Do not despise prophesies but test everything. Hold fast to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 NIV)
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. (Matthew 24:24 NIV)
Will the real Jesus stand up!
Next to The Book of Revelation, The Bible’s Olivet Discourse is the clearest and most complete statement on what will happen in the last days. Since it is taken from the mouth of Jesus and recorded in Mark 13 and Luke 21, and also Matthew 24, its authority is unquestioned. When examined side-by-side with other prophecies, these Gospel passages contain all we need to know about the end of this age.
Our question is: “If in The Olivet Discourse we have Jesus’ detailed description of the future, why is it so often overlooked?” Instead of treating it as a rich treasure, it is frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted?
Obviously, Satan is at work deceiving the unsuspecting. Those untrained in the Scripture tend to rely on teachers to feed them their spiritual food. Matthew 24 is seldom on the menu, especially as verse-by-verse exposition. If the Olivet Discourse is offered, it may be served only as an appetizer.
If we are not digging into our Bible like a hungry man for food, then how will we grasp God’s plan of salvation? If we fail to follow Rule #1 of The Five Major Rules for Bible Interpretation, (“Accept Scripture in its most normal, natural and customary sense”) we will likely fall into another trap. We will only possess enough knowledge to be dangerous.
“A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Some assume their teachers will do the in-depth work for them. So why do it ourselves? Instead of savoring Matthew 24 like a fine meal we made ourselves, we eat and run.
Are we despising Matthew 24? “Many will come in my name claiming ‘I am the Christ,’ and deceive many (Matthew 24:4),” is a perfect example. While reading this in the past, a little switch was triggered and (presto!)–I had been programmed to change the meaning to “We will be fooled by a large number of men who suffer from ‘delusions of grandeur,’ who say they’re Jesus.”
I did not stop to consider that my interpretation did not make sense, nor did it fit the context. It completely ignores Jesus’ repeated warnings about false prophets and their deception.
When reading the Bible for understanding, we may be forced to re-examine (as I had to) what we were taught. Confusion then disillusionment might set in. We know who authors confusion–don’t we (1 Corinthians 14:33)?
Deception is more likely when we know and trust the messenger. A dear pastor who claims “Jesus is the Christ,” yet–and this is the essence of Christ’s warning–they go on to misinform about prophecy, intentionally or otherwise, is where we are vulnerable. This is especially true when our knowledge of prophecy is lacking. It is not about blaming anyone for the deceit, it is for us to be watchful. Deceit will surely come, but woe to the man through whom it comes (Matthew 18:7). In this wicked age, our task is to avoid being the victim (Matthew 24:24-25).
Next, we will look at a popular but harmful argument: “Prophecy in Matthew 24 was written for Jews, not Christians”– a huge step over the line.