Counterfeit Jesus

Jesus once compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. In Matthew 13:31-32, He teaches in His parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”  Taking this parable at face value suggests the positive growth which God’s kingdom was to undergo since the advent of the Church. We learn that the kingdom will both expand exponentially and become a nesting ground for the enemy, as well. This is seen in the fact that for a mustard seed to become the size of a tree is a sign of abnormal growth in that its regular size is the size of a bush at best. The positive side of this growth is seen throughout history, especially in the first few centuries after Christ, where the church rapidly grew throughout the world.  Starting in Jerusalem then to Judea then to Samaria then to the outer most parts of the earth the church expanded its sphere of influence to reach the lost souls of this world.  The gospel of the Lord went forth via His apostles and faithful disciples.  Like a wildfire many were consumed by the peace of the cross and were added to the Church, causing its rapid growth.  However, in the negative sense, the size of the church became a nesting ground for Satan and his minions. This is evident in the fact that two parables earlier Jesus explained that the birds of the air were the evil spirits that seek to pluck the word of God out of the hearts of man.  We are also told in the book of Ephesians that, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

So we see that in the negative sense the kingdom of God, in its vastness, is a perch for the enemy in disguise who often uses God’s truths as a vehicle to lead people astray through false religions.  Twisting and turning the truths of God into an imitation that suits man’s ego, pride, and self-righteousness is the result of the evil one nesting in God’s kingdom.  This is true in all religious doctrines, especially so in regard to the nature of Christ. By putting two and two together it becomes apparent that behind the deviations of truth found in false religions and cults lurks an unseen foe who manipulates the minds of men into bondage.  His manufactured mirage of hope in his array of religions is merely a sky full of clouds without rain.  The apparent freedom in the promises of these counterfeit religions leads only to false hope and security.  Often, these counterfeits revolve directly around a false representation or a made-up version of Jesus Christ. A hallmark of cults and world religions is that of consistently denying the divinity of Jesus and to demote Him to a lesser place of importance.  Why is this significant? Well, since the Biblical Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the gospel of our salvation and if a counterfeit Jesus is presented then our salvation is also altered.  I think Walter Martin in his book The Kingdom of the Cults sums it up well when he wrote, “Since the earliest days of Christianity, both apostle and disciple alike have been confronted with the perversion of the revelation God has given us in the person of Jesus Christ. Historically, this perversion has extended not only to the teaching of our Lord, but, more important, to the person of Christ; for it is axiomatic that if the identity of the life-giver is altered, then the life that He came to give is correspondingly negated. And it is at precisely this juncture that in this day and age we come face-to-face with the phenomenon that the apostle Paul described in Second Corinthians, chapter eleven, as ‘another Jesus.’” For this reason I find it important to compare the authentic Jesus of the Bible with the counterfeit Jesus that is presented by the cults.

As noted above, cults will deny Christ’s divine nature and consequently place its founder as the final authority or make its adherent the source of divinity (i.e. pantheism, mind sciences, polytheism, etc.) The Bible warns us amply that there will be false messiahs and prophets who’s chief purpose is to gain by means of deception. Whether it be for power, possessions, or prestige, one thing is for certain—they will come. And they have. Jesus said, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many…then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many…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. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”  He also warned us in Matthew 7:15-23 that these false prophets would come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Apostle Paul states, “For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if  you receive a different spirit which you have not received or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” Furthermore, the Apostle Peter warns, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bringing on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” These are a few passages of many that warn of, rebuke, and condemn false prophets and messiahs which accurately predicted the rise of such deception, as is evident today in so many cults.

