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Can Satan Do Miracles?


Can Satan’s power deceive even true Christians?  Why does God allow Satan and the demons to have that level of power?  Basically, anyone can be deceived by witnessing amazing miracles and then by automatically assuming that the person doing them is of God, which is a spiritually very dangerous conclusion.  However, if we use our knowledge of what the Bible commands and teaches, we can avoid being deceived by false prophets, including the ultimate False Prophet of end-times prophecy himself.  Clearly Scripture teaches that Satan and the demons can do miracles, so we must be on guard against assuming miracles can only be done by God’s power.


Jesus in the Olivet Prophecy warned His followers (Matthew 24:24):  “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”  So let’s explore more closely the general issue of why God allows Satan and the demons to do miracles at times.  The basic reason why the devil can heal and do miracles is the result of God’s decision to test us so that He knows that we will freely choose to serve him even when we are strongly tempted to sin.  We need to step back and ask the basic question:  “Why does God allow Satan to exist?”  That in turn relates to a still more fundamental question, “Why does an almighty, all-knowing, loving God allow evil to exist?”  The quick, short answer to the last question is that God is in the process of making beings like Himself who will be 100% righteous yet still have 100% freedom of the will (cf. Genesis 1:26-28; Eph. 4:12-13; Hebrews 2:5-12; John 17:20-23; Matt. 5:48).  A subsection of this big question would be why God allows Satan and the evil angels to live and to tempt human beings, including Eve (Genesis 3:1-7).  Fundamentally, God wants us to make a knowing, conscious, deliberate decision to serve Him and to follow His way of life.  We humans have to go through temptations, tests, and trials that make it hard to go the right way.  The broad path to destruction is much easier to find and to follow than the narrow path (Matt. 7:12-14).  God wants to test us to see if we will trust Him, have faith in Him, and be loyal to Him when the going gets tough.  God saw what happened when one third of the holy angels, who had never experienced pain, evil, or injustice, followed Lucifer instead of Him (Rev. 12:4, 9).  As a result, God wants to make sure that human beings will do a better job than so many of the holy angels did.  For example, God told His people to not follow false prophets.  Yet God would allow them to appear because (Deut. 13:3), “the Lord your God is testing you to fid out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” 


Therefore, from the very beginning, God commanded the human race to choose between good and evil, such as in the Garden of Eden.  After all, God didn’t have to create the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then place it in a prominent place in the garden.  Similarly, he told ancient Israel (Deut. 30:15-18, 19):  “See, I have set before you life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.  But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. . . . I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”  God isn’t in the business of making robots who would automatically will obey him, and thus avoid committing evil acts.  Instead, He wants sons and daughters who will knowingly have faith and obey Him even when it’s hard to do so.  As a result, God temporarily allows Satan to test the human race until the time comes to destroy him (Ezekiel 28:12-19).  This is why God allows the devil to do miracles and to heal people (cf. II Thess. 2:9; Rev. 13:13-14; Matt. 24:24).


Now, what are practical ways to sort out if a miracle is from God or from Satan?  One way to test whether a prophet's purported revelation is from God or not is whether it agrees with prior revelations from Him.  For example, if someone prophesies that we should worship another God besides Jehovah, that person is a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-9) and should be ignored.  Such a "revelation" would contradict the First Commandment (Ex. 20:3).  A prophesied prediction that eventually proves to be false also clearly isn't from the true God (Deut. 18:20-22), and should be ignored.  The basic principle at work here appears in Deut. 18:20-22 and Deut. 13:1-5.  In these passages, a prophet who said to worship other gods, or whose predictions didn't come to pass, should be ignored, even executed.  So we should only believe a (purported) revelation from God if it agrees with prior revelations and (if applicable) successfully predicts the future.    By contrast, time and time again, such as in the book of Daniel, the Bible predicts the future, and it occurs since the true God can see into the future and know what will happen (Isaiah 46:8-11).  Indeed, this remarkable aspect of the Bible is what proves it beyond any doubt as being inspired, such as when it predicted Alexander the Great's successful invasion of Persia followed by his kingdom breaking up into four smaller kingdoms (see Daniel 11:2-4; 8:5-8, 20-22).   


