John the Baptist was a prophet and he prophesied of his own ministry when he said:
Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees... (Matt 3:10a).
What did he mean?
The tree of life is a symbol for God's way of life which produces a certain kind of fruit (result) – good fruit. The end result of this way of living is not only good for everyone in this physical life, it is worthy of continuing for ever. This is why God will give eternal life to those who show their desire to live this way. Hence the tree of life is a symbol of the wonderful eternal life of God (Rev 2:7; 3:22; Gen 2:9).
But conversely, there are other trees, which are not good. These are symbols of lifestyles, motives and actions which bring war, suffering, death, sickness, mutilation and all kinds of misery. These are the trees which need hacking down! And John went about his task with zeal:
Every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt 3:10b).
When John the Baptist came on the scene (Matt 3), preaching of the need for reformation and individual repentance, he was fostering God's way. He was preparing the way before Jesus' coming, who would bring access to the Holy Spirit, enabling people to truly partake of that symbolic tree of life.
John, as a prophet of God, came with a divine axe. His mission was to cut down all the trees that stood in the way of the Lord. He had to clear a path (Matt 3:3) so that the Divine One who followed him could bring further truth and revelation. (People cannot receive all God's truth in one sitting. The banquet of God is so huge, that it takes many occasions and many feasts to assimilate it all. It is a way of life that is a progression from one level of faith or one level of obedience to another.)
John was commissioned to:
...prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him (Matt 3:3, NIV).
When the Romans invaded Britain, they built long, straight roads, which served an efficient military purpose – to transport Roman armies rapidly from one scene of conflict to another.
John was authorised to build equally straight roads in the spiritual, to enable Jesus' message to reach its destination quicker, storming the fortresses of the enemy. You know how John built those roads? With ruthless, penetrating precision. He wielded the divine axe against everything that exalted itself against God, cutting down every tree that was in his path.
What John attacked with his axe were strongholds of the enemy, the roots of evil attitudes (pride, lust, greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, etc), self-will, hypocrisy, religious sham, error and false dogma. He thrashed the religious leaders with his verbal onslaught, exposing the evil roots of their behaviour (Matt 3:7-9). His corrective outbursts were fully justified, being inspired by the Spirit, but they were not pretty. People hated him for it. His outspoken witness eventually led to him being imprisoned and being decapitated.
But it didn't matter. He had done his duty. That's all that matters in ultimate terms.
John the Baptist was an unusual character. Have you ever lived in the desert most of your adult life, just to be free of this world's evil influence and to hear the voice of God continually? No. Nor have I, but I can understand his calling. And every- one with God's mind can admire his resolve.
It's what every devout believer in Jesus should have. And they should have that same vitriolic hatred of evil.
You should have an axe to grind, just like John did. It's part of God's calling to hate this evil world and all the sin that is in it (1 Jn 2:15,16). However, do you know how to grind your axe?
You can only grind it with prophetic giftings, one of which is discerning of spirits. All believers need this spiritual gift, and God gives spiritual discernment (or discerning of spirits) to prophets. It is an essential spiritual gift given to all true prophets. One of the tasks of their ministry is to expose the root of falsity in believers. As they lay their axe to the root of the tree, they expose what is wrong so that true believers can avoid it and choose what is right.
Years ago, just before my wife and I were cast out of the church we attended then, God gave me a revelation that two ministers in that church were false. I mean, He dropped it into my mind that these men were not true believers, but were agents of the devil, masquerading as Christ's ministers. My wife also saw it. He gave us the discernment to know that these men were wicked, that they had evil motives, and He showed us some of those evil spirits they displayed.
Later He revealed another shocking fact about one of these men. This minister was a carrier of 500 demons! Yet, you wouldn't have thought so by looking at him. In the natural, you would have thought he was a 'smoothie', perhaps a bit vain and conceited, but certainly not the villain God later showed us. That's the power of the gift of discerning of spirits. It cuts right through the sham to the heart and core of a person's spiritual makeup.
Prophets are given this gift, in varying measures and for various situations, to achieve the purposes God has in mind. They are preparing the Way.
Clearing the Way
One of the aspects of preparing for the Kingdom of God to come to earth is to prepare the Way by clearing away all the trees and stumps of false doctrine. The Church is full of them. Many are the result of misunderstanding – misunderstanding Jesus and misunderstanding what He means in the Bible.
Misunderstandings can have several causes. One of them is a root of disobedience.
