Frank Abagnale, a high-school dropout, impersonated a Pan Am pilot and a pediatrician, passed the bar exam, and conned his way into a job in the Louisiana state attorney general’s office – all before his 21st birthday.
Then he got caught. Abagnale served prison time in France, then Sweden, then the United States where he was released early on his promise to cooperate with the FBI. The story was turned into “Catch Me If You Can,” a popular 2002 movie starring Leo DiCaprio as Abagnale.
How, we might ask, could so many smart people be duped by a young man barely old enough to vote? If it seems impossible, all we need to do is turn to the book of Genesis to see how subtle deception can be. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were approached by history’s first and foremost faker: Satan.
When Satan brought his deceptive scheme into the Garden of Eden, he posed as a beautiful serpent and pretended to speak with the wisdom of God (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s ploy and fell from their created state of perfect fellowship with God. The Bible then becomes the story of God’s redemptive provision for not only Adam and Eve but all of their descendants who would embrace His sacrifice for sin and salvation through Christ.
The Bible is also a record of Satan’s attempts to fool the entire human race one way or another. The Bible contains the true story of a real fake: an exalted angel who tries to make people believe he is God. Thankfully, Satan’s fakeries and forgeries have been exposed so that we need not be fooled.
First, Satan’s forgeries. Not long after his first effort to counterfeit the wisdom of God in the Garden of Eden, we see Satan at work again, this time in the courts of Egypt.
God sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh, demanding that the king let God’s people go. When Pharaoh demanded a miracle, Aaron threw down his staff, and it became a snake (Exodus 7:8-12). But Pharaoh’s sorcerers and magicians also threw down their staffs, all of which became serpents as well. By their occult “enchantments” (verse 11), Pharaoh’s wise men counterfeited the power of God – almost: Aaron’s snake ate up the magicians’ snakes.
Satan is a forger who can counterfeit some of the power of God. Don’t fall for every miracle you see unless you want your spiritual bank account to be drained.
Second, Satan’s fakeries. The apostle Paul came face to face with Satan’s fakes in his missionary efforts. There were fake apostles in Corinth who were trying to be something they weren’t: God-called apostles like the apostle Paul. They were “transforming themselves into apostles of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 11:13) fooling some, but not Paul.
Paul was not surprised at such fakery and suggests we shouldn’t be either: “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). How ironic: the prince of darkness trying to pass himself off as an angel of light!
Finally, Satan’s final failings. While it may seem Satan has been free to deceive for thousands of years, nothing could be further from the truth. We already know where he is going to end up: the lake of fire.
First John 5:19 says that the whole world lies “under the sway of the wicked one,” but 1 John 3:8 says, “The Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Satan is a forger and a faker and an ultimate failure. He and all his works will one day be destroyed forever.
Not every fugitive is caught immediately. The FBI has its “Ten Most Wanted” list because there are fugitives from justice who remain at large. But the fact that the list keeps changing means that fugitives are constantly being apprehended. Satan, the ultimate fugitive from God’s justice, is living on borrowed time. Like all fugitives, Satan can run, but he can’t hide. He has nowhere to run where God cannot see his every move.
Be sober. Be vigilant. Be on your guard. Be discerning. But don’t be afraid of this one on the run. For “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Praise God!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.)