As was His custom, Jesus then turned the discussion toward His mission. He informed Pilate that His kingly role was identified with testifying “to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me” (18:37). Pilate’s response has become legendary: “What is truth?” (18:29). Was it a serious question? sarcastic? We simply do not know. What is clear is that upon voicing the question, Pilate went out to the Jews and dismissed their charges against Jesus and offered to release Him in celebration of the Passover. The Jews, however, demanded Barabbas, a man who was both an insurrectionist and a murderer (Luke 23:19).[1]

The Truth Today

Why is biblical truth so hard to recognize today? We have 41,000 denominations, all claiming to be the Truth and the Way. However, as we have spoken of numerous times, they all believe differently, with many beliefs about the same doctrinal positions actually contradicting each other. This is troublesome, to say the least, and it (1) keeps the unbeliever at bay, and (2) keeps the Christian bewildered as to “what is truth”? Perhaps the reader has heard the expression that a particular belief or statement has “ring of truth.” What does that mean exactly? Well, it refers to something that strikes the reader as true, believable, or credible. Truth is something that corresponds to fact or reality.

Whether we are relatively new to the faith, or we have been a Christian for decades, we all can remember when we first became a Christian. The apostle Paul, speaking of bringing new ones into the faith said, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17, ESV) What Paul meant was that the new person builds his faith and confidence in God by feeding his mind on the Word of God. I hope that we had a healthy doubt and did not just blindly accept everything we heard. I also hope that we were like the people from the first century, living in the city of Beroea. They “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Ac 17:11, ESV) I hope that we were ‘transformed by the renewal of our mind, that by testing we may have discerned what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Rom. 12:2, ESV) This renewal of our mind takes place over time as we feed on the Word of God. On 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Knute Larson writes,

Paul advised the Thessalonians to Test everything. The word everything is universal; it leaves nothing free from examination by spiritual standards and understanding. Paul did not explain how to carry out this testing. But certainly the fire of the Spirit (his convicting, guidance, and illumination), the instructions from the apostles and missionaries, and the written revelation of God are the lenses through which we must scrutinize everything. The clear purpose of this testing was to hold on to the good, and to avoid every kind of evil. The good has its origin in God; evil is a distortion of that good. Evil is twisting and destructive. We must not flirt with evil. (Larson 2000, p. 76)

From this moment forward, whether we are new to the faith or have been walking with God for years, let us reinforce our faith as we come to know ever more precisely what the Word of God means and how we might better defend it and our faith. The Word of God will never fail us; it is we alone, who will let us down. Joshua was a general in the Israelite fighting forces and a man of great faith. Joshua replaced Moses as the leader of the Israelite nation and he led them well, saying to them just before his death,

Joshua 23:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which Jehovah your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.

Isaiah wrote,

Isaiah 55:10-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.[2]

Regardless of what his creation, spirit or human, may have done or will do, his will and purposes will be accomplished; God’s word will not return to him empty.

2 Thessalonians 2:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth, and wipe out by the appearance of his presence,

YOUR WORD IS TRUTH

When we think of the past year, in the news media, we have witnessed atrocious cases of lawlessness around the world. We have seen hundreds of young ones killed in gang violence here in the United States. We have witnessed videos of the Islamic terrorist group known as ISIS, where hundreds of women and children have been raped and murdered, Christians have been beheaded and burned alive. However, there has been a far more treacherous lawless element that has been at work behind the scenes, truly going unnoticed for many centuries. In the Bible, it is called, “the man of lawlessness.”

It is imperative that we identify this man of lawlessness. Why? Because his objective is to undermine the righteous standing of every genuine Christian and cost them their hope of everlasting life. How does the man of lawlessness accomplish such a task? He does so by getting Christians to abandon the truth for the lie. Jesus said, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23) It is the man of lawlessness’ mission to get us away from our pure worship. He is in opposition to God and His purposes and is adamantly opposed to his dedicated worshippers. If any of us is so bold as to believe we are above being misled, we are just the ones he is looking for, as “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18, ESV.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)Paul advised the Thessalonians to Test everything

Let no one deceive[3] you in any way, for it [the Lord’s day of destruction of ungodly men] will not come unless the apostasy[4] comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

Paul prophesied that an apostasy would develop and before that apostasy would be brought to an end the man of lawlessness would come. In fact, in verse 7 Paul stated, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work …”  Notice that, just like the antichrist, in te first century, this man of lawlessness was already making himself known.

Origin of the Lawless Man

2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

but the one whose coming is in accordance with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with every unrighteous deception[5] for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

We see here that is is Satan, who originated this lawless man. Satan, the father of the lie, is also the one who has and who will continue to sustain the lawless one. In addition, just as Satan is an enemy of God and his people, so too, this man of lawlessness.

2 Thessalonians 2:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth, and wipe out by the appearance of his presence,

This man of lawlessness has but one future, i.e., destruction, along with anyone who goes along with him.

2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted along with us when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These ones will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, from before the Lord[6] and from the glory of his strength,

Paul gives further information in helping his readers to identify this man of lawlessness.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, showing himself as being God.

Here we see that Satan will rise up this lawless man, making him a false object of reverence, who will even place himself above God. On this Knute Larson writes, “This man will oppose everything connected with the divine–not only Christianity but anything that has to do with theism. This man will wage war against everything that hints at religion, faith, or spirituality. He will try to eradicate worship of any kind: prayers, songs, gatherings, and shrines.”

He goes on saying, “The man of sin will set himself up in God’s temple, or more literally, put himself into God’s seat in the inner sanctuary of the temple, proclaiming himself to be God. This will be more than a taking over of some building. The man of sin will understand the implications and claims that attend taking his seat in the sanctuary of God. He will anoint himself as divine. He will usurp the rightful place of God and declare himself as the one to be worshiped.” (Larson 2000, 106)

This lawless one is a hypocrite, a false teacher claiming to be Christian, who “takes his seat in the temple of God,” namely, what such false teachers claim to be that temple.

Identifying the Lawless Man

Just like the antichrist, we have to ask, are we looking for a single individual? Was Paul speaking of just one person, who would be this man of lawlessness? No, for if he were just one person, he would have to be able to go without dying. Paul had stated that the man of lawlessness was “already at work” in Paul’s day, and would be at work up unto the Lord’s day of the destruction of ungodly men, that is, beyond the day of the penning of this book, which would make the lawless one almost 2,000 years old. Apparently, no ordinary man has lived that long. Therefore, the expression man of lawlessness must be composite, standing for a body or class of people.

Who are these ones that have been “at work” since Paul’s day and are still “at work” in our day. Clearly, they are a body of arrogant, proud, self-important, self-righteous, ambitious leaders within false Christianity, who over the centuries have had great power within Satan’s world, placing themselves above God and his Word. This author has written extensively about the fact that 41,000 different Christian denominations call themselves the truth and the way. Consider the fact that, they all have ministers, clergy, priests, elders, pastors, yet each conflicting with the others in some aspect of doctrine or practice. Many are actually in opposition to God’s law, personality, standards, ways, and will, so, in effect, they are in opposition to God himself. (See Mark 3:24; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10) Many of these denominations do not keep hold of what the Bible really teaches. They have violated the principle of what Paul spoke of, ‘not going beyond what is written.’ (1 Cor. 4:6, ESV) In principle, the words of Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders of his day, wherein there were many different sects of Judaism, has much to offer us. He said, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt 15:3, ESV) He went on to say, “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (15:9) Lastly, Jesus said, “they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” – Matthew 15:14.

So, again, this man of lawlessness is a composite person. The false religious leaders within Christianity, who are being used by Satan whether they are aware of it or not. Of these lawless ones, be it the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, preachers, ministers, elders, or pastors, they will share in the destruction of the man of lawlessness, for their sins. Worse still, those within the churches, who make up the flocks of these false religious leaders of Christendom, will also share in the Lord’s day of the destruction of ungodly men. King David wrote, “I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.” (Psa. 26:4, ESV) If one of God’s holy ones are in one of these false denominations that call themselves Christian, God will offer them deliverance. The Palmist also wrote, “Hate evil, you who love the Lord, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psa. 97:10, NASB) Jesus spoke of those who believed they were on the correct path, but, in fact, they were not. Jesus said,

Matthew 7:21-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Learning a Lesson from the Apostle Paul

 The actual way to God was through the Israelite nation for over 1,500 years. When Jesus arrived he began what would become known as Christianity, his followers being called Christian.

Matthew 9:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear becomes worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins. If they do, then the wineskins burst and the wine spills out and the wineskins are ruined. But they do put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Jesus was making a point to the disciples of John the Baptist that no one should expect the followers of Jesus Christ to try to retain the old practices of Judaism, such as a ritualistic fasting. A Christian can fast if he chooses to do so, but there are no obligations to do so. Jesus did not come to patch up the old ways of worship by way of Judaism, which would be set aside on the day of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Christianity is not to conform to the old way of worship, to the form Jewish religious system, with the traditions of men.

As Jesus said, Christianity was not going to be a new patch on an old garment or a new wine in an old wineskin. Any Christian or so-called Jewish Christian, who tries to suggest the mixing of the two, are nothing more than false prophets. – Matthew 24:11.

We can define antichrist as anyone, any group, any organization, or any government that is against or instead of Christ, or who mistreat his people. Thus, we are not just looking for one person, one group, one organization, or one power. The Bible does not refer to just one antichrist. The greatest misidentification has been the interpretation that the Antichrist and the man o lawlessness is just one particular person.

Our Point Begins with Paul

Paul, who as we know was known as Saul before becoming the apostle Paul. Nevertheless, the objective way of believing certain Bible doctrines as being the truth is as follows. The biblical view of the doctrine __________ is ___________, and it is the truth, unless, enough evidence comes along to say otherwise. If we grow in knowledge and understanding, our conclusions based on previous knowledge may need to be revised. For increased knowledge can require adjustments in one’s thinking. We must remember the Apostle Paul studied under the renowned Pharisee Gamaliel, who was the grandson of Hillel, the Elder (110 B.C.E.[7] – 10 C.E.), the founder of one of the two schools within Judaism. Paul describes himself as “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Phil 3:5-6) He also states, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8) Thus, we know that the Israelites were God’s chosen people and the only way to God for some 1,500 years.

