Was Paul Deceived by Impostor as Christ Warned In Matthew 24?
Was Paul deceived by someone in the wilderness saying "I am Jesus" -- coming in "Christ's name" -- implying He was the Messiah-Jesus? Does Paul's experience fit Jesus' warning that we should not believe those coming in the wilderness or privately "in my name" saying "I am the Christ"? Jesus explained that when He appears again from heaven on earth every eye from every point "east and west" will see Him, so don't be fooled by an impostor Jesus who appears returning from heaven to someone on earth in a private way or in the wilderness. (Matt. 24 vv. 4-6, vv. 26-27.)
But Paul's experience with two companions on the wilderness road to Damascus was such that the two men "heard the voice but saw no one" (Acts 9:7.) Isn't this appearance then of one saying he was the Christ fit the warning of an impostor in a private place or wilderness that every eye on earth does not see after Jesus already ascended to heaven?
Isn't this quite plain that anyone can see the problem? Of course.
Then how come Paul did not see the problem when he learned of Matthew 24?
Because Paul boasted in Galatians 2:6 that the 12 taught him nothing, and instead he relied upon the revelations he received after the Damascus experience. See Paul Acknowledges the 12 Taught A Different Gospel.
Can this explain why Paul did not do the self-examination against what Jesus taught the 12 in Matthew 24 which would have caused Paul to doubt whom was giving him these revelations? We will do here the exam that Paul, an honest dupe apparently, did not do.
Paul Defender Unwittingly Indicts Paul's Experience Outside Damascus
Ironically, a defender of Paul correctly construes this passage in Matthew, but does not realize that it indicts Paul's encounter in the wildnerness outside Damascus. In an article at Bible.info.com entitled How Can One Recognize a False Christ, we read:
He warned, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it’ ” (Matthew 24:23-26, NKJV).
Jesus emphasized that these false christs will perform great signs and miracles and deceive many. Many Christians think that as long as they believe in Jesus, they will be shielded from the deceptions of the last days. However, these will not be crude deceptions that will be easy to identify. Jesus says that the deceptions of these false christs are so carefully planned and so skillfully carried out, that even God’s chosen ones would be deceived—if that were possible. And the only reason it is not possible is if we keep our focus on the real Jesus through study of His Word and through prayer.
Unfortunately, many will be deceived into following the wrong Jesus.
How tragic is the result? The same article puts it well:
Tragically, those who are deceived ... by these false christs will sincerely regard themselves to be genuine believers, actively doing the work of Christ. They will even prophesy in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in the name of Jesus, and work miracles in His name. But they are serving a false Christ—not the real Jesus. “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’ ” (Matthew 7:22, 23, NIV). The followers of the false Christ disregard the commandments of Jesus. In contrast, Jesus declares, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21, NIV).
Do these criteria so unwittingly well-explained at Bible.info.com disqualify Paul as an apostle of the same Jesus whom you and I love? Remember, Paul's epistles have not a single unique quote from Jesus except one highly problematical refusal of the "Lord" to release Paul from an "angel of Satan" (see link). So if we disqualify Paul, we lose nothing from the words of Jesus. At least nothing anyone would want to remember as truly from Jesus--because Christian commentators agree it is impossible to believe the true Jesus would not release Paul from a demonic influence in 2 Cor. 12:7-9. Supposedly, Paul's depiction of the "Lord's" refusal to give such a release to Paul came out totally in an unintended manner.
Other than that unresolved odd and single revelation by supposedly Jesus in Paul's epistles, Paul talks alot about Jesus, and exhorts us to follow seemingly the same Jesus whom you and I wish to follow. But because Paul in his epistles never quotes Jesus other than the liturgy from Luke's Gospel and the odd refusal of the "Lord" to release Paul from an "Angel of Satan," is it possible Paul is not following the same Jesus as we hope to follow?
Perhaps it is time we consider whether an impostor Jesus Christ guided Paul. Is it coincidence that nowadays, most mainstream pastors teach us to follow Paul's Gospel, and disregard as part of a prior dispensation all the commandments from Jesus?
Dominant dispensationalists do not hide they are abandoning Jesus' lessons in the flesh. They in fact prove dispensationalism is necessary because they admit the numerous contradictions of Jesus by Paul such as Paul saying the Law is abolished but Jesus says it would never be so until heaven and earth pass. (See Contradictions by Paul of Jesus). Based upon such contradictions, they teach us that we need no longer follow the Jesus who walked the earth, but only the Jesus who revealed himself to Paul. See the article Examples of Paulinism.
Hence, most mainstream pastors teach this contradiction and many more prove Paul is the only apostle to follow in the New Testament. Dispensationalism teaches that Jesus's doctrine was meant solely for a prior dispensation. This dispensational teaching solidified in this century, beginning with Bultmann as his response to the many contradictions he could not refute between Jesus and Paul. See Bultmann on Dispensationalism.
But what did the Bible.info page -- pro-Paul no less -- unwittingly say is the hint someone who claims to have heard from Jesus in a private vision or wilderness place did not actually meet the true Jesus?
The followers of the false Christ disregard the commandments of Christ....
What would Bible.info think if they realized there is an entire dominant view in Evangelical Christianity that began around 1910 that we can disregard all the commands of Jesus before the Ascension in favor of a Jesus who appeared to Paul? and who we simply assume speaks the words of an Ascended Jesus? (We faultily make this assumption despite Paul never quoting "Jesus" as the source of Paul's numerous teachings. See the article Paul Never Quotes Jesus in A Revelation to Support New Doctrines.)
Wouldn't Bible.info be willing to reconsider the validity of Paul? The price of not doing so has turned out to be the mainstream pastors believe Paul's words alone should dominate in any Sunday sermon.
So are we judging correctly the weight to give Paul's words? Remember Jesus taught us that "appearances" can be deceiving: "Stop judging by mere appearance, but instead judge correctly." (John 7:24.) As Proverbs 14:2 similarly teaches: "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death."
Thus, are we on the path to life or death by trying to follow Paul's words besides those of Jesus delivered pre-Ascension?
An Obvious Question That Is Routinely Overlooked
This is an obvious question about Paul's encounter, given the clear import of the words of Jesus. Even commentators summarize the clear meaning of Jesus in a way that one must wonder how commentators' minds never questioned whether Jesus' warning might apply to Paul.
For example, Henry Alford (1810-1871), D.D., Dean of Canterbury (see bio at this link), in his The New Testament for English Readers (Rivingtons 1868) at page 162 commented on Matthew 24 verses 4-5:
[vv. 4-5] 'For many' ...This was the first danger awaiting them: not of being drawn away from Christ, but of imagining that these persons were Himself." [Emphasis in original.]