Let’s take a look at how cults and philosophies define God the Son, Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is the greatest area of attack. Many religions like Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarian Universalism, and many more will claim to hold Jesus in high esteem and deem Him a prophet or good moral teacher, but when studying what the Scriptures teach about Christ one will see that designating Him only to these titles is nothing short of blasphemy. The Bible has declared Jesus Christ to be the explicit, divine Son of God, God the Second Person, equal with God the Father, who alone is able to purge us of our sins. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].” Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus. His miracles proved He is God, especially His resurrection from the dead. Simply surveying the gospels and epistles one cannot avoid the fact that He is divine.   However, each world system works to strip Jesus of His deity and thus His saving power. The Apostle Paul sternly warned the Galatians when he wrote, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” And this is exactly what we find in the various cults and world religions. Mormonism and Islam were both found after being visited by an angel who preached another gospel, while other systems have disassembled the true Jesus. For instance, to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christ is God’s first creation and thus only a mighty spirit god; Christ is not God but merely “a god” (implying one god among others). Jesus was a created spirit along with the angels and thus had no preexistence prior to God the Father creating Him. To the Mormons Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer and is God’s firstborn of His spirit children. To the mind sciences such as Scientology and Christian Science, Christ is merely a principle of right thinking or enlightenment of the true path; someone who merely brought wisdom and pointed in a positive direction. To the Unification Church, Jesus is a demigod who is not divine in essence, and it is Sun Myung Moon who is the fulfillment of the Second Advent of Christ who was commissioned by God to finish the work Jesus was unable to complete. To the Muslims, Jesus was not God but merely one of many prophets sent from God; yet it is Muhammad who is the final authority.

Despite the explicit teachings of the Scriptures, the cults and religions of this world want to obscure the person of Jesus Christ. This poses a very big problem.  Because in stripping Jesus of His deity (which is the richness of His precious blood that alone can save mankind), which is the centrality of the gospel, is, by definition, preaching another gospel.  The gospel of the Bible simply states that God the Son was born in the flesh of a virgin, was therefore sinless, died for the sins of the world, rose again the third day and is now sitting on His heavenly throne, and offers the forgiveness of sins to any and all that simply believe in Him.  This of course was all according to the Old Testament Scriptures that had predicted all of this.  The gospel of Joseph Smith, Charles T. Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, Muhammad, Sun Myung Moon, Rajneesh (of Hinduism), and countless others is quite the opposite as they strip Jesus of His deity. This deviation from the truth is the epitome of what Paul considered to be the other gospel that we should be on guard against.

Of course, it is only natural for the cults to deny His divinity. One would have to if he or she wanted their own religious institution. If one were to accept His divinity, then submission to His authority and truth follows naturally. It comes down to not wanting to obey Him; which lends itself to the issue of false Christ’s. Time has shown that many false Christ’s that have come on the scene since the time the true Christ—Jesus of Nazareth. This comes from wanting to be the source of authority rather than God, and desiring to gain the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. From Muhammad, to Joseph Smith, to Charles T. Russell, to Mary Baker Eddy, to Mirza’ Ali Muhammad (for the Baha’i Faith), to Sun Myung Moon, to Gurus of Hinduism, even to spiritists who channel spirits with messages from the spirit world, all of them either claim Messiahship or assume the authority of a Messiah by putting themselves in the place of Christ or pointing people in the opposite direction of the truth found in the Scriptures. How can others claim to be God’s new revelation or appointed leaders when His word says the Jesus was the culmination of revelation? Hebrews 1:1-3 declares, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom, he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” False Christ’s still attempt to gain a following despite this revelation in God’s word. Whichever religion one chooses save Christianity, one thing is for certain: Jesus is not God, not one with the Father, not preexistent, nor eternal. At best, this is how Jesus is presented by the cults and world religious systems. Those who either are naive or are willing to reject the truth will accept this counterfeit Jesus and submit themselves to the authority of the leader of such cults or set themselves up as their own source of authority.

To prove this to be true, one does not have to read between the lines when reading primary sources of the cult literature. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses strip Jesus of His deity by writing, “The very fact that [Jesus] was sent proves he was not equal with God but was less than God his Father.” And in another primary source, “Thus, Jesus had an existence in heaven before coming to the earth. But was it was one of the persons in an almighty, eternal triune Godhead? No, for the Bible plainly states that in his prehuman existence, Jesus was  a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God. Neither the angels nor Jesus had existed before creation.” Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science wrote, “…that Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but is the Son of God.” And “The spiritual Christ was infallible; Jesus, as material manhood, was not Christ.” Furthermore the Theosophical Society agrees with Christian Science as it “…makes the grave error of all Gnostic cults: it divides Jesus and Christ, making Jesus only the outer man and Christ a divine consciousness immanent within Him and within all men, to a greater or lesser degree. For Theosophists, Jesus is not the Christ of divine revelation, as distinct from the Christ who is immanent within all men.” The Watchtower Society reduces Jesus from God to a created mighty spirit and the mind sciences such as Christian Science, Scientology, and the Theosophical Society take it one step further and reduce Him to a mere principle that is immanent in all of us.

