Lying Signs and Wonders

The final deceiver will be energized by Satan to cause many saints to apostatize, using “lying signs and wonders” to do so  2 Thessalonians 2:8-9.

Dark Sea - Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash
The “
day of the Lord” will not commence until the “man of lawlessness” is “revealed” as he “sits down in the sanctuary of God.” His appearance will coincide with the “apostasy,” for he will be characterized by his ability to deceive, and especially with “lying signs and wonders.” Satan himself will equip this master deceiver to destroy as many saints as possible - [Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash].

This malevolent figure will have his own “arrival” or ‘parousia’; on some level, his appearance will counterfeit the “arrival” of Jesus. Fortunately, he will be destroyed at the ‘parousia’ of the Lord when he “arrives” with “his angels to render vengeance against all who disobey the gospel,” and to gather his elect. Unfortunately, in the interim, some believers, perhaps many, will apostatize before that day.
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) - “And then will be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the Spirit of his mouth, and paralyze with the appearance of his arrival [parousia], whose arrival [parousiawill be according to an energizing [energeia] of Satan, with all power and signs and lying [pseudos] wonders, and with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves, because the love of the truth they did not welcome that they might be saved. And for this cause, God is sending them an energizing [energeiaof deception, to the end, they should believe the lie [pseudos], that they should be judged who would not believe in the truth but were well-pleased with the unrighteousness.”
We should note the several contrasts. Just as Jesus will “arrive,” so, too, will the “man of lawlessness.” Christ will “arrive” in a great “appearance” of glory, at which time he will destroy that deceiver. In contrast, the “lawless one” will “arrive” with signs, impressive works, lying wonders, and other forms of deception, all “energized” by Satan to destroy Christians.

The deceptive activities of the “lawless one” will be welcomed by those who reject the truth, therefore, God will send them “energizing deception.” Put another way, God allows the “lawless one” who is energized by Satan to deceive men and women who refuse to welcome His word.

Energizing” translates the Greek word energeia, the source of the English verb ‘energize.’ In Greek usage, it referred to “energy, effectual working, operation.” Thus, the works and “signs” performed by this creature will be empowered by the Devil.

Powers, signs, wonders.” Elsewhere in the New Testament, all three Greek nouns are applied to the miracles of Jesus, and of the early church, the latter under the power of the Spirit - (e.g., Hebrews 2:4. dunamissēmeiaterata). While this may be coincidental, more likely, Paul means that this figure will, on some level, counterfeit Christ’s deeds.

Lying wonders.” The clause more accurately reads, “power and signs and wonders of a lie.” All three are characterized by the “lie,” and all three propagate it. The point is not that they are counterfeit miracles, but instead, their function is to deceive. This understanding is confirmed by the next clause, “and with all manner of deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves.” Many believers will be deceived by these miracles because “they did not welcome the love of the truth.”

Throughout this discussion, Paul has based his description of the “man of lawlessness” on the figure from the Book of Daniel called the “little horn,” the “king of fierce countenance,” and the “contemptible person.” Among other things, that malevolent ruler had:
  • Mighty power, but not by his own power; and he destroyed wonderfully, and he succeeded and acted with effect, and destroyed mighty ones, and the saints. And by his understanding he also caused deceit to prosper in his hand” - (Daniel 7:7-8, 8:23-26, 11:30-38).
So, likewise, the “lawless one” is “energized by Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all manner of deceit.” He will not operate under his own power.

Paul’s words also echo several sayings of Jesus from his ‘Olivet Discourse.’ He already alluded to the first words of that discourse when he exhorted the Thessalonians not to be “troubled” by false information about the “day of the Lord,” and to let “no man deceive” them. Likewise, Jesus warned about coming “deceivers” who would “deceive many” by raising false expectations about the end. Disciples were not to be “troubled” by “reports of wars” and other catastrophes. Such things “must come, but the end is not yet” - (Matthew 24:3-6, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

Jesus also warned of future times of “lawlessness” when the “love of many would grow cold,” of “false prophets” who would “deceive many,” and of “false prophets and false Christs who will show great signs and wonders, so that, if possible, even to deceive the elect.” Most probably, Paul’s description of the “lawless one” performing “signs and wonders” alludes to this saying of Jesus - (Matthew 24:9-13, 24).

The image of the “lawless one” also reflects a warning by Moses. Regardless of how impressive or real a miracle is, if the man performing it steers the saints to follow other gods, his “ministry” and miracles must be rejected:
  • (Deuteronomy 13:1-3) – “When there shall arise in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder shall come in whereof he spoke, saying: ‘Let us go after other gods’, which you know not, ‘and let us serve them’; you will not hearken to the words of that prophet, or to that dreamer of dreams, for Yahweh your God is putting you to the test, to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Them who are destroying themselves.” The Greek verb is either in the middle (“destroying themselves”) or passive voice (“them who are being destroyed”). The point is their destruction is due to their refusal to believe the truth.

Similarly, in Revelation, believers are forewarned of the coming “beast from the earth who will perform “great signs, so that, even fire he causes to descend to the earth before men, and he deceives the inhabitants of the earth through the signs that were given him to do.” As with the “man of lawlessness,” the power to perform “signs and wonders” came from an outside source, in this case, from the “Dragon.”
While God certainly does provide supernatural miracles, by no means do “signs and wonders” guarantee the genuineness of anyone’s ministry or words or demonstrate that he or she speaks for God. Miraculous deeds can deceive if the one performing them is “energized” by Satan.

None of this means that Christians are powerless before the deceptive activities of the “lawless one” (or other deceivers). Paul concluded on a positive note, for he was persuaded that the Thessalonians would “stand firm and hold fast the traditions they were taught,” rather than reject the truth and “welcome the unrighteousness.”

Likewise, in the future, those disciples of Jesus who “hold fast” to the traditions received from Jesus and the apostles will find themselves “chosen for salvation, in sanctification of spirit, and belief of truth.”


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