How to Know What’s Real in an Age of Spiritual Fakes

Lampstands, No. 2

As the world races toward the end we can be sure that fakes, counterfeits, and substitutes will abound.

Revelation tells us that in the last days there will be false Christians, false churches, false messiahs, false witnesses, false blessing, and false gospels. How is the believer to discern between them all?

The best way to detect counterfeit currency is to be well-acquainted with The Real Thing. Not surprisingly, the opening verses of Revelation (1:9-20) give us a picture of what is real, so that we will be better equipped to discern what is fake.

The real follower of Jesus Christ is one who is in Parity and in Partnership. John describes himself as as “brother” to those who would receive his letter. Though he had been one of the Lord’s closest disciples, having already authored one of the Gospels and a series of pastoral letters, all recognized by the church now as Holy Scripture, he did not consider himself greater than others.

He also went further and described his relationship to his readers as a “partnership.” He partnered with them in tribulation, the kingdom, and patient endurance. This partnership was not one of privilege and status, but one of suffering in view of the reward promised by the one who was faithful and true.

The real follower of Jesus, then, does not consider himself above suffering in the real-life, nitty-gritty, rough-and-tumble of discipleship in context of an unbelieving and increasingly hostile world.

The real picture of Jesus Christ is one that includes his glory, his judgment, and his peace. He is glorious, he is fearsome, and he is compassionate. The image of trumpet-voiced, fire-eyed, star-grasping, sword-spitting Jesus is definitely counter to the stringy-haired, pasty-complexioned, placid-faced Caucasian Jesus of the faded portrait hanging in the church basement, and is intended to remind us of his exceeding glory and power.

The real Christ is also fearsome. John, realizing with whom he is now engaging, falls at his feed as though dead, because the only real response of the sinful creature coming into the presence of the holy God is death.

The real Christ, though, is also compassionate, and lays his (star-filled) right hand on John’s shoulder, tells him to “fear not,” and explains his divine authority (keys of Death and Hades).

Representations of Christ, then, that are all love and compassion and feel-good platitudes are false. Representations of Christ as your best friend forever are false. Representations of Jesus as the imminent holy man in tune with his chakra or chi or Super Ego or whatever are false. These are the fake Jesus. Don’t follow him. Look to the Christ who is glorious, fearsome and compassionate.

The real body of Christ is, of course, centered on the real Christ. The real body of Christ exists by Christ (he sustains it), exists with Christ (he oversees and communes with it), and for Christ (it exists to shed the light of his gospel abroad.

Revelation portrays this as Jesus holding the seven stars (angels of the churches) in his right hand, while he walks among the lampstands (the churches).

The body of Christ is not a country club, or a social organization, or multi-level marketing group, or self-esteem promoter.  Don’t be fooled, and don’t settle for less than the body of Christ — his people — who are sustained by Jesus, commune with Jesus, and focus the light of the gospel of Christ on those who need to come out of darkness.

How are spiritual counterfeits exposed? By knowing the real things: real followers of the real Christ constituting the real body of Jesus.


Theme: Because appearances are deceiving, we must be able to identify the real thing.


  • The real follower of Jesus
    • In parity
    • In partnership
  • The real picture of Christ
    • Glorious
    • Fearsome
    • Compassionate
  • The real body of Christ
    • by Christ
    • with Christ
    • for Christ
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