Prof. Johan Malan, University of the North, South Africa
Abstract: The kingdom of darkness infiltrated the Christian church with a view to adulterating it by proclaiming a counterfeit Jesus, a counterfeit spirit and a counterfeit gospel.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise indicated. Only very archaic terms have been substituted, between brackets, with correlating terms from the New King James Version (NKJV). All pronouns referring to the Godhead are capitalised. Edited by Bernard and Kathleen Reeves of London.
A solemn warning
Since the start of the Christian era, many churches have shown a fatal inability to distinguish between the truth of God’s inspired Word and misrepresentations of it: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-8).
The congregation in Corinth suffered from the same lack of discernment and spiritual insight: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent [deceived] Eve through his [craftiness], so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, [you put up with it well]… For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no [wonder]; for Satan… [transforms himself] into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:2-4,13-14; emphasis added).
From these quotations it is evident that there are three main ways in which the truth of Scripture can be falsified by Satan to deceive Christians and lead them astray. These perversions involve crucial issues at the very core of our faith and are intended to deceive people into accepting another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel.
Satan’s strategy to attack, misrepresent and pervert the Christian faith has continued unabated throughout the entire church dispensation. It is crucially important that the particular forms of deception current in these last days should be rejected and exposed by all who profess to be Christians.
The following are the most common ways in which the Person, work and image of the Lord Jesus are distorted so as to present a counterfeit Jesus who is powerless to save lost sinners from the righteous judgement of a holy God:
Jesus the human teacher
In sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and in other religions such as Islam, the deity of Jesus is denied. Most portray Him as a merely human prophet or unusually gifted teacher, while explicitly denying that He is the Son of God: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (1 Jn. 2:22-23).
Tragically, the antichristian denial of Christ’s deity is now common in many professedly Christian churches. Theologians also have an increasing tendency to deny His miraculous conception and virgin birth, thus attempting to reduce Him to an ordinary, fallible human being. A powerful movement promotes the deceptive idea that the historical Jesus (i.e. the so-called real Jesus) is to be clearly distinguished from the mythic Jesus (or cultic Jesus) which, they allege, the Church’s tradition has transformed Him into.
A shocking fact about this current campaign against the true, biblical Jesus is that many leading theologians in university theology faculties actively support it by questioning biblical statements that He is the true Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. In the effort to reconcile the above two incompatible images of Him and to discover the ‘real’ historical Jesus, the biblical Jesus is stripped of His deity.
Leading this campaign among academics is the Jesus Seminar, established in USA in 1985. Many theologians elsewhere are following suit. The University of South Africa’s Institute for Theology and Religion published Images of Jesus in 1997, in which they seriously distort His biblical image.
If Jesus was not truly “God with us” (Mt. 1:23) and sinless He could not have offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of Adam’s fallen race. In the first Adam we are all spiritually dead, as we inherit his sinful nature. A dying race needs a second Adam, a perfect God-Man, to re-create us in His image by imputing His righteousness and imparting His eternal life to us (1 Cor. 15:22,45; Rom. 5:14-21). Jesus is the God-Man – Himself God, Son of God and Son of Man. To deny His deity by depicting Him as merely a prophet is to rob the world of its only hope of a Divine Saviour.
Jesus the example
Preaching today in many formal and spiritually dead churches often presents the life of Jesus merely as an ideal example we should follow. In such moralistic sermons, no reference is made to His substitutionary death and shed blood which alone can cleanse from sin. Instead of the need for new birth, Christian virtues are taught, without the risen Christ who alone can empower us to “walk in the newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). People are only taught to be good citizens, love their neighbours and live morally good lives.
The result of this kind of preaching is that Jesus does not become real to them as they only have a vague mental perception of Him. By mental effort they try to follow His example, but He is not a living, spiritual reality to them, because they have not yet become “new creatures” in Him (2 Cor. 5:17) through faith in His finished work. Though they speak of Jesus, they do not know Him personally and since they have been given a false ‘image’ of Him, their efforts to follow His example are misguided and flawed.
Jesus the giver of gifts
Many people are attracted to Jesus because they feel they can derive various benefits from Him. He should heal them, bless them, prosper them and provide for all their material needs. They see Him as the One who restores to human beings the exalted position humanity had before the Fall! They wish to regain dominion over creation, to wield miraculous powers and even to become ‘gods’ in their own right.
Such people also end up serving ‘another Jesus’. They do not identify with the crucified Christ, and reject persecution, disease and suffering as being the consequences of weak faith. Using visualisation and positive thinking techniques they create their own reality, so becoming masters of their own destiny. By relying on various innate strengths in their own psyche, they fail to put their trust in the crucified Christ to sustain them by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had a large following when He healed the sick and performed many other signs and wonders. However, the majority of His opportunist and sensation-seeking followers deserted Him when He emphasised union with His body that was to be broken, and His blood that was to be shed for sinners, as the only basis for true fellowship with Him. To many of the opportunists this was a hard saying: “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (Jn. 6:66; see also v. 53-65).
Many people imagine their own popular Jesus whom they are following. They are offended if somebody points out to them the spiritual risks of building their faith on a Jesus who is confined to signs and wonders, rather than the Crucified One who died that we might be forgiven and made “alive unto God” (Rom. 6:11).
