Dr. Dan Hayden •

Con men have elaborate schemes to delude their prey. The idea behind a con is to make something look legitimate when in actuality it is not. So care is taken to cover every potential loop hole and answer every possible objection. Good con artists are smooth and articulate in the way they present their opportunity to unwary prospects, and they often give the impression that to question anything is the height of foolishness. It’s not until the cons are long gone and the dupe is left holding the bag that the real truth begins to dawn: I’ve been had! It’s an unsettling experience to be conned – a person is stripped of his or her dignity and most often left in an emotional heap of despair.

There is a word in the New Testament that describes this kind of an experience. It is the word “deceive,” which is sometimes translated “beguile” or “delude.” This is the word used by Paul when warning the believers in Thessalonica:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

Now, the particular thing the Thessalonians were being deceived about is what Paul referred to as the “Day of the Lord” judgment (v. 2). The Thessalonian Christians were experiencing a major persecution from their own countrymen for their faith in Christ. So they were under the impression that the end-times had come and the persecution they were experiencing was the persecution Paul had talked about. Others had tried to convince them of this too (v. 1-2), but it was all a great delusion. They were being conned.

The word “deceive” in this verse is not the simple word for deceive. It is the basic verb apatao, which means to deceive, cheat, or mislead. But the Greek preposition ek is added to the front of this verb to stress completeness. In other words, exapatao literally has the idea of being completely deluded—wholly seduced, utterly conned. They were in danger of being shaken in their composure and very disturbed (v. 2) if they did not see the ruse. They were being tricked into thinking something was true, when it really wasn’t.

There was a way out, however. There is always a way out of a con game—and that is by knowing the truth. The Day of the Lord judgment had not come (v. 2) and there were two indications of that. First, the apostasy (or falling away from the faith) had not yet happened; and second, the man of sin (or “antichrist”) had not yet been revealed. Knowing those two pieces of information unmasked the fraud and gave the Thessalonians the proper perspective on what was happening.

Well, we also are susceptible to deception, just like the Thessalonian believers. We too need to know the truth of God’s Word if we are not to be blindsided by various erroneous practices and doctrines, including the timing of end-time events. Con men have been “crying wolf’ for some time now—but the perceptive student of God’s Word will see the telltale marks of truth and not be taken in by their fraud. A patient and persevering spirit of study will enable any Christian to be unashamed as an accurate handler of the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

To be deceived and deluded is to end up being ashamed and shaken. Don’t be blindsided by the con man. Be alert and understanding through careful study of God’s Word. ■