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5 Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, íI am he,í and will deceive many.
Donít follow signs, Jesus says, or you will be deceived. Itís still true today. Signs can be misleading because Satanís forces can make it appear as if they have miraculous powers. This will happen in the very end of the end -
Revelation 13:14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.
This refers to the False Prophet that will lead the nations to worship the Anti-Christ as Lord. Over the years there have been many that have proclaimed to the Christ - Jim Jones, David Koresh, just to name two.
Signs donít matter - miraculous power doesnít matter - because signs can save you, and can mislead you. What matters is a relationship with Jesus Christ and the truth of the gospel. The Apostle Paul would later write that even if an angel came and preached a gospel contrary to the one they had received that that angel was really a demon - Joseph Smith should have read Galatians 1:8!
But now Jesus gives them some general guidelines to look for - not to focus on, but to be aware of.
7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
Now I have read a number of books about the end times during the 28 years Iíve been a Christian. Some of them have calculated the frequency of wars and earthquakes and determined that because the frequency is increasing that means we are in the end times. I remember a book entitled something like: "88 reasons Jesus will come in 1988." Hmm - perhaps they should come out with an annual revision - "4 reasons why Jesus will come in 2004". It would certainly be much shorter of a book.
Really, a close reading of the passage here seems to say the opposite - that false prophets claiming to be Christ are not a sign of the end - that natural disasters and man made disasters are not a sign of the end - but give us a taste of what the end will be like.
Birth pangs tell you that a birth is coming - but like labor, it can start and stop, slow down and speed up - the onset of labor does not tell you when the baby will come, only that it will come.
Jesus says "watch out" which means to observe carefully or "contemplate earnestly" the people, politics, and problems that occur around you so that you wonít be fooled into panicking.
Then He says:
9 "You must be on your guard.
This is the same word as above, but the focus isnít outward, its inward: "watch yourselves"
You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
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