Jesus the political liberator
A Jesus who is a freedom fighter and who champions the oppressed is often proclaimed in the Third World. He came to set political captives free and to uplift them on the socio-economic level of existence. This Jesus is only concerned with their secular affairs. He did not come to liberate them from sin, but from governments which impede political, social and economic progress. He blesses them in the struggle against their oppressors without denouncing their amoral behaviour or stressing the need to engage in a spiritual struggle against the real oppressor of their souls, Satan.
Jesus the sinner
The Jesus depicted in many Hollywood films is a fallen sinner like other human beings controlled by their fleshly passions. This blasphemous depiction of Jesus is the theme of films such as Jesus Christ Superstar, The last temptation of Christ, and Jesus of Montreal. In the last-mentioned film the counterfeit ‘Jesus’ is outrageously depicted as staying with other young people in a Montreal flat, where they live licentiously and overindulge in liquor.
There are no limits to the evil imaginations of depraved, satanically inspired people who distort the image of Jesus. He is even depicted as a homosexual by some. On a painting exhibited in Archbishop Tutu’s Cape Town cathedral, Jesus was portrayed as an Aids victim full of sores. All such wicked misrepresentations of Jesus are part of Satan’s age-old smear campaign against Him. During His life on earth, He was branded as a sinner, blasphemer, glutton, drinker and friend of extortioners and immoral people: “Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of [tax-collectors] and sinners” (Mt. 11:19; see also Jn. 9:16,24).
The true Jesus whom we worship, is without sin. He is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26; see also 4:15). Do not profane or mock the holy Name of God, or of Jesus His beloved Son: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
The cosmic Jesus
The intensified campaign to misrepresent the Person, character, work and Name of Jesus is aimed at preparing the world for Satan’s great end-time counterfeit Christ, the Antichrist. Jesus Himself warned that the world will be deceived by this impostor and others who would impersonate Him: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many” (Mt. 24: 4-5 NKJV).
The New Age Movement presents a Jesus who is the personification of the messianic expectations of all the religions of the world. To the Christians he is the Christ, to the Jews the Messiah, to the Hindus Krishna, to the Muslims the Imam Mahdi, and to the Buddhists Maitreya Buddha. He is, therefore, the cosmic Christ, or universal Christ, of all faiths who will head up a spiritual hierarchy that unites, synthesises and thus supersedes all the religions on earth.
In the concluding chapter of the book Images of Jesus, a theologian of the University of South Africa, Mr. G.A. van den Heever, makes a strong plea for a multi-religious consideration of the position and role of Jesus. In this chapter, Jesus in the world religions, he says: “If it is true that the ‘construction’ of Jesus in early Christianity is similar to that of Buddha, Zoroaster and Krishna, then one needs to give an answer to the question of what possible gain there could be in a comparative venture such as this… It should encourage Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus towards a healthier, more tolerant interchange on the cultural and religious front. However much we like to believe in our own uniqueness, we drink from the same wells.”
Satan promotes false images of Jesus to discredit Him in order to prepare the way for his false Christ, the Antichrist, “that man of sin… the son of perdition… that Wicked… whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish” (2 Thes. 2:3,8-10).
In his book Searching for the Real Jesus (1996) Dr. Douglas Groothuis clearly refutes the agnostic speculation and serious distortion of Jesus by modern theologians: “Jesus is not an ambiguous inkblot upon which we project our pet theories, hopes, or fears. He is a living reality who can be mastered by no one, since He is the Master of the universe. He challenges every counterfeit with His genuineness, every distortion with His veracity… The cross remains a fact of history, and the gospel continues to be the only means of setting people free” (Jn. 8:31-32).
To enable one to identify all the distorted images of the counterfeit Jesus as false, the true Jesus must be known, served and worshipped with an undivided heart. Paul committed himself to gaining an intimate knowledge and relationship with Him: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord… that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death” (Phil. 3:8,10). Peter says that we must grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
The motivating force behind the widespread presentation of another Jesus is another spirit, which comes directly from the devil so as to bring people under the power of delusion. Because of this very real danger, we are warned not to naïvely believe every spirit that works through false preachers and so-called prophets, but to test the spirits: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world… he that knoweth God heareth us… Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 Jn. 4:1,6).
The spirit of error is intent on deceiving people with sensational signs and wonders. It is the same spirit that will work through the Antichrist, “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes. 2:9-12).
The spirit of error is actively engaged in preparing the world for the coming of the cosmic Christ with his miracle-working powers. His second in command, the false prophet, will be able to wield equally astonishing powers: “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do…” (Rev. 13:12-14).
As we approach this time of great deception, many false prophets are appearing on the scene to deceive people with their occult, supernatural powers. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul and Old Testament prophets solemnly warn us against the great danger of their deceptive activities: “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many… and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Mt. 24:11,24). “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). “Then the Lord said unto me, the prophets prophesy lies in my Name, and I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart” (Jer. 14:14).
The New Age Movement and its associated false religions is at present focusing attention on the discovery and use of the miracle-working psychic powers of healing, self-healing and the promotion of supernatural manifestations. Even at many Christian meetings strange phenomena are now common, e.g. falling (or slaying) in the spirit. Various other phenomena, such as laughing in the spirit, prophesying in the spirit and dancing in the spirit, which result from this experience, are also attributed to the Holy Spirit. Many blindly accept these phenomena without testing the spirits, despite the danger of spurious satanic imitation in such manifestations.
