I realize that few people want to study the methods of the demonic. It might seem too dark of a place to go. However, my experience researching the devil gave me a better understanding of why Jesus warns us about false prophets (see Matthew 7: 15-20). Also, I realized that modern false prophets methods in many ways match the methods of the demonic. The main false prophet today is the pop culture. However, just as the devil was able to infiltrate Jesus’s inner circle in Judas (see John 6: 70-71) and also temporarily in Peter (see Matthew 16: 23), the devil has snuck his way into Christian circles today. To reveal this, we need to know the 4 main features of the way the devil operates. When he tricked Adam & Eve to follow him over and above following God in Genesis 3: 1-6 we see how he did it:
- he twisted the truth by changing the words
- he used emotional words that sounded pleasing to hear
- he tried to comes across as the good guy and make God out to be the bad guy
- he had Eve focus on the lie that she would selfishly get something out of it – wisdom to be like God.
Everything that Jesus is, the devil is the opposite. Jesus said He was the truth (see John 14:6, 18:37, 8: 31-32), and the devil is described as “the father of lies” (see John 8:44). Well, the opposite of truth is lies. How does the devil deliver lies? He delivers them by way of his cunningness (see Genesis 3:1) in making his teaching pleasing to hear (see Genesis 3:6, Matthew 4:8-9). He is called the “deceiver of the whole world” (see Revelation 12:9). Now, when someone deceives someone else, the deceiver naturally has to come across as nice and harmless in order to do the deceiving. The same holds true of the devil, only on a much larger stage.
Peter mentions that the devil is prowling around this world (see 1 Peter 5: 8-14). Not only is the devil roaming around the world, the Bible indicates that the devil is, in fact, the ruler of this world (see John 12:31, 16:11, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2). In fact, in Luke and Matthew’s account when the devil tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of this world, this temptation implies that the devil has control of this world (see Matthew 4:8-9, Luke 4:5-6). Additionally, Jesus tells us directly that His (Jesus) kingdom is not of this world (see John 18: 36). This statement implies that the world’s kingdom belongs to the devil. So, the devil is everywhere in this world – he controls it. If the devil is everywhere in this world, we should expect to see a lot of his deception – a lot of false prophets.
The other clue we pick up about the devil is that he often does quote Scripture (Matthew 4:6) and does say a small truth here and there to fake us into trusting him. However, when he does quote Scripture, he’ll often misconstrue its meaning. In the temptation account, Satan used Psalm 91:11-12 to attempt to trick Jesus. However, he twisted the psalm’s original meaning. The psalm encourages trust and faith in God’s protection. It does not advocate testing God, and Jesus saw right through this trap (see Matthew 4:7). Another example is when he told Eve that if they eat his fruit, their eyes will be open. He was right. Their eyes were open alright. What he failed to tell them is that their eyes were open to the fact that they had removed themselves from God. It is important to understand that the devil will often tell us some truth to distort the larger truth. He does this so he can lure us into listening to him.
In my previous article, I threw down the gauntlet by saying that part of today’s modern false prophets are those that deny the real presence of the Eucharist. So, this claim would basically tag all evangelical/protestant churches as being run by false prophets. This is definitely a lot of people that would display the deceiving the much of the world illustration. Now, if the false prophets methods mirror the ways of the devil, we should expect that the Bible mentions this too. Let’s see if it does.
Firstly, the verses right before Jesus warned us about false prophets, He talked about a narrow gate and a wide gate. So, there is a link between the wide gate description and the false prophets. Jesus states: “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, for those that enter it are many” (Matthew 7:13). Two key words to pick up here about false prophets ways are easy and many.
After this, Jesus states, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolfs. By their fruits you shall know them” (verse 15). In the first two articles, I focused all on the word “fruit.” Now, I want to concentrate on the word “false prophets” to display this connection Jesus is talking about. He is obviously telling people to pay attention to the fruit or teaching that these false prophets dish out.
