Toddy’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fifteen through thirty-seven of the thirteenth chapter of the book. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will not only find a continuation of what was written in the first fourteen verses, but you will also find a second account of the words which the apostle Matthew recorded in his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. If you turn and direct your attention back to the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the apostle writing and recording the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto them concerning the coming of the Son of man and the end of days. As you read these words within the gospel written according to Matthew you will find the disciples attempting to express unto Jesus the magnificence of the stones and the buildings which were present within the city of Jerusalem. Jesus—not only completely unmoved by the stones and the buildings they made up, as well as knowing the events which would soon take place—emphatically declares unto His disciples that there was coming a day when not one of those stones was left upon another. Jesus was keenly aware of the events which were going to take place less than forty years later when the armies of Rome would enter in and invade the land of Judaea, and would lay siege to the city of Jerusalem. The Roman army would not only lay siege to the city of Jerusalem, but they would also utterly destroy the prominent buildings which stood within the city. What’s more, is that the Roman armies would enter into the city of Jerusalem and would completely and utterly destroy the temple of the living God which stood in the midst of the city. How absolutely and incredibly interesting and intriguing it is to think about and consider the fact that when the disciples attempted to speak unto Jesus concerning the magnificence of the stones and the buildings, Jesus redirected their thinking to the events which would take place in the coming days when the city would be completely and utterly destroyed. Moreover, Jesus even knew that the very temple of the living God would be utterly and completely decimated and destroyed when the Roman armies entered into the city of Jerusalem and burned it to the ground with fire.
The apostle Matthew was the first to write and record the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples concerning the devastation and destruction which would take place within and come upon the city of Jerusalem. What marks the words which Jesus spoke as so incredibly interesting and intriguing is the fact that while Jesus began speaking about the devastation and destruction of the city of Jerusalem, He would continue speaking about events that would follow thereafter. In all reality, it’s almost as if the events which would take place in the year 70 A.D. would set in motion a certain clock which would countdown to that time and those times when the end of all things would begin to unfold and take place within and upon the earth. What would begin with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem would eventually culminate in events that would touch so much more than the city of Jerusalem, and would actually touch the entire world. It’s worth noting that upon hearing Jesus’ response to their statements about the stones and buildings within the city of Jerusalem, the disciples would then proceed to ask Jesus the Christ concerning the events which would take place at the end of Days, and the events which would take place in the last times. The disciples were now curious and inquisitive concerning the signs that would signal and the signs that would point to the coming devastation and destruction which Jesus the Christ spoke about, and would actually proceed to ask Jesus concerning those signs. It’s interesting to note that the question the disciples asked the Lord Jesus is a question which we have been asking ever since then. Ever since the disciples first inquired about the sign of the end of times and the sign of His coming, men and women have sought to find answers to this same question, and have spent countless hours, days, weeks, months and even years studying the scriptures in order to uncover the answers. Multiple volumes and many books have been written concerning and around the subject of the end times as men and women not only seek a clearer and better understanding of the end times, but also seek to understand the prophetic writing and language which clearly points to and reveals the reality of the end of days and the coming and return of Jesus the Christ. Throughout the years and centuries men have been deliberate and intentional in their quest to understand the events which are going to unfold in the last days, and the signs which point to the coming and imminent return of Jesus the Christ at the appointed time.
