Deception and Division
Deception from outside our heavenly Father's family comes in many forms and from many sources, such as false prophets, false ministers, Bible scholars within counterfeit Christianity, and the influence of evil spirits. All of these have some biblical truth, but blend it with error which leads away from righteousness and to the second death from which there is no return.
Within the New Testament, there are many warnings to the elect to be alert to the dangers to our salvation from interacting with unconverted individuals who go about promoting unrighteous precepts, principles, and concepts which are opposed to the truth set forth in the biblical record. Additionally, the elect are cautioned to be aware that divisions and deceptions will come from both converted and unconverted individuals within their congregations.
Because the Father's earthly family is a self-governing, self-monitoring, and self-disciplined entity with an educational process which is to be self-perpetuating, all of its members must actively participate in this process. Otherwise, there will be doctrinal chaos, a lack of unity, a nebulous concept of what the Father expects from each individual, and a general lack of spirit-power, which is exactly the condition that exists among many congregations during this age.
In this chapter, you will find examples of individuals among the elect who were causing problems within the congregations of the early church by promoting attitudes, behaviors, and false doctrines which were inconsistent with our heavenly Father's truth as set forth in the biblical record. Additionally, you will find examples that reveal the spiritual condition of some individuals who are the cause of deception, division, and trouble within a congregation and how to correctly deal with these individuals.
Deception by the Unconverted
As the early church fulfilled its responsibility to proclaim the Father's message of salvation, many individuals who fellowshipped within congregations of the elect remained unconverted, after which some ceased to associate with the elect and began to teach their own version of the truth in opposition to what Christ and the apostles taught.
Perhaps, the apostle John wrote the following to explain to those who could not understand why someone whom they believed to be of the elect would break fellowship and begin to promote things inconsistent with righteousness:
"Little children, it is the final hour: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the final hour" (1.Jn.2:18 KJV Para.).
The English word antichrist in verse 18 is translated from the Greek word antichristos, which means anyone opposed to Christ.
In John's first and second letter, he sometimes describers all individuals opposed to Christ with the word antichristos. However, in the context of verses 18 and 19 he uses antichristos to describe individuals who formerly fellowshipped with the elect:
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1.Jn.2:19 KJV).
John clearly states that the behavior of these individuals is proof they were never converted.
"But you have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth" (1.Jn. 2:20-21 KJV).
The English word unction in verse 20 is translated from the Greek word chrisma, which means an unguent or smearing, i.e., (figuratively) a special endowment given through the Father's holy spirit.
The elect to whom John writes were anointed with the indwelling of the holy spirit; therefore, they knew and understood the truth about godly attitudes and behaviors. Moreover, they should have been able to recognize those who opposed Christ.
Many reject Christ and the message he taught, but for the most part these individuals are the unconverted:
Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son. Whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father: (but) he that acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father" (1.Jn.2:22-24 KJV).
In verse 23, John refers to a heretical teaching being taught at that time and still being taught today. This teaching denied that the Father and Christ are separate individuals in the God Family.
"And this is the promise that he has promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written to you concerning them that seduce [i.e., deceive] you" (1.Jn.2:25-26 KJV).
From what John writes in verse 26, it seems that these unconverted individuals he speaks of in verses 18,19, 22 and 23 are attempting to deceive the elect into accepting false teachings.
"But the endowment which you have received of him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you: but as the same endowment teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him" (1.Jn.2:27 KJV Para.).
Each of the elect has the indwelling of the holy spirit and each has the inherent ability to recognize the difference between spiritual truth and spiritual error, if they diligently pay attention to their calling and educate themselves in the Father's truth through prayerful study and meditation in the biblical record. See Jn.16:13.
During the existence of the early church, there were many individuals claiming to be prophets, some of whom were among the elect (2.Pet.2:1). Some were truly inspired by God and some were not. Those who were not taught things which were half-truth or completely false. These teachings caused those who were not familiar with and skilled in the Father's foundational laws, precepts, and principles to stray from the truth. Therefore, John's instruction to evaluate what is being said to determine if it is true or not:
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1.Jn.4:1 KJV).
Here, the English word spirit is translated from the Greek word pneuma, which means a breeze or breath. Because pneuma has many meanings, what is being described by this word must be understood in the context in which it is used. The spirits to which John refers can be spirit-beings or people. Therefore, it is our responsibility to determine whether or not what they say is the truth.
