When Christians talk about the return of Jesus Christ, they often make reference to hard-to-understand prophecies, usually in Daniel and Revelation. The problem is that they rarely come to the same conclusions.
Take the rapture, when all God’s people will be taken from the earth in the twinkling of an eye. [1 Cor 15:52] The “pre-trib” crowd says Christians will be raptured before the Great Tribulation and not have to suffer through that time. The “mid-trib” crowd says Christians will suffer through part of the Tribulation, and the “post-trib” crowd says we’ll suffer through it all.
All of these positions can be supported biblically – but they can’t all be right. [There's even a crowd that says there won't be a rapture, but we won't go there today.]
So when I was a new Christian and trying to understand all this, I made a decision. While I would read the whole Bible and try to understand it all, until that understanding arrived, I would base my beliefs on the words of Jesus Himself.
Regarding the end times, the best place to do that is on the Mount of Olives. Known as the Olivet Discourse, it was here that Jesus explained privately to His disciples what would happen at the end of the age.
As I’m convinced that these days are fast approaching, I’ve decided to do a review of Matthew 24 – 25, in the hope that God’s people will be better prepared to face whatever comes their way.
The Olivet Discourse
(Matthew 24:1-5) Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus started with a warning about deception. As one who was deceived shortly after I was saved, it’s a subject that’s held my interest ever since. One thing that I’ve noted is that Jesus is not talking about being deceived by the world, although that can certainly happen. He’s talking about spiritual deception in the church – your church and my church.
Did you know that the New Testament contains over 25 warnings against false or deceitful workers? Do a search yourself and see what you come up with, because I honestly don’t know of one church that is truly holding to biblical Christianity. I know, I know. Your church is just fine. Your pastor would never tell you something that wasn’t true. But I have to ask – how do you know? Is your pastor infallible? Does your church have the perfect doctrine? If you are relying on your church or your pastor instead of the Bible and the Holy Spirit, then you’re already deceived.
If deception is a hallmark of the end of the age, as Jesus warned us, then there’s no doubt that we are living in it, and I would encourage every Christian to heed Paul’s words: Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
If you’d like some more food for thought on deception and discernment, I addressed this in a sermon a a couple years ago.
[to be continued]