Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders?

By COGwriter

From time to time I have received an occasional email somewhat critical of me for pointing out improper beliefs of current, as well as historical, religious leaders.

Normally the email says something to the effect, "X is a decent man, you should not report negative things about his teachings, instead you should focus on the positive."

My normal response is to mention how Jesus dealt with religious leaders (Matthew 7:15-23) and/or Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14-19). If the claims seem improperly prophetic or exceptionally bold, I tend to cite 2 Peter 2:1-3.

Should we be concerned about false and heretical leaders? Should they always be ignored? Should we focus on the positive about them? What did Jesus do? What does the Bible teach?

Jesus, False Prophets, and Religious Leaders

Many people do not seem to understand what Jesus was really like and what He really taught.

While it is true He taught, "love your enemies" and to "pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44), it is a misunderstanding to believe that Jesus taught that one could never point out the problems of religious enemies (and yes, we should still pray for them).

Jesus often taught to beware of religious leaders. Notice:

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (Matthew 7:15-23, NKJV throughout unless otherwise indicated).

False leaders do not produce good fruit. Many of them tend to encourage lawlessness (though they would almost all deny that). Those that follow them risk being cast out by Jesus.

Notice that Jesus is saying to look at their fruits and that even if they appear to be doing miracles in Jesus' name, if they promote lawlessness, they are not true Christians.

It needs to be understood that lawlessness includes not only the false concept that the law was done away (please see the free online books: Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism and The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast) but the more diabolical one that the law is in force, but that human tradition is of more value (please see the articles Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law or Reasoning Around it? and Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings). The Beast power will encourage the violation of all the Ten Commandments (check out our free online book: The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast).

What was Jesus mainly warning about false leaders? Their personalities?


Jesus was warning about their teachings and their hypocrisy. Notice:

6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees"...12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6-12).

44 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Luke 11:43-44).

8 Then He said to them in His teaching, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." (Mark 12:38-40)

6 And He said, "Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers...52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered (Luke 11:46,52).

False leaders deceive. They break the ten commandments, including the admonition to not bear false witness.

Most of the above accounts involving Jesus are repeated more than once in the gospels.

Apparently God wanted to make the point clear that hypocritical and lawless religious leaders are not to be followed.

The Apostle John wrote:

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

Instead of testing the spirits, people tend to decide if they want to believe the message, as opposed to testing the spirits.

This has turned many off about prophecy.

While God does sometimes use dreams (see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God), false prophets sometimes have dreams or come up with predictions from their own imaginations:

25 "I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, 'I have dreamed, I have dreamed!' 26 How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, 27 who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.

28 "The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream;
And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.
What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the Lord.
29 "Is not My word like a fire?" says the Lord,
"And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

30 "Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," says the Lord, "who steal My words every one from his neighbor. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets," says the Lord, "who use their tongues and say, 'He says.' 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," says the Lord, "and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all," says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:25-32)

Various ones have falsely claimed that eclipses, blood moons, etc. were signs from God when they were not (see Blood Moons, Eclipses, and Prophecy).

Even though people can point to scriptures, so can Satan (cf. Matthew 4).

Various ones have falsely claimed that the or a Bible Code predicted many things (see also Biblical prophecy ‘FULFILLED’ after SECRET hidden Bible code CRACKED by experts?).

Jesus also warned:

2 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Mark 13:22).

Thus, signs and wonders should, of themselves, not be considered as proof. Signs and wonders are expected according to Jesus, Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:9), and John (Revelation 13:13; 18:23). Yet even today, many within the Greco-Roman faiths have been misled by them.

Like the original Christians, such as Serapion of Antioch and Polycrates of Ephesus, we in the Continuing Church of God believe in being separate from the groups with origins in the Greco-Roman-Protestant faiths (cf. Revelation 18:4; 1 John 2:18-19)--and at least two leaders from them will be problems for many in the future (Revelation 13; 16:13-14).

What if some leader makes a correct prediction? Notice:

1″If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ — which you have not known — ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:1-4)

So, if the prophet does not keep and advocate keeping God’s commandments, he is also false–it does not matter if he is ever right.

Notice also:

21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ — 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)

False leaders do not produce good fruit. They encourage lawlessness. Those that follow them risk being cast out by Jesus. The Bible is clear that false leaders will be very successful (Matthew 24:23-24; Revelation 13:4.8)–that is part of why the Bible repeatedly warns about them.

Other New Testament Leaders

The Apostle Paul gave instructions to correct and on how to try to correct:

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

But, as the above indicates, not all will accept proper correction, but some can.

Paul noticed a problem with leaders who tried to appear to be true, but were false:

12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

Notice that these false, most often not properly ordained (apparently including the self-ordained), leaders will try to act like they have proper authority, will even look good to many, but God will judge their works.

