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Bible verses about Deception
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Satan, in a fanciful vignette, summoned three demons before him and gave them a project. "You are to go throughout the earth," he commanded, "and I want you to deceive as many people as you possibly can, causing them to be lost. But before you go, I want to hear how you plan to deceive them."

The first demon stepped forward and said, "I am going to tell all these people that there is no God." Satan shook his head, saying, "That would work on a few people, but most wouldn't buy it. There is too much evidence that a Creator God exists. I reject your plan because it wouldn't deceive many people."

The second demon came before him and said confidently, "I will teach everybody that there is no hell." Satan just laughed. "People know better than that! They know there is a place where unrepentant sinners will burn, never to live again. Your plan would never work either. It may deceive a few people, but eventually they would catch on to you."

The third demon rose and said, "I will tell them that there is no need to hurry." Satan said, "Go! You'll deceive everybody!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

From the Bible's point of view, a heresy is a lie. No matter how attractively it may be wrapped or how appealing it may be to our vanity, it is a deviation from the truth of God that promotes or actually produces schism—division—in the church.

Lies and division within the church make it very easy to identify the real source of heresy. In John 8:44, Jesus says of the Devil, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." John adds in Revelation 12:9, "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world."

Satan introduced heresy into human life through Adam and Eve when he induced them to sin by telling them, "You will not surely die" (Genesis 3:4). They believed this perversion of God's truth, and upon sinning, the destructive course began. By being cast from the Garden of Eden, they were almost immediately separated from God. They did not live and prosper as Satan's cruel perversion led them to believe. Instead, the Devil exploited them through their innocence and desires, and through sin they became his slaves. Hundreds of years later, they died just as God said they would.

The Devil's attempts to deceive through false teaching have never stopped. Jesus warned in Mark 13:22 that, as we approach the end, it will be especially intensive; "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." He warns that, if it is possible for us to be deceived, we will be deceived by false doctrines.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

Deceitful means insincere, hypocritical, underhanded, false, dishonest, treacherous, sneaking, double-dealing, tricky, cunning, and crafty. Such a person is altogether untrustworthy. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, our heart is desperately sick or weak, implying it knows better but deceives anyway. Who can fathom its corruption, manifested in the incessant transgression of this commandment?

Human nature is a reflection of the spirit of the prince of the power of the air, whom Jesus identified as the father or generator of lies (John 8:44). Satan had so deceived himself, he thought he could overcome his Creator! Proverbs 11:9 says, "The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered." Satan is a destroyer who passes this carnal attribute along to those who will follow him. Unless the hypocrite repents, he destroys himself too. This is also the lesson of Proverbs 26:26-28. God will deliver the just person, however, because he yields to truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

Dishonesty is not confined to religion by any means. This whole world is based on a lie! Satan said to Mother Eve, "You will not surely die" (Genesis 3:4), and humanity has been deceiving and being deceived ever since!

Many of us in God's church, trying to live by the commandments, are simply unaware of the extent of dishonesty in our society. Recent research, however, shows that the average person tells a lie every eight minutes! That is seven lies per hour, 112 per 16-hour day, and 40,880 per year! At that rate, the average individual would lie over 2.8 million times over a seventy-year lifetime. Does mankind follow the way of "the father of lies" or not?

In its typical fashion, Hollywood recently made a mockery out of this scourge of society in the comedy Liar, Liar. In the film, a young boy wishes his father, a lawyer, had to tell the truth for one whole day, and his wish is granted. The rest of the story shows how frequently people resort to deceptions to smooth their road through life. For most, as the movie portrays, lying has become a matter of habit and an accepted practice.

In many areas, lying has become an art form. We can see this clearly in the financial world where numbers and statistics are manipulated with Machiavellian flair. We tend to trust numbers because we think, "Aren't they rational and quantifiable? Numbers don't lie." But they do, and in the hands of talented people, they can do tremendous harm.

One example of this occurs in the U.S. government's employment statistics. The President will take credit for a huge reduction of unemployed workers by saying jobless claims decreased by so many percent. The truth is that these numbers fail to distinguish what kind of jobs these people are taking. How many of these people were laid off from full-time, well-paying management positions, yet took minimum-wage jobs at the local fast food restaurant? Thus, the economy looks rosy, but in reality, personal income is falling. The government does similar things with other statistical reports, such as inflation, consumer spending, and foreign trade.

The medical and pharmaceutical professions do likewise. The American Cancer Society claims that a woman's risk of breast cancer is one in nine. In fact, there are many differing claims, most of them lower, including that a woman under 50 has a one-in-1,000 chance of suffering breast cancer. The truth is, writes Cynthia Crossen in her book Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact in America,

the risk of breast cancer rises as a woman ages, so one in nine is the cumulative probability starting the day a girl is born and ending at an age so advanced—somewhere between 85 and 110, depending on whose figures you believe—that she'll probably already be dead of something else.

Of course, deceit begins at home. A national survey, conducted in 1984 for the IRS, reports that half of Americans have a "flexible" standard of honesty. For instance, they believe it acceptable to cheat large stores and insurance companies. They rationalize that since these big businesses make so much money—and are probably gouging the consumer anyway in prices and premiums—that they deserve a little back.

It does not end there. Sixty-three percent of the students at one Midwestern university admit they have cheated on exams. This not only includes peeking at the student's paper in the next row, but also buying stolen test keys and/or term papers.

The American Insurance Association estimates that one-fifth of insurance claims are fraudulent, most commonly in the form of the "disappearing deductible," where insureds raise the claim amount to cover their costs. The insurance company, in turn, raises its premiums to cover its losses due to fraud. Everyone loses.

In 1985 long-distance telephone companies reported losing 9% of their revenues to "fraudulent service switching," the practice of running up huge bills with one company and, without paying, jumping to another without fear of having their service disconnected. Now many companies require a 90-day agreement before switching service.

Not only are all these and many more examples of deceit and fraud costly to the nation's economy, they are also damaging to our moral and ethical foundations. Economies can rebound, but character at some point becomes set, and repentance becomes more difficult. With such an atmosphere of deception, our children grow up thinking such things are acceptable and even necessary for success. Trust in one another declines, and soon trust in God suffers greatly. This kind of environment breeds discontent, distrust, rebellion, and apostasy.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Deceptions of the End Time


 

Genesis 3:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The marginal reference for subtle is "cunning." "Cunning" is almost always used in a negative sense. Someone who is cunning is skilled in ingenuity or deceit, selfishly clever, crafty. "Cunning" describes those who use their smarts, intelligence, wits to get the best of the other fellow by using whatever deceitful, underhanded means available so they "win."

In the Bible, serpents are depicted as a paradoxical combination of wisdom and evil—beautiful yet repulsive. They have a fluid grace if viewed from a safe distance, but they are to be feared because they strike from hiding places and strike without warning. A serpent symbolizes craftiness that mesmerizes its victims. The contrast with a lamb, a symbol of Jesus Christ, is stunning.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast


 

Exodus 20:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To make a bad witness through ignorance or weakness is one thing, but to know better and deliberately mislead surely compounds the transgression! Why do we lie? We lie to cover up; we fear that something we wish to hide will be exposed. We also lie to rise above our feelings of inadequacy or inferiority or to lower a third party in the eyes of others. This latter reason tends to elevate ourselves in our own eyes and, we hope, in the eyes of others.

Consider the use of cosmetics in this regard. Makeup is frequently used to hide, to cover up what we consider to be inadequacies of beauty. But by whose standard are we inadequate? Are we really being a true witness of ourselves?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

Numbers 22:7-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The princes come to Balaam and tell him what Balak has asked. Then, when Balaam goes to God, he leaves out some of what the princes said. After God gives His answer, Balaam reports back to the princes, this time leaving out some of what God said. Finally, when the men return to Balak, all they say is, "He is not coming."

So, we can see a great deal of deception going on, in which each party tries to slant the conversations to its advantage. The princes certainly do not want Balak angry at them because they failed in their mission, and Balaam did not want to tell the princes all that God had said to him because he wants them to come back with more money.

We cannot take this story at face value. This is what Balaam did for a living; this is how he made his money. He was a sorcerer for hire—for pay—and he is negotiating here. We have just read a sorcerer's negotiation for his hire.

