The Power and Persuasion of the Final False Prophet (Revelation Sermon 25 of 49)
November 12, 2017 | Andrew Davis
All over the world, thoughtful people of various cultures and languages take time to reflect on life, asking common deep questions. Questions of life and of origins: Where did the world and all that is part of life come from? Questions of meaning: Why are we here? Questions of purpose, direction and destination: Is there a purpose for my life and life in general? Is there an unfolding purpose in history, a bigger story that I am a part of? Where am I heading; where is humanity heading? Questions of suffering: Why are there natural disasters such as hurricanes that destroy even kill people? What about evil, like an individual, lone gunman shooting in crowds, or attacking nation states invading other countries? Why is there so much suffering? Questions of eternity: What about death and life after death? What happens when we die?
All over the world, people who do not know Christ turn to religions or philosophical systems to find answers; often they find nothing and end up with feelings of depression and despair. As Christians, we believe the Bible has the answer to all of these ultimate questions.
Regarding origins, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and personally, God knit us together intentionally in our mother’s womb. We are here for a reason; it is not a random accident.
Regarding meaning, we were created to know and worship the God who made the universe. That purpose, that reason is enough. It is enough that we can know Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one that he sent. He gives meaning to life.
Regarding evil, He brings to light the meaning and purpose of evil. We understand why there is evil and death in the world. God created the world beautiful and good. Sin entered the world, and death came in through sin, which has polluted the entire human race. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Regarding purpose and direction, we have a destination. There is a purpose to the history of humans who have led purposeful lives, who have handed the baton of the world to us. Now it is our time to lead purposeful lives. There is a story unfolding in our lives that is bigger than us; it extends to the nations of the world in every individual. We are heading somewhere. Eternity is real. It is appointed to each one of us to die once, and after that, to face judgment. Those who have faith in Christ will live eternally, filled with joy, free from all death, mourning, crying, and pain, that will be worth living. Those who have not had their sins forgiven are condemned to Hell, separated from God for eternity.
The true answers to all these questions flow from Scripture. Other religions have prophets and teachers that answer these questions differently. There is a vast system of lies from the mouths of false prophets that people have believed to provide answers to these ultimate questions. False prophets and teachers have been a plague from the beginning of redemptive history. Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses during the time of the Exodus. Balaam the false prophet enticed Israel to sin with the Moabites and led many of them to death because of it. Elijah came against the false prophets of Baal who were leading Israel to worship false gods. Hananiah, the false prophet, contradicted Jeremiah’s clear prophecy of the exile of Babylon with false prophecies.
There are many more than I can recount here. False prophets have plagued the people of God. In the church era, the church has been plagued by false teachers as well. All the famous religions and cults of our world have been started by false prophets and teachers. If you know what to look for, you can see a supernatural, demonic element to many of them. For example, Muhammad had visions of an angel in a cave in Hira in 610 that began the Koran. Joseph Smith was a con man, a dowser who used seer stones to try to find hidden treasure. He then used seer stones to write the Book of Mormon and begin the false religion known as Mormonism. Charles Taze Russell, a 19th century false teacher, retrieved Aryanism from Satan’s deep freezer, microwaved and re-served it through the Watch Tower of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, teaching that Jesus is a created being rather than God.
Mary Baker Eddy, from my hometown of Boston (not proud of the fact), started Christian Science, denying that physical existence is real, including pain and death. She went so far as to have a phone installed in her mausoleum so she could call someone to get her out of there if she was ever falsely buried, because death is not real. My systematic theology professor Roger Nicole got the number and called it. Strangely, it was busy. Make of that what you will.
Cults rise up, deceiving many. They have given rise to some expressions in our culture like “Do not drink the Kool-Aid,” which came from James Jones’ cult in Jonestown, in Guyana. 909 of his followers drank poisoned Kool-Aid and died. The effects of false teaching and false prophecy are horrific. Satan has three main fronts of attack on the church: false teaching, persecution, and pleasure, or sin. False teaching is the most common and most devastating single method of his efforts against the Gospel. It is worse than allurement to the flesh, worse than persecution. False teaching is the worst because it destroys the truth, the message that the church purports. That is why Peter says in 2 Peter 2, “…blackest darkness is reserved for them.” In the second half of Revelation 13, we meet the final false prophet, who will proclaim the final false religion. This will be the most successful false religion in history.
