Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Peter unto those who had received like precious faith. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eleven through twenty-two of the second chapter. As you come to this particular passage of scripture you find the apostle Peter continuing to write concerning the Last Days—days in which there would be a great darkness that would seek to enter into and invade the church and house of God. The apostle Peter began and opened up this particular chapter by writing and speaking of false prophets which were present during the days of their ancestors, and just as there were false prophets which were present during those days, so also would there be false teachers which would be present during these last days. It’s actually quite interesting to read the history of the early church—not only in that which is found written by New Testament authors such as the apostles Peter, John and Paul, but also by authors such as James. What’s more, is that when you read the New Testament you will also find in the book of Acts the beloved physician Luke writing concerning the history of the early church—beginning with the day of Pentecost and continuing through to the imprisonments of the apostle Paul.in Rome. With that being said, we also catch a glimpse of what dangers the early church faces when we read the seven letters which were sent unto the seven churches in Asia by the heart and mouth of Jesus. It’s quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that within the first three chapters of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus we find seven distinct letters which would each have a specific congregation and church as its focus. Within all the writings which are found in the New Testament, it becomes quite clear that the early church—although it began with such great fellowship, such great communion, such great unity and accord—would quickly be invaded by and with false teachers and even false brethren.
When you read the New Testament writings which are contained within Scripture you will find the authors warning the individual churches concerning the tremendous dangers which would seek to enter into and invade them. One cannot read the New Testament writings and not be gripped by the tremendous dangers which would face the church as false teachers and false brethren would seek to enter into and among them in an attempt to captivate, ensnare and bring into bondage the saints of the living God. When writing to the churches which were in Galatia the apostle Paul wrote how false brethren would seek to infiltrate and invade the church in order to take captive men and women through the practice of circumcision. It is actually quite interesting and astounding to consider how it didn’t take much time for the church to be invaded and infiltrated by imposters who would come in as brethren, and yet would be nothing more than wolves and sheep’s clothing. In fact, it was Jesus Himself who warned of false prophets and false teachers, and how they would enter in among us prickly and stealthily, and how inside they were ravening wolves. Jesus Himself sought to warn us concerning wolves who would enter in among us sheep’s clothing attempting to look and sound like the flock of God, and yet would seek the destruction of the flock of God. I can’t help but find myself being completely and utterly captivated by the fact that so quickly after the early church was formed on the day of Pentecost—not only did it experience persecution in an unprecedented measure, but it also began to experience deception and falsehood as men and women would enter in among them seeking to cultivate, ensnare and deceive them. This too Jesus warned about when speaking directly to His disciples concerning the Last Days. When the disciples asked Jesus concerning the signs of the times and the signs of His coming, He began warning them of the tremendous dangers which would befall them as they continued worshipping, following and serving Him.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mathew, for within this particular encounter with the disciples, Jesus took the time to warn of what the climate and atmosphere would be like during the last days, and what dangers the saints of God would face. It’s quite astounding to consider the fact that so quickly after the church began and was formed the saints of God began to experience one of the dangers Jesus spoke about when addressing His disciples. What would begin as opposition against the apostles for speaking in the name of Jesus Christ, and preaching that Jesus was the Son of God who was crucified, would eventually turn into those who could and would not listen to the words which Stephen would speak among them. What you find in chapters four through six is opposition and persecution which was limited in its scope against the apostles alone, but when you come to the seventh chapter of the same book you will find the opposition expanding and now touching Stephen—a man who was full of faith, full of power, full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Eventually the opposition toward and against Stephen would culminate in his stoning as men and women stopped their ears and refused to listen to the words he spoke unto them. Ultimately Stephen would become the first New Testament martyr, and first martyr of the church. Up until that time Herod ordered the execution of John the Baptist, and Pilate ordered the execution of Jesus the Christ. What we have during the days of the early church was opposition which was limited to the apostles alone, but which would touch Stephen as the stiff necked people of Israel refused to listen to the words he had to speak. What you will find after the death of Stephen was sails consent to his death, and a great persecution which broke out against the church. In fact, in the eighth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts Luke records how a great persecution broke out against the church, and how they were scattered abroad among the nations of the earth.
