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“Jesus said to them: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 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.’”—Mark 13:5–8 (NIV)
“Watch out that no one deceives you.” As a believer, these are important words for us to live by. Why? Because there’s a lot out there: lies, propaganda, clever rhetoric, “fine-sounding arguments” and “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world” (Colossians 2:4, 8 NIV), and fake news. Some of it is nonsense we can easily disregard, but some of it is so expertly wrapped in pseudo-biblical language or pseudo-scientific/psychological terminology, or steeped in subtle post-modern, post-Christian ideology that’s been normalized through media and pop-culture that we don’t even notice when we’re being indoctrinated.
There are more than 50 warnings in the New Testament against deception and false teaching. When the Lord repeats Himself on a topic that many times, it’s extremely important because it’s something we’ll be confronted with a lot. In this instance, Jesus warns against false teachers in the period between His ascension to heaven and His second coming (a.k.a. the “last days”).
Just to be clear, we’ve been living in the last days since Jesus ascended. So, Jesus offers this warning about people who will brandish His name and pretend to be Him or His representatives, but these people are liars and not of Jesus.
There are many who preach false gospels using Jesus’ name—Progressive Christianity, Universalist movements, Prosperity Gospel, a variety of cults. The world is full of falsehoods that propagate lies about the gospel, sin, salvation, faith, and our Savior. But this has been happening pretty much since Jesus ascended. The New Testament is full of the apostles combatting false teachings (Gnosticism, Docetism, Legalism, license, and more).
The same applies to wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, natural disasters, tragedies, famines, all manner of tragedy and atrocity. It’s all happened and continues to happen. Why? Because since Jesus ascended, we’ve been living in the last days!
So, what should our response be to this revelation? First, we must “watch out that no one deceives” us. John tells us, “Do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world” (1 John 4:1 NLT) and Jesus warns, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15 NIV).
Second, we must remember “about that day or hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36 NIV) and “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2 NIV). So, instead of trying to figure out when He’s coming back, we must “occupy till [He] comes” (Luke 19:13 KJV). Be about kingdom business, making disciples, standing guard, walking and living according to the will of God and guidance of the Spirit.
Pause: Why does the Bible offer so many warnings about false teaching?
Practice: Take time this week to do as John instructs and test everything you believe through the truth of the Word. Examine your philosophies/ideologies, doctrines, and lifestyle and ensure it’s in submission to what the Bible teaches.
Pray: Jesus, help me be vigilant and wise. Through Your Spirit, keep my heart and mind in submission to Your truth. If I believe anything that is not of You, if I have adopted worldly ideologies or philosophies that don’t align with Your heart, character, and will, reveal them and remove them! I desire to abide fully in You and Your truth! Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.