In the last couple of weeks/months we have seen another round of end-time prophecies doing the rounds and leading a lot of our believers astray. When we are thinking about these topics, were are in good company. The disciples of our Master were also discussing the topic, but they had the advantage of asking Him the question directly. They asked Him how we will know that the end of age has come.
3 And as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the taught ones came to Him separately, saying, “Say to us, when shall this be, and what is the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
He did give them a summation of the things that would happen in the end-times, but most of us miss the first (and I believe most important) part of His response:
4 And יהושׁע answering, said to them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray.
His first instruction to us was to ensure that we are not misled (lead astray). Do we understand what this means and what we should be doing? What is the definition of being “lead astray” or “Deceived” as some translations have it:
31.8 πλανάω; πλάνηa, ης f: (figurative extensions of meaning of πλανάω ‘to cause to wander off the path,’ not occurring in the NT) to cause someone to hold a wrong view and thus be mistaken—‘to mislead, to deceive, deception, to cause to be mistaken.’2
πλανάω: βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς πλανήσῃ ‘watch out, and do not let anyone deceive you’ Mt 24:4;
πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι ‘deceiving others and being deceived themselves’ 2 Tm 3:13.
πλάνηa: ἐκ τούτου γινώσκομεν τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης ‘this is the way we know the difference between the Spirit which leads to truth and the spirit that misleads us’ or ‘… causes us to hold a wrong view’ or ‘… causes us to be mistaken’ 1 Jn 4:6.
To mislead people as to proper views which they should have may often be expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘to twist people’s thoughts,’ ‘to cause what is false to seem like what is true,’ ‘to make a lie appear true,’ ‘to dig away the truth,’ or ‘to cover the eyes with lies.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (364366). New York: United Bible societies.
In order to be sure that we are not lead astray, we should be able to answer three very basic questions:
- Who will deceive us?
- How will they deceive us?
- What should we do about it?
Let us answer these three questions from our Scriptures.
Who will deceive us?
We have some very clear scripture references that give us a hint as to where our deception would come from. This is something that already started before the exile to Babylon. We see the prophet Jeremiah warning the residents of Jerusalem of where their deception would come from (and so it did!)
8 “For thus said יהוה of hosts, Elohim of Yisra’ěl, ‘Let not your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, neither listen to the dreams which you are dreaming.
Our first source is from within our own ranks. These are the false prophets amongst us that try to deceive us with their teachings and/or revelations. An attack from the inside has always proven to be one of the most successful strategies.
The next one is very close to this and is a direct warning from Y’Shua:
11 “And many false prophets shall rise up and lead many astray.
These are prophets with the false gospel that leads the people away from their Messiah and salvation. We also know from Matthew 7:15 that these false prophets could come to us in sheep’s clothing making it very difficult to spot them. We find one of these false prophets mentioned by name in Acts 13:6.
Then we have a next step up – false messiahs:
24 “For false messiahs and false prophets shall arise, and they shall show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the chosen ones.
Here we have a clear warning as well that these false messiahs and prophets will be able to perform all sorts of “miracles”. We are instructed not to be fooled by these signs and wonders in Deut 13:2 as it could lead us away from His ways. Paul also identifies these source for these wonders in 2 Thess 2:9.
The last one to look at:
9 And the great dragon was thrown out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who leads all the world astray. He was thrown to the earth, and his messengers were thrown out with him.
From this scripture we also see that haSatan is also responsible for leading the world astray. He is not called the “master of lies” for nothing!
Now that we have some ideas as to where the deception would come from, let us investigate as to how these deceivers would lead us astray.
How will they deceive us?
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these the wrath of Elohim comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partakers with them.
Paul here warns the Ephesians not to be deceived by empty words. Now what exactly would empty words be? Let us first examine some definitions of these words:
89.64 κενόςd, ή, όν; κενῶς: pertaining to being totally without purpose—‘in vain, for no purpose.’
κενόςd: εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα καὶ τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν ‘if Christ has not been raised, our message is indeed in vain’ 1 Cor 15:14.
