Even in heaven, before his expulsion, Satan worked to deceive the angels. “Leaving his place in the immediate presence of God, Lucifer went forth to diffuse the spirit of discontent among the angels. Working with mysterious secrecy, and for a time concealing his real purpose under an appearance of reverence for God, he endeavored to excite dissatisfaction concerning the laws that governed heavenly beings, intimating that they imposed an unnecessary restraint.” —Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 495.
In Eden, Satan disguised himself as a serpent and used trickery against Eve. As he has done all through history, even up through today, Satan also will use deception at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:8) in an attempt to gain his ends.
Unfortunately, he’s much smarter, more powerful, and craftier than any of us, which is why we need to cling to Jesus and to His Word in order to protect ourselves from his wiles. “ ‘But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today, every one of you’ ” (Deut. 4:4, NKJV). The principle espoused here, indeed, still holds true today, as well.
This week, we will look at some of the devil’s most effective deceptions and how we can be protected from them.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 2.
The first lesson of this quarter talked about the “cosmic controversy,” which, unfortunately, has reached beyond the cosmos to our earth itself.
The problem, though, is that many people, Christians included, don’t believe in this great controversy because they don’t believe in Satan. For them, Bible texts talking about Satan or the devil are merely the expressions of a prescientific culture trying to explain evil and suffering in the world. For way too many people the idea of a literal, supernatural entity who has malevolent designs on humanity is the stuff of science fiction, akin to Darth Vader of Star Wars fame or the like.
Revelation shows us just how much power Satan will have over so many inhabitants of the world in the final days, leading them not only away from salvation but toward persecuting those who stay faithful to Jesus.
Of all Satan’s “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11)—a translation of the Greek word for “mind” (noemata)—perhaps his greatest deception is his ability to cause people to believe that he does not exist. After all, who’s going to seek shelter from an overpowering enemy who you don’t believe is real? It’s astonishing how many claim to be Christians and yet don’t take the idea of a literal devil seriously. They hold such a position, however, only by ignoring or radically reinterpreting the many texts in the Word of God that reveal Satan’s workings and ploys in this world, especially as we near the end of time. That so many people would reject the literal existence of Satan, even in the face of such overwhelming biblical evidence, should be a powerful reminder to us of just how crucial it is that we understand what the Bible really teaches.
Read the following texts. What do they tell us about Satan’s power to deceive?
2 Cor. 11:13–15
2 Thess. 2:9, 10
As we noted in an earlier lesson, Jesus had warned His followers about end-time deceptions. Among those He specifically warned about were the rise of false christs and false prophets who would “ ‘deceive many’ ” (Matt. 24:5).
False christs and false prophets, however, are not the only end-time deception of which we have to be aware. Our enemy in the great controversy has many ploys designed to deceive all whom he can. As Christians, we need to be aware of those ploys, and we can do that only through knowing the Bible and obeying what it teaches.
Ellen G. White explains what two of those grand deceptions are: “Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.”—The Great Controversy, p. 588.
How incredible for us, even many years after Ellen White wrote those words, to see just how prevalent “the two great errors” continue to be in the Christian world.
What do the following texts teach us about the “state of the dead”? What great protection can these texts give us against one of “the two great errors”? Eccles. 9:5, 6, 10; Ps. 115:17; Ps. 146:4; 1 Cor. 15:16–18; Dan. 12:2.
In recent decades much attention has been given to stories about people who have “died”—in that their hearts have stopped beating and they have stopped breathing—only to be revived and brought back to consciousness. In numerous cases, many of these people have told of incredible experiences of a conscious existence after they had supposedly died. Some talked about how they floated in the air and saw, from above, their own bodies below. Others reported floating out of their bodies and meeting a wonderful being filled with light and warmth and who espoused truths about kindness and love. Others recounted meeting and talking to dead relatives.
This phenomenon has become so common that it even has a scientific name, near-death experiences (NDEs). Although NDEs remain controversial, many Christians have used them as evidence for the immortality of the soul and the idea that at death the soul goes off to another realm of conscious existence.
But NDEs are, of course, another manifestation of one of “the two great errors.” As long as anyone believes that at death the soul goes on living in one form or another, that person is wide open to most occult or spiritualistic deceptions, deceptions that can easily promote the idea, either openly or by implication, that you don’t need Jesus. In fact, most of the people who have had NDEs have said the spiritual beings whom they met, or even their dead relatives, gave them comforting words about love, peace, and goodness but nothing about salvation in Christ, nothing about sin, and nothing about judgment to come—the most basic biblical views. One would think that, while supposedly getting a taste of the Christian afterlife, they should have gotten a taste of the most basic Christian teachings, as well. Yet, often what they’re told sounds much like New Age dogma, which could explain why many of these people come away less inclined toward Christianity than they were before having “died.”
