In the Bible, there are a few instances where a “lying spirit” is mentioned. This refers to an evil or demonic spirit that is sent to deceive people and lead them astray. Understanding what the Bible says about lying spirits can help us be on guard against deception.
Lying spirits are mentioned primarily in 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18. These passages describe an interaction between God, the prophet Micaiah, wicked king Ahab, and Ahab’s false prophets. The lying spirit is sent to entice Ahab to go into a battle that will lead to his death.
There are a few key things we can learn about lying spirits from these accounts:
- Lying spirits originate from God’s heavenly court or council. They are part of the heavenly host of angelic beings.
- God sometimes allows lying spirits to accomplish His purposes, such as judging the wicked.
- Lying spirits deceive people by putting false visions or messages in the minds of false prophets.
- False prophets unknowingly deliver these lies as if they are true prophecies from God.
- People who listen to lying spirits through false prophets can be led astray, often to their harm.
As we dive deeper into what the Bible says about lying spirits, we’ll explore these themes in more detail. Knowing how lying spirits operate can help us avoid deception and walk in greater spiritual discernment.
Old Testament Accounts of Lying Spirits
The most detailed accounts of lying spirits in the Bible are found in 1 Kings 22 and the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 18. These passages recount events late in the history of the divided kingdom, when righteous King Jehoshaphat of Judah visited wicked King Ahab of Israel.
Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to join him in battle to retake the city of Ramoth-gilead from the Arameans. Jehoshaphat agreed, but insisted on first seeking a prophet of Yahweh for guidance. Ahab gathered 400 of his court prophets, who all gave the kings positive assurances that they would succeed in battle.
Jehoshaphat was wary of these prophets, so he asked if there was another who could provide a true word from the Lord. Ahab admitted there was one more prophet, Micaiah son of Imlah, but complained that Micaiah never prophesied anything good about him. Nevertheless, at Jehoshaphat’s insistence, Ahab’s messenger summoned Micaiah.
1 Kings 22:19-23
As Micaiah made his way to see the kings, he had a vision of God enthroned among the heavenly council. God asked the council, “Who will entice Ahab so that he will go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” Various members of the council suggested plans, until one particular spirit volunteered:
“I will go and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.”
God approved this plan, saying
“You will entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.”
So the lying spirit went and delivered false prophecies through Ahab’s court prophets assuring of success.
This passage gives us key insights about lying spirits:
- They originate in the heavenly realms among God’s spiritual servants
- God permits them to accomplish His sovereign will, such as judgment on the wicked
- They carry out their deception by influencing human prophets to deliver false messages
When Micaiah arrived before Ahab and Jehoshaphat, he initially mocked them by mimicking the false prophecies of Ahab’s court prophets. But under oath, Micaiah described his vision, including the lying spirit’s plan to entice Ahab to his doom.
As expected, Ahab rejected Micaiah’s true prophecy and threw him in prison. But Ahab was indeed enticed to attack Ramoth-gilead, where he was mortally wounded by an arrow, just as God had decreed through Micaiah (1 Kings 22:29-37). The lying spirit accomplished God’s judgment on wicked Ahab.
2 Chronicles 18:18-22
The account in 2 Chronicles 18:18-22 describes the same events, though in slightly less detail. The lying spirit volunteers to be a spirit of deception in the mouths of Ahab’s prophets. Once again, this shows lying spirits operating by influencing false prophets to speak deception that aligns with people’s existing desires.
Ezekiel 14:9 – God’s Use of Lying Spirits
The idea that God uses lying spirits to judge the wicked also appears in Ezekiel 14. In Ezekiel 14:1-11, God rebukes Israel’s elders for setting up idols in their hearts and coming to the true prophet Ezekiel for a word from the Lord.
God declares that when this happens, He may choose to speak directly to these hypocrites Himself, or else permit them to be deceived by lying prophets:
“’If a prophet is deceived into giving a message, it is because I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet. I will lift my hand against such prophets and cut them off from the community of Israel. False prophets and those who seek their guidance will all be punished for their sins.'” (Ezekiel 14:9-10, NLT)
This again affirms that God may use lying spirits to put lies in the mouths of false prophets as a form of judgment. In this case, the lies would confirm idolaters in their sinful desires and lead to their destruction.
New Testament Warnings About Deceiving Spirits
While the Old Testament describes the operations of lying spirits, the New Testament contains warnings to the church about deceiving spirits that would come.
Jesus warned that false messiahs and false prophets would come and perform signs and wonders to lead people astray:
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24 NKJV)
The book of Revelation also warns that the antichrist will deceive people through false signs, wonders, and miracles empowered by evil spirits:
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish…” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 NKJV)
Paul further warns that deception would increase through teachings of “deceitful spirits” and “doctrines of demons”:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” (1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV)
These New Testament warnings indicate that as the return of Christ draws near, lying and deceiving spirits will increasingly seek to lead people astray through false prophets, false messiahs, false signs and miracles, and false teachings.
How Lying Spirits Deceive
From these biblical accounts, we can put together a picture of how lying spirits operate to deceive people:
- Lying spirits originate from the spiritual realm, as part of God’s angelic host
- God at times permits them to deceive people, especially the wicked, as a form of judgment
- They deceive by influencing human prophets and putting lies in their mouths
- The human prophets then deliver false messages as if from God
- People who desire these pleasant but false messages are confirmed in their deception
- This frequently leads to harm as people are led astray from God’s truth and into foolish or sinful choices
False prophets are not necessarily aware they are being influenced by a lying spirit. From their perspective, they think they are speaking a true message from God. The spirits use these willing human instruments to package lies attractively as divine guidance.
People led astray by lying spirits also believe they are following truth and wisdom from God. But because their desires align with the pleasant lies and not the truth, God allows the deception as judgment.
How to Avoid Deception from Lying Spirits
The Bible’s warnings about deceiving spirits instruct us to be cautious about where we receive guidance and teaching. Based on these warnings, here are some ways we can avoid being deceived by lying spirits:
Rely on the Bible – Scripture teaches that God’s written Word is the ultimate standard of truth by which all teaching must be tested:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)
If any teaching contradicts the Bible, we can recognize it as false.
Be discerning – We must carefully discern the sources of teaching to see if they are true prophets speaking for God:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1 NKJV)
Rely on the Holy Spirit – As we stay in God’s Word and prayerfully depend on the Spirit’s wisdom, we can better distinguish truth from error:
“These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (1 John 2:26-27 NKJV)
Look at the fruit – Jesus said false prophets could be identified by their bad fruit of sin and deception in their lives (Matthew 7:15-20). The truth produces good fruit in someone’s character.
Avoid deception – We should avoid sources of teaching that seem influenced by deceit or promote false doctrine rather than sound teaching:
“Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV)
By using discernment and continually grounding ourselves in God’s Word and Spirit, we can avoid being misled by lying spirits.
Conclusion: Key Takeaways on Lying Spirits
- Lying spirits are demonic influences that deceive people through false prophets and teachers.
- Though lying spirits originate in the spiritual realm, God may permit them to accomplish His purposes like judging the wicked.
- Lying spirits put false visions and messages in people’s minds, which false prophets deliver as divinely-inspired truth.
- People who desire these false words are confirmed in their deception and often led into harmful consequences.
- As the return of Christ nears, deceptive spirits will increase and seek to lead people astray through false messiahs, signs, miracles, and teachings.
- We must rely on Scripture, discernment, the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, and good fruits to avoid deception.
Understanding the operations and motivations of lying spirits helps us be vigilant against deception. By remaining grounded in God’s truth, we can detect falsehood and walk in greater spiritual wisdom and freedom.