Don't be deceived - beware of false unity and false doctrine, especially on prophecy

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (Matthew 24:4 KJV) I’ve made a bold claim in the subtitle of this text, that non-Futurist views pave the way to false teaching. I will make a bolder one: that adherents to non-Futurist interpretations of Bible prophecy are more likely to be false teachers, false prophets, and will likely be caught up in the ecumenical snare.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not claiming that those who have differing eschatology1 are unsaved, or necessarily false; my claim is that non-Futurist views of Bible prophecy will proceed false teaching and prophecy. I could put this another way: most false teachers are non-Futurist, but most non-Futurists are not necessarily false teachers. What are Futurists? They are people who believe that many, if not most, prophecies given in the Old and New Testaments have a literal fulfillment in future history. Futurists believe in a literal, second coming of Jesus Christ that follows the Great Tribulation outlined in Matthew chapter 24 and Revelation chapters 6-19, as well as many of the Old Testament prophets.

What is ecumenism? There are two definitions useful for this discussion: 1) the goal of unity between varying religions; 2) the goal of unity between varying Christian denominations. To most unbelievers, definition number 1 is attractive; to many believers, definition number 2 is desired. Truth be told, they are both dangerous. That is not to say that Christian unity is unimportant.

As believers, we should all agree on the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should all agree on the authority and infallibility of God’s word, the Bible. We should all agree that Jesus Christ the Son of God died on the cross, not for His own sins (He was sinless), but for the sins of the whole world. We should believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 3 days later, and that salvation is by grace through faith, and not of works. Paul sums up the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (1 Corinthians 15:1-5 KJV)

So we know what it takes to be saved (this is a simple but accurate account: John 8:24 gives an arguably additional parameter). On this we should all agree. What about the other stuff? What about all of the Biblical prophecy about which everyone seems to disagree? Let's take a quick detour and look at Paul’s view on Christian unity, again in 1 Corinthians: Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 KJV) Awesome. We should all be of one mind and one judgment.

This is the perfect will of God for us in Jesus Christ. How does God manifest His perfect will in light of our free will? Let’s look again at Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians: For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. (1 Corinthians 11:18-19 KJV) Paul notes that divisions have formed in the body based on heresies, that is, false teachings and practices. Without that sort of division, it would be impossible for anyone to discern the truth from the falsehoods.

If unity was placed above sound doctrine, the false teachings and practices would appear approved by God. Instead, the divisions had to form to demonstrate among the body that there was right and wrong in the doctrine and practice of the Christian faith. This wasn’t a division of saved verses unsaved. This was a division of correct verses incorrect. THE REFORMATION So now we have a clue as to what might be one of the factors behind divisions in the Protestant churches: doctrine. It was this very same issue that forced the Protestant movement out of the Catholic church during the Reformation of the 15th and 16th centuries. It was doctrine.

For a millennium prior, a lack of serious division in the Catholic church lead to theology so depraved that true believers were burned alive for reading the Bible; and people accused of heresy were tortured beyond imagining in an “effort” to save their souls. That is not to say there weren’t any divisions at all: just small, very persecuted ones. However the protestant division brought new light to a dark world, where people were allowed and encouraged to read scripture, and came to believe in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, instead of “salvation by Catholic church membership and doctrinal adherence.” This was an important division that brought “salvation by grace through faith” into the mainstream. The reason for many theological divisions is to allow for the survival, or the popularization, of the correct doctrinal position.

THE SACRIFICE OF TRUTH IN FAVOR OF UNITY IS THE NUMBER ONE KILLER OF SOUND DOCTRINE; and thus the best friend of deception. That’s the danger of ecumenism, in all its forms. DIFFERING VIEWS Let me get to the point about prophecy. The Futurist point of view takes literally the end-time prophecies. I consider myself a Futurist. We believe that the book of Revelation, as well as a great number of Old Testament prophecies (including the book of Daniel) have a future point of fulfillment. We believe that the 1000 year reign of Christ on the earth, known as the Millennium (Revelation 20), is really going to happen.

Other views of prophecy, such as Preterism, are Amillennial: they don’t believe that there is much of the Bible unfulfilled. Amillennialists are those who don’t believe in a literal reign of Jesus Christ on the earth, as outlined in the Old Testament, and in Revelation chapters 20-22. Preterists see the book of Revelation as a book of history (fulfilled by around 70 AD, when the Temple was destroyed by Titus of Rome) giving it no relevance in the life of today's believer. However the book itself seems to predict its own neglect, when John tells us in Revelation 1: Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. (Revelation 1:3 KJV)

There is no other book of the Bible that imparts a special blessing onto the reader. Not to mention, in verse 1 we’re told that God gave Jesus this revelation FOR US to show us what is to take place: The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (Revelation 1:1 KJV) And in verse 2 John tells us that what he records is “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. (Revelation 1:2 KJV)

These scriptures essentially have the effect of elevating the importance of this book to that of any other book of the Bible. Why is it really that important? All non-futurist views of Revelation deemphasize its importance to the walk of today’s believer. OUR ANCHOR TO REALITY Without end-times prophecy, as believers we would have no anchor into the history of God’s plan as revealed through the Bible. Think about that for a minute. If the prophecies and promises of scripture were all fulfilled in the past, or were not to be fulfilled literally at all, those alive today would be separated from the timeline of scripture by 2,000 years. We would be floating out in a sea of events about which God had said nothing. What would the implications be? False teachers and false prophets would be free to rewrite future history and make it say anything.

There would be no inspired word to give us understanding as to what was coming upon the earth; and our ability to be obedient to Matthew 24:4 would be sorely lacking. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. (Matthew 24:4 KJV) The way that we remain obedient to this scripture is by knowing and understanding the end-time prophecies of the bible as being literal, unfulfilled events. If we know what’s coming, we won’t be victims of false teachers. If we know future history in advance, that is, unfulfilled prophecy, we can be obedient to Matthew 24:4.

The Apostle Paul paid tribute to Matthew 24:4 in his second letter to the Thessalonians: Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3 KJV) This was in response to a false teaching that had come through a letter, saying that the day of the Lord had already come. This was deception in its highest form: an attempt to reshape the destiny of the Church by redefining God’s revealed plan for the future: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 KJV) Paul knew that the way to correct the effect of false teaching was to impart truth about how prophecy would be fulfilled in the yet-unrealized future. This would give the Thessalonians a firm anchor in reality and immunize against false teaching. The same is true with us. As it turns out, the above revelation to the Thessalonians ties directly with Matthew 24:15, in which Jesus refers back to Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 9 verses 24-27, the key to understanding God’s plan for the end times.

 In this prophecy, the angel Gabriel tells Daniel, “know and understand this.” So in three verses that directly relate to each other, Daniel 9:25, Matthew 24:15, and 2 Thessalonians 2:3, that is, the Old Testament prophets, the gospel, and the epistles, we are basically told the same thing: “Know and understand…do not be deceived.” Are we to think that we don’t have the same protection as the Thessalonians? Are we to think that we are at the mercy of false teachers, because there is no revelation of God that is yet future to our time, by which we can test teachers and prophets? For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 KJV)

FALSE TEACHERS AND FALSE PROPHETS Leaving believers with no anchor in the Biblical timeline is a pretext, consciously or unconsciously, to false teaching and false prophecy. The lack of a prophetic context for today’s believer urges the invention of one. The false teachers are free to define God’s plan in any fashion once futurist prophecy is done away with, and false prophets are free to claim a special revelation from God to define a new prophetic future. If prophecy remains, it puts severe limits on deception. When it is taken away and made insignificant, the door is open for prophetic fiction to be contrived in the place of a Divine Revelation: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)

The wisdom of Proverbs gives us guidance. The Hebrew word for “vision” is “chazon,” or khaw-zone. Strong’s dictionary defines this word as “a sight (mentally), that is, a dream, revelation, or oracle.” So we require “revelation, vision, an oracle,” and such we have been given in the Old Testament prophets, Moses, the gospels, the epistles, and the book of Revelation. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter (Revelation 1:19 KJV) The “things which shall be hereafter” are the things that have not happened yet. When John was given the Revelation to record in around 95 AD, a majority of that revelation was yet unfulfilled prophecy which has yet to be realized, even today. This should bring comfort to the believer in Christ.

Not only does Futurism put us WITHIN the context of Biblical revelation, it gives us assurance of the outcome: the total victory of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His kingdom upon the face of the whole earth, to be ruled from His throne in Jerusalem. the snare of ecumenism Is it the job of the church to set up God’s kingdom upon the earth? According to prophecy, the answer is a resounding NO. The Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation make it clear how events unfold, how “those who dwell upon the earth” rebel against God and war against His people, Israel; until He comes in glory to rescue His people and set up His righteous kingdom: Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.

"For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:1-4 KJV) And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war…And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS…And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.

"And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth… (Revelation 19:11-21 abridged, KJV) However, left in the prophetic vacuum that results from a non-Futurist eschatology, believers have none of the assurances-of-outcome that benefited the Thessalonians, as discussed earlier. This creates a dark, unplanned future in God’s kingdom which is begging to be rewritten according to man’s will. Man’s will for the church tends toward ecumenical unity, when God’s will as revealed through the inspired prophetic writings is absent. Ecumenism must deprecate biblical doctrine in order to build bridges first between denominations, and then between the world’s religions.

Paul Crouch, founder of TBN, is quoted as saying: “I’m eradicating the word Protestant even out of my vocabulary…I[‘m] not protesting anything…[it’s] time for Catholics and non-Catholics to come together as one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.”2 Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, is quoted: “It’s time for Protestants to go the the shepherd [the pope] and say, ‘what do we have to do to come home?’”2 Thus the doctrines of Protestant churches, as they differ from the Catholic church, are ultimately deemed unimportant. Statements like those above have the effect of rendering the Reformation pointless. This is a demonstration of modern ecumenism that ultimately must deny “salvation by grace through faith.” You might be left with the question, “hasn’t the Catholic church changed?”

