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     Recognizing Deception and Apostasy
Apostasy Deception Apostasy
   Can you be Deceived ?

Part I Continued

RECOGNIZING DECEPTION

What They Don’t Want You to Know!


CHAPTER 2  

How We Got Off Track

Many bad doctrines and teachings in Christianity today add up to a massive deception.  Just as there has been a “dumbing down” in general knowledge of history, geography, political science and other subjects with huge numbers of high school graduates unable to read, write or do basic math, so Christians are no longer literate in the Bible and the basics of the faith.  They have become accustomed to the watered down “seeker friendly” Christianity which is afraid to offend or get too technical.  Repeat a little ditty chorus thirty times rather than slog away through a boring hymn such as Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” or “Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.”  

When it comes to eschatology (study of the “end times”), Christians eyes roll back as their minds boggle over the mixed messages and varying opinions.  They are not likely to hear much about it in their churches anyway.  It is just too negative and may drive people away.  Christians are taught so many conflicting things they no longer know what to believe.  Here are a few examples of conflicting teachings:

·        All prophecy has been fulfilled. There is no millennial kingdom.

·        God is through with the Jews.  The “Church” has inherited all of God’s promises.

·        After the rapture, God is through with the “Church” and turns back to the Jews.

·        Prophecy doesn’t matter to Christians because they escape the Tribulation by the rapture!

·        The United States has no role in prophecy. It will either be destroyed or fall into decay. It just has to get out of the way so the “play” can continue with the proper players on the prophetic stage.

·        The antichrist will be an evil, “new age” despot from Europe or the Middle East, so anti-Christian that he will be easy to recognize.

·        The church needs to take dominion over the earth one institution and country at a time (and preferably through that new chosen nation, America, the last bulwark of fundamental Christian faith in the world)!

·        So many have said that they were living in the “end”. We could go on for hundreds of years more.  There is no way to know when it will come, so why worry?

If you hear anything at all, you get these conflicting opinions.  It is very interesting that in the typical church in America, you hear very little about prophecy. There was a prophecy conference here in Sacramento with Tim LaHaye and a few other notables, but all they had to say was “not to worry since we will rapture soon and leave the problems behind for others to solve”.  When it comes to hearing a serious sermon on last days prophecy from the pulpit from the average American church, you don’t hear much at all except talk of escapism or dominionism. The subject is just way too controversial for any pastor to want to tackle so they just stick with the “here and now” issues of salvation, having a good family life, being responsible in society and with your money, etc. Don’t talk to anyone about possibly suffering and losing life, limb and possessions.

Yet, if you talk to today’s pastors they complain that their people have no vision – that they are just caught up in hearth and home, soccer and dance, sports, TV, SUVs and survival.  They are preoccupied with keeping their marriage together, the kids from flying out of control and holding on to their jobs.  They criticize the church, the pastor, the other members, the programs.  Why?  They are living at the most critical time in history and have no vision!

Conflicting Schools of Thought

There are several major schools of thought on prophecy today and they are all leading the average Christian down the wrong path. These can be roughly classified by their position on the millennium (referring to the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ after His return). The degree of doctrinal error and deception held by each of these groups may be measured by their position on three things: the millennium, the rapture and Israel. The terms discussed below are extremely important. Why? A person will live his life according to his idea of what he thinks is going to happen. If we think we will either rapture or just sort of slip into the kingdom, why be too concerned? If we consider the possibility of passing through the worst tribulation the world has ever seen, we may more carefully reevaluate our lives and where we are going.

·        The a-millennialists believe there won’t be a millennium. They believe the world will just keep on going. Historically, the liberal, less “evangelical” churches such as the more liberal Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, etc., who are advocates of social justice and social gospel, take this position – pretty much defined historically by the World Council of Churches. The net result of this position is that they believe Christians are here to improve the world and extend their influence politically, socially and culturally in order to keep evil from prevailing. We will see later that these churches can make an easy alliance with the dominionists – those seeking to literally bring the kingdom of God to the earth! Another related group, called the “preterists” believe that we have been in the “end times” for the past two thousand years and all prophecy has been fulfilled.

·        The post-millennialists believe we are currently living in the tribulation period and that Christ can’t return until the church unites and becomes more “Christ-like”. This is the traditional position of the Roman Catholic Church that is endeavoring to unite the church under its authority. Recently the Vineyards and Word of God movement (which was always 60 percent Catholic) and many other charismatic churches and ministries, as well as the Anglican and Lutherans, have been making their way back into the Catholic “dominionist” fold.

Both of these first two groups also tend to be supporters of Covenant Theology, which believes that the Jews have forfeited their place and all of their promises to the “Church” because they were unfaithful to God. They have been replaced by the Church (known as “replacement theology”). This is in spite of Romans 11 that warns the Church to not be so jealous and haughty because we were grafted into the tree and that God still has a covenant with His people and in the end they will recognize Jesus as their Messiah.

As far as these two groups are concerned, there is no rapture. The Church doesn’t ever go anywhere but is absolutely essential in its role of turning the world around and establishing dominion over the earth. Once the church has done its job, Christ can finally return to rule.

·        In the past century and a half, the more fundamental Protestants belonged to the pre-millennialist school of thought.  They believe Jesus Christ will return at the end of a seven year period of persecution that has become known as the “tribulation” and establish his thousand year rein.

Within the pre-millennial fold, there are different positions depending on the timing of the rapture which has three possible positions: Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation and the Post Tribulation rapture.   

Dispensationalism

Most pre-millennialists believe in “dispensationalism”.   Again, a big word but an important concept.  Historic Roman Catholicism and the state churches of the Reformation (Covenant, Lutheran, Anglican, etc.) believed basically that the Jews lost their inheritance to the church.  A reaction to that doctrine, especially after the special revelation of the pre-tribulation rapture, was that the church dispensation ends with the rapture and God turns his attention back to the Jews.   They went so far as to say that none of the promises of the future refer to the Church since the Church is gone.

Both extremes confuse the issue of the end times and prophecy.  One takes Israel out of the picture and the other the church!  We believe that the clear teaching of the Bible is that God has two peoples – the Jews, his physical people and the saints of the church, those born of the Spirit.  Romans 11 says:

1 “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew… 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved

So what are we to infer from these Scriptures?  We (the church and Israel) are in this together.  We were grafted in and God isn’t done with either people.  If you read the book of Revelation carefully, you will find the “church” in every chapter, but no more than in Chapter 11 where it talks about the two witnesses which are the “two olive trees and the two lampstands.”  Verse 17 above clearly refers to Israel as the “two olive trees” and the church is referred to in Revelation 2 and 3 as the “lampstands.”  Clearly, these are the two corporate witnesses.  In Chapter 7, it speaks of the first group of 144,000 coming from every tribe of Israel and chapter 14 speaks of another 144,000 (verses 1-5) “who have His name written on their foreheads…who have been purchased from the earth…from among men.”  Both peoples stand and boldly witness throughout Revelation.  You can’t say God is done with one group and moves on to another.

“Systematized error” starts when you make one wrong assumption and then build upon it.  That is exactly what happened with the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture which began in the 1840’s and was popularized by John Nelson Darby.  If the church is taken up to heaven in a secret rapture, they had to twist and turn the Scripture to fill the void left by the church being gone.  Although the doctrine restored Israel’s prophetic importance, it led to a massive distortion of the Scriptures.  The visions of Zechariah 4 of the seven lampstands and the two olive trees clearly mirror the two witnesses of Revelation 11.  Those who have the church completely out of the way by the time the tribulation begins have a very basic problem.  Saints are still on the earth during the Tribulation, including every chapter of the Book of Revelation.

One of the tenets of the pre-tribulation rapture position is that the church can’t suffer the judgments of God (they misunderstand the difference between the wrath of Satan and the Judgment of God as well as the timing of it all) so it has to be removed.  I’m not going to go into the details of the pre-tribulation rapture right now but am going to point out one major inconsistency.  Proponents often site II Thessalonians 2:8 saying that the rapture occurs because the Holy Spirit (the “restrainer” is removed which means Christians have to go as well).  This doctrine calls for two Second Comings – a secret rapture where the Lord comes “for” the church and, seven years later when Jesus returns “with” the church.  There is no straight forward Scriptural justification for this position – conjecture at best and twisting the Word at worst.  If you look at the chronologies in Luke 21 or Matthew 24, it is clear that the return of Jesus and the church being caught up coincide.  I Thess. 4:14-17 leaves no doubt: 

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:  and the dead in ‘Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:  and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

I am a very curious person and read all of Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series, which although just a piece of fiction, LaHaye and Jenkins both believe follows their interpretation of Scripture.  Immediately after the “rapture”, new Christians are born and by the mid point of the Tribulation, he estimates there are more than a billion new believers, which the pre-tribbers call “tribulation saints.”  If the Holy Spirit has been removed from the earth, how could this be?  How could they be “born again” if the Holy Spirit isn’t there? And further, aren’t “tribulation saints” also the church – part of the body of Christ?  And if so, how could the Lord allow them to suffer?  What makes them any different than you or I – except timing?  To say that the church is not mentioned after Revelation 3 is disingenuous at best.  The “saints” are mentioned a dozen times in the book of Revelation.  In Chapter 13:7, the antichrist makes war with the saints and overcomes them. 