However, Jesus brought a new way, Christianity. Saul/Paul was slow to accept this because he could not see Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah. Nevertheless, after Jesus visited Paul on the road to Damascus and Ananias, a Christian disciple of Damascus, visited Paul, he saw the Old Testament Scriptures pointing to the Messiah accurately, he was able to humble himself and accept a different belief, i.e., Christianity was the truth and the way.

To believe without enough support, to believe in the face of contrary evidence is irrational. Therefore, we must humbly examine the facts behind what we believe, to establish the truth continually. Just as the apostle Paul exhorted the Christians at Corinth to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5), we could say the very same thing about our beliefs. We could say, ‘examine our beliefs, to see whether they are the truth, test our beliefs.’

Now, this is not to suggest that our beliefs are to be ever changing, but that they should be able to stand up to scrutiny when they are challenged by something we have heard or read. However, this refinement of our beliefs should not be confused with allowing unfounded, damaging doubts to grow in our hearts and minds, doubts that can destroy our confidently established beliefs and our relationship with our heavenly Father. Unfounded doubt is defined as something that is not supported by any evidence or a minuscule amount of evidence, to cause uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with our decision-making skills.

Our Point Ends with Us

We need to dig deeper into biblical truths, not as a sign of unfounded doubt but to make sure what we believe is so. If we think that we can survive off the basic Bible knowledge that we acquired in the beginning and the simple snacks we receive at each Christian meeting, we are sadly mistaken because our spiritual health will deteriorate. It would be similar to our believing that we could maintain our physical health by only eating here and there.

Acts 17:10-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Paul and Silas in Berea

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Note that they (1) “received the word with all eagerness,” and then went about (2) “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” If the apostle Paul was to be examined to see if what he said was so, surely uninspired commentators must be examined as well.

1 Timothy 1:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 although formerly I [Saul/Paul] was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and a violent man. But I was shown mercy because I had acted unknowingly with a lack of trust,

Suppose we do not realize that our particular Christian denomination or our Christian leader is a false teacher. Does our failing to reject it necessarily free us of further responsibility in the matter? If God continues to send us holy ones who attempt to share biblical truths be it by book, magazines, the internet, or even in person and we ignore such ones, we are sharing in the sins of others, which is a sin in and of itself. – 2 John 1:9-11.

Romans 10:2-3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

2 For I [Saul/Paul] bear them witness that they [the Jews] have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge.[8] For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.[9]

What has been demonstrated here thus far? Just because one is very active in their Christian denomination or church, this activity does not guarantee that they are receiving God’s approval or that they are doctrinally correct. See Jesus words below for those who believed that they were in an approved relationship. It takes real heart and character to accept that one may be on the wrong path when it comes to long held biblical beliefs. It takes an act of humility to accept that we may need to make an adjustment in our view of a certain doctrine. Jesus words from above bear repeating.

Matthew 7:21-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

It was Saul/Paul’s zeal and his conscience that was pricked to defend what he thought was the truth, and yet he openly admitted that he was over-zealous, that his zeal was misdirected, because of ignorance. This should cause us to pause and reflect. The presence of false teachers in the Christian congregation from the first century onward means that one cannot just accept naively that they are getting the truth. It would be foolish to assume such.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;

The Greek word dokimazete rendered simply as “test” in the English Standard Version or the Holman Christian Standard Bible denotes a careful examination of “everything.” If one is to make a careful examination of everything, it will require that they are not just passively going along, but rather, one should be buying out the time, to have an accurate understanding of God’s Word, by doing an in-depth study of what they believe to be true.

Certainly, if what Paul had to say about the Scriptures was under examination, no one else is above having their beliefs examined. The Jews of Berea did not just accept what Paul was saying about the death and resurrection of Jesus, as being so. Moreover, Paul commended them for their due diligence. (See 17:3) This was no brief or superficial examination of the Scriptures either; they met daily to examine the Scriptures. For the above reasons, it is only through living by faith and accurate knowledge that we can receive God’s favor.

Pride and Haughtiness Is an Identifying Marker

The man of lawlessness throughout history has evidenced such pride, arrogance, and haughtiness that they have controlled world leaders. They have used the pretext of God’s Word and Bible doctrines, they have controlled the masses, as well as an intermediary between the world leaders and God. For centuries, these false Christs have crowned and dethroned kings and emperors. In many ways, their words and deeds have been similar to those of the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15, ESV) However, Jesus words were far different, “My kingdom is not of this world.” – John 18:36.

To place themselves above God’s people, these false religious leaders, these men of lawlessness have adopted different clothing, which is usually black, and in some cases a white color around the neck. Keep in mind, others dress in $5,000 suits while their flocks are fleeced. Jesus and his disciples did no such thing. In fact, when Jesus was being arrested, Judas had to kiss him because he could not be distinguished from the others with him. Moreover, they have bestowed upon themselves titles such as “Father,” “Holy Father,” “Reverend,” “Most Reverend,” “His Excellency,” and “His Eminence,” when Jesus said, “call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matt. 23:9) Remember, these ones are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

In Matthew Chapter 7, Jesus started out by talking about two paths and false teachers. False teachers imply false teachings. Again, what did Jesus say he would say to those who thought they were doing the right thing or thought they were teaching the right thing but were not? ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:23)

We have false teachers, who are difficult to recognize, as they appear as innocent as sheep. Recognizing them can only be accomplished by recognizing their fruit (words and deeds), as well as knowing the true will of the Father. Does it not then seem prudent on our behalf that we should apply,

2 Thessalonians 2:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Yes, the ones, who are deceived by these false teachers, will perish because refused to be receptive to the truth. Therefore, we need to be in a constant mode of examining ourselves, as well as our beliefs, to see whether we are really in the truth. We would be wise if we heed the insight from Paul to the Corinthians,

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not a great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

Rejection of the Truth Is an Identifying Marker

 The apostle Paul said that this man of lawlessness was going to grow with apostasy (rejection of the truth). Actually, the first sign Paul gave as to the identity of this lawless class is that “the day of the Lord [i.e., the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men] … will not come unless the apostasy comes first.” (2 Thess. 2:2-3) What exactly did Paul mean by “apostasy”? He meant to stand off from the truth, i.e., to not only fall away from the faith, but to then turn on the faith, rebellion. On this apostasy, Knute Larson writes,

Before that great day comes, Paul declared, the rebellion must occur. The word used here is apostasia, or apostasy. Before the day of the Lord, there will be a great denial, a deliberate turning away by those who profess to belong to Christ. It will be a rebellion. Having once allied themselves with Christ, they will abandon him. Within the recognized church there will come a time when people will forsake their faith. Throughout history there have been defections from the faith. But the apostasy about which he wrote to the Thessalonians would be of greater magnitude and would signal the coming of the end. (Larson 2000, 106)

The Great Apostasy

2 Thessalonians 2:1a, 3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 Now we request you, brothers, with regard to the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ … Let no one deceive[10] you in any way, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

On this text, New Testament scholar Jon A. Weatherly writes, “Following the warning about deception, the rest of the verse in the Greek text is an anacoluthon, a subordinate clause with no clause to complete it. Literally, the text reads, ‘Because unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed.’ Translators must supply the clause introduced with ‘because’ (ὅτι, hoti), which can be clearly inferred from v. 2. Since the question concerns the coming of the day of the Lord, Paul apparently expects the reader to conclude that the day is preceded by the rebellion and revelation of the man of lawlessness.”[11] (Weatherly 1996)

The apostle Paul says to the Ephesian elders; there is but “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5) Paul penned those words about 60 C.E., and he was informing them that there was but one Christian faith. Yet, today we see more varieties of Christian faith than we care to count, all claiming that they are the truth and the way. Whenever a brave soul dares to be truthful and bring up that there are doctrinal differences, different doctrinal position, and different standards of conduct, he is shouted down as an alarmist. They claim that most of these denominations are the same on the essential doctrines, i.e., the salvation doctrines. Well, this actually is not true and is an attempt at hiding the truth, because even the salvation doctrines have anywhere from three to five different interpretations. Regardless, we must concern ourselves with a crucial question from Jesus Christ, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lu 18:8) This is a whole other discussion. We concern ourselves with how these divisions came about in the first place.

As has already been stated, but bears repeating, the blame lies with Satan. He attempted to have Jesus killed as a baby; he tempted Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism, and he attempted persecution right from the start. Peter wrote, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8) Initially, the persecution to this young Christian body came from Jewish religious leaders, and then from the Roman Empire itself. With “all authority in heaven” (Matt. 28:20) Jesus watched on, as the Holy Spirit guided and directed them, this infancy Christian congregation endured the best that Satan and his henchman had to offer. (See Rev. 1:9; 2:3, 19) As we know from Scripture, Satan is not one to give up, so he devised a new plan, divide and conquer. Yes, he would cause divisions within the Christian congregation. Satan broke out the ultimate weapon – the apostasy.[12] We need not believe that all of a sudden the apostasy came into the Christian congregation. No, Jesus was watching from heaven, and he made sure that he warned them while he was here on earth of what was to come and he made the young Christian congregation aware of what was coming and when it was getting started. – Colossians 1:18.

“[Jesus] Be Aware of False Prophets … 

[Peter] There Will Be False Teachers Among You”

Matthew 7:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

Jesus was well aware of what Satan would try to accomplish step-by-step, and that divisions through those from within were on the list. New Testament scholar Stuart K. Weber says, “Jesus had an important reason for inserting the wolf metaphor (Acts 20:27–31)–to alert his listeners to the danger of a false prophet. If the false prophets were thought of as a source of bad fruit, then the disciples might think it was enough simply to recognize and ignore the false prophet, refusing to consume his bad fruit, and awaiting God’s judgment on him. But the wolf metaphor attributes a more active and malicious motive to the false prophet. He is actually an enemy of the sheep, and, if not confronted, will get his way by destroying the sheep.” (Weber 2000, 101)

Weber mentions Acts 20:28-30, where Paul, about 56 C.E., warned the Ephesian elders,

Acts 20:28-30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the congregation of God, which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

 Yes, these, who stand off from the truth and the way, would not be seeking their own disciples, but rather they would be seeking, “to draw away the disciples [Jesus’ disciples] after them.”[13] Jesus was well aware that the easiest way to defeat any group is to divide them, and so was Satan, who had been watching humanity for over 4,000 years, and especially the Israelites (Isaac and Ishmael / Jacob and Esau / Israel and Judah), as “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14-15.

