Earlier this year I added a page on this site where readers can submit questions or suggest topics (click here for that page). Recently I received this question:
“Dear Pastor Nick, I am an avid listener to Hope FM in Baltimore, MD, and love when you host the call in show. I have a question: How will we not be fooled by others that pretend they are the Christ in these days ahead. Maybe even trying to deceive us with signs or wonders. Thank you so much.”
The Text: The Olivet Discourse
The text you are referring to comes from what is called the “Olivet Discourse,” a teaching Jesus gave to his disciples on the Mount of Olives, a hill east of Jerusalem, during his “passion week,” the week Jesus spent in Jerusalem leading up to his crucifixion.
In Matthew 24, Mark 13, & Luke 21, Jesus warns his disciples that a time is coming when many will come claiming to be the Christ, but not to be deceived by them.
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. (Matthew 24:3-6)
The disciples ask two questions: (1) when will these things be, and (2) what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?
Jesus’ answer to these questions intertwines prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and his second coming. The nearer event (the destruction of Jerusalem) serves as a symbol and foreshadowing of the more distant event (the second coming).
Jesus warned his disciples from the outset that many people would be deceived as they awaited his return. There have been many times in history in which this has happened, in three main forms:
1. People claiming to be the Messiah
Tragically, those who rejected Jesus when He came to them as Messiah ended up falling after false messiahs who led them into nothing but death and destruction. For example, 100 years after Jesus, a man named Bar Kokhba was considered by many Jews to be the messiah. He led a revolution against the Romans and enjoyed early success, but was soon crushed.
2. People claiming that Jesus has returned, or that they are him
In the First Century, the Christians of Thessalonica had heard a rumor that Jesus had returned, and that they had missed it! Paul the Apostle wrote his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, in part, to dispel this rumor, and assure them that Jesus had not yet returned, and that when he did, they would surely know it.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed that Jesus returned in 1914, invisibly, and began his reign over the Earth from within the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (official name of the Jehovah’s Witness organization). The problem with this, of course, is that the Bible says that when Jesus returns, it will be visible, and will usher in a time of peace, which clearly the world has yet to see.
There is currently a man in Russia who claims to be Jesus returned: Siberian ‘Jesus’ Vissarion, Former Traffic Cop, Leads Patriarchal Russian Cult That Believes In Aliens
3. People wrongly predicting the date of Jesus’ return
William Miller produced publications which convinced hundreds of thousands in the United States that Jesus would return in 1846. When Jesus did not return, there was great disappointment, with some falling away, and some cultic groups spawned from the prophetic fervor.
Here is a fascinating list of false predictions of the return of Jesus: Predictions and claims for the Second Coming of Christ. You’ll notice that one of them just passed: June 8, 2019!
Trying to predict the date of Jesus’ return is a fool’s errand, since Jesus not only told us not to worry about it (Acts 1:7), and that no one knows the date or the hour, and that it would happen at a time when we do not expect it. In other words, there is no secret code that anyone is going to crack and figure it out.
How will you recognize Jesus’ return?
When Jesus comes, it won’t be a secret coming. Everyone will know.
The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 1:7: Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him
John did not need a special vision to know that every eye will see Him. John heard Jesus this himself: So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:26-27)
So, how can you be sure not to be deceived? Ignore alleged predictions or claims of Jesus’ return. Jesus’ second coming will not happen without you knowing it.