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 pieces of an article from a number of years ago well illustrates the point:
“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 we hear the shout: “Come up hither!”
Many names come to mind when thinking of individuals who have caused great consternation among the generations of earth-dwellers over the millennia.
We can immediately bring them to the surface of our cogitations. Adolf Hitler stands pretty close to the top, does he not, so far as people who have troubled humanity during their time is concerned. His was perhaps the most genocidal regime ever, although if we could hear from some of the other generations of human history–for example, that under the regime of Antiochus Epiphanes—we might hear good evidence for those tyrants being the worst ever. Christians under some of the Caesars and holy Roman emperors could also tell horror stories, giving names of dictators who bedeviled them.
Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, is another who has troubled the minds of historians and the rest of us in more recent times. He murdered, it is estimated, between 30 and 40 million of his own people, based upon his paranoid concerns that they were out to topple his rule.
Mao Tse-tung, the beast from China, Pol Pot, of Cambodia, and Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi strongman known as the “Butcher of Baghdad,” are other troublesome names of recent vintage. And we might throw in guys like Iran’s late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and even its current tyrant, Seyyed Ali Khamenei, as candidates for the most troubling names in human history.
It is such an agonizing thing to do, writing about the next troubling name after bringing to mind all of the above horror-blighted names of history, that I can scarcely do it. But, I feel I must, because it is a name that is growing in disrepute, and in hatred among this present generation. The person whose name I will write about is dividing the peoples of Planet Earth, just as He said His name would do.
It is doubly agonizing for me to write, because evidence of this growing hatred is already well underway, even in the heartland of America. It is, as a matter of fact, manifesting itself in my own community. So, I didn’t have to go to far distant sources or lands to make the prophetic point that we are indeed nearing midnight of this Church Age (Age of Grace).
Proof of the growing antagonism to the name is observable in the excerpted portion of an article from a newspaper very near my own home. That’s right. Right in the heart of the Bible belt. And, I must tell you that Arkansas was once listed as one of three of the states that have the most people who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, a supernatural book directly from the mind of the Creator. Although this article is from some years ago, it represents a growing contingent of those who would marginalize the name in question.
Little Rock city directors should apply discretion in the words they use when praying before board meetings, Mayor Jim Dailey said Tuesday night. Dailey’s statement followed the board’s receipt of a memorandum from City Attorney Tom Carpenter in which he cautioned board members about using certain words in prayers.
Prayer to open a board meeting is not unconstitutional but can cross the constitutional line of separation of church and state if the prayer emphasizes one religion over another, Carpenter wrote.
In the memorandum, Carpenter advised board members to avoid phrases such as “In Christ’s name we pray” or “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost” (“LR directors discuss prayer options,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Thurs. Sept. 7, 2006).
The above report, I realize, doesn’t equate with people considering the name of Jesus in the same castigating way people view Hitler, Stalin, et al. But, again, the marginalizing of the name of Christ is taking place in the heart of the Bible belt. The world at large is on the fast track to bring that holy name into hated status on a global scale. The being with the worst of all names –Satan—wants the name of Jesus to become the equivalent of the worst, most terrifying figures of history. Satan has sown –and still sows— in the minds of men that Christianity should be seen as narrow-minded bigotry and hatred, as proven in the Crusades, where, Christ-haters imply, many were murdered in the name of Christ. The tactic continues to work. Tragically, it is becoming a tactic that even convinces some pastors in churches who fall for and preach the line that to hold to thought that there is one way to God is foolish at best and hatred at worst. By preaching and teaching that there are many ways to God and heaven, that the Bible is actually just a book written by men in order to show us how to just get along, these preachers and teachers are calling Christ a liar –thus putting His holy name in the category of the many tyrants of history who led people down the pathway to destruction.
But the Scripture says:
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
There is coming a time at the edge of eternity that is awesome in its prospect. Every human being who has been born on this fallen planet will give absolute acknowledgement of the name that is above every other, the blessed name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11).
