Why does God allow false teachers to prosper and exist? Why do they appear to succeed? Why are they so popular and how are they capable of attracting so many members and followers even though they teach false doctrines?
In Matthew 24:11, Jesus warned that in the last days “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”
Therefore Jesus is saying that in the last days, many false prophets will exist and they will become very popular among people. In addition, they will deceive many people because of their popularity.
So the keyword in this particular scripture is the word “many”. Therefore Christ is highlighting the magnitude of the false teacher problem. Many wolves in sheep’s clothing will arise and they will deceive and mislead multitudes of people because they will command a cult following and even a celebrity status due to the lure of their false teachings and their charismatic personality.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 says: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Some few examples of some popular but false teachings which are propagated by many false teachers are the following: the prosperity gospel, seed-faith teachings, hyper-grace / antinomianism, spiritual covering doctrines and word of faith theology.
Through scripture twisting, combined with the wisdom and deceptive articulation of men, these and other false teachings have become so popular within many religious groups to the extent that people “will not endure sound teaching” from the Bible.
Some of the above false doctrines such as the “prosperity gospel” and “seed-faith teachings” have been the reason for the material wealth of many false teachers around the world.
Therefore according to 2 Timothy 4:3-4, there will exist multitudes of people who will volitionally desire to follow false teachers because such false teachers will preach to them exactly what they want to hear. The false teachers will elevate and encourage the carnal desires of their followers.
However, why doesn’t God stop false teachers? Why does God allow them to rise in numbers and why does He allow them to deceive so many people throughout the world? Why does God allow false teachers to become popular and rich, and to seemingly or outwardly appear to “prosper”, whilst the truth of His word and His true gospel appears to become less and less popular?
If God allows false teachers in the world it’s because of 3 major reasons:
1. FALSE TEACHERS ARE AN EXPRESSION OF THE CARNALITY OF PEOPLE’S HEARTS AND THEY REFLECT HOW SPIRITUALLY DECEIVED THE WORLD HAS BECOME.
2 Timothy 3:1-9 talks about the state of the condition of man in the last days. For example, man will be arrogant, abusive, unholy, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God and they will have “the appearance of godliness but denying it’s power”.
Therefore when people have itching ears according to 2 Timothy 4:3-4, they will look for teachers who are willing to tickle their ears all for personal gain.
When people are amazed by signs and wonders, they will look for false teachers who are willing to razzle and dazzle them with false miracles all for personal gain. Matthew 24:24 says: For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
When people are motivated by the love of money and not the love of God, they will follow the charlatan or prosperity teachers who will promise them health and wealth for the price of a “seed” or money.
Therefore as people’s hearts become more carnal, it gives room for false teachers to grow and give the mirage of being capable of meeting the spiritual needs of their followers through the implementation of their false doctrines.
Therefore false teachers exist because they meet the carnal desires of carnal people. At the same time, the false teacher has his own carnal needs met through his deceived followers in the form of money, power, recognition and adoration from men.
2. FALSE TEACHERS ARE A TEST FROM GOD TO SEE WHETHER WE REALLY LOVE HIM AND IF WE ARE SPIRITUALLY MATURE.
In Deuteronomy 13:1-3 God reveals that He allows false prophets to exist because God is testing us to see if we love Him with all our heart and with all our soul.
Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says: “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that 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 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.”
According to Deuteronomy 13:1-3, not everything that comes out of the mouth of a false teacher / prophet is 100% false. There might be many things spoken or preached by false teachers which might actually be true. However, spiritual deception always consists of a mixture of both truth and lies. Therefore deception is never obvious unless it is seen through the lenses of God’s word and through a relationship with the one and only true God.
Deuteronomy 13:1-3 reveals that a false prophet may dream or even speak things that may actually come to pass. However the motive of this false prophet is not that you may follow the true God, but the deception of many false teachers is to lead you into following false gods.
In Acts 16:16-18 there was a slave girl who had a spirit of divination who followed Paul and Silas and she cried out that “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”
However, whilst this slave girl had divined the truth about Paul and Silas, it was the source of this slave girl’s message that bothered Paul. The slave girl’s message was not sourced from God but the message was coming through a demon or spirit of divination and so Paul cast out the demon of divination that was in her.
The people who followed and listened to this slave girl were not listening to a prophet of God but they were receiving counsel from a demon or false god.
This spirit of divination also brought money or material wealth to the owners of this slave girl. This is why Paul and Silas were then arrested after the owners realized that they could no longer make money from the slave girl since the spirit of divination was cast out.
Therefore we are also commanded to test the spirits because of the existence of false prophets (1 John 4:1).
It’s important to understand that the purpose of every human being is to follow and obey God. We are to follow God and not man. We are to follow God and not false gods. When we love God with our heart and soul, it will be very difficult for any false teacher / prophet to mislead us.
