“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 24:23-28 (NKJV)
Throughout my life I have heard of numerous incidents where charismatic leaders have made such claims. For me, the question that always begs to be answered is–how can someone be so naive to fall for such a claim?
Three Self-Proclaimed Messiahs
Here are three examples of individuals who have boldly proclaimed themselves to be either Jesus Christ, or a Messiah figure.
1. Jim Jones – Answers.com provides the following summary of his life and ministry.
“Jim Jones was the founder and leader of Jonestown, Guyana, a community of over 900 members of The People’s Temple Full Gospel Church, an offshoot of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Jones had been an untrained preacher in Indiana and California before moving his congregation to Guyana to avoid government scrutiny. In November of 1978, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. Ryan and his group were murdered at Jonestown, and on November 18, 1978 Jim Jones and 911 of his followers committed suicide or were murdered.” –Answers.com | Watch YouTube
3. Wayne Bent – Recently we’ve heard about Warren Jeffs and his followers in Texas, and now we are hearing about another group in New Mexico whose leader, Wayne Bent (a.k.a. Michael Travesser), claims to be a Messiah. Evidently he used to be an Adventist minister (1970-1982) in southern California. According to church news sources, “He voluntarily terminated his employment with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1982. He has had no affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church since then.” You can read more about Bent and his claims on his website at StrongCity.Info | CNN Article
This is a good topic for discussion. Watch the video (part 1) and then respond to the questions that follow.
1. Google the word “cult” in a dictionary and describe what it is.
2. With this definition in mind, would Jesus and His disciples have been classified as a cult by His contemporaries?
3. Are people who strongly embrace spiritual values and beliefs more susceptible to cultish deception?
4. Jesus said, “false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” What criteria should be used to establish personal faith? How can we be kept from this kind of deception?
5. At what point should we walk away from a religious leader or group of people making spiritual claims?
David said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We are cautioned, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).
Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13).
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians, it is important for us to study God’s Word, and to allow His Spirit to guide our steps.
For further study
Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists website.
Is the Bible Our Final Authority?, by George W. Reid, Former Director Biblical Research Institute, Silver Spring, MD. July 1990.© 2017 - 2019 Church Support Services. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.