False Teachers
How to Identify them

By Dr. Ken Matto

2 Peter 2:1 (KJV) But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

If there is one Bible promise that can define the times we live in, it is false teachings will be rampant. We live in a time when those who cannot rule in a church because of heresies they possess can take those same heresies and build a cheap website and propagate those teachings to the entire world without anyone to check them or stop them. One thing that is true is that those who are nothing in their church can set themselves up as something on the internet. This does not mean that false teachings are only found on line but there are still many false teachers, and this includes pastors, theologians, and media ministers on the radio and on the TV. You can also include in that satellite radio. In other words, there is going to be a large number of false teachers coming into our homes and if we do not seek to be discerning, then we will fall for the false teachings which are always palatable. In this article I want to give 19 warnings to help you avoid falling into the grips of a false teacher. When it comes to false teachers we are not talking about temporary consequences but unless a person is following the true Gospel, the consequences will be eternal. A false gospel is a portal to eternal damnation in a lake of fire in Hell. This is why it is so important to discern what you are listening to and what you accept as truth. Agreeing with the crowd does not necessarily mean you are following the right teachings. I do hope these 19 warnings will help you discern as to whether you are in a true or false church or under the teachings of a true or false teacher.

Men Pleasers
Galatians 1:10 (KJV) For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

If there is one major characteristic of a false teacher is that they are men pleasers. In Galatians 1:10, the word “pleased” carries with it the meaning of “accommodate or seeking to please.” Basically, they are spiritual chameleons and what I mean by that is it depends on who they are speaking with or what group they are addressing, they will tailor their message to be acceptable while they inject their own beliefs or false teachings. They seek to be crowd pleasers so they can easily win the hearts of their hearers.

Only They Have The Truth
Another characteristic of false teachers is that they claim they are the only ones who possess the truth. They claim that God has given them specific understanding of certain passages and that all the interpretations down through history have been wrong. They rely on the misuse and misunderstanding of progressive revelation. Progressive revelation is when God gives information on a subject in the Scriptures and then in a later book of the Bible He builds on that truth with more information. What the false teacher does is claim that God has giving them understanding outside of the parameters of the Bible. Be very aware of those who claim to have new revelation! God has given millions of copies of the true Scriptures for His children which means that those who possess a Bible, also possess the truth, so it is not limited to any one person.

They Contradict The Truth Of Scripture
Jeremiah 28:3 (KJV) Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the LORD'S house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:

In Jeremiah 28, a false prophet named Hananiah had contradicted the prophesy of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had prophesied that Judah would go into captivity with the Babylonians for a full 70 years, yet this false prophet was telling the people that their captivity will last only a period of 2 years. For his false prophecies, Hananiah incurred the wrath of God and died that same year. Jeremiah 28:17 (KJV) So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.  Have you ever heard a charismatic claim that physical healing was part of the atonement? There is no such thing in Scripture, yet they continue to teach such lies. If physical healing was part of the atonement, then why are there church cemeteries and why do Christians die? False teachers will teach annihilation instead of eternal damnation. Revelation 20:15 (KJV) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. False teachers will teach it is possible to reach God without Christ. John 14:6 (KJV) Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  There are many more contradictions of Scripture which are being presented by false teachers today.

They Rely On Personal Experience Such As Dreams, Visions Or False Prophecies
Until the time the Bible was completed, God did use dreams, visions, and prophecies to reach His people at various times in history. When the Bible was completed, we now have the full word of God and no longer is the word of God fragmented, a little here and a little there. With the completion of the Bible, the method of dreams, visions, and prophecies had come to an end. Whenever we need to search something out, we do not seek a dream, vision, or a sign but we go to the word of God. False teachers continue to rely on dreams, visions, and prophecies to further their ministry. Have you ever heard any of the false teachers on TV say something like this, “God told me….?” Benny Hinn stated that the Lord told him to tell us that He was going to destroy all homosexuals by 1994-95. Guess what, they are still here and more perverted than ever. Joseph Smith made a prophecy in 1835 that the end of the world would come in 56 years which would make it 1891. He claims this information was given by vision and by the Holy Spirit. Guess what it didn’t happen! In 1847 Ellen White had a vision that she was taken to the Holy City and came upon the tablets of the Ten Commandments which were in the Ark of the Covenant which Jesus opened for her. She saw a halo of glory surrounding the fourth commandment and thus was the beginning of the Seventh Day Adventists all based on a vision. Beware of those who still claim visions, prophecies, and dreams!

