By Paul Derengowski, ThM
Many people are absolutely enthralled by prophecy. In fact, many of today’s contemporary Christian cults were started by those who claimed to be able to forecast the future, although falsely done.
Muhammad (Islam), Ann Lee (the Shakers), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Ellen G. White (Seventh Day Adventism), Charles Taze Russell (The Dawn Bible Students that would become the Jehovah’s Witnesses), Sun Myung Moon (Unification Church), Herbert W. Armstrong (The Worldwide Church of God), Charles Manson (The Family), Jim Jones (The People’s Temple), Marshall Applewhite (Heaven’s Gate), David Koresh (Branch Davidians), et al, all were involved to one degree or another in making predictions about the coming days.
Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life, he provided his disciples with a catalogue of “signs” that would answer their questions about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, Jesus’ Second Coming, and the end of the age (Mt. 24:3; Mk. 13:4; Lk. 21:7).
In this article, we will take a look at the first of the “signs” Jesus deals with, namely the advent of false Christs, since many today continue to wonder at the very same questions asked by Jesus’ disciples, particularly as they pertain to him and his Second Coming.
Jesus told his disciples to not be misled, because “many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Mt. 24:4-5; Mk. 13:5-6; Lk. 21:8).
Interestingly, Mark and Luke’s gospels record Jesus simply saying that many would come in his name, saying, “I am,” which would be a designation of deity.
To be misled stems from the Greek word planaō, which carries with it the ideas of wandering off a path, to stray, or to move about without any particular course or definite destination.
Although Jesus does not name anyone specific leading others astray, inference may be drawn from several biblical references to corroborate the idea that there were already certain characters authoritatively acting or about to act in the capacity in which he warned.
In Acts 5:36, the Pharisee Gamaliel warned his colleagues to refrain from taking action against Peter and the apostles because a man by the name of Theudas, at one time, had arisen and claimed to be somebody, drawing approximately 400 followers after him.
Theudas was eventually slain and his followers dispersed. The implication is that Peter and the apostles were like Theudas and would eventually go away as well, and that without any unnecessary harsh treatment by the ruling elite among the Pharisees.
In Acts 8:9 we find another character by the name of Simon, who was a magician, and astonished the people of Samaria, “claiming to be someone great” to the extent where the people were saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God” (v. 10).
Simon later, though, was converted to Christianity at the preaching of Peter, but also later would have to chastise Simon for assuming that the gift of the Holy Spirit was something he could buy with money.
Finally, in Acts 21:38 is an allusion to an unnamed Egyptian that managed to stir up a revolt by leading 4,000 men called the “Assassins out into the wilderness.”
What eventually happened to them is not recorded, though the point is there were already religious figures in place attempting to lead the Jews into believing that their “savior” or Messiah had come.
Later on, and apart from biblical revelation, others would attempt to fill the role of the Messiah. One such person who managed to lead a revolt against Rome in 132 A.D. was named Simon or Shimon ben Koseba (aka Bar Kokhba).
According to the Jewish historian, Eusebius, “Bar Chochebas, which means ‘star,’ [actually “Son of a Star” from Numbers 24:17] a man who was murderous and a bandit, but relied on his name, as if dealing with slaves, and claimed to be a luminary who had come down to them from heaven and was magically enlightening those who were in misery” (The Ecclesiastical History, 1.4.6).
Emil Schürer tells us, “The application of the designation of the ‘Star,’ which should come out of Jacob, to Barcosiba, shows that he was regarded as the Messiah” (A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, 2.299).
Within three short years, however, Bar Kokhba’s rebellion was put down by the Roman leader Hadrian, his guerilla army fled into the Judean desert near the Dead Sea and destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem decimated to the point where only the retaining wall of the Temple built by Herod the Great remained. Today, it is known as the Wailing Wall where the Jews still congregate to lament the past.
Since those days, there have been others who have attempted to take on the name of Jesus or act in the place of Christ, with the biggest perpetrator of those frauds being the Roman Catholic Church.
Aside from ignoring Jesus’ command not to call anyone on earth their “father” (Latin papa or “pope”), spiritually speaking (Mt. 23:9), Lorraine Boettner wrote that the RCC has gone so far as assert that the Pope is “the Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the World, the Vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Roman Catholicism, 127)
A vicar is someone who acts in the place of someone else and when applied to the Roman pontiff it is to be understood that such an “infallible” stand-in began with the Apostle Peter, who was anything but infallible (Mt. 16:23; 26:34, 75; Mk. 8:33; 14:30, 72), much less a savior, of which there is only one.
More recently, there have been a bevy of characters who have come forth claiming to be Jesus, including A. J. Miller, Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop (aka Vissarion), David Shayler, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, Inri Cristo, Wayne Bent (aka Michael Trevesser), Thomas Provenzano, Shoko Asahara, Hogen Fukunaga, Apollo C. Quiboloy, and Brian Leonard Golightly Marshall.
One individual, Jose de Luis Jesus Miranda, even claims to be both Jesus and the anti-Christ, complete with the number of the beast (Rev. 13:18), “666,” tattooed on his arm.
Clearly, none of the preceding individuals is the actual Jesus Christ, even though they all garnered groups of followers of varying sizes, which attests to the leaders’ charm and charisma necessary to mislead them.
All of these false Christs, as well as many others unnamed or yet to appear on the human horizon, pale in comparison to the one the Apostle Paul called the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2:3) and the Apostle John called “the antichrist” (1 Jn. 2:22).
Tragically, the earth’s human population, by the time he arrives on the scene, will be so conditioned to accept fraud and deception as the norm, he will take “his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:4) and the world will worship him (Rev. 13:8)!
Those who refuse to worship him will be murdered (Rev. 13:15) by beheading (Rev. 20:4), with the world’s resources being used as bargaining chips for survival (Rev. 13:17).
We live in precarious times. Jesus warned of them. There were certain signs, though, which indicated that those times and signs would point to his return.
Whether or not all of the faulty Jesuses we see cropping up all around us are those indicated by Jesus in the Gospels can only be determined by 20/20 hindsight.
They may be merely foreshadows of things to come.
One thing is certain, however, and it is this: spiritual vigilance is an absolute necessity in our day and age.
This is especially true with more and more people claiming to be Jesus or the Christ, as well as with the increase in all the false spirituality, cults, and isms that dot the landscape.
Lack of spiritual vigilance by failure to take the real, biblical Jesus’ warnings seriously can only lead to the outcome he said would eventually occur, namely that many would be misled.
Therefore, do not be misled! There is only one Jesus, he did not fail in his mission, and is destined to return in the manner described in the Bible (Acts 1:11; Matt. 24:27; 1 Thess. 5:2).
Any person boasting or claiming otherwise is an impostor unworthy of anyone’s attention.