But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (NKJV)
When did false teaches and prophets start leading God’s people astray? They have always been with us. Their leader and instructor is Satan himself. Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (NIV) The basis for all false teaching is that it questions the Word of God and in doing so questions God’s character. The ultimate goal of a false teacher is to discredit God. Many are not aware of this, because they don’t realize they are following Satan’s lead.
An example of this is demonstrated in the wealth and prosperity teaching. The leaders proclaim that God want you to be healthy and wealthy. If you are not, then there is something wrong with your faith. However we have Peter’s clear teaching in 1 Peter 1:6-7 that tells us that we will face trials in our lives to strengthen our faith. These trails are light and momentary because they only occur in this life. They are not eternal as Paul says in 2 Cor 4:16-18. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV) Jesus says in Matt 6:19-21 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (RSV) Who is right? Peter, Paul and Jesus or those that say we should all be rich and prosperous? If the false teachers are right then the words of Jesus are doubtful as well as Peter and Paul’s. We have affirmed that scripture is from God and therefore God must be wrong if the false teachers are right. The false teachers won’t say it clearly but by their teaching they are declaring God evil whenever bad things happen to people who have faith. Of course, they won’t say that so instead they blame the person’s faith. The faith of many people has been destroyed because they have been taught incorrectly.
What is so destructive about this or any other heresy? It does several things. For those who are Christians, it leads them down the wrong path so that their lives are consumed not with glorifying God, but their own desires or their faith is destroyed as mentioned above. Satan loves this because they are so busy going the wrong direction that they don’t lead others to Jesus. If their faith is destroyed then unbelievers can point to them as examples of those who now deny God. Peter says that because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
Just take a look at some of the stuff that TV evangelist are saying and doing and you will see why non-Christians are bad-mouthing Christianity. It is evident that many are only out to make money and not tell the truth about man’s sinfulness and the need for Jesus. Yes, sometimes they work that in, but many are blatantly out to make money from their “gospel.” A good example is those who will send you a prayer cloth for a donation. The prayer cloth is supposed to have the same ability to heal people and answer their prayers as was found in Acts 19:11-12 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (NIV) There is nothing in the Bible that says a cloth that a TV preacher has touched will bring about a miracle by God in the same way.
In fact, these people should read what God’s attitude is toward them. Acts 8:18-21 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. (NIV) I think it is clear that when false teachers are motivated by money, God is not pleased and they have no part in His ministry.
There is another interesting thing about false prophets. God does use them, but not in the way they think and seldom do we consider this. Deut 13:1-3 "If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (RSV) I have to admit that many of the false teachers on TV and other places perform miracles. The most common is that people are healed. But look carefully at these verses. God warned the Israelites that these false teachers would give signs and wonders but that their teaching was wrong. If a preacher tells us to go after other gods, wealth, power, or anything else, then we should not listen no matter how many miracles they do. God is testing us with these false teacher to see if we will read His Word and find out from Him what He wants us to do and how to act. When we listen to those false teachers and put things other than God first, we will reap the consequences of our actions – ruined lives and lose of rewards in heaven. See 1 Cor 3 10-15.
If we follow false teachers and lose our rewards, what will happen to the false teachers? I guess it depends on whether or not they really know Jesus or not. If they do, then they too will lose their rewards. If we are His children then this verse may apply to those who lead us astray. Matt 18:6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (NIV) That sounds quite severe to me. Peter also confirms that they will not go without punishment. As a teacher, I don’t ever want to lead anyone astray.