Beware of Deceivers
In part 1 of this series it was proven that the Bible teaches that the present world will indeed come to an end at some point in time. God has given us clearly distinguishable signs to show to his people when the end will be near. The signs are not some vague clues but rather detailed information as to the events that will transpire in the lifespan of the last living generation before the end comes. Just before His death and resurrection, upon being asked by His disciples, Jesus gave them a long list of signs to look for that would prove indisputably that the present world was ending, and Jesus’ promised return was imminent. That time is now upon us, and studying Biblical prophecy in light of current events would seem to indicate that the current generation may be that last generation that will inhabit the Earth just prior to the end.
This series will take a detailed look at ‘End Times’ prophecies found throughout the Bible with a special study of the book of Revelation which is almost all prophetic. Let me begin by first discussing why Biblical prophecy is different than other sources of prophetic information such as Nostradamus, the Mayan calendar etc. We who believe in Jesus Christ understand that all things were created by God, for God.
Man lives under the illusion that he has an existence independent of God. The above scripture would oppose this view; God is the Creator who has created all things for Himself, all things exist because of Him, and furthermore He is the Power that maintains the existence of all created beings, including man. Man has desperately sought to break God’s bands asunder, to have an independent existence but this is impossible. Man is not the source of his own life, if man could keep himself alive or existing by his own power, he would do so, in other words man would choose not to die. If you had power to keep yourself alive, you would also have to have the power to keep yourself healthy, and any man with such a power would surely exercise it, he would forever keep himself healthy and alive. However in all recorded history, there is only one instance of any man coming back from death, and that man is Jesus Christ who became the conqueror of death when He arose from the dead, never to die again.
The central theme of the Bible is RESURRECTION. Man dies, therefore he needs to be resurrected, brought back to life. Since man has not the power over death, he can only find life from the one who does have power over death. This is the promise of God and the purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice, to conquer death on behalf of all men, and give eternal life to as many as would believe on His promise. In order to fulfill His promise, God has to have the means of fulfilling it, and He does! God took the form of a man in Jesus Christ, died for us, and arose from the dead; He now holds the keys to hell and death. He is the doorkeeper to death not the devil. His power can shut the doors to death for any man that believes in Him. This has been the plan from the very beginning, actually from before the beginning of material creation. At no point since the beginning has God lost control of His creation; as scripture tells us all things were created by Him, and for him. So man has neither created himself, nor this world, nor the world to come. It has been God’s plan since the beginning. He planned the beginning of this world and of this age, and He has also planned its end. The wisest thing for man to do would be to come to the understanding that He is not in control, and to believe in Him who is the Almighty, the All Powerful, and the Omnipotent God. If God had it written down by His prophets and apostles that the world would end, then the safest thing for us to do would be to believe it. So the script has been written by God eons ago, and the world will follow the script to the letter right to the very end. It doesn’t matter what Presidents or Prime Ministers or kings have to say; if Jesus said that the world would end, then there can be no doubt that it will end.
What we need to concern ourselves with is to do a careful study of God’s word to accurately discern the times that we are living in. Jesus gave us a series of signs to watch for that would reveal that the end of the world and of this age, and His second coming were close. In this chapter I would like to begin listing the signs of the end given to us by Jesus in the gospels and in the book of Revelation. Jesus’ prophetic discourse in the gospel of Matthew, in chapters 24 and 25 is a summarized version of the book of Revelation. By comparing these two chapters in Matthew to the book of Revelation it is possible to develop a timeline over the course of which we can expect all prophesied events to be fulfilled. All prophetic portions of scripture speak of catastrophic destruction to the planet and loss of life on an unimaginable scale. Therefore most prophecy teachers list the major signs as warfare, earthquakes, famines and pandemics or plagues. They completely overlook the very first sign, and the only sign that Jesus repeated five times in Matthew, chapter 24. This sign I believe is the most important one for believers to beware of, for the end of the world will be accompanied by a great deal of deception.