The English words false prophets are translated from the Greek word pseudoprophetes, which basically means a person who pretends to be a prophet or a religious impostor.
In order to avoid being deceived by spirit-beings or individuals professing to be sent from God the Father or Christ, what they say must be carefully compared against the biblical record.
"By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is of God" (1.Jn.4:2 KJV Para.).
Various translators of the Bible have added many words to verse 3, which cloud its meaning. The following is a more accurate rendering:
"And every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is of God is not of God, and the same is of antichrist, of which you have heard that it should come; and is already in the world" (1.Jn.4:3 Para.).
To acknowledge Christ is much more than acknowledging he existed. Truly acknowledging Christ includes believing and practicing what he taught.
In order to keep from being deceived by people or evil spirits, you must have a good understanding of foundational biblical laws, concepts, precepts, and principles, as well as the gospel message which leads to salvation.
Wolves Among the Flock
Paul warned the elders at Ephesus to beware of elders who come from other areas to participate in their ministry with the purpose of destroying the elect:
"And from Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. . .Pay attention to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the holy spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. I know this, that after I depart grievous wolves shall enter in among you [the eldership], not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:17, 28-29 KJV Para.).
In verse 30, Paul warns that some of the Ephesian ministry will also be the cause of deception, division, and trouble.
"Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:30-31KJV Para.).
Paul's prophetic warning to the elders at Ephesus came true. This happened in the past and continues to happen in this age of the church as some elders relocate from one congregation to another seeking an opportunity to promote their own agenda, which often results in some of the elect being led astray.
The Latter Days
The apostle Paul warned the evangelist Timothy to beware of those who would depart from the faith and begin speaking and teaching many things which are not true:
"Now the spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times saying that some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; telling hypocritical lies; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1.Tim.4:1-2 Para.). See also Jude verses 1-19.
Not every person who forsakes the faith leaves a congregation. Some continue their association and either openly or secretly attempt to influence others to also forsake the faith. Herein is a great danger to the elect who are new in the faith, weak in the faith, or easily influenced.
History shows that the failure of the Father's earthly children to take the apostle's warnings seriously eventually led to the demise and disappearance of the early church after the death of the apostle John.
A Warning From Peter
Peter warned that there will be false prophets and individuals who will surreptitiously introduce heretical teachings which deny the validity of Christ and his sacrifice:
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2.Pet.2:1 KJV).
There have been and will continue to be false prophets among the elect. In this age, there are false prophets in the form of false Elijahs, counterfeits of the prophetic Two Witnesses, each with his or her own personal agenda.
There are also individuals who believe and teach that it is necessary to sacrifice a lamb on the Passover. Some teach obedience to the law as a means of justification, and others teach that the correct pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (God's name in the Hebrew text) or an original form of the name of Christ is necessary to claim salvation.
Just as Peter predicted, many individuals have come among the elect and the ministry teaching destructive concepts, principles, and practices, many of which are confusing and contradictory. These individuals and their heretical beliefs and teachings are evidence that many who teach among the elect are unconverted or sent by evil spirits to destroy the naive and gullible.
"And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of" (2.Pet.2:2 KJV).
Because these perversions of the truth become believed, taught, and practiced by some of the elect, the Father's truth is ridiculed by the unconverted.
"And through covetousness [i.e., fraud or extortion] shall they with feigned [i.e., fictitious] words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not" (2.Pet.2:3 KJV).
These individuals cleverly devise false teachings, which deceive many of the elect and lead them away from the path which leads to salvation. The question is why would an individual with the indwelling of the holy spirit follow these deceptive individuals?
The answer is that many of the elect are vulnerable to being deceived, because they have not built a strong foundation in godly concepts, precepts, and principles or do not have a desire to put forth the time and effort to challenge heretical teaching through their own study and research into the biblical record.
Heretics will continue to be within the congregations of the elect until Christ returns, which is why the following instruction by Paul concerning how to deal with heretics is so important:
"A person who is a heretic after the first and second admonition avoid; Knowing that truly this one is subverted, and sins, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10-11Para.).
The problem in complying with Paul's instruction to Titus concerning heretics within a congregation is that a heretical teaching must first be recognized in order to challenge the individual teaching it.
Those Who Cause Divisions
Although a heretic is only one type of an individual who is the cause of division and divisiveness among the elect, what Paul wrote to the elect at Rome about how to treat those who cause division should also be applied to heretics:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark [i.e., be aware of] them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom.16:17-18 KJV).
