- Matthew 7:15-23
- Matthew 24:1-14
My dear friends in Christ,
On one of my mission trips into the outback of New South Wales, a pastor-friend tagged along for the experience. Fortunately, shearing was on, so to a large extent, the shearing quarters were relatively clean and rid of spiders and snakes.
We took a shower, and I heard him say, “Man, o man, o man!” I thought he just appreciated the hot water. “If you should see the electrical connects above my head!”, he exclaimed. “If any inspector saw this, he will close down the whole joint!”
Russel had been a trained and certified electrical engineer before entering the ministry.
Our farmer friend got his electric supply going, but he was oblivious to the danger of his connections. It takes someone with knowledge to see the risks.
Some self-appointed prophets don’t have neither the knowledge nor the insight, to understand the danger of their teachings. Others are plainly and deliberately on a mission to cause destruction, but the gullible Christian is easily trapped by good-sounding words, even sugar-coated Bible verses used to support their teachings. Of course, it makes the job of God-called, approved and appointed ministers very hard. When the gullible Christian defends the position of the unskilled preacher by pointing to the glowing globe of ministry, true ministers of the Word warn against the connections. And he himself then inevitably gets labelled as a false prophet because he stands in the way of those who preach so freely, seemingly with so much success. But be warned, Benny Hinn says, “Anyone who is attacking me is attacking the very presence of God!”
Don’t fall for pragmatism. Don’t be trapped by the argument that “it must be right because it works.” Pragmatism looks at what it visible, often disregarding the truth (like the dangerous electrical connections of our farmer). The fact that some preachers draw large numbers to their services does not necessarily mean it is right. Large numbers in pubs do not make the pub the best place to hang out. Overpopulated hospitals do not make a hospital the place of desire; overcrowded prisons are not a sign that the authorities are doing something right.
My friend, the Word of this morning warn against false prophets. The words of our text come from the mouth of Christ.
“Watch out that no one misleads you. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (Matthew 24:4 11, NKJV)
A turning point
What was the background for these words of our Lord?
All of Matthew 23 was aimed at the false teachings of the Pharisees. Harsh words were in the mouth of Jesus Christ when He addressed them:
Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, (Matthew 23:33–34, NKJV)
The end of chapter 23 ends with these words:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Matthew 23:37–39, NKJV)
Chapter 24 continues with a jaw-dropping act of our Saviour: “Jesus left the temple.” His disciples knew there was more behind Jesus just leaving the temple that day: He would never return. Somewhat embarrassed they then pointed to the beautiful stonework and architecture of the temple. But Jesus answered:
“Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)
What a shocking statement. Did Jesus not once clear the temple out of zeal for the house of God? He did, but He then also said:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)
John clarified this statement after Jesus was raised from the dead: “But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (John 2:21)
Jesus was about to be crucified; He would leave them to proclaim his good news.
The disciples followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives and asked Him in private:
“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NKJV)
They wanted a sign, and Jesus did give them a sign. What was it? Look out for false prophets! The prime concern for the church living up to the end of times should be to watch out for false prophets.
Marks of a false prophet
Let’s just back-track into Matthew 23:34. Our Lord says He sends prophets and wise men and teachers. They are the men who make fools of the diviners and overthrows the learning of the wise, turning it into nonsense. The words of God’s prophets, according to Isaiah 44:25-26, are carried by God, who fulfils the predictions of his messengers. Jeremiah 7:25 states the same principle.
On the other hand, self-appointed, false prophets twist the truth of God’s Word and so deceive God’s people. Jeremiah 8:8 says,
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. (Jeremiah 8:8, ESV)
Of these false prophets God says:
They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect Him to fulfil their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” (Ezekiel 13:6–7)
A false prophet speaks when God does not speak. Of them our God says:
Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:32, ESV)
The Lord told me
How many times have I heard preachers use this phrase, “the Lord told me”; this apparently gives them license to say whatever they like, or to interpret the Word as they see fit. Where does this phrase come from? Can I take you on a bit of a journey?
It originates in the New Thought philosophy, which was inspired by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby in the mid-nineteenth century. He studied mesmerism, which he believed is the power behind mind-over-matter. He believed that to know the truth about life is the remedy for all ills. This is, according to Quimby, the truth Jesus came to declare; and Quimby claimed to practice the same great truth. In 1862, Mary Baker Eddy received treatment from Quimby and was cured quickly. She went on to become the founder of the Christian Science movement.
Another disciple of Quimby was E.W. Kenyon who became the father of “positive confession” theology. He, in turn, influenced the theology of Kennith Hagin, who is considered to be the Father of the Word/Faith Movement. On August 8, 1934, he says he was raised from his deathbed by a revelation of “faith in God’s Word” after reading Mark 11:24. This verse reads, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:23–24, ESV). Hagin, a charismatic Pentecostal preacher, was ordained as a minister of the Assemblies of God. He founded the Rhema Bible Training College (the Rhema FM radio has no direct connection with Kennith Hagin). He once said, “Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say.” Hagin had a problem with the message of the cross, “When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death.”
Hagin later joined his ministry efforts with Oral Roberts, a strong representative of the “seed-faith” idea. This teaches that the things received by faith start with a seed: investment of money in faith will necessarily produce financial gain. Benny Hinn said, “Sow a big seed, when you confess it, you are activating the supernatural forces of God.” Because, “When you don’t give money, it shows that you have the devil’s nature.” The whole idea is probably to support his ministry.
