Sabbath School Lesson for December 3-9, 2022
Overview of Lesson 11
Some of the cunning deceptions perpetrated by Satan in these last days are…
- mysticism, or relying too heavily on our subjective feelings rather than the word of God (Sunday)
- near-death experiences, and how these accounts affect our understanding of the finality of death (Monday)
- reincarnation, a belief held by much of the world’s population (Tuesday)
- necromancy, or summoning the dead to speak to us, and worshipping our ancestors (Wednesday)
- the crowning act of Satan: impersonating Jesus (Thursday)
It’s impossible to miss the many deceptions with which Satan has flooded the world over the years. Anything to take our attention away from the true character of God and confuse or dismiss the finality of the punishment of the wicked seems to be his goal.
The first lie: “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3 4) continues to be his theme. Movies, television programs, and other forms of information greatly obscure the message of redemption God wants us to understand and embrace.
We must stay away from these dangerous ways of thinking that destroy our faith by arming ourselves with God’s spiritual armor. Knowing God through the study of the Bible, aided by prayer and the Holy Spirit, will be our main defense against these encroaching false doctrines.
Memory Text: “And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds” 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15 NRSV
Just as Satan disguised himself as a serpent when tempting our first parents in the Garden, he continues his masquerades today. His most effective method of deception has always been to disguise God’s word by combining truth with error. This causes such confusion in our minds that we are temporarily separated from God…just like Adam and Eve.
The dictionary definition of mysticism tells us a lot about this deception. It is the “belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.” It goes on to tell us that it can be based on occult agencies. This is why mysticism can really get us into trouble.
We find some evidence of mysticism in much of the Christian experience. Although God has called on us many times to meditate on His word, for example (Joshua 1:8), Satan has taken the practice of meditation and mindfulness to a dangerous level. By encouraging us to empty our minds of everything (not the same as self-surrender), he can send false messages to us. Once again, we see truth mixed with error in this deception.
Many New Age religious groups, which focus on their personal experience as a way to interpret Scripture, claim that doctrine is no longer important. Although belief in Christ is still foundational, it does not give us the full means of salvation we desperately need.
The devils also believe, we are told in James 2:19. But our belief should be followed by obedience. Satan is satisfied by keeping us from knowing as little about God’s word as possible, so we won’t actually obey it.
- What does Jesus mean by having our house built on the rock and not on the sand?
- What might be the significance of sand being small rocks?
- How would the deception of mysticism be more like building on the sand than the rock, and why is it dangerous?
Monday: Near-Death Experiences
When we see or read reports of near-death experiences, let’s remember that these individuals were NEAR death, not biologically dead, when all our organs have ceased functioning. Being “clinically dead” just means that your heart has stopped and you have stopped breathing. Health professionals have often been able to resuscitate those who are said to be “clinically dead”.
A sizable portion of people who have been clinically dead report having hallucinations of some kind during their near-death experience. Some have even claimed to have talked with dead relatives or some angelic being. It is possible that these hallucinations are simply a natural, psychochemical effect of their body’s reaction to the trauma, or possibly a manifestation of supernatural, satanic activity. They may even be a combination of these factors.
Numerous, convincing accounts of near-death experiences (called NDEs) have solidified many Christians’ false assumption about death. They appear to verify that our souls do indeed leave our bodies when we die. Therefore, a true knowledge of the state of the dead is needed to protect us from this dangerous deception.
Job 3:11-13, Psalms 115:17, 146:4, and Ecclesiastes 9:10
- How do these verses support death as an unconscious state of sleep, or rest?
- Why would Satan want us to believe that our souls go on living after we die?
2 Corinthians 11:14
- How would one know that it wasn’t Satan disguising himself in these NDE accounts?
Reincarnation is the belief that our souls not only go on living after death, but they come back in some other life form here on earth. Hindus especially believe in this progressive transmigration of the soul. Like many Eastern, and even some North American native religions, they base their beliefs on the false notion of what happens when we die.
Although we find many noble character traits and behaviors encouraged in these religions, the discerning Christian must beware of their reliance on human works to achieve immortality.
We are all on a journey to perfection, but we can accept no credit for how we get there. All our good acts come through God’s grace. He has sacrificed His own Son so we can attain immortality when He comes again, as He has promised.
