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“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4 NIV)

In Part One, we witnessed Simon’s quick transformation. In Matthew 16, he was elevated from the ordinary to Disciple-extraordinaire, Peter. Picture him in Matthew 16:18-19 with a proud and pious look, holding the keys to the kingdom.

In three short verses, it all changes. He has horns and resembles the devil. In moments, Simon went from exalted status to Jesus’ enemy. He transitioned from celebrity saint to Satan. What line did he cross with God? The same one prominent Christians transgress on a regular basis. Peter knew who Jesus was, (i.e. the Son of the Living God), yet, in Matthew 16:22, he undermined prophecy. (“Never Lord. This shall never happen to you.”)

Peter knew some things, but the future was not one of them. He should have shut-up and listened to Jesus. Disciples are notorious for not taking prophecy to heart. They may know in part, presuming they know the whole, but it is what they don’t know that makes them dangerous. The wise are aware of how much they do not know, but the fool thinks he knows everything.

Jesus gave us the essentials in his Olivet Discourse. He instructed disciples on the basics for overcoming at the end of this age (Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:4, Luke 21:7). He, who is sovereign over all things, told his followers in advance (Matthew 24:25). Have we taken these words to heart? Have we listened to Jesus’ words, or do we let the well-intentioned Peters feed us a diet of fake prophecy?

The end times will be marked with a great falling away. Authorities will attempt to undermine God’s prophetic word. They will describe a different future than the one Jesus presented in Matthew 24:9-10. Religious leaders will become a major stumbling block to saints who take prophecy to heart.

Three times in Matthew 24 (vs. 4, 11 and 24), Jesus warns about deception. But does it matter to those who know only part? “Many will fall away because of me,” is not just a prediction, but, because of who said it, it is an absolute. The Lord said many disciples will fall away, not just a few on the fringes.

Has apostasy or a falling away ever happened? Of course it has. History presents a pattern. For example, many disciples could not accept Jesus’ hard teaching in John 6. Then what? We learn, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)

When the going got tough, many, who had followed in the good times, bailed. We can understand desertion by pretenders, but what about the Lord’s inner circle, the twelve? In John 6:67-69, they had refused to leave Jesus.

As the cross of Calvary drew nearer, Jesus’ twelve disciples declared that even if they faced death, they would never leave him. Before that, in Matthew 26:31, Jesus said they would all fall away, and quoted Old Testament prophecy confirming it. So, were they there to the end or, that very night, as Jesus said, did they fall away?

Jesus never entrusted himself to men (John 2:23-24). Men will often reject the literal words of Jesus, and listen instead to sources like Peter.  If we read the whole, and not just part, we would know fake prophets will come and that those who stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).

Teachers will give the many what they want to hear. They purpose not to know the whole, only the part that suits them. So, the many are set up for a major deception. (My people perish for lack of knowledge.)

“A little learning is a dangerous thing,” so wrote Alexander Pope. Anyone who owns, or has access to a Bible, has no excuse. Ahead of time, Jesus told us all we need to know. For shame if we do not take his foreknowledge to heart.

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Watch out no one deceives you for many will come in my name claiming I am the Christ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4 NIV)

The Part-to-Whole fallacy may be explained this way: “Because part of a thing is true, it does not mean all of it is.”

The Galilean fisherman Simon was often right. In Caesarea Philippi, he hit the jackpot when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16)

Like a seed, the disciple’s confession had been planted by the heavenly Father. It earned Simon a new name. From that time on, he was “the Rock.” (Matthew 16:17-18)

Peter enjoyed a new status. God spoke to him. With that heady experience behind him, he then felt qualified to contradict the word of Christ:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21-22)

Peter, the Rock, rebuked Jesus; though it is doubtful Simon would have been that brash. He must have been upset by what he deemed as “the Lord’s negative confession.” Peter wanted to hear only positive. He may have assumed that since he was granted special revelation about Christ’s divine person, he received divine revelation on prophecy as well. As far as who God is, even demons believe and tremble. (James 2:19)

Sharply, the Lord Jesus rebuked the Rock. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

This is how it will be in the last days: Men and women will be esteemed and placed in positions of honor. They will receive wonderful revelations, even prophesying in Jesus’ name and performing miracles. They will draw large crowds and wow their audiences, thus becoming susceptible to Peter’s error (Matthew 7:22). Not every spirit is from God, so no one should assume they always speak or act for Him. Especially when it comes to prophecy, first test the spirits, or we may find ourselves opposing Christ (1 John 4:1).

