distorting the truth and setting a course to damnation. It is important to know that we can recognize these false teachers, they can be identified by their morals and their motives. They are driven by lust, greed, selfish gain, exploitation, and sensuality. They are self-centered, self-serving, and self-indulgent.
Bob Deffinbaugh writes, "When false teachers “arise,” their heresies are “secretly introduced” (verse 1). They “creep in unnoticed” (Jude 4). These false teachers are devious and deceptive, not wishing to be known for what they are. In some cases, they do not even recognize their own condition. They not only deceive, they are themselves deceived (2 Timothy 3:13; see 2 Peter 2:13). They rely on slick methods rather than on the Spirit of God and appeal to the lusts of the flesh (compare 1 Corinthians 2; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 4:1-2).
False teachers speak of “Jesus,” but it is a “Jesus” of their own making, a “Jesus” with whom sinful men feel comfortable and affirmed. They wish to follow and imitate such a person, but they deny the real Jesus, substituting a more palatable Jesus. So it is that false teachers gain a following by tickling the ears of those who will not have the real “Jesus.”
With the explosion of false teachers in the world, we can also expect to see a great number of men, women and children following after them. Add to that a great number of Christians who are falling away from the truth. This is the coming Apostasy. They are those who once believed and then rejected the truth of God. Just last week I posted an article about a number of Clergy turning atheist, and a foundation set up by Richard Dawkins as a safe haven for these “men of God” who have turned their back on God and Biblical truth. What a sad testimony they attribute to the Lord of Life. What a horrible example they are to their parishioners. What a stumbling block they have set before those struggling in their faith! Yet the Bible tells us that these things will come, and indeed they are!
Not only will we see a rise in false teachers, a falling away, but we will also see growing persecution towards those who follow Christ. Christian persecution is on the rise throughout the world, and it is only going to get worse.
In the book of Peter, the writer warns us about a more intense period of persecution.
1 Peter 4:12-19
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
We are not to be surprised by these things; we are to BE READY when they begin to happen!
Are we not seeing these things happen before our eyes? Have we ever seen such hatred towards God or Christianity as we are witnessing today? Even here in our own nation, we are witnessing an anti-Christ spirit swelling in the hearts and minds of the people. Just this week we witnessed the democrat delegates booing during a voice vote on whether or not to put the words God and Jerusalem back into the language of this year’s platform for the Democrat National Convention. I was horrified while watching the crowds jump to their feet while booing GOD Who Is The Mighty CREATOR of All! I tremble just thinking of their arrogance and the coming judgment.
With all the warnings given to us in the Bible about the coming birth pangs, and the beginning of sorrows, I hear many a Saint warning fellow believers to "get ready". Should we be getting ready? Listen folks, the Bible tells us to BE READY! If you’re playing games in your Christian walk balancing one foot in the world with one foot in the Lord…you are NOT ready! This is not the time to be playing games. I implore you to get off the fence once and for all and follow Jesus Christ. Repent and turn to God, and start living in obedience to His word. Yes, the Bible tells us to BE READY, and it also tells us to WATCH; STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH; BE STRONG; BE WISE; STAY AWAKE; ALERT; BE SOBER; BE VIGILANT; PUT ON CHRIST; TEST THE SPIRITS; and so forth….
Can these words be any more clearer, stronger and sober? It gives us a clear picture of how we ought to be living each day in Christ. Yet Christians today are resting on their laurels, making a bucket list of things they’d like to do, living carelessly, and compromising without shame.
Take heed, dear Christian, take heed and follow hard after the Lord!
Living In The Last Days - Part 5
*This series is used with permission by the writer, Quek Koh Choon
THE PROLIFERATION OF FALSE TEACHINGS AND DECEPTION
The next problem area we will encounter in the last days is the proliferation of false teaching and deception and this includes false Christs and false prophets. The Lord Jesus Himself warned us of this in Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-24. We see this emphasized also in the various epistles in the New Testament. The apostle Peter spoke of false prophets and teachers arising from among the people who will secretly introduce destructive heresies. Jude refers to these as those who have crept in unnoticed, ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny the Master.
With regard to the words of the Lord Jesus, notice how the Lord reiterated again and again that the objective of these false Christs and prophets is to mislead many, even the elect. They will do this with signs and wonders and by employing deception and false teachings. We need to be on our guard, for it may not be easy to detect them. Many can easily be impressed with signs and wonders and if these false prophets refer to Scriptures as their basis, very few would be in a position to detect the false teachings, particularly when deception takes root in the heart. False teachings may not appear to be distorted at first sight and if we are careless or not properly grounded in the Scriptures, it becomes very easy for us to be led astray.
