“Now as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age? And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you.“
In the last article, “Exploring Prophecy: The Question” We looked at the Disciples question concerning the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the age. Here in the Olivet Discourse Jesus sketches the prevailing conditions of the present age down to the very end, culminating with the Day of the Lord when God will judge the earth and Jesus will vanquish the Antichrist and the false prophet throwing them into the lake of fire at Armageddon. We see here where Jesus beginning his discourse, answers the disciples question with a solemn warning to “Take heed that no one deceives you.” This describes that which is closest to Jesus’ heart concerning His people, deception. Jesus above all others, understands the power and destructiveness of deception. The very purpose for His coming was because of the deception that began in the garden thrusting all of humanity into spiritual depravity. Because of deception, all of humanity is at enmity with God, disobedient, and by nature are children of wrath. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” – Ephesians 2:4-5.
Deception has eternal consequences, and there are as many forms of deception as there are faces in the world. Anyone of us are capable of either deceiving or being deceived. “Deception is a cruel act…It often has many players on different stages that corrode the soul” – Donna A. Favors. Deception begins with one first deceiving one’s self, and always ends by deceiving others. Religious impostors will always steadily degenerate, and with them, those who follow them. Paul told Timothy, “but evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” – 2 Timothy 3:13. Is it any wonder why Jesus began with such a warning to “Take heed?” It is safe to say that Jesus’ warning that no one deceive you includes yourself.
The only way to be true to oneself is to be truthful with God, trusting in and relying on His Spirit and His Word to guide you into truth. I have discovered Confession is the best way to hamper the deception of oneself if you understand that confession is agreeing with God, meeting Him on His terms. Jesus gives an example with the Pharisee and the tax collector who went up to the temple to pray. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” – Luke 18:11-14. Who was deceived? Confessing truthfully to God diminishes self deception, while comparing yourself to others only leaves you praying with yourself, God is nowhere to be found.
The question which begs answering is, “Why such an urgent warning?” The next verse gives the answer, “For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many” – Matthew 24:5. To understand the magnitude of this religious deception several points must be considered which will open our understanding as to just how nefarious these spoken of here are. First, they come “In Jesus’ name.” Because they come in His name with the intent to deceive shows us they will misrepresent Christ. Secondly, they say, “I am Christ.” The Greek word Christos means, anointed. It is clear by the text that the “many” who come in Jesus’ name are not saying they are Messiah, but rather, they are “anointed” as they come “In His Name” claiming special anointing. One does not come in the name of another claiming to be the one who’s name they invoke. Another way of looking at it is, they will claim the same anointing as Christ himself alleging equality with Jesus.
There are two facets to consider here, The first is the counterfeit Christianity Jesus is describing here, the other is the antichrist himself. One is a system, the other is a person. We have several examples in Scripture which go hand in hand with this thought. The parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:24-30) tells us that through Church history and unto the consummation of the age the true Church (Wheat) will be intermingled with the counterfeit (Tares). Tares were very common in Palestine and closely resemble wheat, they are not really distinguishable from the wheat until the grain appears at harvest time. Interesting is the fruit of the tare which is black and poisonous. It will be at the end of the age where the two (wheat and tares) will be separated. The fundamental difference between true Christianity and the Counterfeit is the true will always point to Jesus Christ preaching repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ. The Counterfeit on the other hand draws men after themselves looking for quick results that require little sacrifice. Nor will they care for the flock of God. Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders that savage wolves would come in among them not sparing the flock of God. And also from among themselves men would rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves (Acts 20:17-30).
Satan has always tried to get a foothold on the Church and has been successful through his emissaries posing as ministers of the Gospel. Many falsely boast of their superiority to the foundational Apostles and Scripture categorizes them as “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. The Greek word for this transformation of Satan and his agents of deceit exposes them as schemers, people who disguise their real agenda by masquerading as ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anywhere in the New Testament where you see “false brethren,” “false prophets,” and “false apostles,” be assured that Satan is at work. It is Satan’s desire to dominate the Church. The seven letters to the seven churches recorded in Revelation 2-3 demonstrates this as the Churches were infiltrated with the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. The name “Jezebel” appears as a doctrine to seduce God’s people into both a literal and spiritual fornication. Satan or “devil” is used no less than five times in the seven letters. It becomes clear that Satan dwelt within the churches as we see “Satan’s throne,” “where Satan dwells,” “the depths of Satan,” and the “synagogue of Satan” in opposition to the Church. The spiritual war, the race to be run that Scripture speaks about is within the church walls, not the world. And the conflict will continue until the Return of Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus told His Disciples to “Take heed, that no one deceive you.” In the context of Matthew 24 it is those within the church who will become the apostate, who will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, who will betray one another and hate one another (Matt. 24:11-12). I comes upon the true church to watch, to take heed the warning Jesus gave to the church and to be sober and vigilant, watching as that day may be soon upon us.