Scriptures

Does God Send Powerful Delusions?

Introduction

Before we get into the text of 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, we must remember that God doesn’t deceive anyone, He wants us to know the truth, so we can live by it, John 8:32 / John 14:6.

Adam Clarke in his commentary says the following.

‘There is a peculiarity of the Hebrew language which does not always distinguish between permission and commandment. Often the Scripture attributes to God what He only permits to be done; or what in the course of His providence He does not hinder.’

When it comes to understanding how God sends powerful delusions, it may be helpful to go back to understand how God dealt with people in the past.

Pharaoh’s Attitude

‘Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’ Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.’ Exodus 5:1-2

Here we read about Pharaoh’s attitude towards God, he didn’t know God and wasn’t interested in anything relating to Him. Later we read about him hardening his own heart towards the truth concerning God, during the second plague of frogs, Exodus 8:15. Later still, God would hardened Pharaoh’s heart after five plagues had already occurred, Exodus 10:20.

In other words, Pharaoh’s part in hardening his own heart was an active part. He chose not to obey the will of God. God’s part was simply to empower Pharaoh to exercise that choice. This is evident from the fact that Pharaoh was held fully responsible for his hardness and punished for it.

When Pharaoh was being told the truth by Moses concerning the real God’s intentions, he scoffed and refused. Moses was prepared to demonstrate miraculous powers to convince him. Imagine Moses’ surprise when Pharaoh’s magicians replicated those early miracles, Exodus 7:11-13 / Exodus 7:22 / Exodus 8:7.

In each case, it seemed like a loss, because, ‘Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as God had said’. However, this allowed the plagues to become stronger and more effective, and even the magicians themselves had to proclaim, ‘This is the finger of God,’ Exodus 8:18-19. God told Pharaoh the truth, but allowed him to believe his lying magicians instead, Exodus 7:11-12 / Exodus 7:20-22 / Exodus 8:6-7.

King Ahab’s Attitude

‘There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.’ 1 Kings 21:25-26

‘The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ 1 Kings 22:8

‘Micaiah continued, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ ‘One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked. ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said. ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’ ‘So now the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.’ 1 Kings 22:19-23

After reading these passages and taking note that Micaiah isn’t relating a historical event, but a vision, what we see here is that God didn’t in reality command that the false prophets lie to Ahab. He simply permitted them to do so, as they had already been doing.

Micaiah’s vision simply related in figurative language how God would use Ahab’s own false prophets to bring about his downfall. The fact that Ahab was punished shows that Ahab himself was held responsible for rejecting the truth and believing the lie.

God didn’t lie to Ahab nor did He put lies in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets. God simply made use in a providential way of those who were already lying to Ahab. The false prophets lied because they chose to lie and Ahab believed them because he chose to believe them.

Israel’s Attitude

‘He said, ‘Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’ Isaiah 6:9-10

Notice that the hardness of heart on the part of Israel is attributed to the prophet himself.

‘Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’ John 12:37-40

Here when Jesus quotes the Isaiah passage, He appears to attribute the hardness of Israel’s hearts to God.

‘For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:15

Here when Jesus quotes the Isaiah passage, He appears to attribute the hardness of Israel’s hearts to the Jews themselves.

‘For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ Acts 28:27

Here we read that the apostle Paul quotes the Isaiah passage and like Jesus, he too attributed the Jews’ hardness of heart to the Jews themselves.

When we put all these passages together it becomes very clear that the prophet was to preach until they grew weary of him preaching, but he was keep on preaching.

God wouldn’t over-rule their stubborn wills, nor force them to believe His truth. But the real offenders were the Jews themselves, they hardened their own hearts, closed their own eyes, and shut their own ears because they were satisfied with the way things were.

With all that in mind, let’s go back to our main text.

‘This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 NLT

Here we read the coming of the lawless one reveals itself in all power, he will use counterfeit, power, signs and miracles to deceive people, Matthew 7:21-23. The word ‘counterfeit’ means something which appears to be genuine but isn’t. There was going to be a lying figure who would deceive ‘those on their way to destruction’, 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

This might make little sense, until we realise who is being fooled and why. God would allow a lie to succeed ‘because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

We get the same principle being taught by Paul in Romans 1:24-25, where we find God ‘giving people over’, which means He abandoned them to reap the rewards of their own evil actions.

This was their punishment for abandoning God. God gave them over in the ‘sinful desires of their hearts’, why? To let them learn what lust would plunge them into, the ‘degrading of their bodies with one another’, Romans 1:26-27.

We also read that ‘they exchanged the truth about God for a lie,’ this means to exchange the truth of God for a lie reaches the depths of foolishness. This is true anytime the truth is exchanged for a lie, whether in faith or practice, Romans 3:4 / Romans 16:18.

The way of salvation is clearly taught in Romans 1:24-25 and in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, those who believe the truth and obey it shall be saved but those who don’t believe the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness, shall be finally and forever condemned.

People who won’t accept God’s morality, but who love evil, will be quite easily deceived by Satan. People who have pleasure in doing wrong will be blinded and hardened. They will be deceived. They shall then have no difficulty in believing a lie, not the truth. Satan’s lie consists of getting men to believe him instead of God, Genesis 3:1-6.

We must remember that God does not lie, Hebrews 6:18 / Titus 1:2 / 2 Timothy 2:13, but God has created us in such a way that if we do not love the truth, we will come to believe what we want to believe.

The atheist will examine the evidence and conclude that there is no God. Not because the evidence demands his conclusion, but because he is not willing to accept God and His will. The evolutionist examines the evidence and concludes that all forms of life have evolved from one common ancestor. He reaches that conclusion, not because the evidence is strong, but because he is not willing to believe otherwise.

Many who walk by feelings and emotions in religious matters do so, not because the evidence demands such action, but because such is pleasing and satisfying to them, Proverbs 14:12. And so, it is to these and many others, God ‘sends strong delusion’.

He doesn’t lie to them and He doesn’t take away their free will either. He tells them the truth, but He allows them to weigh the evidence and decide for themselves what they will believe.

Those who listen to truth, understand that the age of the miraculous have ceased, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 / Hebrews 1:1-2, they won’t fall victim to all these counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders which many people today claim are real. Those who listen to truth live by faith not by sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7. Those who belong to Christ will always test the spirits, 1 John 4:1 / 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

Conclusion

God told Pharaoh the truth, but allowed him to believe his lying magicians instead, Exodus 7:11-12 / Exodus 7:20-22 / Exodus 8:6-7. God told Ahab the truth, but He did not force Ahab to believe it. God told the Jews of Jesus’ day the truth, but they were free to reject the truth and most of them did.

God, in His word, tells us the truth, John 8:31-32, He doesn’t actively deceive any man, woman or child, but any person who does not love God’s truth will find a way to believe what he wants to believe and God will allow him to do so.

Those who set themselves up as God’s enemies will often fall for the lies told by those who tell them what they want to hear. When Paul talked about tumultuous events of the first century with the saints of Thessalonica, he said it had a purpose.

God allows delusion and falsehood to succeed so that those who refuse the truth will be invited to their own destruction. We all have the choice to follow the good or take pleasure in wickedness.

Which Will We Choose?

‘In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.’ 2 Timothy 3:12-13

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Philippians 4:8

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