 Unfortunately, while Catholicism has seemingly become more tolerant of Protestant theology, their attitude toward salvation has essentially stayed the same. Vatican II states: “This Sacred Council accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who having died are still being purified; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea,(20*) the Council of Florence (21*) and the Council of Trent.(22*)”3 What does the Council of Trent say? CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.4 The above canon proclaims anathema7 on those who disagree with the statement, as do all the canons in the Council of Trent.

The next one clarifies the meaning of the previous: CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.5 According to canon 30, if anyone says that justification through grace blots out any remaining debt, either eternal or temporal, they likewise are anathema.

In addition, anathema is pronounced on those denying the doctrine of purgatory. CANON XXXIII.-If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema. 5 Canon 33 anathematizes anyone who even states that the Catholic teaching of justification is not correct, and who denies that this teaching “render[s] more illustrious the glory…of God and of Jesus Christ.” CANON VI.--If any one denieth, either that sacramental confession was instituted, or is necessary to salvation, of divine right; or saith, that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Church hath ever observed from the beginning, and doth observe, is alien from the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention; let him be anathema.6 The above canon anathematizes those who promote that the Catholic teaching of confession is “alien from the institution and command of Christ.” What is anathema? It is an ecclesiastical curse that excommunicates and condemns.7

This is just the beginning of the problems with the Council of Trent. Not only is it a bizarre statement of faith, but pronounces (in the neighborhood of) 150 anathemas on those who disagree with even one point. This is hardly proper; nor should anyone be encouraged to accept or overlook such teachings to achieve any form of unity with those doctrines or those who teach them. When the above is realized for what it is, it becomes increasingly important to point out the differences between condemning a teaching or religious system, and condemning those ensnared by it. Rather we should hate the error, and love the adherent. Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, regarding the Catholic church and its dogmas: “It wounds Christ, robs Christ of His glory, puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement, and lifts a piece of bread in the place of the Saviour…If we pray against it, because it is against Him, we shall love the persons though we hate their errors; we shall love their souls though we loathe and detest their dogmas…”1

Thus, in Spurgeon’s words we can realize the attitude we should have toward those who subscribe to various false teachings. In addition, we can observe the goal that ecumenism purports to promote; more difficult to discern is the truth which it denies. Bible students committed to Futurism are more likely to see the hazards of ecumenical tendencies because they take seriously the future, written by God through prophetic history. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

"And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. (Revelation 17:3-6 KJV) With no doctrine governing the revelation of events to come, we tend to impose a notion of God’s will on the church and on the World. Many assume that since God naturally wants to save everyone, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. If God wants to save everyone, he must want us to help.

How can we help? The conclusion has become that we should remove the obstacles to Christian unity, in order to make the church “stronger and more effective,” and then remove the things that make the church unattractive to unbelievers. The main obstacle to Christian unity is doctrine, and the main obstacle to attracting unbelievers is the preaching of the gospel and teaching the full truth of Scripture. Accepting division without promoting it So we can, through the lens of scripture and through the lens of history, resolve the apparent conflict among Paul’s comments regarding division. We can accept divisions that avoid heresies or incorrect doctrines without desiring them. We can hope and pray for perfect unity in truth, all while seeing the grace allowed by Jesus Christ in allowing doctrinal divisions.

We can test the truth of denominational teachings against the word of God, and avoid being lost in a sea of half-truths and watered down doctrines. Most importantly, we can avoid being deceived by accepting God’s word as His revelation to mankind, which gives us a solid grasp on history past and history future, and places us dead-center in His glorious plan for the redemption of the human race; but don’t take my word for it: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21 KJV) [The Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11 KJV) In other words, test everything, and hold fast to that which has stood up to the test of scripture. Awaiting His return, James Abney james.abney[at] Definitions and references [1] es·cha·tol·o·gy n. (American Heritage Dictionary) 1.

The branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind. 2. A belief or a doctrine concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming, or the Last Judgment. [2] A Woman Rides The Beast, by Dave Hunt, Harvest House, ISBN 1-56507-199-9) [3] Vatican II Council: LUMEN GENTIUM, Chapter VII, [4] Council of Trent, On Justification, Page 46, [5] Council of Trent, On Justification, Page 48, [6] Council of Trent, On the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, Page 108, [7] a·nath·e·ma n. (American Heritage Dictionary) 1. A formal ecclesiastical ban, curse, or excommunication. 2. A vehement denunciation; a curse 3. One that is cursed or damned. 4. One that is greatly reviled, loathed, or shunned


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But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. (Paul’s comment in his letter to the Galatians shows that Peter was not the ‘first pope’ – nor was anyone else.)
Galatians 2:11

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