This thought process was initiated by Pastor Jack Hibbs’ comments that we have been taught incorrectly, and how Matthew 24:24 conveys the idea that it is impossible for the elect to be deceived.
I cannot accept that as a true statement, and I did not want to merely make a statement that comes across as disappointment with my pastor, without giving you the exact words he used. So early this morning, 06/29/22 I went online to the YouTube video, Happening Now, with a chapter heading “The Bible’s present-day performance and reality, dated 6/26/22 and I transcribed what he said.
Pastor Jack began with, “I am speaking from my head and not my notes now.” Concerning Matthew 24:24.
“Jesus said, such days of deception are coming,
that if it were possible,
even the very elect would be deceived.”
Pastor restated his assertion by adding,
“That even my own,
my elect, would be deceived.”
“What does that mean?”
He spoke to the audience about how this was freshmen logic, and that Jesus’ statement means,
“It’s NOT going to happen. It can’t happen!”
“Such deception will deceive people, if it were possible.
It would have to be so powerfully deceptive that it would deceive my own people,
which makes it impossible for my own people to be deceived.”
Pastor asked the audience,
“What is that thing that keeps us from being deceived?
It is knowing the Word of God.”
At this point, Pastor Jack went back to his notes.
Lately, I have played out some of these teachings, as though I am having a conversation. I am not making this stuff up, and in one case, the person I was conversing with, told me that his opinion superseded the Word of God, which I was showing him. I have the crazy understanding and belief that all the answers and wisdom are in the Word of God; therefore, I lean heavily upon it.
I will add that many of our modern Bible translations are pathetic, and yet, because my pastor, and the church I attend use the New King James Version as their primary Bible, therefore, I too use it, but know this, I keep my eyes open. A problem though, because on my computer I do not have the NKJV and, therefore, go with the NASB.
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24 NASB)
One of the primary questions we should be asking as we read Matthew 24:24, is,
What is the context of Jesus’ directed statement?
We can find the context by looking at the beginning of the chapter.
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
(Matthew 24:3 NASB)
So the context is engulfed in a Jewish-oriented response to a Jewish audience, the disciples. (We do not know how many people fell under the category of being a disciple on that day, and may well have been as many as 120 people.)
Is there a parallel in the Gospels, to Matthew 24:24?
Yes, there is, and we find it in Mark 13. I chose a passage where the disciples, just as they did in the first couple of passages of Matthew 24, asked Jesus to tell them when these things would happen and what would be the signs.
“Tell us when is this to take place and what will be the sign when these things, all [of them], are about to be accomplished? And Jesus began to tell them, Be careful and watchful that no one misleads you [about it]. Many will come in [appropriating to themselves] the name [of Messiah] which belongs to Me [basing their claims on the use of My name], saying, I am [He]! And they will mislead many.”
(Mark 13:4-6 AMP)
In opposition to Pastor Jack’s statement, the Apostle Mark tells us that they will mislead/deceive many.
Alright, since Matthew 24:24 is oriented toward the Jews, could I then foolishly say,
Does this apply to me, or to Christ-followers today?
Actually, it does, especially in the sense that we are living in the last moments, moments filled with ungodly turmoil, and at the rapture of the church it will be the end of the age of grace and the entrance of God’s wrath upon the earth. Keep in mind that the church, is NOT subject to God’s wrath, and because of this, we will be caught up to meet Christ in the air. When that happens,
- The antichrist will rapidly emerge on the scene;
- The two prophets from God will suddenly appear on the streets of Jerusalem, and they will show great signs and wonders;
- The final temple – the third one will be built;
- And a high priest will officiate the offerings, sacrifices, and all the other things that go on there – for 1260 days.
Alternate translations of Matthew 24:24 read like this:
“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.” (KJV)
(Italicized wording indicates that it was added for clarity. Those words can change the meaning of the sentence, so be aware of that.)
“For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. (NLT)
(Contrast the NLT with the KJV. Notice that the NLT directs us, appropriately, to a Jewish orientation.)
