Our world is filled with con artists, liars and thieves who seek to defraud us. But the Bible warns us about the greatest deceiver of all—Satan the Devil. Are you aware of his tactics? Are you prepared to avoid his schemes, or could you fall victim to his deceptions?
We have all heard stories about crooked salesmen who do their best to defraud senior citizens and rob them of their life's savings. We know about corrupt businessmen who use false accounting to cheat investors and avoid taxes. You may have experienced thieves breaking into your home and robbing you of your possessions.
But did you know that there is a thief who wants to rob you of the most valuable possession of all—your eternal life and your future as a child of God? This thief works through deceptive practices, from selfish vanity to pride to dangerous occultism, seeking to turn people away from the truth and from the way of life that will bring true happiness—God's way.
Your Bible warns of a great spirit war that will take place in the future—actually in the very near future. Many of you reading this article will be alive during that traumatic time. But notice this amazing statement: "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).
Read that carefully. Satan, the devil, deceives the whole world! That means the people of every nation. That means you and me. I have been deceived. You have been deceived. But, thankfully, God calls us out of this world's deception, through the true Jesus Christ of the Bible!
Do you think that because you are a religious person, you cannot be deceived? Jesus revealed that one of the most pervasive forms of deception is found in religious practice. And the Bible reveals who is behind many religious deceptions. Do you know who? The Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians against false ministers: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).
Yes, Satan has many strategies, schemes, and devices to deceive us. Some unknowingly worship him as an "angel of light" while others look to him through séances, tarot cards, channeling and astrology. Millions of people dabble in the occult and seek answers from soothsayers and mystics. These dark practices are deceptive, and most who call themselves Christians can recognize blatant Satanic influence. But Satan also has many other more subtle schemes.
The Apostle Paul, encouraging forgiveness for a repentant sinner, went on to say, "lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). Or, as the NIV puts it: "For we are not unaware of his schemes."
How can you tell the difference between truth and error? The Bible gives us the answers. Jesus prayed, concerning His disciples, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). Yes, the word of God, the Bible, is truth! Yet Satan can even deceive religious people. He often appears deceptively as an angel of light. He uses counterfeit ministers who appear genuine, but are actually fraudulent deceivers.
As Christians, we need to be aware of Satan's schemes, or devices. In this article, we will briefly discuss seven of his most serious deceptions, which he uses to ruin people and draw them away from God.
Deception 1: False Doctrine
Where do we find godly doctrine or teaching? Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Truth is revealed in the Bible, but we must also practice the truth. Jesus said in the previous verse, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" (v. 31).
Sadly, the majority will not practice the truth. The Apostle Paul prophesied that some "religious" people would seek teachers to preach what they want to hear, rather than the truth of the Bible. The Apostle Paul exhorted the young evangelist Timothy: "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:2–4).
Are you willing to be guided and corrected by the Bible? Or will you be turned aside to fables? One of the major errors of professing Christianity is the practice, by some, of pagan traditions. For more on this vital topic, read Douglas S. Winnail's article "The Pagan Revival" on page 22 of this issue.
Many do not realize that Easter eggs are a pagan symbol of fertility. Decorated trees, holly wreaths, and mistletoe were pagan traditions. December 25 was celebrated as the birth of Mithras, the sun god; it was not the date of Jesus' birth. Should Christians observe Valentine's Day? In 496ad, Pope Gelasius I established the Feast of St. Valentine on February 14. Previously, since the days of ancient Rome, young lovers had often observed the Lupercalia—the feast of Lupercus, a fertility god—on February 15. Even in ancient Greece, mid-February was associated with love and fertility; the Greek month of Gamelion, ending in mid-February, was associated with the marriage of the gods Zeus and Hera.
The historian Will Durant gave this analysis: "Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretist result.… Christianity was the last creation of the ancient pagan world" (The Story of Civilization, pp. 595, 599).
Are you practicing pagan traditions in the name of Christianity? Remember Jesus' warning to the Pharisees and scribes concerning certain religious customs. He warned them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition" (Mark 7:9).