The Roots of Disobedience
God, in His ingenuity, has laid things out in such a way that you can choose to disbelieve the truth and believe a lie. This is not only true in biblical matters, it is true in other areas, too. We see this in the theory of evolution.
God made primates (monkeys, gorillas, orang-utangs, chimpanzees) to have similarities to man. But, instead of just accepting that God had made them similar in certain ways, it was more appealing to mankind to believe Satan's lie. Satan cast the thought into someone's vaunted imagination that these were the results of an unguided 'evolutionary' process, and theorised that they developed by chance from common ancestry.
At the root of this philosophy is pride and intellectual vanity. To those who want to believe the lie, it is more 'enlightened' to believe this than to believe the 'superstition' that God made them this way.
Also at the root of this trend is rebellion. Those who want to rebel against God, who don't want to obey Him, have a convenient excuse now. By placing their trust in a mindless 'process' of natural selection and upward evolution, they have dispensed with the need for a Creator to whom they are accountable and whom they should obey.
Virtually the whole world has gone after this false dogma of evolution. Satan's lies are extremely effective! They deceive the masses because people believe what they want to believe.
The Roots of False Doctrine
Similarly, at the root of all false doctrine in the Church are these satanic traits:
1) Pride, and 2) Rebellion.
You may believe certain false doctrines. I am not saying that you are proud or rebellious. Nor am I saying that your misunderstandings are the direct result of your pride or rebellion. Not necessarily. Although it is something to be considered.
No, the pride and rebellion stem from Satan, and have been first exercised by false ministers. They are the culprits who have spread heresies and caused them to be accepted by the gullible 'sheep' who have too little experience, knowledge or understanding to contradict them.
When false teaching spreads, it is because someone first began to believe Satan's lie. By appealing to their pride, vanity, rebellion or other evil motive, he hooked them with his bait. As they accepted it, they passed it on to others – usually because it was appealing to them in some way, too. And the pernicious rise of heresies spread throughout the majority of the Church.
People wonder. "Why, if false doctrine is so damaging and heinous, doesn't God intervene and sovereignly eradicate it? Why doesn't He do that in the Church as a whole, and in every believer's individual life?"
Because that would undermine the whole ethos of His working in the human sphere. He has given everyone freedom of choice. That involves their willingness to accept correct morality or to reject it. And it also encompasses their desires in other areas, one of which is what knowledge they want to accept. For, even the acceptance of knowledge can involve certain desires. (Remember Eve saw that the new knowledge which the serpent offered her was desirable.)
Every person must learn to over-ride desire, and to do what is right, and to believe what is right, or they cannot accept the reward from God in the end.
Even matters to do with doctrines (teachings) in the Church can be intertwined with motives of the 'heart'. As He reveals more truth, through what you choose, God is sifting out the hearts of His people from those who are untrue to Him.
Consider these issues:
1) The Sabbath.
The majority of Christians don't want to accept and obey the fourth commandment because it's not easy in our society. Doing so, for some, risks the loss of job or career, friends or family, church or fellowship. They are not prepared to give these things up in order to obey God's simple instruction to keep the Sabbath when God decrees that it should be kept. (On the seventh day of the week, commonly called Saturday. Exodus 20:8-11.)
When all your friends keep Sunday, and society accepts Sunday as the day off in the week, it is natural to want to do as they do. But at the heart of this response is habit, tradition and fear of man. Habit and tradition are fine so long as they are based on the Word of God, but fear of man is always dangerous. It is the satanic root behind the resistance to God's truth.
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be safe (Prov 29:25).
The truth about the Sabbath is expounded in the book Our Sabbath Rest (S). It is also further corroborated by the large publication Sunday Versus Sabbath – The Final World Crisis (SS).
2) Church Authority.
The maintenance of law and order in society is the duty of the Police. The more ungodly the society, the more ruthless and cruel is its method of policing. Communist systems and Islamic regimes are prime examples of this.
But Satan's repressive influence is felt in the Church also. Through dictatorial systems of ruling, false ministers have exerted dominion over hapless Christian 'sheep'. Euphemistically dubbed 'heavy shepherding', it is not shepherding but spiritual abuse!
Oppression is the result, as it was prophesied (Isaiah 52:1-5; and Jeremiah 5:31).
Most believers simply don't know that:
Hierarchic systems of rulership in the Church are unbiblical. See Matthew 23:8.
here is a universal priesthood of believers now in Christ. See 1 Peter 2:5,9.
