Summary: This message was written in 2020. Some Christians are wondering if we’re in the endtimes. Jesus tells us that what we’re seeing is the beginning of birth pains. This message shows some signs that herald the nearing return of Christ.
I think we can all agree that the world is getting pretty crazy, and some Christians are wondering if we’re in the endtimes. Some are even wondering if we’re in the Tribulation period. Well, if you believe in a pretribulation rapture – that Christ will take us to heaven before the terrible things of the tribulation start – then, no, we are not in the Tribulation or even beginning the Tribulation. So, what’s going on as we witness so much chaos in our world and even our nation? Jesus tells us that what we’re seeing is the beginning of birth pains (Mark 13:8, NIV); and this morning we’re going to learn some of the signs that we’re supposed to be watching for that herald the nearing return of Christ. I’ve entitle our message, “Discerning the Season.”
False Christs Will Appear (vv. 5-6)
5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 6 For many will come in My name, saying, “I am He,” and will deceive many.
The statement “take heed” (v. 6) is from the Greek word blepete, meaning “discernment concerning realities which lie beyond the observations of the physical senses . . . The disciples will need uncommon spiritual [discernment] to be able to withstand the deceivers and to weather the storms of persecution. They will need their wits so that they will not be led astray in the midst of crises and cries of confusion.”(1)
Jesus said, “Many will come in My name” (v. 6). A good example from the Scripture of someone being ascribed the power of God is seen in the description of Simon in Acts 8:9-10, which says, “But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God’.”
The first known messianic pretender was Simon Bar Kokhba. He was a Jewish military leader who led the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 A.D. During the revolt, Rabbi Akiva regarded Simon as the Jewish messiah, and gave him the surname “Bar Kokhba,” meaning, “Son of the Star,” from the Star Prophecy in Numbers 24:17 (Wikipedia).
So, let me ask, “Have there been people who have falsely come in Jesus’ name in modern times?” The answer is yes! Let me give you a few examples: In 1978, Jim Jones, claiming to be the reincarnation of Christ, moved from the United States to South Africa with his followers. On November 18, 1978, he ordered his followers to drink from a tub of grape-flavored Fla-Vor-Aid laced with potassium cyanide and tranquilizers, and all nine-hundred plus people died.(2)
There was also David Koresh, the cult leader of the Branch Dividians at Waco, Texas, who claimed to be Jesus Christ. On April 19, 1993 he refused to surrender to the FBI and the ATF, and around ninety people died in a fire at the compound.(3) And then on March 26, 1997, thirty-nine members of the “Heaven’s Gate” cult decided to “shed their containers” (or bodies), and board a spacecraft supposedly hiding in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet. This resulted in a mass suicide of twenty-one women and eighteen men, ages twenty-six to seventy-two.(4)
Commentator Warren Wiersbe applies these verses as a warning against anyone claiming to have all the answers to the world’s woes. He says, “There is something in human nature that loves a lie and refuses to believe the costly lessons of the past. Mark Twain said that a lie runs around the world, while truth is [still] putting on her shoes! How easy it is for spiritually blind people to follow popular leaders and gullibly accept their simple solutions for the problems of life. Jesus warned His disciples not to be deceived by these impostors, and that warning holds good today.”(5)
Wars, Earthquakes, Famines, Troubles (vv. 7-8)
7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.
“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars” (v. 7). Just how many wars, or rumors of war, have we heard about? Well, in just over the past one hundred years alone there has been WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, the War in Iraq, and probably many smaller conflicts that we aren’t even aware have occurred. War seems to be common place; so much so, that we have become nearly apathetic to it, and we rarely think twice about our military men and women who are continually fighting for the cause of freedom.