In the book of Acts the Apostle Paul warned the church concerning the time when he will depart “know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you; and they won’t spare the flock. Even from among your own number, men will arise and teach perversions of the truth, in order to drag away the talmidim (disciples) after themselves.” (Acts 20:29-30 CJB).
The Scriptures are very clear that in the end times heresy will have crept into the church. The Apostle Peter forewarns “[In those days] there arose false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among yourselves, who will subtly and stealthily introduce heretical doctrines(destructive heresies),” (2 Peter 2:1 AMP, emphasis added). According to Webster’s Dictionary the word subtly is defined as “nicely, delicately,” indicating to us that these heretical doctrines will not blatantly or openly be introduced and yet, most of the church has fallen asleep and cannot discern the spirit of error that is before them. It is a gross misconception to believe that false teachers need to be wearing some sort of eye patch or have a distinguishable scar on their face that indicates “this is the bad guy.” False teachers greet you with a delicate smile as they lead you to hell with their destructive heresies.
Some may be distraught at the idea of heresies in the church however it is required. As the holy Apostle Paul asserted “doubtless there have to be factions (heresies G139) or parties among you in order that they who are genuine and of approved fitness may become evident and plainly recognized among you.” (1Corinthians 11:19 AMP, emphasis added). One may venture to think that sort of heresy will come from an outside source, however, the Apostle John identifies, that at the end of the age, the spirit of Antichrist will come from inside the church “even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from our number, but they did not [really] belong to us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us. But [they withdrew] that it might be plain that they all are not of us.” (1John 2:18-19 AMP, emphasis added). It is grievous to know that the main heretics who combated the ancient church were originally from within the church and had departed. Such as Marcion (whose father was a bishop), Valentinus, Basilides, and Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25). Moses also warned that the false prophets will arise from among the saints (Deuteronomy 13:1-6). As we can see from both the old and new Testament, we are constantly being warned of false prophets and false teachings, arising from within the body of Christ.
The mendacity within the Church today is that we will work out our theological differences when we get to heaven and the solution, for now, is to come under the name Jesus. This very statement contradicts the Apostle Peter when he said “[Yet] first [you must] understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is [a matter] of any personal or private or special interpretation (loosening, solving)” (2 Peter 1:20). Justin Martyr speaks on the heretics of his time (100-165 AD) who were claiming to be Christians.
“The fact that there are such men confessing themselves to be Christians, and admitting the crucified Jesus to be both Lord and Christ, yet not teaching His doctrines, but those of the spirits of error, causes us who are disciples of the true and pure doctrine of Jesus Christ, to be more faithful and steadfast in the hope announced by Him. For what things He predicted would take place in His name, these we do see being actually accomplished in our sight. For he said, ‘Many shall come in My name, clothed outwardly in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Mat 7:15). And, ‘There shall be schisms and heresies.’ (1Co 11:19). And, ‘Beware of false prophets, who shall come to you clothed outwardly in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’ (Mat 7:15). (1)
Even in the time of the Ante Nicene Fathers, there were many portraying to be Christians, who were not. So, simply confessing the name of Jesus isn’t enough. The Apostle Paul spoke of others preaching a different Jesus, a different Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:8) thus simply coming under the name of Jesus alone, for the sake of unity, is heretical and contradicts the warning of the Apostles. Clement (150-220 AD) articulates that false teachers who twist the Holy Scriptures, is their way of trying to enter through the sheepfold a different way (John 10:1).
Those, then, that adhere to impious words, and dictate them to others, inasmuch as they do not make a right but a perverse use of the divine words, neither themselves enter into the kingdom of heaven, nor permit those whom they have deluded to attain the truth. But not having the key of entrance, but a false (and as the common phrase expresses it), a counterfeit key (ἀντικλεῖς), by which they do not enter in as we enter in, through the tradition of the Lord, by drawing aside the curtain; but bursting through the side-door, and digging clandestinely through the wall of the Church, and stepping over the truth, they constitute themselves the Mystagogues of the soul of the impious. (2)
The divine Word was being perverted and false teaching portrayed a different [counterfeit] way through the veil. Yeshua said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). These other doctrines do not admit to the traditions that the Lord taught His disciples (Luke 24:27) that were being passed down and preserved in the churches. However, no matter how destructive these heresies are, they are essential to the growth of the righteous. If it was bad in their time, according to the Apostles, it is going to far more so at the end.
We ought not to be astonished at the heresies (which abound) neither ought their existence to surprise us, for it was foretold that they should come to pass; (Mat 7:15; Mat 24:4, Mat 24:11, Mat 24:24; 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Pe 2:1) nor the fact that they subvert the faith of some, for their final cause is, by affording a trial to faith, to give it also the opportunity of being “approved.” (1Co 11:19) Groundless, therefore, and inconsiderate is the offence of the many who are scandalized by the very fact that heresies prevail to such a degree. How great (might their offence have been) if they had not existed. When it has been determined that a thing must by all means be, it receives the (final) cause for which it has its being. This secures the power through which it exists, in such a way that it is impossible for it not to have existence. (3)
The necessity of the flare-up of heresies at the end of the age is to discern who has a sincere love for the truth and who doesn’t (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Jesus said that the seed is the Word (Luke 8:11) and thus we know that at the end the war of all wars is not one with all the nations fighting in the middles east, according to what the LORD says “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed;” (Genesis 3:15). We shouldn’t be worried about the physical wars that take place, we should more concerned about the war that goes on between our ears, the war of seeds, the war for Truth.
1. Justin Martyr-Dialogue with Trypho Ch. XXXV Vol. 1 (emphasis added)
2. Clement-Stromata Bk 7 Ch. XVII, Vol. 2 (emphasis added)
3. Tertullian-The Prescription Against Heretics Ch. I, Vol. 3 (emphasis added)