I’m going to be a millionaire! All I have to do is send my bank account information and social security number to a prince in Nigeria, and he is going to send me 5 million bucks. Or not…
Don’t believe every email you get; there are bad guys out there who are trying to deceive you. Don’t believe every preacher you hear, either, for the same reason. Lots of preachers – even famous preachers with huge followings – are bad guys, trying to deceive you. If this surprises you, it should not. We were told to expect it:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18 )
The “last hour,” as John uses the term, is the time between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming. No one knows how many years will be included in the “last hour” but we have been told several things to expect during that time. One of them is false preachers, who seem to be following Jesus, who claim to be following Him, but who are in fact working against Him. John calls these guys “antichrists,” whose work opposes Jesus. They follow the same spirit and same purpose as the antichrist, who will come one day. There were many antichrists in John’s day and there are many antichrists today.
How can you spot a fake preacher? Just as with email scams, there are telltale signs to watch for. The first thing John mentions is that a fake preacher, one who is working against Jesus, won’t be one of us. He will separate himself from the rest of us.
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained (made their home) with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)
If you see a preacher who is larger than life, who holds himself aloof from the rest of the people, who struts about on the stage as though people should worship him, who adopts an opulent lifestyle that few in his congregation could match – watch out. He a fake. He is an antichrist. Here is what Jesus said about these guys:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15-16a)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in 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)
It’s no proof of authenticity for a preacher to seem to pull off miracles or to boldly prophesy. A real preacher will make his home (remain, abide) with us who follow the One who was humble, was gentle, who had no place to lay His head. A real preacher will be filled with humility because he is overwhelmed by Jesus.
But let’s face it: some of these guys seem really persuasive. That is true. But there is another way to discern who is real and who is antichrist. Stay tuned.