Paul Derengowski, ThM
It is not uncommon in today’s pluralistic society for many different conceptions of who Jesus is to be floating about. When a Christian confronts one of these Jesus manifestations through a person who happens to be propagating him, often the Christian is taken aback wondering just how anyone could believe such a thing. Jesus is Michael the Archangel. Jesus is a mushroom. Jesus is the literal son of God, sired through the advent of God with Mary. And to exacerbate the confusion the Christian will sometimes hear from the exponent of “another” Jesus that there is only one Jesus; the Christian is at fault for his myopic view of just who he thinks Jesus is, since we all can have different understandings of who Jesus is and still be talking about the same person. But, is the pluralist or cultist necessarily telling the truth? Is there only one Jesus, or are there many? And if there are many, how does one know that they are necessarily following the right one?
To answer the first question of whether or not the pluralist or cultist is telling the truth by saying that all ideas about Jesus are equal, and only add to our understanding of Jesus, is a falsehood. Such thinking comes straight out of relativistic philosophy which essentially states that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and that conflicting truth claims can all be right, with none of them wrong, even though they may be diametrically opposed to each other. Jesus Christ cannot be both a creature and the Creator for instance, given that the ontologically and essential makeup of both the creature and Creator are infinitely distinct. Therefore, for the person advocating a relativist worldview in speaking about the person of Jesus is actually advocating a perspective about Jesus that is patently untrue.
In answering the second question about the number of Jesus’, Jesus himself warned that there would come a day when “many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will mislead many” (Matt. 24:5). Although Jesus was alluding to a particular time period in human history when this would occur—the Great Tribulation period—nevertheless, history has shown us that there have been many Jesus’ and Messiahs that have walked the earth that declared that they were the biblical Jesus, and yet they turned out to be false. Perhaps some of the more infamous characters in recent memory to make the claim are the Reverend Jim Jones (People’s Temple), Charles Manson (who also claimed to be Satan as well), Luc Jouret (leader of the Order of the Solar Temple), Marshall Applewhite (Heaven’s Gate), and Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda (Growing in Grace). So, while there is only one true Jesus, there are all kinds of imposters and charlatans that have walked, or are currently walking, in our midst claiming to be Jesus.
Perhaps the most important question that needs to be answered is the last one. How does a person know whether or not they are following the true Jesus? Well, the answer is not as difficult as what at first might seem. Jesus said, “if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him” (Matt. 24:23). And that applies to instances when the person claiming to be Jesus can perform the miraculous. Why? Because the whole goal of these false Jesus’ is to mislead, often for the express purpose that the apostle Peter would point out, for financial exploitation (2 Pet. 2:3). In other words, the false Jesus’ modus operandi is to manipulate his followers into worshiping him as a god, where he can further get into their pocketbooks. Nevertheless, aside from “Just Say No” to the false Jesus’, what can a person do to protect him from being conned or drawn into a situation where he becomes a victim of the smooth talk of a faulty religious leader?
First of all, know your Bible. It is cultic kryptonite to those with an aversion to it. The typical false leader or teacher will not stick around and attempt to hoodwink the person who knows God’s word intimately. They are only interested in easy prey, not someone who is going to put up a valid defense.
Second, before allowing whomever to rationalize their claims of being a reincarnation of Jesus, or a follower of someone who makes that claim, ask them what their view of the Bible is. If an answered is returned that is anything short of it being the absolute and inerrant Word of God, then you’ll know that you’re dealing with someone that is propagating a false Jesus. Cults and cultists often pay lip service to the Bible, but regularly demean its inerrancy by stating that it is somehow deficient and needs their particular doctrines or extra-biblical material to help people understand what it really means.
Finally, if someone comes to you claiming to be Jesus, or is a follower of someone making that claim, simply ask them why he is such a liar. A look of credulity might come across the face of the person. At that time you should take the opportunity to show the person that according to Jesus’ statement in the Bible that he was not going to return except in a very specific place (Acts 1:11-12), in a very specific way (Matt. 24:27), and at a very specific time (Matt. 24:30). Now, if God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2), and Jesus is God (Jn. 1:1), then why did this person claiming to be Jesus lie to everyone about all these details? Could it be that this Jesus is an imposter?
We are living in spiritually dangerous times as Jesus’ prophecy concerning the number of frauds and phonies is becoming more fulfilled with each passing day. Hardly a day goes by that one more spiritual deception or another does not manifest itself, often in the form of some quack claiming something about Jesus that is not true, if the quack simply does not claim to be Jesus himself!
Jesus said that if someone comes along making specious claims about him, no one was to have anything to do with him. Yet, the only way anyone is going to be able to arm him- or herself to make such a decision is to know and understand what Jesus did have to say about the subject from His Book. And to ignore such instruction is to ultimately set oneself up to be deceived. It is an unnecessary occurrence that happens daily. It is an unnecessary occurrence that could have dire spiritual consequences that the victim may never recover. Therefore, may God grant the reader the grace to discern who the true Jesus is before one becomes a victim of a Jesus in wolf’s clothing.