The first thing Balaam did wrong (from our perspective) he did immediately: The princes waltz into his courtyard, saying, "Balak wants you to come and curse Israel for him." Balaam replies, "Oh. Let me think about that. In the meantime, why don't you stay the night? Here, I'll put you up and feed you." He probably entertained them—perhaps he performed parlor tricks for them. But, in such a situation, what should a Christian have done? What should just a good person have done? He should have said, "Go back to your master!" and not even listened to them.

The apostle John tells us what to do should anyone come to our house and wants us to do evil, to go against the Lord God:

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (II John 10-11)

Immediately, then, Balaam becomes complicit in the sins of Balak. He should have said, "No. I'm taking my shingle down. I will not curse Israel." But instead he says, "Why don't you stay the night? I'll see if God gives me guidance in this matter."

It is probable that he did not expect God to say a word to him. His words were merely a ploy to get the princes interested and drag the negotiation out. He was putting on his diviner's hat and doing a little acting here. "Oh, I can't make this decision on my own! I must consult the gods. Stay here overnight, and in the morning I will tell you if God has come to me in a dream or a vision to tell me what I can do!"

He was playing the charlatan with them because most of the time, a demon did not come to him and say, "Okay, go ahead and do this," or "Don't do that." Balaam probably manufactured most of his "visitations." However, if a demon did communicate with him and was behind his sorcery, it makes Balaam even more evil. At the very least, he was giving the princes his pitch.

God surprises him by actually answering him! He starts off by asking him, "Who are these men with you?" making the man explain himself, which Balaam does. Then, incredibly, Balaam makes his pitch to God! "God, let me curse them!" God responds emphatically, "No! No! No! You shall not go with them. You shall not curse them. I have blessed them."

In the morning, Balaam tells Balak's princes, "Go back to your land. The Lord refused to give me permission."

We can give Balaam credit for this: He actually does what God told him and sent them away with their diviner's fee in their hands. He made no money. However, we can read into this that he did it, not because of the fear of God, but because of the thought that, "Hey, maybe this will help the negotiations if I send them away, because they might come back, and bring a bigger bag of gold with them to try and convince me. If I play hard to get, and they really want me, I could make a killing."

We need to remember that all the authors who mention Balaam after this write about him being greedy for profit at Israel's expense. We must include this fact in our understanding of what was happening here. God obviously inspired it to be written several times in His Word that this was how Balaam worked. He was avariciously negotiating a higher fee.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 11:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 16 gives us a clue in preventing deception. God says, "Take heed to yourselves." What does this tell us? This means pay attention! Take care. Guard yourself. Watch out. We cannot just skip our way into the Kingdom of God. It will take a great deal of effort.

Does not Christ tell us to "watch and pray always" (Luke 21:36)? But He does not say to watch just world events. One of the things that we have to watch most closely is ourselves.

"Take heed to yourselves"—what we are allowing yourself to do; what we are getting involved in; who our friends are, how much time we are spending on this, that, and the other thing. How close is our relationship with God? That is what we must watch and take heed of.

God wants us to jealously protect our spiritual growth. Once we develop a trait of godly character, we should never give it up! Guard that eternal life that has been built within us—by God's grace and our yieldedness.

Most of the time, people become deceived because they are not watching what is going on. They are in "la-la land." Something intrudes into their lives, and they follow it because they have no strength to resist. They have not been watching themselves.

God's way requires constant vigilance. "Watch and pray always," Jesus says. Our guard has to be up against deception all the time. We have to have our antennas out, making sure that what we hear is true. Thus, if we become deceived, whose fault is it? Is it God's or ours? God says, "Take heed to yourself." He has shown us the way to live. He has revealed it to us. He has left nothing hidden that we need to know. So whose fault is it, if we get tripped up? We are not going to be able to accuse God of it. So who is left? We are.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

Job 31:33  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Job makes an interesting statement in defense of himself after his friends accuse him of being a hypocrite. He asks his friends for evidence that he has hidden the truth of his sins from himself.

It is a relevant question because it is natural to be blind to our own flaws while clearly seeing those of others. Sir Walter Scott put it this way, "O what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive." The tangled web hangs not only outside a deceiver but within him as well, and his own lies trap him so often that he begins to believe them. He tells them so often or lives them so smoothly that he loses his grip on reality like a drug addict in denial.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

Job 31:33  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Job makes this statement because he has been accused of being a hypocrite, so he is defending his integrity. "Adam" represents mankind in general. Unlike mankind in general—though it is the natural thing to do—Job does not hide himself from the deceit of his heart, showing both his conversion and his wisdom. Sir Walter Scott wrote, "Oh what tangled webs we weave/ When first we practice to deceive." Job understood that either lying with the tongue or presenting a visible hypocrisy creates problems, not solve them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Psalm 119:105  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's Word is a lamp, a light that illuminates the darkness. If a person walks through the woods at night, he is well served to have a flashlight with him to shine it on the ground in front of him so that his feet do not trip over a snag in the path, or his shins do not encounter a boulder or fallen log. That is what light does: It illuminates or reveals.

God's Word illuminates the path of our lives. If we keep God's Word shining along the way, then we will be far less likely to trip. We will not be easily deceived. Because we are following the light, we will see what the light reveals in the path ahead of us. It is only when we turn the light off (before we have actually arrived at our destination) that something could spring up in the dark and trip us. Therefore, if we keep the light of God's truth shining brightly ahead of us, then we have a greater chance of avoiding deception.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

Proverbs 26:18-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These two verses begin a section largely devoted to illustrating the fruits of lying. They might be better translated as, "A man who deceives his neighbor and disguises his deception as a joke is as dangerous as a madman shooting arrows at a crowd. Someone will surely get hurt." Lying is never a joke, and someone always gets hurt, even though it may not be immediately apparent. Lying is sin and sin brings death. Do we believe this in the actual practice of life? Though the lie, when discovered, may cause laughter, a reputation has been stained and trust diminishes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Proverbs 26:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Lying lips create a false sense of security and cunningly hide the reality of a deception that will bring loss and pain. Though his voice sounds gracious, the liar is full of countless wickedness. He is particularly wicked by selling himself as a benefactor while intending to do evil. This is the kind of heart involved in financial scams that promise large profits in return for small investment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Isaiah 29:13-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hypocrisy is an oft-repeated indictment against Americans as a people. "In God we trust" and "One nation under God," we boast. But taken as a nation, neither is true. By the thousands, citizens swear on Bibles daily in the courts, but our courts are a mockery of justice. Americans attend church on Sunday, but it is business as usual Monday through Saturday.

We grew up in this, and it has conditioned our approach to life. In these verses in Isaiah, God accuses His people of playing games with His truth by not facing up to its standards. Jesus quotes verse 13 in Matthew 15:8-9, and in both cases the context is strikingly similar: Deceived or hypocritical people mishandle the revelation of God. The major problem, though, is that it remains unchecked, and eventually, the deception or hypocrisy becomes set as the way of life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

Isaiah 29:13-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This charge against Israel is to a people so insensitive to God and truth that they are blind to dishonesty's destructive power. On the national scene, we parade slogans such as "In God We Trust" and "One Nation Under God." Daily in the courts, citizens by the thousands swear on Bibles and then proceed to lie on the witness stand. Millions attend church on Sunday but then conduct business Monday through Saturday in the normal, self-centered, "let's get as much as we can" fashion.

We Americans grew up in this twisted environment and perhaps never really questioned it—we merely accepted it as normal. To some degree, it has conditioned our approach to life. In Isaiah 29, God accuses His people of hypocritically playing games with His truth and of not facing up to its standards in daily life. Jesus quotes verse 13 in Matthew 15:8, charging the scribes and Pharisees with being hypocrites. In both cases, the context is strikingly similar. In both, deceived and hypocritical people mishandle God's revelation. However, after a period of persistent practice, the deception or hypocrisy establishes itself as the way of life!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment


 

Jeremiah 17:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Human nature will try to reassert its dominance in a converted person's life. The word that is translated from Hebrew into the English word "deceitful" means "tortuous, twisted, convoluted." That is the way human nature is—tortuous, twisted, and convoluted in its thinking and reasoning. He is referring to the kind of justifications or rationalizations that it will make to convince a person that it is okay to sin, not to pay attention to the law of God, to say to the self, "It really does not matter. I am only one person."

Note this frank quote from Aldus Huxley, which appears in his book Ends And Means (p. 270):

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find gratifying reasons for this assumption.

