The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. - 2Thessalonians 2: 9-12 (ESV)
The second chapter of the second letter by Paul to the Church at Thessalonica is meant as an assurance to the believers there and a correction from Paul to what appears to be a misapprehension on their part from the first letter. Based upon the context of this chapter it would appear that when Paul wrote his first letter and addressed the second coming of Christ that this unsettled many at the church and they mistakenly thought the events were at hand. Verses 13-17 provide comfort for those who are truly in Christ but before Paul gets there he clarifies what will happen for those who are not truly in Christ. I highlight these verses in light of the fact that no one likes to talk about and that is the increasing rate of false conversion in the church. Over the past decade we have seen the vast majority of non-Catholic churches adopt the Purpose Driven model when it comes to church administration resulting in a dumbing down of the Gospel and a switch from people being viewed as unsaved to unchurched. Stripping out the portions of the Gospel that result in salvation - namely sin and repentance - we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people becoming churched and an equally proportional fall in the number being saved. The Barna Group, and evangelical organization that researches faith in America, found that only 26% of churchgoers claim that church has dramatically changed their lives. A whopping 46% claimed zero change while 25% were of the lukewarm variety. Considering the likelihood for error is on the side of sounding more pious, these numbers are probably pretty accurate and potentially very frightening.
So what can we glean from these numbers? I think it is probably a fair statement to believe that upwards of 75% of the people going to church every Sunday are not actually born again and will stand before Christ asking "Lord Lord." Some may think this is a high number but realize how many people are completely suckered by false television preachers these days. Preachers with five personal jets. Preachers who tell them the Bible is about them. That God wants them rich and fat and content. No sacrifice. No cross. Cheap grace bought by millions worldwide. When I stop and consider the stranglehold these deceptions have on people I realize it is only by the true grace of God that the percentage is not higher! Remember beloved, the broad road which leads to hell is broad for a reason - there are a lot of people on it. Narrow is the way to heaven and few find it; so 26% doesn't sound so fanciful after all.
So the key verses spell out that the lawless one will arrive as an activity of Satan. As one commentary points out - the Antichrist is to Satan as Christ is to God. There is no question where the power is coming from. You will not hear much anymore from America's pulpits about Satan, let alone the Antichrist. They are not considered seeker friendly. Quite frankly, that is exactly how the devil wants it. But note the condition of the perishing. They are naive, duped and easily fooled. What do they buy into? Power, false signs and wonders and all wicked deception. Wow. Think about that for a moment in the context of some of the nonsense that passes for church these days. People chasing absolutely heretical ministries being led by people bragging that they are apostles and prophets. Chasing false prophecies spoken over their lives from the demonic side of the spiritual war they are losing. Chasing eastern mysticism, transcendental meditation, yoga, and contemplative prayer. Chasing fake healers. Buying fake prayer cloths and holy tap water. Chasing the power man has accumulated for themselves instead of the power of God. Deceived and wickedly so.
But hear the warning very well. These things we have just mentioned are the symptoms; not the disease. The cancer eating away at them behind all of this is a refusal to love the truth contained in the Word of God and so be saved. Period. I have dealt with people every week who get upset because their favorite false teacher has been called false correctly. The ends they will go to defend man is astonishing. You can present them with Biblical proof after Biblical proof but it will not matter because they refuse to love the truth. When you chase the next false prophet to lay hands on you - you are refusing to love the truth. When you continue to sit under blatantly false and hypocritical preaching - you are refusing to love the truth. Please, do not tell me you are waiting for God to tell you to leave. He already has - it's called the Bible.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. - Ephesians 5: 11 (ESV)
When you refuse to love the truth you lose the path to salvation. Only the Gospel saves. Not some three sentence prayer that never addresses our sin and desperate need for a Savior. Not some bogus purpose developed by worldly motivational experts. Only the Gospel. This is serious business beloved. Look at the next verse! God sends them a strong delusion! He hardens the heart of those who continue to reject Him under the banner of religion. I heard Paul Washer once quip that Joel Osteen was no so much a false teacher as he was God's judgment upon those people who were willing to sit through his sermons! That is what this verse is saying! At some point, God turns us over to our own lusts. He says if all you want is to be rich - I will send you a smiling wolf in a thousand dollar suit to tell you this is your best life now. That is one strong delusion. He says if all you want is to believe you are heaven bound while living bound to hell - I will send you a man to show you how to use the grace of God to approve of your sin. That is one strong delusion.