Do not be deceived

Matthew 24:4

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.”

This verse comes from a substantial chapter where Jesus speaks about the signs of His coming (again) and the end of the age.  In the previous chapter He had been speaking to the people about obeying the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees but not imitating their actions, “for they say, and do not do.” (Matthew 23:3).  Then He lays out a whole list of “woes” demonstrating their hypocrisy, each beginning with “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you….” (Matthew 23:13-36).

Jesus statement comes as a response to the disciples’ questions, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).  Here is Jesus’ full response:

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. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 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.

The disciples are concerned about their abiity to recognize when the end is getting near.  Jesus provides a number of signs that must come first, but makes it clear that the signs cannot be used to predict the timing of His coming: “the end is not yet”, and “these are the beginning of sorrows”.

Jesus’ concern is very different, and He declares that concern repeatedly: “Take heed that no one deceives you”, “many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many”, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many”, and later in verse 24 “false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect”.

Jesus is not concerned about timing; He is very concerned that they – and all His followers who would come after – would not be deceived.  This was spoken for the disciples, but also for us, who are living in a time much closer to the end of the age.

What are we to do?  “Take heed that no one deceives you”, not about the timing of Jesus’ return but regarding much more critical matters:

  • many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’”, but do not be deceived: they are false teachers
  • they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake”, but do not be deceived: do not return hatred for hatred
  • many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another”, but do not be deceived: do not betray one another
  • many false prophets will rise up”, but do not be deceived: don’t believe them, and don’t follow them
  • because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold”, but do not be deceived: continue to love with My love
  • if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’”, do not be deceived: it is not Me, I am not there
  • false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders”, but do not be deceived: satan appears as an angel of light and produces counterfeit miracles
  • if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’”, do not be deceived: don’t waste your time, your money, your energy, or your salvation chasing lies

What are we to do?  “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”  Be alert!  “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Be prepared – like the five wise virgins in the parable Jesus will tell in the very next chapter (Matthew 25)!

What are we to do?  “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?  Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.”  Obey Jesus: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.  Do the work of your ministry, using the gifts and talents God has given you for the building up of the Church.

Don’t let satan deceive you, distract you, discourage you, or dismay you.  Don’t let him turn you aside from the destiny God created for you before you were born.  The world may fall apart around you, but do not be afraid: “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Word of God: speak!

Non nobis Domine+

by Fr. Dana Jackson

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