The Coming Great Deception

The Coming Great Deception

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, a church that was eagerly awaiting the return of the Lord to establish His Kingdom on earth, Paul outlined a few events that will come to pass before “the day of the Lord” arrives. The day of the Lord is a general term pointing to an entire series of events that culminate with the Lord Jesus landing on the Mount of Olives and taking up the throne of David in Jerusalem. He says in II Thessalonians 2:1-4 that two things must happen — a great falling away, and the revelation of the antichrist, or man of sin. He goes on to discuss this pivotal character in end time history, and then starting in verse 10 Paul introduces the theme of end-time delusion. There are constant reminders throughout the New Testament, from the teachings of Jesus Himself to the writings of Paul, John, Peter, James, and Jude, that indicate that the end times will be times of great delusion and deception. These warnings are specifically directed at “the elect” that they might not also be carried away with the “strong delusion” that God will send expressly for the purpose of separating true believers in Him from those who “have not a love of the truth.”

For a more detailed discussion of each of these themes, click on the contents buttons on this page. To fully comprehend where we are in God’s divine time line, click on the link to Letters to the Seven Churches to discover how perfectly the Lord knew what would transpire in His church following His ascension, up until His return at the end of the age.

The Great Falling Away

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed…  (II Thessalonians 2:1,2)

There are some things in the Bible that are hard to understand or which are generally open to interpretation. But there are some things that are all too clear. One of these things that should be without debate is that the Second of Coming of Christ will not occur until after something Paul calls a falling away happens first.

Having settled that, we can think about, discuss, and pray about what that falling away might mean, and what the fulfillment of this prophecy might look like.

There are those who equate the falling away with the Rapture, or the catching up of the Lord’s people to meet Him in the air (I Thessalonians 4:17). They see the Body of Christ “falling away” from the earth as the Lord miraculously draws them up to be with Him in the air.

This interpretation does not take into account that the Greek word translated “falling away” is the word “apostasia,” the basis for the English word apostasy. If you’re not familiar with the word apostasy and what it means, you can look it up in any dictionary. It is the act of going back on the faith. It is a denying of the basic tenets of the faith one once held. It is the basic characteristic of all “recognized” Christian scholarship at the seminary level for the last 100 years. Liberalism and modernism, two popular terms for apostasy that apostates find less objectionable, infected the mainline denominations before the end of the 19th Century. Liberal theology denies the existence of miracles, including the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Resurrection, and even the inspiration of the Bible. Some liberal “theologians” have gone as far as to doubt the very existence of God, or to suggest that God is dead.

Given all that, there are those who equate the falling away predicted by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians with the general apostasy that has taken over mainline Christianity, including most recognized theologians of both Protestant and Roman Catholic institutions.

While this apostasy may be a precursor, it is also likely that just prior to the Second Coming, there will another major and recognizable departure from the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). It is not unlikely that such a falling away would result in persecution of the true believers who refuse to follow the scholars and recognized Christian leaders in their retreat from true, Biblical Christianity. In fact, it is likely that it is just this sort of persecution that is instrumental in creating the unity among the true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ that will result in the Bride overcoming the division that currently prevents her from coming together as one chaste virgin to meet her Bridegroom King.

At any rate, we can expect to see more liberalism and more modernism, also referred to as Liberation theology or the social gospel, continue to invade and take over more mainline Christian institutions and denominations. We can also expect to see true Bible believing Christians come under more and more criticism and pressure to comply with the form of Christianity that will be promulgated by the media, the press, and the United Nations. It will be ecumenical, multicultural, tolerant of other faiths and religions, and quite conceivably enforced at gunpoint or through other coercive means.

Before you say this is not a possibility in our lifetime, take a look at the restrictions that “someone” is trying to place on the preaching and teaching of Biblical truth today. Laws are being passed that will make it “illegal” to teach the Biblical view when it comes to such issues as abortion and homosexuality. At some point soon, many churches may be forced to make a decision between remaining free to preach the truth, or maintaining a tax exempt status. And this is just the tip of the iceberg and a shadow of things to come over the next decade.

Great time to be alive…

We are blessed to be alive at such a momentous time in history. We are witnessing the unraveling and disintegration of Western civilization. Even if we were not destined to live on to see the establishment of God’s own Kingdom on the earth, this would be an exciting time to be alive, historically speaking, just to see what sort of order will come about following the collapse of the preeminent social, governmental, financial, and technological establishments in the post-modern world (that is, Western civilization, technology, and its attendant culture). 

The Holy Scriptures foretell that the current social, political, financial and governmental systems will be brought under the control of one great authoritarian, totalitarian dictator. At some point, this seemingly benevolent dictator will become personally indwelt by Satan himself, the great enemy of God, and will bring havoc down on the heads of God’s people — whether Israel or the church, or both — until God Himself removes him from the scene. It is then that God establishes His own Kingdom, with Israel serving as the planet’s political focal point, and each of 12 Gentile nations serving as tributary to a tribe of Israel, and appearing before the King once each year for a thousand years. (Deuteronomy 32:8, Revelation 21:24 with Revelation 22:2)

Now the down side… Not many who are alive now will live to see this glorious event, although it is in most likelihood less than 20 to 30 years down the road. Scripture indicates that the current world population of some six billion souls will be drastically reduced to possibly less than one billion by the time the Lord returns. That is a lot of death and carnage in the space of just a few decades.

But the Falling Away is only one of the signs Paul wrote about. In addition to a general apostasy, there will also be the revealing of the man of sin.

That Man of Sin shall be revealed…

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed…  (II Thessalonians 2:1,2)

Outside of the Lord Jesus and the Lord God Himself, there is more written in the Bible about the one who is coming as the Man of Sin than any other person in the Bible.

He is called the “antichrist” by John (I John 2:18, 22 and 4:3), the “little horn” and the “prince that shall come” by Daniel (Daniel 7:8 and 8:9; Daniel 9:26). He is the “idol shepherd” of Zechariah 11:17. According to the Book of Revelation, where he is called “the Beast” (Revelation 13:1), he will be a much admired world leader (Revelation 13:3) and exercise incredible authority over the Western hemisphere. It is for this reason that he is often referred to as the coming “one-world leader.”  The fact of the matter is, however, that he never succeeds in uniting the world entirely. He institutes an economic system involving personal identification numbers (Revelation 13:18) that is used all over the world, just as credit cards are now used all over the world. It appears, however, that the “kings of the east” (Revelation 16:12) are not under his political or military control and contest his authority in the mid-East, where he has engineered a seven year peace treaty between Israel and her enemies that results in the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of Israel’s sacrifices to the Lord.

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (II Thessalonians 2:4)

It is not clear exactly why, but for some reason this man decides to abrogate the treaty he has made between Israel and her neighbors half way through the term of the treaty, or 3 1/2 years after its signing. At that time he will enter the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and sit himself down in the mercy seat of the Most High God and he will declare that there is no higher God in the universe then himself. He will then demand that all the people of the earth, or at least all the people under his control, worship him as God under pain of death.

According to Daniel 9, this event marks the beginning of the final 3 1/2 years of the “times of the Gentiles.”  At the end of that time, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth and to Jerusalem where He will fulfill the Old Testament promises to Israel that Zion shall never be without a descendent of David to rule as King. All human endeavor on the planet will come under the direct control and supervision of Jesus, who is God in the flesh, and those who were faithful to Him and His promises during the current age (the church age) will “live and reign with him” (Revelation 20:4). 

God shall send them strong delusion…

And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.   Luke 21:8

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie… II Thessalonians 2:11

…thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…  Revelation 3:17

One of the great characteristics of the end times is described in the New Testament as deception, or delusion, on a grand, perhaps unprecedented scale. The Lord Jesus warned that the deception that is coming in His Name and accompanied by great shows of power will be so convincing that even the very elect, that is, those who truly know Him, stand in danger of being carried away in the deception (Matthew 24:24).

Paul expounds on the same theme. In discussing the end time delusion that will accompany the world’s acceptance of Satan himself as the savior of the world, he points out that when this “man of sin” arrives on the scene, he will be accompanied by great signs and wonders (II Thessalonians 2:9). When taken together with the Lord’s prediction in Matthew 24, there is no reason to believe that this entrance by Satan on the world stage will be accompanied by anything less than healing, casting out of demons, and raising the dead in the name of Jesus!

Such a scenario might have seemed impossible a decade or so ago, but with the acceptance by the world of some of the current popular beliefs, it is not difficult to imagine that such total, world-wide delusion could take place. Much of the “church” seems to be obsessed with the subject of  “signs and wonders,” healing, and the “greater works,” totally beyond the scope of what one would expect from a reading of the New Testament.  This “signs and wonders” fixation may be nothing less than a set-up to prepare the way for the one “whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders…”

Remember, the world believes that Israel is an imposter in the Holy Land and is “occupying” “Palestinian” territory! The world also believes that there can be peace outside of submission to God and His authority. All of this is, of course, purely delusional. The fact of the matter is that God has given Israel to the Jews with an oath and a promise that cannot be broken. It is also true that the world will know no peace until the Prince of Peace returns and takes up His rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Anyone who has read and believed the Bible knows these things, but the world does not know these things. As Peter says, they don’t even know how the world got here because they have willingly chosen not to know (II Peter 3:1).Therefore, it should not be surprising to learn that it will be those who had NOT a love of the TRUTH who will be swept away in the great delusion that God is sending for the purpose of separating the tares from the wheat just prior to the great end-time harvest (Revelation 16:14-20).

How can one escape being swept away in the deception that is coming? According to the letter from Jesus to the end-time church, Laodicea, recorded by John in Revelation 3:14-22, that church is characterized by self-deception, believing that it is the greatest of all churches when in the Lord’s view it is one of the poorest and most wretched. But in this letter we are also given some keys to avoiding such pitfalls. It is apparent, if we recognize that Laodicea is a depiction of the end-time Charismatic movement that has prided itself in having more gifts, more power, more gospel (FULL gospel, REALLY!), more ministry (five-fold, don’t you know), and more health and prosperity than any of the other churches around (especially the “poor” Fundamentalist brethren whom Jesus praised “to high heaven” in His letter to the church at Philadelphia), that we should not be so desirous of a great show, and should look to our own hearts and devotion to the Lord, and to His Truth.

Cable-channel Christianity by any other name is still a show. It is great entertainment for spiritual “shut ins,” but it is not the stuff the New Testament church is made of. 

As the Bride of Christ matures and begins to step forth and out of the backdrop of traditional, denominational Christianity, there will also be a movement based on great deception to try to deceive the elect and cause them to seek after and follow something other than Christ. The only real protection the Bride will have will come in the form of an intimate knowledge of her True Beloved. It is important for all believers to begin to seek the face of the Lord now, and to draw close to Him and press into Him so that they learn to recognize His voice. The day is soon coming when there will be many rival voices (Matthew 24:5) clamoring for the Bride’s attention — but she will respond to only one, the voice of her Beloved (Song of Solomon 2:8 and 5:2).