They Decry Certain Teachings Of Scripture Like Hell Or Sin
False teachers will never teach anything which could cause their audiences to reject them. They will stay away from the doctrines which will make them feel uncomfortable such as sin, hell, or judgment. Joel Osteen who has one of the largest churches in the country does not teach on hell or sin. If he did, he would not be able to keep up his lavish lifestyle being worth about $40 million. He states that he wants to leave those in the hands of God and that he would rather not judge. Luke 12:5 (KJV) But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.  If Jesus taught it, then it must be taught. False teachers omit anything which might come between them and their donations.

They Focus Heavily On The Love Of God
False teachers focus heavily on the love of God simply because it is a palatable teaching and the false teacher can easily claim that like God, they too love everyone which is a draw to lonely or outcast people who are hearing them. However, the Scriptures teach something totally opposite that God’s love is totally qualified and that He does not love the sinner. Psalm 5:5 (KJV) The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.  The word “hatest” in this verse carries with it the meaning of “foe, enemy, odious, and to hate.” They focus on the love of God while ignoring some of the other attributes of God such as Judge or Holiness. The false teachers use a tactic called “love bombing” which makes them sound like everything they are doing is sourced only in love. This is how cults recruit new members. It is a tactic which never goes out of date.

They Focus A Lot On Material Things Like Money Or Houses
Ken Copeland is worth about $750 million; Joel Osteen about $40 million; T.D. Jakes about $150 million; Benny Hinn $42 million; Creflo Dollar $27 million; Rick Warren $25 million; Joyce Meyer $8 million This is just a partial list of those who are teaching a false gospel that have made millions from their followers. The main message from these frauds is always about money and prosperity. The sorry truth is that the benighted followers of these false teachers are not the ones who are prospering but only those who are teaching prosperity. Many of them take million dollar salaries from their ministries. If you are a donor to one of these false teachers, ask yourself these questions. Why is he or she driving around in a Bentley or a Mercedes, and I am driving around in an old clunker? Why are they living in a mansion and I am living in a small apartment? Could it be because you are so dumb that you swallowed their lies without even checking them out once in the Bible? Any preacher that focuses mainly on money is not a preacher of the true gospel but a self-serving fraud. A true preacher focuses on the true gospel and the salvation of souls.

They Manipulate Scripture to make it say what they want
Psalm 76:11 (KJV) Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.  Many of us remember the manipulations of Robert Tilton who built a multi-million dollar ministry on one simple word “vow.” He would keep twisting that term until the only thing it meant was to send a $1000 vow to God but, of course, it would go through Tilton. He amassed millions of dollars by twisting this one word of Scripture. One must be very careful if they are listening to a teacher who has such a narrow focus on only one term or subject. Another manipulation by false teachers is the subject of healing. They teach that God wants everyone healed because it is part of the atonement of Christ. Yet, charismatic churches all have cemeteries. Why would they need them if physical healing was part of the atonement?

They Normally come from Inside the Church
Acts 20:30 (KJV) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.  The apostle Paul warned the church at Ephesus that false teachers will rise from among the flock and not from the outside. Joseph Smith the founder of Mormonism came out of the Methodist Church. Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses came out of Presbyterianism and Congregationalism. William Miller the founder of the Seventh Day Adventists came out of the Baptist Church. These are just three examples of false teachers who arose from among Christian congregations. Whenever a pastor or anyone in the congregation hears someone spouting false teachings, they need to be dealt with immediately. So when someone is preaching that God told them to leave their church and start a movement, then you know there is fraud involved and they need to be vetted thoroughly so others can be warned.