Most of the Word of Faith preachers create strong expectations of powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit. However, there is no scriptural basis for the signs that allegedly occur at their meetings. Apart from the signs already mentioned, one of the more recent phenomena is of gold-dust falling on the hands, arms or hair of those at the meetings, while some claimed that fillings in their teeth turned into gold! Another modern fad in this movement is the so-called “New Wine” meetings where people experience typical symptoms of drunkenness. This is accompanied by falling, dancing and laughing in the spirit, also pogo stick jumping and making a wide range of animal noises, such as barking like a dog, crowing like a rooster and roaring like a lion!
Are not the claims that such highly dubious phenomena and extraordinary behaviour are attributable to the activity of the Holy Spirit quite blasphemous, grossly insulting to Him and detrimental to the Christian witness to the world? It is not difficult to see how ideally this suits Satan’s purpose to discredit the Christian faith and deceive as many as he can. The express purpose of deceiving spirits is to destroy the faith of believers and to mislead, confuse, corrupt, overshadow and control them with the power of deception: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1,2).
The Living Bible paraphrases these two verses as follows: “But the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some in the church will turn away from Christ and become eager followers of teachers with devil-inspired ideas. These teachers will tell lies with straight faces and do it so often that their consciences will not even bother them.”
To be able to clearly distinguish between the Holy Spirit and another spirit that impersonates the Holy Spirit, the following comparison may be helpful:
THE HOLY SPIRIT
|The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself but reminds us of the words of Jesus and makes Him a reality in our lives.||The presence, power and gifts of this spirit become the dominating reality in life, while Jesus is subtly moved to the background.|
|He convicts you of your sin so that you may understand the real causes of your problems.||He instils nice and relaxed feelings in you so that you forget all your problems and sins.|
|He convinces you of God’s righteousness as revealed through the perfect life and atonement of the Lord Jesus on the cross.||He convinces you through your supernatural gifts and experiences such as falling and laughing in the spirit that God is with you.|
|He convicts you in your spirit and reveals the condition of your heart and life to you in the way in which God sees it.||He uses people to instil ideas and suggestions in you that are supposedly from God, but are not in fact from Him.|
|He speaks to you through the Word of God which is spirit and life, and reveals eternal truths to you. The Bible, as the Word of God, becomes more precious to you as you grow in grace.||He uses so-called ‘prophets’ as human mediators to convey messages to you about what God wants you to do. He also majors on extra-biblical revelations from God through dreams and visions.|
|He is primarily working on the level of your spirit to quicken your spirit in a quiet way that you may awake spiritually to hear the calling of God and put your trust in Him for salvation.||He manifests his presence by way of sensual experiences such as ecstatic thrills, shivers in your body, a tingling in your skin, or a power that causes you to levitate or to be pushed down on the floor.|
|He leads you to the cross of Jesus where your burdens are lifted and where you are cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.||He removes guilt complexes on his own authority, without specific reference to the cross, and surrounds you with light and joy. You are ever dependent upon him.|
|If you act upon the Spirit’s conviction of sin and on the basis of Christ’s saving work, repent and get right with God, the Holy Spirit regenerates you into a new person who walks in newness of life.||By your supernatural experiences he makes you think you are born again, but he cannot regenerate your heart. He only manipulates your feelings and creates false impressions in your mind.|
|He keeps on convicting you of sin that you may be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, live a holy life, walk in the light of God’s presence, and be very sensitive to sin and deception.||He does not convict of sin, and has no problems to live with lies, deceit, distorted versions of the truth, and moral laxity. He gives to people the false hope that they are saved and will go to heaven.|
|He is grieved by lukewarm, unfaithful believers who too easily yield to temptation and fall into various sins and lusts. He convicts you of sins so that you confess and forsake them, and recommit yourself to the Lord.||He does not make an issue of your sins. He ignores them and instead makes you feel guilty about things that are not sins. If you are a true believer he will accuse you of being critical of other believers and devoid of love.|
|He leads you to search your heart, confess and abandon all sin, and to trust God for a pure heart. Cleansing by the blood of the Lamb and being filled with the Holy Spirit is God’s way to enable us to a life of victory.||He guides you through a process of inner healing to a spiritual reprogramming of your life in which the scars of the past, and even from before your birth, are put right by self-healing, positive confession and hypnotic regression.|
|He makes you conscious of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the only One who can guide your life. The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Christ who makes Him a reality in your life.||He makes you conscious of himself and encourages you to rely on him as your guiding spirit. He guides and empowers you in life. He is a greater reality in your life than Jesus is.|
|When He fills people they become holy, humble and willing to serve God. They are available to Him for any service, including evangelising a lost world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They do not exalt themselves but live and give sacrificially in the cause of Christ and for His church.||He gives people an entirely new self-image, tending to pride, even arrogance. Their main purpose in life becomes a quest for new and more powerful spiritual gifts and attending exciting services where signs, healings, miracles and new revelations are experienced, also inviting others to such meetings.|
|The presence of the Holy Spirit can clearly be discerned where He is working and Jesus Christ is exalted. It occurs on a spiritual level and induces people to humble and submit themselves to the Lord. The peace and joy of the Lord fills their hearts.||An alien spirit produces a show of power to influence people and create the impression that they are in the presence of the Lord. Because people want to experience this power in their lives, they readily open themselves up to it. Without it they feel empty.|