Alford then explains the reference to "in my Name" means the false Jesuses say they are Jesus as "the ground for their pretences."
Alford did not address the clear import of what he was saying as applying to Paul's encounter. It involved Paul claiming an appearance of the risen Christ to himself, making himself a witness to the Resurrection along with two men with Paul who hear the voice saying "I am Jesus" (Acts 9:7).
Paul in fact later testifies in court that Ananias, a devout man and well-regarded person (not a prophet) told him at Damascus a short while after Paul's experience outside Damascus that the "Holy One has chosen thee ... for thou shalt be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard." (Acts 22:15.) (Please note Ananias did not claim God told him this at all; Ananias just affirmed it.)
It is clear Paul claims, and Ananias understood the same, that Paul saw and heard the Lord Jesus outside of Damascus. And so too his companions had a shared sensory experience of either seeing or hearing this "Jesus."
But what Alford never applied to Paul's experience, we will do so here.
Alford's Further Proper Summary of Matthew 24
Alford then discusses the warning in Matthew 24: 24-27 as about someone coming in the wilderness saying he is Jesus. Alford explains that Jesus said this to "guard them against the impostors who led people out into the wilderness (see Acts 21:38) or invited them to consult privately...." Id., at 168. More precisely, Jesus said the appearance to be warned about was in the wilderness. Thus, even though Alford did not address whether this "impostor" scenario out in the wilderness applies to Paul's encounter in the same book of Acts where Alford saw a parallel (i.e., an Egyptian led people into the wilderness), we will examine the Paul-parallel here.
Finally, Alford says the fact Jesus' next appearance on earth after ascending to heaven would instead be seen like "lightning" from east to west, and not privately or in the wilderness, meant it "shall be a plain unmistakeable fact, understood of all, ...sudden and all pervading." Furthermore, because the lightning is from "both ends of heaven at once," Alford says this is like Rev. 1:7 which says at Christ's return "every eye will see him." Id., at page 168. The stress is on the "universality" of this event as the discriminating factor between an impostor Jesus and the true Jesus.
So, again, likewise, we will apply this final criteria to the experience of Paul where he sees a light and hears a voice saying "I am Jesus" but this event is neither unmistakeable nor universal, but instead is in the wilderness and private. We will ask the question that no reputable commentator has asked even though it appears painfully obvious.
Nature of Christ's Return Expected Prior To Paul's Experience
In Acts 1: 9-11, the resurrected Jesus was "taken up into the sky while" the apostles were watching. An angel clearly explained to the twelve "just as you saw him go, he will return." Jesus had a physical departure. So the angel promised a physical return. Jesus spoke of this return: "they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Matt. 24: 30. John refers to the same event as "every eye will see him." John wrote of a vision of the return of Christ from heaven: "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him." Rev. 1: 7 (NIV.)
Jesus' Prophetic Warning
Jesus was asked about His Second Coming by his apostles. In reply, He warned them that prior to His return an impostor or impostors will come in His name saying "I am Jesus." Then Jesus said if anyone comes claiming to be Himself in the "wilderness" or a "private place," you know that this is not the true Jesus because this is not universally seen:
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matt. 24: 5)
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not.
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
25 Behold, I have told you beforehand.
26 If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not.
27 For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. (Matt. 24 : 23-27 ASV.)
Jesus is telling us that when He returns to earth from heaven it will be clear and unmistakable to everyone. We are thus not to believe any other accounts of people who claim to have seen the Christ-Jesus prior to such a universally-visible event. Even if the event is accompanied by signs and wonders. Thus, any private appearances we know must represent an impostor Jesus.
Jesus elsewhere calls this impostor a "thief." This impostor will try to steal the hearts of true Christians. As Jesus said elsewhere, "the thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy." (John 10:10 ESV.) What better way to steal Christians than by deceiving those who are attracted already by the figure of Jesus by giving them a counterfeit version?
Hence, Jesus' warning in Matthew chapter 24 is the most important defense to prevent us from becoming dupes of the message from any impostor Jesus.
Paul's Encounter Outside Damascus
Several years after Jesus ascended, Saul of Tarsus -- also known as Paul -- was walking with two companions on a road outside Damascus. Just previously, Paul was involved in the murder of Stephen, and was uttering "murderous threats" upon Christians. (Acts 9: 1.) Paul confessed at that time he was a "blasphemer and violent man." (1 Tim. 1:13.) Paul was thus a lawless man as he walked to Damascus -- a man whom God says He will not listen to his prayers absent repentance: "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination." (Prov. 28:9, KJV.)
In this spiritual state, Paul then saw a great light and heard a voice which said to him: "I am Jesus," "why are you persecuting me?" Acts 9:3-7. However, those with Paul "saw no one" although they "heard the voice." Acts 9:7. In another version, his companions "saw the light" but did not "hear" or "understand" the voice. Acts 22:9. This certainly is an extra-mental experience of Paul, and not a mere vision, as it was shared with 2 or more others, both in sight and hearing to some extent. In fact, the presence of at least the 2 other persons suggests Paul intended to convey to us that a physical experience on earth was being verified by at least 2 witnesses.
In fact, Paul elsewhere describes this as a physical appearance of Jesus to himself in the same sense Jesus appeared to the twelve apostles first: "He appeared to Cephas [i.e., Peter], then the twelve...and he also appeared to me." (1 Cor. 15:5 & 8.) Philip Schaff, the famous evangelical scholar and historian, agrees. He says Paul "put" his experience outside Damascus "on a level with the former appearances to the older apostles (1 Cor. 15:8)." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (C.Scribner, 1888) Vol. 1 at 180.)
Paul was thus not claiming he saw Jesus merely in a dream or vision. Others shared physical sight and sounds of this Jesus on the same road at the same time. This is why Paul could say Jesus was as physically present on the Road outside Damascus as Jesus was present in the resurrection encounters with the twelve where Jesus told Thomas to feel the nail holes.
What's the key difference, however? The true apostles' experience was before the Asenscion. Paul's experience was after the Ascension and thus falls under the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24 about impostors saying "I am He (Jesus)" coming after the Ascension.
Hence, most certainly Paul claimed a true experience that could be shared with others where Jesus post-Ascension returned physically to earth to speak and appear to Paul. In fact, Paul describes it as a presence of Jesus in that wilderness in a resurrected state which made Paul a witness to a post-Ascension return that showed Jesus in a true "resurrected" state. This is how Paul counted himself among those who could be a witness to the physical resurrection of Jesus rather than claiming he had a vision of a deceased in heaven.
