"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, I
have told you in advance."
- Matthew 24:23-25
In the midst of
the greatest time of upheaval and chaos in the history of the world, Jesus
reminds his disciples that even then the most important thing in life is one' s
relationship with Christ. As this
passage moves into the events of the second half of the tribulation, the number
one priority is to avoid deception.
It is important
to avoid deception during the latter half of the tribulation because this is
the time in which the antichrist (also known as the beast in Revelation) begins
his global rule and requires all to take the mark of the beast in order to by
or sell (Rev. 13:17). This is such
an important time in history that God sends angelic messengers to specifically
preach the gospel to the entire world and warn them of the consequences of
accepting the mark of the beast (Rev. 14:6-13). This is an important time because individuals alive at this
time will determine their eternal destiny on the basis of their response to the
gospel and antichrist appeal to take his mark.
Matthew 24 and
Mark 13 are generally parallel to one another on this passage, while Luke 21
totally omits this text. Matthew
and Mark speak of a future tribulation, while Luke' s focus is primarily on
first century events. What is
Jesus is saying
in verses 23-25 two major points about false Messiahs. First, the false Messiah will not be
visible and out in the open. Second, the false Messiah will do miracles in
order to mislead and deceive many.
Looking For Messiah In All The Wrong Places
Verse 23 reports
on hearsay about the impending appearance of the Messiah. Here, our Lord is setting up a contrast
between the false and the true.
The false program of antichrist will be laden with rumor and innuendo,
but the genuine coming of Messiah will be clear to all (see verse 27). Why does Jesus come back to a warning
about deception in this passage after having already addressed the issue in
verses 4, 5, and 11? I think that
the answer is in the wording of His warning. Dr. Thomas Figart explains as follows:
Following the evacuation of Judea, the false messengers of Satan
will find it necessary to attempt to infiltrate those who have fled to the
mountains. First, they will claim
that Christ has already appeared, saying " Lo, here is Christ, or there" (24:23).
In order to bolster such claims, they " shall show great signs
(semeia) and wonders" (terata), two words
that are used of Christ' s miracles in Acts 2:22; so that their counterfeit
ministry " if possible" might
deceive the very elect. Obviously
this will fail, yet the attempt will be made.
central point in verses 23-28 is that believers are not to be deceived by false
prophets who claim to have special information about the whereabouts of the Christ," 
notes Robert Mounce.
understanding fits into the flow of the passage. In verse 15 Jesus tells his disciples to head for the hills
when they see the abomination of desolation take place in Jerusalem' s rebuilt
Temple. It is shortly after this
that antichrist requires the mark of the beast during the second half of the
tribulation. As events unfold
during the second half of the tribulation, the antichrist (i.e., the Beast in
Revelation) attempts to entice the elect, Jewish remnant out of their
wilderness hiding by saying that the Messiah is clandestinely in Jerusalem,
thus, they should come and see Him.
However, Jesus has warned his disciples in advance not listen to such propaganda.
passage is parallel to Paul' s writings in 2 Thessalonians 2 and John' s words in
Revelation 13. Both passages speak
of Antichrist' s deceptions. While
Matthew 24:26 says that the elect will not be deceived, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
says that the non-elect will be deceived.
" The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, 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" (2 Thess. 2:9-12). " Not alone will the apostate part of the Jewish people be
deceived by theses lying wonders," explains Arno Gaebelein. " But also the apostate part of
Christendom, left behind after the rapture of the church has taken place, will
be deceived and swept away in the great judgments of that coming day."  Interestingly Jesus says concerning
these false announcements: " Do not
believe!" This demonstrates that a
Believer should not just believe anything that comes down the pike, but it does
matter what you believe.
False Christs and False Prophets
Just as there are
true prophets who prepare the way for the true Messiah, so also, Satan will
have false prophets to prepare the way for his false Messiah often known as the
antichrist. In fact, it is often
said that the term " antichrist" only appears in 1 John (2:18; 4:3). This is true. However, the use of " false Christs" in verse 24 is similar
to the language for antichrist in 1 John.
