"Take Heed That You Be Not Deceived"   (March 2007)

I’m sure that most of us would agree that we are living in the last days.  We can tell this because the Bible has given us “signs” to look for that let us know that the return of the Lord and the end of this world as we know it is near.  We are living in a time in history that has seen, and is daily seeing, these signs and scriptures fulfilled.  What are some of these signs that we are to look for?  The disciples of Jesus asked this same question.  “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)  Three times in the scriptures the disciples asked this question.  In the scripture above and in Luke 21:7- “And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?”; also in Mark 13:4- “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”  In each of these passages, Jesus gave them the same answer.  Take a look with me at the first sign Jesus warned them to look for- it was the first sign listed in all three gospels.  “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” (Luke 21:8)  “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.“ (Matthew 24:4,5)  “And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you:  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Mark 13:5,6)  He answered their question almost verbatim each time.  (When the Lord repeats Himself, and especially when He repeats the first thing He said over and over again, you better take heed and listen to what He is saying.)

This month I want us to focus on one of those signs; the first sign Jesus warned them about- deception.  At least ten times in the scriptures we see the word “deceive” used in reference to the last days.  Jesus taught it and so did Paul.  Deception is nothing new, we saw it’s first appearance in the Garden of Eden, but it will get worse and worse toward the end of time. 

Paul warned us that there would be a falling away before the return of the Lord.  “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)  How will that falling away occur?  The answer is also found in the verse- “Let no man deceive you”.  That was Jesus’ answer as well.  Jesus and Paul both gave us the answer before they even told us what we would face.  According to the scriptures, the falling away comes through means of deception. 

What is deception?  The dictionary defines deception as:  to believe what is not true; mislead; to give false impression; mislead by false appearance or statement; delude.  It defines deceive as:  to cause to stray or go astray; to lead away from the truth; to lead into error.  In a nutshell, deception means to be led away from the truth because you believe what is not true.  This is what happened to Eve.  Like I said earlier, deception first appeared in the garden.  “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:14) 

In Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth he addressed this issue with great concern because he knew the seriousness of it.  “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband- Christ.  But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.  You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.” (2 Corinthians 11:2-4 NLT)  Paul specifically mentions Eve’s deception in this passage for two reasons.  First, he knew that just as she was beguiled (deceived) by the devil (the devil was behind the deception, he just used the serpent to do his dirty work) we can be also.  Secondly, he was letting us know how the deception would come (it comes by listening to anything other than the truth of God’s word).

The devil is a deceiver.  He was a deceiver at the beginning and he will be a deceiver at the end- he doesn’t change.  The very last reference to him is mentioned in the Book of Revelation and he is still referred to as a deceiver.  “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)  He always attacks in the area of truth.  “Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17b)  Eve’s deception came concerning the Word of God. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)  He put the Word of God in question and then begin to “twist“ what God had said around until he convinced her that God didn’t really mean what He said and she had so much to gain by eating from the tree.  “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4,5)  The devil also tried this with Jesus in the wilderness.  “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple.  And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.“ (Matthew 4:5,6)  The devil tried to use the Word of God to deceive Jesus into yielding to the temptation.

Like I said, the devil has not changed- he was a deceiver, a thief, a liar and a murderer from the beginning.  “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)  The devil deceived Eve in the beginning, he tried to deceive Jesus in the wilderness, therefore, he will try to deceive you also because he hasn’t changed- he will continue to deceive until the end.  He will always try to deceive you concerning the Word of God.  He knows that God’s word is the truth and he wants you to believe a lie so that you will be deceived.  If he can deceive you he can cause you to go astray, rebel against God, fall into sin, and ultimately destroy you- which is his goal.  “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

I believe that we are already seeing this end time deception coming to pass- and not just in the world, but in the church also.  “For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, and will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions.” (2 Timothy 4:3,4- Amplified Bible)