[Damascus at the time of Paul with surrounding wilderness. Philip Schaff & Miss E. Rodgers, Damascus.]
Paulinists Concede Paul's Encounter Was In The Wilderness
In Acts 9: 3, Luke relates that Paul was outside Damascus when this event happened. The KJV says Paul "came near Damascus" (KJV). The pertinent Greek word is engizein, meaning "draw near." Thus, Paul was unquestionably outside Damascus when he had his encounter with the light and voice which said "I am Jesus." See Biblios versions for Acts 9: 3. Yet, to repeat, the two companions "hearing the voice, saw no one." Acts 9:7.
As a result of this event having taken place outside Damascus, this area is thereby within a wilderness as that term is used in the Bible.
Why is this important? Because Jesus specifically commanded that we, his followers, were not to listen to anyone who appeared in the wilderness who claimed to be Jesus. Our Lord explained He will not appear on earth again until an event when every eye sees Him from eastern to western sky. These criteria are how we know today that the person who met Paul was not the true Jesus. This was the litmus test Jesus gave his disciples: 'if someone appears in the wilderness claiming to be me, you can be sure it is not me,' in effect. See Matt. 24: 5 & 6; & 27-29.
While I do not doubt Paul believed he met the true Jesus, it does not matter at this point. Rather, the facts described in Acts clearly exclude the possibility that Paul had an encounter with the true Jesus found in the gospels, as we will now further elaborate upon.
Biblical Meaning of "Wilderness"
Satan was known to occupy wilderness areas. This is why Jesus Himself went to the wilderness -- so he could be tested by Satan. "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil." (Matt. 4:1.) Jesus identifies in verse 10 that His encounter was with "Satan" himself.
The word "wilderness" as used in the Bible means any area outside a city. Gill in his Exposition of the Bible explains the term "wilderness" as Paul used it in 2 Cor.11: 26. The term "may be understood not strictly of desert places, but of the country in distinction from the city."
Christian scholars Hengel & Schwemer refer to Paul's experience as taking place in the "semi-wilderness of the great city territory immediately bordering on the city of Damascus." (Martin Hengel, Anna Maria Schwemer, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years (1997) at 109.)
Next, besides "outside Damascus" as being equivalent to a wilderness, there is one time in the Bible this very same area is described as a "wilderness" -- in 1 Kings 19:15, as discussed next.
Elijah Told To Take Wildnerness Road to Damascus
In 1 Kings 19:15, God speaks to Elijah while Elijah is at "Horeb, the mountain of God." (1 Kings 19:7.) God tells Elijah to take the road to Damascus. God specifically calls this the "wilderness."
This passage reads:
15 Then Yahweh said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. Go and anoint Hazael as king over Aram; (1 Kings 19:15 Lexham.)
Some scholars suggest Paul thought this was significant. Paul may have equated the call Paul received on that Wilderness Road to Damascus to the call Elijah received at Horeb to take that same Road to Damascus. See N.T. Wright, "PAUL, ARABIA, AND ELIJAH (GALATIANS 1:17)," in Journal of Biblical Literature vol. 115, 683–692 (available at this online link.)
However, Elijah received his call at Horeb at the Mountain of God while Paul's encounter was itself on that wilderness Road to Damascus. That is a difference that in God's planning can be very significant.
Now the contention of Wright is important in a way he did not intend. What he admitted proves that God placed in the Bible a clear reference that Paul's encounter was in a location which the Bible called the "wilderness of Damascus." This way, there would be no doubt in anyone's mind once we recognized the issue from Matthew chapter 24 that the same is true for Paul. Hence, this road to Damascus where Paul heard "I am Jesus" from the voice and light was indeed in the wilderness. God personally said so!
Paul Was Certainly Lost At the Moment of This Appearance of "Jesus."
Paul could be duped at the point of the appearance of "Jesus" outside Damascus because Paul was certainly a lost soul at that point. Jesus warned us that the signs and wonders of an imposter Christ would be so "great" that it could dupe even a believer if that were possible. (Matt 24:24.) How much more so would a lost soul be helpless against the great signs and wonders of an imposter Jesus.
Was Paul a lost soul when he walked that road to Damascus and met someone saying "I am Jesus?"
Luke tells us that just prior to this event Paul was involved in the murder of Stephen, and was breathing "murderous threats." (Acts 9:1.) Apostle John tells us no murderer has eternal life. (1 John 3:15.)
Finally, on that wilderness road, Paul was still in the midst of a mission of persecution. Paul later explained what his persecution efforts often entailed. Paul in Acts 26:11 testifies in Court about his life as a persecutor as follows:
And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. KJV.
Paul obviously made Christians say Jesus did his miracles by the power of Bezelbub, a demon. Jesus said such a statement insults / blasphemes the Holy Spirit, and is thus blasphemy of Yahweh....an unpardonable sin. See Matt 12:38. The Pharisees made this claim about Jesus' miracles, and evidently Paul followed the party-line, forcing Christians "to blaspheme," as Paul put it.
Paul acknowledged the obvious implication of such coercions on Christians: the one forcing another to blaspheme as a means of persecution must admit as Paul did in 1 Timothy 1:13 that he too was "once a blasphemer."
An admission of blasphemy should signify that one has violated the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7) - the prohibition on blasphemy of God's name. One could never obtain justification under the Law given Moses for this sin. It was known among Jews and by Jesus as the unpardonable sin.
For while Exodus 20:6 says God's "mercy" extends to all "who love him and obey my commandments," then God in Exodus 20:7 says there is an exception -- a sin God "will not hold guiltless" anyone from -- the sin of blasphemy of God's name. A sin for which there is no "mercy" -- the unpardonable sin -- under the Law.
Dennis Praeger, Jewish scholar, in his new book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code (Regnery: 2015) explains blasphemy against God is unforgiveable, according to God.
So then what is the worst sin? The worst sin is [violating]... the Third Commandment of the Ten Commandments. This is the only one of the Ten Commandments that states that God will not forgive who violates the commandment. What does this commandment say?
It is most commonly translated as, 'Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. For the Lord will not hold guiltless' -- meaning 'will not forgive,' -- whoever takes his name in vain. (Prager, The Ten Commandments (2015) at pages 20-21.
Jesus says likewise when Jesus restates the Third Commandment in Mark 3:29: "but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation."
(The term "Holy Spirit" is a common replacement for Yahweh when verses like Exodus 20:7 are being quoted in the NT and use Yahweh's name. Jesus often has similar replacements, e.g. "Spirit of the Lord" for "Spirit of Yahweh" in Luke 4:17:21; "Mighty One" in Matt 26:64; etc.)
Incidentally, please note that Paul contradicts Jesus and claims in Acts 13:39 that "everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses."
What sin(s) could one not be justified by the Law? The only sin under the Law for which one could never receive justification was blasphemy in Exodus 20:7. But Jesus says it is unpardonable, and there is "never...forgiveness." But Paul says contrarily that faith can even give you justification for a sin which one could "not receive justification by the Law" (Acts 13:19). In fact, Paul claimed in 1 Tim. 1:13 he already has been justified of blasphemy: "Even though I was once a blasphemer, and a persecutor and a violent man I was shown mercy....." Yet, both Jesus in Mark 3:29 and God-Yahweh in Exodus 20:7 says that is not possible.
Hence, at the very moment that counts, Paul must have been a lost man, easily capable of being duped by a false Christ claiming to be "Jesus." Paul was not among the believers at that time. Jesus told us Paul's chances to avoid being duped were slim to none. Jesus said the effort of an imposter Jesus to dupe someone would be virtually impossible for anyone but a believer not to be fooled:
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matt 24:24 Bible Hub - NIV.)
Satan Can Even Dupe Prophets of God!
Even if Paul prior to encountering this "light" and "voice" had the Holy Spirit already (which Luke does not imply and is unlikely for reasons just stated), Paul would not be immune from the wiles of Satan. David, who had such Holy Spirit, was not above Satan planting ideas in his head:
Now Satan, designing evil against Israel, put into David's mind the impulse to take the number of Israel. (1 Chron. 21:1.)
Furthermore, in 1 Kings 1:13-32, God tells us that a true prophet duped another true but young prophet by lying to him about a prophecy supposedly being from God. The true prophet lied that God had said that the young prophet could go home by another route. (See our article.) Thus, if even a true immature prophet can be duped, so much more can a lost man as was Paul.
Thus, Paul, whether you think he did or did not have the Holy Spirit at his encounter, could be fooled.
Jesus's Prophecies About An impostor-Jesus
Of course, Jesus warned repeatedly about false prophets to come in His name who would "have signs and wonders" so that they could deceive even the elect. Matthew 7:15-23; 24:11,24; Mark 13:22-23. See Study Notes below.
But Jesus did more than that. In Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus gives a series of warnings of events that must precede the end. The very first one in church history--and chronologically far earlier than events that would take a long time, such as wars, etc, Jesus says this will happen:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray. (NIV)
In Luke, Jesus warns this one coming in "my name" says "I am He...." (Luke 21:8.)
In Matthew 24:24-27, Jesus warns about just such an earthly encounter one may have with one coming in His Name (Jesus) claiming to be He (Jesus) but you know it is not Him because when Jesus returns, every eye will see Him. Jesus said:
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
25 Behold, I have told you beforehand.
26 If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not.
27 For as the lightning [Greek, astraphe] cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming [parousia = presence] of the Son of man.
Jesus is recorded similarly in Luke 17:24 (ESV): "For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day."
Apostle John in Revelation foresees this same event, and similarly speaks of it: "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him...." (Rev. 1:7.) Jesus identifies what the true coming (parousia) event looks like in the immediately following verses 28-30, especially v. 30 in Matthew 24. It is identical to Revelation 1:7:
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] (Matt 24:30 NIV.)
Hence, Jesus says in the context of Matthew 24's prophecy against wilderness encounters that you know it is not Jesus because His coming on the "clouds" of glory will be "from eastern to western sky." Apostle John in Rev. 1:7 says of this same "coming with the clouds" that it is an event which "every eye will see him." (Modern television coverage makes such an event possible even without God using the miraculous to do so.)
Clearly, the discerning quality of whether an encounter like Paul's was valid is whether every one on earth simultaneously saw Jesus on the clouds of glory before He arrived on earth. That did not happen in Paul's earthly encounter. Paul's two companions in Acts 9 hear the voice but see no one.
Also further confirming the universality of seeing Jesus as necessary, be aware "east" and "west" in Matthew 24:27 is plural in the Greek, implying a world-wide event. That is, the lightning must flash from every point east or west on the earth so that every eye on earth will see it. Origen in the 200s noted these plurals of east and west signified a world-wide event. Scholars concur that this language "from east to west" bespeaks the "universaility" of the event. (Allan J. McNicol, Jesus' Directions for the Future (Mercer Press, 1996) at page 87.)
Thus the Matthean passage clearly implies to beware someone in a wilderness or private room who will claim not only to be Messiah / Christ, but also to be Jesus. For Jesus says you know it is not Himself by the very obscurity of the location it takes place. "Every eye" will see Jesus on clouds of brilliant glory-light which will extend from one end of heaven to the other over the entire earth when He returns to communicate directly with men on earth. This appearance by one claiming to be Jesus and Messiah whom Paul met in a wilderness and private encounter is false if only one or at most three men see Him, our Lord implicitly says.
Why Paul Did Not Realize His Error
Paul never realized that he met the wrong Jesus. Why? Because the impostor Jesus told him that when the true Jesus returns, not every eye will actually see Jesus. Paul tells us -- in obvious reliance upon the impostor -- that instead only the spiritually discerning will realize Christ returned and 'see' Christ in a spiritual sense. These verses from Paul that negate the visual-universality of Jesus's appearance on the clouds of glory are credulously explained by Herbert Lockyer in All the Parables of the Bible Explained (Zondervan: 1988) at page 255:
"'Every eye shall see Him.' His return for His church, however, as indicated by Paul will likewise be sudden but not universally discerned. He will appear for those who look for Him, and who love such an appearing." [Alluding to 2 Tim. 4: 8, love appearing; 1 Thess. 4:17, 5:23, rapture into the clouds; 1 Thess. 2:9 even says we are with Jesus at His parousia, thus preceding the event, precluding us from first seeing Jesus' presence on earth. See also 1 Thess. 3:13]
At the same time, Paul said he declined to listen to the twelve apostles, preferring instead his direct revelations from the Lord Jesus whom he met during that first experience. In Galatians 1:12, Paul explained: "I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." In Galatians 2:6, talking expressly of the twelve apostles, Paul says:
But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person)-- they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me: (Galatians 2:6 ASV.)