I can’t help but read the New Testament book of Acts and find myself captivated and intrigued by the fact that what would begin with opposition against the apostles would eventually culminate in persecution against the church itself. The opposition and persecution would and could not remain against the apostles alone, for it would ultimately and inevitably touch the body of Christ itself. Years early the physical body and person of Jesus Christ experienced suffering, affliction and persecution by the Jews, by the Jewish religious leaders, and ultimately by the Roland soldiers. It’s imperative eBay we know and recognize that even though Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father in heaven, His spiritual body would remain within and upon the earth in the form of the church. During the days of the early church the body of Christ would continue to experience suffering, affliction and persecution, and would be targeted by those who would seek to come against and oppose it. What began simply as opposition against the apostles would transition to Stephen being the first martyr of the New Testament church, and would transition to eat persecution against the church itself. What would begin with the apostles themselves being imprisoned by the Sanhedrin in chapters four and five of the New Testament book of Acts would ultimately and eventually culminate in the body of Christ itself being imprisoned in the various cities, towns, and regions of the earth. Even the apostle Paul himself would be imprisoned on a number of occasions, and would be beaten time and time again by the Jewish people. The apostle Paul—this one time staunch persecutor of the church and body of Christ—would himself learn firsthand how much he must suffer for the kingdom of God, and for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ. The apostles themselves would be beaten and cast into prison early on in the history of the church, but this would eventually transition to a mighty and powerful persecution which would break out against the Christians and body of Christ within the city of Jerusalem. So intense and so severe was the persecution which broke out against the early church that many of them were scattered among the nations and regions of the earth to escape the persecution. Later on we find the apostle Peter imprisoned by himself by Herod after he just had James the brother of John being put to death with thee sword by Herod. It’s important that we recognize and understand that the early church wasn’t simply about signs, wonders and miracles which were performed by the apostles, but it was also a story about resilience, courage, bravery and strength in the midst of persecution. The book of Acts details and describes the early church, and how it was given birth on the day of Pentecost by the Holy Spirit, but the book of Acts also describes the tremendous persecution which broke out against the church, and how the early church was forced to contend with a tremendous threat against it from without.
I mentioned earlier the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples when they asked Him concerning the last days and what would be the signs of the times of His coming, and I feel it necessary to present you with the words as the apostle Matthew recorded them in the New Testament book which bears his name. Beginning with the first verse of the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament book of Matthew you will find the following words, which describe the interaction between Jesus and His disciples:
“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the wi niter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before.k Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Matthew 24:1-28).
What we find in this particular passage of Scripture is a tremendous and powerful warning which was issued by Jesus unto His disciples concerning the last Days, and the great dangers which the saints of God would face during those days and times. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative when we read the words which Jesus spoke in this particular passage of Scripture to understand the two greatest dangers which the saints of God would face in the last days. Jesus not only spoke to and addressed the danger of persecution and opposition which would break out against the saints of God, but Jesus also spoke of the great deception which would seek to infiltrate the church and body of Christ. I have long believed that two of the greatest tactics and strategies of the enemy and adversary against the body of Christ and against the saints of God are deception and persecution, for one touches the physical body, and one has the ability to target and touch the heart and mind. One danger is an outward dangers and comes against the church from all sides, while the other danger is an inward danger which threatens the church and body of Christ, as false brethren, false teachers, and false apostles creep in stealthily among the saints of God in sheep’s clothing. I have long believed that Satan’s greatest strategy against the early church is one of attrition, for Satan has sought to wear out the saints of God through intense persecution, affliction, oppression, adversity, suffering, and the like. In fact, the Old Testament prophet Daniel saw a time coming when one would rise up within the earth—one who would not only target the saints of God, but one who would also seek to wear them out and wear them down. In fact, if you journey to the seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel you will find the following words written and recorded beginning with the twentieth verse:
“And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The Fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitation much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but Kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:20-28).
This reality of this strong and powerful individual who would make war with and war against the saints would also be expressed again in the eighth chapter of the same prophetic book. When we read and consider the prophetic book of Daniel, it is necessary that we understand that when the book shifts from historical to prophetic, Daniel began seeing visions and dreams concerning kingdoms, kings, and rulers which would emerge within and upon the earth. With that being said, the prophet Daniel would also see into the future—directly to the last days within and upon the earth—and would see the tremendous opposition and affliction which would break out against the saints of the most High God. If you begin reading with and from the eighteenth verse of the eighth chapter of this prophetic book you will find the following words written by the prophet:
“Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.k And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. The ram which thou sawest h aging two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Brescia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power. And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practice, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.k And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days. And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it” (Daniel 8:18-27)
What marks the words which Jesus spoke as so incredibly intriguing is the fact that when speaking of the Last Days, He spoke to and addressed two of the greatest strategies and tactics which Satan will employ against the saints of God, and against the body of Christ. What we find and what we read in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a powerful description of the last days, and how Jesus plainly warned the disciples that they be not deceived. The very first words which proceeded forth from the mouth of Jesus when speaking to the last days was a powerful warning to His disciples concerning deception, and how they should take heed that no man deceive them. Jesus would go on to describe and declare how many would come in His name, and professing that they are Christ, and shall deceive many. As I’m sitting here right now, I can’t help but wonder if that Jesus was speaking of are many who would come and actually declare that they are in fact the Christ, and are in fact the Messiah, or would come and make the declaration that they are not Christ Himself, but they are of Christ. Pause for a moment and consider the following words and declaration—I AM CHRISTIAN! Think about the weight and connotation of those words, and the tremendous significance those words could have in a country and nation when such a declaration could not only mean imprisonment, but could also mean potentially forfeiting your life because of being put to death. That particular declaration is not welcomed in certain nations of the earth, and in certain nations of the earth such a declaration could mean imprisonment, being beaten, and/or even being put to death. When I read the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if what He was actually declaring was that there would be many who would move upon the earth declaring that they are Christ. I am thirty-five years old, and within and throughout my lifetime I have yet to encounter many rising up within the earth making the claim that they are in fact the Messiah. It is true that there have been certain individuals who have risen up and actually made the claim that they are the Messiah, there certainly haven’t been many who have made such a claim. I can’t help but read these words which Jesus spoke and wonder if what He was actually saying is not that many would rise up and declare that they are Christ—as in the person of Christ—but rather many would rise up and declare that they are of Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of two distinct passages found within Scripture would could very well support these words, which are found in the New Testament. Consider if you will the words which our Lord Himself spoke—words which are found and recorded in the New Testament gospel writings:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening worlves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:13-23).