Caveat emptor (“Let the buyer beware.”) Simply because our fine preacher or pastor has wonderful abilities, and rightly identifies Jesus as Lord, it does not mean he or she may not call God a liar. To assume our respected teachers or mentors know everything, without testing the spirits, places the responsibility for being deceived on our shoulders.

In Part 2, we will examine more evidence that, in the last days, the Part-to-Whole fallacy will cause many to fall into Satan’s deadly trap.

Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come to him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour–when darkness reigns. (Luke 22:52-53 NIV)

Forces of rebellion that have long been suppressed, are displaying their new found strength. It is natural for those who discover their muscle, to want to flaunt it. When they were weak, they would never consider a show of force, but with their bulging bicep comes a desire to exercise it on someone. The line drawn in the sand is no longer a boundary, but an invitation.

In these days, revolt has gone mainstream. Institutions of all sorts are flexing muscle they never had before and are challenging authority. Cities are declaring their own rule of law by their non-cooperation with federal law enforcement. The state of California is not only in non-compliance, but threatening to secede from the union. The once neutral judiciary has stepped into the fray by barring long-standing powers afforded the U.S. executive branch.  Higher education has made its presence felt among the rebels. Professors are inciting, then academically rewarding students for becoming active protestors. Much of the media has fanned the flames. What was once suspected, is out in the open.

Provocative and insulting remarks are the order of the day at gatherings of TV, music and movie personalities. Remarks that formerly would cause censure, are encouraged. It seems many want in on the act.

Not to be outdone, major sports has jumped in with both feet. The one escape there has always been from politics has waded into the revolution. One professional football player refused to stand for the national anthem. A year later, a spirit of rebellion has gained a wave of support among other football players, pro basketball players, and now baseball players, as well. Refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner is chic. Since the U.S. president jumped in and expressed his indignation over those who dishonor the flag, the floodgates have opened. Watch for Little League and Pee Wee football players to take a knee, not because they are praying; praying is illegal. They will be kneeling in protest like their sports heroes do.

This is the onset of the hour of darkness. It is what the beginning of the end looks like. It is when rebels start to reign. All my life, I have immersed myself in politics and sports. Sports was once a god that I worshipped. I am sickened by the whole mess, the entertainers, educators, athletes–all of it. When the nation comes to ruin–as it surely will–what solace will they take from their part in their country’s collapse?

As North Korea’s leaders take their threat of a nuclear attack  to a new level, home-grown revolutionaries, from all sectors, are doing the same. No one wants peace. There is no compromise. There is only an unquenchable appetite to show off their power. They are feeling it; the rich, the powerful and the famous are turning out in a show of force. Stadiums, arenas and theaters will soon be rubble. The hour of darkness will soon be upon us.

I grieve over what I see happening. My former idols are self-destructing. For all who claim loyalty to Jesus and his kingdom, the hour of darkness is a necessity. We must separate ourselves from the world. In the process, we must destroy our idols before they lead us into carrying clubs and swords, because after that comes the darkness.

 

 

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will hate and betray each other… (Matthew 24:9-10 NIV)

Living under an illusion provides a feeling of safety. Reassured by the people around us, we possess the confidence of lemmings as they march to the cliff. When the myth that held our group together shatters, then disillusionment sets in. The collapse of false ideas sets us free. Our freedom is much like a boat that has slipped its moorings. This is what I see coming for America and the West.

Professing Christ while singing a hymn is likely to produce a different response than confessing Jesus in the face of persecution. Going to church is one thing, but going to prison for Christ is altogether different. It is easy to sign on to a worship service; it takes more conviction to sign on to mistreatment for the sake of the Name. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Christian executed by the Nazi’s, who said, “Jesus invites us to come and die.” (Yes, the word is “die” not “dine.”)

When the Vietnam Conflict was at its peak in 1969, I was graduating from college. Before I had my diploma, I received my 1A draft classification. My selective service number was in the low double digits. I knew what was coming.

