Religion: The Strong Delusion

by Chip Brogden
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God… The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie… (2 Thess. 2:3,4;9-11)

Many preach this Scripture to show that the Jews must have rebuilt (or are going to rebuild) the temple. But taking all other Scripture into consideration, wouldn’t it make sense that, if we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of God, then this Scripture isn’t referring to an antichrist person who comes in and sits down as God in the literal temple of God that is rebuilt, but is in fact something that comes forth sitting as God in the Body of Christ, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped so that he sits as God in the “church” – or in the Body of Christ, or in the temple of the Holy Spirit, or among the people of God – showing himself that he is God (that is, taking the preeminence as though he spoke for God, or was the representation of God, or is God)?

That’s what John is eluding to when he talks about Diotrephes in Third John: Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence, and would not allow John to come and minister to the saints.[1] What we see in 2 Thessalonians 2 is not a literal antichrist who comes and sits down in a literal temple, but what we see is a warning of a religious system that will rise up from within the Body of Christ. It’s not talking about Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or Paganism or Atheism. You might call it “Churchianity” – but it’s a religious system that comes forth as God, takes the place of God, and is antichrist. It gets in the way of a simple, abiding relationship with Jesus and it replaces a Christ-centered faith with a church-centered faith, a self-centered faith. All the proof and evidence you need to realize this is in this Scripture: “…exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

What Jesus taught in His kingdom parables is that there is a mixture in the kingdom. There are sheep and goats;[2] faithful and unfaithful servants;[3] wise and foolish virgins;[4] wheat and tares;[5] good fruit and bad fruit;[6] obedient sons and disobedient sons.[7] In that day many will come and say, “Lord, Lord we did all these things in Your Name,” and Jesus says, “I don’t know who you are.”[8]

The bottom line is that Second Thessalonians 2 is not talking about a Hitler-type world leader sitting down and defiling a literal temple being rebuilt in Jerusalem. It is a prophetic warning that a religion about Jesus is going to try and overcome having a relationship with Jesus. This Institutional Church that has been around for nearly 2000 years has almost completely drowned out the prophetic word; it fights against the revelation of Christ; it is self-centered instead of Christ-centered; it seduces and leads God’s people astray from the simplicity of Christ;[9] and this is exactly what Paul is warning about. In the beginning it was organic. It was living. It was based on a relationship with Jesus and a relationship with one another. But the spirit of religion would come in and defile that. The leaven would come in and work through the entire unleavened lump.[10] Then the same process would repeat itself in that God would have to come in and deliver His remnant, deliver His Overcomers, deliver His faithful people. From what? God has already delivered His people from the world – but now He has to deliver them from religion, and He has to call them out from the darkness and the deception of the religious institution that distracts us from the simplicity of Christ. And quite frankly, that is what prevents most of the world from being saved anyway. Most of the world would be saved if it were not for the religious spirit, the religious system, and the religious people that get in the way of a relationship with Christ.

So, this temple is not a literal temple. It’s the temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Ekklesia. It’s the Body of Christ. Again, in the beginning of the Book of Revelation, we see Jesus speaking rebuke and warning to the ekklesias that are not walking with Him, that have been seduced and led astray, that are living in sin. All of this leads up to a religious system that is liberal; that distorts the truth of the gospel; that is more interested in social causes than spiritual righteousness; that has replaced the simplicity of a Christ-centred faith with the complexity of a religious institution that, quite frankly, isn’t any different than any other religion on the face of the earth, but more deceptive and more misleading because it actually uses Jesus and God as their belief system – but just as dead, and just as dry, and just as false, and just as deceptive as any other religion that claims to have the truth; because it is not based on a relationship, it is based on a religion.

It has nothing to do with what they teach. Often people want me to check a person out because they appear to be teaching the right things (or the wrong things). But the reason they want me to check a person out is because there’s something in the asking person’s spirit that doesn’t align with the preacher or teacher. There’s a witness of the Holy Spirit that tells you that something isn’t quite right – and usually it’s because they are teaching and preaching within the boundaries of the Institutional Church. There is something religious, something ministerial, something not quite right; but instead of accepting that discernment of the Holy Spirit, people want to use their mind to try and dissect the things these teachers/preachers say. But it’s not a matter of dissection. It’s not a matter of intellectualism. It’s not even a matter of doctrine. Just making judgments on the basis of what someone teaches or the doctrines they say they believe in is a religious exercise. When you use and apply discernment in the realm of agreement or disagreement on certain doctrines or certain teachings, all you’re doing is applying a religious test for people to either pass or fail. That is completely religious. It’s carnal. It has nothing to do with the spirit of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus either bears witness to you or it doesn’t bear witness to you; but we have become so unaccustomed and so dull (spiritually speaking) in our discernment that we don’t even know how to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit to give us discernment. We don’t know how to discern the life of the Lord in a person because we are so unfamiliar with that life and with that anointing and with that Spirit in ourselves; the only recourse we have is to go back and check things off of a doctrinal statement to see if mentally, and intellectually, and theologically, and doctrinally, we agree or disagree with the person. On that basis we either accept them or reject them.

I say that is carnal and fleshly. That’s not the spirit of Jesus. In fact, it’s the spirit of religion that accepts or rejects people on the basis of their beliefs, their teachings. We naturally want to accept people who believe like we believe and reject people who don’t believe as we believe, and we think that is discernment and spirit and truth. But it’s not. Antichrist is not something coming from the world against Jesus. It is something that comes forth from the temple of God as if it is God, speaking as though they have the word of God, and yet it is against the Lord the whole time. That is the strong delusion that Paul is referring to that sets all of us up.[11] Why would God send a strong delusion upon them that they should believe a lie? Because it says they don’t love the truth. If “truth” is a list of fundamental truths that you either agree or disagree with then you’re just religious. But Truth is a Person and not a list of agreements, not a list of beliefs, not a 95 Thesis.[12] Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life[13] – and if you see Jesus, and if your spirit bears witness with the Truth of Jesus, then it’s acceptable. If someone says all the right things and they do all the right things it doesn’t necessarily mean they are saying and doing them out of the Truth Who is Jesus. This is why it says they will be deceived. Religion is the strong delusion that God sends. That religious system is the deception. It has successfully replaced the simplicity of a Christ-centered faith with the complexity of a self-centered faith where, basically, the only thing people are interested in these days is whether or not they will go to heaven when they die and whether or not God is going to bless them while they live their days out here on earth. That’s no different than any other self-centered “what’s in it for me” religion on the face of the earth. Our hope is not in heaven but in a Person. Our reward is in a relationship with this Person who is all in all and who lives in me.

[1] 3 Jn. 9.

[2] Mt. 25:31-46.

[3] Mt. 25:14-30.

[4] Mt. 25:1-13.

[5] Mt. 13:24-30.

[6] Mt. 7:15-20.

[7] Mt. 21:28-32.

[8] Mt. 7:21-23.

[9] 2 Cor. 11:3.

[10] Mt. 13:33; 1 Cor. 5:6, et al.

[11] 2 Thess. 2:11,12.

[12] A reference to Martin Luther’s publishing of his 95 Theses that triggered the Protestant Reformation.

[13] Jn. 14:6.


About the Author

CHIP BROGDEN is a best-selling author, teacher, and former pastor. His writings and teachings reach more than 135 nations with a simple, consistent, Christ-centered message focusing on relationship, not religion. Learn more »


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