Day 207: Matthew 24:4-5, 8

Watch out, and do not let anyone fool you. Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will fool many people.

[This is the one of 15 scriptures in which Jesus provides his disciples with some details about the Second Coming of Christ.  For more on the Second Coming see Day 150.  For more on the Messiah see Day 145.  For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]

The disciples are shocked. They have just heard Jesus say that the Temple is going to be destroyed. Now Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives when they come to him and ask, “Tell us when all this will be and what will happen to show that it is the time for your coming and the end of the age.”

Jesus initially shocked them with his prediction on Day 148 that “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.”  This is a confusing bit of information.  They had assumed that he was the Messiah.  The word “Messiah” is never actually used in the Old Testament.  The concept is based on a series of vague references by several of the prophets.  According to the jewfaq.org website the Messiah is “a man who will be chosen by God to put an end to all evil in the world, rebuild the Temple, bring the Jewish exiles back to Israel and usher in the world to come.”   The New Age (aka Messianic Age, Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven) will be “characterized by world peace, an absence of sin, and universal Judaism.”

Although the descriptions of the “Messiah” are somewhat inconsistent, the one thing the prophetic scriptures seem to agree on that this great leader would be a descendent of King David.  That is the definition that Jesus and the disciples would have been working with.  As I said, it was pretty vague.  A descendent of David who will bring about a better world.  That’s about it.

Jesus’ disciples were hoping that he was the Messiah, but Jesus was reluctant to claim the title.  While Jesus never actually says that he’s the Messiah, but he also never denies it. Also, he has informed them that he will be put to death (Days 143, 151, 156, etc.), and this little fly in the ointment doesn’t exactly align with their expectations.  But Jesus also threw this out there: For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his deeds. I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.”  (See Day 150 for more on the “second coming”).  This was perhaps reassuring to the disciples, because it sounds pretty Messianic.  Kings, thrones, rewards.  So, they start thinking that maybe when he comes the second time it will be as the real Messiah and the New Age will begin.  At last that’s what they were hoping for.

So they come to Jesus and ask him for a timeline because they are freaked out and need some reassurance.  They want to know exactly when Jesus will come back the second time.  They want some insider knowledge to ease their nerves and give them some sense of control, especially now that they know that the Temple is going down.

Also, they are probably uneasy about whether or not they will be able to recognize Jesus the second time around. Jesus, the Pharisees, and many of the Jews of this time believed in both reincarnation and resurrection, but the logistics were unclear.  Would he return in the same body, or another body?  Would he be easily recognized as the same person?  If he was reincarnated would he have memories of his prior life as Jesus?  How would he identify himself to the disciples?  I’m sure they had many concerns about possibly being fooled.  Many people today continue to have the same concerns.

Jesus knows that in the wake of his demise, there will be many who will see an opportunity to take advantage of the situation and co-opt his ministry.  It is of utmost importance to Jesus that his disciples are not taken in by a false Messiah who might lead them in the wrong direction.  Someone motivated by ego, greed, or anger.  Someone like this rogue’s gallery of false Messiahs listed in Wikipedia who claim to be reincarnations of Christ (I thought they were interesting but feel free to skim over them):

