"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.' But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.'" (Matthew 12:38-39)
The trap of the last days is a trap of a corrupt generation of people who do not want to know Jesus. Their focus is directed toward His miraculous works and blessings, while their life does not belong to Jesus, although outwardly they show devotion in religious activities. Jesus called this generation of people an "evil and adulterous generation", and the reason for this is because these people rejected truth and a personal relationship with Him. They were more focused on cleaning, maintaining and changing the outward appearance rather than true repentance, change of heart and obedience to the Lord.
We need to learn to recognize and run from the trap of this corrupt generation and draw near to Christ - the source of true change and life, which will give us strength to escape from the satanic spirit of this religious generation and endure in these difficult final days. I believe that there are three things that prevent us from succumbing to this kind of spirit.
COMPASSION ABOVE STANDARDS
"But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:7-8) The Pharisees of that time established thirty-nine working categories of things that were forbidden on the Sabbath, which were based on their interpretation of God's Law and Jewish tradition. Harvest was one of those categories. "And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat." (Matthew 12:1b)
This act fell under the category of work, because they picked off the heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands to get to the actual grain, and then ate it. Technically speaking, the religious leaders of that time considered this work while Jesus was focused on the hunger of people who didn't pluck the grain in order to gain a profit.
When you consider this text more clearly it is obvious that the Pharisees could not and did not want to see anything above their own technical ideas. They had no compassion in their heart. They actually decided to accuse Jesus and His disciples of breaking the law.
Jesus answered them back, "'Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.'" (Matthew 12:3-6)
He reminded them of the story from 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The showbread was changed each week while the priests ate the old bread. The bread that David ate was old bread, earlier the showbread had been replaced with fresh bread. Although only the priests were allowed to eat that bread, God didn't judge David because his need for food was more important than the priestly law.
By this answer Jesus wasn't encouraging disobedience to God's law, but simply emphasizing discernment and compassion in applying the law.
It is true that the 10 Commandments forbid work on the Sabbath: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." (Exodus 20:8-11) This was the letter of the law, but because the purpose of the Sabbath was for rest and worship to God, the priests were allowed to "work", by bringing the sacrifice and performing their service. Their "work" was service and worship to God. This is why Jesus always emphasized the meaning of the law, which means intention behind the law. What happened to the Pharisees, and what happens to today's corrupt generation, or these kinds of believers, is that many lose the spirit of the law and judgmentally and legalistically demand absolute obedience to the Word and their interpretation of the word with no compassion or mercy toward those from whom they require.
Jesus Christ tells them that "in this place is [one] greater than the temple." (Matthew 12:6) The Pharisees were so concerned with technical preferences of religious ceremony. The Pharisees were like today's believers who often forget the purpose of the temple - which is to lead people to God! And as Jesus is greater than the temple, how much more can he draw people from the temple itself or our way of worship.
There is one thing we must accept without condition, and that is that God is more important than our methods of worship. If we grow more concerned about our methods of worship to God than the one we worship we will miss Him, while thinking that we are worshiping Him. This is why Jesus recited for the Pharisees the words that the Israelites constantly heard throughout history: "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:7-8) In the Psalms we read, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, 'Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.'" (Psalm 40:6-8) The Prophet Hosea also said, "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)
The attitude of our heart before God must always be of primary concern. This is the only way we can have a correct posture of obedience and properly keep religious form of worship, while at the same time having compassion for those around us as Jesus did. This is the only way to escape Satan's trap of a corrupt generation that keeps dry doctrine without the Spirit of God and a personal relationship with Jesus, assigning rules of religious behavior for others without grace and love for those they serve. Jesus called them a perverse generation, because they judged those in need and those who served these very same people to touch them with Christ's mercy and love. The spirit of those people and the Pharisees becomes clear in the case of the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12:9). Rather than emphasizing human need, their rules came before the need. They were actually so blind that after Jesus did the right thing and healed the hand, they "plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him." (Matthew 12:14)
In other words, these kind of people can attend church, have high positions in the church, serve the church, and still put the letter of the law above the spirit of the law, rules above man, without recognizing how God operates - that He is a God of people and is compassionate, and that He is not necessarily and exclusively a God of rules. This is why it is first of all important to ask ourselves what kind of attitude we have toward those around us so that we do not find ourselves entrapped in Satan's snare of a pharisaical corrupt spirit. We can ask ourselves if our convictions, attitudes, and opinions hinder us from helping and serving certain people. If this is the case, then our attitudes are not likely in conjunction with God's Word. We ought not allow our doctrine and dogma to blind us to human need. God wants compassion for people to be above rules and formulas. If we want to clear up the spirit of a corrupt generation, then we must place compassion above rules.