We are in a sequential exposition of the book of Revelation. To sum up what we have experienced thus far, Revelation, the final book of the Bible, is so named from the Greek word apokalupsis, which means an unveiling, pulling back that which we could not see if God did not show us. First and foremost, the Apocalypse, the book of Revelation, reveals Jesus Christ and his greatness. As we read every section, it is helpful to ask, “How does this show me the greatness of Jesus?”
Second, it is a revelation of the future. God gave the author, the Apostle John, these words to show His people “what must soon take place.” “Soon” means next in the order of redemptive history, not in the way we would measure the concept. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, a thousand years is like a day.” [2 Peter 3:8] Most of the events described were future to John’s era. and many are likely future to us as well 2000 years later. The events John describes find recapitulation in every era of redemptive history. 1 John 2:18 is a key text in eschatology. “You have heard that one, [an Antichrist] is coming and even now many antichrists have come.” We will have repeated attacks of antichrists, plural, that are not the final Antichrist, but there is one coming.
The book of Revelation can generally be read sequentially, though not in every detail. We see a heavenly court with God seated on a throne; we see Jesus, the Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world, take a scroll sealed with seven seals from the right hand of God. He begins, in Revelation 6, to break open the seven seals. As he breaks open each seal, events occur on earth. The seals seem to be preparatory, as Jesus says in Matthew 24, “…the beginning of birth pains,” implying that will be increasing agonies and suffering — wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes in various places — until the birth occurs.
A set of judgments, the seven trumpets in Revelation 8 and 9, follows the seal judgments. It is a new and different set of events, not a recap of the previous events. The trumpets unleash assaults on planet earth that are definitely future to us. They are clearly not metaphorical — they are too specific. A third of the green grass and vegetation and trees burns up; a third of the sea turns to blood; and a third of the living creatures in the sea die; a third of the drinking water becomes polluted, unable to be consumed; and a third of the celestial beings are reduced in luminosity, or total celestial light is reduced by a third.
A demonic plague follows, an assault of demons billowing up from the nether reaches of the earth, like smoke out of a furnace. They plague people for five months; people long to die, but are not able to. Then a demonic army, 200 million strong, runs roughshod over the earth and kills a third of the population of the Earth, up to two or three billion people. History has never seen anything of that nature or to that scale.
Revelation 12 shows us behind the scenes, revealing the activities of Satan and his angels, warfare in Heaven, Satan’s banishment from Heaven, thrown to the earth, and his subsequent assault on the people of God on earth. He is portrayed as a dragon. He hates the children of God, those who believe in Jesus, following the testimony of Jesus and obeying God’s commandments, Jews and Gentiles both.
Revelation 13 unveils Satan’s masterpiece, called the Beast from the Sea. Though the word Antichrist does not appear anywhere in the book of Revelation, he seems to be the same individual, a world ruler, who will come and dominate the earth, referred to as the Antichrist in 1 and 2 John, and the man of sin or the man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2.
He will be given power over the entire earth. We have never seen that; the largest empire in history claimed a quarter of the earth’s surface. The Beast from the Sea was called up by the power of the dragon Satan and given power over the earth for a short time — 42 months, or a time, times and half a time, or 1260 days, or three and a half years.
Today we consider a second beast. He is called in Revelation 16:19-20 the false prophet; here he is called the Beast from the Earth. Revelation 13 gives a grotesque parody of the Trinity — Father, Son, Spirit are mimicked by the dragon, the Antichrist and the false prophet. Together they parody the actions of God.
