The devil is not stupid. He is like the chameleon. He changes his color to match his surroundings. Satan knows he doesn't have to worry about the drunkards, fornicators, murderers, etc. He has them in his clutches. But religious people present another problem. They live in a different atmosphere. So the devil "gets religion." He "joins the church."
I have sometimes said that denominationalism is the devil's ablest ally. I know that a lot of people think I am wrong about that, because they simply cannot conceive of one's being sincerely religious, and being wrong. But before you turn me off, notice some scriptures: Mt. 7:21-23: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy' name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." The rest of the chapter explains that these were not rejected because they did not build a good house. They didn't build it where the Lord said build it! We don't have to be wrong about everything to go to hell.
Again, in 2 Cor. 11: 13-15, Paul gives us a picture of Satan clothing himself in the "livery of heaven." And Paul wants the Corinthians to beware lest they be deceived by him. Jesus said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." Marshall Keeble would say, "if you don't believe that, just sit out there (in sin) 'till rootin' time comes."
Paul, in his speech before Agrippa, said, "I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which things I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death I gave my voice (his vote) against them." Paul was the bitterest enemy of the church of Christ. But he "thought" he ought to be. God's mercy provided for him a pardon, but his ignorance of the wrong he had done did not alter the fact that he had sinned.
Romans 5:13 says... "Sin is not imputed when there is no law." Some think this means that if one does not know what God's law is, he cannot violate it. But that is not what Paul said. Certainly one cannot violate a law that does not exist. But there is a difference between a situation "where there is no law," and where there is a law which one does not know about. If God had given no laws, man could not be a transgressor. But He did give us laws, and when we violate one of these laws we become transgressors, whether we know it at the time or not. If a demented man shoots and kills his neighbor, he is a murderer, even though he may not be mentally responsible. The court may see fit to extend clemency because of his condition, but that does not alter the fact that he has broken the law.
God may be more merciful to people whose circumstances have not permitted them to know the truth, than I have any right to promise that He will be. I hope so. I am constrained to believe, from Luke 12:47-48, that there will be degrees of punishment for the transgressors. But even if this be true, it offers no solace to people who do not care to know the truth. The gospel is preached from the pulpit, the press, the radio and from door to door. He who goes to hell from here will go without a single excuse.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 20, p. 2