QUESTION: Is there any Bible example(s) where Israelites or early Christians were under a “deluding influence”?
The deluding influence –formerly called an “operation of error”–is a unique phenomenon associated with the return of Christ. In context, Paul was warning the brothers —who, as it turns out, is us —not to accept any announcements as authentic, no matter how authoritative their source, regarding the return of Christ as having been accomplished. The necessary precursor to the day of the Lord is the apostasy, which must come first.
In the unfortunately-named Names of God version 2 Thessalonians 2:2 is worded most interestingly. It reads: “Don’t get upset right away or alarmed when someone claims that we said through some spirit, conversation, or letter that the day of the Lord has already come.”
Of all the religions pretending to be Christian, to my knowledge none of them claim that the day of the Lord has already come —none except the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses, that is. Even the evangelicals and their end-times, rapture claptrap, do not claim that Christ has already come.
Perhaps it would be better if Jehovah’s Witnesses became alarmed —alarmed over the fact that the very thing the inspired apostle warned against —namely, accepting a false parousia —is the very cornerstone of the Watchtower’s teaching.
There is no question about it, even as other translations word it, 1914 is a “powerful delusion.” It is so powerfully entrenched in the minds of Jehovah’s Witnesses that to seriously question the authenticity of the 1914 dogma is considered a shocking blasphemy and rank apostasy. Any Bible student who does not embrace the Watchtower’s teaching that the day of the Lord began in 1914 is not allowed to be baptized. And any baptized JW who doubts that the Lord has already invisibly come is subject to being thrown out of the synagogue —disfellowshipped.
The deluding influence is, of course, an operation of Satan the Devil. That explains why it is so effective. By God’s permission, Satan was allowed to embed his error into the midst of Bible Students from the very beginning. As Paul forewarned, Satan’s operation would be backed “with every powerful work and lying signs and wonders and every unrighteous deception.”
True to the apostle’s warning, having worked his magick chronology to divine 1914 from the Bible and the Great Pyramid of Egypt, the Devil surely orchestrated the outbreak of the First World War and the Spanish Influenza to coincide with the great expectations he had carefully cultivated beforehand among those whom he recognized as the called ones. Other developments then, like the arrest and brief incarceration of Rutherford in 1918, has served as a powerful, unrighteous deception that has been used to hoodwink Jehovah’s Witnesses into believing that the Lord’s day began in 1914.
(As further evidence of a deluding influence, originally the Bible Students imagined that the parousia began in 1874 and that Christ assumed his throne in 1878. That delusion persisted until around 1930. That is when the Watchtower shifted the parousia and the coming of the Kingdom to 1914. It has become ossified in stone ever since.)
But as regards the original question, was there any sort of comparable delusion in operation upon the Israelites or Christians? And the fact is, there was. Jesus’ early followers were laboring under numerous wrong assumptions that they simply could not dislodge from their minds. As Jews, the apostles were under the influence of the rabbinic teachers. They were aware of certain messianic prophecies, but they lacked the insight to clearly understand them.
For example, the Jews knew that the Messiah would be a son of David and hence an heir to the unoccupied throne of Israel. So, having accepted Jesus as the messianic king, the apostles apparently imagined that Jesus was going to throw off the Roman occupiers and somehow, someway, re-establish the kingdom of Israel in Jerusalem.
Likewise, the Jews knew that the prophecies foretold that once restored, messiah’s kingdom would rule forever. No doubt that is why the disbelieving Jews challenged Jesus by saying: “We heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?”
Throughout his discussions with the Jews Jesus explained to them that he had come down from the realms above —that he was not of this world. Furthermore, he repeatedly explained to his disciples that he must suffer and die before returning to the Father. However, Jesus’ disciples could not grasp that Jesus had a prehuman existence and that he was going to be resurrected and transformed from flesh to spirit and that the kingdom of Israel that Messiah would rule over was to be a spiritual nation —not physical, not earthly. These matters were initially beyond the mental grasp of the disciples.
However, unlike the delusion that presently grips Jehovah’s Witnesses, the blindness of the apostles was not the result of a powerful operation of Satan. They were just ignorant and lacked spiritual comprehension. And they were quickly disabused of their ignorance when Jesus was killed and shortly thereafter began appearing in their midst in various guises. But their error served God’s purpose. As Jesus had forewarned Peter on the very night of his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Satan had demanded to have the apostles to sift them as wheat. In other words, their faith was going to be tested.
No doubt the Accuser has likewise demanded to have the remaining ones to sift them as wheat. The 1914 delusion and the idolatrous attachment to the Watchtower will be a huge stumbling block before Jehovah’s Witnesses when Christ comes. Then the man of lawlessness will stand in total opposition to Christ and exalt himself. Unfortunately, then many will be stumbled and hate and betray one another, as Jesus foretold. Jehovah has set it up so that followers of men will stumble. Only those with true faith will be allowed to enter the new reality when it presents itself.