This movement (sometimes referred to as Word of Faith movement) also teaches that Christians can access the power of faith or fear through speech. A “positive confession” (a so-called “prophetic word”) of God’s promise stirs the power of resurrection which raised Christ from the dead and brings that promise to fulfilment. This movement rejects poverty, suffering, and defeat as necessary to a godly life and glorifying Jesus Christ. It teaches that the salvation won by Jesus included health and prosperity for believers. Hagin said, “God is glorified through healing and deliverance, not through sickness and suffering.” Robert Hilton joins in, “Being poor is a sin.” Therefore, “Do not say ‘Lord if it be thy will’”; that is a sign of unbelief. Fred Price affirms by saying, “God has displeasure in poverty.“
Where do you find any of this in the Bible, or is a “revelation knowledge”?
Preachers claim to have “revelation knowledge” (i.e. special revelations from God: “God told me…”) This “revelation knowledge” is often placed alongside, and sometimes above Scripture. Some believe they can use words to manipulate the “faith-force”, and as such, actually create what they believe the Scriptures or the “revelation” promise.
A local minister in Hervey Bay also used this phrase the other day: “We just need to speak into it!” Poor me was in the dark, I must admit.
The Word of Faith movement urges believers to speak what they desire, in agreement with the promises and provisions of the Bible, as an affirmation of God’s plans and purposes. Kenneth Copeland states: “God did not create the world out of nothing, He used the Force of His Faith.” He goes on to say, “Jesus existed only as an image in the heart of God until such time as the prophets of the Old Testament could positively confess Jesus into existence through their constant prophecies.” “All of God’s attributes and abilities were invested in Adam.” Therefore: “God and Adam looked exactly alike.” When Adam fell in sin, “God could not intervene since He had made Adam the god of the earth. God was left on the outside looking in.”
The phrase “God told me” is common amongst Word of Faith preachers. It places members of their congregations in an untenable situation to differ from them. It is tied to the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy described in 1 Corinthians 12 as if they are the same thing, and as if it always means a “positive revelation”. Joyce Meyer once declared:
“Do you know something? A large majority of the church really doesn’t even know. Honestly and truly they really don’t even know. Well you are going to know when this night is over.”
Copeland comes to this conclusion: “When we use the spiritual laws that God has set up, God must obey what we request.” Why? His colleague Paul Crouch answers, “God draws no distinction between Himself and us. God opens up the union of the very godhead (Trinity), and brings us into it.” We are actually little gods. Kenneth Hagin has asserted, “man…was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God’s presence without any consciousness of inferiority…. He [God] made us the same class of being that He is Himself…. He [man] lived on terms equal with God…. The believer is called Christ, that’s who we are; we’re Christ”. Copeland adds, “God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself…He was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even”.
Last week I warned against the teachings of one of the prominent prophets in the Word of Faith Movement. Some of you afterwards asked me to give more clarity.
Mrs Joyce Meyers declared confidently:
“All I was ever taught to say was I a poor miserable sinner. I am not poor, I am not miserable, and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell. That is what I were and if I still was then Jesus died in vain. I am going to tell you something folks I didn’t stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn’t a sinner anymore and the religious world thinks that is heresy and they want to hang you for it. But the Bible says that I am righteous and I can’t be righteous and be a sinner at the same time.”
Although Mrs Meyers holds three doctorate degrees, she somehow missed the instruction of the Bible on not allowing women in the ministry of the Word (1Timothy 2:12-14).
What does Mrs Meyers teach about the atonement of Christ? I quote:
“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really that is why you have got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I am telling you. I have got to just trust God that he is putting it into your spirit like he put it into mine.”
“There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell.”
Here’s her theology of Christ’s atonement:
“During that time he entered hell where you and I deserved to go because of our sin. He paid the price there. No plan was too extreme. Jesus paid on the cross and in hell.”
“Well here comes Jesus into hell. Now I don’t know what hell looks like but God gave me a few ideas. It is hot, fire hot but at the same time it is cold and clammy. That is kind of different isn’t it? Fire hot, but cold and clammy.”
The Devil thought he had it, the devil thought he had won. Oh they were having the biggest party that has ever been had. They had my Jesus on the floor and they were standing on his back jumping up and down laughing and he had become sin. Don’t you think that God was pacing wanting to put a stop to what was going on. All the hosts of hell were up on him, up on him, up on him. The angels are in agony, all the creation is groaning. All the hosts of hell was up on him, up on him, they got on him. They got him down in the floor and got on him and they were laughing and mocking, ‘haha you trusted God and look where you ended up. You thought he would save you and get you off that cross – he didn’t haha.’”
“Sunday morning here comes the sun. Sunday morning God gets himself together. Justice has been met somehow everything has been taken care of and oh God gets his voice together and he hummers up three words and they go roaring through the universe and entering the gates of hell. He said it is enough. It is enough.”
“God rose up from his throne and said to the demon powers tormenting the sinless Son of God let him go. Then the resurrection power of the almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. He was resurrected from the dead the first born again man.”
This is heresy! And yet, people support her ministry. It is projected that her ministry has an income of just under $100,000,000 per annum. Anyone who buys a book or a recording of Joyce Meyers supports her heresy.
Don’t be gullible. Watch out for false prophets.
Sermon preached by Rec D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 31 March 2019