|He teaches you to pray. He helps our infirmities and intercedes for us. He gives us enlightened eyes of the mind that we may understand the things of God, and be able to pray intelligently. He helps us to gird up the loins of our mind and to be alert, sober and vigilant.||He teaches people to meditate. They switch over to their ‘right-brain’ to have mystical experiences and to hear strange voices. They empty their minds and withdraw themselves from reality to descend to the deeper levels of their subconscious mind which is ‘the world of the spirit’.|
|He controls the emotions and decisions of believers by enabling and empowering their regenerated heart and spirit. He works in their heart to produce His fruit of self-control, love, joy, peace, faith and goodness.||The emotions of people are manipulated by an alien spirit and they act like hypnotised captives. They may fall down, laugh, roar, bleat, howl or bark without knowing why they do so. The spirit of delusion gains authority over them.|
|He guides you by God’s Word, the Bible, and through your conscience that warns you when you do something wrong. He gives you insight to know the will of God and the power to do it.||He commands you and demands certain actions through prophecies uttered by other people. Driven by fear of disobedience to the prophet of God, you ignore your conscience by obeying a false prophecy.|
|You are commanded to lead people to Christ where they can obtain mercy and the forgiveness of all their sins. It does not matter by which evil forces they are bound, Jesus is the Saviour of their souls and He is able to completely set them free from their bondage. Through the blood of the Lamb the hearts of sinners are cleansed and the power of the devil broken. They do not need human mediators to declare them sanctified by virtue of miracles.||You feel compelled to invite other people to meetings where events of false revival occur. There they can see exciting manifestations, experience healing, witness miracles, become drunk, laugh, dance, fall, prophesy and make animal noises in the ‘spirit’. You become critical and hostile towards all who react negatively to the modern revival movement. You are unaware that you are being deceived due to your mind being blinded and your emotions and senses being manipulated.|
|The Spirit of the Lord Jesus is the One who guides you. You are faithful to Him and make yourself available to Him.||The leader of your worship group or church becomes a cult leader who prescribes your decisions and actions. You must obey him.|
|Spiritual gifts are given to you to increase your usefulness in the service of the Lord. Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit you can be a witness for Jesus, also minister encouragement to other believers as a good steward of the manifold grace of God.||You receive gifts such as prophecy, healing, tongues, astral travel and clairvoyance. Spurious signs such as gold-dust appearing to fall on people, and other weird phenomena, may be the work of seducing spirits and consequently are false and occult in origin.|
|The Holy Spirit makes you a servant of Christ, a soldier of the cross and a stranger in a world that lies in the sway of the wicked one. The authority for your actions is vested in God’s Word. When Jesus comes as King, you will reign with Him.||He tells you that you are a king already, who has dominion on earth and can claim and demand anything you like. You do not have to suffer poverty, disease, or other afflictions, and can change anything through positive confession. You are in command of your life.|
The great concern of the Bible about the danger of deception is the lack of spiritual discernment among many members of Christian churches. Because of their ignorance they are naively undiscerning when dangerous, counterfeit practices are offered to them as something good that allegedly comes from God: “if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel… you put up with it well” (2 Cor. 11:4 NKJV). Such people have only themselves to blame for having been so lacking in discernment and too easily deceived.
For obvious reasons, the presentation of another Jesus under the motivation of another spirit can only be achieved within the theological framework of another gospel. Tragically, Satan has a large number of preachers at his disposal to deceive the masses into believing false teaching: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Paul says: “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 Tim. 4:3-4). Many of Satan’s ministers and deceitful workers propagate their false doctrines and fables from the pulpits of churches. They proclaim what Paul called another gospel, of which the following are examples:
A gospel shorn of the full significance of the cross of Christ, His shed blood as the only means of cleansing from sin, the need for new birth and the indwelling Holy Spirit, is not a gospel at all. If these central truths of the gospel are not clearly spelt out and emphasised, it is another gospel and leads to dead formalism. Paul says of those who preach it, “let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8,9) and declares that they have only “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5; emphasis added).
In churches of this kind only a false image of Jesus is presented and He is often accepted merely as the founder and figurehead of Christianity. Members are not urged to repent of sin, come to Him for forgiveness and receive Him as Saviour and Lord. So most remain spiritually dead with little or no evidence in their lives that they know Him personally. Their religion consists mainly of traditional sacraments, formal rituals, creeds, codes of conduct and good works.
This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. [But] in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men… Making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered (Mk. 7:6-13).
Kingdom theology does not follow the biblical teaching that we are pilgrims and strangers in a world that “lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 Jn. 5:19), nor that as disciples of a despised, rejected Lord and soldiers of the cross we are to be ready to endure hardness and expect tribulation in this world. Advocates of the kingdom gospel are unwilling to wait for Christ to reign on earth as King of kings, but insist that we should reign as kings in the kingdom of God here and now. Reclaiming our lost dominion over creation, we must wield the Holy Spirit’s power to subdue Satan and his demons, make disciples and despise the weak faith that is overcome by afflictions such as poverty and disease.
