“For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). Many of the great religions of the world have pointed to signs and miracles as proof of their validity. Historically this has been particularly true of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches with miracle-working relics and icons, supernatural apparitions of the Virgin Mary or other saints,[1] and pilgrimage destinations such as Lourdes in France and Tinos in Greece where miraculous cures take place. More recently the Pentecostal movement has swept through the whole world with a strong emphasis on signs and miracles such as speaking in tongues, personal prophecies and healings.[2] An underlying assumption is that since the miracles cannot be explained by science and are beneficial for the recipients, they must be from God. But the Bible teaches that particularly at the end of time Satan will use signs and miracles to deceive the multitudes into going along with his program.

“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, because they did not receive the love of the truth” (2Thessonians 2:9,10). The context of this passage is an exposition about “the lawless one…whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (v. 8). In other words, this passage refers to the period of time immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ. Although Satan has been active all through human history, he has been restrained from fully exercising his power— “You know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time” (v.6). Because of Satan’s challenges, a full demonstration of both Satan’s evil principles and of God’s righteousness and love must take place. But God has delayed this, because billions of people all over the world do not have enough information about God to make an intelligent judgment.

However, when “the everlasting gospel” has been preached “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6), then God can allow the final demonstration of Satan's principles and character. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14). “You know what is restraining… for the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8).

God allows deceptive miracles, but it is important to note that the people who are deceived are those who have rejected the God's truth. “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (vs. 11,12). In these verses we see that God does not design that anyone should be lost. Deception is the final stage of a process which starts with having “pleasure in unrighteousness,” and then proceeds to a refusal to “believe the truth” about God—truth that is also a rebuke to the sin they do not want to forsake. Unfortunately for the sinner, it is the truth that condemns sin which also reveals the deceptions of the enemy of souls. When sinners reject God’s word they reject his refuge of safety. In His discourse on the end of time in Matthew 24, Jesus warned three times against deceptive miracles in the last days—“False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24, see also vs. 4,5,11).

At the same time, God’s people will manifest the power of the Holy Spirit to an extent that has not been seen since Pentecost. The prophet Joel prophesied that God would pour out His Spirit and “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions…the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:28-31). “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues, they will take up serpents and if they drink anything deadly it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17,18).

Today rational science is skeptical of all that cannot be explained scientifically, but the very end of time will be characterized by undeniable signs, wonders and miracles. In particular, the beast from the earth of Revelation 13:11 “[will] perform great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs” (Revelation 13:13,14). What this means for God’s people is that they cannot rely on miracles as proof of God’s working. The Bible says that spectacular miracles will be performed through the power of Satan! How essential that we heed John’s admonition, “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). “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

Continue to next section: 16:15 COMING AS A THIEF

[1] Texts such as Ecclesiastes 9:5,10 (“The dead know nothing…There is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave.” See also Psalms 6:5, 155:17, 146:4, Job 14:12) prove that dead people, including the saints, do not have a conscious existence before the resurrection. Therefore the miracles performed by the departed “saints” must have their origin elsewhere. While it is conceivable that God could have pity on petitioners who seek help in ignorance, in many cases demons pose as saints in order to get worship for themselves and to spin webs of deception which they use to divert people’s attention from God and Jesus.

[2] Pentecostal meetings often break all the rules that the apostle Paul laid out when he confronted a similar misguided emphasis on selected spiritual gifts in Corinth—more than one person speaks in tongues at once, there is no interpreter, there is disorderly confusion (vs. 27-33). This calls into question God’s presence as the source of the miracles that are performed.