Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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The New Testament speaks of the prevalence of deception at the end of the Church Age. Satan is a deceiver. His power was destroyed on the cross of Calvary, so he cannot force us to do his will. In order for Satan to persuade a Christian to do Satan’s will, Satan must deceive that person. Satan is a master at deceiving believers until they fall into error and sin.

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The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, And in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so they will believe the lie And so all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (II Thessalonians 2:9-12)

To deceive is to mislead someone, whether deliberately or not deliberately. Deception will cause an individual to disbelieve what is true or to believe what is false. Deception leads the victim into incorrect, harmful, or sinful choices or behavior.

I suppose all sin and rebellion against God are forms of deception. Placing our hope for security and survival in the forces in the world is deception, because the world cannot provide security and survival. We could have all the money in the world and still be killed in an accident or die from cancer.

Yielding to the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul is a form of deception because we think doing so will bring us joy. Instead we receive remorse, corruption, and disgrace.

Following our own ambitions instead of seeking God’s will is a form of deception because God knows all about us, God knows what will bring us joy, and He has the power and the desire to bring us to joy. On the other hand, we imagine what will bring us joy, and sometimes we are able to obtain it, but then we discover we have not found joy after all.

Looking at it this way, all sin and disobedience to God is a form of deception.

Deception is far more prevalent among Christian people than ordinarily is recognized. By definition, we do not know when we are deceived. I think Christians often assume that if they trust in the Lord and seek to live a godly life, they cannot be deceived. King David trusted in the Lord and sought to live a godly life, but he was deceived.

Jesus counseled us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation but would deliver us from the evil one. But we do not always pray this way, do we? The first thing you know, you are caught in one of Satan’s snares. I believe most of us are not aware of Satan’s ability to deceive even the most devout Christian. We ought always to pray that God would not lead us into temptation and would not permit us to be deceived.

When you are serving the Lord, and begin to feel uncomfortable about some situation, go to the Lord immediately and ask Him whether you have been deceived along some line. If it is appropriate, ask your husband or wife, or an elder of the church who will not gossip, for his opinion. Deception operates best in a subjective realm; and when you bring another person into your confidence, the power of subjectivity is diminished or destroyed altogether.

Satan loves to work in the dark places of our minds and emotions, and makes an effort to keep us from bringing our secret thoughts to the light. This is why it is so important to gather together with fervent believers on a regular basis. If you are in deception, the Spirit of God might burden a brother or sister to pray, even if he does not know what he is praying about. As a result, you will gain a glimmer of light which, if pursued, will lead you out of deception.

It may be difficult for the mature Christian to admit to being deceived. Without realizing it, he has become proud of his spirituality and is not willing to recognize he has been misled.

Jesus spoke of the believers being deceived concerning His return to the earth.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4,5)
And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (Matthew 24:11)

The doctrine of the pre-tribulation “rapture” of the Christians is one of the major deceptions of our day. The teaching of the “rapture” involves the return of Christ to the earth. There are fervent believers who are persuaded there will be an any-moment “rapture” into Heaven of those who have professed faith in Jesus. However, they are not receiving this “revelation” in prayer, but are following a teaching that offers hope and security in the present dangerous hour. If those who believe this way would look up to Jesus and ask Him what provision He has made for the dangers of the last days, I think they would hear Him telling them to turn away from the allurements of the world and learn to abide in Him at all times.

During my many years as a Pentecostal Christian, I have never heard one clear prophetic utterance proclaiming the nearness of a “rapture.” I have heard numerous prophetic exhortations to us to repent and press into Jesus before judgment falls.

Therefore, we know that deception can operate in the realm of doctrine and theology.

However, I believe that deception in the area of personal moral behavior is far more dangerous than deception in the realm of theology or eschatology. Even in the case of the pre-tribulation “rapture” error, the problem is not that people are mistaken concerning the time of the return of Christ, for we will understand this event perfectly when it takes place. No harm has arisen purely on the basis of a mistake over the events of the last days.