Here are individuals who say and do things which seem to be in harmony with truth, but in reality what they teach is designed to deceive and destroy.
We who are many centuries removed from the teachings of Christ and the apostles should be extremely careful and pragmatic when considering whom to trust in spiritual matters so that we are not led astray by false prophets, ministers, teachers, or others within or outside of the church.
ESTABLISHING THE FATHER'S TEACHINGS
The apostles of the early church had the difficult task of firmly establishing the Father's laws, percepts, and principles as taught by Christ. They did this in order to guide the Father's earthly children in a harmonious relationship with him, Christ, and each other as each individual works out their salvation and performed the responsibilities and functions for which they were called.
A major problem the apostles encountered while establishing doctrines of the early church was the removal of false and irrelevant beliefs, teachings, traditions, and concepts carried over from Judaism and other religions from which many of the elect were called to salvation.
Many of the apostles' letters contained their attempt to counter beliefs, teachings, and practices which were in opposition to the Father's truth and were being taught by individuals within the various congregations under their care. If this was a major problem then, it most certainly is a major problem in this age.
Justification Through the Law
One of the heresies believed and taught by some individuals within congregations of the early church was that justification came through obedience to the law which was originally given to national Israel. In order to counter this false belief among the elect at Galatia, Paul opens his letter to them by introducing the topic of a false gospel:
"I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal.1:6-7 KJV).
Paul defined the problem he was about to deal with as a false or "perverted" gospel, which some individuals in the Galatian congregation were promoting; they were causing trouble by corrupting God the Father's good news message.
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let them be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any preach any other gospel to you than that you have received, let them be accursed" (Gal.1:8-9 KJV Para.).
Throughout the rest of his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains what this false gospel is by showing the difference between being justified (i.e., found innocent) under the agreement the Creator God made with national Israel and the agreement God the Father makes with those he calls to salvation.
Paul's explanation to the Galatians about justification is focused on male circumcision, which he mentions fourteen times in the context of God's law, justification, and salvation. This seems to indicate that the teaching of mandatory male circumcision in order to be justified was one of the false beliefs and teachings which needed to be dealt with among the Galatians.
The false concept of mandatory male circumcision in order for a male to obtain salvation was so prevalent among various congregations of the early church that it finally had to be resolved in a formal council of elders at Jerusalem. See Acts chapter 15.
Mandatory male circumcision was only one of the many erroneous beliefs and teaching prevalent within various congregations of the early church which caused much deception, division, and trouble.
The following are several extremely important things to note from Paul's letter to the Galatians:
- Heretical beliefs and teachings within a congregation cause some individuals to lose their salvation.
- If allowed to continue unchallenged, heretical beliefs, teachings, and practices will eventually result in the entire congregation being corrupted.
- A person with the indwelling of the holy spirit who promotes heresy and is unrepentant will be punished with the second death in the lake of fire.
Obedience To The Law
Although it is absolutely true that obedience to certain laws given to ancient Israel are applicable to the Father's elect, there are some laws which do not apply during the gospel age of salvation. The following are several guidelines for determining whether or not a particular law must be practiced:
- Has the law been canceled or suspended by a direct "thus says the Lord," an act of God, or circumstances beyond our control?
- Has there been a change in the law or the method of its observance? A good example of this is the Passover and the observance of the annual festivals.
- Has the need for the particular law been eliminated? For example, the need for an animal sacrifice on the Passover has been eliminated, because the sacrifice of Christ now forgives sin and takes away its penalty.
- Has the law been changed so that the physical act or symbolism is no longer required? For example, wearing tassels is no longer required as a reminder of the commandments, because they are written in our hearts and we have the indwelling of the holy spirit to remind and teach us.
- Is the law made invalid by the new agreement? For example, animal sacrifice can no longer atone for spiritual sin or be used for becoming justified to God.
- Is it impossible to perform an act or law under present conditions? For example, the temple worship system cannot be performed, because a temple and its priesthood no longer exist.
The wonderful benefit revealed through the gospel message is that the Father's forgiveness of sin, justification (i.e., being found innocent of violations of God's law) and salvation come through Christ's sacrificial blood—not through a strict obedience to the law.
Deceivers Within The Church
In a letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul encourages him to continue performing his ministry and to continue in faith which some had forsaken:
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1.Tim.1:17-20 KJV).