A friend once sent me an article that sparked the thought. The ancient times and these troubled times during which we live are seemingly connecting, much like a string, when in a circle, comes together at each end. This is just what Jesus prophesied:
“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Lk 17:26-30).
The ends of the metaphorical string of linear history are coming together in a religious sense, just as in all other areas of life on Planet Earth. Proof is found in that article sent me some years ago:
“It has taken almost 2,000 years, but those who worship the 12 gods of ancient Greece have finally triumphed. An Athens court has ordered that the adulation of Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Athena and co. is to be unbanned, paving the way for a comeback of pagans on Mount Olympus…” (Greek gods prepare for comeback, guardian.co.uk/international/story, Helena Smith in Athens, Friday May 5, 2006).
Things have only gotten worse –much worse since that time. Neo-pagans are taking –indeed have for the most part already taken–over the so-called post-Christian culture in every “civilized” society on earth, it seems. Europe has for decades now been moving back toward ancient roots of anti-God practices. The Netherlands, in particular, has declared all anathema that might be considered Christian. The Scandinavian nations are frozen in the advancing glaciers of hedonism. Most of Europe is turning out the Gospel light, to the extent the God of Heaven will allow. Continuing with the story above, we see the endtime attitude that pervades this generation of earth-dwellers:
“The followers, who say they ‘defend the genuine traditions, religion and ethos’ of the ancients by adhering to a pre-Christian polytheistic culture, are poised to take their battle to the temples of Greece. ‘What we want, now, is for the government to fully recognise our religion,’ Vasillis Tsantilas told the Guardian. ‘We will petition the Greek parliament, and the EU if that fails, for access to worship in places like the Acropolis, for permission to have our own cemeteries and, where necessary, to re-bury the [ancient] bones of the dead.’”
Those who are attuned to God’s prophetic Word can hear echoing in those demands the woman astride the beast, as depicted in Revelation, chapter 17. Antichrist’s regime will, no doubt, accede to these demands –at least for a time.
The United States of America is not far back in lining up for the return to paganism. As a matter of fact, in some ways, this nation leads the way. No other sector of earth can so afford, in wealth, thus in time, to immerse itself in the self-indulgence that leads in the opposite direction of God’s plan for mankind. The entertainment-mad masses eagerly grasp at pure fiction that blasphemes God, who sent His only begotten Son to die, so that they might be redeemed from the sin in which we, apart from Christ, are so hopelessly mired.
The current forced acceptance of Sodom-like societal changes, with news and entertainment media, and the liberal political pundits destroying anyone and everyone who opposes homosexuality makes it clear we are in prophetic times. The deliberate efforts to generate hatred for those business owners that won’t, because of Christian inhibitions against sodomy, provide services for same-sex marriages, bear irrefutable witness that the wholesale return to vile times like occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah is well underway. The phenomenon is far more than mere curiosity. It is manifestation of an insatiable hunger for gods other than the God of Heaven.
Let us who name the name of Jesus not fall prey to the seducing spirits and doctrines of devils that have invaded in this last time.
Many years ago, I put together (was general editor of) a book with a number of prophecy scholars, broadcasters, and writers. That book was called Foreshocks of Antichrist. The compilation of chapters dealt with issues and events of the times, issues and events the other authors and I believed significant in considering prophecies that surrounded the coming of Antichrist to power, as foretold in chapters of the books of Daniel, Revelation, 1 John, and others. That was about 1996, I think, and I believed, at the time, that conditions could not ripen much more so far as the world’s being ready to reap the bitter harvest the Antichrist will bring was concerned.
I was wrong, of course, which proves we must never be too quick to think that things can’t get much worse. They can, and have, gotten worse, since my great, now deceased, colleagues such as Dr. John Walvoord, Dave Breese, Zola Levitt, and many others, dissected the issues of our time with the omniscient scalpel of God’s Word in that Harvest House book almost 2 decades ago.
