The Olivet Discourse – False Christs

25Jun11

Finally!

We have actually reached the point in this series where we begin to directly with the events of the Olivet Discourse. Since we have previously detailed the understanding of the question or questions asked by the Disciples in verse three we will begin our discussion starting with the warning starting in verses four and following.

One quick note here, though. There are two primary forms of evidence that we will be using throughout of discussion of the discourse. The first is called “internal” evidence and this will deal with evidence found within Scripture itself to support the particular view. The second is called “external” evidence and will include outside sources such are contemporary (for the time) historians like Josephus, Setonius, etc as well as current and historical commentators. It should be noted here that I firmly believe that “internal;” should be our primary resource and that external evidence should only be used to support that which Scripture already dictates.

So, let us begin with what Jesus refers to as the “birth pangs.” These are events that hint to soon coming events that would later follow. Please also not the use of the term “you” throughout the passage and understand His immediate audience was the Disciples that were gathered around Him.

Matt 24:4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray

The first “warning sign” that Jesus gives is that the Disciples (you) should expect to see many proclaim that they are the Christ. He precedes this sign with a warning that they should not be led astray. So, why would there be so many potential False Christs and why would it be a danger for the Disciples to be led astray?

Taking the second question first, you must understand that the Jewish model of Messiah was radically different than the one that actually arrived. They were looking for a king riding in on a mighty stallion to release from the bondage of Roman rule. Whet they did get was a messiah who rode in on a lowly donkey to release them from their bondage to sin. Even those in Jesus’ closest circle could fall victim to one who came in resembling more of what their preconceived notions of a Messiah should be, let alone those on the fringes during the birth of the early Church.

The first question, though, finds it’s answers in the promise of a coming Messiah and timing laid out in Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy in Daniel. Though we will be dealing in great detail with the 70 week prophecy in coming posts. for our purposes today we will look at the time aspect of the passage.

Dan 9:24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy

Because of the Daniel passage and the knowledge of when the decree to rebuild the city was made, many understood that the time Jesus was the time that the Jews should expect their Messiah. This is actually played out quite well in the movie, Nativity. It was understood that at that time of jesus’ they were over 450 or so years into the prophecies timing and that the Messiah should be on the scene very soon.

As a result there was quite a bit of “Messiah Fever” at the time. The Jews of the day believed that the Messiah was coming at any moment and the fact they were under Roman rule only added fuel to fire of a desire for a rescuing Messiah.

So, the question remains as to whether there were others at the time who claimed to be the great rescuer of the Jewish people and laid claim to the mantle of Messiah. Let’s first take a look at the internal evidence for the claim that this prophecy would find it’s fulfillment in the first century.

INTERNAL EVIDENCE

Acts 5:36 …Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.

Theudas, making a claim “to be somebody” was actual;ly able to raise a small band of followers very early after the ascension of Christ.

Acts 5:37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered.

Judas, the Galilean, joined Theudas in his ability to “draw same away.”

Acts 8:9-10 But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. [10] They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”

Simon made self declarations of his own “greatness” and “all” of the people claimed he had the power of God.

1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

The Apostle John makes the claim that the last hour was upon them because MANY anitchrists had arrived on the scene. These false Christs are not one individual person, but rather many. John, hearkening back to Jesus warning would later realize he was in the “last hour” because of some many false Christs appearing on the scene.

EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

What do history, historians and commentators teach about this time as well? Below is a list of those who made claims of Messiah-ship in the first century. It should be noted that this list is incomplete and that many would have to have gone unnoticed.

  • Josephus in his Antiquities 20.8.5 says, “Now, as for the affairs of the Jews, they grew worse and worse continually; for the country was again filled with robbers and impostors, who deluded the multitude.”
  • “There were so many of these impostors…might our savior caution His disciples against them” (Thomas Newton)
  • “Impostors and demagogues, under the guise of divine inspiration, provoked revolutionary action…” (Josephus – Jewish Wars 2.259)
  • Judas of Galilee – “a desire for royal rank which he expected to obtain”
  • Simon Magus – “I am the Word of God, I am the Comforter, I am Almighty” (St. Jerome)
  • Simon of Perea – “he assumed the name of king without waiting for Caesar…”
  • Ositheus the Samaritan – “pretended that he was the lawgiver prophesied of by Moses” (Alexander Keith)
  • Shepherd of Athronges – “Now, a mere shepherd had the temerity to aspire to the throne”
  • Theudas – “…a charlatan named Theadus persuaded most of the common people to take their possessions to the River Jordan…where at his command the River would be divided..”
  • Anonymous Egyptian Jew – “came and saying he was the prophet…and at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down…and despite being a false prophet had 30,000 followers”
  • There were many more including Maneham and Simon of Gioras

Even historians of the time were replete with stories and reports of Messianic characters staking their claim to the title. It should be noted that secular historians like Josephus and Setonius would have no reason to report happenings that support the teaching of Jesus. Not only were they considered “neutral,” they actually were hostile to the Jews and this beginning Christian sect.

Were there False Christs in the first century leading up to the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem? Most definitely! Were there enough to qualify as fulfilling the warning of Jesus? Again, most definitely. Were many led astray despite the warning of Jesus? Yes!Even the closest Disciple to Jesus would later declare that there were enough on the scene to make him proclaim that it was the “last hour!”

The above, coupled with the previously discussed notion that Daniel predicted the appearance of the Messiah during Jesus’ time only adds to the determination that the first warning sign was clearly fulfilled in the first century.

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One Response to “The Olivet Discourse – False Christs”

  1. 1 Jamal Bishara

    You came with the same names I came with. I thank you for your diligence of studying external and internal evidence of the scriptures


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