One of my favorite movie lines comes from The Magnificent Seven. It is a scene in which Chris, trying to recruit members for his team, is explaining the job to Harry. Harry is so convinced there is a huge score tied to the job that he keeps interrupting Chris as he tries to explain their task. Finally, in his exasperation, Chris exclaims, “Harry, please don’t understand me so fast!”
Harry wasn’t listening.
There are times we are trying to explain something important and we sense the other person isn’t listening. We want to take them by the ears and shake them till their teeth rattle, saying, “Listen to me! You’re not listening!”
For Jesus, the phrase is “take heed,” βλέπετε (blepete). Blepete is a term of perception or discernment. Jesus unloads four such admonitions during his Mount Olivet discourse in chapter thirteen of the gospel of Mark. It seems to be a point of emphasis with Jesus, so . . . “Take Heed!”
And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
– Mark 13:5, NKJV
We have discussed the seeming silliness of such a directive before on the Long-View Living blog. You can read that here. There is something odd about being told to not be deceived, because inherent to being deceived is the fact that you don’t know you’re being deceived . . . because you’re deceived. You believe something and have no idea that what you believe is false.
In the context of Mark 13, Jesus is responding to questions about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, an event that took place in A.D. 70. In that discussion, Jesus warns his disciples to not be deceived by men falsely claiming some spiritual authority or prophetic insight.
False Christs have appeared and will continue to appear. But those who are alert and refusing to be deceived will know the truth without question.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
– 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, ESV
Don’t be deceived or misled. There will be no doubt.
But you take heed to yourselves. They will betray you to courts, and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of Me, for a testimony to them.
– Mark 13:9, BLB
These warnings were spoken to the disciples, and spoken about the disciples. History records these very events unfolding in the lives of the disciples. So, does the same warning demand our attention? Absolutely!
In the gospel of John, Jesus lays down a general principle that “in the world we have trouble,” or persecution but that we can take courage because he has overcome the world.1 The apostle Paul while addressing his own persecutions at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, expanded on that saying it will happen to anyone who tries to live a godly life!
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
– 2 Timothy 3:12-13, ESV
Just as it was in the first century, so it is today. Charlatans try to lead people astray through signs and wonders.
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, the elect. But you take heed; I have foretold to you all things.
– Mark 13:22-23, BLB
We see no shortage of “signs and wonders” performers today because there is no shortage of those who are desperate to believe them. Don’t fall for it. Remember that no prophecy, nor exorcism, nor wonderful healing work is of kingdom value if the one performing it is a worker of lawlessness and iniquity.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
– Matthew 7:21-23, ESV
The final “take heed” concerns attempts to predict the time of Jesus return, and subsequently, the end of the current age.
And concerning that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed; watch; for you do not know when the time is.
– Mark 13:32-33, BLB
Eschatological (end times) arguments today with cataclysmic events, both natural and human induced. But rather than drive us to refine our views of the Parousia, world events should drive us to “watch,” just as Jesus said. Watch and be ready. Keep your lamp lit and your wick well-trimmed.
This same Olivet Discourse is recorded in Luke’s gospel, and there Jesus cautions us against getting caught up in the cares of life and lose sight of the coming day.
And take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts ever be burdened with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of life—and that day would come upon you suddenly as a snare.
– Luke 21:34, BLB
Deception, persecution, signs and wonders, eschatology . . . take heed. Pay attention. Watch. Don’t fall prey.
1. John 16:33