False Christs, False Prophets, Great Deception
By Ed Hindson
For more than a year, David Koresh had predicted an armed confrontation
with federal agents. He even nicknamed his compound "Ranch Apocalypse."
In a paranoid frenzy, the Branch Davidians had bought or bartered for
$200,000 worth of weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a
grenade launcher. The initial FBI raid had been met with such a flurry of
bullets that federal agents decided to send heavily armed tanks against the
compound to break through the walls and insert massive injections of tear
gas into the buildings starting at 6:04 A.M., April 19, 1993.
The tank incursions were met with volleys of gunfire. Inside the compound,
the Branch Davidians donned gas masks and prepared for an apocalyptic
confrontation with the "enemies of God." FBI spokesman Bob Ricks
explained, "We were hoping by the infusion of gas into that compound that
the women would grab their children
and flee."' Instead, they all "bunkered down," put on gas Masks and tried to
withstand the siege.
The tanks rammed the building five times between 6:04 and noon. At 12:05,
flames erupted from the opposite ends of the compound and were whipped
by 20 to 30 mile-an-hour winds. Within minutes the entire compound was
ablaze. By 12:18, the watchtower collapsed. Shortly thereafter, the
ammunitions room exploded in a ball of fire. And by 12:28, the second floor
was engulfed in flames and the roof collapsed. The blazing flames and dark
smoke billowed across the Texas sky. Only nine of Koresh's followers
managed to escape or survive the fire. Arguments persisted for some time as
to whether the inferno was the result of a mass suicide, an accident or an act
of desperate self-destruction. But the whole terrible mess was the end result
of a false prophet whose deceived followers perished for a lie.
A false prophet is one who contradicts the true message of Christ, as well as
one whose predictions fail to come true. David Koresh was guilty on both
counts. A typically self-deceived extremist cult leader, Koresh perished with
nearly 90 of his followers in the flames of Ranch Apocalypse. And in
Matthew 23:27-33, Jesus Christ warned there is a worse fate for false
prophets: They will not escape the fires of hell!
Jesus spoke often of false prophets and spiritual deception. Ile told His
disciples that spiritual truth could be recognized by its fruits. Then He
added, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of
heaven.... Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy
in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many
miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you
evildoers!"' (Matthew 7:21-23). One might expect false prophets and
extremist cults to arise from non-Christian religions that reject Jesus Christ.
But when false cults arise from within Christianity, it is especially disturbing.
The New Testament, however, is filled with warnings about heretics, false
prophets and false prophecies. Even in apostolic times, the apostle John
wrote, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the
antichrist is coming, even
now many antichrists have come .... They went out from us, but they did not
really belong to us" (1 John 2:18,19).
Masters of Deceit
The Bible describes Satan as the "father of lies" (John 8:44). He is pictured in
Scripture as the ultimate deceiver; his name means "accuser." He is the
accuser of God and His people (Revelation 12: 10). He is opposed to God and
seeks to alienate people from the truth. He misled the fallen angels (Matthew
25:41; Revelation 12:4). He tempts men and women to sin (Genesis 3:1-13; 1
Timothy 6:9). He denies and rejects the truth of God and deceives those who
are perishing without God (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Ultimately, he " inspires"
the false prophets and the very spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:18-23).
The Bible clearly warns us that in the last days people will "abandon the
faith and follow deceiving [seducing (KJV)] spirits and things [doctrines (KJV)]
taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). These false teachings will come through
hypocritical liars whose minds have been captured by Satan's lies. Thus, the
process of spiritual deception is clearly outlined in Scripture:
The term angel (Greek, angelos) means "messenger." God's angels are His
divine messengers (Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 1:1), and His true prophets and
preachers are called the angels of the churches (Revelation 2:1,8,12,18;
3:1,7,14). By contrast, Satan is
pictured as a fallen angel, the leader of other fallen angels and the one who
deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9). He is revealed as the ultimate
power behind the Antichrist and the false prophet, who deceives mankind
with false religion (Revelation 13:14). Thus, the messengers of deceit are
Satan-inspired false prophets and teachers whose messages are the very
spirit of antichrist (1 John 2: 18).
