Mat 16:4b (NIV) "A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign."Jesus gives us the underlying truth that it is spiritual "horneyness" that leads to spiritual adultery in those who hanker for a sign. "Generation" here means progeny: "whose" you are, or who is your "father", i.e.: who "generated" you. Are we of our father, God, or is there still a devilish seed in us? To seek for signs is a clear sign of a spiritually adulterous heart.
Yet, take a look at:
Mr 16:17 (NKJ) "And these signs will follow those who believe..."See the distinction? When we look to the Lord and seek His kingdom and His righteousness, signs will surely follow, but it is not the signs that we seek. This has been my experience. I have never seen anyone seeking a sign that I did not see end up in dramatic spiritual ruin, myself included. Seek God, on the other hand, and the signs follow; for our God is supernatural and generous and loving.
If you follow me, the resultant chicanery of those hell-bent on a "sign" and subsequent grief this causes in the hearts of those who know and love God can be detected very early on. Yes, a present perversion being blamed on the Holy Spirit is vexing, but we should have seen this the minute someone started "seeking a sign". Adultery leads to some wild moments of fun and pleasure, no doubt, but later to shame and betrayal and broken lives. It is the same with spiritual adultery.
But on to satanic "signs and wonders". In this we need to consider carefully the following verse:
2Th 2:9 (TCN) For at the coming of the Lord there will be great activity on the part of Satan, in the form of all kinds of deceptive miracles, signs, and marvels, as well as of wicked attempts to delude.I know a guy who uses this particular verse to suggest that Satan cannot do real miracles, but only "counterfeit" (the NIV for "lying") miracle; i.e.: only sham miracles. But this neither fits the rest of scripture nor experience, but in his case does fit his anti-supernatural bias in general--he is an anti-charismatic naturalist by instinct.
2Th 2:9 (NKJ) The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.
Before we jump into the case for Satan being able to work miracles in the supernatural, what are we to make of 2Th 2:9? If taken in isolation, it might well be confusing. Adam Clarke opines: "With all power (pash dunamei). All kinds of miracles, like the Egyptian magicians; and signs and lying wonders: the word lying may be applied to the whole of these; they were lying miracles, lying signs, and lying wonders; only appearances of what was real, and done to give credit to his presumption and imposture. Whereas God sent his messengers with real miracles, real signs, and real wonders; such Satan cannot produce."
While this is clearly wrong in conclusion, as proven by his own introductory example (Jannes and Jambres--the Egyptian magician witch-priests who opposed Moses--were able to do real miracles; even if their miracles, signs, and wonders were subordinate and weaker in power than those done by Moses through the power of God) there might well be a stylistic hint that either: 1) there is something fake, plastic, or inferior to the miracles, or 2) this may indeed be a separate, different prophecy than the others which predict real miracles; perhaps harking to the phony "healings" we presently see popular in the pseudo-christianity termed "faith teaching". For a silly example, a short leg is "healed" by slowly pulling the pant leg up while the audience swoons; a lousy magic trick even for a child, but such passes for a "miracle" among us. But either of these interpretations must be seen as secondary meanings, or hints. The primary meaning we will get to momentarily.
Robertson digs out the Greek a bit better: "Lying wonders (terasin pseudous): In wonders of a lie. Note here the three words for the miracles of Christ (Heb 2:4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.), power (dunamis), signs (sÍmeia), wonders (terata), but all according to the working of Satan (kata energeian tou Satana, the energy of Satan) just as Jesus had foretold."
Mt 24:24 (NIV) "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible."Given the specific and unqualified warning of Jesus, the principal meaning of 2Th 2:9, then, should be interpreted:
There are warnings concerning real miracles sourced by Satan even in the old testament, with specific instructions on how to deal with a "prophet" who is able to work a supernatural sign that has the result of leading people away from God (cited momentarily). These, then, are "lying" miracles, for their whole purpose and aim is to deceive. If Satan does a miracle, its inherent core and essence is "lying", since lying is his "native language" (Jn 8:44), as Jesus puts it.
- ...that the strategic aim of the miracles done is to deceive, to lie.