The more I think about and the more I consider the reality of the end times and the events which are going to take place at the end of the age, the more I can’t help but think about how many books and how many volumes have been written in a furious attempt to understand the events which are going to take place. Before going any further I have to admit that I myself have been utterly and completely fascinated with and by the end times, and that I have spent a considerable amount of time reading and studying the Scriptures concerning the end times and the events which are going to take place and unfold in the days ahead. Even as recently as three years I spent a considerable amount of time in the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation seeking to gain a clearer understanding of the events which are going to take place in the coming days ahead of us. I have sought to gain a clearer understanding concerning the events that are going to take place, and have sought to have a good working knowledge concerning the tribulation, the imminent return and second coming of Jesus the Christ, and all the events which shall and will take place at the appointed time. I have spent a considerable amount of time being fascinated and gripped with the events which would take place in the coming days, weeks and months, and have spent a great amount of time wondering just how close we are to the imminent and soon coming return of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have spent much time thinking about and considering just how close we are to the imminent return of Jesus the Christ and have become convinced that we are closer and closer to His return with each passing day. I am completely and utterly convinced that Jesus the Christ could return at any minute now, and that in a twinkling of an eye countless millions of souls could be raptured to meet and be with Jesus the Christ in the air. With that being said, I can’t help but notice how many countless men and women have been fascinated with the imminent return of Jesus the Christ and have even sought to understand the timing of His return in order to gain a better understanding of that return. There have been countless books which have been written in an attempt to try and discern and try and understand just exactly when Jesus the Christ would return to the earth in order that He might rapture and capture His saints unto Himself in order that He might meet them in the air to bring them unto the throne of His Father which is in heaven. This reality was one that Jesus regularly and routinely spoke about when speaking unto the disciples, and the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle John contain countless references to Jesus the Christ returning unto His Father in heaven, and how there are many dwelling places which are present within the kingdom of heaven which are being prepared for the saints and people of God.
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think and consider the fact that while many of us have in fact sought to understand the events which are going to take place in the coming days, there are countless men and women who are missing the point of the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples on this particular day. There would be countless men and women who would read the words of Jesus the Christ and would immediately begin to be consumed with the idea and concept of the events which are going to take place in the coming days, and yet by doing so they completely and utterly miss the point and lose sight of the bigger picture. There are men and women who have spent a considerable amount of time seeking to understand the events which are going to take place and unfold within the coming days, and yet they have missed the true spirit and nature of that which Jesus the Christ was speaking unto His disciples. I am completely and utterly convinced that in order for us to truly understand that which is found in this particular passage of Scripture we must understand the fact that that which Jesus was seeking to do was not necessarily allow us to be caught up in the signs of the times, but to ensure that we ourselves are in fact ready and prepared for that moment when He would return for His own and would rapture them unto Himself in order that He might bring them unto the throne of His Father who is in heaven. I am firmly convinced that when we speak about the Last days and when we speak about the end of times it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to the fact that it is absolutely possible that we can be so caught up and consumed with the fact that we can understand the events which are going to take place in the coming days, and yet we completely neglect that which is ultimately and supremely important concerning the last days—namely, that we would be ready and would be prepared for that moment when Jesus the Christ can and will return to the earth. Out of all those men and women who have sought to understand the events which are going to unfold in the coming days, and out of all those men and women who have spent a considerable amount of time studying the Scriptures in order that they might gain a proper and better understanding of that which is going to take place in the coming days, how many are truly and actually prepared for that moment when such events begin to unfold. How many men and women who have spent a considerable amount of time studying the Scriptures in an attempt to understand the events which are going to take place are actually spending the time that is necessary to ready and prepare themselves for the imminent return of Jesus the Christ, and for the events that are going to take place and unfold in the coming days.
When you read the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, as well as the words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find that perhaps one of the single greatest means of readying ourselves and being prepared for the events which are going to take place in the coming days is around the matter of deception and guarding our hearts and our minds against being deceived. In all reality, if we are going to speak about the end of times and the last days it is absolutely necessary that we understand and recognize just how rampant deception truly is going to be in those days. I am convinced that as much time as we spend seeking to understand the events which will take place in the coming days, and as much time as we spend seeking to understand the events which are written and recorded in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, we are sorely and severely lacking when it comes to considering Jesus’ warning against guarding our hearts against the massive and rampant deception that can and will be present in the coming days. We must recognize and understand that the Last Days are going to be marked with heavy deception, as not only will many false Christs and false prophets arise, but there will also be many who will rise up and declare that they are Christ. I have long been gripped and consumed with the fact that one of the greatest deceptions that is going to be present in the last days is what I will call the deception of the fish. What I mean by the deception of the fish is the deception of those who profess to be Christians and those who profess to be followers of Jesus the Christ, and yet are nothing more than imposters seeking to infiltrate the ranks of the saints. I call this the deception of the fish because one of the symbols that marks cars and other devices within our lives concerning the reality of Christianity is in fact the fish. How many cars have you driven by and parked next to and have seen the fish emblem on the back of the car, and have immediately thought within your heart and mind how the owner of that car must in fact be a Christian? How many times have you observed the fish on the car of another, and as a direct result of observing the fish, you have automatically assumed that the owner of the car is in fact a disciple of Jesus the Christ? There is not a doubt in my mind that in these Last Days one of the greatest deceptions that is going to be present among us is that deception of those who profess to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ and yet are nothing more than imposters who have stealthily entered in among us. Like takes among the wheat, and like wolves among the sheep such individuals have infiltrated our ranks and have professed themselves as Christians and saints of God, and yet inwardly they are nothing more than ravening wolves. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are written and recorded in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia. Consider if you will the words which the apostle wrote beginning with the first verse of the second chapter of this New Testament epistle:
“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabs, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: but contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles) and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do” (Galatians 2:1-10).
