Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and T.A.,
I’m troubled about the verses I read about deception in the church - in particular, how are we to understand Matthew:24:24: ‘For there shall arise Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders insomuch that if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.’”
Tom: Dave, you know, many people set up categories here. If they find somebody that is off in one area, all of a sudden they either say, “Well, that person can’t be a believer because they’ve been deceived,” or they say that it’s just one particular area that they’re deceived in and we shouldn’t come to a conclusion about it. First of all, does this verse apply to believers today?
Dave: You mean, could a believer be a false prophet? A false Christ? No, I don’t think so. I think…
Tom: Or could they be deceived by false prophets?
Dave: Oh! I think a true believer could be deceived. But what I think it means is, and as this writer indicates, not permanently. In other words, you might deceive a person for a moment, but I believe that if they stick with the Word and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, they are not going to be deceived for long. It says, “So much that if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived.” Therefore, I don’t think it is possible ultimately to deceive the elect.
Tom: Dave, we’ve been talking about the deception and delusion for months now just going through your book Beyond Seduction, and there’s so much more that’s happened since then that seems to indicate that people have been drawn off to these false teachings and false ideas. Maybe not false Christs, per se, but certainly anti-biblical - or issues that are contrary to the Word of God.
Dave: Well, Jesus makes it very serious here. And, as you know, He mentions this three times. And this is in response to the question from the disciples: “What will be the sign of your coming and of these things?” You know, the destruction of the temple and the end of the world. I think He’s talking about the nearness of His return, and the very first thing - it has a list of a number of things: wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilence, famine, and so forth, ethnic group rising against ethnic group, which certainly is true today - but they come later. The very first thing He says is, “Beware - or take heed that no one deceive you.” And then, three times He repeats it about false Christs and false prophets, warning that this is going to happen. And I think we live in that day. No doubt about it. And He warns in Matthew 7 - well, He says, “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? In your name we cast out devils. In your name we did miracles.’”
He says, “I will say, ‘I never knew you.’” So they were never Christians. And yet apparently they passed for Christian leaders who were seemingly doing signs and wonders. And you know that’s the big emphasis today - signs and wonders.
And then Paul uses the same language in 2 Timothy:3:8. He says, “As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” So he is warning us again, and in fact he begins that chapter - chapter 3, “In the last days, dangerous times shall come.” And it talks about loving ourselves, and so forth.
So I think this is a very serious warning from the Lord. We have to heed it. And are there false prophets out there? Definitely there are. And I think in relation to this, Acts 20, where Paul tells the elders at Ephesus, “You remember that during the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one of you night and day with tears.”
So Paul took this so seriously that he’s warning them; he is weeping. I often say to people - not often, but when I’m on the subject, I say, “Look, some people accuse me of being a fanatic, just pounding away on error, warning about error, warning about apostasy. I haven’t even begun to be concerned compared with Paul. He wept and warned day and night for three solid years.”
Tom: Dave, there was no Christian television, no Christian radio, no Christian media, and the reason I’m bringing that up is because we’re inundated by all these false ideas through these different media. Yet Paul, you know, he wasn’t dealing with any of those.
Dave: But he was very serious and very concerned, and perhaps then my level of concern ought to rise. The level of concern of people out there ought to rise. He writes to the Corinthians, you know, that he’s concerned, lest, as Satan deceived Eve, they should be led astray and embrace another Jesus instead of the real Jesus.
Tom, it’s happening in the church, and I think we should be concerned. We need to pray about it, and we need to stand against the error and stand for truth and rescue as many as we can.