“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.