Newsletter for December 2007
It’s interesting how that growing up in church I developed many wrong perceptions about the Bible. For example, I used to think that everything Jesus said in the Four Gospels was strictly for the Jews living in those days. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that practically everything He taught pertained to the Kingdom of God and that getting into the Kingdom required that a person be born again. In other words, the majority of what Jesus said was prophetic about Christians, those who would be translated out of the power of darkness and into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (see Colossians 1:12-13).
Along this same line would be the teachings pertaining to the return of Jesus and end-time prophecy. Like so many Christians, I have attended seminars where the teacher spent time explaining about the events in Revelation, Daniel, and other passages from the Bible to let us know what is coming. Then, they would tie prophecies to current events and I must admit, these teachers had an incredible ability to keep me on the edge of my seat. When each service was over, I would walk to my car looking to the eastern sky and listening for the sound of a trumpet.
Typically, when Christians talk about the return of Jesus they focus on the Beast, the Beast System, the Mark of the Beast, and the identity of the Anti-Christ, all of which are mentioned in the Book of the Revelation. Additionally, when the signs of Jesus’ eminent return are discussed, all the teachers I’ve ever heard focus on Matthew 24:6-8 as being the primary signs for which we are to look,
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
However, not long ago God showed me from scripture that the above verses are not the first and foremost signs of the return of Jesus. I know that such a statement may seem to totally contradict teaching we have heard from so many of the ministers knowledgeable of end-time events; but the above verses are Matthew 24:6-8, which mean there are five verses before them. Briefly, Matthew 24 is the continuation of a series of events which began in Matthew 21:23. I won’t go all the way back to that starting point, but let’s pick this up in Matthew 24:3-5,
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
Notice what has happened. Some disciples got alone privately in the presence of Jesus. They asked Him for the sign of His coming and the end of the world. He did not tell them to look for wars. He did not tell them to look for plagues and famine. He did not tell them to look for the anti-Christ or the Mark of the Beast. The first thing He said was, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” This means that the first and foremost sign of the end-times is an increase of deception!
Someone may ask, “What kind of deception?” It is a deception within the Body of Christ pertaining to doctrine. To paraphrase verse five, Jesus is saying, “Many are going to rise up in your midst claiming that they are of me and that I have sent them with the messages they are preaching and they shall deceive many.” Then, in verse 24 Jesus says,
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
I used to think this meant “if it were possible, even the very elect Christians would be deceived; but since such a thing isn’t possible, don’t worry.” But that is not what Jesus is saying. To paraphrase His words in the context of the entire passage, “As I warned you before when you first asked, the primary sign of the end is an increase of deception. These preachers claiming to be of me will be so incredibly good in how they use scripture to teach error, some even having demonstrations of power that are thought to be of me, that if it is possible for you to be deceived, you will be deceived and it won’t matter if you are considered to be among the ‘elect’ in my church; I’m forewarning you, if you have the capacity to be deceived, you will be deceived.”
If you want to see this presented differently, read what Paul wrote to Timothy,
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
Paul is telling Timothy to be strong in his walk with God because the day is coming when some Christians will turn away from the doctrinal truth he preaches and chase after fables. This word “fables” comes from the Greek word “muthos” from which we get our English word “myths.” It is describing a story which has elements of factual events and truth, but the story itself is completely untrue.
This means there are Christians who are going to hear preaching and teaching that sounds incredibly true. The messages will use scripture, and references to Jesus, Christianity and the Christian life; but the core doctrine of these messages will be total deception. The reputation, status, and persuasive abilities of these false prophets will be so good that the hearers will reject the sound doctrine being preached by the “Timothies” and “Pauls.” A variation of what Paul wrote to Timothy can be seen in his letter to the Thessalonians,
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
First, this is telling us that we must adamantly guard ourselves against deception. This will be critically important because, as Jesus said, there will be an increase in the most effective deception imaginable.
Second, we are told that this deception will lead to a falling away. This phrase “falling away” comes from the Greek word “apostasia” and is actually describing people who become apostates, or, who turn away from the truth unto that which is not truth.
Third, we see that this combination of increased deception within the church and the Christians who are deceived work to help set the stage for the man of sin/son of perdition to be revealed, or, to rise to his position of power. This individual is referred to as the anti-Christ elsewhere in scripture. Let this sink in: the anti-Christ is going to rise to power, in part, because of tremendous doctrinal error among Christians!
These warnings against doctrinal error and deception, along with encouragement to stay on the right track, are seen elsewhere in scripture:
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 1:13)
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3)
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Hebrews 10:23)
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; (Colossians 1:21-23)
Someone might comment, “Brother Martin, there’s no need to worry about me. I read my Bible every day.” I praise God for the Christians who do read and study their Bible. But the warnings revealed in scripture apply to all Christians, including those who spend time reading their Bible. We wouldn’t have to “hold fast,” earnestly contend,” or be warned not to be “moved away” if God didn’t think we could fall prey to deception.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not diminishing the need for, or value of, Bible study and meditation. But remember, the false prophets Jesus warned about are coming “in His name.” Without taking the time to greatly elaborate, it means that these ministers will be using the Bible in their sermons and preaching what will sound like truth. Otherwise, the very elect wouldn’t face the possibility of being drawn in by the error.
Think of it this way: there are so many different denominations in which the ministers will preach and teach from the King James Version of the Bible, yet repeatedly these groups oppose each other with differing interpretations of what the Bible says. We know that God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33); therefore, He is not the origin of these conflicting doctrines. Yet, they all come from using the same Bible!
Even though the Bible is truth, man has demonstrated that, by himself, he consistently misinterprets scripture. This is where God steps in to help. He understands our limitations and has made provision to get us past those limitations. This is part of the reason He has sent the Holy Spirit.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. (John 16:13)
The Holy Spirit has been charged with the responsibility to guide us into the correct understanding of all that God has said in His word. The Holy Spirit is also responsible for pointing out to us any and all doctrine we believe which is in error. He is here to help replace that error with truth.
The primary way He does this is when we pray in tongues. In 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, and14 the Apostle Paul explains that when we pray in tongues our spirit is praying, we are praying out the understanding of the mysteries of God (the things we don’t yet understand), and that we are edifying ourselves spiritually. After telling us to earnestly contend for the faith, Jude tells us in verse 20 that praying in the Holy ghost builds us up (edifies us) on our most holy faith. John reveals that there is an anointing of truth released to guard against deception (1 John 2:24-27).
Praying in the Spirit is not meant to be a one-time event. Because this type of prayer enables the Holy Spirit to become directly involved with the doctrine God wants us to live by, praying in tongues should be a daily part of our lives. The more we read the Bible and pray in the Spirit, He is able to help us understand scripture and keep us solid in our doctrine.
Some people have taken the position that praying in tongues is not for everybody. But since God reveals in His word that all Christians have the capacity to be deceived, then all Christians should want to pray in the Spirit. I realize that I write frequently about praying in tongues, but I have come to know first hand the value of this kind of prayer and I know the positive difference it can make.
Jesus said that the number one sign of the end is an increase of tremendously effective deception. But He also said that the Holy Spirit will help protect us against deception. Through His help, we can earnestly contend for the faith, hold fast to our profession, and not be moved away from the hope of the gospel!
May His glory fill your life!