Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.” – Jeremiah 14:14
There is nothing new about deception. It’s not something reserved only for the New Testament church or only regarding doctrines about the end times. Satan has been deceiving people from the very beginning and has been responsible for the fall of many societies before ours.
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. – 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
Discernment or Deception with Eric Barger
The deception infiltrating the church was driven home for me recently after receiving an email from a visitor to this site. He generally agreed with what he read here, but took issue with an article about one of the pseudo-Christian movements. He pointed out the movement was about holy living through the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. At the same time, he agreed there were counterfeit teachings in the movement and defended them because in his view, counterfeit teachings are found in all denominations. He was willing to embrace the movements abberant teachings in exchange for the “signs and wonders.” This is precisely the nature of deception Paul referred to in 2 Cor. 11:3-4 and is why deceptive gospels are so destructive to the Church.
As Paul said, “you put up with it easily enough.”
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. – 2 Cor. 11:14-15
Satan is the arch-counterfeiter.
The Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed. He is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by another plant, the tares, which closely resembles the wheat in appearance. In a word, by a process of imitation he is aiming to neutralize the Work of Christ. Therefore, as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former. So closely does the gospel of Satan resemble that which it parodies, multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by it.
Satan’s primary tactic in opposing God is not to foster atheism but religion; not to prove there is no God but to be worshipped as God.
Satan is not an initiator but an imitator.
- God has an only begotten Son – the Lord Jesus, and so has Satan – “the son of Perdition” (2 Thess. 2:3).
- There is a Holy Trinity, and there is likewise a Trinity of Evil (Rev. 20:10).
- As we read of the “children of God,” so also we read of “the children of the wicked one” (Matt. 13:38).
- As there is a “mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:6), so also is there a “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7).
- We are told that God by His angels “seals” His servants in their foreheads (Rev. 7:3), so also, we learn that Satan by his agents sets a mark in the foreheads of his devotees (Rev. 13:16).
- We are told that “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10), then Satan also provides his “deep things (see Greek of Rev. 2:24).
- Did Christ perform miracles, so also can Satan (2 Thess. 2:9).
- Is Christ seated upon a throne, so is Satan (Rev. 2:13 – Gr.).
- Has Christ a Church, then Satan has his “synagogue” (Rev. 2:9).
- Is Christ the Light of the world, then so is Satan himself “transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).
- Did Christ appoint “apostles,” then Satan has his apostles, too (2 Cor. 11:13).
Satan has been in the “another gospel” business for a long time. He still asks modern man the same question he offered Eve, “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3) His goal then as now, especially since the glorious good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ burst onto the world scene nearly 2000 years ago, has always been to produce a counterfeit gospel, which would replace the true, and keep men in darkness and spiritual slumber.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. [Matthew 24:24 (KJV].
In order “to mislead, if it were possible, even God’s own people” [Phillips trans.], the evil one has inspired false prophets to preach error and instilling compromise in the Church. To be effective, it often is truly seductive: evil will appear harmless or even good. A sugar-coated gospel is much easier to swallow. It is very attractive to accept the blessings without the cross; to choose our own path over “the way, the truth, and the life”, to say, “My will be done.”
The gospel of Satan is not a system of revolutionary principles, nor yet a program of anarchy. Instead,…
- It does not promote strife and war, but aims at peace and unity.
- It seeks not to set the mother against her daughter nor the father against his son, but fosters the fraternal spirit whereby the human race is regarded as one great “brotherhood”.
- It does not seek to drag down the natural man, but to improve and uplift him.
- It advocates education and cultivation and appeals to “the best that is within us.”
- It aims to make this world such a comfortable and congenial habitat that Christ’s absence from it will not be felt and God will not be needed.
- It endeavors to occupy man so much with this world that he has no time or inclination to think of the world to come.
- It propagates the principles of self-sacrifice, charity and benevolence, and teaches us to live for the good of others, and to be kind to all.
The counterfeit gospel of Satan appeals strongly to the carnal mind and is popular with the masses, because it ignores the solemn facts that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, and dead in trespasses and sins, and that his only hope lies in being born again.
In antithesis to the Gospel of Christ, the gospel of Satan teaches salvation by works. It inculcates justification before God on the ground of human merits. Its sacramental phrase is “Be good and do good”; but it fails to recognize that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing. It announces salvation by character, which reverses the order of God’s Word – character by, as the fruit of, salvation. Its various ramifications and organizations are manifold. Temperance, Reform Movements, “Christian Socialist Leagues,” Ethical Culture Societies, “Peace Congresses” are all employed (perhaps unconsciously) in proclaiming this gospel of Satan – salvation by works. The pledge-card is substituted for Christ; social purity for individual regeneration, and politics and philosophy, for doctrine and godliness. The cultivation of the old man is considered more “practical” than the creation of a new man in Christ Jesus; whilst universal peace is looked for apart from the interposition and return of the Prince of Peace.
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If Satan is going mislead even God’s own people, how might he do that?