The Process of Deception
The lure of false doctrine is that it presents itself as the truth. It appears as a
corrective measure to established doctrine. It is propagated by those who are
certain they have discovered some new revelation of truth or a better
interpretation of old, established truth. Either way, they are convinced they
are right and everyone else is wrong.
That is Satan's oldest trick. He appeals to our self-conceit and leads us into
self-deceit. When he first approached Eve, Satan questioned the integrity of
God's command and appealed to her selfish desire to be like God. It was that
same desire that had led to his own fall in the first place. And there is
something selfish enough in all of us to want to believe that we can know
what no one else knows. C.S. Lewis said,
What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that
they could "be like gods."... And out of that hopeless attempt has come
nearly all that we can call human history ... the long terrible story of man
trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.'
One does not have to look hard to find expression of self-centeredness in
most cult leaders: Father Divine said he was God. David Koresh claimed to be
Jesus Christ. Sun Myung Moon says he is "Lord of the Universe." Joseph
Smith claimed to receive angelic revelations. Mary Baker Eddy believed her
book, Key to the Scriptures, was inspired of God. Herbert W. Armstrong
claimed his church was the only one on earth proclaiming "the very same
gospel that Jesus taught and proclaimed."
Once the false teacher falls into the illusion that he or she alone is God's
messenger and has a corner on His truth, spiritual deception is inevitable.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, was so convinced she
was right that she said, "Today the healing power of Truth is widely
demonstrated as an imminent, eternal science .... [Its] coming as was
promised by the Master is for its establishment as a permanent dispensation
among men."' She believed that her "discovery" of Christian Science fulfilled
the promise of Jesus' second coming!
In the preface to her Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy said of herself, "Since
the author's discovery of the might of Truth in the treatment of disease as
well as of sin, her system has been fully tested and has not been found
wanting. 114 It is difficult to imagine the sincerity of such self-conceit and
spiritual arrogance. The only logical explanation is that she really thought
she was right.
Once spiritual deception sets in, it leads to spiritual darkness. It is not long
before the deceived cult leader begins to espouse heretical doctrine. Since he
or she acknowledges no one else as God's spokesperson, traditional and
orthodox concepts may be challenged or even disregarded. Pride and
arrogance are the sins that lead a person to become spiritually deceived.
These sins take us to the second stage of spiritual deception. Satan tempts
us with our own self-centeredness and lures us into spiritual darkness with
the bait of our own pride. We really want to believe we are right and
everybody else is wrong. The Bible calls it the "pride of life" (1 John 2:16
Having been hooked by our arrogance, we are reeled in by our ignorance.
Most people who fall into the trap of false doctrine are ignorant of the
implications of their views. Hank Hanegraaff illustrates this in his epic work
Christianity in Crisis.' In exposing serious doctrinal flaws, Hanegraaff states
that many sincere preachers get off the theological track, but don't know
enough theology to realize their error.
The problems arise when false teachers love their erroneous teachings to the
point they will not repent of them even when their error is exposed. This is
what leads to spiritual blindness. The willful rejection of the truth results in
the mind being blinded by Satan. The
Bible says, "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from
the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening
of their hearts" (Ephesians 4:18). Scripture further explains that Satan himself
is the source of spiritual darkness, "The god of this age has blinded the
minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the
glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4). once
theological error falls into "ecclesiastical cement" it is virtually impossible to
eliminate it. When false doctrine is accepted by an organized religious body,
it will be perpetrated by a false defense (apologetic) based upon a false
premise. If I honestly believe my dog is a reincarnation of my Uncle Joe, I
will took for every possible proof of Uncle Joe's personality in my dog's
behavior. When a whole p of followers accept false doctrine as truth , they
group it, categorize it and systematize it. But that doesn't make it true!
The Cultic Paradigm
All cult logic is built on the same faulty premise: "We alone know the truth."