Rather, the problem is that the doctrine of the “rapture” tends to prevent the believers from fervently preparing themselves to stand in the approaching age of physical and moral horrors. They will not survive spiritually; they will not be able to stand in spiritual victory before Christ in the time of spiritual darkness; they will not be able to point other people to the safety that is in Christ; because the believers themselves will be terrified at the sight of what is taking place—at least in America.

The unprepared believers will succumb to fear and despair because their dissipation, drunkenness, and anxieties regarding the things of the world had prevented them from entering into Christ and abiding under the protection of the Lord. They were told there is no need to prepare for trouble, and they have practiced what has been preached Sunday after Sunday.

In my opinion, the most terrible example of deception in the history of the world is that of the betrayal of the Lord Jesus by Judas Iscariot. Was Judas a thoroughly wicked man? I don’t believe he was, because of the fervency of his repentance after Satan left him.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

The above are not the actions of a thoroughly wicked person. We have instances today in the courtrooms of America where convicted criminals show no remorse but are defiant after being sentenced. The fact that Judas was so convicted as to throw away the money and then hang himself is all the more terrifying. This could have been you or me, because this is what we would have done when we realized we had betrayed an innocent person. Notice Judas was not remorseful because of having betrayed his Messiah, but for having sent an innocent man to his death. Yet Jesus referred to Judas as a “devil.” There is a secret power associated with lawlessness that is difficult for us to comprehend.

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (John 6:70)
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (II Thessalonians 2:7)

What door in his personality permitted Satan to deceive Judas to this extent? Was it the thirty pieces of silver? We know from the text he stole money from the common purse. Was it, as some have suggested, that Judas was an ambitious man who hoped to gain preeminence by being associated with Jesus, only to have Jesus show no desire to gain worldly power?

The truly remarkable fact is this: Judas was not a thoroughly wicked man, just an individual with some treacherous motivations in his personality. But Judas was in close contact with God come in the flesh! Like Satan, who was a guardian cherub next to the throne of God in Heaven, Judas was living next to God! Have you ever thought about this? Judas was walking with God and, at the same time, stealing money from the common purse. After this much exposure to God, Judas was willing to turn Him over to the authorities for money! This was and remains incredible. What would you and I give to be together with Jesus for three years! The fact that Judas could be so close to God and yet do the things he did reveals to us the awesome power of deception.

Deception is not a condition that exists somewhere out there among people who somehow are different from us. Deception is a possibility as long as there is a door in your personality, such as hatred, unforgiveness, lust, covetousness, jealousy, lying, stealing, that has not been brought into the light of Christ and removed from you.

Just remember this: any Christian at any time, no matter how devout, can be deceived; especially if there are passionate desires in his or her personality. Therefore we ought to pray every day that God will remove from us all that is not of Him, and that we might hear only that which is coming from His Throne.

I mentioned King David. We know from the Psalms that David’s heart was right in the sight of God. Yet, by not going out to war with his soldiers, David set himself up for disaster. If David had been with his men, he would not have been walking on the roof of his palace staring at Bathsheba. We can escape much temptation by not permitting ourselves to enter situations that are spiritually perilous.

David knew the Law of Moses. He knew adultery was punishable by death. Yet his passions overruled his obedience to the Law and his conscience. David added murder to adultery by sending Uriah to the front lines. Once deception begins to bear fruit in our life, it is not long before the fruit of evil multiplies.

The moment Nathan said “You are the man,” the deception was stripped away.

Perhaps Satan was hoping David would put Nathan to death, as Herod did with John the Baptist who warned Herod about the sin of adultery. But Herod was wicked, and David was righteous. God immediately forgave David, but there were severe consequences after this, including the death of the child.

So it is that God will forgive our sin when we confess and turn from it, but there may be lifelong consequences.

The first two people on the earth were deceived. Satan deceived them, promising them wisdom without reminding them of the death that would follow. Adam and Eve were innocent. They did not realize there was such a thing as deception. God could have warned them this would happen. God could have entered and drove Satan from the garden. But this is not how God operates.

It is God’s way to permit us to see the consequences of our actions so we will become skilled in judgment and spiritual warfare. Many times, if we are walking carefully before the Lord, He prevents our being deceived. On other occasions, He permits us to be deceived, and then, if we are seeking Him faithfully, He reveals to us that we have been deceived. Let me tell you from experience that this is a painful experience. We must admit we were wrong (and perhaps sinned), make whatever amends are indicated, and then press forward in the Lord as a more experienced warrior. This is a hard way to learn, but under certain circumstances it is the only way God can get at some of the kings of our personality.