“… and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (ASV)
(Here the translation conveys what the purpose truly is.)
Remember, the origins of Jesus’ response is to a Jewish audience, that asked Him two pointed questions,
“Tell us, when will these things happen,
And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Matthew 24:24 is merely a part of the answer to these two questions.
Quickly, before we deep dive, I want to point something out. One of the questions points toward “the end of the age.”
When does this take place and why does it matter?
The end has everything to do with the end of God’s wrath, as far as the Jew is concerned, because this is where they finally get to see the Messiah they longed for return to save them.
For the church, our understanding leans more toward the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ. Now, to be honest, it might also take us all the way to the end of countable time – the great white throne. The reason I do not lean that way is that Jesus’ response in Matthew 24:24 is oriented toward the Jewish community.
When Jesus said “false messiahs” –
There should have been an immediate correlation to Deuteronomy 13 chapter one, where it says.
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 NASB)
So, Jesus defined what a false prophet/messiah is, and how to detect them. They will lead you go after other gods.
Do you not realize how subtle and yet complex that leading could be?
One of those potential “false messiahs”, as improbable as that seems, could just as easily be the high priest of the new temple. While Christianity does not speak of this – as this is extra-biblical information and a reason for many to balk at it, Islamic prophecies speak about how the high priest, by all acceptable standards, will eventually turn to Islam; follow the Mahdi – who may well be the antichrist; will perform signs and wonders, by duplicating what the two witnesses from God will have done during their tenure here on earth.
Hopefully, you are beginning to understand how important the role these signs and wonders play in our ability to understand this passage, and who this false messiah may be.
Great signs and wonders, what is He talking about?
Again, this is a Jewish concept; however, it is applied to the person giving testimony in defense of or against someone. In the case of God’s two witnesses, they will give testimony against Israel for their disbelief.
“A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” (Deuteronomy 19:15 NASB)
As an interesting side note, my oldest grandson asked me what I was studying. I pointed to Matthew 24:24 and read it to him. He said, I can’t disagree with that, which told me he did not grasp what the verse was saying. I will be bold in saying, I don’t think there are many Christians who grasp what this verse is telling them.
The two witnesses.
The thing I want you to pay attention to are signs and wonders.
“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
(Revelation 11:3-13 NASB)
A quick recap of the signs and wonders.
“If anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way.”
“These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying;”
“They have power over the waters to turn them into blood.”
“And to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.”
So, what does the “false messiah” do?
He does the same thing as the two witnesses, with the same arrogance as the magicians of Egypt did.
“So Moses and Aaron did even as the LORD had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood. The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.” (Exodus 7:20-22 NASB)
If you follow the story of the plagues upon Egypt, you find the magicians copying many of the plagues, but there was one they dared not try, and that was the death of the firstborn.
Now, let’s talk about the elect for a moment.
Since we know that the answer Jesus gave is directed at Jews, and the usage of the term “elect” means chief priests, elders, high priests, and quite possibly rabbis,
Who is Jesus talking about when He says “ to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”?
He is talking about the leadership of Israel. So when Pastor Jack talks like he is talking about Christians, he is playing on thin ice.
Can a Christian be deceived?
Don’t be foolish, we live on the brink of deception all the time. Why else would Jesus’ first response to the disciples be this –
Jesus answered them, Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error]. (Matthew 24:4 AMP)
Considering that Eve did not have anyone else but Satan trying to deceive her, and she fell for it, what are your chances without being deeply embedded in the Word of God.
Let me ask you a question.
Did you voluntarily rush out and get vaccinated, on the basis of what your trustworthy government told you?
Then you were deceived. If so, just repent and put your trust in God once again.
So, is Matthew 24:24 telling us it is impossible to be deceived?
Hardly, and if you listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart, you know it is not telling you that; and Matthew 24:4 substantiates that, as I pointed out above.
There is nothing in scripture that tells you to chant some passage repeatedly and you won’t be deceived, that ability to fend off deception only comes from spending time in the Word of God, learning what His nature and character are, and putting your trust in Him.