The Person of the False Prophet
We begin with verse 11 to learn about the Beast from the Earth. “Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth.” He is called a beast and is directly compared and connected with the Beast from the Sea. He is another of the same kind; his origin, however, is from the earth, not the sea. As a beast, he exercises a destructive effect on all who come under his sway. He comes to steal and kill and destroy.
The words the false prophet speaks, more than anything else, is what is destructive. “He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.”
This is most likely an individual, a person, not a system or a philosophy. Many who interpret this as a system see it as the Roman Catholic system. Certainly the Reformers battled against powers from Rome and Catholicism. But this is still future to us, not in the past. Also, a system or a philosophy cannot be thrown into the lake of fire, but this individual, like the Beast from the Sea and the dragon, is capable of being condemned to the lake of fire, and thus he will be when Christ returns.
The Beast from the Sea had ten horns, but this one has only two. His appearance, like a lamb, points to an outward winsomeness and gentleness. He is not terrifying in appearance like the first beast, but he is a soul-killing monster. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” False teachers tend to appear beautiful and attractive on the outside, like their master Satan, who masquerades as an angel of light. We should not be surprised that his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. He is appealing, attractive, religious, perhaps gentle in some way, but like the Scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus condemns in Matthew 23 as white-washed tombs, he is righteous on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones, unclean on the inside. He may be appealing, but when he opens his mouth, he speaks like a dragon. His language is that of the dragon Satan; he speaks the devil’s words. He is a charismatic speaker and a skillful liar.
The Purpose of the False Prophet
Verse 12 says, “He... made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast.” Satan’s ultimate goal, as Isaiah 14 tells us, is to supplant God and be worshiped, so he was cast down.
The ultimate purpose of the Antichrist is the same as Satan: to be worshiped as God. Many world-conquering tyrants have had the same megalomaniac tendency, yearning to be worshiped and adored by the people they dominate, to be seen as a god. Many rulers, such as Alexander the Great, have believed in incarnations, that gods took human form. He believed he was the descendant of gods. Roman emperors held the same polytheistic world view. They commonly sought to be worshiped, which was a major issue in that era in which the Apostle John was writing and would be for another century or more, because that is one thing Christians do not do.
We see even with a small-time ruler like Herod in the book of Acts. Wearing splendid robes, he gives audience to people who want him to supply them with food and are willing to worship him for it. After he speaks, the people say, “‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” He was a small fish, but he had megalomaniac tendencies. How much more will the final ruler, the Antichrist be. It is the job of the Beast from the Earth, the false prophet, to cause people to worship the Antichrist.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 Paul paraphrase (nearly quotes) Daniel 11, but ascribes it to the man of sin who is coming: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Therefore, the ultimate goal of the false prophet is false worship of the Antichrist. He will be the worldwide champion, advocate, mouthpiece of the beast from the sea, like the Holy Spirit is for Jesus.
The Power of the False Prophet
The false prophet has power. In verses 12-14, we see the political, governmental coercive authority of the Antichrist, which he places at the false prophet’s disposal. Verse 12 says “He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.” The Antichrist is the first ruler in history to wield world-wide power; his power is described in verses 7-8: “…he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-- all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” The false prophet is instrumental in causing the worship to happen. He will use the full power of the state in all matters, including religion — no separation of church and state in that final system.
The false prophet will use Antichrist’s governmental power to force the inhabitants of earth to worship the Antichrist. It will be illegal not to do so. He will be able to unleash the military to compel worship. Beyond that, he will be able to unleash the police state — local governing officials — to compel everyone in that community to worship the Antichrist. No one will be able to resist. The intelligence apparatus will also be available to search out who is resisting, who will not submit.
The second power is miraculous, supernatural, spiritual. The focus will be foremost the Antichrist’s miraculous recovery from the wound that he receives. Verse 3 says “One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.” The astonishment of the world is the root, the heart, of the worship. The people are not reluctant; rather, they are astonished and amazed and eager to follow the beast. Verse 12 says, “He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.” It is supernatural, a miracle in the world’s eyes.