There were even some divisions beginning as early as 49 C.E., when the elders wrote a letter to the Gentile believers, saying,

Acts 15:24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

24 Since we have heard that some went out from among us and troubled you with words, unsettling your souls,[14] although we gave them no instructions,

Here we see that some within [those who were Christians but had left the faith], were being very vocal about their opposition to the direction the faith was heading. Here, it was over whether the Gentiles needed to be circumcised, suggesting that they needed to be obedient to the Mosaic Law. – Acts 15:1, 5.

“[Paul says it] Is Already at Work”

About 51 C.E., some 18-years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, division was already starting to creep into the faith, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.” (2 Thess. 2:7) Yes, the power of the man of lawlessness was already present, which is the power of Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:3-4), and his tens of millions of demons, are hard at work behind the scenes.

The apostle Peter also spoke of these things about 64 C.E., “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies … in their greed they will exploit you with false words..” (2 Pet. 2:1, 3) These abandoned the faithful words, became false teachers, rising within the Christian congregation, sharing their corrupting influence, intending to hide, disguise, or mislead.

These dire warnings by Jesus and the New Testament Authors had their beginnings in the first century C.E. Yes, they began small, but burst forth on the scene in the second century.

As the years progressed throughout the first-century, this divisive “talk [would] spread like gangrene.” (2 Tim. 2:17, c. 65 C.E.) About 51 C.E., They had some in Thessalonica, at worst, going ahead of, or at best, misunderstanding Paul, and wrongly stating by word and a bogus letter “that the day of the Lord has come.” (2 Thess. 2:1-2) In Corinth, about 55 C.E., “some of [were saying] that there is no resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15:12) About 65 C.E., some were “saying that the resurrection has already happened. They [were] upsetting the faith of some.” – 2 Timothy 2:16-18.

Throughout the next three decades, no inspired books were written. However, by the time of the apostle John’s letter writing days of 96-98 C.E., he tells us “Now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18) These are ones, “who denies that Jesus is the Christ” and ones who not confess “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” – 1 John 2:22; 4:2-3.

From 33 C.E. to 100 C.E., the apostles served Christ as a restraint against “the apostasy” that was coming. Paul stated at 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; but only until the one who is right now acting as a restraint [Jesus’ apostles] is out of the way.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3 said, “Let no one deceive you in any way [misinterpretation or false teachers of Paul’s first letter], for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness [composite person, or maybe an organization/movement, empowered by Satan] is revealed, the son of destruction.”

So, again, how did this apostasy, this rebellion, grow out of the first-century Christian congregation? Repeating Paul’s words to Thessalonica about “the thing that acts as a restraint” on the lawless one. We have already said that it was the apostles, who acted as this restraining force. It was the presence of the apostles, with the powerful gift of the Holy Spirit, which held off the apostasy in its full force. (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Cor. 12:28) Nevertheless, when the last apostle John died in about 100 C.E., this restraint was removed. Again, we look at an example, from the words of New Testament textual scholar, Philip W. Comfort,

Once the final, authorized publication was released and distributed to the churches, I think it unlikely that any substantive changes would have occurred during the lifetime of the apostles or second-generation coworkers. By “substantive,” I mean a change that would alter Christian doctrine or falsify an apostolic account. The primary reason is that the writers (or their immediate successors) were alive at the time and therefore could challenge any significant, unauthorized alterations. As long as eyewitnesses such as John or Peter were alive, who would dare change any of the Gospel accounts in any significant manner? Anyone among the Twelve could have testified against any falsification. And there was also a group of 72 other disciples (Luke 10:1) who could do the same. Furthermore, according to 1 Corinthians 15:6, Jesus had at least five hundred followers by the time he had finished his ministry, and these people witnessed Jesus in his resurrection. Most of these people were still alive (Paul said) in AD 57/58 (the date of composition for 1 Corinthians); it stands to reason that several lived for the next few decades—until the turn of the century and even beyond.[15]

We must keep in mind that the meaning of any given text is what the author meant by the words that he used, as should have been understood by his audience, and had some relevance/meaning for his audience. The rebellion [apostasy] began slowly in the first century and would break forth after the death of the last apostle, i.e., John. As the historian, Ariel Durant informed us earlier, by 187 C.E., there were 20 varieties of Christianity, and by 384 C.E., there were 80 varieties of Christianity. Christianity would become one again, a universal religion, i.e., Catholicism.

Gnostic Belief

  Marcion (85-c.160) was a semi-Gnostic, who believed that the teachings of Jesus were irreconcilable with the actions of the God of the Old Testament. He viewed the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, to be vicious, violent and cruel, an oppressor who gave out material rewards to those worshiping him. In contrast, Marcion described the New Testament God, Jesus Christ, as a perfect God, the God of unadulterated love and compassion, of kindness and quick to forgive.

Montanus (late second century) was a “prophet” from Asia Minor, who believed that their revelation came directly from the Holy Spirit, which superseded the authority of Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, James, anyone really. They believed in the imminent return of Christ and the setting up of the New Jerusalem in Pepuza. He was more concerned about Christian conduct than he was Christian doctrine, wanting to get back to the Christian values of the first century. However, he took this to the extreme, just as John Calvin would some 1,300 years later in the 16th century. Montanism was a movement focused around prophecy, especially the founder’s views, being seen as the light for their time. They believed that the apostle and prophets had the power to forgive sin.

Valentinus (c.100-c.160) was a Greek poet, who founded his school in Rome, and most prominent early Christian gnostic theologian. He claimed that though Jesus’ heavenly (spiritual) body was of Mary, he was not actually born from her. This belief came about because Gnostics viewed all matter as evil. Therefore, if Jesus had really been a real human person with a physical body, he would have been evil. Another form of Gnosticism was Docetism, which claimed that Jesus Christ was not a real person, i.e., it was mere appearance and illusion, which would have included his death and resurrection.

Manes (c. 216-274) was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion. He sought to combine elements of Christianity, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, based on a rigid dualism of good and evil, locked in an eternal struggle. He believed that salvation is possible through education, self-denial, fasting and chastity. He also believed that he was an “apostle of Jesus Christ,” (Ramsey 2006, 272) although, strictly speaking, his religion was not a movement of Christian Gnosticism in the earlier approach.

Beginning with the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E., Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in an attempt at reunited the empire. He thoroughly understood that religious division was a threat to the continuation of the Roman Empire. However, it was Emperor Theodosius I (347 – 395 C.E.), who banned paganism and imposed Christianity as the State religion of the Roman Empire. The Roman Catholic Church can trace its existence back to the council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. at best. Protestantism had its beginnings in the Reformation of the 16th century. However, there were dissensions in within Catholicism for a thousand years. Another identifying marker was the unscriptural clergy class that would develop over the coming centuries after the Council of Nicaea. This relegated the Christians to a second-class status. This is the way, the apostate; the man of lawlessness slowly took the reins of power. It was Constantine the Great, who legalized Christianity but it was Theodosius I (d. 395 C.E.), who made Christianity a state religion. For centuries there was the Holy Roman Empire (5th to the 15th century C.E.),[16] which was anything but holy. As schisms and rifts took place, Christianity fragmented into tens of thousands of denominations. An example of such glorification by the man of lawlessness, setting oneself up over God is that of the papacy of Rome.

Lucio Ferraris in his Ecclesiastical Dictionary, which was used as a standard for Roman Catholic divinity, offers its readers the following on papal power, “The pope is of such dignity and highness, that he is not simply man, but, as it were, God, and the vicar of God. Ferraris goes on, “The pope is father of fathers; since he possesses the primacy over all, is truly greater than all, and the greatest of all. He is called most holy because he is presumed to be such … Hence the pope is crowned with the triple crown as king of heaven, of earth and of hell … he is also above angels, and is their superior … He is of such great dignity and power, that he occupies one and the same tribunal with Christ; so that whatever the pope does, seems to proceed from the mouth of God.” Ferraris in his Ecclesiastical Dictionary, goes on saying, “God on earth, the only prince of the faithful of Christ, the greatest king of all kings, possessing the plentitude of power, to whom the government of the earthly and heavenly kingdom is [entrusted]. (Elliott 1941, 157)

Let us consider the humble words of Peter, who said to the Roman army officer Cornelius, who “fell down at his feet and worshiped him,” “Stand up, . . . I am only a man after all”! (Acts 10:25-26, the Catholic Jerusalem Bible) Then there is the humility of an angel when the apostle John bowed down in a worshipful attitude before him. The angel said, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” – Revelation 22:8-9, ESV.

While we have covered Catholicism and the pope, the question that many might have is, ‘have the Protestant denominations faired any better?’ The answer is actually a mixed review in that “yes” in a small way and “no” in a major way. One of the major contributions of the Protestant Reformation was that these men gave us the Bible in our common languages, be it French, German, English, etc. Another benefit was the abandonment of many of the false doctrines of the Catholic Church, such as transubstantiation, Mary as the mother of God, apostolic succession, among so many others. The third greatest contribution was the search for biblical truths. However, we must note that many of the very good reasons for rebelling against the Catholic Church were short lived, as the fragmentation of denominations grew even faster after the Reformation. Most Protestant denominations have no reliable way of interpreting the Scriptures. Most use historical-critical methods of interpretation, which is subject and allows the reader to determine the meaning while few denominations use the historical-grammatical method, which is objective, and the meaning is drawn from what the author meant. Several books have been written on this issue alone.

Much of Protestantism has failed to affirm Scripture as inspired, fully inerrant and authoritative. In addition, many denominations have abandoned the Word of God by leaving the literal translation philosophy for an interpretive translation known as the dynamic or functional equivalent.[17] These ones would argue that the Bible is full of errors, contradiction, myths, and legends. Many would argue that Moses is not the author of the first five book but rather several authors penned the book from the 10th and 5th centuries B.C.E. Many would argue that there are three authors, who penned the book, which we know as Isaiah, and none is the Isiah of the 8th-century B.C.E. They claim that Daniel did not write the book bearing his name, as it was written centuries later. Many more similar points could be made. As has been stated, the Protestant denominations cannot preserve any unity in their doctrinal views. Protestantism has failed to have any cohesion or to carry out the one commission that Jesus Christ gave: to proclaim the Gospel, teach Bible doctrines and to make disciples. They have failed to evangelize in their own communities. They have failed to teach the Bible to their own flock, as over ninety percent of churchgoers are biblically illiterate.

