Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were the devil and were trying to deceive someone like you? Have you ever thought of that before? By the way, the devil has all kinds of advantages. You see, God has a great disadvantage, because God cannot tell you what you want to hear; He can only tell the truth. (See Titus 1:2.)
Have you ever heard someone say, “Well that just doesn’t make sense to me”? Do you know what the devil does? He is listening, and, he says, “Well, I can make something make sense to him. I will come up with just the philosophy that appeals to him and that he thinks makes sense. If he thinks God is a certain way, I will come up with a religion that presents God in that way. I will come up with a religion or a philosophy or an idea that tells him just what he wants to hear.”
Satan is a deceiver and, as we read in Revelation 12:9, he has succeeded in deceiving the whole world. The Bible says that if it were possible, he would “deceive even the very elect.” (Matthew 24:24.) And after all, the elect are who he is really after. In Noah’s day, there were only eight out of millions who were not deceived. In Jesus’ day, there were only a few humble disciples and even some of them did not fair so well. And in the last days, we are told that there will be only a small minority, even of God’s people, who are going to be saved. The rest are going to be deceived. Those who are going to be sealed in the last days are those who, because of the Word of God, see the deceptions that are creeping into God’s church today.
“And the Lord said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.’ To the others he said in my hearing, ‘Go after him through the city and kill: do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old [and] young men, maidens, and little children, and women: but do not come near anyone on whom [is] the mark; and begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who [were] before the temple.” Ezekiel 9:4–6.
Now, if I were the devil, I would study your life. I would put an angel by you, just like every other Christian. In fact, if I had enough, I would put two angels by each Christian, and I would say, “Listen, you go by each one of these Christians and find how they think, what they really like, and what their weakest points are and strike at those weak points. You find what they like the best, and we will deceive them on those points. Tell them a lot of good things; just weave in a few errors here and there so subtly that they can’t decipher where they are, and lead them to hell.”
If I were the devil, I would go to a revival meeting and be converted. But I would not stop there for sure. It would not be good enough for me to be just a common church member; I would want to be active in the church. In fact, do you know what I would really like to do? I would like to teach and preach. I think I would go to the seminary and become educated.
Suppose the devil became the pastor of your church. What kind of a pastor do you think he would be? I want to tell you what kind of a pastor he would be. He would be the best speaker you have ever heard. He would be the best administrator you have ever seen. He would be the most personable pastor you have ever had. He would be a pastor who would speak more love than any pastor you have ever heard; it would be love and righteousness. But the only thing that your faith should be based on is the Bible. “To the law and to the testimony: If they do not speak according to this word,[ it is] because [there is] no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20. Paul says, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily, to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11. He commended the Bereans because they did not accept what he said without going to the Bible first to see if it was according to Scripture.
I want to tell you something. Satan has lost none of his power and none of his guile and none of his ability, and he is working to deceive. “Who knows whether God will not give you up to the deceptions you love? Who knows but that the preachers who are faithful, firm, and true may be the last who shall offer the gospel of peace to our unthankful churches? It may be that the destroyers are already training under the hand of Satan and only wait the departure of a few more standard-bearers to take their places, and with the voice of the false prophet cry, ‘Peace, peace,’ when the Lord hath not spoken peace.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 77. Here we are told that when the faithful pastors are removed, pastors will take their places who have been trained by Satan himself; and they may take over all the pastorates.
The disciples were loath to believe that the Bible meant all that it said back in Jesus’ day. When Jesus told them that He was going to die, they said, “That really isn’t going to happen to You. You are speaking in parables.” I want to tell you, the prophets do not lie. Did you notice what the sign of a false prophet is and what they are going to preach? These people who have been trained under the hand of Satan are going to come with the voice of the false prophet and cry, “ ‘Peace, Peace.’ Oh, do not give us any straight sermons. Do not tell us, like John the Baptist, where we are wrong. We do not want to hear that. Do not tell us any of these things. That is being critical. Do not say any of those things. Just tell us how good we are.” I want to tell you, that is a doctrine of the devil!
