For those of us who sense that the Day of the Lord is near, we are aware that He prophesied about all the deception that would come upon the world. In fact, He said many people would be deceived, and great miracles will be performed to deceive even the elect, if that were possible. And then He adds, Behold! I have told you ahead of time.
This is what theologians and the faithful throughout the Church Age have come to know as "The Great Deception". Now, deception is nothing new... it has plagued mankind since the beginning. And the reason is because man has loved sin; and deception always works in harmony with man’s desire for unrighteousness. Jesus tells us that before His Second Coming, many people will be so in love with the temptations of sin. And the deception will be declared so miraculous that it will be hard to resist it. The only ones who will not be deceived are those who have trusted the Lord with all their heart, rather than trusting in the false and extraordinary (probably, even supernatural) promises of the Deceiver.
The fact that Jesus says The Great Deception will be so astounding that it might even convince the elect (if it were possible) tells me two things: 1) It won't fool those whose names are written in the Book of Life; their hearts and spirits will be steadfast, but 2) Is it possible that the Deception will try to incorporate some facet of the Bible that will make it seem acceptable to those who claim a knowledge and faith in Jesus, but are not truly redeemed? Follow this train of thought...
How often throughout the Scriptures is the presence of God or Jesus mentioned as being associated with a cloud? Let me give you just a few examples: "Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne" (Psalm 97:2). "Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, The thundering of His pavilion"? (Job 36:29). "The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way... He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day [from before the people]" (Exodus 13:21-22). "Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was One like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand" (Revelation 14:14). And then there is perhaps the most familiar verse: "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
So, it's pretty obvious that clouds are an important indicator of the presence of God or His Son. But in today's modern world, we are also quite familiar with another concept we fondly refer to as "the Cloud". But I would be willing to bet that a majority of the people who use it can't even explain what it precisely is. Here's the most common definition: "The Cloud" is an online storage service; a place to keep all your files and access them from across all your various computer devices. But when asked where this storage service is located, most people will just say "in the Cloud", which in computer slang means "out there", somewhere in the nebulous universe of the Internet. The imagery that accompanies "the Cloud" is that of some invisible destination in the sky where your files are organized and kept for easy access. Somehow, we are led to believe they are safe and secure out there in space; just sitting in "the Cloud".
When one contemplates how quickly this idea has moved in the world of technology, it is staggering. I must admit that I do not understand the intricacies of cloud storage, or "cloud computing", as it is now popularly known. But I do know that this concept is advancing in a direction that could possibly be an indicator of The Great Deception. Let me explain... Cloud computing has progressed from storing small personal files; to capabilities of storing large amounts of computer data for corporations; to incorporating our Smartphones in a combination of mobile and storage services; to the future, which some say will be the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud.
This is not a new concept within my blog. In August of 2013, I posted an article on Ray Kurzweil (the computer scientist, inventor, and futurist), and paraphrased him: "At the rapid rate technology is growing, we will be able to combine the abilities of a computer with God's created human brain, and basically usurp man's natural state and produce a machine that we were never meant to be. We will no longer be made in the image of God, but in the likeness of a machine-driven computer." So, there is the artificial intelligence (AI) component of the Deception.
But if our brain becomes a computer, with the capability of creating millions of files, won't all those files need to be stored someplace safe and secure? Someplace, like "the Cloud", for instance? In fact, Kurzweil went on to explain, "We're going to become increasingly non-biological to the point where the non-biological part dominates and the biological part is not important any more. In fact the non-biological part - the machine part - will be so powerful it can completely model and understand the biological part. So even if that biological part went away it wouldn't make any difference."
But that's not all! Kurzweil then expounded upon the promise of virtual reality, saying, "We'll certainly be routinely changing our parent body through virtual reality and today you can have a different body in something like Second Life, but it's just a picture on the screen. In the future it's not going to be a little picture in a virtual environment you're looking at. It will feel like this is your body and you're in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality."
That was three years ago, folks. Then I ran across this recent article on the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) website. The title of the article was Second Life: The Christian and Virtual Reality. What is this Second Life, that Ray Kurzweil mentioned and now CBN is referencing? It is a three-dimensional imaginary world built and populated by seven million real people. Since it opened on the Internet in 2003, it has grown explosively to become a vast digital continent on which people buy and sell property, carry out business, and pursue similar leisure activities to those in real life.
Naturally questions arise, such as how does one do pastoral care in a virtual environment? What is sin in Second Life? How does the cathedral service offer the Eucharist?
But if the numbers are correct, and 7,000,000 people have signed up to "live" in Second Life, which doesn't really exist, except in a virtual reality context in the Cloud, are you beginning to see deception on the horizon? Because, people, it's already here! If not, let me throw this at you ... the founders of Second Life say their ultimate aim is to share Jesus Christ in Second Life, through the services. Now, can you see it?
That means Jesus would be an avatar, too, right? Let me take you a step further... I find it interesting that an avatar in the computing world is an icon or figure representing a particular person in computer games, Internet forums, etc. But the word "avatar" has significance in Hinduism as "a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth; an incarnate divine teacher." But which will this Jesus be? Just a virtual reality representation of Jesus, the Son of the Living God? Or the very real manifestation of a deity in the virtual reality of Second Life? If you're one of those 7 million living a virtual life, will it seem miraculous if Jesus, the iconic avatar became a physical, incarnate deity? Will all those 7 million virtual Christians fall for meeting that Jesus in the air? After all, they are already caught up in the cloud, right?
Is Satan planning his Great Deception to coincide with the explosion of technology, cloud computing, and virtual reality? I have no problem seeing many so-called Christians going down that path to destruction after passing through the wide gate of technological temptations. And here's a question for you... What if technology figures out a way that you no longer have to be an avatar in the Second Life community, but you can actually upload yourself there whenever you want? (Remember: Ray Kurzweil said, back in 2013, that "It will feel like this is your body and you're in that environment and your body is the virtual body and it can be as realistic as real reality."
And what if you happen to be in the Cloud when the real Jesus returns to Earth? The Bible says He will return to the same place and in the same manner that He left us. That means He is returning to earth. Do you think it is possible that Satan could so deceive earth's inhabitants that they would desire to escape to another place, rather than wait on His blessed return, and expecting that Jesus will re-route His travel plans? Or that professing Christians will be only too willing to accept that version of Jesus because it fits their new reality?
I don't know if this makes any sense to you or not, and to be honest, I haven't fully digested where all this could lead. It sounds so far-fetched and like a Ray Bradbury novel. But there are enough hints that we are headed in that direction, and when some group like Second Life offers Jesus as part of the bargain, I fear far too many, who consider themselves faithful, will not discern the danger, and will choose to bypass the narrow gate which offers salvation. Clouds have always indicated the presence of God in the Bible, but we must be careful to seek Him in the cloud as the Bible relates it, and not fall for some deceptive avatar out of the desire for our own style of immortality.
Nahum 1:3 "The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. The LORD has His way in whirlwind and storm, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet."