False Christ – How to Identify Him?
Pr. P. T. Thomas
Deception and impersonation are the basics of Satan’s modern operandi, especially in his dealings with mankind. In the age of innocence, he successfully used this weapon to subdue Adam and Eve. Even today he uses it to trap the innocents. While we have to be guileless and innocent as the dove, we should also be wise as the serpent. So we should know how to identify Satan’s deceptive wiles and evil strategies. The Bible is our all-sufficient source of revelation, information and insight in this regard.
Jesus Christ Himself has warned us that many will come claiming that he is the Christ (Matt. 24:5; 23-26). The leaders of many religious cults have claimed the same. Such claims or claimants do not pose any threat to an innocent believer, as it is early to identify their true nature. But those who emerge from our own fold pose a real threat. Apostle John has said that “though they went out from us, they were not of us” (1 John 2:18–19).
Church history shows that the emergence of false Christs is a repeated story. A spiritual leader rises to prominence in a Christian community. His charisma draws a large multitude to him His persuasive eloquence coupled with signs and wonders keep the multitudes enthralled and enchanted. They feel that a halo of divinity surrounds him. Naturally they become submissive and blindly loyal to him. If one fine morning he asserts that he himself is the Christ, no one will question it many such false Christs have deceived thousands of innocents. Fresh memories of such tragedies linger in our minds.
A more subtle deception stealthily ensnares tens of thousands around the world today. The real Jesus Christ of the Bible is pushed into oblivion and another Jesus is being widely preached. Apostle Paul has warned us against this (2 Corinthians 11:2–4). This false Jesus is more appealing to the popular masses. The real Jesus of the Bible is rather an unpopular figure to them. He calls upon His disciples to forsake everything and follow Him (Luke 14:33) On the contrary, the popular Jesus, who dominates our stages, calls everyone to follow him to get anything one desires. Quite naturally he attracts the masses in thousands an enslaving mantle of worldliness is cast over the innocents. This deception is of current concern and must be exposed for the common good and the glory of God.
It is the false prophets of our days who present this false Christ. The presentation may slightly vary from person to person. Nevertheless, they all present false Christs of their own making. The pity is that they twist and distort the holy scriptures to dark up the image of the Christ of their family. All such false Christs share some common features and pursue identical course of action. The Bible gives us clear insights to identify them and escape their snare.
A Christ without the Cross
Christ crucified is the core of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:23) the agony of the cross weighed heavily on the mind of the Lord all through His life (Luke 12:49-50). Suppose, the Lord continued to live and minister all through the past twenty centuries, healing the sick and feeding the hungry, and had not offered Himself as the perfect propitiatory sacrifice on the cross, we would not have been much benefitted by His ministry. The good news to the world is that the sin of mankind is atoned for on the cross at Calvary. Suppose, the whole goodnews of all the innumerable altars, holy places, religious rites, rituals, festivals, virtues, offerings, holy penance and all the religious and spiritual assets of the whole human race is accumulated before the righteous god. Alas, all of it amount to no effect before the heinous sin of mankind. But Christ crucified on the rugged cross out-weighs the horrible weight of the whole accumulated sin of mankind. The inestimable wealth of the world in the Lamp of God nailed on the cross at the center of the earth. He is the greatest gift God has given us. Alas! some are so blinded by the devil that they describe the crucified Christ as the weakness of Christian thought! To the majority of the Christian world the cross is just a talisman powerful enough to chase away even the most horrible devil. But a cross without Christ is ineffective. Similarly, Christ without cross is not the true Christ of the Bible.
Healer or Saviour
Man is so beset with the problems, pains and diseases of the present life that he is hardly concerned about the life hereafter. exploiting this popular attitude, the false prophets dress up their false Christ in the garb of a miracle healer. Of course, Jesus does miracles and heals the sick even today. But He is first and foremost the savior, not the healer. Healing and deliverance from problems are experienced even in other religious places. But forgiveness from sin and eternal salvation is the unique blessing from the true messiah.
In Mark chapter two, we see four men doing an adventurous feat. They split opened the roof of a house wide enough to lower a bed cot with a paralytic lying flat on it. Seeing the faith of the four Jesus said to the paralytic ‘son, your sins are forgiven’ (Mark 2:5). A paralytic lying immobile and helpless needed forgiveness of sin first, healing was secondary. Subsequently, Jesus healed him as a visible proof of the effectiveness of the word He spoke to him (Mark 2:8-12). Even today miracles and signs are wrought in the name of the Lord to confirm the word of salvation (Mark 16:20). So anyone who presents Christ primarily as a healer, and not as the only savior of mankind is presenting false Christ.
