There are many people and groups claiming to be genuine, unique, and real these days. The mantra heard everywhere now is be authentic. Many groups claim to be the purveyors of ultimate truth. While authenticity and truthfulness are paramount in the realm of personal qualities, these noble attributes can be fabricated and fashioned in order to deceive others. Anytime the truth is twisted, it is wrong. When truth is twisted using religion, it becomes especially disturbing. Nowhere is it more disturbing and eternally destructive then when individuals or groups masquerade as true Christians and claim that their church is the true way to God. It shouldn’t be surprising that false Christian cults are so pervasive in these last days. Jesus told us that, “Many will come in My name.”
Mark 13:3-6 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.
The absolutes and truth from God’s written word are more assured then the very ground we stand on. We can place our hopes for the present time and for eternity in the Lord. We know this because He has much to tell us about His unchanging nature.
Malachi 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change….”
Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
These promises from the Bible are poignant reminders that God, His word, and His will cannot be manipulated by man. We need to be in the word continuously so that we can always discern the truth from a lie.
Occasionally, someone will come on the scene claiming to be Jesus Christ. There is the guy from Puerto Rico who heads up the ‘Growing in Grace’ movement. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda claims that Jesus came to him and literally integrated into his body. He claims to be the second coming of Christ in person. Then there is Allan John Miller (A.J.) from Queensland Australia who also claims to be Jesus and his female partner claims to be Mary Magdalene. Miller is founder of the ‘Divine truth ‘ movement and prior to this, he was an elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I could list dozens of these people who claim to be Christ, but you get the picture. No doubt other well known cult leaders come to mind such as David Koresh and Sun Myung Moon. The unbelievable…..yet sad fact about these men I’ve just mentioned is that they have all attracted a sizable following ranging from the hundreds to tens of thousands of people. These cults are clearly operating in the spirit of Antichrist and most Christians would pick up on that in a hurry. The common denominator regarding these above mentioned groups and others is that (most) people would readily be able to identify them as a cult.
What about the well known sects and religious groups that self identify as genuine Christianity? Are they just as easy to identify as un-biblical and non-Christian?
Based on the trends I’m seeing….I believe the answer is no, because we seem to be in a generation where biblical illiteracy is pervasive, even among many evangelicals. Let’s look at two of the main movements who claim to be representative of the true church. The first is the Jehovah’s Witnesses-Watch Tower Society and the second is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also known as LDS and Mormons.
What trends bear out the fact that the two groups previously mentioned are gaining momentum? The numbers from several different sources tell the story: Jehovah’s Witnesses publishers (individual members) increased from roughly two million worldwide in 1980 to approximately eight million ‘publishers in 2015. although the numbers pale in comparison to growth in the evangelical movement….they are still impressive.
The Mormon Church has experienced the same rapid growth over the past few decades as well. In the early 1970s, there were roughly about three million Mormons worldwide, but the number swelled to approximately sixteen million by 2015. Both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and LDS Church market aggressively via printed materials. In just the past year or so, the Mormon Church has saturated the radio, television, and popular internet sites with promotional and evangelistic messages.
Unlike the ‘false Messiah cults’ mentioned earlier, the Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon movements are not always readily identified as cults. One of the primary reasons for this is the marketing tactics we have just mentioned. The other reason is this:
If you deviate from absolute truth of God’s word (the Bible) even slightly….the difference in doctrine is virtually unnoticeable to many people.
A Christian who is in the word daily and walking closely with the Lord should discern this deviation from truth almost immediately. However, a person who espouses to what I’ll refer to as a casual form of Christianity may not pick up on this slight deviation from the truths in the Bible. The Jehovah’s Witness ‘publishers’ and the Mormon missionaries are trained to actively engage in dialogue over spiritual matters. A casual Christian discussing spiritual matters over a beverage in the living room may come to the conclusion that: This is pretty much what all ‘Christian churches’ believe.
I care about people and truly want to get to know them. As a Christian, I want to engage people with the truths of the gospel. But what happens when new believers or people who are ungrounded in their faith spend time with Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons? Confusion and even fellowship around common beliefs follow. I’ve witnessed this tragic spiritual transformation in people I know. I can see how this could easily happen because I’ve seen the clever marketing of the LDS. Church. The….”I’m a Mormon” campaign is very upbeat and positive.
The short video clip usually features a well dressed millennial young man or lady talking about their experiences in life. It may feature a successful surgeon, a loving young mom, or a young couple. There are ballerinas, teachers, and bakers. I watched one with a cool young dad who happens to be a professional skateboarder. He’s outdoors with his wife and kids and they seem like the quintessential fun American family.
When you get right down to the basics of all of these religious deceptions and strip away the marketing, winsome personalities, and good works, there is one main reason behind why they are doing so well: It is Satan doing what he does best….he is a deceiver.
