The Great Deception
What is the greatest and most destructive lie that Satan ever perpetrated on mankind? How would you answer that one? I am sure there are many different opinions. Near the top of the list, I think, is the lie that he told to Adam and Eve regarding death, namely, that if a person is breathing in a body, then he is alive. Well, he didn’t exactly say it that way, so let me invite you to think with me through some verses from Genesis 2-3.
You’re probably familiar with the account of the beginning of mankind. God created Adam first. After forming him from earthy elements, God breathed into him the breath of life. Human life appeared to consist of a man breathing in a body on the earth. Then God placed Adam in the garden of Eden. He was surrounded by trees bearing good fruit to eat. He also had the tree of life available to him.
Genesis 2:7-9 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In Genesis 2:16 we read of the one prohibition given to Adam as well as the consequence.
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Eve wasn’t present when God gave the command to not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. We conclude that Adam told her because when the serpent engaged Eve in conversation about the tree, she knew what God had said. Genesis 3:3-5 records the encounter. “But from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” Satan in the form of the serpent then uttered what I believe to be the greatest and most destructive lie in the history of mankind. “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Gen. 2:17). Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie. They didn’t think they would die, and they ate of the forbidden fruit.
Let’s review what happened in the day that they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve had only known good. Once they ate, they knew evil. We know they didn’t quit breathing. From their and our earthly perspective, they didn’t die. We usually think of death as the end of life—when a person stops breathing in his body or is separated from his body. However, from God’s viewpoint, they died. They didn’t experience the loss of physical life, but they did experience the loss of life by another definition, namely, they became separated from God, who is life eternal.
Consider Jesus’ definition of life revealed in these two verses of Scripture. The word for life that Jesus used in the following verses is the Greek word, zoe. It’s different from the Greek word, psuche, which refers to the life God breathed into Adam. The root word, psucho, means to breathe or blow. Zoe is the word Jesus used when referring to Himself.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
John 17:1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
Jesus is the life, and knowing the Father and the Son is eternal life. This reveals the essence of Satan’s lie. He knew that they wouldn’t quit breathing when they ate the forbidden fruit. He understood the consequences of disobeying God’s command. He knew God would cast them away from His life because it had happened to him. Adam and Eve would be separated from Jesus, the incarnate revelation of the Father, and thus they would not know Him and plunge themselves into death and darkness. From God’s worldview, to be separated from Him is to be dead. So what happened to Adam and Eve? They died, yet they were still breathing in their bodies.
Satan’s lie was that if they ate, they surely wouldn’t die. In other words, if you are breathing air in this world, you surely aren’t dead. What a deception! From a worldly perspective, they didn’t die, but from a heavenly perspective, they died. The great destructiveness of that lie continues to this day and will continue until the end of the history of mankind. Adam and Eve died that day—they were separated from God and His life in Jesus. From that time on, every person conceived in the history of mankind was born dead unless God regenerated them (gave them His life) in the womb. John the Baptist is the only one we know of for certain that was dead, but given Jesus’ life in the womb (Luke 1:15). The truth is that if you are breathing air in this world and you don’t have the life of Jesus in you, then you are surely dead.
Who are “the dead” in Jesus’ worldview?
Jesus’ worldview perspective is revealed in the following scriptures. In Matthew 8:22 Jesus said to a man who asked if he could go bury his father before following Him,“Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” Note what Jesus said in John 5:25. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” The apostle John also clearly had this understanding of death. In 1 John 3:14, he wrote, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” Additionally, the apostle Paul described the spiritual state of the Colossians before they were given life. “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Colossians 2:13).
Looking more at John’s writing, one sees how he introduced Jesus in his gospel. He wrote, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus testified that He is “the resurrection and the life.” So without Him, everyone is dead. John wrote it plainly in 1 John 5:12. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” In other words, those without the life of Jesus dwelling within them are dead. They have no life or light, for Jesus is the life; and His life is the light of the world.
What is the second greatest lie?
Recently I commented that the greatest lie Satan has ever made was that a person has life if they are breathing in a body on this earth. A child raised his hand and asked, “What is the second greatest lie that Satan has told?” The thought that came to me was that life in this world (that is life breathing in a body) is the only life there is. In other words, there is no God or spiritual life, and there is no heaven or hell. There’s nothing except the material world. The entire world system depends on people believing these two great lies. It’s a great, hopeless deception.
Who is able to see this great deception and adopt Jesus’ worldview of life? Only those who have life! The dead don’t know they are dead because they think they are alive—they are breathing air, and their hearts are beating. The only ones who know they were dead are those who have been given life by Him who has the authority to give life, even Jesus, the Son of God. I’ll put in some helpful contextual comments that clarify what John wrote.
John 1:11-13 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him [as life]. But as many as received Him [as life], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born (came to life), not of blood (they didn’t get life by their natural birth) nor of the will of the flesh (they didn’t get life by willing it so) nor of the will of man (they didn’t get life because they chose to accept Him), but of God (life was a gift from God, who is life).
What does this great deception have to do with living to love with Jesus?
So Jesus is the life, everyone and everything else is spiritually dead without Him. Love can only come from the life of Jesus. His love is the light of the world. God isn’t interested in our living our best life in this world or in our well-intended attempts to love for Him. Those who think this way have fallen for the great deception. Jesus doesn’t need us to live for Him. Rather we need Him to live for us.
God gave His Son so that we would not perish in our deadness. As John wrote in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” He died (i.e. gave up breathing air in His body in this world) as the substitute for His own people to conquer their first death in Adam. Jesus was raised to life (in His body in this world) so that He could give His life to everyone whose names were written in the Book of Life. In giving them life, He set them free from the second death, which will occur when all who are dead are cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). We read in Revelation 20:15. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” We are saved from both the first and second death by the life of Jesus. Romans 5:10 declares, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Let’s look at some more of John’s and Paul’s writings. John recorded Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Jesus began, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” If you have been given life in Jesus, Colossians 3:3-4 says, “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Those who have the life of Jesus dwelling or abiding in them, practice and grow in living His life—a life characterized by love. They are living to love with Jesus because they have His life! Likewise, the apostle Paul encourages us with these words in Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” The apostle John connected all the dots of death, life, and love when he wrote, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” Again in 1 John 4:9, John wrote, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” Where did John get this idea? Probably from statements like this one from Jesus. “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’” (John 8:12).
Do you believe that Jesus is the Life?
My purpose in writing these things is so that you might not be carried away by the great deception of the devil and so that you might believe that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life in this world. In believing, may you receive His abundant life, which He came to give to all who believe that He is the resurrection and the life. If you have received His life, then I, with Him, call you to live His life each day loving for the glory of God.
Next month, we will be encouraged by what it means to live our lives in this world out of the life of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll share this blog with your friends and family. They have all been exposed to the great deception. Some may be dead and don’t know it. Others may have life, but haven’t recognized all that they have received in Jesus. You can also share these resources: A video message, The Life and Love of Jesus. You can receive daily 1-2 minute encouragements by following the Live to Love Scripture Encouragement podcast.