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How can one recognize a false Christ?
Jesus warned that in the last days counterfeit christs would arise who would masquerade as the Messiah and claim to be the savior of the world. “Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’ ” (Matthew 24:4, 5, NKJV).
In the New Testament, the original Greek word for Christ is Christos. The equivalent Hebrew word in the Old Testament is Mashiach, meaning “Messiah.” The literal translation of both the Greek and Hebrew words is “the anointed one.” It is the title and identity which Jesus assumed during His ministry on Earth. “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He’ ” (John 4:25, 26, (NKJV).
Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus preached His great prophetic discourse regarding profound events that would occur at the end of the age just prior to His Second Coming. Among those events, He said, would be false prophets and false christs. He warned, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it’ ” (Matthew 24:23-26, NKJV).
Jesus emphasized that these false christs will perform great signs and miracles and deceive many. Many Christians think that as long as they believe in Jesus, they will be shielded from the deceptions of the last days. However, these will not be crude deceptions that will be easy to identify. Jesus says that the deceptions of these false christs are so carefully planned and so skillfully carried out, that even God’s chosen ones would be deceived—if that were possible. And the only reason it is not possible is if we keep our focus on the real Jesus through study of His Word and through prayer.
Unfortunately, many will be deceived into following the wrong Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote, “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4, NIV). The apostle is writing to the Christians of the early church. He warns them concerning false apostles who were preaching about a Jesus who is not the real Jesus of the Bible—a fictitious Jesus, a fabrication of the corrupt imaginations and erroneous thinking of those who want to deceive God’s people. The gospel associated with this false christ is a different gospel; it is not the gospel recorded in the Bible and preached by the true apostles. Further, this false gospel is accompanied by a counterfeit spirit—not the Holy Spirit.
Who is behind these false christs? It is none other than Satan himself. Speaking of these false christs and false prophets, Paul wrote, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Is it not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NIV). These false christs masquerade as “servants of righteousness,” just as their master, Satan, masquerades as an angel of light.
In addition to these false christs—false teachers and prophets—the Bible says that just before Jesus returns a “man of lawlessness will appear visibly on Earth. “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, NIV). In this profound prophecy of last-day events, the Bible says there is going to be a rebellion, an apostasy, a great falling away from the faith. In conjunction with this apostasy, a “man of lawlessness will appear. This individual is truly a false christ of the greatest magnitude. He is also known as the Antichrist. This great false christ will set himself up in God’s temple and counterfeit the ministry of Jesus.
What will happen to this false Christ and how will we recognize him? The Bible says, “And then the lawless one will be revealed.