What was the first statement/phrase Jesus made about future events or the end times?
Look up (Luke 21:7-8 KJV) And you will find the answer is:
In verse 8: Take heed that ye be not deceived:
Another way of putting it is: BE VERY CAREFUL that you are not deceived.
Of course that is one of the constant warnings in The Bible from the beginning to the end.
Granted it is stated in different ways but the result is the same. Do not be deceived be sure what you are doing is right.
For instance in Proverbs: 14:15 it says:
The simple believeth every word:
but the prudent man looketh well to his going. (KJV)
Or put another way.
A simple man believes every word he hears;
a clever man understands the need for proof. (New English Bible 1970)
Or for instance in the New Testament:
1st John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
All through the bible the same statement is essentially stated in some form or another, Be very careful that you are not deceived.
I can almost hear a lot of people mumbling right now, "Oh, that is easy I KNOW I am NOT being deceived by anyone."
Really? How do you know?
That is not a rhetorical question. Seriously, how do you really know that you are not being deceived?
"I just know!" is not a valid answer.
In this case I am not talking about just religion. With anything someone tells you how do you really know you are not being deceived? How do you really know that the person is telling you the truth and not something to promote an agenda that is in THEIR interest?
If we are honest, we have to admit that all of us have been tricked or played as a fool or scammed or in some way deceived at some point in our lives. Sometimes it was harmless deception. Other times the deception had far more serious consequences.
My question is, "Did you realize you were being deceived at the time the deception was taking place or after you had already fallen for the deception?" The answer is of course, "No". Because if you recognized the deception was going on you were not deceived. The only way to be deceived is if one does not recognize anything is happening out of the ordinary.
Of course there are many, many, many different types of deception. However for now let us simply discuss three very broad areas.
The first type that I suspect most people think of is the intentional willful deception.
Basically the first category of deception is one where people intentionally, with planning, are going to do their best to get you to do something that is in THEIR interest and NOT yours.
And example of this would of course be the stereotypical used car sales people. "Have I got a great used car for you, it is extremely low mileage owned by a little old lady that only drove it to church meetings and the store."
Of course in The Christian Bible from Adam and Eve to the Final Chapters of Revelation the fallen angels and their minions are always trying to get people to do the wrong thing. Sadly far to often succeeding in getting the people to follow the wrong path and move away from Our Lord.
The second type we will discuss is Unintentional Deception.
These are the people that honestly believe they are doing the correct thing, but in reality are doing something very wrong.
There are hundreds of examples from instructors to medicine to governments to the press where people are taking the information they were given sincerely believing it to be true then deceiving others with the same false information.
A perfect example of sincere Christians believing that they were doing the right thing is found in
(Matthew 7:22-23 Webster) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out demons? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The people obviously thought they were doing the right things and doing what Our Lord wanted them to do. Unfortunately, the fallen ones had deceived them. It is also very important to note that Jesus did not really care that they had been deceived. The fact was they were going merrily along on a deceptive false path thinking it was the correct one. Never bothering to check 'the map' to verify if they were going the correct way or if they were 'on the wrong road'. In the process, deceiving more people and pulling them down the false path as well.
Sadly today there is a lot of this exact kind of deception going on nearly everywhere we look in the world today. People that sincerely think they are telling the truth as well as doing the correct things, but in reality are promoting sometimes very dangerous lies.
The last type of deception is self-deception. This is the type of deception where one is being told the truth. Often there may even be plenty of supporting evidence, yet the person refuses to believe it.
This type of deception often seems to involve pride, ego, prejudices, laziness and many other self induced reasons for not wanting to listen to or believe information that is being shared. This self deception is where one simply is not willing to listen to or believe their own eyes, ears, intelligence, heart or anything else. Sometimes practically to the point of denying that we need to breathe in order to stay alive. Especially if a particular person or group is making the statement that the person does not want to hear or believe. Or if the statement is outside the norms of what one expects to hear.
Of course, there are many, many, many, more types of deception than what I have mentioned. However this is a good starting point for the very serious question in both spiritual and secular matters, "How do you really know you are not being deceived?"
So how do you know if you are being deceived? Or the counter part to the question, "How do you know that you are not being deceived?"
Most people just say, "I know."
"Ok you know, but HOW do you know for sure?"
Let us start with a real world example.
In this case I am going to pick on the medical profession.
