The Holy Spirit, which was given on the Day of Pentecost, is the antidote for deception. Today, we need the Holy Spirit more than ever to avoid deception. That is because deception is becoming more powerful, more enticing, more deceitful, than ever before.
How we greatly enjoy studying history showing that paganism crept into the early New Testament Church! From Alexander Hislop’s Two Babylons to Ralph Woodrow’s Babylon Mystery Religion, we relish reading how professing Christians were deceived into replacing the Truth of God with traditions of men. We say, “tisk, tisk,” when we read how ancient Israel forsook the Eternal, and served Baal and Ashteroth.
We read II Peter 2, II Thessalonians, and Revelation, and marvel how the whole world, and even many in God’s Church, will worship the Beast, his image, and receive his mark on their foreheads and right hands. We would never be deceived like that. Or, would we?
And, we say that we would never be deceived like Eve. We would never fall for the deceptions of Satan. Or, would we?
Do you know what a juggernaut is? Devotees of the Hindu god, Vishnu, sometimes allowed themselves to be crushed beneath the wheels of the car on which Vishnu’s image was being drawn in procession. The word, “juggernaut,” comes from the Sanskrit word for Vishnu. Thus, we today use the term juggernaut for a massive, irresistible force that relentlessly advances, crushing everything in its path. The great end-time deception, mentioned in Revelation, will be a juggernaut. Will we be crushed by such deception, or instead will we resist it?
Paul admonishes us, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come [the return of Christ, verse 1], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” II Thessalonians 2:3. Let us look at what the Bible says about deception.
The son of perdition, the great end-time false prophet of Revelation 13:11-18 and 19:20, will exalt himself above God, and claim to be God, II Thessalonians 2:4. Through Satan, he will work with all power and signs and lying wonders, verse 9. Those that are perishing will be deceived. Why? “Because they received not the love of the Truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” verses 10-12. There are two things which God says will lead to our salvation, rather than being deceived and receiving damnation: (1) sanctification of the Spirit, and (2) belief of the Truth, and holding fast to it, verses 13-15, and I Peter 1:2. The end-time deception has “all deceivableness,” II Thessalonians 2:10, indicating that previous deceptions will be nothing compared to this big one! II Timothy 3:13 tells us that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” Are we prepared to avoid this great deception?
Revelation 12:9 describes the time when the Devil and his angels are cast out into the earth. At this time, verse 10, salvation and the Kingdom of God will come, because the accuser of our brethren is cast down. How do the saints overcome this great and powerful deception? “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death,” verse 11. Persecution is coming, verse 13. Are we ready to overcome Satan? Do we keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus (verse 17, and 14:12)? Praise God that Satan will not be able to deceive the nations during the Millennium, and after that, only for a short season, Revelation 20:3, 8, 10.
The system of deception controlling the world at this time is called, “Babylon the Great,” Revelation 17:5. The merchants, great men of this world’s Babylon, deceive all nations, Revelation 18:23. Money and finance is going to be at the heart of the end- time deception. Although Simon thought he could buy the power of the Holy Spirit, Acts 8:18, the truth is that God’s gift of His Spirit is free.
Let’s look at several key Bible accounts of deception. We will discover a common thread in them all, and keys to not being deceived.
(1) Eve’s experience with the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) was a masterful demonstration of deceit. The serpent caused Eve to doubt God’s word. Eve was tempted to believe that to eat the forbidden fruit that looked good, and was pleasant to the eyes, would make her wise. Satan, the master deceiver, has a way with women. However, Adam knew better. He was not deceived, I Timothy 2:14. However, through weakness, he followed Eve and sinned along with her.
Actually, Adam was more culpable than Eve, because he was not fooled by the serpent. So not being deceived does not necessarily mean that you will still avoid making the wrong choices. We must ACT on what we KNOW to be true. Surely, Adam’s sin is a lesson to us all.
(2) Nimrod was a crafty deceiver. Secular history adds to the brief account of Genesis 10:8-10 to indicate that Nimrod was the world’s first gibbor (Hebrew word for tyrant). He was a mighty hunter before (in place of, against) the Lord. What a great protector of the people Nimrod was! A natural, powerful, leader, yet one who nevertheless established a kingdom against God. Nimrod looked good, made you feel good, was desirable to represent you and protect you from wild animals. But, his whole modus operandi was control over the people, and to get people to worship him as god, rather than worshipping Yahweh.
And, most of the world followed Nimrod, as they have been doing ever since, by continuing to practice the pagan customs he and his mother/wife Semiramis instituted. Again, Nimrod had a way with women.
(3) The Gibeonites were the “used-car salesmen” of the time of ancient Israel. These con artists buffaloed the entire nation of Israel, Joshua 9. The inhabitants of Gibeon were sharp. They saw what the advancing Israelites had done to utterly destroy the cities of Jericho and Ai. They knew it was their turn next. So, they disguised themselves as poor vagabonds from a far country, and begged the Israelites not to destroy them.