Rulership is only via the Holy Spirit. Leaders in the Church who do not have the Holy Spirit (false ministers), or who are not listening to or following the lead of the Spirit, are exerting human lordship, and should be over-ruled by members who DO have the Holy Spirit and who ARE following God's lead.
At the root of this spiritual abuse and loss of true spiritual freedom in the Church is an illicit lust. It's a desire for power and control. False ministers exert it with precision and subtlety. It is rarely blatant. It is couched in spiritual-sounding language, such as an insistence that you (if you are a member of their church) submit to their leadership over you, which they classify as the government of God in the church, or the apostolic or prophetic anointing or 'umbrella'... etc. etc.
It is a blasphemy that is repeated in church after church all over the world, again true to God's prediction (Is 52:5).
The truth about government in the Church is expounded in God's Church – Whose Authority? (GC).
The prosperity gospel has claimed many adherents. Why? Because it's appealing. Use certain scriptures from the Bible to teach that the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous, that God wants you to become rich, prosperous and successful, and you have very many eager ears, itching to hear what you have to say. With an ability to put these slanted notions across to their audiences, the 'apostles' of prosperity teachings have made merchandise out of their followers. God predicted that too (2 Peter 2:3).
At the root of these subtle deceptions and half truths is covetousness. The preachers who deceive their audiences with their appealing philosophy get rich, because they teach their listeners that if they want to prosper they have got to give generously (to them! of course).
The falsity behind the prosperity gospel is provided in two books we produce: Understanding The Mind of God – A Message to the Charismatic Church (£2.00) and Giving and Receiving (£2.00).
It's a big word, but it means the philosophy that opposes obedience to law. Antinomianism in the Church was a trend that developed late in the first century AD (Jude 4, 10), and which gained considerable momentum in the second century alongside anti-Semitism.
After the Roman crushing of Jerusalem a vicious persecution continued against Jews. A distinguishing mark in their behaviour was that they kept the Sabbath day (and they refused to worship the Roman Emperor). Jew and Sabbath had become inextricably intertwined. But faithful Christians also kept the Sabbath and shunned emperor worshi
When persecution escalated against Jews, Christians suffered too. Penalties included imprisonment, confiscation of property, torture and death.
In this atmosphere of oppression, the seeds of antinomianism could germinate rapidly. False teachers arose in the Church teaching that observance of the Sabbath was not binding upon Christians. To provide more impetus to this new doctrine, the Sabbath was dubbed 'Jewish'. This was part of the conspiracy mounted by Satan through 'Church Fathers' who "turned the grace of our God into lewdness and denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4) who is Lord of that day (Mark 2:28).
Distorted pseudo-spiritual teachings arose, to justify the breaking of the Sabbath command, to enable believers to be more acceptable in a Gentile (and now) very anti-Semitic society. Another wicked lie was fostered that the Jews were responsible for Jesus' death, so they should be persecuted and hated. (All people are responsible for His death, because all have sinned. Jesus paid the price of your sins and mine. And it was not the Jews, but the Roman governor Pilate, who had the final say on whether Jesus should live or die.)
The satanic trend in antinomianism developed further against any laws which had Hebrew origins (the entire Bible has Hebrew origins, but most Christians forget or overlook that), until an entirely 'un-Hebrew' Church emerged in the Dark Ages, which modified the Ten Commandments to suit their own purposes. This Catholic Church hounded true Christians and Jews, killing millions of them, and persecuted and displaced all who would not accept their teachings or submit to their authority.
The legacy of this corruption remains in the Church today, in:
Sunday-keeping (or the acceptance of any day replacing the Sabbath) justified by the pseudo-spiritual teaching that our rest is in Christ now.
The replacement of God's festivals, originally given to Israel, by ones that have pagan origin (Christmas, Easter, etc.), AGAINST God's instruction. [Denounced in Why Keep Christmas? (£1.00) and The Truth About Easter (£1.00).]
Ignoring God's calendar, and the observance of new moons, on which these festivals are established. [Covered in the booklet God's Calendar Revealed To Man (£2.00).]
The arising of more subtle antinomian teachings to justify the present apostasy, chief among which is that so long as you love others you are fulfilling the law of God (a distortion of what Paul meant in Romans 13:8).
Disregarding the food laws of Leviticus 11, which warn against harmful meat.
At the root of all these is self-will, selfish interest, and rebellion. It was what fuelled the apostate teachings in the first place. Many believers today prefer to continue down the same route and compromise truth for the sake of expedience and self-interest. God provides justification if you want it. You must choose. Through it, many are choosing perdition by taking the easy way out.
