And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.…
The coming of Christ in his kingdom being the great event of prophecy to be fulfilled, the time and signs of that coming became questions of intense interest to the disciples. The time is generally indicated by the signs. These are -
I. APOSTASY THROUGH THE INFLUENCE OF FALSE CHRISTS.
1. Many antichrists appeared before the destruction of Jerusalem.
(1) Even in apostolic days the mystery of iniquity was already working (see 2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 John 2:18). Note: Antiquity is no certain evidence of truth. Error is very nearly as ancient. The spirit of falsehood invaded the garden of Eden.
(2) Many came professing to be the Christ. "Theophylact has recorded that one Dosatheus, a Samaritan, put himself forth as the prophet foretold by Moses; that Simon of Samaria also declared himself to be the great power, that is, the 'great power of God,' mentioned in the Acts. This prophecy also seems to contemplate Theudas, and 'that Egyptian' (see Acts 21:38), and another impostor mentioned, but not named, by Josephus, all of whom styled themselves prophets, though only rebels and deceivers. Manes, in later times, presumed to call himself the Christ, and to choose twelve apostles, in imitation of our Lord" (Joachim Camerarius). Since Christ in Christianity is all that is Divine and saving, so all false systems of Christianity are false Christs.
2. Many have since been deceived by the popes.
(1) The popes affect to be vicars of Christ, and usurp his prerogatives. They claim infallibility. They assert dominion over the faith of Christians. They undertake to forgive sins committed against God.
(2) Multitudes have apostatized through their deceptions. The state of Christendom was deplorable before the Reformation. The mischief is still extensive (see Revelation 13:3).
(3) This seems to be the apostasy indicated by Paul as that destined to be developed when the restraining power of the Roman emperors should be taken out of the way (see 2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8).
3. Many have been deceived in the Mohammedan delusion.
(1) Mohammed was an antichrist, as he set himself above the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) He made converts by hundreds of thousands by the eloquence of his sword. How extensive were the conquests of the Saracens! What an empire was once that of the Turks!
(3) Mohammedan Mahdis are ever arising. We are warned to take heed against deceivers. "The colour of the greatest good is often the cover of the greatest evil" (Henry). Seducers are enemies more dangerous to the Church than persecutors.
II. EXCITEMENTS OF MILITARY COMMOTION.
1. These existed before the destruction of Jerusalem.
(1) When Jesus was born there was peace. The temple of Janus was shut.
(2) But think not that he came to continue such a peace (see Luke 13:49-53). War comes of refusing the gospel.
(3) "Rumours of wars." When Caius [Caligula] resolved to erect his statue in the temple at Jerusalem, the consternation was so great that the people omitted to till the land.
(4) Christians were to "hear of wars." They are more apt to "hear" of them than to engage in them. Many of them submitted to die rather than serve in the armies.
(5) "Nation rising against nation." In Palestine, before the time of Joshua, there were "many nations and great." At this time there were many divisions in the land - Judaea with Samaria, Galilee, Ituraea, Abilene. These were in conflict and commotion (see Bishop Newton's 'Diss. on Prophecy').
2. They are to precede the millennial reign.
(1) The war spirit, born in depraved human nature, has become organized in these last times, viz. since the great prophetical era marked by the first French Revolution.
(2) Standing armies have now swollen to enormous proportions; and science has been taxed to render weapons of war terribly destructive.
(3) To support this system industry is oppressed. Ploughshares are beaten into swords - a process which was destined to precede the reverse operation of beating swords into ploughshares (cf. Isaiah 2:4; Joel 3:9, 10; Micah 4:3).
III. FEARFUL PUBLIC CALAMITIES.
(1) Such there were before the destruction of Jerusalem. One of these was foretold by Agabus (see Acts 11:28). Josephus and Eusebius mention two famines which took place in the days of Claudius; and Josephus expressly says, "There was a great famine throughout Judaea" ('Ant.,' 20:2).
(2) Such have occurred in modern times, and are likely to become increasingly destructive as the population of the world increases, and the war spirit increases with it.
2. Pestilences. These are the usual attendants of famines.
(1) Epidemic disorders are generally produced from the scarcity or badness of provisions.
(2) The carnage of the battlefield is also a source of epidemic disease.
(1) Such there were before the destruction of Jerusalem. The first of the series was that in connection with the crucifixion of Jesus. The histories of Claudius and of the following emperors notice many in Asia and the islands of the Aegean. They took place in Crete, in Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos; in Laodicaea in the consulship of Nero; at Hierapolis and Colosse. In all these places the Jews resided. Add to these that dreadful one in Judaea mentioned by Josephus ('Wars,' 4:4), accompanied by a furious tempest, with continual lightnings, thunders, and rain.
(2) The thoughtful observer of the signs of these times cannot overlook the earthquakes by which they are ever increasingly distinguished (see Mallett's tables).
IV. THE WIDE PUBLICATION OF THE GOSPEL.
1. The publication was at first limited to the Jews.
(1) Our Lord in Person came to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel."
(2) Occasionally, however, he presaged the publication of his gospel to the Gentiles.
(3) Though he commissioned his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature, he instructed them to begin at Jerusalem.
2. When the Jews rejected it, then the apostles turned to the Gentiles.
(1) It soon was carried throughout the Roman empire, then styled the world (see Romans 1:8; Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:6, 23). Then followed "the end" in the judgment upon Jerusalem.
(2) Now, through the great evangelistic societies - Bible societies and missionary societies - the testimony of the gospel is carried into "all the world" in the wider sense. May we not therefore look for the day of judgment upon the antichristian nations? Of all these things Christians are to take heed. For the confirming of their faith. For the inspiration of their hope. For their personal safety. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.