Then, Jesus declares that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matthew 24:11). Then, He goes on to say, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible the elect.” (Matthew 24:24). Jesus is clearly indicating that many will be lead away by what looks like wonderous signs. The reference to many people fits nicely to His wide gate analogy He said before.
To put this in basic terms, one clue about false prophets is that they will dupe many people. They’ll look and sound grand on the surface, but they are really leading you away from God. Lastly, Jesus said their ways would sound easy, with little if any hardships involved. Keep this in mind as we move forward to investigate typical evangelical preacher’s methods.
Peter devoted much of his letter in warning others about false prophets. Now, in the original letter, there were no chapters separating verses, so Peter’s letter was meant to be read as a non-interrupted letter. Notice that Peter warns that “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1: 20-21). Then, Peter talks about false prophets rising up. He’s basically indicating that one of the characteristics of these false prophets is that they will declare that they have authority on their own to determine the meaning of Scripture. Well, this is what we have in almost every non-Catholic church – I determine the meaning of Scripture. In other words, the false prophets will declare that they don’t need any authority (like the Church) to guide them in interpreting Scripture – they can do it themselves. This idea is counter to Scripture just as Peter indicates and elsewhere in the Bible (see also Acts 8: 30-31, 2 Peter 3: 15-16).
Then, in the next line Peter says, “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master [deny the Eucharist] who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep”. (2 Peter 2: 1-3).
From this passage, we can gather that the false prophets will deny the Eucharist. The specific group that Peter was most likely referring to was Gnostics. Gnostics did reject the Eucharist. Thus, if a group dismisses the Eucharist, you’ve got a sign of a false prophet. In these verses, Peter is indicating that the false prophets will have sneaky ways in which they are motivated by money, and will dupe many. Indeed, this “many” illustration again showcases the wide gate analogy. As Peter keeps talking about false prophets:
…they entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed . . . the have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing (verse 15).
The reference to “enticing unsteady souls” illustrates that false prophets will take advantage of naïve people who gleefully accept pleasing to hear emotional words. Also, greed will be a primary motivation of false prophets. Now, most popular evangelical preachers make a pretty penny and their job brings them many financial benefits. According to net worth research Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Rob Bell, and Joseph Prince, all have a net worth of multi-millions with income levels in the $500,000 range.
You won’t see this with Catholic priests. The lifestyle of a priest is not financially glamorous. Many priests have to take a vow of poverty. Those that don’t, make a meager wage – trust me I’ve seen a parish budget and know what a priest makes. Also, nuns and those of the religious orders live very simplistic lifestyles in which they are trained to detach themselves from money and material possessions.
All false prophets today have also historically departed from the line of apostles, and their teaching obviously is counter from the apostles. In his talk about false prophets, Peter directs people only to listen to those who come from the line of apostles:
“Remember the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” (2 Peter 3:2).
Here, he’s basically saying that if someone’s teaching and lineage runs counter to the apostles – you’ve find yourself a false prophet. Also, when the apostle John indicates the antichrist doesn’t come from “us” or “we” because he is an apostle writing, he is saying that the devil does not follow the teaching line of we, the apostles (see 1 John 2: 18-19). Well, only the Catholic Church can trace its history back to the 12 apostles. Even the secular Encyclopedia Britannica reports under the section Catholic Church “the church founded by Jesus of Nazareth.” So, Peter is linking false prophets to those that divorce themselves from the apostles – this would include all protestant denominations.
Also, in 2 Corinthians Paul devotes a whole chapter to talk about false prophets. Paul starts out by indicating that these false prophets will have the same method of the devil:
“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts would be led astray from a sincere devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
He also links false prophets to the devil later in his letter.
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11: 13-14).
Bingo – false prophets will have the same methods of the devil. Now, Satan is a master of deception, adept to hiding his darkness behind the mask of being nice, surgery, and sweet, when in fact, he is incredibly dark and ugly. Jesus hinted at this in the “wolves wearing sheep’s clothing” reference.
Then, Paul indicates that if you are taught different instructions about Jesus then the ones the apostles taught, you willingly accept a teaching from a sly, yet deadly source.
