Satan is the most deceptive being in the universe. Most of the world is under his sway! How can you recognize his lies and escape them?
Jesus Christ describes Satan bluntly and powerfully: “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” And the book of Revelation tells us that the Devil has deceived the whole world!
What tools does Satan use to lure people into his web of lies and deception? How can we know if we have been deceived? And what can we do to defend ourselves against the wiles of this master deceiver? Read on for the answers!
For several years, the Illinois State Capitol building has hosted three holiday displays each December: a festively decorated tree provided by a church group, a menorah provided by Jewish citizens, and a solstice-themed placard offered by an anti-religion group. Last December, however, the three displays were joined by a fourth. As reported by The New York Times,
Among the twinkling lights and flickering candles… you will find a tribute to the prince of darkness by the Chicago chapter of the Satanic Temple, a group based in Salem, Mass., that has 15 chapters nationwide. It looks a bit different from the pine boughs and mistletoe often associated with this time of year: a woman’s hand presenting an apple as a serpent coils around her wrist. A pentagram and the words “knowledge is the greatest gift” are written on the pedestal below (“Satan Is in the Illinois Capitol. Because It’s the Holidays!,” The New York Times, December 6, 2018).
This is the same organization that in 2016 gained permission to bring a youth program, “After School Satan,” to the Parkrose School District in Oregon, offering elementary school children an alternative to “Good News Clubs” that promote Protestantism. Temple co-founder Doug Mesner told CBS News that students would be able to attend monthly hour-long meetings, operated by local volunteers vetted by his organization. The group is also seeking to place its programs in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, DC (“Portland OKs ‘After School Satan’ for elementary kids,” CBSNews.com, September 28, 2016).
Perhaps surprisingly, the Satanic Temple claims that it does not seek to promote belief in a personal Satan. Rather, its members revere Satan as “a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority” (ibid.). And yet, they are willing to personalize their object of worship when it suits them. In August 2018, the Satanic Temple unveiled a statue in front of the Arkansas state legislature in Little Rock. It was a statue of their so-called “Baphomet”—a creature with the horns and head of a goat, with a young boy and girl in his arms under his wings, gazing at him adoringly. Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves described the unveiling as meant to be “celebrating pluralism,” but it was also the group’s response to an earlier installation of the Ten Commandments (“Satanic Temple statue unveiled at the Arkansas State Capitol,” KATV.com, August 16, 2018).
Some will dismiss the Satanic Temple as a media-savvy group using Satan for its own purposes. But are Satanic Temple supporters toying with dangerous forces they do not understand? Are they promoting not just pluralism, rebellion, and the pursuit of knowledge, but also submission to an evil spirit being? Indeed, is it correct to equate Satan with “knowledge”? Your Bible gives this very clear answer: “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). Yes, the Devil is a deceiver! Wouldn’t his greatest deception be to convince people that he does not exist, and is nothing more than the imagined creation of artists, sculptors, and fiction writers?
What do some scholars say about the Devil? “According to Henry Ansgar Kelly, a research professor from the University of California, Los Angeles, there is actually ‘no evidence’ to suggest the devil should be portrayed as evil.… Professor Kelly suggests Christians have got it wrong and Satan was actually trying to do good and is on God’s side, but got ‘overzealous’ in his judgements. ‘A strict reading of the Bible shows Satan to be less like Darth Vader and more and more like an overzealous prosecutor’” (“SHOCK CLAIM: Christians were WRONG to brand Satan evil,” Daily Express, July 22, 2017).
Is Professor Kelly correct? Is Satan actually on the side of good? We read in Scripture that Satan the Devil presents himself as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Would you not automatically assume that an angel of light is a force for good? Dear readers, you need to beware. If the Devil can deceive the “whole world,” he can deceive you, if you do not stay close to your Savior and His word, the Bible!
Yes, Satan can deceive the innocent, gullible, and self-willed into believing falsehoods that go completely against the Bible! These falsehoods include false visions and dreams. On many occasions over the years, people have told me of dreams or visions that I could understand were obviously Satan-inspired. For instance, some people think they have seen Jesus, but when they describe a Jesus with long, flowing hair, I can recognize that their vision was plainly false. Remember, the Apostle 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 Jewish man of His day.
Occasionally, someone will tell me of a dream or prophecy that sounds interesting on the surface, but that on closer inspection is a rebellion against the teachings of Christ. Even if such a prophecy comes true, beware! Scripture exhorts us, “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:1–3).
The Apostle John reinforces this teaching, instructing us not to accept every seemingly appealing message that comes our way. He 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). Your Bible reveals that Satan is deceptive, not stupid. He and his demons are not atheists; they know very well that God exists. We read, “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). The Devil even knows Scripture, and tries to use it against unprepared Christians. Remember that when Satan dared Jesus Christ to show His divine power by jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple, he quoted Psalm 91:11–12. Jesus, of course, knew better, and replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, as recorded in Matthew 4:5–7.
Have you ever been deceived? All around us, countless con artists are out to defraud and to steal. Law enforcement agencies continually warn us of scams and deceptive practices that rob unsuspecting victims. But are you on guard against deceptions that come even in the name of Christianity? We read earlier that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light to deceive the innocent and foolish. Satan also has his own ministers. We read, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). Just because a man calls himself a minister, or even an apostle, does not mean that his message is from Christ. Such false teachers will suffer the penalty for their false teaching: “Therefore it is no great thing if his [Satan’s] ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:15).
