By Sandy Simpson
Deception in the Church
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 serve the 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). Click here to continue reading.