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Can you make "received in the future" more precise? Give an example of simple code + output + what you would expect.

As you describe it, I would guess you refer to timestamps. In that case it definitely is a clock sync issue. ROS itself should treat timestamps in messages as any other data and not modify it. So between sending/receiving a message nothing should change with the data. This only leaves how you get and compare the time. Using ros::Time should use the system time or simulated time depending on what you do. To force/check the system time you could also use ros::WallTime.