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16 April 2023

Howling Imposters


Christ’s final block of teaching that he gave on the Mount of Olives includes several warnings about coming “deceivers” and “false prophets” intent on misleading the saints, warnings reiterated and expanded in the writings of the apostles. And his discourse began with stern warnings to “beware lest anyone deceive you.”

According to Jesus, liars and charlatans will come in his name and succeed at “deceiving many.” Likewise, “many false prophets” and “false messiahs” will infiltrate his disciples, not just a few. They will target the very “elect” of God with their false teachings, even using “signs and wonders” to achieve their plans - (Matthew 24:4-11, 24:23-24, 24:26).

The contents of their lies include false information about the return of Jesus and the end of the age. They will claim he “is here” or “there,” or that he is “in the wilderness” or “in the secret place.” Some will set false expectations about the imminence of his return by declaring that the “season has drawn near,” claiming to possess knowledge that even the “Son of Man” did not have - (Matthew 24:23-26, Luke 21:8).

From such men, disciples will “hear of wars and reports of wars.” They will point to wars, earthquakes, and similar calamities as “signs” that the “end” is near.

Certainly, wars, seismic activities, and famines will occur over the course of human history as they always have, but they are not indicators of the nearness of the end. They constitute “birth pains,” evidence of the eventual and inevitable end of the present age. Nevertheless, as Jesus said, the “end is not yet” - (Matthew 24:4-6).

All this will contribute to an influx of “lawlessness” and the “love of many will grow cold,” descriptions of developments within the church rather than in the larger world. And it will cause many to apostatize.

PAUL


Christ’s warnings are echoed in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians when he describes the coming “man of lawlessness,” a figure he links to the final “apostasy.”

This malevolent character will be energized by Satan. He will employ “signs and lying wonders” to deceive. He will “seat himself in the sanctuary of God,” the naos theou, a term Paul elsewhere consistently applies to the church, the “body of Christ.”

This man’s deceits will cause many to perish because they “welcomed not the love of the truth.” The key to avoiding the coming apostasy is to “hold fast” to the apostolic teachings – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

To Timothy, the Apostle warns that in the last days, “some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.” Sound teaching will be rejected as men prefer the bizarre and the fantastical over rock-solid biblical principles.

  • Having itching ears, they will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to fables - (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:3).

Moreover, “evil men and HOWLING IMPOSTERS will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.

In this last clause, the Greek term rendered “howling imposters” or go├ętes referred originally to what anthropologists today would label ‘sorcerers,’ ‘witchdoctors,’ and ‘shamans,’ practitioners of magical rituals invoked to contact and manipulate the “spirit world,” and very often accompanied by loud utterances and formulas - (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:13, 4:3).

PETER


Peter likewise warns us about the coming false prophets who will slither their way into the church, coming to prominence in the last days and fleecing the sheep:

  • But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their lascivious doings by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of. And in covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” – (2 Peter 2:1-3).

He attributes their motivation to a desire for financial gain, to “make merchandise” of the saints of God. The description fits the modern phenomenon of the so-called “prosperity” preachers who promise disciples of Jesus material abundance if they give money to them. It is a seductive but “destructive” message.

REVELATION


And in the book of Revelation, the coming “false prophet,” the “beast who will ascend from the earth,” will enforce the policies of the “Beast from the sea” and coax men to give their allegiance to the “Beast.” This master deceiver will have “two horns like a lamb” because he will imitate the true “Lamb,” Jesus Christ. He is a deceiver and charlatan.

Men who willingly embrace the “mark of the beast” will enjoy the benefits of commerce and prosperity, the ability to “buy and sell.” But those who refuse to give allegiance to the “Beast” will be denied participation in the economic system, causing them deprivation and hardship.

Like the “false prophets” spoken of by Jesus, and Paul’s “man of lawlessness,” this final deceiver will use “great signs” to coax men to give their absolute allegiance to the “Beast from the sea.” God certainly works supernatural miracles for His children, but the miraculous is no guarantee that someone has been sent by God.

This is a consistent warning given by Jesus and his apostles over several decades. Rather than promise a final super revival or endless good times and prosperity for Christians, the New Testament warns repeatedly of the coming apostasy and a host of deceivers who are bent on misleading the followers of Jesus.

While the church has always been plagued with false teachers, there has been an increase in the number and effectiveness of deceivers in recent decades; frankly, an invasion.

Deceivers and charlatans have not only flooded the church with their “prosperity gospel” and its inherent covetousness, thereby turning the gospel of Jesus into little more than a narcissistic siren song, but they have also introduced occult practices – incantations, mysticism, conscious-altering meditation, astrology, numerology, Gnosticism, monthly prognostications, and other forms of divination.

In short, the warnings of Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John are unfolding before our eyes, and the final apostasy is well underway just as predicted in the New Testament. Are we listening?