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False Teachers & Their Messages

John Bartlett
Chaplain ~ F.O.P. #102

We recently have heard and seen the results of someone who claimed to have a message from God. Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, made a bold prediction that circulated throughout the United States and around the world. He stated that on May 21st, 2011 Jesus would return, the rapture would happen and Godís judgment of the world would immediately follow. Camping made similar predictions in 1988 and 1994, which also did not happen. He followed this by explanations as to why his calculations were wrong. Harold Camping was wrong in 1988 and1994, and again this past May. The sad thing about Camping and all the other false teachers that have come and gone is the devastation they cause to their followers. I had several conversations with people just after May 21st. I listened to them make fun of the false prediction Camping made and even ridicule the return of Jesus Christ, the rapture of the church and the judgment of God. These people, who were not Christians, coupled Harold Camping and his organization with all other true Christian believers. This causes doubt and an even deeper unbelief in God and the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world through His Word, the Bible.

The Bible warns us about false teachers and their message. False teachers or prophets were active during the Old Testament days and have been active ever since. The Bible tells us that a prophetís prediction will come true if it is from God (Deuteronomy 18:22). A major problem with these false teachers/prophets, as I have previously stated, is the devastation they cause to the lives of those who believe and follow their message. A lot of Harold Campingís followers sold their possessions, cashed in retirements, and quit jobs to help get his message out. When May 22nd came and Campingís prediction had not come true, these people were left with the loss of their money, retirements, and jobs. Some were bewildered and wondering what went wrong. Camping, as he had in 1988 and 1994, tried to regroup and came out with a statement that his calculations were a little off or the prediction came about in the spiritual realm. Since then, Harold Camping suffered a stroke that affected his speech several weeks after his false prediction. That causes me to wonder if God shut Campingís mouth and put an end to his false messages because of Godís love for people.

We also remember what happened to the followers of Jim Jones and David Koresh. Jim Jones, founder of the Peopleís Temple, led his followers to mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. Hundreds of people died at the hands of Jonesí leadership. David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidian in Waco, Texas, led his followers to their deaths in 1993 when they battled the ATF. These, along with many other false teachers/prophets, have caused great sadness, death, and deception among people.

Jesus, when talking to His disciples just prior to going to the cross, warned them, and us too, about false prophets and their messages. He said that spiritual deception would be a primary sign just before His return. Jesus stated in Matthew 24:4b-5, 11, 24-25, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ĎI am the Christ,í and will deceive many. . . . . Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. . . . . For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand." The sad thing is that "many" people will be deceived and follow false prophets and their messages. Jesus also stated that these false prophets would be able to "show great signs and wonders". That means that these people will have some sort of supernatural power to lead people astray. The Bible tells us that the devil can disguise himself, as well as his messengers, into something that looks good and appealing, even "religious". 1 Corinthians 11:13-15 tells us, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." Just because something seems to be supernatural or spiritual does not mean that it is from God. The Bible instructs us to test all things and follow what is of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

These false prophets/teachers do not necessarily come from other religions or cultic groups. I believe many come from within the true Christian churches. The best way to corrupt the Gospel of Jesus Christ and add to or take away from the Word of God is to attack it from within. Spies, when caught after infiltrating their targets, are always caught within the organization where they seemed to be a true part of its membership. In the same way, these "ministers of righteousness" or false prophets/teachers, infiltrate the church and become a part of it. The Apostle Paul warned the Elders of the church in Ephesus of this very thing in Acts 20:28-31. He stated, "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." Jude also stated something similar in Jude 3-4. "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul said that these "wolves" would infiltrate the church from the outside and inside. Jude then tells us that these men would do it by way of stealth, going unnoticed and trying to do damage to the message of Jesus Christ. What the church needs so desperately today are faithful watchmen who care for Godís flock and are not afraid of speaking the truth in love.

As we watch and hear about all the crazy things happening throughout the world, we need to be on guard against deception. False teachers will become more and more frequent as we rapidly approach the return of Jesus Christ. Dave Hunt, a Bible teacher and author, stated, "The Bible tells us that God, through His prophets, provides signs of the times (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not knowing and recognizing the prophetic signs of the Messiahís first coming (Luke 12:56). It was, therefore, reasonable for Christís disciples to ask Him, ĎWhat will be the sign of your coming?í (Matthew 24:3). The very first sign Jesus offered was religious deception, and He emphasized this sign above all others (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 24)."

Harold Camping was right about several things. Jesus will return and Godís judgment is coming. The day of His return is unknown (Mark 13:32-33) and the day of Godís judgment is yet to come. I believe as we approach both these Biblical events, the world will see many things or "signs" happen as outlined in Matthew 24. Do not follow after the Harold Campings, Jim Jones or David Koreshs of the world. The only One to follow and completely trust is the Lord Jesus Christ. He will lead you and guide you back to the Father in heaven (John 14:6). Follow the clear instruction of the Bible when it comes to testing spiritual things. 1 John 4:1-4 tells us, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." You see, when we have believed on Jesus Christ and have been made new, the very Holy Spirit of God comes and resides in us and guides us into the truth of God and keeps us from error (1 John 2:27). We need to be cautious when people say they have heard from God or heard a divine message. The question that needs asked next is, "Does it line up with the Bible?" If not, then it should be rejected, and exposed as a false message.

Jesus said of His sheep and their knowledge of and relationship with Him in John 10:14, 28-30, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. . . . My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Fatherís hand. I and My Father are one." The most important question each of us has to answer is, "Do we really know Jesus?" If we do, we are protected by the Good Shepherd and follow Him because we know Him intimately and love Him. If you do not really know Jesus, you, too, can trust Him and follow Him. He is so faithful and protective of His own. False teachers and their messages lead sheep astray so that the sheep are caught and destroyed by the wolf (John 10:12-13). Follow Jesus Christ and His Word, and this deception can be avoided and even exposed.