The Great Delusion (The Lie)
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. (2 Th 2:10b-11 NIV)
This passage of Scripture is one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. The first error that theologians make in interpreting this passage is to assume it is talking about spiritually unsaved people. This passage is addressing believers who are not open to the truth of the Word of God, and consequently lose their souls at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There has been much speculation about the lie that will apparently come from God, so that many will actually prefer to believe this lie instead of the truth. There are three primary questions that need to be answered to understand this passage of Scripture. I will state and answer these three questions in a very brief format, and then I will address the questions in more detail from the Scriptures—not from mere speculation.
Question 1: What is this lie that God would actually send out?
Answer: Paul gives the subject of the lie in the first few verses of this subtopic. The subject of the lie pertains to the Second Coming of our Lord and the Rapture of the Church. The actual lie itself is that the entire Church will be Raptured before the tribulation begins.
Question 2: Who are the recipients of this lie or doctrinal error that comes from God?
Answer: Paul identifies the recipients of this lie in verse three where he warns the Christians in Thessalonika against this deception. Consequently, the recipients of this lie are Christians.
Question 3: Why would God send out a lie to His own people, the Church, for them to be deceived?
Answer: Paul gives the answer to this question in verse 10 by stating that they did not love the truth and refused to receive it. Therefore, God sent them what they wanted and loved, THE LIE.
I will now address the questions in more detail within the context of the passage of Scripture where the lie is mentioned. It is paradoxical that God would send out doctrinal error to His people, the Church, but the passage clearly explains the reason, which is the refusal of the Church to love the truth.
We will now explain the entire passage of Scripture verse-by-verse.
(2 Th 2:1 KJV) Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
The issue in question is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together with him. Paul is addressing the brethren or Christians, and he actually beseeches or requests urgently that they pay close attention to what he is about to say about the coming of Jesus Christ to Rapture the Church.
(2 Th 2:2 KJV) That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
(2 Th 2:3 KJV) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
(2 Th 2:4 KJV) Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
(2 Th 2:5 KJV) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
The "day of Christ" in verse 2 above is the Rapture of the Church. This is confirmed by verse 1, which gives the definition of the "day of Christ". The meaning of a word or phrase in Scripture, as well as any writing, is determined by the context. The Thessalonians had been told that the Rapture had already occurred and they were in the day of the Lord. Their belief that they were in the Day of the Lord would have meant that they had missed the Rapture, and they were then enduring the wrath of God. Paul wrote them to alleviate their fears and explain when the Rapture would occur. Paul very clearly and succinctly told the Thessalonians that the day of Christ (i.e., the Rapture) would not occur until three distinct and separate events occurred. These three events are the apostasy, the revealing of Antichrist, and Antichrist establishing himself in the temple claiming to be God. The Rapture of the church is clearly and definitively stated by Paul to be in the middle of the tribulation period, since this is the time that Antichrist will establish himself in the temple and claim to be God. Of course, Antichrist will reveal himself at the beginning of the tribulation, immediately after the "apostasy."
The apostasy is a definite, distinct and clearly identified event that will take place, and all Christians will recognize the exact time that this event will transpire. The apostasy is not a process of something that transpires over a long period of time, such as a falling away from the faith or a rebellion against God. The revealing of Antichrist and his establishment in the temple are also events that will be clearly identified as taking place at a certain moment in time. Paul gave the Thessalonians three distinct and recognizable events that would take place before the Rapture would occur. It would be ludicrous for Paul to give the revealing of Antichrist as an event to watch for if the whole Church were going to be in heaven at the time.
The apostasy is probably the most misunderstood event in the Bible, because of the gross mistranslation of the transliterated Greek word apostasia as "falling away." This same Greek word is used five times in the New Testament in Mark 10:4; Matt. 19:7; Matt. 5:31; Acts 21:21; and 2 Thess. 2:3. It is translated "divorcement" in the first three, "departure" in the fourth, and "falling away" in the fifth. Divorcement or departure would be an accurate translation, but falling away is completely without merit. A better translation according to the above Scriptures would be "separation." The following is the definition of divorcement straight out of the American Heritage Dictionary:
di·vorce·ment -- n. Complete separation.
