What Did Jesus Say about the End of the Age?
We live in an age where people are feeling insecure about the future. This is really understandable, as a lot of things have been happening which really make you wonder how much longer things can go on as they are. Whether it be Wars in the Middle East, terrorism, tsunamis, the threat of bird avian flu wiping out a quarter of the world's population, or the possible collapse of the American economy – there are many things that could bother people and cause fear.
Many people ask: "Is there hope for my future?" For this reason, the psychic hotlines are doing a roaring trade around the world, as people part with hard earned cash to hear someone at the other end giving them a word about their future – and whether romance or good fortune are on the cards or not. There remains an insatiable hunger in the minds of people today to know what the future holds – especially in terms of their own destiny and happiness.
Christians have been saying for many years that "Jesus is coming soon". We definitely have that sense that things will not continue as they are forever, but that major shakeups are likely to occur soon, in such a way as to affect everybody on the planet.
Some Christians have written books on the end times, proposing dates for various events like "the Rapture" to take place. People look at prophecies in the Book of Daniel and try to construct an interpretation that gives an idea as to when Jesus might return to earth. Efforts like this have given birth to movements as diverse as the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jesus Christ was asked by his disciples when the destruction of the temple was to be, and what would be the Sign of His Coming and of the End of the Age (Matthew 24:3). For the disciples, the temple was so central to their conception of God's purposes that they assumed that the destruction of the temple would happen roughly at the end of the age. We know the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by General Titus and the Roman Armies. Not one stone was left upon another, as Romans sought to recover the melted gold after they burned the temple. This fulfilled the words of Jesus literally, who said in Matthew 24:2, "Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." But Jesus also answered the question about when He would return, and the End of the Age, in this passage of Matthew 24. Let us examine how Jesus' answer might match with what we see happening in recent times.
In Matthew 24:4,5 Jesus said, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ', and will deceive many.”
This is the way the verses read in most Bibles. Now, there have actually been very few people who have come and said that they are Jesus Christ or even that they are the Messiah. Sai Baba in India is willing to say it, if it will help him gain followers, and a few others have tried it, with limited success. I have read that some of the Roman Catholic popes and priests claim to be Jesus Christ, but I do not know if these claims represent what the Roman Catholic church really teaches. In general, I think its easy for a disciple of Jesus Christ to avoid the deception of some other man claiming to be Jesus Christ.
But its quite possible though that we've been adding punctuation to this verse in the wrong way, so as to give the wrong meaning to it. In the Common Greek in which the New Testament was written, there is no punctuation like we have in English. Perhaps then there is a greater need for us to take heed that no one deceives us. What if we read the verse like this:
“Many will come in my name saying I am the Christ, and will deceive many.” ? It could well be that Jesus is here predicting the rise of false teachers in the church, as well as the appearance of cults – including the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who have already deceived many millions. These people acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, they come in His name, but they deceive MANY. Not just a few.
A lot of preachers have come in the name of Jesus, and they acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ – but they are still deceivers. It doesn't make sense to come in the name of Jesus (which means coming as the representative of Jesus acting in His place) and also claiming also to BE the Jesus your represent. For these reasons I believe that Jesus is actually saying, “Many will come in my name acknowledging that I am the Christ, but they will deceive many”. I cannot fully prove it is to be read this way, but this interpretation has certainly been fulfilled. There have been many who have come in the name of Jesus with some truth and some deception, who have deceived many. There are not so many who have come claiming to be Jesus or a reincarnation of Jesus. And those who have, have deceived relatively few compared to those deceived by cult leaders and apostate Christian leaders from mainline or even pentecostal backgrounds.
If my interpretation is correct, then we can expect false doctrine in the professing church of Jesus Christ to be very common. It is one of the eternal perils of the Last Days. Believing false doctrine CAN in many cases rob you of your eternal destiny. It does so because it causes you to accept a religious substitute for a true relationship of love and trust with Jesus.
