Lying Signs and Wonders
The “day of the Lord” will not commence until the “Lawless One” is “revealed in the sanctuary of God.” His arrival coincides with the “apostasy,” and he will be characterized by his ability to deceive, especially with “lying signs and wonders.” Satan himself will equip him to destroy as many saints as possible.
When this “son of destruction” seats himself the “sanctuary,” it will be his “arrival” or ‘parousia.’ On some level, it is a counterfeit of the “arrival” of Jesus.
Fortunately, he will be destroyed when Christ “arrives to render vengeance against all who disobey the gospel.” Unfortunately, in the interim, the “Man of Lawlessness” will cause some believers, perhaps many, to 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.”
ENERGIZED BY SATAN
While Jesus will “arrive” in a great “appearance” of glory, the “Lawless One” will “arrive” with signs, impressive works, lying wonders and other deceptions “energized” by Satan and designed to disrupt and destroy the church.
His deceptive activities will be welcomed by those who reject the truth, therefore, God will send them “energizing deception.” Put another way, He allows the “Lawless One” to mislead those 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 those of the early church. And while this may be coincidental, more likely, here it means that this man will counterfeit Christ’s deeds - (e.g., Hebrews 2:4. dunamis, sēmeia, terata).
The Greek term rendered “lying wonders” more accurately means “wonders of a lie.” His supernatural acts are characterized by “lies,” and their function is to propagate deception - to mislead men and women into believing the lie.
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.”
OLD TESTAMENT BACKGROUND
Paul bases his description on the figure called the “little horn” in the book of Daniel, the “king of fierce countenance” and “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. He warned his disciples about coming “deceivers” who will “deceive many” by raising false expectations about the end. Disciples must 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” as the “love of many will grow cold,” and of “false prophets” who “deceive many…and show great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect.” Very likely, Paul’s description of the “Lawless One” and his “signs and wonders” alludes to this saying of Jesus - (Matthew 24:9-13, 24).
The description also echoes the warning of 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 Revelation, the “Beast from the earth,” the “False Prophet,” performs “great signs, so that, he even causes fire 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 also the False Prophet’s power to perform “signs and wonders” will come from an outside source, namely, the “Dragon.”
None of this means that believers will be powerless before the deceptive activities of this “Lawless One.” Paul concludes on a positive note. He is persuaded that the Thessalonians will “stand firm and hold fast the traditions they were taught,” rather than reject the truth and “welcome the unrighteousness.”
Likewise, 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.”