One of the New Testament’s most poignant passages has to be 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12:
They did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
There is no escaping the clear meaning of Paul’s words. There is a time coming when God—not Satan—will cause people to be deceived. It will be a means of His righteous judgment upon them.
It is important to note that God will not arbitrarily—in a Calvinistic sense—send a deluding influence upon people. Rather, He will send a deluding influence upon free moral agents who “did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” and “who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
That phrasing makes it ever so clear that, prior to His sending a deluding influence upon them so that they would believe what is false, God attempted to save them by means of exposing them to the truth. They, however, rejected it. We can therefore solidly affirm that God wanted them to be saved at one time, but then He changed His mind—all due to their hardness of heart and repeated rejection of the truth. That is a sobering thought.
Although God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), there is definitely coming a time when that will no longer be the case. During the Great Delusion, some people’s eternal fate will be sealed, not at their death, but prior to their death. There will be no hope of them being saved, even though they will be permitted to remain alive for a time.
When Will These Things Be?
According to the context of Paul’s words that I cited above from 2 Thessalonians 2, the Great Delusion will occur during the time of the end, during the rise of the antichrist:
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness (2 Thes. 2:1-12).
The antichrist will convince the world that he is God, deceiving them by means of signs and wonders. God will sovereignly allow it as a means of judgment upon people whom He initially wanted to save, but who rejected the truth that would save them. They would not believe in a righteous and true miracle-working God-in-the-flesh, so God will allow a wicked and false miracle-working god-in-the-flesh to arise—in whom they will believe. Their rejection of Christ and their embracing of the antichrist will be proof of their hatred of righteousness and love of evil. None of them will be able to stand before God at their judgment and claim, “I did not believe in Jesus because the Bible’s record of His many miracles was so far-fetched,” because they will have believed in the antichrist due to his miracles.
Bible students debate if the divine delusion then will be a result of God simply allowing the antichrist to employ signs and wonders that result in people believing in him, or if God will somehow actively work in their minds and hearts, deluding them. There is definitely some mystery. Nevertheless, the Great Delusion will occur, and there is historical record of God doing similar things at other times of human history. Sometimes, God judges hard-hearted people by making them supernaturally stupid. Although the great, world-wide delusion won’t occur until the time of the antichrist, God has been orchestrating lesser delusions for a long time—and even now—and for the same reason as the future great delusion, to discipline or judge the proud.
Two Divinely-Deluded Kings
One biblical example of divine delusion that comes to mind is that of Egypt’s Pharaoh during the time of the Exodus. A close reading of the story seems to indicate that initially, Pharaoh hardened his own heart in response to the attempted persuasions of God-sent, miracle-working Moses. As the story continues, however, and God’s judgments became more severe, we read that God actively hardened Pharaoh’s heart as a further means of judging him and the Egyptians. God sent a “deluding influence” that made Pharaoh supernaturally stupid and increasingly resistant. It is important to keep in mind that God further hardened the heart of a man who had already hardened his heart. It is as if God said to him, “So you think you are wise to resist Me? I’ll punish you by making you even more foolish.”
Another example of divine delusion is the story of Ahab’s demise recorded in 1 Kings 22. Ahab, wicked king of Israel, requested the help of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to join their armies in order to take Ramoth-gilead from the Arameans in war. Although Jehoshaphat foolishly pledged his willingness to join forces, he did request that they first inquire of the Lord. Ahab soon assembled 400 “prophets” who universally agreed that the combined armies of the two kings would meet with success in battle. But Jehoshaphat requested a “prophet of the Lord,” and so a man named Micaiah was summoned who, as Ahab feared, predicted a military disaster. Then Micaiah revealed a vision that the Lord had just given to him:
I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The Lord said, “Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, “I will entice him.” The Lord said to him, “How?” And he said, “I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” Then He said, “You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.” Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you” (1 Kings 22:19-23).
Hearing about that scene in heaven didn’t make King Ahab too happy, and he had Micaiah imprisoned. He and Jehoshaphat stubbornly went to battle against the Arameans, and Ahab lost his life in the process.
Interestingly, God not only deceived Ahab, making him supernaturally stupid, but He even revealed to Ahab that He was deceiving him and how He was deceiving him, and still Ahab remained deceived! The moral of story? If God deceives you, you can’t not be deceived. A second moral to that story is one that affirms what we have already learned, and that is that God only deceives those who deserve it.
The Lord Gives Wisdom and the Lord Takes Away Wisdom
It stands to reason that, if God can make you wise, He can also make you foolish. King Nebuchadnezzar learned that the hard way, when God gave him the mind of an animal for seven years, until he learned his lesson regarding pride and humility (see Dan. 4).
Scripture declares that God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud (1 Pet. 5:5). One manifestation of God’s grace upon the humble is His blessing them with wisdom:
When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom (Prov. 11:2, emphasis added).
Pride is inherently foolish, which is why it “goes before a fall.” Blinded by their pride, proud people inevitably make foolish errors.
The nice thing is that, in most cases, proud people who fall become humble, and then they gain some wisdom! God’s discipline is a very loving thing. But those, like Pharaoh, who harden their proud hearts repeatedly against God’s humbling discipline, can find God’s discipline turning into God’s judgment. And that is a sad day. It can happen to entire nations, as it did to the nation of Judah during Jeremiah’s ministry. Three times in the book of Jeremiah, God told him not to pray for the people (Jer. 7:16; 11:14; 14:11). They had sent away their day of grace.
How important it is to keep a soft heart towards the Lord! At the conclusion of His Parable of the Sower and the Soils, in which Jesus illustrated how human hearts resist or yield to God’s word, Jesus warned:
To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them (Mat. 13:12, NLT).
That’s nothing less than a promise to make more stupid those who close their ears to the truth. By that measure, God is divinely deluding everyone who resists Him. Yet such minor delusions are actually manifestations of His loving discipline. He hopes that as people suffer the consequences of their ever-increasing stupidity, they will come to their senses and repent. Sometimes they don’t, however, and they harden their hearts instead, and so they continue to be sucked into the downward spiral of stupidity, all by God’s design. Meanwhile, “wisdom shouts in the streets”:
Wisdom shouts in the street,
She lifts her voice in the square;
At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:
“How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing
And fools hate knowledge?
Turn to my reproof,
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord.
They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.
For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil” (Prov. 1:20-33).
If you look around, you can observe many examples of supernatural stupidity, as hard-hearted fools dig in their heals in resistance towards God. One of the most recent within American culture is the mandating that biological men—who think they are women—be given the right to compete in women’s sports. Biological men are breaking records in women’s sports! Truly, the inmates are running the asylum! It is nothing less than an indication of God’s judgment, a divine delusion that serves as a solemn warning to all those who resist God.
Thankfully, at least until the Great Delusion, there is still time for most people to come to their senses, repent, and be born again. God’s grace, through Jesus Christ, is truly amazing. — David