2Th 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, (2) not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
Gal 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
If you study the history of the church, you soon learn that charlatans have been very common down through the centuries. One of their favorite tactics has been to deceive people by writing letters or documents that claim prophetic or apostolic authorship. Just about anytime some gap in the biblical storyline exists (details of Jesus’ childhood for instance) along comes some liar to write his fiction and make the claim it is from God written at the hands of one of His chosen.
For instance, there is a Gospel of Peter, a Gospel of Barnabas, and a Gospel of Judas all of which claim to be accounts of the earthly ministry of Christ. And there are numbers of pseudepigrapha that originated in the intertestament era, written by Jewish authors. The Assumption of Moses, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Psalms of Solomon and others.
More pointedly we see this same thing happening even in the time of the Apostles as proven by the Apostle Paul’s statements in 2 Thessalonians and Galatians quoted above. Forgers and false teachers sat down and wrote letters to the churches, claiming to be the Apostle Paul.
Now, this is all interesting but what does it have to do with us today. Plenty.
Satan does not change his tactics. That is why the New Testament tells us that we are not ignorant of his devices (or at least we have no excuse for being ignorant of them). Think about this carefully. In modern times it has become exponentially easier to publish things. The ball really got going with the invention of the printing press way back then – for good and for evil. Now, here we are in the age of the internet. ANYONE can set up a web page and start cranking out material, claiming to be speaking for the Lord. That has been going on for some time of course with radio and television (I remember Oral Roberts working up the “healings” on TV when I was a kid), but even more so now.
And it is dangerous. Very, very dangerous.
How often do you read in the news that some young person got connected with a pedophile or a sex trafficker, or an ISIS recruiter because they were cruising the web and began chatting? Things get even dicier and more dangerous when it comes to false prophets, false teachers, charlatan “Bible” teachers and so forth. The internet is a wonderful tool. I am able to write to you right now and you may be located just about anywhere in the world. Every week some 250 people around the world download my Sunday sermon and our church has been able to help get the Lord’s truth about abuse to victims all over the globe.
But Satan and the kingdom of darkness is going to use this tool for great evil too. Just as Winston Churchill was able to address the British people during WWII and encourage them, so Adolph Hitler got on the airwaves for his diabolic purposes.
If Satan’s servants can appear in person as “sons of righteousness” (see 2 Cor 11) and if Satan himself can show up as an apparent “angel of light,” then think how easy it is for his servants to put on some saintly, holy facade on a web page! We must always remember that the appearance is the disguise. And that someone can paint themselves as just about any appearance they want to – especially on the internet. We must always remind ourselves that we do not truly know the person we are web-chatting with. We only know the image they are portraying to us, which may be true or false.
The Galatians got sucked in really quickly –
Gal 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–
Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
Little wonder then that John warns us:
1Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Let us all heed this warning carefully.