The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary correctly explains: "After--according to the working ("energy") of Satan, as opposed to the energy or working of the Holy Spirit in the Church. As Christ is related to God, so is Antichrist to Satan, his visible embodiment and manifestation: Satan works through him. (Re 13:2 ...The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.) lying wonders--literally, "wonders" or "prodigies of falsehood." His "power, signs, and wonders," all have falsehood for their base, essence, and aim (John 8:44 "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."), In (Mt 24:24 "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.") Jesus implies that the miracles shall be real, though demonic; such mysterious effects of the powers of darkness as we read of in the case of the Egyptian sorcerers, not such as Jesus performed in their character, power, or aim; for they are against the revealed Word, and therefore not to be accepted as evidences of truth; nay, on the authority of that sure Word of prophecy to be known and rejected as wrought in support of falsehood. The same three Greek words occur for miracles of Jesus (Ac 2:22 "...Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him...) and (Heb 2:4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles...); showing that as the Egyptian magicians imitated Moses (2Ti 3:1-8 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days... They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth--men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.), so Antichrist will try to imitate Christ's works as a "sign," or proof of divinity."
Satan can perform "real" supernatural miracles, signs, and wonders; for this is a specific warning given over and again as a hallmark of the End of the Age. Thus, the additional "lying" adjective of 2Th 2:9 should be interpreted in context as speaking to the strategic aim of the miracles in its principle meaning. Again, allowing for hints as a secondary meaning, we should not "be deceived" (if it were possible <wink>) as to the ability of Satan to do miracles. Even the false prophets of the old-covenant (timid, in comparison to the lawless one coming) could perform signs, and we are specifically warned against taking these real miracles as an excuse for following them. For there are two senses a prophet can be "false". The easy case is where the sign he touts is false, as in: "The planets aligning 1982 will cause massive earthquakes" which does not happen. But what if someone announces a miraculous sign that does come true but is "false" in the sense that he/she is using the sign to lead people away from the truth about the "Name" (nature) of the Lord? This second and ultimate sense of a "false prophet" is what we need to be soberminded about in order that Satan might not outwit us in these last days, for we are not unaware of his schemes (2Cr 2:11). Here is the scripture giving particular instructions along this line:
De 13:1-8 (NIV) If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken TAKES PLACE, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God... he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known... do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him...This verse, by the way, is part of the "False Prophecy" bible study in the Spiritual Adultery Series. This deals with the contingency of a miracle offered as sanction "taking place" (really being done) but for a lying purpose to lead people away from God, and how we should thus respond. The "cackling revival" makes a good example of this in its earlier days: there were real supernatural manifestations, but the consistent depictions of God were as a clown, a manic buffoon, etc. Is this the God we "have known" and that "our fathers have known"? People were laughing at Christ and denigrating Him, blaspheming His Name and Word, etc., which led to even more "cackling". A sign and wonder (albeit not overtly supernatural) of a "lying" quality, and a warm-up (in my discernment) of things to come. Brace yourself, there is more and worse coming.
Rev 13:5-6 (NIV) The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.Take note of the unique phrasing in the above prophecy of "his dwelling place" in light of our previous discussion of the supposed "rebuilt (physical) temple". Jesus Himself spoke against the physical temple, a prophecy which took place in 70AD, and the Holy Spirit rather poignantly ripped the physical temple up when Jesus died. For God never intended to "dwell" in temples made of stone (Acts 17:24 & 7:48), Interesting, eh? The beast speaks lies not only about God's character, but ours as well as the "great multitude" of our father's and mother's in the faith. But back to the point.
Mat 24:24 (NAS) "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead..."
Rev 13:11-15 (NIV) Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
Rev 13:7a (NIV) He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.
Rev 16:13-15 (NIV) Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."
Rev 19:20 (NIV) But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
2Thes 2:9-15 (TCN) For at the Coming of the Lord there will be great activity on the part of Satan, in the form of all kinds of deceptive miracles, signs, and marvels, as well as of wicked attempts to delude--to the ruin of those who are on the path to destruction, because they have never received and loved the Truth to their own Salvation. That is why God places them under the influence of a delusion, to cause them to believe a lie; so that sentence may be passed on all those who refuse to believe the Truth, but delight in wickedness. But, Brothers, whom the Lord loves, it is our duty always to thank God about you, for, from the first, God chose you for Salvation through the purifying influence of the Spirit, and your belief in the Truth. To this you were called by the Good News which we brought you, to attain to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stand firm then, Brothers, and hold fast to the truths that we taught you, whether by word or by letter.