I had a strategy, however. A college friend told me about his friend. He was in the Army yet had stateside duty. He wore civilian clothes and interviewed college co-eds. From his description, the job sounded like it was meant for me.

I did not want to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, so, within a week of leaving college behind, I was with the Army recruiter signing up. One year later, I was on a cot, staring at the inside of a tent, swatting mosquitos, wearing fatigue pants and a tee that was wet with sweat; wondering how it had come to this. I was one of a half million, and one of thousands of fresh troops new to the Republic of Vietnam. Instead of doing interviews on campus, my new home was a base camp surrounded by sand bag walls and barbed wire. As with a lot of my buddies, we had not signed up for this. Personally, it was the best thing that could have happened. God’s hand was upon me. I thank him for my service and the life-changing experience.

In several weeks, our oppressed brothers and sisters are to be honored with a special Sunday service. Each November, time is set aside to recognize the witness of fellow saints. In hostile countries, Christians who sign up to follow Jesus, do so with no illusions. When persecution is suffered, they understand it as part of their commitment. Jesus warned his disciples they would be afflicted. He said, “See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:25)

In the last days, a great falling away is promised (2 Thessalonians 2:3 and Matthew 24:10, see above). Of the millions presented with a cross, most will opt to depart the faith. The reason: When their duties were given, sacrifice, pain and hardship were not on the list. Had they read their Bible or heard the testimony of today’s martyrs, they would have known. But they only listened to their recruiter.

For the unwary, disillusionment is inevitable. They think they are fulfilling their duty, and on the path of blessing. They believe suffering is for others. They are not ready for great distress. Sacrificial service is something for which they did not sign up.

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? (Isaiah 40:13 NIV)

Last week, those on Florida’s east coast evacuated to the west coast. Too late on the western side to evacuate, Hurricane Irma surprisingly changed tracks and threatened the state’s Gulf Coast. While southwest and southcentral Florida prepared for the worst, Irma altered her path again and shifted to the east. The idea that man can somehow control natural forces, like hurricanes, or predict what they will do, should be permanently put to rest.

His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:9).

Our God is the Sovereign Lord. His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:9). If people affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma did not gain some humility or fear of God, will they ever?

Life is full of ironies. When we feel confident everything is under control, something usually happens to prove otherwise.  Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft aglee [translation often go astray].” Go ahead mice, make plans, but be aware of conditions beyond your control.

Several posts ago, we announced the book The Priests of God would be available by late July or even earlier. We are now a few days from the first day of Fall, and still the book awaits publication. I will not bother with the details except to say our best laid plans gang aglee. Our Sovereign God takes note of the sin of presumption. Assuming we have it all under control is rooted in pride. It is then our God manifests his sovereignty by foiling our plans and thwarting our purposes (cf. Psalm 33:10).

“You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 5:15).

In James, we find an admonition to mice and men: “You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that” (James 5:15). What yours truly should have announced was, “God willing, we will have a book by… (fill in the date).” Sovereignty, as I see it, acknowledges God is in charge. When our Lord is satisfied that we do indeed understand who is the mouse and who is the Almighty One, then The Priests of God will go to print. In God’s time, it will find those for whom it is intended.

God willing, I’ve learned my lesson. When circumstances are out of my control, I know who controls my circumstances. Now, who moved my cheese?

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. (Psalm 33:12 NIV)

As Christian faith continues to decline, note the proportionate increase in the world’s woes, particularly in the West. The blessings of the past have stepped aside while conflicts, trials, tragedies and tempestuous storms prevail. Might we dare suggest that God is showing his anger?

Religious people choose not to think of God in that light. At the same time, when their disobedient and rebellious children turn against them, their emotion is anger. When their sons and daughters take their inheritance and waste it in riotous living, they are not exactly pleased. Otherwise happy couples become obsessed with how they might punish their wayward kids. Anger, in this case, is normal. Predictably, we who do wrong know consequences will eventually catch up.

I ask again, “What is happening to America? Does it mean God is angry?” Of course it does. The Lord has a purpose in it: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray…”  was often quoted in the late summer of 2001. When that storm passed, the country went back to practicing every kind of evil. The lesson was quickly forgotten. Then, if wickedness grows to a never-before-seen level, what do we think will happen if not a judgment far more painful than the last. Ignore this warning and just read the future in Deuteronomy 29. 

