An Urgent Warning

The discourse that Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives includes instructions for us about the future. In it, he warns repeatedly of the “many deceivers” and “false prophets” who will spread misleading information among his followers about his return and the end of the age, and otherwise strive to hoodwink “the elect, if possible.” Constant vigilance is vital for recognizing their deceptions and lies. Discernment is necessary for avoiding apostasy. The goal of these deceivers is to dupe and derail the Church, not the world at large.

His warning is relevant since so many churches today have been overrun by false teachers, charlatans, false prophets, and other predators, “deceiving and being deceived,” just as Jesus and his Apostles forewarned us. While the Church has struggled with deception since its inception, the problem is especially acute at present.

Green Hill - Photo by Traworld Official on Unsplash
[Photo by Traworld Official on Unsplash]

It is not coincidental that Jesus located this warning at the start of his Discourse. The greatest threat to his followers is from deceivers, not persecution, poverty, or trials and tribulation. The ability to identify deception is far more critical than knowing the times and seasons of Christ’s “
arrival on the clouds of Heaven.” If his Assembly can be overcome by Satan’s army of deceivers, it will be destroyed from within.

Jesus began with a warning: “Beware lest anyone deceive you.” Liars and charlatans will come in his name and “deceive MANY.” Likewise, “MANY false prophets” will appear among his followers, not just a few, targeting the “elect” of God. In the passage, the stress is on the Greek term translated as “many” - (Matthew 24:4-11, 24:23-24, 24:26).

Their deceptive teachings will include false information about the return of the “Son of Man.” False prophets will claim that he “is here” or “there,” or that he is “in the wilderness” or “IN THE SECRET CHAMBERS.” Some will set false expectations about the imminence of his return by claiming that the “season has drawn near” - (Matthew 24:23-26, Luke 21:8).

Disciples will “hear of wars and reports of wars,” and deceivers will point to conflicts between nations, earthquakes, and similar calamities, both natural and manmade, as “signs,” evidence of the rapidly approaching “end.”

Wars, seismic activities, and famines occur with regularity; however, they are NOT indicators of the nearness of Christ’s return, and they cannot be used to calculate the “end.” At most, they are “birth pains” that point to the inevitable conclusion of the present evil age.

Nevertheless, as Jesus stated, the “end is not yet.” Such common events cannot be used to calculate the timing of the end. Nor did Jesus say that their frequency or intensity would increase in the “last days.” Wars, plagues, earthquakes, and famines have been common occurrences throughout human history. What sets one war or earthquake apart from all others, prophetically speaking? - (Matthew 24:4-6).

TIMES AND SEASONS


Jesus warned his followers that “no one knows the day and hour, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, except the Father alone.” For emphasis, he ended this declaration with the term “alone,” which is emphatic in the Greek sentence. The Father is the ONLY exception to the rule, period.

This warning is repeated at least four times in his discourse, along with the declaration that we do not know “on what kind of day” he will come since he is coming “at an hour we do not expect.” The version of this saying in the Book of Mark adds that we do not know “when the SEASON is” - (Matthew 24:42-44, 24:50, 25:13, Mark 13:32-35).

Jesus again warned his disciples about this just before his ascension. They asked when he would restore the kingdom. To this, he replied, “It is NOT for you to know TIMES or SEASONS, which the Father has put in His own authority.” The Greek nouns translated as “times” and “seasons” are both plural, and together, they cover any way we might wish to delimit time - (Acts 1:7-8).

Try as we might, we are not privy to this information. We lack the ability and knowledge necessary to calculate the timing of the final day. Our human desire to obtain information about the future is natural and understandable. This is precisely why Satan sends his minions to prey on our anxieties about the future.

Starry Sky - Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash
[Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash]

Rather than attempt to ascertain prophetic timetables, we ought to concern ourselves with proclaiming the Gospel.
That is the one mission assigned to us by our Sovereign. Thus, for example, he commanded the early church to wait until they received the Spirit. Only then would they become empowered to be his witnesses to the “uttermost parts of the Earth.” That calling remains the paramount mission of his true Church, and its completion is the one event that will trigger his return and the “conclusion of the age” - (Matthew 24:14).

In the interim, we must remain prepared for his sudden and unexpected arrival. It is because we do not know the timing of the end that we must be ready at every moment, and that includes avoiding deception - (Matthew 24:14, 24:42-44, 25:13, Mark 13:32-36).

The ‘Olivet Discourse’ does not provide the Church with detailed prophetic timetables or “signs” by which it can calculate the date of the Second Coming. However, it does provide emphatic and repeated warnings about deceivers who will plague his people, a reality that will continue for the entire period between his resurrection and his “coming on the clouds,” though it is especially intense at the moment. Therefore, “Beware lest anyone deceives you! 



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