Please do miss that which is written and found within this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing and speaking about false brethren who crept and came in unaware among the saints of God in order that they might spy out the liberty which was found in Jesus the Christ, and might once more subject the saints of God to bondage and captivity. When writing unto the churches which were in Galatia the apostle Paul spoke very clearly and precisely concerning the false brethren which had crept in unawares among the churches of Jesus Christ in order that they might spy out the liberty which is found in Jesus Christ, and even to bring them into bondage once more. These false brethren gave the appearance of being genuine and authentic Christians, however, that which the apostle Paul spoke of and declared concerning them was that such brethren were false and were in fact imposters among the true saints of God. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which are found in the New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ which was written by the apostle Matthew concerning false prophets and false brethren which can and will be present among us within the house of the living God. Beginning with the thirteenth verse of the seventh chapter of this New Testament gospel we find the following words which were spoken by Jesus the Christ concerning such individuals:
“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 wolves. 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 even 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. M any 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).
When you begin reading the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto His disciples during this week of His passion you will quickly notice that the very first thing He spoke unto them concerned taking heed unto themselves and guarding themselves in order that they might not be deceived by any man. After the disciples asked Jesus concerning when these things shall be, and what would be the sign of all the things which He spoke about, Jesus immediately began speaking to them and instructing them to take heed unto themselves lest they be deceived. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to speak unto them and declare that there would be many who would come in His name, saying, they are Christ, and as a direct result of their declaration and profession would deceive many. Please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture, for Jesus Christ makes it very clear that one of the greatest signs of the last days and the end of times is not necessarily the events themselves, but rather the widespread and rampant presence of deception which would take place within the earth. Moreover, there is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest places where deception can and will abound is in the house of the Lord, as men and women will attempt to creep in unawares among the saints of God professing themselves to be Christians and Christ-followers. The text speaks of those who will rise up professing they have come in the name of the Lord, and will declare that they are Christ, and the more I think about and consider this reality, the more I am convinced that that which Jesus the Christ spoke about is not necessarily those who will rise up among us and declare that they are Christ Himself, but will in fact speak of themselves as being Christ, or in other words being “in Christ.” I am convinced that the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture do not necessarily point to the threat of countless and many rising up in the name of the Lord and professing themselves to actually being Christ, but rather as those who will rise up and profess themselves to be in Christ and to be followers of Jesus the Christ. There is not a doubt in my mind that in the Last Days one of the greatest threats facing the church of Jesus Christ will not necessarily come from outside the four walls of the church and the events which are going to take place, but rather from within the house of God, as men and women will be deceived by those who will profess themselves to be in Christ, and those who profess to be followers of Jesus the Christ, and yet are nothing more than imposters. In all reality, I am convinced that in addition to knowing men and women by their fruits, there are two other distinct tests and crucibles whereby we might know whether or not men are truly in Christ. The first is found in the fifth chapter of the second epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the Corinthian saints, and the second is found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples, as well as the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth:
“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let Him deny Himself, and take up His cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to His works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
