But neither of these characterizations is anywhere close to the truth. In reality, if you were to meet the devil, you would find him attractive, engaging and persuasive. Though he is really the prince of darkness, Satan successfully presents himself as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14 2 Corinthians 11:14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
American King James Version×).
Satan is a master of misrepresentation. He is the world’s greatest advertiser, packaging his product so it seems attractive and appealing, while in reality it is poisonous and deadly. He wants his clients to see him as good, beneficent and trustworthy. He wants his product—sin and rejection of God—to appear enticing and inviting, and he is usually quite successful.
Satan never presents sin as it really is. He never presents both sides of the story, pro and con. He presents only what he wants us to see, something that appears fun and exciting. He wants us to focus on pleasure, on what feels or looks good at the moment. He wants long-term consequences to be the last thing on our minds while he entices us to sin.
The vast majority of people have lost sight of the real connection between cause and effect. We rarely hear or see that concept mentioned, much less discussed. Instead we hear people clamor for quick fixes to every problem, ease for every discomfort and a pill for every ailment. We seldom stop to consider the long-term consequences of our actions. (To better understand these principles, download or request your free copy of the booklet Why Does God Allow Suffering? )
Our approach is shortsighted and foolish. “Do not be deceived,” cautions Paul. “God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow” (Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
American King James Version×, New Revised Standard Version).
We live in a world that pays little attention to the long-term results of sin. We don’t think through the consequences of our words and deeds, and we’re constantly under pressure from a society that is built on Satan’s standards and values rather than God’s.
It’s neither easy nor popular, considering the culture surrounding us, to adopt a different set of values and standards—those that God reveals. As Jesus said: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world…the world hates you” (John 15:18-19 John 15:18-19 18 If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
American King James Version×). God’s way will never be popular in this day and age.
Nevertheless, most people appear supremely confident that their ways are pleasing to God. They defend their religious beliefs and practices as being perfectly satisfactory and acceptable in God’s eyes. They assume that all, or most, teachers and churches bearing the Christian name teach the truth. Few indeed stop to consider that Satan’s great deception is not only worldwide, but has deeply infiltrated Christianity.
Notice the context of Paul’s words when he writes that Satan appears as “an angel of light.” In 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
American King James Version×Paul warns of “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” We shouldn’t be surprised at this, writes Paul, because “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
Is that possible? How could people who claim to represent Jesus Christ in reality be Satan’s “ministers,” his servants, used by the devil to spread deception?
Jesus Himself repeatedly warned of this very thing! He said that many would appropriate His name but deny Him by their actions. He stated: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:22-23 Matthew 7:22-23 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
American King James Version×). Of such, he asked, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 Luke 6:46And why call you me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
American King James Version×).
Jesus and His true apostles spoke of false apostles, false prophets and false brethren. Jesus further warned: “Take heed that no once deceives you. For many will come in My name and deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-11 Matthew 24:4-11 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
American King James Version×). He knew that false teachers would arise who would teach a distorted, corrupted version of Christianity. That deception began in the first century, when Paul wrote that some were already teaching a “different gospel” and “pervert[ing] the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7 Galatians 1:6-7 6 I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
American King James Version×).
To carry out his purpose, Satan uses some people to deceive other people. This is especially true when they are motivated by personal ambition to be teachers of spiritual matters but lack a proper understanding of the Scriptures. Satan simply takes advantage of that desire and seduces susceptible individuals to represent Christ falsely, though often sincerely, while advancing the devil’s own deceptive, disguised agenda. Indeed, such teachers are usually unwitting agents of Satan, being deceived themselves along with everyone else.
Lest you be misled by this greatest of all of Satan’s deceptions, you need to be sure that your beliefs are based firmly on the Bible. (For more on how pervasive Satan’s deceptions are among churches that profess to be Christian, see “The Great Counterfeiter “. And be sure to download or request a free copy of our booklet The Church Jesus Built . )