The Ultimate Deception - The Falsehood of being Equal to God
This section purports to first point out the scheme of Satan. The stories concerning deception in the Bible are revisited. In all these stories, God is depicted as a changing God and man has the right to disobey Him. This chapter also unravels the worrying concern that is facing the present church. This is intended to expose the evil ploy of the wicked one to equate himself to God. The ploy culminates in speaking ill of the Almighty. Most sickening of all, this is done through the workers of the Lord in the end-time true church.
What has been tearing the fabric of God’s principles apart? Is it not the deception of Satan since time immemorial? It has been apparent since the existence of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1–5), through the time of the apostles (Mt. 7:15–20; Acts 20:29–31; 1 Jn. 3:18–23), right to the establishment of the church by the latter rain (documentary evidences on the history of the True Jesus Church).
Jesus signalled the coming of the days of the great tribulation just preceding His second coming. We may have wrongly understood these to be only concerning physical disasters such as the third world war. In reality, what Jesus was pointing to, includes the confusion true believers are experiencing now (Mt. 24:4–5, 11, 24). This stems from Satan sowing seeds of deception to remove the sovereignty of Christ in their lives. John has echoed in the books of 1 John (2:18–23) and Revelation (12:9; 13:14; 19:20; 20:3, 7–10) this very same warning.
Satan’s schemes To understand the ultimate deception of Satan, it is needful to trace the first ever scheme he devised on earth, that which caused the downfall of humanity and the subsequent influx of miseries into human existence. There are two parts to his scheme, two offensive components, to bring about the intended deception. First, he changed the word of God (Gen. 3:4). This was designed to confuse the listener. However, the alteration would not create a sufficient impact on man to doubt God if His pre-eminence were not removed from man’s life.
So, secondly, Satan made it look as if God had hidden something from man. “Your eyes will be opened,” he said, suggesting man would be able to see what God had never allowed him to see before, thus accusing God of not having given the best to man. Most subtly, “You will be like God,” the snake deceptively declared (Gen. 3:4–5). If one is like God, then there are no valid reasons for him to obey and worship Him, who is just merely equal to him in power. In this case, man would know what God knows.
This satanic ploy can work both ways: the changing of God’s word would eventually lead to replacing God’s position in man’s life. The Roman Catholic Church is an example—altering God’s commandments have led to the veneration of the pope. And, according to Daniel, the self-enthronement in God’s sanctuary clouds the principles of God—the truth will be cast down (Dan. 8:11–12). This is an unavoidable consequence of taking the place of God because the endeavour itself is a violation of the very basic divine tenet: all, humanity (Ex. 20:2) and gods alike (including Satan who is the god of the world (2 Cor. 4:4)), must worship God (Ps. 97:7). When this foremost commandment was trampled down, what follows on has been one wave of confusion after another to hit God’s servants in every generation who turn against Him.
The stigma of being controlled When Satan was thrown down from heaven, he became enraged, knowing that his days were numbered. He wages war especially against those who keep the commandments of God (Rev. 12:13–17). How has he been going against them? His tactic is very much disguised by posing himself as having two horns like a lamb (Rev. 13:11). Horns represent power. He deceives the world that he has the power of Jesus so that they would worship the first beast, which has received power from the Dragon (13:4). To worship the beast is in violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. Here, it is strikingly clear that he is doing everything he can to masquerade himself to be like God.
For people to worship him, Satan has to remove the stigma of himself being under the control of God. He has to trick man into believing that he is equal to God. His work throughout the history of humanity has been to paint a picture that he is independent of God or that he is capable of what God is capable of doing. Simply, the power of the Lord far outweighs that of Satan (1 Jn. 4:4). To the Lord, Satan’s power is at the most equal to the power of an angel. That is why Paul said: “Satan masquerades himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:12). It indicates that he is no match with God in power.
Some Biblical Examples Let’s look at some further familiar scenes: scrutinise the downfall of Lucifer in the account of Isaiah (14:12–15). It is without a shadow of doubt that the primary reason for God to punish him was his desire of “being like the most high” (14:14b). In Ezekiel, though it may differ in content when compared with Isaiah, the root cause of the downfall of Tyre was the same—a man desiring to be a god (28:2).
To achieve what he has in mind, Satan has always lifted men up to think that they could go against the Lord. The incident of God punishing Assyria in the time of Isaiah is one example. It was not only a physical battle between Israel and Assyria; more importantly, it was a challenge against God and a battle between the true God and the false gods. The damning threat of Sennacherib (2 Kgs. 19:10–12; Isa. 37:23–24) was designed to create a false impression that, after all, the God of Israel was not invincible. This was to remove His greatness from the hearts of His people, to shake their trust in Him. The end result is that God slaughtered the foes of Israel without the participation of His people (2 Kgs. 19:35; Isa. 37:36).
