Jesus answered and said to them, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”
In view of the many modern-day self-proclaimed prophets and seers that exist throughout the world, it is little wonder that Jesus here made the statement, “Take heed that no one deceives you.” He knew that at the time of the end of national Israel there would be many self-proclaimed “messiahs” who would lead rebellions against Roman domination and occupation of Palestine. Some false prophets who sought to restore the state of Israel had already come and subsequently been killed by the Roman authorities (See At 5:36). Such messiahs and their nationalistic movements against Rome were what eventually motivated Rome to enact a final solution to the “Jewish problem.” That solution came in A.D. 70.
We must also keep in mind that in the decade before the final destruction, there would be zealous Jews who would go throughout the Roman Empire in order to recruit followers who would capture the dream of a restored state of Israel. The letters of 2 Timothy, Titus, Jude and 2 Peter were written to Christians who lived in the middle 60s. From the nature of what was written by Paul to both Timothy and Titus, it seems that even among Jewish Christian households there were those young men who were encouraged to betray their faith and march off to Jerusalem in order to engage against Rome in order to restore the state of national Israel. Jude and Peter addressed their fellow Jews in order to warn them about the impending judgment that God was about to bring upon unbelieving Jews who had for forty years resisted the gospel reign of King Jesus (See 2 Pt 3). The decade of the 60s was a time of recruitment by patriotic Jews who sought to restore the state of Israel to her former glory.
The warning of Jesus in the context of His discourse was that His disciples not be deceived into believing that the coming events signalled the end of time. Therefore, His message was not just to those residents who lived in Palestine. This was a message that was to permeate the church of Jewish parents throughout the Roman Empire in order that Jewish parents not allow their children, especially their sons, to be deceived by the Jewish recruiters of the time. From our studies of the book of Hebrews that was written in the middle 60s, it seems that even some parents were being deceived into returning to Jewish nationalism in order to restore the heritage of an independent Jewish nation.
People today can better understand the sociological turmoil that arose out of the fanaticism that existed in the decade prior to the fall of national Israel. An effort to establish an Islamic state was the perfect example of what was happening among the Jews throughout the Roman Empire during the 60s. True Islam is theocratic, as was the covenant and law that God established with Israel. In the zeal to establish a true theocratic Islamic state in the Middle East, Muslim Jihadists throughout the world recruited Muslims around the world to join in the struggle to establish an Islamic state. As a result, young people betrayed their parents and ran off to Syria.
During the decade of the 60s, the same was happening among the Jewish families throughout the Roman Empire. We can only imagine the thousands of young men who died because of the failed effort to establish an Islamic state. The same was true in the first century in reference to the failed effort to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Hundreds of thousands of Jews died in the futile effort. We can only imagine how many of these were deceived Jewish Christians who were deceived into joining the futile effort to restore a national state of Israel.
Though the effort of the zealot Jews in the first century failed to materialize in their desire to establish a state of Israel in Palestine, those who survived the A.D. 70 ordeal did not give up their dream. Zionists continued to hope for a state of Israel that would be the homeland of the Jews. Two thousand years later at the conclusion of world hostilities between World War I and II, this dream finally came true in 1948 in the establishment of their present state of Israel in Palestine. But the establishment of this state of Israel had nothing to do with the eternal plan of God. If it had, then why did God wait two thousand years to fulfill a futile hope of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine?
Nevertheless, there are many deceived religionists today who try to be loyal to the state of Israel today as a God-ordained state. At the same time they seek to maintain their commitment to the gospel of King Jesus. But they contradict themselves in reference to the reign of Jesus. They willingly sacrifice the present gospel reign of Jesus who has all authority over all things, and at the same time believe that in some way Jesus will give us His present galactic reign over all things in order to come in the future and reign on this literal earth in Jerusalem. Such hopes are totally contrary to the gospel of the ascension, coronation and final coming of Jesus. It is a reversal of the gospel journey of the incarnate Son of God to the destiny of where He now reigns (See Ph 2:5-11).
Jesus’ message to His immediate disciples, therefore, certainly has a secondary application to Christians of all time. Christians must be warned in every century that there are many who come “in the name of Christ,” but are teaching false hopes in order to lead people astray after traditional religion. In the historical context of Timothy’s situation, Paul warned Timothy,
“Now the Spirit clearly says that in the latter times [of national Israel] some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tm 4:1,2).
This was happening at the time Paul wrote to Timothy. Timothy was living in the “latter times.” There were deceivers moving among Jewish Christians in an effort to recruit “patriots” to join in the struggle to restore the state of Israel.
Throughout history there is the continual threat of those who seek to recruit a following through deceptive teaching. Such deceivers today move among misguided religionists in efforts to raise money to send to Israel. They do so in order to preserve the present state of Israel. These are deceivers who do not understand that God closed the door on Israel when Jesus ascended in order to sit and reign on David’s throne, just as David had prophesied (See At 2:24-36). In this case, it would be wise to heed the warning of Jeremiah to Israel: “Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you” (Jr 29:8).
In Matthew 24:24 Jesus said that in the religious environment prior to the end of national Israel “false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” John possibly wrote 1 John a few years before A.D. 70, near the consummation of national Israel. At least we see in 1 John a sense of finality, for John wrote,
“Little children, it is the last hour [of national Israel], and as you have heard [from Jesus and the evangelists] that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists [who deny that Jesus is the Christ] have come, by which we know that it is the last hour” (1 Jn 2:18).
It was the “last hour” at the time John wrote the preceding words. Therefore, he could not have been referring to someone or something that would transpire over two thousand years later.
Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) is an antichrist. Such a person is against Christ, which is the meaning of the word “antichrist.” But to assume that there is a specific individual for whom we are to be looking in order to determine that the end of the world is near is being deceived.
Among the Jews at the time John wrote there were those who denied that Jesus was the Christ. John wrote an entire document to prove that the man Jesus was the Christ and Son of God (See Jn 20:30,31). In their hope of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, the Jews denied that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah). And because they denied that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah), they were the antichrists.
For this reason John warned at that time that Christians “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God … every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God” (1 Jn 4:1-4). Simply because one claims to come “in the name of Christ” and cries out “Lord, Lord” does not mean that he is a Christian. Only those who do the will of the Father in heaven should wear the Christian name (Mt 7:21). Only those who are willing to submit to the gospel of Jesus by immersion into His death, burial and resurrection can live under the name of Christ. It is for this reason that those who obey the gospel of Christ compose the church (assembly) of Christ on earth (See Rm 16:16).
Obedience to the gospel is the condition for one’s salvation. This is the only condition for deliverance from a world of turmoil and sin. Salvation, therefore, is more than simply “believing on Jesus.” One’s faith must be manifested in obedience. We must not forget that James said we are justified by works, works that are in response to the gospel of God’s grace (Js 2:14-24; see 2 Co 4:15; Ep 2:10).
We would certainly add here that the deceiving false prophets who were performing “miracles” were not actually working that which was supernatural. If God had allowed the deceivers to work that which was supernatural, then they would not have been deceivers. What they were preaching would have been confirmed true by the miracles, if indeed the miracles were truly supernatural. The fact that Jesus forewarned His disciples not to be deceived proves that the signs and wonders were fake. The deceivers were faking miracles in order to recruit a following to fight against Rome for the establishment of the Jewish state.
[Next in series: July 15]