Convoluted, tortuous, twisted. Looking for rationalizations and justifications. Continuing on page 273:

Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don't know because we don't want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon what subjects we shall use our intelligence. . . . Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because for one reason or another it suits their books that the world should be meaningless. . . . We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.

This is how human nature works—the heart twists the truth of God and deceives itself into thinking that, "Well, let us make the assumption that the world and life have no meaning, therefore we can do what we want to do." This is from a highly intelligent human being.

We know that for us to acknowledge and yield to truth will be personally costly, and we often do not want to pay the price, so we allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking it really does not matter if we yield to the wrong thing this time. We will fight the battle the next time it comes up.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 17:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse is among the best known of all verses in the Bible. Though we know the words, could we perhaps not grasp some of the depth of what Jeremiah is trying to convey, particularly its practical, everyday application?

It is interesting that the Hebrew word translated "deceitful" (Strong's #6121) comes from exactly the same root as the name "Jacob" (which gives a bit of insight into the mindset of that famous Bible character in his pre-conversion days - God has a habit of naming things what they are). This word is used only three times in the Old Testament. It indicates "a swelling," "a humping up," and thus a knoll or small hill.

When used in relation to traits of human personality, it describes an inflated, prideful vanity, a characteristic that is distastefully useless, corrupting, and intensely self-serving. According to Strong's, it also indicates something fraudulent or crooked. In other words, it suggests an intentional perversion of truth intended to induce another to surrender or give up something of value. What Jacob twice did to Esau gives a good idea of its practical meaning.

Today, we might say our heart is always attempting to "con" us into something that is not good for us in any way. Its inducements may indeed appear attractive on the surface, but further examination would reveal that its appeals are fraudulent and risky. In fact, its appeals are not only downright dangerous, it is incurably set in this way.

In Jeremiah 17:9, the Hebrew word is translated "deceitful," but in the other two usages, it is translated "corrupted" and "polluted." This word should give us a clear indication of what God thinks of this mind that is generating our slippery, self-serving conduct and attitudes. In His judgment, it is foul in every sense, to be considered as belonging in a moral sewer or septic tank.

The King James translators chose to use "deceitful," and since it is a good synonym, just about every modern translation has followed its lead. Deceit is a cognate of deceive, which means "to mislead," "to cheat," "to give a false appearance or impression," "to lead astray," "to impose a false idea," and finally, "to obscure the truth." "Deceitful" thus indicates the heart to be brim-full of these horrible activities.

The term "desperately" (Strong's #605) also needs definition. It indicates something so weak, feeble, and frail as to be at the point of death. Thus, most modern translations, including the KJV margin, have opted for "incurable." Elsewhere, God calls it "a heart of stone," as if rigor mortis has already set in despite it still being alive. In other words, nothing can be done about it, as it is set in a pattern of influence that cannot be changed for the better. God promises, then, that He will give those He calls a new heart, a heart of flesh, one that will yield to Him and His way of life.

It is good to understand all these descriptors, but they only give us what amounts to book-learning on this vital topic. It is what its problems are in everday, practical situations that makes God so dead set against it that He declares it "incurable." It cannot be fixed to His satisfaction and is therefore unacceptable for His Family Kingdom.

We can understand why from this brief illustration: What are the two great commandments of the law? First: We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38). In other words, we are to love Him above all other things. We are to respond to God's wonderful, generous love toward us with a love that employs all of our faculties to match His love toward us.

Jesus says in Luke 14:26, "If any one comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Do we grasp the practical application of this? He means that we are to make whatever sacrifice is necessary, even to giving up our lives, to submit in obedience to any, even the least, of God's commands. If at any time we put ourselves on equal footing to Him, we have actually elevated ourselves over Him and have committed idolatry.

The second great commandment is to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Though not quite as stringent as the first, it still is a very high standard. Jesus says that on these two commandments everything else in our response to God hangs (verse 40). Love and law are inextricably bound together in our relationship with God.

Yet, herein lies the problem. Keeping them is impossible for man as he now is, encumbered with this deceitful heart. Our heart will not permit us to do this because it is so self-centered it absolutely cannot consistently obey either of these commandments. Thus, no character of any value to God's Kingdom can be created in one with a heart as deceitful and out of control as an unconverted person. It is incurably self-centered, self-absorbed, and narcissistic in its concerns about life's activities.

This deceit has many avenues of expression, but none is more effective than to convince us we are far better than we actually are - but far better as compared to what or whom? Our hearts have an incredible ability to hide us from the reality of what we are spiritually and morally. It does this so effectively that it can harden us to the extent that we can be blinded to any and every failing in our character! It lures us into sin, hiding its seriousness from us and making us believe it to be a rather minor affair. It convinces us that "nobody got hurt" or "everybody's doing it."

In Hebrews 3:12-13, Paul issues a warning just as applicable today as it was in the first century: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.'" Sin promises more than it can deliver. It assures us of pleasures it never imparts. Sometimes it does deliver some pleasure, but it conceals the boomerang effect that will surely come. It also obscures its addictive power, invariably leading us beyond our original limits. When we first sin a specific sin, we are under delusion, and it will lead us step by step until we are enslaved to it.

It can put on plausible appearances, even the mantle of virtue, convincing us we are doing ourselves and others a favor. Sin deludes us with hope of happiness, but what does the gambler feel when he loses his bankroll, or the drunkard after he is burdened with a death caused by his drunk driving, or the fornicator who discovers he has AIDS, or the adulterer who must live with the fact that he has destroyed a marriage and family?

Human nature will generate any number of excuses - self-justifications, really - to avoid any sacrifice, no matter how small, or to admit any guilt that might damage its self-assessment of its value. It sometimes manages to produce narcissism so strong that all activity must have it as the center of the universe, and it will work hard to make sure it controls virtually everything. Pride and self-gratification are its driving impulses.

By insisting on "tolerance" over the last several decades, human nature has deceitfully managed to produce an open-minded acceptance of what was once commonly known to be sinful behavior. It has succeeded by maintaining that no absolutes exist regarding conduct, thus one morality is just as good as another. The nation has been bulldozed into accepting this deceitful concept by cooperative media, good-looking celebrities, savvy politicians, and liberal judges.

Thus, a polite, secular paganism has overtaken our nation, and many have become convinced that the gods and ways of the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, occultists, or whatever religionists are all the same. In one way, they are correct. They all do have the same god, but it is not the God of the true Christian religion and the Bible, One who adamantly insists on purity, chastity, and integrity of life in harmony with His commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Two)


 

Daniel 11:32  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Historical evidence identifies the man referred to as "he" as Antiochus Epiphanes. Because the record of his activities against the Jews parallels many of the activities prophesied about the end-time Beast of Revelation, many believe he is a symbolic forerunner of that one to come. This verse prophesies three things of the coming Beast:

First, we normally and correctly associate the Beast with great, though evil, power. However, among other things he will also be a flatterer. He will not only be a person of great political wisdom, but he will be personally persuasive and charming. Proverbs 31:30 warns us, "Charm is deceitful"—all too frequently, it is nothing more than a social and public relations skill used for personal gain. It can be nothing more than a dishonest puffery displayed to get another's cooperation to achieve an ulterior motive. Practically, it can easily become manipulation and control by a skilled person using honeyed words. David's experience with a charming betrayer is recorded in Psalm 55:21: "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords." Politically, this activity is defined as treachery.

Second, this verse also tells us he will corrupt or seduce some of those who have made the covenant with God. At first, we might think that these are the unconverted, but that is not so. This refers to the last phrase of verse 30, where the Beast "shows regard for those who forsake the holy covenant." These are people who apostatize. A person cannot forsake an agreement he has never made. Some of the converted will be seduced by manipulative flatteries and corrupted into cooperation. At the end time, that means some of us! Reader's Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary lists some of the definitions of corrupt: "to pervert the fidelity or integrity of as by bribing; to destroy morally; pervert, ruin, change from the original, debase, contaminate."

Putting these two factors together, we ought to imagine God waving a yellow caution flag before us, revealing an area of danger that we should mark well. It is highly unlikely that any of us will move in the same political, social, and military circles as the Beast. Thus, his personal charm or flatteries will not be used to deceive us in an intimate, personal circumstance. Therefore, his political wisdom and flatteries will be exhibited in his public policies. We must never forget that this man will be of the world and as unconverted as a man can be.

