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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“Because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.”—Mark 13:19–23 (NIV)
“The best is yet to come!” is a nice sentiment, but as it pertains to human history nothing could be further from the truth.
Jesus says the days to come in the last days will be the worst in human history. As much as we may strive for a utopian, just, wonderful society where everyone gets along and thrives, or dream of the world becoming an idealized paradise, this is simply not the reality of what is to come.
This chapter, like many prophetic passages in Scripture, is called a multiple fulfillment prophecy in that it refers to more than one instance—often a near and distant future event. Here, Jesus addresses the last days, the era of humanity that began with Jesus’ ascension into heaven and culminates with His second coming. But He’s also talking about the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (Mark 13:2).
Continuing, Jesus again warns of “false messiahs” and “false prophets” who deceive and ensnare people in destructive lies that are not the true gospel. Then He says something interesting: “to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
What’s that? Jesus is saying their wonders and words would be so clever and deceptive, that if it were possible, would even lure away “the elect.” However, that’s not the case! Why? Because this is not possible for true believers in Jesus, true children of God who are sealed by the Holy Spirit, saved, and adopted.
Genuine believers who truly believe in the name of Jesus and have surrendered their lives to Him, cannot be dragged away. False teachers and false messiahs can only drag away those who, as John says, “did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19 NIV).
Does this mean we can never be deceived into subscribing to some false or unbiblical doctrines or experience seasons of doubt and wandering? No, but it means we who are truly saved cannot be fully and entirely dragged away forever, nor can we utterly renounce Christ and lose our salvation. If a person can do that and never come back, then their faith was never truly genuine.
So, what’s our role? To be on guard, to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV), to rebuke in love, to walk with and restore those who struggle and waver for a season, to pray for people around us, that they would not be deceived into believing they’re secure in false teaching and instead be drawn to the truth, and to share the truth of the gospel at every opportunity with people around us and to ourselves!
Pause: What does it mean to “be on your guard”?
Practice: Are there people in your life who claim to be believers who are turning away from the faith or believing false gospels and false doctrines such as the prosperity movement, legalism, or the progressive movement? Pray for them! And as the opportunity arises, have loving yet hard conversations with them. Consider James 5:19–20 (NIV): “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
Pray: Jesus, help me be on guard. Help me bring the truth of the gospel to those who don’t know You yet. Help me to draw people who are ensnared by falsehoods to the truth. Use me to turn sinners away from error and to help restore brothers and sisters who wander and waver. Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.