The false prophet will point “the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived” [verse 14] to seal the belief that the Antichrist is God. He will use false, satanic miracles and signs and wonders of this nature, as verse 13 says: “And he performed great and miraculous signs, [the false prophet] even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men."
This calls to mind the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The nation of Israel was going after a false religion, the worship of the Baals. God raised up Elijah to confront these false prophets. He had them set up a contest between Baal and Yahweh the true God. Each set up an altar for sacrifice. The rules of the game were clear: the prophets of Baal should cry out to their god to send down fire to burn up the sacrifice, and Elijah would call out to the one true God to send down fire. The one who answered by fire would be acknowledged as God,
The prophets of Baal cried and screamed and went on for hours, cutting themselves until the blood was flowing, but no one answered. No fire came down from heaven. Was it because Satan cannot do fire from heaven? No, he can do far more than that. Was it because Satan did not want to do it? No, he would have desired to do it. Why then? It was because God was showing grace to the nation of Israel, restraining Satan and his demonic power so that they would not be able to show that miraculous sign at that key moment, which would have the affections of the Jewish people. Elijah prayed a simple prayer, and fire fell down from heaven and burned up not only the sacrifice but the stones and everything on Elijah’s altar. The people all fell down on their faces and said “The Lord, he is God.”
At the end of time, God will step back and allow Satan free reign for a time. He has been restraining these false prophets and the demons that they unknowingly represent from showing supernatural power that they possess. But at the end he will allow this false prophet to work signs and wonders. This is the very thing the Apostle Paul predicts in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
He will allow Satan and the demons perform lying signs and wonders so that people will believe and follow that false system. Do you not see the grace of God throughout centuries in which he restrained the demons from doing this precise thing? How good God has been? But in the end, he's going to pull back and give them over to what they want. They will worship Satan in the end.
The false prophet is effective worldwide. Verse 14 says, “Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.” We saw in verse 8 that “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast…” Statistically, this will be the most successful religion in history, with more followers than any other religion has had in history. More people will worship the Antichrist during that short amount of time than ever worshiped Christ or Buddha or Allah or any deity. The combination of the terror of coercive governmental power and a winsome attraction because of the Antichrist’s miracles and signs and wonders will guarantee success. He will set himself above every god. Every other religion — Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even atheism and agnosticism — will be instantly obsolete and illegal. But they simply exchange one satanic lie for another more compelling one.
But there is one group that will refuse to bow down. And I believe only one group. That is those whose names are written in the book of the lamb of God, who is slain from the foundation of the world. Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ will be empowered through the Holy Spirit to say no at the cost of their lives. They'll be given power to refuse, to stand up.
The Elect Are Not Deceived
Verse 8, again, says, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-- all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” The elect will be able to resist, because, as 1 John 2:18, 20 tell us: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. … But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” Praise God for that. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of God, resulting in spiritual discernment of truth.
1 John 2:21 continues, “I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it.” This does not mean we have nothing more to learn. It means that when we hear the truth, we know it because of the anointing from the Spirit. In the same way, when we hear falsehood, we can identify it as such and determine not to follow it.
Jesus said of his followers in John 10:4-5, “…[my] sheep follow [me] because they know [my] voice. … they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” He said in Matthew 24:24-26, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible [it is not because we are warned and we have the Spirit]. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.” We will be able to resist and withstand the lies. This enrages the dragon and the Antichrist. Not satisfied with the majority, they will go after those remaining who will not bow down.
The mind of the tyrant cannot allow even one to resist his orders, especially related to worship of himself. Nebuchadnezzar was not satisfied with the fact that all the officials in Babylon bowed down to his idol in Daniel 3 except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He commanded them to bow down or be thrown into the fiery furnace. In his rage, he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. Those who threw the three into the fire were instantly incinerated. Haman was not satisfied with all the honors and accolades given him in the empire of Persia. Because Mordecai the Jew would not show fear or bow in his presence, none of the honor meant anything to him. This mind of the tyrant is stirred up by jealousy for worship. Antichrist and the false prophet will have this mind.