New Testament textual scholar Daniel B. Wallace writes, “In Protestantism, one really doesn’t know what he or she will experience from church to church. Even churches of the same denomination are widely divergent. Some have a rock-solid proclamation of the Word, while others play games and woo sinners to join their ranks without even the slightest suggestion that they should repent of anything. Too many Protestant churches look like social clubs where the offense of the gospel has been diluted to feel-good psycho-theology. And the problem is only getting worse with mega-churches with their mini-theology. This ought not to be.”[18]

Is this evaluation or appraisal of Catholicism and Protestantism too strong? Before we answer that, let it be said, Catholicism is a part of the composite body of the man of lawlessness, so there is no help that Titanic of a religious organization from going down but we can help those within, to find their way to the true path, which leads to life. In addition, the vast majority of Protestantism is also a part of that body or composite of the man of lawlessness. Again, we cannot save the vast organization from going under, but we can pull members off their ship before it goes down in destruction with the ungodly men. However, I do believe God is using Protestantism in the sense that the true church will be identifiable before the end comes and those loving the truth will be able to make the choice to follow God or follow traditions.

If we are to identify whether our church or our denomination is a part of the man of lawlessness, we must apply the rule that Jesus gave for identifying false prophets. He said,

Matthew 7:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. They do not gather grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles, do they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

We have spoken of the fruitage in the above. In the next chapter, we will look more at these fruitages. We will talk more about the fate of the man of lawlessness and for those sharing in his sins. Moreover, we will consider what the responsibilities of true Christians are as to this lawless one.

The Destruction of the Man of Lawlessness

Matthew 7:19-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruits.

As we learned from the previous chapter, the apostle Paul had said that the man of lawlessness was “already at work” in his day, in which he was referring to a body or composite of individuals who would go out from the Christian congregation, as they apostatized [attacking] true Christianity. In addition, they worked to take disciples away from true Christian as opposed to going out and making their own, This rebellion against true Christian would grow exponentially after the death of the last apostle, John in 100 C.E. These lawless ones went beyond the Scriptures doctrinally and in their practices. – 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:3-4.

In time, this lawless body would become Catholicism. Two steps made this possible: Roman Constantine the Great (272 – 327 C.E.) legalizing Christianity and Theodosius I (347 – 395 C.E.), who made paganism illegal and made Christianity the state religion. Over the centuries, church leadership continued to place themselves above the churchgoers. This was just as Paul had foretold would take place with this lawless one, “who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, showing himself as being God.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

What will eventually happen to this man of lawlessness? The apostle Paul answers, “Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth, and wipe out by the appearance of his presence.” (2 Thess. 2:8) This means that this false Christianity will be with up unto the second coming of Christ.[19] Jesus Christ will come with his angelic army to carry out a destruction of the ungodly men. (2 Thess. 1:6-9; Rev. 19:11-21) This destruction of the man of lawlessness and any who share in his sin is a direct result of their having dishonored the Father and the Son, as they abandoned the faith and true worship, taking tens of millions with them. Jesus offered these Christians help in identifying the correct path, as well as realizing they were not doing the will of the Father.

Using Discernment

Discernment is keenly selective judgment. In other words, we have the ability to judge well, and our ability to determine is finely tuned and able to sense minor differences, distinctions, or details, to obtain spiritual direction and understanding. A Christian, who has both knowledge and discernment, can make decisions that if Jesus were in our place, and in our imperfect human condition, he would have made the exact same decision. One way that we can use discernment is in our sharing of the biblical truths with others who possess different worldviews and backgrounds, to save some. The apostle Paul said,

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may gain more. 20 And so to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under the law I became as under the law, though I myself am not under the law, that I might gain those under the law. 21 To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under the law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 But I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Keep in mind that, even though Paul said, “I became as,” so that he might become all things to all men, so as to save them, he never became anything that would be contrary to God’s will and purposes. A bad example of this would be the modern day Christian heavy metal bands, who by all appearances, are just like the worldly ones. Such bands are nine parts world to one part Christian. Can we imagine young Timothy, Paul’s student, and traveling companion, being a member of Stryper, Vengeance Rising, Deliverance, Believer, Tourniquet, and P.O.D?

Much of modern day Christianity, has become like the world in their misguided attempt to evangelize the world. They are nine parts world to one part Christian. This so-called evangelism is an excuse for loose conduct, i.e., an excuse to be worldly under the guise of ‘saving some.’ While we are using an extreme hyperbolic example here of being like the world, to save some out of the world, which is complete foolishness, there are many other minor to major examples within modern day Christianity.

Jesus used hyperbole, which is to over exaggerate to emphasize a point, but sadly, in our day, we do not need to over exaggerate because our example found in these so-called Christian metal bands is a reality.

The man of lawlessness is a false teacher. He is twisting the Scriptures, which seem correct, but are not, so as to mislead. What these lawless ones do is offer texts that are true; then, providing texts that are not being interpreted correctly, so we have a mixture of truth and lie.

John 17:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Romans 12:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable[20] and perfect.

12:2 do not be conformed. “Conformed” refers to assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is really inside, a kind of masquerade or act. The word’s intent implies that Paul’s readers were already allowing this to happen and they must stop. this world. Better translated, “age,” which refers to the system of beliefs, values—or the spirit of the age—at any time current in the world. This sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4). transformed. The Greek word, from which the English word “metamorphosis” comes, connotes a change in outward appearance. Matthew uses the same word to describe the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:2). Just as Christ, briefly and in a limited way, displayed outwardly His inner, divine nature and glory at the Transfiguration, Christians should outwardly manifest their inner, redeemed natures, not once, however, but daily (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 5:18). renewing of your mind. That kind of transformation can occur only as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation on Scripture (Ps. 119:11; cf. Phil. 4:8; Col. 1:28; 3:10, 16). The renewed mind is one saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. good . . . acceptable . . . perfect. Holy living of which God approves. These words borrow from OT sacrificial language and describe a life that is morally and spiritually spotless, just as the sacrificial animals were to be (cf. Lev. 22:19–25).[21]

Below Jesus gives us the correct path, as well as exposing that we may believe that we are doing the will of the Father, when, in fact, we are not doing the will of the Father. After reading Jesus’ words, consider the questions that follow.

Matthew 7:13-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Recognize Them by Their Fruits

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. They do not gather grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles, do they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

The Two Foundations

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods[22] came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods[23] came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was its fall.”

Leading Questions

These infer that there is but one correct answer, and it guides the listener to that answer.

Q: After reading Matthew 7:13-14, does this not suggest there are two courses in life, one that leads to destruction, which many are on and one that leads to life, which few are finding?

A: Yes

Q: After reading Matthew 7:15, does this not suggest there will be some who appear as innocent as sheep, but really are false prophets to the point of being ravenous wolves?

A: Yes

Q: After reading Matthew 7:16-20, what is it that will help us identify these false prophets?

A: Their fruit

Q: After reading Matthew 7:21, who does Jesus say are the only ones who will enter into the kingdom.

A: Jesus said only those doing the will of the Father.

Q: After reading Matthew 7:22, will there be those who believe that they are doing the will of the Father?

A: Yes

Q: After reading Matthew 7:23, will Jesus accept their excuses for failing to do the will of the Father?

A: No

Clarifying Questions

These questions can be used in one of two ways. First, they can be used to clear up something that the listener said. Second, they can be used to clarify that the listener fully understands what something means.

NOTE/Q: The term prophet has two basic meanings. First, it means one who proclaims a message. Second, it means one who foretells the future. What does the term “prophet” mean here?

A: It means one who proclaims a message.

Q: What did Jesus mean by many being on the path of destruction? Was Jesus referring to his disciples (i.e., Christians) and those of religions other than Christianity?

A: The many Jesus referred to was his disciples, coming Christians.

Q: How do you know that the many who are on the path to destruction are the disciples of Jesus Christ?

A: Just after Jesus talks about the two paths, Jesus said ‘be careful of false prophets.’ Then, a few verses later he says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven …”

Q: Are these false teachers found within Christianity and why are they so hard to recognize?

A: If it is the many Christian disciples, who are on the path to destruction; then, the teachers who taught them must have been Christian teachers. They are hard to recognize because Jesus compared them to sheep. In other words, they come across as innocent appearing.

Q: What did Jesus mean by the term “fruit”?

A: In other words, we would recognize them by their words and deeds.

Q: Based on who can enter into the kingdom, ‘those doing the will of the Father,’ what should we know?

A: What the will of the Father is?

Q: Did the many on the path to destruction believe they were doing the will of the Father?

A: Yes

Q: Jesus started out by talking about two paths and false teachers, correct?

A: Yes

Q: False teachers infer false teachings, correct?

A: Yes

Q: What did Jesus say he would say to those who thought they were doing the right thing or thought they were teaching the right thing but were not?

A: ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Q: We have false teachers, who are difficult to recognize, as they appear as innocent as sheep. Recognizing them can only be accomplished by recognizing their fruit (words and deeds), as well as knowing the true will of the Father. Does it not then seem prudent on our behalf that we should apply 2 Thessalonians 2:10 and 2 Corinthians 13:5?

A: Yes, the ones, who are deceived by these false teachers, will perish because they refused to be receptive to the truth. Therefore, we need to be in a constant mode of examining ourselves, as well as our beliefs, to see whether we are really in the truth. We also need to test the beliefs of the church we attend, as well as the denomination.

2 Thessalonians 2:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 and with every unrighteous deception[24] for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

5 Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?

Recognizing True Christianity by Their Fruits

In the above, we spoke of the importance of our using discernment. Does Scripture help us to be better at discerning, to obtain spiritual direction and understanding? The apostle Paul can help us in this matter. He gave the Thessalonians three command, which makes obvious the necessities of a discerning mind. We now take a deeper look at these verses, which need to be revisited.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 American Standard Version (ASV)

21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.