For other interpretations of κενός in 1 Cor 15:14, see 72.10 and 89.53.
κενῶς: ἢ δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει ‘or do you think that what the Scripture says is for no purpose’ Jas 4:5.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (785). New York: United Bible societies.
I believe that currently we have in our community a lot of discussions / arguments that are actually without any purpose. I have been part of many discussions that ends up really splitting hair and that goes on for hours and hours. No matter how interesting these discussions / mid-rash / debates may be, they are really not important in the bigger picture. We have so many important topics to still clarify in our fairly young faith, that we should not waste time on these. We need to focus on things that affect our own salvation, the salvation of those we love and care about and other people in our community. Where I wear my tzitzit or how many knots it has really does not affect anybody’s salvation. Another example of “empty words” is all the detailed analysis and discussion about one conspiracy theory after the other. I have found that once you start getting involved in these, you get sucked into these so quick that before you know it you are spending more time researching conspiracies and secret organizations that you spend researching Scripture. Is this not just another way for haSatan to steal our time with our Father? How can I have a strong relationship with YHVH if I spend more time studying the works of the enemy? YHVH should be number one in our lives and should this get the majority of our time.
8 See to it that no one makes a prey of you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary matters of the world, and not according to Messiah. 9 Because in Him dwells all the completeness of the Mightiness bodily,
Now Paul touches on some more ways we could fall prey when he speaks to the Colossians. The first point he raises here is “philosophy”. Once again, let us dive a bit deeper into the definition of this word:
32.38 φιλοσοφία, ας f: human understanding or wisdom and, by implication, in contrast with divinely revealed knowledge—‘human understanding, human wisdom, philosophy.’ μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης ‘lest anyone make you captive by means of human understanding and worthless deceit’ or ‘… by means of the worthless deceit of human wisdom’ Col 2:8.
In Col 2:8 φιλοσοφία may be rendered in some languages as ‘the way in which people are wise’ or ‘the way in which people understand things’ or ‘the manner in which people reason.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (384). New York: United Bible societies.
Here we see that we could be dealing with the problem of “I will do the commandment once I understand it” type discussions. Our logic is superior to our obedience to YHVH. We will only be obedient to Him once we can logically reason out why we should do it. This is one of the things we do not allow our children to do. “You will do it because I said so” is a term that has been used in more than one home. In this case it is completely fine for us to act this way, but we do not want to do our heavenly Father’s commandments simply because He commanded it. First we need to understand it, analyze if it is really applicable to me personally or if there is any loop hole in the interpretation that could possibly be understood in such a way that this does not affect me. Good examples – “these laws only apply to the physical descendants of Abraham” or “this does not apply to us because we live in the diaspora and we are still scattered”.
Next we get to the topic of “according to the traditions of men”. A lot of people will try to convince you that this is a reference to the Oral Law / traditions of the Pharisees and that Paul is trying to get people out from under the law. A good look at the Greek text of this phrase reveals some very interesting facts:
The word “tradtion”
33.239 παράδοσις, εως f: (derivative of παραδίδωμιc ‘to instruct,’ 33.237) the content of traditional instruction—‘teaching, tradition.’
διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων; ‘why is it that your disciples disobey the tradition of our ancestors?’ Mt 15:2.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (414). New York: United Bible societies.
Next we see that the Greek word usually translated as “the” (Strongs G3588) in this specific case is not being translated. The word translated as “men” could just as well be translated to the word “people” or “persons” –
9.1 ἄνθρωποςa, ου m; ἀνήρb, ἀνδρός m: a human being (normally an adult)—(in the singular) ‘person, human being, individual,’ (in the plural) ‘people, persons, mankind.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (414). New York: United Bible societies.
This could then be alternatively rendered as “according to the teachings/traditions of the people”. This would indicate that Paul is warning the believers about the religions or traditions of the people in Colosse. If you look at the next term, you will see that this rendering makes more sense in the context of the complete sentence.
