How do we know that we are in the last days? Did you know that there is one sign in the New Testament that is mentioned more times than any other and that is in relation to believers? In Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus this question. “Lord what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age?” Before Jesus mentions anything else. He gives them this warning:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
“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.
“Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”
Now note here that Jesus is speaking to His disciples, He is concerned that they are not deceived. This is not a warning given to the unbelieving world, but to His disciples, to believers. The epistles are full of such warnings to the Churches. In regard to the last days, the New Testament speaks of widespread spiritual deception and apostasy in the churches as being a sure sign that the coming of the Lord is at hand.
It is not so much revival that is characteristic of the “End of the Age”, but rather increasing wickedness and apostasy.
Paul wrote specifically that before the Lord’s return there had to be A GREAT FALLING AWAY (2 Thess. 2). Take time to check this out for yourselves and see that apart from in regard to the nation of Israel, it is not so much revival that is characteristic of the End of the Age, but rather increasing wickedness and apostasy. It is the purpose of this article to give some guidelines to help us avoid being swept away by the tidal wave of spiritual deception.
Signs, Sincerity and Seduction
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Well it might do but in practice it isn’t always so. The whole idea of deception is that there is just enough truth that we fall for it. Satan does not label deceptions aimed at believers with “Made in Hell” but uses more subtlety. No believer should be fooled by one who claimed “I am Jesus Christ”, or “I am God”, or even “I am a god”. For this is quite obviously blasphemous and heretical, the Scripture clearly teaches that there is only one God (Isaiah 45:21‑22), there is no other God (or ‘god’ for that matter).
But let us say that one came in this manner. He uses the name of Jesus frequently, he may quote from the Bible and use familiar spiritual terminology, he claims great visions and revelations, and speaks of a mighty anointing that he has been given. This man prophesies and it comes to pass, he performs great signs and wonders, many people are genuinely healed of incurable disorders. Scientists are baffled because they have to admit that the only way to explain the phenomena that accompany his ministry is that they are the product of a supernatural power beyond human understanding. He even has the authority to call fire down from the heavens and it really happens. He has a world-wide ministry with millions following his teachings. Sounds like a pretty powerful ministry, doesn’t it? Well who has a ministry like that? (see 2 Thess 2 and Rev 13).
“Signs, healings and miracles are on their own no sure evidence
that something is truly of God.”
All those things mentioned above, God will permit the Antichrist to do by the power and working of Satan. Not one of the signs above, spectacular as they may be, is a proof that a ministry is of God! Surprised? It is a sad fact that many Christians would be by this statement, for many of us have been applying the wrong criteria when we assess the validity of a ministry before God, leaving ourselves open to being seriously deceived. What does the Bible say about this matter? Let’s see…..
But he has such a powerful signs and wonders ministry…..
A false prophet can prophesy correctly concerning coming events and can produce a truly miraculous signs (see Deut 13, Matt 24, etc). Of course if he prophesies and it does not come to pass, or claims healings and miracles that never happened he is obviously a false prophet (see Deut 18) but you can see that even real signs, healings and miracles are on their own no sure evidence that something is truly of God.
But he’s so anointed and you can really ‘feel’ the presence of God in his meetings….
Of every test that God gives us in Scripture to ascertain the truth of a thing, sensations of ‘feeling the presence’ or sensing the ‘anointing’ are very conspicuously not among them! Emotional feelings or bodily sensations alone are a very unreliable yardstick by which to discern anything spiritual. Our feelings can fluctuate wildly. (If we believed every feeling, half of us would wonder if we were still saved each Monday morning!)
We should be cautious of being emotionally manipulated by the mood, the lights and the music
Hitler, for example, was a master at manipulating the crowds… he manifestly had a powerful ‘anointing’ but certainly not from God. Neither should we believe that someone is anointed by God just because they say so! Let us not forget that Satan constantly tries to counterfeit the work of the Holy Spirit amongst believers (see 2 Cor 11:4).
Whenever you find Paul teaching on the spiritual gifts in the Epistles he always includes instructions to test a gift or manifestation and not to accept everything ‘carte blanche’. Paul is well aware of the possibility of fleshly or satanically originated prophecies and revelations.
But he’s so sincere
Sincerity alone is no guarantee to us that a person’s teaching is correct. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are sincere too, but sincerely wrong in some of their beliefs. Let us remember that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jer 17:9).
This is often why false prophets and false teachers do cause so much damage in the church because they themselves can be ‘sincerely’ deceived, not realising that they are teaching error. Some do of course but don’t care because of the personal gain which they receive, like the false prophet Balaam (see 2 Pet 2).
Remember that Satan’s servants often appear as ‘ministers of righteousness’ (see 2 Cor 11:14-15) and will not always be obviously evil, but will come with subtlety as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15-23).
As a final note to this section, I am not saying that the spiritual gifts are not for today, nor am I saying that there are not times when we can sense the Lord’s presence, or that it is not necessary for a genuine man/woman of God to be sincere. Rather, that these things in themselves are quite easily counterfeited by the Adversary. The Lord however has provided us with a reliable means to test spiritual things: His Word.