The Program of the False Prophet
The Image of the Beast
In verses 14-17, they enact a final solution to weed out resistance and compel all to choose worship or death. The final solution has two steps — the image of the beast that everyone must worship, and the mark of the beast, required for anyone who wants to buy or sell.
Verse 14 says, “Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” Throughout history, people following false religious systems have set up physical representations, idols, as a focus of their worship. This is forbidden to the Jews in the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:4 says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” This wicked final world religion will have an idol, the most compelling that has ever been made in history. An idol is an object of worship crafted by skill, ingenuity, and imagination; it is artistic. That is the problem: it makes God in man’s image or imagination in opposition to what God did when he made us in His image.
The Image Comes to Life
Verse 15 says, “He was given power [implying it was given by God] to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak [it comes to life to become the focus of this new perverted worldwide demonic religion in parody of God breathing life into Adam] and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” This is the compulsion of the state, the threat of execution for all who will not worship, but also the control of all commerce on the earth.
The Mark of the Beast
We come at last to this detail, this number 666. I cannot preach a whole sermon about the mark of the beast without speculating. Some of you would like me to speculate about implanted chips and devices that will give off your GPS position to the government or scan your forehead or your hand. This is one of the most famous details in the whole book of Revelation. Verses 16-18 say, “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.” Six hundred sixty-six is a more accurate translation. This number is the source of endless speculation, but let us stick to the text and read it in context.
It is in the context of the final era of history, when Antichrist is ruling the earth and the false prophet sets up a world religion compelling people to worship the beast and his image, seeking to weed out those who will not do so. Everyone must receive this mark of the beast. The requirement extends to everyone on earth, no matter what their socio-economic level, whether small or great, rich or poor, free or slave.
It affects their bodies,; it is a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. Without it, people cannot buy or sell, especially food, most likely. The mark of the beast is the mark of his name. It is a brand, like on cattle, indicating ownership by the Antichrist. Those with the mark are his slaves. It is another unsettling parody of the sealing that we have of the Holy Spirit, as in Revelation 7:3, “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Every time an individual buys or sells anything, he or she acknowledges loyalty to and worship of the Antichrist
The Call for Wisdom
“…the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.” An internet search on this topic will yield various theories of conspiracy and identity of the beast. I believe there is truth behind these theories, not as these websites posit, but in that Satan runs schemes and conspiracies as the unseen puppet master.
As with any key issues in the book of Revelation. We must combine current events with exegesis. Scripture alone is not enough. Specific events must happen in space and time on earth for fulfillment of these things. Jesus gave us permission to do this; saying we need more information does not disparage Scripture. Jesus said, for example, in Matthew 24:16-17, “So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel-- let the reader understand — then [when you see that with your eyes] let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” He gives other examples and sums up in verse 33: “Even so, when you see all these things [starting, perhaps, with the seven trumpets], you know that it [Jesus’ return] is near, right at the door.”
“This calls for wisdom. [It also calls for information.] If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast…” Those who attempt to make this calculation join a long line of people who have sought to do so. Using the practice of gematria, assigning numbers to letters to get a number, people have come up with Nero, Caesar, and even Ronald Wilson Reagan when he was president, because his three names had six letters in it. None of these qualify —anyone who is dead while the world continues is not the one.
Isaac Newton tried — his treatises on the Book of Revelation are online — but he was not able to calculate it because he lacked information. If we are not living in that final generation, we will be missing information. But through John, one generation will have the information and will know what it means. It will be one more final clear proof that this man is the Antichrist.
Furthermore, the mark will be voluntary. There will be no ninjas in the middle of the night, putting this thing in your forehead or your hand, sentencing you to eternal Hell without your consent. Revelation 14:11 says that anyone who receives the mark of the beast will be condemned forever. This condemnation is linked to receiving of the mark of the beast. It is a volitional act of will, an act of desire to worship Antichrist. The elect will never give in to it.
