Two of the many attributes God inherently possesses that make Him uniquely and solely God are His sovereignty and foreknowledge.
Sovereignty is His authority backed by immeasurable power. Foreknowledge is His ability to perfectly and comprehensively see the future. These two attributes enable Him to plan and execute events according to His will.
This planning and execution of events according to God’s will is known as predestination.
There are several outstanding examples in the Bible of God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge, and subsequent predestination.
Yet without a biblical understanding of these concepts, it is easy to misinterpret these examples as reasons to believe people are like smart toys which do only what God programs them to do.
We’ll look at and ponder one of the more well-known examples. Hopefully, you’ll see afterwards that God is big enough to orchestrate and execute His will without making robots of us.
Our example is God sending the delusion of the antichrist near the end of this age.
God Sovereignly Gives the World the Antichrist
There is a statement made in 2 Thessalonians 2:11,12 that displays God’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, and predestination. “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned.”
Does this seem to introduce the idea that God uses His awesome power to predestine some people to destruction? So that no matter how hard they try to avoid it, destruction is ultimately theirs? Of course it does.
Do you know why? It’s because I violated a basic rule of Bible interpretation in looking at that Scripture:
Thou shalt not take a Scripture out of context, nor disregard other Scriptures that challenge your interpretation.
To get a proper understanding of this text and of God’s sovereignty, foreknowledge, and predestination, we need to look at these two verses in their entirety:
And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.2 Thessalonians 2:11,12
This is where we look at the critical introductory words we purposefully omitted for effect. Four words that serve as the motivation behind, and the foundation beneath, God’s action.
And for this cause…
Rejection of Christ Leads to Delusion of the Antichrist
And for this cause is the reason God sends a strong delusion at the end of the age in the person of the antichrist.
People love gray areas where they can be flexible about their morality and commitment to the Lord. However, God is an absolutist. This means He sees things as one way or the other. Here is how God sees you, me, and the world:
Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.Matthew 12:30
No wiggle room there, is it? Here’s another one. It’s even more provocative:
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.1 John 3:10
As far as God is concerned, there are only two families in the world. There is the family of God and the family of Satan. Any additional category is a creation of society that isn’t recognized by God.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible reveals God in absolute terms. It does the same with us, our behavior, and our world in general.
One of the absolutes is light and darkness. When you turn from one, you automatically land in the other. This is why Jesus told Paul his soulwinning task was “…to open their [sinners’] eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light…” (Acts 26:18).
Without controversy, the world has overwhelmingly rejected Jesus as Lord and turned from light. Subsequently, it is in a state of gross and defiant darkness. It is this state of darkness that draws it irresistibly to the delusion of the antichrist.
Rejection of the true Christ gets you the antichrist.
Understand the Language Of the Bible To Understand How God Sends the Antichrist
The Bible is filled with summary statements that represent complex processes or long periods of time or both. If you aren’t careful, it’s easy to assume something happens easily, quickly, or directly because the sentence describing it is short.
For instance, the Bible records this statement of Joseph to his envious and murderous brothers after he had risen to great power in Egypt:
And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”Genesis 45:4-5
“God sent me before you…”
Sounds easy enough, right? Not. At. All.
Joseph Goes to Egypt
Here’s a short overview for those unfamiliar with the story.
There’s Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob, which we call patriarchs, or original heads of Israel. Joseph is one of the patriarchs. He was his father’s favorite son. As a young man he told his family of a couple of dreams he had that one day they would all bow to him.
In a jealous rage, his brothers cast him into a deep pit to kill him. Later they pulled him out and sold him to slave traders. They sold him to a guy named Potiphar. All the while he worked for this guy, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph.
Joseph repeatedly turned her down until she finally falsely accused him of trying to rape her. He lands in the king’s prison due to Potiphar being an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.
After a couple of years in prison, Pharaoh had two troubling dreams that Joseph interpreted. The dreams predicted seven years of abundant crops, then seven years of great famine. Joseph instructed the king to save enough from the abundance to sustain them during the famine.
Pharaoh said, “Yep, excellent idea. I’m putting you in charge. You’re now second in command of Egypt.”
God Sends Joseph To Egypt
As you see, “God sent me before you…” is a lot more complicated than God saying to Joseph, “Hey, go to Egypt.”
