In recent years, the number of cults has increased worldwide. These cults are easily recognized because of the overt nature of their beliefs. Their leaders are always mere mortals, many times quoting the bible and professing Christian beliefs, but Jesus Christ is never rightfully revered as Deity.
Unlike cults, heresy is far more likely to be clever and insidious. We must keep in mind that Satan always uses stealth when attempting to deceive. A daily walk of surrender to the Holy Spirit will enable us to have keen discernment and escape the dangerous pitfalls of the devil, that "angel of light."
Some folks may even see a doctrine with which we simply disagree as being heresy. So, what is heresy? It is translated from the Greek word hairesis,1 defined as "choice," "a party," or "disunion." It is also translated "sect," which means "denomination" as well as "faction."2
Also shedding light on the subject is the word "heretic," which is translated from a Greek word meaning "schismatic."3 A "schismatic" is "a person who causes or participates in schism."4 We must follow this with the definition of "schism":
1. - a split or division in an organized group or society, especially a church, as the result of difference of opinion, of doctrine, etc.
2. - the offense of causing or trying to cause a split or division in a church.5
Anyone who strays from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is bringing schism to the Body of Christ. Paul referred to "factions, divisions, and heresies" as works of the flesh which will keep us out of the Kingdom of God.6 It is no light matter to see denominations as being merely "parts of the Body of Christ." Some members of the true Body of Christ may well be worshipping among denominationalists--but are these divisions truly pleasing to God? I believe we must seriously consider the bible and the meanings of these words that relate to heresy. Jesus is coming for a Bride without spot or wrinkle. Will He accept a Bride where there can be found schism? I believe we need to ask the Lord what His plan is for His Body.
The Apostle Peter told of "destructive heresies" which would be brought in by false teachers, who will blaspheme the way of truth, using "feigned [fictitious] words"7 to "make merchandise" of the people. He said that "their destruction slumbereth not."8 In the remainder of the chapter, he explains that their end will compare to that of the angels that fell, the wicked of Noah's day, Sodom and Gommorha, and others who were destroyed because of their disobedience to the voice of God.
Jude's epistle has much the same message as Second Peter 2. He speaks of the same false teachers and compares them in the same way Peter did. Jude says, "Woe to them." He likens them to Cain, who offered of the works of his hands; and Balaam, who was willing to prophesy falsely to God's people for monetary gain. Jude calls them "spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves." He sees them as being empty and dead, as "wandering stars [erratic teachers]9 for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." Jude, in his forthrightness, seems to express some anger, as he describes the ungodliness of the false teachers who were audaciously speaking against the Lord. They walked according to the flesh, with "great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage." Jude then refers to the other apostles who warned of the "mockers [false teachers]10 in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions [disjoin]11, not having the Spirit."12 These false teachers are mere flesh, not having the Spirit, and are more interested in impressing other flesh. It is to their advantage to deceive with self-serving words which lead people astray. Do we think God will tolerate game-playing by those who erroneously see themselves as the Body of Christ?
Jude ended his letter with an admonition to the true believers: "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear [alarm]13, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh." (Jude 20-23 NKJV). Those who are true to Jesus will show mercy toward those who are in doubt--some of those will be pulled out of the fire before it is too late. Even others whose garments are spotted by the flesh can be turned to Christ. We must heed Jude's message and speak a word to any one whose garment is spotted by the flesh of religiosity, pointing him to Christ who is the only Way to Eternal Life.
Jude's final words are self-explanatory: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen." (Jude 24-25 NKJV).
Before Jesus returns, God will shake both the heavens and the earth. Those things that are of His Kingdom will remain, for they cannot be shaken. The writer to the Hebrews warned them to heed the voice of God from Heaven, since they had refused to hear Moses' warnings. For in Moses' time the voice of God shook the earth, and He has promised, "Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only but also the heaven." The passage ends with the words, "for our God is a consuming fire."14 Many will perish, including those who believe they are a part of the true Ekklesia but have chosen the way of flesh. They have "turned away from Him Who warned from Heaven."
In more recent centuries, God has sent His servants like Charles Finney, and others, to bring messages of the dire need for revival in the church. As a result, at times, great revivals have swept many souls into the Kingdom. Yet the apostate church has flourished, and there is only a remnant that has remained true and is ready to meet the Bridegroom. The remnant is made up of people from all over the earth, with vast numbers of true believers being found where persecution still exists. The Spirit of God is moving throughout the earth, bringing into His kingdom all those who will respond to His call, yet there are many who will continue to break His heart by choosing the life of the flesh—their own way.
Jesus said "many" in that day will claim to have done works in His Name, but because they did not have His Spirit, and a relationship with Him, they will hear the words, "DEPART FROM ME, I NEVER KNEW YOU." Many of the things we Christians believe are pleasing to God mean nothing to Jesus--He is coming for a Bride who has responded to His wooing. Then that passion for Jesus will spill over into the lives of others. His true Bride is the one who loves Him with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength.
We must not assume we will spend eternity with Jesus simply because we confess that we are "Christians." As Paul said, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Romans 8:9). There will be no heretics or schismatics among the remnant--only those in whom dwells the Spirit of Christ and who have survived the shaking.
1. Greek #139
2. Webster's New World Dictionary - Simon & Schuster Inc. 1986
3. Greek #141
4. Webster's New World Dictionary - Simon & Schuster Inc. 1986
6. Galatians 5:19-21
7. Greek #4112
8. 2 Peter 2:1-3
9. Greek #4107
10. Greek #1703
11. Greek #592
12. Jude 11-19 NKJV
13. Greek #5401
14. Hebrews 12:25-29