…Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? And Jesus answered them and said unto them, Take heed that no one deceives you…
Matthew 24: 3-4
No Date Setting
Let me state up front that this article is not an attempt to predict the end of the world or set a date for the return of Jesus Christ. The Bible issues stern warnings for those who attempt to pry into things God has intentionally left hidden. This series of articles on the last days is for the purpose of educating those who desire to know the signs indicating the end of this age and the return of Christ and how to be prepared for what will take place. It is not God’s will for us to be ignorant concerning the times that we are living in, but to be sober-minded, watchful, and prayerful. Darkness is rapidly taking over the whole earth and it is becoming extremely difficult to discern the true from the false. As you read this article, it is imperative that you meditate on what is written and make sure that you understand what the Spirit of the Lord is communicating.
The day of man’s complete reckoning with God is almost here whether you recognize it or not. It has been foretold throughout the scriptures that the age we are living in will end with a period of great trouble unlike any before. It will also culminate with the nations and kingdoms of this world being taken over by Jesus Christ and His overcoming saints at His second coming (Rev. 11:15). Before all of this takes place, God will provide humanity with warning signs to give them an opportunity to repent of sin and rebellion. God desires to protect and guide those who love and obey Him during this time. So, it’s important to recognize these signs because time is truly of the essence. If you have placed your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and are not in the right place with God, it is time to repent and ask God for spiritual renewal. If you have never known the Lord, it is time to repent of your sin, turn your life completely over to Jesus Christ, and be born-again. Now is the time!
Apostasy Comes First
Mankind has been fascinated with the end of the world for centuries. The Apostle Paul had to address the issue in his day particularly with the believers in Thessalonica. Apparently there were people teaching that the end had already come. The faith of many in the church was shaken because they thought they had missed the return of the Lord. Thankfully they had someone in tune with God’s truth who was able to correct them and put them back on the right track. Paul, the Apostle corrected them,
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?
II Thessalonians 2:1-5 (NASB)
The greatest sign that the end of the age is now upon us is that many who claim to be Christ’s followers will fall away from the way of faith and truth. This is what is meant by the word “apostasy”. Those who do not believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ cannot possibly fall away from faith. They have none to begin with. It is only those who claim to be His disciples that can fall away from the faith.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”
Discerning the signs of the times is very critical. The deception of our time is so great, that almost everyone will be engulfed by it.
The last days actually began when Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead to the right hand of God in heaven. After His resurrection, the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled during Pentecost that “it shall come to pass that in the last days says God that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…” Acts 2:17. We must remember that time is of no consequence to God, for to Him a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day. “The Last Days” is a reference to a specific period of time, not a literal definition. This period of time has now lasted for over 2,000 years. At the beginning of this “last days” age, the church was birthed. The end of this age will conclude with a small portion of believers reaching full maturity while the rest are foolish and will not be ready. We will explore this more fully later in the series.
Jesus provided His children with clues that would signal His coming and it is interesting to note that the first sign that He gave is that there would be great deception in Matthew 24:3-4. While much of the church is basking in a so-called revival occurring all over the world with healings, miracles, signs, and wonders being performed; it is imperative to be able to discern whether or not these manifestations have their source in God or someone or something else.
Jesus told his very own disciples to take heed that no one deceives you. He did not say this to outsiders. He spoke these words to those who had walked with him every day and knew him intimately. He gave this warning to those who received revelation concerning the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. He forewarned those who He entrusted with the gospel that would be proclaimed throughout the world. He predicted with acute accuracy that deception would take place among those who had seen and performed miracles, healings, and powerful demonstrations of the Holy Spirit. How can this be so?
Deception Began Long Ago
Do you realize that the deception Jesus warned about is as old as the fall of man in the Garden of Eden? Pay close attention to this familiar passage of scripture.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
The serpent indeed proved to be very crafty. His twisting of God’s word literally turned the world upside down and introduced the curse of sin and the sting of death to all humanity. His was calculating and effective in getting Adam and Eve to disobey God. He placed doubt in their minds by questioning if God really said they would die if they disobeyed His command (did God really say…). Then after Eve responded, he upped the ante by denying outright what God had told them. Then he slipped in his own knowledge (when you eat of it your eyes will be opened…) which directly contradicted what God said would happen. Satan loves to get people to act independently of God. Our independence from God gives Satan a foothold into our lives. This is nothing but rebellion; the very sin that caused Satan and one third of the angels to be excommunicated. Lastly, the satanic attack upon the mind of Eve was completed when the serpent uttered “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So Eve saw the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in a different light. What was forbidden had now become a curious temptation. She used her physical senses and natural inclinations to determine that the fruit of this tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and good for gaining wisdom. Satan cleverly used Eve’s natural desire to be like God against her. We must obey God in His wisdom and instruction and not seek to attain any other way or else like Satan, we will bring misery and death to our lives. The act of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree could not have taken place had Eve not encountered an outside force placing doubt in her mind concerning God’s commands. Remember, Adam and Eve were created in perfection and enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God. There was no such thing as sin or death. They did not know any evil personally or in the creation around them. The serpent devised a way to minimize the threat of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil while making it seem like they would become even more Godly by doing it.
If Satan could beguile Adam and Eve who were created in perfection, knew no sin and had perfect harmony with God and creation, why do so many Christians and people in general believe that they cannot be deceived? Man, without intimate knowledge of God through His spirit and His word, in a personal relationship of submission and obedience is no match for Satan. His full-time job is to deceive as many as possible and he does it quite well. Consider the following passages,
And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
II Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15
Why is it that so many who begin with a genuine love for and faith in God often end up in worse states prior to them knowing God? Once again, the adversary (Satan) is constantly on the prowl seeking whom he may devour. Jesus teaches the disciples a parable about a sower in Mark chapter four. As he reveals the true meaning of the parable, He identifies with certainty that Satan comes to take away the Word of God from those who have it sown in their hearts. Is this not precisely what happened to Adam and Eve?
In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul the Apostle wrote some of the most poignant words in all of scripture. He is spiritually sickened by the state of the Corinthians and tells them some troubling news about the condition of their hearts. He lets them know that they are on the verge of believing in another Jesus than the one whom Paul preached; that there was a possibility of them receiving a different spirit than the one whom God had given; and that they would accept a different gospel than the one that transformed them from children of darkness to children of the light. Paul told these things to a group of believers who were being influenced by false apostles. He goes on to say that Satan is working in many ministers to pervert the foundation that he and the other true Apostles had laid. The believers in Corinth were in great spiritual danger and Paul did not mince words when he said, “For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.” (II Corinthians 11: 19-20). Satan was coming in the form of deceitful Apostles to steal, kill, and destroy their faith. And many today still do not understand that without loving and obeying the truth, we are susceptible to the very same deception.
Deception usually is so close to the real thing that it is hard to detect. It is a methodical process that will lead many who aren’t careful astray. The verb to deceive is translated in the Greek language as the word “planao”, which means: to cause to go astray, err, seduce, wander, or be out of the way. The only “way” is through Jesus Christ and to be out of Jesus Christ and His teachings is to be deceived.
In the next part of the series, we will examine the many signs given by Christ that we are nearing the end of this age and the Day of the Lord. Stay tuned.