Apostle John commands believers not to believe every spirit. Rather we are asked to “test“ the spirits. The Greek word is dokimazo- “to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing” (Louw & Nida lexicon). For not everything that glitters is gold; I know at least two store owners in our baranggay who were deceived by nice looking fake 500 peso bills. Same is true when it comes with doctrines. Not everyone who looks like an angel of God is from God.
Our text says that many false prophets have come into the world. “marami”—naglipana—nagkalat kung saan-saan at sila ay naghahasik ng lagim. They are not harmless. In his farewell address to to the Ephesian church, Paul referred to them as savage wolves (Acts 20:29).
They are the initial installments of the final anti-christ. In the end times, someone will emerge to ”oppose" and “exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped”, and shall proclaim himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4). He will be hostile to Christ and to truth. That is the future anti-christ. Yet smaller versions of him are already in the world by means of false teachers, promoting doctrines that are hostile to God.
As to the source of these anti-God ideas, it seems clear to me that here in our text and elsewhere, that such thoughts are diabolical.
1 Tim.4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons”(Yikes!!!)
2 Cor. 11:13-15 “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.”
—If your idea of demons is drawn primarily from watching horror films (yung mga biglang sumusulpot sa likuran; duguan ang mukha kasabay ng nakakakilabot na sound effects; o di kaya ay yung halimaw na lumalabas sa banga—at sabi ni Matet ay “Takot ako eh,”) then you know very little about demons.
One of the main activities of Satan and his minions is deception. He was present in Eden to deceive Adam and Eve and he would be present in Gog and Magog to deceive the nations. So Scripture testifies that from the beginning of history (Genesis) to the end (Revelation), Satan and his assistants are active deceivers.
These are not merely differences in opinion:
“behind the false prophet or false teacher is an evil spirit. Men simply do not speak out of their own intellectual attainments. Quite unconsciously they are being guided--really misguided--by an evil spirit, a “spirit of error,” (Ray Stedman)
Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) now Grace Communion International (GCI) taught some perverse doctrines during his lifetime: Legalistic observance of Mosaic feasts; Saturday as the only true worship day; dietary laws; WCG’s exclusivity as the true church. He also define God as a family (Father & Son are members). After resurrection, believers become a part of that God-family. And when you finally become a member of the God family, you will not find the Holy Spirit there for he is not a person but a force.
After his death, WCG moved to more orthodox positions on various essential issues of the faith. Yet WCG never declared Armstrong as a false teacher. I have read two books written respectively by WCG/GCI’s current leaders: Transformed by Truth (Joseph Tkach Jr.) and Liberating the Worldwide Church of God (J. Michael Feazell). In both books, it is implied that Armstrong was saved and is in heaven!
I was disturbed. So I asked my WCG friend if he himself is hopeful that Armstrong was saved. He affirmed it.
In defense of Armstrong, he reasoned out that his former shepherd was just uneducated that’s why he fell into such ideas. I replied gently that though we are not the judge of men’s eternal destiny, we should also hold that a man who has rejected the gospel is presumed to be lost. I would add now based on 1 John 4 that the source of Armstrong’s false teachings is not his lack of education. By John's apostolic authority, I believe that Satan gave birth to such dangerous doctrines.
In fact, you can be very educated and still teach anti-God and Anti-christ ideas. Bart Ehrman is a case in point. He is a top scholar. He studied at some of the best evangelical theological schools: Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. He studied under top textual critic Bruce Metzger. Yet he now denies the reliability of Scriptures. He is now an agnostic.
Good education or lack of it is not the source of false doctrines-- demonic influence is.
Photo credit: http://rachidian.blogspot.com