By Russell Standish
In the writings and traditions of the three Abrahamic faiths—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—a coming Messiah will judge the world and usher in a reign of righteousness. While some Jews are still looking for their promised Messiah, Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled those prophecies in His incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension; now they await His return. In Islamic tradition, the coming of the prophesied redeemer, or Mahdi, will coincide with the second coming of Jesus Christ (Isa), who is to assist the Mahdi against the Masih ad-Dajjal (literally, the “false Messiah” or Antichrist).
Jews, Christians, and Muslims are not the only ones looking for the imminent appearance of a Messiah, or Christ (Greek for Messiah). Many pagan faiths teach a coming messiah.1 The examples cited below represent little-known messianic cults which are found by the hundreds on each continent.
The Koreri cult, on the island of Muju in the Pacific, rose up in great violence against the Japanese occupation. The prophets of this cult called themselves Konoors, which means “Heralds of the Messiah.” A variety of Native American tribes have believed that through the rituals and unity of ghost dancing, “the buffalo would return to expel the white man and bring about the millennium.” In Brazil, numerous messianic cults “promise an era of renascence and of salvation with a golden kingdom on Earth.”2 In Java, two messianic cults arose in Islam—Hizbul Waton and Sabillera. The cults aim to establish a Muslim theocracy upon Earth with the arrival of the Messiah.3
Messiah-watching, however, is not limited to these obscure groups. Even followers of more traditional world faiths such as Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism believe in a coming Messiah. In 1992 much publicity was given to a sect of New York Jews who declared 90-year-old Rabbi Schneerson to be the Messiah. Also, the majority of Christians today embrace the view that the Messiah is coming to set up an earthly reign of peace and prosperity. Known in Christian circles as premillennialism, the view states that “after Christ’s Second Coming, He will reign for a thousand years over the earth.”4
Surprisingly, as different as the details are from one messianic group to another, each share a common theme: the Messiah’s immediate rulership upon this earth and the ushering in of an epoch of peace, freedom, and prosperity.
But is this view biblical? The answer is a resounding no! The Bible plainly states that at the Second Coming only the righteous will survive: “Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.” Isa. 13:6. Further, no man will be left upon Earth to bury the dead: “And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried: they shall be dung upon the ground.” Jer. 25:33. Why will this be so? Because the saints will be taken to heaven during the millennium: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:16, 17.
After Christ’s return, the entire earth will be empty and desolate. “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof….The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.” Isa. 24:1, 3.
The Bible states precisely the following facts concerning the second coming of Christ:
1. The wicked will be destroyed.
2. The earth will be an empty wasteland.
3. No one will remain upon Earth to bury the dead.
4. The saints will be removed from the earth and taken to be with Christ in heaven.
How different is Bible truth from that which is believed by messianic cults and even much of mainstream Christianity! Jeremiah, looking at the earth during the millennium, described it thus: “I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by His fierce anger. For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.” Jer. 4:25–27. There is, manifestly, no peaceful reign on Earth by the Messiah.
But did not Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth”? Matt. 5:5. Certainly! When will this promise be fulfilled? The Bible explains that the wicked dead who are not resurrected to be with Christ, along with those who will be destroyed at His coming because of their failure to accept Him, will be resurrected at a later time. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” Rev. 20:5.
At the conclusion of the millennium, the wicked are raised and Satan will once more set out to tempt and deceive them. “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations [the resurrected wicked] which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.” Rev. 20:7, 8.
At this time, Christ will return with the righteous to the earth. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Rev. 21:2, 3.
Satan’s enmity will cause him to lead his evil host against Christ. At that critical moment, the prophecy will be fulfilled: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:15. This is the conclusion of the millennium. Then, and only then, will Christ rule on earth in an unending era of peace, righteousness, and justice, for the universe will have been forever cleansed of sin and sinners. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4.
Is there a danger in the prevailing unscriptural view of the imminent coming of an earthly Messiah or the millennial reign of Christ on earth? Yes there is! Christians will recall that it was this very same misconception that led the Jews to reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah nearly 2,000 years ago.
Again, just prior to His second advent, it will be a similar misunderstanding that will lead millions, looking for the coming Messiah, to be overwhelmed by Satan’s greatest masterpiece of deception. The Bible warns us that Satan will counterfeit Christ’s coming—he will appear as a glorious angel of light: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” 2 Cor. 11:14.
Those looking for the earthly rule of Christ are preparing to be deceived, for Satan, displaying unimagined glory, will proclaim himself to be the long-awaited Messiah. This will lead to the greatest ecumenical movement in history. His deception will produce the most massive “conversion” of unbelievers in the entire period of this earth’s history. But no true conversion will result. Nevertheless, every Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jew, Shintoist, pagan, and atheist will be “converted” (deceived) unless each has fully committed his or her life to Jesus Christ and His Word. Only those who have been sanctified by the surrender of their lives to Jesus and who refuse to go against the plain words of Scripture will withstand this greatest of deceptions and be saved from Satan’s grand scheme of deception.
Let us pray that every reader of Last Generation will be so grounded in the truths of God’s Word and loyal to his or her Savior that they will not be taken in by the greatest deception, which, if it were possible, would deceive the very elect. See Matt. 24:24.
Vittorio Lanternari, The Religions of the Oppressed—A Study of Modern Messianic Cults, p. 81.
Ibid., p. 157.
J. M. van der Kroef, “The Messiah in Indonesia and Melanesia,” Scientific Monthly, LXXV (1952): 162.
Robert G. Clouse, ed., The Meaning of the Millennium (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977), p. 17.
The late Russell Standish was both a physician and a pastor who lived and worked in Southeast Asia and Australia. He and his twin brother, Colin Standish, co-authored many books.