Paul thus was helpless against the Jesus of his revelation. Paul did not have the criteria of the true Jesus' words on how to test the encounter which Paul had with the "Jesus" of the wilderness. Paul refused to hear them, or ask their spiritual input on whether his experience matched the Jesus' they all knew.
Paul thereby mistakenly accepted an impostor Jesus whom the true Jesus intended Paul to reject. Sadly, it is Paul's own fault for he boasted that those in repute -- the true twelve -- "imparted nothing to me." Paul preferred the "revelation from Jesus Christ" -- the Jesus of that very first encounter -- the clear impostor. Paul will have to bear the consequences of that flagrant rejection of any words from Jesus that the 12 could have shared with Paul. For Jesus told the 12 (including Matthias who was present and later replaced Judas, according to Acts ch. 1) what are the consequences to Paul for Paul's admission he refused to learn anything from the 12 about the true Jesus:
14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Matt 10:14-15 KJV)
John's Experience in Heaven Differs From Paul's Encounter Outside Damascus
Jesus's warning does not extend to the experience John described in Revelation.
First, John in Revelation 1 and 22 identifies that an "angel"is whom He meets initially, and through whom all the visions of Jesus and communications with Jesus take place. See "Angel of Revelation."
Second, when John says he actually sees Jesus it is after Apostle John says that he was taken up into heaven where he saw Christ seated at the right hand of the Father. See Rev. 4:1; Rev. 21:1-27; cf. 1:10-18. This can be compared with Elijah who was caught up into heaven, taken up in a whirlwind; and who never tasted death, per 2 Kings 2:1-12. Prior to that rapture into heaven, the angel revealed a fantastical Jesus with a sword in His mouth -- a fantastic vision which is not intended to be received as a true appearance of Jesus physically manifested on earth.
Hence, because John's vision of Jesus in Revelation 1 prior to that time was relayed through an angel (Rev. 1:1), and was not intended to convey Jesus physically present on earth visible in any way other than by means of this angel solely to John, it has no parallel to Paul's Damascus experience. In chapter one, Jesus was seen in a fantastic vision with a sword in His mouth. Thus, the first time John sees Jesus physically is only after John is taken into heaven in chapter 4 of Revelation, and then sees Jesus as He actually is - seated at the right hand of the Father.
Jesus' Warning Was Aimed To Prevent An Impostor-Jesus
Christian commentators -- unaware how this operates to invalidate Paul -- admit that Jesus in Matthew chapter 24 intended to protect us from a counterfeit Jesus:
The reason He constantly talks about returning in the clouds is because He wants us to look up into Heaven in anticipation of His return, so keep your eyes on Him. He told us to be ready, to watch for His return! This also prevents us from believing in those who claim to be Jesus Christ, since we are told that He will come in the clouds and every eye will see Him when He comes back. (Frank Gonzalez, Jesus Tells John to Write (2009)(PDF) at 11.)
Hence, Gonzalez concedes Jesus admonished us in chapter 24 not to accept anyone who says he is Jesus Christ in an encounter on earth after the Ascension unless every eye sees the same event. Otherwise, it is not the true Jesus. It is an impostor.
Review of the Proofs: This Was A Prophecy About Paul
Then, let's ask: does the foregoing prove Jesus was warning us away from whatever person spoke to Paul saying "I am Jesus, the one you persecute"?
The proof above shows indeed Jesus did so warn us. There are several important reasons.
First, what Paul experienced fits someone coming in the name of Jesus. Paul records the voice said: "I am Jesus." Jesus said many false Christs would come "in my name." (Matt 24:5-7.)
Second, we should remember that Jesus was a common name at this time. -- in fact, the third most popular name used among males. The 'voice' distinguished itself from any other Jesus, and claimed to be Jesus the Messiah / Christ with the words that he was "the one you persecute." This fit Jesus' warning that those coming "in my name" (Jesus) would also claim to be the Christ. Also, Paul repeatedly claims the Jesus he follows is "Jesus Christ." Gal. 1:12.
Third, Jesus says in Matthew 24:24-27 that some will try to deceive us while confirming that "Jesus is the Christ" in scenarios such as in the wilderness and private rooms. As already stated, it is in the wilderness that Paul had his experience. Jesus obviously used such a term of "wilderness" as a means to more readily help the true flock identify the falsity of the Jesus whom Paul met.
Fourth, the false Jesus would be accompanied by "signs and wonders" (Matt 24:24), but do not let our judgment be clouded by such experience. It is a false Jesus. Paul obviously understood his blindness as a sign that this was the true Jesus, even though God never imposes blindness on someone who supposedly has been converted already.
Thus, Paul's experience precisely fits Matthew 24:5-7, 24-27's warning not to believe someone coming in His name claiming to be Christ in such a setting when the only validation comes from signs and wonders.
But Didn't Paul Cast Out Demons in Jesus' Name?
Some have written me saying it is impossible that Paul did not know the true Christ because Paul cast out demons in Jesus' name.
It is true Paul did so. In Acts 16:18, we read:
"And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour."
However, Matthew 7:21-23 informs us this does not prove Paul knew the true Jesus.
There Jesus teaches us about those who "prophesy by the name [of Jesus]," and who can "cast out demons by the name [of Jesus]," but whom Jesus will say "I never knew you."
Why? Because they are workers of ANOMIA. This word ANOMIA is a Greek word that can mean either "lawlessness" or "negation of the Mosaic Law." (Torah is NOMOS in Greek; the prefix "A" means negation, like 'anti' in English.) Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23:
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work ANOMIA -- either "iniquity" or "negation of the Law of Moses."
Can Paul be said to "do iniquity"? Or did Paul "negate the Mosaic law"?
On multiple scores, both meanings of ANOMIA are satisfied.
First, Paul repeatedly contradicts the Law in letter and spirit. For example, Paul goes so far as to claim that meat sacrificed to idols is ok to eat. But Jesus reasserts the Law's prohibition three times on such meat in the Book of Revelation. Another example is that Paul teaches us to not be charitable to all widows as a class, and instead Paul arbitrarily prohibited charity to widows under sixty. This contradicts God's Law to aid widows without any age-restriction. (See our article Paul's Command Not To Help Widows.)
Second, Paul also teaches that the Law given Moses has been done away with when Jesus said that it would not end until the "heaven and earth pass away." (See Chapter Five of JWO.) It is hard to imagine any greater working of iniquity than for someone to declare God's Law is terminated before its appointed time when the "heaven and earth pass away."
