Suppose I pulled the label off a can of your favorite soda and affixed it to a can of the deadliest poison imaginable. You then took it from me and quickly downed it. Would your false belief of it being soda save you?
The obvious answer is no, with the reason being one of the three laws of logic, the principle of identity. The law of identity simply says that a thing is what it is and, in part, it serves as a protective reminder that bad consequences almost always exist for accepting a fake.
In His Olivet discourse, Jesus warned three times that “many” false messiahs and prophets would appear and lead lots of people into error and destruction. Paul also mentioned fake christs that present themselves as “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4).
Some are easy to spot while others are cloaked much more subtly, and bring to mind what A. W. Tozer said about spiritual deception: “So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which Abel.”
Let’s take a quick look at some of these counterfeit christs so you can better understand the truth behind Tozer’s warning.
The counterfeit christ of false religions
At first blush, the Jesus of Islam resembles the Jesus in the New Testament. The Koran says Jesus was born of a virgin (Sura 3:47), proclaimed to be the Messiah (Sura 3:45), performed miracles (Sura 3:49), was confirmed to be righteous (Sura 6:85), sinless (Sura 3:46), had disciples (Sura 3:52-53), was sent with a gospel (Sura 5:46), his words should be believed (Sura 4:171), was taken to Heaven by God (Sura 4:156-159), and will come again (Sura 3:55).
But look closer and you will find the Islamic Jesus was created out of dust (Sura 3:59), is not the Son of God or God (Sura 4:171), was not crucified and did not die (Sura 4:157), was not resurrected (because he did not die), was not a Jew nor were his disciples (Sura 5:48, 53, 5:111), prophesied the coming of Muhammad (Sura 61:6), should not be worshipped (Sura 5:116), and will return, die and be judged (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 37, Number 4310).
You will see similar things in Hinduism (Jesus was a great man who attained God-realization), Buddhism (Jesus was a “bodhisattva”, one who has achieved enlightenment), and other religions. None reflect the true Jesus of the Bible.
The counterfeit christ of Christian cults
They will call Jesus savior and lord, display crosses, quote his words, but look closely and you will find a Jesus that isn’t the real thing.
To the Jehovah’s Witnesses (who follow in the footsteps of the heretic, Arius), Jesus is a created little “god” in their rewritten Bible but not God. To Mormons, Jesus is Jehovah, but different from their god Elohim, and not part of any Trinity: “[Joseph Smith] knew that the long-heralded trinity of three Gods in one was a myth, a deception. He knew that the Father and the Son were two distinct beings with form, voices, and . . . personalities.”
Continue down the path of other cults and you will find much of the same.
The counterfeit christ of the occult
Various occult teachings trot out a version of Jesus, but the typical pattern is one of separating Jesus from “the Christ” as is done in the Aquarian Gospel: “When we say "Jesus the Christ" we refer to the man and to his office; just as we do when we say Edward, the King, or Lincoln, the President. Edward was not always King, and Lincoln was not always President, and Jesus was not always Christ. Jesus won his Christ-ship by a strenuous life”.
The counterfeit christ of mythology
Although the idea that Jesus of Nazareth never lived is not entertained or defended by any recognized modern historical scholar – secular or Christian – the notion that Jesus is just a myth is still passed around on various internet atheist websites. For example, the internet movie Zeitgeist (which has been debunked numerous times), says: “The reality is Jesus was the solar deity of the Gnostic Christian sect. And like all other pagan gods he was a mythical figure. It was the political establishment that saw to historize the Jesus figure for social control.”
Fortunately, the Jesus-is-a-myth crowd has all but evaporated today. Like Dr. Bruce Metzger said decades ago, “Today no competent scholar denies the historicity of Jesus.”
The counterfeit christ of humanism
Voltaire wrote, “If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor.” This is in essence what secular humanism does: it makes humankind the measure of all things where we become a savior and god to ourselves.
Following in the path of past Caesars, who either deified themselves or were christened saviors by their subjects, secular humanism holds Jesus’ funeral and then takes His place. Or, it simply makes Him one of us – a flawed human who likely sinned, which was a finding in a survey recently done by Probe ministries.
The ultimate counterfeit
Scripture is clear that in the end times, the ultimate counterfeit christ will appear and do everything in his power to fulfill Satan’s aspiration of making himself “like the Most High” (Is. 14:14). Paul warns, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the time of the end] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
Why the real Jesus matters
The real Jesus said: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:27, 5).
The counterfeit christs identified above are “strangers” that a born again believer will not follow and for good reason. The motivation behind Jesus’ and the New Testament writer’s concern over false prophets and counterfeit christs is simple but terrifying: a fake Jesus leads to a fake salvation, which leads, sadly, to a very real Hell.
 Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (New York: Abingdon, 2003), pg. 95.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.