Divorcement would also be a highly appropriate translation of apostasia, as in the first three instances, since it is a time that Christ will "put away" those in the Church who have been unfaithful.
An accurate paraphrase of 2 Thess. 2:3-5 is as follows:
Let no man deceive you into thinking that the Rapture has already occurred, for the Rapture will not occur until the separation takes place, the Antichrist is revealed, and Antichrist presents himself as God by opposing God and exalting himself. Antichrist will even set himself up in the temple and present himself as God. Don't you remember that I told you these things when I was with you.
Paul tells the Thessalonians that the Rapture has not occurred, and that it will not occur until after The Separation takes place and the Antichrist is revealed and sets himself up in the temple. All of the above information in the Scripture provides the truth about the Rapture of the Church. Paul had even told the Thessalonians in person about the Separation and the exaltation of the Man of Sin before the Rapture, and he now reiterates this truth to them.
(2 Th 2:6 KJV) And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
In this verse Paul summarizes what he has just stated in the preceding verses. He has told them about the Separation of faithful Christians before Antichrist is revealed. He then states that they now know what is restraining evil. The following verse firmly identifies that which is restraining evil, as it will continue to restrain evil until it is taken out of the way. Then evil will be allowed to run rampant upon the earth. The restrainer is those Christians who will be removed at the time of the Separation. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount confirmed this when He stated that the faithful Christians were the salt of the earth. Salt is that which hinders or prevents corruption or putrefaction, which symbolizes evil. This is seen in the following verse:
(Mat 5:13 KJV) Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Jesus even stated that if the salt has lost its savor, then it is good for nothing and will be cast out “to be trodden under foot of men.” This simply means that if a Christian has lost his distinctive ability to restrain evil, then he will be cast out at the time of the Separation to be persecuted by men.
(2 Th 2:7 KJV) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
Paul continues to explain the Separation by saying that the mystery of evil is continuing to work, but that which restrains evil or hinders its progression will continue to operate until it is taken out of the way. In other words, the faithful Christians who have not lost their savor will continue to restrain evil in the world until these faithful Christians are removed from the earth at the time of the Separation or the Firstfruits Rapture.
The whole context of this passage of Scripture pertains to the Separation of the faithful ones who restrain evil by being like salt, and when they are gone, the Wicked One (i.e., Antichrist) will be revealed. Evil will run rampant upon the earth when those Christians who have been cast out will be trampled under foot or persecuted by Antichrist and his evil men. It is very important to note that they are cast out because they have lost their savor, or their distinctive ability to restrain evil.
(2 Th 2:8 KJV) And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
This verse continues the pronouncement that Antichrist will only be revealed after the restrainer has been removed from the earth. It is the Holy Spirit who does the removing and not the one who is removed. This is one of the biggest errors in Biblical understanding today to think that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit. This is actually part of the lie that God sends out to those who do not love the truth, but prefer to believe THE LIE that the Rapture will happen before the tribulation period and before Antichrist is revealed.
(2 Th 2:9 KJV) Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
This verse continues the description of Antichrist as the one whose coming is after the working of Satan with power, signs and lying wonders. The word for working means superhuman power, and the signs and lying wonders are supernatural and from Satan himself.
(2 Th 2:10 KJV) And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
This verse confirms that the coming of Antichrist will be the grandest deception of mankind since Satan deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden. The New International Version translates this passage very well as follows:
(2 Th 2:10 NIV) and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
“Those who are perishing” are those Christians who are not faithful. They are not faithful because they do not love the truth clearly set forth in the above Scriptures about the Separation, the identity of the restrainer, and the fact that numerous Christians will perish at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The salvation is the salvation of the soul and not the salvation of the spirit. This is also part of THE LIE that the great majority of Christians prefer to believe instead of the truth. It is because of this preference for THE LIE that it is God Who sends out the “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” The word immediately before “lie” is the definite article “the” instead of the indefinite article “a”. It is true that God sends out this lie, but we must understand why he sends it out, and this is stated in the following verse.
