by Sandy Simpson, 1/16/14
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 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 servethe lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
This has always been an interesting passage to me for a few different reasons. What is “the lie” that is talked about here in verse 9? What are the ways that “wickedness deceives those who are perishing” and how long has this been going on or does this only begin to happen at the coming of the lawless one? In what way does “the lie” cause those who do not believe the truth to “delight in wickedness”?
To briefly answer those questions, the lie is the lie of Genesis 3:5 which we will look at in a moment. If this verse were only specifically about the lie the antichrist tells about claiming to be “God” then it would have likely read “they will believe his lie”. Notice that the passage says “wickedness deceives those who are perishing” and not “those who will perish” under the rule of the antichrist. So apparently this “lie” has been affecting mankind for a long time because the phrase “are perishing” is present tense when this was written by Paul being guided by the Holy Spirit. The fact that the “lie” causes men to “delight in wickedness” also seems to indicate that this is not simply talking about the time of the antichrist but all those who believe the lie and do not believe the truth.
There have been many varying explanations for this passage in 2 Thes. by some of the best commentators of the past, though no real specific agreement is reached by them. John Gill focuses on this being brought to fruition in the Pope, the so-called “Vicar of Christ” who has historically summed up what the Antichrist will be revealed in claiming that he is Christ. Some state more generally that those who reject the truth are rejecting who Christ is. JB Philips says that the lie is that Antichrist claims to be God. Matthew Henry says it is a rejection of the Gospel of grace with parallels to the passage on blasphemy (Matthew 12:31) where Henry claims that rejection of Grace is what constitutes blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Matthew Poole names a number of lies such as lying wonders, false doctrines, false prophecies, idols etc. as constituting “the lie”.
These are all good explanations and certainly play a part in our search for “the lie”. But I have come to the conclusion that “the lie” is a root cause, not a symptom as I see in most explanations. So where can we find out what this “lie” is? I believe we have to go back to the beginning to find it.
Genesis 3:5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In the Genesis account we know that the serpent lied to Eve and then she and Adam decided to disobey God. But the enticement was not so much the sight of the fruit (lust of the eyes), or the taste of the fruit (lust of the flesh), but was the false notion that they could be “like God” (pride of life) and that the knowledge of good (they already knew that) and evil was a thing to make them be like God. The pride of life temptation of Satan has always been the strongest appeal to the free will of man. The devil tempted Jesus with these three sins that, since Adam and Eve, plague the sinful human condition. I will list them out of order to make my point (Matt. 4:1-11).
The Lust of the Flesh
Matt. 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Deut 8:3)
The Lust of the Eyes
Matt 4:8-11 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ (Deut 6:13)
The Pride of Life
Matt. 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ (Psalm 91:11,12) Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ (Deut 6:16)
Now even though Jesus could have done any of these things and ordered Satan directly to hell or out of existence, He answered the enemy as an example to us from the written Word each time. Notice after the first temptation where the devil appealed to the lust of the flesh, since Jesus was very hungry, and having been answered with Scripture, Satan changes his tactic and misuses Scripture as his second temptation addressing the pride of life. After he is again rebuffed by the written, eternal, Word of God, he goes back to attempting to tempt Jesus on the basis of what he has been allowed to have, that is, temporary dominion over the kingdoms of the world.
But this set of temptations was used to seduce Adam and Eve first and, in that case, in disobeying God, it resulted in sin being brought into the world. Though these three temptations were all part of why Adam and Eve fell, the “pride of life” temptation was the one, I believe, which sent them over the top. They could be “like God”!
When you look at what I like to call “the BIG lie”, that man can be like God, you can quickly see this is a driving force behind virtually all the deception and lies today. Societies and churches are full of the BIG lie. Many people today have fully bought into the BIG lie and I believe that God is allowing this to happen to those who will not believe in the Gospel and remain faithful to Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the longer they disobey God in this, the closer they get to God “giving them over” to this lie which always means that there is no salvation left for that person. I have never seen the BIG lie invade so much of the consciousness of people as I have today, and I am old enough to remember a time when this was not so.
You can basically start with postmodernism as a basis for everything that this lie touches. The “new idea” of postmodernism, which is really a very old one, is what drives most of society today. This lie goes back to the times of the judges and before where the Bible says that “every man did what which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). But today it has morphed into a straight ahead belief that man is evolving toward godhood and, in fact, people have now become gods unto themselves. This is evidenced in society’s lack of the fear of God in placing its own judgments above that of God in his written Word.
When you look at the homosexual debate you can see quite clearly that people think that they know better than God. When it comes to a difference between the written word of God and the opinions and consensus of these new liberal egotists in our culture, we can see clearly who wins and who loses in the hearts of men. This goes over into other issues such as sexual immorality, environmentalism, planetary sustainability, global warming, and the demented idea by most liberals that humans can create a Utopia on earth. Judges rule not on the basis of the written Word, as they used to, but on the basis of their own ideas. Legislators pass laws from their own sensibilities and ideologies instead of hearkening to the will of the people. Leaders of many nations enact laws for their own benefit and to enrich themselves instead of being humble servants in the positions that God has put them. Schools teach children to have high self esteem and change the history books to glorify people from the past who are not true heroes but who fit into their warped sense of political correctness.