Paul also warned that even among the faithful, false ones would rise up and deceive:

30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves (Acts 20:30).

Paul did not just have problems with false leaders, he also had problems with false lay members:

26... in perils among false brethren (2 Corinthians 11:26).

4...false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage) (Galatians 2:4).

Paul even had to deal with false prophets:

6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand (Acts 13:5-11).

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour (Acts 16:16-18).

Notice in that the last account, the girl even told people that Paul was right, yet Paul discerned that it was not a godly spirit in her. Hence, just because religious leaders publicly claim to follow Jesus, this does not mean that they actually do.

Dealing with leaders that contradict is a task of true and faithful leaders:

9... holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict (Titus 1:9).

The Apostle Paul specifically taught that part of the reason for the governance and structure of the Church was to prevent members from being tossed around by false doctrines, false leaders:

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

More on proper church governance can be found in the article The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government.Information on true prophet identification can be found in the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.

The Apostle Peter also had to deal with one who claimed to be a believer, but had other motives:

13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. 14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" (Acts 8:13-23).

(More on Simon Magus can be found in the article Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?)

Peter also warned about future false teachers who would bring in heresies:

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber (2 Peter 2:1-3).

In one of the longest condemnations of those who have pretended to be Christian, Jude, Jesus' brother, wrote:

3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. 14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."

16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. 17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. 19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit (Jude 1:3-19).

Notice that Jude was not afraid to tell the truth about some false leaders as well as about leaders who are mainly intent on building a following after themselves.

The Apostle John warned:

9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church (3 John 9-10).

The fact that a local leader would think he was above an apostle is mind-boggling--though similar things happen even today--as Laodiceans often reject governance, and have the wrong work.

For example, many, though not all, ministers once in the Worldwide Church of God, seem to feel that they do not have to listen to any who hold higher spiritual offices, even those that have remained the most faithful--and a few will have nothing to do with faithful believers (e.g. see article Teachings Unique to the Philadelphia Church of God).

The Book of Revelation, that Jesus had John write, is to a great degree a warning against following false and scripturally-compromising teachers. Without quoting the entire book, here are a couple of passages:

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works (Revelation 2:20-23).

4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" 5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:4-8).

People who intentionally follow false leaders are loving a lie--yet the Bible is clear that false leaders will be successful--that is part of why the Bible repeatedly warns about them. Those who love a lie will not be in the first resurrection (see Revelation 22:15) (though those who have not truly had an opportunity for salvation, will still get that opportunity at a later time--please see the article Hope of Salvation).

Thus, throughout the entire New Testament, there are warnings about religious leaders--often containing specific details as to why they should be avoided.

Yet it was the acceptance of teaching brought in by heretical "Christian" leaders that brought disaster to true Christianity.

Polycarp of Smyrna heard the gospel from the apostles and c. 135 A.D. warned that others were essentially falsifying parts of it:

Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offence, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error. (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter IV. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1 as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson; American Edition, 1885; Reprint Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, pp. 33-36)

False leaders have long been a problem.

In modern times writers such as Dr. Tim LaHaye of the Left Behind series of books is misleading many about his incorrect "pre-tribulation rapture" (Is There A Secret Rapture for the Church? When and Where is the Church Protected?) and his false assertion that a third Jewish temple must be built in Jerusalem (Might a Temple in Jerusalem Not be Required?). As neither of those events will happen as he indicated, that who follow his teachings will be sadly mistaken.

Furthermore, people such as Harold Camping claimed that the Great Tribulation already started (and in his case he claimed in 1988). And Harold Camping also claimed that Jesus would return and the world would end on October 21, 2011 (this was at least his wrong third return date). Why? Because he made up his own calculations and he (and others) ignored the fact that the events of the Great Tribulation include major physical signs that the Bible teaches, but have certainly not yet come to pass (cf. Daniel 7:25, 11:31; Matthew 24:15-22). (For more information, please see the article Harold Camping's Teachings About the End of the World Did Not Agree with the Bible.)

