What Could Go Wrong?
“What could go wrong?” You would never say that, right? Are you really sure? Because we humans do it a lot, even if not in those exact words. In fact if we voiced the words we might do better, because there is always something that can go wrong, and we know it.
In the big picture, we know that in the “last days” it’s going to seem that everything is going wrong. When we consider the signs we’re told will accompany the “end time”, we tend to focus on big things: wars, earthquakes, what’s happening in Israel, the possibility of persecution. We definitely should! I’m not suggesting we stop. Yet there’s another set of signs too, which (it seems to me) we’re less likely to focus on.
Viewer caution: Some of these images are disturbing.
- And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:10-12)
- For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)
- Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons… (1 Timothy 4:1)
- For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
- But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
In case it isn’t blindingly obvious, all these passages are about terrible things happening within the family of faith. There are more, of course. Even passages like 2 Timothy 3:1-7 speak of failings within, not “out there” somewhere.
Are we on the lookout for these things, as well as the wars and earthquakes? Hopefully so, and hopefully we aren’t looking at and ascribing these to others. I believe the point of these prophecies is for each of us to look inside: Is this something that I could fall into? What am I doing to ensure this isn’t me?
The twelve had their failings, but this they had right. “And as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I, Lord?’ ” (Matthew 26:21-22) Their minds did not go to, “Oh I bet I know who.” The way ours may be prone to do. They got it right: “Is it me?” Which is how we ought to read all those passages above.
For eleven out of twelve, it wasn’t them. For the one, even then, the Lord was providing a way to change course. We also need to bear in mind, even the eleven who weren’t betraying the Lord ended up failing to stay awake, then running away. And one of them denied him. So if we look at those passages and think, “Well that’s not me!”, we might still want to ask if there’s some slippage—anything equivalent to dozing off, or running away, or denying.
It grieved the twelve that the Lord thought there would be a betrayal. Hopefully we are grieved as well, and not shrug-the-shoulders, lukewarm, lackadaisical like the Laodiceans. Jesus and his apostles said these things deliberately, in order to grieve us and to provoke self-examination. They did it because so much can go wrong, with us humans involved. They did it because they loved the people they were talking to and writing to—including us.