People are losing confidence in governments, financial institutions, businesses, schools, and even hospitals and doctors. They’re looking for something else on which to anchor their lives. Over the coming months and years, unprecedented numbers of them will be more open to the message of the Gospel. But they will also be increasingly vulnerable to spiritual deception.
Matthew chapters 24 and 25 contain what Bible scholars call the “Olivet Discourse” (because Jesus presented it on the Mount of Olives). It was prompted by a question from His disciples. “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 NASB)
Jesus began His answer with a warning. It fits any time in history, but especially the last days. “Take heed that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:4 NKJV)
We live in the age of deception. Human beings have always tended to lie to one another, but some generations value truth more than others. Love of truth and abhorrence of lying used to be a defining characteristic of Americans, but not so much these days. There was a time when to call a man a liar would lead to fisticuffs. It was one of the worst of insults. Now people tend to be proud of their ability to deceive.
Deception today has also been amplified by technology. We’ve had radio and television for a long time — newspapers even longer. But with the advent of the internet came blogs, emails, text messages, social media, and thousands of other ways to communicate across languages, cultures, and around the globe as easily as around the block.
The Internet and its offspring are communications tools of unprecedented power. A tool amplifies and extends a human being’s natural capabilities. Think of how much a hammer amplifies the abilities of a carpenter. In the same way, a microphone and sound system amplify the words of an orator, sending them to more people. If the orator is telling the truth, it helps him get that message out. But if he’s lying, it amplifies that message also.
Today, a kid with a smartphone and a clever idea can reach millions of people around the world in a matter of hours. That’s an amazing tool to be used for good or evil; to communicate the truth or a lie.
Open your email, and unless you have good spam protection, you’ll find dozens of messages every day that are designed to deceive you. In some cases, they want to get you to click on a link in the email in order to take over all or part of your computer. Some want to hijack your computer — shutting it down until you pay them a ransom to release it. Others want to secretly use your computer in the distribution of pornography, or more spam. Even friends inadvertently mislead one another by passing on false information through email.
Television programs covertly and sometimes overtly push their political, cultural, or religious messages. So do films, video games, news organizations, and especially popular music. Sadly, their message is usually the antithesis of God’s word.
After giving a general warning against deception, Jesus became more specific. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”(Matthew 24:5 NKJV)
In John 8:44, Jesus said, “The devil… is a liar, and the father of lies.” (NASB) 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (NASB)
In the last days, this side of him will be manifest even more clearly. 2 Thessalonians 2:9‑10 says, “The coming of the lawless one [the Antichrist] 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.” (NKJV)
The Antichrist will perform “lying wonders” using the power of Satan. He will use“all unrighteous deception.” And the people of that time will be vulnerable to these deceptions because they will “not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
The Antichrist’s cohort is known to God as the “False Prophet.” His very name indicates he is a deceiver of the first order. Revelation 13:14 says the False Prophet“deceives those who dwell on the [Land] because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast.” (NASB)
Those things will happen in the time of the Tribulation after the Church has been raptured. But people won’t just wake up one morning no longer loving the truth. There will be a process of turning from truth. And we’re already seeing that process. Today, deception is going on in ways never dreamed of by any previous generation.
But, as always, we can take comfort from the fact that God warned us of these things in advance. Fulfilled prophecy and prophecy in the process of being fulfilled show that He exists, He speaks, and He cares. And because He said these things thousands of years ago, they illustrate the fact that His powers, out reach and truth have no limits.