The message is clear: God, being a jealous God, would not tolerate any being who would rob His glory of being the only Supreme Being in the universe. This miraculous piece of work sends clear signals to both men and spirits alike throughout every generation, that none can be compared to Him in any concrete sense. To equate any image, man or being to God would only incur His unquenchable wrath.
When we read the messages in Daniel, Satan employs the same strategy to confuse man. The little horn in chapter 8 drives home the same teaching that its ultimate existence was to challenge God’s authority, though many of them are prophetic in nature. Its challenge first appeared in making an in-road to the Glorious Land—the place where God dwelt and where He was recognised (8:9). The next verse spells out its key intent and the force behind its move: to cast down the stars (God’s people) to the ground and trample them (8:10). Who is capable of doing that? Obviously, it is Satan (Rev. 12:4). Why does he do that? The ultimate intent is that he would exalt himself as high as the Prince of the host, the Lord (Dan. 8:11).
When his self-exaltation is successful through deception, the consequences are devastating. First he would oppose the daily sacrifices. Second, he would cast the truth to the ground (Dan. 8:12). The example of the Northern King’s profanities in Daniel exposes the same intent of Satan: he exalted himself above every god by speaking against the God of gods (11:36–37). He was able to exploit the situation and utilise his devices to the full for he first gained a foothold in the sanctuary (11:30–32).
In the New Testament, Paul raises his concern over the church on the same issues regarding the falling away and the revelation of the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3–5). As we know, a biblical prophecy is always multifaceted. Though most are quick to believe that the message refers to the dark period after the conclusion of the work of the apostles, it surely also points to the confusion that the end-time true church is facing. The reason is pretty straightforward. The time indicator given is before the coming of our Lord (2 Thess. 2:2–3), which in this light is deemed more applicable to us. The prophecy exposes and warns us against the sinister trick of the evil one to exalt himself to be above all that is called God, so that he sits as God in the temple of God (2 Thess 2:4).
Likewise, having mixed their faith with some philosophical notions, the Colossian members begin to deny that Christ is God, claiming physical matters are evil. So Christ is not God, as flesh is evil. As a result their faith suffers. For that reason, Paul has to devote much time and energy to explain the headship of Christ in the church and the life of believers (Col. 1). The concept of asceticism, it seems, has no connection with God’s position in the Christian life. But when Christ is not counted on for the curbing of the flesh, it amounts to displacing Him from our existence (Col. 2:23). The work of satanic deception always culminates at denying the deity of God, which leads to a drastic change of His word. John put the seriousness of the problem under the spotlight of God’s word to counterattack such damaging teachings (1 Jn. 2:22).
Current Worrying Concerns Time and again, we have been told of the detrimental consequences of indiscriminate solicitation of theological commentaries out with the church as a source of our spiritual food. Care should also be applied in receiving teachings from within the church. This is not to suggest that we must be picky on messages delivered to us. Rather, we must be discerning. The Bible teaches that individual believers must search the Scriptures to find out whether what has been taught to them is in congruity to their beliefs and the Bible (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:20–21). This is especially so with teachings which differ radically from our traditional beliefs.
There is always a gaping difference between deepening a belief of the church and one that has shifted from the foundation. The former provides greater insights into an existing belief and this enhances greater conviction in God and the church. The latter requires the demolition of the already-laid foundation, against which the Bible sternly opposes (1 Cor. 3:11), to be deemed relevant and sound in the eyes of recipients.
Our major concern is with the latter. There have been clear signs of the latter in the church for the past few years. One of them is the teaching of the “self-existence of Satan”. To go straight to the point, we can draw a parallel between the above-mentioned concern and the Fall Incident in the Garden of Eden to highlight the danger of treading on an unscriptural ground. The chart spells out the lies and the consequences of accepting those lies.
Lies and results of embracing them
Genesis Account - The Fall (Gen. 2:4-5)
You will not surely die (Lie).
They died spiritually.
Your eyes will be opened (Lie).
In reality, they saw only their own nakedness after they had sinned (Result).
You will be like God (Lie).
They were separated from God (Result).
Knowing good and evil (Lie).
They knew their shame (Result).
The two fatal components:
1. Confusion – create a false impression that God had hidden something good from man and had not been telling the whole truth.
2. Accusation – God has not given the best to man.
Current Concern - Satan is Self-existent
“The LORD” is not a concrete proof of His self-existence. It is an assumed notion (Lie).
This is tantamount to changing His word (Result).
This is the truth from heaven (Lie).