Thus we see that Paul is warning the people not to walk back into the religions and traditions of the community in which they stay. We also have the same pressures to fit into our own communities. Do what everybody else does so that you do not stand out or your children are not mocked at school. I see the religion of evolution as a modern day version of this. This religion has creeped into every part of our society and nobody even cares anymore. Our children learn it at school, watch DVDs that start with “millions and millions of years ago” and accept the “ape to man” as a proven fact. How much different would this be to the teaching of “the elementary things” of Paul’s day?
1 Timothy 4:7
7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself rather to reverence.
Now what would Paul be referring to here?
Some Greek definitions of the words used here:
88.115 βέβηλος, ον: pertaining to being profane in the sense of worldly or godless—‘worldly, godless.’
τοὺς δὲ βεβήλους καὶ γραώδεις μύθους παραιτοῦ ‘have nothing to do with worldly and foolish legends’ 1 Tm 4:7.
33.13 μῦθος, ου m: a legendary story or account, normally about supernatural beings, events, or cultural heroes, and in the NT always with an unfavorable connotation—‘legend, myth, tale, story, fable.’
οὐ γὰρ σεσοφισμένοις μύθοις ἐξακολουθήσαντες ἐγνωρίσαμεν ὑμῖν τὴν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δύναμιν καὶ παρουσίαν ‘we have not depended on cleverly contrived myths in making known to you the mighty coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ 2 Pe 1:16.
The term μῦθος may often be translated simply as ‘untrue stories’ or ‘false tales.’
9.38 γραώδης, ες: (derivative of γραῦς ‘old woman,’ not occurring in the NT) characteristic of old women—‘like old women say, like old women do.’
τοὺς δὲ βεβήλους καὶ γραώδεις μύθους παραιτοῦ ‘keep away from godless myths such as old women are likely to tell’ or ‘keep away from godless and useless legends’ 1 Tm 4:7.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (108). New York: United Bible societies.
This shows that we could be deceived by godless or worldly legendary stories about supernatural beings. Could this be referring to our superheroes we have everywhere? What harm is there in letting our children watch the early morning comics on TV? Try and explain the difference between the “magical powers of Super….” and the wonders performed by Y’Shua. For small children it is not easy to understand the difference and this takes away from what Y’Shua did while on this earth.
At the same time these types of stories bring “magic” into our homes. A lot of people will tell you not to worry, it does not do any harm. It is only imagination and children are clever enough to know. Yes our children are clever and this is what will make them experiment with this once they realize that there are really “magic” powers (read – demonic powers) in this world. At the same time these demonic powers are presented to our children as “cute” and “harmless” in all the TV programs they watch. It is becoming more and more difficult everyday to try and buy a children’s book that does not contain some sort of magic and/or evolution. This is one of the ways we and our children are being mislead by haSatan.
18 Let no one deprive you of the prize, one who takes delight in false humility and worship of messengers, taking his stand on what he has not seen, puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the Body—nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments—grows with the growth of Elohim.
88.53 ταπεινοφροσύνη, ης f: the quality of humility—‘humble attitude, humility, without arrogance.’ δουλεύων τῷ κυρίῳ μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφροσύνης καὶ δακρύων ‘with all humility and tears I served the Lord’ or ‘… I did my work as the Lord’s servant’ Ac 20:19;
ἐν ταπεινοφροσύνῃ καὶ θρησκείᾳ τῶν ἀγγέλων ‘in false humility and the worship of angels’ Col 2:18. The rendering of ταπεινοφροσύνη in Col 2:18 as ‘false humility’ is justified in terms of the context, but there is nothing in the word ταπεινοφροσύνη itself which means ‘false.’ It would be possible to render ταπεινοφροσύνη in Col 2:18 as ‘subjection to,’ and one might render the entire expression as ‘in abject worship of angels.’ In other languages ‘false humility’ may be rendered as ‘just pretending to be humble’ or ‘appearing to be humble but really being proud.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (747). New York: United Bible societies.
Why are these two concepts tied together in one verse? We already know from Exodus 20:3-4 that we should not worship other heavenly beings. We also have an example in Revelation 22:8-9 of an messenger (angel) telling John not to bow down before him. If we link these two concepts together, we see a pointing towards the doctrine of using mediators, because YHVH is too far removed from us. These could be angels (heavenly beings), saints or teachers. If we believe the only way we can have a relationship with our Farther is via somebody/something else we are being deceived. I do not need another holy person or paid professional to teach me my Father’s will in my life. Neither do I need their forgiveness of my sins. This is a personal relationship that I need to have with my Father.
What should we do about it?
Now that we know who will deceive us and some of the methods that could be used against us, the next step would be to try and find out what the Scriptures tell us we should be doing to avoid this deception. Once again I will only touch on some examples found in the Scriptures and encourage all to search the Scriptures on your own for more on these topics.
1 “When there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he shall give you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder shall come true, of which he has spoken to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other mighty ones—which you have not known—and serve them,’ 3 do not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for יהוה your Elohim is trying you to know whether you love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart and with all your being.
The first advice we get from Deuteronomy is almost too simple to believe but according to my personal experience the most effective. Simply do not listen to the messages of false prophets. Once you have seen evidence of a person being a false prophet (leading you away from the instructions of the Torah or towards other gods) do not listen to them anymore. Do not try and filter the “good” from the “bad”. If the tree is bad, all it’s fruit will be bad. We know that deceptions always comes riding on some truth and that the enemy is very cunning at it’s attempts to feed us a lie. If I stay away, the chance of falling for one of these lies is significantly reduced.
When it comes to testing these false prophets, we have enough scriptural instruction on how to know that they are false. However, how do we determine if a spirit is false? Actually we have a very clear instruction in our Scriptures on how to determine this:
1 John 4:1–3
1 Beloved ones, do not believe every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of Elohim, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of Elohim: Every spirit that confesses that יהושׁע Messiah has come in the flesh is of Elohim, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that יהושׁע Messiah has come in the flesh is not of Elohim. And this is the spirit of the anti-messiah which you heard is coming, and now is already in the world.
Very simple is it not? If the spirit cannot declare that:
- Y’Shua is our Messiah
- Y’Shua is from our Farther
- Y’Shua came in flesh
Then we know that it is a false spirit. Clearly we are told that any person that teaches anything else about Y’shua our Messiah is the spirit of the anti-messiah. The book of Revelation has enough written about the acts of the anti-messiah in the end-times for me to know that I should stay away. Once again, there is always danger when you believe that you will be able to determine good from bad. Yes, YHVH does give us the ability to discern and protects us, but he also instructs us to resist the adversary.
7 So then subject yourselves to Elohim. Resist the devil and he shall flee from you.
The last piece of advice I will put forward comes from a section we have already discussed and gives us some advice on how to life our lives to ensure that we do not get caught into the deception.
1 Timothy 4:7–9 (NASB95)
7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.
This also gives us a great strategy – discipline ourselves for godliness. For me the fact that it states that I must discipline myself again shows to me that it is not something that come naturally but it is something that can be achieved if I focus on it and ensure that I do not have ungodly distractions in my life. We will never be able to remove all ungodly things from our lives due to the fact that we live in a fallen world, but this does not excuse me from my obligation to try and keep these things out of my way as far as possible. Do not drag these things into your life if you know they may lead you astray. In the area of Quality Management there is a saying that is also very applicable in this case – “Avoidance is cheaper that cure”. Stay away where you can and discipline yourself every day to stay away from what is ungodly. If you make a effort every day to live your life set apart, the probability of deception will be reduced. How do we know how to live our lives set apart – the answers are in His Word. Go and study it!
Tags: commandments, deceipt, demonic powers, end times, evil spirit, evolution, false messiah, false prophets, godliness, haSatan, lead astray, magic, Matthew 24, Messianic, old wives tales, Paul, stoicheia, superheroes, tradition, Y'Shua
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