The Controversy Concerning Law and Grace (LG) exposes what is wrong with the common view of what Paul wrote. And The Festivals of God (Fes) provides much needed teaching on that subject.
5) Spiritual Manifestations.
Satan is very active in the Church to defraud you of God's Spirit. Where the Spirit imbues people with power, he is hot against it and mounts his ruthless campaign to prevent the spread of the power of God. Dispensationalism (the false teaching that speaking in tongues and other manifestations of God's power in spiritual gifts was only for the Apostolic Church and ceased with the passage of that era) has many adherents today. They don't want to be shown up to be lacking by those who have accepted God's power, so they deny it. The root of their behaviour is pride. These people have an arrogance that they are unwilling to relinquish. Well, they don't have to. They can keep it if that's what they want. God lets them. People are free to reject Him.
Where believers really believe, they accept the Spirit of God and all the manifestations He sends. Spiritual gifts are for all to benefit, when believers believe. But only believers receive.
To destabilise and delude these believers, Satan mounts other tactics. He sends deceptive manifestations in the midst of those that are true. 'The Toronto Blessing' has seen this mixture, as have other revivals such as Brownsville, and almost any other one you can name.
God's people who want His righteousness and holiness have a degree of protection from deception according to their degree of submission to God. But false believers who have merely come along for a 'good time' end up receiving counterfeit (evil) spirits and counterfeit manifestations of spiritual power. The receipt of spiritual power is no game, but they treat it as such, and the devil makes a mockery of the Church through it.
Seeking sensual gratification and fun are at the root of these delusions (Jude 10 and 12).
Our book Testing The Spirits (£6.00) goes into some of these manifestations in more detail, providing the principles by which you can be delivered from Satan's traps.
6) Women in the Church.
Women, from the time of Adam, have been put down, their abilities undervalued, and their spiritual gifts under-utilised. It was part of the curse suffered when mankind chose the way of disobedience against God.
But Jesus has 'reversed' the curse. He paid the price for reconciliation with God, and as His disciples today fully accept His teachings, they can be restored to their place of privilege with God through the Spirit. However, to benefit from all that He has restored, people must be taught:
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).
Most believers don't know the whole truth, so they are not completely set free yet. More wielding of the axe is to come.
A précis of this issue can be found in Newsletter 14. It is covered in much more depth in the booklet The Woman Question (W).
7) The Trinity.
The concept that God is one in three persons is more widely held than any other view of the Godhead. But it is wrong. It is no coincidence that several pagan cultures hold to this view in their religions. Hinduism is one example.
But if the supposed third personage of the Godhead were co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Son, Jesus would have been the Son of the Holy Spirit, not the Son of the Father, according to Luke's account (Luke 1:35).
Jesus also stated that He was not co-equal with the Father at that time (John 14:28).
Moreover, Paul would have blasphemed the Holy Spirit through default. He failed to mention Him on a par with the Father and Son in all the introductions to his letters.
There are several problems with the Trinity theory. It is untrue.
To many people, the revelation that God is not three persons in one is a devastating blow. Their minds are sent reeling. But this truth is part of the restoration at this time. It is fully covered in What The Bible Says About The Holy Spirit (HS), Why The Holy Spirit? (WHS), and Was Jesus YHWH? in Articles of Faith, Vol 4 (A4).
8) The Rapture.
A man recently asked me about the rapture. What did I think it was and how will it happen? I told him briefly what I knew from the Bible, but a subject like this requires more detailed study in God's Word to perceive the truth, so I gave him our booklets on the subject, The Rapture Theory – Is It True? (Rap) and The Coming of Christ (Com).
The populist teaching in pentecostal circles provides a nice, comfortable, appealing 'answer' to this issue. But Paul prophesied about the trend in false doctrines, that they would appeal to 'itching' ears (2 Tim 4:3). This is one that does.
The Church is not going to be raptured away en masse. There is coming a trial of monumental proportions worldwide which is going to test everyone alive. Notice:
...the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Rev 3:10).
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time... (Matt 24:21), and unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened (Matt 24:22).
There would be no need to shorten these coming days of suffering for the elect's sake (true believers), if all the elect had already been whisked away from it all in the rapture. There may well be small pockets of believers protected physically from the worst of this onslaught but equally there will be many Christians who die (Matt 24:9; Luke 21:12-17; Rev 2:10; 2:13, 16,22; 3:16; 6:9-11; 7:14; 12:11; 13:7,15; 14:12,13; 16:6; 17:6; 19:2).