Many people around the world have the appearance of godliness but yet they love and follow man and false gods rather than the one true God.
3. FALSE TEACHERS ARE GOD’S JUDGMENT ON A WORLD THAT HAS REJECTED THE TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD AS WELL AS REJECTING A GENUINE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
In 2 Timothy 3:7-8 Paul speaks of those who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.”
In 1 Timothy 6:20-21 Paul urges Timothy to “avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”, for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.”
The unfortunate thing is that we currently live in a world where the truth is no longer relevant to many people. For many people, the truth no longer matters. To many, the truth is no longer absolute. Instead the truth has become subjective or relative according to many who have been deceived.
Some people would rather trade the truth for knowledge. However, knowledge is simply information that can be either true or false. In other words, not all knowledge is correct. Not all knowledge is truth. Not all knowledge should be obeyed.
False teachers give knowledge but they do not give truth. False teachers excite their followers with their deceptive and well-packaged version of knowledge but that knowledge does not bring the followers closer to a genuine relationship with Christ and nor does it make the followers more like Christ.
Therefore it’s necessary that people seek the truth because the truth will set us free. Such truth is found in Jesus Christ by seeking a genuine relationship with God and through the authentic studying and interpretation of God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).
2 Corinthians 11:4 says: For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
Therefore we must be committed to seeking the true Christ, the true Gospel and to receiving the true Spirit of God in order to avoid being deceived.
Ultimately false teachers are part of God’s method of warning us about the spiritual state of humanity. False teachers are God’s judgment on a people who choose to follow the doctrines of men and of false gods rather than the one and only true God. Therefore the more false prophets there are, the more it reflects the carnality of mankind even in relation to spiritual issues.
False teachers and prophets exist and in many cases appear to prosper or succeed because of followers who are willing to listen and obey their demonic teachings.
HOW WILL GOD JUDGE FALSE TEACHERS?
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 says the following about the demise of false teachers: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
In Matthew 23:15, Jesus said the following to the Pharisees: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Jude 11-13 says the following about the future of the false teacher: Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
It is absolute evil when a person claims to be a “man of God” but deliberately and intentionally uses the Bible in order to deceive and mislead people for his own personal gain.
It is an expression of lawlessness, rebellion and enmity against God when false teachers lead people astray by intentionally twisting the scriptures and denying the deity of Jesus Christ through their teachings and in their actions.
The Christian faith is not a game. The Christian faith is not a business. The Christian faith is not a means to control and manipulate others. Christianity is a lifestyle and a relationship with God through Christ Jesus. The death of Christ on the cross for the sins of the world is not something to take lightly.
False teachers however do not view Christianity as a relationship with God. They think very little about the finished work of Christ on the cross. They view Christianity as a means of their personal gain such as making money, manipulating people as well as receiving recognition, power and adoration of men.
If false teachers were truly Christians, then they would be filled with a reverential fear of God and they would understand the gravity of deceiving people for personal gain.
The unfortunate case however is that false teachers are deceitful workmen. Whether they know it or not, their works of deception express that they are agents of the devil. They are themselves deceived and they are deceiving others.
Many false teachers command tens of thousands of followers. Some command millions of followers all over the world. The gravity of misleading, deceiving and spiritually abusing thousands of people is a great problem and it is something that God takes very seriously.
Jesus said the following in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
From Matthew 7:21-23 we can learn that something tragic will happen on Judgment Day.
There are some people who will think they were going to enter heaven but only to discover that they will be going to hell.
These people are the religious hypocrites. These people include the false teachers because they claim to have prophesied, cast out demons and do many mighty works in the name of Christ.
However, Jesus’ response gives the true reason why these people are going to hell as Christ responds to them by saying: “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Jesus reveals 2 very important things about these religious but hell-bound people
1. Jesus did not know them. The word “knew” is the Greek word [Ginosko] which depicts a personal and intimate relationship. These people had knowledge about Christ but they didn’t have an intimate relationship with Christ. If they had an intimate relationship with Christ then they would have had reverential fear of God which would have made the realized the gravity of their lawlessness.
2. Jesus calls these people “workers of lawlessness”. This means that these people were deliberately rebellious against God even though they were religious. They practiced evil without remorse or repentance and they loved to do it because they were personally gaining.
Similarly Jesus rebukes the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Outwardly the Pharisees were respected religious leaders. They outwardly appeared to be righteous and even successful men. Despite their false teachings, the Pharisees had power, wealth and spiritual influence over their followers. However Jesus exposed the deception of the Pharisees and revealed their true nature to the people.
Jesus also warned them of their fate; that hell awaits false teachers if they don’t repent.