Wednesday, June 23, 2010
End-Times Topics: False Prophets/Christs
I was thinking about writing a piece or two on the things that will happen in the last days before the return of Jesus. HERE is the last blog I wrote on the topic. As I was researching - trying to get my thoughts together - I read some of Les Young's research. I decided to ask him if he would write a blog on the subject. In the process, I learned: never ask a soon to be graduate of doctoral studies in theology to write a short blog. So here is the first installment, and there will be others as we have time. You can read more of his Les's writing over at End Times Encouragement.
There is no better place to begin this topic than with the Word of God. The Bible is full of warnings concerning false prophets, going all the way back to the Torah. I think we can learn much by looking at the first (based on Thompson Chain Reference) reference to false prophets:
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (NIV)
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder,
2 and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them,"
3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
Most of us are familiar with the sure-fire way of discerning a false prophet: he prophesies something and it does not come to pass. That test is valid if the prophecy is short term; but what good is the test if the prophecy is far-off? Should Isaiah have been stoned to death because the Messiah wasn't born of a virgin within the next generation? I think not. I believe that what we have in the Deuteronomy passage above is a test that can always be used to test for a false prophet (or false prophecy) and it is this: does the prophecy move you away from God and His righteous commands, or does it move you closer. This test works, even when the prophecy comes to pass.
Now concerning false prophets/Christs in the end-times, Jesus was not silent. At the beginning of His Olivet Discourse He said:
Matthew 24:5 (NIV)
5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
And again, a few verses later:
Matthew 24:11 (NIV)
11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.
During these portentous times in which we live, do we see any of these signs, increasing in intensity and frequency, like birth pains coming upon an expectant mother? I believe we do. Not only do we see certain people appearing on the political scene claiming to have connection with the divine, or to even possess a spark of the divine. I know it was with tongue-in-cheek for some (but not for all) that Barak H. Obama was labeled "The Messiah." The dictator of North Korea claims to be a god. The mad man of Iran claims to have a divine mission to usher in the age of the 12th Imam.
Paul wrote a couple of things that should make those who revere the Bible as the Word of God stop and question at least a few "false" religious practices, endorsed by false prophets who proclaim them to be true.
1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
This excludes Mary and the "saints."
1 Timothy 4:1-3 (NIV)
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
And the list continues. There are whole denominations (so-called Protestant/Evangelical) for whom the following Scripture paints a condemning picture:
Romans 1:32 (NIV)
32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Then we could travel to India, where Maharesh Yogi types are considered divine, and who enslave millions in a false religious system which embraces everything from child-prostitution to bankrupting lending practices to slavery. And from this dark and demonic system, the west has imported elements to develop all sorts of "eastern mysticism."
Within mainstream protestantism, there has developed a number of streams of thought that cause the discerning person to at least take a second look. How many 20th Century "revivals" have occurred that resulted in more focus on man and his program than on the Lord Jesus Christ? I don't have the specific answers here, but when wierd behavior and "signs and wonders take "center stage" and the Gospel of the Kingdom and holiness unto the Lord are lost in the shuffle - well, you decide.
Other streams of thought which may distract people from being prepared by God for the days into which we are entering include: The Prosperity Gospel, or "Your Best Life Now." This sort of teaching, along with a pre-tribulation rapture theology (only about 150 years old) do little to prepare Christians for lives of sacrifice and persecution. What was it that Paul said?
2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV)
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
As Jesus was about to conclude the signs leading up to His Second Coming, He stated that one certain thing would happen before the end would come.
Matthew 24:14 (NIV)
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Just before that, Jesus makes a statement that includes one of those divine buts; which in this case describes the exception to the destruction and mayhem that are unfolding.
Matthew 24:13 (NIV)
13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
This is the passage of Scripture upon which Encouragement for End-Times Endurance (www.endtimesencouragement.com) was founded. False prophets/Christs wil arise, and in fact are so doing. To keep us from deception, we must have a clear understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is always better to focus on what is true rather than on the myriad of forgeries that are in the world.
Be encouraged by Christ, so that you may encourage one another.