Jesus Himself warned that “false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). As shocking as this may seem, your Bible warns of religious ministers who appear righteous, but are ministers of Satan. If you are a Bible student, you know that one of Satan’s religious deceptions is false doctrine. The Apostle Paul prophesied that many religious people will seek teachers who preach what they want to hear, rather than teachers who will preach 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).
Most of you reading this article realize that the occult is a dangerous source of deception. Many others think of the occult as a matter of fun, as they enjoy the best-selling Harry Potter books and movies. Others look to séances, tarot cards, channeling, and astrology for insight and power. Millions of people dabble in the occult and seek answers from soothsayers and mystics. These dark practices are deceptive. God Almighty condemns idolatry and sorcery (Galatians 5:19–20). He labels as “abomination” those who participate in practices such as witchcraft, necromancy, spell-casting, and spiritism (Deuteronomy 18:10–12).
But what about Christianity itself? Don’t most people who call themselves Christians indulge in practices that are far from the teachings of the Bible? Protestant and Catholic believers will celebrate Easter this year on Sunday, April 21; Eastern Orthodox believers will celebrate a week later, on April 28. But where is Easter in your Bible? Read Mr. Gerald Weston’s article “Why Observe Easter?” in this very issue for more on this vital subject. Even those who observe Easter must admit that many of today’s most common Easter symbols—Easter eggs and bunny rabbits, to name two—came straight out of non-Christian practices that celebrate earthly fertility, not the resurrection of the Savior. In fact, billions have accepted deceptive teachings not just about Christ’s death and resurrection, but even about His birth. Reputable scholars will admit that December 25 was celebrated as the birth of Mithras, the sun god. It was never the date of Jesus’ birth. For that matter, 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.
Why does this matter? The historian Will Durant gave this analysis in The Story of Civilization: “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” (Vol. III, p. 595, emphasis added).
Dear readers, has the Devil deceived you into practicing pagan traditions in the name of Christianity? Remember Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees and scribes concerning certain religious customs: “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:9). The world is full of false religions, false traditions, and false doctrines. Dear readers, be on guard against these demonic deceptions!
Satan does not just want to deceive you about the doctrines you should believe and practice; he wants you to misunderstand Bible prophecy about your future and the future of our world. Scripture tells us of an end-time superpower that will be a revival of the old Roman Empire. That superpower is symbolized by a Beast. “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:12–14).
Interestingly, among the Bible commentators who have correctly identified this Beast as the Roman Empire are those of the New Catholic Edition, often called the Douay-Rheims, which tells us in a footnote regarding the Beast of Revelation 17:11, “The beast spoken of here seems to be the Roman Empire, as in chapter 13” (emphasis added). Yes, both the Beast of Revelation 17 and the Beast of Revelation 13 represent the Roman Empire. The notes published within this Roman Catholic Bible comment concerning Revelation 13:1, “The picture of the first beast is based on the seventh chapter of Daniel. This beast is the figure of kingdoms of the world, kingdoms founded on passion and selfishness, which in every age are antagonistic to Christ and seek to oppress the servants of God. Imperial Rome represents this power” (emphasis added). Yes, even the Douay-Rheims Bible admits the identity of the Beast. Yet Satan wants to deceive you on this point, because the Beast will not be working alone. Revelation 17:3–4 describes a harlot woman riding the Beast. In biblical symbolism, a woman represents a church. In these verses, she is called Mystery Babylon, representing a false religious system, a counterfeit Christianity.
Yes, Satan’s deceptions are so bold as to include a counterfeit of Christianity itself! Dear readers, will you be deceived by Satan’s counterfeit Christianity? Jesus warned, “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). The woman riding the Beast represents a great false church, one that calls itself “Christian” yet teaches its members to engage in pagan practices. The Apostle Paul described the false prophet who will ally himself with the Beast: “The coming of the lawless one 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. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9–12).
Those who are convinced by signs and apparent miracles, but who do not properly discern their origin as Deuteronomy 13 teaches us to do, will be easily deceived by the coming false prophet, who will use even lying wonders to gain followers. Remember, the test of a prophet is not just that his prophecies come to pass—it is that those prophecies do not deviate from the word of God. As we read: “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 at Tomorrow’s World often remind our readers and viewers, “Don’t just believe us; believe your Bible.” Satan’s deceptive false prophet will ask you to believe him and neglect your Bible.
The Bible warns us that the Devil is real, and that he wants to deceive as many as he can. But you can be protected from his influence. To those who stay close to God, He gives the promise that He will deliver them from the evil one. Perhaps you follow the “outline prayer” that Jesus taught to His disciples? He taught us to pray, “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).
Yes, God will protect us, but we must do our part. Consider the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Christians in Ephesus: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10–12).
God will give His faithful servants spiritual protection. Dear readers, you and I need that protection and power from God! But we must do our part! What is that part? “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:14–17).
Yes, you can overcome the wicked one by knowing the word of God and living by it. The Apostle James gives us this encouraging promise: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7–8).
You can overcome the temptations, the challenges, and the deceptions of the occult and false religion. As the Apostle Paul encourages us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). May God empower you to go forward in faith. May you live not by the dark deceptions of this world, but by the light of truth, God’s word!
Let’s all look forward to this coming announcement: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15). We look forward to the day when the Devil is defeated, dispatched once and for all to the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10). Most of all, we look forward to the coming of the King of kings, Jesus Christ, who will return to this earth to bring lasting peace, prosperity, and true light to a dark world.