Jesus and His disciples left the Temple in Jerusalem and went and sat on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1ff). He then delivered what is known among bible scholars as the Olivet Discourse (‘Olivet’ referring to the location, the Mount of Olives (a hill opposite Jerusalem) and ‘Discourse’ meaning a speech or a discussion).
“And Jesus went out and departed from the temple. And His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on another that shall not be thrown down.’
And as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?'” (Matthew 24:1-3)
Jesus then continued in Matthew 24:4a-5,11 & 24 saying to His disciples:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am Christ, and will deceive many…… And many false prophets will rise and deceive many…… For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect.”
Just to be certain the disciples understood the seriousness of His message, Jesus specifically warned them as he continued in Matthew 24:25 saying:
“Behold, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they shall say to you, Behold, He is in the desert! Do not go out. Behold, He is in the secret rooms! Do not believe it.”
The Greek word here translated as ‘behold’ is ‘ἰδού’ or ‘idou’ and is an imperative verb meaning to know, be aware of, behold, consider, see, be sure, understand! Quite clearly, Jesus did not want either His disciples of us, to misunderstand or misinterpret His words of warning, even although at the time He spoke them, they had not come to pass.
During the times of the first century of the Church, false the false religion and doctrines of Gnosticism arose and drew many away from Christ. As Wikipedia says of Gnosticism: “a common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis (esoteric or intuitive knowledge) is the way to salvation of the soul from the material world. They saw the material world as created through an intermediary being (demiurge) rather than directly by God….”
Since then, false religions and beliefs have proliferated as the enemy seeks to blind mankind to the truth of Jesus Christ. I believe it is required of each Christian to educate oneself on the characteristics of the works and schemes of the enemy so that we may recognise them as for what they are. Please note, I am not saying here that we study the works of the enemy to understand them! No! We are at war with God’s enemy and like all good soldiers, before we enter into battle, we need training to recognise the enemy and be aware of their tricks and schemes, so we will not be victims.
In his book, “They Shall Expel Demons” Pastor Derek Prince lists five “features characterising false religions:
- Acknowledging a plurality of gods.
- Practicing idol worship in any form.
- Teaching that human beings can ultimately become gods.
- Teaching that people can achieve righteousness by their own efforts.
- Offering some form of esoteric knowledge available only to a privileged few.”
Let’s look at these five characteristics in order:
1. Acknowledging a plurality of gods.
At the time Paul was writing to the early church, they were surrounded by societies which were polytheistic in nature – in other words, they believed in many gods. Paul thus warns of this in First Corinthians 8:5-6 saying:
“For though there are those who are called gods, whether in Heaven or in earth (as there are many gods and many lords), but there is to us only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we by Him.”
You may well say that this is no longer the case today, but that depends on how you define “religion.” I learnt religion to mean “a lifestyle.” How often we put our lifestyle before anything else! Football, television, work, career, money, leisure, even our children, can all be our ‘religion’ and though we may not call them our gods, in practice, we treat them that way, as we devote our time and efforts into serving them. Indeed, many Christians treat their own gods better than they treat God Himself! Wikipedia says of ‘Religion;’ “Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values….. The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a social aspect.”
2. Practicing idol worship in any form.
God says through Exodus 20:3-5, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them. For I Jehovah your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me….”
This is the first commandment given to Moses and it carries the highest penalty. Most Christians, understandably, will deny bowing before idols, and they certainly have not done so with intent. However Exodus 20:5 above also includes “nor serve them.” I personally believe this is where many well-meaning and devout Christians go amiss. As I said above, many Christians make football, television, work, career, money, leisure, even our children, our “religion,” our “way of life,” and in the process, albeit unintentionally, we often demote God to a secondary, a tertiary or a lower place in our lives. We treat God as God for 90 minutes on a Sunday morning, and devote the rest of the week, the other 9,990 minutes of the week, to the gods of our own making. We have, as far as far as Exodus 20:5 is concerned, “served them;” these gods of our own making.
3. Teaching that human beings can ultimately become gods.
In Genesis 3:5 Satan tempted Eve saying “… for God knows that in the day you eat of it, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”
To understand this we need to be clear that Christians are asked to be ‘like God,’ and to be Godly in nature, and this is good. What Eve was offered and what she sought was slightly different: that was to be “as God.” The Hebrew here for God is ĕlôhı̂ym or אלהים and ought to be translated in the plural. In other words, Satan was offering Eve to be as “one of the Gods.” The inference here being that she would be equal to God and as such, independent of God. Eve’s sin, Man’s sin, the cause of the fall of all mankind was not seeking to be more godly, but to be pridefully independent of God. Satan appealed to Eve’s vanity and pride, not to her reasoning. Oh how we still all fall for this simple ploy of his today. For more on this, please see the article by Mr. David Leggatt of Derek Prince Ministries entitled “Praying Against the Sin of Independence from God.”