Before I start let me make it clear that there are a lot of good honest doctors in the world. However if we are truthful, we also have to admit there are a lot of not so honest doctors in the world. For this example, I could have just as easily picked any area from anthropology to governments to zoology. However most people tend to blindly trust and usually do whatever a doctor says without question. Thus for this example doctors and the medical profession in general seemed like the best choice for our question regarding deception.
Have you been to a medical doctor recently?
Did the doctor want you to get a series of tests to evaluate your condition?
How much did it cost you?
Are you sure that all the tests that you took were really necessary?
According to an article in the LA Times from May 25, 2017 just in the country of the United States of America, Americans waste about 200 billion on medical tests that they do not need each year.
If we assume that the population of the USA is about 330 million (it is actually a bit lower, at the time of this writing) that comes out to about $600 in unnecessary tests for every man, woman, and child in the USA. Keep in mind that total does not include medications that are not needed nor surgeries that were not needed. That amount only reflects medical tests that were unnecessary.
So seriously how do you really know that you have not been deceived and charged for medical procedures or drugs that simply were not needed?
Ask another doctor that has the same financial interests?
Ask a different doctor that is contracted to the same drug, testing, or other medical related companies?
Seriously how do you truly know with a reasonable degree of confidence that you have not been deceived and have paid for or are paying for things you really do not need?
Now let me make this clear. I am not saying anyone reading this has been or is being deceived and charged for any medical procedures they do not need. I am simply asking how do you know with any degree of certainty that you have not been deceived?
At some time people have tried to deceive all of us from personal relationships to business dealings often (at least hopefully often) we catch the attempted deception before any damage has occurred. Unfortunately sometimes it is not until later that the realization of the deception becomes obvious to us. And at that point everyone of us has uttered something to the nature of, "How, hOW, HOW, could I have been so stupid?"
It can be difficult to distinguish reality from illusion in a lot of areas. However, when it comes to the teachings of Our Lord it is usually fairly easy to distinguish the false teachers from the teachers that are sincerely trying to share the ways of Our Lord.
For instance let us talk a little about what The Bible says about angels sent by God that just 'materialized' in front of people. The Angel's first words were usually something like 'fear not' or 'be not afraid', then identifying himself, then continuing with something like, 'I bring you a message from The Lord'. Basically a peaceful, this is who I am, I am not going to hurt you, I have a message for you from The Most High, please don't panic, freak-out or faint kind of greeting.
Now let us assume someone describes an encounter where the angel barks out a command then forcefully slams the person down to the ground pressing on their chest so hard that the person cannot breathe when the command was not immediately followed. My personal thought is that it would probably be a good idea to make a careful note that there is a huge variation between how this angel and how angels from The Most High act. Then if the angel claims to be delivering a message from 'your lord' rather than 'The Lord' or 'The Most High' (as if the angel does not know which god you follow). It would probably be a good idea to at least consider the possibility that we might be dealing with a fallen angel, rather than an angel sent by The Lord God Creator of the Universe.
Of course if we did not already know how an angel from The One True God The Creator of the universe normally acted, we would have no way to distinguish between a True messenger of God and a fallen angel attempting to deceive us.
And that is the key to avoiding deception . . . knowledge. Checking whenever possible that what someone is telling you is true. Granted there are a lot of things that are impossible for us to verify. For instance what research is really being done down in Antarctica. Unless we physically go there, we simply have to take the word of the people that have been there. Then when there are conflicting stories we have to check as many facts as we can to see which story seems more credible.
Then there are the things that are forced on us. For instance vaccines for illnesses that are usually not dangerous nor life threatening. Do we really need to be forced / required to be injected with a vaccine to which we risk a far more dangerous reaction than the illness it is suppose to prevent? Do the statements made by governments and the medical communities make sense for requiring such vaccines? Or does it seem like there is another agenda behind some of the required vaccines?
Granted with some of the vaccines unless one has a serious medical background we might not be able to truly decide. Of course there are others where the disease is far worse than the risks of any vaccine. But then there are the vaccines that if they were not mandatory with fines and potential jail sentences for refusing, I really wonder if anyone would chance even the lowest risk of an adverse reaction because the illness is just not that dangerous. Plus, unlike with the vaccine, we get lifetime immunity to the illnesses by going through some of these minor illnesses naturally. So do the official statements for all the vaccines being required make sense or is it possible there is deception involved?
