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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am Svc, 2014-11-23

Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12

In last Sunday’s sermon we learned about the signs of the Lord’s coming. We saw that one reason why we need to know these signs is that it keeps us from being deceived. Christians in Thessalonica had been deceived into thinking that the Day of Christ had already come. This deception made them utterly confused because it was so different from the teaching that Paul had given to them. His teaching was that they would not have to face the Day of Christ when God’s wrath is poured out on the world. But now they were deceived into thinking that they were already facing this awful wrath. Paul therefore wrote this epistle to expose the deception. He reminded the Thessalonians of certain signs that will precede the Day of Christ. And so we see that the way that Paul dealt with deception was to uphold the truth.

This is what we need to do today – we need to uphold the truth. The world we live in is increasingly filled with deception. We live in an age where information technology is able to instantly feed minds that are hungering and searching for the truth. But people are being deceived by many different viewpoints, teachings and theories which claim to be the truth. And the consequences of all this deception have been quite tragic.

Six years ago, a 22-year old college student in New York named Jesse Kilgore committed suicide after reading a book entitled, “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. This young student had been brought up in a Christian home and when he attended a biology class he disagreed with a professor who taught evolution. So the professor assigned him to read the book, “The God Delusion” and it really undermined his faith. Before he died Jesse told one of his friends that he had lost all hope because he was convinced that God does not exist, and this book was the cause. What terrible consequences there are when people are deceived. We need to uphold the truth that God not only exists, but that He has revealed Himself through His Word and through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Another truth that needs to be upheld is the truth that marriage was instituted by God as a union of a man and a woman, not a union of two men or of two women. Within the last 14 years, 17 countries have legalised same-sex marriage and many more will do so in the years to come as the gay movement is determined to spread its perverse deception. Through their arguments many have been deceived into thinking that the Bible’s view of marriage is antiquated and irrelevant, or that God’s Word does not condemn same-sex relationships. And now this deception is proceeding even further, seeking to convince the world that all gender distinctions between male and female are a social construct that must be rejected.

What I have just described is only a small sampling of the increasing deception in the world today, and it will increase even more. 2 Timothy 3:13 tells us, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” The greatest of all deceptions will come in the End-times. This is what we will see now as we study our text of Scripture, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12. Here in this passage Paul describes the deception that will happen in the End-times when the Antichrist is revealed. It will be an extremely dangerous deception, one that is perpetrated on a massive scale. Its extreme danger will arise from three characteristics of this deception: 

1.  Its Supernatural but Satanic Origin 

This is seen in verses 9-10 –  “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish…” The Antichrist will be able to perform all kinds of astounding miracles. He will give many mighty displays of his power. For example, in a vision about the Antichrist, John saw,  “…one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.” (Revelation 13:3) Many understand this to be a miracle of resurrection from the dead, because nothing less than this will amaze the entire world. 

But what will be completely hidden from the world is the source of his miracle-working power. It will be very obvious to all that this man isn’t an illusionist performing magic tricks. He truly has supernatural power. But no one will know that the real power behind all his miracles is “the working of Satan.” 

Here it must be pointed out that while Satan has supernatural power, he is not all-powerful like God. He is only a created being and a fallen angel, and so there are definite limits to what he can do. From what we know about Satan in the Scriptures, he is able to afflict a person’s body with painful sores (Job 2:7), he is able to influence people to commit sin (Mark 1:13), he is able to make their minds blind to the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4), and he is able to enter into those who allow him to take over control of their bodies (Luke 22:3). His powers are limited.

But there are three things Satan has which enable him to give people an illusion of unlimited power – his invisibility which enables him to do all his work undetected, his ingenuity which enables him to devise the most deceitful schemes, and his network of fallen angels which enables him to extend his reach all over the world. Ephesians 6:12 provides a glimpse of the organisation of Satan’s forces – “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” 

This means that the miracles of the Antichrist will not be the same kind of miracles which God does. Only God can do great wonders by the power of His word (Psalm 136:4). All that the Antichrist can do is to mimic the same effect as God’s miracles. By the working of Satan’s limited capabilities, he makes deceitful imitations of God’s miracles. This is one reason why his miracles are called ‘lying wonders’ in v.9. They deceive people into believing that they are from God, when they are actually not from Him at all. 

