Jesus’ words of forewarning ring in spiritually attuned ears today as never before.
When His disciples came to Him on the Mount of Olives and asked the Lord when He would come again, and what would be the sign of His coming, the very first and second indicators He gave in answer were the following: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5).
I’m sometimes teased by my family –those closest to me–when I get on a soapbox to talk about Bible prophecy, world conditions, and what the Bible says about this or that. Perhaps, sometimes, my pontification is espoused just to be heard, rather than being of any spiritual good. We are all human, and we say things that mean little. We sometimes waste our and others’ time with our verbiage.
Jesus’ words were powerful every time He spoke. He wasted none of His or others’ time, like we do with our verbosity on occasion. So, when the Lord who created all that is –who IS the Word (John 1:1) says that the first sign to look for in terms of watching for His return is those who come saying “I am Christ,” we had better take heed. Thus, because what follows is the second sign –deception of an unusually virulent sort.
Jesus, by forewarning that people would come in His name, saying “I am Christ,” is, I believe, saying two things we should carefully analyze. First, He is saying that people will come in His name. They will invoke the name of Christ to get the ears and minds of many interested and to encourage belief in what they are claiming. Second, Jesus meant, I am convinced, that these people will be saying: 1) they, also, believe in Jesus Christ; and, 2) some will also claim that they are actually Jesus. These will claim to be Jesus, the Christ, returned to earth.
The first of these indicators are in abundance, in my view. As a matter of fact, those signs are right in front of us every time we channel through our television programming. The false teachers and false prophets are there every night. They claim Christ as being at the center of all their ministries’ activities. In the name of Jesus Christ, they preach and teach false doctrines that feed on viewers who believe the lies that God is like a genie in a bottle. He will give us anything and everything we want, if we but use the power that is in our tongues. We speak it, and God must fulfill our fondest desires. We put our “faith” into action by sowing a seed –usually dollars in significant amounts—into their ministries. They claim we are guaranteed healing, no matter what, if we just believe strongly enough in our own “faith” that God will heal upon command. They sound for real, because they use the name of our Blessed Lord Jesus.
They make merchandise of the foolish in their audiences, just as the Apostle Peter forewarned:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Pet. 2:1-3).
The second of the first two forewarnings Jesus gave involves evil ones who will, the Lord said, say, “I am Christ.” The first meaning of that statement is, I believe, that these will say –in their deceptiveness—that Jesus is indeed Lord. They will be deceivers, nonetheless. But, the application to Jesus’ prophecy I would like to consider here is the other meaning wrapped up in the statement “I am Christ.”
There have been many who have claimed the title of “Christ” down through the centuries. However, that claim has become particularly pronounced in these latter times, as we see all the other end-time indicators simultaneously developing, and coming wave after wave –like convulsing birth pangs of a woman in labor. The following excerpted article from a number of years ago will illustrate the point [there has been a proliferation of such reports since]:
“At first glance, the congregation gathered in a warehouse in Doral, Fla., seems like a typical Hispanic evangelical group. There’s the 10-piece band, the singing and swaying, the whooping and hollering. But look a little more closely. There’s not a cross in sight. The lectern is emblazoned with a near replica of the U.S. presidential seal, except that it reads in Spanish, government of god on earth. Off to the side stand three burly guys in dark suits with Secret
Service-style earpieces. When a door by the stage opens, the guards leap into action. They surround the man with slicked-back hair who emerges and escort him to his seat. When the crowd spots him, it goes wild. People chant, ‘Lord! Lord! Lord!’ It quickly becomes clear that they’re referring to him. ‘It’s Jesus Christ himself!’ a preacher on stage announces. ‘Let’s welcome Jesus Christ Man!’ In the rapturous eyes of his flock, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is, in fact, the second coming of Christ. As the head of the Growing in Grace International Ministry, he presides over a sprawling organization that includes more than 300 congregations in two dozen countries, from Argentina to Australia. He counts more than 100,000 followers and claims to reach millions more through a 24-hour TV channel, a radio show and several Web sites…” (Arian Campo-Flores, “Meet the Minister Who Says He Is Jesus Christ,” by Newsweek, Feb. 5, 2007).