Another way to test if a prophet’s miracles are from God concerns if they are systematically disobeying major commandments of God as a matter of public teaching and deliberate personal practice.  This isn’t about temporary weakness, careless hypocrisy, or occasional sins, but constant, intentional disobedience to God’s law as a matter of settled doctrinal and intellectual conviction.  What did Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount?  “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”  (Matt. 5:21-23).  True, one could argue about whether this text describes gifts that came from God, or counterfeit gifts that came from Satan.  After all, Satan certain does have the power to do miracles also (Rev. 13:13; II Thess. 2:9; Ex. 7:11-12, 22).  It’s a very dangerous teaching to believe all miracles must be from God.  As Scripture warns us (I John 4:1):  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  One way to “test the spirits” is to consider whether their alleged spokesmen are actually obeying God’s law.  Likewise, the man born blind that Jesus miraculously healed told the questioning Jews (John 9:31):  “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.”


Many people use the terms “the false prophet,” “the son of perdition,” “the Beast,” and/or “the antichrist” almost interchangeably.  This isn’t accurate.  Notice how Revelation 13 describes two beasts who will have two rulers, although the two are allied to each other for a period of time.  “The Beast” can refer to either the kingdom he will ruler or to the ruler himself.  This is the first Beast described in Revelation 13:1-11.  He is the political leader, who is distinct from the religious ruler, who goes by the terms “the false prophet” and “the son of perdition.” He will rule over the beast described in Revelation 13:11-15, which is a religious organization.  “The false prophet” is the same person.  He is described in Revelation 16:13, 19:20; 20:10. The term “antichrist” appears in Scripture as a term that refers to heretics who deny basic truths of Scripture, such as someone who denies that Jesus was the Christ (Messiah) (I John 2:22) and that Jesus didn’t come from God (I John 4:2).  The term can be used, however, for the future apostate leader (I John 1:18).  The “son of perdition” is described in II Thessalonians 2:3-12. 


A key reason why the man of sin (or “son of perdition”), the false prophet, and the second beast of Revelation 13 are equated is because all of these titles refer to someone who will perform powerful miracles by Satanic power that will deceive people (see II Thess. 2:10; Rev. 13:14; Rev. 19:20).  The false prophet will also be the leader of a great religious organization which has existed and will exist parallel to the area and even outside the area ruled by the first beast of Revelation 13, which refers to the political ruler and the territory he rules in Europe (and elsewhere).  This religious organization became powerful even towards the end of the (Western) Roman Empire, which finally collapsed in 476 A.D.  So it will not be some newly created religion in the future. 


Now, in order to understand the Bible's symbols, a basic principle is to let the Bible interpret them.  For example, who and what is the “Beast”?  Let’s allow the Bible to interpret itself.  Otherwise, we human beings can make the Bible mean anything we want by reading our own desired meanings into anything that appears in it.  So the immediate context doesn't explain a symbol, then we should turn to elsewhere in the Bible to interpret it.  Hence, to interpret the book of Revelation, it's important to use such prophetic books as Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. 


In this context, let’s look at a deeper reason why Europeans have to be the Beast, False Prophet, Son of Perdition, Antichrist, etc.  Where will the future events described in Revelation 13 occur?  Where did they occur in the past as historical precursors and preliminary fulfillments?  They occurred and will occur in Europe, not the United States.  The Beast and False Prophet are Europeans, not Americans.  Let’s now explain how we know that the Beast is a European political power.  It's now necessary to figure out who and what the beast is first.  Revelation 13 needs to be interpreted in the light of Daniel 2, which describes the Babylonian King Nebuchadezzar's dream of the great statue made of four different kinds of metal, and Daniel 7, which pictures beasts that represent kingdoms coming out of the sea.  What the kingdom pictured by the legs of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream (Daniel 2:33, 40)?  Who and what is the first Beast that comes out of the sea (Rev. 13:1-11)?  According to Daniel, it would be the fourth, most terrible Beast that emerged from the sea and which is also the legs of iron in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  That beast is the Roman Empire, including its various resurrections, such as the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages.  The end-time Beast will be the present European Union turned dictatorial and (perhaps) shorn of some of its present, smaller members.  The “Beast” can refer to either the empire or the dictator leading it, just as a king represents his country symbolically, such as on its stamps and coins (cf. Daniel 7:17-18, where "king" and "kingdom" are interchangeable). 