  • examine everything carefully
  • hold fast to that which is good
  • abstain from every form of evil

Bible scholar Knute Larson has it right when he says, “Paul advised the Thessalonians to Test everything. The word everything is universal; it leaves nothing free from examination by spiritual standards and understanding. Paul did not explain how to carry out this testing. But certainly the fire of the Spirit (his convicting, guidance, and illumination), the instructions from the apostles and missionaries, and the written revelation of God are the lenses through which we must scrutinize everything. The apparent purpose of this testing was to hold on to the good, and to avoid every kind of evil. The good has its origin in God; evil is a distortion of that good. Evil is twisting and destructive. We must not flirt with evil.”[25]

While Larson is correct that the Greek word panta (everything) means that, we are to examine everything, leaving nothing free from examination. However, the ‘everything examination’ is within the context of the whole of Christianity: theological doctrine, ecclesiology, practices, and so on. Charles A. Wanamaker addresses more specifically. He writes, “In the context the [panta, (“everything”)] almost certainly refers to manifestations of the Spirit in the words and deeds of the members of the church. People were capable of abusing the gifts of the Spirit in various ways, such as making unchristian pronouncements (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Jn. 4:1–3) or even self-aggrandizing statements (cf. Did. 11:12) in the name of the Spirit. Thus, Paul exhorts the community to evaluate what is said or done in the name of the Spirit or under the supposed influence of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 14:29). He does not specify what criteria should be used in determining whether something is good or evil, but presumably, he expected his readers to weigh supposed Spirit-inspired words and deeds against the doctrinal and ethical norms they had received from him. While Paul does not say so here, it is the Spirit who enables a person to determine the genuineness of a word or deed done in the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10).”[26]

Another identifying marker (fruit) of true Christianity is found at 1 John 5:3, which states: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome.” One of the commandments is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) In other words, regardless of racial, social, and national boundaries, we must love our neighbors. – Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21.

Christian love is so exceptional that Jesus told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44, ESV) It is a common expression to “love the sinner but hate the sin.” Well, this is actually unbiblical. The fact is we are sinners. The apostle Paul stated: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Psa. 51:5; Eze. 18:4; Rom. 3:23; 5:12) Since “there is no man that does not sin” (2 Ch. 6:36), all of Adam’s descendants can correctly be called “sinners” by nature. Nevertheless, in the Scriptures “sinners” generally applies in a more precise way, designating those who practice or live in sin or who have a reputation of sinning.

When Jesus said that we were to love our enemy, he did not mean that we overlook the fact that he is an enemy of God. What he meant was that we see our enemy as a prospective brother or sister in the faith. In other words, we are loving them in the sense that if an evangelistic moment comes up, we would take it, hoping to convert them to Christianity, or even back to Christianity for those that have abandoned the faith. Trying to clarify, even more, let us look at some common misconception. Scripturally, “sinners” are those living in sin. If they start attending our congregation regularly, they cannot become members until another member has studied with them.

If one is to be an effective, genuine, true Christian, he must have all three of the ingredients mentioned below:

(1) Knowledge

(2) Belief

(3) Obedience

To become a well-grounded Christian, you must,

(1) Obtain a good, deep knowledge of Bible truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4),

(2) Put faith in the things you have learned (Hebrews 11:6),

(3) Repent of sins (Acts 17:30-31), and

(4) Turn around in their course of life. (Acts 3:19);

(5) Then their love for God should move you to dedicate yourself to him.

Many liberal and moderate Christians, as well as Charismatic Christians, will try to argue that religious leaders condemned Jesus for associating with “tax collectors and sinners.” (Matt 9:10-11) They use this rationale for not viewing others as “sinners.” Yes, Jesus spent time with sinners, but this was not for recreational purposes. His objective was always about evangelistic purposes, i.e., looking for chances to convert them into his followers. Thus, we are looking to do the same.

Here is a typical comment about judging, “So the ones judging did not read that part of the Christian Bible that said ‘do not judge.” This judging comment is a tired argument, which is given so often, it needs to be dealt with here as well. We do not judge whether one is going to receive eternal life or not because there is but one judge, Jesus Christ. In other words, we do not condemn others.

However, the Bible is packed full of verses on how we are to decide if another Christian is a good associate or not. There are many Scriptures about false teachers, false prophets, false Christians and our obligation to identify such. Therefore, it is our responsibility to identify and recognize false teachers, false prophets, and false Christians. The characteristics of these false ones are identified in the Scripture as fingerprints identify who the criminal is. This book is just identifying these lines in the fingerprints of these false teachers. Judging in a condemnatory way is wrong, as this is Jesus job. Judging as an evaluator is what Jesus and New Testament writers commanded us to do.

If you do not know the Word of God accurately, it can be difficult to recognize the false ones. There are 41,000 different denominations, all claiming to be the truth and the way. Almost all are false based on Scripture. Jesus made it very clear to those who just go along thinking they are doing the right things. These ones say, ‘but I do this and I do that and I …’ However, we have heard Jesus’ words numerous times in this publication, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23, ESV) Next, we will discuss the love we need to have for our brothers and sisters in the faith.

1 John 4:20-21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him, that the one who should love his brother also.

John 13:35 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Particularly important is the love we have for our brothers and sisters in the faith. On the importance of such love David Walls and Max Anders, write, “God first loved us and made a relationship with him possible. The text drives home its refutation of the antichrists and false prophets. We cannot claim we love God and then show that we hate our brothers. This only proves one thing: we are liars. It’s hard to prove whether or not we love God based on our actions toward him because we cannot see him. Love for God is reflected in love for his children, our brothers, and sisters, whom we can see. Therefore, God gave us this verifiable command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. Jesus stated the principle in other words: whatever you did not do for one of the least of these you did not do for me (Matt. 25:40).”[27]

As one commentary puts it, this loving one another is a new commandment. “This is a new commandment and a new object. Not just “love God” or “love me,” but love one another. In 1 John this theme of loving one another appears in 2:9–10; 3:11–18; 4:7–12, 19–21; and 5:1–3. It was not only a new commandment and a new object, but a new mode (as I have loved you) and, perhaps most difficult and shocking of all, a new judge. Verse 35 can be identified as the key verse of this chapter. God allows the world to judge whether people are truly Jesus’ disciples by the way they behave toward one another. Sadly, the church has not done very well on this point. Perhaps this accounts for some of the struggles the gospel has had for almost two thousand years.”[28]

Moreover, true Christians, who truly love one another, must be at unity with their brothers and sisters, for God’s Word commands: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10.

This love and unity need to be maintained beyond an individual church. “The apostle began with a respectful but forceful appeal. In this verse and the next, he called his readers brothers to remind them of his intense familial affection for them. Paul also revealed the intensity of his concern by appealing to his readers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. By so doing, Paul reminded them that the authority of Christ himself stood behind his exhortations. The appeal divides into three parts. He asked the Corinthians to agree with one another, to eliminate divisions, and to be perfectly united in mind and thought. Each part says basically the same thing: the Corinthians needed to eliminate the divisions in their church. They needed to become like-minded with one another. Paul did not desire unity at the expense of truth (see 11:18–19). Paul himself stood against others in the church when the central truths of the gospel were at stake (Gal. 2:5, 11; 5:12). Here, he expressed plainly that Christian unity requires like-mindedness.”[29]

The Roots of the Lawless One

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishingIn their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is taken away only by means of Christ15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts16 but whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Let us start by looking at an example of blind minds within Scripture. This was not a case of physical blindness, but mental blindness. There was a Syrian military force coming after Elisha, and God blinded them mentally. If it had been physical blindness, then each of them would have to have been led by hand. However, what does the account say?

2 Kings 6:18-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to Jehovah and said, “Please strike this nation[30] with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. 19 Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria. 20 When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O Jehovah, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So Jehovah opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.

Are we to believe that one man led the entire Syrian military force to Samaria? If they were physically blind, they would have to have all held hands. Were the Syrian military forces not able physically to see the images that were before them? No, rather, it was more of an inability to understand them. This must have been some form of mental blindness, where we see everything that everyone else sees, but something just does not register. Another example can be found in the account about the men of Sodom. When they were blinded, they did not become distressed, running into each other.

Definitely, Paul is speaking of people, who are not receptive to truth, because their heart is hardened to it, callused, unfeeling. They are not responding because their figurative heart is opposed. It is as though, God handed them over to Satan, to be mentally blinded from the truth, not because he disliked them per se, but because they had closed their hearts and minds to the Gospel. Thus, no manner of argumentation is likely to bring them back to their senses.

However, at one time Saul (Paul) was one of these. Until he met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was mentally blind to the truth. He was well aware of what the coming Messiah was to do, but Jesus did none of these things because it was not time. Thus, Paul was blinded by his love for the Law, Jewish tradition, and history. So much so, he was unable to grasp the Gospel. Not to mention, he lived during the days of Jesus ministry, studied under Gamaliel, who was likely there in the area. He could have even been there when Jesus was amazing the Jewish religious leaders, at the age of twelve. Therefore, Saul (Paul) needed a real wake-up call, to get through the veil that blinded him.

Hence, a mentally blind person sees the same information as another, but the truth cannot or will not get down into their heart. I have had the privilege of talking to dozens of small groups of unbelievers, ranging from four people to ten people in my life. I saw this in action. As I spoke to these groups, inevitably, I would see the light going off in the eyes of some (they would be shaking their heads in agreement as I spoke), but others having a cynical look, a doubting look (they would be shaking their heads in disgust or disapproval), and they eventually walked away. This is not saying that the unbeliever cannot understand the Bible; it is simply that they see no significance in it, as it is foolishness to them.

1 Corinthians 2:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 But a physical man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he is not able to know [understand] them,[31] because they are examined spiritually.

Hundreds of millions of Christians use this verse as support that without the “Holy Spirit,” we can fully understand God’s Word. They would argue that without the “Spirit” the Bible is nothing more than foolish nonsense to the reader. What we need to do before, arriving at the correct meaning of what Paul meant, is grasp what he meant by his use of the word “understand,” as to what is ‘foolish.’ In short, “the things of the Spirit of God” are the “Spirit” inspired Word of God. The natural man sees the inspired Word of God as foolish, and “he is not able to understand them.”[32]

Paul wrote, “But the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” What did Paul mean by this statement? Did he mean that if the Bible reader did not have the “Spirit” helping him, he would not be able to grasp the correct meaning of the text? Are we to understand Paul as saying that without the “Spirit,” the Bible and its teachings are beyond our understanding?

