A Misled Generation
2 Thessalonians 2:9–12
It’s encouraging to know that before the Antichrist even appears on the world scene, his ultimate demise and destiny in the Lake of Fire are certain. When Christ returns to Earth, He will destroy this man of sin “with the breath of His mouth and . . . with the brightness of His coming” (2 Th. 2:8).
After explaining the Antichrist’s fate to the church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul backtracked to recap this demonic ruler’s power over the world during the future Great Tribulation and to explain that eternal damnation is the fate of those who yield to the Antichrist’s rule and worship him.
The Antichrist’s coming “is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (v. 9). He’ll arrive in God’s time, after the restrainer “is taken out of the way” (v. 7); and his works will be compatible with Satan’s character.
He will not be Satan but will be in total congruity with all the Evil One does on Earth. During the Tribulation, the Antichrist is Satan’s man, carrying out all the wickedness Satan designed, originated, and energized throughout the world. He will manifest Satan’s superhuman power in order to gain control and be worshiped as God.
To amass followers, the Antichrist will use “all power, signs, and lying wonders” (v. 9). Satan will work through him and the False Prophet, empowering them to do mighty works. Notice, Paul provided an all-inclusive description of these satanic deceptions when he used the words all power, signs, and lying wonders.
The word power refers to the energy Satan bestows on the Antichrist and False Prophet to perform these acts. Signs refers to the nature of these wonders and how they affect those who witness them. The signs will be so powerful and spectacular they will mesmerize the masses, deceiving them, captivating them, and bringing them under the Antichrist’s iron-fisted control.
In no way will they compare to the lofty miracles Jesus performed. The Antichrist’s “miracles” will be authentic displays of the supernatural, but performed with the desire to deceive, mislead, and communicate Satan’s lies as truth. Satan is the master of deception and fabrication. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He said the Devil (Satan) “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44).
The miracles Christ performed were from God. On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter said, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22). Jesus’ miracles identified, confirmed, and authenticated the Lord’s ministry.
Paul described Satan’s activity through the Antichrist as “all unrighteous deception among those who perish” (2 Th. 2:10). The word all means the Antichrist’s deception will infiltrate every area of society in every sinful way imaginable.
In other words, Satan will use every deceptive means conceivable to convince mankind that his way is true and righteous. Remember, Paul said, “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:14–15).
Those who follow the Antichrist because of his power, signs, and lying wonders are “among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Th. 2:10). They already stood in damnation’s path because truth meant nothing to them.
To escape their terrifying destiny, they would need to renounce their cherished Antichrist and turn to Christ for salvation— a highly unlikely move at this point.
It should be noted that God did not predetermine or elect these people to go to hell. God is in no way responsible for their perishing. The situation is of their own making in that “they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (v. 10). They had a chance to be saved but willfully rejected the salvation offered to them, choosing instead to rebel against the witness given them.
The phrase did not receive the love of the truth means more than refusing to acknowledge the truth or rejecting it. Paul meant they harbored an open hostility and loathing of the truth of the gospel. These people were completely given over to evil—individuals who “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19).
Consequently, “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Th. 2:11). Judgment from God will be certain. He sends the delusion. Scripture makes it exceedingly clear that sin will not go unpunished.
The word send (v. 11) is in the present tense and can be interpreted two ways. Some believe it means judgment would fall in Paul’s day. Though true, the context also indicates a future day when God will pour out His judgment on the Antichrist and all who accept his demonic system. They will receive a “strong delusion” as a consequence of their hard-heartedness and sin.
Note, God is perfect and never sends error or evil into anyone’s life. The book of James clearly says only good and perfect gifts come down from God above who is the Father of lights, “with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (1:17). But God is also holy and righteous and must punish sin.
The delusion solidifies Satan’s control over those who follow the Antichrist and willfully defy God’s truth. They are handed over to the demons. (Romans 1:18–28 provides a pattern for how evil brings strong delusion on the ungodly.)
The lie (2 Th. 2:11) these people will be deluded into believing is that Satan is God (v. 4). They will receive the mark of the Beast and worship him as God (Rev. 13:15–17), sealing their eternal destiny in the Lake of Fire where they will be tormented day and night forever (14:10–11).
People often ask if those who heard the gospel and rejected Christ before the Tribulation can become saved. Some Bible commentators would say no. They reason that if someone hardened his heart before the Tribulation, he has no love of the truth. Therefore, he will receive the strong delusion to believe the Antichrist’s lie and remain hardened to the gospel.
However, there is no clear textual evidence in Scripture for this position, not even 2 Thessalonians 2:9–11. Agreed, it will be extremely difficult to come to Christ during the Tribulation because of such widespread deception (Mt. 24:5, 11, 24). But there is nothing in Scripture that categorically states those who heard the gospel before the Rapture and rejected Christ can never become saved.
In fact, a great worldwide revival will take place when both Jews and Gentiles receive Christ (Rev. 7:9–10). Many Jewish people (144,000; vv. 4–8) will be saved during the Tribulation and preach the gospel. The text does not say only people who never heard the gospel will be saved. Remember, as long as someone still lives who has not taken the mark of the Beast, that person could receive Christ.
Paul concluded this section by announcing the destiny of the unsaved: “that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Th. 2:12). Everyone who believes that the Antichrist is God will be eternally condemned, judged, found guilty, and thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15).
The word all stands for a comprehensive judgment on every single individual who refuses to believe the truth of the gospel. Those who reject the gospel will follow the evils of the Antichrist, loving all his moral perversions and wickedness.
What an awesome and terrifying message from God. We need to proclaim it to everyone who has never received Jesus Christ for salvation. Now is the time.