“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.
“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
I played chess in my younger days, and I loved the game. Chess is a strategy game, which means that to win, you must have a better plan of action than your opponent. And one of the tactics is knowing how your opponent thinks so that you can better anticipate his moves.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul tells us to “take (our) stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11b-12). So we are in a war against an enemy who schemes, which is another word for strategizes. Now, get into the enemy’s head. If you wanted to take down a city that has strong defenses, what’s the best way to do it?
Take it down from within. After a fruitless 10-year siege of the Trojan city of Troy, the Greeks constructed a giant wooden horse and hid a select force of men inside, including Odysseus. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war.
Now, I don’t wish to be alarmist, but if I wanted to hurt the church, what better way than from the inside? Jesus warned, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Peter also warns: “There will be false teachers AMONG you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1). Note the word “secretly.”
There ARE false messiahs, prophets, and teachers in the church today! We can see them all around us, feeding us a corrupted gospel. Many now openly declare that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. So, what do we do? We must ensure we know God’s word. This way, if we hear something wrong, we will catch it (see Acts 17:11). We also need to see the fruit that people bear. Miracles can be counterfeited; fruit cannot (see Matthew 7:18). Thirdly, we must remember Jesus’ promise to Peter. “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). No matter how good a strategist the enemy might be, he is no match for our God.
Let us remember that always.
May the Spirit be with you.