When the disciples asked Jesus what the signs of the end of the age will be, the first thing Jesus said was, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5). I don’t think many of us would be deceived by someone coming up to us saying, “Hey, follow me, I am the Christ”, however, there must be a reason Jesus said this. So who are the ‘many’ who will be deceived, and how will this deception take place?
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ … Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”
~2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
How does this relate to not being deceived? Well, here we see how a man of lawlessness, doomed to destruction, manages to set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God…sounds similar to the deception in Mt 24:5.
And how about Mt 24:15-16
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Here again we see an abomination standing in the holy place. But what is the holy place? What is the abomination? How did it get into the holy place? And which mountain must we flee to?
The holy place is God’s temple (modern-day church), and the only way the abomination can get there is by deceiving the ‘inhabitants’ of the holy place by claiming to be the Christ (Mt 24:5), proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thes 2:4). This is why we are warned so many times in the Bible to test spirits, discern the times, and watch out we are not deceived.
These passages are prophecies concerning the end times. Prophecies in the Bible are written using a ‘spiritual’ or ‘figurative’ language. They are not meant to be understood literally. But if we don’t understand what the true meaning of the figurative language is, then how are we going to do what is required of us, how are we going to know which mountain to go to, or what the abomination is? Jesus promises that there will be a time when he will speak plainly and not use this figurative language anymore (Jn 16:25). If the time has come when we can understand plainly, then we will know what mountain to go to and what this abomination is.
Even though the true meaning of the New Testament prophecies have been hidden, there is a promise that they are only hidden until the time God has appointed for their fulfillment (1 Cor 2:7; 1 Cor 13:12). At that time we will be able to see face-to-face and fully understand, but will we choose to see, or will we act like the Pharisees at the time of the first coming?
Nobody is expected to believe without evidence. John 14:29 tells us that we have been given prophecies so that we are able to believe in their fulfillment when it happens. It’s time to fully understand the scriptures and the New Testament. Let’s have ears that hear and eyes that see, so that we can keep the covenant and do what is required of us.