We must understand that when God says He does something, or is going to do something, He refers to His capabilities and toolbox and not ours.
For instance, generally speaking, if I say I’m sending someone from point A to point B, it’s understood that, assuming I have this power, I’m going to directly or indirectly tell or cause them to go. But whatever means I choose, it is certain I will do it within the limitations of humanity.
Almighty God sends people from point A to point B without those constraints. He is sovereign, having all ownership, authority, and power. He is all-knowing, having complete wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of the past, present, and future. He also works within a much longer time frame than us.
Therefore, the Bible can say of Joseph:
He sent a man before them [Israel]–Joseph–who was sold as a slave.Psalm 105:17
Yet, you and I know Joseph’s placement as deliverer of both Egypt and Israel is much more complicated than God sending Joseph to Egypt the way you’d send a package somewhere by FedEx.
Toolbox God Used To Send Joseph To Egypt
Here’s a summary of some of what went into God sending Joseph to Egypt:
- God chose Joseph before he was conceived in the womb:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you. I ordained you a prophet to the nations.Jeremiah 1:5-6
God spoke these words to Jeremiah, but the process is the same for all of us. Despite appearances, none of us are accidents.
- God gave Joseph dreams of his future, knowing his brothers’ evil tendencies.
- God preserved Joseph’s life after his brother threw him into the pit (Genesis 37:19-22).
- God sent a traveling band of slave traders who were on their way to Egypt (Genesis 37:28).
- God made sure Joseph was purchased by a person linked to Pharaoh (Genesis 39:1).
- God gave Joseph great favor by blessing all he did (Genesis 39:2-5, 20-23).
- God gave two fired and imprisoned ex-servants of Pharaoh dreams (Genesis 40:1-5).
- God gave Joseph the interpretations of their dreams (Genesis 40:6-23).
- God restored one of the imprisoned ex-servants back to favor with Pharaoh (Genesis 40:20-23).
- God gave Pharaoh two troubling dreams, which no one could interpret (Genesis 41:1-8).
- God reminded the restored ex-prisoner that Joseph could interpret dreams (Genesis 41:9-13).
- Pharaoh commands that Joseph be brought to him from prison (Genesis 41:14).
- Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and tells him how to prepare for the future calamity (Genesis 41:25-36).
- Pharaoh promotes Joseph to second-in-command of Egypt (Genesis 41:37-44).
God Sends the Antichrist the Way He Sent Joseph
You know now that although a single Scripture may say, “He sent a man before them [Israel]” (Psalm 105:17), the complexity, process, and time span may be much greater than the simplicity of the statement itself.
Similarly, the Scripture, “…God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie…” is simple enough, yet not simple at all. For in sending and positioning the antichrist, God uses the same toolbox He used to send and position Joseph.
It’s significant that one of the tools we do not see in God’s toolbox is Him making anyone do anything. Go back and check. Every decision along the way made by Joseph, his brothers, the slave traders, Potiphar, Potiphar’s sleazy wife, the prisoners, and Pharaoh were made by them.
They all own their decisions.
The Bible is filled with examples of God’s ability to use His knowledge and wisdom to influence people to decide one way or the other. But there is no example of God using His power to forcibly make a person do the same.
If that type of coercion was in God’s toolbox, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume He’d use it for the salvation of the world? Especially since He’s not willing that any should perish:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9
God Doesn’t Predestine the World To Choose the Antichrist
It is critical to understand that God sovereignly sending a strong delusion in the person of the antichrist is not the same as God making people believe the delusion of the antichrist.
If sending the antichrist to the world “that they should believe a lie…and be damned” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12) referred solely to God’s power, everyone during the tribulation would believe the lie and be damned.
For in an absolute sense, who can resist Almighty God if He uses His power to make you believe a lie? But we know this is not what occurs.
During the seven last years of this age, the period Jesus called the great tribulation, we see four things happening that prove God does not use His power to make people believe a lie.
Proof God Doesn’t Make People Believe the Antichrist
First, multitudes of people repent of their sins and turn from darkness to light during the period of the antichrist:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”Revelation 7:9-10
This is a scene in heaven as the apostle John was shown things to come. When he asked an angel who these people were, he was told, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
It’s obvious that for a person to come to Christ, he must first be not in Christ. And for a person to come to the light and obedience, he must first be in darkness and disobedience.