Robert Govett says, " From the word ' false Christ' being equivalent to
' Antichrist' (1 John ii.18; iv.3), we see the meaning of the preposition anti. By
' Antichrist' is not meant ' one in opposition to Christ,' but ' a false
Messiah resembling the true.' "  This is expounded upon in Revelation
13, where the first part of the chapter (1-10) describes the first beast or the
antichrist, while the second part (11- 18) explains the role of the false
prophet. Here we see the
traditional marriage of religion being used to support the political. It is the false prophet who uses his
religious office to advocate loyalty to the beast and to take his mark of
allegiance on the right hand or forehead.
This is why Jesus warns of false signs and wonders in Matthew 24.
The " false
Christs" clearly is a reference to the antichrist, who is also known as the
beast (Dan. and Rev), the man of sin and the man of lawlessness (2 Thess.
2). The reference to " false
prophets" would certainly include the false prophet of Revelation
13:11-18. Revelation 19:20
summarizes the career and destiny of the false prophet as follows: " And the
beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his
presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and
those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of
fire which burns with brimstone."
like Gary DeMar say that these verses were fulfilled through events leading up
to, and including, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in
a.d. 70. They can cite a few examples of false
prophets, since there have been false prophets since the writing of the New
Testament (2 Pet. 2:1). However,
there is consensus that there were not false Messiahs or Christs until till
around a.d. 130. In fact, preterists do not even attempt
to cite examples of false Christs.
Apparently there were none in the first century to reference. H.
A. W. Meyer explains:
We possess no historical
record of any false Messiahs having appeared previous to the
destruction of Jerusalem (Barcochba did not
make his appearance till the time of Hadrian); for Simon Magus (Acts viii. 9),
Theudas (Acts v. 36), the Egyptian (Acts xxi. 38), Menander, Dositheus, who
have been referred to as cases in point (Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus,
Grotius, Calovinus, Bengel), did not pretend to be the Messiah. Comp.
Joseph Antt. Xx. 5. 1; 8. 6; Bell. Ii. 13. 5.
is looking toward a time that has not yet taken place in history. He is looking forward to the time of
the tribulation where the Jewish remnant will have fled to the hills at the
site of the abomination of desolation.
The false prophets and Messiahs attempt to draw them out of their
hiding, but true believers (the elect) will not fall for it, because Jesus is
warning them ahead of time about this tactic.
False Signs and Wonders
Here we have the
same words (great signs and wonders) that are used to describe the miracles of
Christ and His apostles, however, these works are preformed by false prophets
and false Messiahs. Does this mean
that Satan is merely deceptive, in that, " he makes men think that they see a
genuine miracle?"  Or, should this be understood as
" happenings that cannot be understood on the basis of merely human powers?"  I prefer the second view; that these
are genuine miracles. I favor that
view because every time there are statements about these false miracles the
language used is that they actually do these things, as we have in this passage
" will show great signs and wonders." I don' t know of an instance where the
language of appearance is used to describe these miracles. In other words, if they were just
tricking people into thinking that they were doing miracles with smoke and
mirrors, it would seem to me that scripture would have used language that
indicates this. Instead it uses words and phrases that say that they are
actually doing these things.
example, look at some of the satanic miracles performed by the false prophet in
Revelation 13. " And he performs
great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in
the presence of men" (verse 13).
" And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which
it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who
dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword
and has come to life" (verse 14).
" And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast,
that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not
worship the image of the beast to be killed" (verse 15). These are the words of actual events,
not slight of hand.
appears that God grants temporary power to these false prophets and Messiahs so
that they will be used of God to attract all unbelievers to themselves in
unbelief. This is what is meant in
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 when it says, " the one whose coming is in accord with
the activity of Satan, 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" (verses 9-10). Paul tells us the reason is that " 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." However, His elect will not be deceived, because Jesus has
warned them in advance to watch out for these false miracles. Maranatha!
Continued . . .)