‘You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed’ ~ Matthew 24:6
When we hear of rumours, we like to confirm if they are true. It’s human instinct. No wonder news bulletins have become longer, more critical, analytical and packed with expert interviews. A rumour is a talk or opinion widely disseminated without known authority for its truth. Since rumours are unverified accounts, then in essence they should not be held true until their source or authority is known. Although rumours come and go, we can’t just leave them alone. We spend our time, money and energy to know the right things and if the right things are indeed right- because ultimately they affect our decisions and dispositions.
A rumour that will go around when the end is near according to the Bible is not that the end is near or here, but ‘many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am Christ, and will deceive many’ (v5). Jesus, addressing his disciples warns that perilous times will be coming; wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, persecutions, and fearful events but cautions that, ‘Such things must happen, but the end is still to come… All these are the beginning of birth-pains.’ (v6,8). These times will be so gruesome that it will be hard to endure and ‘many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people’ (v10,11).
During this distressing period, a question that will seize the world is not when the end time is but who is coming. Daniel’s prophesy of the end times state, ‘Many will go here and there to increase knowledge’ (Daniel 12:4). Jesus backs this by saying, ‘At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.’ (v23). Instead of trying to verify, Jesus advises;
Let no-one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no-one in the field go back to get his cloak.
In other words, remain with what you know. Again Jesus insists, ‘So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert do not go out; or, ‘Here he is in the inner rooms, ‘do not believe it.’ For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man’ (v28).
People will seek to quench their knowledge, trying to verify rumours of Christ by following false Christs and false prophets who perform great signs and miracles but Jesus states, ‘Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather’ (v28). The Lord confirms this to Daniel and tells him, ‘many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand’ (Daniel 12:10).
Like a rumour, these times seem uncertain but unlike now, we will not be able to verify because ‘that day will close unexpectedly on you like a trap’ (Luke 21:34). In that ‘trap’, Jesus urges us not to panic or come out to verify ‘but he who stands firm to the end will be saved’ (v13). Jesus says these things beforehand so that through the Word we might know the true Christ. Now, is the time, as Paul puts it, to ‘prepare our minds for action’ because on that day, it will be a case of if you know, you know. Until then, as we prepare, Jesus urges us to ‘make up your mind not to worry beforehand’ (Luke 21:14).