Prophecy on Mount Olivet
By Arlen L. Chitwood
False Christs and False Prophets
Then if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “There!” do not believe it.
For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
See, I have told you beforehand.
Therefore if they say to you, “Look, He is in the desert!” do not go out; or “Look, He is in the inner rooms!” do not believe it. (Matthew 24:23-26)
When Christ was on earth the first time, rejection rather than acceptance marked His ministry. The scribes and Pharisees, Israel’s main religious leaders, saw to that. They followed Christ in His ministry, seeking, at every turn, to counter His message and the signs that He was performing. And, by and through this means, they “shut up the kingdom of the heavens against men [‘before men,’ ‘in the presence of men,’ i.e., in the presence of those in Israel]” (cf. Matthew 12:9ff; 15:1ff; 16:1ff; 23:1ff).
Because of the actions of the scribes and Pharisees, Christ, looking two millenia ahead by His statement in John 5:43, called the Jewish people’s attention to where this rejection would ultimately lead:
I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.
And this person, to one day appear to the Jewish people — evident from that which is stated in this verse and this man’s revealed actions — will appear in a similar Messianic respect to the way Christ appeared, though a completely false respect. He, in this manner, will evidently be the one to deceive the Jewish people by providing a way for them to rebuild their Temple on the Temple Mount, with a reinstituted Mosaic Economy. These things, from all indication, will form the heart of the covenant that this man makes with Israel, seen in the manner in which, three and one-half years later, he breaks this covenant (ref. Chapter 4 in this book).
At that time, he will enter into and desecrate the Holy Place, cause the sacrifices connected with the rebuilt Temple to cease, and declare himself to be God. And when he breaks the covenant that he will have previously made with “many” in the nation, revealing himself in his true colors, he will seek to cut Israel off “from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more” (Psalm 83:4).
The sequence of events beginning in the latter part of the Jewish section of the Olivet Discourse has to do with Israel in the last half of the Tribulation. According to Matthew 24:23-26, “false Christs and false prophets,” will appear during this time, continuing from their appearance during the first half of the Tribulation (v. 5); and, just as the Antichrist and his false Prophet (Revelation 13:1, 11) will have appeared in a deceptive, Messianic manner at the beginning of the Tribulation, these “false Christs and false prophets” will subsequently appear in a similar deceptive manner and seek to further deceive the Jewish people.
These false Christs and false prophets will appear at an appropriate time for deception, for Israel will seemingly be at the mercy of Antichrist, who will show no mercy. The nation in this position will be in a dire straight, in desperate need of help, and undoubtedly in a very vulnerable position. And it will be during these days that the Jewish people will be brought to the end of themselves, to the place where they will have no recourse other than to cry out to the God of their fathers for deliverance from their affliction (Exodus 2:23).
It will be prior to the time God answers their cry (Exodus 2:24, 25; 3:7-10) that the false Christs and false prophets of Matthew 24:23-26 appear. These false Christs and false prophets will support their pseudo claim by and through a manifestation of “great signs and wonders” (v. 24). Such were the credentials of the true messengers to Israel during and following (for about twenty-nine more years) the time Christ was upon earth the first time, and such will be the credentials of the false messengers to Israel during the days immediately preceding Christ’s return yet future.
These “great signs and wonders,” manifested by “false Christs and false prophets,” will thus form part of the strategy that Satan will use in his efforts to destroy Israel during the Great Tribulation.
The test for false prophets is given in Deuteronomy chapters thirteen and eighteen. False prophets deceive individuals, as revealed in these chapters, by “a sign or a wonder” that comes to pass (a supernatural manifestation of power that comes to pass through demonic powers, not through the power of the Spirit); and the object of the sign or wonder manifested by false prophets is to deceive and draw individuals away from the One True and Living God, causing them to follow after “other gods” (13:1, 2).
During the Great Tribulation, Satan, already having deceived the Jewish people through Antichrist and his false prophet, will seek to further deceive them through signs and wonders manifested by false Christs and false prophets, trying to draw them away after “other gods [demons]”; and the entire matter will be brought to pass with an ultimate, planned purpose and goal in view — the utter destruction of Israel.