God has never spared the church from Tribulation or the wrath of persecution.  Marvin Rosenthal makes a clear case in his book titled “The Pre-Wrath Rapture.”  The vials of the wrath of God occur in the 75 days following the return of Jesus and the rapture.  But even more compelling is the matter of the two witnesses which clearly describe two corporate entities which make up God’s people’s – the Church (the golden lampstands) and the two olive trees, Israel.  Who else is going to take the witness stand against the world that rejected Christ and chose the antichrist?  What is God’s glory, but His people “who overcome him because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

Dispensationalism doesn’t work because you can’t take the church out of the Old Testament prophecies any more than you can out of Revelations.  The doctrine of a secret pre-tribulation rapture made it imperative to so convolute Scriptures that an entire end times theology has been mistakenly built around it.  The “a” and “post”-millenialists  rightly reject this view although they tend to go overboard and reject Israel as well.  The fact of the matter is you need both God’s spiritual and His physical people to culminate the battle of the ages “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.  (Ephesians 3:10)  God isn’t through with the Church or Israel.  Both are critical players in the final act.

The Testimony of Jesus

The book of Revelation is the testimony of Jesus Christ.  Let’s look at the verses:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ... And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,  who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. (1:1-2)

for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ (1:9)

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. (6:9)

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days…When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.  (11:1,7)

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. (12:11)

And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (12:7)

"See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (19:7)

Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, (20:4)

The Greek root for the words “testimony” and “witness” is “marturia” – in other words, the word MARTYR!  The testimony of the last days church is a group of people who will stand boldly, even to giving up their lives – martyrdom!  And you will notice that in Chapter 11, the beast comes out of the bottomless pit and makes war against the “two witnesses” (the two olive trees and the two lampstands) – the two corporate people of God.  The souls of those slain for their testimony (marturia) – those beheaded for their witness (marturia). 

So what about deception?  Do you expect to escape via the rapture or be a martyr – a saint who doesn’t love their life even unto death!  There will be no easy escape.  This is no less than that asked of saints down through the ages.   Please see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.  We will have a lot more to say about the testimony of the church in later works.

Does Prophecy Really Matter?

These are the major views of the “last days” held by Christians today.  I would challenge you to search the Scriptures.  Some would say that none of this really matters, but the fact is that it really does.  Your view of the “last days” will determine what you do.  If you think the church is supposed to take dominion over the world, you will work toward that end. If the antichrist appears to be a wonderful Christian out to save the world, even Christians will be deceived and sucked in. If you think you are going to rapture and leave all the suffering of the Tribulation behind, you aren’t going to worry about preparing for it. Why bother? If you believe there will be no tribulation or millennium, you will just go on with your life “business as usual.”  Matthew 24 tells us that “the coming of the Son of Man will be as in the days of Noah.” (verse 37) No one had ever seen a flood before. They had no need for boats so when Noah said that God was going to judge the earth by a flood, they just laughed. What is the tribulation about? The final judgment of the earth! Very few will pay any attention. They will just get caught up in events until it is too late. Only Noah and his family survived.  The question is what is the ark today?  (more on that later)

I used to believe like many of you that these issues don’t really matter. I used to call myself a “pan-tribber” – everything would “pan” out. The point is, only one of these positions is the “truth” as consistently revealed in the Bible, and the other is a false teaching and part of the deception. This is no small issue, because your answer will determine what you do or don’t do.   If the doctrine is false, it is also misleading and a part of the great deception.

Think about it. Just as surely as hundreds of prophecies were literally fulfilled to the letter when Jesus came the first time, the same will happen when He returns. This could be extremely important if we just happen to be the generation that is alive when He comes. Will we go through the Great Tribulation? What will it be like? Should we do anything to prepare? How will we recognize the signs? What will the deception be like? What should we look for? How will it affect our family and friends?

If we are really going to enter into that tribulation period, and we hold to the first two scenarios above, we are ripe for deception. We are either not expecting tribulation, or we are confident we will rapture, so we won’t really understand what is happening. The antichrist will not be some easy to recognize evil person. He will look, sound and act like a wonderful Christian man. The name is a misnomer. “Antichrist” really means “Christ impersonator or substitute.” So liberal Christians hoping to make the world a better place will fall right in line behind their new leader. The pre-trib rapture folks won’t have a clue as to what is happening because they aren’t expecting to be here at all, so it will be very difficult to recognize the deception.
 

Why the Discrepancy?

How did all of these different theories arise?   The Bible is not that hard a book. It is meant to be read and understood by the common man. You don’t need a doctorate or read a dozen commentaries for it to make sense. You need an open heart and mind and a living human spirit. If you approach the Bible with a closed or made up mind, you will seek to justify the position you already have.  That is what many have done – reinforced what they already believe. The question of the rapture illustrates the point. A straightforward reading of any of the associated Scriptures (Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, etc.) indicates that the rapture occurs simultaneously with the return of Jesus Christ in the clouds. You have to read all kinds of things into the Bible to come up with any other conclusion. But that is what they do. They hear a teaching, get an idea and seek to justify it and build upon it.