Briefly summarizing the beliefs of the various cults and even quoting their own literature, one can see how they alter the deity of Christ. The composite of a counterfeit Jesus becomes evident. Yet, we can only know if it is a counterfeit if we are able to compare it to the authentic Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures. I think it is most important for students of the Bible to firmly grasp Christology, or the study of Christ as the Bible describes Him. If we are diligent students of theology then we will not have the wool pulled over our eyes when presented with false doctrine and a false Christ. The Bible is the primary source and the final authority when it comes to correct theology. So let us understand how the Bible describes the authentic Jesus.

I have found when inquiring about theological matters outside of the Bible, that turning to theological books such as The Moody Handbook of Theology can be very helpful. These are tools to aid us in our understanding of systematic theological studies. Those interested in the subject of Christology can go to that handbook to look more in depth into the information gathered in this section. However, the Bible is the final authority and should be consulted above all. The honest observer of Scripture will notice that Jesus is proclaimed to be eternal, Creator, Divine, worthy of Worship, and has equal attributes with God the Father. This is seen by His names, attributes, works, and worship, as laid out in the Bible.

According to the Bible Jesus is called God: “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever….Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You….” (Hebrews 1:8, 9 quoting Psalm 45:6-7). The disciple Thomas called Jesus ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ when confronted with the risen Christ in John 20:28. Jesus referred to Himself as ‘Lord’ when He quoted Psalm 109:1 in Matthew 22:44, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” LORD in all capital letters is the Tetragrammaton YHWH which represents God Almighty’s name Yahweh or Jehovah (whichever pronunciation), the title ‘Lord’ is David speaking of his Lord, God the Son. This means that within the Trinity, God the Father is speaking to God the Son (Lord). Jesus was making the point that He was the Son of David according to the flesh whom David (inspired by the Holy Spirit) called Lord in Psalm 109, thus asserting his divinity. The Apostle Paul also called Jesus ‘Lord’ in Romans 10:9-13 while equating His Lordship to YHWH (v. 13). Paul was quoting and referring to Joel 2:32 and Isaiah 28:16. Further, Paul called Jesus our “great God and Savior” in Titus 2:13. Jesus called Himself the Son of God in John 5:25, and He also affirmed Peter’s confession of Him being the Son of God in Matthew 16:16.

The Bible also teaches His divine attributes. He is Eternal: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1:1; Hebrews 1:11-12 declare this when applying Psalm 102:25-27. Jesus is Omnipresent. This may surprise some, but when one reads “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), we see that “in His humanity He is localized in Heaven; in His divinity He is omnipresent.” This is also clear by understanding that Jesus indwells all believers (see John 14:23; Ephesians 3:17; Col. 1:27; Rev. 3:20). Jesus is Omniscient: “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:25). He also knew everything about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:18. He also accurately predicted the future (see John 16:30; Matt. 16:21; 17:22; 20:18-19; 26:1-2). Jesus is also Omnipotent: “‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus even has the power to forgive sins as seen in Mark 2:5, 7, 10, an attribute that only belongs to God (Isaiah 43:25; 55:7). Furthermore, Just like the LORD, Jesus is Immutable: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) (also James 1:17), which is another attribute that belongs only to the LORD, “For I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Jesus is Life: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4); Jesus also claimed: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; cf. Ps. 36:9; Jer. 2:13). Perhaps the greatest declaration made by Jesus to be God was in John 8:58 when He declared, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’” This was a bombshell because there was no doubt He was claiming divinity with this statement. For it was by this name “I AM” that the God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to Moses. “In Exodus 3:14, Jehovah, speaking to Moses, said ‘I AM,’ which any intelligent scholar recognizes as synonymous with God. Jesus literally said to the Jews,  ‘I AM Jehovah,’ and it is clear that they understood Him to mean just that, for they attempted, as the next verse reveals, to stone Him.” This is another powerful testimony that Jesus is God, and no less.