Thank God for His Grace
Thank God for His grace in forewarning us, that you have been told ahead of time what to look for and that you will be ready. Thank God for his grace in restraining Satan and his demons from false religions and from supernatural displays. Thank God for His protection from following these. Realize that the ones who will be sucked in are those who refused to believe the truth and wanted to believe a lie.
Do Not Be an Unbeliever
Do not be an unbeliever. Today is the day of grace, the day of salvation. We are in the middle of one of the hardest chapters in the Bible to interpret. If you have no idea what this whole story is about, let me make it clear. Ultimate questions are answered in Jesus. The universe was made for his glory, by his intentional power, by his word. You were knit together in your mother’s womb so that you might have a relationship with Almighty God and love Him, and serve Him. Sin entered the world through Adam but we took on his nature, and as soon as we understood rules, we violated God’s laws. We deserve to die, not just a physical death, but eternal death. We deserve Hell, but God sent his Son to deliver us from condemnation. With the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate that deliverance, a foretaste of joy because Jesus delivered us from condemnation. All you need is to trust in Him, not by works, but by faith.
Teach Your Children
Teach your children. Spend time telling them what is coming. This is not the most important facet of theology, but it has been given us many, many times in many ways that we need to know about this.
In the meantime, be discerning. Local churches are responsible for the kind of teaching they get. You are responsible to get rid of false teachers. Paul was put out with the Galatians that they put up with the Judaizers, he was put out with the Corinthians that they put up with people who pushed themselves forward, and slapped them in the face, 2 Corinthians 11. Be Bereans. Study Revelation 13:11-18 to see if I have been faithful to the text. I do not know the exact right interpretation, but there is a difference between stating an idea and false teaching. Go beyond that; look at the character and the life of your teacher. Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” Grapes do not grow on thorn bushes.
Tim Challies published an article on the Gospel Coalition website identifying patterns of false teachers to help us be aware of their presence.
The Heretic teaches doctrine that blatantly contradicts essential teachings of the Christian faith. Cults like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Oneness Pentecostals deny things clearly taught, such as the Trinity. Challies calls Pope Francis a false teacher. Every pope since the Reformation denies justification by grace alone through faith alone, but he advocates, beyond that, a mushy form of universalism. He said,“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying—and this is the fundamental thing—that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience. Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.” It is false teaching to say that one does not need Jesus or repentance or faith, that one’s conscience is an adequate guide.
The Charlatan is only interested in the Christian faith to the extent that it can fill his wallet. Famous TV preachers like Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar con people into sending them millions of dollars.
The Prophet tells new revelations and insights from his or her mind. People end up following him or her more than anything else, even Scripture, looking for new revelations and insights. He warned Christians about Sarah Young, who wrote a daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, in words as if spoken directly by Jesus Christ himself directly to the reader. That is dangerous. It creates, in a sense, a new canon of Scripture, a new direct revelation of words of Jesus speaking through the prophetess Sarah Young.
The Abuser uses his position of spiritual leadership to take advantage of other people, claiming he is tending souls. As in 2nd Corinthians 11:20, “…you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face.” False teachers in general take advantage of people in various ways; the abuser manipulates and domineers women and children and even men to take advantage of and control them financially, sexually, emotionally.
The Divider leaves a wake of factions and divisions, stirring up strife and controversy wherever he goes.
The Tickler tickles people’s ears with things they want to hear. He keeps a positive so he does not offend anyone. When Joel Osteen was asked in an interview why there was no Scripture in his recent book, he answered, “I'm just trying to keep things positive.” When asked about the exclusivity of Christ, he would not assert that Christ alone is Savior.
The Speculator is obsessed with novelty and originality, and loves to speculate about the end times, exact dates of the Lords return, and more.
Be on your guard against such as these.
Father, I thank you for this time we have had in your Word. I ask that you would please enable all of us to be warned and aware of what Satan is trying to do. As we turn to the Lord’s supper, we pray that you would strengthen each of us to partake in a way that is honorable, in a way that feeds and strengthens us in our work with you. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.