False teachings and deception can take many forms and approaches. Some may obviously be seen as being unacceptable, yet others may not be so clearly perceived as being unhealthy. There are followers of cults and heresies who may even be sincere in some cases; nevertheless they are still on the wrong path and the consequences would be serious. We see in the New Testament how the apostle Paul was so zealous to maintain the purity of the gospel. When he saw how the Galatian Christians were influenced negatively, he wrote to them in very strong words and with a harsh tone (see Galatians 3:1-11). The very basis of justification by faith was challenged when the Galatian Christians seemed to accept the teachings of false prophets who advocated justification by the law which included circumcision as mandatory. Paul defended vigorously the gospel and justification by faith. We see this concern of the apostle extended also to the Corinthian Christians. So great was Paul's burden and concern that he used very strong terms to describe the false apostles (see 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, 13-15).
With regard to false Christs, we may think it preposterous that some of God's children can actually be fooled by those who claim to be the Lord Jesus. Yet, in the history of the church, there have been many who claimed to be the Lord, and many of them had a large following which included those who were also generally sincere in their desire. The Korean by the name of Moon established a large following internationally called the Moonies and he was reported to have claimed to be the Son of God. And even though he has been investigated for tax evasion and other related issues in his multimillion business ventures, he is still holding his own in influencing many by his teachings.
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor fig from thistles, are they?…..Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'" (Matthew 7:15-16, 22-23).
Notice what the Lord Jesus said about the false prophets. They come to us in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. It is not easy to detect their true state when we look at their appearance and presentation. Outwardly they may call the Lord Jesus "Lord, Lord" and may even perform miracles, cast out demons and prophesy in the name of the Lord. But take note what the Lord Jesus will declare to them, "I never knew you, Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." In reality, such ones are not doing the will of the heavenly Father and their lives are characterized by the practice of lawlessness. Their characters do not reflect true godliness and godly values - the believers will know them by their fruits. However, for the undiscerning, naïve and impressionable, their so-called miracles and supernatural deeds may make an impact and cause much deception. Here is a call for God's people to be alert and vigilant!
In addressing false teachings, false teachers and prophets, let us beware that we do not end up being overcritical in a negative sense, not giving room even to other Christian groups which are generally healthy but may have certain convictions which are different from ours, but not in significant core areas of fundamental Christian doctrines. In the name of being true to our beliefs, sometimes we may be guilty of throwing out Christian love and grace in our attitude towards our brethren. We must distinguish cults from Christian groups which may differ from us in minor areas of doctrines.
Nonetheless, the issue of false teachers, false prophets and false Christs is a real problem facing believers in the last days. The Lord Jesus told us beforehand that there will be false prophets, false Christs, false teaching as well as deception, and the objective is to mislead many, including God's children. We need to be alert, we need to be vigilant; above all, we need to be grounded in the Scriptures and be men and women who understand and appreciate what we believe.
The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians, "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking, yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking, be mature" (1 Corinthians 14:20). We must not be like little children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Instead, let us learn to be men and women of stature and convictions.
Living In the Last Days - Part 6
*This series is used with permission by the writer, Quek Koh Choon
We turn our attention now to another major problem area - PERSECUTION. To some Christians, persecution and suffering are topics which they vaguely associate with Christian living. Persecution is not something real in the lives of these various ones, and many of the scriptural truths related to this topic are not clearly perceived and understood. They seem so distant and the attitudes and response to persecution when it does arise are rather disappointing for disciples of the Lord.
Let us take note of what the apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12-16 - "Beloved - do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…" When suffering and persecution do come, as God's children, we are not to be surprised - it is not something strange or unexpected. In fact, it is an area which we need to be prepared for if we seek to honor the Lord. The apostle Paul himself declared that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. The degree of persecution may vary, with differing intensity, for different ones during different periods. Nevertheless, it is something God's children will have to encounter, particularly in the last days. We should therefore not be caught unprepared or off guard; persecution may not just be in terms of physical sufferings, it may take the form of unfair treatment by men or social disapproval by friends and even family members because of our faith.
The problems we encounter should be because of our faith and not because of wrongful or foolish behavior. The apostle Peter emphasized that the suffering is for the name of our Lord and for being a Christian, and not because of being a murderer, a thief, an evildoer or a troublesome meddler. There may be those among God's children who find themselves in trouble because of foolishness in their approach towards others and because of unwise responses in life. This is not in the same category as suffering for the sake of the Lord.