The sad thing is that many are being deceived by lying wonders. There are false apostles in the world today who claim to have divine power to perform miracles of healing, and thousands of people attend their meetings believing that God is working through them. Six years ago there was a series of revival meetings at Lakeland in Florida. For 6 months the meetings were packed every day with people coming from all over the world to witness what they thought was an outpouring of the Spirit through a new apostle named Todd Bentley. The claims of his miracles were staggering: People were supposedly healed of cancer, deafness, diabetes and paralysis. By the end of the Lakeland revival, dozens of people had supposedly been raised from the dead. 

Not long after that, Bentley was exposed. He divorced his wife after having a scandalous affair with a woman in his team. The pastors who tried to discipline him found that he was a pathological liar. It was revealed that Bentley had been teaching heresy during the revival meetings, and that he and his staff had gone out after each night’s meeting to indulge the flesh and get drunk. It was also revealed that none of his miracles actually took place, and many people eventually died of the ailments they were supposedly cured of. It was all a huge deception – one that deceived over 400,000 people! 

Let this be a warning to all of us: Don’t be deceived by anyone who claims to perform great miracles! Miraculous manifestations are never the test of a true revival. The sad thing is that in the End times many will be deceived by the Antichrist because they use his miracles as the test to prove that what he says is true. This brings us now to the purpose of the Antichrist, which is to promote falsehood. His displays of power, signs and lying wonders are designed to make people believe a lie.

And this lie will enable him to propagate unrighteousness and sin. This will worsen the great falling away which was mentioned in v.3. The massive rebellion of apostate men will increase, perpetrated by all who are under his spell. They will do whatever the Antichrist says, even if it is clearly sinful, immoral and wicked – all because of his skilful deception which is aided by the working of Satan. 

We must therefore be very watchful against deception. The watchword for all who live in the End times is: Don’t be deceived! You must regard deception the same way you would regard cancer. Do you know how cancer is able to grow inside the body? It works by deception. The body normally rejects anything abnormal. But scientists have found that cancer cells carry certain molecules on their surface which deceive the body into thinking they are perfectly normal cells. And this deception enables them to propagate themselves in the body and to eventually destroy the whole body. 

In recent times we have heard of how people all over the world are being radicalised by certain websites to become IS militant extremists. Without knowing it, young men are being deceived into thinking that God wants them to disobey their country’s government, travel to Syria and take up arms to kill, torture, persecute and destroy. Young women are being deceived into thinking that God wants them to offer their bodies to satisfy the sexual lusts of the militant extremists. This is perhaps a preview of what will happen on a much larger scale when the whole world is radicalised by the end-time deception of the Antichrist. We go on now to consider the next characteristic of this end-time deception.

 

2. Its Substitution of Truth with Untruth 

This is not new. Satan has been doing this from the very beginning. When God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden He gave this commandment: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16,17). But Satan said to Eve,  “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4,5) Here we can see that the truth that God must be obeyed was substituted with the blasphemous lie that God is fearful - fearful that man may attain godhood. 

This conflict developed in history. When Satan was told to consider Job’s uprightness, he replied to God, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 1:9-11) Here, the truth of Job’s selfless devotion to God was substituted with the lie of Job’s selfish dealing with God. 

This substitution of truth with untruth can be seen in many of Satan’s attempts to oppose God and deceive men. E.g. true prophets with false prophets, true worship with false worship, true religion with false religion, true churches with false churches… the list goes on. An undiscerning heart will easily accept the false instead of the true. 

We can expect to see much more of this in the End times. Jesus already warned His disciples, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many… 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.”(Matthew 24:4,5,24) This will eventually lead to the ultimate deception of Satan – which is to substitute the true coming of Christ to reign over the world with a false one. 

We see this in v.9 of our text – “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders…” The word ‘coming’ in this verse is the same Greek word (parousia) that is used in the preceding verse for the second coming of Christ: “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” The words ‘power’, ‘signs’ and ‘wonders’ in v.9 are the same words used in the Bible for Christ’s miracles. Acts 2:22– “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles [literally: powers] and wonders and signs…” The use of the same terms for Christ’s coming and miracles for the Antichrist’s coming and works in v.9 reveal that the Antichrist is actually Satan’s substitute for Christ. 

And the correspondence also extends to Christ’s gospel. The Gospel is mentioned in verse 10 as “…the truth, that they might be saved.” The Truth mentioned here is none other than the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Christ Himself has said,“I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6). This Truth looks forward to the time when Christ will be worshipped as God in the millennial Temple, the time when He will rule this world as the King of kings in righteousness, holiness and peace on God’s terms, not man’s. 

The Antichrist will substitute this Truth with the Lie that he is the saviour of the world. He will deny that Jesus is the Messiah, the Saviour of the world (1 John 2:22). He will claim to be the real Messiah that the world has been waiting for, and he will demand to be worshipped as God in the Temple, as seen in v.4 – “…so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” The world is looking for a saviour who will solve all its problems (e.g. climate change, security and infectious diseases) and usher in an age of peace, prosperity, power and pleasure for everyone – but all based on man’s terms, not God’s. The Antichrist will probably promise to give all these things and more. That is his counterfeit gospel. 

Even now, we can already see a semblance of this counterfeit gospel in the health-wealth prosperity Gospel that is being promoted right now in many mega churches. We can see how attractive it is because it is appeals to man’s selfish desires for abundant material wealth and for perfect health. It promises to fulfil one’s dreams and aspirations for self-promotion and self-fulfilment: “You can be everything you want to be, and you can have everything you want to have.” But let me ask you: How different is this from the deceitful promise that Satan made in the Garden of Eden – “…and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)? And how different is this from the false accusation that Satan made against Job: “Doth Job fear God for naught?” (Job 1:9) I trust that you can see for yourself now how pervasive the substitution of truth with untruth has now become. 

What should we do then? We must learn to be more discerning as we live in the End times. A discerning heart will not be easily deceived. As Paul had told the Thessalonians in his first epistle – “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) Every teaching and movement must first be proved or tested before it can be accepted. And the test of truth is not its miracles, signs, wonders, size or popularity, but its faithfulness to the Word of God! If this is not the test of truth we use, then we are likely to suffer the subversive impact of the End-time deception.

 

3. Its Subversive Impact on Sinners 

This is the third and final characteristic of this End time deception that is mentioned in our text. Please look at v.10 –  “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” I want to focus our attention on the words, “because they received not the love of the truth” as this gives us the first reason why people will be deceived by the Antichrist. It is not because of their ignorance. They will know the truth which is the Gospel of Christ. 

How will they know it? One of the signs of the End-times is the world-wide proclamation of the Gospel. This is mentioned in Matthew 24:14– “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” This prophecy is being fulfilled through the efforts of God’s people in missions and evangelism. And now with easy access to on-line information the truth of the Gospel will probably be known soon by people of all nations. 

And besides this ongoing witness, God will send two witnesses to proclaim the truth in the End times. This is mentioned in Revelation 11:3– “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” These two witnesses will attract the entire world’s attention because they will preach God’s truth boldly and will perform mighty miracles with God’s power – like those of Moses and Elijah. All this will probably be given live coverage by the media and will be watched by everyone because of the astounding power and boldness of these two witnesses. But their ministry will not bring world-wide revival. After 3½ years the Antichrist will kill them and their dead bodies will be exhibited for all the world to see (Rev 11:9). And the sad part is that the vast majority of people will be rejoicing over their deaths. This shows that though God’s truth will be heard and known by all men, few will obey it. Why? The answer is given in the words of v.10 of our text – “because they received not the love of the truth.” 

One can know God’s truth and not be saved. One can even say, “I believe the truth about God” and still not be saved. James 2:19 tells us, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Saving faith is not just a matter of accepting God’s Word to be a true and factual account. Saving faith is a matter of loving the truth. This means believing in Jesus with your heart, and not just with your mind alone. 

And saving faith will not only produce a love for the truth, it will also produce a hatred for sin. This brings us to the other reason given in our text to explain why people will be deceived by the Antichrist. It is mentioned in v.12– “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This phrase, “but had pleasure in unrighteousness” reveals the sinful heart of man. If not for God’s grace we who are now saved would have remained in this condition – we would be loving sin and deriving pleasure in unrighteousness. John 3:19 tells us–“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” 

The choice between light and darkness is the same as the choice between loving the truth and having pleasure in unrighteousness. If you are not saved yet, I must urge you now not to delay obeying God’s call to love the truth. This is because of what will come to all who wilfully choose not to love the truth in the End-times, as mentioned in v.11– “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” 

The lie mentioned here is the specific Lie that the Antichrist is the Saviour of the world, the lie that He is worthy of worship as God, the lie that will be well-supported by his powerful miracles, signs and wonders as we had seen earlier. This verse states that many will believe this lie as a result of a strong delusion from God. And this strong delusion is the awful price they will pay for refusing to love the truth which they receive. Let us understand this very carefully so that we will not misunderstand what is being taught here. 

Firstly, we must understand that God is always just and fair in all that He does. If God sends strong delusion to anyone, it is not because He delights in seeing them perish in their sins. It is only because they fully deserve it. He had already shown them much grace by sending the truth to them through His witnesses. Since they despised His truth, the demands of justice must now be met. 

Secondly, we must understand that God never leads anyone into false belief. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man, that he should lie.” He is a God of truth, and truth characterises everything that He does. Actually the phrase “God shall send them strong delusion” in v.11 is more literally translated, “God shall send them a working of straying.”  The idea is that God withdraws His grace which had enabled them to distinguish truth from error. This leaves them free to wander astray and makes them very susceptible to the Antichrist’s deception. When we understand this correctly, we will see that those who refuse to love the truth are reaping what they have sown. Since they wilfully despised God’s grace in sending the truth to them, it is only right that God withdraw from them His grace of being able to distinguish truth from error. 

Now that we understand what v.11 teaches, let us get to the point that needs to be impressed on our hearts today. This strong delusion will come to all who wilfully choose not to love the truth when the Antichrist comes, and that may be soon. This means that if you have not responded to the Gospel yet, please do not wait any longer to respond with faith in Jesus Christ because when the Antichrist comes, it will be too late for you. His deception will have a subversive impact on all unbelievers. Just like a strong magnet it will draw them all into his web of sin and deceit. 

And because you refuse to love the truth of God, God withdraws His grace from you, and you will certainly be deceived into believing all the false claims of the Antichrist. Then what is written in v.12 will be true of you– you will be damned for not believing the truth! It will be a most horrible thing to be damned, as it means that you will share the same fate as the Antichrist. When Christ comes with all His saints in His second coming, you will be consumed with the spirit of His mouth and destroyed with the brightness of His coming. And that’s not all – after that your soul will spend eternity in the endless torments of hell. 

Please don’t say, “Pastor, I will wait and see if the Antichrist comes as you said, and if he really comes I will make sure that I will love the truth then.” This is like saying, “I will wait until the boat starts to sink before I go and look for a life jacket.” Remember the students who died in the Korean ferry disaster because they waited too long to escape. By the time they tried to get out it was too late. Who knows how much time you have left before the day of God’s grace ends and the door shuts on you. 

Let us not be complacent. The End is Near! The question for all who are still unsaved is: Will you be delivered by Christ or will you be deceived by the Antichrist? Your only hope is to receive the love of God’s Truth now! (v.10) And if you truly love God’s Truth, then you must make every effort now to tell others about it, warning them about the end-time deception, and the wrath of God that will be poured out on the world. May the Lord use what we have heard in these series of messages on the End times to stir up a renewed passion in us to serve Him now.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25