How to tell if someone is a False Teacher or Prophet?

 

The usual, the teaching is not drawn from Scripture; rather read into to fit their wayward theory. Pride is always a good indicator, a true servant of the Lord points to Christ and not themselves. And of course what they predict does not come true. Then after the false prophecy, they are silent for a while, hoping you forget and then wow you with a new date or teaching… They feed on those who do not read the Bible and do not think. In addition, 1 Peter gives us the main template of the false teacher and prophet, by showing us what a real one is like:  

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched (the Scriptures) intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 1 Peter 1:10-12

They searched the Scriptures, not forced presumptions into the Text. They taught what God told them too, not what they wanted to. They shared and lived out the Grace of our Lord, they preached the Gospel, and they pointed to Christ not making a name for themselves… 

“It was revealed” is about the mysteries to which God gave the O.T. prophets a glimpse—of things to come that were to benefit and encourage future generations, like us today. For us, a real prophecy or a Gospel teaching is the Message of the Gospel, the true Truths directly from God’s Word the Bible being infused by the Holy Spirit and then lived out in our lives; it is that Jesus Christ, being fully God, lived in behalf of us, took our place for God’s wrath, suffered in our place, and redeemed us. It is a call to us to be the messengers of the Gospel along with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:25-27, 45-47). 

God wants us growing in Him, not speculating on nonsense and wasting Kingdom time and ‘debating’ others away from the faith. He wants us to be contagious with his Truth and grace. He wants to see if our faith and commitment is real and brings us into situations where we can learn and grow in faith and so receive our reward. God’s purpose is to refine us, form us, mold us, improve us, restore us, grow us, and strengthen us. This we need to pray and contemplate our attitude, mindset, and deeds so we can make sure we are pointing to Christ and not ourselves. We are to seek our repentance and so we will “wake up,” see our error, and seek Him (Gen. 11:1-f; Deut. 8:2; 13:3; Judg. 2:22; Job. 23:10; Rom. 5:3; James 1: 2-4, 12-16; 1 Pet. 4:17; 5:1-4, 8).

 

What About the Rapture?

Where does this all come from? Look at the text:

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Let’s take a look: the context is Paul being “pastoral” and encouraging his people who were being martyred, and seeing their loved ones killed or imprisoned at worst and at best losing their homes and livelihood. In these extreme tough times, Paul addresses his grieving people with a prophecy to look forward to. He gives a hope to foster them with the consolation of anticipation of what Jesus will do to support them, so they can press on with their persevering faith. The prophecy is real and will come about; the fact of our Lord’s return is a reality that no Christian group that adheres to God’s Word would deny. The questions and debates center on what is not important, and that is the details of when and how this will come about. One of these details is called the Rapture where Christians will be caught up and rise into the air to meet Jesus in the clouds. The passage in English clearly teaches this, or so I thought until a little research told me otherwise. And now, I was faced with a paradigm shift in my eschatological thinking.

What I had always thought was not backed up with facts—only presumptions. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 has been the principle passage for this theory. It is interesting to note that none of the Church Fathers nor any of the Reformers or anyone in Church History taught this “theory” until the 1830’s when heretical groups ignoring the context of the passage, Greek word meaning, and the meaning of the metaphors in question, as what they meant to a first century Jew or Greek.

The word rapture is not in the Bible, which is not a problem since many theological terms are not in the Bible such as Trinity or essential ministries such as Youth Ministry. But, the concept of a rapture cannot be found either. It is, at best, a misunderstanding, and at worst, a cynical, sinister pawn to distract us—the Church—from that to which God is calling us. As a word, rapture is originally from a Latin word meaning “caught up” or “caught away”, and is based on 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. The exegetical problem is our being “caught up” with Him as air being lifted up in the sky. Is this what the text actually says? In reality, it was a Greek military term set in Jewish judgment language that is used here; John and His readers would have laughed at our theories! Let’s look at this word-by-word in the Word.