Rather than look at the situation objectively, rather than seeking the counsel of the Almighty, the Israelites made a rash vow not to destroy the Gibeonites. Three days later, their deceit was discovered. The Gibeonites had successfully tricked the Israelites. Why? Joshua 9:14-15 tells the story; it was because the Israelites “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.” This was a fatal mistake.
To this day, gullible Israelites negotiate and give money to terrorists such as Yassir Arafat, and other dictators, thinking that they can make peace with the sworn enemies of Israel. There is nothing new under the sun! Modern Gibeonites continue to deceive Israel.
(4) Absalom was a slick politician who rose up against his father David, and almost succeeded in destroying King David. Absalom was more subtle than his cousin Jonadab, who helped Amnon rape Absalom’s sister Tamar, II Samuel 13. After killing Amnon, Absalom had to flee and was for many years an outcast. Finally, through the artifice of Joab, Absalom was able to return to David’s court. Quickly, Absalom became the darling of Israel. “But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of head there was no blemish in him,” II Samuel 14:25.
Absalom made women desire him, and was a charismatic leader of men. Absalom assembled a company of fifty soldiers, and chariots and horses. He got up early, and stood beside the gate to Jerusalem, “so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said . . . . Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel,” II Samuel 15:1-6. Absalom launched a conspiracy that caused David to flee for his life, verses 7-37.
Absalom was a natural leader, clearly a splendid manager of people. There were few in Israel who did not fall for this deceiver. Yet, his character was totally self-serving. Absalom lusted for power rather than service to God’s people.
So, we see the common traits of deception. A deceiver looks good, talks good, and by every appearance seems to be a person whom you would want as a leader. The only problem is, his deception leads you away from the Almighty.
(5) We are all familiar with the temptation of Christ, Matthew 4:1-11. The Devil quoted, and misapplied scripture, and appealed to lust and greed for power. But, Satan had a great deal of appeal, and much (the whole world) to offer. Today, would a billion dollar offer with only a small “string” attached —disobedience to God — turn your head? Our blessed Savior did not bend an inch. The whole object of the temptation of Christ was to determine if Jesus would disqualify Himself from being the sinless sacrificial lamb for the sins of all mankind. One slip, one yielding to Satan’s temptation, and we would have no Savior.
(6) Robert L. Taylor, a minister associate of Herbert W. Armstrong in his early years, is a classic example of a minister of deception. In The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, pages 397-414, we learn that Taylor, a former SDA minister, came to Oregon from California. At a monthly all-day meeting, Taylor preached, and swept the Oregon brethren off their feet. Taylor was a better preacher than any of the leading ministers from Stanberry, Missouri (Church of God Seventh Day headquarters).
The Oregon Conference decided to hire Taylor and Armstrong to conduct an evangelistic campaign. As Armstrong relates, the Church had gone so overboard with Taylor that it took some time to recognize the true spirit behind him. Although he had originally professed to be against wild-fire pentecostalism, Taylor’s true colors eventually surfaced. Little by little, Taylor’s sermons “by careful and adroit methods” gradually attempted to lead the Church into the very thing he had told them in his original sermons that he was against.
Later, a man who had known Taylor much longer, told Armstrong, “Why, didn’t you know? Taylor has always been ‘pentecostal’. He just pretended he wasn’t, in order to get in with the Church.” This is the way it works. A slick leader deceives others into following him. A man’s true character sometimes takes time to surface. Are we watching for telltale signs, or do we check our brains at the door?
(7) Finally, we experience our time to shine forth, our time of withstanding deception. It is going on right now, I Peter 4:17-18. Like the gift of the Holy Spirit, resisting deception is a gift, given to those who work with that precious gift. The first warning Jesus gives us is, “Take heed that no man deceive you,” Matthew 24:4. Many false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and deceive many, verse 11. Is it possible to deceive the elect of God? Absolutely! Verse 24 is mistranslated. The KJV has two added words in italics, that are not in the original, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Without the two added italicized words, we see that the false prophets do great signs, if possible, to deceive the elect. It is possible for the elect to be deceived! That fact should cause you serious concern.
Especially, we should beware of ministers who preach for pay, serving their own belly by good words and fair speeches, Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 4:14, 5:6-7; I John 3:7; II John 7. It is easy to deceive oneself, I Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 6:3; James 1:22, 26. We all were at one time or another, deceived, Titus 3:3. Expect to find deceivers even at the feasts, II Peter 2:13.
One of the ways we can easily be deceived, is to believe that God’s day of judgment is not going to come down on the evildoers. Three times, Paul admonishes us, “Be not deceived ….” I Corinthians 6:9-10, 15:33; Galatians 6:7.
With the above examples and admonitions from Scripture, we see how to avoid deception. Beware of those who benefit from their supposed “service.” Do NOT engage in dialogue with false deceivers. If a minister looks too good, and sounds too good, to be true, he probably is not true. Like Satan, Nimrod, and Absalom, powerful Church of God leaders of our time have had an ungodly way of persuading men and women to follow them.
Working miracles is no proof a teacher is from God. Go to God; only the Eternal can keep us from being deceived. Look to “Him that is able to keep you from falling [for deceit], and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever, Amen” Jude 24-25.
— written by Richard C. Nickels W