In Part 1 of this series we began with the prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 7:15-23 wherein Jesus forewarned of ravenous wolves who would come in sheep’s clothing to destroy. He said, “You will know them by their fruits”. It is possible that some of the traits we’ll examine are overlooked by some Christian in false teachers because they themselves are trying to justify the same qualities in their own life; that’s why this is important that these scriptures first expose our own lives and lay our own hearts bare before God. When we find ourselves excusing these qualities in pastors, we need to ask “why”, because the scripture certainly never excuses them.
Now we are going to begin learning from the Word of God regarding some of the things these wolves do and some of the characteristics that they have. But, from the outset, I want everyone to know that this is in no way a comprehensive examination of all the scriptures that help you identify the wolves—to find that, you’ll have to read the Bible.
6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
The context of what is happening here is clear; there were teachers perverting the gospel of Christ. This isn’t simply another religion or man claiming to be Christ (though that’s talked about in other scriptures), this is addressing teachers that take the stamp of the gospel as their own but pervert it.
Something that has troubled me deeply is the catchphrase of our generation, “well, we’ll just agree to disagree”, which is used to kill any serious discussion that could lead to corrected doctrine. Doctrinal integrity and the earnest desire to perfect our own doctrines is very much needed in our generation. The wisdom of this catchphrase recognizes that there is a point in which two individuals may disagree and through discussion have refined their beliefs to a point where they still cannot agree, but they do not believe each other to be heretics, and thus agree to accept their disagreement. This is good, providing the doctrines they disagree on do not introduce dangerous heresies to the church, but I want to caution against using this all too often because the ramifications of teaching a perverted gospel are serious (v9).
Likewise, he writes, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (5:7-9); the consequences of receiving such perverted gospels are serious because leaven (representing deception/sin) spreads throughout the whole lump and it hinders its receivers from obeying the truth.
In the first post I wrote that the wolves are considered an “extreme threat” because they’re the only threat listed in the scripture to compose the perilous times of the end.
I want to look at these prophecies regarding the latter times:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, ~1st Tim 4:1-2
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. ~2nd Timothy 3:1-7
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. ~2nd Thessalonians 2:3-4
My hope in writing this is that you will take it as seriously as it is written in the Bible; this very seriously states that there are some who are of our faith that will fall away and depart from it, and we’re seriously warning not to let anyone deceive us regarding this point because this great falling away precedes the “man of sin” (whom we recognize as the Anti-Christ).
This is brought about by deceiving spirits, doctrines of demons, lies, the destruction of the conscience, and a whole host of carnal sins; we do ourselves great danger when we accept and tolerate the plethora of sins that we see rampant in the church by not taking up the spiritual powers that we have been given to overcome and conquer sin together as a church. It’s necessary to make sure we understand that these things are perversions of the gospel of Christ; they may happen collectively (in other words, you may see all these traits together at once), or they may happen selectively (in other words, you may only see a few of these traits together).
I want to encourage you to consider all the traits listed in those passages above; they are considerable. But I’m going to examine one characteristic as an example. In 2nd Timothy 3:4, we see that these false teachers will be “lovers of pleasure rather than of God”. Consider what churches and pastors we see in the U.S. today that are building themselves on the topic of sex; the pastors write book after book on the topic of sex, with God and the scripture thrown in the mix to make it “Christian”, and churches host event after event and publicity stunt after publicity stunt centered on the concept of sex. Now, take away the topic of sex, and what would these churches have? If you burned away all the “pleasures” these churches try to offer their members in the fires of persecution, would they remain faithful to God because of their love for Him? These churches stamp the name of Christ and His gospel on their work but are, at their core, a total perversion of the gospel and denial of Christ.
Likewise I pray Paul’s admonition that you “be not deceived” would not escape your notice; many people are teaching many things about the end time and the deceptions that are coming (some denying it, and some turning your attention to fruitless matters). Do not be deceived by anyone. These times will come. They are coming quickly. And you need to be on guard because it is becomes of these things that the faith of some will be overthrown and there will be a great falling away. Don’t be arrogant in thinking yourself above these things and thinking that you can just continue to coast along as you have been.
As we continue to learn the scriptures warning about the ravenous wolves that Jesus foretold would come, I want to exhort and encourage you to spend your time praying about this subject. You must ask for righteous judgment and wisdom to discern the nature of these things because no man, blog, or book can depart these things to you, only God by the Holy Spirit.
I likewise encourage you to carefully and patiently apply God’s righteous judgment and sound wisdom of discernment to your own life.
Lastly, note Paul’s command in 2nd Timothy 3:5 to “Turn away” from all such people as he has just described. Do not take part in fellowship with those who are walking in the darkness, having their consciences seared, or taking part of the doctrines of demons! Surely this leaven will spread if you do!
To all my most beloved brethren in the world over, wherever and whomever you may be, grace and peace to you in the fullest of the Holy Spirit, Amen!