The reason Jesus began his prophetic discourse with a warning and a sign was to prepare his disciples for the length of time that the world would suffer unprecedented tribulation. It is a common tendency amongst Biblical prophecy teachers and pastors to shorten the length of time over which the events of the ‘Day of the LORD’, a time unlike any other in history will take place. It is generally taught that all the events of the book of Revelation and in the gospels will take a total of about 7 years. In these 7 years, all the events listed below and more will come to pass.
· One or more world wars
· Major earthquakes and other natural catastrophes
· Cosmic heavenly catastrophes such as asteroids hitting earth
· Highly contagious and fatal plagues and pandemics
· Major famines
· Total economic collapse
· War in Heaven and the casting down of Satan and his angels (meaning evil spirits)
· The rise of the one world government
· The rise and fall of antichrist and of the false prophet
· The mark of the beast and martyrdom for those who refuse it
· The war of Armageddon
· The judgment of the whore of Babylon
· The Rapture (rather a rapture like event since rapture is not a Biblical word)
· The Psalm Two War (all earthly governments allied to prevent the return of Jesus)
· The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
However my studies of Biblical prophecy lead me to believe that the amount of time that will be necessary for all the prophesied events to be fulfilled will be much longer than 7 years; maybe as long as 40 years. The reason it is important to understand the length of time that the events that would bring the world to an end will last is that it would be very dangerous to prematurely expect the return of Christ when He may not actually be set to return for many more years. We have been warned repeatedly in scripture by Jesus Himself to be ready to endure to the end, therefore if we expect the end when the end may yet be several years away it would cause many to fall away. The events that signify the end of this age, and therefore of the present world will occur in many stages, not all at once. So if at the end of stage 1, when say a quarter of the present population of the Earth will have perished in a short period of time, many will be weary and desire to see Jesus’ return yet the time for His return would be still in the future. The events have been clearly prophesied to occur in more than one stage each one more destructive than the last one. If we clearly understand these stages and the time span over which they will occur, we will be prepared to endure because we will not be expecting the end when it is not the time of the end. Can we therefore determine on a scriptural basis, the approximate amount of time from the beginning of sorrows to the end? I believe the Bible does give us a very good idea of how much time will elapse from the beginning, that is the time when we begin to see all the things Jesus prophesied start happening till the time that all those things are fulfilled. Let’s look at the following scriptures:
Jesus used the parable of the fig tree to teach us that observing the signs we can understand that certain events yet in the future are bound to happen, and how to calculate how much time must elapse before they will all have happened. In the case of the fig tree, at spring time when the leaves first start to appear and the flowers start to bud, it becomes obvious that it is only a matter of time before summer arrives. So too the very generation that will begin to see all the prophesied events (warfare, famines, economic collapse, pandemics etc.) happening on a global scale would be the very generation that would not pass away till all the things were fulfilled. In essence the period of time that will pass from the beginning to the end will be one generation. In the Bible, a generation lasts 40 years. So it would be safe to assume that the time span over which ‘all these things’ that are prophesied to happen regarding the end of the world, and the Day of The LORD, will be roughly 40 years.
I will expound in greater detail in part 3 of this series but what Jesus taught His disciples in The Olivet Discourse was that there would come a time when ALL THE THINGS that He Himself prophesied, and that were prophesied in the rest of the Bible would begin to happen on a global scale in a relatively short period of time. Therefore there is no one particular sign that we can look at and say that the end is near. But when we see all the signs coming to pass simultaneously on a global scale, then we can be absolutely certain that it will be the beginning of the end. However it is important to understand that the beginning of the end, or the beginning of sorrows as Jesus phrased it (Matthew 24:8) is not yet the end of the world. It is a fact that once the events have begun they will continue; for example the events that result from the opening of the seven seals must be followed by the events that transpire as a result of the blowing of the seven trumpets and so on. So catastrophic are these events going to be that many will wish for the end prematurely, not understanding that the sorrows had only just begun. And when they do not see the return of their Lord, their love will wax cold and they will put their faith in deceivers and false christs. Thus the scripture shall be fulfilled that the love of many will wax cold (Matthew 24: 12). Because people have been conditioned over decades that these events will only last 7 years or so, they will be misled and fall prey to deceptions that will abound as the world will be literally falling apart and any one that offers hope will be looked upon as a messiah, but the real Messiah warned us 2000 years ago to watch for, and guard against, these very type of deceptions.