“For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we [apostles] preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted you submit to it” (2 Corinthians 11: 4).
Now when Paul says “we” he is talking about the apostles and verse 5 proves this. Again, we see that one of the trademarks of these false prophets is they will cut themselves off from the teaching and the succession of the apostles. Well, this actually occurs in non-Catholic churches. They have all gladly removed themselves from the historical line of the apostles.
When Paul talks about “another Jesus” he is referring to a distorted message about Jesus and what Jesus is not. And if a teacher denies the Eucharist and the apostles teaching – as many protestant churches do – they’re giving their audience this “other Jesus.” This other Jesus might as well be called a watered down man-made re-making of Jesus and a watered downed gospel. In other words, if this other gospel sounds easy and pleasing to hear, you’ve got the wrong gospel. (see Galatians 1:6-10). And Paul tells us this plainly when he says,
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to truth and wander into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3).
Recall, that Jesus warned that the wrong way into the wide gate would seem easy. Now, let’s add Paul’s statement of “will suit their own liking” to our case. This easy, pleasing to hear way is what we find from non-Catholic teachers. They have teaching that sounds fairly pleasant to hear – no Sacraments required, you get to determine what God is telling you, little suffering needed, let’s avoid teaching you about the early apostles and let’s spend more time entertaining you with a feel good message, and the only thing you need is faith alone. This message sounds way too easy – just like Paul and Jesus warned us. By the way, to see how problematic the idea of faith alone is you can read my previous article here.
The letter of Jude is a short letter all about false prophets. First, Jude tells us that he received the faith from the saints/apostles (Jude 3). Then, he talks about false prophets and how they go counter to what the apostles teach: “these men in their dreamings defile the flesh [deny the Eucharist] reject authority [don’t teach in the line of apostolic authority] and revile the glorious ones” (Jude 8-9).
Jude keeps going to connect false prophets to corrupting the Eucharist. Jude references that false prophets will ruin their “love feasts.” In the ancient Church the Eucharistic meal was referred to as an agape feast (love feast). Also, notice that Jude links the false prophets to bad fruit. Thus, he is connecting not having the Eucharist to having bad fruit – just like Jesus teaching implies.
“These are blemishes on your love feasts [Eucharist], as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves, waterless clouds, carried along by winds, fruitless trees..” (Jude 12)
Jude also warns, “these are grumblers, malcontents, following their own passions, loud-mouthed boasters, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 16)
So, these folks are really into themselves. They like hearing themselves talk and to constantly show-off. Presumably, they make the altar their own personal stage in which they give 30-40 minute talks that showcase their charismatic charm. Also, in “flattering people to take advantage” we notice again that they give people an entertaining message they want to hear so as to make their audience gullible to the false prophet’s own selfish ends – listen to me not the apostles. We now see that these false prophet’s act more like entertainers to show off their man-made wisdom rather than to teach based of the original instructions the apostles gave us. Paul even hints at this when he says, “My message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom [entertainment], but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (see 1 Corinthians 2: 1-5). And in chapters 2-3 Paul talks about how you won’t reach God through human wisdom and charm. Then, in chapter 4 he talks about receiving God through the ministry of the apostles – God’s way.
While it may seem evangelical preachers are pointing you to Jesus, they are actually pointing you to themselves. That is all a person gets – the same old bad fruit – flawed, corrupted men. On the other hand, a Catholic priest’s whole job is to use himself to literally point to Jesus in the Eucharist – the good fruit.
This bad fruit is reminiscent of the figs we looked at in part 1. This would be teaching (fruit) that appears pleasing but does not last long. Also, this teaching (fruit) has a flawed source, and when you eat its flesh, it leaves you thirsty or dissatisfied. In other words, it doesn’t work.
Back to Jude, – in chapter 17, he points the reader back to the apostles and that these false prophets “will set up divisions . . . devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 17-19). Set up divisions – well, we see that because of today’s false prophets we have over 25,000 different Christian denominations. Devoid of the Spirit – we see this today from these false prophets as they don’t want the Sacraments – thus they don’t have the Spirit.