Signs, Wonders, Miracles
A proper understanding of signs, wonders, and miracles can be derived only by and through viewing the matter in its correct biblical perspective, beginning in the Old Testament. There’s nothing in the New Testament that does not have its roots somewhere in the Old Testament, and governing principles set forth in the Old Testament must be followed in New Testament interpretation.
1) Manifestations in Different Periods
One thing that is almost completely overlooked in the matter of signs, wonders, and miracles is the fact that miraculous works of this nature, where individuals were/will be empowered by God to perform them, appear very sparingly in Scripture. As one moves through the whole of Scripture, he will find only four periods in both history and prophecy where individuals were given or will be given power to perform miraculous, supernatural works, seen as signs. And within these four periods one will find only a small minority of individuals so empowered.
Throughout all of the Old Testament God empowered individuals to perform signs, wonders, and miracles only on two occasions; and only two individuals received such power on each occasion. In each instance there was a definite purpose for the manifestation of these miraculous works, and in each instance there was a definite beginning and a definite ending of the miraculous works.
a) First Period
The first period in Old Testament history where God empowered individuals to perform signs, wonders, and miracles began immediately preceding the Exodus during the days of Moses, after about 2,500 years of human history had elapsed. God empowered Moses and his successor Joshua to perform supernatural signs — the first time, according to the biblical record, that man had been so empowered (cf. Exodus 4:1-9, 29-31; Numbers 14:11; Joshua 24:17; Psalm 78:42, 43). And these supernatural signs began in a sudden fashion and were terminated just as suddenly as they had begun.
The nation of Israel was led out of Egypt under Moses to realize the rights of primogeniture in the land of Canaan, a theocratic kingdom was brought into existence in the wilderness of Sinai, and Joshua (following the wilderness wanderings and the death of Moses) led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, with the same theocracy in view.
Once in the land they were to be established at the head of the nations within a theocracy, with the Gentile nations being reached by and blessed through Israel.
This first period of signs, wonders, and miracles in Scripture occurred completely within the scope of these events, within the lifetime of Moses and Joshua. In this respect, it should be carefully noted that the first appearance of signs, wonders, and miracles in Scripture had to do with two things:
1) Israel (the signs were for the people of Israel; it is the Jewish people who require a sign [1 Corinthians 1:22]).
2) The kingdom (the signs had to do with Israel in relation to the theocracy).
The supernatural manifestation of signs during Moses and Joshua’s day appeared in connection with the Exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt under Moses and the entrance of the Israelites into and the conquest of the land of Canaan under Joshua. And, as previously noted, these signs had to do with Israel in relation to the theocracy.
Thus, a first mention principle pertaining to signs, wonders, and miracles was established at this point in Scripture. And any true manifestation of a sign (the event itself) — seen as “a wonder,” with the power behind the sign described by the word “miracle [Greek: dunamis, ‘power’]” — at any place beyond this in Scripture, would have to be in line with that seen at the beginning.
The sign would have to be a supernatural event, brought about by divine power, designed to capture the attention of individuals as something marvelous, a wonder. And this supernatural event, the sign, would ALWAYS have two things in view; else it could not be a true biblical sign. It would ALWAYS have “Israel” and “the kingdom” in view. BOTH must be present, in view, for the supernatural event to be seen as a true biblical sign.
b) Second Period
The second period in Old Testament history where God empowered individuals to perform signs, wonders, and miracles occurred about five centuries later during a time of apostasy in Israel. Elijah and his successor Elisha received power to perform miraculous works, seen as signs (cf. 1 Kings 17:1-24; 18:25-46; 2 kings 2:9; 4:1ff; 5:1ff; 6:1ff).
These signs were designed to draw attention to God’s two prophets and the message that they carried during this time. And, as in the first period, so in the second period — these miraculous works were terminated just as suddenly as they had begun. And they occurred within the lifetime of both Elijah and Elisha, not before, not after.
Once again it should be carefully noted that these miraculous works had to do with Israel and the kingdom. This is the only way that they could have been manifested by God’s true prophets, for a first-mention principle to this effect had previously been established.
God, during the days of Elijah and Elisha, was providing the Jewish people with a final opportunity to reverse the path that the nation had taken within the theocracy.
However, as in prior years, the people continued within the same status seen in Isaiah 6:9, 10, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 13:14, 15:
And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive;
for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”
And, because of the people’s continued unbelief and disobedience, God later allowed the Assyrians and the Babylonians to uproot His people and carry them away captive into Gentile lands.
