“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
2 Thessalonians chapter two has already alerted us to one characteristic of “the lawless one” mentioned here: he will assume the place of God and usurp the worship and recognition that rightfully belongs to Him alone. To this, the verse quoted above adds two additional attributes. First, this coming man of sin will conform to Satan’s agenda. Next, he will be vested with supernatural capabilities.
This supernatural power will be reflected in the ability to perform “signs and wonders.” The word “sign” refers to “…an unusual occurrence, transcending the common course of nature. ” (1) A “wonder” is associated with something miraculous when used in this context. (2) These demonstrations will influence many to accept the man of sin in place of God.
At this point, we should pause to remember that the ability to perform “miracles, signs, and wonders” does not necessarily mean that God endorses a person or ministry. In other words, the presence of miracle-working ability does not prove that the miracle-worker is doing God’s will. (3) One source offers a perceptive comment on this unfortunate reality…
“In these confusing times, many Christians are seeking for ‘signs and wonders’ to bolster their faith. This attitude, however, was rebuked by Christ, when He lamented: “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (John 4:48). The danger of being led thereby into a false occultic pseudo-Christianity is very real, for Satan and his false christs and false prophets are also able to ‘shew great signs and wonders” (Matthew 24:24). But these are ‘lying wonders,’ intended to deceive men into a false worship.” (4)
In this instance, the ability to perform these signs “…is in accord with the activity of Satan” (NASB). Despite what many believe, the Scriptures identify Satan as an actual being who possesses genuine influence over others. He is not characterized as a myth, legend, or mischievous prankster. Instead, he is defined as a literal being who is evil (Matthew 6:13), wicked (1 John 2:13), a liar and a murderer (John 8:44), and a deceiver (Revelation 20:10).
We can also add the ability to perform “false miracles, signs, and wonders” (Mounce) to that list of characteristics. These miracles will be false in the sense that they represent…
- Supernaturally sophisticated sleight of hand techniques.
- Authentic miracles that are intended to deceive.
- A combination of both.
Nevertheless, one of these possibilities seems more likely than the others. We’ll see why next.
(2) G5059 teras https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/teras
(3) See Wilbur Fields, Thinking Through Thessalonians, Notes (2:9) [pg. 205] https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesThessalonians/17Thessalonians_djvu.txt
(4) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes 2 Thessalonians 2:9 https://www.icr.org/bible/2Th/2/9