Jesus foretold that these two things –counterfeit Christians and counterfeit christs–will mark the days just before His return. He told believers how to react to such deception: “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mk. 13:21-22).
Point is that, just as the Lord predicted, these deceivers are among us –and are right up in the face of this generation. Sadly, rather than following Jesus’ instruction, “Believe him not,” regarding any person who makes these false claims, huge numbers within Christianity are embracing the deceivers and the feel-good gospel they proclaim.
A sure signal –among all the others—that we are nearing the moment when Christ will say: “Come up hither!” (Rev 4: 1).
Looking at the world around us from so many different viewpoints separates and divides the human community, engendering hatreds, wars, and death. Jesus, speaking while on the Mount of Olives one day, prophesied the degree to which the differences would explode in the time just before His return. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matt. 24:7).
We have pointed out often that the word “nation” here is from the Greek word ethnos, translated “ethnic” in English. Jesus was forewarning that the tribulation era will produce great hatreds that will be centered on racial and cultural differences of world view. These unprecedented uprisings of this sort will, Jesus foretold, eventuate in famines and pestilence—the inevitable result of all-out war.
Although we of this generation are not in the Tribulation era, about which Jesus here prophesied, we have diametrically differing worldviews on the national and international scenes that certainly must be setting the stage for the times Jesus foresaw.
The U.S. is mired in many ethnic problems and cultural differences within the various races themselves. Insistence on embracing multiculturalism by the PC crowd, motivated to their hyper level of championing the melting pot worldview by mainstream media, throws fuel on the fires of racial divides. The multicultural Nazis want Americans to stay separate, because most of these PC types are socialist-leaning globalists who want us to be citizens of the world, rather than citizens of a sovereign nation. Hyphenating, or mixing ethnic with national identities, into unique nomenclature seems designed to make America eventually forfeit national autonomy.
Worldview is being shaped in this nation to reflect the one-world builders’ blueprint for the global village, as one well-known probable second time presidential candidate put it. The worldview in question has never gone away. It is the perennial worldview that has been with mankind since Nimrod attempted to build the tower to Heaven not long after the flood of Noah’s day (read Genesis chapter 11). We see that blueprint manifested in the incessant attempts to bring everyone together in the Middle East peace process –at Israel’s expense, of course.
Jesus also prophesied that man would get himself deeper and deeper into trouble, so far as the nation state is concerned, the closer the Second Advent comes. “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves Roaring” (Lk. 21:25).
There can be little argument against the obvious. Nations are indeed in great distress today—with much perplexity. We don’t have to look at the many nations of earth to prove this fact. Our own nation is divided right down the middle on most all issues of politics and morality. People are so distressed—even perplexed—that many have promised to leave the country, if they didn’t get their way in presidential election results. Others have written fictional books, venting their anger in wishful accounts of the assassination of a president they hate.
The problems involved all boil down to one issue—worldview.
Any other view of life on this planet than God’s view is –to put it bluntly, but truthfully—wrong, and destined to produce disaster. This is true no matter the area of life. Worldview is all-important in avoidance of trouble, and in achievement of success. There isn’t space here to go into the many areas in life today to which this truth applies. So, let’s briefly look at one key issue in considering worldview that gets to the crux of the most important prophetic indicator of this late hour. The issue is modern Israel.
The geopoliticians are in perplexity about Israel and its hate-filled enemies. The diplomats have no idea where the anger truly comes from, therefore cannot begin to understand how to solve the violence and hatreds. The world’s diplomats have a worldview—or combination of worldviews—that completely leave the God of Heaven out of the equation for peace-making. The result has been more than 5,000 years of war throughout recorded history. God says “be governed by my rules, because I created all that is, and know what is best…” The earthly rulers say, “we can handle it. If there is a God, that God is existential at best. We don’t need or want him to rule over us.” This doesn’t apply, of course, to Islamic fanatics, who slavishly accept the bloody demands of their god to make war. God says that everything is His, including the land of the Middle East He chose to give to the Jews –Israel. The geopoliticians say they will decide who owns the land and who doesn’t. The result: a world that is quickly moving toward all out war—Armageddon.
