“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways;”
When one writes about signs of coming judgment as manifested by the church, one writes about serious things, things which involve the name of our God and the truth. From many points of view these are grievous matters, matters which have eternal consequences in the lives of those who may be close to us. Therefore, though these are things that must occur before the end, seeing them occur gives one no delight.
The Christian church of our day is in a dreadful state. This is true with respect to its preaching and with respect to the hearing regarding the doctrine (dogma), and regarding the walk of its members. There are signs which speak of imminent judgment. These signs can be listed under the general heading of Apostasy, departure from the truth. Apostasy can be looked at both from the point of view of the pulpit and of the pew. Christ speaks of both in Matthew 24:11-12. “And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.” That is the pulpit. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” That is the pew. In the quotation at the heading of the article Peter speaks of both as well. He mentions false prophets “who shall bring in damnable heresies,” but he also speaks of the pew when he says that “many shall follow their pernicious ways.” Paul also speaks of both in II Timothy 4:3-4. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” That’s the pew. “But after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers.” That is again a reference to the pulpit. For there to be apostasy, the two must work in conjunction. The pew must be ripe for the false doctrine coming over the pulpit, and the pulpit must be willing to cater to the pew.
We begin by examining the pulpit, the preaching, because that is where heresy and apostasy start, with wolves in sheep’s clothing who seek to scatter the flock.
The question is, where does one start? The pulpits of our day are rife with false doctrines. Heresies come so thick and fast, two by two as it were, that one cannot stay current. If we were to try to deal with every species of heresy, we would soon have enough material to fill Noah’s ark. The church is being drowned with a deluge, a flood of false doctrine. As Christ states inMatthew 24:11, “many false prophets shall rise.” Indeed they have. Their name is Legion, though they claim that their name is Reformed, and Christian, and Protestant. In the name of Christ they call into question everything from the creation to the resurrection, and deny everything from total depravity to the Virgin Birth. They are horrified if you call them false prophets, and declare that they teach “damnable heresies.” They assure you that it is done in the service of their Lord, Christ, and in the best interests of the church. Such is their false claim.
The great evil that besets the church in our day is that Protestant pulpits are filled with Pontius Pilates. As preachers assent to the murder of the truth, the Word of God, they piously wash their hands. They have simply given the people what the people have been clamoring for. The re-occurring question raised on Protestant pulpits is the same as Pilate’s cynical response to Christ on trial, namely, “What is truth?” They ask this question while looking directly at the Word of God! Men ordained to preach the gospel, who are called to point to Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, who are called to declare “Thy word is truth,” and that the truth shall set men free, ask “What is Truth?”!
Protestant theologians, at least, used to hold up the Bible in response to that question and say, “Here is THE TRUTH. It is that from cover to cover. It is the word of the only true and living God. It is infallible, inerrant, inspired, and perspicuous. It is the absolute standard of all spiritual reality, the compendium of our faith, and the only standard by which we must live.” Such Protestant theologians once declared. No more! Now the Bible is simply one perspective of the truth as seen through the opaque eyes of ancient men. It is, therefore, historically inaccurate, scientifically primitive, and morally out of date. Protestant preachers, preachers, mind you, say that of the Holy Scriptures! Sons of the very churches which were unshackled from Rome by an insistance upon Scripture’s ultimate authority over every tradition of mere men, now despise that very Scripture. And they work the hardest to undermine its veracity.
The upshot of the matter is that the Christian church is not to imagine that it has an absolute standard of truth in its hands. We are to approach it not with childlike faith, but with the scepticism of the scholar. All the Scriptures give us are perspectives of holy men of old as they were confronted by the TRUTH. And we are confronted with other perspectives of the Truth in the “Koran” of the Mohammedans, the sayings of Confucius, and the dialogues of Plato. The confession “Sola Scriptural’ is heard no more from many Protestant pulpits. Such a confession, it is said, is not compatible with the spirit of Christian love, but smacks of religious bigotry. No wonder thousands upon thousands turn to the sects and cults. They at leastclaim to have an absolute standard of truth. People feel more secure in these states of pretended certainty.
Things are bad on Protestant pulpits. How bad? Things are so bad that we find that, on such vital truths as the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, and the fact of the resurrection, and on such practical issues as divorce and remarriage, and abortion, we have more in common with Rome than with many so-called Protestant churches. So far things have slipped. Protestants make Rome look almost orthodox at times. We say this not out of any admiration for Rome, who remains as idolatrous and man centered as ever, but to show how bad things are. Protestant men have gone even further in the way of heretical teachings than Rome.
The Reformation sufficed to cause a reformation of the church in the sixteenth century, a cleansing and a rededication to the truth. I will be so bold as to say that there is no reformation that can revitalize the Protestant churches which have apostatized in our century. Members of the Roman Catholic Church could be revitalized because they lived in dark ignorance of the Scriptures. The Word was deliberately kept from them. But once the Word of God was preached to them, they saw the light. Such is not the case today. Protestants are not afflicted with an unschooled ignorance, but with a willing ignorance. Having heard about the truth they despise it. The words of Isaiah and Christ apply. “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed” (Matt. 13:15). There is only one cleansing that remains for the Protestant church world that has become apostate in our day, a being rooted up, cast out, and burned.
Such is the bitter fruit where the teachings of false prophets have been allowed to take root. They have brought in “damnable heresies,” devil contrived doctrine. So as the apostle Peter states, They bring on themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; . . .whose.. . damnation slumbereth not” (II Peter 2:1-2).
Admittedly, we pass serious judgments, though we say no more than the Scripture itself says. When dealing with the cynical attitude of Protestant men towards God’s Word we deal with serious matters. To deny Scripture as the infallible, authoritative, and perspicuous Word of God is the same as denying Jesus as the Christ, the Word of God made flesh. It is simply unbelief. Such has eternal consequences, as the Christ Himself points out. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). To teach that God’s Word is obscure, murky, or even some place mistaken is to call the light darkness, and so to bring condemnation upon one’s self and upon all whom one misleads as well. God keep us from such self-deception and unbelief.
We make one observation in conclusion. In our day and age the Devil has added to his deceitful mischief not by keeping the Scriptures from men, but by printing such a bewildering variety of so-called translations that men become confused as to what God’s Word really does say. The very translations (if one dares to call a “paraphrase” a translation) contradict one another, or at least fail to support each other at crucial points. By means of these unfaithful translations false prophets can deny every fundamental doctrine and support every false one, and seeds of doubt concerning Scripture’s absolute trustworthiness are sown in congregations’ minds. For my part I can not recommend the King James Version strongly enough. It is an excellent translation. It omits no true doctrine, it supports no false one. Personally I have become convinced that it is based even on the best available manuscripts, manuscripts providentially preserved. However that may be, one thing is certain, it is the best available English translation by a long shot. Perhaps it can be improved upon in some minor linguistic way, but such an improvement has yet to see the light of day. The charge is often made that the K.J.V. uses archaic language, and is, therefore, unclear. Such is a smoke screen. It is clear enough if one but takes the time to read it, study it, and become familiar with it. The Bible becomes clear to us through constant use. Let us make God’s Holy Word our constant companion. It is our best defense against every subtle teaching of false prophets.