What type of Living does the Message Teach?
With every and any type of teaching, there will always come a resulting lifestyle. The Bible speaks about us living a humble existence here on earth. 1 Timothy 6:8 (KJV) And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.  What type of living does the false teacher advocate? Is it one of wealth looking to live in a mansion and have many material goods? Is it one of total abstract poverty where you have absolutely nothing? One can look at the teacher to see what kind of lifestyle they advocate. Frederick KC Price makes no apologies for riding around in a Bentley. Price himself declares to an ABC Interview, “Price declares, "I live in a 25-room mansion, I have my own $6-million yacht, I have my own private jet and I have my own helicopter and I have seven luxury automobiles." (http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jul/25/business/fi-price25 ) What message can you glean from his lifestyle without even hearing him preach?

What Promises do they make to you, such as 70 virgins or god of your own planet?
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are always making promises to their people that they will live in paradise on this earth. They have many accompanying artists drawing these scenarios of people living in total bliss. The Muslims are told they will have 70 virgins if they die in a jihad against Infidels. The Mormons are promised they will be gods of their own planet. The eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism promise Nirvana. The prosperity preachers always state that if you seed some money, of course to their ministry, then God is going to prosper you with much wealth and then they teach about men like Abraham or Job who had much material goods. What about Peter Popoff guaranteeing you a miracle if you send for his miracle spring water? It is very important to listen to what promises they make you and see if they line up with Scripture.

False Teachers will never Accept or Take Correction
False teachers will always do the correcting since they believe that God has chosen them to be His voice in this world. I remember when Harold Camping of Family Radio was predicting the end of the world on May 21, 2011. Many godly men went to him and counseled him to stop going further in these predictions and to stop attacking the church as Camping claimed that all pastors and theologians were under the judgment of God and were hell bound if they didn’t leave the church. Of course, Camping would not take any correction or even consider the things these godly men were saying. It is something that I am writing this section on May 21, 2016, five years after the supposed return of Christ. We are still here because no one can ever know the day or hour of Christ’s return. So if you encounter someone teaching falsely and will not take any correction, run for your life from them. These people are always correct in their own eyes ands everyone else is wrong.

False Teachers always appeal to the Flesh
False teachers will always appeal to the flesh. That is, they always focus on the here and now and never give concern about the future. They teach health and wealth but never broach the more serious subjects of eternity. They do not care if their hearers go to hell as long as they get their false message across and accepted. If their message is slanted only toward the present without concern for your soul, then leave them and do not look back.

They draw people unto themselves and not God
Acts 20:30 (KJV) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.  They claim to be speaking for God but the reality is that they are drawing away disciples after themselves. They look to be front and center and the center focus of the spiritual life of their disciples. These can be seen in strong central figures like David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Sun Myung Moon. All three of these came out of the church. The Apostle John also faced the problem of someone as a strong central figure. 3 John 9 (KJV) I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.  Apparently, Diotrephes was one of these church bosses who wanted to be the central figure in the church. This type of person is one who has an overbearing personality and will not be challenged.

They turn you away from the teachings of the Bible with sources like Mysticism especially in the Emergent Church Movement
In our day there is a great turning away from the Bible and in place of Bible study, there is an emphasis upon experience. This can be seen in something called The Emergent Church Movement. In this movement Bible study is frowned upon while experience is encouraged. They encourage studies in the areas of Roman Catholic Mysticism such as Thomas Merton and Teresa of Avila who levitated in front of people. They believe in clearing the mind and allowing soaking prayer which is:

“Soaking prayer is one such mystical activity. It is described as resting in God's presence. This is accomplished by playing some gentle worship songs, either sitting or lying down, and praying short, simple prayers for an extended period of time, but otherwise keeping your mind free of other thoughts. At the point when you sense God's presence through some type of manifestation like tingling skin, a sensation of heat or cold, or even a gentle wind seemingly blowing through your body, you are to just "soak" in that presence.”