As much success as Satan has had deceiving the world in regard to the immortality of the soul, he’s been just as successful, if not more so, in usurping the biblical Sabbath for Sunday (see weeks 6 and 8) and has done so for most of Christian history.
In recent years, the devil has come up with another deception that lessens the hold of the seventh-day Sabbath in the minds of people: the theory of evolution.
Even the broadest reading of these verses reveals two points about the biblical account of Creation. First, everything was planned and calculated; nothing was random, arbitrary, or by chance. Scripture leaves no room whatsoever for chance in the process of Creation.
Second, the texts reveal unambiguously that each creature was made after its own kind; that is, each one was made separately and distinctly from the others. The Bible teaches nothing about a common natural ancestry (such as from a primeval simple cell) for all life on earth.
Even from a nonliteralist interpretation of Genesis, these two points are obvious: nothing was random in the act of Creation, and there was no common natural ancestry for all species.
Then along comes Darwinian evolution, which, in its various forms, teaches two things: randomness and a common natural ancestry for all species.
Why, then, do so many people interpret Genesis through the lens of a theory that, at its most basic level, contradicts Genesis at its most basic level? Indeed, not only has the error of evolution swept up millions of secular people, but many professed Christians believe that they can harmonize it with their Christian faith, despite the blatant contradictions just mentioned.
However, the implications of evolution in the context of final events make the danger of the deception even more apparent. Why take seriously a day, the seventh-day Sabbath, as a memorial—not for a six-day creation, but for a creation that took about 3 to 4 billion years (the latest date that life supposedly first started on earth)? Evolution denudes the seventh day of any real importance because it turns the six days of Creation into nothing but a myth, similar to the one that says Romulus and Remus were nursed by wolves. Also, who, believing that creation required billions of years instead of six days, would actually risk persecution or death by standing for the Sabbath as opposed to for Sunday?
The concept of the triune nature of God is found all through the Bible. However, in the context of end-time deceptions and persecution, the book of Revelation reveals a counterfeit trinity composed of the dragon, the sea beast, and the land beast of Revelation 13.
The dragon here has been seen as the counterfeit of the Father in that he is the one clearly in control. He also gives power and authority and a throne to the sea beast, the one counterfeiting Christ. Why is this second power seen as a counterfeit Christ?
Besides receiving its authority from the dragon, reminiscent of what Jesus said about receiving His authority from the Father (see Matt. 28:18), this sea beast also faced, like Jesus, a death and then a resurrection (see Rev. 13:3). Also, this beast is described as exerting his authority for “forty-two months,” or three-and-a-half years—a prophetic counterfeit of Christ’s literal three-and-a-half-year ministry, based on the day-for-year principle.
This land beast promotes the interests of the sea beast, just as the Holy Spirit glorified not Himself but Jesus (John 16:13, 14). Also, just as the Holy Spirit performed a powerful act in bringing down “fire” from heaven (Acts 2:3), the land beast performs something similar (see Rev. 13:13). “At the end, the land beast performs a counterfeit of Pentecost! For what purpose? To prove to the world that the counterfeit trinity is the true God.”—Jon Paulien, What the Bible Says About the End-Time (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald® Publishing Association, 1998), p. 111.
Further Thought: Let’s dwell more on the implications of the theory of evolution in the context of last-day events, especially in regard to the role of the Sabbath. One reason that Charles Darwin, the originator of the theory, promoted evolution was that—not understanding the great controversy—he had a difficult time reconciling evil and suffering with the idea of a benevolent and loving Creator. Because of this error, he looked in another direction for answers. It wasn’t a coincidence, either, that during the mid-to-late 1800s as Darwin was revising and reworking his theory of evolution, God raised up a movement, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which countered everything for which Darwin’s theory stood. How interesting that the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose creationist underpinnings are revealed in its very name, started growing and expanding at about the same time that Darwin’s theory did.
Perhaps if Darwin had read and believed these few short lines from Ellen G. White, the world might have been spared one of the grandest blunders of human thought since geocentricism and spontaneous generation: “Although the earth was blighted with the curse, nature was still to be man’s lesson book. It could not now represent goodness only; for evil was everywhere present, marring earth and sea and air with its defiling touch. Where once was written only the character of God, the knowledge of good, was now written also the character of Satan, the knowledge of evil. From nature, which now revealed the knowledge of good and evil, man was continually to receive warning as to the results of sin.”—Education, p. 26.
Yet, Darwin did devise his evolutionary speculations, which are all based on a false understanding of the nature and character of God and the fallen world in which we live. Unfortunately, the implications of his theory will make people prey to Satan’s deceptions, especially in the final crisis.