The preceding two periods constitute the only times in all of Old Testament history where men were empowered to perform signs, wonders, and miracles. There were other times when miraculous events occurred (such as the deliverance of the three Hebrew men cast into the fiery furnace, the deliverance of Daniel who had been cast into the lion’s den, or the deliverance of Jonah from the place of death [Daniel 3:20-27; 6:16-23; Jonah 2:1-10]), but these were not miracles performed by individuals. These were miracles performed by God on behalf of His people.
c) Third Period
The next period in Scripture where God empowered individuals to perform signs, wonders, and miracles occurred during the days Christ was upon earth, recorded in the New Testament.
Christ called His twelve disciples and “gave them power” to perform certain miraculous works, to be seen and understood by the Jewish people as signs (Matthew 10:1-8; cf. Matthew 12:38; John 20:30, 31). Later He “appointed seventy others” and gave them similar powers (Luke 10:1-9). The miraculous works emanating from these powers — signs — constituted the credentials of the messengers of the gospel of the kingdom.
These signs were in evidence during both the several years of Christ’s earthly ministry and the continued ministry of the Apostles during about the first three decades of the Church’s existence. They were in evidence so long as the offer of the kingdom remained open to Israel — from 30 A.D. to about 62 A.D., during both the offer of the kingdom to Israel (during Christ’s earthly ministry, seen in the four gospels) and during the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel (during the ministry of the Apostles, seen throughout the Acts period).
There was a manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles throughout both the offer and the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel (throughout the gospels and the book of Acts) unlike anything seen in the previous almost fifteen centuries of Jewish history. But the day came when this offer was withdrawn; and signs, wonders, and miracles, which had to do with the Jewish people and the kingdom, correspondingly ceased. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed a few years later (70 A.D.), and the Jews in the land were subsequently uprooted from this land and scattered throughout the nations of the earth.
The entire sequence of events surrounding the third period of signs, wonders, and miracles in Scripture began with the proffered kingdom of the heavens by Israel’s Messiah, and it was concluded following a continued offer of the kingdom after Messiah’s return to heaven.
From beginning to end, the matter was Jewish and had to do with the kingdom.
d) Fourth Period
The next and last manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles is future and will occur during and immediately following the Tribulation. It will occur at a time after God has resumed His national dealings with Israel.
Both the nation of Israel and the kingdom will once again be in view; and, correspondingly — because God will be dealing with the Jewish people in relation to the theocracy once again — signs, wonders, and miracles can accompany the message (e.g., the ministry of God’s two witnesses during the Tribulation [Revelation 11:3-6] and events in connection with Christ’s return and the revelation of Himself to the Jewish people immediately following the Tribulation [cf. Exodus 1-9, 29-31; Matthew 24:30]).
And as well during this time there will be a counter manifestation of miraculous works by false prophets (Matthew 24:23-26; Revelation 13:11-15).
e) The Full Realization and Manifestation…
Then, the full realization and manifestation of all things foreshadowed by all the signs, wonders, and miracles in Scripture — dating all the way back to the days of Moses and Joshua — will be realized by Israel during the Messianic Era.
(E.g., the supernatural healing of an individual in the sign showed that which God would do for the entire nation in the Messianic Era, the supernatural provision for an individual or group of individuals in the sign showed that which God would, as well, do for the entire nation in the Messianic Era, etc.)
A converted Jewish nation will be restored to the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and Israel will occupy her proper place in the land with respect to the Gentile nations.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing . . . .
(Isaiah 35:5, 6a)
Scriptural manifestations of signs, wonders, and miracles are relegated to certain specific periods in history and prophecy. These miraculous works, from their beginning during Moses and Joshua’s day to their final realization and manifestation during the coming age, have to do with Israel and the kingdom.
(This is the key to understanding signs, wonders, and miracles in Scripture. With this key, one can safely navigate through the pages of Scripture where signs, wonders, and miracles are dealt with; apart from this key, in these same areas of Scripture, one will forever be lost in a sea of misinterpretation, with tragic results often following in one’s spiritual life.)
