Last time we continued our bible series on the end times by looking at the second question of Jesus’ disciples on the Mount of Olives- what shall be the sign of your coming? We saw that Jesus warned them against ” deception “, and we concluded by providing the scriptural antidotes to deception.
Today we are going further in our discourse by looking at another sign that Jesus pointed out in His dialogue with His disciples in Matt 24. We will focus in great detail on Matt 24:5
Question 2 – Matt:24:3
What shall be the sign of thy coming?
v5. “For many shall come in my name saying, I am Christ and shall deceive many”.
It is pertinent to point at this juncture, that anytime the term Jesus as the ” Christ” is used in scriptures, it means that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. The word “Christ” in Greek is the word “Christos”, and it is the Hebrew word “Mashiach” which means “Messiah” or “the anointed one”.
Note: It is instructive to note that when Jesus warned His disciples on the Mount of Olives, he was saying that many will come in the last days and say they’re the MESSIAH.
To all religious Jews, the concept of “Messiah” in Judaism resonates with them a great deal because it is used in relation to the individual that will lead them back to the promised land (land of Israel) and enable them to build the temple.
It is also amazing to point out that many Christians and Jews are ignorant of the fact that when we say that Jesus is the Christ, we are saying He is the MESSIAH.
Note: For the sake of clarity and understanding, we will substitute the word “Christ” for “Messiah” in this study.
The Jewish encyclopedia since the first coming of Christ recognises and names more than 40 false Christs (Messiahs) but sadly does not recognise Jesus as Messiah as they are still eagerly awaiting their promised Messiah. The two most prominent ones are “Moses of Crete” and “Bar Kokhba”.
Moses of Crete
Moses of Crete was a Jewish Messiah claimant and apocalyptic prophet of the 5th century CE. About this period a great number of Jews who dwelt in Crete were converted to Christianity, through the following disastrous circumstance. A certain Jewish impostor had the impudence to assert that he was Moses, and had been sent from heaven to lead out the Jews inhabiting that island, and conducting them through the sea. For he said that he was the same person that formerly preserved the Israelites by leading them through the Red Sea.
During a whole year, therefore, he perambulated the several cities of the island and persuaded the Jews to confide in his assurances. Moreover, the bid them to renounce their money and other property, pledging himself to guide them through a dry sea into the land of promise. Deluded by such expectations, they neglected the business of every kind, despising what they possessed, and permitting anyone who chose to take it.
When the day appointed by this deceiver for their departure had arrived, he himself took the lead, and all following with their wives and children, they proceeded until they reached a promontory that overhung the sea, from which he ordered them to fling themselves headlong into it.
Those who came first to the precipice did so and were immediately destroyed, part of them being dashed in pieces against the rocks, and partly drowned in the waters. And more would have perished, had not some fishermen and merchants who were Christians providentially happened to be present. These persons drew out and saved some that were almost drowned, who then in their perilous situation became sensible of the madness of their conduct. The rest they hindered from casting themselves down, by telling them the fate of those who had taken the first leap.
When at length the Jews perceived how fearfully they had been duped, they blamed their own indiscreet credulity and sought to lay hold of the pseudo-Moses in order to put him to death. But they were unable to seize him, for he suddenly disappeared, which induced a general belief that it was some malignant fiend, who had assumed a human form for the destruction of their nation in that place.
The Bar Kokhba revolt marked a time of high hopes followed by violent despair. The Jews were handed expectations of a homeland and a Holy Temple, but in the end, were persecuted and sold into slavery. During the revolt itself, the Jews gained enormous amounts of land, only to be pushed back and crushed in the final battle of Bethar.
When Hadrian first became the Roman emperor in 118 C.E., he was sympathetic to the Jews. He allowed them to return to Jerusalem and granted permission for the rebuilding of their Holy Temple. The Jews’ expectations rose as they made organizational and financial preparations to rebuild the temple. Hadrian quickly went back on his word, however, and requested that the site of the Temple be moved from its original location. He also began deporting Jews to North Africa.
Under the strong leadership of Shimon Bar-Kokhba, the Jews captured approximately 50 strongholds in Judea and 985 undefended towns and villages, including Jerusalem. Jews from other countries, and even some gentiles, volunteered to join their crusade. The Jews minted coins with slogans such as “The freedom of Israel” written in Hebrew. Hadrian dispatched General Publus Marcellus, governor of Syria, to help Rufus, but the Jews defeated both Roman leaders. The Jews then invaded the coastal region and the Romans began sea battles against them.
The final battle of the war took place in Bethar, Bar-Kokhba’s headquarters, which housed both the Sanhedrin (Jewish High Court) and the home of the Nasi (leader). Bethar was a vital military stronghold because of its strategic location on a mountain ridge overlooking both the Valley of Sorek and the important Jerusalem-Bet Guvrin Road. Thousands of Jewish refugees fled to Bethar during the war. In 135 C.E., Hadrian’s army besieged Bethar and on the 9th of Av, the Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the first and second Holy Temples, the walls of Bethar fell. After a fierce battle, every Jew in Bethar was killed.
Following the battle of Bethar, there were a few small skirmishes in the Judean Desert Caves, but the war was essentially over and Judean independence was lost. The Romans ploughed Jerusalem with a yoke of oxen. Jews were sold into slavery and many were transported to Egypt. Judean settlements were not rebuilt. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina and the Jews were forbidden to live there. They were permitted to enter only on the 9th of Av to mourn their losses in the revolt. Hadrian changed the country’s name from Judea to Syria Palestina.
In the years following the revolt, Hadrian discriminated against all Judeo-Christian sects, but the worst persecution was directed against religious Jews. He made anti-religious decrees forbidding Torah study, Sabbath observance, circumcision, Jewish courts, meeting in synagogues and other ritual practices. Many Jews assimilated and many sages and prominent men were martyred including Rabbi Akiva and the rest of the Asara Harugei Malchut (ten martyrs). This age of persecution lasted throughout the remainder of Hadrian’s reign, until 138 C.E.
Even in contemporary times, there have risen at different times in human history men who claimed to have the ability to lead people to the desired safe-haven; such as Jim Jones, Adolf Hitler, Jomo Kenyatta, Nikita Krutchev, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong etc. These men ended up plunging their vast followers and populations in the precipice and into the abyss.
In order not to be deceived and fall prey to the spirit of deception in the end times like the Jews fell prey to Bar Kokhba and Moses of Crete, we need to heed the warning of Jesus to His disciple on the mount of Olives. There will even be greater deception in the days in which we live that will far outstrip the deception of those days as the time of His returns draws closer.
We will discuss in greater detail the concept of “False Christ” in the coming weeks when we look at the subject of the “Antichrist”
We will continue our study of the Oliveth prophecy next time by looking at the other signs of Jesus’ second coming.
Socrates, History of the Church 7.38.
Encyclopedia Judaica. “Bar Kokhba”. Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem.
H.H. Ben Sasson, Editor. A History of the Jewish People. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969.
History Until 1880: Israel Pocket Library. Keter Publishing House Ltd., Jerusalem, 1973.
The Jewish Encyclopedia. “Bar Kokba and Bar Kokba War.” Funk and Wagnalls Co. London, 1902.
Kantor, Morris. The Jewish Time Line Encyclopedia. Jason Aronson Inc., New Jersey, 1989.