It seems to me there are at least two kinds of deception:

  • There is the deception of the basically righteous person, as in the instance of King David in the matter of Bathsheba.
  • There is the deception of the basically wicked person, as in the case of Absalom and his attempt to usurp his father’s throne.

Absalom had spent years developing the plot that built up to his attempt to usurp his father’s throne. I do not know if Absalom had misgivings along the way; if his conscience troubled him. Unlike David, Absalom did not yield to a sudden impulse. He knew what he was doing.

Absalom was not a man after God’s heart, as was David. Absalom did not get a chance to repent. He was slain while in the middle of his treachery. Absalom knew what he was doing, and yet he didn’t know. By this I mean, Absalom desired the preeminence of sitting on the throne of Israel, like his father. Absalom desired the power and prestige. He wanted to be seen and admired, unlike David who was seeking the Lord all the while.

(Those of us who have any of Absalom’s spirit in us need to tell the Lord and get rid of it. It will lead us to destruction.)

Absalom was deceived. He pictured himself sitting on the throne and being obeyed by the people as well as by the lords of Israel. But Absalom did not realize that God had chosen David. God was with David in all of David’s battles. It was God who was leading David and speaking great things to him concerning his descendants.

None of this was true of Absalom. Even if Absalom had defeated David in battle and had ascended the throne; even if all the nobles of Israel had gathered around and paid homage to him; even if the people in the streets cheered and called out his name; Absalom would have been dwelling in the darkest pit of his life. For God would not honor Absalom’s position, and he would have been brought down to terror and destruction by one means or another. Absalom was terribly, totally deceived!

God alone exalts one person and puts down another. Promotion and demotion come from the Lord. Whenever we gain prominence or wealth other than with the help of the Lord, we are in a fool’s paradise—and this shall be revealed sooner or later.

Another case of deception similar to Absalom concerned Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. These leaders of the Israelites were jealous of Moses and despised him and Aaron. They were wicked men. God did not lead them to repentance, but buried them alive along with their families.

These three men were terribly deceived. Moses was seeing God face to face. The Israelites had come out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Moses had come down from the holy mountain with the Law. Were Korah, Dathan, and Abiram so completely lacking in common sense as to suppose God would accept their leadership in place of the leadership of Moses and Aaron?

Perhaps blindness, lack of common sense, and lack of faith in God are frequently found in instances of deception. It seems Korah and his friends must have been unaware of the reality of God. I think this is often the case when Christians aspire to a rank in the church held by someone else. I don’t think they are seeing the Presence of God in His Church. They are aware only of the honor being given to someone else—honor they would like to have even though God has not given it to them but to another.

So we see there is deception in doctrine and then deception in behavior. I think we place far too much emphasis on error in doctrine and not enough on error in behavior. God is not impressed with the amount or accuracy of our knowledge. The day will come when we know all things. What concerns the Lord is how we behave, particularly with the way we treat other people.

There is a strong Christian man who wanted to argue with me about the “rapture.” I replied, “It is against my religion to argue eschatology.” You know, nothing good ever comes from arguing with someone about his or her beliefs. That kind of quibbling and fussing comes from a bad spirit and nothing edifying or profitable results from it.

The “statement of faith” the Lord is looking for is not our adherence to a set of theological facts; it is our declaration to Jesus every moment of every day that we need His guidance and help in all we are doing. When two believers are abiding in Christ to this extent, they have come to the unity of the faith.

God looks at our heart, to see if we love the truth. If we do not, God sends a “powerful delusion” to us

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, And in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so they will believe the lie And so all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (II Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Perhaps this is why the Lord Jesus warned us to pray that we not be led into temptation.

The key is found in the above statement: “but have delighted in wickedness.”

  • Our desires and delights come from our heart.
  • Our choices come from our desires.
  • Our eternal destiny is determined by our choices.
  • Our will stands over all this; it serves as a referee that makes decisions concerning our heart, our desires, and our choices.

