August 1, 1986 Issue
by Taylor A. Joyce

Be not deceived!

Those familiar words of scripture came to mind as I read a story in the June 29, 1986, issue of the Tulsa (Oklahoma) World. The story unmasked the chicanery of Peter Popoff, a "faith healer" from Upland, California.

According to the story, a team of electronics specialists "produced secret recordings of radio transmissions that strongly suggest the healing preacher may be relying more on information provided him by his wife hidden backstage than through the medium of the Holy Spirit."

The investigators found that prior to his "miracle rallies" in several cities Popoff's associates moved through the crowds as they assembled gathering personal information about the attendees and their ailments.

When the "healing service" began this information about people in the audience--names, addresses and health problems--was conveyed to Popoff by radio transmission. He received the transmissions from his wife backstage through a tiny receiver worn in his ear.

Popoff would then call the names of people and invite them to come down for prayer and the laying on of hands. The article said, "In the course of the healing session, Popoff routinely recites the person's name, his ailment, the name of his personal physician and other data." Of course, in common with others of his ilk, he then claims to have gotten this information through a "word of knowledge" from the Holy Spirit.

The newspaper article described one of the radio transmissions which was broadcast on a frequency typically used by police and emergency medical squads. The investigators recorded the transmission using an electronic scanner receiver. According to their transcript of the recording Mrs. Popoff said, "Hello, Petey, I love you. I love you. I'm talking to you. Can you hear me? If you can't, you're in trouble...I'm looking up names right now."

When confronted with the evidence of his subterfuge, Popoff at first disputed, but later acknowledged that electronic devices are employed at his services but said "he uses the earthly radio cues only for about half of those healing candidates he ‘calls out' of the congregation."

Such fraudulent practices are beneath contempt, yet multitudes of the hopelessly ill seeking divine deliverance are fleeced of their money and other valuables by just such fake healers using just such deceit. According to the newspaper article the Peter Popoff Ministries draws "more than $500,000 a month in gifts from his devoted followers." Add to that the vast sums which are going to other religious quacks and the figure must be staggering.

In the face of such religious racketeering it is important for all of us to be reminded of the biblical injunction: "Be not deceived!" This has been God's warning to His people during their entire tenure upon this earth. Yet, the repeated warnings have been repeatedly ignored.

Paul declares that deception was at the root of the first sin ever committed. "The woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Tim 2:14)

Deception cost the life of the young prophet of 1 Kings 13. Having received clear instructions which were unmistakably from God, he accepted contradictory advice from a recognized prophet in Bethel. "But he lied unto him." (1 Kings 13:18) And because the young prophet disobeyed God and even though his disobedience stemmed from the deception of an older prophet, "A lion met him by the way and slew him." (1 Kings 13:24).

Turning to the New Covenant scriptures we find them replete with warnings against deceivers and their deception. "Beware of false prophets," Jesus said, "which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." (Matt 7:15-16) "Take heed that no man deceive you." (Matt 24:4).

Paul said, "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." (Eph 5:6) And, again, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked." (Gal 6:7).

Some deceivers are so transparent such that everyone should be able to see through the masquerade. Others are more subtle.

"For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets, and shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."  (Matt 24:24).

There is but one antidote to deception--an all-consuming love of truth. When the love of truth is absent, deceivers have a field day. ‘Because they received not the love of the truth...for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth." (2 Thess 2:10-12).

Perhaps the most prolific source of deception today is those who claim to possess miraculous powers. The acute longing to regain lost health and to prolong this fleeting life leads many to grasp at straws and to hope against hope that someone may have a cure. When medical science has exhausted its remedies, they turn to mendicant sorcerers.

One should "smell a mouse" when he observes the opulent apparel and ornamentation of these men and women who unabashedly claim to be able to do even greater works than Jesus. Jesus had neither bed nor board. (Matt 8:20) Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none." (Acts 3:6) In no particular do these modern "miracle workers" part company with Christ and his apostles more than in the area of material possessions.

They know how to "lift and offering," and they never miss an opportunity to do so. They use every gimmick imaginable to persuade members of the electronic church to send in those free-will love gifts and offerings. They will even help you write your will so they will be sure to get a cut out of your estate when you are gone.

Costly jewelry, clothing the likes of which won't be found at J.C. Penney or K-Mart, high-priced automobiles, expensive and lavish homes--these have become the hallmark of the Peter Popoff’s of this world. Yet the money keeps rolling in, and the end is not yet in sight.

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Taylor A. Joyce
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