They teach sex education to very young children to the consternation and alarm of some parents. One example of that here in Hawaii is that the “Pono Choices” sex education curriculum is said to give three legitimate human relationship alternatives: homosexual, lesbian, and heterosexual. As one recent report stated, teachers in the Hawaii public schools are to give these three alternatives but to state that the least desirable alternative is heterosexual marriage. The reason normal marriage is to be stated as the least desirable is that they are to tell the children that when a man and woman are in a marriage relationship there is a higher likelihood of physical abuse. When a parent asked a public school teacher why they couldn’t give positive examples of heterosexual marriages, he replied that he was not allowed to do that but had to follow the curriculum, and if he did not he might lose his job.
Rights and freedoms are being systematically taken away by governments and by leaders who believe that they are the anointed ones; the ones who are somehow (in their own minds) further along on the evolutionary scale toward godhead, and thereby can and should make decisions for those who are not as evolved. Television shows glorify all kinds of immoral behavior based on an erroneous understanding of freedom, claiming that personal decisions are neutral and don’t really hurt anyone else. Postmodernism, subjectivism and relativism have the motto that truth can be different from person to person and each person needs to be careful not to judge others based on his or her truth. The notion that we can create our own reality has been picked up by the media and popularized by celebrity talk show hosts such as Oprah Winfrey. This all comes from the New Thought/New Age school of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuler as well as from the parallel Word of Faith root of Essex Kenyan and Kenneth Hagen. In our time those who have brought the Word of Faith message of positive thinking and positive confession forward to our time are people such as Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and any of hundreds and hundreds of TV televangelists. This deluded idea was first invented by the devil himself while he was still in heaven; that is, denying true reality in favor of one’s own manufactured reality. This has become the norm, not only in society, but also in many, many churches. While in the past the idea that a person could create their own reality by speaking positive thoughts was laughable; today it has become part and parcel of the society we live in. Now when televangelists promise their followers that all they need to do is send some money to them and their positive action will result in great piles of cash coming back to the giver, the dopes actually believe it. This is because postmodernism, mixed with eastern mysticism, has brainwashed most people. But it all actually goes back to the BIG lie.
More and more people, though they may not recognize it in themselves, are buying into the perception that they truly are “little gods”. Benny Hinn claimed numerous times on TBN and that he was “a little god, a little messiah walking around”. He urged his followers at his crusades to chant “I Am, I Am”. Joel Osteen regularly and insistently preaches that positive thoughts and confessions bring positive results in people’s lives, whereas negative thoughts and confessions will bring about negative consequences. Many people who have bought into the Word of Faith, New Apostolic, Emergent Church and other movements that teach this stuff have had their lives ruined by these ideas. I have many emails to prove that.
I am a firm believer in what the Bible says about the fact that there is a time and place for everything.
Ecc. 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Notice that there is a time and place for everything … a time to laugh, a time to mourn, a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing, etc. We are not created in order to only have positive thoughts. We’re certainly not created with the ability to create something out of nothing (ex nihilo) as only God is (Col. 1:16, Heb. 11:3) Anyone who knows the truth about who God is understands that it is God who creates reality from nothing, not man, therefore man cannot possibly be God. Though God has given mankind a spirit as a reflection of Himself Who is Spirit and free will, we do not have His powers, such as the power of omnipotence and omniscience. Those who no longer have the fear of God, or perhaps never did, will find themselves facing God someday and having to answer for the assumption that they know better than God. The egotism of many people is astounding to me these days! How can they possibly think that their little minds and values match those of God?
What amazes me even more is that Christians, who ought to know better, actually think that they can create things they want in their lives through their thoughts and actions. This is a direct denial of the Gospel message where we learn the reality that we are all sinners and we cannot match up to the Glory of God. But apparently many people have forgotten this and they actually do think that they’re already physically glorified now. Of course those who are truly born again are guaranteed glorification as the hope of the coming glory we will have with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:30). But just because Jesus ransomed us from the clutches of sin, the devil, and death and justified us, is sanctifying us, and will glorify us does not make us little gods now. On the contrary, it illustrates to us that the BIG lie of the devil has never been the truth nor will it ever be.
For reference on the BIG lie of Satan you might want to read my article or watch the DVD called “Satan was the first postmodernist“. Satan actually thought that he needed to be worshipped as God was worshiped; willingly forgetting that he was a created being and not the Creator. The Bible says that men have also deliberately forgotten God.
2 Peter 3:5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
Amazingly, Lucifer did this while he was still in the third heaven in the presence of God! So I guess it’s not beyond the bounds of imagination to understand that men and women can, in the presence of God’s intricate created world which is ample evidence of Him, believe the BIG lie that they are gods.