Alternatively, Paul's ANOMIA exists also in his behavior. For example, Paul numerous times utters blasphemies. Blasphemy is a sin even if one lacked the intention to insult God. The Pharisees did not mean to insult God when Jesus told them that their ascribing His miracles to Satan was an insult upon God - an unpardonable one at that. (Matt 12: 31-32.) Thus, an unwitting insult still has eternal consequences.
These insults on God by Paul include Paul's claims: 1. that only through God's Law did Paul learn to sin -- its prohibitions arousing in him the desire to sin which otherwise did not exist (Romans 7:7); 2. that God will send a "delusion" on all people to believe a lie so they are damned (2 Thess. 2:10-13); 3. that Jesus's brightness at His coming will be "according to the working of Satan," with "all power, signs and delusions" (2 Thess 2:8-9) -- to accomplish the delusions God will bring which are spoken about in the next verses 10-13 identified in #2 above; 4. that God does not live in temples made of human hands, implying inadvertently that the God in the Temple at Jerusalem which still stood at that time was as invalid a god as a pagan god (Acts 17:24); and on and on it goes. See our article Paul & Blasphemy for a long list.
Hence, when people cite that Paul cast out demons in Jesus' name, Jesus already told us in Matthew 7:21-23 that this is not sufficient proof Paul ever met Jesus. Instead, Jesus said to test them -- do they work ANOMIA? Do they work the negation of the Law given Moses? Do they teach contrary to the Law, leading others into law-breaking? Or do they sin in violation of the Law? If so, then they "never knew" the true Jesus.
Paul qualifies on either score to be said by Jesus that "I never knew you." To those who respond in wonderment how then did Paul cast out demons in Jesus' name, Jesus said it can happen. (Matt 7:21-23.) Jesus' name is powerful. Jesus can even answer the prayer of a man who does not know Him. A lost soul can effectively call upon Jesus' powerful name. For Jesus elsewhere explains Satan cannot cast out Satan, for that would represent a house divided. (Matt .12:26.) Thus, only Jesus is casting out a demon at the request of someone to whom Jesus says "I do not know you." Who says so? Jesus!
Paul Contradicts Jesus On This Very Issue On How To Test The Encounter
Paul speaks differently. But then contradicting the teachings of Jesus -- the one whom Paul claims to follow and speak for -- further explains why Paul did not properly test the encounter's characteristics.
Paul contradicts Matthew 7:21-23 by Paul's claims in 2 Cor. 12:12 and Romans 15:19 that his doing signs and wonders in Jesus' name proves Paul did meet Jesus, and was commissioned as an apostle. But Jesus emphatically says NO in Matthew 7:21-23 as well as in Matthew 24:24-27, as we just proved above.
Here are Paul's two contradictions of Jesus where Paul says such signs are proof Paul not only knew Jesus but was commissioned as an apostle:
First, Paul expressly said his validity turned on "signs and wonders." (2 Cor. 12:12.) He said:
"The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." Id.
Lastly, Paul in Romans 15:19 likewise said:
"Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ."
The Greek roots for 'signs and wonders' in Paul's two statements were "semeion" and "teraton."
In a similar passage to Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus told us to be on guard about those who could lead us astray. Jesus said they would use 'semeion' and 'teraton' -- signs and wonders --- the very same roots of the Greek words as Paul used (Matthew 24:24) -- to seduce us to follow them.
These passages of Matthew 7:21-23 and 24:24 prove clearly that signs and wonders are no proof that one coming in His name was from God.
Paul Closed His Mind About Who Was This Blinding Light
In the three versions of the vision account recorded in Acts, the blinding light goes from a "light" (Acts 9:1-9), to a "great light" (Acts 22:3-11) to a "light brighter than the Sun." (Acts 26:9-20.) This light blinded Paul. The question arises: what could be the source of this light? After all, the Bible says Lucifer is an angel of light. (See this link for more discussion.) Could it be Lucifer then?
Based upon Paul's writings, we find that this obvious association did not ever cross Paul's mind. Paul asks the voice who it is. The voice said in version 1 in Acts 9 and in version 3 in Acts 26: "I am Jesus whom you persecute." Beyond that, Luke gives us no other reason to prove this is Jesus. Should Paul be taking a blinding light's word for anything? Some commentators suggest not:
"Apparently all it took to convince Paul that he was hearing the voice of Jesus was for the voice to say so." (Delos B. McKown, Behold the Antichrist: Bentham on Religion (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2004) at page 122.)
McKown comments that "taken at face value, this reveals credulity (or gullibility) of a high order." Id. at 122.
Paul is aware that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. See 2 Cor. 11:14. Yet Paul did not choose to apply this knowledge of this fact to his experience. Luke gives us no sign of any effort by Paul to verify the light and voice was truly from Jesus.
Conclusion: Analogy To The Mormon "Jesus" As An Impostor
We have long been trying to take the speck out of Mormons' eyes without looking at the beam in our own eye. (Matt 7:3.) For remarkably, the same fault we can find in Mormonism for teaching a Jesus Christ who appeared in a wilderness that not everyone had seen is the same fault afflicting Pauline Christianity.
Like Pauline Christians, Mormons claim to follow a Jesus Christ who their hero (i.e., Joseph Smith) first learned about through "a pillar of light" that came down from heaven. (See our page on Joseph Smith's First Vision.)
Like Pauline Christians, Mormons follow a Jesus who their hero (i.e., Smith) saw in his very first vision in the "woods" and "wilderness." Those are Joseph Smith's terms. (See our page on Joseph Smith's First Vision.)
Like Pauline Christians, Mormons follow a Jesus who identifies himself with the Jesus of Galilee. "Jesus" from the pillar of light tells Smith in the wilderness that he was the "crucified one." (See our page on Joseph Smith's First Vision.) (Mormonism has no crucifixion happening to their "Jesus" in America so Smith's Jesus claims to be the Galilean Jesus.)
Like Pauline Christians, Mormons follow a hero (i.e., Joseph Smith) whose followers insisted that he used Christ's name to cast out demons. (Diedrich Willers Letter (1830) at 1.)
Incidentally, Willers, a good Christian who knew scripture, said that Smith's ability to cast out demons did not prove Smith knew Christ, citing Matthew 7:21-23, just as we do above about Paul. Id.
Finally, like Pauline Christians, Mormons do away with the Gospel-Jesus. They are like Pauline Christians who teach that Paul in 2 Cor. 5:16 tells us to no longer follow the gospel message of Jesus given in the flesh. Paul supposedly tells us that message is a superceded message. Now we must allegedly follow only the Jesus whom Paul experienced. (See Bultmann on Paul).
