Spiritually, the world population is divided into two groups only, i.e. the children of God and the children of the devil. This division relates to the two big kingdoms that are in competition for control over humanity. They are God’s kingdom of truth, righteousness and eternal life, and Satan’s kingdom of lies, sin and eternal death.
There is only one entrance to God’s kingdom, and that is Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for humanity’s sin (Eph. 1:7). All who wish to belong to God’s kingdom can, through repentance and rebirth, become children of the heavenly Father and disciples of His only begotten Son. All people outside Christ are excluded: “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Paul says to the Galatians who confessed their faith in Christ: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). Those who truly belong to Christ are regenerated and guided by the Holy Spirit: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). The Holy Spirit ministers Christ’s work of grace to us.
On the other hand, there are the great majority of unbelievers who do not have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Lord Jesus said of unsaved people who only had a form of godliness: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth… for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). He is a false god who is intent on deceiving humanity and keeping them away from the true God and His Son. He blinds their minds that they should not understand and believe the gospel message (2 Cor. 4:4).
The children of God and the children of the devil are depicted as people who either walk on the narrow way or on the broad way, which are leading to opposite destinations – the one to heaven and the other one to hell. These two ways represent a spiritual classification of all people into only two groups. But in practice they live intermingled with each other and it is not always easy to determine to which one of these two groups a person belongs. The righteous and unrighteous are like wheat and tares that have been sown in the same field and will only be separated during harvest time (Matt. 13:24-30). Everyone’s true character is revealed by his works – they are either the fruit of the Spirit or the unfruitful works of darkness.
Saved and unsaved people work together, live together, and may even be very intimately associated with one another as married couples. Many of the unsaved ones pretend to be “good people” but nobody can, of his own, expel the spiritual darkness from his heart by cancelling his guilt of sin. Ultimately, there will be a radical separation of the two groups: “In that night there will be two [people] in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:34-36). This separation also includes the deceased among whom there will be a “resurrection of life” for the saved and a “resurrection of condemnation” for the unsaved” (John 5:29).
This matter is so crucially important that we need to have absolute certainty about our spiritual standing before the Lord – even more so because all people are born as sinners who inherited the first Adam’s fallen nature (Rom. 5:12). Nobody is born as a child of God on the narrow way, and that includes the children of Christians. A second, spiritual birth must occur so that we may obtain the holy nature of the last Adam, Jesus Christ, and be transferred to the narrow way (Rom. 5:12-19). This transition from darkness to the light calls for a definite step of repentance that must be taken in faith. All believers should be able to testify of this experience without hesitation:
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the minds, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:1-5; cf. Col. 1:13-14).
Paul said to the Corinthians, who also came over from the darkness of sin to the light of God’s righteousness, that they should not make any room for evil but live in all respects like changed people who were made new: “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
By grace the old, sinful life has passed away and everything has become new (2 Cor. 5:17). Dark thoughts of condemnation were replaced by the peace introduced by the forgiveness of sins. Where spiritual deadness prevailed, new spiritual life dawned; where there was slavery to sin, forgiveness and complete freedom followed; and where there was defeat against temptations, victory was achieved. The presence of the Lord illuminates our life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so we can clearly discern between good and evil. We no longer have to walk according to the twisted values of our old, depraved nature but, by the Lord’s grace, we can do works that are worthy of repentance. These works are the fruit of the Holy Spirit and have value for eternity.
As children of the light we have a definite mission in a spiritually dark world. The fact that saved and unsaved people live side by side in the world, being virtually in daily contact, enables Christians to proclaim the message of salvation to those around them. We are in the world but not of the world. We must not become like worldly people but shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). We must not grow cold in our love for the Lord Jesus and look back after we have put our hand to the plough but stand firm in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.
This life demands a life-long involvement with the work of the Lord on earth. As believers walking on the narrow way we are called upon to “proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). All saved people should be witnesses to Christ – not only pastors. We were saved from the present evil world (Gal. 1:4) and must help others to also secure this wonderful salvation. The wrath of God rests upon the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6), so it is critically important that they also hear the message of salvation and come over to the narrow way where they will have a hopeful future.
As witnesses of Christ we should walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Without this spiritual enduement we will not be able to be examples of His saving grace. People should be able to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, as that will confirm to them the big difference that the Lord Jesus can bring about in the lives of His disciples. As long as our old nature is not crucified we cannot walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17; 6:14). Have you been saved from all your sins and do you daily identify with the cross of Jesus to such an extent that the holiness of His resurrection life can be seen in your life without any doubt? (Luke 9:23; Rom. 6:5-6; Phil. 3:10). The world must be able to see that we belong to the Lord Jesus and have died to sin.
