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!”