There are a number of other theologies that are closely akin to the kingdom theology e.g.:
Prosperity gospel. According to this view God intends Christians to prosper not only spiritually but materially also and to live luxuriously with large houses and cars.
Reconstructionism. Advocates aim to achieve political power to reform the entire social, economic and political world order in accordance with Christian principles.
Signs and wonders. Christians should be able to perform astounding miracles, such as healing the sick and manifesting sensational demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power. In this way they prove their credentials as those who rule on behalf of the King of kings.
Will not those who promote these non-biblical theologies find they have been serving another Jesus? They are in great danger of being rejected by the real Jesus: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will [declare] unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Mt. 7:22-23).
The liberation theology gospel became very popular during the 20th century when Third World countries were trying to free themselves from the shackles of colonialism and to achieve social justice and economic prosperity. Violence was often justified from the Bible as one of the means God used to liberate His people from slavery and oppressive governments. As this gospel became more radical, it developed into a theology of revolution. This kind of gospel never had any true spiritual content as its objective was not to liberate people from spiritual darkness, the power of sin and the oppression of the devil. Apart from the serious loss of life, even political emancipation still left unbelievers in spiritual darkness and heading for a Christless eternity.
The interfaith gospel
One of the false gospels that is rapidly expanding in today’s world is the interfaith gospel of the synthesising of all religions. It is based on the concept of universalism, i.e. that all religions worship the same God and can therefore join hands in unity. The Ecumenical and Interfaith Movements are based on this idea and they are actively pursuing the objective of establishing global religious organisations to unify humanity at the spiritual level. They maintain that the achievement of a mystical brotherhood of members of all faiths holds the key to global reconciliation and peace.
As the religions of the world move ever closer to each other, it is obvious that ecumenical Christianity is having to make self-destructive compromises with other religions to achieve unity. Many theologians have adulterated the Christian faith to such an extent that biblical truths have been distorted beyond recognition. In emerging African theology, Christian practices are freely mixed with ancestor worship and witchcraft. Globally, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam have been accommodated within this false brotherhood.
The Bible calls the end-time union of the false religions “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5). She is recognised and carried by the Antichrist because of her usefulness to him. It is very obvious that the Interfaith Movement of false religions is preparing the world for the coming false Christ, the Antichrist, who will rule the world for seven years.
Until the Interfaith Movement and its ‘gospel’ has gained general acceptance throughout the world, the Antichrist, as universal messiah of all faiths cannot make his appearance. The closer we come to this point, the more imminent is the appearing of “that man of sin… whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thes. 2:3,9). False prophets are preparing his way: “But…there shall be false teachers among you, who [secretly] shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways” (2 Pet. 2:1-2).
In the rest of this booklet we will review the abandoning of basic Christian doctrines to accommodate the religious deception discussed thus far. The proliferation of false doctrine in the Ecumenical Movement is also considered. The remedy for this apostasy is a Holy Spirit-inspired revival and reformation, a return to the true God, to His Word and to the purity of the biblical gospel of salvation through Christ alone.
THE ABANDONING OF BIBLICAL DOCTRINE
We live at a time of great apostatising from biblical truth. On one hand the charismatic movement claims to have dubious extra-biblical revelations, gifts and manifestations. On the other hand the decline in traditional Protestantism takes the form of the adoption of rationalistic and humanistic, intellectual concepts, leading to a progressive abandoning of the basic biblical foundations of the Christian faith.
The Bible indicates that moral, spiritual and doctrinal decline of extremely serious proportions will occur in the end-times and that some will abandon the faith, listening to doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1). The unproven theory of evolution is a direct assault on the biblical doctrine of creation and has destroyed the faith of many, while others have compromised by adopting ‘theistic evolution’, claiming God used evolution to create all things including humanity itself. Humanistic teaching and the social gospel have done serious damage. Thus has the apostasy gathered momentum. Clearly, only those who have professed the Christian faith can apostatise from it, not unbelievers whose minds the god of this world has blinded (2 Cor. 4:4).
Nominal Christianity is a fertile breeding-ground for all kinds of heresies, as its adherents often have little discernment. Jesus quoted Isaiah: “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me” (Mt. 15:8). They only have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). They profess a Christian creed with their lips, but are not truly born again in heart and mind. They are easily deceived by Satan to accept doctrines of demons, such as the view that Jesus is not God; that the Bible is not the Word of God but only contains it; that God created by evolution; that there is no devil or hell; that one only needs to be baptised to enter the kingdom of God; that one is not a fulfilled Christian without supernatural gifts, that there is more than one way to God, and that people can be saved through mediators other than Christ.
With the assault against God’s kingdom escalating in intensity and extent, it seemed reasonable to hope that a significant number of evangelical churches taking a firm stand on the truth of God’s Word, would have remained. Tragically, that is not the case. In many of such churches subtle doctrinal error, ecumenical compromise, entertainment evangelism, pop-style music and even moral decline is increasingly common. Churches which become lukewarm and doctrinally unsound may force Christ to dissociate Himself from them. As to the church in Laodicea He may well say to them, “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16).