Within these two passages we learn and discover two distinct marks of the true disciples of Jesus Christ—namely, that the true disciple of Jesus Christ will be those who have denied themselves, taken up their cross, and have followed Jesus the Christ, and that such disciples are new creatures as old things have passed away and all things have become new. In addition to bearing and bringing forth much fruit which is a clearly defining mark of a true disciple of Jesus Christ, we must recognize and understand that the self-denial, cross bearing and following Jesus Christ are a clear sign which points to those men and those women who are in fact true and genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more, the apostle Paul declares that those who are in Christ have become new creatures, and that old things have passed away, and all things have become new. We dare not miss and lose sight of this important reality, for one of the greatest dangers facing the last days is from those who will enter in among us coming in the name of the Lord and professing that they are Christ. Once again, I do not believe for one minute that there will be those who will rise up in the last days and will emphatically profess and declare themselves to be Jesus Christ incarnate, or Jesus Christ in the flesh, but rather will declare and speak of themselves as being in Christ and/or being disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. One of the greatest deceptions that can and will face the saints of God and disciples of Jesus Christ in the last days can and will in fact be from those who will enter in stealthily and privily among us professing themselves to be in Christ, and professing themselves to be followers and disciples of Jesus Christ, and yet are nothing more than imposters who have no relationship with Jesus the Christ. When Jesus begins speaking unto his disciples concerning the last Days He first instructs His disciples to take heed lest any man deceive them, thus signifying and suggesting that perhaps the truest and greatest mark of the last days would in fact be the rampant and wide spread deception that would take place in the earth, and particularly in the house of God. What’s more, is that as you continue reading the words which Jesus the Christ spoke you will find that deception itself is not the only tool and device that will be used in the coming days and in the end of times, for Jesus also goes on to speak about persecution and of suffering that can and will take place in the coming days. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular chapter beginning with the ninth verse:
“But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. And the gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:9-13).
When you read the words which are written and recorded in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus once more instructing His disciples to take heed unto themselves, and then going on to speak concerning their being delivered up to the councils, and being beaten in the synagogues. What’s more, is that Jesus would also go on to speak about His disciples being led and delivered up, and how they were to take no thought beforehand what they shall speak or say before their accusers and persecutors. What marks the words which Jesus the Christ spoke in this passage of Scripture as being so incredibly intriguing and captivating is that Jesus didn’t prepare us to be loved, received and welcomed by those within and upon the earth. We oftentimes think how Jesus sought to prepare us to be loved and welcomed and embraced within the earth, and yet the truth of the matter is that Jesus never prepared us to be loved and embraced, but rather, He prepared us to be hated by all men and be hated among and by all nations. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that one of the truest signs of the last days will in fact be persecution, suffering and affliction, and such can and will be marked with and by the fact that Jesus prepared His disciples to be hated of all men for His name’s sake. Oh that we would recognize and understand this particular reality, for it will shine a great deal of light on to how we should live our lives and how we should conduct ourselves in the last days which can and will come upon the earth. While I do believe that deception is in fact one of the greatest devices that will be used in the last days, I am also just as much convinced that persecution, suffering and affliction will be used in the last days in an attempt to destroy the saints of God, and to cause them to fold under the tremendous pressure that is placed upon them. I am convinced that if the adversary cannot destroy and come against you with and through deception, he will most certainly and will most surely come against you with intense persecution, with intense suffering, and with intense affliction. What’s more, is that Jesus goes on to speak about betrayal—even betrayal within families and by those closest to us—thus signifying the tremendous fact that if we are going to be truly ready and prepared in the last days we must recognize and understand how persecution, suffering, affliction and betrayal are going to be used by the adversary to destroy and shipwreck us. There is not a doubt in my mind that if deception doesn’t work to destroy and shipwreck us, then that which the enemy can and will turn his attention to is that of suffering, that of persecution, that of affliction, and even that of offense. With that being said, it is necessary that we recognize the tremendous dangers surrounding these realities, for the entire means and motive of the adversary can and will be to cause us to be offended as a direct result of that which we can and shall experience. We dare not miss and we dare not lose sight of this incredibly important reality, for the enemy and adversary can and will seek to shipwreck us through offense, and will use suffering, persecution, and affliction in order that we might find ourselves offended within our hearts. The underlying reality that surrounds the last days is not necessarily the events themselves which can and will take place, but that which far more diabolical and that which is far more deadly—namely, deception through false teaching, through false doctrine, and as a direct result of false brethren, false prophets and false Christs, in addition to offense, persecution, affliction, suffering. Oh that we would not allow ourselves to get so caught up in seeking to understand the Last Days that we fail to understand how we should live in light of the Last Days, and how we should ready and prepare ourselves to walk through them the way Christ intended on us walking through them.