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. Care is taken to cover every potential loophole and to answer every possible objection. Good con artists are articulate and smooth in the way they present their cons to unwary prospects. They often give the impression that to question them is naïve and foolish.
It is not until the con men are long gone and the dupe is left holding the bag that the real truth begins to dawn: I’ve been had! It’s unsettling to be conned. A person is stripped of his or her dignity and oftentimes left in a despairing emotional heap.
The New Testament has a word describing this kind of experience. It is the word, “deceive,” which is sometimes translated “beguile” or “delude.” This is the word used by Paul when he warns 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 – ESV, emphasis mine).
Now, the Thessalonians were being deceived particularly about the “day of the Lord” judgment (v. 2). These Christians were experiencing a major persecution from their own countrymen for their faith in Christ. They were under the impression that the end-times had arrived and their current persecution was that which Paul had talked about. Others tried to convince them of this also (v. 1-2), but it was all a great delusion. They were being conned.
The word “deceive” in verse 3 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 the word to stress completeness. In other words, exapatao literally has the idea of being completely deluded—wholly seduced, utterly conned. These naïve believers were being tricked into thinking something was true when it really wasn’t; they were in danger of being shaken in their composure and very disturbed (v. 2) if they did not see through the ruse.
We also are susceptible to prophetic deception just like the Thessalonian believers. We too need to know the truth of God’s Word if we are to escape being blindsided by various errors of practice and doctrine, including the timing of end-time events.
Con men have been “crying wolf” with regard to the rapture of the church for some time now with apocalyptic calculations and brazen date-settings. More recently Messianic visionaries have entertained us with clever slight-of-hand predictions that earth-shattering events related to the Coming of Christ are upon us. They have used obscure verses out of Isaiah, lunar patterns related to Israel’s feasts, and ominous consequences if we ignore the Shmita years of Israel’s agricultural cycle.
For instance, Pastor John Hagee (in his book, Four Blood Moons) popularized Messianic Rabbi Mark Biltz’s prophetic calculation, which didn’t even come close to being historically accurate or biblically correct (see my article: The Four Blood Moons Theory). Nothing happened on the first three blood moons in 2014 and early 2015—and the fourth blood moon occurs September 28, 2015. We will know after this date if the prophecy gurus were correct about a cataclysmic event happening within the current tetrad cycle of blood moons occurring on Jewish feast days. Don’t hold your breath.
Millions of people are being deluded, but book sales are off the charts. False prophecy is a lucrative business, but a dangerous profession. Since we’re talking about Jewish feasts here—Jewish law requires that a false prophet be stoned to death should he deceive the people by prophesying in error. So, what do you think?
Biblical prophecy is a legitimate and important pursuit. But it is a huge hermeneutical stretch to apply God’s warning to Israel concerning the Assyrian invasion in the 8th Century BC to the demise of America in the 21st Century AD (The Harbinger by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn). And it is irresponsible Bible study to associate blood moon astronomical cycles that occur on Passover and Sukkoth (which always occur on a full moon) with the single blood moon sign of end-time events spoken of in Scripture (Four Blood Moons by Pastor John Hagee and Messianic Rabbi Mark Biltz).
Christ does want us to know the season of His coming (Matthew 24:32-33), so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, become a careful student of God’s prophetic Word—and be very skeptical of contemporary sensationalism.
The Thessalonian believers were conned, and it affected their walk with the Lord. They ended up ashamed and shaken because they were deceived and deluded. The lesson for us is, don’t be blindsided by the con men. ■