The final deceiver will use “lying signs and wonders” to deceive and cause many saints to depart from the faith – 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9.
The “Day of the Lord” will not commence until the “lawless one” has been “revealed” when he “seats himself in the sanctuary of God.” His arrival will coincide with the “apostasy,” and he will be characterized by his ability to deceive, especially with “lying signs and wonders.” Satan himself will equip this master deceiver to destroy as many saints as possible.
When the “son of destruction” occupies the “sanctuary,” it will be his own “arrival” or ‘parousia,’ and on some level, it will counterfeit the “arrival” of Jesus. Fortunately, he will be destroyed when Jesus “arrives to render vengeance against all who disobey the gospel.” Unfortunately, in the interim, the “lawless one” will cause many believers will apostatize.
- (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9) – “And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and disable by the appearance of his arrival, whose arrival is according to the energizing of Satan with all power and signs and wonders of a lie.”
And while Jesus will “arrive” in a great “appearance” of glory, the “lawless one” will “arrive” with signs, impressive works, lying wonders, and other forms of deception “energized” by Satan to mislead Christians.
His deceptive activities 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.’ It refers 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 to those of the early church. And while this may be simply coincidental, more likely, Paul means that this figure will counterfeit Christ’s deeds – (e.g., Hebrews 2:4. dunamis, sēmeia, terata).
“Lying wonders.” This clause more accurately reads, “power and signs and wonders of a lie.” All three are characterized by the term “lie,” and all three propagate lies. The point is not that these will be counterfeit miracles, rather, their function will be to deceive. This understanding is confirmed by the next clause, “and with all manner of the deceit of unrighteousness in them who are destroying themselves.” Many believers will be deceived by these miracles because “they welcomed not the love of the truth.”
Paul has based his description on the figure called the “little horn” in the Book of Daniel, the “king of fierce countenance” and the “contemptible person”:
- “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” will be “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 given on the Mount of Olives. Already, Paul has 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).
The Lord also warned of coming “lawlessness” when the “love of many would grow cold,” and of “false prophets” who would “deceive many…and show great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect.” Most probably, Paul’s description of the “lawless one” who will perform “signs and wonders” alludes to this saying of Jesus – (Matthew 24:9-13, 24).
Paul’s description also echoes the warning by Moses. Regardless of how impressive or real a miracle is, if the man performing it steers saints to follow gods other than Yahweh, 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.”
Likewise, in the Book of Revelation, the “beast from the earth,” the “false prophet,” 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,” so this one’s power to perform “signs and wonders” will come from an outside source, namely, 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, not do they demonstrate that he speaks for God. Miraculous deeds can deceive if the one performing them is “energized” by the Devil, and Satan himself is perfectly capable of “appearing as an angel of light.”
None of this means that Christians will be powerless before the deceptive activities of the “lawless one.” Paul concluded on a positive note. 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 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 the truth.”