  • Word of the Lord means Jesus is telling us all that He indeed is coming and when He does it will be loud and clear. This was a term used in other ancient texts for a special visiting king who was celebrated (Matt. 24:27; Luke 22:61; Acts 20:35; 1 Cor. 7:10).
  • Shout/loud command, refers to a command or a stern summons, and in connection with Trumpet (1 Kings 1:34; Rev. 1:9-20; 9:13; 11:15-19).
  • Trumpet means God is calling like a war cry, of impeding danger, and for us to pay attention (Ex. 19:16; Psalm 47:5-9; Isa. 31:4; 42:13; Amos 2:2).
  • Caught up. This is a metaphor for meeting, as in catching up to the party with whom you are meeting. Heed this; an important emissary or king is coming such as one of the Caesars coming to join him and/or to escort Him, or He will escort those who show. Here it indicates that Christ has come, and His angels escort us as we meet Him. This does not mean to rise up in the air, although God can certainty do this if He chooses, but this is not what the text says. This is about the excitement and ecstasy of the event.
  • Clouds. This means judgment is coming or hear and the end is here, time is up and the coming of the son of man from Daniel. This also means a spectacular event, such as numbers of angels testifying to God’s glory. It could also mean an extraordinary storm of clouds (Ezek. 30:3; 32:7; Joel 2:2; Dan. 7:13; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 16:28; 24:30-31, 34; 26:64; Rev. 1: 1-8).
  • Meet the Lord in the air means two opposing armies who meet in the middle of a battlefield to discuss terms. Meeting in the air was also a way to say dignitaries are here (which was a great honor), from a city and are meeting with emissaries from another city to escort them to a meeting. Sometimes this meant meeting halfway, like diplomats or generals of opposing armies at a village as a neutral zone. This also meant gathering people to join and/or meet. Here, it is with Jesus when He comes back as a “royal coming” (Matt. 24:27-31; Acts 17:7). Rapture is the Latin rendering of the Greek word “harpazo.” The Latin rendering of “raptus” is where we get the word rapture. It is not from the Bible. This does not mean we get to fly up into the air; we may, but the passage and the others people use to support this theory in the contexts clearly states otherwise.

The object of this passage is Christ; He is coming is one of the themes of this Epistle, Matthew 24, and Revelation. This passage is basically announcing to us that Christ is coming back. This was comfort for the suffering Christians at that time, but chastisement for those who were evil and rejected Him (Deut. 33:2; Isa. 19:1; Zech. 1:16; Mal. 3:1-2; Matt. 10:23; Rev. 2:5; 3:20). Various first century Jewish groups saw that at the end of the age there will be a resurrection of the dead and a judgment, basically what Jesus taught too (1 Thess. 2:12; 5:3; Acts 17:7). The application can denote the assembled Church will come together to meet with Jesus physically or in some supernatural way that is yet undesignated.

In Mathew it is called, the Coming of the Son of Man! A spectacular rising into the air to meet Him! (Matt. 24:29-35). This passage is also used to show the belief that the entirety of true believers of Christ as Lord—the Church—will be suddenly taken up into the sky to meet Him in mid-air in the clouds. This is a fun theory and many people are so very dogmatic about it that fights occur as to when and how this will happen. Very few people actually look at the text to see what it really is saying.

Another passage that is used for this rapture is in Revelation 4:1-5: a trumpet said. This means God is preparing to give a command or the pronouncement of His Word (Ex. 19:16). Here, many misguided interpreters read into the text a “rapture,” and string together other passages out of context to create a grand theology out of injudicious reading and inserting ideas that are not in these passages at all, such as 1 Cor. 15:51-54.

This practice of using these texts and others for a Rapture is called “isagesis” which is inserting into the text something that is not there or a personal interpretation of a text from one’s own ideas. However, we are called to read His Word with “exegesis,” or a right explanation and analysis of the text from what it actually says. Also, in the Revelation 4:1-5 passage, the word “church” does not appear until Revelation chapter 22. Many think this means the church is not on earth during the last days. Again, this is reading into a text our ideas and not God’s. We are never to stretch or construe Scripture according to our whims and/or opinions. Rather, we are to plainly seek what He has for us from what He has clearly revealed to us.

This does not diminish the excitement and wonder when Christ does come back and we get to meet with Him. That will be far more excitement and hope than any convoluted theory could ever produce! The main point is this: we are called to join Him or be whisked away to judgment. We meet Christ on His terms to receive our rewards for being in Him and for those who reject Christ to receive judgment; it is simple as that. No elaborate esoteric theories are needed (Dan. 7:13; Matt. 24:31)!

Is there a “Secret Rapture?”

Some misguided Bible teachers have even been teaching there will be a secret rapture or a second rapture or mutable raptures. They claim each shout of the trumpet from relation is a new rapture. This is ridiculous, as a shout of a Trumpet means God is preparing to give a command or a pronouncement of His Word (Ex. 19:16). God’s way of making this spectacular and public then to be in secret misses God’s point and power. This will be very public; everyone will see the Coming of our Lord—both the dead and the alive, and that is no secret!

Daniel and Revelation are not Puzzles!

