Deceivers and Disasters

Jesus began his final discourse with a sharp warning - Beware of the “many deceivers” who would come and spread false information about his return based on wars, earthquakes, and other calamities. They will “deceive many.” Likewise, “false prophets” and “false anointed ones” would propagate lies about his whereabouts and “coming.”

The church has been invaded by such deceivers over the centuries but especially in recent decades as end-time prophecy “experts” have pointed to wars, earthquakes, plagues, and famines as evidence that we are living in the “last days,” indeed, we are members of the “last generation.”

Lightning strikes - Photo by Josep Castells on Unsplash
[Photo by Josep Castells on Unsplash]

However, Jesus stated that common disasters of this sort are 
NOT signs of the end. The stress in his warning is on what we will “hear” from false prophets.

  • (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’.

His point was NOT whether such disasters would occur, but that they were NOT “signs” by which anyone could calculate the timing of the “end.” They were NOT keys provided by Jesus for decoding prophetic timetables, yet that is how they have been used time and again by deceivers.

According to Jesus, “Many will come upon the basis of his name.” Many would be deceived because false prophets claim to speak for him, and the victims of their lies would be the “elect.” He continued: “Moreover (de), you will hear of wars and reports of wars.”  The Greek conjunction de signifies the further development of the subject, and the term translated as “rumors” points to something that is heard. The stress is on what we will hear from the deceivers, and “reports of wars” reiterates the point.

Whether such reports are ever accurate is not the issue. Rather, deceivers point to such events as evidence that the “end is near,” but they prove no such thing. “False prophets” spread rumors about wars, famines, and other catastrophes to raise false expectations among God’s people about the future.

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

Chaos and violence have characterized human history. How do we distinguish one war or earthquake from another prophetically speaking?  At most, they constitute a “beginning of birth pains,” harbingers of the eventual demise of this age.

The phrase “these things must come to pass” alludes to Daniel 2:26-28 when the Babylonian king received a troubling dream. Only Daniel could interpret it. The prophet prefaced 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 later days” - (Septuagint version).

The allusion links Christ’s description of the “beginning of labor pains” to the “later days” of the passage in Daniel. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus signaled the start of the “last days.” With his exaltation, the final phase of History had commenced. Ever since, the present age has been moving toward its inevitable end. The “arrival” of Jesus will bring the process to its inevitable conclusion.

BIRTH PAINS


Today, false prophets and other deceivers claim Jesus taught that the frequency and intensity of wars and earthquakes would increase in the “last days,” pointing to his reference to “birth pains” as evidence of this. However, the image of “birth pains” is used in Scripture to represent the suddenness and inevitability of destruction, NOT the frequency or intensity of wars and other disasters – (Isaiah 26:17, 66:8, Jeremiah 6:24, 13:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Nowhere did 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. Luke’s version adds an interesting element - “Many will come in my name, saying, I am he, and THE SEASON IS AT HAND” - (Luke 21:8-9).

What “season” did he mean? Jesus warned 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.” He was referring to the “season” of his return - (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32-33).

These words also allude to a passage in Daniel, when the angel commanded the prophet to “seal up the words and the book, even UNTIL THE SEASON (kairos) of the end” (Septuagint). Thus, deceivers and “false prophets” presume to know what even Jesus does not know - (Matthew 24:23-27).

The purpose of Christ’s warning was not to provide us with “signs of the times” whereby we can calculate the nearness of 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 return of Jesus.

Moreover, because no one except God knows the “day,” the “hour,” or the “season” of his return, constant vigilance is vital for every disciple of Jesus. What matters when he arrives is not our accurate knowledge of prophetic timetables and “signs,” but whether we are faithful in our walk with him and busy about his business.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Spirit of Antichrist - (The Spirit of the Antichrist is raising up deceivers in the Church, but a final Antichrist will appear at the end of the age)
  • The Apostasy - (Paul warned the Thessalonians of the future apostasy which he linked to the unveiling of the Man of Lawlessness, the Son of Destruction)
  • In the Assembly - (John identified false teachers in the church as ‘antichrists’, and their deceptive teachings confirmed that the Last Days had commenced)

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