1 John 4:1-3 (KJV) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Bible is filled with teachings and warnings against false prophets and false prophecies. Many within our contemporary society have overlooked or scorned these warnings because they lack understanding regarding the relevancy of these teachings and how they correspond to the context of today’s world as well. However, when we look at how the “church” has evolved throughout history to this current era, we can see the Bible is still speaking to the true Believers of Christ and the world today. We only need to give more attention to the details instead of skimming through the portions that make us feel uncomfortable (1 Tim. 4:1).
As true disciples of Christ, we have a responsibility to call out false prophets in the spirit of the Word that God has given us. We also have a responsibility to warn the Body of Christ when a false prophet has arisen within the midst of the assembly of Believers. The Lord Jesus has given us leaders to assist us in this area. According to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians:
Ephesians 4:11-16 (KJV) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth are no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
The key verses to focus on here are verses 13-15. In these verses, Paul describes some of the functions of the spiritual leadership within the Body of Christ. Among those functions, they are to instruct us in the Word of God until we become mature enough within our relationship with the Lord to be able to identify and withstand erroneous doctrine whenever it surfaces (v.14). If we are unable to identify false teachings, then we face the grave danger of becoming subject to falling into error ourselves. As a result, we could potentially lead others into error as well.
Although the Lord Jesus has deputized certain members and has endowed them with certain gifting to lead the Body of Christ in this undertaking, the Holy Spirit provides us with the spirit of discernment to be able to distinguish between true teachers of the Gospel and false prophets correctly (1 Kgs. 3:9). Also, He provides us with the wisdom to be able to apply the true teachings of the Word in our efforts to combat erroneous teachings (Jam. 1:5). The overall hope is that we may perhaps be able to sow a seed of righteousness that will take root within the individual and uproot the erroneous spirit through which the person is operating. Although the person is teaching false doctrine, the Great Commission should still be at the forefront of whatever we do because he or she still has a soul about which God is very much concerned (2 Pet. 3:9).
In consideration of current events, one of the main obstructions to the propagation of the Gospel today is the desire to know who the Antichrist will be. Both Paul and John speak to this in their teachings. Paul tells us,
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (KJV) Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 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. 3 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; 4 Who opposeth and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let until he is taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Paul tells us that, at an appointed time, the Antichrist will rise to the forefront of the global scene and will captivate the hearts of many within humanity. He will empowered by Satan to continue his assault against God and anything that bears the image of God. Many will be deceived because of his exploits against God. During this time, God continues to extend grace until He says, “Enough!” and the Lord Jesus destroys him “with the spirit of His mouth” (2 Thess. 2:8). The imagery of the “spirit of His mouth” used here is descriptive of Jesus’ overcoming the Antichrist by merely speaking. This is also described in other portions of Scripture as:
- “the breath of His lips” (Isa. 11:4)
- “the words of My mouth” (Hos. 6:5)
- “the sword of My mouth” (Rev. 2:16)
- “out of His mouth goes a sharp sword” (Rev. 19:15)
- “which sword proceeded out of His mouth” (Rev. 19:21), and
- “the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12)
One may question, “What is He speaking?”, to which we must answer that He will be speaking the truth because it is Who He is: the personification of truth (Jn. 14:6).
John, on the other hand, tells us:
1 John 4:3 (KJV) And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
What John is speaking of here is referring to the spirit in which the Antichrist will operate. He teaches us that this spirit is already prevalent within the world currently. We are getting a preview of what is to come. We can observe this through the current events taking place within the global society. The disintegration of the effectiveness of the Body of Christ in the world today is the result of the spiritual battle that is taking place as we go through our daily lives and interactions with one another. As some say within the modern vernacular, “The struggle is real.” But why is the struggle real? We must, as an elder mother once told me, “Consider the source.” In other words, consider the source behind the evil and its increase within the world.
We can determine the source by referring to Paul once again in Ephesians:
Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
This is the source of the spirit through which the false prophets are operating. How can we combat this spirit through which the false prophets are operating? Paul, again, provides a solution:
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (KJV) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
To what weapons is Paul referring?
Ephesians 6:10-20 (KJV) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Once we have identified the source of the false teaching and the spirit through which the false prophets are operating, we have been given the authority to speak the truth of God’s Word to expose and overcome the spirit of error in Jesus’ name. John says to “try the spirit whether they are of God” (v. 1). In other words, submit the teachings to the test of Scripture. If what is being taught aligns with what the Scriptures say, then we know it is from a reputable source. If in any way, the teaching deviates from the Scriptures, it has betrayed the one who is speaking (Deut. 18:20-22).
Now is the time wherein the Body of Christ must take heed to Peter’s warning:
1 Peter 5:8 (KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.
In so doing, we can continue to advance God’s Kingdom and reach as many souls as possible before the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.