“And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. For nation will rise against nation,and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6, 7a). We have certainly had many horrible wars in these times. Apart from the First and Second World Wars, there have been many conflicts and they have been going on ever since Christ left the earth. There are relatively unreported wars going on in Asia and Africa even today. At the time of writing, we hear rumours that the United States will make war with Iran, as they have done with Iraq. There are rumours that China may be planning a war with the United States. The capacity that mankind has now developed for destruction through modern warfare is unparalleled in the history of humankind. So we see that Jesus was certainly right about this one also.
Famines, Pestilences and Earthquakes
“And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” (vs 7)
A large percentage of the world's population goes to bed hungry every night. In parts of Africa especially, there is drought, famine and starvation. God has given the earth abundant provision, but companies and nations have found they can sometimes make greater profits by destroying part of the harvest rather than selling it all at a lower price. This food might have been given away to nations in crisis, but it doesn't happen because of the evil of man. In addition to this, sometimes God permits a drought so that people turn to Him for the healing of the nation. In Australia recently (June, 2005) there was a national day of prayer for rain in the churches, after a long season of drought, and God responded by sending an unprecedented amount of rain this month. In any case, Jesus predicted famines, and he was right.
Despite advances in medical science, the threat of pestilence looms over the world. Diseases like AIDS are rampant in Africa, and scientists are worried about the emergence of “superbugs” resistant to all kinds of antibiotics. In addition to this threat, there is the strong possibility that some bird flu virus might mutate in such a way as to spreadable between humans. This could cause an unprecedented pandemic around the world. There is no way to protect the population from this, should it break out. Only the mercy of God would be able to save many. There was an outbreak of influenza in 1918 which killed millions. Such a pandemic is expected to occur again. Jesus predicted that such things would be in various places in the time preceding His coming.
Earthquakes have been increasing in frequency since 1900. The recent tsunami in December 2004 killed hundreds of thousands and left millions homeless. The Bible predicts that this will continue – Luke 21:25, 26 – that the waves will roar and bring much destruction – and men's hearts will fail them for fear of those things which are coming on the earth. This has yet to happen to the full extent, in my view. But all the indications from recent history of seismological readings show that it is headed that way.
Jesus said that all these things are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:8) Even though these things have been happening, it is only the beginning of the sad things that are coming on the earth. Jesus goes on:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.” (Matthew 28:9)
Jesus promised his true disciples tribulation in the last days. If a preacher is fairly universally loved by this evil world, it is a sign that he or she is false in the eyes of God. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 21:26)
In fact, martyrdom amongst Christians is at an all time high. Hundreds of thousands of believers in Jesus are put to death by others for no other reason than that they wish to remain true to Jesus Christ and His Word.
We should not expect to live free from persecution all the days of our life. If we want to live godly in Christ Jesus, we SHALL suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus predicted it, and it is happening.
There is coming a time, according to Jesus, when ALL nations will hate disciples of Jesus Christ. This includes the USA, Australia and other places where religious freedom has endured for a couple of centuries more or less. In recent times in Australia, muslims won a court case against a man who was teaching on Islam. It is called vilification now if you expose what someone else's “holy Scriptures” actually say. This verdict, unless overturned, will spell the end of religious freedom in Australia. Already, in Melbourne, you cannot say some things you believe, lest you “offend” somebody's religious sentiments. Personally, I find these laws offensive, but there is no law so far against using legislation to kerb the right to discuss truth or falsehood in religion, and there probably never will be. I suppose the sentiment is to keep religious discussion out of the public domain, and reduce the tensions that can arise, as if eternal salvation doesn't matter – what is important is letting everyone feel good about their religion, no matter what it may teach. As for the United States, legal action against Christians for openly practicing their faith is nothing new. Anything that challenges the “right” to unfettered sexual perversion and lawlessness will be under attack in the United States. There is evidence that the United States already has many empty concentration camps in place waiting for the day when enemies of the New World Order including Christians and Constitutionalists are to be rounded up and destroyed. If you doubt it, I refer you to google to do your own research. There are laws being proposed under the proposed “Office of Persecution Monitoring” legislation which will close down and strip the assets of anyone involved in religious activity that does not bow to State control.
