Deborah Sampson was one of the few women to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. However, few people knew her identity because she disguised herself as a man. During one battle, she received a head wound, and two musket balls penetrated her thigh. When she was taken to the hospital, she allowed her head wound to be bandaged, but she left the hospital before they could treat her thigh wounds because she didn’t want her identity to be revealed. In April the following year, she was promoted to serve General John Paterson as a personal aid—and everyone still thought she was a man!
This story illustrates an important principle of deception: If it looks like deception, it won’t fool anyone. In order to deceive, deception has to look like the truth.
deception in the end time
The Bible predicts that the few years, and perhaps even months, before Jesus’ second coming will be a time of great deception. Jesus Himself warned us about this. He said that “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
Christians sometimes refer to these false christs as “antichrists.” The prefix anti- means “against,” so these false christs will be against the real Christ. And Jesus wasn’t the only one to predict that a false christ would arise and deceive people. Paul said that “the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing” (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10).
And writing in Revelation, John said that an end-time beast power will perform many miraculous signs by which he will deceive the inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 13:13, 14).
I can assure you of two things: whatever end-time individuals or nations end up perpetrating all these deceptions on the world, those who are deceived will think they’re being told the truth. And second, these deceptions will involve spiritual issues. Thus, it’s imperative that you and I understand how to recognize spiritual deception. But how do we do that? I will offer three suggestions.
1. know Jesus
Jesus described a very sad situation in which many people at His second coming will find that they are lost even though they thought they were saved. He said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ” (Matthew 7:22, 23).
Notice why Jesus told these people they were lost: they never knew Him. The question is, What does it mean to know Jesus?
A number of years ago I had the privilege of taking a trip to Israel. My tour guide during those 10 days was a brilliant Jewish fellow who amazed me with his knowledge about Jesus. He knew things about Christ’s life that I didn’t know, and he proved everything by quoting the New Testament. He talked about Christ’s life almost as though he believed the things he told us! My curiosity finally got the better of me, and I said to him one day, “Where did you learn all this about the life of Jesus?”
“To be a tour guide,” he said, “the Israeli government required me to take an intensive course on the Old and New Testaments. I know more about Christ’s life than most Christians.”
“But you even talk like a Christian,” I said.
“I believe Jesus was a real Person,” my guide replied. “I believe He did almost everything the New Testament says He did. When I talk to Christians, I serve their need to understand these things as believers, but there is a point beyond which I do not go in accepting Christ.”
Many Christians are like my Jewish guide. They know all about Jesus, but they don’t know Him as their personal Friend and Savior.
Fortunately, there’s a way you can test whether you really know Jesus. In that same Bible passage He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Did you notice that? “Only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Mark this down: Those who follow the antichrist will be willing to do almost everything they know the Bible requires. Almost, but not all. There’s a pet sin here, a secret vice there, that they are not willing to give up. They may refuse because they enjoy the sin, because the right way is too unpopular, or because they’re so attached to the sin (it’s called “addiction”) that they can’t give it up. The reason doesn’t matter. They aren’t willing to follow Jesus in every way they know.
Are you willing to follow Jesus completely? Are you prepared to do whatever He commands? That’s your test. If you’re holding back on anything, regardless of how small it may be, you’ll be in trouble when the antichrist comes with his deceptive charms.
2. love the truth
The second way you can tell whether the antichrist is likely to draft you into his service is closely related to the first: Do you love the truth? Paul said that those who follow the antichrist will “perish because they refused to love the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
To love the truth means to be anxious to discover anything that will make you a better person. People who love the truth not only accept it when it comes to them; they also make a diligent effort to find it. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). When you’re hungry, food is the only thing you can think about until you find it. That’s what it means to “love the truth.”
Those who love the truth take the initiative. They say, “Lord, show me new ways I can serve You, additional responsibilities You want me to carry, sins I’m not aware of that You want me to overcome.” I can guarantee you that those who say this prayer and, painful though it may be, obey what God says, will triumph over the antichrist.
3. know your Bible
The third way you can be sure to avoid the antichrist’s deceptions is to know your Bible, for the Bible unmasks Satan’s deceptions.
Many years ago I was the reporter for a weekly newspaper in a small Texas town. One day, I stopped by for a look at the town’s new bank building that was still under construction. The walls were up, and there was a roof overhead, but sawdust and wood scraps still covered the cement slab.
I stood around looking at the exterior of the building and chatting with a few workmen, then headed for the entrance. I started to step through what I thought was a doorway and bam!—I ran straight into a floor-to-ceiling window that looked like an opening. Fortunately, bank windows tend to be made of rather heavy plate glass, so it didn’t shatter. However, the blow made my head spin, and I had to sit down for a few minutes.
The glass had just been installed, and it was so new and clean that I looked straight through it without seeing it. It’s too bad somebody didn’t paint a red slash right down the middle of it!
Satan’s teachings are like that: unexpected and so innocent, so transparent, that even sincere Christians who love Jesus and want nothing more than to serve Him may fail to see them if there isn’t a big red slash painted across them.
The Bible will paint that red slash across the antichrist’s deceptions for you. If you search its pages with a prayer in your heart that God will show you the truth regardless of the consequences, He will reveal it to you. Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17, KJV*). That’s the key: are we searching the Bible honestly, willing to follow wherever it leads? Those who do will not be deceived.
Will you be deceived by the antichrist? I am persuaded that soon most Christians will be in his camp. Yet it is not necessary for even one soul to fall for his delusions. If we love Jesus and search with all our hearts for His truth as taught in the Bible; if we trust Him enough to follow wherever He leads, regardless of the personal sacrifice obedience may require, we will not be deceived.
* Bible verse marked KJV is from the King James Version.
Marvin Moore is the editor of Signs of the Times® magazine. He and his wife, Lois, live in Caldwell, Idaho.