The Laodicean church typifies the lukewarm, compromising preachers and congregations of neo-evangelicalism. They are neither cold nor hot; they do not abandon Christianity entirely, but neither do they teach or live by biblical standards. Most are more comfortable with easy-going, watered-down doctrines and world-bordering practices, but these are totally unacceptable to the Lord Jesus. Sadly, there are many pastors who are willing to compromise to please lukewarm, worldly church members and hasten them down the road to apostasy with all kinds of unbiblical practices and teaching, including fables and myths (2 Tim. 4:3,4).
Since World War 2, and practically since the founding of the World Council of Churches in 1948, there has been a disastrous theological decline within Protestantism. This is particularly true of many theological faculties and seminaries worldwide, to such an extent that it would not be going too far to speak of decadent Protestantism. However, it is better not to generalise, but evaluate each faculty, seminary and denomination individually in the light of the Word of God. We are exhorted to turn away from those who have merely “a form of godliness,” but deny “the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5). Though the reasons for spiritual decline may vary, the end result is the same and opens the way to further error as ecumenical bonds are formed between apostatisers. Their common enemy is the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, which will not tolerate the false teaching emanating from Satan, who is the father of lies, or his agents (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Liberal theologians and false prophets attack various denominations in an effort to overthrow the fundamental doctrines on which they were founded. The nature of these demonically-inspired attacks varies according to the weaknesses perceived as being most vulnerable to attack. The following are the five methods most commonly used in attacking the fundamental doctrines of the faith. As one bastion (a particular biblical doctrine) after another falls, churches become spiritually adulterated and their very foundations are weakened and eventually destroyed.
1. The spiritualising of biblical statements
The credibility of the Bible is seriously undermined by the practice of allegorising or spiritualising it in interpretation. This practice is also known as replacement theology and results from denying the literal meaning of many key statements in the Bible and arbitrarily replacing them with other meanings. Using this method, the Creation story is only a myth with a moral; the church is the new Israel; the 144 000 of 12 Israelite tribes sealed during the tribulation era are Christians saved throughout the church era; prophecies of the Antichrist as a real end-time person represent an impersonal influence or system operating during all centuries; the battle of Armageddon is seen as a spiritual conflict between Satan with his hordes and the saints of all ages; Babylon refers to Rome or to the USA; and the 1 000-year millennial reign of Christ (Rev. 20) with the 7-year tribulation period are equated to the nearly 2 000 years of the church era, etc.
The search for hidden, esoteric meanings on the Bible’s statements leads away from their true meaning. We should read the Bible seeking the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding it. A sound rule is: “When the plain sense of the Word makes common sense, then seek no other sense.”
It is true that, apart from literal statements, there are also types and symbols used in the Bible, but these mostly have literal antitypes whose meanings are clear from the context, e.g. the Lamb is clearly Jesus Himself, the beast with seven heads refers to a literal person, the Antichrist, the dragon with seven heads to Satan, and the mother of harlots refers to the end-time alliance of false religions, etc.
It is evident that those who deny the literal meaning of parts of Scripture have only an incomplete message to proclaim from a partly misinterpreted Bible. Clearly they cannot preach inspiring messages on the events preceding the Second Coming of Christ since they do not believe in a restored Israel, the rapture, nor that He will come to judge the world and reign on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.
2. Rejection of justification by faith alone
In churches and denominations in which the true meaning of the Word of God has become obscured by faulty interpretation, the doctrine of salvation through faith alone is soon rejected and replaced by baptismal regeneration and good works. Millions have built their religious lives on this false foundation and cling to the idea that baptism, confirmation and good works will ensure their salvation and acceptance by God. They assume that they have been saved, have entered into an eternal covenant with God as Father and are on their way to heaven. The Bible indicates that unless we repent of sin and make a genuine commitment of faith to the Lord Jesus, religious observance of itself is of no avail: “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard It” (Heb. 4:2).
It is to spiritually lukewarm and backslidden churches that the Lord Jesus extends an earnest call to repentance: “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev. 2:4-5).
Should such churches fail to fully restore the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, the Lord Jesus will remove their lampstand. That does not mean they will no longer function as a church or denomination, but that He will withdraw His Spirit from them, so that they will be without spiritual light in their souls and will not be a light in the darkness to the world around them. The lamp and its stand symbolises the presence of the Lord shining on and out from them and its oil the Holy Spirit indwelling them individually and as a church. In a backslidden church the gospel light grows dim and may go out. This suits Satan ideally and his deceptions and works of darkness will thrive in such conditions. He will continue his nefarious activities, blinding the minds of all in the church so that they no longer understand, or stand for, even the basic gospel truths (2 Cor. 4:4).
The biblical doctrine of justification by faith only without works, through Christ’s sacrifice for sin on the cross, repentance and faith in Him as Saviour and Lord (Acts 20:21) is the only basis on which God forgives sins. True believers are born again as new creatures in Christ and receive the gift of eternal life (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:23). Without new birth no one can see, nor enter the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3-7).
3. Rejection of the doctrine of sanctification
During the revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries there was great emphasis on sanctification (being set apart to God as holy) as a second work of grace after conversion. Paul said: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification… He… that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thes. 4:3,8). Believers who accept this teaching in faith have a new encounter with God, which may also be described as “being filled with the Holy Spirit”. In this way, lukewarm, powerless, carnal (fleshly), worldly-minded Christians who neglect prayer are able, by a gradual process, to grow spiritually. They do not reach perfection overnight but slowly become spiritually stronger to gain victory over temptation and fleshly desires, to devote themselves wholeheartedly to serving the Lord Jesus in His church and for the extension of His kingdom by evangelism.