But then who is the second beast (Rev. 13:11-18)?  This will be the false prophet or man of sin described in II Thess. 2.  But it also refers to the religious institution that he leads.  Inevitably, if we apply the historical school of prophecy's premises to what this chapter says and what Revelation 17-18 says about the woman riding the Beast, this second beast is also the woman.  So then, what church became unified with the state during the Middle Ages and even with the Roman Empire before it fell?  What church had such great influence with kings and emperors?  If we use history as our guide to interpret these symbols, that means the Roman Catholic Church, past and future, was and will be in an unholy alliance with the political governments of Europe that supports it.  The union of church and state that characterized the Middle Ages will be reborn fully in the years to come, believe it or not.  Especially that’s likely after its top leader, the man of sin (II Thess. 2) publicly performs demonic miracles that will deceive almost everyone into believing the power of God backs him.  (Just because its miraculous doesn’t mean God is behind it!  Notice again Revelation 13:13-14 about this Beast's power to do miracles).    Since the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church have had their seats of power in Europe, this will be the future location of the Beast and False Prophet. 


The historical school of prophecy, has declined in recent decades, but it often gives half of the overall picture.  The competing futurist school, which places all the events of the Book of Revelation into the future besides the letters to the churches (Rev. 2-3), is also often correct.  There is often duality in the fulfillment of prophecy:  Once earlier in time, one later.  So the two schools can both be right without contradicting each other.  Hence, Babylon the Great refers to both the Medieval Church and to the church that will be allied with the Beast Power, which is the European Union turned dictatorial.  Perhaps a major terrorist strike by Muslims allied with the King of the South (Daniel 11) will cause or help to cause that to occur, when the EU sheds its democratic veneer.  (The bureaucrats in the European Commission in Brussels already have much more political power that the elected representatives in the EU's parliament).  Therefore, the son of perdition and the false prophet will be a future pope.  Martin Luther and others in the time of the Reformation and others since then have made the same basic identification.  It's hardly an innovative interpretation of Scripture.  Europeans will become the evil pope and the dictatorial leader of the European Union turned dictatorial, not people from other countries.  (in the very unlikely case that the future evil pope is originally from another continent, as is the current Pope Francis, then that man will move to Rome in Italy to rule).


We shouldn’t worry about the possibility that God would allow a deception so great that no one could figure it out and that would cost everyone any opportunity to be saved.  God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength (I Cor. 10:13).  “Let God be found true, thought every man be found a liar”  (Romans 3:4).  Miracles done by Satan and the demons can be detected by comparing what those doing such miracles say compared to what’s already revealed in the Bible and whether those doing them are obeying God and teaching others to do so. 


Christians have to use their knowledge of the bible to avoid being deceived by the devil’s miracles.  By having discernment, we can avoid being punished with the rest of the people of the world who did mistakenly believe in the Satanic miracles of the Son of Perdition (Revelation 9:4-6).  We need not be tricked by the many false prophets who will come in Jesus’ name (Matthew 24:4-5, 11) in order to endure until the end (Matthew 24:13).


Eric V. Snow



Click here to access essays that defend Christianity:  /apologetics.html

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Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm

May Christians work on Saturdays? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Protestant Rhetoric vs Sabbath Refuted.htm

Should Christians obey the Old Testament law? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the New Covenant Abolish the OT Law.htm

Do you have an immortal soul? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Here and Hereafter.htm

Does the ministry have authority? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is There an Ordained Ministry vs Edwards.html

Is the United States the Beast? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Are We the Beast vs Collins.htm

Should you give 10% of your income to your church? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the Argument from Silence Abolish the Old Testament Law of Tithing 0205 Mokarow rebuttal.htm

Is Jesus God? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is Jesus God.htm

Will there be a third resurrection? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Will There Be a Third Resurrection.htm



Links to elsewhere on this Web site:   /apologetics.html   /book.html   /doctrinal.html  /essays.html  /links.html /sermonettes.html  /webmaster.html     For the home page, click here:    /index.html