“I seldom weep, but now I find my eyes blinded with tears; they are falling upon my paper as I write. It may be that erelong all prophesyings among us will be at an end, and the voice which has stirred the people may no longer disturb their carnal slumbers.
“When God shall work His strange work on the earth, when holy hands bear the ark no longer, woe will be upon the people.” Ibid. The ark is not dependent upon who is carrying it. It is still God’s ark. God has a church on earth today. It is defined and identified in Revelation 12:17, and throughout Revelation. It will be those who keep the Commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.” The Great Controversy, 593. None! “Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures, and who have received the love of the truth, will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive.” Ibid., 625.
I want to tell you something, friends. God inspired those words. He knew that we would need them in this day. And I want to tell you something about inspired words. Inspired words mean what they say. A lot of people think that there are exceptions. They think that if they are in the right church, they will somehow sail through as long as they keep their membership. Inspiration says that that is not so, that it is only those who have fortified their minds with the truths of the Bible who will have a defense against the powerful temptations of the evil one. You need to prayerfully open the Word of God. Study it, dear friends; study it day after day after day. Spend more than five minutes with it. You have to become a diligent student of the Word of God. It must become a personal Book to you. Jesus Christ must become your personal Savior.
Do you know what is the greatest deception in all the world? It is to think that you are right when you are absolutely wrong. We are told in Matthew 7:21–23 that when Jesus comes, many will be so certain that they are saved that they will argue with God about it. They will have done many things in Jesus’ name. They went to church and even paid their tithe in His name. They were Christians through and through. They held church offices. They may have even led many souls into the church. They have all the proofs and marks of salvation. Then they will hear those sad words, “I never knew you: depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!” Oh, I tell you, do not think that you are smart enough to outwit the devil. You can never do it.
But guess what? There is another power on earth besides the power of Satan. What power is that? the power of God, the power of the Holy Spirit. God has promised to put a shield and a hedge around every true follower of His. If we will study the Bible daily and if we are following everything that it says, He will protect us from Satan’s deceptions. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32.
Now if I were the devil, I would do one other thing. Not only would I be converted at a revival meeting, but also I would go to the seminary and become a pastor and work my way up. You see, I would be interested in achieving. Not only would I seek to be a good pastor, I would seek to get into a position where I could hire those I wanted to hire and get rid of those I wanted to get rid of. In time, I would surround myself with men like me, and I would take control of whatever organization I was a part of. Now, thank the Lord, God has said that His church is going through, but in the meantime, He says that it is going to suffer. If you do not believe this is so, consider this statement: “Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 409, 410. Do not think it is not possible for Satan to take control of any church in the land, even of God’s church.
Listen, dear friends, Satan is no dummy. He has his agents, and they are as good as any preachers you have ever heard. They are the best. They will do anything to achieve. They will do anything to get to the top, and they are getting there, dear friends.
Do you know what I would do first? I would try to get to the top and surround myself with people like me. Then I would start to weed out anyone who gave the straight testimony. If anyone thought that they were going to follow those who were giving the straight testimony, I would send out an avalanche of bad news, gossip, rumors, and bad reports about them so that everyone would be turned away from them.
Second, I would get my public relations department going and in four-color brochures, in pictures, and in every other way, I would tell people what a good job I was doing. I would build up all of my people and destroy anyone who was giving the straight testimony.
Dear friends, I am not talking in parables. I just read that someday, when the faithful, firm, and true pastors are removed, their places are going to be taken by those “training under the hand of Satan.” Now, God does not want us to judge others, but He does tell us that we are to be wise as serpents because He sends us out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Many times the wolves are in the highest places. They are in places where they can influence our thinking and our actions.
Oh, dear friend, I have an appeal for you. You do not have to be deceived. Everyone is going to be deceived except those who study the Word of God every day. Pledge yourself to begin to faithfully study the Word of God every day.
Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.