Jesus recited a parable in which a king throws a great wedding feast for certain guests but they all refuse to come. After the refusal of these guests, the king then invites the more lowly servants to attend and a great variety of both good and bad humble people come to the wedding feast (see Matthew 22: 1-14). Given that in the previous article, we saw that the banquet wedding feast imagery represents the Eucharist (see also Revelation 19: 6-9), we now come to the conclusion that in this parable those that refused to come to the king’s feast is what we find today in Protestant churches. They refuse to partake in the Eucharist. This is a sad picture.
Paul also makes the false prophet and Eucharist connection when he says,
“Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4: 1-5)
Because the word thanksgiving is Greek for eucharistia (Eucharist), he is indicating that these false prophets abstain or deny the Eucharist. This sounds eerily similar to what Ignatius wrote in 107 AD, “they even deny the Eucharist.”
Recall that the devil often states the truth to distort its meaning by using emotional language. The devil is a master at switching words around. This method is merely witty word-crafting much like propaganda. Propaganda uses clever marketing to dupe the audience. Many evangelical preachers will use vague, emotional words to divert their audience from the truth.
Words are a description of reality. If you change the words do you change reality? No, if you change the correct words you are only hiding reality. If a person does not have the truth or wants to hide the fact that he doesn’t have the truth, they will use vague, abstract, emotional words to revert the audience’s attention away from the truth and into a pleasing to hear message. Obviously, if you have the truth, you don’t need that much emotion as emotion is a natural by-product of the truth. Emotion is a response to truth, not a way to get at truth. So, the overuse of words that sound pleasing and elicits positive feelings shows that the speaker is diverting a person from the truth.
Because I study from evangelical teachers and professors, I know how they operate. For example, to downplay the Eucharist a lot of preachers will constantly refer to the Eucharist as “a piece of wafer.” Chanting “piece of wafer” is an emotionally charged statement. A word is emotionally charged if it is presented to a person as if the word speaks for itself. If a word is communicated in a way in which the person is not supposed to think what the word actually means it is an emotionally charged word. This means the speaker is up to something – they are tying to sneak a word by you.
The evangelical speaker will get their audience to blandly accept the “just a wafer” slogan as if it is self-evident. Because the audience has been so hypnotized by the charm of the charismatic speaker they won’t have a clue that they are actually being duped by them. In short, the false prophet’s emotional appeal is easily accepted without question by their unsuspecting audience.
All the false prophet does is repeatedly chant emotional slogans and gets their audience to nod sheepishly in approval. The false prophet shrewdly implants the word “sucker” on their audience – just keep chanting wafer, wafer, and you won’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about. However, to simply dismiss a rich theological teaching on bread throughout the Bible by reciting the catchphrase “just a piece of wafer” is theologically immature.
Also, I’ve noticed that they’ll hide John chapter 6. If they do talk about John 6, they’ll cleverly skirt around the apostles teaching of this chapter. They’ll just quote one or two verses in an ambiguous way – verses like “will you leave me also” (John 6:67). Then, they’ll use this verse and talk about how important it is to follow Jesus. They won’t want to look at the reason why Jesus’ own disciples left Him is because He said you need to eat my flesh and drink my blood (see John 6: 53-66). At this point, they will have moved on with their entertaining show so as to conceal the true meaning of this passage.
Another emotionally charged word false prophets will focus on is “tradition.” They’ll keep saying: “we don’t need to follow tradition”, or “we don’t need to go through the motions.” (see here). Of course, we see that in the Bible, the word tradition is a positive word when it comes from a good source as according to Paul (see 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 1 Corinthians 11:2).
1 John 4:1 talks about false prophets and that you should “test every spirit.” In other words, don’t just gleefully nod your head in approval of arousing words you hear – test to see if what they are saying matches up with the Bible.