If the doctrine of sanctification is rejected or neglected there will be little or no spiritual growth among believers. They are likely to remain spiritually immature infants in their Christian lives, “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the [trickery] of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph 4:14). The only escape from this stunted condition will be to surrender their old unregenerate nature to be crucified and to ask the Lord Jesus to fill them with His Holy Spirit. Only if they are under sound preaching, urging the need for repentance, is there any hope of spiritual growth. It was due to his great concern about their spiritual stagnation that Paul wrote rather reproachfully to the Hebrew believers: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:12-14 NKJV).
Believers who do not live holy lives tend to be worldly and prone to sinful thoughts and selfish, materialistic desires. They lack spiritual discernment and often fail to distinguish between truth and deception. They easily fall prey to various errors, such as charismatic theology with its emphasis on extra-biblical experiences, strange manifestations, signs and wonders, hypnotic, pop-style music and exhibitionism.
4. Rejection of the Bible as God’s inspired Word
One of the most crucial foundational truths of Christianity is that the Bible is the divinely inspired, infallible Word of God. But this essential foundation of the faith is widely rejected by many lukewarm churches and denominations, also in humanistic theological seminaries where its doctrines, prophecies, promises and life-transforming effects are neither believed nor experienced. As a result the Bible has become an endangered Book in the very places where its integrity as the inspired Word of God should be defended!
After the 16th century Reformation, the view of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God was maintained by true believers of many denominations. However, in recent centuries the perception of many modern theologians and their followers have changed for the worse as demonstrated below:
· In the past the Bible was revered as the authoritative Word of God and the literal method of interpretation was used. The 16th century reformers held this view, i.e. that the Bible is The Word of God, written by devout men of God under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus God has revealed Himself in His written Word.
· Later, theologians began to argue that the Bible merely contains the Word of God and the historical critical interpretation (‘higher criticism’) came into use. It is based on the view that the Bible consists merely of the religious views of fallible human beings whose writings often needed revision and adding to, so contain only their personal insights into the faith and history of their times.
· Currently, many theologians regard the Bible as merely Words about God to be interpreted like any other literature. In the modern science of literature the emphasis has shifted from author to text, then to the reader. This results in regarding the Bible as merely a compilation of stories and myths with a moral application. The stories can be deconstructed and re-interpreted in various ways.
5. Rejection of the deity of Jesus
The most basic and crucial of all Christian doctrines is that Jesus is God, the self-existent I AM (Jn. 8:58), the Almighty Creator who made all things (Jn. 1:1), but laid aside His glory as God (but not His deity), humbled Himself to become a human being, born by virgin birth of Mary as the sinless Son of God. He came to die as the Lamb of God, to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins as our Saviour, but rose from the dead, ascended to heaven to be the one Mediator and High Priest who intercedes for us with God the Father and will come again with power and great glory to rule as King of kings.
The self-existent deity of the triune Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is rejected by many modern, apostate theologians and clergy. The Jesus of the Bible is often depicted as a mere mortal, fallible man, thus stripping Him of His deity and sinlessness. This results from Satan’s cunning efforts to rob Christ and Christianity of their uniqueness and reduce the latter to the level of a man-made religion, to become merely one of a “family of world religions.”
THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT
A major tool of Satan in infiltrating, adulterating and mixing truth and error by uniting Christian churches worldwide is the World Council of Churches (WCC). This was formed in 1948 in Amsterdam, Holland. Its credo is One Church for One World. From the start it was obvious that the WCC had much more than Christian unity in mind – its real aim was a global alliance of all religions! Its subsequent actions and decisions are proof of this, as the following will confirm:
· In 1961 the WCC held its third session in New Delhi, India. The conference theme was Jesus Christ, the light of the world. This was not a reference to the biblical Christ, but to the cosmic Christ of all faiths. In terms of this concept Hindus and Buddhists are viewed as anonymous Christians on the basis of the general grace. It is alleged that God has reconciled all people on earth to Himself by Jesus Christ, whatever their religion. It would seem that, according to the WCC, many who do not even believe in the Judeo-Christian God, or Jesus or the cross, are nevertheless on their way to heaven! (See Towards a one world religion? by Dr. Peter Beyerhaus).
· At its 1968 conference in Uppsala, Sweden, the vision of the WCC extended beyond the unification of the church since their ultimate goal was stated to be a united humanity in a new international order. People from all races, cultures, and religions were to be merged into a new world order. To actively promote this idea the WCC instituted two programmes of action. The first one is the well known Programme to Combat Racism by which violence was theologically condoned and millions of dollars paid to liberation movements to assist them in bringing about the downfall of oppressive governments by military means. The second one is the Program of Dialogue with People of other Living Faiths. Since its institution in 1970 the term ‘Christian’ has been replaced by ‘believer’, and the members of the non-Christian religions thenceforth addressed as ‘fellow believers’, based on the premise that we all worship the same God. In 1973, the Bangkok conference of this programme was opened by the president of the World Buddhist Society. In her prayer she called on the gods of all religions to save mankind.