My question is how does a person in this category come to Christ if God uses His sovereign power to predestine him to believe a lie unto damnation?
Second, God uses extraordinary measures during the great tribulation to get people not to believe the antichrist:
- He sends two witnesses who preach and perform spectacular miracles in the presence of the entire world via television and livestreaming. This miracle ministry last 3 1/2 years (Revelation 11:1-12).
- He (apparently) sends out 144,000 newly converted Jews to preach the gospel (Revelation 7:1-18)–with amazing success.
- He sends an angel to preach the gospel to the entire world! (Revelation 14:6-7).
Third, some sinners refuse to believe the antichrist even as they simultaneously refuse to believe Christ. We know this is the case because the antichrist is at war with other nations during part of the great tribulation (Daniel 11:40-45). Asia is a standout region that defies him (Revelation 16:12-14).
How are nations able to defy the antichrist if God makes people believe the delusion of the antichrist?
Fourth, God blames the tribulation period sinners for their stubborn rebellion:
But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.Revelation 9:20-21
It is clear that these tribulation sinners had the ability to repent but not the desire. Otherwise, it makes no sense to mention their failure to repent. If they can repent from their sinful delusion, it’s obvious that God does not make it impossible for them to do so.
Antichrist Sent As Judgment On the World
As stated early in this article, on the surface, the language of 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 seems to blame God for the world believing the antichrist delusion. But let’s now focus on why God sends the antichrist. This will shine light on the real reason the world will largely enthusiastically receive him.
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
Notice a couple of things.
First, I provided more context. That is, I added two of the directly preceding verses to provide a clearer understanding of the passage. 1
Use your imagination here and imagine me screaming at the top of my capacity only an inch away from your ear:
Don’t cherry pick or ignore Scriptures to build Bible doctrines!
Do you know what cherry-picking is? It’s plucking one here, skipping those, grabbing those two, throwing away this one, etc.
Theologians are infamous for cherry-picking Scriptures to create doctrines they desire to be true. This is how we got the once saved, always saved doctrine. (Really, it should be called the salvation without faith doctrine.)
The fact that their creative doctrines conflict with the rest of the Bible is ignored. You can not follow their example and properly understand the Bible or God.
Second, God says He will send the antichrist “because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.“
The tribulation era sinners (like today’s sinners) reject the love of the truth. Consequently, they can not be saved from God’s judgment. Furthermore, when a person rejects God’s truth, he automatically receives Satan’s lie.
There is no middle ground.
If that’s not scary enough, there’s another dangerous dynamic at work among those who reject truth. We’ll use a few verses out of a long passage of Scripture where the Holy Spirit describes a particular judgment that can come upon those who reject truth.
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie…For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.Romans 1:24, 26, 28
God gives the world the antichrist for the same reason He gives us over to our sinful desires. As an act of judgment. The world defiantly and repeatedly crosses the line of God’s mercy, and He finally says, “Have it your way!”
This is not a truth that many of today’s preachers of false grace preach. But God testifies of its truth from the drowning of sinners in Noah’s flood (Genesis 6) to the destruction of sinners at the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:4-9; Jude 1:14-15; Revelation 19:11-21).
God’s Sovereignty, Foreknowledge, and Predestination
Although discussion of the antichrist is a large part of this article, my primary intent is to help you understand God better.
God has revealed Himself to us in creation, in the Scriptures, and in the Person of Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, He is eternal, perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, and we are not. Thus there is a formidable chasm between God and our understanding of God.
Nonetheless, there is something that can help us understand more of Him, and more accurately. That something is what I have tried to convey in this article.
First, it is that although God is sovereign and knows all things and ultimately His grand will triumphs, He is a God of process. He doesn’t do anything by simply snapping His finger. He works incrementally in meticulous detail to fulfill His plan.
Second, He influences people, but not in such a way as to violate their free-will. That each person will give account to God on judgment day for every thought, word, and deed is proof of our ownership of these things.
Third, Scriptures often summarize in few words what are actually complex and elaborate works of God that may occur over long periods of time.
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