So that’s it!?
A cold thrill of sudden realisation drained through me. That’s how the whole world could be deceived! Not through everyone being in complete unity over a single lie, but amidst a plethora of false ideas having just one common unifying thread. “We are one, but we are many,” as our great Australian song reminds us.
We were in a Hindu temple in Sydney’s inner west. Our Year 11 Studies of Religion students, a few other teachers and I were completing a tour of several different places of worship, representing a sample of five major world religions. We had already visited the Great Synagogue in downtown Sydney, an Islamic mosque and a Theravadin Buddhist temple in search of the major teachings and religious practices of each faith, learning directly from the leaders at each of these locations. We still had a large Christian cathedral left on the list of places to visit.
I’d taken Year 11 and Year 12 classes on similar excursions in previous years, including full-day tours of the large and scenic Buddhist Nan Tien Temple complex near Wollongong. This was not book-learning; this was a quest for knowledge from the source.
As we listened to the priest explaining Hindu teachings, the information gleaned over the years from these excursions brought me to my sudden realisation. Not only Christianity, but every major world religion is looking forward to a promised “messiah” of some kind to appear in the world and save the planet from all the ills we humans have created here:
- Jews, who didn’t accept Jesus as their promised Messiah, are still looking forward to the Messiah’s appearing
- Muslims are expecting the prophet Jesus to appear on the day of judgement, destroy the anti-christ and teach the whole world how to follow Mohammed
- Hindus are looking forward to the arrival of the supreme being Vishnu in the form of Kalki, who holds a flaming sword, rides a white horse and ends the present age, destroying evil and chaos
- Buddhists are waiting for the Maitreya to appear to demonstrate full enlightenment and teach people to live a good and balanced life. He is sometimes depicted as the Laughing Buddha, the one with the rounded belly and the big cheerful grin
And many Christian denominations are looking forward to the return of Jesus to set up His kingdom of peace here on earth.
So many of these beliefs have similarities with what I believe, so why was I worried? I see the Bible as the Word of God. It teaches that Jesus has already appeared on earth as the promised Messiah—2000-plus years ago. Jesus also clearly stated when He was here on earth the first time that He would return to finish what He started (see John 14:1–3) and that before this great event there would be many false christs and false prophets appearing on the earth and deceiving many. (See Matthew 24:23–27, Mark 13:21 and Luke 21:8.) The apostle Paul also warned about Satan appearing as a miracle worker before Jesus comes and deceiving many. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4; 9,10).
Then, in recent months and years, we’ve been confronted with wars, bushfires, earthquakes, floods and pandemics. Am I the only one wondering if this is the beginning of the end of all things? How many conspiracy conversations/articles/podcasts have you been subjected to in the last few years? It has driven my family and me to much conjecture and more Bible study. Our family Messenger chat group has been running hot! I’ve shared with them the thoughts regarding false messiahs I have spoken about above and how they might relate to the great deception Jesus predicted. The earth is ripe for a huge deception by a false messiah.
In his article, “The Expected One—The Messiah Within”, Wai H Tsang, author of The Fractal Brain and other works that endeavour to meld almost every branch of human study into one united scientific and spiritual worldview, has made a very succinct summary of the expected messiahs of the world: “This expected or chosen one is given many different names by the different religions of this world. To Jews he is the Messiah, to Muslims he is the Mahdi, to Christians the second coming [of Jesus], to Hindus the Kalki and to Buddhists he is the Maitreya. Also Zoroastrians await the Saoshyant and even Taoist/Confucian scriptures talk of the coming of the Future True Man. It is, however, reasonable to suppose that all these different names and titles are really referring to the same person. If we take it as our starting point that all world religion is really worshipping the same God and asking after the same truth, then all the world’s prophecies are coming from the same source and so are really describing the same set of events and circumstances. Therefore, all the world’s religions are all really waiting for the same person.”
Some readers will be thinking at this point, Hang on a moment, isn’t that okay? Aren’t there many ways to God? Isn’t it the case that “whatever is true for you, then that’s your truth”? The answer could be yes, depending on which flavour of religion you espouse, but with one glaring omission: Christianity.
A close reading of the four Gospels in the Bible shows Jesus claiming that He alone is the way to God. John 14:6 reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’” There can be only one Messiah and Saviour of mankind, according to Jesus. All others are false.
In that most-remembered of all Bible quotes, John 3:16, Jesus tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Very exclusive. The salvation of this world is found in one Messiah, Jesus alone.
There are only two ways to look at Jesus’ claim to be the only Truth. It’s a false claim—like all the other messiahs who Jesus asserts make false claims—or it’s true. The option for it to be one of many true claims just isn’t there.
So, what’s that got to do with false messiahs appearing? A lot! As we have noticed, the resurrected Jesus who many people saw go back to heaven in a cloud has promised to return in the same way and rescue this sad and broken planet and take believers to heaven until He renovates the earth and starts again. He says He will appear in the sky with cataclysmic power and great noise and everyone will see Him coming. (See Matthew 24:30,31.) He won’t be walking around on the earth bringing peace to everyone until quite a long time later, according to Revelation 20 and 21.
In the meantime, He warns us of great deceptions accompanied by miracles that will be so convincing that even Jesus’ own followers will be deceived if they haven’t studied the Bible carefully (Matthew 24:24,25). There’s a lot of room for false messiahs there.
If the Jesus who split history in two—BC and AD—and whom all the world acknowledges, wittingly or unwittingly, every time they write the date; if the only Messiah who history tells us came back from the dead and went back to heaven, from whence He said He originated, says He is coming back again to rescue those who want to be rescued by Him and tells us to watch for that coming (Matthew 24:42), it is advisable for us all to sit up and take notice; to make sure we are not the deceived ones.
People all over the world see what is happening around us and recognise that humanity may not have what it takes to rescue ourselves. Each heart has the same longing for the chaos and pain to end, and for a new start—a better future. We’re desperate for answers and are at risk of clinging onto all kinds of shonky schemes, fast-talking gurus and false promises. Don’t make that mistake. Seek the one and only Son, the true Messiah.
Janette Kingston is a retired teacher and proud mother of a growing tribe of adult children and grandchildren. She lives at the beach on New South Wales’ South Coast.