Galatians 1:6-8 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
I’ve seen people moved to curiosity by the nice young ladies who want to give them a Watch Tower Society magazine. I’ve also witnessed people moved toward solidarity with the Mormon Church by the winsome, kind, clean cut young men who believe just like they do. Do they believe just like we do?
The answer is a definitely no, because when you apply the biblical test to the core beliefs and doctrinal positions of Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, they do not line up with scripture. As nice as these people are, as much as they are known for good works, family, and dedication to their church as they are……they are not Christians. Both of these groups are cults, albeit cults masquerading as true biblical Christianity.
Before we look at some of the defining characteristics, let me address one glaring issue: I have no animosity toward individuals in these two groups. I care about these people and their souls. Moreover, I have had friendships with a few people in these movements and they are kind people. They are kind people who desperately need to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. All of the silliness about hurling insults at them, slamming the door in their face, and other ungodly behavior is uncalled for. We should engage them with the truth of God’s word with clarity and boldness. This isn’t the time to find spiritual ‘common ground’ with them, because there is none. We should also warn people who show an interest in these movements and are willing to check them out.
Bible warnings about cults and diminishing the centrality of Jesus:
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
As we take a look at the popular false religions and cults we see the same pattern: There are supposed ‘visions and divine revelations’ that were almost the exclusive experience of and witnessed by (one) person…no witnesses. Take the experience of Joseph Smith (the Mormon prophet) for instance:
Joseph Smith had his supposed ‘visitation’ by the angel Maroni……no one else saw the vision.
Jesus: The Bible tells us on a number of occasions that Jesus’ claims were witnessed by three or more people and between his resurrection and ascension into heaven…over 500 people saw the risen Savior. People were present at his baptism and heard God’s voice from heaven. Peter, James, and John all heard God’s voice from heaven, witnessed Jesus’ clothes turn brilliant white like the sun, and saw Moses & Elijah talking with Jesus at his transfiguration. Jesus’ life, ministry, death, burial, and appearances following the resurrection were all out in the open and witnesses by many. This distinction separates Jesus and should make it clear to anyone that His claims are true.
Here is a summary of the basic beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
Jesus is not Jehovah God; he is the first and only direct creation of God and the agent through which God made all other things. Jehovah’s Witness teachings attack the Lordship and deity of Jesus by adding a very key word in John 1:1. They add the word/letter A. to this key verse John wrote and diminish the place of Jesus.
The Bible says: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Jehovah’s Witness Bible (New World Translation) reads: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God. God and Jesus are not trinity or part of one.
The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t a physical event, rather he was raised as a mighty spirit creature. The second coming of Jesus was an invisible spiritual presence which began in 1914. The Watchtower Society denies the Holy Spirit’s personality and deity.
Regarding the dead who left this life in a state of wickedness……they believe there is eternal conscious torment in hell…the wicked will simply be extinguished forever. Jehovah’s Witness doctrine teaches that the atoning work of Jesus on the cross is only partial. Final atonement comes only after Armageddon, when the survivors return to God through free will and become subject to the theocratic rule of Jehovah. Therefore they believe atonement is partially of God and part of man’s work. Charles Taze Russell was the founder of the Jehovah’s Witness cult. The teachings of C.T. Russell and the Jehovah’s Witness cult are pockmarked with inaccuracies and contradictions. The Watchtower periodical is distributed to the tune of 17.8 million copies per month in 106 languages. The other monthly magazine ‘Awake’ is distributed in 34 languages and 15.6 copies.
What do Mormons – members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe?
Mormons have three sacred books (in addition) to the Bible. They are: The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. Mormons believe the Trinity consists of three gods born in different times and places; the Father begot the Son and the Holy Spirit through a goddess wife. Mormons believe salvation is resurrection, but for us to be exalted to godhood in the celestial heaven, we must earn heaven through works. The founder of the Mormon religion was Joseph Smith aka “The Prophet.” Smith engaged in divination during his life and practiced using divining rods, talismans, and magic for treasure hunting. In 1820, Smith claimed to be singled out through a vision to be the Lord’s anointed prophet and in 1823 he claimed to be visited by the angel “Moroni” three times to receive his commission. In 1827, Smith claimed to receive the “golden plates” …later becoming The Book of Mormon. The early history of Mormonism is a contradiction as “The Prophet” makes an early mistake and in 1853…..30 years after his ‘divine visitation’, he identifies the angel who visited him as “Nephi” not “Moroni.”Mormonism (LDS), at it’s core…represents a false gospel. When we examine three beliefs of LDS in light of scripture, it’s clear this religion is diametrically opposed to the gospel of Christ.
