Mark 13:6; Matthew 24:5; Luke 21:8 – The Rise of False Messiahs

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POSTED 04 NOVEMBER, 2017

“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many” (Mark 13:6).

“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:5).

“And He said, ‘See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, “I am He,” and, “The time is near.” Do not go after them’” (Luke 21:8).

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I

Frequently in the Gospels, those who hold to a high Christology connect statements made by Yeshua, where He employs “I am” or what appears in the source text as egō eimi, with the revelation of the LORD or YHWH at the burning bush as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Those who advocate a low Christology of Yeshua as a created supernatural agent of God, will often argue back that egō eimi or “I am” can be used by entities which are unambiguously created, and thus that using “I am” really does not mean anything. It needs to be recognized that the specific usage of “I am” is always contingent on the context in which it is spoken, as it can be used to indicate some kind of association with the Exodus 3:14 theophany, or it can be used as a simple statement of self-identification of one person or entity to another. Several uses of egō eimi appear in the source text of Yeshua’s Olivet Discourse, in the Messiah’s warnings of Mark 13:6; Matthew 24:5; and Luke 21:8.

In Matthew 24:5, the Lord warns His Disciples, as appears in the source text, polloi gar eleusontai epi tō onomati mou legontes egō eimi ho Christos, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah’” (TLV). Later on, Yeshua informs His Disciples, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many…For false Messiah’s and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:11, 24). The statement to be made by some, “I am the Christ” or “I am the Messiah,” has been concluded to be a statement made by false spiritual leaders affirming that Yeshua is the Messiah, but who will obviously present concepts of the Messiah and teachings which are apostate. Alternatively, though, it need not be excluded that “I am the Messiah,” egō eimi ho Christos, is reflective of figures which will arise who actually think themselves to actually be the Messiah. In his commentary on Matthew, Hagner offers the general summary,

“[T]he attention is upon the [polloi], ‘many,’ who will claim—presumably not at once, but over a period of time—[ egō eimi ho Christos], ‘I am the Christ [=Messiah].’ The statement that such persons will come [epi tō onomati mou], ‘in my name,’ means either that they will come using the name of Jesus…or that they will come assuming the messianic office of Jesus…The claim to be the Christ means here the claim to be the eschatological Messiah.”[1]

Unlike what is witnessed in Matthew 24:5, which could be taken as various people usurping the place of Yeshua the Messiah, by claiming egō eimi ho Christos, “I am the Christ” or “I am the Messiah”—or perhaps even “I am the Anointed One”—the source text of both Mark 13:6 and Luke 21:8 uses egō eimi isolated. As such, most English translations will render egō eimi with “I am He” (NKJV, NASU) or “I am he” (RSV/NRSV/ESV), as a statement of self-identification, with people either claiming that Yeshua is the Messiah or that they are the Messiah/Anointed One. Yet, what might change in one’s orientation to these passages if “I am” were considered as the alternative translation?

“For many will come in My name, saying, I AM [epi tō onomati mou legontes egō eimi]! And they will lead many astray” (Mark 13:6, LITV).

“And He said, Watch that you not be led astray. For many will come on My name, saying, I AM [epi tō onomati mou legontes egō eimi]! Also, The time has come! Do not go after them” (Luke 21:8, LITV).

Recognizing what is stated in Matthew 24:5; Mark 13:6; and Luke 21:8, Morris observes in his Matthew commentary, “Mark and Luke both mention that the false teachers will say, ‘I AM.’ This probably means ‘I am he’ and will be another way of claiming to be the Messiah, but we should not overlook the fact that there is a hint of the divine name about this form of speech and that Jesus may well be warning that some of these people will come close to claiming deity.”[2] While much probably awaits us in future history, in terms of the future antimessiah/antichrist not just declaring himself to be “the Anointed One” but perhaps even invoking “I am” as though he were God (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4)[3]—there is actually some academic debate over the ancient figure of Simon Magus, who tried to purchase the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5-24), and whether he actually invoked himself to be the “I am.”[4]

Not all uses of egō eimi or “I am” in the source text of the Apostolic Scriptures imply that an entity is God, or even that an entity is supernatural. This is why it is important that the surrounding details be evaluated, of what an entity speaking or identifying with “I am” involve.


NOTES

[1] Hagner, Matthew 14-28, 690.

[2] Morris, Matthew, 597.

[3] “[W]ho opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

[4] Cf. D.E. Aune, “Simon Magus,” in ISBE, 4:516-517.


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