In speaking about the end times, Jesus told his disciples, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders that would deceive (or ‘lead astray’) even the elect, if that were possible” (Matt 24:24, BSB).
Now I have never been big on getting caught up in end time prophesies and often find it funny that so many Christians live in constant fear trying to point out who might be the Antichrist as though to try and stop him (after all, aren’t we promised it’s going to happen no matter what?), but when it comes to the end times there are two questions that fascinate me:
1) Why do so many END TIMES prophesy sites always resort to using such terrible fonts???
2) How is it that the elect could actually be led astray?
After all the “elect” are the chosen ones, the faithful followers of God, the ones who have devoted their lives to being disciples of the real Christ. It includes the kind of people who know their Bibles backwards and forwards and can name every book without having to sing a song and the kind of people who sickeningly get up at 4am every single morning to study and pray.
It includes the leaders you’ve come to know and respect, the ones you rely on to separate the truths from the lies, and the kind of people who lament about the continual deception going on in the world. How is it that they get deceived?
Now some contend that the phrase “if that were possible” (translated often as simply “if possible”) clearly indicates that the elect cannot be deceived. But if that were the case, why would Jesus even bring it up in the first place?
One alternative explanation for Jesus inclusion of “if possible” is that the Greek for “possible” also implies the words “powerful” or “strong.” Thus, he was indicating the elect could be led astray if the false Christ was powerful or strong enough. Another explanation, which I tend to believe, is that Jesus was implying the elect might be led astray at least for a time being but would ultimately see the truth.
Regardless, Jesus was definitely saying the devil will use false people that we anoint (Christ means “anointed one”) who would come along and seek to lead astray even his faithful followers.
And, of course, if you’ve gone to enough of the websites with bad fonts or seen some of the bad movies, you may know that ultimately there will be a chief false Christ (the “Antichrist”) who will take control of the world.
But how would the devil get away with it?
Usually we think of these false Christs or the Antichrist as someone with an evil laugh with an evil sounding name (which when translated clearly we should have recognized all along), with “666” on his forehead, wringing his hands, and making plans to implant chips in everyone’s hands. But do you really think everyone wouldn’t see that coming? Heck, even the non-elect have seen enough B-movies to not be tricked by that guy and would either high-tail it to the mountains or try to take him out.
No, the devil would have to be much subtler than that. In fact, instead of pure darkness he’d have to appear as some form of light, offering hope to the believer and a chance to make things better. As Paul wrote:
3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4, NLT)
Thus, if I were the devil, these are the things I would do to lead the elect astray:
If I were the devil and wanted to lead the elect astray, I would spend years beforehand mixing up doctrine with culture.
For culture constantly changes but truth never does. That way any time culture changes they will fight it in the name of truth, and when I change the truth they’ll excuse it in the name of culture.
They won’t know the difference between the “good old days” that were good and the “good old days” that were bad or the “change for good” that will make it better or the “change for good” that will make it worse. Everyone will be completely confused because truth and culture would be totally intermixed.
This in turn, creates “culture wars,” pitting man against man, rather than man against me.
If I were the devil and wanted to lead the elect astray, I would first start by working on people on the other side.
I would deceive the non-elect with a whole bunch of lies and convince them that good is bad and bad is good.
I would point out all the church’s faults and make them forget anything it did that was right.
I would convince them there was a difference between “religious” belief and “secular” truths and thus make God feel less relevant to their lives.
I would begin removing the church’s influence on society and life in general.
If I were the devil and wanted to lead the elect astray, I would also let them see me coming from a thousand miles away.
I would frighten them with threats of persecution and stifling of free speech.
I would scare them with closing down their churches and call them hurtful names for believing what they believe.
I would cause mass destruction wherever I could with promises it could be in their neighborhood soon.
I would threaten economic stability with concerns they soon might be amongst the poor they are supposed to help.
I would frequently take out the most innocent of lives. Heck, I might even randomly take out one of their last remaining hopes for stopping it in order to up the threat.
If I were the devil and wanted to lead the elect astray, I would then appear to be their friend to make all these problems go away.
I would promise safety and protection like they’ve never had before.
I would guarantee they could speak freely without worries of government interference, being fired, or church closings.
I would offer the leaders what they’ve been missing and want the most…”influence”…by offering them a listening ear – more than anyone in the past.
I would assure them of all enemies’ destruction before it could move next door.
I would pledge economic security so they would never have to be counted among the poor.
I would vow to replace our lost hope with new hopes in order to stop the shedding of innocent lives.
If I were the devil and wanted to lead the elect astray, I would do my best to hide my own vileness so they would not see me for the wolf that I am.
I would continually point out how much more evil the other side is so that my lesser evil didn’t look so bad – so that what was once still “evil” is actually now considered “good.”
I would pretend to be amongst them by allowing them to call me a “baby” elect. That way my vileness could still show and they’d get what they love…a “project”…and I’d never really ever have to confess.
I would make sure to still do occasional good stuff, too, like giving to charities and raising good kids. After all, in order to maintain my disguise, I must wear my wool-side well.
I’d allow myself to be tied to a Messianic figure, without ever saying it myself. That way I could be “anointed” in the shadows with promises of all the wondrous things I will do.
By this point, the elect would have become so desperate for change, they’ll have convinced themselves that vileness is no longer a disqualifier for producing good fruit.
If I were the devil and wanted to lead the elect astray, I would do whatever it takes to shut any opposition down.
I would highlight the real lies that the other side tells but claim all the truths are lies, too. While anyone who loves me will be my best friend, anyone who dares oppose me will meet my unwavering wrath.
And for any of the elect who dare to speak up, I’ll rely on the other elect for that. For nowhere does pressure work better than when it happens within the church. My new followers will label such apostates as “Pharisees” and “naïve” and claim they must not be Christian at all.
If it’s a leader, they’ll threaten to no longer buy their Christian books and will accuse them of ultimately working for the enemy’s side.
And it will be a lot of fun as they indict their once friends and allege their principled stand as an “evil” choice.
Occasionally, even a little bit of my own vileness might poke through the elect, as they resort to name-calling, attacks, and gossip spread.
And the non-elect will sit back and watch quite amazed how the elect have started to look just like me.
Then I’ll sit back and smile as all bitterness sinks in and everyone from all sides join into the fight – and I’ll revel in the thought that I’ve won.
If I were the devil, this is how I would lead the elect astray…if that were possible.
“I feel a strong desire to tell you–and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me–which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity