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. Fake news, if you will, has been around a long time. It’s illusory effects have misled for as long as there’s history to be read. It’s not something reserved only for the New Testament church or only regarding doctrines about the end times either. 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 modern church was driven home for me recently after receiving an email from a visitor to this site. The writer 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 (which is a good thing). 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 to advance their particular perspective. He was willing to embrace the movements aberrant 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
Deception (or the avoidance of deception) is a topic found quite often in Scripture.
Jeremiah and others in the Old Testament grappled with the issue of deception. The Hebrew word is nasha’, “to lead astray”
Writing to the exiles of Jerusalem now captive in Babylon, Jeremiah writes;
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” <v.8> Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” – Jeremiah 29:4-14
God acknowledges His judgement on Israel, but also lays out the plan for the next seventy years, leaving them with the hope He would gather them back to Jerusalem.
What were the lies and deceptions being foisted on the exiles?
Apparently some Israelites tried to deceive the others by saying they wouldn’t have to serve the king of Babylon (Jer. 27:8 – 11). This was a complete lie because God had expressly said otherwise. God didn’t want the Israelites to despise their 70-year captivity in Babylon, but to be content there and to live out their lives as normal in Babylon.
The problem of deception was not isolated to the Old Testament. Christ warned his disciples to beware of deception.
Responding to the questions of His disciples, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? In the context of the verse, they were asking about the destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish covenant. Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.“(Matt. 24:4)
The New Testament church was also filled with deception.
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 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. – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9
Apparently, some of the Thessalonicans were concerned over whether those who had died would share in the parousia (παρουσία, meaning “arrival”, “coming”, or “presence”). Paul writes in 51-52AD concerning the parousia, Second Coming, Day of the Lord, etc., “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” (2 Thes. 2:3) The apostle Paul reassured the Thessalonian church that Christ would not return to gather His Church without a sign.
Futurists interpret this to be talking of the Antichrist and events occurring thousands of years later with a required re-built temple just prior to the end of days. This event would not happen until “the man of lawlessness is revealed” – the Antichrist standing in that re-built temple proclaiming himself to be God.
Those taking a more historical perspective see this as being fulfilled in the series of events leading up to the destruction of the temple in 70AD.
How does this reconcile with what some critics note, such as “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10) Rather than some future event, Preterists see this as the violent destruction of the Temple by fire, not the end of the world. The primary symbol of their Jewish faith, the temple, was destroyed in 70AD as Jesus predicted in Matthew 24 and the Jewish way of life ended as the people were slaughtered or taken captive. That’s historical fact, folks, not some fanciful vision of the future.
Further study of “deception”
1 Cor. 3:18
Satan is the arch-counterfeiter.
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. – Matthew 13:36-39
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. – Matthew 13:40-43
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 worshiped 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.
|Cultural Marxism||Is This All Conspiracy Theory or Fact?||The Compromised Church|
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. It won’t come with a warning tag. In fact, it’s going to sound pretty good.
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 tongues? Any ministries out there that use snakes in worship? Any ministries out there that are focused on healing?
I believe there are still miracles occurring 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]
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. – Galatians 1:6-7
What condemnation does he pronounce on any who would try to preach any other “gospel”?
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!- Galatians 1:8-9
Not a good prognosis for those that preach a false gospel. Paul repeats himself to ensure we understand what he is saying.
How to Not be Deceived by False Teachings
You cannot recognize a false teaching unless you know what the truth looks like. In today’s modern society we are led to believe that truth is relative and objective truth is non-existent. If you buy into that philosophy, you will be ill equipped and easily deceived by any sort of false teaching coming down the pike.
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 sheep’s 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