Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24: 1-5)
I suggest you read the whole of Matthew 24 to get the context of this passage so that you can get the full impact of what I am about to highlight in this passage of Scripture. As someone who has been a Christian for many years, I have progressively come to appreciate the brevity of Scripture. The Scriptures are extremely concise and from my viewpoint we would do well to pay careful attention to every word contained in the Bible. This fact becomes even more evident when we study the words and dialogues of Jesus. He certainly was not a man of many words. Rather, he was a man of very focused and profound words. Unlike me, good writers have a great capacity to write concisely. So what does my observation have to do with this passage of Scripture?
Jesus prophesies the destruction of the Temple
In this insightful passage of Scripture we see that Jesus and the disciples had just left the Temple. Apparently the disciples were impressed by it’s buildings and Jesus took the opportunity to focus their attention on something of far greater significance. His shocking response to their comments of admiration for the Temple buildings was that it would be destroyed. Later on the Mount of Olives and during private discussion with the disciples, they can hardly contain their curiosity about the comment Jesus had made earlier that day. They proceed to say “Tell us … when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”
Jesus warns of deception
It is quite profound that the very first statement Jesus makes is to warn the disciples of deception. He states “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” From this reply we can derive that the key issue at the end of the age before Christ returns will be deception. The problem with deception is that it is very deceptive. Deception always contains fragments of truth.
Satan always comes as an angel of light
The very nature of deception is to fool the unwary into believing that what is being said or sold is true when in fact it is not. If deception was not so difficult to spot, then we would not easily be deceived. Think of camouflage. It hides the enemy from it’s prey. It’s designed to blend in with the environment with which the unsuspecting victim is familiar. It sound to me a little bit like the warning that Satan always presents himself as an angel of light – something good, truthful, honorable or desirable. (2 Corinthians 11:14). In other words, he always comes in disguise to hide his real evil intention which is always to steal, kill and destroy.
Do not believe every spirit
In John 4:1 we read “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” In other words, as Christians we are not to be gullible. Jesus’ stark warning about the danger of deception stands in contrast with how many Christians respond to information in the day and age in which we live. If it is true that Satan always hides his evil intentions (just as con men do), then it is logical that we must scrutinize everything that is presented to us in the name of truth or that professes to represent God or Christianity. In Acts 17:11 we read “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” The Bereans were not gullible. Although they were open to truth, they were diligent in comparing what they heard to the scriptures – daily. In this passage of scripture they are described as noble because of their integrity in affirming spiritual truth. This is an extremely important principle to follow because not every spirit is of God or represents truth; this despite the fact that deception can sound so convincing and attractive to the unwary spiritual traveler.
Let the buyer beware
‘Ceveat Emptor’ is a Latin phrase for “let the buyer beware.” The term is primarily used in real property transactions. Essentially it proclaims that the buyer must perform their due diligence when purchasing an item or service. The word derives from ‘caveat’ meaning “may he beware”. It is a contract law principle arising from the fact that buyers typically have less information about the goods or services they are purchasing. while the seller has more information. In this way defects in the goods or services offered may be hidden from the buyer, and only known to the seller. In fact there is much deception today in the world of trade and commerce. When speaking of contracts, we often refer to “the small print” or say “the devil is in the details.” So true – the devil is usually in the detail. And this is exactly where con men strike the hardest – they base their deception on the premise that people are generally too lazy to scrutinize the details of a transaction. They prefer instead to believe what is claimed to be true simply because it is claimed to be true without supporting evidence.
Christians have access to supporting evidence
Fortunately every Christian has free access to supporting evidence that enables us to do due diligence to avoid being deceived. Everyone knows how painful the consequences of deception can be. We also know that it is always best to avoid being deceived in the first place. It is on this point that I really want to focus in this article. God has provided His Word to every believer so that we can study it in order to avoid deception. As believers, we are all personally responsible to be alert and to carefully consider everything that is presented in the name of God. If we choose to ignore Jesus’ warning, we have no one to blame but ourselves.