Jesus Christ, in Revelation, reveals that the devil (Satan), "who deceives the whole world…the accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:9-10), will attack and attempt to deceive His Church. He warns us that the devil and his angels were cast to the earth and will persecute the church (symbolized by a woman) because he knows that he has a short time to do so (Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:12-13).
Peter the apostle warned the Church, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9, KJV).
God's Church has been a sanctuary for protection, but Jesus warned His disciples, "…Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matthew 24:4-5, KJV). "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall [show] great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24, KJV).
Satan is subtle, cunning and crafty. Paul throws up a huge red flag of warning to us, "…I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that [comes preaches] another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if [you] receive another spirit, which [you] have not received, or another gospel, which [you] have not accepted, [you] might bear well with (the Greek "anechromai" can mean “to hold oneself up against, forbear, shun, endure”) him... For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness..." (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, KJV).
Why does God allow deceptions?
Certainly God allows those who rebel against the truth to be deceived, but why would God allow deceptions to occur within His Church? There is no doubt God can and does protect His Church from Satan. But God is selecting and choosing an elect, called the first fruits, in this age for a very special purpose (James 1:18; Revelation 14:4).
Jesus made it clear to His disciples that He would allow Satan to test and prove His people and He would separate His true shepherds from the hired workers (Luke 12:42-48; John 10:11-13) and the true believers, the elect, from unbelievers (John 3:18-21; 1 Corinthians 11:19). He also said in Matthew 22:14, "For many are called, but few are chosen."
God is proving and selecting a very elect that love and obey the truth (Deuteronomy 13:3-4; Matthew 5:19-20). It is important therefore that we read and heed the warnings and instructions of the prophets, Jesus Christ and His apostles. We need to avoid the deceptions and snares of Satan and of the world and of our own vanity and sin.
Then Christ will return as "Lord of lords and King of kings" to save mankind from annihilating all life from the earth and set up the Kingdom of God! And He shall reward His saints: those who are called, and chosen, and faithful! (Matthew 24:22; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 20:4-6; Revelation 22:12).
Paul said, "we are not [or should not be] ignorant of [Satan's] devices (the Greek "noema" can mean “thoughts, purposes, schemes, or mind”)" (2 Corinthians 2:11, KJV). Satan is no amateur at deception. One thing we can be certain of is that Satan wants us to be confused and not believe or obey the truth. He is truly the "accuser of the brethren" (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9-10).
The natural human mind is opposed to the knowledge and laws of God (Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 2:11-14). Adam and Eve sinned after Satan’s temptation (Genesis 3). So in the day they sinned, they were cut off from free access to the tree of life and as a result would die in sin (Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13). They did not have access to the Holy Spirit and surely did not think about the consequences of their actions.
Satan also tempted Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:17), but He being filled with the Holy Spirit, believed and relied on the Word of God. Satan tried to arouse vanity, questioning the validity of His power and authority (Matthew 3:17). "If you are the Son of God, command that stones become bread." (Matthew 4:3, NKJV). Jesus resisted his temptation by humbly and faithfully quoting the Word of God, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4, NKJV).
Next, Satan tried to tempt Him by quoting, twisting and misapplying Scripture: "If you are the Son of God...throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you’, and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone’."Jesus again replied, faithfully quoting and putting the Word of God in context, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:6-7, NKJV).
Satan, obviously becoming frustrated with Jesus, tried a third time to tempt Him by appealing to His compassion and strong desire to intervene to right the wrongs Satan perpetrated. He offered Him power over all the kingdoms of the world if He would bow down and worship him. Jesus again steadfastly resisted the devil, commanding him to leave, faithfully quoting the Word of God to him,"For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve'" (Matthew 4:10, NKJV).
We also need to be faithful with the inspired Word of God lest we be drawn into the snare of the devil. Satan's purpose is to divide and devour God's people. Deception and confusion are just some of his tools.
Appeal for unity
Paul appealed to the churches, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly [united] in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10, NKJV). If we remain united in the truth, it is far more difficult for Satan to deceive us.
Then he says in Ephesians 4:3, Ephesians 4:13-15, "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him, who is the Head--even Christ" (NKJV).
If we have come together in Jesus’ name, should we not believe what He believed and taught? So what did Jesus believe? Did He change the Word of God or make up new doctrines? No (Matthew 5:17-20; John 7:16-18; John 14:10)! The examples Jesus gave are that of believing, obeying and being faithful and accurate to the Word of God.
What did Jesus Christ teach us to do to combat deception?
Christ said, "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them... I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them... Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:8, John 17:14, John 17:17, NKJV). He did not appeal to the works of philosophers, scholars or theologians for truth, though He was well informed as to their beliefs.
Consider the words of the following scriptures: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV)…Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NKJV).
"Contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints." (Jude 3, NKJV).Don't let anyone take your crown (Revelation 3:11) or deceive you in any way, for the end times will not come until the rebellion (in Greek the word used is "apostasia" meaning “to forsake, falling away, defection from truth”) occurs and the man of lawlessness (or sin) is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Why would Christ bother teaching God's Word and truth if it was just going to be changed after His death? On the contrary, He almost pleads for us to hear God's Word and not be deceived. It's not good enough to just listen to what others have to say about the Bible, it is essential that we study it ourselves that we "be not deceived"!