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What Does it Mean to “Deny Christ”?

Although many people identify themselves as Christian, and that amounts to almost one-third of the world’s population, the Bible indicates that in “the last times” false Christianity would arise. In response to His disciples’ questions about the end of the age and when He would return, we have this prophetic warning:

“And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’” (Matthew 24:4-5).

Deception began to work very quickly following the establishment of the Church of God. After only a few decades, JUDE wrote about the “faith”—that is, true Christianity—being under assault. His letter to the Church addresses the encroachment of men and doctrines opposing the truth:

“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. 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” (Jude 1:3-4)

How were these “ungodly men” denying God and Jesus Christ? It was through heretical teachings. PETER wrote of those who deny Jesus through false doctrines:

“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. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 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).

JOHN noted those who reject Jesus as being the Christ—the Messiah, meaning “anointed one”:

“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that … [a]ntichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). (NOTE: The New King James Version rendering in this verse is: “that the Antichrist,” but “the” is not in the original and antichrist should not be capitalized—compare the King James Authorized Version. For a full discussion of this topic and the comments which follow, please refer to our Q&A: Who is the Antichrist Prophesied to Come?)

Continuing…

“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23).

Belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is an absolute requirement for salvation! (Compare 1 John 5:6, 10; John 3:16, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25). This was the central fact which dominated the preaching of the gospel, and PETER, specifically identifying “Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 4:10), boldly proclaimed:

“‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’” (Acts 4:12).

Even among those who seemingly acknowledge Jesus Christ, there is great confusion about Him—specifically, regarding His life as a human being. JOHN warned of those who were already denying that Jesus had come as a physical, mortal man:

“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. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist [better: “the spirit of antichrist,” compare Authorized Version], which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).

This denial has tragic implications! JOHN further addresses deception which was arising in his day—and which still misleads concerning the doctrines of Christ:

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

Quoting from our Q&A: Who is the Antichrist Prophesied to Come?:

“The spirit of antichrist DENIES the entire saving work of Jesus Christ–who He was before He became a man; who He was when in the flesh; who He is today; what He DOES today; and that He lives His life in the flesh of His disciples who OBEY Him.”

PAUL—and the ministry of his day—were confronted by those “who had a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). What these people claimed was not backed up in how they lived their lives:

“For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision…  They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:10, 16).

JESUS CHRIST had much to say about those who would deny Him:

“‘Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 10:32-33).

Note Revelation 3:8, quoting Christ as saying to the church in Philadelphia: “‘… I know your works… you… have kept My word and have not denied My name.”

Why would someone deny Christ? A major reason is because of persecution as a Christian, but JESUS warned that this would come:

“‘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. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me’” (John 15:20-21).

When a person is called into the Truth, standing firm and not denying Christ will oftentimes be a great test. Again, this is something JESUS said would come—it is part of “counting the cost” (Luke 14:28):

“‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it’” (Matthew 10:34-39).

JESUS explicitly taught that, “‘whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple’” (Luke 14:33). Otherwise, we are denying Christ.

In a similar manner, once a person is called, is baptized and has received God’s Holy Spirit, he or she must continue. To deny Christ’s Sacrifice and to turn back to sin as a way of life and to deny the faith (1 Timothy 5:8) is to reject eternal life (compare Hebrews 10:26-39; 6:4-6; Luke 9:62).

To deny Christ means to practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:23); to turn to and believe false doctrines (2 Timothy 4:3-4); to not grow in the grace and knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18); and, to not live as He lived (1 Peter 2:21). When we realize that we have become guilty in any of these areas, we must repent immediately.

Finally, consider this ominous warning from JESUS:

“‘For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels’” (Mark 8:38).

Lead Writer: Dave Harris