There is an ecumenical and interfaith agenda that is misleading many. Here are some related links:

Music and the False Gospel of Ecumenical Music Has popular 'Christian' music been promoting a false ecumenical gospel? Shouldn't Christian unity be promoted? Here is a link to a related sermon: Music, Hillsong, and the False Gospel.
Beware: Protestants Going Towards Ecumenical Destruction! What is going on in the Protestant world? Are Protestants turning back to their 'mother church' in Rome? Does the Bible warn about this? What are Catholic plans and prophecies related to this? Is Protestantism doomed? See also World Council of Churches Peace Plan.
Will the Interfaith Movement Lead to Peace or Sudden Destruction? Is the interfaith movement going to lead to lasting peace or is it warned against? Here is a link to a video sermonette: Pope Francis signs ‘one world religion’ document! Two video sermons are also available: Will the Interfaith Movement lead to World War III? and Do You Know That Babylon is Forming?
Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders? There have been many false leaders–here is some of why you should be concerned about them. Here is a related article in the Spanish language ¿Por qué estar preocupado acerca de falsos y heréticos líderes?
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants How the real Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background. As far as some changes affecting Protestantism, watch the video Charismatic Kenneth Copeland and Anglican Tony Palmer: Protestants Beware! [Português: Esperança do salvação: Como a igreja do deus difere da maioria de protestantes]. A sermon is also available: How Does the Church of God Differ from Protestantism?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. [Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja do deus?]
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Orthodox Must Reject Unity with the Roman Catholics Unity between these groups will put them in position to be part of the final end time Babylon that the Bible warns against as well as require improper compromise.
Why Should American Catholics Fear Unity with the Orthodox? (And the Protestants) Are the current ecumenical meetings a good thing or will they result in disaster? Is doctrinal compromise good? Here is a link to a related video Should you be concerned about the ecumenical movement?

Do not follow or heed false leaders.

Accusers of the Brethren

Another type of false leader are those who run anti-Church of God websites.

False accusers of the brethren fit in with Satan's Plan

Satan tried to make fun of Jesus' claim to be the Son of God (Matthew 4:3,5). Many have persecuted and/or made fun of the true Church of God throughout history. Those that do are part of Satan's plan. But Jesus knew this would happen:

11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Notice that the Bible teaches:

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)

Notice something Jesus explained:

18 "Therefore hear the parable of the sower:  19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.  20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. (Matthew 13:18-21)

Sadly, I have seen some who read the type of lies that the Banned By HWA site asserts as facts fall by the wayside (see also Banned by HWA and Ambassador Watch).

Some do not seem to understand that Jesus and the apostles faced intense criticism and false assertions--and that those who really want to follow Jesus will as well:

18 "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  20 Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  21 But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.  22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  23 He who hates Me hates My Father also.  24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.  25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hated Me without a cause." (John 15:18-25)

Notice something that Jesus wrote about people who remind me of many posters at the Banned By HWA site:

6 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! (Matthew 18:6-7)

Several anti-COG leaders are in my prayers.

They will NOT prevail (cf. Matthew 16:18). For more information see Banned by HWA and Ambassador Watch and Is the Genuine Church of God a Cult?

But What About Actual Christian Leaders?

Some might conclude that the warnings about false leaders are mainly directed towards those religious leaders who are not clearly part of the Church of God. And while that is true to a degree, it is not completely true.


Here are two reasons.

First of all, most false leaders that the apostles warned against actually pretended to originally be part of the Christian Church. Some are discussed in the articles on Simon Magus, Marcion, Valentinus, and Irenaeus. And while they spawned many of the heretical teachings that the mainstream churches accept today (the trinity, lawlessness, Easter, different gospel, etc. at least partially came into the mainstream churches from the previously listed heretics), this does not mean that other false leaders will not (or have not) arose within the Churches of God in recent times.

Even in the time of the Apostle John there were leaders who started out associated with the true Church of God, but did not stay. They also rejected proper church governance and deviated from the true faith:

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:18-19)

Currently, I believe that there are at least three or four false apostles and four or five false prophets currently within the COG movement (these tend to be men who have appointed themselves to those positions). And even though they probably have some actual Christians in their fellowships, these false leaders are clearly a problem today.

Secondly, there are the more subtle types of less than totally faithful religious leaders. They are not clearly false leaders, and many probably are truly within the Church of God (COG) movement.

So why would they be a problem?

First, let's repeat what the Apostle Peter wrote:

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Thus, we see that the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them.

Secondly, in Revelation, Jesus had the Apostle John repeatedly warn about people within the Churches of God that simply will not live up to the standards that Jesus set. This was essentially also the problem with Irenaeus in the second century (he claimed to fight heretics, but I think Irenaeus was the most dangerous heretic as much of his heresy was more subtle than many others during his time).

In the messages to the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3, only two of the seven churches do not receive condemnation. And even to one of them, Jesus gives the following warning:

11 Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown (Revelation 3:11).

There are heretical leaders who have misled true Christians what they are to hold fast to. I feel that true COG leaders that are not supporting the biblical government as understood by the Continuing Church of God are men whose actions sometimes are contributing to the taking of crowns of those that could be Philadelphian. They also can contribute to diluting the efforts to get the gospel to the world as a witness. And that is part of the reason why the COGwriter website has articles on two dozen Church of God of the scores of such groups (those articles can be found at the COGwriter home page).

