Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. ~Jesus (Matt 7:15, NET)
We’ve just completed the traditional Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus known as Christmas. A popular Christmas song that we often hear is, Do You Hear What I Hear? In this song, the pronouncement of the coming birth of the Messiah, Jesus, is relayed to higher upon higher authority. Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus (the highest authority) relayed a message to His disciples (the highest authorities on church doctrine) about His 2nd coming:
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many (Matt 24:1-5, NASB).
Jesus issues this severe warning to his disciples with words that are reminiscent of the familiar Christmas song when He says, “Do you not see all these things?” (vs 2). He then proceeds to give them specific details about what the Church should expect during the time of His coming and the end of the age.
Truth and Consequences
The first warning to His disciples of the problems that will come is of false teachers. During their ministries, one of the primary responsibilities of the Apostles was to correct false teachings (see Acts 15). Many of the epistles of the New Testament were written to combat against ideas that were contrary to the Truth of God. Some of the New Testament writers issue blatant warnings against false teachers and their false messages (2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:14-18; 1 John 2:18-27; 1 John 4:1; Jude 3-19). Paul especially warned against false teachings in his letters and also in his preaching. One of Paul’s earliest warnings against false doctrine can be found in his letter to the Galatians:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:6-12, NASB).
Paul makes it clear to his readers that his authority came directly through Jesus Christ, the same source of the disciples authority. Paul also makes it unmistakable that those who teach a false message are to face a very unpleasant end.
The gospel that Paul is talking about is the message of the first century, Apostolic church. Just as the Bereans in Acts 17 “examined the Scriptures daily” to verify the truthfulness of message they heard, we must line our Christian beliefs up with the teaching of the Word of God. If we fail to do so, there will be very unpleasant consequences.