(Posted June 2015)
Matthew 24:1-28 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. (2) “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (3) As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus is asked about the sign of his Second Coming and of the end of the age. The very first thing he says is to watch out for those who will end up deceiving many believers.
(4) Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. (5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (KJV)
Specifically, the deceivers will be those who come to us believers in the name of Jesus Christ and claim to be the Messiah or the Christ. And Jesus says that many of us will in fact be deceived. However, as it stands, this warning makes little sense. Currently there is no one in the Church who comes to us in the name of Jesus actually claiming to be the Christ. But Jesus says that there will be “many.” Even if there were a servant of God who came to us and claimed to be the Christ, everyone would reject him—because “as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27).
So how should we interpret Jesus’ warning?
According to Strong’s, the Greek word Χριστός for Christ literally means “anointed.” Let us therefore replace Christ in verse 5 with “anointed”.
(5) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am anointed; and shall deceive many.
In other words, in the last days many will come in the name of Jesus—meaning believers or servants of the Lord—and say that they are anointed. Jesus’ cryptic warning now begins to make sense. Today in some major segments of the Church there are servants of God who claim to be specially anointed to minister to others in some supernatural way. And Jesus says that these servants of God shall deceive many. Indeed many believers follow these “anointed” servants of God and ministers. Perhaps significantly, the New Testament is completely silent regarding the existence and ministries of the “specially anointed” servants of God so prominent in certain segments of the Church today.
(6) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (7) Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. (8) All these are the beginning of birth pains. (9) “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
This is already being fulfilled in America today. The liberal mainstream media and establishment hate Christians and their godly values to the point where they have become unwittingly allies of radical Islam.
(10) At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, (11) and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (12) Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (13) but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Many false prophets in the Church are already here, and many believers have been deceived.
(14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Missions will come to take on increasing priority in the Church.
(23) At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. (24) For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (25) See, I have told you ahead of time. (26) “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. (27) For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (28) Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
Verses 23 and 24 can equally well be rendered:
(23) At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Anointed One!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. (24) For false anointed ones and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Jesus warns us not to run after prominent “anointed” ministers who promise to deliver all kinds of supernatural blessings to their followers including miraculous wonders. There is only one Anointed One to come, and that is the Messiah Jesus Christ. Many who run after “anointed” ministers are seeking after mostly material blessings in this life—just like vultures gathering around a carcass.