The Book of Revelation shows that there will parts of four Churches of God at the time of the end (Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea) and I believe that those that are actually part of the Church of God, but are not actually Philadelphian are almost all in the Thyatira, Sardis, and/or Laodicea churches.

Notice what happens to many those that follow them in the end:

18 Thyatira...23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts (Revelation 2:18,23).

1 Sardis...3 Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you (Revelation 3:1,3).

14 Laodiceans...19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent (Revelation 3:14,19).

Yet notice that there is a difference for the Philadelphians who were not deceived into following false or heretical teachings:

7 Philadelphia...10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:7,10).

While it is possible that some in the Thyatira, Sardis, and/or Laodicea churches may repent, only the Philadelphians are promised protection from the great tribulation, "the hour of trial" (an article of related interest may include There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra).

Don't you think that perhaps the part of the reason to tell potential Philadelphians that they can be protected is to save them from following false or heretical leaders?

The Bible does not encourage people to say "smooth things" when the truth is what needs to be known (cf. Isaiah 30:10). And it has a clear hierarchy related to governance:

28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Those who will not accept this biblical order often do not do so because of issues of pride--and this can afflict even leaders who have been faithful for decades.

The fact that most once affiliated with the old WCG have now rejected proper church governance (even though they normally claim otherwise) has led them down various erroneous paths that demonstrates that they now often miss clear biblical points.

It is not just self-appointed "titled" leaders who may not actually be part of the COG such as Ronald Weinland, David Pack, nor Gerald Flurry that are issues either.

For two "moderate" examples, please see CEM’s Ron Dart on Governance and the governance section related to the United Church of God in the article on it. Groups like LCG also misunderstand governance (The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government). Additionally, Fred Coulter of CBCG is insisting upon a certain sequence prior to the start of the Great Tribulation that is in error--those who rely on error will be misled. Likely, those who rely on the inaccurate interpretations of James Malm are being misled (see Error-Ridden James Malm Not Doing an Elijah Work). David Pack of RCG misled many of his followers with pronouncements he made in 2013 for example (RCG: Can you see the ‘handwriting on the wall’? Your emperor has no clothes! and RCG: The Real Truth) and will likely make more improper assertions and claims.

Furthermore, it should also be pointed out that the leadership of CG7 has also severely misunderstood and discounted Bible prophecy to the point that they no longer believe in future powerful beasts of Revelation 13, persecutions, a coming "mark of the Beast," and other matters (for details see Church of God Seventh-Day).

Consider also that the Bible warns in Jeremiah 48:10, "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully." And various groups are not doing the work in truth, and it must be done that way as Psalm 33:4 states, "For the word of the Lord is right, And all His work is done in truth." Those following the Laodicean leaders are not only not to be protected as the Philadelphians, they are being improperly led on many points (see the individual articles on the various groups, as well as The Laodicean Church Era).


Non-Philadelphia leaders do not produce the type of fruit that Jesus expects in these end-times. Jesus specifically warns against the lukewarm and/or compromising works that they have.

Non-Christian false leaders do not produce good fruit. They encourage lawlessness. Those that follow them risk being cast out by Jesus. The Bible is clear that false leaders will be very successful (Matthew 24:23-24; Revelation 13:4.8)--that is part of why the Bible repeatedly warns about them.

The New Testament repeatedly warns people about false leaders, false teachers, compromising leaders, false prophets, false ministers, and their followers. We should pray for all to repent (1 Timothy 2:1; Acts 17:30).

Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John would not have warned about false or disruptive leaders so much if they did not want Christians to be aware of this problem in every age, and especially the age leading to the end.

Sadly, as predicted, false teachers have arisen throughout history. Many non-Christian false teachers and non-Philadelphia leaders are on the scene even today. Those that follow non-Christian false teachers will be not be in the first resurrection. Those who listen to non-Philadelphia leaders will apparently end up in the great tribulation.

The entire book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, is essentially devoted to warning about false teachers and to cling to the truth. Although the Bible teaches about true leaders and true prophets (see How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God), many ignore what the Bible teaches about how to tell the difference.

The Bible warns against leaders that really do not teach what Jesus wanted taught. I try to do the same concerning those leaders, imperfect, though I remain.

Articles of possible interest may include:

Europa, the Beast, and the Book of Revelation
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?
Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?
Marcion: The First Protestant?
Justin Martyr: Saint, Heretic, or Apostate?
Irenaeus: The Most Dangerous Heretic?

Thiel B. Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders? www.cogwriter.com/falseleaders.htm 2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2016/2019/2020 0718

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