Matthew 24:4, 5, 23-27
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
I bet you didn’t know the United States had an emperor! I didn’t either, until a few Sundays ago, my pastor Matthew opened his sermon with that same statement, and then gave a brief biography of Joshua A. Norton, known as the self-proclaimed “Norton – I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico”!
Joshua Norton was born in England, February 4th, 1818, but moved with his family at age 2 to South Africa. Around 1849 he arrived in San Francisco. A businessman who had lost his fortune speculating in the rice market, his claim to fame began on September 17th, 1859 when he ran the following announcement in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin , which began…
At the peremptory request of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last nine years and ten months past of San Fran- cisco, California, declare and proclaim myself Emper- or of these United States....
He later added to his title, “…and protector of Mexico.”
San Franciscans went along with his grandiose delusion for the next 21 years until his death in 1880. They bought him royal clothes, expensive meals, opera tickets, etc. The police chief even ordered his policemen to salute ‘Emperor Norton, the First’ in greeting when they met him on the street!
Today many San Franciscans still celebrate the only “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico” these two countries ever had!
I just had to write a Gem about Joshua A. Norton! After all, my name is D. W. “Chip” Norton! So, here’s to ‘Great, Great Uncle Joshua’! (I have no idea if I am related to “Norton, the First, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico”!)
But I thought this would be a good introduction to the featured Scripture for today, Matthew 24, verses 4 and 5, and 23 through 27:
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.... Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and won- ders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
“…false christs and false prophets….” How can we tell them apart from the true Christ and true prophets?
Let’s look at prophets first:
- According to Deuteronomy 18:21 and 22:
And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?” – when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it pre- sumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
- Jeremiah 28:9 says the same thing from a positive standpoint: “As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the Lord has truly sent.”
A true prophet of God will have his word fulfilled! There can be an exception, such as when Jonah prophesied to the Ninevites, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4). A great revival broke out when the people wholeheartedly repented! (See Jonah 3:5-10). Instead of forty days, history testifies that God gave Nineveh another 120 years! God changed the outcome due to a true morality change in the hearts of the people of Nineveh, from king to the most humble peasant.
Yes, God does “change” His mind, at least it appears so from our limited standpoint. So I put the word “change” in quotes. For instance, He did “change” His mind from destroying all the Israelites (see Exodus 32:10) when Moses interceded for the people! (See Exodus 32:11-13). It says in verse 14 of Exodus 32, “So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.”
- A true prophet of God will never contradict any other part of God’s Word! So it behooves anyone trying to discern between a true and false prophet, to read, study, even memorize Scripture! The Holy Spirit will then use that knowledge to confirm the true prophet or expose the false. By the way, this also is true of any so-called Bible teaching you might receive!
- A true prophet of God will always be directed by, filled with, and empowered by the Holy Spirit!
What about false christs? There does not seem to be a lack of claimants! Here are five featured in the August 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine:
- Near Brasília, Brazil, there is a messianic character, Álvaro Thais, that goes by the name of “INRI Cristo”! INRI comes from the initials of the Latin inscription that Pontius Pilate posted on Jesus’ cross – “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews” (John 19:19). INRI claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ! His followers, most of them women, live full-time with him in his walled compound, which is protected with barbed wire and electric fencing.
- Moses Hlongwane (also known as “The King of Kings, The Lord of Lords, Jesus“) says that God identified him as the Messiah during a dream in 1992! At the time He was working as a jewelry salesman. Since then, he’s preached in Eshowe, Johannesburg, and other cities in South Africa.
- Vissarion (also known as “The Christ of Siberia“) was born Sergei Torop. He had a revelation almost 30 years ago that he was Jesus Christ reborn! Founder of the Church of the Last Testament, he now has at least 5,000 followers who live off-the-grid in eco-utopian villages in the Russian woods. They have their own schools, churches, and social standards. Vissarion’s proclamations can be read in 16 volumes entitled The Last Testament.
- Bupete Chibwe Chishimba lives in Kitwe, Zambia. Known as “Jesus of Kitwe” (also known as “Parent Rock of the World, Mr. Faithful, Mr. Word of God“). He works as a cab driver and lives with his wife and six children. He received a revelation from God 23 years ago telling him he was the Messiah! He preaches that he is the arrival of Jesus, and the end of days is upon us!
- Mitsuo Matayoshi, age 76, founded the World Economic Community Party in 1997, which bases its policies on his identity as Jesus Christ reborn! Known as “Jesus Matayoshi“, he says his goal is by democratic political process to bring about the End of Days, eventually being appointed secretary-general of the United Nations, through which he will institute the will of God throughout the world!
So how can we tell if someone is a false Christ? There are over 300 Old Testament prophesies that have been fulfilled by the birth, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth! Some Bible scholars have found up to 574 Old Testament verses that point to His first advent! (See https://www .gotquestions.org/prophecies-of-Jesus.html for a partial list.)
The following is from the Christian Broadcasting Network website (www1.cbn.com/bible study/biblical-prophecies-fulfilled-by-jesus):
- 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies? The chances are 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 (one in one hundred quadrillion)!
- 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies? It would be 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power (10 followed by 157 zeros!) – a number so high, I don’t know how to identify it by name!
- 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies? Only Jesus!
We have to know our Bible, and be obedient to the Word of God! I will give you one example that I have used before in earlier Gems:
- In Revelation 6 the scroll with seven seals is opened by the Lamb of God, Jesus! When the first seal was opened it revealed this: “…behold, a white horse. And he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” (Revelation 6:2). I read the verse to my Bible study group of fifteen adult Christians and asked them, “Who is this?” Fourteen of the fifteen (I had told my wife not to answer) identified this personage as Jesus Christ!
- I then asked them to turn to Revelation 19 and read verses 11 through 16:
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the wine- press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name writ- ten: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Obviously, the second Scripture refers to the return of Jesus Christ in glory! The first is ‘the great pretender,’ the antichrist! But the first might look like the real thing until you compare it with the Truth!
One more thing we can count on as Christians – the seventh of the nine spiritual gifts listed in I Corinthians 12:8 through 10 is, “…discerning of spirits…” (verse 10). By the supernatural discernment of the Holy Spirit within us, we can learn of the motivating spirit within “…false christs and false prophets…,” and so avoid being taken in by them!
Not all pretenders are as easy to spot as Joshua A. Norton, “The Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico”!
We need to be prepared!