This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. — 1 John 4:2-3
The word for spirit is pneuma in the original language and is used in several different applications. The Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit is, of course, a reference to God as a distinct person of the Godhead. Angels of God are referred to as “ministering spirits” that do God’s bidding in behalf of His children (Hebrews 1:14).
There are also fallen angels that sinned against God in times past—that now follow and serve the devil (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 5). Many believe these are also the apocalyptic “stars” that were swept out of heaven by the dragon and cast down to the earth to become his servants (Revelation 12:4). Jude calls them “wandering stars for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 13). There are also fallen human spirits that remain outside the kingdom of God because they refuse to receive the grace of God by believing in Jesus. Many have become false teachers and prophets. They have surfaced in every generation leading to over 4,000 religions today!
Then there are human spirits that have been reborn and renewed—the children of God (Titus 3:5). What I want you to see, however, is that no matter the kind of spirit being manifested, we are admonished to test each one, to determine the origin. Those who claim to speak by the Spirit of God? Your Pastor? Your Elders? Your Sunday School teacher? Your favorite commentary author or evangelist? Your neighbor? Absolutely. The apostle Peter parallels John with this same warning:
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:1-2)
Jesus exhorted His disciples, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Speaking of the end times in particular, Jesus said, “and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people . . . for false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matthew 24:11, 24).
So, I encourage you church, to test every sermon or devotional that is preached and taught to you—and everything that is written about Jesus, no matter how famous the communicator is deemed to be—for “the spirit of the antichrist . . . even now is already in the world.” The most reliable test, as always, is the word of God, the Bible (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Maranatha!
To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better