Back then, Israel was in a peace process –just as now. Then it was Yasser Arafat, Yitzak Rabin, and Bill Clinton working on the Oslo Accords. Peace was in the offing, and some thought this was the covenant in the making that would bring Daniel 9: 27 to fruition. But, Rabin, prime minister of Israel, was assassinated, and Bill Clinton soon fell into the Monica Lewinsky quagmire that exposed his infidelities and held the nation’s rapt attention for months.
Earthquakes came again and again, seemingly in greater numbers and intensities. The Middle East teetered constantly on the edge of igniting into major conflict in that region, and beyond. It looked more and more as though the world could not move into a mode that was any more prepared for the coming of Antichrist and his global dictatorship. But, I was wrong. Things could get worse –much worse.
The next shocker that stepped up signals of the prophetic times occurred Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Giant, fuel-laden passenger jets slammed into the twin World Trade towers in lower East Manhattan, and into the Pentagon, and another aircraft headed for the nation’s capital was forced into a Pennsylvania field by heroes on the plane. Planet Earth seemed to go into an even higher level of stage-setting for the coming Antichrist. Fear spread among Christians and non-Christians alike, and churches –you will remember—were filled the following Sunday. I, myself, was asked by my pastor to speak to my own church about these startling events. It was a time of trepidation about the future and reflection on how to best cope under the changed circumstances. It was a foreshock that had overshadowed other terrorist attacks and other events of recent times. Terrorists from the Middle East –the land of the Bible, and of Bible prophecy—had turned up the heat on the Armageddon boiler.
Things seemed to settle. Then came fears of Saddam Hussein developing weapons of mass destruction. This meant, also, an economic stranglehold on the oil supplies of the world, if he could get into position to hold Middle Eastern oil hostage, and to threaten Israel and other of his neighbors. The tension again was raised. The fast track to Armageddon seemed back on the rails.
Fear that Armageddon lay right around the next geopolitical corner was not assuaged, while George W. Bush and the American military planners and state department forged military alliances for the assault on Hussein’s Iraq. The alliances were less numerous than those put together by the first President Bush to be sure, but nonetheless, they were more powerful in ability to accomplish the task due to advancing technologies for war-making.
The battles for Iraq succeeded, but the larger war on terrorism rages still, while the whole world waits for the next proverbial shoe to drop.
Europe looked like the next major foreshock to the coming tribulation and Antichrist’s regime of global government. The talk and actions of trying to forge an EU Constitution for a time had all of us looking with great wonder at developments, in consideration of prophecies in the book of Daniel. But, again, the foreshock –for the moment—seems to have fizzled just a bit, with the EU showing signs of fiscal crumbling.
The greatest tsunami ever to be recorded, following the great quake in the Indian Ocean, stunned Asia and the rest of us as well. More than 285 thousand people are believed to have lost their lives –maybe even more. This event, combined with the most prolific and record-setting hurricane season in the history of record-keeping, at the time sent national and international news media to us who study and comment on prophetic matters, in an almost frenzy of wanting to know if God was telling Planet Earth something.
The foreshocks, when they manifest themselves –the birth pangs— continue to get stronger. The longer the lull between contractions, the more shocking the calamities that follow seem to be. This might be the potential Caldera-supervolcano of foreshocks— silent, seething, building, swelling, while God’s cup of wrath fills to the brim. We presently watch what many refer to as a building bubble of pending catastrophes. The economic insanity has every nation on earth filled with distress and in perplexity. All-out war in the Middle East is about to explode, with Israel looking closely at Iran’s nuclear program that threatens to destroy the Jewish state. But, for some reason a preemptive strike that would ignite conflagration continues on hold, as if the very Hand of God is preventing it from happening.
We are in a lull. The lull has brought apathy among Christians that itself dangerously smacks of endtime prophecy: “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Mat. 24:44).