The book of Revelation warns us about one of the most pervasive deceptions. The Apostle John saw in vision the famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse. He wrote: "And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer" (Revelation 6:2). As we have pointed out in previous articles, the true Revelator is Jesus Christ. He reveals the meaning of this white horse and its rider. Jesus described that the white horse symbolizes false religion—including those who falsely claim to come in Christ's name: "And Jesus answered and said to them: 'Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, "I am the Christ," and will deceive many'" (Matthew 24:4–5).
Yes, Jesus predicted that many would use His name and "deceive many." In verse 24, Jesus states that "false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." Will you be deceived?
The Devil, Satan, has deceived the whole world. Those whom he deceives he holds captive. You can read about that in 2 Timothy 2:26. We must all be on guard against the devil's deceptions; like the Apostle Paul, we must not be unaware of his schemes.
Deception 2: Lust
Human nature is filled with vanity, jealousy, greed, and lust. Satan can take advantage of that tendency and weakness in all of us. He sends temptation through the media—movies, television, magazines and the Internet—and through carnal and covetous individuals.
The Apostle Paul warned married couples not to deprive one another from sexual relations. Otherwise, Satan could take advantage of our carnal nature. "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (1 Corinthians 7:5).
In our modern age, sexual temptations are all around us. So, the Apostle Paul advised those who might lack self-control, "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband" (1 Corinthians 7:2).
We need to understand that lust, greed and covetousness are sin. The tenth commandment states: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's" (Exodus 20:17).
Instead of coveting, be thankful for all the blessings God has given you. After all, God promises to provide all your godly needs. That promise is in Philippians 4:19. We need to understand that covetousness is a form of idolatry. We can desire a person, position or possession so strongly that it becomes an idol to us. Remember this admonition: "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).
We need to pray, as Jesus taught us, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:13).
Deception 3: Pride, Vanity and Arrogance
Selfishness and egotism are part and parcel of human nature. We like to feel important. That desire can lead to deception. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy concerning the ordination of a bishop, or an overseer. He wrote that such a candidate should be "not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1 Timothy 3:6–7).
Do you let pride and vanity guide your thinking and behavior? If so, you can be deceived. You can be snared by the devil. How do you counteract self-centeredness and vanity? The Apostle James wrote: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:10).
Remember the biblical examples of those who cultivated pride, and did not give glory to God? King Herod allowed himself to be worshipped as a god! He cultivated vanity and arrogance. And what happened to him? "So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!' Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God grew and multiplied" (Acts 12:21–24).
Another king, who had to learn lessons the hard way, was King Nebuchadnezzar. When he neglected to take the prophet Daniel's advice to repent, God took Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom away from him. And King Nebuchadnezzar lived like an animal for seven years, until he learned his lesson. You can read about that in Daniel 4.
We need to be on guard against pride. When God blesses you, give Him the glory. As Paul wrote, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:31).
Deception 4: Lying
There is a classic example of lying in the New Testament. Members of the early Christian Church donated property and funds to help fellow Christians. However, one individual named Ananias, committed fraud. He claimed to have given all of the proceeds to the Church, but held back some of the funds. He lied to the Apostle Peter. We read: "But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.' Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things" (Acts 5:1–5).
Sapphira came to Peter later. She lied, and she experienced the same judgment as her husband. She died on the spot! We need to understand. Satan is the father of lies, as it states in John 8:44. So, examine yourself. Monitor your communications. Do you shade the truth? Or, do you simply lie? Do not let Satan take advantage of you, as he did with Ananias and Sapphira. Remember the ninth commandment states: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). And we must also realize that we can live a lie. Too many professing Christians are doing just that! As Scripture warns us, "He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).
Ask God to help you speak the truth and live the truth!