2) Manifestations Today
Since signs, wonders, and miracles emanating from God in either history or prophecy are peculiarly related to Israel and the kingdom, it is evident that such would be completely out of place in Christendom today. Israel has been set aside, awaiting “the fullness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25, 26); and the kingdom is being held in abeyance. Thus, any manifestation of miraculous works in Christian circles today can be neither a continuation of nor a restoration of the signs, wonders, and miracles evident not only during apostolic times but also during Old Testament days as well.
These supernatural powers were for times past (during the days of Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, Christ, and the disciples), and they are reserved for times yet future (during the days of God’s witnesses in the Tribulation. Then, that which is foreshadowed by these supernatural powers will be realized during the coming day when Christ will be upon earth once again [Revelation 11:5, 6; Isaiah 35:1-6]).
Consequently, any individual, group of individuals, or segment of Christendom in the world today purporting to exercise these powers are not following biblical guidelines at all. Such individuals, from a Scriptural standpoint, are not at all exercising gifts that they claim to be exercising.
Manifestations of supernatural powers in the world today are no indication that the ones exhibiting these powers are from God. Something that is often overlooked completely is the fact that Satan possesses supernatural powers that can be exhibited through man.
Such were in evidence during the first period of miraculous works in Scripture, as they will be during the last period of Man’s Day, immediately preceding the Messianic Era (cf. Exodus 7:11, 22; 8:7, 18; Matthew 24:23-26; Revelation 13:11-18).
Scripture associates the working of Satan with “all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10); and his efforts by and through the manifestations of such powers are always directed toward one goal — to deceive.
Efforts to effect his goal through deception mark Satan’s introduction into affairs of the human race, establishing a first-mention principle which, as any first-mention principle, remains constant throughout Scripture (Genesis 3:1-7; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 2:14; Revelation 13:13, 14).
With these things in mind, one should be able to easily ascertain that signs, wonders, and miracles, as exhibited at any point in history by and through a supernatural work emanating from God, do not belong in the Church today at all. Any present manifestation would not be in keeping with what Scripture teaches in both history and prophecy concerning these miraculous works.
Within a true biblical perspective, signs, wonder, and miracles, as seen in the gospel accounts and the book of Acts (or in 1 Corinthians, written during the Acts period), cannot presently exist in Christendom today. It would be biblically impossible for miraculous signs to exist in the Church today.
Consequently, viewing all aspects of the matter, a present exhibition of miraculous signs in the Church would, of necessity, have to be looked upon only one way: a satanic deception.
We’re living very near the end of the present dispensation, at a time when the leaven that the woman placed in the three measures of meal in Matthew 13:33 is doing its most damaging work. This is also the time when there is an ever-increasing interest among Christians from all denominations in miraculous works — seen in Scripture as signs — which is really another way of referring to the interest of Christians today being aligned more with pseudo spirituality than with true spirituality, which is part and parcel with the destructive leavening process presently occurring.
(The preceding is not to say that Christians are doing this in an overt, understanding manner. Rather, as will become clear from Matthew 7:21-23 [discussed later in this chapter], this emanates mainly from biblical ignorance regarding the correct place signs, wonders, and miracles occupy in Scripture.
Never in the history of the Church has there been more biblical study aids and helps available on the one hand but more biblical ignorance among Christians on the other; and, as well, never in the history of the Church has there been a time quite like today in regard to deception, a time when Christians need to possess a knowledge of the Word of God like never before, though few do.
Accordingly, a Christian today, to avoid being caught up in that which is occurring on almost every hand, has only one recourse available — a knowledge of the Word of God.
If he possesses this knowledge, he can both know what’s happening and know how to avoid deception; if he doesn’t possess this knowledge, he not only can’t know what’s happening but he finds himself in a position where he is ripe for deception.)
Insofar as Satan’s deceptive work within the Church is concerned, he has evidently reserved a final, false manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles to be used as a trump-card; and, insofar as Israel is concerned, Satan will also conclude his dealings with the nation the same way, by using miraculous works — “great signs and wonders,” manifested by “false Christs and false prophets” during the Tribulation.
Why would Satan place such a high premium on miraculous works for his deceptive means? The answer is obvious: These miraculous works formed the credentials of the true messengers of God, and they were used in relation to a kingdom. Satan is the “god of this age,” the one who rules over the present kingdom (cf. Luke 4:5, 6; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 13:2). He is the great counterfeiter, and within this framework he has his messengers (who appear as “ministers of righteousness” [2 Corinthians 11:15]) going forth manifesting that which appears to be the credentials of the true messengers of God; and these credentials are used, as were the true credentials by God’s messengers in the past, in relation to a kingdom.