CHANGE ABOVE SIGNS
"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." (Matthew 12:38)
Believers today are growing more and more fascinated and caught up with the supernatural. Although the supernatural is a legitimate thing in God's Kingdom, I am not certain if they love the supernatural only because of the manifestations or because of compassion for people in need where the supernatural can help and bring attention to Jesus. Honestly, it seems to me that people love signs and wonders because of the manifestations more than people. And this is actually a sign of a corrupt generation that feeds on signs and wonders, yet rejects radical repentance, conversion and acceptance of Jesus as their Lord. This generation places feelings and emotions above their will and conscience.
Signs and wonders have their place in service, but they are not the end goal in sharing the gospel. The goal is that people are saved from sin and God's judgment and that they come to know Christ and live in His purposes.
If those who hear us, who by God's power were touched in a certain way, do not repent and turn from their sin, then they remain lost regardless of the fact that they experienced a supernatural manifestation.
In a text from the Bible we can clearly see what Jesus' focus was, His goal for His listeners. Apart from compassion for the blind and lame men, His goal was that they change. They brought before Him, "one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute." (Matthew 12:22) After He healed the man, the people were "amazed and said, 'Could this be the Son of David?' Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, 'This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.'" (Matthew 12: 23-24)
The Word tells us that the people were amazed. The Greek word used here describes their amazement as "existemi" and we translate it as "being astonished, amazed, dumbfounded". While the people were dumbfounded because of the healing, the Pharisees were critical and began to accuse Jesus of working with the ruler of demons - Beelzebub. They caught Him in an emotionally difficult situation and tried to discredit Him by using an emotional argument.
In the first example it is obvious how the spirit of a corrupt, religious generation operates: in place of joy for one set free and healed, they are closed up in their own dogma without any compassion for the man (they have more compassion for their own livestock), they refuse to believe that Jesus came from God and say that Jesus works together with evil spirits! What kind of spirit is this operating behind these kinds of believers? A spirit of a corrupt generation? This is a satanic spirit that does not want to change! Apart from explaining to them that it is impossible for Satan to cast out Satan (Matthew 12:26), Jesus tells them that even their sons cast out demons: "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?" (Matthew 12:27a) The Pharisees also cast out demons and loved to perform signs, but they did not want to accept the truth in order to repent and change.
Among other things, their focus was almost always on signs, because despite the many signs they saw, they asked Him to show them one more sign, "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'" (Matthew 12:38) And when we remember what happened previous to that, it becomes clear why Jesus reacted contradictory to their request. He didn't stay to discuss what kind of evil spirits were in question or what they are called, but he clearly emphasized change above signs. ""Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:33-37)
Although casting out demons and the sign that "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28b) are legitimate, Jesus' goal was not signs and wonders but man's heart. Apart from opening the mouth and eyes of the possessed man, a teaching followed about what comes out of our mouths. We see that the following verses do not talk about the kind of evil spirits, but first of about the state and attitude of the heart. If evil things continue flowing from us, then we ought to ask ourselves if our heart is in line with God's will and if we've truly repented, or everything that happened at the first manifestation has stayed there in hope and expectation of the next one. What the corrupt generation does and focuses on is outward displays and manifestation - they cleanse their hearts and solve issues by changing the way they speak and applying rules of Christian behavior, while Jesus expects them to surrender and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with new attitudes and motives in order that what we say is pure and holy.
The spirit of a corrupt generation considers competition, critique, and game rules to be important. The question of is who is the strongest, greatest, and more anointed is more important than what God has done in the hearts of people. These people do not care much about people because their focus is not on people but on certain manifestations and formulas of church membership in their movement. This kind of spirit not only does not care for people, but it also calls faithful and righteous people obsessed, radical and fundamental believers, just as the Pharisees referred to Jesus. Change is always above signs. This is why Jesus answered them this way, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign". (Matthew 12:39b)
Jesus knew that they had witnessed enough signs and wonders that should have proved to them that He was the Messiah. Yet despite this, they did not open their hearts but rather decided not to believe Him, which is why no additional miracle could influence their decision.