We can gain a measure of understanding as to what Paul meant, by observing how he uses the term “foolishness” elsewhere in the very same letter. At 1 Corinthians 3:19, it is used in the following way, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” This verse helps us to arrive at the use in two stages: (1) the verse states that human wisdom is foolishness with God, (2) and we know that the use of foolishness here does not mean that God cannot understand (or grasp) human wisdom. The use is that He sees human wisdom as ‘foolish’ and rejects it as such.

Therefore, the term “foolishness” of 1 Corinthians 3:19 is not in reference to not “understanding,” but as to one’s view of the text, its significance, or better yet, lack of significance, or lack of value. We certainly know that God can understand the wisdom of the world, but condemns it as being ‘foolish.’ The same holds true of 1 Corinthians 1:20, where the verbal form of foolishness is used, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Thus, we have the term “foolishness” being used before and after 1 Corinthians 2:14, (1:20; 3:19). In all three cases, we are dealing with the significance, the value being attributed to something.

Thus, it seems obvious that we should attribute the same meaning to our text in question, 1 Corinthians 2:14. In other words, the Apostle Paul, by his use of the term “foolishness,” is not saying that the unbeliever is unable to understand, to grasp the Word of God. If this were the case, why would we ever share the Word of God, the gospel message with an unbeliever? Unbelievers can understand the Word of God; however, unbelievers see it as foolish, having no value or significance. The resultant meaning of chapters 1-3 of 1 Corinthians is that unbelieving world of mankind can understand the Word of God, but views it foolish (lacking value or significance); while God, on the other hand, understands the wisdom of the world of mankind, but views it foolish (lacking value or significance). Therefore, in both cases, the information is understood or grasped; however, it is rejected because to the party considering it, believes it lacks value or significance.

We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and our spirit, or mental disposition, needs to be attuned to God and His Spirit through study and application. Now, if our mental disposition is not in tune with the Spirit, we will not come away with the right answer. As Ephesians shows, we can grieve the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by[33] whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? We do that by acting contrary to its leading through deception, human weaknesses, imperfections, setting our figurative heart on something other than the leading.

Ephesians 1:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the holy ones,

“Eyes of your heart” is a Hebrew Scripture expression, meaning spiritual insight, to grasp the truth of God’s Word. So we could pray for the guidance of God’s Spirit, and at the same time, we can explain why there are so many different understandings (many wrong answers), some of which contradict each other, as being human imperfection that is diluting some of those interpreters, causing them to lose the Spirit’s guidance.

A person sits down to study and prays earnestly for the guidance of Holy Spirit, that his mental disposition be in harmony with God’s Word [or simply that his heart be in harmony with . . .], and sets out to study a chapter, an article, something biblical. In the process of that study, he allows himself to be moved, not by a mental disposition in harmony with the Spirit, but by human imperfection, by way of his wrong worldview, his biases, his preunderstanding.[34] A fundamental of grammatical-historical interpretation is that that we are to look for the simple meaning, the basic meaning, the obvious meaning. However, when this one comes to a text that does not say what he wants it to say, he rationalizes until he has the text in harmony with his preunderstanding. In other words, he reads his presuppositions into the text,[35] as opposed to discovering the meaning that was in the text. Even though his Christian conscience was tweaked at the true meaning, he ignored it, as well as his mental disposition that could have been in harmony with the Spirit, to get the outcome he wanted.

In another example, it may be that the text does mean what he wants, but this is only because the translation he is using is full of theological bias, which is violating grammar and syntax, or maybe textual criticism rules and principles that arrive at the correct reading. Therefore, when this student takes a deeper look, he discovers that it could very well read another way, and likely should because of the context. He buries that evidence beneath his conscience, and never mentions it when this text comes up in a Bible discussion. In other words, he is grieving the Holy Spirit and loses it on this particular occasion.

Human imperfection, human weakness, theological bias, preunderstanding, and many other things could dilute the Spirit, or even grieve the Spirit, so that while one may be praying for assistance, he is not getting it, or has lost it, because one, some, or all of these things he is doing has grieved the Spirit.

Again, it is not that an unbeliever cannot understand what the Bible means; otherwise, there would be no need to witness to him. Rather, he does not have the spiritual awareness to see the significance of studying Scripture. An unbeliever can look at “the setting in which the Bible books were written and the circumstances involved in the writing,” as well as “studying the words and sentences of Scripture in their normal, plain sense,” to arrive the meaning of a text. However, without having any spiritual awareness about themselves, they would not see the significance of applying it in their lives. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept [Gr., dechomai] the things of the Spirit of God.” Dechomai means, “to welcome, accept or receive.” Thus, the unbeliever may very well understand the meaning of a text, but just does not accept, receive or welcome it as truth.

Acts 17:10-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these [the Beroeans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Unlike the natural person, the Bereans accepted, received, or welcomed the Word of God eagerly. Paul said the Thessalonians “received [dechomai] the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thess. 1:6) At the beginning of a person’s introduction to the good news, he will take in knowledge of the Scriptures (1 Tim. 2:3-4), which if his heart is receptive, he will begin to apply them in his life, taking off the old person and putting on the new person. (Eph. 4:22-24) Seeing how the Scriptures have begun to alter his life, he will start to have a genuine faith over the things he has learned (Heb. 11:6), repenting of his sins. (Acts 17:30-31) He will turn around his life, and his sins will be blotted out. (Acts 3:19) At some point, he will go to God in prayer, telling the Father that he is dedicating his life to him, to carry out his will and purposes. (Matt. 16:24; 22:37) This regeneration is the Holy Spirit working in his life, giving him a new nature, placing him on the path to salvation.―2 Corinthians 5:17.

A new believer will become “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make [him] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15) As the Bible informs us, the Scriptures are holy and are to be viewed as such. If we are to acquire an accurate or full knowledge, to have the correct mental grasp of the things that we carried out an exegetical analysis on, it must be done with a prayerful and humble heart. It is as Dr. Norman L. Geisler said, “the role of the Holy Spirit, at least in His special work on believers related to Scripture, is in illuminating our understanding of the significance (not the meaning) of the text. The meaning is clear apart from any special work of the Holy Spirit.” What level of understanding that we are able to acquire is based on the degree to which we are not grieving the Holy Spirit with our worldview, our preunderstanding, our presuppositions, our theological biases? In addition, anyone living in sin will struggle to grasp God’s Word as well.

No interpreter is infallible. The only infallibility or inerrancy belonged to the original manuscripts. Each Christian has the right to interpret God’s Word, to discover what it means, but this does not guarantee that they will come away with the correct meaning. The Holy Spirit will guide us into and through the truth, by way of our working in behalf of our prayers to have the correct understanding. Our working in harmony with the Holy Spirit means that we buy out the time for a personal study program, not to mention the time to prepare properly and carefully for our Christian meetings. In these studies, do not expect that the Holy Spirit is going to miraculously give us some flash of understanding, but rather understanding will come to us as we set aside our personal biases, worldviews, human imperfections, presuppositions, preunderstanding, opening our mental disposition to the Spirit’s leading as we study.

The Record of One Aspect of the Man of Lawlessness

The Christian religious leaders that make up the man of lawlessness have been very reprehensible in their shedding blood. They have used the name of God to commit some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity and against their brothers and sisters in the faith. We need to look no further than the Crusades, other religious wars, inquisitions, and persecutions. The Crusades (a war or campaign that is religiously motivated) ran from the 11th to the 13th century. The result of the Crusades was horrific bloodshed and plundering in the name of God. Literally, hundreds of thousands were slaughtered. This also includes the Children’s Crusade of the year 1212, where thousands of children were slaughtered as well.

The Roman Catholic Church formally authorized another God-dishonoring horror in the 13th century, the Inquisition. The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs writes, “Of the multitudes who perished by the Inquisition throughout the world, no authentic record is now discoverable. But wherever popery had power, there was the tribunal. It had been planted even in the east, and the Portuguese Inquisition of Goa was, until within these few years, fed with many an agony. South America was partitioned into provinces of the Inquisition; and with a ghastly mimicker of the crimes of the mother state, the arrivals of viceroys, and the other popular celebrations were thought imperfect without an auto da fe. The Netherlands were one scene of slaughter from the time of the decree which planted the Inquisition among them. In Spain, the calculation is more attainable. Each of the seventeen tribunals during a long period burned annually, on an average, ten miserable beings! We are to recollect that this number was in a country where persecution had for ages abolished all religious differences, and where the difficulty was not to find the stake, but the offering. Yet, even in Spain, thus gleaned of all heresy, the Inquisition could still swell its lists of murders to thirty-two thousand! The numbers burned in effigy, or condemned to penance, punishments generally equivalent to exile, confiscation, and taint of blood, to all ruin but the mere loss of worthless life, amounted to three hundred and nine thousand. But the crowds who perished in dungeons of torture, of confinement, and of broken hearts, the millions of dependent lives made utterly helpless, or hurried to the grave by the death of the victims, are beyond all register; or recorded only before HIM, who has sworn that “He that leadeth into captivity, shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.”

The encyclopedia continues, “Such was the Inquisition, declared by the Spirit of God to be at once the offspring and the image of the popedom. To feel the force of the parentage, we must look to the time. In the thirteenth century, the popedom was at the summit of mortal dominion; it was independent of all kingdoms; it ruled with a rank of influence never before or since possessed by a human scepter; it was the acknowledged sovereign of body and soul; to all earthly intents its power was immeasurable for good or evil. It might have spread literature, peace, freedom, and Christianity to the ends of Europe, or the world. But its nature was hostile; its fuller triumph only disclosed its fuller evil; and, to the shame of human reason, and the terror and suffering of human virtue, Rome, in the hour of its consummate grandeur, teemed with the monstrous and horrid birth of the INQUISITION!”[36]

The Charismatic Movement

This author sees the Charismatic branch of Christianity as another facet of the man of lawlessness.[37] Sadly, this is the fastest growing segment of Christianity. Below is an introduction to the charismatic movement from The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Rather than indent, we will simply show the reader the Excursion and at the end, we will show the End of Excursion. Again, this author sees the charismatic branch of Christianity as a part of the body of the man of lawlessness.

