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Curtis Pugh

Poteau, Oklahoma

For many years this preacher has been bothered by what seems to be an anomaly in Matthew chapter twenty-four. By anomaly is meant something abnormal, peculiar and different from the normal or usual. That different thing, that abnormality, if you please, is this: there appears in this chapter to be the same sign given twice, once for that period of time called by the Lord Jesus, “the beginning of sorrows” and given again for that period He indicated shall be “great tribulation.” This is most unusual and in fact, confusing. How is the reader to know by this sign what period of time he is in or reading about since the same sign is given twice?: or so it appears. And after all, the intention of the Lord Jesus was not to confuse, but to instruct and make clear. The fact that the Lord Jesus intended to make clear what He was talking about is seen in that “the disciples came unto him privately,” (Matthew 24:3) on the Mount of Olives and questioned Him about the future. He was not speaking in parables which have a twofold intent – to teach some and hide the truth to others (see Matthew 13:13ff). He was answering questions put to Him in private by His disciples.

The first portion of Scripture which commentators generally say has to do with false Christs is as follows: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows,” (Matthew 24:4-8). As previously stated, the events predicted by the Lord Jesus in this passage occur in that period of time He called “the beginning of sorrows.” That we who are alive at this present time are actually in this period of time seems obvious. Except for one thing: where are those claiming to be Christ, if the clause “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ” means that false Christs shall arise. Do you know about “many” claiming “I am Christ?” This preacher has not heard or read of such individuals. But we do hears of wars and rumors of wars. We most certainly do see nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom. By the way, the Greek word translated “nation” here is “ethnos” from which our English word “ethnic” comes. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word ethnic thus:of or relating to races or large groups of people who have the same customs, religion, origin, etc.” We are certainly seeing “nation” or ethnic groups rising against others around the world at this time. And diverse places in this world are experiencing earthquakes. Famines and diseases are almost daily in the news due to their increase in various places.

All the signs for this time period fit our own time except this one. We do not have “many” coming in Jesus' name claiming to be the Messiah. And why would they come in the name of the historical Jesus claiming to be the Messiah or the Anointed when He was proven to be? Do you see why this preacher is bothered?

Further on in the Lord's private answer to His disciples He speaks of another block of time called the time of “great tribulation.” The signs of that time are given in the following portion: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 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. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,” (Matthew 24:21-27).

There is no doubt: this is the time of Jacob's trouble prophesied in Jeremiah 30:7 as follows: “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” The Lord Jesus said about this period of time that “then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” In other words He said it is the worst time ever. Jeremiah said “none is like it.” They must have spoken about the same period of time: that time when God shall deal once again with Israel and by His actions bring them to Himself.

We could say much more about this time period, but let us pass on to that phrase which interests us: “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.” Do not let the word “elect” here confuse the issue. God has had His elect people in every age and shall have during the great tribulation. The statement just quoted is clear and definite. During the great tribulation false Christs and false prophets will work miracles and show signs so great that the non-elect will certainly be deceived. The world is no doubt being prepared for that time even now as many people erroneously believe that miracle workers are from God. The cite the words of Nicodemus who said, “...we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him,” (John 3:2). This preacher is convinced that these are the words of Nicodemus. The Bible clearly says so. As such they express the opinion of Nicodemus which may or may not be true. Since false Christs and false prophets will be able to work great miracles and signs – and since in the latter days an image shall be made to speak, we conclude that the words of Nicodemus are not true at all. The devil and his crowd can at times work miracles.

So we may conclude that the tribulation period will have false Christs deceiving people. These false Christs are not at this time present in the “beginning of sorrows” - the time period that we at this present time find ourselves. What is the answer? Was the Lord Jesus wrong? Of course that cannot be. The problem is our understanding. Either we are not in the “beginning of sorrows” or we do not have the correct understanding of what Jesus meant.

Jeremiah tells us what Jehovah said about false prophets: “Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart,” (Jeremiah 14:14). Notice this phrase: “The prophets prophesy lies in my name.” To do something in the name of another is to do it with that other person's authority. Legally it is to have a power of attorney. It requires willingness on the part of the person with authority to have another act in his stead. False prophets do not have Christ's or God's authority, but they claim to have it. They are liars for God said they “prophesy lies in my name.”

Let us leave the time of “great tribulation” and go back to what He said about our own time, “the beginning of sorrows.” Consider what the Lord Jesus actually said. He said: “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Remember, punctuation, as well as chapter and verse divisions were not in the original texts of our Bibles. Our King James Bibles have been updated on spelling and punctuation down through the years. In fact the punctuation of this verse in my original 1611 King James Bible is this “For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ: and shall deceive many.” I call your attention to the colon after the word Christ whereas in my 1769 Blayney King James has a semi-colon. (The 1769 Blayney revision is the King James Bible that nearly all use identifying it only as a King James Bible.) What if we remove a comma: just one comma. What if Jesus actually said, “For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Do you see the difference in meaning?

Now I must warn you at this juncture: no commentator that I have found sees what I am saying here. Reader, you must pray and seek the Lord about this, but it seems to me that the Lord said this: (1) many shall come claiming to be speaking in my name; (2) they shall say that I, Jesus, am the Christ, the Savior, the Messiah, etc.; but (3) they shall deceive many.

Does this understanding of the Lord's statement fit our times? Are there many preachers and teachers filling pulpits, preaching on the radio and on TV all claiming to have Christ's authority to preach? And are not most of them teaching damnable heresy? Do not many of them teach baptismal regeneration? Do not most of them teach decisional regeneration? In other words do not most of them teach works for salvation? Are not the devotees of such damnable lies, whether teachers or followers, those spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:13 which specifically says: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”

If the things I have presented in this article are true and my understanding is correct, we should not be looking for men to arise who claim that they, themselves, are Christ. (And we do not see such in this “beginning of sorrows”). Rather we should look for men who are boldly claiming that Jesus is the Christ, but who deceive by preaching a false gospel and other lies. But when we look forward to the tribulation period then shall arise men claiming to be the Christ, the Deliverer, who shall provide salvation to those who believe their lies and follow them.

Thus, by taking this view we have no confusion. There are not two instances of the same sign being given. We have no anomaly or abnormality in the Scriptures at all. We are not confused by what the Lord Jesus said. We have two distinct signs given for two different periods of time. And indeed we are seeing the first sign – men claiming that Jesus is the Christ – but yet who are deceivers and teachers of damnable heresies. God's Word is true and is being fulfilled before our very eyes if we understand the Bible aright.

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Denham Springs, LA 70726

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