But now the matter is in relation to the kingdom under Satan. Satan’s aspiration, bringing about his fall, was seeking to be “like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). This remains his aspiration today, and this is reflected in miraculous works in relation to a kingdom. The “god of this age” is counterfeiting the work of the “Most High” in this realm, and he is deceiving multitudes within Christendom.
a) Matthew 7:21-23
In view of that which is presently occurring on an ever-increasing scale in Christendom, note the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”
And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
To properly understand this section in Matthew’s gospel, it should be clearly understood that eternal verities are not in view at all. No man will ever stand before the Lord to be judged relative to his eternal destiny. One’s eternal destiny will always be a closed matter prior to the time he enters into any future judgment (John 3:18).
All judgment (whether of the saved or the unsaved) will be on the basis of works, and if man could ever be brought into judgment where the issue dealt with is his eternal destiny, two impossible situations would exist:
1) Man’s works would occupy a place within a realm into which such works cannot enter (into man’s presently possessed salvation, an impossibility).
2) And the finished work of Christ would have to come under judgment (for man’s salvation, in its entirety, is based on that which Christ has done on our behalf).
The subject at hand in Matthew 7:21-23 is entrance into or exclusion from the kingdom of the heavens. The “kingdom of the heavens” is an expression referring to the rule of the heavens over the earth. The realm of this kingdom is presently occupied by Satan and his angels (cf. Ephesians 1:20, 21; 3:9, 10; 6:12; Revelation 12:7-9); and the whole of the kingdom, as it relates to the earth and the rule by man upon the earth, is presently, as well, under the control and rule of Satan and his angels (Daniel 10:12, 13, 20, 21).
During the coming age though, the heavenly realm of the kingdom will be occupied by Christ and His co-heirs; and the whole of the kingdom, as it relates to the earth and the rule of man upon the earth, will, in that day as well, be under the control and rule of Christ and His co-heirs (cf. Daniel 4:17, 25, 26; 7:18-27).
Thus, the matter in Matthew 7:21-23 simply has to do with occupying or being denied a position as co-heir with Christ in the heavenly sphere of the kingdom during the coming age. And, in this respect, following Christ’s statement in Matthew 21:43, when the kingdom (the heavenly sphere of the kingdom, that part of the kingdom that had been offered to and had been rejected by Israel) was taken from Israel, that which is seen in Matthew 7:21-23 can pertain only to the subsequent recipients of the offer of the heavenly sphere of the kingdom, to those in Matthew 21:43 who would be allowed to bring forth fruit for the kingdom, to Christians alone (cf. 1 Peter 2:9, 10).
To show the complete scope of the matter, note two things:
1) Unsaved individuals cannot be in view in the passage, for a person is in no position to be judged relative to entrance into the kingdom until after he has been saved. Then, aside from the preceding, the unsaved will have already been judged relative to their eternal destiny (John 3:18).
2) Further, Israel can no longer be in view, for this passage is dealing with “the kingdom of the heavens,” that part of the kingdom that was taken from Israel, that part of the kingdom that is presently being offered to Christians.
Thus, the judgment in view, depicted by Matthew 7:21-23, can, during the present day and time, relate only to Christians; it can only have to do with the future judgment of Christians, which will have to do with decisions and determinations rendered at the judgment seat of Christ at the end of this present dispensation.
The main thing to be noted about this passage though is the fact that Christ will be dealing with individuals who had previously been involved in miraculous works, promulgated in the name of the Lord; and these individuals will be denied entrance into the kingdom on the basis of their involvement in these works.
A question is asked in verse twenty-two (broken down into three parts in the KJV, but actually one question with three parts), and the negative used with this question in the Greek text (ou, expecting a “yes” answer, or a “positive” response) indicates that those involved in these works, those asking the question, expected the Lord to acknowledge that these works had been done under His power and direction. However, at a time too late, the truth concerning the matter is revealed by a negative response from the Lord.
