Are there such people in the world today, and do they meet the four basic requirements for drawing the religious world into a massive scheme of disobedience? To open up that question let me share a recent personal experience involving a group Bible study I had been asked to conduct. The class was made up of six people—three business men and their wives. For many weeks we met every Thursday night to search out the great doctrines of the Bible.
The series was unusual in every respect. In the first place, the three couples appeared to be exceptionally committed Christians. Often during the studies they shared a most fervent testimony concerning their love experience in Christ. It was very obvious that they had emotional feelings about their personal relationship with Jesus.
The second unusual thing was the eager, open manner in which they accepted truth as it unfolded. As subjects like the Sabbath, state of the dead and unclean foods were explored, there was wholehearted acceptance. Over and over they exclaimed about the clarity of the issues, and wondered aloud why they had not seen those things before.
On the last night of the Bible studies I extended an invitation to the group to start keeping the Sabbath. To my utter amazement, not one of them had the slightest inclination to obey any of the truths they had so readily believed. My perplexity was compounded when they began to explain why they had no plans to keep the Sabbath. "We have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and He tells us everything we do," they explained. "He has not told us to keep the Sabbath. If He does tell us, we will gladly do it. We know it is in the Bible, and we believe it, but the Holy Spirit will have to tell us to keep it before we do it." In vain did I try to show them that the Holy Spirit had already spoken to them through the Word, and that He could not contradict Himself by telling them anything else.
The Word of God is "the sword of the Spirit," says the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:17. That means the Bible is the cutting edge of the Holy Spirit's ministry of conviction. No one can be guided in truth without reference to the Scriptures. Yet these people, in the name of the Lord lesus Himself, were renouncing the authority of the Bible in favor of their emotional feelings. Indeed, they were setting another test of truth which seemed to them more valid than the Word of God. They were listening to another spirit which comforted them in their violation of God's law, but they were doing it all in the name of Jesus.
Professing great love for Christ, they defended their direct revelations as evidence of God's special manifestation in their lives.
What could I say? They looked at me with sorrow and pity because I was not favored to receive the ecstatic peace and joy which characterized their experience. Suddenly I realized that this was an exact replay of what Jesus had described in Matthew 7:21-23. These people really believed that their power was coming from God. Yet they were saying, "Lord, Lord," without doing the will of God. All the gifts of the Spirit which they claimed to possess were parallel to the gifts professed by those who came to Jesus—casting out devils, prophecy, healing, miracles, etc. Jesus said "many" would come at the end, saying those very words. Are there many who fall into this category today?
All across the land today millions are being attracted by a movement which transcends all barriers of denominationalism. Catholics and Protestants alike are caught up in the exciting phenomenon of being moved by a common spirit. They sincerely believe that the Holy Spirit is endowing them with a new language of the soul and that the power of God is using them to heal, cast out devils and prophesy.
In the light of Christ's warning, how are we to distinguish between the true gifts and the counterfeit? How can we be certain that miracles are not being worked in the power of Satan? The only way we can recognize the counterfeit is by its failure to obey all the commandments of God. Jesus warned that the great "signs and wonders" of the false prophets in the last days would be so delusive that "even the very elect" would be almost overwhelmed by them (Matthew 24:24). John saw "spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world" (Revelation 16:14).
Don't fail to catch the spiritual implications of this demon activity. Miracles are operative only within the context of religion. These end-time evil spirits will work through the garb of churches, in the name of Christ, professing to be ministers of truth. Paul actually speaks of Satan's "ministers ... transformed as the ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:15). Writing to the Thessalonians, he further described the work of these false apostles as being "with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness ..." (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10).
The frightening conclusion is that the devil will so closely impersonate the true manifestations of spiritual power that most of the world, including the churches, will be manipulated by him. And according to the Scriptures, only those who obey all of God's commandments out of love will be protected from the deception.
Unfortunately we live in an age of the spectacular and the bizarre. Because of this climate, multitudes are drawn by the promise of healing, miraculous tongues or demon exorcism. Few pause to ask whether the power is God or Satan. Most are totally unaware of the inspired predictions concerning counterfeit miracles, and how to separate the true from the false. Impressed by the sincerity of those who preach and pray with such obvious power, in the name of Jesus, millions "feel" that it must be from God. Their emotional ecstasy is quickly exalted above the true test of the Scriptures.
In talking to my charismatic Bible study group, I discovered that they had fully conformed to the four essential conditions which Satan requires in order to sweep the religious world into his camp. They felt secure in disobeying the law. They had rejected the Word of God as the final test of truth. They had set up another test—their religious feelings—as the proof of their acceptance with God. They also appealed to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit as evidence of God's approval. Finally, they brushed aside the tremendous doctrinal and prophetic truths we had studied together as being incidental and unimportant in comparison to their charismatic "experience."
Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals and Episcopalians gladly set aside biblical convictions and denominational stances in order to keep the unity of "the Spirit." But what spirit is it that works equally through those who worship Mary, break the Sabbath and try to contact the dead? Certainly not the Spirit of God! The Holy Ghost is given only "to them that obey Him" (Acts 5:32).
Now let's take a look at the spiritual gift which has been claimed by more modern Christians than almost any other—
speaking in tongues. Since Jesus warned about those in the last days who would prophesy and cast out devils in His name, through the power of Satan, we can be sure that the other spiritual gifts will be counterfeited also. If, indeed, the current epidemic of glossolalia is a perversion of truth, it would be difficult to think of a more perfect plan for Satan to use in getting control of the churches.
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