A Temporal Messiah/Christ
The reason why Jesus’ contemporaries could not recognize Him was that they expected a temporal Messiah who would defeat the Roman armies and establish the Jewish kingdom. Even today the large majority believe in the Lord to get their material needs satisfied. They cannot accept a Messiah who would not cater to their mundane aspirations. The words ‘blessings’ ‘deliverance’ etc. are commonly understood in the material sense. There are many who mock at messages on eternal life, heavenly blessings and spiritual renewing. So the popular Messiah is the one who prospers their business, gives hundred-fold increase in all material enterprises, prospers their posterity–the one who ‘makes you the head and not the tail’?
But what does the Bible say about the true Messiah? Listen to what Jesus Himself says: “You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world, I am not of this world” (John 8:23). Again in His high priestly prayer Jesus said: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16) Exhorting the church of God, Paul has said: “If you are risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth (Colo. 3:1-2). God cares for all His creations. Then how much more is His care on us? (Roman 8:32). None of our genuine needs and godly desires shall go unmet by the Lord. But we should not take godliness as a means to material gain (1 Tim. 6:5). Covetousness is repeatedly described in the scriptures as idolatry (Eph. 5:5; Colo. 3:5). “Love of money is the root cause of all evil”, (1 Tim. 6:10). The Christ who offers to give more material prosperity in the world is one far different from the Christ of the Bible. He who takes the sense of greed is no true messiah.
There are some well-meaning people who present Jesus as one with political aspirations. They speak about whole nations becoming Christian and parliaments being filled with believers. That temporal messiah is not the Lord of the Bible. In Egypt Moses was destined to be the next pharaoh. Once he was on the throne, just a royal order could make all the Israelites free citizens of the nation. They could take over Egypt in no time. But that was not the plan of God. They had a promised land across the shores. Similarly, this tottering earth devastated by sin and curse is not our eternal home. We press on for our promised land on the other shores. The New Jerusalem, New Heaven and the New Earth is to be our eternal inheritance. We are aliens and sojourners here.
Christ, who is not the Promised Messiah
Jesus Christ of the Bible is the Messiah promised even from the Garden of Eden. The promise given to Adam and Eve was repeated to saints like Abraham and Moses. The promise was repeatedly reminded through the prophets. The people of Israel kept up that hope all through the centuries. At the fullness of time the promised messiah came. This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is described as promised afore by the prophets in the holy scriptures’ (Rom. 1:1-2). Again at the close of the epistle, Paul describes the gospel as ‘the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now made manifest by the scriptures of the prophets’ (Rom. 16:25–26). The apostles and the early evangelists reasoned from the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah (Acts 18:4, 28; 28:23). The scriptures testify that the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law of God to the point.
But now some deny the inspiration of the Old Testament. They say that the Old Testament should not be read any longer. Then who is the Christ they preach? Without the Old Testament how do we understand the identity of Jesus Christ? Then how do we realize the divine authority of the word of the cross? No wonder, such people go on saying that Jesus is different from Christ. The Christ they preach is not the true Christ of the Bible. When confronted they try to make out that the revelation about Christ is a deeper revelation than the one about Jesus. To a true believer Jesus of Nazareth is the messiah promised in the Old Testament scriptures. Any deviation from this brings in a different Christ. Beware of such detractors!
A Christ who Reconciles with the World, not with God
The cross of Jesus Christ reconciles the sinful man with the holy God. Even today this ministry of reconciliation continues. The reconciliation is effected not by ignoring the law of God but by fulfilling it. Before God, a sinner is like one standing on a death row. When he accepts Jesus’ death as his own death, the demand of the divine law gets fulfilled in him. The believer counts himself dead to the old sinful self and becomes a new creation in Christ henceforth he knows no one after the flesh (2 Cor. 5:14–21). In Galatians Paul puts the same idea in other words: “… Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I into the world” (6:14). The believer is dead to the way of the world. John Bunyan’s Christian in ‘Vanity Fair’ is a typical image of a true believer in the world. Apostle John exhorts us ‘not to love the world and the things of the world’ (1 John 2:15). Apostle James states that “Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). The true Christ of the Bible reconciles us to God which in turn antagonizes the world.
On the other hand, the so-called Christ presented by the popular preachers of the day seeks to build a bridge between the church and the world. They twist the scriptures and evolve another gospel whereby they try to convince the hearers that they can please God and at the same time please the world too. The whole world remains under the evil one (1 John 5:19). So, anyone who tries to befriend a believer with the world deceives him into Satan’s shackles. Anyone who seeks to reconcile a believer with the world is the false Christ.
Today all the world over, another gospel is gaining popularity under the influence of another spirit and a different Christ is being preached. Consequently, the church is slowly drifting away from her single hearted devotion to the Lord (2 Cor. 11:2–4). We should realize this subtle deception of the old deceiver and protect the church of God from getting defiled with the world. May the good God open the eyes of our understanding to examine ourselves so that we may not be judged with the world.