The Lord’s response at this time indicates that He will have had nothing to do with these miraculous works, which He is seen viewing in a very negative sense by associating them with “lawlessness” (Greek: anomia, which should properly be understood and translated as “lawlessness” rather than “iniquity” [in the KJV]).
Why, at the judgment seat of Christ, will the Lord look upon Christian involvement in miraculous works after such a fashion as described in Matthew 7:21-23? The answer is simply that such involvement is participation in affairs of a kingdom diametrically opposed to the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of Satan; it is consorting with the enemy and actually participating in the working of Satan as he seeks to counterfeit the work of Christ, adding to the leavening process that he began very early in the dispensation.
(The whole overall thought of the coming kingdom of Christ to replace the present kingdom of Satan is something that occupies the Lord’s attention far more than many today may be led to believe. After all, this is the reason for man’s very existence, the reason for the events of Calvary [providing redemption, allowing man to one day occupy the position for which he had been created], the direction toward which everything in Scripture moves, and the goal that will one day be reached.
And God is not going to look lightly upon man moving in a contrary manner to His revealed plans and purposes surrounding this goal, particularly when man consorts with the enemy and seeks to promote the very kingdom of Satan itself.)
Issues of the judgment seat will involve faithfulness to one’s calling, with the coming kingdom of Christ in view; and Christians producing works after the fashion described in Matthew 7:22 are not only involved in a realm completely outside the scope of their calling but they are producing works that have to do with the present kingdom, not works associated with the coming kingdom.
In that coming day, Christ is going to say to Christians who had involved themselves in these miraculous works,
. . . I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (v. 23).
This is a “relative” statement pertaining to the matter at hand. (Note that even if eternal verities were in view, the statement would still have to be “relative,” for God is omniscient, knowing every person and all things.)
Christ will not know these individuals relative to:
1) Their works (the Lord will have had nothing to do with their works).
2) Entrance into the kingdom (they will be denied positions as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom).
Further, the miraculous signs that they call to His attention in that day will be referred to by Christ Himself as “lawless works.”
b) Course and Goal
It is apparent that two things have paved the way for the swift, widespread acceptance of signs, wonders, and miracles within Christendom during the closing days of the present dispensation:
1) The deadness of the mainline churches (note the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-21, depicting the Church as it will exist immediately prior to Christ’s return: “. . . you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”).
2) The biblical ignorance of Christians in these churches (a condition produced by the failure of pastor-teachers, over the years, to fulfill their calling). And Christians in churches of this nature, not knowing the Word of God, are ripe for deception.
Those exhibiting and advocating miraculous works appeal to Christians across all denominational lines by presenting what appears to be a living, active, vibrant experience to replace the deadness. The matter is often promoted as “a renewal” which the Lord is effecting among His people during the closing days of this dispensation; and literally millions of Christians have been caught up in this false ideology.
The Church being “renewed” during the closing days of this dispensation is, of course, not the biblical picture at all. Scripture presents the dispensation ending with an apostate Church, not a renewed Church (Revelation 3:14-21). “Renewal” would be reversing the leavening process in Matthew 13:33, or effecting a reversion of the tree back to a mustard bush in Matthew 13:31, 32.
Those within this movement though reinterpret these (and other) Scriptures to fit within the framework of their own ideology. Thus, the movement’s leaders, through a misinterpretation of Scripture, are actually trying to carry matters in a direction contrary to the way Scripture states things will go; and by and through this means the Christians’ attention is being drawn from the truth of Scripture into error promoted by the multitudes.
A high premium within the movement is also placed on experience (in connection with miraculous works), with a supposed closeness to God being derived through such experiences. This alone should cause individuals to stop and think, for during millennia of time, pagan religions, infiltrated by demons, have incorporated into their activities experiences in connection with miraculous works of the same type that have been brought over into Christendom today.
Within these pagan religions, demons work on human emotions by and through such things as dances or music, leading their votaries into dramatic, ecstatic experiences. Such experiences move one into feeling a closeness with Deity; and the more dramatic the experiences, the more in touch with God the person believes himself to be. The goal is a feeling of euphoria within this state.
In what direction is the present working of Satan, which will continue right on into the Tribulation after the Church is gone, actually moving? What is the goal, apart from a present deception of Christians, which will carry over into a deception of Israel during the Tribulation?