Suffice to say, this word of Jesus will be fulfilled. If you are a true believer, you will be HATED by ALL NATIONS.
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many”. – Jesus (Matthew 24:11)
“But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived”. – Paul (2 Timothy 3:13).
There have been a number of significant false prophets over the last 2000 years, who have founded religious movements. But in the Last Days, there will be more false prophets.
False prophets abound especially in countries where there is less persecution, where it is easier to get rich in religion. Even so, false prophets are everywhere, in one form or another. The New Age movement has produced many false prophets – people who channel spirits who deny that Jesus is THE Christ. There ARE true prophets in the last days (refer Ephesians 4:11-13), but many ministries start off “true” and end up to some extent “false”. Such false prophets generally major in words that line their own pockets. Prophets like Samuel, of whom it was said, “None of his words fell to the ground”, are so rare today as to be virtually impossible to find, especially in Western Nations. While there are some really great prophets in developing nations, I have been looking at the predictions of many western “prophets” over the years and they generally don't come to pass in the timeframes indicated. The excuse for this is usually that the prophecy itself sparked repentance and intercession which changed the course of events. Of course, anyone can say that about anything they utter in the name of the Lord concerning the future. If anyone is willing to speak by the Word of the Lord concerning something major that is to come to pass in the near future, something unexpected by secular observers, and something you can't derive simply from a study of the Scriptures, I will be happy to “host” their prophecy on this website and verify the date it was submitted. That way, I can say for sure to others that yes, this prophecy was given before the event. So many ministries talk about how they prophecied the fall of the Berlin wall before it happened, but none of them published such things beforehand. Of course there are true prophecies concerning the future given quite often, but sadly, there is so much chaff amongst the wheat, that it seems you have to be more spiritual than the “prophet” to know if his prophecies are right.
Many people can prophecy accurately concerning people and churches but they go beyond their realm of appointed authority when they start talking about what is happening with nations. It need not be so, but sadly, it often is.
The prophetic ministry is not an easy one, and prophetic ministries are definitely under pressure to speak smooth words to influential but compromising pastors. Leading pastors today have the power to virtually shut down all itinerant ministries they have reservations about, and they often have in places I have been, especially Australia. So those men with prophetic giftings, if they want continued access to the church which is where their financial support often comes from, must “win friends and influence people” with the pastors. This means: never criticising them, speaking to their desires, securing their agreement, making them feel important, treading softly and so on. You can read Dale Carnegie's famous book for more information on how this must be done. Stinging rebukes, preaching of repentance and so on, are not in fashion today in many churches which are fast asleep spiritually. This is not to say that all those that preach repentance are true prophets. There are false prophets filled with bitter zeal whom pastors rightly discern should have no access to the flock. But the dependence of prophets on pastors adds to the pressure for prophetically gifted people to become at least, in some sense, “false prophets”. So the phenomenon of false prophets exists in the Full Gospel / Pentecostal churches also, but in a different way than it does in the cults.
False Prophets in Cults and Sects
The Mormons are the prime example today of a cult with so-called “living prophets”. The Jehovah's Witnesses started with a false interpretation of Biblical prophecy, as did the Seventh Day Adventists. The former said Jesus would return in 1914. When nothing seemed to happen, they said that Jesus came to New York, I understand. The Seventh Day Adventists came out of a movement started by one named Miller, who calculated that Jesus should return in 1844. When nothing happened, some made up an “Emporer's New Clothes” story about how really Jesus did come, but for some sort of Investigative Judgment which no one had really heard of before. It took the false prophetess Ellen G. White to get people to believe that one and other doctrines which mix the system of Jewish Law with grace.
In Acts 1:11 after Jesus ascended to heaven, we read the angel saying to the disciples of Jesus:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven.This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Jesus said in Matthew 24:27:
“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
This doesn't leave a lot of room for these theories that say, “Actually the Second Coming did happen, its just that no one saw it”.