This scripture shows two individuals, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who once believed the message of salvation, were baptized, received the indwelling of the holy spirit, and were members of a congregation. According to Paul, these two began to spread blasphemy, which was causing trouble among the elect; otherwise, Paul would not have put them in Satan's hands.
In another letter to Timothy, Paul again refers to individuals making trouble within a congregation which caused others to fail in their calling:
"Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers" (2.Tim.2:14 KJV).
Arguing about various doctrines is a major cause of instability within a congregation. To avoid arguments, it is important to carefully study the biblical record and ask the Father for knowledge, understanding, and guidance into his truth:
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their word will eat as does an ulcer: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (2.Tim.2:15-18 NKJV Para.).
Hymenaeus is mentioned again with another individual. These two were attempting to convince others among the elect that the resurrection was past, which is inconsistent with the teaching of Christ, the apostles, and the prophetic record concerning the promise of life everlasting for the righteous.
This heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus was extremely deceptive and dangerous, because the opportunity for salvation would be gone if the resurrection were already past. If that were true, why would anyone bother living a righteous life?
When any biblical teaching is clearly understood and proven beyond doubt, such as the promise of everlasting life as a reward for the righteous, all arguments to the contrary must be dealt with using the logic contained in the biblical record as proof of the correct understanding.
It is obvious from what Paul writes to Timothy about the heresy being promoted by Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus that the elect who were being affected by their heresy were not sufficiently familiar with and skilled in the Father's foundational laws, precepts, and principles to be able to counter these false beliefs. The lack of a strong biblical foundation continues to plague the elect in this age and is the cause of many problems among them.
The Elect At Corinth
Among the many divisive issues which were causing problems for the elect at Corinth was improper behavior during the Passover ceremony by some of them.
This seemed only to be a problem within the congregation at Corinth. But, for it to be a problem, someone had to be promoting this behavior. Again, we see God's truth being perverted by individuals within a congregation.
"Now in this that I declare to you I praise you not, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you" (1.Cor.11:17-19 KJV).
Those who challenge heretical teachings within a congregation and show them to be false will be recognized as being a guardian and defender of God's truth.
"When you come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one eats their own supper ahead of the others: and one is hungry, and another is drunk" (1.Cor.11: 20-21 KJV Para.).
This problem was due to some within the congregation deciding that they could observe the Passover in whatever manner they wanted, rather than in the way the apostle Paul taught.
In a second letter to the elect at Corinth, Paul reminds them of his authority as an apostle and lists some of the things he has suffered and some of the problems he had to contend with as he carried out his ministry. One of these problems was dealing with the dangers posed to him by counterfeit Christians within various congregations of the elect:
"In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren . . ." (2.Cor.11:26 KJV).
Are false brethren a problem for true ministers of Christ today? Absolutely! Not only are they a danger to a true minister of Christ, but also to all the elect within a congregation.
Warning to the Church of Thyatira
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God, who has his eyes like to a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know your works, and charity, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols" (Rev.2:18-20 KJV).
Here, the English word fornication is translated from the Greek word porneuo, which means (in fact) to indulge unlawful lust (of either sex) or (figuratively) the practice of idolatry:
This woman claimed to be a prophetess, who the eldership allowed to influence some of the congregation to violate God's law. Her negative influence shows a tremendous lack of leadership by Thyatira's elders and their lack of knowledge and understanding about how to live a righteous life.
"And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she did not repent. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searches the reins and hearts: and I will give to every one of you according to your works" (Rev.2:21-23 KJV Para.).
Verses 21-23 contain a serious warning to challenge teachings within a congregation which are not in harmony with truth and to not blindly follow a person who seems to speak with authority.
A Form of Godliness
What the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about the behavior of people who will live during the few years before Christ returns was not only prophetic for the end of the age of human rule. It was also a warning for the elect of his time and the elect who will live until Christ returns.
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men [i.e., people] shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despising those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (2.Tim.3:1-5 KJV).
A casual reading of Paul's warning to Timothy seems to indicate that he is writing about unconverted individuals; however, when we read verse 6, it is clear Paul is warning about both converted and unconverted individuals within congregations:
"For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2.Tim.3:6-7 KJV).
These individuals have biblical knowledge, but do not understand the physical and spiritual concepts and principles being taught through the biblical record; therefore, they are either unconverted, full of intellectual vanity, or self-deceived.
"Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men [i.e., people] of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith" (2.Tim.3:8 KJV).
The English word reprobate in verse 18 is translated from the Greek word adokimos, which means rejected; by implication, worthless.
