Thursday, April 16, 2015

Jesus' End of the Age Warning

"And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you."
Matthew 24:4

Jesus was answering His disciples who came to Him asking what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age. The first thing He said is to see to it that no one misleads you. He goes on to say "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many." (v.5). At the end of this age, many who appear to be Christian, who say that Jesus is the Christ, will mislead many people. He says this again in verse 11, and in verse 24 He says that "false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." There will be those who say they are Christ who, of course, are not. There will also be those who say that Jesus is the Christ who will deceive many. 

Jesus said not to believe those who say that they are the Christ, or even that He has already come and is "in the wilderness" or "in the inner rooms." He said "just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:26-27). Jesus is not going to come quietly! He will come in a cloud, just as they watched Him ascend into heaven the first time, and "every eye will see Him" when He returns. (Rev. 1:7). Don't follow after anyone who says that they, or someone they know, is the Christ and is already here.

What about those who appear to be Christian, and even do great signs and wonders, yet mislead many people? We know there are genuine gifts given by the Holy Spirit which result in great healings, signs and miracles. We see these in 1 Corinthians 12. We also know that God confirms His word with signs and wonders, (Hebrews 2:1-4, Mark 16:20). We see miracles in both the Old Testament and in the book of Acts done by the early church. So we know there are great signs and wonders genuinely done by God's people. Since this is true, how do we know the difference between those who are false and those who are true?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of this. He said to "beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-16). We judge by their fruit whether a person is a true or false prophet. If the fruit of the Spirit is not evident in their life, if the results of what they do are destructive and dividing, rather than building and encouraging the church, then we know by that bad fruit that it is not the Holy Spirit, but a false representation. A person will produce good fruit if they are abiding in the Lord and He is abiding in them.

John approached Jesus after seeing someone casting out demons in the Lord's name and told Him that they tried to stop him from doing it because he was not following them. Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us." (Mark 9:38-40, see note 1 below). Jesus knew that someone who seeks to do good in His name, has a heart that desires good. Seeing His goodness will lead a person like that to repentance and into a relationship with Him.

However, Jesus also said "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matthew 7:21-23). This brings us back to judging the fruit. I don't know about you, but this verse makes me examine my own heart as well. We don't want to be misled, but we also don't want to be the misleader! Jesus said two key words regarding this, "I never knew you," and "practice lawlessness."

He must know us. This is more than just us knowing Him, or knowing about Him. We can feel like we know a person, and even do what they say, follow their suggestions etc. yet not really have a relationship with them because they don't know us. For example, if you have a certain person you listen to all the time, you begin to feel like you know that person. This could be a minister, a radio personality, a newscaster etc. Their words abide in you. Yet, if they were to see you face to face they would not know you--your words do not abide in them because you haven't spoken with them. In the same way, someone can get a hold of the words of Jesus and do mighty works in His Name. They may feel like they know the Lord. Yet when the time comes to see Him face to face, will He recognize that person as one of His own? They have not been abiding in Him.

Jesus said that we must abide in Him and He in us in order for us to bear fruit. We will actually bear much fruit if we are in Him and He is in us. When He abides in us, we know Him, His words have reached us. When we abide in Him, He knows us, our words have reached Him. He said that if anyone does not abide in Him (or He doesn't know us) he is thrown away as a branch and dries up. We must abide in Him, not just He in us. The Father is glorified when we bear much fruit and so prove to be His disciples. When He knows us and we know Him than we will bear much fruit and the Father is glorified! (John 15:1-11).

Lawlessness here means a breaking of God's law, not man's law. It's sin and disobedience to Him. These people seemed surprised that their works did not get them into heaven. Those who abide in the Lord will not use His power, His Name, or His Spirit to build a kingdom for themselves, to make themselves look good, or to build something that they think is a good idea. Our spirit must be in sync, filled and saturated with, the Holy Spirit. Then our heart motives will be right--the tree will be good--and the fruit that comes of that will also be good. Those who are led by the Spirit of God, are His sons (and daughters). (Romans 8:14). When we abide in Him and His words abide in us then we can "ask whatever we wish" and it will be done. (John 15:7). A child of God understands the heart and vision of God like no one outside of the family can.

Not being misled is the first warning Jesus gave regarding the end times. He felt it important enough to mention it first, which tells us that we should pay special attention to this warning. Of course, not only watching out for the false spirit in others, but to examine ourselves to be sure we are abiding in Him and He in us!

Note 1-As a side note, when the pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul, a ruler of demons, He said, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Matthew 12:22-32). He said this because they spoke against the Holy Spirit, calling Him evil. Jesus didn't care that they spoke against Him (Jesus), but that they called the Holy Spirit a demonic ruler.

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