Mormons similarly believe God told Smith we must listen to only the Jesus of Smith's vision. The "God" of this vision tells Smith that all Christian sects are wrong, implying our gospels accounts of Jesus are all wrong. The plates delivered later by the Angel Moroni which Smith translated into the Book of Mormon clearly imply our gospels are all altered and entirely untrustworthy, including all the words of Jesus. See 1 Nephi 13:26. (See our page on Joseph Smith's First Vision.)
Did you know that? Did you know there is virtually no distinction between what Paul experienced and what Smith experienced? With the same consequence? Both times, the intention is we abandon the Jesus of the Gospels!
Why did the vision of Smith's experience get recorded in such a way that any Christian familiar with Matthew 24:4-5 and 26-27 could not get duped? That passage so obviously applies to Joseph Smith -- just as it obviously applies to Paul!
Just as God restricted what Satan could do with Job (Job 1:12), God obviously restricted the false "Jesus." This counterfeit could appear only in a wilderness. The false Jesus had to say "I am Jesus" or an equivalent. By these restrictions, all accounts of the false Jesus-es (whether Mormon or Pauline) reveal details by which we can know to apply Matthew 24:4-5, 26-27. The accounts are not permitted to omit details that they saw Jesus in the wilderness -- and that Jesus was not seen universally. This way God can put us to the test: will we be duped or not? Are we listening intently to Jesus or not?
Thus, making such a test about who spoke to Smith in the wilderness is not unkind. It is Biblical to make such a test. It is obedient to Christ! It is thus likewise equally obedient to Christ to test Paul by the same criteria.
But to this, a foul is called. Wasn't Paul miraculously converted? Luke does not say that. That is an assumption we Christians erroneously have long made.
Instead, Luke tells us just before the vision that Paul was a notorious unrepentant sinner. A murderer. And Paul admits he was a blasphemer. Surely, such a person would be unable to discern the spiritual invalidity of this exciting experience.
Just prior to the encounter, Paul was a "blasphemer and violent man," as Paul confesses. (1 Tim. 1:13). Luke depicts Paul in the prior verse to the encounter as uttering "murderous threats." (Acts 9:1.) In this horrific spiritual state, Paul easily became a dupe of the impostor voice-and-light Jesus who revealed himself on the Road to Damascus. All those who follow a Pauline Jesus are equally sincere and zealous, as was Paul, but all are dupes of a cunning fraud perpetrated upon Paul.
For Jesus specifically prophesied that persons will come in His name -- the name of Jesus -- and claim to be Jesus the Messiah. These false Jesus-es will lead many astray. (Matt. 24:4-5.) These figures will use "signs and wonders" to lead astray even the elect, if that were possible. (Matt. 24:24.)
How great is our Lord to leave us prophecies for those who have 'ears to hear' which would protect His flock who closely listen to Him, our sole Teacher. And this proves the truth of the following statement:
"Whatever the devil cannot be or do as it relates to God in Jesus Christ, he will either counterfeit or wipe out." Gary Flannigan, 111: The Media War (2008) at 131.
Thus, with the same vigor that we as Christians reject Mormonism, we must come to reject Pauline Christianity. They both equally reflect impostor versions of Jesus. We need to restore Christianity to its founder: the true Jesus. We need to return to the Jesus we read about in the four gospels, in particular the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John.
Once we repent of Paulinism, then (but only then) can we credibly find fault with Mormonism's claim. We can prove that Joseph Smith's appointment of 12 more apostles is invalid under Acts 1:21-22. The apostles ruled that Judas' replacement had to be one from the beginning of Jesus' Galilean ministry.
Until we abandon Paul, we are hamstrung by our allegiance to Paul to criticize Mormonism for the same blatant flaw from which Mormonism suffers. For Mormons mock Christians who try to invalidate the 12 new Mormon "Apostles of Jesus Christ" by this Acts 1:21-22 test. They argue if applied, it would equally apply to Paul, and evangelicals will retract the argument when they realize the consequence means they have to give up on Paul as an apostle. Mormon apologists note in Must All Apostles Literally See Christ:
Many of our Christian brothers and sisters use this supposed requirement to eliminate the LDS apostles as real apostles, and they attempt to use the Bible as the basis for their rejection. How do we respond? Let us take a look at what the Bible says regarding the matter. Most of the critics will use Acts 1:21-26 [i.e., replacement of Judas had to be disciple from beginning of Galilean ministry until Ascension.]
The problem here is Acts 1 does not lay down this criterion for all future apostles. Paul, of course, would not meet this requirement, yet I’ve never met a Christian that didn’t view Paul as an apostle. ****
Most LDS critics will admit that Paul was an exception. And while doing so, declare the requirements stated in Acts 1 null and void for future apostles. Paul did not accompany the original apostles from the baptism by John to the day He ascended into heaven....For some reason, however, the critics claim that this is the lone exception and thus, the Lord would not allow any others. Certainly, one is free to make such a claim, but the Bible contains no foundation for it.
Because we make an unfounded exception for Paul, Mormons persist in teaching their Jesus can add a whole set of numerous more apostles.
Thus, with Paul esconced in our camp, we become the blind trying to lead the blind. We are crippled in any effort to correct Mormons. They point out that we will not apply the same test to Paul because it would disqualify him. Hence, they don't have to listen to our critique of what are the qualifications of a true apostle in Acts 1, i.e., one who was with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry until the Ascension.
In this way, we lose the decisive points that would end the claims of Mormonism. Our failure is due to our affection and adherence to Paul. Because we will not relent, another heresy worse than the first (Paulinism) now afflicts the name of Jesus. We do nothing to defend Jesus on the strongest grounds because to do so will damage Paul.
What is at stake for our beligerant defiance of Jesus' words? The loss of Jesus' gospel by a completely different gospel -- Paulinism, Mormonism, and whatever ism that will claim a non-gospel Jesus is its inspiration.
What do you think Jesus thinks about all this? That we let the Mormon deception run rampant for to properly expose it will also expose Paul as equally unable to pass the very tests which destroy Mormonism? Our silence was deliberate: we let Mormonism continue for otherwise we will expose Paul as invalid. Our silence is deafening and damning at the same time. It proves we are protecting Paul even when it means we as a Christian community are letting the true Jesus be thrown under the bus. Our Lord's final judgment for this behavior is obvious.
