3 False Teachings to Watch Out For
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
This week I want to alert everyone who reads this to be aware of certain things that are being taught in some churches as being factual and prophetic when in fact they are neither. These three erroneous teachings, in no particular order, are the ‘prosperity gospel’, tithing, and a “pre-tribulation Rapture”. Allow me a little of your time to sort through these because this is stuff that people, be they Christian or otherwise, need to be made aware of. Otherwise one may find themselves on the wrong road, forcing them to back-track. I cannot stand idly by and allow this to occur, so here we go.
In the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite—God uses the believer. Word of Faith, or ‘prosperity theology’, sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the believer to do God’s will. The prosperity gospel movement closely resembles some of the destructive greed sects that infiltrated the early church. Paul and the other apostles were not accommodating to or conciliatory with the false teachers who propagated such heresy. They identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them. The pursuit of wealth is a dangerous path for Christians and one which God warns about: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1st Timothy 6:10). If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But He did not, preferring instead to have no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20) and teaching His disciples to do the same. Let’s also not forget that the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas.
James chapter 4, verses 13-15 clearly contradicts the prosperity gospel: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live ad do this or that.’” Far from speaking things into existence in the future, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive. Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it. Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). In sharp contrast to the Word of Faith emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The irreconcilable contradictions between prosperity teaching and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
The “pre-tribulation rapture” is based on the rapture of the Church as written in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 15-18, among other places. In this passage of Scripture, the Lord returns for His people, his Church, and for His Bride, which are one and the same. The ‘rapture’, as it’s called, coincides with the Great Tribulation as foretold in the books of Revelation, Daniel, Zechariah and others in the old and new testaments. The reign of the Antichrist, as foretold in Daniel chapter 12, will last for exactly three and a half years. But in the very next sentence it says that prior to that, there will be a period of 1,335 days (about 3.6 years) of turmoil upon the earth, with wars, plagues, pestilences and much death being inflicted on humankind. It is this period of time, which signifies that first part of the Great Tribulation (as prophesied in Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 21), that is in question by these pre-tribulation people. The pre-tribulation rapture simply says that all followers of Christ will be taken up at the very beginning of the combined 7-year tribulation period (that is, the 1,335 days plus the 3.5-year reign of the Antichrist just before Jesus’ return). This implies that Christians – particularly American Christians – will not have to endure any of the Great Tribulation period. Brothers and sisters, nothing could be further from the truth! The Bible clearly states in Revelation 13, verses 6-7, “He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.” “He” in this passage refers to the Antichrist, and he clearly will wage war against Christianity – and the Antichrist will win up until his end comes, and it most certainly will!
Any Christian – including American Christians – who thinks they will escape persecution in the terrible times soon to come is delusional and self-deceiving. If any US resident who is reading this thinks they can stay safely barricaded in their gated and walled communities during the time of the Greast Tribulation – which according to prophecy will likely begin no later than the end of 2016 – I’m sorry but you are sadly mistaken. I realize I’m not going to be winning any popularity contests (especially in the US) for making that statement, but it is in your own best interests that the truth be told. The rule of the Antichrist will be global, meaning he’ll be running the North American continent just like everywhere else. And yes indeed, some American Christians are going to wind up getting killed for refusing to worship the image of the Antichrist or take his mark. I fully expect to be one of these fortunate individuals. Yes, I wrote “fortunate” out of due deference to the apostle James, who wrote: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will recieve the crown of life that God has promise to those who love him.” (James chapter 1 verse 12 NIV) Jesus himself said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for their righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5, verses 11-12, NIV) So I tell you that we are not to fear persecution when it comes, and it is surely coming! Instead, the Bible commands us to embrace it!
The last thing I need to mention here is titheing. The word ‘titheing’ has its roots all the way back in the Old Testament to the books of Moses, in this case to Leviticus – it can also be found elsewhere too, but for the sake of brevity let me side-step that for now. The definition of titheing is the giving of 10% of one’s income, or in ancient times one’s crops or livestock, to the Lord. This had two purposes. The first and most important was as an atonement for sin, and the second was as a donation towards the upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem as well as to the High Priests for their sustenance. But that was the Old Law, or Law of Moses as it is still called in synagogues to this very day. Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice which fulfilled Levitical law, which says there must be shedding of blood for our sins. Sorry if that seems too graphic for some people, but I didn’t write any part of the Bible, I’m only a messenger.
But on Resurrection Sunday when Jesus rose from the grave to live forever and to be seated eternally at his Father’s right hand, the New Testament, or law of Christ, not only supplanted but entirely replaced the Law of Moses. A new deal took effect – a fresh covenant! Jesus Christ is the new sacrifice, He is the new covenant and the fulfillment of the old one – all at the same time. Only Jesus can do that. What does the Bible tell us about this? “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3, verses 26-29, NIV)
OK, so if we are all heirs due to the sacrifice of Christ, then we are also all equals, am I right? At the very least, we would be Jewish by adoption in the eyes of God. So, it no longer matters how much we put into the offering basket, because Jesus has paid the price for us all. This teaching about tithing is cut from the same cloth as the pre-tribulation Rapture and the prosperity gospel. Virtually all of the modern churches are teaching the Old Testament concept of tithing, the giving of 10% of the profits, or of one’s income, for the support of the Temple at Jerusalem and all the Levitical priests. Today in most churches, its members are still expected to “tithe” 10% of their income because the pastors haven’t read their Bibles in so long they have forgotten what’s in it. Sacrifice can be done in far more ways than merely giving money. The apostle Paul wrote something that I think is very timely concerning the modern Christian church and its “teachings” about titheing. “If the willingness is there”, Paul wrote, “the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” And again it is written, “As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth’, he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21, verses 1-4, NIV) Notice that this is exactly the opposite of what most of the modern evangelical/Christian churches are teaching, especially those with a strong television presence. Give what you can to others first, and to the church second, according to your ability. “I desire mercy”, Jesus said, “not sacrifice”. The size of your offering does not matter. Real Christians will not judge your offering. Only the bogus ones will size you up. The real God won’t judge your offering either.