Believing themselves to have discovered truth that is unknown to others,
cultists assume they have a corner on that truth. The cultic paradigm works
We alone know the truth of God, therefore, of God. we alone arethe people
other variations of the cultic paradigm derive from this original premise. For
example-, if we alone know the truth, then all others are in error. if we alone
are the people of God, then all others are heretics. If People reject our
message, they are rejecting God's message. if people persecute us, they are
persecuting the cause of God because our cause is God's cause. Since we
are right, and others are wrong, our church is the only true church.
While schismatic cults exist in every religion from Lubavitcher Jews to
Muslim extremists, they all have certain characteristics in common.
Every religious cult has a sacred book translation, set of writings, key to
interpretation, and perhaps visions, dreams or voices to validate its beliefs.
Muslims believe the Koran is God's final revelation to man through the
Prophet Muhammed. Mormons look at The Book of Mormon as equally
inspired as the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses recognize only their New World
Translation of the Bible. Seventh-day Adventists recognize Ellen G. White
as an inspired prophet of God. Christian Science reveres Mary Baker Eddy's
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as divinely inspired.
While some cultic religions have gone so far as to produce and sanction
their own sacred books, others have not. Instead, they claim allegiance to
the Bible, but insist that their interpretation is the only spiritually valid
understanding of Scripture. The Way International founder Victor Paul
Wierwille claims, "God spoke to me audibly, just like I'm talking to you now.
He said he would teach me the word as it had not been known since the first
century."' By contrast, The Way magazine condemns the so-called Christian
church as being built essentially upon mamnade doctrine and tradition.'
Thus, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart conclude, "The Way International
believes Victor Paul Wierwille has the only true interpretation of the
Scriptures and is the only one who can lead fellow Bible students out of the
confusion in which traditional Christianity has engulfed them."'
The Children of God (COG), also known as the Family of Love, recognize
David Berg as "prophet and King" and his "Mo letters" as
God's truth. Berg himself has said, "My letters mean exactly what they say,
literally, and they don't need explaining away, spiritualizing or reinterpreting
by any one."' One of Berg's early prophecies concerned an impending
earthquake in California in the early seventies that never came to pass, yet
he was revered by COG members as "God's prophet and King." Later
revelations of sexual relations with his own daughters and other cult
members only caused Berg to use his letters to defend his practices."'
The Church of Bible Understanding, originally known as the Forever Family,
is an example of a Bible-based cult. Founded in 1971 in Allentown,
Pennsylvania, and headed by Stewart Traill, this religious group uses
orthodox Christian terminology loaded with very unorthodox meanings. Cult
observers Una McManus and John Cooper state that Traill's
"understanding" of the Bible and its concealed meanings ("figures") are
accepted as authoritative for cult members. They note that the group has
"declared war on the powers of this world, including government, police,
schools, parents, and churches.""
The Church of Armageddon, also known as the Love Family, looks to the
vision of its members, including founder Paul Erdmann (also known as
"Love Israel"), as its divine authority. Members renounce all worldly
traditions of matrimony and are considered to be married to one another."
In each of these examples, the words, visions or writings of a human leader
are made equal to the Bible. In some cases they are looked upon as being of
even greater authority than Scripture itself. Whenever someone claims to
have a new revelation from God, he or she is making the same claim
Muhammad made for the Koran and Joseph Smith made for The Book of
Not every cult leader is dangerous, but every one is presumptuous. Cult
leaders think they alone have God's ultimate message for mankind.
Therefore, in their minds, it becomes an absolute necessity that they deliver
God's message at all costs and eliminate whatever opposition they face in
doing so. Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh's demand that his 58-
minute "message to the world" be aired on radio in Waco, Texas, is typical
of such a mind-set.
