Matthew 24:23-28: False messiahs and false prophets
Posted by adventbiblestudy on July 31, 2012
Matthew 24:23-28 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. (24) For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. (25) See, I have warned you about this ahead of time. (26) “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! (27) For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. (28) Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.
When leaving the temple Jesus told His disciples, ” I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” After listening to Jesus preach all day in the temple court, His disciple had only one question for Him. “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”
With all the lessons Jesus taught that day, why did they ask Him to explain what sign will signal His return and the end of the world? They didn’t ask Him to explain the parable of the two sons asked to work in the father’s vineyard, the disloyal tenants, or the wedding feast. They did not question why they should not be like the religious leaders. They centered their attention on a single remark Jesus made during the day. “Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law.” They also failed to ask Jesus about the warnings He included with this statement. The minds of the disciples were too busy concentrating on preparing for their role as the next prophets and teachers.
If they wanted to be teachers, Jesus wanted them to see how much they had forgotten from the lessons He taught earlier in the day. He wanted them to be real teachers with their hearts turned constantly to God, not like this world, but in full cooperation with the Spirit. Jesus began answering their question by first warning them about false Messiahs and wars to come. He repeated the warning they would be arrested, persecuted, killed, and hated all over the world because they chose to follow Him. He told them the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, and the sacrilegious object that causes desecration written in Daniel will be seen by them. Jesus continued by repeating His warning about the false Messiahs. “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.” Jesus had a reason for repeating these lessons in such a short amount of time.
James still had the scene going through his mind of Jesus on one side of the temple court, and the religious leaders grouped together on the other. When Jesus mentioned the false Messiahs again, James began to think how the religious leaders were like the neighborhood street gangs, or the prison gangs he heard about. There was not much difference between one gang and another. As a matter of fact from the outside they were all the same. Groups would gather, create their own identity, and search for the slightest differences between themselves and other gangs. A spirit of separation controlled all of them.
Jesus knew the future success of His ministry relied on the people in front of Him. He prayed for each one of them every time He paused during His lessons. There was so much they could accomplish if they remained united. Unity was the key. If they allowed differences to creep in, the world would see no difference between the truth His disciples were given to teach and the commonly disputed differences in doctrines.
To illustrate the point Jesus tried to point their minds back to the beginning of His ministry. “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it!” He wanted them to remember how Satan attempted to separate Himself from the Father. Jesus wanted to show them how false Messiahs and prophets will try to draw them away from Him, and what He taught them. He wanted them to remember they were never to follow another person, but put their total trust in the Spirit.
Jesus wanted them to understand how quickly His coming will seem to those who do not understand the message He gave to the disciples to preach. “For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes.” He wanted them to remember this lesson when they viewed the fulfillment of prophecy in the coming days. The lives of the disciples were about to quickly change. They were about to experience emotions to a depth they never thought possible. Jesus did not want a single soul unprepared. The only safety they could rely on was in the arms of their Savior.
Jesus also gave them a very hard saying to think about. “Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.”
Neither of the disciples could understand why Jesus would compare His coming to the circling of vultures. They knew vultures circled around dead and dying bodies. Maybe this indicated the state and affairs of the world in the end. Did that mean they were going to fail in their mission? As John thought about their mission and compared it to scripture, one verse came to mind. “Sound the alarm! The enemy descends like an eagle on the people of the LORD, for they have broken my covenant and revolted against my law.” (Hosea 8:1) Did birds of prey represent Satan and his fallen angels circling around a dying world?