The whole world is being prepared for a counterfeit Christ, described in Revelation 13. Jesus warned us that there would be many who would attempt to come in the place of Christ, usurping his role:
“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
The Apostle John warns us that in addition to the coming antichrist, many antichrists are already among us:
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
1 John 2:18-19
John says these antichrists “went out from us”. Satan is portrayed as a clever deceiver. If he inspired someone to walk among Christians saying “I am against Jesus Christ”, those who profess to love the Lord would not be deceived. An effective deception is well disguised.
In what ways might we be led to follow one who usurps the role of Jesus Christ? I am convinced that the world and professing Evangelical Christians are being prepared to follow the antichrist by getting use to following gurus. As I say in the article, “Four Ways Christians Are Being Deceived”:
We are much more likely, these days, to not refer to our Bible for our convictions and world-view, but instead to follow the opinions of leaders we look up to. In these days of “Christian mass media”, celebrity ministers are likely to draw our attention and our allegiance. It is a dangerous thing to set up gurus within the Body of Christ who are beyond criticism.
Is your “pastor” a one man show? I would be greatly concerned about this. If you go to your fellowship’s website, is he the only leader mentioned? Is his the only photograph prominently displayed? Is he the only one free to speak about truth and error? Must all others agree with him or face the consequences? Does your fellowship revolve around his personality and the personalities of his wife and family? Do this man and his wife act like benevolent royalty? Do his wife and children have more influence in the church than the elders? Is he the only teacher? Does he have veto power over every detail of the functioning of your fellowship? Are the “elders” yes-men who really just act as his staff? Or is there a continuing line of former elders who have tried to speak up and were slammed? Did your fellowship begin by a gathering of people at this man’s feet? Or if he were to go on to bigger and better things, would half to three quarters of his audience leave? Do people refer to your fellowship as “John’s Church” or “Pastor John’s Church” or “Pastor Smith’s Church”? Are people induced to stand in line to speak to him? To shake his hand? Does their heart go pitter-pat when he mentions their name from the pulpit? Do they wonder if he’s thinking about them? Do they yearn for his approval and fear his wrath?
Are you a husband or a father? Does the clergyman who rules over your church induce your wife or your children to have an emotional attachment to him with a blind emotional loyalty that causes them to become defensive at the slightest hint of criticism of their Pastor? I would be concerned about this. It is cult-like for your wife to respect and admire this man more than her own husband. It is adulterous and idolatrous for your wife to be so emotionally attached to this man. It is wrong for a clergyman to usurp the role of husband in the lives of the women of the congregation. It is wrong for a clergyman to usurp the role of loving and wise father in the lives of the children and youth of a congregation.
Worse yet! It is idolatry and blasphemy for this man to usurp the role of Christ among the believers in your fellowship! That is exactly what he does if he functions as a guru beyond critique or a dictator beyond question. And that is exactly what he does if he is more than just a brother in Christ; if he is more than just one of multiple leaders and overseers; if he is more than just one of a number of men free to teach the truth; if the life of the congregation is focused on and revolves around him.
Of course, not every leader in a church that fits some of these descriptions is an antichrist. We all walk in the flesh to varying extents at various times. We all need to grow closer to Jesus in our daily walk and mature in our ministries and gifts and callings. But these are serious issues. And if any of these descriptions fit, they ought to be dealt with. No one should be in such a place of prominence and celebrity that they usurp the role of Christ.
We know the names of the Apostles and various apostolic representatives, but when we read about the church in Ephesus or Corinth in the Bible, for example, we never hear about “Pastor Smith”. Acts 14:23 tells us that Paul and Barnabus appointed elders in every church. The Body of Christ is a fellowship of brothers and sisters with Jesus as the Shepherd and only Lord.
Jesus says in Mark 10:42-45 that leaders in the assembly of believers should be different than leaders in the world. Therefore, as Paul says in Romans 12:2, let us be:
“…not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Let us fellowship in simplicity looking to Jesus as Lord, continuing, “…steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42