Warnings Against Deception
In recent years, the church has witnessed a worldwide surge in signs and wonders – some biblical and helpful, others unbiblical and bizarre. Signs and wonders are not new phenomena; they are recorded in various Scripture passages and have been reported in different periods of church history. They extend beyond a specific church or denomination and have received attention from the religious and secular media alike.
One should not accept every unusual manifestation indiscriminately, however. Two questions should always qualify every such manifestation. First, is it a manifestation of the Holy Spirit of God or of some other source? Second, is the manifestation in harmony with Scripture, or does it contradict the Word of God? As Paul attested in Second Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." The Holy Spirit authored all of Scripture, and He never contradicts Himself. Therefore, every genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit must concur with Scripture.
I once had close contact with a group claiming to experience supernatural manifestations. The group leaders were enthusiastic about the wonderful things they experienced at their meetings, but when they invited us to join them, they instructed us not to test or examine them, but to simply open up to receive them. This uncritical stance made me wary of this group’s experience, because their method of acceptance without evaluation directly contradicts scriptural instruction. In First Thessalonians 5:21, Paul told believers to "test all things; hold fast what is good." Failure to test supernatural experiences is a failure to follow the mandates of Scripture.
Jesus provided distinct warnings against deception by false manifestations that will be ushered in at the end of the age. Four of these warnings are recorded within twenty-one verses in the book of Matthew. First, in Matthew 24:4, Jesus warned, "Take heed that no one deceives you." In verse 5, He foretold, "For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ [Messiah],’ and will deceive many." In verse 11, He warned, "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many." Finally, in verse 24, He concluded, "For false christs [messiahs] and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." These warnings are not to be taken lightly. Anyone who disregards them does so at the peril of his own soul.
Deception – not sickness, poverty, or persecution – is the greatest single danger in the end of the age. Anyone who denies his vulnerability to deception is already deceived, for Jesus has foretold it and He does not err. Our hearts are incapable of discerning truth on their own. Proverbs 28:26 teaches, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." We must not be fools by trusting our hearts. Whatever our hearts tell us is unreliable, as Jeremiah 17:9 attests: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" In Hebrew, the word deceitful is active rather than passive. The heart is not deceived; rather, the heart is a deceiver, leading you astray.
It is also important to realize that signs and wonders neither guarantee nor determine truth. Truth is established and unchanging; it is the Word of God. In John 17:17, Jesus prayed to the Father, "Your word is truth." The psalmist declared, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven" (Psa. 119:89). No event on earth, whether natural or supernatural, can change the slightest sign or letter in the Word of God.
True signs attest the truth; lying signs attest lies. Many Christians assume that every supernatural sign must be from God, forgetting that Satan, or the devil, is completely capable of performing supernatural signs and wonders. As Paul wrote in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, "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. 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 Thes. 2:9-12).
This passage proves that lying signs and wonders exist; a phenomenon is not true based solely on its classification as a supernatural manifestation. Recall that in Exodus, many of Moses’ miracles before Pharaoh were matched by Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers. (See Exodus 7:11-23.) Moses’ staff-turned-serpent ultimately ate the serpents formed from the sorcerers’ rods, but the fact remains that Satan can give people the power to perform certain miracles.
Those who accept Satan’s lies do so "because they did not receive the love of the truth...God will send them strong delusion" (2 Thes. 2:10-11). This is among the Bible’s most frightening statements. If God sends strong delusion, we are sure to be deceived. Condemnation comes to those who "did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (v. 12).
The only way to know whether a sign or wonder is true is to measure it with truth – with the Word of God. In John 8:32, Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Scripture is the sole determinant of truth or falsehood. We are instructed to "test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thes. 5:21).
The book of Revelation promises a specific series of supernatural signs and wonders that will signify the end of the age, but we must practice discernment as we anticipate judgment day, guarding ourselves against the devil’s tactics and holding fast to the true church, the bride of Christ.
As we await the day when our heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, will return to deliver us fully from this present evil age, we must be set apart from the world. When the Scriptures say world, they generally refer to the world system – the political and social order that rejects God, is ruled by Satan, and governs the minds and manners of people who have not been saved (2 Cor. 4:3-4; 1 John 5:19). Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God secured ultimate victory over the devil. Satan may rule this world, but his reign is fast approaching its end. Our deliverance – and God’s glory – shall endure for all ages. With this in mind, we are to share God’s light and love with the world – not to be confused with falling in love with the world or seeking to receive its love (1 John 2:15-17). Focusing on our heavenly home, we must clothe ourselves with humility. We must put off all self-seeking efforts and motives. These only fuel our pride, a dangerous attitude that blinds us to Satan’s deception and makes us vulnerable. And we must cling to the cross, the same instrument that deals Satan’s death sentence and secures our salvation through Christ’s victory.
Taken from Protection From Deception by Derek Prince. Copyright © 2008 by Derek Prince Ministries, International. (www.derekprince.org). Published by Whitaker House. Used by permission.