Deception 5: False Dreams, Visions and "Miracles"
How many times have individuals told me about dreams or visions that were obviously Satan-inspired? Some thought they had seen Jesus. He supposedly appeared to them wearing the long hair with which He is commonly pictured in our society. But the Jesus of the Bible did not have long hair. Paul wrote: "Doth not even nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" (1 Corinthians 11:14, KJV). Jesus escaped out of crowds on several occasions because He looked like the average Jew of His day. Do not be deceived by dreams, visions, or appealing messages. The Apostle John wrote: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
The occult appeals to many people. Some try to contact their deceased relatives through mediums. Children read Harry Potter books and become fascinated with the occult. Satanic video games are popular. You need to educate your children on the dangers of the occult, satanic activities and other demonic influences. God Almighty condemns witchcraft and sorcery. He tells us, "For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 18:12). Be sure to read Deuteronomy 18:9–14 and Galatians 5:20 in this regard.
Satan will use dreams, visions and "miracles" to deceive people. The book of Revelation describes the great false prophet who will soon rise on the world scene. Be sure to read this in your own Bible. "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb [a counterfeit of Christ] and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived" (Revelation 13:11–14).
Do not be deceived! False religious leaders will perform great signs and miracles. Be sure that you test all such leaders with the Bible, the word of God. That is why we say in Tomorrow's World magazine, and on the Tomorrow's World telecast, "Don't believe us; believe your Bible!" As Scripture says, "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).
We can all look forward to the day when Satan the Devil will be cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. You can read about that in Revelation 20. In the meantime, we must remain watchful and on guard.
Deception 6: Bitterness
If we are not careful to watch our feelings, we can become bitter. Perhaps someone offends us. Then the hurt feeling turns into a grudge. Then we start thinking about revenge. If such feelings are nursed and encouraged, they can turn into hate. Then, that hate can turn into bitterness. Christians need to identify and overcome any feelings of hate and bitterness. Notice this instruction: "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:14–15).
Such bitterness can even lead to the unpardonable sin. How can we counteract those feelings? Simply by following Jesus Christ's instructions! He taught us: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:44–45).
Even professing Christians sometimes fall into the trap of plotting revenge for some offense or injustice. God warns us against that attitude: "Do not say, 'I will recompense evil'; wait for the Lord, and He will save you" (Proverbs 20:22). Our Lord and Savior set the example, that "when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:23).
Pray for God's intervention—that He will execute His righteous judgment. He will execute vengeance, if it is divinely warranted. Christians should not take vengeance into their own hands and succumb to Satan's attitude of hate. Scripture warns us: "For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,' says the Lord. And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:30–31).
Christians need to pray for their enemies. Bless those who curse you. That is the Christian way! That is how we can overcome Satan's infectious attitude of hate and bitterness.
Deception 7: Lack of Faith
When Satan attacked him, the patriarch Job remained faithful to God—and learned vital spiritual lessons. At one point, Job said: "For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me" (Job 3:25). In our modern language, we might call Job's experience a "self-fulfilling prophecy."
As Christians, we must face our fears with faith, and must pray for God's protection and intervention. When we study the Bible, and we believe God's promises, He gives us faith. Scripture reminds us, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
Lack of faith opens us to Satanic deceptions. The book of Hebrews recounts the faithlessness of those ancient Israelites who lacked faith and trust in God. We need to learn from their hardness of heart, and avoid it in our own lives. "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12–13).
Those who lack faith in Christ, and who persist in trusting Satan, will ultimately be destroyed. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerors, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). Thankfully, there is also good news for those who have faith and avoid Satan's deceptions. "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son" (v. 7).
God wants you to be His faithful and trusting son or daughter, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. He will give you His faith, if you turn to Him with your whole heart. In the meantime, arm yourself with spiritual knowledge. Avoid self-deception. Avoid the world's deceptions. And avoid Satan's deceptions. As the Apostle Paul reminded us, Christians are not ignorant of Satan's devices. As regular readers of this magazine know, Bible prophecy foretells of a great future false religious system, inspired by Satan, that will influence billions of people all over the earth. By staying close to the true God, you can avoid Satanic deception. Do not let yourself be deceived!