Therefore the political strategies he will use will essentially be appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17). He will appeal to us to abandon our faith and give our cooperation, trust, and loyalty to him by submitting to political programs and public policies that offer us physical well-being, peace, and safety under his umbrella. It will seem advantageous for us, at least on a short-term basis, to support his programs. He will make glowing promises of preferment, reward, and peace. But never forget, when seduction and subversion through flatteries fail, the reign of terror by persecution begins.

Third and finally, the verse prophesies that those who know their God shall be strong, or stand firm, and do exploits. God inserts this to show us how not to be deceived by flatteries. Jesus says in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Knowing God is the key to seeing through and rejecting the seductive flatteries of the Beast because it is the foundation of faith. We know God gives truths that are eternal.

The Beast will deceive through a combination of outright lies, partial truths, and temporary truths. The people who see through his devious words will do so because they know and believe God and His truth. They will therefore be strong in giving glory to Him. These people will prefer to risk their lives rather than betray God's honor. By believing God, they will be prepared for the Beast's onslaught, and this will give them strength because it produces firm resolve and sense of purpose. Though these prophecies are not yet fulfilled, evidence is accumulating that they are just over the horizon, and thus something we may soon face.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Three


 

Hosea 4:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Undoubtedly, the Israelites of Hosea's day were literally getting drunk and involved in harlotry, but for us today the application is spiritual. At the end time, God predicts, His people will be deceived by a force near demoniacal in its deceptive power. Because of their closeness to the world, they will share the great harlot's attitude, "drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17:2).

Hosea's word-picture illustrates the effect a drug like alcohol has on a person's mind. Under the influence of alcohol, one's reactions slow, even though the person thinks he has better control. Most fatal accidents in the United States involve automobiles and roughly half of them occur with at least one driver under the influence. In driving while intoxicated, one's ability to make right decisions is severely hampered. Alcohol obscures judgment. When one cannot think clearly, a sound judgment is nearly impossible.

Linked to this inability to make sound judgments is the destruction of inhibitions, modesty and restraint. In addition, alcohol produces a false sense of security and confidence, so people do silly and senseless things while drunk and regret them along with their hangovers.

The same process occurs to a person drunk with the wine of the wrath of this spiritual prostitute. The attitude of this world deprives people of their spiritual judgment and removes their spiritual inhibitions. Their resistance to evil weakens, and they will begin to do things that they vowed they would never do. Like a drunken man's fidelity to his wife is destroyed by wine, so is a Christian's loyalty to God when he imbibes of this world's attitudes. His judgment is shattered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Obadiah 1:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Pride deceives one into believing and eventually doing wrongly. What does it deceive a person into believing?

In this context God quotes Edom as saying, "Who will bring me down to the ground?" Edom dwelt in the mountainous country southeast of Judea, and Petra was their stronghold. They thought their combination of military strength and impregnable position made them impossible to defeat. Yet notice what verse 4 adds: "'Though you exalt yourself as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,' says the LORD."

What had pride done? It had deceived them into believing they were secure, self-sufficient, quick-witted, intelligent, and strong enough to withstand anybody. This clearly illustrates that pride's power lies in its ability to deceive us into believing in our self-sufficiency. Even in our everyday relationships with other people, this is a serious deception, but when the deception involves our relationship with God, the level of seriousness reaches alarming proportions.

The Edomites looked at their stronghold and then at themselves and their enemies. They concluded they were stronger than all—they were impregnable! Their evaluation was in error because they left God out of the picture. Therein lies much of the problem concerning pride. Against whom do we evaluate ourselves? Pride usually chooses to evaluate the self against those considered inferior. It must do this so as not to lose its sense of worth. To preserve itself, it will search until it finds a flaw.

If it chooses to evaluate the self against a superior, its own quality diminishes because the result of the evaluation changes markedly. In such a case, pride will often drive the person to compete against—and attempt to defeat—the superior one to preserve his status (Proverbs 13:10). Pride's power is in deceit, and the ground it plows to produce evil is in faulty evaluation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Matthew 7:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God will often see to it that we are treated the same way we treat others.

Jacob was a talented young man with great ability, but he had a serious fault: As a young man, he would lie, connive, and scheme to get his own way, without a thought for other people's feelings. He deceived his father Isaac into blessing him, instead of his brother Esau, with the birthright, an incident that split the family and caused much suffering and ill will, as Genesis 27 records.

God, of course, fully intended Jacob to have the birthright and could have worked it out in a way in which nobody got hurt. But this was not the first time that Jacob had used shrewdness to get his own way. Earlier, when Esau was about to collapse from lack of nourishment, Jacob gave Esau bread, a stew of lentils, and a drink in exchange for his birthright. Jacob had a secret sin and needed to be taught a lesson. He could not look at himself and see that he had this sin. He probably looked at himself as many today in business look at themselves; he probably thought he was being clever and wise.

During the next few years, Jacob reaped what he had sowed. His employer and future father-in-law, Laban, tricked him out of his wages and the wife for whom he had labored seven years. In addition, toward the end of his life, Jacob was also deceived by the use of a dead goat, just as he had deceived his father Isaac. Jacob's sons dipped Joseph's coat of many colors in the blood of a goat to convince their father that his favorite son, whom they had sold, was dead. Jacob spent many years in grief, deceived as he had deceived others.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Matthew 7:15-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus does not spell out what "fruits" to look for, although in the Olivet Prophecy, He does link the deceptions of false prophets with the lawlessness and lack of love that abounds at the end time (Matthew 24:11-13). However, the rest of the Bible elucidates God's character and nature, so we already have the tools to evaluate whether a message allegedly coming from God fits with what His Word reveals about Him. God is not double-minded; He will not contradict Himself.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

Matthew 10:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ's mandate to us that we become "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" implies that we must develop discernment, the ability to detect motivation and the spirits that motivate. The gift of discerning the spirits will become increasingly important as we approach the end of this age because deception will be the hallmark of these extremely dangerous times.

In the Olivet Prophecy, the disciples ask Jesus to reveal the sign of His return. Jesus does not give one sign but several. At the top of the list, he warns the disciples of deception, and follows it up with warnings of false prophets, false miracles, and the warning not to be deceived (see Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-26).

We deduce from this last warning that false "Christian" ministers and ministries will have the capability of performing convincing lying wonders and signs. These false ministers will demonstrate power—occult power—for the specific purpose of leading all people astray, including the most sincere believer.

We have a clear warning from the apostle Paul that the battles we face on a daily basis cannot be won by conventional weapons that we can attain from the world. The weapons we must seek should be spiritual, having the power to destroy arguments and every false claim that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and God's Word (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

David F. Maas
The Gift of Discerning Spirits


 

Matthew 13:24-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As Jesus says, the field is the world, in which He has established His church. The church is not of the world (John 17:14), but within it, just as a farmer may designate a specific plot of his land, separated from the rest, for a particular, unique crop.

However, Satan the Devil has also been at work, sowing his own seeds within the field. Using fragments of God's truth, Satan has founded false religions and counterfeit Christianities that preach distortions of truth. Like the tare that grows masquerading as the wheat, members of these false churches may appear good, pious, and very generous. Worldly Christians may possess a seemingly good heart and act with fine intentions, but when the top layer of goodness is peeled back exposing their core, they reveal deceived hearts lacking understanding or true love.

Further, the world's churches are in constant rebellion against God, refusing to keep His commandments and rejecting the absolute authority of His words. The world's ministers even pervert the Word of God with infusions from such pagan religions as Buddhism, Hinduism, or other mystic or New Age faiths. Through syncretism and false doctrine, these churches accomplish the will of their evil father: deceit and destruction (see John 8:44).

Satan's malignant influence is not felt only within the world. He has planted his own seeds, sowing false brethren and even ministers within the very church of God. However, as Christ reveals in this parable, God permits this intrusion of well-camouflaged counterfeits. Tares in God's church will appear religious and devout, with no obvious warning-flag identifying them to unsuspecting church members.

Ted E. Bowling
Taking Care With the Tares


 

Matthew 21:28-32  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Matthew 21:28-32 contains the story of two sons, one who said he would not do the work his father asked of him, yet did, and another who promised to work, but did not.

Jesus may have taken the theme of this parable from Isaiah 5:1-7, which some commentators call "The Song of the Vineyard." God pictures Israel and Judah as a vineyard. He does all He can for them, planting, protecting, and feeding them, but instead of the vineyard producing wonderful grapes, it produces wild grapes that are good for nothing. The reason: His people will not listen to Him. They promise to obey and give the appearance of belonging to Him, but they will not really work at it. Thus, they do not produce what God expected.

Who are the characters in the Parable of the Two Sons? The father is God. The first son, who flatly refuses to work in the vineyard, represents the weak, foolish, and base of this world (see I Corinthians 1:26-27). The second son, who promises to work yet never shows up, represents hypocrites, those who appear or profess one way but act another. The work the father asks them to do corresponds to living God's way of life.

The first son, who answers, "I will not," gives a carnal answer from a carnal mind. This is the mind all of us had before God called us out of the world. His answer displays no hypocrisy because he sincerely did not want to come under God's authority. He is guilty of bold rebellion.

The second son, who says, "I go," makes a promise that he never fulfills—and possibly never intends to fulfill. His word contradicts his performance. While his father is present, he conceals his determination to disobey; he is a liar. As Jesus says in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" This son's guilt combines deception with disobedience.

In the parable both sons hear and respond verbally to their father's command, one negatively, one positively. The one who promises to obey but never follows through is just as guilty as if he had refused from the first. Though his promise to work may make him look good on the surface, his father will never accept his act of disobedience.

At this point, we have no reason to prefer one above the other; both are guilty of sin. However, their ultimate actions prove them different. After his blunt refusal, the first son repents of his sin and goes to work for his father. He sets his heart to do what his father wants. Though he promptly promises, the second son fails to perform. The first changes from bad to good, but the second does not change at all—if he makes any change, he goes from bad to worse!

Toward the end of the parable, Jesus poses the question: "Which of the two did the will of his father?" The obvious answer is he who repented and went to work. Then Jesus tells the Pharisees that the tax collectors and harlots would go in to His Kingdom before them because these blatant sinners believed and repented, while the "religious" people did not.

The warning to us is not to be a son who promises to work, then neglects to keep his word. God has called us, and we have accepted that calling, promising we would work. Now we must perform what we have promised.

We are living in the Laodicean era of God's church, and the effect of this is that many are letting down. Many are not faithfully keeping God's commandments and are neglecting His Sabbath and holy days. Church attendance is sporadic. Tithing is erratic. Too many have lost their zeal for God and His way of life, and they are veering away from the path to the Kingdom.

For many, things are going well, as they are indeed "rich and increased with goods" by this world's standards. Somehow, we equate this as God's approval, but God may well be patiently letting out rope so that we will either hang on to what God has given us or hang ourselves.

John O. Reid
Giving Your Word


 

Matthew 24:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ is saying that an increase in lying and deceit will be a hallmark of the end time. Jesus speaks particularly of religious deception, especially of those who "will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (verse 5). Most likely, He did not mean those who acclaimed themselves to be the Messiah, but those who would use Jesus' name to preach falsehood. Every "Christian" church of this world professes Christ as Savior, but do their ministers preach the truth He brought? Are many "Christians"—1.9 billion strong around the world in 1996—being deceived by a false gospel? This prophecy is fulfilled every Sunday around the world.

But it affects not only Christians. The other religions of man are no more honest than this world's Christianity. Regarding the ninth commandment, Judaism's "great" rabbis of the past have made exceptions to allow for deceit and lying. For example, they would allow a Jew to lie to Christians and other "heathens," but it was a great sin to lie to another Jew. The Talmud maintains and endorses falsehoods about Jesus, vilifying Him with names and alleging He was illegitimate.

Islam fares no better. It purports that God chose Ishmael over Isaac and the Arab peoples over the Israelites, but it uses large chunks of Israelite history to fill out its past. It claims Mohammed is a greater prophet than Jesus, and that he ascended to heaven on his horse from the site of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Its adherents believe that killing infidels will earn them a place in heaven, spawning worldwide, state-sponsored terrorism.

The many Eastern religions range from polytheism and animism to abstract, existential philosophies. None teach the truth about the great questions of life. For example, regarding life after death, Eastern religions run the gamut from nihilism to reincarnation, while none preach the Kingdom of God. Some espouse living a moral life, and others take a more epicurean stance, but none teach all of the Ten Commandments. Billions of people have been and are being deceived by these false faiths.

The latecomers to the smorgasbord of this world's religions are the New Age groups. They often blend, or syncretize, traditional beliefs with some form of mysticism, spiritism, or rank demonism. Some of these call Jesus one of the "enlightened masters" or call Him an embodiment of Lucifer or, like some of the Gnostics, believe He was "the first emanation [creation] of God." Whatever the case, such religions have deceived millions and led them farther away from the truth of God.

Jesus' instruction, however, is simple: Be vigilant not to be deceived. Through the apostle Paul, He teaches, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21). In I Timothy 6:20, he writes, "Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge."

In his next letter to Timothy, Paul expounds further:

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit [which] dwells in us. (II Timothy 1:13-14)

Once we have proved what is right and true by the faith and love of God, we must never let anyone persuade us otherwise! We have the strength to hang on to it through God's own power.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Deceptions of the End Time


 

Matthew 24:3-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is no coincidence that the first warning Jesus gives about "the sign of [His] coming and the end of the age" is, "Take heed that no one deceives you" (Matthew 24:3-4). In fact, warnings about deception are frequent throughout His Olivet Prophecy (verses 4-5, 11, 23-26, 48). The time of the end, it seems, will be one of falsehood and deceit.

In the book of Revelation, this same warning appears as the first seal, also known as the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

Now I [John] saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see." And I looked, and behold, a white horse. And he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. (Revelation 6:1-2)

Comparing Jesus' comments in Matthew 24 with these verses in Revelation 6, it becomes apparent that this horseman is not Christ proclaiming the true gospel but a counterfeit spreading the news of a false Messiah. For instance, this horseman carries a bow, but in every case, Christ is pictured with a sword (see Revelation 1:16; 19:15). Jesus interprets this horseman for us in Matthew 24:5: "For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Let No One Deceive You


 

Matthew 24:24-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Increasing deception will mark the "end time." At a certain point, these deceptions will be augmented by signs and wonders—miracles! Whether they are true miracles or not, we do not know. Satan has the ability to do certain things of that nature. Whatever they are, they will seem to give credence to the ideas of the people who are doing them. If we are not careful, even the elect—if possible—could be deceived.

This phrase "if possible" has made some people wonder, "Can the elect be deceived?" Well, it is kind of a trick question. If they are deceived, then they are not the elect! This is because the elect do something that keeps them from being deceived! It is not as if God says, "Here's this one group. I am not going to let them be deceived." That is not how it works. They are the elect because they do not allow themselves to be deceived.

So it is not possible to deceive the elect. It is not because these people have a special "safety net" around them, so that they cannot be deceived. They cannot be deceived because they will not let themselves be deceived, which is why they are the elect. They are working hard so that they will not be deceived. And that is the group that we want to be part of.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

Matthew 24:24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In each case, Christ's admonition is that we should have a healthy skepticism of miracles because miracles may produce deception. It is not that the miracle does not occur. The more important point is, does it witness to the truth? Does it witness to the ultimate reality, the will of God?

In both Jesus' instruction in the New Testament (Matthew 24:24; 7:22-23; Revelation 13:13-14) and in Moses' teaching in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 13:1-5), it is clear—regardless of the wonder done—if a person even implies that we are free to disobey God, the miracle is not a demonstration of God's truth. A miracle it was, but it does not validate God's truth.

We must be especially skeptical of those who say that they believe in keeping God's laws, and then turn right around and say that the Sabbath and holy days are no longer necessary and that "true Christians" can keep Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. But they "believe" that they are to keep God's laws! It is especially deceptive because so many of such people are really nice individuals.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a Magician?


 

John 1:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The darkness has nothing to do with the light or vice versa. They do not mix. What happens when a room is totally dark and you add light? The darkness disappears. What happens when there is a light in the room and you add darkness? The darkness again disappears! Darkness cannot stand before light. Deception cannot stand before the truth! If we have God's words, and we shine them on falsehood, the errors become glaring.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

John 1:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This does not mean that what was in the law was not true. John is merely saying that grace came and a complete telling, or revealing, of the truth was made through the Mediator—Jesus Christ our Savior. He finished it, put the capstone on it, and revealed it to us.

So whatever does not agree with the truth is false or unprofitable. Whatever is false will not lead to eternal life but to the second death—where we do not want to go! Once we see that "the light of truth" has illuminated something false, we drop it. We should get away from it as fast as we can. Do not linger over it.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

John 8:42-47  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a interesting section of scripture, one that could be expounded for hours. It contains the main point of how we prevent deception. Christ mentions it three times: 1) He says, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32); 2) "You are not able to listen to My word"; and 3) "He who is of God hears God's words." What, then, is the point? The truth, as revealed in God's Word, is the key element to preventing deception. The more and the better we know God's truth the more obvious deception becomes.

It could also be said that the more and the better we know God's truth the more we can avoid what is evil. Evil will not "live" where we live because we are living the truth. If we do the truth, then we will not have time for evil. They are opposite; they repel one another. Like oil and water, they do not mix. It is really that simple. If we know the truth, then we should be free from deception.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

Acts 5:1-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God frowns upon poor-quality offerings. In Genesis 4, Cain gives a poor-quality offering and pays the penalty. The quality of an offering does not necessarily depend on the monetary amount. The poor widow of Luke 21:1-4 will be eternally remembered for her tiny offering, whereas Ananias and Sapphira, although giving a sizable amount from the proceeds of a real estate sale, offer it in a lying attitude and become immortalized as negative examples.

The number of dollars is not important. What is important are the attitude, thought, effort, and preparation that go into our offerings. As Peter says, Ananias and Sapphira had total control over how much of the proceeds of the sale of their land went to the church. Their sin lay in misrepresenting to both God and the apostles that they were giving the entire amount. They wanted everyone to think they were sacrificing when, in truth, they were not.

Staff
Quality Holy Day Offerings


 

Acts 5:1-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can perceive a mixed bag of Ananias and Sapphira's sins involved in this tragedy. Acts 4:36-37 informs us of Barnabas' sacrificial gift for the well-being of the newly formed church. Pride and desire for acclaim motivated the couple to give a gift but without the honesty or sacrifice exhibited by Barnabas and others.

"Why has Satan filled your heart" (verse 3) is the equivalent of "Why have you dared?" They were free to give whatever percentage they set, for Peter says that the entire property sale price was under their control. Their sin lay in deceitfully alleging that the amount they gave was the whole of the sale price, when it was actually only a part. They deviously exaggerated their offering.

Some think this judgment was harsh, but Peter did not. He spoke of the sin as inspired of Satan, and the passage makes clear that both Ananias and Sapphira were fully aware of what they were doing (verses 2, 9). Conscious deceit is spiritually disastrous because trust is completely violated. They should have known better.

God interpreted their action as tempting Him, seeing how much they could get away with. Their way of reaching their goals is so opposed to the gospel that God could not allow it to go unchallenged; it would have set the whole mission of the church off course. Honesty and integrity are the standard of God's way of life. Sin is no light thing with God.

These people were living behind a deceptive façade, one similar to the idea that, if one keeps the front windows clean, it does not matter how dirty the back ones are. They allowed themselves to become tools working to destroy the family relationship of trust within the church. God forcibly reminded them and us that He will not abide that.

We must treat one another with fairness and loving kindness, or we will not be in His Family. Ananias and Sapphira are shocking reminders to us that we will not get away with deceitfully cheating or taking advantage of our brethren. God may not appear to be in the picture, but only the faithless have this blindness. The penalty will be paid—unless repented of, it is only a matter of time. Ananias and Sapphira paid quickly as a lesson to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Romans 3:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul, quoting David, writes, "There is none who seeks after God." Man is so deceived and imbued with his own system that no one knows what to look for! The Devil has so deceived the world (Revelation 12:9) that the true God is hidden. Satan is the god of this world because he is the source of its ways of life. All mankind worships and responds to him except for that small, elect group to whom God has revealed Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 10:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Interestingly, a commentator writes that "they being ignorant of" (verse 3) could be translated into "for they ignoring," which puts a different sense on Paul's thought. When one is ignorant, he just does not know. Perhaps knowledge was withheld from him. On the other hand, when one ignores knowledge, it is readily available, but he turns his back on it.

Are modern Israelites who celebrate Christmas really deceived? Is the deception so strong that they cannot see it? A self-deceived person is ignoring truth rather than ignorant of it, and if that indeed is Paul's emphasis, it makes this Christmas question much more serious. It means that people are accountable for what they are doing, and therefore, they will pay more for it than if they acted in ignorance.

Most Americans are aware that many of the Christmas traditions have no connection with Christianity. Almost every year, articles on the origins of various Christmas customs appear in the newspapers, especially in the larger cities. The authors of these articles cannot trace any of the "modern" traditions back to the Bible because most of the customs came from pre-Christian traditions in Germany, Norway, Russia, Holland, and other nations. Thus, people cannot claim that such knowledge was withheld from them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism and Presumption (1994)


 

Romans 16:17-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This section begins with disfellowshipping because it is a biblical means of dealing with brethren who are trying to deceive others. We often speak of disfellowshipping those who cause division. Any kind of deception will cause division. After a while, deceived people do not believe the same things as the rest, and this difference causes separation.

Those who are disfellowshipped, who are causing divisions and offenses, are doing things contrary to true doctrine. So, Paul says we must avoid them. This is part of the effort, the diligence, that it takes to keep from being deceived ourselves. We must especially avoid them in situations where they have the opportunity to influence our beliefs.

Now, if we should meet them on the street, a polite, social "hello" would be fine. But we should avoid getting into a conversation, argument, or discussion about doctrine. We need to keep that away from ourselves because it is part of our effort to keep from being deceived. We should not let it even touch us, if we possibly can, because we are supposed to be keeping ourselves pure spiritually and physically. We especially do not want false ideas to get into our heads and begin doing their dangerous work.

Paul says that such deceptive people are serving, not God, but their own belly. This may sound like all they are doing is trying to get food or trying to "live off of" the saints. But what it means is that they are stoking their own desires. It is a symbol of a person doing something for his own gratification.

They were deceiving to please themselves in some way. They are not doing it to please God, obviously, because if they were, they would be telling the truth. But since they are telling falsehoods and lies, deceiving the brethren and causing divisions, they are obviously not pleasing God in any way. What they are gratifying in themselves could be anything.

Because what they are saying is contrary to what God teaches, he says that they have to use smooth words and flattering speech—or, we could say "plausible arguments" and "a neat turn of phrase." They use deceptive methods as in advertising. Some people can do this without even knowing that they are doing it. They couch things in such a "nice" way that it makes it sound good. And before we know it, we are thinking, "He could be right. He's such a nice guy. I had him over for dinner one time; and he just regaled us with stories. He always thanks you, and he compliments everything you do. He's just such a great person. And, you know, I can't understand how such a nice guy could be saying anything that is 'bad' because he's so 'good.'" Before long, we are taken in. He has used smooth or flattering speech. He comes across well. He dresses nicely, and his arguments seem plausible.

So, as it says here, the simple are taken in. Paul means the innocent, those who are not looking for evil. They are guileless, and they think everybody else is as guileless as they are. They are harmless, like doves, and unsophisticated. They do not see "bad" in anyone.

This is how we are supposed to be! A few of the qualities of love mentioned in I Corinthians 13 are concerned with this. Christians should be willing to believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. This is why we are so gullible at times because we do not have a core of steel in our beliefs. We have allowed it to soften into a core of marshmallow, so that we are easily bent in the wind. Remember, we need to be wise as serpents and simultaneously harmless as doves.

Paul's advice comes in verse 19: "Be wise in what is good and simple concerning evil." In practical terms, this means that we do what is right and have nothing to do with what is wrong. In doing so, we are "wise." Wisdom has to do with how we act. It is very practical. Knowledge is mental, and understanding is mental and spiritual. But wisdom is both of those things and physical. It is what we do. It is what we say. It is how we live life.

If we walk in wisdom, then we do not trip, and we should not be tripped by anything that comes along to make us stumble. Paul says that we should be wise in what is good, meaning that we do it! It is wisdom to do what is good.

But we are to be simple concerning evil. This is related to "simple" in verse 18, but it is not the same word. This "simple" in verse 19 means "pure, unadulterated, unmixed." If we mix a little evil with good, what do we get? Human nature. We will get what we have been all of our lives. This is what happened in the Garden of Eden. Eve took the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and it produced this world. Paul says, "We're not supposed to do that! We've had enough of that. What we need to do is to do what is good and have nothing to do with what is evil." In a sense, we are looking for the Tree of Life, which is all good and no evil.

His advice is very simple and easy to understand. It is how we keep from being deceived: Have nothing to do with evil! We must keep evil at arms length at all times.

So, in summary, do not dabble with questionable beliefs. Do not even consider them! Avoid them at all costs. "Stick to the trunk of the tree," as we have said many times in the past. Do not skitter out along the branches where only squirrels can safely go. If we hang from a twig, we will find ourselves fallen to the ground—not even on the tree any more.

Another way that we could put it is stay away from the edge of the cliff. If we get too close to the cliff, we might fall off. If there is an earthquake, it will shake us off! Some things are out of our control. If we are at the edge of the cliff and something big happens, we might not have a handhold. We would tumble over the edge and be lost. The smart thing is to stay as close to the side of the mountain as we can, hang on for dear life, and never let go. As much as lies withinus, we should not even think about evil. Stay away from it. Avoid it.

Paul says to avoid even the appearance of evil. That is how far we are supposed to stay away from it. Not just if we are doing evil or thinking evil, but even if somebody might come along and think that what we are doing is evil.

Paul ends in verse 20 with the comfort that God will put away the evil—and the Deceiver—soon. So we only have to do this for so long. But as long as we have to do it, let us do it well. We need to have that "core of steel" for as long as we need it. Then we will be given strength—in the resurrection—to do it all the time, because we will be good. At that point, we will have developed the character to be that way all the time ourselves. This is how God is. He cannot be tempted by evil. That is what we are striving to become!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Preventing Deception


 

2 Corinthians 4:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In these verses, the apostle clearly states our responsibility to God regarding the ninth commandment. We should manifest truth in every part of our life, making honest and diligent use of God's gracious gifts without craftiness.

Is our way Christ's? Can we say we have nothing to do with hidden and shameful methods and speech? He is not talking about acting with unscrupulous cleverness, but how we handle God's Word. Do we adulterate the Word that God gave us to live by and teach? Our lives should demonstrate that we present ourselves to human conscience in the sight of God. We should live our lives in the fear of God, knowing He is watching and judging our conduct.

We should be childlike and open to leave as little room as possible for people to misinterpret our motives, misunderstand our actions, or twist our words from their real meaning. Does it make any difference what people think of us? Some take the approach, "I will do what I want to do, and what others think doesn't matter." This at times has the appearance of wisdom, but it matters to God. If He did not care, He would not show so much concern in His Word about being a good witness for Him and protecting our reputations or His. Much of our effectiveness as a witness depends on being trustworthy through honesty.

Keeping the ninth commandment begins with not letting our deceitful heart trick us into doing or saying anything less than what is honest and true in God's sight. We must demonstrate a true witness regardless of what men may discern from what we say or do, or what painful harm the truth may do to our vanity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

Ephesians 2:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this chapter's first ten verses, Paul is showing that the children of God—us—who were once objects of God's wrath, are by His grace legally and spiritually freed from the clutches of Satan's dominion. However, the influences of the world Satan has fashioned remain to be dealt with and overcome.

Satan is described as a spirit who is "prince of the power of the air." This phrase has a familiar ring to it, but alternative translations may be better suited to understanding. The New English Bible calls him "commander of the spiritual powers of the air now at work among God's rebel subjects." The Concordat Literal New Testament renders it as "chief of the jurisdiction of the air, the spirit now operating in the sons of stubbornness."

Webster's gives as one of the usages for jurisdiction, "the limits, or territory within which authority may be exercised." This particular jurisdiction is where air exists, tying in with the word "heavenly" in Ephesians 6:12: "[We wrestle] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Here, "heavenly" refers, not to the place of God's throne, but to the first heaven, the air surrounding the earth in which birds fly. This also links with Revelation 18:2 and its "unclean and hated birds," symbolizing demons. Birds operate in the same heaven Satan commands.

Prior to the rebellion, God gave Satan and his demon assistants substantial authority over everything from the earth's atmosphere on down to the earth itself, which includes us, its inhabitants. We must never forget that, in large part, our wrestling, as Paul terms it, is with these spirits. We inhabit the same space they do.

These evil spirits indeed use deceived people to carry out their plans to destroy those in whom God lives. These people are likely under the strong influence of those spirit authorities, and because they are deceived, they are unaware that they are being used! They are not necessarily possessed, as the Bible shows some are, but influenced by demons to act against our best interests.

A factor God wants us to realize more completely and fully is that we are not alone in this ocean of air. Even as vicious sharks and barracuda prowl the water, their demonic counterparts, symbolized as foul and unclean raptors and carrion-eaters, inhabit the ocean of air right along with us. It is essential to our spiritual well-being to heed Paul's warning in Ephesians 6:10-12 that our battles are against these creatures, and they are fighting tooth-and-toenail to hang on to what they believe is theirs by first-occupancy rights. Earth, the Bible plainly tells us, was "their first estate" (Jude 6, KJV). They hate us because we are becoming like the Father and Son, and because they know this earth, our inheritance, will be taken from them and given to the sons of God, those who are in His image.

On the surface, they have advantages over us because they are invisible to our eyes. In addition, they can, without our even being aware, communicate their thoughts and attitudes to our minds through the very air that supports our lives. Most people in this world do not know they are deceived or how they became deceived. Satan and his demons have not sat us all down to tell us, "We are here to deceive you." We know only because God's Word reveals this truth to us, and we believe it. Despite this happening in our lives, deception can still be communicated to us unless we are astute enough to take care that it does not happen again.

Nevertheless, deception and its resulting behaviors have been communicated to us through the culture we were born into. The culture, the world around us, is the medium of this corrupting communication. We have been freed from deception by God's revelation of Himself, but the urgent admonition from our Lord and Savior is, "Don't be passive concerning the responsibilities your liberation has imposed. Take action because the communication can be reabsorbed, enslaving you once again."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)


 

Ephesians 4:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To get the upper hand, men use trickery, cunning, and deceit to fool others into moving in the direction that they want them to go. Employing crafty and calculating "skills," they deceive and misdirect the unaware down a path that they never intended to go. They may speak smooth words—what they propose sounds great—but the consequences are destructive. Not all is as it seems.

Appearances can be very deceiving. A piece of fruit may look delicious on the outside, but the inside may be rotten. Consider a lake, for instance, which can seem calm and peaceful from the solidity of the shore, but from a boat on the water, a person feels the power of the currents and the violence of the wind that seems to blow almost a gale. A sea may be tranquil, with gentle breezes and water as smooth as glass, yet suddenly, it can be whipped into a dangerous and violent storm.

Matthew 8:23-27 contains the story of Jesus and His disciples weathering such a storm on the Sea of Galilee:

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

What did Jesus do while the small fishing boat pitched in the midst of a roaring storm? The winds whipped and churned the sea, and the waves crashed over the ship, creating intense fear in all aboard—except in Him. He was at peace—sleeping!—and His mind was at ease. Jesus' faith was mature and strong, not able to be "tossed to and fro." He knew how safe it was to be in God's protective hands.

When He was awakened, He reprimanded the disciples by saying, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" They had allowed themselves to see only the terror of the storm, forgetting that their Creator—One who had power over all nature—was lying contentedly asleep. They did not reckon that God would not allow His Son to perish like this, since that would ruin His plan. All they saw was the storm. They could not see the malevolent spirit behind the storm and that the storm was intended to blow them off course, to weaken their faith, and to divert them from their planned destination.

What about us? Do we allow the fierce winds that blow around us to toss us violently about, as if we were sitting in a dinghy on a stormy ocean, bobbing on the waves like a cork? Just remember that, when sail is put to the wind, even a dinghy can be successfully steered to its intended destination.

Gary Montgomery
Prevailing Winds


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some think that, when someone accepts heresy, he will "leave the church." That may occur on some occasions, but this confuses hairesis with apostasia. In this verse, apostasia is translated "falling away" in both the KJV and NKJV, giving the impression that it refers to leaving an organization. But apostasia means "to depart from truth"! One can remain in an organization and be departing from truth all along.

