(Jesus said) "If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There He is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect." Matthew 24:23-24
This past month officials at People's Park Zoo in the Chinese province of Henan put a lion on display.
That's his picture.
Most folks thought it was a strange-looking lion, but they didn't argue the point. They figured people look different ... so maybe lions look different. That's the way things remained until the moment the lion began to bark. Instantly, a woman and her young son said, "That's not a lion! That's a dog!" They were right. It was a dog: a great, giant-sized breed called a Tibetan Mastiff.
The officials came clean and said when the occasion demanded, they often substituted animals. In this particular case, the mastiff was put up for display when the real lion had been loaned out for mating purposes. Other times they had charged the zoo's visitors to see a white fox in a leopard's den and a regular, old dog in the pen reserved for their wolf. They're not the first or the last.
According to what Jesus says, such substitutions happen in the spiritual realm too.
In our Scripture the Lord warns us that rapscallions will tell God's redeemed people that "Jesus is here" or "He is there." The only difference between these ne'er-do-wells and the folks running the zoo in China is this: the fake messiahs are going to look almost like the real thing.
These savior-substitutes will do signs like Jesus did; they will perform wonders like Jesus did. In fact, our Savior tells us these fakes are going to be so good, that if it were not for God's intervention, even the elect might be misled.
So, the question needs to be asked, how can we tell a fake messiah from the real thing?
Jesus tells us, "Easy. If you can go out to the wilderness to see this 'new' savior, if you can visit him in some super-secret inner-sanctum, if you have the time to make a pilgrimage to where he is supposedly doing ministry, that individual is a fake." Jesus continued, "You will know these guys are fakes because the next time I come back you won't have time to come visit Me. My arrival is going to be as fast as a bolt of lightning. Everything will be normal and then, boom! I'll be there."
And if that sounds pretty shocking, pretty surprising, it will be.
And the only way to be ready for Jesus' return, the only way to be truly prepared is to be ready all the time. That means ready right now. Today is the day for all of us to make sure our spiritual ducks are in a row. Now is the moment to make sure all impediments to a warm-hearted welcoming of our Redeemer are removed.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, I give thanks You have given me ample warning of what to expect on the Day of Judgment. May I be ready to welcome You who gave Your life so I might have life. This I ask in Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries