What on Earth have we done with the Teachings of Jesus?
Continuing on with our review into the Matthew Henry commentary regarding Matthew 24 or otherwise known as the ‘Olivet Discourse’, we arrive at the next section concerning deception. Jesus sternly warned His disciples to be on their guard against deceivers. On page 133 In the book ‘What have we done with the teachings of Jesus’, available on the suchlove.org site, I listed the top ten teachings of Jesus. Out of 83 topics, ‘being aware of deceivers’ ranks as 8th most mentioned. Clearly Jesus wanted us to know that numerous would come and many would be deceived.
Until the Times of the Gentiles are Fulfilled
Satan is known by many names. One is the great deceiver. His whole aim is to stall the coming of Christ. In Luke 21 (the corresponding segment in scripture concerning the Olivet Discourse) Jesus says, ‘And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.’
We are now living in the times of the Gentiles. A time when the gospel of salvation is on offer to all including non-Jewish persons. But this time has an expiration date. Satan seeks to thwart the efforts of believers from sharing the good news, for when this time of the Gentiles is complete he knows his reign of chaos on this earth has come to an end. More than ever we need to be about sharing the gospel, for the time may well be short.
We are to be concerned with understanding the signs
Henry says – Jesus was sat upon the mount of Olives directly facing the temple, there sat as a Judge upon the bench, the temple and city being before Him as at the bar, and thus He passed sentence on them. We read [Ezek. 11:23 And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city]; so Christ, the great Shechinah Glory, here removes to this mountain.
The disciples enquired; When shall these things be; and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Here are three questions. Christ, in His answer, looks further than their question, and instructs His church, not only concerning the great events of that age, the destruction of Jerusalem. But also concerning His second coming at the end of time.
The disciples had asked concerning the times, When shall these things be? Christ gives them no answer to that, after what number of days and years His prediction should be accomplished, for it is not for us to know the times [Acts 1:7 He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority’]. But they had asked, What shall be the sign? That question He answers fully, for we are concerned to understand the signs of the times.
Christ engages their caution
Now the prophecy primarily respects the events near at hand—the destruction of Jerusalem, but we can certainly look further, to the gospel church and the kingdom of the Messiah which are so expounded in the New Testament. Some passages are most applicable to the type, and others to the antitype. Toward the close, as usual, it points more particularly to the latter. What Christ here says to His disciples tends more to engage their caution than to satisfy their curiosity. More to prepare them for the events that should happen than to give them a distinct idea of the events themselves. This is that good understanding of the times we are in which we should all covet.
So this infers what we ought to do. This prophecy is of lasting use to the church and will be so to the end of time [Eccl. 1:9 That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done]. So upon the prophecy of this chapter, pointing at that event, moral predictions may be made, and such constructions of the signs of the times as the wise man’s heart will know how to prepare and improve.
The Going Forth of Deceivers
Christ here foretells the going forth of deceivers. He begins with a caution, ‘Take heed that no man deceives you’. They expected to be told when these things should be, to be let into that secret; but this caution is a check to their curiosity, “What is that to you? Mind you your duty, follow Me, and be not seduced from following Me.” Those that are most inquisitive concerning the secret things which do not belong to them are most easily seduced, [2 Thess. 2:3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition]. Seducers are more dangerous enemies to the church than persecutors.
Three times in this discourse He mentions the appearing of false prophets, which was a forewarning of Jerusalem’s ruin. They who killed the true prophets, were left to be ensnared by false prophets. They who crucified the true Messiah were left to be deceived and broken by false Christs and pretended Messiahs.
The appearing of these was the occasion of dividing that people into parties and factions, which made their ruin the more easy and speedy.
The cover of the greatest good is often the cover of the greatest evil
Concerning these deceivers. Satan acts most mischievously when he appears as an angel of light. The cover of the greatest good is often the cover of the greatest evil. There will appear false prophets (Matt. 24:11-24), the deceivers would pretend to divine inspiration, an immediate mission, and a spirit of prophecy when it was all a lie. [Jer. 23:16 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the Lord] and [Ezek. 13:6 They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them], as was foretold, [Deut. 13:3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul].
Some think, the seducers here pointed to are such as had been settled teachers in the church, and had gained reputation as such, but afterward betrayed the truth they had taught. From such the danger is the greater, because it least suspected. One false traitor in the garrison may do more mischief than a thousand avowed enemies without.
There will appear false Christs, coming in Christ’s name (Matt. 24:5), assuming to themselves the name peculiar to him, and saying, I am Christ, pseudo-christs, Matt. 24:24. There was at that time a general expectation of the appearing of the Messiah. They spoke of Him as He that should come. But when He did come, the body of the nation rejected Him. There were several such impostors between this and the destruction of Jerusalem; Theudas and Dosetheus, see Acts 5:36, 37 and many more after them. The popish religion does, in effect, set up a false Christ. The Pope comes, in Christ’s name, as his vicar, but invades and usurps all his offices, and so is a rival with Him, and, as such, an enemy to Him, a deceiver, and an antichrist.
The Kingdom of God is within you
These false Christs and false prophets would have their agents and emissaries busy in all places to draw people into them. When public troubles are great and threatening, and people will be catching at anything that looks like deliverance, then Satan will take the advantage of imposing on them. They will say, here is a Christ; but do not take notice of them.
The true Christ did not strive or cry [Luke 17:21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you]. Therefore if any man says so concerning him, look upon it as a temptation. The hermits, who place religion in a monastical life, say, He is in the desert. The priests, who made the consecrated wafer to be Christ, say, “He is en tois tameiois—in the cupboards, in the secret chambers or he is in this shrine, in that image.” Thus some appropriate Christ’s spiritual presence to one party or persuasion, as if they had the monopoly of Christ and Christianity. “Lo, he is in this church, in that council:” whereas Christ is All in all, not here or there, but meets His people with a blessing in every place where He records His name.
