The Proverb (1:17, NLT) says, “If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away.” Our crafty adversary the devil is laying traps continually in our paths, hoping to turn us aside from serving the Lord. God’s wise solution to that, as the proverb says, is for us to see the trap and stay away. Let’s examine some biblically revealed end-time traps, so that we may with God’s help see them and avoid them. The Bible is filled with God’s helpful warnings. And there is an especially relevant list of God’s “Watch out!” warnings in the end-time chapters of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
Matthew’s 24th chapter in large part speaks of the end times. One of Jesus’ prophetic warnings is of a notable “increase of wickedness” as the Church Age draws to a close before His return to earth. Today we see this on all sides, in our culture, our schools, our media, and more.
Jesus’ warning concerning that is: do not let your love grow cold, but stand firm in your walk with the Lord until the end — the end of your life or Christ's Second Coming, if you’re alive until that day. Spend time with Him daily, in prayer, in reading His holy Word the Bible, in worship, in consistent involvement in a Bible-preaching local church, and more. Stir up your passion for Him, remembering Jesus’ declaration that the “first and greatest commandment … [is to] love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37-38). We don’t want to be like the early Ephesian church to whom Jesus said, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).
Evil men and seducers! Getting worse and worse in these perilous last days. The apostle Paul foresaw this prophetically 2,000 years ago. Various translations identify them as “seducers … impostors … deceivers … false teachers.” And we are seeing it right in front of our eyes in our 21st century.
I hardly need to elaborate. All of you are seeing these things in the USA (my country) and in many other nations. Innocent babies are being savagely executed in the womb … gay marriage and transgender are being accepted as “normal” … disgusting, immoral drag queen shows are permitted in front of little children in our public schools … crime rates are skyrocketing, especially in large cities with catastrophically reduced police presence … and so much more. This is end-time iniquity that is rightfully causing believers to vex their righteous souls, as did the “just [man] Lot” in ancient Sodom nearly 4,000 years ago (2 Peter 2:7-8). Sodom is repeating itself in our day, at an ever-increasing pace.
When the apostle Paul warned of these end-time evils in Second Timothy chapter 3, he did reveal to Pastor Timothy the solution, for Timothy and for all believers: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (vss. 14-15). Paul exhorts us: continue in the Holy Scriptures and in your faith in Jesus Christ. That’s what will keep you on the wise path of your salvation.
By the clear prophetic revelation of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul tells us that in these latter times there will be apostasy — “some will depart from the faith.” Sad to say, that refers to Christian believers, who will depart from their Christian faith. Their downfall comes from giving heed to the doctrines of demons taught by deceiving spirits (sometimes using human ministers for this purpose).
Thankfully, the apostle in the following verses gives us some solutions to prevent our falling away from the Lord: be nourished in the [Bible’s] words of faith and good doctrine (vs. 6) … carefully follow those words (6) … reject that which the Word shows to be false (7) … be diligent to have a godly walk (7) … trust in the living God (10). Have a firm, unshakable determination to obey Jesus and to “stand firm to the end” (Matthew 24:13).
Right at the beginning of Matthew 24, Jesus issues this broad warning: watch out for deception. In this chapter and the parallel chapters in Mark 13 and Luke 21 Jesus issues a number of warnings about specific deceptions to watch for and to avoid. Let’s look at some of them. And remember, we’re looking at these things so that we can be like that bird in Proverbs 1:17: “If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away.” Let’s see some more devilish traps and stay away!
False Christs, false prophets. False teachers also (2 Peter 2:1). The key word in the Lord’s warnings is "false." More than ever in history, the end times will see an abundance of false teachers, false prophets, and false Christs. And they “shall deceive many.” This will contribute significantly to the end-time apostasy (falling away from the faith) of some believers that the apostle Paul warned of. They may even show deceiving signs and wonders, Jesus warned. Remember, not every “sign and wonder” is from God. But the ones that absolutely, unapologetically point to and honor the Lord Jesus Christ are the Gospel-confirming signs and wonders that are from God.
Christians, hear this! If they are not speaking absolutely from and in line with God’s word, ignore them! The prophet Isaiah boldly declared this: “Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:20, NIV). I love the King James translation of this urgently important verse: “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Don’t listen to the alleged prophets, teachers, and ‘Christs’ whose teachings are not the Word of God, the Bible. A Jehovah’s Witness lady recently came to my front door with her false doctrine. With a polite smile — don’t be mean (2 Tim. 2:25) — I replied that my faith is in the “Lord Jesus Christ” and in His full Deity. She replied with their heretical belief that Jesus was “a god.” I replied to her from the Scriptures about Jesus’ full Deity, and she quickly turned and left.
My friend, the outstanding Bible teacher Dick Strutz, and I were co-teaching an adult Bible class many years ago in Palmer, Alaska. At the end of our session we opened the floor to questions. A few questions were about some of the false cults’ doctrines. After two or three of these, Dick spoke wise words I’ve never forgotten to this day, nearly 50 years later. He said it’s not possible to keep up with all the heresies of all the false religions. But, he said, you focus on learning God’s Word the Bible. Then when a false teaching comes up, you will immediately recall the Bible Scriptures that disprove that false teaching. This way — that is, learn the Bible deeply — you’ll be prepared to refute any and every false doctrine.