“You know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever [continuously] sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practises righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous… In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God” (1 John 3:5-10).
The grey area of deception
Although there is a clear distinction between spiritual light and darkness, there also is a grey area concerning those who only have a form of godliness. They pretend to be good people who are on the narrow way and belong to the Lord but they only serve Him with their good works and honour Him with their lips while their hearts are cold and unregenerate. Jesus Christ said of Israel: “This people honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me… All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:6,9).
The majority of Israelites regarded themselves as members of the Chosen People and as such distinguished themselves from the unsaved heathens. But they only observed religious traditions without maintaining a relationship with the Lord. These people were caught up in a grey area of formalism, not being heathens, but neither being believers with circumcised (changed) hearts who served the Lord in Spirit and truth. They were religious but lost. They were hiding their lost state behind a smokescreen of religious traditions, while pretending to be God’s people.
The same grey area of a form of godliness also occurs in New Testament times among the Gentiles. Membership of an evangelical congregation is no guarantee that a person is saved since it is possible that one can also under that circumstance merely offer lip service to the Lord. Paul warned Timothy against people who were living in sin but nevertheless concealed it behind a form of godliness (2 Tim. 3:1-5). They were seemingly religious because of their church membership, observance of sacraments and financial contributions to the church, but the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit was absent in their lives. They were unsaved and spiritually powerless slaves of sin as they only lived for material things, pleasure and vanity, but at the same time claimed to be Christians who are on their way to heaven.
Paul’s command to his young fellow-worker was: “From such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5). They always learn and never come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7). Year after year they attend churches where watered-down messages are preached to them, and consequently they never gain a saving knowledge of God and His demands of rebirth and holiness. Even if they do sometimes hear true messages they harden their hearts. These unsaved people will be rejected in spite of their church membership and form of godliness because they do not personally know the Lord Jesus. In vain they will boast in their church attendance and good works that were even done in the name of Jesus, as He will declare to them: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:21-23). An outward form of godliness is not enough to render any person a Christian.
Pastors should to a large extent take the blame for the phenomenon of religious formalism. They are the ones who deviate from the sound doctrine of the Bible, and justify and appease everybody in the church in order to remain popular with them and ensure their continued support and financial contributions. They get along well with their carnal church members seeing that they find themselves together on the way of dead formalism: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Easy shortcuts are offered to heaven, where the demands of repentance and the confession of sins are not proclaimed.
The backslidden members who prefer low standards and a non-offensive message are equally responsible for rejecting the sound doctrine of the Bible. They follow such preachers, attend their services, buy their books, and make substantial contributions to them. In this way they encourage the fables and lies which are propagated by these teachers and because of that they denounce evangelical preachers who remain faithful to biblical standards and oppose the ever increasing falling away.
One of the very popular fables proclaimed, is that of positive thinking. In this approach light and darkness are not discussed as opposite realities because sin, judgement and punishment are regarded as negative thoughts that should rather be ignored. Nobody is called a sinner, God’s judgement of sin is not mentioned, and consequently the cross as a symbol of judgement over sin is not proclaimed. Only positive thoughts are elaborated upon, how God loves everybody, and only wishes to bless people and help them realise their full potential.
But this modern, purpose-driven life is human-driven as it does not focus on the cross and the confession of sins as its point of departure. It is clearly a life which is built upon the sand of humanistic self-deception. The supporters of this teaching are not guided by the Holy Spirit but are called to higher heights by promises of success, wealth and prosperity. In order to appease their conscience they engage themselves in programmes for social upliftment and caring for the poor, but not in evangelisation.
The inevitable result of preaching half-truths is spiritual deception in the form of a false doctrine of salvation. This humanistic approach is very popular and accounts for the rapid increase of an unsaved, nominal Christianity in which people only have a form of godliness. Thousands of people flock to large, mega-churches where they listen to modern pop music and motivational talks in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is not properly presented. We will urgently have to determine what purpose the enemy of our souls has with this rapidly expanding campaign of deception in Christian churches.
A false Jesus
End-time Christianity is subjected to immense pressure to deviate from biblical doctrines, thereby surrendering it to the deceptive gospel of the new world order’s false Christ. This has become a worldwide movement which is described as the great falling away of the last days (2 Thess. 2:3-4). In the process, the sound doctrine of the Bible is substituted by demonic teachings: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). The deceived people do not realise that the devil is behind the distorted gospel which is proclaimed to them with nice-sounding words, and consequently they accept it without investigating it (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
The final objective with these new views is to replace the true Jesus with a false Jesus. A postmodern deconstruction of the biblical Jesus is occurring, in which He is deprived of His supernatural and divine attributes and then presented as the “historical Jesus” of modern theology. With this happening, the biblical Jesus is likened to the image of the Antichrist, but He is still referred to as “Jesus”.
