In any discussion of the subject of confirming miracles one must bring into the discussion Satan and his works. We must remember that Satan, through men, could deceive with lying wonders and signs. Jesus said, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mt 24:24). In 2 Thessalonians, as previously stated, Paul described the man of sin as one whose coming was according to the “working of Satan, with all deceiving power, signs, and wonders” (2 Th 2:9).
We must keep in mind that the elect would not be deceived if the signs and wonders that the preceding deceivers worked were actually miraculous. We would not be deceived if we believed that which was real. Therefore, the fact that the Bible warns against those who would work wonders that they would claim to be miracles, is evidence that their works are only deceptions. They are deceptions by which Satan seeks to lead people away from God.
Satan could “perform” deceiving wonders. However, he could never work real miracles. Miracles are not performed. They are the response of God to the will of those in whom He invested authority to call upon the supernatural. If Satan could work true miracles through the hands of those he has deceived, then the miracles of Jesus and the apostles would be nullified.
“If the devil also possesses supernatural power and is able to perform miracles, then we would have no way of confirming God’s Word. We would not know whether God was doing it or the devil. … this is a real problem to those who believe in the reality of supernatural demonic power. God confirmed His Word by doing things that no one else could do.”4:19
Miracles validated the messengers of God. They were evidences that the messenger was of God (See Dt 13:1-4; Ex 7:10-17; 8:7; Mt 12:24-27; Jn 3:2; Rv 13:15; 16:14; 19:20). The miracles of God were not lying wonders. They were not wonders that were meant to deceive men. With the miracles, God sent also the message. The confirming miracles were true, therefore, because the message was true. The truth of the message was evidence that the bearer of the message was from God.
The message was true only if it harmonized with previously revealed truth. Paul gave us an adequate test by which we could test the message of any messenger. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:8). In other words, if someone comes with a different gospel, then certainly his works are not from God. Since Satan has manifested deceiving wonders, each Christian must also put to test with God’s Word all teachings of men (Jr 23:25-32; Mt 7:21-23; 2 Co 11:13-15; 2 Th 2:7-11). We must never suppose that God would allow Satan to do anything that would confuse the purpose for which He allowed miracles to be worked by His messengers. Therefore, before one debates whether a certain person work a miracle, it is necessary to determine if that person is preaching the truth of the gospel. If he or she is not preaching the truth of the gospel, then certainly no real miracle was worked.
The great wonders wrought by the prophets, Jesus and the apostles were far superior to any deceiving works of Satan. Jesus said, “Believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (Jn 10:38). Because no one could do miraculous works as He did, Jesus said that these works were substantial proof of His sonship. If they were not, or if Satan could also work equal and valid miracles, then why did God use miracles as a proof of His messengers before men? The fact that Jesus did do something that was beyond the ability of His contemporaries is evidence that there was something unique about Him. Not one at the time of His coming into the world could supernaturally work through miracles as He did.
Nicodemus rightly concluded that Jesus was from God because of the signs that He did (Jn 3:2). However, if God allowed others to do the same signs, then the audience would have been confused. Jesus was proved to be the Messenger from God with a new message (At 2:22). He was proved to be such by His miraculous works. However, if God had allowed Satan to do the same during the ministry of Jesus, then who are we to believe? The fact is that God has not and never will allow Satan to confuse the purpose for which confirming miracles were allowed to be worked in the first century. It is for this reason that He will not allow false prophets today to work miracles in order to confuse people in reference to the truth of the gospel.
In review of what has previously been stated, consider the concept of confirmation. Jesus said that the disciples would go forth and preach. Their message of the gospel they preached would be confirmed by the signs that followed them (Mk 16:20). God would confirm His presence with the disciples by miraculous signs (Hb 2:3,4). The fact of confirmation negates equal miraculous manifestations on the part of Satan through his messengers. In other words, if Satan was allowed to work miracles through men as Simon the sorcerer (At 8) and Bar-Jesus (At 13), then there would be no confirmation power in the miracles of Philip, Paul or any other New Testament messenger of the gospel.
We have discovered that advocates who propose that Satan worked or works miracles have no answer to this argument. At least, they back away from the miracles of God’s messengers by affirming that Satan’s miracles were less “powerful” or minor in comparison to the miracles of God’s messengers in the first century. However, this dodges the issue. A miracle is a miracle. There may be special miracles as Paul worked in Ephesus (At 19:11), but the supernatural power that is manifested by a confirming miracle cannot be said to be in degrees. There is no such teaching in the entire Bible. Satan did not work “lesser degrees” of miracles than the messengers of God.
In the context of this discussion we must also remind ourselves that the doctrine of miracles of satanic forces is a subpoint of theological dualism. Dualism is the belief that two equal supernatural forces have existed throughout eternity. God and Satan are believed to both have indigenous supernatural power. They are equal in power, and thus manifest themselves in the world in a confrontation between good and evil. The dualist affirms that Satan can function independent of the power of God, and thus can at will force his will upon man. Therefore, Satan is assumed to have the power to exercise his miraculous power as he so chooses in a world wherein he functions outside God’s control.
The doctrine of dualism denies the indigenous eternality of God. However, only God can be eternal. Only God possesses control of all that is supernatural. In other words, there is nothing eternal apart from God. There is no supernatural apart from that which originates from God.
In Colossians 1:16 Paul wrote of the creative work of the Son of God. “For by Him [Christ] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Paul affirmed that all that is seen and unseen has been brought into existence by the creative work of the Son of God (Jn 1:1-3). Therefore, nothing existed contemporary with God until God brought into existence out of nothing all things that now exist (Hb 11:3). Satan falls into the category of that which was created. He was not created evil, but as other disobedient angels, free-morally gave up his proper habitation, and thus was cast down (2 Pt 2:4).
Since Satan was created, then he would have no control over the supernatural except through consignment by God. In other words, he can do nothing supernaturally in the world of the natural unless God allows him. This was his situation in his temptation and trials of Job, and we would conclude that nothing has changed since. We would have to affirm, therefore, that Satan has no supernatural power that is eternally indigenous of himself. He did not originate his own supernatural power because he was created. He is only the result of the supernatural power of God. He thus has no authority to originate supernatural power of himself.
If God only is eternally indigenous, then all that Satan is or can do must originate from God. God allows him to carry on with his deceptions only insofar as such is in harmony with God’s eternal plan to provide an environment for the molding of free-moral characters on this earth. We must never forget that God has a leash on Satan. Therefore, it can never be that the devil subjectively made one to commit sin against his own will. Each person will be held accountable for his own sin because God will not allow Satan to subdue free-moral individuals at will.
[Next in series: July 19]