What was the first warning sign Jesus described?
"Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?' And Jesus answered and said to them: 'Take heed that no one deceives you'" (Matthew 24:3-4).
Jesus begins with a sobering warning: Do not allow yourself to be deceived! Many people are familiar with Jesus Christ's Olivet Prophecy. They are aware of the events and conditions He described. Yet many don't realize they have missed the first warning sign Jesus Christ gave. They have fallen prey to religious deception!
Will religious deception be widespread?
"For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:5).
"Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many" (Matthew 24:11).
"For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24).
Note the words Jesus used: ". . . Many will come . . . and will deceive many . . . Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many." The Greek word polus, translated "many," means "many, much, great" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Many"). This deception is clearly massive and widespread.
Be sure to study all these scriptures in your Bible. Read the words of Jesus Christ and the apostles when they warned of a great religious movement—invoking Christ's name—that would lead most of the world astray. Tragically, most have ignored the warnings Jesus Himself gave.
Who is involved in this deception?
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:13).
Within only a few years after Jesus Christ's death, people began to distort and misrepresent His message. When two decades had barely passed, the apostle Paul warned congregations about "false apostles," telling them that he had already suffered at the hands of "false brethren" (2 Corinthians 11:13-26). These deceivers came in Christ's name, but they led many astray with their distorted message.
Who is the real mastermind behind this worldwide deception?
". . . Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
What is the approach of this religious deception?
"But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7).
Jesus Christ predicted that some would take His name and claim to represent Him—but those same people would be deceivers. They would claim to be Christian but would bring a different message and a counterfeit Christianity.
In Paul's day this movement was well under way. Some were already preaching "another Jesus" and "a different gospel." Most churches in our time focus on a gospel about Christ while ignoring the focus of His teaching. Obscuring His intended message, they preach a gospel that is different from "the gospel of the kingdom of God" Jesus taught (Mark 1:14).
In spite of this deception, will the true gospel—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—also be proclaimed before Jesus Christ's return?
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).