Matthew 24:17-24a

Beware Imposters

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 24:17-18 (Holman) A man on the housetop must not come down

to get things out of his house. And a man in the field must

not go back to get his clothes.

Flat roofs in Jesus’ day were like our patios, places for socializing and rest. They were also good places for walking; people could run from roof to roof. Rabbis called this “the road of the roofs”. Our Master told us; in times of hard persecution, whether we are at home or in the field, refuse to get bogged down with stuff. Don’t lose precious time. Flee if possible. Run!!!

Jesus’ words of panic here are not ancient hieroglyphics having no application today. Terrors before Jerusalem’s destruction foreshadowed horrifying things that will happen throughout history, and climax as we near Jesus’ Second Coming. The fall of Jerusalem was a holocaust, but not the end. Since then we have many times seen the rise, rule, and ruin of tyrants. In this world, evil powers will never cease spreading swift, ruthless cruelty.

People in our Burmese church, and others, know by personal, excruciating experience exactly what Jesus meant by His words in our text. One of our Burmese men, when he first worked in our Victory Garden for the poor, fell to his knees, scooped up dirt in his hands, and held it near his face, letting the smell remind him of the rich soil he had once farmed.

Matt. 24:19-20 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those

days! Pray that your escape may not be in winter or

on a Sabbath.

Notice Jesus’ compassion. In His day, women were looked down on, but He respected them. His ministry gave them prominence. Having to flee quickly would be especially hard on pregnant ladies, who cannot run fast or far, and on nursing mothers, who would have to see their children suffer.

Jesus’ sympathetic heart knew it would be hard to travel in winter or on the Sabbath. In winter, weather is harsh. On the Sabbath, most in Israel considered it wrong to help any traveler going farther than what the legalists allowed as a Sabbath Day’s Journey (Acts 1:12), about 1000 yards. Sabbath observers would impede the way of anyone fleeing. Those who were fleeing could not have bought needed items or found shelter; on the Sabbath, selling was not allowed, and city gates were often closed to outside travelers.

Jesus lovingly told us to pray about things beyond our control: It is okay to plead for the wellbeing of our families and us if facing hard times.

We are not robots devoid of feeling. In distress, it is okay to cry out to God for help. Jesus Himself asked for the cup to pass from Him if possible.

Matt. 24:21-22 For at that time there will be great tribulation, the kind

that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now

and never will again! Unless those days were limited, no one

would survive. But those days will be limited because of the elect.

There will be nothing again like the destruction of Jerusalem. It ended an era, a theocracy, a covenant era. Had Rome’s army gone on unrestrained, they would have destroyed all the Jews, but God would not allow it.

God loves the Jews “because of their forefathers” (RM 11:28). No nation has ever turned against the Jews, and prospered. Recent news reports indicate anti-Semitism persists in our nation. Don’t go there, brothers and sisters. Say nothing demeaning about the Jews (or other ethnic groups).

I find it ironic that as Columbus left on his trip of discovery, his ship crossed the path of the last boatload of Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain. I wish they had known a nation across the ocean would become the safest haven for Jews since Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D. God bless America. She has many faults, as do all nations, but has also shown many praiseworthy traits.

Matt. 24:23-24a If anyone tells you then, “Look, here is the Messiah!”

or, “Over here!” do not believe it! False messiahs and false

prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders. . .

Our text reinforces Jesus’ warning in verse 11. Counterfeit leaders are ever present, especially in crises. They appeal to people’s selfish, baser instincts, urging them to protect themselves at all cost. Beware any religion that deifies self-enjoyment to the point of being unwilling to suffer for our faith.

There are always religious imposters, but it is possible to stay true to Jesus. We can love Him to the point of having no room left in our hearts to love charlatans. Ever learn more of Jesus. By giving each day to knowing and loving Him more, we will be led astray less by false prophets. When linked confidently to Jesus, we are more secure from counterfeits and lies.

We need this level of commitment, because our foes can be capable of doing miraculous things. There is a spirit-world different from the good one. Miracles do not prove God’s power, or give authority to a claim. God spoke through His Son, who spoke through His disciples; this is our authority. There is no other unfailing source of authority. We need to know this, for near the end the antichrist will show power, signs, and wonders (2 TH 2:9).

In recent years, we USA believers often seemed determined to make it easier for false prophets to succeed. Miracles were not needed to cripple the belief systems of many in our culture. Modern religious imposters found the Achilles heel of true Christianity. They learned the deadly effectiveness of criticizing and undermining Bible authority. Once they did this, the demise of dynamic faith was inevitable. They convinced many people to substitute human reasoning and hunches for divine revelation and Bible certainties.

Some offer a totally new way of looking at life, completely without reference to God’s inspired Word. Some want to keep the facade of Bible use, but then add to the Bible, or subtract unpopular passages from it.

Christian faith requires discernment. Some bedrock teachings have to be believed. Certain other teachings have to be rejected. Only a sewer is always open to anything coming its way. Believing everything is as much a danger to Christianity as is skepticism. Don’t believe all you read or hear.

Our culture embraced false prophets incrementally. Societies change slowly. Decisions made 50 years ago about the Bible led to our recent woes.

Realizing the Biblical foundation of our nation has been under-mined, false prophets of our day are enjoying a feeding frenzy. They learned to be persuasive, polished under-cutters of faith. Many of our believing students graduate high school, and enter a minefield. Caring, impressive, unbelieving teachers can, like a buzzsaw, quickly dismantle years of Godly teaching.

Jesus knew how vitally important the acceptance or rejection of Bible authority would be in determining belief and behavior. This is why He felt the need to promise the disciples He would guide them into all truth (John 16:13). The early Church quickly learned it needed this. The early fathers saw error, and felt our only hope was an appeal to something outside themselves. They sensed a need to appeal to what had been written by people who knew Jesus up close.

When no appeal to an agreed-on outside authority can be made, each individual becomes his or her own god. Beliefs become self-determined; sin becomes self-defined. This results in some people claiming to be Christians who have never stopped their sinful behavior. Thinking holiness is not a reasonable expectation, they regularly commit sins the Bible condemns. In this way, they allow themselves to be deceived by false messiahs and false prophets.