We can’t escape it. The news is everywhere. Missiles, massacres, mourning. It seems like the situation is out of control, and it sounds like it’s only going to get worse.
How could Israel be so unprepared? How could Hamas justify their aggression? And how can Israel justify their response?
Emotions have always boiled and simmered in this ancient part of the world, egged on by other nations. America vs Iran. West vs East. Christianity vs Islam. It’s not hard to see this latest Arab-Israeli conflict morphing into a larger war, perhaps even World War III. Or could something even more terrifying be unfolding? Could this war be the start of Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil that brings about the end of the world?
So much is frightening and unknown. But with everyone’s attention absorbed by wars, financial markets, politics, health crises, costs of living pressures, our favourite sports teams and the latest streaming shows, it appears that no-one is ready for the most terrifying and traumatic event of all time. Christians don’t talk about it. Adventists seem to have gone silent about it. And yet with every passing day this great calamity gets closer and closer.
Do you know what it is?
The apostle Paul explains: “Jesus will not return until there is a great rebellion against God and Satan is revealed. Satan will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God and claim that he is God. Satan is already at work secretly, but God is holding him back until the end of time when He will permit Satan to reveal his true character” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7)1.
Ellen White, co-founder of the Adventist Church, describes Satan’s rebellion like this: “As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will impersonate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the fulfilment of its hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come.
“In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among humanity as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in Revelation.2 The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: ‘Christ has come! Christ has come!’ . . . This is the strong, almost overpowering delusion.”3
The war in Israel is shocking. The actions of both sides are horrific. The threat of this war embroiling the world’s superpowers and largest religions into a worldwide conflict is very real. But what the Bible describes is far more chilling: Satan faking the second coming and pretending to be Jesus.
Are we ready for this?
As the missiles rain down and the bullets fly, as the banking system collapses and a global recession devours jobs and homes, as political parties become so divided that governments grind to a halt, as the cost of living stresses families and cripples people’s mental health, as a new pandemic consumes millions of lives, as pollution increases and ecosystems collapse, as racism, sexism, classism, ageism, privilege, harassment, oppression and abuse of every description spiral out of control . . . suddenly, out of nowhere, a supernatural being appears. He speaks kindly. He heals diseases. With wisdom and power that surpasses anything the world has seen, he ends conflicts and brings peace. Responding to his displays of divinity and majesty, the world’s political and religious leaders declare their loyalty to this exalted being.
None of this surprises the followers of the true Messiah. They know from the Bible that this is what Satan has always wanted: “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14)4. This was his boastful plan since the beginning of his rebellion, but he failed in heaven, and he failed in the Garden of Eden. So for thousands of years, with intelligence and ability that exceeds every human being, Satan has worked to perfect his end-time appearance. Now, as he puts his plans into action and fakes the second coming, billions are deceived. But a remnant—a small group of Christians who remain passionately loyal to Jesus—understand exactly what is happening.
First, there are the physical signs. While the fake messiah walks around on the ground, the remnant know that the real Messiah will not touch the ground; He’ll remain in the sky (Matthew 24:30). While the fake messiah can only be in one place at a time, the real Messiah will be seen by everyone around the world at the same time—whether you are inside, outside, in a submarine or working in an underground mine, “every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). While the fake messiah sets up his kingdom on earth, the real Messiah resurrects those who died believing in Him, and together with His followers who are alive, they “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)—they can fly! And they fly away from planet earth, through the galaxies, until they arrive in heaven where they reside for a thousand years (Revelation 20).
The physical signs are obvious, but what happens when Satan starts playing the part of a theologian? What happens when he turns his incredible intelligence to corrupting biblical doctrines, twisting religious practices and counterfeiting the way of salvation? We like to think that his deceptions will be as obvious as night and day, but Satan’s subtlety will be like nothing the world has ever seen, and billions will be deceived unless they cling to the truths of the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit. While Satan’s power is certainly great, the Holy Spirit is infinitely more powerful, and just as Jesus promised, He will guide His people to discern what is real and what is fake (John 16:13).
In a world of constant uncertainty, Christians have a message of hope to share. Jesus is returning soon, and He guarantees to end every war, unite every family, wipe away every tear and destroy every shred of evil. No matter how powerful Satan’s final deceptions are, Jesus reminds us, “Don’t forget what I’ve told you about the future, because when it happens, you’ll know that you can trust and believe in Me.”5
Jesus declares that He is returning soon (Revelation 22:12) and that means that the fake second coming is close. As we think about how the future will unfold, the apostle Paul reminds us that, “At that time, the Lord Jesus will destroy Satan with the splendour of the real second coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8)6. The night is always darkest before the dawn, but a glorious future awaits those who believe in Jesus and trust in Him for salvation. Just as He was victorious on the cross, He will be victorious at the end of time. When we remember this, we realise that we have nothing to fear for the future; only hope remains!
To learn more about the real second coming, visit: adventist.org/second-coming
1. My paraphrase.
2. Revelation 1:13-15.
3. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, 624, (archaic words updated).
4. All quotes are from the New International Version unless otherwise stated.
5. See John 14:29.
6. My paraphrase.
Jared Martin is the senior pastor of Coastlife church in Queensland, Australia. He is currently studying a Master of Arts (Theological and Biblical Studies) at Avondale University as well as a Graduate Certificate in Ellen G White Studies and Seventh-day Adventist History through Andrews University.