Early descriptions of David Koresh's and Jim Jones' backgrounds show
striking similarities: broken homes, parental neglect, desire for power and
control, excessive sexual appetites and the constant demand for loyalty and
allegiance from their followers. Jim Jones and David Koresh may be extreme
examples of dictatorial cult leaders, but they are not that far removed from
the excessive behaviors of Sun Myung Moon, who dictates the marriages
to total strangers of thousands of his followers, or David Berg, who
authorized incest within the Children of God. Like this statement from the
egotistical Reverend Ike, who said, "You can't lose with the stuff I use," the
blasphemous and extravagant claims of deluded cult leaders are incredible.
Here are just a few:
Judge Rutherford (Jehovah's Witnesses): "Jesus Christ has returned to earth A.D.
1914 to establish the Theocratic Millennial Kingdom" (The Kingdom, 1933). The
world is still awaiting this revelation.
Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science): "Death is an illusion" (Science and Health,
584:9). She succumbed to that illusion on December 3,1910.
Father Divine (Peace Mission): "I am God Almighty ... the Holy Spirit
personified ... the Prince of Peace" (New Day, July 16, 1949). "God" (George Baker, alias Father Divine) died in 1965.
Elijah Muhammad (Black Muslims): "Wallace Farad [Muslim version of Father
Divine] is God himself! He is the one we have been looking for the last 2,000 years" (New York Herald Tribune, April 3, 1963). Wallace Farad (alias Allah) disappeared in 1934 and was never seen again.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet (Church Universal and Triumphant): "I am that I am"
(Teachings on the Path of Enlightenment). She claims to be the channel of the "Great White Brotherhood" of "Ascended
Masters." She and her followers are awaiting the end of the world in Montana.
Meher Baba (Sufism Reoriented): "I (Parvardigar). Baba died on January 31, 1969.
am Jesus Christ personified"
Sun Myung Moon (Unification Church): "Jesus Christ will return by being born in
the flesh in Korea as Lord of the Second Advent and True Parent of the world family" (Divine Principle, pp. 501ff.). Moon considers himself to be the Messiah incarnate.
David Berg (Children of God): "Forget not thy King.... Forsake not His ways, for
He hath the key, even the Key of David! Therefore, thou shalt kiss the mouth of
David. For thou art enamored of my words and thou art in love with me, thy Savior! "
(The Kingdom: A Prophecy, August 20, 1971, Lo. No. 94). Berg is revered as King,
Father and David by his followers.
John Robert Stevens (The Walk): "We are going to turn and become the savior of
the Church" (Living Word, July 6, 1975). Steven's followers denounce all churches
but their own as the "harlot of Babylon."
Herbert W. Armstrong (World Wide Church of God): "We grow spiritually more and
more like God, until at the time of the resurrectionwe shall then be born of God-we shall then be God" (The U.S. and British Commonwealth, p. 9).
David Koresh (Branch Davidians): "I am the Lamb of God" (People, March 15,
1993, p. 41). He died April 19, 1993.
This one criteria separates cults from denominations. Various Christian
denominations may differ on their methods of ordination, their mode of
baptism or their form of church government, but they generally don't consign
each other to hell because of those
differences. Cults, on the other hand, are always convinced they are the only
ones going to heaven. All others are lost, damned, heretical or have the mark
of the beast!
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Church Age ended in 1914 with the
return of Christ to earth. Therefore, they do not meet in churches, but in
Kingdom Halls. They say that only Jehovah's faithful witnesses (the 144,000)
know and believe the truth-all others are lost. They clearly teach that only
faithful Jehovah's Witnesses (both the "remnant" and the "other sheep") will
survive the battle of Armageddon and see the salvation of Jehovah."
Mormons believe they alone are the "latter-day saints" of God. Brigham
Young said, "Every spirit that does not confess that God has sent Joseph
Smith, and revealed the everlasting gospel to and through him, is of
antichrist." Speaking of non-Mormon Christian churches, Mormon apostle
Orson Pratt said, "They have nothing to do with Christ, neither has Christ
anything to do with them, only to pour out upon them the plagues.""
Seventh-day Adventists believe that the third angel's message in Revelation
14 requires the observance of Saturday Sabbath-keeping in order to
guarantee eternal life. They allow that some Christians may live and die in
ignorance of the third angels message, and thus be given another chance to
receive it at a special resurrection. But all who refuse will suffer annihilation.
Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy said, "A Christian Scientist
requires my work Science and Health for his textbook ... because it is the
voice of truth to this age ... uncontaminated by human hypotheses."" In the
glossary of Science and Health, the true church is defined as "that
institution which affords proof of the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the
demonstration of divine science."" Since Christian Science views itself as
unerring and divine, it presumes that all other churches are erroneous.
Spiritualism declares it is the "highest message of truth which we have as yet
grown to grasp."" Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, "Spiritualism is the greatest
revelation the world has ever known."" But Spiritualism (or spiritism), with its
emphasis on communicating
with departed spirits, has always opposed every major doctrine of
Christianity (inspiration of the Bible, deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the
atonement, and the resurrection) as anathema. Lord Dowling, a strong
spiritualist advocate, said, "The doctrine of the Trinity seems to have no
adherent in advance circles of the spirit world.""
Swedenborgians believe that Christ returned in the eighteenth century when
their founder received what they claim to be the key to the interpretation of
Scripture. They also believe Christ designated them alone to be the "New Jerusalem. Following the highly speculative
ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg, this small but influential cult claims to be the
church signified by the New Jerusalem of the apocalypse. The rest of
professing Christianity is viewed as "perverted from the truth. 1123
The Worldwide Church of God, under Herbert W. Armstrong and Garner Ted
Armstrong, denounced all trinitarians as false prophets. They denounce all
other churches as preaching a false gospel and a false Christ. They accuse
others of "stupendous errors," "false conceptions," and "spiritual
blindness."" Today, under the leadership of Joseph Tkach, the Worldwide
Church of God has repudiated the Armstrong view.
The Unification Church (Moonies) teaches that Sun Myung Moon is the
second messiah ("Lord of the Second Advent") sent to complete the work of
salvation begun by Jesus Christ. Moon says of himself and his church, "No
heroes in the past, no saints or holy men in the past, like Jesus or Confucius
have excelled US. 1121 Emphasizing his church exclusively, Moon claims, "We
are the only people who truly understand the heart of Jesus, and the hope of
Once the process of spiritual deception reaches the point where the cultists
believe they alone are God's people, then it follows logically that whatever
they believe must be God's truth. By contrast, then, all who disagree with
them are viewed as lost or deceived. Their belief that they have an exclusive
corner on truth leads them to think they also have an exclusive corner on
It was this "we are right; all others are wrong" mentality that enabled the
followers of David Koresh to surrender their wives and daughters to him for
sexual purposes. It also opened the door for them to contradict the clear
teaching of Jesus against self-retaliation and take up arms to kill people in the
name of God. It was this same mentality that provoked Muslim extremists
from the Al-Salam Mosque in Jersey City, New Jersey, to bomb the World
Trade Center in the name of God.
Christian-based cults have often begun as a result of some prophetic date-
setting scheme. In most cases these eschatological prognosticators were
sincere in their belief that Christ would soon return. However, when things
did not work out the way they expected, they soon devised other
explanations for their foiled mistakes.
In 1870, Charles T. Russell became influenced by Adventist teacher Jonas
Wendell in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sparked with a renewed interest in the
second coming of Christ, Russell organized a Bible class, began teaching and
started publishing a magazine called Zion's Watchtower and Herald of Christ's
Presence. By 188 1, Russell incorporated Zion's Watchtower Tract Society.
By 1886, he began publishing a seven-volume series entitled MILLENNIAL
DAWN, later called STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES.
Following the ideas of N.H. Barbour, Russell initially taught that Christ would
return spiritually, not physically, in 1874 and finish the end-time harvest by
1914, the dawn of the millennial age. By correlating historical events with the
length of the corridors in the Great Pyramid of Egypt, Russell confirmed his
1874 date for the beginning of the tribulation. Modern Jehovah's Witnesses
reject Russell's calculation in favor of 1914. Cult expert Ronald Enroth
observes, "To accommodate the change, a new edition of Russell's STUDIES (1923) simply added forty-one inches to the corridor's
length in order to locate the starting point for
the final years of
earth's existence in 1914.
Since there was no visible appearance of Christ in 1914, Jehovah's Witnesses believe He revealed Himself only to His faithful
witnesses (the 144,000). Initially, Jehovah's
Witnesses emphasized that when that number was complete (presumably around 1918), Christ would reveal to the world that He was
already here. Today, they teach that there
are two classes of followers: 1) The "congregation of God," the true church of Jehovah, and 2) the "great crowd" or "other sheep."
The first group is limited to the 144,000 and
will live in heaven, while the latter group is larger and will live
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that they are the 144,000 "associate kings" who will rule with Christ in the millennium. They believe they
are the only ones who know the truth that
Christ returned on October 1, 1914, and ended the Church Age and the rule of nations. Hence, they recognize no church but their own
and will not salute the flag of any nation.
They also believe they alone will survive the battle of Armageddon and enter the millennium as God's true people.
Mormons also believe they hold a special place at the time of
Christ's return. Calling themselves the Latter-day Saints, Mormons believe the time of the end is at hand and will culminate in the
regathering of Israel in Jerusalem, the
regathering of Ephraim (Mormons) at Zion (Independence, Missouri), and the regathering of the ten lost tribes to Zion. Mormons
believe they will build the Temple of God in
North America and recapture Zion from the Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints (who hold title to the temple property in
Independence after a split from the group that
went on to Salt Lake City).
Mormons also believe they will be regathered first since Joseph Smith was a "pure Ephraimite," and the Ephraimites (Mormons) now
hold the priesthood, having received the
"fullness of the everlasting gospel" in these last days. They also believe that only faithful
Mormons will enter the celestial kingdom (God's highest eternal order) and live eternally with their wives and children and continue
to procreate more children in that celestial
state. In other words, Mormons believe they hold center stage in God's eschatological program.
Moonies believe that all humanity will literally be saved by Sun Myung Moon, "Lord of the Second Advent." Even departed Christians
will return to earth and serve the new
messiah in the "True Family" of eternity. "Everybody who ever lived," notes Jack Sparks in The Mind Benders, "good, bad, and
indifferent-will participate in that great unified
family formed around Moon, his wife and his children." Sparks then adds, "What malarkey! This is one of the most amazing schemes a
human being has ever devised to
deceive people and to bring them under oppressive domination.""
Notice again how one lie leads to another: We alone have the truth; we know what is best for you; we alone are the people of God, we
alone will be in heaven. It is this kind of
logic that sets up the ultimate conclusion: All who are against us are against God. Once the cultist is thus deceived, he or she
becomes willing to do almost anything to protect the group from the enemy.
One does not have to look far to find plenty of examples of the cultic-persecution complex. David Koresh carried a Glock 9mm pistol
and kept an arsenal of deadly weapons at
his disposal because he believed the "agents of Satan" were about to attack him and launch the final battle of Armageddon .30
Expecting a soon-to-come apocalypse, Koresh's
Branch Davidians fortified their Mount Carmel complex outside Waco, Texas, to prepare for the end of the world.
Sheik Oman Abdel-Rahman told his Muslim followers to "kill the enemies of God in every spot to rid it of the descendants of apes and
pigs fed at the tables of zionism, communism and imperialism."" Like a true
cult leader, Abdel-Rahman assumes that his enemies are God's enemies as
There is little difference in the attitude of many of the more traditional or
institutionalized cults. Down deep, they know they are different or out of
step with traditional beliefs, so they expect to be rejected. Think of the abuse
and rejection Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses must experience as they
go door to door to peddle their beliefs. "Jesus warned us that we would be
persecuted," they say, almost inviting more persecution.
Institutionalized cults may have been started by fanatics, but as they grew,
their leadership diversified and with time came to develop theological
explanations for why they are persecuted. But in today's extremist cults,
where the leader has a small but radical following, any rejection of the leader
may result in direct hostility.
A nomadic cult founded by Jimmie T. Roberts of Kentucky has no name and
wanders from place to place, often eating out of garbage cans. Nicknamed
"the garbage eaters," they have left in their wake a trail of broken homes,
battered women and abused children." Believing that children are too young
to know God, they assume little ones are "ruled by Satan." This mentality
then assumes that unruly children are agents of the devil and need to have
the devil beaten out of them.
Jim Jones was so paranoid because of his sinful lifestyle and unlawful
activities that he knew intuitively he was in trouble. So he devised a scheme
of moving around the country to avoid police investigators. Finally, when he
wanted to avoid the federal government, he moved his flock to Guyana.
There in the sticky South American jungle, he armed his men with guns,
laced everyone's Kool-Aid with cyanide, and prepared for an inevitable
confrontation with the outside world-a confrontation that cost the lives of
more than 900 people.
Spiritual deception is a gradual, subtle process. Satan, the great deceiver,
convinces the cult leader that he has found the truth no one else has ever
discovered. Armed with this egotistical ammunition, the cultist begins to
weave a web of religious deception. He
first falls victim to it himself, then he convinces others that he is right and
manipulates their resources to further spread his message. In time, this leads
to oppressive organizational controls to ensure this process continues.
God is against false prophets whose spiritual delusion causes them to invent
their own message apart from God's truth. The Bible presents them in seven
1. Self-deceived. Some false teachers may be sincere, but they are still wrong. They
have deceived themselves into believing their messages are true. As Jeremiah points
out, their messages come psychologically from within their own minds and are not
2. Liars. Some false prophets are deliberate liars who have no intention of telling the
truth. The apostle John says, "Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is
the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and the Son" (1 John
3. Heretics. These are people who preach heresy (false doctrine) and divide the
church. Of them John said, "They went out from us, but
they did not really belong to us" (I John 2:19). The apostle Peter said, "There will be
false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce
destructive heresies.... These men blaspheme in matters they do not understand" (2 Peter 2:1,12).
4. Scoffers. There are some who do not necessarily promote false teaching so much
as they outright reject the truth of God. Of them the Bible warns, "In the last days
scoffers will come, scoffing and following
their own evil desires" (2 Peter 3:3). The apostle Paul calls them "lovers of
themselves ... boastful, proud ... conceited" (2 Timothy 3:2,4). Jude calls them
"grumblers and faultfinders" (verse 16).
5. Blasphemers. Those who speak evil of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the people of
God, the kingdom of God, and the attributes of God are
called blasphemers. Jude calls them godless men [who] "speak abusively against
whatever they do not understand .... They are clouds without rain ... trees, without
fruit ... wild waves of the sea ... wandering stars" (Jude 10,12,13). The apostle Paul says that he himself was a
blasphemer before his conversion to Christ (1 Timothy 1:13).
6. Seducers. Jesus warned that some false prophets will appear with miraculous
signs and wonders to seduce or deceive the very elect "if that were possible" (Mark
13:22). Our Lord's implication is that spiritual seduction is a very real threat even to
believers. This would account for the fact that a few genuine, but deceived, believers
may be found among the cults.
7. Reprobates. This term means "disapproved," "depraved," or "rejected." Paul refers
to those who have rejected the truth of God and turned to spiritual darkness.
Consequently, God has given them over to a "reprobate mind" (Romans 1:28 KJV).
They have so deliberately rejected God that they have become "filled with every
kind of wickedness" (verse 29). As a result, they are "God-haters" (verse 30), whose
behavior is "senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (verse 31). These people are so
far gone spiritually that they know it and don't care!
In Jesus' own prophetic message, the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), He
warned, "Watch out that no one deceives you .... Many will turn away from
the faith ... and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people....
False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and
miracles" (Matthew 24:4,10, 11,24). Our Lord warned His disciples-and us-of
the possibility of spiritual seduction by false prophets and teachers,
especially as the end of the age approaches.