A major area that separates those who are being saved from those who are perishing is the love of the truth. Truth sanctifies; it sets those who love and use it apart for the rewards of applying it to gain eternal life or better health.
Salvation is a process. Consider this: When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He redeemed them, but the process was not finished. It had only begun and did not end until they entered the Promised Land, a type of God's Kingdom. God intended the journey through the wilderness to prepare them for living in the land. However, a whole generation died in that process because they did not love the truth God gave them throughout the journey. The journey symbolizes the process of being saved.
Salvation is not religious rite, nor is it just a catchy theological term given to make people feel at peace. It is the experience of being saved from what would otherwise destroy us, which takes place between the time of our redemption and actually being spirit beings in the Kingdom of God. God is using His creative powers to get us to respond to truth. It does not matter what area of life or where the truth comes from. Truth is truth, but some truths are more important than others.
Verses 11-12 add more: "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." To those who will not yield to a love of truth, Paul warns, God will send a "deluding energy." As they reject the truth and continue in sin, a deceptive force will build and pull them deeper into it like a drug addiction. This parallels Romans 1:28, where Paul says, "God gave them over to a debased [reprobate, KJV] mind." This is what happens to people who leave the church: They continue to move further and further from the truth.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)
The New Testament contains echoes of the curse found in Amos 8—a famine, not of the word, but of hearing it. Romans 1:18-32 tells of unrighteous men who suppress the truth. Because they are not thankful for what the creation reveals of the Creator, their foolish hearts become darkened. They lose what light, what truth, they have.
God's response to this is similar to His response to Israel. He does not contend with them or force His truth on them. Instead, Paul writes, God gave them up to uncleanness (Romans 1:24). He gave them up to vile passions (Romans 1:26). He gave them over to a debased mind (Romans 1:28). It is as if God gives them exactly what they seek, and they do not realize that it is a curse.
A second example of this principle appears in II Thessalonians 2:9-12, where Paul warns of a future Man of Sin who deceives the spiritually weak:
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.
Those who perish do so because they do not receive—in the sense of "welcome"—the love of the truth. Because they do not, God will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe the lie and be condemned. In reality, God is just giving them what they desire anyway. They prefer carnal delusion to spiritual reality, so God obliges them. The unrighteous in Romans 1 desire a worldview without a Creator so they can be sexually liberated. God gives them over to it and lets them reap the awful consequences. The Israelites in the time of Amos did not value God's truth, so He removed it, letting them experience how miserably they fare without it. If they were anything like modern Israelites, they thought of themselves as enlightened and progressive even as their blindness became more complete.
David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse
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
These people will perish because of a self-imposed delusion, a blindness that strikes those who refuse to love the truth. They may not refuse to accept truth, but they do not love it—they are not dedicated to it.
A dedicated person gives himself to the object of his love just as two people in love dedicate themselves to each other until they are one. The people described in these verses are perishing because, though they have been given truth, they do not love it enough to give themselves to it. For whatever their personal reasons, they prefer to tolerate lies, following their leaders to destruction.
Without sufficient dedication to truth to obey except haphazardly or lethargically, understanding begins to wane. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).
John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'
Every day information concerning politics, economics, social issues, psychology, religion, conspiracy theories, foreign affairs, entertainment and education issues inundates us. How much of it is actually true? How much do we truly need to pay attention to?
The man of sin opposes Christ. He will even claim to be God, and Satan will enable him to work miracles. Just before Christ's return, he will lead evil's greatest challenge ever against all that is good. The focus of the attack will be the destruction of truth. Only those who "receive the love of the truth" will be spared. If one does not have it, he will be deceived, believe the lie, and be condemned. In this context, the lie is probably that this man is God or His main representative on earth, and that they should worship the beast and receive his mark at his word (Revelation 13:11-18).
Before the man of sin appears, Satan must lay some groundwork to prepare for his acceptance. What better way than to throw the world into quarreling and divisive and wearying confusion? People then yearn for some strong and seemingly wise hands to set things straight, so the nations can "catch their breath" and have a span of peaceful calm. In its wake, confusion creates directionless people, with little desire to change the status quo, whose minds are turned in upon themselves in an attempt to keep what they have.
Right now, humanity is being bombarded by religious disinformation ranging from bizarre, do-gooding New Age cults to the militant homosexual, lesbian and feminist attacks aimed at changing old-line Protestant and Catholic groups. Mainly within Protestant circles, the New World Order and other conspiracy theories abound, sometimes tenuously mixed with true prophecies of the Bible. Everywhere there are cries for tolerance of beliefs of every stripe, and in some sectors there are attempts to merge all religions into one.
Within God's church, we have seen a multitude of doctrinal changes alter one large group to the point that it is barely recognizable except by name. Other, smaller groups are badgered by peripheral issues like the calendar, sacred names and conspiracy theories. What we are witnessing are people subtly persuaded into an excessive concern for themselves. This distracts them from the focus God clearly states in Jesus' end-time message: Get ready for the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Every message to every church group in Revelation 2 and 3 concludes with "To him who overcomes." Christ's intent is clear. Our judgment is based upon growth in overcoming flaws involving character defects, evil self-centered attitudes and relationship problems with fellow man.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!
Most of this world's holidays are based on fables, myths, and lies, while the Christian is commanded to worship God "in spirit and in truth." A true Christian does not lie and does not associate with lies, but seeks after truth in all aspects of life. If we live with a little lie now, then it is much easier to live with a worse lie later. God is emphatic on this point: A liar will not enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:7-8).
Martin G. Collins
Loving the truth so intensely that it motivates us to pursue it carefully and diligently - so much that we make it an operative part of our everyday life - will prove to be the difference between being saved and perishing. Each of us will have to be concerned enough about the spiritual teaching we receive to search the Scriptures prayerfully and diligently to verify it (Acts 17:11). Proving all things (I Thessalonians 5:21, KJV) is so much better than lazily accepting the word of someone who appears to be trustworthy.
John W. Ritenbaugh
From God's perspective, these people had the truth presented to them, and they did not love it. It does not mean that they did not agree with it, but that they did not love it.
When Paul says that God sends a delusion, he means that God quits trying to save them and gives them over to their own desires (see Romans 1:24-26). They placed their delight—their desires—in unrighteousness. We can see that, in this kind of situation, a Christian cannot afford to be neutral.
Is that not what the Laodiceans are shown as being—fence sitting neutrals, lukewarm, neither all the way in the world nor all the way in the church? We will either love the truth of God or not. We are either going to give ourselves over to it or not, even though we may agree with it. Thus, Paul is saying, "Don't be neutral! Love the truth!"
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)
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.
God is permitting a sifting to take place. Paul uses the word "delusion" here, indicating a "wandering out of the way." Does that not happen to people who are confused and have lost direction and motivation? They wander. They drift. They get tossed about in the winds and currents. But the love of the truth will keep a person clear-minded, focused on the right areas of life, and motivated to overcome. And this will lead God to save them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!
People fall away because they do not have the love of the truth. Consequently, they have nothing to pour out their energies on, and so they drift away. Anybody who is drifting will follow the current opinion within the body, whatever it happens to be.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing 2 Thessalonians 2:11:
2 Thessalonians 2:3
2 Thessalonians :
2 Timothy 3:16
2 Timothy 4:4
1 John 4:20