Three different gospel writers record Jesus' warnings that many false teachers will deceive many people as the end of the age approaches (see Matthew 24:3–5, 11, 24; Mark 13:5–6; Luke 21:7–8).
When Jesus' disciples asked Him, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" He replied, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name… and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:3–5). Jesus and His disciples repeatedly warned that religious deception would be a major issue as the world approached the second coming of Jesus Christ. Evidence is building in our modern society that indicates these ancient prophecies are coming alive today, and the stage is being set for their ultimate fulfillment in the years just ahead!
Three different gospel writers record Jesus' warnings that many false teachers will deceive many people as the end of the age approaches (see Matthew 24:3–5, 11, 24; Mark 13:5–6; Luke 21:7–8). Jesus even warned that "false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders, to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24). Jesus issued these warnings to help believers avoid being deceived (Matthew 24:25: John 16:1–4). The Apostle Paul echoed similar warnings on numerous occasions. He warned that false teachers led by a different spirit would preach a different gospel than Jesus preached, and would mislead people to accept a false Jesus that does not match up with the Jesus of Scripture (2 Corinthians 11:3–4). The biblical Jesus was not born on Christmas Day, and did not preach that Christians would have their eternal reward in heaven (John 3:13; Acts 2:34; 13:36). The real Jesus did not do away with the Sabbath or the Holy Days; He kept those days, as did the early Church (Matthew 5:17; Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2). Paul wrote that false teachers who preach different doctrines would present themselves as ministers of Jesus Christ, though Satan would in fact be using them to deceive many (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). The Apostle Peter also foresaw the appearance of false teachers who would "secretly bring in destructive heresies… And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (2 Peter 2:1–3).
The Apostle Paul cautioned that Christians "in the last days" must avoid people "having a form of godliness but denying its power" because such people will lead Christians astray (2 Timothy 3:1–9). These false teachers will deceive sincere people by using crafty arguments about doctrine, specious philosophical reasoning and emotional appeals to vain human traditions (see Ephesians 4:14; 5:6–7; Colossians 2:8).
Paul explained that, shortly before Jesus Christ's return, a "man of sin"—a lawless religious leader influenced by Satan—would deceive huge numbers of people who do not know God's word, by displaying to them "all power, signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:1–15). The Apostle John revealed that this evil individual "performs great signs" and "deceives those who dwell on the earth" by those signs (Revelation 13:11–18). Just before Christ's return, this great false religious leader will cause billions of people to worship a powerful political figure who is also influenced by Satan.
Satan has been working to deceive human beings for a long time. Scripture clearly reveals that he deceived Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:13; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14). Since then, as the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:3–4), Satan has deceived the whole world with misguided ideas about religion (Revelation 12:9). Hard as this may be for many to believe, Scripture reveals that before the return of Jesus Christ, Satan will influence two men—a powerful political figure called the "Beast" and a miracle-working religious leader of global stature—to deceive the people of this world into following Satan himself!
Today, the marvels of modern technology—including radio, television and the Internet—have enabled hundreds and thousands of self-proclaimed preachers and teachers to spread a myriad of conflicting ideas about religion to the world. Some of these religious teachers claim to see visions, to speak with God and to receive special revelations about the future from spirit sources. The Internet, television, radio and print media are overflowing with strange ideas about religion. Although many preachers claim to preach from the Bible, they often do not agree with others who also claim to preach from the Bible. Other religious teachers claim to have found hidden truths in other "sacred" writings or "lost" gospels that responsible Bible scholars have long rejected as false. Thanks to the electronic media, our modern world is definitely awash with religious teachers. Many false teachers do abound, and many have come in the name of Jesus Christ—and are deceiving many people—just as Bible prophecies have long foretold!
Why did Jesus and the apostles record so many warnings about religious deception that would occur at the end of this age? How did they know this would happen? The God of the Bible reveals that He alone is able to predict the future (Isaiah 46:8–10). He knows that Satan is a liar (John 8:44) who is out to thwart God's plan of salvation by influencing unsuspecting human beings who are susceptible to his deceptive activities. Over the last century in the so-called Western "Christian" world, we have seen secular academics, theologians, educators and atheists not just spreading doubts but even heaping ridicule on the Bible and the very idea of God's existence! Today, it is against the law to pray or read Scripture in many public schools. Many of this world's most prominent theologians do not believe in a personal God and do not consider the Bible the inspired word of God; to them, it is supposedly just another book filled with myths and legends! This attitude of doubt and disbelief has permeated our societies today to the point where many people do not even read the Bible, so they do not know what is in it. Studies have revealed that large numbers of people in the Western world today are biblically illiterate! Most people today do not know what Scripture prophesies. They do not know that Satan is real, nor do they know how he operates or what his intentions are. All this provides the fertile ground for the seeds of deception to sprout and grow—which is what we are seeing today. This was foretold long ago by the prophet Hosea who wrote, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" because they have forgotten God and rejected His instructions—and we will reap serious consequences as a result (Hosea 4:6).
As the end of this present age approaches, you can avoid being deceived if you take the time to study the Bible and learn what it actually says (2 Timothy 2:15). Scripture exhorts us: "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Jesus Christ stated, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31–32). Widespread religious deception is prophesied to occur as the end of the age approaches. If you know what is coming and how it will come, and if you remain alert and look to God's word for guidance, you will not be deceived!