Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…
Both the original audience (especially Jewish Christians), and we, can be numbskulls concerning the threat of false teaching because we misunderstand the phrase “latter times,” but we are muttonheaded for different reasons. To see why, we must be clear as to when the “latter times” are. The Biblical answer may surprise you. Hebrews 1:1–2 says that God spoke in the past in various ways, but “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” If you think that “last days,” there is nothing more that a references to recently transpired events, you may find it harder to weasel your way out of 1 Corinthians 10:11 when Paul says that what was recorded concerning Israel was for our instruction “on whom the end of the ages has come.” Not to be outdone by Paul, John says it is the last hour (1 John 2:18).
The last days were inaugurated in the advent of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ incarnation is the presence of the future, the kingdom come. The language of the “last days,” in the epistles corresponds to the way the gospel writers speak of the kingdom. Sometimes the kingdom is future, sometimes it is present. The kingdom is here now but not yet. The kingdom is God’s redemptive rule and reign come in His Son. Redemption is here now, but not fully here yet. What would have shocked the Jewish Christian is that the kingdom and last days could be here and that there would be false teachers. They expected the kingdom to come all at once and mop everything up.
We have the opposite problem. We’re not bothered by the idea of false teachers at the end of the age. That is precisely when we expect them. We’re dull because we don’t think we’re in the last days. We are. What can we expect? Because Jesus is King, because He is risen, because He has ascended, because He is at the right hand of the Father, because He, with the Father, has sent His Spirit to empower and sanctify His church, because all enemies are being put under His feet, we can expect light to conquer darkness, but, because His redemption isn’t fully here yet, in these last days, we can expect darkness to be violently opposed to the light. Don’t be demon duped that this isn’t the time of demon duping.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. —1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)