Many Deceivers

Christ’s Olivet Discourse opens with warnings about coming deceivers who will propagate false expectations and information about the end

Showman - Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash
Jesus begins his Olivet Discourse with an ominous warning about coming deceivers, men who will claim his authority and spread rumors about calamities, and in this way, they will “
deceive many.” He repeats this warning at pivotal points in his discourse. For example, prior to the coming of the Son of Man, “many false prophets will arise and deceive many” - [Showman - Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash].

No subject receives more stress in the discourse than his repeated warning about deceivers and “false prophets.” Their purpose will be to mislead his followers, “even very the elect.”
  • (Mark 13:5-8) – “And Jesus began to say to them: Beware, lest anyone deceive you, for many will come on my name, saying, I am he, and will deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be not alarmed; it must come to pass, but not yet is the end. For there will arise nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, there will be earthquakes in places, there will be famines. These things are a beginning of birth-pangs.

Jesus provides us with a list of natural and manmade calamities he states do NOT signal the arrival of the “end.” Yet, these events are the very “evidence” offered by these deceivers as evidence of the rapidly approaching “end.” And in the passage, the emphasis is on what disciples will “hear,” presumably, from the very same “deceivers.”

DECEIVERS

The point is not that disasters will not occur, but they ARE NOT signs of the “end” – events, presumably, that can be used to calculate the time of the end and the return of Christ.

For emphasis, this warning is found at the very start of the discourse. Deceivers have plagued the church since its inception, and there is a long history of heightened end-time expectations caused by false teachers who point to these very kinds of disasters as harbingers of the onrushing end. And very often, these false expectations have been based on the very sorts of incidents that Jesus declared were NOT signs of the “end” and his soon return.

For many will come on the basis of my name.” The Greek conjunction gar or “for” used in this clause introduces the explanation. Many are deceived because false prophets make claims “on” (epi) Christ’s name - they claim his authority for their words and deeds.

Moreover, you will hear of wars and reports of wars.” The Greek conjunction de or “moreover” signifies the further development of the subject. The Greek word rendered “rumors” points to something that is heard.

The stress here is on the content of what disciples will hear, and “reports of wars” reiterates the point. The issue is not whether wars will occur. However, these deceivers spread “rumors of wars” to raise false expectations about the imminence of the end.

[Storm by NOAA on Unsplash.com]

Paul deals with this same type of situation in his letter to the Thessalonians. False information about the “
day of the Lord” has caused consternation among members of the congregation.:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2) – “Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to him; to the end, you be not quickly shaken from your mind nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand.

CALAMITIES AS SIGNS?

Jesus affirms that human and natural catastrophes will occur - earthquakes, wars, political upheavals, famines, plagues, “terrors and great signs from heaven” – but his disciples must “not be alarmed” by them.

Chaos and violence have characterized every era of human history, and therefore, they cannot be used to calculate the time of the end - (“The end is not yet”).

At most, calamities of this sort constitute a “beginning of birth-pangs,” harbingers pointing to the eventual consummation of the age, evidence that the present world order cannot continue forever. Jesus acknowledges that such things will continue to occur, but he never calls them “signs” or designates them as chronological keys for determining the nearness of his return.

In Scripture, the analogy of “birth pains” is common for the suddenness and inevitability of judgment and destruction. But nowhere does Jesus predict any increase in the frequency or intensity of the calamities listed by him - (Isaiah 26:17, 66:8, Jeremiah 6:24, 13:21, Hosea 13:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Attempts to calculate future dates by wars, earthquakes, and the like are problematic. These things occur in the world with regularity. What distinguishes one war or earthquake from another in its prophetic importance?

In the version of the Discourse recorded in Luke, an interesting element is added to the list: “Many will come in my name, saying, I am he, and the season is at hand.” That clause confirms that these deceivers will point to wars, earthquakes, and famines as evidence that the final “season” (kairos) is at hand - (Luke 21:8-9).

And what “season” does he mean? Jesus warns us that no one “knows the day and hour” when the “Son of Man” will arrive except “the Father ALONE.” Disciples must “watch and pray, for you know not when the season (kairos) is. He does not provide us with any “signs of the times” by which we may ascertain the nearness of the end, but instead, he warns us NOT to heed such claims by deceivers - (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32-33).

And rather ironically, the presence of the very deceivers who engage in such deceptions is indisputable proof that the “last days” are underway.

Moreover, during troublesome times, “many false prophets shall arise and deceive many.” And in the Greek clause, “many” has the definite article or “the, and it refers to the same group, “the many” that will be deceived by these “false prophets” - (Matthew 24:11-12, Mark 13:9-13).

To reiterate, Jesus continues to warn us to this very day of the “MANY deceivers,” false prophets and false teachers who work within the church to mislead disciples about the future and a great many other things. But what will count in the end is faithful endurance in witness and tribulations. And the activities of deceivers is part of the “tribulations” that disciples must endure, but only “he who endures to the end will be saved.”



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