We must use our will to ask God to cleanse our heart from all that is not of Him, so godly desires will come from our heart and guide our choices.

We need to command our heart to love the truth, whether our heart wants to do this or not. If we pray, God will help us with the condition of our heart. The Bible states that God will send us a powerful delusion so we will believe the lie, if we take delight in wickedness.

This reminds us of an incident in the Old Testament.

Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. “And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ One suggested this, and another that. “Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “‘By what means?’ the LORD asked. ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’ “So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.” (I Kings 22:19-23)

“Search me, and see if there is any wicked way in me”! We need to do this every day of our pilgrimage, not just once in a moment of conviction.

When we do not love the truth, God sends a powerful delusion to us and we believe a lie. Once this takes place, we cannot see where we are heading. We are blind. When you encounter a deluded believer, you will find he or she is not open to the truth. All you can do is pray and be gentle with that individual as much as possible.

If the pastor prays before he preaches, asking the Lord to speak to the hearts of the members of the congregation, it may happen that light shines in the heart of someone who has been deluded but who desires the truth.

If this happens to you, you may begin to question an experience or belief you have held for many years. You may have been certain it was the Lord. Yet, it wasn’t. You would be surprised how completely Satan can imitate the work of the Lord.

Honor that doubt, that question. Go to the Lord with as much sincerity as you can muster and ask Him to put the fire of Divine judgment on the idea or the experience. Do not be afraid; God will not harm you.

Sometimes we are quite embarrassed or frightened that we could have been wrong all these years. Never mind! You are not the center of the universe that you may think you are. Just keep after the Lord. He will deliver you from the master deceiver if you want truth. Be comforted by the fact that numerous believers are, or have been, in deception along with you. Deception is common among God’s people.

I realize someone will say, “I read my Bible and I can never be deceived!” Surprise: You are already deceived by thinking you cannot be deceived.

The Bible commands us to test the spirits, because of the number of false prophets in the world.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (I John 4:1)

Let me assure you of one thing: God will never rebuke you for testing the spirits. It always is in order to check everything. You can ask God a hundred times if something is truly from Him, and God will not be insulted because you have questioned. I do not mean to be overcautious and never accept what God is doing. There is a time to walk with the Lord on the water.

The Lord complimented the believers in Ephesus because they had tested those who claimed to be apostles.

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. (Revelation 2:2)

If God’s people were more prayerful, less apt to worship their preachers, we never would have received the pre-tribulation rapture error, the so-called “faith” and “prosperity” doctrines, the “imaging,” and the other strange fires of recent times.

But God’s people do not want to pray! They want to have some exalted preacher get them all excited. They pay their ticket and the show goes on. How many go home and get down before Jesus, and ask Him if He is the author of all this excitement? I think the believers are afraid of quenching the Spirit of God, or of laying their hand on God’s anointed. Perhaps this is why they do not question what is taking place.

The elders are responsible for the conduct of the assembling. God will honor their decisions if they make them prayerfully. Remember, God’s sheep know His voice, but the lambs need to be guided.

Every pastor and every elder should know this: When he is uncomfortable with something going on in the church, he should go to the Lord immediately. If pressed for a decision, he should say: “I need more time to pray about this.” Do not be afraid of quenching the Spirit. If you are in a position of leadership, and are praying and seeking God, you can gently stop some proceeding in the assembling until you are certain it is the Lord.

The Spirit of God will not be insulted if you quietly and prayerfully govern the assembling. If you do not govern the assembling, then all sorts of spirits will take control and you will have disorder and confusion, which never are appropriate in the assembling of the saints.

Some time back an elder called from another state and told me that people were rolling on the floor while the pastor was preaching. He asked me what I thought about this, since it was becoming the thing to do in many assemblings. My advice was to lovingly ask the people to refrain from causing a distraction while the Word of God was going forth. Then, on another occasion, the pastor might invite those who wanted to, to come up to the front, lay on the carpet, and call out to God. There is nothing wrong with calling out to God “between the porch and the altar,” to use a scriptural expression.

The purpose is to do all things, but to do them decently and in order.