How do we stop being deceived by those who lie in wait to deceive us?  “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians 4:14)  How do we stop being deceived by “vain words”?  “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:6)  How do we keep from being led astray by men who are more carnally minded than spiritually minded?  “See to it that no one carries you off as spoil or makes you yourselves captive by his so-called philosophy and intellectualism and vain deceit (idle fancies and plain nonsense), following human tradition (men's ideas of the material rather than the spiritual world), just crude notions following the rudimentary and elemental teachings of the universe and disregarding [the teachings of] Christ (the Messiah).” (Colossians 2:8- Amplified Bible)  How do we keep from being deceived with enticing words that cause us to lose our rewards?  “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.  Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” (Colossians 2:4,18)  Jesus warned us that deception would come.  He told how it would come and how to avoid falling into it.  “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.  Behold, I have told you before.” (Matthew 24:24-25)  The way to keep from falling into deception when it comes is found in the scriptures- let me share some of them with you.

“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.  Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” (Colossians 2:6-8 NLT)  Don’t listen to men’s opinions and foolish reasoning.  Continually build your life on Jesus and in His word- put His word into practice.  If you do this you will be like a wise man who builds his house upon a rock and when the storms of deception come, you will not fall prey to them. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Be like the Bereans.  “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)  Don’t just believe everything you hear from every “so called” preacher.  The Bereans listened to Paul’s preaching but then they got their Bibles out and studied for themselves to see if what Paul had preached to them was the truth.  I don’t care how great or famous the minister may be, they are still human and can miss it.  You have a responsibility to find out the truth for yourself.  If you won’t just take everyone else’s word for what the scriptures teach but search it out for yourself, then you won’t fall into deception. 

“But evil people and impostors will flourish.  They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.  But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.  You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:13-17- NLT)  Stick with the inspired word of God as your foundation of truth.  Guard against “new revelations” and every new teaching that comes down the “pike”.  As you were taught the truth of the Bible, remain steadfast in it.  Many people try to “add to” or “take away” from the scriptures.  They try to make it mean one thing (or rather what they want it to mean) instead of letting it mean what God intended.  The Bible does give a warning about this in the Book of Revelation.  “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18,19) 

Let me give you another reason why I believe, and know, that it is so important that YOU know for yourself what the word of God says and don’t always depend on other people to tell you.  Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment.  When the devil (through the serpent) came to Eve and posed the question to her, “Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not ear of every tree of the garden?’”. (Genesis 3:1)  What was Eve’s reply?  “And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:  But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Genesis 3:2,3)  We are always quick to say that Eve added to what God said because God never told them that they could not “touch” it- she added that part.  Let me submit something to you as “food for thought” (I am not trying to add to or take away from God’s word or speak some new revelation, but I want to make a point).  Where was Eve when God originally said not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.  And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” (Genesis 2:16-19)  Eve had not been created yet.  So God gave this command to Adam who was in turn responsible to tell it to Eve.  Food for thought... perhaps Adam didn’t tell Eve verbatim what God had said.  Maybe he actually told her that they weren’t to even touch it hoping that she would see the seriousness of the matter.  When you look at what Eve told the serpent, she had it right- we shall not eat lest we die.  She just added one more part to it- “don’t touch it”.  We also know that Adam was with her when she ate, so he had to be with her when she had the conversation with the serpent- yet he did not correct what she had said.  “She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:6b)  If Adam had added the part about not even touching it when he repeated to his wife what God had said, then she believed that if she even touched it, as well as ate it, she would die.  When she touched it and didn’t die, perhaps she thought that since nothing happened by touching it, nothing would happen by eating it either.  (Like I said, it’s something to think about.)  Nevertheless, she believed what the devil said over what God had said therefore she was deceived.    

If we are going to keep from being deceived we must know the Word, know it for ourselves, be rooted and grounded in it, study to find out the truth, and heed the warnings to be on guard.  “Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him.  ‘If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure.  Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.’” (John 8:31,32- The Message)... free you from deception.