Last time we looked at what will happen after the Abomination of Desolation: It will be a time when “those who are in Judea [will] flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:16). This will kick off next what is called, “The Great Tribulation.” Due to this hasty flight to the mountains, there will be a refugee camp type of situation. People will want relief, and their desire for their Messiah to appear and take care of things will be heightened. That brings us to the next verses in this discourse:
Then 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. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matthew 24:23-28 ESV)
A Warning for False Christs
Since the Garden of Eden, there have been false leaders who, in the Devil’s footsteps, seek to lead people astray. What Jesus is referring to here in his discourse is to a specific time period with specific circumstances. God’s people in this refugee camp situation will be hungry for deliverance. These people will know that they are in the Great Tribulation and that Jesus will be returning soon. One of they ways they will know this is by this very discourse that Jesus gave to his disciples while he was on earth at his first coming.
It seems like we can infer from Jesus’ words that there will be some people inside the refugee camp who will be spreading false rumors about the fact that Jesus had come back and he is here or there (in the wilderness or in an inner room somewhere). More than that though, some of these people will be actual false prophets that will be performing “great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24). Satan, from the beginning has sought in infiltrate God’s people, pointing them in a wrong direction. These false prophets will have what seems to be demon-inspired power to perform miraculous signs.
You might wonder, “How will they know these are false prophets?” God always gives his people the truth they need to obey and follow him in every situation. One obvious way these people will know is through the God-breathed, God-preserved Bible that we have today. These people will know of this Olivet Discourse. They will take instruction from Jesus’ words recorded for us here. As it is with every situation like this, there will be some who are not truly God’s children who will be drawn away by the devil’s emissaries. There will likely be some of the elect (God’s children) who will be fooled for a period of time as well; however, God’s elect, as the Scripture clearly teaches, will never ultimately be overthrown.
Truly, there is some mystery in this that causes people to debate these things because God’s people cannot see the true condition of each others souls. There are some among us to look and claim to be a child of God when they are not. Then there are those of God’s children who seem to look and act like they are not God’s children, but yet, although they have lived in a time of weakness and sinful rebellion, they are truly God’s children.
There will likely be, along with these false prophets, people innocently spreading false rumors because of their desire for Jesus to come and deliver them from this awful situation. A third possibility is that there will be an external propaganda campaign by the Anti-Christ’s government to fool people in this refugee camp. My guess is that it will be a combination of all three: false prophets within the camp, innocent rumor spreaders within the camp, and the external propaganda campaign by the Anti-Christ.
The Nature of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming
Another way these people can know that the signs and wonders of the false prophets along with the rumors are fake is that they will be attesting a false manner of the return of Jesus Christ. They will be saying he is here or there (out in the desert or in this or that inner room, Matthew 24:26), and yet Jesus clearly says his return will be dramatic: “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27). Lightening as it spreads across the sky is sudden, obvious, and unmistakable. There will be no mistaking it when Jesus Christ returns at his second coming.
A Mysterious Statement
Jesus’ next statement is a mysterious one, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Matthew 24:28). Within his discourse, there is not direct connection to what this statement means. Perhaps it is a statement that will make perfect sense at this future time. Others have connected it to the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16; 19:11ff). Another possibility is that Jesus is referring to the spiritual decay of that time period including the false prophets.