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 NASB).

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 will organize 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 like this:

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.

Basic Traits

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 Mormon.

Presumptuous Leadership: 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 Jesus.""

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 salvation.

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 well.

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 categories:

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 from God.

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 2:22).

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.