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Faith Bible Church, NY
April 2, 1995
The Sign of His Coming
Deception, deceit, falsehood, lying, fraud, apostasy, false prophets, false teachers, heretics, anti-Christ. What do all these things have in common? The first five are used by the last five to persuade those who seek to follow Jesus Christ to be like they are. Those who hate Christ and who have turned their backs to the Lord have always and will always use any means possible to lead others astray. As the culmination of the ages draws closer the danger of this continues to increase, and during the period that we often refer to as the Great Tribulation, the Time of Jacob’s Troubles, or Daniel’s 70th week, the deception of such wicked people will reach its peak.
Apostates have been around since the beginning of human history. Cain was the first apostate. He rejected God’s example for dealing with sin and sought to satisfy God’s holiness in his own way. Instead of an animal sacrifice he brought his fruits and vegetables. God regarded Abel’s offering of a lamb and did not accept Cain’s offering. The result was that out of his jealousy Cain committed the first murder. Adam’s first son killed the second son and the human race has not improved any since.
Deceptive false prophets existed all throughout Israel’s history. God warned the nation in Deut. 18 about them and how to tell the true prophet from the false one, yet the nation’s history is filled with examples of their following after the false teachers.
The existed early on in the church too. The apostle Peter warned that just as there were false prophets in Israel, “there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. and many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words…” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
In a similar way, Paul had warned the Ephesian Elders only a few years after that church was planted to “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28,29).
The Apostle John was a little more strong in his warning to the Ephesian church forty something years later. Paul had warned of “savage wolves” and that is quite strong, but John called them “anti-Christs.” He says in 1 John 3:18-19, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they are not of us.”
The same is true today. There are still many false teacher and “antichrists” around. All you have to do is look in the religion section of any book store and you will find the writings of false teachers, heretics and even a few that claim to be some version of a “Christ”. In the broad subject stores such as B.Dalton and Walden, the religion section is filled with all sorts of “New Age” Books. Some are nothing but Americanized versions of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Easter Religions, while others are blends of Eastern thought and Christian thought, hence the recent interest in such things as angels.
The cults are also very busy in promoting their lies. There is of course quite a range of teachings. Some are bizarre, but with the various cults, the most critical area of theology distorted in cults and heretical sects are their distortions and sometimes outright denials of the nature and relationship of the Godhead. Some teach that God changes back and forth from Father, Son and Holy Spirit as needed. This is called Modalism, or Sabellianism. One divine being existing in three different modes. “The Local Church” founded by Witness Lee espouses a form of this ancient heresy.
Others teach some form of Unitarianism in which the triune nature of God is denied. Usually the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are denied, with the Holy Spirit simply being a manifestation of God and Jesus being an ordinary filled in some way by God. There are various forms of this heresy. In some Unitarian groups, rationalism has replaced all supernaturalism with the result that God to them is a mere figure head for their form of humanism.
The Way International and the Jehovah Witness both teach forms of Unitarianism. Both deny the deity of Christ and the distinct personhood of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not God incarnate, but human flesh filled with God. The Holy Spirit is God’s spirit force.
The Mormons go even farther, teaching that Jesus is the son of Eloheim, and the brother of Lucifer (the devil). But then, you are also a child of Eloheim and if you follow their teachings then some day you will become a glorified, exalted being like him and have your own planet where you will be its god and you and your wife/wives will continually be giving birth to new souls to populate that planet. The Mormons are actually polytheistic, believing in many gods rather than monotheistic.
Yet the Mormon idea is not all that bizarre if you pay attention to some of the current popular preachers on so called “Christian” TV and radio. Some of them are now teaching what is being called the “little gods” doctrine. Earl Paulk writes in his book, “Satan Unmasked,” “Adam and Eve were placed in the world as the seed and expression of God. Just as dogs have puppies and cats have kittens, so God has little gods…”. He goes on, “Until we comprehend that we are little gods and we begin to act like little gods, we cannot manifest the Kingdom of God.”
Robert Tilton, Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland all teach the same thing. Copeland writes in his book, The Power of the Tongue, “man had total authority to rule as a god over every living creature on earth, and he was to rule by speaking words. His words would carry the power and anointing of God that was in him from the time he was first created.” Copeland said in his sermon entitled, “The Force of Love,” “You don’t have a god in you, You are one!” Kenneth Hagin has taught that the Christian “is as much an incarnation [of God] as is Jesus of Nazareth.” Paul Crouch of TBN has fallen into this heresy as well. The late Walter Martin reported speaking with him on this issue for two hours and the whole time Paul Crouch was defending this doctrine.
Casey Treat, pastor of Seattle Christian Faith Center teaches that Christians are “exact duplicates of god.” In one sermon after he gets the congregation to repeat this blasphemy out loud he goes on to say, “When God looks in the mirror, He sees me! When I look in the mirror, I see God! Oh, Hallelujah!…” He goes on, “You know, sometimes people say to me, when they’re mad and want to put me down…. ‘You just think you’re a little god! Thank you! Hallelujah! you got that right! ‘Who d’you think you are, Jesus?’ Yep!”
