Strong Delusion

By Lewis Willis

Most do not know what should be done in religion so as to be saved eternally. They listen to just about anything, except God’s word!

The apostle Paul, writing to the church of the Thessalonians, spoke of iniquity which was working in their midst. He said it was “the working of Satan” as he exercised his power to deceive. He stated the cause of the catastrophe which would befall them when strong delusion came. Note what he said:

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 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 Thess. 2:10-12).

It is not unusual for God to be charged falsely. He is blamed for almost every evil thing that happens in this world. The lost would surely like to blame him for their damnation, for this would relieve them of responsibility for their fate. Those who think in this way cite the above passage as proof of their position. Does this passage make God responsible for those who are lost?

MacKnight (Apostolical Epistles, 430) gives this literal translation of the text: “And for this cause, God will send to them the strong-working of error, to their believing a lie.” He then gives this paraphrase of the passage: “And for this cause, God, as a punishment of their wickedness, will permit the in working of error in the minds of these false teachers, to lead them to believe a lie the most monstrous and pernicious that ever was invented.” He comments, “The verbs denoting action, are used to express, not the doing, but the permitting of that action . . . From this we learn, that, as a punishment of their sins, God suffers wicked men to fall into greater sins  . . . by suffering them to fall into the belief of the greatest errors and lies.”

Albert Barnes (Barnes Notes, 2 Thess., 90-91), wrote on this passage,

The original reason then of their embracing and adhering to the system was not an arbitrary decree on the part of God, but that they did not love the truth. Hence, he gave them up to this system of error. If a man strongly prefers error to truth, and sin to holiness, it is not wrong to allow him freely to evince his own preference . . . It is not necessary here to suppose that there was any positive influence on the part of God in causing this delusion to come upon them, but all the force of the language will be met . . . by supposing that God withdrew all restraint, and suffered men simply to show that they did not love the truth.

Barnes continues,

This does not affirm that God wished them to believe a lie . . . nor that He exerted any direct agency to cause them to believe a lie. It means merely that He left them . . . to believe what was false, and what would end in their destruction.

A similar statement appears in Isaiah 66:3-4, signifying God’s permitting men to go their destructive ways.

. . . Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.

Paul, writing to the Romans, spoke of the Gentiles who refused to glorify God. He said, “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness . . . For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections . . . God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (Rom. 1:21-28). When these people became so wicked that they pushed God out of their lives, God permitted them to do so.

The Cause of Delusion

Paul described in our text people who stopped loving truth, who did not believe truth, and found pleasure in unrighteousness. God will not force himself on such people as this. He will let them plunge themselves into delusion.

The Result

Those who do not love truth, but find pleasure in un- righteousness, will believe a lie. God will permit them to turn aside to delusion and to damnation. Vine (290) defines the word plane, translated “delusion,” in this way: “A wandering, whereby those who are led astray roam hither and thither, is always used in the N.T., of mental straying, wrong opinion, error in morals or religion.” We are not left to wonder if such is possible, for delusion is everywhere about us. Human thinking and opinion will always get man in trouble. Man cannot direct his steps (Jer. 10:23). A way may seem right to him, but death is at the end of that way (Prov. 14:12).

Modern man is wandering hither and thither in the areas of morals and religion (as the definition suggests). Most do not know what should be done in religion so as to be saved eternally. They listen to just about anything, except God’s word! Morally, most seem to be traveling without direction, heeding every weird idea that comes down the pike. We are being told that people no longer know the difference between right and wrong. Strong delusion has led them to believe a lie, and they will lose their souls because of it. In the meantime, error continues to relentlessly drain life and goodness from the family, community, and religion.

Each of us should examine his heart, measuring the depth of his love for the truth of the gospel. Are we studying it, living it, teaching it, defending it — or, are we ignoring it? If we are ignoring truth, damnation is at our door, and we can only expect to be sentenced to Hell at the Judgment.