False prophets will make their audience think mainly via emotions. This is how children think. When you think more based on feelings, your easy prey to be duped by cunning emotional language. When you think via emotions, you’ll be pulled in so many directions you’ll become overly confused. Paul gives us a hint of this as he is teaching the Ephesian church about being centered in “the body of Christ” and “the church” if you are not then,
“We will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4: 14).
Paul then talks about being connected to Christ through the body. Of course, we see elsewhere “the body” is the Eucharist and as Paul also says “the church” (see Colossians 1:18, 1:24). This verse implies you know your dealing with a false prophet if the false prophet does not have the Eucharist, then they are taking you away from the real church Jesus established.
We’ve thoroughly covered point 1 and 2 mentioned in the beginning of the article on the devil’s ways – change the instructions by playing on our emotions. The next point is to make God out to be this restrictive bad guy. This method is also followed to the “T” by modern false prophets. Since I attend an evangelical seminary, I know one of the moves they always take is to make the Catholic Church out to be a restrictive, repressive guide. They’ll make it sound like you need to break away from this bad place. Little do they know that the place they want to take you away from has Jesus in the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments. Ironically, by switching good guy to bad guy, they are doing the same trick the devil did back in Eden.
On to point 4 on the devil’s method – let the audience focus on the fact that they will selfishly “get something out of it.” Because most people have been duped by the consumer mentality in the modern culture, they now view the church as another outlet in which they need to be served. False prophets have people think like consumers in that they need to be entertained and amused with compelling messages where they “get something out of it.” Modern church goers now have become like shoppers who merely seek out a church to hear an inspiring motivational talk over honestly seeking the truth. They’ll prefer to follow their wants over their needs. Therefore, the false prophets have convinced people that Eucharist talk is too boring and outdated. Because people are too busy and theologically naïve, they are easy prey to the false prophets tricks. So, we can see that point 4 is covered as the false prophet uses deception by appealing to people’s senses and emotions through clever word crafting techniques and convinces people the whole point of faith is “to get something out of it.” Of course, this is the opposite teaching of what faith is. Faith is all about to give for the other, not to get for the self (see Luke 9:23-24, Matthew 20:28).
People have been so compromised by the pop culture’s idea that they need to be entertained that they don’t have a clue what is going on. Additionally, they don’t have the time or the energy to figure this out. The devil has rigged the system because he’s created too much noise, made people too busy, too awestruck by emotional phrases and catchy slogans for people to take the time to figure out that they are being played just like Adam & Eve were played in Eden. Con artists are always masters of rigging their secret.
Do these modern false prophet preachers knowingly deceive people? I suspect not. They themselves have been duped. There is a long line of duping going on, and ultimately this duping has a demonic source.
These false prophets may have good intentions – like Rick Warren, Rob Bell, etc. but good intentions won’t suffice in leading people to Jesus. Would you use a financial advisor that has good intentions but ultimately leads you into bankruptcy? Would you go to a doctor that has good intentions but gives you the wrong medicine? The fact that a person is so hung up on that teacher’s good intentions reveals that that person is more concerned with feelings and emotion over receiving the truth. This is exactly the problem, and this is precisely the way false prophets want you to think.
As we add up all these clues, laid out in this series I hope the reader can come to the dramatic conclusion that humanity took the bad teaching in Eden because the devil tricked us in a cunning way to remove us from God. But, God had a plan to bring us Himself to us to override the effects when we divorced Him by listening to the bad fruit. The Eucharist is the good fruit, but the rotten fruit is still talking today in the form of false prophets.
The false prophets are linked to the devil’s original strategy to bring us lies through a cunning strategy in which they come across as harmless. They bring us pleasing to hear teachings but in fact these teachings literally take us away from Jesus when they deny the Eucharist. Even if a person wants to go to Jesus, the devil will make every effort to make sure this doesn’t happen. And the fact that most cradle Catholics have walked away from the Eucharist shows that devil is very successful at making people walk away from Jesus.
Let’s not let the devil keep duping people. As Catholics let’s get people back home to the Church and back home to the Eucharist. The Eucharist will heal any and all damage the false prophet have done.