Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and Tom: I’m a little confused. I always consider the Great Tribulation to be the religious domain of the Antichrist. Yet, going through Matthew 24 the other day, which I thought addresses the time when the Antichrist is revealed, it says, ‘For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.’ Wouldn’t false Christs be in competition with the Antichrist, and detract from the whole world worshipping the Antichrist?”
Tom: Well, that’s a good question, Dave. You know, I’m waiting for your answer, but then I’ve got another question that I just thought of just now that has to do with all these Christs that we’ve been talking about just now—you know, on TV, on films, and all over the place…
But anyway, first things first.
Dave: Well, Tom, the answer is rather simple for the reader of Matthew 24. You know, there’s not some cutoff period here now. It says, “From now on what we say, that’s just during the Great Tribulation.” No, the Great Tribulation comes in history, and there is history leading up to it.
Tom: Okay. Preparation, is that what you’re talking about?
Dave: Right. For example, 2 Thessalonians 2 says: “That day is not going to come without an apostasy.” Well, the apostasy didn’t suddenly come in the Great Tribulation, but it is the preparation for the Great Tribulation for a false church.
So the disciples—we understand Matthew 24 in relation to the question the disciples asked. Jesus said, “This temple is going to be destroyed, and there won’t be a stone on one another,” and so forth, and they get up to the Mount of Olives, and, “As he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?”
And He begins to talk about it. Well, He says, “Beware, many shall arise saying, I’m Christ, to be false Christs, false prophets,” and so forth. When you go back to Matthew 7, He says, “Many will say to him that day, Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this, didn’t we do that?”
We can’t say, “Oh, that could only be during the Great Tribulation.” Well, then we’ve got a conflict, because Antichrist, you know, he’s not going to be too happy with this either. So all I can say is there are things in here…for example, there are many prophesies that have a dual fulfillment, and there are some of them right in this chapter. It talks about the destruction of Jerusalem that happened in AD 70. So that wasn’t during the reign of the Antichrist. There are things in this chapter that happen outside of the reign of the Antichrist. This says, “For then shall the great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time nor ever shall be. Except those days be shortened, no flesh would survive,” and so forth.
Tom: So, Dave, all of these false Christs, false prophets that have come down through history—well, what have they done? They have distorted, corrupted, perverted the truth about Jesus and who Jesus is, and they’ve conditioned people down through history to believe lies about Jesus. So that’s a perfect setup for the man of lawlessness who is a type of Christ in the sense of—you know, you’ve talked about it many times, he’s a substitute for. So he’s not going to be, initially, so evil that people are just going to fall back, or be anxious or concerned about. But at the same time, what he is going to do is so evil because it’s a lie; it’s a corruption of the real Jesus.
Dave: Yeah. So, Tom, in answer to the question—for example, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of man. Before the flood they are eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage,” and so forth, and suddenly the flood comes. And then, v. 44: “Be ready, because you’re not going to know when the Son of man is coming.” I don’t think you could put that at the end of the Great Tribulation. I think much that is written here is going to have to happen before the Tribulation.
Tom: What about, “They shall deceive the very elect, if possible.” What does that mean?
Dave: Well, the elect is used in a number of ways in Scripture, Tom, and it’s not always clear. “Israel is mine elect,” God says. The true Christians are His elect. I think it would include both. Before the Rapture it certainly would include true Christians, and it does say, “If it were possible.” It doesn’t say that they will deceive the elect, but it says their signs and wonders will be so convincing that, if possible, they would deceive even the very elect. It takes some discernment.
Now, amazingly, Tom, it doesn’t take much discernment on the part of non-Christians. I mean, I’ve had so many non-Christians tell me, “I wouldn’t give this guy, Benny Hinn, the time of day. You watch him and you know he’s a phony,” or Paul and Jan Crouch, various people like that—I’m sorry to mention these names, but this is what…I’m only quoting what non-Christians have said. “TBN? That’s phony stuff!”
I’ve had so many Jewish people, Gentiles who are non-Christians, and they will tell you, “Oral Roberts? I mean, this guy, he needs $8 million, or God is going to kill him, and so forth. That’s not God at all. I mean, I don’t want to watch that.” But some of it is pretty convincing, and it deceives a lot of people.
Tom: Even the elect?
Dave: Well, maybe for a time, if possible, even the elect could be deceived. So he’s warning us: We better follow the Lord, and we better be in the Word of God; we better know the Word of God.
Tom, I tell people all the time this is the best antidote. They say, “What about this that this guy teaches? What about that?” Look, if you knew your Bible, you would have an immediate answer to that and you wouldn’t be deceived at all. And that’s one of the reasons why we call this program Search the Scriptures Daily, and we try to get into the Bible. We try to answer questions from the Bible. That’s our authority.