Brother Stanley Howard Frodsham gave a prophecy years ago, in which he said the problem of the last days would be revelations that were mostly true but with a little bit of deadly error in them. I think we have seen this come to pass in the last few years.

Anything that comes to us from Christ in Heaven is not almost true but totally true and fruitful. What better way could Satan advance his lies than by couching them in words and experiences that are scriptural and familiar to us? But there is death in that pot.

How can we tell whether something is from the Lord? If it is of the Spirit of God, it moves us away from sin and brings forth the fruit of the Spirit in us. Any doctrine, any movement, that does not promote righteousness is not of God no matter how exciting it may be.

We are approaching an age of physical and moral horrors. We need to learn to look to the Lord Jesus every moment of every day. If we will do this, reading our Bible each day, gathering together with fervent believers on a regular basis, refusing to be conformed to the image of the world presented by the barrage of information and advice coming from the media, we stand a good chance of being able to stand in victory before the Lord in the midst of the spiritual darkness.

We must guard our heart with all diligence, for out of it proceed the springs of life, as Proverbs tells us.

With all of this, we still can be led astray. But if we keep on letting the Lord know we love Him, and keep an open, gentle spirit, the Lord will get us back on track with Him, as He did King David. David committed adultery and murder. He suffered for his sins the remainder of his life. But he died in honor and is remembered in honor, and his Psalms have blessed mankind for three thousand years.

So it is with you and me. God does not expect us to be perfect. But He does require that when it comes to our attention we have been in the wrong, we humble ourselves, get back up on our feet, and press forward in Christ.

On one such occasion, I was ashamed of my conduct. I had been deceived. Then I had a kind of vision. I saw the Lord’s legions on parade in Heaven. The white war stallions passed in front of me. I was cheering them on, realizing I was not worthy to participate, but wanting them to go forward and win the battles of the Lord. All of a sudden a white war stallion stopped in front of me. There was no rider on him. I knew that stallion was for me. But my self-pity would not permit me to get up on that horse. I stood there in my inverted pride and said, “Go on! Go on! Crush the enemy! I am not worthy, but you go on!” But I knew all this was vain. The Lord wanted me on that horse, to take my place in His army, not to be repeating how unworthy I am. The Lord has a great sense of humor, doesn’t He? I knew also that I had better get up on that horse, or he would be ridden by someone else. It was hard to overcome my self-pity. I finally made myself get up on the horse, and that was the end of the vision.

David did not reject Bathsheba, adding another wrong to his account. David made Bathsheba his wife, and from that union came King Solomon. Thus our blunders will result in majesty if we humble ourselves and remain faithful to Christ.

Again let me state that Satan’s power was destroyed on the cross of Calvary. He cannot force anyone to do his will, to sin. Sometimes people say, “The devil made me do it.” This is a lie. The individual made his choices according to his own desires, as we all do.

The devil works through deception. He studies our personality and then sets up a situation designed to appeal to our desires. Believe me, we must walk very, very carefully if we are to escape being deceived.

The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear God, and delivers them.

The Lord Jesus invites us to deny ourselves, take up our personal cross, and follow Him. Our personal cross is the best of all shields against the deceptions of the enemy. A believer becomes deceived when he seeks a way around his personal cross, attempting to escape from the prison in which he has been placed by the Lord.

Remember, the present world is under the Divine curse because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Paradise has been withdrawn into the spirit realm. When we endeavor to make the present world a paradise, we open ourselves to deception.

It is true God wants us to be happy and is bringing us to eternal joy. But first we must endure the cross of denial. The cross of denial is designed to destroy our self-love and self-will. When you stop and think about it, self-will is the source of all sin.

Hopefully each one of you will set aside your own life, place all of your treasures in Heaven, and diligently follow the Lord Jesus each day. In the meanwhile you are to pray, “Father, do not lead me into temptation.”

If we will

  • carry our cross behind the Master,
  • pray and read our Bible on a daily basis if possible,
  • test the spirits,
  • maintain a humble, open spirit so in case we do stumble, we are ready and willing to be corrected and turn away from our error,

then there is no reason why we cannot have a victorious Christian life both now and throughout the age of physical and moral horrors that is on the horizon.

(“Deception”, 3292-1, proofed 20230714)

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