I will let Anthony Buzzard, a reputable pastor, have the last word. In his article "The Amazing Shift Away from Jesus in the Popular Gospel," he analyzes the Paulinism of Luther who taught it proper to ignore the Jesus of Matthew, Mark and Luke to find the Gospel of Jesus primarily in Paul's writings. The consequence of focusing on Paul's teachings to define the gospel, Buzzard says, has had the effect of giving us a counterfeit Christ -- which is what I say is actually what happened on the road to Damascus. It was Satan indeed who provided a counterfeit on the Road to Damascus. Thus, Pastor Buzzard unwittingly proves our point when he writes:
It seems to me clear that Satan could well play on the weakness of the religious spirit of man by presenting a Jesus who is only vaguely and superficially the Jesus of the Bible. The counterfeit could, however, be most subtle. Satanic strategy would work hard to separate Jesus from His own teachings (laid out in their clearest form in Matthew, Mark and Luke). “Jesus” might then be only a religious symbol offered as a spiritual panacea for the world’s and individuals’ ills. The Jewish, apocalyptic Jesus, preacher of a coming just society on earth — the Kingdom of God — might then fall into disrepute and obscurity. His reappearance in preaching would probably appear strange and unwanted even to churchgoers who have been fed a diet missing the New Testament Hebrew ingredients.
YouTube version of this article -- see this link.
Correct English on 'Impostor.'
Incidentally, 'impostor' is considered the more correct English word derived from borrowing from the French word 'imposteur,' just as we change 'docteur' in French to 'doctor.' See Grammarist. However, the word "imposter" is actually used more often in English than "impostor." So "impostor" is the preferred word by linquists, although in normal usage 'imposter' is preferred. I chose to change this article to 'impostor' from 'imposter' but either is correct.
To shorten the main article, I moved this section(s) to an Appendix below.
Does The Blindness of Paul & Bright Light Constitute "Signs" & "Wonders" in The Encounter Which Match Jesus' Warning?
Paul saw the light, and was soon thereafter blinded. Otherwise, Paul solely heard an unfamiliar voice. Paul must have regarded this blindness from the light as a great sign from heaven. This must have served as the 'proof' in Paul's mind that he needed to believe this was the true Jesus. Paul himself later would inflict blindness on Elymas (Acts 13:11). Paul called his workings of such affliction "signs and wonders." Thus, Paul must have viewed such blindness-afflicting powers by the light he encountered as a 'sign and wonder' which verified it as supposedlyfrom the true Jesus.
But was this a sign or wonder from God? And would the Lord of life actually inflict blindness on someone supposedly miraculously converted moments before, as most commentators insist happened? One must wonder. Jesus said He came to "restore sight to the blind." (Luke 4:18-19.) The true Jesus only restored sight to the blind, and never inflicted blindness. See Matthew 9:27,28 , Mathew 20:29-34 , Mark10:46-52 , Luke 18: 35-43. See http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/4309.htm
In the Bible, God never inflicts blindness on regenerate persons. God through the angels inflicts blindness in Genesis 19 on evil lost men to protect Lot from the men of Sodom trying to enter his house. (Genesis 19:4-11.) This was clearly inflicted on evil unregenerate men. God in Deuteronomy 28 promises to inflict blindness, and cause you to grope in mid day, when you refuse to obey his law. Hence, any infliction of blindness if it truly came from God, would have to only be upon an unregenerate lost soul. It would be punishment. Thus, if this sign were from God, Paul should have realized it was a punishment for the evil he had done, not because now he was "chosen" by God.
There is no example of God inflicting blindness on a regenerate man in the Bible. Some believe Samson proves otherwise. However, Samson, a man of God, was blinded by the Philistine, not by God. This happened only after Samson's last link to the power of God was broken when Delilah cut his hair, breaking the Nazirite vow (to which Samson was subject) not to let his hair be cut. Prior to that time, Samson, an Israelite, was spiritually blinded first that he had gone against a Law (which was only applicable to Israelites) when he said a "foreign woman" was "right for my eyes" (Judges 14:1.) Hence, physical blindness in the Bible can come from evil forces upon a spiritually blind person when God's power is no longer present at all over that person's life. God never inflicts blindness on the regenerate. See Chad Harstock, Sight & Blindness in Luke-Acts (Brill: 2008) at 107.)
Wasn't the fact that Paul was "breathing murders" as Luke depicts him (Acts (9:1) just before this experience prove Paul was as spiritually blind as you could be? If God inflicted this blindness, this alone would prove Paul was unregenerate and lost. Wasn't Paul's self-professed being a "blasphemer and violent man" (1 Tim. 1:13) just prior to this render Paul as completely outside the power of God as Samson? Didn't this also therefore subject Paul to the power of evil to blind him just as Samson became?
Hence, if one thought God caused this blindness instead, we know God wouldn't ever blind Paul unless Paul was a completely lost soul like the men whom the angels blinded in Genesis 19:4-11. So either way, Paul was unregenerate at the moment of this appearance of someone coming in Jesus' name.
In sum, signs and wonders must have been the means by which the voice convinced Paul this was the real Jesus. But tragically Paul did not ask himself whether the one who came to "restore sight to the blind" would actually inflict blindness on someone who Paul believes converted him miraculously prior to blinding him.
And even if Paul did not know blindness is never a work of God except on the lost, didn't Jesus prophesy warnings to his true apostles to not rely upon all such "signs and wonders" anyway if someone thinks they saw Jesus on a wilderness way, such as the "way" to Damascus (Acts 9:3, NIV)?
The Delayed But Impactful Consequence Of Paul's Error
Had Paul heeded that warning about false Christs, world history would look very different. While Paul's doctrines laid dormant for 1500 years, Luther revived them in the Reformation of 1517. (See Renan, St. Paul (1875) at 327, excerpted at this link.) While Carlstadt, the co-founder of the Reformation in 1517 with Luther, tried in 1520 to repress Paul and give Jesus' doctrine superiority, Luther retaliated by expelling and then crushing Carlstadt in 1522. (See our link.) This has led to the rise of modern Pauline Christianity. The consequences have been devastating.
As Bonhoeffer bemoaned, we now have a "Christianity without Christ." (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship (1936) at 39.) Of the resulting dominant Protestantism, Kierkegaard, a true theologian of merit, wrote in the 1850s: "[Pauline] Protestantism is altogether untenable. It is a revolution brought on by proclaiming 'the Apostle Paul' at the expense of the Master (Christ)." (Kierkegaard, Papers and Journals (1996) at 629 -- books.google link to original).)
Jesus clearly foresaw something just like this would precede his Second Coming. Jesus implied by the time of His return few would be left who still hold to the true faith:
But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?" (Luke 18:8. NLT.)