Hebrews 9:24-28 and 1 Peter 3:18
- How does the fact that we only die once, and then comes judgment, refute the theory of reincarnation, that we die and come back multiple times?
- Why is a correct understanding of the Second Coming so crucial in how we understand the state of the dead?
Wednesday: Necromancy and Ancestor Worship
Those who believe in an immortal soul, and miss their deceased loved ones, are vulnerable to the practice of necromancy. Necromancy involves summoning the dead through mediums and wizardry/sorcery, and is particularly warned against in the Bible.
No matter how much we desire to hear from those who have passed on, and no matter how we go about encouraging it, God forbids it, knowing that it puts us squarely on Satan’s ground where he can deceive us even more. See Isaiah 8:19, 20.
Despite King Saul’s knowledge about the dangers involved, he became so fearful of his enemies that he sought out someone who might tell him what to do. He secretly visited a witch in Endor, who supposedly called up the prophet Samuel to advise him. Many have used this story without the full background of Saul’s spiritual decline and assumed it really was the deceased prophet who appeared that night. See 1 Samuel 28:3-25.
Ancestor worship, seen in many ancient religions, is another falsehood where we must use caution even today. Venerating the dead, such as through sainthood or extensive genealogical research for the purpose of praying for the dead, can lead to undue worship of our predecessors that can prove harmful to our relationship with God.
1 Samuel 28:3-25
- How do we know that Saul was aware of the danger of going to the witch at Endor?
- Who was likely the one who appeared to them, instead of Samuel?
Isaiah 8:19, 20
- Why isn’t it possible for Satan to actually know our future?
- Why then do his “guesses” often prove accurate?
Thursday: Personations and Other Appearances
As we learned from our memory text this week (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15), Satan is very good at impersonations. He may even try to appear as Christ and imitate His return (Matthew 24:5, 23-27).
In addition, if he can disguise himself as an angel of light, he can surely present himself as someone who has died. We therefore must be very cautious about any kind of supernatural manifestation. Although God can and does send His angels to earth to speak to us and protect us at times (Hebrews 13:2), Satan also has a battalion of fallen angels at his command to cause us to stumble and fall (Ephesians 6:12).
Only by recognizing Satan’s cleverly-hidden false messages can we detect and separate what is false from what is true. God has shown us how to use His armor to withstand his attacks. This armor is our only defense. We are told to stand still, with our armor on (Ephesians 6:11). God does the fighting for us. The only weapon of offense we are given is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
Knowing from His word that the dead are asleep will arm us with the knowledge of who is behind any kind of spiritualistic manifestation that involves a visit from someone who has died.
- Why do we need the armor of God?
- What spiritual safeguards do we have to fight Satan’s deceptions?
2 Corinthians 11:14, 15
- How does this illustrate how Satan mixes truth with error to deceive us?
- Who are the “very elect” and how does this show how great a deception it will be in the last days?
Friday: Final Thoughts
With the multitude of deceptions that have crept into Christian practice and beliefs over the years, being fortified with God’s armor is more important than ever. Paul described this spiritual armor in detail in Ephesians 6:10-18.
- Using the metaphor of the Roman soldier’s armor, he recommends using the belt of truth. Truth should be fastened around our waist, holding us together, ready to be grabbed and held onto when needed.
- The second piece of armor would be the breastplate of righteousness. Covering our heart with Christ’s righteousness will defend us from any attack of our character Satan might suggest.
- Our feet must then be covered with shoes that prepare us to share the gospel of peace. Going where God leads us is necessary if we are to stay out of Satan’s grasp. Our mission of going to help others allows us to experience inward peace, even in the middle of a battle.
- Taking up our shield of faith will enable us to stop the fiery darts of disbelief that Satan hurls at us. Faith is the greatest tool in our arsenal to survive the many difficult trials we experience in life.
- Putting on the helmet of salvation causes our minds to remember and reflect on God’s plan to save us. We aren’t left adrift to find salvation on our own. He has a plan.
- The only piece of armor we are given to actually fight the devil is the sword of the Spirit. Identified specifically as the word of God, we are reminded how Jesus used this weapon to defend Himself against Satan’s powerful temptations in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:1-11).
And finally, prayer is needed to make it all work. Prayer is not actually a piece of the armor, but communication with our Commander in battle is vitally important if we are to survive Satan’s deceptions.
Next Week: The Biblical Worldview
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