The same error in worldview is within the church today, i.e., those who name the name of Christ for salvation. The worldview of most mainline denominations today say God is through with Israel. The church—that worldview proposes—is now inheritor of all promises that the Lord covenanted with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God is through with Israel, and all about Israel that is in the Bible must be spiritualized, allegorized, or treated as history already accomplished.
They proclaim –through their worldview—that the Church is going to make the world better and better, until they have made it good enough through the political and diplomatic process, in conjunction with religious, do-good projects, for Jesus to come back and take over.
They aren’t reading the same headlines I am. If the Lord has given up on Israel, then it sure is some coincidence going on. We are expected to believe that Israel just coincidentally happens to be on the front page headlines every day, in the center of a desperate cry for peace, just like God’s prophetic Word forecast. Worldview is all-important in God’s economy. God’s worldview is –as legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once put it in talking about winning—not everything. It is the only thing!
Today’s advertising puts before the world of potential buyers certain words and phrases that the psychological studies and marketing tests show will most likely induce the buyer to make purchases. FREE! Sale! Half Price Today Only! 100% Money-Back Guarantee! These seem to mesmerize the hard-core shoppers and spark in some the compulsion to purchase merchandise at a frenzied pace. Sometimes–dare I say, even usually—the merchandisers fail to come near living up to the words of their huckstering. I should know; the arena of advertising and public relations/promotion was my livelihood many years ago.
This is not to say those engaged in the advertising business intentionally go out to deceive people, just that they believe wholeheartedly in applying the apothegm, caveat emptor: “Let the buyer beware.” They don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether the promises are fully realized. The bottom line is the only line that really matters in the ad business. Words mean things in this fallen world. But, the things they mean are in the fallen minds of the beholders–i.e., a man’s “word” is not necessarily as good as his bond, as the old saying goes. You had best get the deal locked up tightly with a contract or agreement. And, even that doesn’t always make the deal secure. Consider, for example, the signed document guaranteeing “peace in our time” Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought he secured with Adolf Hitler in 1939.
Now, after that bit of cynicism, let me turn our thoughts to an arena where a word is better than any earthly bond. I’m referring, of course, to the heavenly economy, and to God’s Word, the Holy Bible. No more manifest proof of God’s Word being 100% reliable can be found than through examining prophecy given to mankind by Jesus and the Old and New Testament prophets.
The first coming of Jesus was so meticulously prophesied that it took satanically inspired willfulness on the part of the pious Jewish religionist’s to deny at the time of their visitation that He was the Messiah. Their denial was the same people make today, and it is a denial of the veracity of God’s Word. We can say this without fear of contradiction, as they say, because Jesus IS the Word–and He is denied each and every time anyone claims that there are many ways to God. Jesus is the Word; Jesus is the only way to God the Father and heaven for eternity.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:13-17).
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
We have only to look at the line-up of headlines to understand that our Lord is indeed the awesome God of creation. He is the one and only being who knows the end from the beginning. Prophecy coming to pass proves He, alone, is God. Whether considering the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks –a predicted time-frame of 483 years that proved 100% accurate in the first 69 of those weeks, which not even the strongest naysayers can refute unless they speciously claim it was written by another man named Daniel AFTER the crucifixion–or considering Israel again being a nation, the Roman Empire reviving, a Mid-East peace plan being in process, or Israel becoming a cup of trembling to the whole world, God’s Word is validated as unerring truth.
End-times matters have eventuated precisely as given by Jesus and the Old and New Testament prophets to this point. Events prophesied to conclude human history will “100% Guaranteed” continue until God remakes heaven and earth. You have God’s Word –the Bible– on it!