· The 1975 Nairobi conference of the WCC expressed itself in favour of a more intimate unification of humanity. One of the closed sessions on spirituality was attended by Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Pentecostal Christians, as well as Hindus, Buddhists and an atheist. Their agenda was obviously humanistic!
· At the 1983 conference in Vancouver, Canada, explicit recognition was given to the traditional shamanist religion of the Red Indians. A totem pole was erected in honour of all their tribal spirits. In the conference it was recommended that the different religions should join hands to promote peace on earth. In accordance with this proposal an interfaith dialogue was conducted in Seoul in 1990 in preparation for the next general session of the WCC. Representatives of various religions participated.
· The 1991 conference at Canberra in Australia resolved that an active process of reconciliation should be set in motion by the Christian religion. Justice and peace should be pursued in all walks of life. It was emphasised that this should be an interfaith action as it is beyond the capacity of a single religion to bring about peace in our troubled world. At this conference, recognition was again given to the traditional tribal religion of the host country. Witchdoctors of the Australian Aborigines made a ritual fire with wet gum-tree leaves, from which thick clouds of smoke arose. The 4000 representatives to the conference were requested to walk through the smoke in order to obtain the blessing of the ancestral spirits. Some of the representatives said that this was a very wonderful experience as the presence of the Holy Spirit could also be sensed in the smoke. This blasphemous statement which places God the Holy Spirit on the same level as ancestral spirits, was further elaborated upon in the conference. A Korean theologian stated that all missionary work is redundant and should be discontinued as God is present in all cultures and in all religions. Missionaries do not need to introduce Him in places where He is already! The WCC maintains that God does not only reveal Himself to the world through the Christian religion, but through all the religions on earth.
· The most recent conference of the WCC was held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998 to mark the 50th anniversary of the organisation. It was announced that the Council was experiencing serious financial problems as many of its member churches had warned that past levels of funding could not be sustained into the future.
The WCC has served its deceptive ecumenical objective to associate Christianity with the non-Christian religions. Its own existence is now a hindrance to the greater unity that it promoted with the other world religions. During the past decade or so the initiative in global religious unity has increasingly been taken by interfaith movements.
The interfaith movement
There are a number of international interfaith movements, most notably the World Conference on Religion and Peace (established by the United Nations in the early 1970’s as a category 2, non-governmental organisation), the Vatican’s interfaith initiative, the United Religions Initiative (which aims to transform itself into the United Religions Organisation), and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR) met for the first time in Chicago, USA, during the 1893 World Fair. On that occasion, 400 representatives of 41 religions met to discuss various issues of common interest. During the centenary of the PWR in August 1993, the biggest interfaith conference in history was held in Chicago. Almost 7000 delegates of 250 religions, including shamans and witches, met for nine days to participate in 700 workshops, lectures and discussion groups. At the end of the conference a document, Towards a Global Ethic, was accepted. It was agreed that more such conferences are needed to promote religious reconciliation as a basis for political, social, economic and other forms of reconciliation, harmony and unity among the diverse peoples of the world.
The next PWR conference was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in December 1999. It was seen as an important opportunity to facilitate a peaceful and harmonious transition into the new millennium, with all its potential for global unity. The following significant themes were evident from the various presentations at the conference:
· Peace and unity in the new millennium
· The role of religion in the United Nations.
· The future of global interfaith movements.
· The world as a global village – globalisation and international ethics.
· Strategies to create a just world.
· Spirituality and the cessation of violence.
· Spiritual enlightenment in the new millennium: the Great Master’s path of light.
· Ghandi’s relevance for the new millennium
· Healing of our souls: the interfaith approach.
· Ancient wisdom and modern science.
· The human brain as the meeting-place of science and religion.
· Spiritual psychology.
· Buddha and Christ.
· How the shared wisdom of Buddhism and Christianity can change human values in modern society.
· Yoga and meditation.
· The Bahai faith: models for unity.
· The Zoroastrian concept of the sacred earth.
· Veneration of the spirit of the earth.
· Dances and songs for peace.
· Islam and world peace.
· Islam and the coming world messiah.
· Judaic mysticism.
· The role of the guru in the Indian faiths.
· Sri Ramakrishna’s pursuit of the divine.
· Spirituality among the American Indians.
· The positive views of pope John Paul on Buddhism, Islam and Judaism.
· African religions and the Abrahamic traditions: a comparative study of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
· The functional role of witchcraft and sorcery.
· Ancestor worship in Africa.
· The sangoma: healing in the African tradition.
These themes are now being further pursued by various organisations having the common objective of promoting globalisation, also harnessing mystical forces and ancient wisdom for the full realisation of human potential. The spiritual equality and unity of humankind within the diversity of all its traditions is assumed. It is claimed that all religions can contribute towards a better quality of life for humanity.
Clearly, this is now the time of the great apostasy preceding the revelation of the Antichrist as “that man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). Even now “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (i.e. Satan; 1 Jn. 5:19 NKJV), so we must be alert to the danger of being deceived by false prophets (1 Jn. 4:1). The only defence against religious deception is to pray, study God’s Word diligently, depending upon the Holy Spirit to guide us “into all truth” (Jn. 16:13).
Article published with full permission from Prof. Johan Malan. Thank you Prof Malan !!!