Deceivers and False Prophets

Jesus warns us of coming false prophets, deceivers who will mislead many and disseminate false information about the future

Serpent - Photo by Max Letek on Unsplash
Jesus gave a sharp warning - beware of “
many deceivers” who will use his authority to spread “rumors” about wars and other calamities, thereby “deceiving many.” But contrary to their claims, the “end is not yet.” Likewise, “false prophets” will propagate lies about the whereabouts of the “Son of Man” - [Serpent - Photo by Max Letek on Unsplash].

And he provides a list of calamitous events that are NOT signs of the end, some of the very “signs” to which these deceivers and “false prophets” will point as evidence of the imminence of the end.

In his REPEATED WARNING, the stress is on what his disciples will “hear” from these deceivers.

  • (Mark 13:5-8) – “And Jesus began to say unto them, ‘Beware that no man deceives you. Many will come in my name, saying, I am he; and deceive many. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, be not troubled; these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These things are the beginning of travail’.

NOT SIGNS OF THE END


Christ’s point is NOT that disasters will or will not occur, but that they are NOT “signs” by which anyone can calculate the time of the “end.” They are NOT keys for decoding prophetic timetables or predicting the arrival of the “Son of Man in glory.”

Ironically, the very types of calamities listed by Jesus for events that do NOT portend the “end” have been used time and again over the centuries by deceivers in the church as “signs” of his soon arrival.

Initially, his Olivet Discourse is addressed to his twelve disciples. They are part of the first “Christian generation.” But collectively, they represent all disciples throughout the present age.

DECEIVERS


The warning about deceivers is placed first because it is pivotal to the overall ‘Discourse.’ If his disciples hear and remember anything from what he says, this exhortation is by far the most important message of the ‘Discourse.’

According to Jesus, “many will come upon the basis of my name.”  The Greek conjunction gar or “for” introduces the explanation. Many disciples will be deceived because of the claims by false prophets made “on the basis of (epi)” his name.

Deceivers and false prophets will claim his authority for their predictions and teachings. This is critical to understanding this warning. The targets of these deceivers are not men and women in general, but the disciples of Jesus in particular.


Wolves - Photo by Tom Pottiger on Unsplash
[Photo by Tom Pottiger on Unsplash]


The satanic goal is NOT to deceive the already deceived mass of humanity but to mislead the followers of Jesus.

NOT YET!


Jesus continues: “Moreover (de), you will hear of wars and reports of wars.”  The conjunction de signifies a further development of a subject, and the Greek term rendered “rumors” points to SOMETHING THAT IS HEARD.

The stress falls on the content of what the disciples will hear from the deceivers, and the clause “reports of wars” reiterates the point – WHAT THEY WILL HEAR – “reports” about wars, famines, and earthquakes occurring in different places.

Whether those reports prove accurate is not the issue. Rather, deceivers will point to those things as proof that the “end is near.” And whether the end is near or not, such events do not prove it one way or the other.

False prophets” and other deceivers will spread rumors about wars, famines, and other catastrophes that raise false prophetic expectations among God’s people.

Jesus affirms that catastrophes will occur. Earthquakes, wars, political upheavals, famines, plagues, “terrors and great signs from heaven,” and the like, but his disciples must “not be alarmed - THE END IS NOT YET.”

Chaos and violence characterize every era of human history and cannot be used to calculate the arrival of the “end.” At most, they constitute a “beginning of birth-pains,” harbingers of the eventual consummation of this age, proof that the present age cannot continue forever. It will end.

Jesus acknowledges that such things will occur, but he does not classify them as “signs” or markers by which anyone can ascertain the proximity of his return and the “consummation of the age.”

BEGINNING OF THE END


His words, “THESE THINGS MUST COME TO PASS,” allude to Daniel 2:26-28 in which the Babylonian king receives a troubling dream. The astrologers of Babylon fail to disclose the contents or interpret his dream. Only Daniel succeeds in doing so, and only through the intervention of Yahweh. The prophet prefaces his remarks to the king:

  • There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries; he has shown the king WHAT THINGS MUST COME TO PASS in the latter days” - (Septuagint version).

The verbal allusion links Christ’s description of the “beginning of labor pains” to the “latter days” in the passage in the book of Daniel.

In the New Testament, the death and resurrection of Jesus mark the start of the “last days.” With his exaltation to reign from God’s throne, the final phase of history has commenced, and therefore, as Paul writes, “the forms of this age are passing away” even now.

Thus, ever since Calvary, the present age has been progressing toward its inevitable demise. The future return of Jesus will bring this process to its inevitable consummation– (Acts 2:16-21, 1 Corinthians 7:31, Hebrews 1:1-3).

BIRTH PAINS


The image of “birth-pains” is common in Scripture for the suddenness and inevitability of destruction, but NOT for the frequency or intensity of an event – (Isaiah 26:17, 66:8, Jeremiah 6:24, 13:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Nowhere in his ‘Discourse’ does Jesus predict any increase in the frequency or intensity of the listed calamities, whether in his day, throughout the centuries since, or during history’s final years.

Attempts to calculate future chronologies by wars, earthquakes, and the like are problematic since SUCH CATASTROPHES OCCUR WITH REGULARITY. What distinguishes one war or earthquake from another in prophetic terms? Instead, Christ exhorts his disciples NOT to be alarmed when disasters strike as they inevitably will.

THE SEASON IS NEAR


Luke’s version adds an interesting element - “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘THE SEASON IS AT HAND’.” Again, deceivers point to wars and calamities as “signs” of the rapidly approaching end - (Luke 21:8-9).

What “season” does Jesus mean? He warns that no one “knows of that day and hour” when the “Son of Man” will arrive except “the Father ALONE.” Therefore, his disciples must “watch and pray always since you know not when the season (kairos) is”- (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32-33).

Once more, his words allude to a passage in the book of Daniel, this time, when an angel commands the prophet to “seal up the words and the book, even UNTIL THE SEASON (kairos) of the end” (Septuagint).

Moreover, these deceivers and false prophets will presume to know what not even Jesus knows. As he warns further:

  • If anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’, or ‘Here’; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets that will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect…If, therefore, they say to you, ‘Behold, he is in the wilderness’; go not forth; ‘Behold, he is in the secret chambers’; believe it not. For, as the lightning shines forth from the east and is seen even unto the west; thus, will be the coming of the Son of man” - (Matthew 24:23-27).

Again, the deceptions perpetrated by deceivers constitute false information about the “coming of the Son of Man.” Here, Jesus uses the terms “false christs” and “false prophets.” And most likely, this is the source for John’s later term, “antichrist” - (1 John 2:18-22).

The purpose of the ‘Olivet Discourse’ is not to provide us with the “signs of the times” whereby we can calculate the “end,” but to warn us NOT to heed deceivers and “false prophets” who point to natural and man-made catastrophes as “signs” of the rapidly approaching end.

And precisely because no one but God “alone” knows the “day,” the “hour,” or the “season” of the Son’s return, constant vigilance and preparation are vital for every disciple of Jesus. What matters when he arrives is not our accurate knowledge of timetables and “signs,” but whether we are faithful in our walk with him.



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