|Recognizing Deception and Apostasy|
|Can you be Deceived ?|
Our prayer is that each of you will develop the ability to discern in the spirit in fellowship with the Lord. Over the past 2,000 years error has crept into the church. This is not to say that all error is intentional, but prophecy in particular can be misunderstood because it has to be juxtaposed against the historical and political context. Once a teaching becomes entrenched, it tends to perpetuate itself. Don’t necessarily trust the “notes and commentaries” in your fancy annotated Bible. Take a fresh look at Scriptures, and remember that we are told the church in the “last days” WILL fall away. So be careful.
I would like to review the most common reasons why Christians are misled:
How does error get started to begin with? It usually starts with a unique discovery taking an idea out of context. Once the premise is established, they search the Bible to justify it and eventually develop a whole system of theology based upon that single premise. A number of these come into play in terms of end times prophecy. I will just deal with a few:
THE RAPTURE QUESTION AND ISRAEL
Your position on the timing of the rapture will not determine your salvation but it may have something to do with your readiness and understanding of prophecy. This is not the historic teaching of the church but was popularized in the first half of the 19th century. What began as the vision of a simple farm girl has grown like a mustard seed over the years as scholars find more and more support for it – not to argue the point here, but only to point out how “systematized error” grows over time. Timing matters! Today there are dozens of books on the pre-trib rapture seeking to “prove” their position.
Another major issue in prophecy is the role of Israel. Christians have historically wanted to take Israel’s promises for the church and at the extreme British Israelism and Roman Catholicism appropriates all promises for the church. Along comes the dispensationalists who say, “Wait a minute! God isn’t done with the Jews yet. He is going to remove the “Church” through the pre-tribulation rapture and turn His attention back to Israel alone! In our opinion, both of these extremes have developed “systematized error”. Neither understands the importance of both groups together as a complete fulfillment of the covenants of God. Those who want to get rid of Israel cannot explain Israel’s key role in the book of Revelation, nor can dispensationalists fully explain the churches obvious presence during the last seven years. This has led to confusion on both sides. The “Two Witnesses” of Revelation 11 and Zechariah 4 clearly refer to the two peoples of God – the Church and Israel. Once you see that, the prophetic pieces begin to fall together and the pre-trib rapture takes out one of the essential players in the end times scenario.
The Bible tells us that in the last days false Christ’s will say “behold, He is hear and there.” In other words, powerful leaders will come along and say, “I’ve seen the truth. You have got to do it this way or else.” Beware of those elitist teachers that claim to have the last word that will guarantee you overcomer status! This is the way all of the cults get started – by criticizing institutional Christianity – and often, with good reason and then presenting their solution! There are a lot of self-appointed apostles, prophets and ministries out there offering up THE “TRUTH”! Whenever you see someone who tells you authoritatively what to do, run in the other direction as fast as you can! These people believe they have the answers and they don’t really care what the Lord may be telling you! If it is different from what they say, you are wrong and in danger of judgment!
Unfortunately, and to my shame, I have been involved in such ministries in the past, and repent of it. However, it is a good study in “systematized error.” When a ministry categorically states that based on Revelation 18:4, all Christians should leave America which they consider to be the prophetic Babylon of the last days, they begin to find one justification after another for their position. Here are the basic problems:
There are two factors at work here: 1) “God is at work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) God is not a “cookie cutter” God stamping out clones. He deals with each of us individually. 2) The scary part is that we are individually responsible for what we have done in our bodies on Judgment Day (2 Corinthians 5:10). We had better be sure that we have learned to listen to and obey His voice – not the voice of the preacher or teacher. It is so much easier to follow a teaching that fits our preconceived ideas or one that sounds so attractive, than to get enlightened directly by the Lord. No one has a corner on the truth. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to lead you into truth. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
After many years of writing and interacting on the internet with readers, I have never had a single person say that they saw something new that they had never seen before. Rather, they say that I merely confirmed or put into words what the Lord was showing them. This confirms that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that counts, not our words or insights. My burden in writing this is that you will discover with the Lord working in your life how to discern and recognize the deception around you. That takes “spiritual eyes”. You don’t have to be a genius or have a doctorate in theology. You need an open heart, a living spirit and a humble attitude so the Lord Himself can teach you.
YOUR “END TIMES” VIEW MATTERS
I believe that those Christians living in the very last days will see the Scripture in a more full and complete way than at any time in history – not because we are any better or more worthy, but because these things were written for that generation. Any one who holds on to out dated teachings may easily be led into deception. Why? The answer is very easy. Your view of how the “end days” will determine what you do or don’t do about it.
Please remember. The church may be apostate (i.e. it may be falling away) but that doesn’t mean that there are no brothers and sisters in the apostate church! Don’t think you are better because you left. That wasn’t always the case. The same mercy the Lord extends to you and me should be extended to all your brothers and sisters. Don’t give up on them or label them as tainted – good for nothing but judgment just because they are still there. Reach out to them in the same love and mercy you would expect if you were in their place. Extend to others the same mercy, God extended to you.
Ultimately, Christ walks among the churches with all its spots and wrinkles. There are overcomers in all seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Jonah showed his own immaturity when he insisted that God destroy Ninevah and didn’t believe that God could possibly have a single soul in that evil city. Daniel and his three friends didn’t flee Babylon, but overcame in it. We don’t know what the Lord would have you to do. There is no “cookie cutter” answer for you. He may tell some to stay and some to leave. Certainly it is difficult to stay in an apostate situation. He may want you to get out and take as many as possible with you. Ultimately, that is between you and God.
I have made it perfectly clear that I have little regard for the church as an institution, but that isn’t to say that we shouldn’t love, pray for and appreciate our brothers and sisters in it. Many are walking in the light they have and may never see anything beyond it. God allows persecution to test us all. If God is going to judge the world, He begins with us. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Pet 4:17) The church is not appointed to wrath, but we are not spared judgment or tribulation. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11)
The formula, if you will, for overcoming is very clear in that last verse. 1) They overcome by the blood of the Lamb – not our own efforts, worth, ability or righteousness. We are nothing in ourselves but look only to His righteousness. 2) We overcome by the word of their testimony – not MY testimony, but “their” – that corporate testimony of believers standing together and speaking boldly even though the end is death. 3) “They don’t love their lives to the death” – neither possession, nor riches, nor family nor life itself matters in the face of the glory to come. The death of the saints has always been the ultimate testimony to the world of our faith in our God, His salvation and His coming kingdom.