Here again is a warning to be aware that not everyone who claims to follow Christ is one of the elect and that the elect must pay attention to what other individuals within a congregation say and do in order to determine whether or not their true character and intent is righteous.
The Unconverted Creep In
Jude warns the church about heretics within the congregations:
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write to you of the common salvation, it was necessary for me to write to you, and exhort you to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. For there are some people crept in without you being aware, who were previously ordained to this condemnation, wicked, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 3-4 KJV Para.).
At the time Jude wrote this letter, the church was under intense attack by individuals who were attempting to take advantage of the elect and by individuals and evil spirits who intended to destroy as many of the elect as possible. These constant attacks eventually resulted in the demise of the early church as a dynamic and spiritually powerful entity.
The Fifth Column
A very effective tactic used by individuals and evil spirits to destroy the elect is what is commonly called, in military terms, a fifth column, which is comprised of people who secretively undermine a larger group from within. This fifth column sometimes uses sympathizers called dupes who are deceived into thinking they are accomplishing something for the greater good.
One of the objectives of the members of a fifth column is to infiltrate the membership of a congregation and its leadership. Once entrenched in the fabric of a congregation, they go about causing division and chaos while seeking to destroy as many of the elect as possible.
Have individuals intent on destroying the elect infiltrated some congregations of the elect today? Are there individuals influenced by evil spirits within some congregations of the elect today? Absolutely there are. These individuals pose a great danger to the elect, because they are rarely recognized for who and what they are. But why are these individuals rarely recognized?
This situation exists because many of the elect are extremely gullible and naive when it comes to trust relationships within a congregation. Most believe that, because a person associates with them and claims to be a follower of Christ, they are. However, this may not be true for many reasons.
Jude reminds the elect that they knew about what happened to those who rebelled against God after being rescued from Egypt and what is going to happen to some of the heavenly host who rebelled:
"I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that did not believe. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 5-7 KJV Para.).
In verses 8 through 10, Jude refers to individuals among the elect who have the same attitude as the rebellious angels:
"Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, despise rulers, and speak evil of good. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a railing accusation against him, but said, The Lord rebuke you' (Jude 8-9 KJV Para.).
"But these speak evil of those things which they do not know: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core" (Jude 10-11KJV Para.).
In verses 12-13, Jude seems to be referring to the punishment of evil spirits who are influencing or possessing individuals within the church in order to frustrate the work of the church and destroy the elect.
In verses 16-18, Jude again speaks of individuals within congregations who are there to destroy the elect:
"These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaks great swelling words of adoration for the sake of their own benefit" (Jude 16 KJV Para.).
"But, beloved, you remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there will be those who are contemptuous in the last time, who walk after their own ungodly lusts. These are they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit" (Jude 17-19 KJV Para.).
Verse 18 shows that there are individuals within the congregations who are not converted and are there to take advantage of the elect. And in verse 22, Jude refers to unconverted individuals within the congregation who need to be shown compassion:
"And to some be compassionate and withdraw from them" (Jude 22 Para.).
The reason to show compassion to these unconverted individuals is that they have been deceived into working against the elect.
"And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (Jude 23 KJV Para.).
But those who have been deceived into causing trouble and are converted must be advised that what they have been doing is wrong and that, if they do not stop this behavior and repent, they will die the second death from which there is no return.
To The Ephesians
In Paul's letter to the elect at Ephesus, he explains the reasons for certain responsibilities and functions within the church:
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph.4:11-12 KJV).
An important function and responsibility of the ministry and others who lend support to them through their individual gifts of the spirit is to help their brothers and sisters in the Father's family to mature spiritually. However, in order for this to be accomplished, the elect whom these individuals serve through their functions and responsibilities must be attentive and receptive to the help which is offered.
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men [i.e., people], and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph.4:13-15 KJV).
If there is to be spiritual growth and unity within a congregation and its converted membership, each converted member must constantly guard against individuals who are attempting to promote deceptive teachings and lifestyles contrary to what is acceptable to our heavenly Father and Christ our elder brother.
Many of the elect in this age have not been taught to pay attention to the extremely serious warnings to be alert for individuals who are overtly or secretly promoting unrighteous attitudes, behaviors, and heretical teachings. Because of this lack of awareness, the elect continue to suffer the effects of deception and division promoted by individuals and evil spirits who seek to destroy them from within congregations.