Unfortunately in a lot of areas it can be difficult if not impossible to truly know if one is being deceived. However, when it comes to religion Our Lord and a lot of people over the years have made sure that each of us has a 'manual' to verify the teachings of every church and every religious leader. Sadly there are very few people that actually take the time to verify if what the religious leadership is saying matches what is in our 'manual' better know as The Holy Bible.
Of course I can hear lots of people saying, "It is wrong to question our religious leaders. We are supposed to accept what they say without questioning."
Well let us talk about a series of religious lectures given by Paul in Berea.
(Acts 17:11 Gods Word Bible) The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God's message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true.
Think about that the people of Berea were willing to listen but then after each meeting they examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. Simply put they were willing to learn, but those that were listening to Paul were not going to allow themselves to be lead astray by a false teacher. What would the people of Berea have done if what Paul had been saying was false? We obviously do not know. However at the very least I suspect very few would be showing up to listen to any more false teaching. But since what Paul said was true and matched up with scripture as it says in the next verse, 'Many became believers'.
But think about the importance of what the people did. They did not simply assume that Paul was telling the truth. They verified it. Each day that he spoke. Also notice the text does not mention Paul (or anyone else) having any objections to the people verifying what he was saying was correct according to the scriptures. Have you ever noticed, be it religion or government or anyone else, the only people or groups that seem to have issues with anyone verifying what they say or are doing are the people and groups that want to deceive us?
I find it interesting that so few groups seem to teach any of the sections about testing the spirits and not allowing oneself to be deceived. Sadly some of the ones that do teach anything about the topic often use the sections in such a way as to encourage the listeners not to bother reading the scriptures. But rather simply assume that what the speaker is saying is true.
Why this surprises me, I am not sure. Especially since The Bible clearly illustrates that the ole devil and his minions/servants will go out of their way to try to deceive the people that are trying to follow The One True God and His only begotten Son Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Arguably one of the clearest statements about there being dishonest people pretending to be righteous church leaders but in reality deceiving many with false statements and teachings is:
2nd Corinthians 11:13-15 ISV
(13) Such people are false apostles, dishonest workers who are masquerading as apostles of the Messiah.
(14) And no wonder, since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
(15) So it is not surprising if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their doom will match their deeds!
Think about that for a moment. Where better for the devil to pull people away from The One True God than by corrupting the church and getting people to believe false teachings about The Most High? Getting the people of the church to believe they are truly doing what Our Lord expects, but in reality they have been masterfully and subtly lead astray by the master of lies.
By deceiving the people that are trying to follow Jesus, Satan gets them following the wrong path and doing things that are blatantly an insult, if not an abomination, to The Lord. Sadly as we discussed earlier in Matthew 7:22-23 many of those followers will never realize they have been deceived. At least not until the Day of Judgment when Jesus looks at them and says, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." At that point it would appear to be a little to late do change ones ways, repent or ask for forgiveness.
However the real beauty of this deception is that in the process of pulling people away from Our Lord, Satan also creates a false image of what Christianity is about. Basically creating a false church. A lot of people that have never experienced the true teachings of Our Creator take one look at these false churches and somehow know, deep in their soul, there is something wrong with what those religious groups are teaching and doing. As a result it is far too easy for the ole devil to get the non-christian observers to deceive themselves. Because it is very easy to believe that the example shown by these false / deceived followers of god is what all Christianity is about. As a result many will not even bother considering anything that deals with Christianity. At that point Satan has another group of people, while wisely avoiding one deception, falling blindly and often deeper into another trap of deception. Pushing them farther away from The True Creator of the Universe.
So again I am going to ask regardless if you are a believer or a non-believer, "How do you know for sure that you are not being deceived?"
When it comes to religious matters, it should be fairly easy to decide if a church leader or group is worth listening to or if the person or group should be avoided. Simply follow the example of the people from Berea Acts 17:11 ". . . they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true." If what is being said is in context and true to the word as well as the spirit of what Our Lord taught then it might be worth your effort to keep listening, verifying and learning. However if the speaker or group is constantly giving false/deceptive/half-truth information (not simply an accidental misquote or a mistake once in a while) then I would suggest avoiding the speakers/groups like the plague.
One last suggestion I would make to avoid deceiving oneself with regards to Our Lord is:
Never confuse the practices of the people with the church,
Never confuse the practices of the church with religion,
And Never Ever confuse the practices of religion with God.