The falseness and the lunacy of the teaching that man can become gods, is made clear many times in the Bible. Isaiah 29:16 is one example saying:
“O your perversity! Shall the former be counted as the potter’s clay; for shall the work say of him who made it, He did not make me? Or shall the thing formed say to him who formed it, He had no understanding?”
In other words, how possibly can a thing which is made, seek to be like its maker? The incredulity of this idea is strong in Isaiah’s statement.
4. Teaching that people can achieve righteousness by their own efforts.
The false teaching of Satan to Eve as he appealed to her pride, is still at the core and basis of the enemies continuous onslaught against mankind, be they Christians or non-Christians. Pride worked well in the past for him and he secured many souls in hell by it, so he continues to use it today with the same horrendous success.
Christianity is unique in world religions in that it offers a solution to sin which is independent of the works of man. As Galatians 2:6 says:
“… knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ; even we believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith in Christ, and not by works of the Law. For all flesh will not be justified by works of law.”
All other religions seek to appeal to our pride in self and independence from God by saying that if we are diligent we can achieve our own salvation through our works and endeavours. In other words, we don’t need God – we are independent of Him. Galatians 3:11 says it even more plainly: “But that no one is justified by the Law in the sight of God is clear, for, ‘The just shall live by faith.'”
5. Offering some form of esoteric knowledge available only to a privileged few.
The New Testament gives a simple and dramatic record of false religion in action. In Acts 16:16-19 we read the following:
“And as we went to prayer, it happened that a certain girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by divining.
The same followed Paul and us and cried, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who are announcing to us the way of salvation.’
And she did this many days. But being distressed, and turning to the demonic spirit, Paul said, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out in that hour.
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gain went out, having seized Paul and Silas, they dragged them to the market before the rulers.”
Christians today live in a culture which expects and demands instant answers, irrespective of the source of the answers. The “certain girl” of Acts 16:16-19 received her fortune telling ability from a demonic spirit, just like the purveyors of horoscopes today, just like the diviners of today, and just like all the fortune tellers of today. What’s more, Christians frequent these purveyors of the demonic just as much and as often as non-Christians, blithely ignorant of their transgression into sin.
Paul warned Timothy about this falsehood in First Timothy 6:20-21 saying:
“O Timothy, guard the Deposit, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of falsely-named science, which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.”
What many Christians today fail to understand is that dabbling in any form of fortune telling or geomancy, is actually involvement with the occult, with witchcraft, with the demonic and satanic and is an abomination before the eyes of God. The religions of this world, other than Christianity, can all be found to have satanic roots. For example, Mormonism and Freemasonry are the sanitised public face of the demonic and both offer forms of esoteric knowledge available only to a privileged few selected members; the rest, the vast majority of otherwise good people, operate in ignorance of the satanic roots of their false religions. Only the elite are invited to the inner and top levels and all who do, are sworn to secrecy. For one simple reference on this, please read “Masonic Roots of Mormonism” and also see the sample video below.
The correct Christian view of our position in salvation is that of Ephesians 2:8-9
“For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
There can be no pride in true Christianity, for it is by a gift of God that we are saved, and not by our own works or effort. False religions offer special giftings for those whom they select as a means of inducements to join – however most find that the promises are never fulfilled, as the promise is always for tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow – as they take just one more step further and deeper, each time.
Christianity on the other hand has no such vain promises in advance. That being said, God does indeed bless His believers and these gifts are given according to His will and at His timing and for His purposes and for almost all for the benefit of the body of the Church. Just how different God is from us is made clear in Deuteronomy 10:17 where we read “For Jehovah your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, the mighty, and a terrible God, who does not respect persons nor take a bribe.” No, God does not respect persons or positions, but is sovereign over all and rules as He determines. False religions offer, or imply, that they have that power.
As was quoted above, Jesus gives a warning of our present days in Matthew 24:24 saying:
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect.”
As Christians, we need to be aware of the Characteristics of False Religion, for as First Peter 5:8 advises us: “Be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour…”