With this sort of thing going on in supposedly Christian churches and being preached in so called “Christian” TV and radio, those who claim to be Christ are not so far fetched. Rev. Sun Myung Moon denies the deity of Jesus and says he failed to complete work of redemption, so God as sent him (Moon) as a second Messiah to complete the work. There is a movement in England which has receives some attention here about a person called, Lord Moriah, who will reveal himself at some point as the returned Christ.
False teachers, false prophets, apostates, heretics, anti-christs. They have been around from not long after the beginning and they are still around. But as the birth pangs of the great Tribulation get started their presence and deception get even greater. In Matthew 24:10-12 Jesus said “And at that time many will fall away (become apostates) and will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”
As the time of the Tribulation continues the deception of these false teachers will only get worse. We saw that last week in verse 23-26, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.”
Yet, even though Jesus had said this and specifically told them that when He came it would be “just as the lightning comes form the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be,” there were those that cast doubt on this and greatly disturbed the church. Such people still exist. Paul wrote the book of 2 Thessalonians to correct this problem.
The Thessalonians were enduring persecution for being Christians at that time. Paul sought to comfort them that the Lord was coming back and would deal out retribution to those who do not know God and to those that do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus (1:8). Someone had been teaching that the day of the Lord had already come (2:2), and Paul assures them that it had not and would not until certain events took place, especially in the coming of the anti-christ and the great deception that would also come at that time, verse 9 saying, “with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
Jesus will return “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2), but when He returns it will not be hidden. He will come when people are saying “peace and safety!” but their destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape (1 Thess 5:3). All the ladies here that have had children will tell you that when the birth pangs come, everyone knows it! Right dads?
This was Jesus’ point in Matthew 24:23-28 that we studied last week. The events leading up to His physical return will increase in pace and intensity, and then when He comes everyone will know it. It will not be hidden, and those who have claimed that Jesus has returned in some hidden form are heretics, false teachers!
In verse 29 Jesus continues to outline the great signs that will occur just prior to His return. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And he will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
There are all sorts of references to these various signs throughout the Scriptures. While it is hard to coordinate the exact time sequence within all the references because some of these phenomena will occur more than once, it is important to know that these things will occur and they will herald Jesus’ return. The general time sequence here are the events of the “beginning of birth pangs” in verses 5-14, the abomination of desolation being set up (vs15), followed by great tribulation (vs 21), and then the signs that occur in the sky, like the darkened sun and moon along with the stars falling. It is after all this that the sign of the return of the Son of Man is given. And what is that sign?
His appearing in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. He will return in the same manner in which He ascended to heaven as recorded in Acts 1. Revelation 1:7 says that “He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him.” The sign of Jesus return is Jesus Himself coming with the clouds in great power and glory. This will be the sight that Daniel saw in his vision recorded in Daniel 7. There will be nothing hidden about it. It will be plain to everyone – so much so that they will mourn over their sin for they will realize that judgment is now upon them.
Jesus began this discourse by saying, “Do not be misled,” and no one should be misled by either present or future claims of Christ’s return. When He returns, it will be obvious.
We should also not be mislead about any of the other plain teachings of the Bible for the basis of not being mislead, deceived, deluded is the same. God has already told us.
People fall for the lies of false teachers not because these people are so good in their deception, and they are indeed, but because of their own refusal to search out and believe the truth. That doesn’t mean people can’t be fooled for a short time, but whoever wants the truth continue to search for it until they find it. It becomes more evident all the time that most people will search until they find someone who will tell them what they want to hear. They do not want the truth, they want to feel comfortable or gain a sense that they have earned their salvation.
Paul warned Timothy several times about this. In 1 Timothy 4:1-3 Paul writes, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.” Tell me, what religious groups do you know that forbid marriage for their spiritual leaders? What religious groups do you know that advocate dietary laws? Paul says these are doctrines of demons for they replace God’s grace with man’s law. These things entrench a man in self-righteousness. There are false teachers all around.
In 2 Timothy 4:3,4 Paul writes, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”
In Matthew 24 Jesus calls His disciples and all future generations not to be misled about His return, but we ought not be misled about any of the things God has revealed. He has already told us, so why don’t we simply believe Him instead of becoming the dupes of false teachers?
The greatest tragedy of false teachers that exists is the perversion of the gospel message. In all religions except Biblical Christianity salvation is earned by the individual in some manner. Even in “Christianity” there are many groups that really teach the same thing. You make yourself holy so God will accept you. The opposite extreme also exists because there are those that are so afraid of works that they have changed the nature and message of salvation by grace through faith. Their trust is no longer in Christ Himself, which has great ramifications in how you live, but in some act by which you claimed Christ’s forgiveness. You walked the aisle, you raised your hand, or you prayed a prayer. The person’s trust is really in themselves rather than in Christ.
Don’t be misled. True salvation is about a gracious God granting forgiveness to worthless sinners because Jesus died as their substitute. Jesus came to seek and save sinners, not those who are trying to earn their own way.
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