From: http://www.gotquestions.org/soaking-prayer.html

12 Principles found in the Emergent Church Movement
1) An awareness of and attempt to reach those in the changing postmodern culture.
2) An attempt to use technology, i.e., video, slide shows, internet.
3) A broader approach to worship using candles, icons, images, sounds, smells, etc.
4) An inclusive approach to various, sometimes contradictory belief systems.
5) An emphasis on experience and feelings over absolutes.
6) Concentration on relationship-building over proclamation of the Gospel.
7) Shunning stale traditionalism in worship, church seating, music, etc.
8) A de-emphasis on absolutes and doctrinal creeds
9) A re-evaluation of the place of the Christian church in society.
10) A re-examination of the Bible and its teachings.
11) A re-evaluation of traditionally held doctrines.
12) A re-evaluation of the place of Christianity in the world.

From: https://carm.org/what-emerging-church 

Any teacher that frowns upon the study of the Scriptures and puts experience in its place is a false teacher and must be exposed and rejected.

They tell you what you want to hear
If there is another major principle of our day it is the principle of palatable teachings. False teachers will always tell you what you want to hear. They will tell you that God loves you and wants you wealthy and well. They will tell you things which appease you and that can in no way be refuted because they are considered good guys. People want to hear things like universal salvation or that their dog went to Heaven. Animal salvation was taught by Jack Van Impe who believed all pets went to Heaven although this is nowhere taught in Scripture. With the way people glorify their pets today, this is one way to tell people what they want to hear. False teachers will tell you that good works will get people into Heaven when this is nowhere taught in Scripture. It makes people feel good especially those in false religions like Roman Catholicism which is a works based religion.

They entice people with Great Words
2 Peter 2:18 (KJV) For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  The word “swelling” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “excessive, bombastic, or insolent.” Their words are nothing but great promises which can never be fulfilled. As the Scripture states their words are vain and are useless. They will write books or they will write great articles with only some type of positive reinforcement without any reality placed within. Sometimes the great swelling words can be found within Christian psychology or even among motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins. Have you ever been conned into multi-level marketing when the one presenting it to you tries to make it a spiritual experience? Do they not use great swelling words to try and con you into signing on for financial freedom? What about those Christian motivational speakers who want to get you to their bible conferences when in essence they are nothing but centers for false teaching such as Silva Mind control. Beware of anyone selling a message which only has positive points but never has any negative or points of reality.

False Teachers may possess a Messiah Complex
David Koresh believed that he was a messianic figure carrying out a divine mandate. Sun Myung Moon believed he was chosen by God finish the work of Jesus Christ. Teachers who are placed in areas of prominence by their followers allow their pride to take over and they tend to believe they are messiahs. This is why preacher worship is not only dangerous to the follower but also to the preacher himself who starts believing all the messianic words surrounding him. Within the church are preachers who have almost the same standing as messiahs, whose congregations revere them to the point of near worship. Some preachers who have strong followings are John MacArthur, Ken Copeland, the late Harold Camping, and I am sure there are many others which are just about worshipped.

They normally indulge in sensual pleasures behind the scenes
We all remember when Jimmy Swaggart came on the scene in February 1987 finally admitting that he was regularly visiting a prostitute in New Orleans. Paul Crouch of TBN had a gay lover whom he bribed to keep his mouth shut. Benny Hinn and Paula White had a weekend encounter together in 2010. Ted Haggard had two gay relationships. Many times false teachers like to put on a holy front but in the background, they are living a double standard. There is an invincibility belief in many of them that they will not get caught or if someone does know they will not get ratted out. Luke 12:2 (KJV) For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.  Once these guys are exposed, they should never be supported again and should be forced out of the ministry.

I have given 19 warning signs that a person might be a false teacher. Not every sign will be evident in every false teachers but at least one of these will be and they should be listened to several times and compared to the Scriptures to see if they harmonize. Your greatest line of defense against false doctrines and teachers is your King James Bible. The modern versions line up with the Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible and the Roman Catholic Bibles so they will not be much help in exposing false teachers. Whenever you encounter a false teacher, turn off the radio or just get up and leave if they are live. False teachers represent the kingdom of Satan and are coming after Christians to try and derail them. False teachers must not be given the opportunity to accomplish that.