What would God say about those who blatantly misrepresent His Holy Spirit; who exchange true worship for chaotic fits of mindless ecstasy; who replace the biblical gospel with vain illusions of health and wealth; who claim to prophesy in His name yet speak errors; and who sell false hope to desperate people for millions of dollars? – John Macarthur

Excursion: Definition and Terminology

The term “charismatic movement” refers to the currents of revival and renewal resulting from a transforming spiritual experience generally termed “baptism in the Spirit,” which is associated with the reception and contemporary availability of the spiritual gifts of 1 Cor. 12:8–10 (esp. prophecy, healing, and  glossolalia). While baptism in the Spirit and the spiritual gifts also characterize the Pentecostal movement, the charismatic movement with its many different strands is clearly distinct in theological framework, patterns of fellowship, and sociocultural ethos.

The term “charismatic movement” was coined by H. Bredesen and J. Stone in 1963 to designate what was at first called neo-Pentecostalism, that is, the occurrence of Pentecostal-type blessing within the historic Protestant denominations. This was the general connotation of “charismatic movement” in the mid-1960s. By the late 1960s, however, there were independent groups and ministries, often calling themselves nondenominational, that identified more with the charismatic movement than with Pentecostalism per se. These nondenominational currents, which spread in the 1970s and mushroomed in the 1980s, are now generally recognized as part of the overall charismatic movement, in which we may distinguish three major strands: (1) charismatic renewal in the historic Protestant churches (from the 1950s); (2) charismatic renewal in the Roman Catholic Church (from 1967); (3) charismatic renewal in the independent sector (from the late 1960s). In 1988 the numbers of those active in these three groups were estimated, respectively, at 10.9 million, 10.1 million, and 17.4 million.

2. Beginnings

The early stirrings of the charismatic movement lie in the 1950s in the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, although only in the early 1960s did they enter public consciousness and acquire visibility as a movement. Important influences in its origins, all of which were operative in the 1950s, were groups praying for revival (e.g., Nights of Prayer for Worldwide Revival in the United Kingdom), circles ministering divine healing (e.g., the London Healing Mission, the key role of Agnes Sanford, often—despite its official disapproval—within the milieu of the Order of St. Luke in the United States), people studying the Book of Acts (e.g., the Methodist Tommy Tyson in North Carolina), and contact with Pentecostals (e.g., the healing campaigns of T. L. Osborn in the Netherlands and the major influence of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International; Pentecostal Churches). Some people and groups became charismatic without any evident outside influence.

The public emergence of a distinct movement occurred in the United States through national publicity in 1960 concerning the Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett (then of Van Nuys, Calif., and later of Seattle) and in Britain in 1963 through another Anglican priest, Michael Harper. Other major publicizing factors were David Wilkerson’s biographical book The Cross and the Switchblade (1963) and John Sherrill’s They Speak with Other Tongues (1964). Between 1962 and 1965 the charismatic movement spread to New Zealand, Germany, Kenya, South Africa, and Australia.

As the meetings of Pentecostals, charismatic meetings were characterized by vocal praise, lengthy preaching or teaching, personal testimonies, and personal ministry. From the start, there was a strong lay character about the charismatic movement, with an emphasis on “every member” ministry. This practice favored the discovery and use of gifts independent of ministerial ordination though the mainline charismatics continued to recognize ordained ministry.

Charismatic renewal in Protestant traditions tended to produce either overtly charismatic congregations or congregations with a charismatic flavor, while charismatic Roman Catholic renewal typically gave rise to prayer groups, intentional (often covenant) communities, and centers for ministry and healing.

3. Developments Worldwide

3.1. North America

Between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s, the charismatic movement spread rapidly in the United States, helped by the homogeneity of language and culture, media publicity, mass conventions, and the influence of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship. Since 1988, the impact of the movement has been uneven, except in the independent sector, which has continued to grow steadily.

Charismatic renewal in the mainline churches has generally struggled to have a significant influence on church life. Often just tolerated, sometimes given a limited welcome, charismatic renewal has lost many of its supporters to Pentecostal and independent charismatic churches, especially from Presbyterian, United Methodist, and Baptist ranks. In the 1990s an increasing liberalism in the liturgical churches has intensified the struggle of loyal charismatics. Some Episcopalians have joined the Charismatic Episcopal Church, formed in 1992 by former independent charismatics and Pentecostals.

The spread of the charismatic movement to the Roman Catholic Church in 1967 produced a powerful new thrust toward church renewal, the beginning of Life in the Spirit seminars to prepare people for the baptism in the Spirit, and the establishment of local and national service committees for the renewal movement. This pattern soon spread to the Catholic renewal in other countries and influenced other major denominations in the United States such as the Episcopalians and Lutherans to establish their own renewal agencies.

Charismatic Roman Catholic renewal was marked in its early years by the forceful influence of the covenant communities, especially Word of God (Ann Arbor, Mich.) and People of Praise (South Bend, Ind.). Divisions between such communities and the challenge of those favoring parish renewal, represented particularly in the Association of Diocesan Liaisons, led to a more diverse but weakened charismatic Catholic renewal.

The tradition that has been most positively influenced by charismatic renewal seems to be the Mennonite/Anabaptist churches, whose denominational leaderships have taken the charismatic movement more seriously. Until recently, charismatic renewal among Episcopalians has maintained momentum, strengthening the evangelical strands in the Episcopal Church.

At its beginning, opposition to the charismatic movement was least in the Roman Catholic Church and greatest among the Presbyterians, in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and among the Orthodox. However, a leading Presbyterian scholar, John A. Mackay, with positive memories of Pentecostalism in Latin America, defended the Presbyterian charismatics and urged his church to study the question, leading to the important Report on the Work of the Holy Spirit, received by the United Presbyterian Church in 1978. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has taken somewhat longer to come to terms with charismatic renewal, as have the Holiness churches such as the Church of the Nazarene, which opposed the Pentecostal movement at its beginning.

The independent, or non-denominational, groupings first came into prominence in the early 1970s with the impact of Christian Growth Ministries, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Led by Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Don Basham, Charles Simpson, and Ern Baxter, the group produced the magazine New Wine (1969–86) and until the mid-1970s were the main exponents of so-called discipleship teaching. Their teaching and practice became controversial, and the mid-1970s saw much effort in the United States to repair strained relationships and to moderate heavy forms of authority.

The independent charismatics have tended to form networks linked more by personal bonds between the leading pastors than by creed or style of church government. Their patterns of organization reflect secular patterns from the world of business enterprise, with the possibility of simultaneous association with more than one network. The major networks include International Convention of Faith Ministries (Tulsa, OK), Fellowship of Covenant Ministers and Churches (Mobile, AL), Liberty Fellowship (Birmingham, AL), People of Destiny International (Gaithersburg, MD), and Vineyard churches (Anaheim, CA). In the United States, independent charismatics outnumbered all “denominational” charismatics by the early 1990s (14 million vs. 6 million).

The interdenominational character of the charismatic movement was fostered by major events such as the Kansas City conference of 1977. This ecumenical dimension weakened in the 1980s, though the formation of the North American Renewal Service Committee (1985) and their organizing of interchurch congresses (New Orleans, 1987; Indianapolis, 1990; Orlando, 1995) have given a new impetus. The monthly magazine Charisma serves all constituencies, coming out of a Pentecostalism reanimated through the charismatic movement plus a strong nondenominational impulse.

3.2. Europe

Charismatic renewal in European Protestant churches has been uneven. Variations reflect (1) church situations (minority churches may accept charismatic renewal as an agent of growth, as do, for example, the Baptists in France), (2) experience of revival movements (charismatic renewal is often stronger in regions with a history of revival, such as the Lutheran Church of Finland and the Evangelical Church in Wurttemberg), and (3) quality of leadership (Anglican charismatic renewal in England has benefited from responsible leadership, esp. of D. Watson [1933–84]). Charismatic renewal has had less impact on Methodism than on the Reformation churches. The renewal in the Evangelical Lutheran Church has been gaining ground, despite some defections to the independent sector.

The charismatic movement in France has been marked by the rise of strong communities (Emmanuel, Chemin Neuf, Lion de Juda [now Béatitudes], and Pain de Vie) that have spread to many other countries, especially in Africa. In Italy, the charismatic Roman Catholic renewal attracts huge numbers to its annual convention in Rimini. In Ireland it has faded; it is relatively small in Spain and Portugal. In Germany, theology has played a larger role, with a theological commission having been formed for charismatic Catholic renewal.

In Scandinavia, charismatic renewal has been strongest in Finland and Norway and weakest in Denmark. Lutheran renewal has struggled generally with the antienthusiastic strain in Luther’s heritage.

The independent sector has grown the fastest. Britain has many networks, of which the largest are Pioneer (led by G. Coates), New Frontiers (led by T. Virgo), and Salt and Light (led by B. Coombs). The Ichthus churches of R. Forster have integrated charismatic and social concerns with a strong ministry to the inner city. The British independent sector has strong outreach to other lands and has pioneered the worldwide March for Jesus, held annually especially in the capital cities of the world.[38]

End of Excursion

Excursion: Liberal Christianity or Theological Modernism

This author sees Liberal Christianity or Theological Modernism a movement within Protestant denominations as another facet of the man of lawlessness.  Sadly, this is the fastest growing segment of Christianity, as it is intertwined with the charismatic aspect as well. Below is an introduction to the Liberal Christianity or Theological Modernism movement from Conservapedia.[39] Rather than indent the text, we will simply show the reader the Excursion and at the end, we will show the End of Excursion. Again, this author sees the Liberal Christianity or Theological Modernism within Protestant denominations as a part of the body of the man of lawlessness.

Liberal Christianity or Theological Modernism is a broad term which basically refers to a movement within American Protestant denominations to stress the social role of Christianity, as in the Social Gospel of the early 20th century. This movement is characterized by a lack of emphasis on or denial of the plenary Divine inspiration and authority of the Bible and commitment to doctrinal purity. Prevalent Biblical themes such as repentance from personal moral sin, hell, and damnation for those who reject Christ, His blood atonement, and His future literal reign are minimized or militated against. In 1937, H. Richard Niebuhr summarized their basic gospel message as preaching that “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”[40]

Theologically, Liberal Christianity stresses a basic continuity between man and God, emphasizing the immanence of God rather than His transcendence. It tends to see religious knowledge emerging from research and the use of reason, as superior to Biblical revelation. Thus the liberal idea of religion as a personal relationship with God is one which is not necessarily bound to a Biblical doctrinal basis. This stands in in contrast to salvation resulting from faith in the Biblically substantiated gospel of grace, and in conformity with orthodox theological beliefs.