In reality, if we embrace the idea, we shall journey on the road of undermining the almightiness of God (Result).
Satan existed with God in the beginning (Lie)
It brings confusion to the church (Result).
You will know God’s power even more (Lie).
You will regret it (Result).
The two fatal components:
1. Confusion – create a false impression that many of the teachings of the church are incorrect and that the Bible does not contain the complete truth.
2. Accusation – some of the teachings of the church are rooted in Catholicism.
Of course, the current concerns we have require further elaboration. As we know, that “Satan is self-existent” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. The practice of the church is that any teaching must be documented with concrete biblical backups. For those who have accepted the erroneous concept, they adopted two subtle ways to prove the soundness of the concept. First, they have to convince their listeners that a biblical teaching or principle can be derived through a logical deduction. This is a partial truth. Even if we accept that biblical deduction plays a part in any biblical interpretation, it must not exceed the perimeter of the Bible: “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:13b). The Roman Catholic Church used deduction as well but has plunged many into the sin of idolatry. One example is that since Mary gave birth to Jesus, she must therefore be a goddess to whom man can direct their prayers.
Second, in order to advance their notion of biblical deduction, they try to find fault with the word “LORD” in the English translation of YHWH. This is done to give an impression that the existence of God is nothing but a deduced notion. They claimed that the assigned meaning “I am who I am” could be a manipulation of the Roman Catholic Church, to further undermine the meaning of the word. Since we are not Hebrews, obviously our understanding of the word has to depend somewhat on the meaning theologians have defined.
The majority of them agreed that the essence of the word points to the self-existence of God, despite having some linguistic complexities involved in the process of defining it. Most importantly, Melchizedek being God himself in the flesh disclosed that He is self-existing (Heb. 7:3) and the Lord existed even before the beginning (Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1). On the contrary, there is not even a slightest hint that we can find throughout the entire Bible, which points to Satan’s existence being on par with God’s existence.
Is Satan’s self-existence the truth from heaven? To perpetrate this idea, many of the basic concepts about the nature of God have to be dismantled. One example is that God is “all knowing but not all-knowing of evil”. The example given is the vineyard song (Isa. 5:1–7). In this story, God had done everything that He could to ensure His beloved brings forth good grapes. It turns out to be that it brought forth wild grapes. The description gives rise to the belief that God’s will does not readily transpire. This seemingly brings to light that Satan could cause disruption to the work of God at will. And that God did not really know that His vineyard could not bear good fruits. If we approach the passage in a holistic sense, the teachings and concepts derived from it would surely be different. There are three key elements in the story: The work of God is clear. The duty of man in response to God’s work can never be ignored. One is hidden—the work of Satan, which in this case is unhindered, when man fails to obey God. Those who sin belong to Satan. The Bible places the responsibility of wandering away from God squarely on those who sin (1 Jn. 3:10).
The key feature of the entire book of Isaiah is centred upon bringing forth good grapes, which refer to justice and righteousness (Isa. 5:7). In fact, this had been the intention of the Lord right from the beginning (Isa. 1:21, 27). His purpose remains unchanging (Isa. 16:5, 28:17, 56:1, 58:2). Though it has seemingly been thwarted by the stubborn rebellion of His people (Isa. 59:9, 14), He knew long before that His purpose would come to pass in the dimension of the church through the coming of Jesus Christ (Isa. 32:1, 33:5–6). This is achieved when He defeated the twisted serpent (Isa. 27:1), which we know is Satan (Rev. 12:9, 15) and in our time by the outpour of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His believers (Isa. 32:15–20). How could God know with great confidence and absolute certainty that He would defeat His equal foe, if He were not all knowing of all evil?
To avoid saying Satan is not equal to God, many verses about “God is above all gods” have to be re-interpreted. Here are two examples: “For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods” (Ps. 96:4); “For You, Lord, are most high above all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods” (Ps. 97:9). To anyone whose mind is sound, these words clearly endorse God’s superiority to all gods, including Satan. But for the confused, they assert that these are comparisons made between God and idols alone. This assertion casts doubts in the minds of believers.
It appears absolutely senseless and illogical for God not to include Satan, whose existence has been the greatest threat to our spiritual existence. It gives the idea that God, after all, is not very certain if He could defeat Satan. This is in direct contradiction to Isaiah’s statement concerning God overcoming the twisted serpent (Isa. 27:1). In addition, there are verses which compare God and other gods and not just idols: “For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:3).
Insofar as the Bible is concerned, evil forces are inseparable from idols. The greatest of all is the power of Satan. Otherwise, the comparisons between God and idols are insignificant. There must be some mysterious forces behind idols that captivate the hearts of the worshippers (Rev. 9:20). This was precisely the experience of the wayward Israelites in the time of Isaiah. They claimed that it was their idols that declared the things past and future. The Lord, perceiving the depth of the deception, had to put a stop to the claim that had perverted the nation.
“Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, and my carved image and my moulded image have commanded them’” (Isa 48:5). How could a piece of dead wood issue commands, if the evil forces behind were not at work?
So when the Lord said, “Besides Me there is none like Me’ (Isa 46:9; 40:18, 25; 46:5), it is intended to stamp out any false god, notably Satan, from disguising himself to be God, behind idols, to deceive His people. Zechariah issued the same warning against the trick Satan employed to lead God’s people away from holding on to Him: “For the idols speak delusion” (Zech 10:2). Would it be possible for lifeless carved images to speak without any evil forces at work behind? In warning the Corinthians, Paul pointed out the same overriding principle: Christians who worship idols and partake of their food are guilty of partaking of the food of demons (1 Cor. 10:19–21).
If we trace the power of idols or other gods, it is undeniable that their source is Satan. One example is that of the lawless one. His work in God’s temple is according to the working of Satan with all power, signs and lying wonders (2 Thess 2:9). Elder John unveils the same ploy of Satan in his messages on the second beast, whose power originated from the first. Those who worship the first beast are in fact worshipping Satan, who gave his authority to the first beast (Rev. 13). With this understanding, the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods”, appears meaningful. It basically warns us not to be tricked into having Satan as our god by his multiple disguised forms. So, when the Bible says the Lord is high above all gods, it refers to God being above Satan.
How is it possible that accepting “Satan is self-existent” increases our knowledge of God’s power? The Bible tells us that Satan sinned (1 Jn. 3:8) and it was due to pride (1 Tim. 3:5–6). For that reason Paul warns that the church must choose men of humility, not novices, to perform the work of overseeing the household of God. This is for fear that they become proud and fall into the same condemnation of Satan (1 Tim. 3:6). This verse provides us with a clear pointer that Satan has fallen because of pride. Otherwise, it would have been a pointless exercise for Paul to equate the condemnation of those who are proud with that of the devil. A sound conclusion that can be drawn here is that Satan has always desired to be considered like God. Assuming that Satan is self-existent, it would not be arrogant on his part to claim equality with God. After all it is not a deception but a fact.
Christ came in the flesh to destroy the works of Satan (1 Jn. 3:9). The most notable one is deception, which we have outlined in this article. The whole mindset of Christ and His deeds leading up to His crucifixion are not only for us to learn, but in actual fact, are God’s ways to demolish the works of Satan. Whatever Christ did on earth was the exact opposite to Satan. Being in the form of God, he resolved not to be considered equal to God and humbled himself to the point of death, even the death on the cross (Phil. 2:6–8). Who is more eligible than Jesus to equate Himself to God? If the Son of God desisted Himself from doing so, can Satan be equal to God in his existence?
We have to bear in mind that the Godhead is in Christ (Col 1:19; 2:9). His death has been in display of God’s wisdom to expose the true utmost wicked nature of Satan, who disguised himself to be equal to God by whatever means he could resort to. It is through Christ’s complete humility that He was exalted to the right hand of God. In contrast, it is Satan’s utter arrogance that has brought about his own downfall. How sad it has been for some to assert to be true the ultimate deception that Christ’s life and death have demolished through His death!
In a Nutshell
It is a good practice that we must not base solely on the teachings of the church on the foundation of other denominations. Many of us, in fact, do not fancy the idea of using secular biblical commentaries as the bases of our teachings. But such concern should not lead us to think that we must be uniquely different in our teachings from others in totality. There are teachings that we dearly hold which bear tremendous resemblance to those of other denominations. For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes with their heart that “God is Love”. This is exactly what the Bible teaches. Can we then discard it just because it was not started with us first? Some of our basic doctrines resemble those of the denominations whose existence are far earlier than ours. One example is the Sabbath, which the Seventh Day Adventists uphold.
Similarly, if any teaching that challenges the authority of God were blended into the church, many believers would be misled in a subtle way to think that God is not the only Supreme Being in the universe. Ponder over this carefully: What is the best notion Satan can adapt to masquerade himself to be like God? Is it not His fundamental and distinct nature of being self-existent? When this is upheld, the truth about God has to be changed to adapt to the newly embraced belief. Examples include redefining the “knowledge of good and evil” and “God being all-knowing”. The strategy employed is the same old ancient trick: the devil changes the word of God and replaces Him in His believers’ hearts or exalts himself through deception and corrupts the word. Let us pray that we will never witness the extent of the corruption that the Bible predicts on those who have embraced such an erroneous belief. Amen!