You are doggone right God is angry! He is especially perturbed with those who call themselves Christians, yet say the Lord will do nothing (Amos 9:10). They maintain their positive outlook that life will go on as it always has, but they don’t know God.

We are all in this together. The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked. We see the innocent swept away with the guilty, but here is the difference: The Lord is able to separate the evil from the blameless. Life passes quickly, but for those who turn from their wicked ways, and cry out to the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, they will receive forgiveness and eternal life.

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)

In every relationship, even the most loving ones, there is a time for anger. Anger, properly expressed, gives opportunity to clear the air and right the wrongs. With all the sin, corruption, hatred, violence, debauchery, godlessness, deceit and idolatry for which America is noted, we understand why God is angry. Use it as opportunity.

Let us do all in our power to show that we and our forbearers deserve our punishment–in fact, we deserve more than we get. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit. Let us take what we have coming without attributing evil to God. (See Job 1 and 2.) When we rise, we must be sure to produce the fruit of repentance. For if we think God’s angry now, the insincere have yet to see real anger!

“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king will arise, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in everything he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people.” (Daniel 8:23-24 NIV)

Expressions of rebellion have made their way into the fabric of American society. A nation that was formed in rebellion is developing a culture that idealizes rebellion. The seeds of anarchy have taken root in various ways; this includes police shootings; violent protests; leaders promoting violence; officials at all levels selectively enforcing laws and who is punished; acts of vandalism against symbols of America’s history; disavowal of accepted national traditions or social norms; a press with a political agenda; a politicized judiciary and, perhaps most damaging, the unrelenting verbal attacks and physical threat directed at the U.S. chief executive and members of congress. All the above take place with relative impunity. The rebels trumpet their right to free speech, while they attempt to silence those with whom they disagree. It is now as it was in the latter days of Israel’s judges: There was no king so everyone did as he saw fit (Judges 21:25).

We are witnessing the end of a once proud republic. Soon after it all comes crashing down, the rebellion will end as well.

Nearly two centuries ago, Alexis de Tocqueville of France, observed, “America is great because she is good. When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”  Take de Tocqueville’s wisdom a step further: When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be. “Make America Great Again” is a pipe dream without the rule of law, morality, mutual respect and goodness. Without repentance, America is destined for despotism. When barbarians finish their plundering, a tyrant will assume control. The colonists in pre-Revolutionary War days had it good under King George III of England’s rule compared to what America has coming. God have mercy on your people.

Without constraints, people rage against the Lord and rebel against authority (Psalm 2:1-2). In the end, they will not go unpunished. Their swords will be used against them. For rebellion is like the sin of divination (1 Samuel 15:23). 

In contrast to an attitude of rebellion, when the first of Judah’s exiles were settled in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the elders:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce… Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7)

As for God’s people, they were to go about their lives, blessing their neighbors and Nebuchadnezzar the king. Regardless of who rules over the kingdoms of men, the saints are to turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

Rebellion against authority was conceived in the heart of an angel of light (Isaiah 14:13). It spread throughout the angelic realm until the scourge was hurled to the earth. In these last days, we know who is fomenting discontent and hatred. We know where the rage originates. It is because the devil’s time is short. Prophecy confirms there will be rebels. In the time of the end, they will become completely wicked. A stern-faced king will emerge as their chief. He will make war against God’s mighty ones and saints. After his power is taken, he and his kingdom will be completely destroyed. The scourge on earth will cease. The meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. So says the Lord.

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11 NIV)

Prophecy students owe a great deal to Thessalonian believers. Without their habit of becoming confused, distressed and led astray, we would not have clear, supportive Scriptures on subjects such as the rapture and Christ’s return. Paul loved the Thessalonians, as his letters testify, despite the fact they were easily swayed by men.

In the church in Thessalonica, they nightly turned out to listen to Paul. Afterward, they probably shook his hand and told him how nice his message was. Unfortunately, they may have forgot what they heard by the time they reached home.