Origins of liberal Christianity

The most influential liberal Christian theologians were 19th century Germans: Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl.

Schleiermacher emphasized that religion was a personal relationship with God, and downplayed historical Christian doctrines such as the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of Incarnation, the doctrine of eternal life, etc.

Schleiermacher sought to re-establish the importance of Christianity using Christian religious experience rather than scientific knowledge. Ritschl revised Schleirmacher’s idea and tried to re-establish their authority using Kant’s idea of moral experience and in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.[41]

Doctrines that did not relate well to religious experience or moral experience tended to disappear.

Role of the Bible

Liberals view the Bible as the witness of God rather than the word of God. Strangely the view looks for support by a type of literal interpretation — though this should not be confused with the form of Biblical literalism found in fundamentalist and conservative churches — of the words of Paul in his second letter to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

Here some see Paul conveying that that scripture is a direct result of the authors contact with God (“witness”), whilst stopping short of claiming actual divine authorship (“word”). Conservative Christians would answer that Paul states here that the words which make up scripture are God-breathed, and that the Bible records God’s promise to preserve His words, not merely His ideas.[42]

As a result, Liberal Theologians view the Bible as a text to be interpreted in its historical context but through liberal critical analysis.[43] As a result, many hold that texts such as Genesis’ early chapters or Old Testament miracles are poetry or fables — having a message, but not to be taken literally (in spite of the New Testament referring to such as literal events).[44] This approach began to dominate most Protestant denominations in the early 1900’s, and was challenged by Neo-Orthodoxy and Fundamentalism after 1940. Examples today include some churches within Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ churches.[45] The word “liberal” in liberal Christianity does not refer to any political agenda or set of beliefs, although liberal theological beliefs will often form the basis of liberal political beliefs.

In addition, liberal Christians are seen taking an unwarranted pick-and-choose approach to the Bible, declaring that passages, which they favor, were intended by God to be followed today, while other parts are outdated or need to be reinterpreted, in order to conform with current trends. As needed, the spirit of the Bible is emphasized in such a way that its specific wording can be ignored or negated. As Machen comments,

Admitting that scientific objections may arise against the particularities of the Christian religion—against the Christian doctrines of the person of Christ, and of redemption through His death and resurrection—the liberal theologian seeks to rescue certain of the general principles of religion, of which these particularities are thought to be mere temporary symbols, and these general principles he regards as constituting “the essence of Christianity.[46]

Rather than the Bible being wholly inspired by God, many liberal Christians believe that the Bible was the work of numerous editorial redactors[47] — homophobic ones in cases where pro-homosexual writers wish to see homoeroticism positively portrayed between Bible characters — or even that certain parts of the Bible that do not agree with liberal theology are later additions that do not belong in the Bible at all. In extreme cases, some liberal Christians even engage in politically correct censorship against those who quote Bible verses that tend to disprove a liberal Christian position. It may also esteem other books as works of God as well as the Bible. Some liberal Christians argue that correct Christian doctrine is whatever each individual believer deems it to be.

Most of those within mainline denominations evidence beliefs and its effects, which are at variance with Biblically, based historical Christian faith.[48] Two issues usually indicative of liberal denominations are supporting abortion and homosexuality. For a more detailed treatment, see Homosexuality and Christianity.[49]

Some liberal Christians acknowledge that an omnipotent God could easily preserve His words and conclude that, for whatever reason, He has chosen not to do so, instead leaving us to our subjective impressions of God’s will.[50]

A few Christian denominations perform same-sex marriages. These include:

  • The Episcopalian church
  • The United Church of Christ
  • The Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

End of Excursion

Exposing the Man of Lawlessness

We need to appreciate and apply the principle behind Paul’s words to the Galatians. He wrote, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (6:7, ESV) Thus, God will hold the man of lawlessness accountable and any who have knowingly or unknowing support the lawless one’s efforts. Again, Jesus will say to those who refuse the truth for the lie, “depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23) He also said, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire [i.e., destroyed].”[51] Since the Second Coming of Christ is upon us,[52] all true Christians are obligated to expose the man of lawlessness, and save those willing to accept the truth from the coming destruction. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, ESV) If we remain in or abide in the Word of God, we will recognize what facets of so-called “Christianity” are a part of the body of the man of lawlessness. That same Word of God can free others who have a receptive heart.

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[1] David S. Dockery et al., Holman Bible Handbook (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 627–628.

[2] “Moisture from heaven invariably accomplishes its intended purpose in helping meet human physical needs. The word of God will likewise produce its intended results in fulfilling God’s spiritual purposes, especially the establishment of the Davidic kingdom on earth (vv. 1–5).” – MacArthur, John (2005-05-09). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 29443-29445). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[3] Or seduce

[4] Namely, to stand off from the truth, i.e., to not only fall away from the faith, but to then turn on the faith, rebellion.

[5] Lit seduction

[6] Lit from before the face of the Lord

[7] B.C.E. years ran down toward zero, although the Romans had no zero, and C.E. years ran up from zero. (100, 10, 3, 2, 1 ◄B.C.E. |  C.E.►  1, 2, 3, 10, and 100)

[8] Epignosis is a strengthened or intensified form of gnosis (epi, meaning “additional”), meaning, “true,” “real,” “full,” “complete” or “accurate,” depending upon the context. Paul and Peter alone use epignosis.

[9] 10:3 ignorant of God’s righteousness. Ignorant both of God’s inherent righteousness revealed in the law and the rest of the OT (which should have shown the Jews their own unrighteousness) and of the righteousness which comes from Him on the basis of faith (see note on 1:17 ). their own righteousness. Based on their conformity to God’s law and often to the less demanding standards of their own traditions (Mark 7:1–13). MacArthur, John (2005-05-09). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 52230-52233). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[10] Or seduce

[11] Jon A. Weatherly, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), 2 Th 2:3.

[12] In the Greek New Testament, the noun “apostasy” (Gr., apostasia) has the sense of “desertion, abandonment or rebellion.” (Acts 21:21, ftn.) There it predominantly is alluding to abandonment; a drawing away from or abandoning of pure worship.

[13] 20:29 savage wolves. Borrowed from Jesus (Matt. 7:15; 10:16), this metaphor emphasizes the extreme danger that false teachers pose to the church. 20:30 from among yourselves. Even more deadly than attacks from outside the church are the defections of those (especially leaders) within the church (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17; cf. Jude 3, 4, 10–13). perverse things. The Greek word means “distorted,” or “twisted.” False teachers twist God’s Word for their own evil ends (13:10; 2 Pet. 3:16).―MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 50349-50353). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[14] This means that some, who left the Christian faith and were not trying to subvert (undermine) the faith of others.

[15] Philip Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2005), 255–256.

[16] The precise term “Holy Roman Empire” was not used until the 13th century.

[17] Do We Still Need a Literal Bible?: Discover the Truth about Literal Bibles Authored by Don Wilkins

http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/4676433

[18] The Problem With Protestant Ecclesiology — Fr. John Peck, http://frjohnpeck.com/the-problem-with-protestant-ecclesiology/ (accessed January 03, 2016).

[19] The SECOND COMING of CHRIST: Basic Bible Doctrines of the Christian Faith by Edward D. Andrews

http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/5383701

[20] Or well-pleasing

[21] MacArthur, John (2005-05-09). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 52431-52439). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[22] Lit rivers

[23] Lit rivers

[24] Lit seduction

[25] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 75–76.

Did. Didache

[26] Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians: a Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1990), 203.

[27] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 211–212.

[28] Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 255.

[29] Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 8.

[30] Or people

[31] “The Greek word ginosko (“to understand”) does not mean comprehend intellectually; it means know by experience. The unsaved obviously do not experience God’s Word because they do not welcome it. Only the regenerate have the capacity to welcome and experience the Scriptures, by means of the Holy Spirit.”― (Zuck 1991, 23)

[32] “I also believe that the role of the Holy Spirit, at least in His special work on believers related to Scripture, is in illuminating our understanding of the significance (not the meaning) of the text.  The meaning is clear apart from any special work of the Holy Spirit.”–Dr. Norman L. Geisler.

[33] Lit in

[34] Preunderstanding is all of the knowledge and understanding that we possess before we begin the study of the text.

[35] Presupposition is to believe that a particular thing is so before there is any proof of it

[36] Mark Water, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs (Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd, 2001), 591–592.

[37] Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship Nov 19, 2013 by John F. MacArthur

Calif. California

Ann Annales

Mich. Michigan

Ind. Indiana

[38] Peter Hocken, “Charismatic Movement,” The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999–2003), 404–406.

[39] http://www.conservapedia.com/Liberal_Christianity

[40] he Kingdom of God in America (1937), New York: Harper and Row, 1959, p. 193

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=15-09-011-c

[41] Langdon Gilkey, Naming the Whirlwind: The Renewal of God-Language, (1969), 73, 74, and 75

[42] http://www.chick.com/information/bibleversions/preserve.asp

http://www.biblebelievers.com/kam/kam_001.html

[43] http://home.earthlink.net/~gbl111/liberalism.htm

[44] http://www.gotquestions.org/liberal-Christian-theology.htm

[45] http://www.beliefnet.com/story/80/story_8028_1.html

[46] J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism; Introduction

http://www.biblebelievers.com/machen/machen_introduction.html

[47] Documentary Hypothesis

http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/2/Judaism/jepd.html

http://www.ukapologetics.net/docu.htm

[48]http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/RevealingStatistics.html#Sec4

[49]http://www.conservapedia.com/Homosexuality_and_Christianity

[50] This note is by the author of this book. The original manuscripts are error free. However, over the centuries many copyist errors have slipped into the manuscripts. Nevertheless, over the past 500 years of textual studies, scholars have been able to restore the text to 99.99% of what would have been in the originals. A restored text is an exact representation of the original. A translation is the Word of God when the rendering in the receptor language is an equivalent of the original.

[51] WHAT IS HELL? Basic Bible Doctrines of the Christian Faith by Edward D. Andrews

http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/5346167

[52] The SECOND COMING of CHRIST: Basic Bible Doctrines of the Christian Faith by Edward D. Andrews

http://www.christianpublishers.org/apps/webstore/products/show/5383701