God does not want us to underestimate the seriousness of these final times of confusion and deception. He does not want us to underestimate Satan’s cunning and persuasive power. So there are vivid descriptions of this time to come, both in the Old Testament and the New, even beyond the ones we have examined earlier. One of these texts is near the end of the book of Daniel:
There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. . . . Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Dan 12:1, 3, NIV).
The time of distress mentioned here reminds us of Revelation 13, where the whole world will worship the adversary except those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8). But notice that the saints not only survive this time of deception and confusion, they are described as leading others to righteousness (Dan 12:3). Our concern toward the End is not only to survive, but to bear an encouraging witness to the truth about our God. Compare Daniel with Paul’s picture of the End in 1 Timothy:
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth (1 Tim 4:1-3, NIV).
The last sentence in this passage offers examples of the kinds of things that will misrepresent God in the last days. Satan has accused our God of being arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. So in the name of God, religious leaders order people to abstain from certain foods for arbitrary ceremonial and spiritual reasons. They also forbid people to marry. Wouldn’t the Devil love to have us forget how and why God gave us marriage in the Garden of Eden? Marriage is such an eloquent representation of God’s willingness to share His creative power with us, enabling us to create little people in our own image. What an answer to Satan’s charge that a selfish God refuses to share His creative power! Satan would love for us to forget the evidence of God’s character that marriage provides.
Compare these texts with Paul’s very dramatic description of Satan’s purposes and methods in the last days (2 Thessalonians 2). It’s a shame to leave out anything in that whole chapter, but let’s focus on just the heart of it:
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed. . . . He opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. . . . And now you know what is holding him back. . . . For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. . . . The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thess 2:1, 3-4, 6-7, 9-10, NIV).
Notice that the consequences of rebellion are lawlessness (compare 1 John 3:4) and false worship (Matt 4:8-10; Rev 13:8). In all these passages there is deceit on Satan’s side and truth on God’s side. Because truth and evidence are not on the adversary’s side, Satan cannot use evidence. He does not dare invite inquiry and investigation, the way God can with perfect safety and freedom. In order to win his case, the Devil always has to use things like counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders to persuade.