By Nathan Jones
Can a person be zealous in their faith, yet be totally wrong?
I was recently interviewed by Vic Batista, senior pastor of the Miami-based Calvary Chapel Aventura on his radio program "The Truth Will Set You Free" via TWave Radio. "Pastor Vic" (as he likes to be called) was born in the Dominican Republic and is as active in planting churches and helping orphans there as he is in southern Florida, reaching out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to both the English and Spanish speaking audiences.
In this "The Truth Will Set You Free" episode, we'll look at the very first sign Jesus gave in Matthew 24 which tells us that we are living in the end times — the sign of false teachers.
Zealous Yet Wrong
Vic: Nathan, could you explain Matthew 24:3-5 for us and then give a little recap?
Nathan: Certainly, this passage marks the beginning of Jesus listing ten different signs of the end times. The ten different signs answer the three questions the Apostles had for Him. They wanted to know:
- When will the Temple fall? And we know that happened in history in 70 AD.
- What will be the signs of the end of the age? That is the end of the Church Age. The Church Age is the time we are living in right now.
- What will be the sign of Jesus' coming? In other words, the things that will happen during the coming 7-year Tribulation just before Jesus returns at the end.
Jesus starts with the first sign we read about in Matthew 24:4, "And Jesus said to them, 'Take heed that no one deceives you, for many will come in my name saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.'" Then in verse 11 He says the same thing, "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many." And verse 24, "For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive if possible even the elect."
Pastor Vic, false teachers are one of the most prolific signs of the end times that Jesus gives us. As we get closer to the last days before Jesus' returns to Rapture His Church, we will see more false prophets and more false teachers. They will come onto the scene more frequently and more intensely too as Satan tries to drown out the Word of God and confuse people, including possibly even believers in Christ, so that they aren't following the true Jesus Christ of the Bible.
Vic: Excellent point. That's exactly the focus here. We see one of the signs in verse 4 which says, "And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Take heed to no one deceives you for many will come in my name saying 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
Nathan, you shared with us in a previous segment that throughout history we have had these groups rise up with leaders calling themselves Christ.
Nathan: I'm reminded of the Apostle Paul. He was definitely zealous in his Jewish faith. Paul was a Jew thoroughly, an Orthodox Jew, and he was a follower of the five books of Moses to the letter. He was a terrible persecutor of the Church. Acts 7 tells the story of how Paul, then called Saul, stood there watching Stephen being stoned to death for his faith in Jesus. Stephen was one of the first people to come to Christ after Jesus' ascended up to Heaven. Paul was very zealous for the Lord.
As Paul was traveling along on the road to Syria's capital of Damascus on his way to punish and throw Christians into prison, Jesus Himself stepped before him and asked, "Saul, why are you persecuting me?" That's when Saul gave his life to Jesus and realized that he had been persecuting the Jesus of the Bible who is the fulfillment of all those prophecies about the Messiah. His eyes were opened, literally and figuratively, because he was blinded by Jesus and had to have some kind of scales fall off his eyes to see again.
Jesus had another apostle called Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were actually followers of a false teacher named Judah of Galilee. And you can read this in the historian Josephus' book Wars and in Acts 5:37. This man came around about ten years before Jesus was born. Judah the Galilean told the people that it was shameful for them to consent to pay any more tribute to the Romans or tolerate their mortal masters because God was their God alone. He had a false prophet, an Elijah, named Saddok. The two of them, both Judah and Saddok, founded this cult called the Zealots. That's where we find Simon the Zealot, though Simon was saved out of that cult.
In the fifth part of this discussion with Pastor Vic on the end times sign of false teachers, we'll look at some of the reasons why people join cults.