The dear folks were no doubt polite and thoughtful, making sure Paul, Luke and their companions always had enough to eat and comfortable lodging, yet something was amiss. Luke, the writer of Acts,  did not compare them favorably with the Bereans. As we read above, only the Bereans listened eagerly then examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 

Friendly people, but the Thessalonians failed to employ critical thinking. They did not test the spirits to determine if what they heard was of God. One can imagine the Bereans had questions, sought clarity, and were hungry to learn the Scriptural basis for what Paul taught. (The Reformation-era Pietists were much like the Bereans. Their famous reply to a never before vetted statement on doctrine was, “Brother, where stands that written?”)

The Bereans compared Paul’s Bible passages with other Scriptures. They reviewed the full context. Among their band, some took detailed notes. On the other hand, the Thessalonians contributed a part of the New Testament simply because they failed to retain Paul’s teaching on prophecy, or failed to familiarized themselves with his Scriptures. As a result, they easily fell into error.

We still have Thessalonian Christians around, wouldn’t you say? Dear folks, who would give the shirt off their back and sit through every service. They seem attentive to the teaching, but they leave everything behind at the double doors. (“That was a good word from Pastor today. What was it again he talked about?”)

Thanks to the Thessalonians we have a record of what Paul taught. In one he chastised them for being easily led astray by a false prophecy, false letter or false report supposedly coming from him. “Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:5)

The Thessalonians were not equipped to catch an error in interpretation or in sound biblical teaching, but the Bereans were right on top of it. The lie never had a chance, because they interacted with what they heard and the inspired word of the Old Testament. False prophets may have avoided the Bereans altogether, which might explain why no letter was necessary to correct them. As a false teacher, why deal with being exposed when down the road, in Thessalonica, he could be treated like a star?

Revisiting what Paul taught about the events preceding Christ’s return and the rapture are to our benefit, but should it have been necessary? The Thessalonians probably treated every teacher with hospitality and an open door to their mind. If they did remember something, they lacked the discipline to put it to the accuracy test. Scriptural authority was not that big of a deal to the Thessalonians. The entertainment value of the experience had more importance.  Do you know of any Thessalonian churches with Thessalonian Christians near you? I hope you are acquainted with other Bereans.

 

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”  (Jeremiah 23:16 NIV)

At lunch recently, our friends began to describe their friend who made his living discovering counterfeits. He was on the lookout for popular labels of clothing made to look like the genuine. He became totally familiar with the hot selling brand—the stitching, the cloth and materials, the cut, every pleat, the logo, as well as the printing on the tag. For the fake to come to light, he compared the imitation with all that made the original product unique.

The fake can have a lot of similarities to the real, but, with counterfeits, something is always amiss. Our lunchtime discussion raised the possibility of Christians, without knowing it, possessing a counterfeit faith. It looks real. It may feel like it is real. They may assume what they have is genuine, but they had been sold a clever counterfeit.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but some time ago I bought an expensive looking watch. Without asking too many questions, I bought it from a man with whom I worked. George had a persona and an office that had the feel of money and success.  As for the watch, it had an inscription on the face that read “Rolex,” yet I paid a penny on the dollar of what the genuine would cost.

Who was I hurting anyway? If someone asked about my nice watch, I did not lie. I may have sent them to George. The sad truth was that I was wearing deceit.

Before you judge, what about the brand of Christianity you wear? Is your faith genuine? Could it be that you are you okay with the small portion of false teaching you received from the most prestigious and prominent church around? Are you willing to sell others the fake item of faith you own? Are you comfortable displaying the fraudulent doctrine you were sold, and disinterested about knowing the truth? You did not realize it was fake, but why now the reluctance to compare it with God’s word?

“What harm can an imitation faith do?” you ask. “Fake is the new in-thing.” No one cares for authentic. No one holds it up to the Light to see if it meets God’s standard for truth.”

We may be particular about the food we eat, our clothing or our jewelry, yet all too willing to swallow the lie.  Even if no one cares to investigate matters of faith, we should. With counterfeit Christians, something is amiss. Critical thinking is absent. The Bible is not used as a source of authority. Jesus is exalted, but his truth is not (1 Timothy 2:4).

Let the buyer beware. We live an era filled with deceit and with men like George.  It would be wise to examine ourselves for the lies we believe, then warn others who might be ready to buy into a counterfeit faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

 

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