The answer, according to Scripture, is very simple: Satan’s work is about to move full circle. Organized false religion had its beginning in Babylon during the days of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10; 11:1ff), and it will have its end in Babylon during the days of Antichrist (Revelation 17:1ff). “Nimrod,” the first king of Babylon, is a type of “Antichrist,” the last king of Babylon.
These were and remain Satan’s false systems, demons exercise control, and supernatural powers are exhibited through men and women by these demons. The entire system will reach its greatest height during the coming Tribulation, immediately prior to its destruction; and it will, at that time, once again be centered back in Babylon.
(Satan’s present work in this respect appears to be centered in two realms:
1) Efforts to disrupt the Spirit’s primary work during the present dispensation — calling out a bride for God’s Son.
2) Efforts to prepare a fertile ground for conditions that will exist when the Tribulation begins, when he will launch his final and most intense onslaught against Israel.
Satan’s revealed, ultimate goal is the utter and complete destruction of the nation of Israel, something that should come under serious consideration by Christians caught up in the working of Satan during the closing days of the present dispensation. Needless to say, God does not take kindly to ill-treatment extended to His Sons, whether His firstborn son Israel or His firstborn Son Jesus.)
Deception During the Tribulation
The ones manifesting signs, wonders, and miracles in Christendom today are not, by large, the unsaved, but Christians themselves. That is, Satan has deceived multitudes of Christians, who are, in turn, deceiving other Christians (note once again the manner in which the question is asked in Matthew 7:22).
And such deception will apparently be wrought after the same fashion during the coming Tribulation. It will not be Gentiles going to Israel as “false Christs and false prophets,” but mainly, if not completely, apostate Jews going to Israel after this fashion.
Note that Antichrist will have a false prophet, who will evidently be a Jew. This man will arise from the land (the land of Israel), while the Antichrist will arise from the sea (a Gentile land [Revelation 13:1, 11]). And deception of the Jewish people during the Tribulation will be effected mainly through this man, who, by and through his deceptive ways, will evidently pave the way for numerous “false Christs and false prophets” to arise in the midst of the Jewish people.
(“Earth” in Revelation 13:11 is a translation of the word ge in the Greek text, which can be understood and translated as either “earth” or “land.” Context is the determining factor concerning how this word is to be understood and translated.
The references to both “sea” and “earth [‘land’]” in vv. 1, 11 are references to location.
The “sea” is a reference to the Gentile nations, and the Greek word ge can only be understood in the same sense, referring to other than the Gentile nations, to the land of Israel [the only place on earth separate from the sea; if the word ge is understood and translated “earth” in v. 11, that would include the sea, which would not make sense contextually].)
Deception, according to Matthew 24:26, will involve false reports concerning the appearance of Israel’s Messiah. The Jewish people will be given hope where there is no hope. They will be told that their Messiah, the One who can effect deliverance, is in a certain place (the “desert,” the “inner rooms”). And the warning to Israel in this passage is to beware of anyone who comes with this type message, for Messiah’s return will not be in this manner at all.
Rather, the return of Israel’s Messiah will be sudden; it will be clearly visible for all to behold; it will result in deliverance for Israel; and it will be followed by destruction for Israel’s enemies (Matthew 24:27-31; cf. Isaiah 27:13; Ezekiel 38:1ff, 39:1ff; Joel 2:1ff; 3:1ff).
Thus, false reports by “false Christs and false prophets,” who manifest “great signs and wonders,” will form a major part of Satan’s overall, final plan to destroy Israel during the Great Tribulation. Satan will know that his time is short; he will know that exactly three and one-half years will transpire from the time Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel until the time Christ returns. And during this relatively brief period he will hold nothing back as he zeroes in on his primary target — the nation of Israel.
Within the confines of the lukewarm Laodicean Church during the closing days of the present dispensation, Christians have only one recourse to avoid being engulfed, after some fashion, in the final stages of the working of the leaven — a knowledge of the Word of God. No substitute or alternate exists.
The same one recourse will also be available for Israel during the Great Tribulation. Not only has Israel been warned concerning the time and manner of the appearance of false Christs and false prophets but Israel has also been given information concerning the time and manner of the appearance of the true Messiah. And God will have His witnesses on earth during that coming day to bear a true testimony to Israel concerning these things (Revelation 11:3ff).