Spiritual deception is the result of not following or obeying the Word of God. When a believer adopts any thought, doctrine, or practice which is contrary to God’s written word then he enters into the spiritual darkness of heresy and deception.
This is especially true in relation to the Last Days. It seems that spiritual deception and a departure from the true “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude :3) will increase as we approach the final days. This is because Satan and his hordes know that their “time is short” (Revelation 12:12) to win as many souls as possible. These souls include believers in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24). If it were not possible to deceive the very elect then Jesus would have not bothered to state this. The apostle Paul tells us that the last day Church will be invaded by teachings originating in Hell, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Not only has Satan sent false Christs into the world to capture the hearts of those who do not know the true God and Saviour, but he has also commissioned deceivers, false brethren (Galatians 2:4) to promote a form of Christianity to seduce believers who do not abide in God’s written word. We live in an age when “false prophets” have arisen and are showing many “great signs and wonders”. Those, of the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements are being duped by signs, wonders, and false miracles performed by the latest superstar to come onto the scene. They fail to acknowledge Paul’s warning about this very thing when he said, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). They fail to be Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11), and so allow “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) to minister a corrupted gospel to them. These teachers are really “ravening” and “grievous wolves” who do not care for the people in the least, but instead speak “perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). At the root of the deception is “mammon” (Matthew 6:24) for they “through covetousness shall with feigned words make merchandise” of their followers (2 Peter 2:3). This is a perfect description of the Wealth and Health preachers of today.
The Lord Jesus asks, “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The devil’s work of deception operating within the Church is so fashioned to destroy the faith of many through false prophets, false teachers, false brethren, and false bibles. He desires to destroy a person’s faith in the eternal word of God. Many of our Churches no longer want to “endure sound doctrine” but would rather listen to foolish stories and receive “pep-talks” on various carnal subjects. The apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”. Few want to hear a preacher of righteousness speaking about true faith, against sin, and about Hell. It seems that we live in a day when fabulous tales and exaggerated experiences are more to the liking of Christians than the pure word of the Lord. These people think that they no longer need to be rebuked and exhorted “with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). In general today’s churchgoer wants sermons that do not demand anything from them or causes them to consider their own souls. They will not accept a call to repentance, obedience, or commitment. They love their false teachers. Jeremiah explains, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (5:31). Preachers that make them feel uncomfortable in their sin and compromise are usually labelled ‘legalistic’ or ‘doom and gloom’. This wilful ignorance of God’s word has caused them to open both their churches and their hearts to “lying spirits, and doctrines of devils” that have seduced them from Christ so that now their minds and consciences are “seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2). No wonder Jesus asks if He will find true faith when He returns!
We can see that the “falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) or departure “from the faith” is not that there will be less people attending church, but that fewer of them will be able to distinguish between what is true and what is false. The greatest spiritual battle for the souls of men is taking place within the church not outside of it. The Last Days are clearly here when we see such personal and denominational apostasy at an all time high because of the infiltration of perverted and distorted gospels promoted by compromising preachers and pastors. Nevertheless, there will always be God’s faithful remnant who will never bow their knee alongside the prophets of Baal.
The believer has protection from such deception. This involves being totally loyal and faithful to God and His inspired word. Added to this we must realise that deception can enter at any level, so that even a sound preacher can become deceived and promote a mixture of truth and error. Such awareness has to be united with a desire to obey only that which is contained in God’s written word and to have our lives sanctified through it, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17), and to walk in righteousness. Throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit warns us to stay faithful to God’s word, even if it means being persecuted for doing so, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Timothy 3:12-14). It is our duty to stand firm with the “Sword of the Spirit” in our hand (Ephesians 6:17). We need to be like Eleazar who fought the Philistines “until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword” or like Shammah who defended a field of lentiles against the Philistines (2
Samuel 23:9-12). Our “Philistines” are the false teachers and false doctrines, therefore we need to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Standing for truth and righteousness will involve separation from people, churches, and ministries who deny the Scriptures in word or in practice, and who preach a compromising message. The apostle Paul says that they may appear like good Christians but by “denying the power thereof” they prove themselves false, therefore we should “turn away” from them (2 Timothy 3:5). We must remind ourselves that we bring a curse into our lives when we associate with anything that twists, adds or takes away from God’s word, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). This separation from falsehood is of vital importance if we are to be kept free from spiritual deception. Again, the Lord encourages us to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Loyalty to Scripture and seeking out faithful ministers is needful for the days we are living in. By doing so, prayerfully and watchfully, we can be assured of close fellowship with Christ. This calls for abiding in the word of God every day of our lives and neither looking to the left or the right of it. It means “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We do not need new doctrines, practices, or experiences. What will cause us to “endure to the end” (Matthew 24:13) is a solid Scriptural foundation and an undivided commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). Our safeguard against false doctrine and apostasy is found in obedience to the Scriptures, by taking it alone as our firm foundation and standard for faith and practice.
The final authority must always be God’s written word. If it is not clearly in the Bible then the teaching must not be entertained for a moment. The Lord said, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:3-7). We will protect ourselves therefore by keeping our lives (both physical and spiritual) within the confines of the word of God, by yielding to His direction and guidance, and by being in a constant state of watchfulness and prayerfulness because we know that our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).