A true prophet is always willing to have his message tested against the plumb-line of God’s word
What they are the tests that we apply?
Beware of those who say ‘Don’t analyse it – just receive it’, or ‘Stop using your minds, get out of that logical way of thinking, just go with the flow!’. This is totally contrary to Scripture. We are commanded to test everything and indeed commended by God for doing so (see 1 Thess 5:16-22), Acts 17:10-12). We must not allow ourselves to be pressured, coerced or frightened into accepting anything before being given a chance to check it thoroughly with Scripture in order to ascertain the source. After all would we buy a house if the seller refused to allow a survey? How much more than in regard to matters of eternal consequence? Remember it is only Satan and his servants that are unwilling to be tested lest they be exposed.
The message must agree with the whole counsel of God
Be aware that Satan can quote scripture too!
He did with Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4). He is a master of half truths, using just enough truths to make his deceits plausible. Check the use of scriptures against the immediate context and the teaching of the whole Word of God on the matter in question. The Holy Spirit never has to twist the scriptures to make them fit a teaching or doctrine, and He always speaks in agreement with the whole message of the Bible. The Spirit who inspired the Scriptures never contradicts them.
The Spirit who inspired the Scriptures never contradicts them
The Word of God alone must the final authority in every case
Every feeling, experience, revelation, teaching, prophecy, message or ministry, must be subject to the authority of the Word of God and not the other way around. If anyone is claiming an authority greater than the Word of God, they are effectively claiming an authority greater than God Himself (which is a satanic trademark of course) for God has exalted His Word above His very name (Psalm 138:2). Satan always tries to undermine the Word of God in some way or another, if not by direct contradiction (see Gen 2:4), then by twisting or distorting it (see 2 Pet 3:15-16).
Beware of doctrines based on ‘spiritualization’ and allegorisations that deny the plain meaning of scriptural text
We need to interpret scripture by its plain commonsense meaning
It is not a book that we are to bend to suit ourselves. While Scripture does sometimes employ symbolism, to the fair-minded this is nearly always apparent from the context. We should be renewing our minds in accordance with the Word, not modernising the Word to suit our desires. Allegorising the Scripture to make it say what they want is a mark of the cults. Once we discard the plain meaning of Scripture and sound principles of interpretation, the Bible can be made to say anything. So then while allegory of a scripture can be used to illustrate a doctrine, it should never be used as the basis for a doctrine.
Beware of doctrines based on a single or obscure text of Scripture
If we encounter a doctrine that is founded on an isolated, obscure or ambiguous text of Scripture, and there is no clear teaching on that subject elsewhere, we should feel at liberty to view it with extreme scepticism. Every major doctrine of Biblical Christianity and Biblical Judaism is well supported by numerous scriptures.
We should not be deluded by impressive accounts of spiritual experiences
into accepting everything that we hear
Beware of new or extra biblical revelation
If it is so new that it didn’t make it into the Bible let us not be deceived into thinking that the Lord forgot to put it in! The Word of God is complete and wholly sufficient. There is also a severe warning to those who meddle with His Word (see Deut 4:2, Rev 22:18-19). We should be very cautious of those who use spiritual experiences (eg. the ‘I went to Heaven/Hell’ variety or ‘an angel spoke to me, Jesus appeared to me’ variety, etc.) to give credibility to their ministry or to substantiate their teachings rather than the Word of God. We should not be deluded by impressive accounts of spiritual experiences into accepting everything that we hear. No teaching or experience should be except from the scrutiny of the Word of God and no genuine servant of God would object to such scrutiny.
The above list is by no means exhaustive but contains a few of the Scriptural guidelines which God has provided to protect us from deception and harm. As individual believers it is also our responsibility to know the Word of God for ourselves so that we will not be ‘tossed around by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph 4:14). This means that we have to thoroughly acquaint ourselves with the whole Bible. It is tragic that there are many Christians today who have never read the whole Bible even once through, though they have been believers for many years.
We cannot afford to let others do our thinking for us
We cannot remain babies for ever, being spoon fed and indiscriminately swallowing whatever someone else puts into our mouths, whether good or bad. We must learn to feed ourselves with the pure milk of the Word that we may grow up and be able to discern for ourselves between good and evil (Heb 5:13-14). In these End Times we will encounter spiritual deception and apostasy on a scale never previously seen, already this is so, and we cannot afford to be vulnerable infants.
We cannot remain babies for ever being spoon fed and indiscriminately swallowing whatever someone else puts into our mouths
The Lord alone will be our refuge in the Day of Trouble (Ps 59:16). Let us not be discouraged by the darkness and deception that is already flooding the world and the churches, for this tells us more certainly than ever that the Coming of the Lord is very near.
It is not the purpose of this article to target any person or any particular ministry, but rather a heartfelt warning to those who would walk with God, of the dangers of spiritual deception that we may be encouraged to ‘prove all things’ as the Scripture commands.
Please feel free to subject all that is said in this article to the test of scripture. If it should fail then don’t hesitate to dismiss it, but if it should be found approved, please pass it on or feel free to copy and distribute.
Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”