If you were the devil and wanted to deceive the entire world, how would you approach such a challenge?
One brilliant strategy would be to convince people that you're not really there—that you don't even exist. And the best way to do that would be to get them to believe that the only source of information that reveals who you are, along with your motives and methods, is little more than a collection of fables that have nothing to do with their lives.
We have seen exactly that. Starting several centuries ago, and prompted by the theories of men such as Charles Darwin—who came up with a way to explain creation without the Creator—many people began directly challenging the authority and inspiration of the Bible. They began to ridicule, as mere myth and superstition, the existence of a spirit world, long accepted without question by those who believed the Bible.
In the world's leading universities skeptics challenged the validity and accuracy of the Bible, and materialist reasoning under the guise of science—rejecting anything that cannot be detected by the physical senses—became the order of the day. Generations of leaders were taught to discard anything that could not be measured by scientific methods.
Then came two world wars. Two successive generations saw their fathers, husbands and sons lost on bloody battlefields in far-flung corners of the world, with neither war resulting in a lasting peace. Civilian casualties, too, were appalling, with tens of millions of lives snuffed out. Numbed by such brutal mass destruction of lives and property, many lost their belief in God, thinking that an all-powerful Supreme Being would never allow such carnage and suffering.
Thus, in only a few generations, belief in an almighty, all-loving God and trust in the Bible as His revelation to mankind were shattered.
In our modern world, although many people still claim to believe in God, few take their stated belief seriously enough to let it guide their lives. The Bible is consistently one of the world's best-selling books, yet it is one of the least read and least understood. Most people think the Bible and the spirit world have nothing to do with them and their lives.
Although religion should provide an understanding of God and the spirit world, it is too often only yet another source of confusion and disagreement. For example, Christianity is the professed religion of approximately a third of the world's population and is the largest single religion. But it is splintered into thousands of sects and denominations, many of them claiming to represent the true teachings of the Bible and Jesus Christ.
Never in human history, of course, have professing Christians comprised a majority of the world's population. Most people during the last two millennia have followed a bewildering array of deities, gurus and religious teachers. Some have believed in God, others in various good and evil spirits or no God and spirit world at all.
Obviously these incompatible and often opposite beliefs cannot all be right. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). The effect of so much religious confusion and division is exactly what one would expect from a being whose aim is to "deceive the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). Many people do not believe in the devil at all, and many of those who do aren't sure what they should believe, since so many religious teachings are confused and contradictory.
Most people are deeply sincere in their beliefs. But since the beliefs of so many professing Christians contradict the beliefs of other professing Christians, they cannot all be right. Many of them are sincere, but sincerely wrong. They, along with the rest of the world, have been deceived. So what are the implications to professing Christians of Satan's deception and its resulting confusion?
Christ challenged people in His day who were sincere yet deluded: "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46).
He cautioned His followers to be aware of religious deception. "Take heed that no one deceives you," He warned (Matthew 24:4). He prophesied that religious leaders would arise who would claim to represent Him but in fact they would be impostors who would "deceive many" (verse 5).
Rather than a source of information and understanding about the great malevolent spirit that is the enemy of mankind, religion has actually been one of the major tools the devil has used to deceive people!