My partner in raptureready.com, Todd Strandberg, and I were exiting a restaurant in Atlanta some years ago with some family-close friends. A man tried to grab my daughter, who protested and moved away from him. It was a few seconds before I, being blind, realized what was going on. The man–about 40-50 years old—wanted to help her in the taxi so he could then panhandle us for money. He was quite persistent, and so were we. No “gold” would be sifting from us to him this night, especially after having, uninvited, grabbed the girl we dearly love.
Some will no doubt e-mail to say we were unfeeling or even un-Christian in our refusal to hand over the money. He was hungry and we didn’t feed him. Didn’t Jesus prophesy something about that somewhere? He will tell those who fail to feed the hungry to depart into everlasting darkness?
I assure that if he were hungry, we would have taken him back into the restaurant and bought him a meal. He wasn’t hungry, but wanted the “gold” that he could manipulate from us through his quite disturbing technique of panhandling.
This incident set in motion much cogitation. When my memory of the unpleasantry at last co-mingled with another of my pet peeves, the thought congealed. Both of these–which are among my least favorite things, are wrapped up in one and the same term, though one is physical and the other cerebral/spiritual.
The term I want to look at is “panning”.
The word “panhandling” means asking strangers for money. It comes from a time when prospectors handled pans in the process of “panning” for gold. They would sift the water and gravel, until only the gold was left glimmering in the pan. Gold, of course, was a means of exchange in the mining towns of the day when the gold rush was taking place in California and other places. “Panhandling” has come to mean, in more modern times, begging for money rather than working for a living. It is quite annoying to experience panhandlers.
And, this is where the two pet peeves conjoin for yours truly. The term “panning” is at the heart of the irritation. Time and time again I hear the same thing from those of the theologically wishy-washy sort. Whether doing interviews on radio or television, or whether in group or individual discussions, when the subject of Bible prophecy is discussed, a common declaration inevitably spews forth from someone. It is issued with a smile or chuckle, and is supposed to end conversation on the topic; you can tell by the finality of tone as the chuckle comes with the words: “I’m a pan-millennialist. I believe it will just all pan out in the end,” is the declaration that the one speaking it obviously believes to be both brilliant and original.
I’ve heard it a hundred times, easily. And, I’m not exaggerating. “It will just all pan out in the end…”
This, to my mind, is spiritual panhandling. It is taking the easy way out. It is being too lazy to study God’s Word on the matters of eschatology, endtime things. The activity implied by the declaration “it will just all pan out in the end” surrounds the individual with the slovenly attitude: “I just don’t want to think about it, because it isn’t important.”
Oh? Is it not? Let’s look for a moment at what is said about prophecy yet future, relative to what should be the Christian’s attitude.
Jesus gave a broad overview and even some specifics during His Olivet discourse. This teaching on what would happen from the time of the temple’s destruction and Jerusalem’s devastation until He returns in the second coming was recorded in Matthew, chapter 24, Mark, chapter 13, and Luke, chapter 21. The prophecies were given without hesitation, with parables being used only sparingly, for effect–i.e., they were meant to be taken literally, and they were powerful in their future ramifications for those who would endure them.
Jesus said, after laying out what would happen from then to the end of the tribulation:
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:42). “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.” And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mk. 13:35-37).
The Gospel of Luke then captures the most profound words Jesus spoke in this regard, in my view. The Lord was speaking directly to our time, I’m convinced:
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Lk. 21:28).
Jesus asked a quite disturbing question. It gets right to the heart of the feel-good, do-good gospel we are hearing today from the panhandlers of God’s Word, who smilingly predict a growing movement toward some great revival they “feel” is coming. This, while every indicator states that Christians are looking more and more like the fallen world around them.
These same purveyors of the pablum that the Church is making the world better and better says that Jesus didn’t want His people to worry or think about prophecy–which incidentally is at least 27% of the Bible.
These false teachers must be cocooned within Jesus’ troubling question: “…when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8b).
Those who hold to the “it will all just all pan out in the end” mindset are dangerously close to the attitude Jesus said would mark the Laodicean church –the church for which the Lord reserved His greatest condemnation:
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:13-19).
Panhandling in the Bible prophecy sense is lukewarmness, which makes God sick. It does me, too.