By Nathan Jones
What is the Bible's litmus test for discerning a false prophet?
I was recently interviewed by Vic Batista, senior pastor of the Miami-based Calvary Chapel Aventura on his radio program "The Truth Will Set You Free" via TWave Radio. "Pastor Vic" (as he likes to be called) was born in the Dominican Republic and is as active in planting churches and helping orphans there as he is in southern Florida, reaching out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to both the English and Spanish speaking audiences.
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" episode, we'll look at the very first sign Jesus gave in Matthew 24 which tells us that we are living in the end times — the sign of false teachers.
The Sign of False Teachers
Vic: Just watching the news today, we can clearly see the development of all the signs Jesus will present in Matthew 24. The stage is being set and the players are in their positions.
Nathan, could you continue reading for us from Matthew 24:4-5?
Nathan: "And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my name saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.'" We can read the parallel passage of this in Luke 21:8, "He replied, 'Watch out that you are not deceived, for many will come in my name claiming 'I am He' and the 'time is near', do not follow them.'"
Vic: Here we see the beginnings of this terrible deception — people who are claiming to be the Christ.
Nathan: This is actually the most prolific end time sign that Jesus gave us. Not only in Matthew 24:5 does He give it, but then again in verse 11 He says, "And many false prophets will arise and mislead many." Then again in verse 24 Jesus warns, "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." Three times in this passage Jesus said that false prophets and false Christs would come claiming to be Jesus, and they would mislead many people into false doctrines. False teachers was the number one end time sign Jesus gave that would point to His soon return.
Vic: Deception comes in many forms, so people need to be on guard. We have so many televangelists and radio hosts teaching false doctrines today. Many new religions are popping up, even in our own country, with individuals claiming to be Christ or claiming to be some kind of deliverer. And still, so many people believe and follow them. Like you said, Nathan, this is an important sign we are seeing today that points to Jesus' soon return.
Nathan: You're not kidding! There were three different fulfillments of this false christs sign before the Temple fell in 70 AD. Almost as soon as the Church got off the ground, false teaching started coming on the scene.
One such group was the Judaizers. They're the ones who said that to be a Christian you also had to live under the Law. The Apostle Paul told them they ought to go off and emasculate themselves! He had some really strong words for them because he was very angry that they were trying to put the people back under the Law.
There were also the Gnostics. They were Greeks who believed they had superior knowledge about God — it was the Bible plus their knowledge. They also believed that Jesus couldn't possibly have come in human form because they thought that materialism was evil and the spirit is good. Therefore, they reckoned Jesus was a spirit who had inhabited a body and then at the Crucifixion left that body, so He wasn't really crucified.
False teachings have been around a long time. Satan is always trying to water down the message of God as soon as it hits the ground.
Vic: Even the Apostle John began to warn the believers of his time regarding this attack that would come upon the Church, and also tell us how we were to guard ourselves. I believe his message still applies today. First John 4:1 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirit whether they are of God because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
Litmus Test to Discern a False Teacher
Vic: So, Nathan, do we see clearly that this deception is just going to continue to get worse?
Nathan: Correct. You can go all the way back to the time of Moses for the answer. The people must have been unsure if Moses was actually speaking for the Lord. How would they know if these messengers from God truly speak for the Lord?
Here is our answer. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 advises, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord? If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed." Discerned from that litmus test, we know then that when a prophet speaks their prophecy must come true, or else they are a false prophet. That is our gauge for prophecy. Compare the prophecies given by man compared to given by God, who fulfills His prophecy 100% of the time.
Did you know there were 300 prophecies in the Old Testament? There are 109 distinct prophecies which talk about the First Coming of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled all 109 distinct prophecies about him being the Messiah at the First Coming. One hundred percent! So, we know that Jesus is the Messiah. We then know that we can put our faith and trust in Him. Also, 500 verses in the Old Testament and one in every 25 in the New Testament prophesy about Jesus Second Coming.
So, Pastor Vic, since we know that Jesus fulfilled 100% of His prophecies concerning the First Coming, how sure can we be then that He's going to fulfill all 100% of His Second Coming prophecies?
Vic: We can be 100% sure, because the Word of God is true and it never fails. The Bible is so trustworthy, and it is the only authoritative source that will not mislead a person. I believe 100% of all its prophecies will come to fruition. In fact, some of them we are seeing happen right before our eyes, like Israel becoming a nation again.
Nathan: That's right. What's so amazing about Israel in prophecy is that even before Israel became a nation, God had told Moses that Israel one day would abandon God and be exiled. And, we also read throughout the prophets how Israel would be regathered a second time.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 BC, then Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. The Jews had abandoned God, so as punishment He hauled them off into exile. Later God regathered the Jews from Babylon, brought them back to Israel, and rebuilt their nation again. Yet again they abandoned God and rejected His Messiah, so in 70 AD, just as Jesus prophesied here in Matthew 24, God sent the Romans in and the Romans obliterated Israel. They cast the Jews to the four corners of the world. For the last 1,900 years the Jews have been wanderers of the planet, and yet, God said they would be regathered a second time.
This very day we are seeing the Jews being regathered back into Israel again, and that's where God will begin to work on the Jewish people's hearts for the purpose of bringing them back to Him by ridding them of their Humanism and back to a true worship of God and accepting Jesus as their Savior. All that is coming, and getting ahead of ourselves, it's a the tenth prophecy that is one of the signs of the end times that Jesus gave in Matthew 24.
Besides the regathering of Israel, there are just so many prophecies going on today that are direct fulfillments to the answers Jesus gave to the Apostles. These fulfilled prophecies prove that we are indeed living in the end of this age.
In the third part of this discussion with Pastor Vic on the end times sign of false teachers, we'll learn about some of the false teachers and messiahs from Jesus' time and our own.