Jesus says to each one who must suffer and die because of Him:
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer (Rev 2:10).
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [your life, i.e. your eternal life]. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul [life] and body in hell [Greek: Gehenna] (Matt 10:28).
An explanation about this matter of the soul is provided in the booklet Spirit, Soul? and Body (SSB).
The correct understanding of the rapture is tied in closely with the matter of judgement. This is another sorely misunderstood subject for many Christians. Most are unaware that the entire Church is going to face its time of severest judgement in the holocaust to come.
Jesus prophesied of this in allegory when He foretold of every stone of the Temple being torn down (Matt 24:2). What man has constructed in the Church is not pleasing to God. Where men have elevated themselves (see point 11), and established churches for their own glorification, God will utterly destroy these idolatrous edifices.
Where the Word of God has been defiled through false teaching, and Christ's image has been tarnished, everyone responsible will be brought into severe judgement, unless they repent of their deeds (Rev 2:22).
The entire established Church in all its sectors is going to be completely crushed. Daniel prophesied of it in these words:
...when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered... (Dan 12:7).
The modern Israelitish nations of America and Britain will also come under severe judgement because of the escalation and promotion of sin. This horrific judgement is described in Why Britain Will Fall Soon (B) and The Imminent Fall of America (USA). The latter also contains contemporary prophecies from God against the sins of the Church. [The Great Tribulation is fully explained in Understanding The Book of Revelation (Rev).]
10) Witnessing For Christ.
The most successful pentecostal and charismatic preachers tend to promote the modernist philosophy of taking cities and nations for Christ. They diametrically contradict Jesus' declaration that His Kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). But they don't care about that. They want to be popular and highly acclaimed. So they teach that through intercession and witnessing for Christ, they can cause the Kingdom of God to advance in this age with very physical implications, some even claiming that they are making it possible for Christ's return!
Those who know what Jesus said will realise that this is mere hype at best, and outright lies at worst. This very philosophy was denied by Paul in Romans 10:6. But it is subtle, so it fools many. Witnessing For Christ (Wit) addresses this serious error.
11) Elevation and Exaltation of Leaders
Church leaders who promote humanistically appealing concepts may not see the motive which underlies their actions. But it is none other than Satan's!
In his pride he wanted recognition. He coveted worship. He sought elevation and exaltation (Is 14; Ezek 28).
The trouble is, he went about it the wrong way. Anyone who seeks it won't have it. But those who don't seek it will have it. That's the way God works.
It's the humble who will be exalted (Is 66:2; Matt 23:12). But the proud will be brought to nothing (Is 2:11,12,17; Luke 1:51,52).
There is much pride in charismatic preaching and teaching. The exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, the receipt of manifold revelations has fostered a harvest of pride. That pride has led to spiritual blindness and much wrong doctrine.
It started with church leaders who thought that by jumping on the populist bandwagon, they could further their aims along with those of Christ. But it doesn't work that way. Jesus won't share His glory with another who seeks it for himself. But He will share it with those who are self-effacing, who have no pride in themselves, and who are totally empty of vainglory.
There is a vile display of arrogance on evangelical TV. It is most prominent in America. Evangelists gather around them other famous names, where they promote each other on the screen, in front of their audiences of millions. They scratch one another's backs and exalt each other with flattery and adulation.
New believers are often brought into a church environment where such evangelists are revered, where it would be wrong to contest their teachings or opinions, and where subservience of the laity to these spiritual overlords is regarded as 'humility'.
Reverencing men is still practiced in the well established mainline churches, where they are given blasphemous titles such as 'Reverend', 'Most Reverend', 'Very Reverend', etc..
With such an abomination masquerading before the world as God's way, is it any wonder that God will allow it all to be destroyed?
In all these 11 areas of teaching or practice, the axe must be laid firmly to the root of the trees. John the Baptist wielded the axe against all the falsity and religious sham of his time, and Jesus hailed him as the greatest man who has ever lived (Matt 11:11). John didn't do it for vainglory, but because of the anointing which was upon him from birth (Luke 1:15).
Despite his cutting outbursts, which his proud victims regarded as unacceptably truculent, he was not arrogant like they thought him. He was most humble (Matt 3:11,14). God uses the humble in this work of 'Elijah'.
So, be aware:
The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Luke 2:9, NIV).
Malcolm B Heap