(2 Th 2:11 KJV) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
Christians refuse to love the truth, and it “for this cause” that “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a [the] lie.” The NIV translates this verse correctly by inserting the definite article as follows:
(2 Th 2:11 NIV) For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
I reiterate that it is God Who sends the “powerful delusion” to “believe the lie” because they did not love the truth. The word for powerful means “effectual working” and the word for delusion means “error” or a “straying from orthodoxy”. It is difficult to understand why God would actually send out error to the Church, but we must understand that this is what they prefer. The following passage of Scripture confirms that the Church in the latter days will prefer doctrinal error to the truth:
(2 Tim 4:3 KJV) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
(2 Tim 4:4 KJV) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
It becomes clear that God has sent the effectual working doctrinal error to the Church for the simple reason that the Church prefers to believe this error rather than the truth of the Word of God. The Church has even interpreted this passage of Scripture as referring to the spiritually unsaved during the tribulation period, but the truth is that it refers to the majority of Christians in the Church today. The doctrinal error is that the entire Church will be raptured before the tribulation period starts, and no Christian will suffer any under the persecution of Antichrist.
Just as Paul stated in this passage of Scripture, this “powerful delusion” is rampant in the Church and the great majority of the Church is deceived. The popular theologians and the great majority of pastors and teachers in the Church today teach this doctrinal error. Is God surprised and disturbed by this doctrinal error having permeated the Church? Absolutely not for He is the One who sent this error out to the Church in response to the Church’s refusal to love the truth. Will those in the Church who have believed this error be responsible for their beliefs? Absolutely, as the following Scripture states that they will be judged and punished for believing this error.
(2 Th 2:12 KJV) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
This verse needs an accurate paraphrase to fully understand what it is saying:
(2 Th 2:12 Paraphrase) That they all might be censured who believed not the truth, but it pleased them to believe error.
The word for “damned” is the Greek word krino and it means to be judged, disapproved and punished for refusing to believe the truth. This is exactly what is going to happen to Christians who refuse to believe the truth about the Separation or Firstfruits Rapture of those faithful Christians who have not lost their savor.
The teaching about the Rapture of the entire Church before the tribulation period comes from God through the great majority of pastors and teachers in the Church today. This is what they wanted to believe, so God has obliged them to believe the error, but they will be greatly censured for believing this error. The most popular authors and teachers in the Church today teach this error. They are Christians who teach it and not Satan’s emissaries. This is why this passage clearly states that it is God who sends the strong delusion (i.e., effectual working error) so they will believe THE LIE.
One easily sees how strong this delusion (doctrinal error) is when a Christian attempts to teach the truth about the Firstfruits Rapture. This Christian is persecuted, smitten, ostracized, and made an example for all to see. There are few stout-hearted Christians who are willing to stand up to all of the Christians operating under this strong delusion.
I have seen numerous Christians fight the doctrine of the Separation, in spite of the numerous and clear passages of Scripture that teach this truth. It is this “strong delusion” that causes otherwise sincere and trustworthy Christians to pervert and distort the Scriptures to mean something other than what they clearly state. I have seen many good exegetes who understood the Scriptures in regard to the kingdom and the difference between spirit and soul salvation. However, they become obstinate, closed-minded, and downright mean when they are confronted with the truth and the Scriptures that teach the coming separation of faithful Christians from unfaithful Christians. These Christians are operating under this “strong delusion” and they are unteachable.
I have several friends who opposed me tooth and nail on this teaching about the Separation, but they finally came around after years of opening up the Scriptures in regard to this truth. One very good friend heard about these truths for about two years, and he attended our Bible studies for about three months steady one time. We would discuss and open up the Scriptures each week on the Firstfruits Rapture. Finally, one night he broke down and wept and stated that he saw this in the Scriptures and it was very clear. He then made a statement that I already knew to be true. He said, “I was unable to see it because I did not want to see it.” The same is true with numerous Christians who argue, debate, and provide an endless list of reasons—but no Scripture—as to why the Firstfruits Rapture is not true. It is very frustrating for those of us who clearly see the Firstfruits Rapture in literally hundreds of Scriptures. It is very important for us to be patient with these Christians who are unable to see it because they are operating under this “strong delusion”. One day soon all of these Christians are going to see and understand the Firstfruits Rapture. We need to pray that they will overcome this delusion and see it before the Firstfruits Rapture takes place.