Revelation 21:8 tells us that all liars will be thrown in to the lake of fire, yet Scripture records God putting a lying spirit into the mouths of the prophets of King Ahab (1 Kings 22:23). 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 also teaches that God will do a similar thing in the future: “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie…”
Why would God willingly put a lie into the mouths of prophets and send a delusion so powerful that people would perish because of it? Is this not a horrible, evil thing for God to do? Does this not contradict God’s love?
In order to understand these passages we must study them in context. Let me start with 2 Thessalonians. Chapter 2 of this letter is about the coming of the Antichrist. Verses 3 and 4 tell about the coming of the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) and how he will set himself up as God. Verses 5-9 then teach us about how Jesus will overthrow the Antichrist at his second coming, and how the man of lawlessness will deceive the world by the work of Satan using counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders. The passage then goes on to speak about the delusion God sends the perishing.
1 Kings 22:23 takes place during a time when Ahab, the king of Israel and the husband of Jezebel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, were thinking about going to war with the Arameans (ancient Syria) so they could capture the city of Ramoth Gilead, which was in Israelite territory but controlled by the Arameans. 1 Kings 22:4-12 tells us that the kings heard the counsel of 400 prophets who all agreed that they would be successful in their war. However, Jehoshaphat wanted to hear from a prophet of the Lord (the 400 prophets were pagan).
There was one prophet of the Lord who came at the request of Jehoshaphat and Ahab – Micaiah. When he arrived at Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, he disagreed with the 400 hundred prophets and said that Ahab would die at Ramoth Gilead (in which he did). Micaiah told Ahab of a vision he had where a spirit (probably an angel) told God that he would put a lying spirit into the mouths of the 400 prophets and would convince Ahab to go to battle where he would die. God then allowed the lie to be given to Ahab.
Understanding all of this
I give the reader the historical context because with this information we can understand why God allowed a lie to be told to Ahab and why he will allow people in the future to follow the Antichrist and perish. When it comes to Ahab, 1 Kings 22:27 shows us that Ahab planned to return home safely and did not believe what the Lord had said. He thus rejected the very words of God and decided to follow his own heart.
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 say that God gives the delusion of the Antichrist to people because they refuse to believe the truth and have delighted in wickedness. Because of this they will be condemned.
Paul, in Romans 1:18-32, fully elaborates on why God does this:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. 29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them. (emphasis added)
Take notice of the lines that are italicized in this passage. It tells us that because people suppressed the truth, knew God but did not glorify him, exchanged the truth of God for a lie, approved of those who practiced wickedness (v. 18, 21, 25, 32), and because of these things God has given humanity over to their desires, dishonorable passions, and a depraved mind (v. 24, 26, 28).
Take what Paul teaches in Romans and apply it to the situation with Ahab and what Paul teaches about the Antichrist in the future. God is not approving of lying in either passage, nor is he putting lies in the hearts of people just so that they will go to hell. Since Ahab had known God and willingly rejected him, and because mankind as a whole has done the same thing, God gave up Ahab to his desires, and he will do the same thing to sinful mankind in the future. But as Romans 1 teaches us, Ahab and the followers of the Antichrist are not the only ones that this has happened/will happen to. Mankind as a whole has been given over to their evil desires. This is what humanity wants so that is what God gives them – a life without him and all the blessings that come with a relationship with him.
The Bible does not contradict itself when it says all liars will go to hell and God gives people a lie so they will perish. God allows people to accept their own lies because that is what they want. God calls everyone to repent, but after a person, or humanity as a whole, rejects God for so long, God then gives them what they want – a life without God, that is, hell.