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What the Bible says about Deception, Guarding against
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 11:16

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

Matthew 7:1-5

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 13:24-30

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 24:24-25

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

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 1:17

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

Acts 5:1-10

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)

Acts 5:1-11

The narrative of Ananias and Sapphira provides a dramatic illustration of the fact that God will not accept duplicity in His church. Partial commitment to the truth is not enough. In the case of this ancient couple, He judged “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” without delay, stopping the lie literally dead in its tracks.

Although unstated in the account, Ananias and Sapphira likely coveted the status and reputation they would receive if God's people came to believe they were “big” contributors. With Satan's prodding (verse 3), they (Sapphira is fully complicit; verse 2) hatched the deceitful plan to sell some property and donate part of the proceeds for the use of the brethren. In reality, they conspire to mislead the church leadership (and ultimately, the brethren at large) into thinking that their generous gift comprised the entire sale price of the land, when in fact they had surreptitiously “kept back” a portion of the proceeds for their personal use. Their level of sacrifice for the needs of the church was not what they led others to believe.

Had God not intervened to abort their plan, they would have lived lives of hypocrisy for who knows how long, daily “practicing” the lie (Revelation 22:15) that they had “given all” to God. Without question, they would have lived the same sort of burdensome lives endured by Joseph's brothers for decades after their clandestine treachery toward their younger brother (see Genesis 37:23-36), as they feared serendipity every moment—a slip of the tongue, the development of an unwelcome and unforeseen circumstance, the vengeance of God, anything which might suddenly reveal the truth to their father, exposing them as the rogues they really were. Theirs was a skulking lifestyle—the way of life of any hypocrite, analogous to perpetually wearing a mask or a disguise to hide the real self, pretending to be one person, all the while being another.

But that is only half of the nasty story. Sir Walter Scott well wrote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, / When first we practice to deceive.” The hypocrite, enjoying the benefits of his duplicity (such as wealth, status, etc.) becomes desperately committed to maintaining the façade at any cost, doing all that becomes necessary to keep the charade going, lest he suffer financial, social, or emotional losses that his carnality could not accept. The cause of perpetuating the lie comes to enmesh his spirit. The myth becomes master.

Luke does not specify the amount of money Ananias and Sapphira held back. Was it 5% of the sales price or 20% or 50%? We do not know, and it does not matter! A lie is a lie. There are no “little white lies.” A life of duplicity can develop around any lie, big or little. It will always bear the same fruit, however.

Charles Whitaker (1944-2021)
Unity and Division: The Blessing and the Curse (Part Five)

Romans 10:1-3

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)

Ephesians 2:1-3

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)

Colossians 2:8

Cheat actually means to plunder, to carry off, as a pirate would do. The warning is, "Don't let anyone steal you away!"

John W. Ritenbaugh


Related Topics: Deception | Deception, Guarding against


 

2 Thessalonians 2:3

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

"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 2:3-4

Scripture indicates just how far this defection from truth—the falling away—goes. In three places, the Bible says that when Christ returns, people will mourn when they see the One from whom they have distanced themselves and oppose (Matthew 24:30; Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7). In Revelation 1:7, John says that every race or clan will be dismayed—apparently including most physical Israelites—because the falling away will be so widespread. The falling away does not have to include every person, but as a generality, the creation will defect from its Creator, leading to ready support of a man who exalts himself above God.

Even though the scope of II Thessalonians 2 is more indicative of the world than the church, this trend will still put pressure on us. The spirit of the age guides the world, but it also always influences the church to some degree. As one evangelist once said, “If it is in the world, it is in the church.” Peter gives us warning:

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (II Peter 3:17-18)

This is the conclusion to a warning that in the last days there will be scoffers, walking according to their own lusts, and denying the surety of Christ's return. This, too, indicates a defection from once-held truth. Peter says that, since we have been warned about these things, we must stand vigilant against them. He warns against falling from our steadfastness or losing our spiritual stability. Obviously, the apostle did not believe in the Doctrine of Eternal Security, and there is good reason for his warning.

The danger for us is probably not a ready acceptance of atheism, nor a sudden sprint into one of the rising belief systems. The greater threat is the slow and gradual one, the peril of neglect, of apathy, of little compromises that set the stage for larger defections. Without a steady walk with God and a consistent practice of His Word, we may forsake the rare understanding that we have been given in favor of the wisdom of men and the opinions of the day. Even now, in corners of the church of God, baptized members shrug at things that the Creator God calls abominations. These viewpoints do not arise from the Word of God, but from its dismissal, as the ideas of the age fill in the cracks little by little.

True Christians believe that this present world will end when Christ returns. God has a superior way of life for mankind, and that way is open now to those whom He has called in this age. However, when He returns, the door closes for us. Those who have a love of the truth will be on the victorious side, and those who do not will be condemned. They will have had their pleasure in unrighteousness, and God will give them over to what they have been seeking all along.

In verse 18, Peter counsels us to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. If He is the desire of our hearts, we will seek Him, and He will be our reward. If the world is what we find attractive, we will love the world and perish with it.

God does not direct us to arrest the falling away that is taking place in the world, but to make sure we do not let things slip in our lives. We are urgently warned to take heed that no one deceives us (Matthew 24:4), to take care lest we be weighed down by the cares of this life (Luke 21:34), and to take heed lest we fall (I Corinthians 10:12), so that the day of Christ's return will be a day of victory for us rather than a day of condemnation.

David C. Grabbe
The Falling Away


 




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