As Jesus was preparing his disciples for their conversion and their responsibility as spiritual leaders after his death and resurrection, he warned them through the parable of the wheat and the tares of an extreme danger which would always be present within the congregations of God:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds [tares] among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds [tares] come from? An enemy did this, he replied. The servants asked him, Do you want us to go and pull them up? No, he answered, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn" (Matt. 13:24-30 NIV).
Verses 24-30 tells us there are two different types of grain planted in the field—good grain and bad grain. The beneficial grain was planted by the owner of the field and the harmful grain was planted by the owner's enemy, but both the good and bad grain must be left to mature together until the harvest.
"His disciples came to him and said, Explain to us the parable of the weeds [tares] in the field. He answered, The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man [Jesus Christ]. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom [the elect]. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. . ." (Matt.13:36-39 NIV).
The wheat is symbolic of the Father's earthly children and the tares are symbolic of the children and servants of an evil spirit-being.
Within many congregations of the elect, there are both spiritual wheat and tares. The tares (i.e., counterfeit Christians) are extremely dangerous to one's salvation, because they outwardly appear to be the elect, but are spiritual poison to the elect. Their only mission is to subvert and destroy those the Father has called to salvation.
"The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear" (Matt.13:39-43 NIV).
This parable tells God the Father's earthly children the following things about professing Christianity as a world religion and certain individuals who fellowship with his children in their assemblies:
- Not everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ is a child of God.
- Christ allows false Christians to exist within the congregations of his heavenly Father's elect.
- Spiritual tares are not to be removed when they are recognized, because their removal might uproot some of the spiritually immature elect.
Although the spiritual tares can be identified, many of the elect cannot tell the difference between a true follower of Christ and a false one, simply because they have not put forth enough effort to truly know and understand the difference between good and evil on both a physical and spiritual level.
Although the removal of the tares from among the Father's children is the responsibility of Jesus Christ, the parable of the wheat and tares is a clear warning to those who are serious about their salvation that they need to develop a keen sense of spiritual hearing and eyesight in order to keep from being deceived and led astray by counterfeit Christians.
Deception And Divisiveness
Much of the deception and divisiveness which troubles some congregations of the elect is caused by false prophets and unconverted ministers or leaders within the congregations. Additionally, there may also be individuals within a congregation who are highly influenced or possessed by evil spirits. Moreover, there are both converted and unconverted individuals within congregations who are busy-bodies, troublemakers, and vain, ego-driven intellectuals who seduce and deceive some of the elect into following attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs which are not godly.
It is evident from the many different beliefs and opinions on important biblical issues dealing with the path to salvation that there are many deceptive doctrines being taught within various congregations of the elect throughout the world.
Some of this deception and divisiveness is being taught and promoted by well-meaning brothers and sisters in the faith who are themselves deceived, as well as by unconverted individuals, counterfeit Christians, and individuals who are influenced or possessed by evil spirits.
Throughout the centuries, evil men and women have risen within the Body of Christ and abused and manipulated its members in order to fulfill their own sinful lusts and desires. As we approach Christ's return, there are those within the congregations who perpetuate this same evil upon the Father's earthly children.
Seducing spirits and evil men and women within and outside of congregations of the elect will continue their efforts to deceive and divide the ministry and the membership through heretical teachings.
The apostle Paul gave the following advice to the elect at Rome about how to deal with those who cause deception, division, and trouble for the Father's earthly children:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom.16:17-18 KJV).
Today, as it was with the early church, many will not heed sound doctrine because of personal beliefs which are in opposition to truth. For various reasons which are inconsistent with God's truth, many would rather follow other people and seducing spirits than truth.
Because this is the day of salvation for those whom the Father has called to be among his firstborn, we should be very careful what we come to believe and who we trust in spiritual matters. It is a good practice to only trust those who have proven through the test of time that they are trustworthy and not place our total trust in anyone other than our heavenly Father and our Savior. Trust should always be verified by comparing a person's attitude, behavior, and performance with the standards set forth in the biblical record.
There are many other warnings to watch out for individuals who are attempting to promote deception and division among the elect which could be reviewed, but the accounts which have already been discussed show the danger to the elect which will always be present before Christ returns.
In the final analysis, the accountability for disunity, disharmony, and doctrinal perversion within a congregation belongs to each and every member. Additionally, it is the responsibility of each member to become intimately familiar with and skilled in the Father's foundational laws, precepts, and principles in order to fulfill their function and responsibility within a congregation.
By B. L. Cocherell b8w2