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Deception & Self-Deception

Personal experience may deceive us into believing
that God is responsible for injustice.

Deception takes many forms in the human experience and self-deception can be the hardest to overcome. The tangible nature of our physical experience can overwhelm us and prevent us from seeing the reality of our spiritual nature.

The experience of some form of abuse or the observation of a traumatic event may deceive us into believing that God was responsible for the injustice. We may believe that God is literally out to get us! We may also have been influenced by others who have ulterior motives of control or domination toward us through deception.

deception (noun)

The action of causing someone to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage.

Lies or untruths may be perpetuated by some as self-serving tools to steal, gain control, deprive, or abuse. These purposeful lies are intended to deceive, but some might call them brain-washing. However, misinformation can still be spread without devious, ulterior motives. An untruth may be perpetuated simply out of ignorance of the actual truth, but regardless of motivation, it still plants seeds of deception.

Job’s well-intentioned friends were full of partial truths and outright false statements in their conversations with him. None of the misstatements came from God, but He was judged falsely by Job’s friends due to their ignorance or lack of understanding and knowledge. Ignorance can lead to assumptions that lead to wrong thinking and create deception, and both have the potential to turn us away from God.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, these and even more extreme levels of deception are described. The context is end times prophecy, and it speaks of the Man of Evil (the Antichrist) and the return of Jesus to the earth.

2 Thessalonians 2:3b-12 (ERV)

3 Don’t be fooled by anything they might say. That day of the Lord will not come until the turning away from God happens. And that day will not come until the Man of Evil appears, the one who belongs to hell. 4 He will stand against and put himself above everything that people worship or think is worthy of worship. He will even go into God’s Temple and sit there, claiming that he is God. 5 I told you before that all these things would happen. Remember? 6 And you know what is stopping that Man of Evil now. He is being stopped now so that he will appear at the right time. 7 The secret power of evil is already working in the world now. But there is one who is stopping that secret power of evil. And he will continue to stop it until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that Man of Evil will appear. But the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath that comes from his mouth. The Lord will come in a way that everyone will see, and that will be the end of the Man of Evil. 9 When that Man of Evil comes, it will be the work of Satan. He will come with great power, and he will do all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders. 10 The Man of Evil will use every kind of evil to fool those who are lost. They are lost because they refused to love the truth and be saved. 11 So God will send them something powerful that leads them away from the truth and causes them to believe a lie. 12 They will all be condemned because they did not believe the truth and because they enjoyed doing evil.

The Man of Evil described in these verses is empowered by Satan with the express purpose of deceiving others through spreading falsehoods of all kinds. His intent is to fool or deceive those who have already rejected Jesus and the Truth of God, preventing them from realizing their error and repenting. This man does not come to full power until something that is holding him back or restraining him is removed according to 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7. The restrainer is said to be known already according to 2 Thessalonians 2:5-6. This Restrainer is actually the Holy Spirit of God, Who came to earth as Jesus ascended into heaven.

This and most other versions of the Bible then go on to say that God sent a powerful delusion to these people who were said to be rejecting Him and already lost. This powerful deception attributed to God is one “that leads them away from the truth and causes them to believe a lie.” The intent seems to be to assure their condemnation “because they enjoyed doing evil.” However, as stated in 1 Timothy 2:3-6, this seems very inconsistent with God’s desire. He wants everyone to be saved and fully understand the truth.

1 Timothy 2:3-6 (ERV)

3 This is good and pleases God our Savior. 4 God wants everyone to be saved and to fully understand the truth. 5 There is only one God, and there is only one way that people can reach God. That way is through Christ Jesus, who as a man 6 gave himself to pay for everyone to be free. This is the message that was given to us at just the right time.

Does God take part in or actively encourage the deceptions that the Man of Evil causes in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12? If He does, then He seems to be acting against His stated purpose. However, this passage also speaks of the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit of God, being removed and allowing the Man of Evil to take full control of the world stage, so to speak. Let’s look at another translation in The Bible in Basic English that offers a slightly different view of God and the deceptive activity.

This version states God’s role in another way with a significant difference in meaning. The impression in the Easy to Read (ERV) translation is that God is causing the deception. However, the BBE translation indicates that He was giving up trying to influence the people regarding the truth, and He just lets them do whatever they want. These people had gone too far, and as a result, they were beyond being influenced by God.

This view is more consistent with the removal of the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit, whose ministry is to lead us all into the truth as seen in John 14:16-17 and John 16:13-15. This removal is what allows the Man of Evil to have such influence and power to lie and deceive, and why there is no more encouragement to believe the truth.

John 14:16-17 (ERV)

15 If you love me, you will do what I command. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever. 17 The Helper is the Spirit of truth. The people of the world cannot accept him, because they don’t see him or know him. But you know him. He lives with you, and he will be in you.

John 16:13-15 (ERV)

13 But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth. He will not speak his own words. He will speak only what he hears and will tell you what will happen in the future. 14 The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me by telling you what he receives from me. 15 All that the Father has is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will tell you what he receives from me.

Either way, the choice to believe or not believe is in the heart of the individual. However, people are always looking to place the blame on someone else. The deception of evil and deflection of personal account ability are the most insidious detractors from man’s ability to receive God’s provision and mercy.

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Saturday, 21 July 2018

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