If false prophets are going to be able to do as Christ said in Matthew 24:24 to deceive even the elect, their message will not be clearly deceptive but will appear to be truth. Does it make sense he might disguise his counterfeit gospel accompanied with counterfeit signs and miracles? Here are the signs Christ said would accompany His true believers…
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. [Mark 16:17-18 – KJV]
Are there any ministries out there that are in to casting out demons (exorcism)? Any ministries out there that emphasize speaking in tounges? Any ministires out there that use snakes in worship? Any ministries out there that are focused on healing?
I believe there are still miracles occuring today. There are true exorcisms, there are those truly speaking in tongues, and there are those instances of a Godly healing. However, just because these signs are present in a ministry does not necessarily make them from God. Satan is using these same supernatural signs to deceive many.
The closer we get to the time of Christ’s return, we will see more counterfeit supernatural miracles, signs and wonders performed by false prophets to deceive the elect. We need to be very careful about any ministry that we are not being deceived and acknowledge that even Satan can work miracles.
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; [1 Tim. 4:1 – KJV]
How to Not be Deceived by False Teachings
You cannot recognize a false teaching unless you know what the truth looks like. If you don’t want to be deceived, you must spend time studying the Holy Scriptures and know and understand what it says. If you’re not well grounded in the truth, you will be very vulnerable to falling for any deception.
Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. [1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NIV)]
You cannot rely on just listening to sermons and teachings from Bible teachers and pastors. You must let the Scriptures speak to you directly, and the only way to do that is to study them for yourself. Pastors, teachers, and websites such as this one can help point you to some things you may need to know and perhaps give you some ideas for further study, but you need to test (“examine” – NASB, “prove” – KJV) and confirm them on your own. Don’t take my word for anything… don’t believe anything I say… “test everything,” check it out for yourself and see if aligns with what the Bible teaches.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. [1 John 4:1]
New doctrines, new revelations and new gospels are springing up almost daily. Some have been with us for some time. Many have been previously debunked, yet some people tenaciously hang on to them. And it’s going to get much worse. The Bible clearly warns that in the last days strange doctrines will come forth – introducing another Jesus, another Spirit, another gospel (Matt. 24:4-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. [1 Thessalonians 2:9-10]
The apostle Paul tells us that in the last days, deception will be accompanied with all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. I’m not saying that ALL miracles, signs and wonders are deceptive… only that some may be and you need to prove them to be in proper alignment with Scripture. Are the accompanying teachings in agreement with Scripture?
Even a cursory review of what has taken place in the Church during the last 25 years will reveal a fierce undermining of the faith. Precisely as the Bible warns (Mt. 7:21-23; 24:4,11,24; 2 Thes 2:3; etc.), today’s most effective enemies of Christ are those who claim to be Christians and call mankind not just to any old false religion but to a counterfeit Christianity.
In some respects, believers of Paul’s day “had it easy” compared to this generation. In those days the opposition to truth was in the secular world around them – it had not yet infiltrated the Church under the guise of a more enlightened or advanced Christianity. While there were pressing pagan influences as well as some heretical teachings and practices here and there, they weren’t subjected to anything like the flood of false beliefs, teachings, and practices surging in on the tidal wave of today’s Christian media.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Jesus warned us that these false prophets will come to us in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. False prophets won’t come saying that they are deceiving us. No, they will sound good and will claim they are telling the truth. So, rather than judging them by their words, we are instructed to judge the messenger by their fruit.
A Simple Test for Truth
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [John 14:6]
There it is… Christ is the way and the truth and the life. When testing for truth, what does the teaching say about Christ? What does the teaching say about salvation? If it is anything that denies the saving power of Christ or that there is another way to the Father besides Christ, you can rest assured the teaching and any miracle, signs and wonders accompanying it is a deception.
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. – 1 John 4:3 (KJV)
This doctrine is essential to the Christian system; and he who does not hold it cannot be regarded either as a Christian, or recognized as a Christian teacher. I believe the words of Christ in the gospels are the primary source material for discerning truth. The teachings found in the “epistles” or “letters” written by Peter, Paul, James and other followers of Jesus along with the Revelation of Christ should not be seen as adding new truth, rather they are instructional material for applying what Christ taught in the gospels. Not only do they NOT contradict John 14:6 but instead point us back to Christ as the truth and the life.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. – Colossians 2:8
The average American Christian defines God as Love, a word which is understood from a “feelings” humanistic and temporal viewpoint. This definition does not cause any problems to a sinful lifestyle, for the concept of tolerant love does not include the reality of a HOLY God, a JUST God, and a TRUE God.
The Love of God is also Just, which is not concerned with our comfort and feelings, but with what is Right. The Love of God is HOLY, which is destructive to sinful living and the carnal nature and is not tolerant toward rebellion and willful ignorance.
The question is, do you KNOW God in Christ Jesus … as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures? Have you read His Book? Have you studied it? How can you be sure you know the real God in Christ Jesus if you have not studied what He has said about Himself?
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. – Hebrews 5:12-6:3
If what you believe to be true turned out not to be true, when would you like to know about it? When Christ appears with His angels to take His Church home, I pray that you know the Truth.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. – Rev. 3:10-11 – KJV