1 Timothy 4:1 (New American Standard Version): “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…”
Doctrines of Demons?
That’s pretty harsh–pretty ‘out there’, isn’t it?
I mean, sure…some will teach things that you or I may disagree with. Maybe we’ll even do so, strongly.
But ‘doctrines of demons’?
Maybe another, more ‘up to date’ version of the Scriptures would be nicer: Let’s try the New Living Translation:
1 Timothy 4:1 (NLT): “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.”
Teachings that come from demons…that’s not much better or more comforting, is it?
Maybe we need to change our question.
Maybe, instead of trying to find a more ‘friendly’ translation, we should instead ask, ‘What did the Apostle Paul mean by this strong term?’
First, the term “Last Days”…that is the period of time immediately preceding Jesus’ return to earth to rule and reign with those who are His, by faith.
That period actually started immediately when He ascended into heaven, and the Apostles stood looking into the sky:
Acts 1:7-11, NLT: “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”
Since then, the Church–those who have placed their faith totally in Jesus and are living by the power of the Holy Spirit–have been looking for that day. For centuries–even millennia–we’ve been thinking, ‘Maybe it’s today’.
Yet, other things prophesied in the Scriptures that would happen before the ‘end’ were not in place. Israel was still dispersed throughout the world; the Gospel was not preached in every land; and technological advances had not been made which would enable the entire world to see an event at the same exact moment. Now, all of those things have taken place…
…and even more, today, the philosophy of our world*–or much of it, any way–is such that we have turned our backs on God* and exalted ‘humanity’ and the ‘self’ above all*. Even Israel, the nation, trusts not in the Lord, but in their own strength, or that of their allies*.
…an this, I believe, gets us back into the ‘doctrines of demons’. In Paul’s warning to Timothy, he was talking about some who would get into the Church and begin teaching things contrary to the Word of God. In that day, he was talking about those who prohibited marriage and restricted foods.
However, the Principle–that is, supposed ‘Christian’ teachers who teach things contrary to the stated Word or Created order of God–is still applicable today…maybe even more so.
What are those ‘doctrines’ that are demonic? What ‘doctrines’ are taught within the Church that get us way off-track?
Start with the doctrine the elevation of ‘self’.
Many Christian churches teach that the best reason to follow Jesus is that He wants ‘you’ to succeed at finding yourself and being self-actualized**. Instead of ‘worshiping Christ as Lord’ and emptying ourselves out in surrender to Him, we are taught that He wants you to be ‘happy’, and that’s what we believe Him for.
Once this mindset takes over, anything that stands in the way–including the Word of God–is tossed aside.
The examples are endless…
Sex–when I want it, how I want it, with whomever I want it.
Greed and Arrogance–justifying my selfishness and looking down on you because you aren’t as ‘accomplished at it as I am.
Abortion–on demand, without limitation and apology. No questions asked.
Even our sexuality…it’s gone way past un-Biblical behaviors in heterosexuality. It’s even gone beyond ‘tolerating’ or ‘accepting’…now it’s embracing, celebrating and even promoting almost literally ANY kind of sexual expression and behavior, no matter what!
Societies don’t survive like this…especially when these things coincide with a rejection of God and His Word.
For us–the Church in the United States–it’s clear that our culture has chosen the road that it’s on. God’s hand of blessing will be removed. Next, His hand of protection will be withdrawn. Then, pay attention to the economic, natural, spiritual and relational disasters that come upon us (I believe we’re already well in to this.)
However, within the Church of Jesus Christ in this culture, there will be even more. There will be discipline, there will be judgment. It is coming.
It’s one thing if those who are ignorant act ignorantly. If the spiritually blind stumble, who’s to blame them?
However, if those who claim to worship the Lord–who claim to have a ‘relationship’ with Him and to ‘surrender’ to Him–If they reject Him, then He–as the loving, perfect Father He is–will send discipline. His goal is repentance and restoration, but He will bring judgment if necessary.
One thing is certainly true…we all need His Grace! We need to repent of our own sin, even if we’ve adopted the ‘doctrines of demons’ within our culture, and ask His forgiveness! We need to seek Him so that He will ‘wake us up’ and break us out of the ‘spell’ that we’ve allowed ourselves to be under.
If you, Christian, find yourself in a good, Bible teaching, humble and ever-seeking church, consider yourself blessed. Don’t take it for granted. Instead, seek Him all the more! Pray for your leaders! Encourage this kind of ‘all-in worship’ in your conversations and LifeGroups!
It is time for “judgment to begin with the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
God is Holy. He is Righteous. He is Wise, and He is Good.
He deserves our worship, love, and obedience.
No matter what our culture…or our church…does!
*I do not mean to imply that there aren’t exceptions–of course, there are people of faith everywhere. As a general rule, however, I believe this is valid.
**There is a subtle, but important, distinction between teaching that ‘Jesus is your ticket to a great life’ and ‘Following Jesus fully actually leads–as a side benefit–to the best life you can hope for–now, and for eternity.’ The former is simply spiritual selfishness; the latter is worship and surrender which leads our hearts to resonate with our Creator.