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriaage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how comest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of death. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:1-14).
This same reality is found again in the twentieth chapter of the same New Testament book when Jesus told a parable about the kingdom of heaven being like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. The parable goes on to describe how there were those who would be hired throughout the day, and all who were hired agreed to a certain amount of wages which would be earned for labouring in the vineyard. Where the trouble comes in is those servants who were hired first thing in the morning who had essentially worked the longest, and were disgruntled by the fact that they had worked all day and made the same amount of wages as those who were hired lastly. Ultimately those servants who were hired first complained to the householder concerning their wages, feeling entitled to greater wages because of their working longer hours. Consider if you will the account as it unfolds between the householder and the servants whom he hired to work in his vineyard:
“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they. Came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do that I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:10-16).
As I continue reading the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples, I can’t help but be gripped and captivated by the words which He spoke early on in the chapter, and words which He spoke later on in the chapter. When Jesus began speaking unto His disciples He warned them to take heed that no man deceive them, for many would come in His name, saying that they are Christ, and as a result, shall deceive many. Later on in the same chapter Jesus would go on to declare that there would arise false Christ’s, and false prophets, and would shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they would deceive the very elect. I can’t help but read these words and think about and consider the tremendous reality and possibility that that which Jesus was speaking about was not necessarily those who would rise up declaring and professing themselves to be Christ Himself, but that many would rise up and declare that they are and they belong to Christ. I can’t help but think that that which Jesus was attempting to warn His disciples was concerning those who would enter in stealthily among them in order to deceive them by declaring and professing themselves to be Christ’s—declaring and professing themselves to be Christians and followers of Christ, and yet all the while deceiving the true saints of God. The apostle Paul warned and spoke unto the churches in Galatia concerning this reality when he wrote and spoke of false brethren who would creep in among them—false brethren who would seek to deceive, captivate, and ensnare the saints of God. The more I read the words which Jesus spoke in this passage of Scripture concerning many coming in the name of Christ who would declare that they are Christ, the more I can’t help but think that such individuals aren’t declaring themselves to be Christ, but are declaring themselves to be of Christ—declaring themselves to be Christ, Christians and followers of Christ. In all reality, there has been much damage which has been done to the body of Christ by those who have professed they are of Christ and have professed that they are followers and disciples of Jesus, and yet they are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. Is it possible that one of the greatest deceptions that can and will plague the church comes from within by those who profess they are Christ’s, and they are nothing more than false brethren who are seeking to ensnare and bring into bondage the saints of the living God, and the true followers of Jesus Christ? We must remember that it was Jesus Himself who declared that many would come in His name saying, Lord, Lord, thus signifying and denoting fellowship, communion and relationship with Him. Jesus spoke of those who would say Lord, Lord, and those who would boast of casting out devils in His name, prophesying in his name, and even doing many great and wonderful works in His name, and yet He would declare unto them, saying, “Depart from me, ye worker of iniquity; I never knew you.”
If you read the words Jesus spoke in this passage of Scripture you will find Him not only speaking of the saints of God being deceived by those who professed they are Christ—perhaps those who professed that they are Christians—as well as the saints of God being offended because of affliction, persecution, suffering, adversity, trials and troubles. Two of the greatest dangers we find in this particular passage off Scripture are not only deception as a result of those who make the declaration and professions that they are Christ’s and that they are followers and disciples of Christ—this as well offense as a direct result of persecution, affliction, suffering and adversity. What we find in the second chapter of the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Peter is a powerful word of caution and warning concerning such individuals who not only creep in among us, but who also seek to infiltrate and invade our gatherings, our meetings, and our assemblies with each other. The apostle Peter writes concerning false teachers which would be present among us, and I can’t help but also see within this second chapter a powerful warning concerning false brethren who would seek to creep in and invade our circles in an attempt to deceive and beguile the saints of the living God. I am convinced that we must needs be on guard against false teachers, false brethren, and false apostles and false prophets in these last days. I am convinced that we must be aware of the tactics and strategies of the enemy and adversary to deceive us by such measures, as well as to bring us into a place of offense as a result of persecution, suffering, affliction and adversity. We must allow ourselves to heed the words and warning of the apostle Peter, for his words help form a larger argument that was written by the apostle Paul, the apostle John, as well as Jude. Oh that we would take seriously the words which are recorded in this second chapter, and that we would allow ourselves to be warned by the apostle Peter concerning the tremendous dangers and challenges we can and will face in this generation and in these last days.