The spirit of truth and the spirit of error
The spirit of truth and the spirit of error
The Lord Jesus was asked by His disciples what sign there would be of the end of the world. He gave many signs to look for, but the one He repeated at least four times depending on how you count it is deception (Mt 24:4-5, 11, & 23-27). The apostles also warned Christians including those in the last days about deception. 2Timothy 4:1-4 warns that the time would come “when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” The word translated fables there is the Greek word mythos. 1John 4:1-6 admonishes us to “try the spirits whether they are of God”. “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” The “us” here and in other passages including “we” as well is understood to mean the apostles. The most common theme in Paul’s advice to young pastors Timothy and Titus is to be careful to teach sound doctrine and be on guard against errors. It is more than just an issue of denominationalism or personal interpretation. Personal interpretations are not a source of truth (2Pet 1:16-21). It is a spiritual matter of truth and error.
A great illustration of the spirit of truth and the spirit of error is found in the account of the meeting of Jehoshaphat and Ahab (1Ki 22, 2Chr 18). Israel had split into two nations. Ten of the twelve tribes became the northern kingdom of Israel, and two tribes became the southern kingdom of Judah. At the time of this meeting, Jehoshaphat was the good king of Judah and Ahab was the wicked king of Israel. Although Jehoshaphat loved God and did many things right, he made allegiance with Ahab and his family, and it was an error which cost him and his family. Ahab was going to war with Syria, and he asked Jehoshaphat to join him. He agreed but asked to hear a word of God from the prophets first. Ahab called 400 prophets to the scene. In the famous contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, there were 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the groves where idols were worshipped. After the contest, those false prophets were slain (1Ki 18:19), so it appears that Ahab and Jezebel replaced them. All of those prophets spoke with great unanimity advising Ahab that he should go to battle because he would win. Apparently, Jehoshaphat did not have total confidence in what he was hearing, and he asked Ahab if there was not another prophet around. Ahab said there was, but he hated him because he always prophesied evil to him. Nevertheless, at Jehoshaphat’s insistence Micaiah was brought. At first, he confirmed the words of the false prophets, but apparently even Ahab knew this was not the true word of God. Ahab demanded Micaiah speak the truth of the word of God. Micaiah then gave an account of an event which occurred before the throne of God. All of the angels were gathered there, and God asked who would go and convince Ahab to go to battle so he would die. Angels made different suggestions on how this could be done. Then one spirit said he would go and be a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets. God told him to go because this would work. Micaiah said that God had put a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets but had ordained his death in the battle. Ahab demanded the truth and Micaiah told him, but he rejected it anyway just like God said he would. This is reminiscent of king Zedekiah demanding that the prophet Jeremiah tell him the word of God and then rejecting it anyway (Jer 37:17). One would think Jehoshaphat would have taken warning, but he went to the battle anyway. Ahab disguised himself and went to the battle. The Syrians found Jehoshaphat and thought it was Ahab, but when they realized the error they went after Ahab and killed him via bow and arrow. Thus the prophecies of Elijah and Micaiah were fulfilled (1Ki 21:19).
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his false teachers as true (2Cor 11:13-15). Jesus warned that there would be imposters that masquerade as real disciples (Mt 7:13-29, Mt 24). However, in the last days people are willingly ignorant (2Pet 3:3-7). One aspect of deception is being lied to. Another aspect is convincing yourself willingly that a lie is the truth (Jer 37:9, Jer 44, Rom 1:18-32). The German Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels infamously said that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. It is not that the truth and the lie actually trade places, but it is the conditioned acceptance of the lie by people. This is what the enemy is doing today. People are being conditioned to accept things which have no factual basis whether they are false spiritual, political, or other doctrines. Christians are supposed to be filled with the Holy Ghost which is the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17). They also have the holy scriptures (2Tim 3:15-17, 2Pet 1:20-21). It is comprehensible how someone who does not know God could be deceived. In fact, they are already deceived (1Jn 5:19, Rev 12:9). However, it is the responsibility of Christians to know better and to help others know better.