1. The Bible is the word of God, yet LDS have three other sacred books. The Book of Mormon is subtitled: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. This is clearly a violation of Jesus’ warning when he said, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book…” Revelation 22:18
2. Mormons believe Jesus is one of three gods who was begot via God and his goddess wife. This is a direct contradiction of the Bible and what it says about Jesus. One God in three persons (Trinity) and the fact that Jesus isn’t a created being….he has always existed along with the Father and Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This is just one example of Jesus being present with the Father from the beginning. Mormonism also makes the blasphemous claim that Jesus is the spirit brother of Satan.
3. Passage to heaven is earned or payed for via works and then we are exalted to godhood in heaven. Two issues here….the first is of course the fact Mormons believe we will be exalted to godhood. The Bible is clear that we will not be gods, or little gods, or part of the godhood. Second…..there is no way to heaven or God the Father except through His Son. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 The tragic and sad lie of Mormonism is that salvation and eternity in heaven can be earned through works.
A Christian response to Jehovah’s Witnesses:
First of all, you must remember you are dealing with people who teach ‘a different gospel.’ In his excellent book The Kingdom of the Cults, Walter Martin writes: Jehovah’s Witnesses thrive on the confusion they are able to create and they don’t identify themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses while door to door canvassing. Walter Martin’s book goes on describe the Watchtower’s methods through the words of a former Watchtower Society member. He says: “The Watchtower leadership sensed within Christendom were millions of professing Christians who were (not) well grounded in ‘the truths once delivered to all the saints,’ and who would rather easily be pried loose from the churches and led into a new and revitalized Watchtower organization.”
Knowing how deceptive and organized this cult’s practices are, you should be grounded in the word of God, prayer, and ready to confront the lies they proliferate through their Watchtower propaganda and door to door canvassing. I want to warn you about these people and the teachings they promote. They are operating in the spirit of antichrist by attacking the very deity of the Lord Jesus. If you are grounded in the word then by all means engage and contend for the faith. Warn people of the deceptiveness of this cult and stand against this ‘different gospel.’ As the coming of the Lord nears, I expect to see false teachings, apostasy, and counterfeit Christianity crescendo.
A Christian response to Mormons:
Before you slam the door in someone’s face, remember you are dealing with another soul…a lost soul. If it wasn’t for the grace of God, we’d all be deceived. Am I advocating sitting around the coffee table and finding ‘common ground’ with them? Certainly not and the Bible warns against it. The fact is we are to confront this false gospel and contend for the faith. Mormons are (not) Christians and we cannot engage in Christian fellowship just because they name the name of Jesus. They represent a different Jesus. We should reach out to them in love and be a bold witness for the gospel and Jesus. Mormons believe they are the true church…..they are deceived by Satan.
When engaging in witnessing and refuting their false gospel beliefs…it should be approached with prayer, fasting, and preparation by reading God’s word. These people who teach a different gospel are deceivers. Please remember something about these Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others caught up in deception:
These are people with souls, the young people pictured at the top of the article and others represented by them are deceived equally as much as they are spreading deception. In many cases…..it’s the only truth they have ever known. God help us reach them with the transforming gospel of Jesus……He loves them. We need to share the truth with them just as someone was faithful to share it with us. This isn’t a religious argument about which church is true or false, because Jesus settled that once and for all. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other Christ diminishing movements clearly twist scripture.
Our great commission is to present this gospel of the kingdom to them. The Holy Spirit does the work of heart changing….we simply bring the message in truth and love.
I do hope through the bold witness of those reading this commentary…..many Mormons will leave the false church and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. The souls of real people and seeing them come to salvation to the glory of God should be our main concern. God help us reach out in truth and love to them.
As Jesus sat with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, He told them about the end of the age and how conditions would be prior to His return. Many people would come in His name and…..lead many astray. As I look at the world today, I notice a dramatic increase in religious deception. While we have had counterfeit Christian cults for centuries, the rise in many of these groups into the mainstream in just the last few years is undeniable. I want to warn people about them because even though they speak well of Jesus, invoke his name, say they believe in Him, and claim to represent Him……they are spreading eternal separation from God and leading many astray as Jesus said they would.
Are you a Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, or a member of any other group or church that doesn’t believe in salvation through Jesus Christ alone?
If so, please consider my words, leave the movement you are in, and repent. Good works and church membership won’t save you. Jesus is the only way to the Father and eternal life. The Bible clearly warns that no one must add or take away from the words of this book (the Bible), yet…the watchtower society and LDS Church have made this practice a centerpiece of their ministries. Mormon friend, Jehovah’s Witness friend……..Jesus can and will save you for all eternity if you come to Him.
Please visit our: Are You Saved page or write us here for more information on what it means to follow Jesus.
All for Him,
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