Previous article in this series: December 15, 2015, p. 135.
Having considered in the last article the miracles performed by some of God’s prophets, we proceed to consider the lying wonders performed by some false prophets. But before doing so, we consider a few more points about miracles.
The word “miracle” is commonly used today in a different way than the Bible uses it. When an extremely rare recovery from a serious illness takes place, people often say “it was a miracle.” But the Bible does not use the word miracle to refer to such events.
The Bible uses the term miracle to refer to an event that humans would say is clearly impossible. For example, consider a man born lame who is instantly healed and begins to leap about, not even needing to learn to walk. Humans would say that such an event is not extremely rare, but impossible. A biblical miracle is an “impossible” event like that.
Miracles are also called signs and wonders. God uses these two terms to tell us something about the purpose of a miracle.
A sign is something visible that points to and illustrates something invisible. A miracle of healing, for example, is a visible sign used to illustrate the invisible spiritual work that Christ performs within His people.
The term “wonder” indicates the effect a miracle has on those who see it. It captures a person’s attention, so that he wonders in amazement. God used miracles to capture people’s attention, so that they would come to listen to the messenger of God who had performed the miracle. Similarly, false prophets have performed wonders to attract people to come and listen to the lies they are proclaiming.
Miracles in the Last Days
Christ told us that in the last days there would be many false prophets, who would perform signs and wonders. “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (). Christ here warns His disciples not to be deceived by these miracles.
Elsewhere these miracles are called “signs and lying wonders,” mentioned in connection with the coming Antichrist:
And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders ().
These lying wonders will be used to deceive people into following the Antichrist, who is referred to in this verse as “that Wicked [one].” They will be “signs and wonders of the lie,”1 and will be used to draw people to listen to the apostate church that works for the antichristian world power ().
We should note how the devil, in a sense, tries to mimic what Christ does. Christ and His church preach the kingdom of heaven. The devil and those who serve him also preach a kingdom. But the kingdom they preach is the antichristian kingdom of men. When Christ, the Messenger of God, came, there were miracles that served to confirm that what He was teaching was truly the word of God.
The devil also uses wonders in an effort to persuade people that his messengers are the ones who are speaking the word of God. The devil tries to fool people by external similarities between what he does and what Christ does. Our Lord has pointed this out to us, and has exhorted us to take heed.
Lying Signs to Prove Us
In the past as well as today, God has warned His people about the deceptive wonders of the lie. He has also told them what His plan is with these signs. Though the deceptive miracle workers are evil, God is using them to prove or test His people, to manifest whether or not they truly love Him.
In the days of the Old Testament, when God warned His people about false prophets who would perform miracles, He also told them this: “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” ().
God says the same thing in the New Testament. Lying wonders are used to draw people away, and thus to manifest those who do not really love the truth:
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie ().
The people who will believe the lie are the ones who “received not the love of the truth.” They did not really love the truth that God spoke to them, but rather hated it. So God sends to them strong delusion and lying wonders, that they might by drawn away with all the others who believe a lie.
Lying Signs of Judgment, not Healing
Most false prophets of the past and of today do not perform wonders. A close inspection would manifest that many who claim to perform wonders really do not. There are, however, some who have done them. But the wonders they have done have never been wonders of healing. They have always been wonders that illustrate the punishments of God upon the ungodly.
Consider, for example, the signs that the Egyptian magicians performed: “And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt” (). After Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters and the frogs came up, the Egyptian magicians brought up even more frogs. They could perform signs of destruction, signs that illustrated what God in His wrath was bringing upon the ungodly. These they could do. They could not, however, get rid of the frogs. They could only increase the plague.
In the New Testament we read of the false church having power to perform miracles in the last days. The miracles they will perform are again said to be signs that illustrate the power not of God’s grace, but of His wrath:
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast (a).
They make “fire come down from heaven,” once again, a sign that points to the judgments of God’s almighty wrath.
Whatever the specific miracles may be that the false church will perform in the last days, one thing for sure is that they will not be miracles of healing. Miraculous healing signifies the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. When false prophets perform miracles, they will be signs that illustrate the works of destruction that demons perform under God’s sovereign control.
Many are tempted to believe that miracles like those done by Christ and His apostles will be performed again in the last days. It is very important that we not be fooled by the arguments of those who teach this. As we considered in the last article, those miracles ceased when the Bible was finished. The only miracles being performed in the days right before Christ comes will be the lying wonders that God has warned us about repeatedly.
May we take heed to this warning. Let us show forth that the truth we confess with our mouths we truly do love in our hearts. In this way, we will stand fast in these last days, receiving from God the strength that we need to persevere in the days ahead.
1 The phrase that is translated “signs and lying wonders” could be translated literally as “signs and wonders of the lie.”