  • Simon Magus (early 1st century), he was Samaritan, and a native of Gitta; he was considered a god in Simonianism; he “darkly hinted” that he himself was Christ, calling himself the Standing One.
  • Dositheos the Samaritan (mid 1st century), he was one of the supposed founders of Mandaeanism. After the time of Jesus he wished to persuade the Samaritans that he himself was the Messiah prophesied by Moses.
  • Tanchelm of Antwerp (c. 1110), who violently opposed the sacrament and the Eucharist.
  • Ann Lee (1736–1784), a central figure to the Shakers, who thought she “embodied all the perfections of God” in female form and considered herself to be Christ’s female counterpart in 1772.
  • Bernhard Müller (c. 1799–1834) claimed to be the Lion of Judah and a prophet in possession of the Philosopher’s stone.
  • Arnold Potter (1804–1872), Latter Day Saint schismatic leader; called himself “Potter Christ”
  • Hong Xiuquan (1814–1864), Hakka Chinese; claimed himself to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ; started the Taiping Rebellion and founded the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace. Committed suicide before the fall of Tianjing (Nanjing) in 1864.
  • Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, Bahá’u’lláh (1817–1864), born Shiite, adopting Bábism later in life, he claimed to be the promised one of all religions, and founded the Bahá’í Faith.
  • Jacobina Mentz Maurer (1841 or 1842-1874) was a German-Brazilian woman who lived and died in the state of Rio Grande do Sul who emerged as a messianic prophetess, a representation of God, and later declared the very reincarnation of Jesus Christ on earth by her German-speaking community called Die Muckers (or the false saints) by her enemies, Die Spotters (or the mockers). After a number of deadly confrontations with outsiders, Jacobina was shot to death together with many of her followers by the Brazilian Imperial Army.
  • William W. Davies (1833–1906), Latter Day Saint (Mormon) schismatic leader; claimed that his infant son Arthur (born 1868) was the reincarnated Jesus Christ.
  • Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India (1835–1908), claimed to be the awaited Mahdi as well as (Second Coming) and likeness of Jesus the promised Messiah at the end of time, being the only person in Islamic history who claimed to be both. He claimed to be Jesus in the metaphorical sense; in character. He founded the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1889 envisioning it to be the rejuvenation of Islam, and claimed to be commissioned by God for the reformation of mankind. He declared that Jesus survived crucifixion and died a natural death having migrated towards the east.
  • Cyrus Reed Teed (October 18, 1839 – December 22, 1908, erroneously Cyrus Tweed) was a U.S. eclectic physician and alchemist turned religious leader and messiah. In 1869, claiming divine inspiration, Dr. Teed took on the name Koresh and proposed a new set of scientific and religious ideas he called Koreshanity.
  • Father Divine (George Baker) (c. 1880 – September 10, 1965), an African American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death who claimed to be God.
  • André Matsoua (1899–1942), Congolese founder of Amicale, proponents of which subsequently adopted him as Messiah in the late 1920s.
  • Ahn Sahng-hong (1918–1985), founder of the World Mission Society Church of God and worshiped by the members as the messiah.
  • Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012), founder and leader of the Unification Church established in Seoul, South Korea, who considered himself the Second Coming of Christ, but not Jesus himself. Although it is generally believed by Unification Church members (“Moonies”) that he was the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ and was anointed to fulfill Jesus’ unfinished mission.
  • Iesu Matayoshi (born 1944), in 1997 he established the World Economic Community Party based on his conviction that he is God and the Christ.
  • Jung Myung Seok (born 1945), a South Korean who was a member of the Unification Church in the 1970s, before breaking off to found the dissenting group[24] now known as Providence Church in 1980. He also considers himself the Second Coming of Christ, but not Jesus himself in 1980. He believes he has come to finish the incomplete message and mission of Jesus Christ, asserting that he is the Messiah and has the responsibility to save all mankind.He claims that the Christian doctrine of resurrection is false but that people can be saved through him.
  • Claude Vorilhon now known as Raël “messenger of the Elohim” (born 1946), a French professional test driver and former automobile journalist became founder and leader of UFO religion the Raël Movement in 1972, which teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials, which they call Elohim. He claimed he met an extraterrestrial humanoid in 1973 and became the Messiah. Then devoted himself to the task he said was given by his “biological father”, an extraterrestrial named Yahweh.
  • Inri Cristo (born 1948) of Indaial, Brazil, a claimant to be the second Jesus.
  • Apollo Quiboloy (born 1950), founder and leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ religious group, who claims that Jesus Christ is the “Almighty Father,” that Quiboloy is “His Appointed Son,” and that salvation is now completed. Proclaims himself as the “Appointed Son of the God” not direct to the point as the “Begotten Son of the God” in 1985.
  • David Icke (born 1952), of Great Britain, has described himself as “the son of God”, and a “channel for the Christ spirit”.
  • David Koresh (Vernon Wayne Howell) (1959–1993), leader of the Branch Davidians.
  • Maria Devi Christos (born 1960), founder of the Great White Brotherhood.
  • David Shayler (born 1965), former MI5 agent and whistleblower who declared himself the Messiah on 7 July 2007.
  • Alan John Miller (born 1964), founder of Divine Truth, a new religious movement based in Australia. Alan John Miller, also known as A.J., who claims to be Jesus of Nazareth through reincarnation. Miller was formerly an elder in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • José Luis de Jesús Miranda (born April 22, 1946 in Ponce, Puerto Rico), founder and leader of Creciendo en Gracia sect (Growing In Grace International Ministry, Inc.), based in Miami, Florida. He claims to be both Jesus Christ returned and the Antichrist, and exhibits a “666” tattoo on his forearm. He has referred to himself as Jesucristo Hombre, which translates to “Jesus Christ made Man”

GeorgeI might also add that there was a person in our church in Chicago who thought he was a reincarnation of Christ.  That’s him, in the picture above.  He didn’t have any followers, though, except perhaps his wife.  He was really annoying sometimes.  He was always saying things like “My time has not yet come.”  But we let him re-enact the crucifixion on every Good Friday, without real nails.  It made him happy.  Oh, and the Jews have a similar list of false Messiahs who have popped up and fizzled out over the centuries.

It seems that Jesus was right.  There certainly have been a lot of false Messiahs. Here is an example of how Jesus himself wanted to be evaluated.  Presumably the disciples would be looking for the same things in a reincarnated Jesus the second time around:

When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him.  “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus answered, “Go back and tell John what you are hearing and seeing:  the blind can see, the lame can walk, those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the Good News is preached to the poor.  How happy are those who have no doubts about me!” (Matthew 11:2-5).

So, in summary, the disciples ask Jesus when he will return and he gives them a series of vague clues. Actually he has already given them the first clue on Day 205.

Clue #1 – Jesus will not come again until people are willing to accept him and what he has to say.  On Day 204 Jesus says,From now on, I tell you, you will never see me again until you say, ‘God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord.”  He’s not going to come again just to be abused and rejected all over again.  He’s not coming back until humanity figures it out that killing the prophets won’t do any good.  Truth wins out in the end.

And in this scripture today Jesus gives them another clue:

Clue #2 – There will be a lot of self-proclaimed Messiahs running around.  He says to ignore them.  This is not a sign of anything except normal opportunism. Just because people say they are the Messiah doesn’t mean that it’s the truth.

The third clue is equally enigmatic.  But that’s tomorrow.

What does this scripture say to you?


 

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