4 And Jesus answered them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. Matt. 24:4-5
5 And Jesus began to say to them, “Take heed that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. Mark 13:5-6
8 And he said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. Luke 21:
Messiah begins by explaining that false-messiahs will appear and lead many astray. To be led astray by a false-messiah, one has to be looking for a messiah. No other people but the Jews and Christians look for a messiah. At the time of this passage, the Christians are not yet looking for a messiah. Basically, our Lord’s teaching is that a lot of Jews are going to be misled.
The Romans had Hercules, so they no need for a deliverer. The Egyptians had Horus, so they had no need for a deliverer. In fact all pagan religions have a redeemer/deliver. This persona is a god or demigod, who takes on the character of a redeemer. They have no need or desire to look for another. Atheists don’t look for one either,
He restates this warning later in this same teaching.
24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Lo, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. Matt 24;24-26
21 And then if any one says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand. Mark 13:21-22
However, that is indeed what happened in the first century. Josephus and the Bible both record that there were many false messiahs at that time.
Josephus and the Book of Acts record Theudas, a self proclaimed prophet, and the sons of Judas the Galilean:
Theudas And The Sons Of Judas The Galilean. Josephus Antiq. book 20; chap 5; sec 1.
For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. Acts 5:36-37; 8:9
Robbers, murderers and impostors arose while Felix and Festus were Procurators of Judea: Josephus Antiq. book 20; chap 8; sec 10.
The magicians and an Egyptian false prophet: Josephus War book II; chap 13; sec 4,5.
The Book of Acts records a magician by the name of Simon also a false prophet:
But there was a man named Simon who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the nation of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. Acts 8:9
When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-jesus. Acts 13:6
As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” Acts 21:37-39
Paul refers to these problem in other books:
And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2Cor. 11:12-15
. . . on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; 2 Cor 11:26
But because of false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage — Gal 2:4.
Peter also mentions these false teachers:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2Pet. 2:1
The problem of false-messiah’s is a constant in the Church – since the first century. The idea that this has something to do with a future political leader taking over the world, is just not here. The context is still about the destruction of the temple that was “standing” in front of the disciples.
…and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already. 1John 4:3
Next Post: Wars and Rumors of Wars