Returning once again to Matthew 24: 33 – 34, and parsing these scriptures carefully, we can see that Jesus did indeed teach that the time span from the beginning to the end of the great tribulation will be the same as that which has been allotted by God to each generation. These scriptures can be read as follows:
Therefore if we can understand how long a generation lasts it is easy to calculate the length of the Day of the Lord, which is the same as the time period required for the world to end, and for Jesus to return to reclaim His Kingdom. A careful study of the following scriptures, among others, proves indisputably that a generation in the Bible was calculated to last 40 years.
I was grieved with that generation…..grieved forty years. The story being referred to in Hebrews, chapter 3 is that of the Israelites who provoked God in the wilderness because they refused to go into the Promised Land for fear of the giants and other inhabitants that occupied the land at that time. Therefore that whole generation died in the wilderness and it took forty years for all of them to die off. Thus a generation in the Bible spans a time period of forty years. Based on this understanding Jesus’ parable of the fig tree to explain the length of time the events that comprise the end of the world will last may be understood. Just as the first leaves on a tree in spring are only a sign of summer, not summer itself, so too the beginning of sorrows will only be a sign pointing to the end not the end itself. Just as summer follows spring, and some months have to pass before spring turns to summer, so too must many years pass when we begin to see all these things begin to happen till all these things are fulfilled. Though the time that it takes for the world to end may not be exactly 40 years but it will be close to that many number of years from beginning to end.
In regards to Jesus’ warnings about not being deceived, to not believe all who come in His name claiming to be prophets, most preachers teach that Jesus meant to be on our guard for other religious beliefs such as that of the Mayans or Hindus or the teachings of Islam etc. They teach that the false prophets and messiahs that Jesus was warning them about were religious figures like the Buddha or the Maitreya; while there is some truth in this claim, it is not the whole truth. Yes there will be many false prophets, one in particular who will show great signs and wonders, but if we learn how to read the signs accurately, we will not be deceived by all these false christs. And the most important signs that Jesus gave us to be not deceived was to not look for Him prematurely. He said more than once in one chapter alone to not look for Him before all the prophesied events had been fulfilled.
Jesus warned his disciples against people who come in His name, who preach and teach as ‘Christians’, not Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, New Agers or those of any other religious or philosophical persuasion. He warned against pastors, prophets and others who teach and preach from the Bible using the name of Jesus. He warned several times in Matthew 24 alone to not look for Him before the actual time of His return. In His own words, “Behold, I have told you before” (Matthew 24:25). The reason for these strong and repeated warnings was that the time of the days of the end of the world will be one of great and terrible distress and tribulation. God’s people will in this time be required to endure unto the end.
If people do not understand when to expect the end, how would they prepare themselves for the coming days of gloominess and darkness? We have been told to endure, to overcome, to be ready for imprisonments, even for death! Yet the majority of preachers and prophecy teachers teach their flocks that they will be raptured out of here so that they will not have to endure, or that it will all be over within 7 short years, so even if they have to endure and withstand great tribulation, it will be only for a short period of time.
However I contend that the Bible teaches that these events will last much longer than even most people in the church are expecting. We have to set our faces like flint, we have to understand that we are in this for the long haul, and that haul may last up to 40 years once the sorrows begin, which in my estimation have not even begun yet. As believers when we understand that we may be required to endure for a lot longer than we have been falsely taught then we can prepare ourselves, first of all spiritually but also in the natural by taking necessary actions such as storing up food and other necessities, even as Joseph stored up again in Egypt in anticipation of the years of famine. We will be ready because we will not be expecting Jesus to return prematurely; thus we will be able to identify false prophets and false messiahs. In part 3 of the series I will begin to list and expound on individual signs that will accompany the various stages in which this present world will come to an end. I am of the belief that the first stage, which may last up to seven years, and which will result in a loss of human life numbering perhaps two billion will be upon us sooner than most people expect. Yet that will not be the end, there still will be many many more years of great distress and tribulation, and much more stamina will be required to endure unto the end that which will follow.
To be continued