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. (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
There is an assumption (a false one) that those who are deceived are always victims. They just didn’t know any better and were duped by the conniving and deceitful. However, the scriptures indicate that this is often not the case. No one will ever be able to say to God, “We just didn’t know.” God has revealed Himself to man in numerous ways. Indeed, the scriptures tell us that the very creation itself bears testimony to the existence of God (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:20). Beyond that, God’s objective moral truth is written upon the conscience of man, causing him to justify himself whenever his actions go contrary to what he knows to be right (Romans 2:14-15).
Today, we see a moral revolution going on right before our eyes. Standards that were once universally accepted as true and good are being supplanted by a post-truth moral relativism that allows subjective feelings to replace objective moral truth. What’s “right” is no longer determined by some fixed reference point of good and evil, but by what one feels is right at a given time in a particular set of circumstances. This, of course, has the convenient tendency to exonerate one of any perceived wrong-doing by simply pretending that one’s own moral reality replaces, or is simply preferable, to the traditional standards by which he or she may have been raised. Simply put, we believe what we want to believe, recreating right and wrong to suit our purposes. Critical thinking and logic are no longer sufficient to settle a matter when one’s subjective opinion is enough to swing the vote.
We not only see this in the gender identity crisis in our nation but in a thousand and one other areas of life. The hook-up culture has slapped a label of sanction on behavior that would once have been viewed by all good society as reprehensible. However, today we just dismiss such moral objections as an out of date anachronism with a laugh and a wave. A thousand walls of restraint have crumbled in our society, and yet this is supposed to be without cost. Despite this cultural current, some still find plenty to be offended by when, for example, others disagree with their point of view. It’s hard to understand how some can be so easily offended and cry that a moral outrage has been done when right and wrong are supposed to be subjective. If morality is truly relative, what empowers anyone to call anything bad or offensive?
If people will believe what they want to believe about something as fundamental as right and wrong, they will certainly listen to someone who will tell them what they want to hear, regardless of its dubious connection with the truth. In fact, Paul warned of a day when men would heap to themselves preachers and prophets who would tickle the ears of their listeners (2 Timothy 4:3). He said, “…they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). This is not deception in the way we often think of it. This is an intentional turning from the truth to hear something less demanding and exacting. Who wants to hear the truth when the lie will allow me to live as I please?
The prophets in the Old Testament often lost their lives standing up for the law of God and calling the sinful nation to repent, but today our society is creating its own prophets. They have always been among us, but today they are proliferating at an alarming rate. They can be heard in the media and entertainment industries, on late night talk shows and infomercials. They promote a morality that has uncoupled itself from the burdensome values of biblical truth and instead defends a man or woman’s right to live on their own terms. Those who do not adhere to this new morality find themselves the target of a vitriol so fierce it undermines any hope for rational dialogue. The goal of the adherents to this new dogma is to silence all opposition by shouting it down, flinging (or Tweeting) profane insults, or even threatening violence. Political correctness is the new holy book by which this new morality is guided, and the rules are being constantly changed so that even modest words of dissent are considered trigger words or micro-aggressions.
In short, our society is being trained to see the lie as the truth. We are literally seeing before our eyes how an entire society can flip good and evil so that they stand in opposite places. Standing for traditional marriage, as God designed it, is evil, while allowing a transgender to follow someone’s daughter into the women’s restroom is good. Allowing a mother to choose to terminate the life in her womb is good while enforcing the laws of our land in regard to immigration is bad. Emotion runs so high in these debates that the truth is completely lost in the toxic, hate-filled climate to which our society has become subject.
Growing up in church, I heard all my life of how the scriptures reveal that in the end times men would refuse to repent and call upon God, even when terrible judgments were befalling them. Why wouldn’t they just cry out to God for mercy and receive the grace and forgiveness He offers? My inability to conceive of this was due to my own healthy sense of reverence for God and a desire to live a life that would please Him. While aware that my goodness was insufficient to qualify me as righteous, I knew that He had made a way whereby I could receive His righteousness as a gift through the redeeming work of Christ. Why wouldn’t everyone want that? It was a question of innocence and naivety. Not everyone wants God. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. Those who don’t are ready to hear something else – sometimes anything else. Thus, when God sends the “strong delusion” to those who are deceived, it is not an act of vengeance but acquiescence, simply giving the sinner over to what he wants.
Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21). In the end, we have to choose whether we will be lovers or rejecters of truth. We can choose to be deceived if we want to follow our own passions, or we can submit to God and surrender our lives to follow truth. What we cannot do is adjust truth to our liking. It is both immutable and non-negotiable. Jesus is the embodiment of truth, and those who love the truth, love Him. Those who choose the truth, choose Him.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of Connecting Point Church, located at 101 Adkisson Way in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to randylanebunch.org. For more information on the ministries of CPC, you can go the ministry’s website at connectingpc.org.