In the early verses of the Olivet Discourse, in Matthew 24, “Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you’ ” (verse 4).

As we look to the future, this word from our Lord ought to be etched in our own hearts. As the day of His return approaches, we are very prone to deception. This warning is so important that it is recorded for us again in Mark 13:5–6. Jesus said, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.” And it is also recorded in Luke 21:8: Jesus said, “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.”

Jesus said that there will be many people who will try to deceive others. Men and women will stand up and say, “I am the answer” or “I have the answer.” But Jesus said, “Be careful that you don’t run after them.”

In fact, in Matthew 24:23–24, Jesus said, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Jesus warned His disciples to be careful of deception concerning the future.

One of the greatest threats to the church of Jesus Christ is deception. Almost every week some new system of doctrine or some new method of understanding the Bible is advertised. This is a time when God’s people need to keep their eyes wide open, keep their Bibles wide open, and ask God for discernment.

Someone may say, “It sounds strange that people who know God could be deceived.” But there is a long history of deception in the family of God. For example, when Israel fell into idolatry, she did not openly renounce the worship of God. She did not stop giving credence to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in order to bow down before pagan shrines. Rather, there was a subtle intrusion into the worship of Almighty God that began to erode the effectiveness of His people. Such is the subtle nature of deception.

It is interesting that what happened to the people of Israel is exactly what God warned them against. When they left to go to the land of Canaan, He set before them a warning. He told them that if they were not careful as they went out into this new world, this new world would pour them into its mold instead of their being the redemptive influence upon the world.

Today, even the most optimistic observers are concerned about the spiritual direction of our nation and the core of God’s people within the nation. As just one example, the concept of being “politically correct” has thoroughly infected the church, which now has become so paranoid about genderism and sexism that it depicts God as a “He or She” and the Virgin Mary as a “young woman.”

A few years ago, The Jesus Seminar in California attacked some of Christianity’s most sacred traditions, asserting (among other things) that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah, that He did not predict the end of the world, that The Lord’s Prayer was drawn up by Christians after Jesus was off the earth, and so on. All in the name of religion. Little by little, Satan seductively sows his little seeds of deception and evil.

Someone might say, “We’re a church. We’re not going to let that happen.” But thinking that it can’t happen to us is the first step toward being seduced. We ought to always have our eyes open to the things that are happening around us. We have to hear the admonition of our Lord that we not be deceived because deception is the weapon of the Enemy.

Jeremiah, David. 2007. Until Christ Returns: Living Faithfully Today While We Wait for Our Glorious Tomorrow (Study Guide). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Check out our Bible Study on the Second Coming of Christ. It is on Amazon as well as part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.