The Signs, Wonders, and Ministry of Heretics
As I have dived deeper and deeper into the theology of a well-known movement, I have seen more vividly how warnings in the bible are ignored by proponents of this theological cult. There will be more on them in the future, because I cannot look around now without seeing how well they have accomplished their task of infiltrating orthodox Christianity. More concerning is how individuals have conflated this false Christianity with genuine orthodox Christianity. My generation, and the next generation have been shown to be experience driven, and here we see how these appeals of sensuality and “spirituality” have been utilized to capture Christianity.
When you point out that experiences, signs, and wonders don’t equal the true gospel or truth in general, they simply go into claiming (indirectly) that believing the bible is “putting God in a box” and to disagree is to not “love” Jesus or be like Jesus. Need I remind everyone here of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, those “rigid” individuals that everyone likes to rip out of context, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39). In short, the upcoming generation has turned to experience driven hyper-spiritualization, which more often than not integrates New Age thought and mysticism into theology.
Scripture has a lot to say about the upcoming false teachers, and so much so that it becomes extremely dumbfounding that self-professing Christians seem to have no knowledge of these texts. In their defense (giving them the benefit of the doubt), these groups do well to lie, hide, and twist what they do, but I would postulate that even a sliver of discernment goes a long way with these groups. What I mean is that in many ways, it is very, very, obvious that these groups are not Christian by the litmus test of orthodoxy. It is important to recognize that, yes, signs and wonders were done by the apostles to confirm the message of Jesus, and yes Jesus did such signs and wonders to confirm his identity. There is no denying that at all. I would go so far as to say, miraculous things do occur, and I would quickly state this is not a matter of cessationism vs continuationism. If you want my position on that “light discussion” you can click here.
A problem arises, though, when individuals assume that signs and wonders from a particular individual/group equate the truth. “They do a lot of signs, healings, etc”. I have heard such an argument before and I simply have to reply with, even if the signs and miracles are legitimate, it doesn’t mean these individuals are from God. A skimming through scripture shows various situations where “signs” and “wonders” are performed by those who didn’t have the true God or Jesus. I would also note that many of the signs and wonders of these groups have, or can be shown, to be fake and/or fabricated. Don’t forget Jesus’ words, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” (Mark 13:22). Yeah, contextually that could be limited to the end times, and there could be a long discussion about how eschatology plays into this discussion, yet the fact remains that such individuals have been around and there are many modern “messiahs” if you haven’t seen them (lots of interesting sociological cults out there with an individual who claims to be Jesus).
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
It is ignorance to suggest that signs and wonders are the sole test for authenticity when it comes to self-professed “prophets” or “apostles”. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 is a classic text on this, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams.” Did you catch that? Even if the sign or wonder comes to pass, even if it does happen, but it points you to a different god, ignore them. Consistency abounds in scripture; orthodoxy matters. If a sign or wonder leads you to a different Jesus, a different Father, a different Holy Spirit, or a different god altogether, it needs to be rejected.
One last thought is the appeal of ministering; “I know this and this from this (insert teacher or organization) ministered to someone”, and the reply is, so what? There is first this truth; God can use anything or anyone to save someone, and the second is this; many in other religions could say the same about their “experience”. If we determined truth by experience then there really would be multiple truths. The question needs to be raised, in what way did this thing minister? If God saves an individual through the works and messages of wolves then God will later save them from those same works and messages. It’s simple; God is powerful enough to save people, and God is powerful enough to save people from heresy. This has been seen over and over again through various individuals. In fact, it seems as if those who somehow receive the true gospel in these organizations always come out and later dedicate a good amount of their time showing others how they are false.
When someone usually appeals to these teachers they mean that these individual’s work comforted them in hard times through music, a message, etc. My first reaction is, of course they were comforted, because the message of these groups consists primarily of wealth, health, and happiness. One of the trademarks of these groups are “positive thinking” as a means of “producing” (literally) results. It doesn’t mean they had the gospel presented to them or were ministered to in an eternally significant way. Of course the music comforted them, because it is heavily man centered and even then, secular music has comforted believers and unbelievers alike. Is comforting the litmus test of godly teachers when comfort can be received by a variety of things outside of the church? The question is not whether or not they were emotionally comforted, but what kind of comfort did they receive? It is not my desire or intention to over simplify, but rather say, we need to remember that truth matters, especially to God.
So, when I hear that an individual was comforted through a tough time through the work of heretics, a couple of things come to mind. Firstly, experiences and sincerity are not truth. I’ve had many individuals who were sincere and/or had experiences in several regards that openly ignored the truth. Point being, you can be sincerely wrong, and your experiences could be misleading if not examined through the lens of truth. The second thought is that many cults have gripped people through these comforts. I have found that many individuals have converted to Jehovah’s Witnesses during hard times because the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a lot of “pretty” answers to the hard questions of life (hard to believe, I know). I have heard many Mormons, sincere in their experiences, attest to the “Holy Spirit” comforting them and leading them to Joseph Smith. Or what about the sociological cult of Jonestown? Are you going to insist that these individuals didn’t find something appealing or comforting while they literally drank themselves to death? Roman Catholicism has helped people. Motivational Speakers have helped people. Even medicine has helped people. And on. And on. Does this mean they received the truth of the gospel? No. They received something, but why presume that it was spiritually linked to God? I think, then, it needs to be asked, how did God use these groups in individual’s lives? Is there a place for God to used them? Sure. But that doesn’t make them correct.
At the end of the day, neither signs, wonders, experiences, or comforts are the litmus test for a biblical organization or teacher. Orthodoxy is, and a reading through the New Testament makes this abundantly clear.