This is vitally important to us living at the end time! Notice what Paul writes in II Thessalonians 2:9-12 about this:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The falling away" is a translation of the Greek apostasia, meaning "departure," "forsaking," "defection," or "apostasy." In secular Greek, the word "is used politically of rebels" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 413). Thus, in the present context, it denotes a departure or apostasy from the faith, the revealed truth of God (see I Timothy 4:1). Such a defection from the true gospel and doctrine was a very real concern for the first-century apostles. Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude all warn of it in their letters. Despite their warnings, it did indeed occur as the century wore on.

Paul tells us specifically what the "unrighteous deception" (II Thessalonians 2:10) is for which the people depart. In verse 7, he names it "the mystery of lawlessness," a set of beliefs that is totally contrary to "the truth" (verses 10-12). This deception is "the lie" that Satan has always foisted on mankind—that we do not need to obey God's law (see Genesis 3:4; Romans 1:21-25).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are These the Last Days? (Part 1)


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Paul prophesies of an apostasy in II Thessalonians 2:3, 9-12, and he prefaces it with a warning against being deceived. The great apostasy may already be fully underway, spurred by the rising tide of deception in society. With so much information available (Daniel 12:4)—along with so many ways to manipulate it—men find it extremely easy to deceive millions instantly. This is especially true for those who do not really believe the true source of knowledge, God and His Word. Thus, after subtle doctrinal changes, many of the brethren have fallen away.

The "coming of the lawless one," however, is still future. His rise to prominence and power will be accompanied by incredible miracles, but they will be false signs and wonders, lies produced by Satan to appear as if they are of God (see Revelation 13:11-15). He will use "all unrighteous deception," a hint that what he does and says will appear as righteous, yet someone who knows and loves the truth can see through it and avoid being deceived.

Satan will really pull out all the stops to deceive as many as possible, especially the called sons of God. The "lawless one" will be so slick that "all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). But, as Paul writes elsewhere, if we hold fast to "the pattern of sound words" that we learned, if we guard the truth, we will not be deceived.

Paul repeats these instructions to the Thessalonians in this context:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (II Thessalonians 2:15)

The key to resisting deception is being convicted of the truth! The truth is what was first revealed to the apostles. As Jude puts it, "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

As they saw the first-century apostasy coming, all the apostles warn about deceivers and urge the brethren to be certain of and stick to the doctrines of God. It is our surest hedge against being caught up in the deceptions of the end time that are already upon us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Deceptions of the End Time


 

2 Thessalonians 2:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse states that God "shall send them strong delusion," but this is not the end of the story. God is the ultimate source of this "strong delusion," but God rarely does anything to people that they themselves do not have some part in. In the case of this delusion surrounding the man of sin, the people who "believe the lie" will be predisposed to do so because they do not have "the love of the truth" (verse 10). The "strong delusion" works because the people have set themselves up to fall for it!

Notice also that in verses 9-10, Satan and the "lawless one" also have a part in these deceptions and "lying wonders," so God alone does not cause the delusion. It is a combination of God's will, Satan's and the man of sin's agency, and human, predisposed hostility to God and the truth (Romans 8:7), which can be summarized as "self-delusion." Our part—whether or not we are hostile toward God and His truth—is the only thing we have any control over. If we are trying to overcome our human predisposition against God and actively cultivating a love of the truth, then our chances of avoiding this deception increase dramatically.

Staff


 

1 Timothy 4:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Greek word planos, translated as "deceiving" (NKJV) or "seducing" (KJV), is the same word from which we derive the English word "planet." It conveys the idea of wandering. To the astronomers of ancient Greece, the planets appeared to wander in a heaven populated by other, relatively fixed lights. Thus, evil spirits induce people to wander from the true path of God's Word. These are the principalities and powers against which we wrestle (Ephesians 6:10-12).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

Titus 1:14-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Reflect on Genesis 3. What did Satan do in the Garden of Eden? He promoted disbelief of God, and this lies at the root of the difference between us and those in the world, whom Paul characterizes as turning from the truth.

Can a person be a Christian without believing? Can a Christian while pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe? Satan has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9), and he deceives by subtly promoting disbelief of God's Word. It is so simple. And there it is, brought to our attention right at the very beginning of the Book. It is related so very simply to help us understand a principle that can be the foundation of great understanding and insight.

In Genesis 3, God clearly shows what delineates His people from the world. What Adam and Eve did was lay the foundation of the world. The world as we now see it, with all its cultures and all of its political, educational, economic, business and religious systems, grew or was built following the same general pattern of disbelief in what God said. Our world contains that same general pattern of good and evil—some from God, some from Satan.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian and the World (Part 2)


 

Hebrews 2:1-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul's warning to the Hebrews here is a bit stronger than what he says in Philippians 1:27. He says there, "Let's all with one mind strive together to keep the faith of the gospel." Here he says, "Give earnest heed to the doctrine, to the gospel, to the things we heard, because we're in danger of losing it!" He feels he must frighten them, saying, "Don't you remember that under the Mosaic dispensation people were punished very severely for neglecting what they had heard? Every transgression and disobedience received a just reward. How much greater under the dispensation through Christ, the Son?" He is quite serious. Work hard. Be diligent. Make your calling sure!

It is about this same time that Peter and Jude add their voices to his. The brethren were undergoing a rough time because false ministers and false teachers were in the church, and like us, they also had to fight off the pressures from the world to conform. It takes great effort to resist both in the church and out in the world. When there are problems among us, it is tough. When we must also resist all the downward pulls outside in society, it is a difficult, sore trial. Thus, Paul uses particularly strong language to motivate them to stand up, face the problem, give it their all, and vanquish it.

Are we in a similar circumstance? Perhaps some of the details are different; the deception has taken a somewhat different form (this time we do not have to contend with Gnosticism, per se). However, there is enough similarity that warnings here, as well as in the books of Peter, John, and Jude, make a lot of sense. Certainly the results, the fruit of false teaching, are the same: apostasy, falling away, confusion, distrust (especially of those who have been given a measure of authority, the ministry), scattering, and disunity. The apostles, then, are speaking to us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

2 Peter 2:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If "secretly" ("privily") were translated into the closest English synonym, it would have been rendered "smuggle." They smuggle in heresy by cunning deceit. The word literally means "they bring it along side," that is, they present this heresy in such a way as to make it appear favorably with the truth. "Oh, it's just a refinement. We're not really changing anything. You understand that, don't you? We're not really changing it. It's just a refinement, a clarification."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 John 2:15-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

I John 2:15-17 warns us that there is a profound gulf between the Father and the world, and that a Christian is faced with making a choice between them. Spirituality, morally, and ethically, Christianity does not allow for neutrality. God is bringing us into a position where we recognize truth, admit it is true, and make it a part of our lives.

We are learning a new way of life, so He does not want us to be ensnared by the attractiveness of many things that are in the world. We cannot presume that because something appears to be harmless, it would be fine to do "just this one time." Therefore, we have to learn to resist the urge to think and conduct our lives as the world does.

"World" in I John 2 is the Greek cosmos, and its basic meaning is "an ordered system." Because of the disparity between God and this world, it cannot possibly be the world for which God gave His only begotten Son. The world He created He called "very good." Nor is He referring to mankind, also part of His creation. He loves people and desires to save them.

Nevertheless, He does not like man's way of life. This ordered, human-centered system is anti-God and anti-Christ, and Satan sits at its head. This system occupies His creation and consists of people that God loves so much that He sent His Son to die for them, but He does not love the system! It produces people that need to be rescued, and it tends to make them worse and worse.

When God speaks of "the world," He is identifying all of man's purposes, pursuits, pleasures, practices, and places where God is not wanted. Much of this world is religious, cultured, refined, and intellectual, but it is still anti-God and anti-Christ.

Through His calling, God puts us into a position where He forces us to choose between disparate ways of life, and both of them are realities. We must choose either the eternal and worthwhile or the temporal and vain. God is not saying that this world is unpleasant, unattractive, or unappealing, but we have to choose between that reality and His. The sum of this passage is that this ordered system—anti-God yet appealing and attractive—has the power to seduce the believer, to ensnare him and turn him from God. We have to be vigilantly on guard against it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

1 John 2:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 26 functions as a specific purpose statement for the whole epistle. In this pivotal verse, John explains his purpose for writing this letter: to warn true believers about these false teachers who were trying to draw them away from the truth. If they allow themselves to be deceived about the nature of Christ and the God Family, John writes, it could cost them their eternal life!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 

Find more Bible verses about Deception:
Deception {Nave's}
 




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