The world is already in an advanced stage of deception in which the virgin birth, deity, miracles, atoning death, resurrection and ascension of the true Jesus are denied by an increasing number of people – also in leading Christian churches. In the process the biblical Jesus is systematically changed into another Jesus who is proclaimed within the framework of a false gospel under the influence of Satan’s deceiving spirits (2 Cor. 11:3-4). The stage is now set for the appearing and worldwide acceptance of the end-time’s false Jesus who is described in the Bible as the Antichrist and the beast. He will be followed by a deceived world and worshipped as peacemaker by all people:
“And all the world marvelled and followed the beast. So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? … And he was given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 13:3-4,7).
Satan clearly does not intend to destroy religion – he only wishes to distort it in order that humanity may worship him as the universal God of all faiths, and also worship his false Messiah-King as Christ and later as God (Dan. 11:36-38; 2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Thess. 2:4). That can only happen to already deceived people who will open themselves up to the miracles and other supernatural powers of the Antichrist and false prophet, thereby subjecting themselves to the control and spiritual blinding of deceiving spirits (2 Thess. 2:8-12; Rev. 13:11-15).
We are living in the time shortly before the secret coming of the heavenly Bridegroom for His bridal congregation, which will shortly afterwards be followed by the revelation of the false Christ of all faiths. We should, more than ever before, heed the serious warning of the Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse when He said: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5).
The extensive end-time deception is conducted in the Name of Jesus, but it is obviously not the Jesus of the Scriptures. A false, ecumenical Jesus from the kingdom of darkness is proclaimed, and the whole world is now being prepared to follow him in amazement. Nominal Christians who are ignorant of biblical prophecies are easy targets for this deception. They easily deny the true Christ and His message of salvation.
The only solution to this serious problem of deception is to proclaim the true, biblical Jesus and His gospel of repentance and the remission of sins (cf. Luke 24:46-48; Acts 17:30; Eph. 1:7). That is the only way of ensuring that people are on the narrow way that leads to heaven. False prophets try everything in their power to present the broad way of unrestricted human freedom and ecumenical compromise as the right way that goes to heaven. They allege that all people are going to heaven as, according to them, there neither is a devil nor a hell where sinners will be punished.
The narrow way is belittled as being the view of a small group of Christian fundamentalists who are completely out of touch with God’s plan for humanity. They are regarded as a big threat to society because they strictly observe biblical truths and condemn all who do not honour these tenets. This small group of evangelical believers will increasingly be rejected and also persecuted by the world because they refuse to accept the views of the deceived majority and consequently refrain from engaging in their activities. We should however not be discouraged by the retaliating reaction we receive from the world since Paul said to Timothy: “Endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5).
We only have one way ahead and that is the narrow way to heaven. Do not listen to the false prophets who, for the sake of financial gain, prestige and ecumenical recognition, give credibility to the broad way by proclaiming fables and lies. Our minority position should not cause us to compromise the narrow way to heaven in even the slightest way for the sake and comfort of the worldly minded. The Lord Jesus said:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:13-16). Do not become their followers by distorting the truth like they do.
It should be our major objective in life to remain absolutely faithful to the Lord Jesus and His Word so that He will one day also say to us: “You have kept my Word and have not denied my Name” (Rev. 3:8). The Word of the Lord will be literally fulfilled to its minutest detail, and for that reason it must be proclaimed in all its basic and literal implications. The exalted Name of Jesus as Saviour, God and King must also be honoured as “there is [not] salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Only the watchful and faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus will be worthy to escape the coming tribulation and be co-heirs of His eternal kingdom (Luke 21:36; Rom. 8:17). We should not turn away from the narrow way to the left hand or the right. Only if we conscientiously follow the right course we will prosper wherever we go.The Lord Jesus does not tolerate compromisers who impair the integrity of the Bible by questioning it or changing it to render it more acceptable to sinners, as they are the ones who turn people’s ears away from the truth by justifying sin. He is looking for faithful servants who will rightly divide the word of truth and teach it in a convincing way (2 Tim. 2:15). We must commit ourselves to declaring the whole counsel of God – also the prophetic word (Acts 20:27; 1 Thess. 5:20). Preachers should not only proclaim God’s love and grace but also His judgements upon all sinners who refuse to repent in accordance with His Word. All people should be confronted with a definite choice as there are only two ways on which they can walk. The way of the Lord can only be entered upon by His grace and walked according to His conditions. Committed disciples get the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to persevere to the end on the right road.