The Bible also teaches His divinity by His works. He is Creator: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3); “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands” (Hebrews 1:10 quoting Psalm 102:25);  “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible” (Colossians 1:16). By the same token, Jesus is the Sustainer of the universe: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17), and “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). He was a miracle worker as is evident throughout His biography in the gospels. For He said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:38).  These miracles testified of His divinity and confirmed His gospel of the kingdom.

The Bible also teaches that Jesus is worthy of worship. This is significant because only God is to be worshipped as is strictly commanded in Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 6:13-14; 10:20; Matt. 4:10; and Acts 10:25-26. Yet, the New Testament shows Jesus is worthy to be worshipped as God: “Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshipped Him” (John 9:38) (see also John 5:23; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 21:16 quoting Psalm 8:2; 2 Timothy 4:18; Philippians 2:10). If Jesus was merely a good moral teacher, a faithful Jew, and one who sought to lead people the right way, then why on earth would He allow Himself to be worshipped thus breaking God’s law? Unless He was in fact God in the flesh, then He possessed the right to be worshipped.

In conclusion, when compared to authentic Christianity, cults and world religions clearly present a counterfeit Jesus. An analogy may help to illustrate this important point.  It has been said that when bank tellers are trained they are instructed to study an authentic dollar bill so that when a fake one comes around they can quickly identify it as false.  They do not study hundreds of fakes to determine what the real one looks like, but they do just the opposite.  In order for it to be a counterfeit bill it has to closely resemble an authentic one or else no one would accept it as the real thing.  The point being that if people can conclude that the Bible is as reliable as it truly is and that it can be trusted with one’s life, and were to study the authentic truths for themselves, then they would be able to spot a lie and understand why it is a lie the moment they see it. The reason I say this is because the false cults and religions nest in the branches of God’s kingdom deceiving countless souls. They all have one thing in common: stripping Jesus of His deity and working your way either to God or becoming a god. The Jesus of various cults and religions “is but a subtle caricature of the Christ of divine revelation.  In cult theology, He becomes an abstraction (Christian Science, Unity Metaphysics, New Thought), a second god (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Rosacrucianism, Baha’ism), a pantheistic manifestation of deity (Spiritism, The Great I AM), the Ascended Master of Theosophy, the avatar of Buddhism, the Enlightened One of New Age cults, the incomplete Messiah of the Unification Church, the wise one of Scientology, the guru disciple and yoga master of the Eastern religions, the militant avenger of the apocalyptic cults, a prophet of Islam, or the coward of the occultists; but he is still incontrovertibly “another Jesus,” who represents another gospel and imparts another spirit, which by no conceivable stretch of the imagination could be called holy.”

Why do these cults work overtime, as it were, to alter and manufacture a Jesus that is wholly different from the true Son of God of the Scriptures? We can untangle this seemingly endless knot by understanding that the enemy of our souls is a liar from the beginning, the father of lies who comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. His fate was sealed at the cross and he seeks to bring as many souls that were created in the image of God with him. His main tool is deception, and he is in the business of manufacturing counterfeits. So it should be no surprise to us that a counterfeit Jesus is manufactured by the religious systems that are controlled by him. However, while he works to deceive people, there is still the responsibility of the individual to respond when presented with the truth. And, sadly, often times, people do not want to accept the true Jesus, but are content with pushing Him aside and remaining in the darkness. On the other side of the coin, there are people who are deceived and will gladly come out of the darkness when presented with the true Jesus and thus find salvation. H. Wayne House conveys the centrality of the Biblical Jesus to which our salvation depends: “Salvation from sin and death is found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ: His sinless life, atoning death, and physical resurrection from the dead. Faith in Jesus and in His work of redemption are necessary for being justified before God.” Faith in this Jesus is the key to our salvation, not in the false Jesus so often portrayed by the world. Thus we see the aim of birds that nest in the branches of God’s kingdom: alter the true Jesus and men’s souls will be lost. Therefore, do not settle on the counterfeit Jesus, for you will have a false hope. Receive the true Jesus and you will have the assurance of eternal life.

References

Bickel, Bruce and Jantz, Stan. (2002). World Religions & Cults 101.

Enns, Paul. (2008). The Moody Handbook of Theology; Revised and Expanded.

Holy Bible, (1982) The. New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Inc.

House, H. Wayne. (2006). Charts of World Religions.

Martin, Walter Dr. (1997). The Kingdom of the Cults.

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