The proof they will offer is that they shall show great signs and wonders (Matt. 24:24). Not true miracles, those are a divine seal, and with those the doctrine of Christ stands confirmed. If any offer to draw us to serve other gods, or believe in other Christs, the Lord your God is proving you. But these are lying wonders [2 Thess. 2:9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders], wrought by Satan (God permitting him), who is the prince of the power of the air. It is not said, ‘They shall work miracles’, but, ‘They shall show great signs’. They are but a show, tricks, or divination, as with the magicians of Egypt by their enchantments.
Few Find the Strait Gate
Yet the text says, They shall deceive many (Matt. 24:5), and again in Matt. 24:11. The devil and his instruments may prevail far in deceiving poor souls. Few find the strait gate, but many are drawn into the broad way. Many will be levied upon by their signs and wonders, and many drawn in by the hopes of deliverance from their oppressions. Neither miracles nor multitudes are certain signs of a true church; for all the world wonders after the beast, Rev. 13:3.
They shall deceive, if it were possible, the very elect, Matt. 24:24. This speaks, First, The strength of the delusion. It is such as many shall be carried away by (so strong shall the stream be), even those that were thought to stand fast. Men’s knowledge, gifts, learning, eminent station, and long profession will not secure them; many will be deceived. Nothing but the almighty grace of God, pursuant to His eternal purpose, will be a protection. The safety of the elect in the midst of this danger, is taken for granted in that parenthesis. If it were possible, plainly implying that it is not possible, for they are kept by the power of God, that the purpose of God, according to the election, may stand.
It is possible for those that have been enlightened to fall away [Heb. 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame]. But not for those that were elected. If God’s chosen ones should be deceived, God’s choice would be defeated, which is not to be imagined, for ‘whom He did predestine, He called, justified, and glorified, Rom. 8:30. For they were given to Christ; and of all that were given to him, He will lose none, John 10:28.
Christ’s warnings are designed to engage our watchfulness
Our Saviour gives repeated cautions to His disciples to stand upon their guard. He gave them warning, that they might watch (Matt. 24:25); Behold, I have told you beforehand. Christ’s warnings are designed to engage our watchfulness; and though the elect shall be preserved from delusion, yet they shall be preserved by the use of appointed means, and a due regard to the cautions of the word; we are kept through faith, faith in Christ’s Word, which He has told us before.
We must not believe those who say, Lo, here is Christ; or, Lo, he is there, Matt. 24:23. We believe that the true Christ is at the right hand of God, and that His spiritual presence is where two or three are gathered together in His name. Do not believe those who would draw you off from a Christ in heaven, by telling you he is anywhere on earth. “Go not forth, for if you do, you are in danger of being taken by them. Therefore keep out of harm’s way, do not be carried about with every wind. Many a man’s vain curiosity to go forth has led him into a fatal apostasy; your strength at such a time is to sit still, to have the heart established with grace.”
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
In Revelation 12:9 – the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. Can we not see a greater deception in the world and within the church? The advancement of technology has brought many benefits. But with it vehicles by which men’s minds can be swayed consciously or unconsciously to accept things contrary to the truth. The Word says our eyes are a lamp to our bodies. They, along with our ears are the transmitters to receive material into our hearts and minds. What we read, what we look at – will ultimately decide whether we welcome end time deception.
1. Know that deceivers will try to predict when the End of the Age will be. But Christ says do not concern yourself with these things. Do not be seduced from following Him.
2. Watch out for false prophets those who pretend to divine inspiration, even those who are established within the church.
3. Beware when public troubles are at their worse for then people will snatch at anything and anyone that looks like deliverance.
4. Know that Christ is All in all, not here or there, but meets His people with a blessing in every place where He records His name.
5. Watch out for lying signs and wonders. They are but a trick of the magician.
6. Be diligent to enter into the narrow gate, for many are drawn onto the broad way.
7. The safety of the elect in the midst of danger can be taken for granted.
8. Christs’ warnings are to engage our watchfulness.
9. We are kept through faith in Christ’s Words.
10. Christ’s spiritual presence is where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name.
Let no one deceive you by any means
Strong’s tells us that a false prophet is: someone pretending to speak the word of the Lord but in fact is an imposter, acting as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They specialise in “the art of misimpression,” like about how they were “commissioned” by the Lord to touch the world with their message. But when in fact, they operate by self and for self so they must be exposed for what they are.
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, 2 Thessalonians 2:3. There will come a great ‘falling away’ before the great and terrible Day of the Lord. How far the organised church will slip into apostasy is directly correlated with how far they turn from the teachings of Jesus.
How can we avoid being deceived and falling away? The only way is to be filled and led by the Spirit of truth. To truly know the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus. Only then will our ears be finely tuned to listen out for the deceptive words of false teachers and deceiving spirits.
Continue in the Truth Continue to walk in the truth And all will go well with you. Remain faithful to Me Let your life stay clean and true. Truth must enter your soul Flowing on and through. It must penetrate and saturate Or else it is of no value. The inward parts of a man are vital For they in turn affect the outward. When truth is kindled within, brightness beams forth In the outward life and conversation. May nothing false or sinful reign In our hearts again. For if there is it will extend To our daily walk among men. Let us remain faithful to the truth For the truth we cannot deny. Let us continue to be in a position to receive The fullness of His supply. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father we thank You for your truth which is eternal. A truth that cuts through every lie we’ve ever been told. Help our ears to be finetuned to hearing Your truth and may we be quick to turn from all untruths. Lead us by Your Spirit. May we be quick to obey. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.