The three great temptations of the end times

Just like Jesus, we too will face many trials. Will we also endure?

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The Bible is the living Word of God. Its messages are timeless and universal. It speaks to our lives and to the challenges and hardships that confront us each day. The temptations that Jesus faced in Matthew 4:1-10, alludes to three big temptations we too must conquer before the close of probation and the return of Jesus Christ.

We all face temptations (Matthew 4:1-2)

The NKJV translation of verse 1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” James 1:13 declares, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Given God’s self-testimony, the dynamic New Life Version is meaningful: “Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to a desert. There He was tempted by the devil.” And, for Jesus, the temptations were real. After fasting for 40 days (v 2), He was starving, and Satan thought he had the upper hand. And—like for Jesus—Satan also knows our lowest moments where he attacks us with all the artillery and weapons in his armory to destroy us (Ephesians 6:11,12).

The three big temptations

1. Self-preservation (Matthew 4:3,4)

Satan tempted Jesus using Scripture (see Deuteronomy 8:1-3). This temptation parallels the first betrayal in Eden (Genesis 3:1-7). Appetite has always been a weak point for the human race. And it was genuine for Jesus too, especially after praying and fasting for 40 days. Satan tempted Jesus to preserve His own life. It is as if he was saying, “Save Yourself”—you need only to change those stones into bread and live. But Jesus overcame by exhibiting unyielding faith and trust in God’s care and providence. He would master His cravings and desire for physical food with unconditional submission and dependence on God.

We too are in danger of self-preservation, depending on ourselves or thinking we can do this on our own. We enjoy abundant life by controlling appetite and living healthfully. Yes, we may exult in our victory over besetting sins and temptations, but that is when our salvation is most at risk. Eternal life is not based on our efforts nor living a perfect life. Salvation is entirely ours through faith in the gift of Jesus Christ, lest we boast and think too highly of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8,9). We constantly need to remember that eternal life is dependent purely on our constant reliance on “every word that God speaks” (Matthew 4:4).

2. Self-elevation (Matthew 4:5-7)

In the second temptation, Satan was nudging Jesus’ ego. Cast Yourself down the pinnacle of the temple and prove Your absolute confidence in God. He quoted Psalms 91:11 and the promises that God will send His angels to His rescue. The temptation was to entice Jesus to exalt Himself, show presumptuous faith and trust in God’s gracious protection, while willfully being reckless or endangering Himself.

COVID-19 has tempted some Adventists to assume that it is wrong to close churches to contain the outbreak of coronavirus. They presume that even when they endanger themselves or others that God will still keep watch over them. Jesus reminds us too that we are in danger of spiritual pride and arrogance. Being part of the remnant Church does not mean we are resistant to the ills of life, sickness or death if we are reckless with our faith. COVID-19 is not the fulfillment of Revelation 13 (forcing the world to worship the beast and his image) but an invitation to obey the instructions of Leviticus 13 (regarding isolation to contain contagious diseases). Those who genuinely love God would not be presumptuous but will depend entirely on the Word of God (see Deuteronomy 6:16).

3. Self-sufficiency (Matthew 4:8-10)

The third temptation is a display of the devil beyond arrogance. The creature, Satan, though powerful and once highly exalted, suggests he is worthy of worship. He had gained dominion of this earth when Adam and Eve fell into sin, and he was offering Jesus a short route to fulfill the plan of salvation. You need not die, he says, you need only to worship me (Matthew 4:9).

Perhaps, one of the most trying temptations of the end times is that of being self-sufficient or trusting and doing things our way. At that time, according to Revelation 14:6–12, the focus is on worship, making ourselves an idol in opposition to honoring the One and Only true God.

"Being part of the remnant Church does not mean we are resistant to the ills of life, sickness or death if we are reckless with our faith."

The big question is, who are we devoted to, or where do we place our allegiance? We often claim to be the remnant people of God (Revelation 12:12,17). Yet many among us lift their voices in opposition, call the remnant people “Babylon” or actively urge people to come out of her. Others are critical of the leadership in the remnant Church and start-up rival ministries convincing people to channel their tithes and offerings for their ministries. All these pain the heart of God. The cry for self-sufficiency and independence is rebellion and treason against the Almighty. It displays misplaced loyalty and allegiance and shows unfaithfulness to God, who is at the helm of the remnant Church.

God has not changed. Rival organisations that betray the remnant people will meet their just recompense. Ultimately, God will have the last say. He assures us, the remnant people, those who remain steadfast to Him, will be victorious and ultimately delivered from the troubles of the end times (Daniel 12:1-3).

What is in this story for me?

  • All of us, as part of the human family, are not immune to temptations. While temptations are not a sin in themselves, yielding to them is a betrayal of God’s trust.
  • God desires we become healthy in all spheres of our Christian life. Yet, our obedience to His commandments does not earn us salvation. We must have absolute trust in God’s Word as the Way, Truth, Life and the salvation He offers us through Jesus Christ. We must resist the temptation of self-preservation.
  • Self-elevation is a big temptation for Adventists today. Spiritual pride and arrogance—knowing we are the remnant people—do not give us a license to be reckless with our faith. We must avoid the danger of “being too heavenly minded that we are of no practical use”. God needs our faith to be rooted in the teachings of His Word.
  • Self-sufficiency is an end-time deception. The call for independence from the remnant Church—the siphon off of tithes and offerings for personal use in opposition to God’s clear instructions for the remnant people—is open rebellion and treason against God.
  • God is inviting us to remain loyal to Him in recognition of who He is: the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8). He has raised a remnant people, and He will see them through to glory. Fortify your minds with “It is written”, and overcome the wiles of the evil one.

Dr Limoni Manu O’Uiha is pastor of Ilam church, New Zealand.