How many people today say, "How I wish I could see a true miracle! Then I would really believe God." Jesus answer is directed to them as well. Without even one manifestation we have enough proof to believe Jesus' birth, death, resurrection, and centuries of His work in believers throughout the world. Rather than seeking for another sign or wonder, we need to focus on that which we have now and move forward with Jesus, because He has much more in store than just signs and wonders.
The Pharisees, the religious rulers of that day, despite signs and wonders, did not recognize the truth about God who had sent Jesus - this spirit is a spirit of a corrupt generation that runs here and there after signs and wonders in hope of witnessing something interesting, while at the same time rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We can avoid falling into this satanic trap in these last days if we place change above signs and if we know for certain that our heart and will, and our entire life, belong to Jesus Christ.
BEING FILLED WITH JESUS
"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation." (Matthew 12:43:45)
The signs, wonders, healings, or deliverance that we have experienced, in and of themselves without being filled with God, leaves room for Satan to return. Sometimes it is very discouraging when I ask young believers if they read the Bible, pray or perhaps if they are reading a Christian book, and fail to receive an answer. Despite the fact that they love fellowship and manifestations, these people are wide open for Satan and "seven other spirits". In Ezra we find a good example of those who on one hand were set free from idols, but did not replace idolatry with God's love and obedience, but continued living in compromise. "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites... For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass." (Ezra 9:1b-2) This is how their final state becomes worse than the first. In order for us to be better than the beginning our faith must be active, and it is vital that we fill ourselves everyday with God so as not to give place to the devil.
Many believers today minister in healing, renewal, deliverance from evil spirits, and prophesy present events, but miss the most important element - repentance, conversion and life with Jesus and living for Jesus.
Pastors and preachers whose hearts are not with the Lord keep their listeners for a time on an emotional basis of signs and wonders, without a greater depth and surrender to the Lord. And this is how it goes until they encounter their first trial when their life becomes completely unraveled. The only solution they had, and the only thing with which they were filled, was signs and wonders - this is why today there are so many emotional unstable and immature "converts" because many, despite God's touch, have not allowed God to help them leave their old, sinful way of life behind and with the help of God's spirit to renew their thinking and way of living. They have only added an emotional experience of signs and wonders and Jesus' blessing to their life, failing to surrender their life to the Lord.
God's will is to break off the bonds of evil, but if we want to go deeper in Jesus and not allow the spirit of a corrupt generation to overtake us, which will not hold out in these final days, we must take the necessary final and very important state, which is to fill our lives with Jesus, God's Word, and the Holy Spirit. Passive people who are not filled with Him are an easy target for Satan. The Apostle Peter warned us when he said, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith." (1 Peter 5:8-9a) Lions often attack the weak, the young, and those who stray away from the pack. They often use the victims that are alone and do not watch out for themselves. Satan wants to take us by surprise with his spirit of a corrupt generation when we are in trouble or oppressed; when we feel weak, helpless, cut off from other believers, focused on our own problems, or simply careless about the danger that lurks as a lion around us. But we can escape this spirit if we are well grounded in Christ and if we do not entangle ourselves again in this corrupt world.
Peter said, "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning." (2 Peter 2:20) Peter was especially talking to those in Christ, who had experienced his supernatural power and who knew how to be saved, but, for whatever reason, had rejected the truth and turned once again to their own sins. And now these were found in a worse state than before, because they had rejected the only way out of sin and the only way to salvation - Jesus. This is why Jesus said, "and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation." (Matthew 12:45b)
If we do not wish to become a part of this corrupt generation, of this religious spirit that does not care for people and emphasizes a dry doctrine and rules of behavior without mercy and compassion; that emphasizes signs and wonders without change of the human heart, and that does not wish to be filled with Jesus, then we much choose to fill our spiritual house with Jesus.
Jesus desires to and must become the owner of our will, our life, our conscience, and our body. Only then will become His faithful disciples that will "from a good fountain bring forth good" and endure all the pressure of these last days of human history. Our focus will be Jesus and the lost around us, and our goal to bring as many people with us as we can into God's kingdom, manifesting His power and might through Christ's compassion and love. This is the only way we will remain in Jesus and live as He lived.