In Matthew 24, when Jesus tells us about the last days, He is as clear as can be! So, what is the problem? Why do so many people get Revelation wrong or have crazy ideas or contradictory theories? Basically, it is because (to say this bluntly), they have not read it! It amazes me how some pastors and Bible teachers can go to a text and not “read it,” but can be really good at “reading into it.” That is, instead of reading what is there, in its context, what the words say in the original languages and culture, we read in our theological ideas, frameworks, and presumptions, and thus totality miss what God is actually saying to us! The other problem is the type of literature in which Revelation is written; many of us just do not understand its type because it is alien to our language, training, and culture; thus, we ignore it or misuse it or look at it as something else.

Apocalyptic genre (literature) has a clear meaning most of the time, when we realize what it is and how it operates.

We need to read the Bible so it is more impacting to us and so we can draw out more information for personal edification and teaching. We need to use the proper rules of interpretation so we stay focused and not read into it what we want. Such rules include context, syntax, word meanings, and grammar; this applies to any type of literature from a textbook, from Shakespeare, to poetry, to a novel. Words are used as communication and expression tools to convey the thoughts and principles of the author; and, in the case of the Bible, what God is saying to us. Thus, we need to know the “terms” (its various meanings as applied to its context) and “audience” (how is it used in the culture and how its readers would see it) of the word to get the most out of it. This includes the form of the word, such as how it is put together in sentence structure and context, and what the “function” of the word is, such as its grammar of voice, mood, person, number, noun, adjective, and so forth. Each of the genres operates a little differently in the form and function of the words. (See our article on the Genres at http://www.intothyword.org)

My Journey in Eschatology

I firmly believed in the classic dispensational view, a rapture, a seven year tribulation and Millennial reign of Christ. It was fact to me without question and a hill I would die upon—until someone challenged my on it. My very own high school youth group to whom I was teaching Revelation, kept asking me where is that? I do not see it! This does not make sense. And I could not answer their questions. I knew how to study the Bible but I was not using my own tools for Revelation or Matthew chapter twenty-four. Instead, I was relying on my prized possession a 1940’s edition of The Scofield Study Bible I received from one of my mentors, my favorite commentaries, one by Dr. John Walvoord and the other by Frank Gaebelein, not to mention I had also mostly memorized Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth. But I could not defend my positions biblically; I could only quote those who held that view. I just assumed I just did not get it and they did. So I decided to just read the Book of Revelation without reading my views into it, as many of us naturally do. I kept doing this for over ten years. During the same time, I had a run-in with one of my seminary professors about the Rapture who said none of this was biblical. I thought he was crazy; how could it not be biblical? What about all the great people who teach this, such as Ironside, Wiersbe, and Walter Martin to name a few, plus my mentor Ray Steadman who introduced me to Scofield and Darby.

So, I engaged this subject wholeheartedly; I wanted to see for myself. I read all the passages and the books, yet I could not find anything in the Bible where we could get a Rapture view or any declension of that view, or any of the classic dispensational views I thought were fact. In fact, I could not find the popular ideas of others, taught by so many people as dogmatic and even essential doctrine. The passages that are used to support a rapture and a seven year tribulation said nothing to this.

People who I would consider great exegetes and godly men were teaching this; I asked why. Why were they producing so much of these particulars of nonsense?

Perhaps they were just like all of us; maybe they made mistakes at logic or interpretation, or did not do their homework well. Or, maybe they did what I did, just relied on others and my favorite teachers and take it as that. I couldn’t get what many poplar sensationalists were saying either. What most Christians now believe and what I believed at one time was not there in the Bible’s evidence bag. I could not find a seven-year tribulation, an antichrist as a particular person, or a rapture or the Millennial reign that most pastors preach on and the plot lines of many popular Christian Books. I found that you have to read these things into the Bible because it just is not there; all the passages that were claimed were taken out of their context and twisted, and meanings subscribed to them that were not there originally or in reality.

I was upset, mad, and confused that I had missed the point. So I decided to make this a Schaeffer Institute project and then spent over ten years of careful exegetical and inductive analysis of Revelation, Matthew chapter 24 and many other Eschatological passages before I would write on this publicly as I am now. I sought what they clearly said, not what I was taught they said, or what I wanted them to say or what was popular in my theological tradition. Then I took the four main theories and laid them out side by side next to an exegetical and inductive work into the Book of Revelation. I was careful not to read into it any presumptions, leaving it up to you, the reader, to make your own conclusion—the reason it took ten years.

Yes, this was tough and cost me a lot of sleepless nights and struggles and over fifteen years to look at what I thought I already knew so well. This brought me to what real Biblical Eschatology is, to end times from what the Bible clearly speaks on.