The preparedness to suffer persecution as a Christian would help us in our response, should such a situation arise. I remember interacting with a young Christian some years back. He was lamenting that if he knew that Christian life would involve so much pain and suffering, he would have hesitated in becoming a Christian. Part of this, it seems, was due to how the gospel was shared with him. The gospel was presented to him as a wonderful prospect for his life, full of joy and meaning, and nothing much was mentioned about the cost of discipleship and the prospect of suffering and persecution. So when persecution did come, he was not prepared and he was badly shaken. Contrast this with a Christian sister whom I know. She was one who understood the cost of being a Christian and even though she had to leave home because of her faith and even now has to endure the displeasure of her own family and friends, she continues to press on in her walk with God. I am aware that it pains her heart to have her own family members turning against her, yet her love for the Lord and willingness to go on, despite the tears and agony, truly warm my heart.
The apostle Peter also touched on the attitude and response of Christians in the midst of persecution. He said, "…to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing…if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (see 1 Peter 4:13-14). Yes, indeed, we are not just to grit our teeth and to endure and to hang on; we are to rejoice and to keep on rejoicing for we are truly blessed in the Lord! Peter went on to say that for the one who suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed but in that name let him glorify God. Our attitude and response during such a time can be a positive testimony as well as a vehicle to glorify and to honor God. I read about a Christian brother who died for his faith in his homeland. His testimony and his words continue to be an inspiration to many to press on in their walk with God. Before he died, he was asked this question. "Are you not afraid that you would be a social outcast by becoming a Christian?" And his reply was along this line, "I have thought this through over carefully and I am not just prepared to be shunned by my people but I rejoice even if I have to die for my Lord." This brother eventually gave his life for his Master and his words and testimony live on in the hearts of many of God's people in a land where being a disciple of the Lord would inevitably mean pain, persecution and suffering.
James, the brother of the Lord, also wrote about the attitude of the child of God towards times of sufferings and trials, in James 1:2-4 - "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Here the apostle James highlighted one significant reason why we can rejoice in the midst of pain and suffering. If we respond properly, times like these would purify and strengthen our faith and they would serve to mold our character. Something precious and wonderful can take place in our lives during periods of persecution and trials and this is certainly something to rejoice in.
God does allow persecution and suffering to test and purify the faith of His people. Looking at the history of the church, we may recall how the Roman Christians were burnt at the stakes, stoned and thrown to the lions' den. Even today, in some contexts, the Lord's people still undergo torture, imprisonment and ostracism because of their faith. The church of God can become stronger and purer during such times of testing.
The evil one uses the pull of this world and deception to ensnare the people of God. In the area of persecution, the evil one is also very actively at work. And the primary weapon he uses in persecution is FEAR. Fear of pain, fear of suffering, fear of rejection - all these are harnessed to cause the children of God to falter and to compromise. So when the pull of the world and deception fail, the prince of this world would resort to fear as his offensive weapon. In practice, different combinations of the three may also be employed at the same time.
So, as we face the onslaught of persecution, let us pause and consider several principles which may help us in our perspective and response. "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). Let us take heart in the fact that the evil one is limited. He may inflict pain and suffering on our body but he cannot ultimately touch our soul if we remain steadfast and true to the Lord. The Scriptures remind us that the sufferings in this world are only temporal; they cannot be with the eternal weight of glory that awaits the faithful servants of God. Even physical death, which seems so terrifying to those without God, has lost its sting for those who have their eyes upon God and eternity. And the Lord would grant grace sufficient for us in each moment of trial if we learn to look to Him and to cast our burdens upon Him. The Lord, in His wisdom and faithfulness, would regulate and He would not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able but will provide the way of escape that we may be able to endure it. Hence, we need not succumb to the fiery darts hurled at us by the evil one; we need not be fearful of those who kill the body, for our lives and our souls are secure in the hands of our dear Lord and Master.
Not only have we nothing to fear; in fact, we can count it a privilege to suffer for our Lord and Master. The Lord will not overlook our faithful response during such times. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:10-12). The Lord Jesus Himself here affirms that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake and on account of Him are indeed blessed. They should be glad, for their reward is great in heaven.
During times of persecution and suffering, let us not forget to look at the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter, in writing on the subject of suffering unjustly, sought to help the Christians to remember this (see 1 Peter 2:19-24). The Lord has indeed left us an example for us to follow in His steps. Let us learn to walk in the steps of the Master and let us always remember that all our sufferings cannot ever be compared with what the Lord has gone through for us at Calvary. Let us humbly learn from Him and seek to honor Him in all our ways.
See also: Living In The Last Days - Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4