“Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:2–3, NASB95)
Wikipedia says the following about Jim Jones, the founder of the Peoples Temple: James Warren Jones (May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978) was an American cult leader, mass murderer and communist. Jones was ordained as a Disciples of Christ pastor, and he achieved notoriety as the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, which was often described as having cult-like qualities. In 1978, media reports surfaced that human rights abuses were taking place in Peoples Temple's Jonestown, Guyana headquarters. United States Congressman Leo Ryan led a delegation into the commune to investigate what was going on; Ryan and others were murdered by gunfire while boarding a return flight with defectors. Jones subsequently committed a mass murder-suicide of 918 of his followers in Jonestown, Guyana. Nearly three hundred children were murdered, almost all of them by cyanide poisoning via a Flavor Aid mix. This historical episode gave rise to the ubiquitous American-English expression "drinking the Kool-Aid".
This is probably one of the most notorious cases of a large number of people being led astray by a false teacher. Jim Jones grew in popularity and following as he preached a message of respect across racial lines during a volatile period in our nation’s history. As his movement grew and he further embraced the communist movement he secured a piece of property in Guyana where nearly 1,000 people moved with him to their awaiting paradise. But paradise was not what it was promoted to be, and his message of universal acceptance ended in his own death through an apparent suicide after his followers were encouraged to give the poisonous concoction to their children and then to drink it themselves. I reality they didn’t really drink Kool-Aid (which is a particular brand), but they did to a large degree knowingly consume a flavored blend of poisonous ingredients at the urging of their leader who led them so far astray that this seemed the right thing to do. They had become so detached from reality that the attachment they had with this one man led to this evil end.
Not all deception is so obviously drastic, though some of it has been far more reaching. Deception maligns and distorts truth as people are encouraged to reject it for other messages being preached. People are led astray as these false teachers receive the satisfaction of whatever motive might be driving them. They tell you what they want you to hear and exploit you with their false words. The list of such people is seemingly endless, and the end for each of them is eventually the same, as they crumble under their own false temples. Their greed seems to push them further and further, and when they fall the devastation is often widespread as they take many with them.
When the disregard for God’s Word as inerrant truth becomes the acceptable, then the abnormal becomes more and more tolerable and even “right.” We don’t have to look too far to see where these lines have been crossed and things have become more and more contentious in our society. And sadly, some of our churches have become some of the strongest advocates of this just as Peter said would be the case in the previous verse.
Where we are today did not occur overnight. It took time as those teaching false words gained a voice and people began to drink their poison. Peter warned of these things, and he also told us that the answer for us was to become people of God’s Word who hide it in our hearts, accept it as God’s standard for life, and follow it fully whether this be in the big things or the little ones that we think much less harmful. The reality is that any compromise from the truth is exactly that, a move away from the truth. We read in God’s Word that we are to be constantly alert to these things as we are also alert to those who come along to falsely teach them as right and proper. God is the standard setter, and there is no end that is right apart from Him. In response, we are instructed to align our lives with His standard as we hide His Word in our heart and seek after Him with the entirety of our lives.
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” (Proverbs 19:5, NASB95)
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” … “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9, 11, NASB95)