Over the centuries, sincere theologians and Bible Scholars honestly wrestled with passages relating to “end times” prophesy. They did their best to interpret the passages, but the problem was they were interpreting them in the light of their culture and their point in time and history. Imagine someone interpreting Scripture in the 16th Century when Spain dominated the world. What would their conclusion be? Or France under Napoleon or Germany under Hitler – many thought both to be the antichrist. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the sun never set on the British Empire. What was America - a fledgling colony across the ocean? What was Israel at the end of the 19th century? The hope of a few Jews, but most were just scattered around the world, having been scattered by wars and the inquisition. These theologians did their best interpreting prophecy, but how else were they to do it if not based on their own historical/political context?  The problem comes when their interpretation is passed on down through the years.

Obviously, if you are interpreting “end times” prophecy in the light of 19th Century Europe, or any other time for that matter, it is not going to be accurate. It is interesting that in the last book of Daniel, probably the most relevant Old Testament prophetic book, he says basically the same thing twice, “Go your way, Daniel for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end of time.” (Daniel 12:9) In other words, we are told that the prophecy is not only sealed but “concealed” until the end and in the “end” it clearly states that the prophetic meaning will be revealed. In “Intelligence” circles, this principle is called “need to know.” No matter what a person’s security clearance, classified information is only revealed on a “need to know” basis. If you have a “need to know” and the security clearance, the information will be revealed to you.  You may be the President of the United States but if you don’t have the “need to know”, it will remain secret.  These verses tell us that the prophetic scripture will be revealed in the end times when we have a need to know and understand what was written.

The closer we get to the “end”, the more the Lord will reveal the true meaning of about one fourth of the entire Bible which deals with “end times” prophecy. The problem is we have baggage - pre-conceived ideas that have been passed down from generation to generation in Bible Schools and Seminaries. It is easy to understand how miss- teachings could come about, but the problem is, these teachings take on a life of their own. They are validated because that “is what we have been taught.”  Eventually, that “miss-teaching” can become a false doctrine.  Only the person with the nimble mind and open heart will escape the resulting deception. This isn’t to necessarily blame anyone, especially those who are dead and gone, because they probably did the best they could with the information they had.  But if the next generation accepts their interpretation, it just adds to the deception.

Some blame should be laid on present day teachers who refuse to see the truth and think outside their narrow little box. If we are in the “last days”, these issues are no longer “academic”. God wants to reveal the truth about what is going to happen so people can prepare and know what to expect. There is a lot at stake. Think about it. The two extremes on the rapture question are: 1) we escape before the Tribulation or 2) there is no rapture because we have to take dominion over the earth. Does it matter? If they are wrong, those promoting them are false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, leading the flock astray, deceiving the brethren. And, as I said before, people will act according to what they believe. The first group won’t do much of anything and the second, e.g. American Christians will work toward world hegemony for America, Christ and the Church. Do you see how either position can lead someone down the path of deception? To say the most powerful economic, political and military force the world has ever seen is either irrelevant because it isn’t mentioned in prophecy or that it is God’s chosen nation to bring the kingdom to earth are both wrong and lead to serious consequences. The first is refusing to see the elephant taking up half the painting and the second is to turn prophecy upside down and work right into the hands of the antichrist.

Before we leave this subject of timing, I want to remind you that whether intentionally or not, most pastors will push variations of these two agendas. Why? Maybe that is what they have been taught and they are just passing it on to you. Or maybe, Laodicean pastors are just giving “Laodicean” (lukewarm) messages. Laodicea means “rule by the laity”. In other words, if they don’t give the laity what they want, they will be voted out and lose their job.  

The church is backwards.  Instead of having a laity demanding the clergy take care of them.  The “laity”, the people themselves are gifts to the church and every person has a gift and should use it. We do not need a class of “professional full-time Christians”. What does that make the rest of us “unprofessional” part-time Christians? We each need to know Him and know His word. We are all responsible to God alone. But a word of warning, if you listen to false teachers, you will fall into deception. “A little leaven leavens the whole loaf, speaking of the teachings of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6-12) If you eat junk food, your body will become a sickly junk food body. If you listen to spiritual junk, your spirit and mind will be tainted. There is no way around it. I don’t understand how any Christian could watch TBN or listen to Christian radio all day and not be nauseated by the hype and false teachings!

False teachings, apostate teachings, misguided, out dated teachings all add to the deception that is rampant in the Body of Christ today.  Unless you take a fresh look at the Bible yourself, you are at great risk.  If you just go along with today’s Christian leaders, you are likely to be led down the path of deception.  The stakes are high.  This is not a game. 

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