Revelation 19:7 The wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself
Almost 40 years ago I had the privilege of taking a Bible college course on the Book of Revelation, taught by the now late apostle Richard C. “Dick” Benjamin, my spiritual father and the founding pastor of Abbott Loop Christian Center in Anchorage, Alaska. In the introduction to the very first class, Pastor Benjamin said these words (my best recollection): “More important than knowing all the things we’ll study is being ready when they happen.” I’ll never forget that. Brother Benjamin was a man deeply knowledgeable in God’s Word, and he preached and taught it extensively to the church. But he reminded us that we were learning the Word in order to apply it to our lives, not just for head knowledge. In brief, we would be studying the Revelation in order for us and our lives to be ready for what the Bible prophesies about the times we live in or are coming into.
The context of all three portions above is Jesus giving His followers work to do on this earth until He returns again. Every one of us has work to do on behalf of the Lord — “to every man his work.” And we want Him to find us “doing so” when He returns, “occupying,” as the KJV says, until He comes.
A word to those of us in our senior years (I’m age 80). You can still work for the Lord each and every day. You can serve Him by being a prayer warrior for others. You can serve Him by sharing even a brief word about your Lord with someone you meet that day. You can ask your pastor what you can do to help the church, consistent with your advanced age and health. There’s an almost unlimited number of ways you can find to serve Him each day that will take into account your stage in life, health, energies, etc.
Personally, I retired from fulltime pastoral ministry in 2006, at age 63. But in the peace of “retired” years, I still work on this Bible sermons and teachings website almost every day. I’m an old man now, so I don’t have 8-10-hours-a-day energy like I had 40 years ago. But I give it what I have, then take a nap! (smiley face)
The Lord knows and understands each of our life situations. The simple key is to obey what Paul wrote to a man named Archippus: “Take heed to the ministry which thou [singular!] has received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (Colossians 4:17). God will wisely and graciously give you (“thou”) work to do that is consistent with your stage of life — child, student, young adult, married or single, raising children, later years, elderly, etc. He knows what you can do for Him. He’ll give you fruitful things to do on His behalf, and for those things He’ll give you the giftedness and the abilities to do them for Him. And for my fellow seniors, the Lord promises that we “shall still bring forth fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14, KJV).
In the end of days before Christ’s return, it seems that people will become part of two major groups: either (1) those who are followers of Jesus, or (2) those who refuse to be followers of Jesus. And in that second group, those who are not Christ’s followers, are the “everyone,” the “all,” who will hate you for your Christian faith. Expect it, don’t be blown away. Jesus foresaw it, and He will take good care of us.
I write this in the year 2023. In the USA the battle lines against Christian faith and practice in the public square are being drawn. Hatred and opposition against Christians is having increasing outward expression. The vitriol spewed online against us “rubes” who believe in a real God is more than I’ve seen even just five or ten years ago. If you want to see bitter hatred, for example, try attending a pro-abortion rally since the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring (correctly) that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. Carry into a pro-abortion rally a pro-life sign and you might be risking your safety! The fury against our pro-life Christian principles is strong and growing.
Here in the USA I am associated with a Christian missions ministry. Sad to say, but to the glory of God, we have had people in that ministry martyred. Do not be surprised if that level of violence spreads even to nations that are historically Christian. I’m comforted by the encouraging words of the Lord Jesus: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Expect trouble. Expect hatred. Expect the apostle’s warning to be true: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). But take heart! Jesus has overcome the world.
We could look at more warnings from Scripture, but let’s let these verses suffice to summarize what we've seen. Jesus reminds us that we don’t know the precise time of His coming. We do know — as He taught in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and elsewhere — that there will be very troublesome times in the last days. There are a few jewels of warning-with-encouragement in these verses just above:
1) Take heed to ourselves. Be diligent to have a strong personal walk with God and His Son Jesus.
2) Watch, be watchful and wide awake. Don’t get “sleepy” and casual in your walk with the Lord.
3) And pray. Let prayer be an important part of your day. We need direct fellowship with God.
4) Jesus encouraged us to pray specifically that we “may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass.”
We don’t need to know every aspect of the biblical end times. What we do need to do is to love God with all our hearts … to follow Jesus Christ diligently … to be in His Word and prayer faithfully … to be committed to serving the Lord in a Jesus-centered, Bible-teaching, Holy Spirit-honoring local church … in sum, to do all that the Lord shows us to do in order to “be ready” for these exciting end times, which will culminate in our Lord’s glorious Second Coming — if not in our lives, yet likely in the lives of our children and grandchildren. Let’s be devoted to “taking heed to ourselves” and to our loved ones, and to be fully prepared and ready to live victorious lives for our Lord in these latter days of the Church Age.
Check out our related sermon - Watch Out! Warnings That Can Save You from Tons of Trouble
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©2023, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.