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How can we tell which "miracles, signs, and wonders" are of God?
—Jim Reid, Houston

In 2 Thessalonians 2, the passage from which this question is taken, Paul describes the deeds of the "man of lawlessness." This compelling figure's emergence will be in accordance with the work of Satan and demonstrated in false miracles. The three New Testament words for "miracle" are all featured in 2 Thessalonians 2:9—dunamis (an exercise of supernatural power), semeion (a providential sign or event that points to a greater meaning), and teras (something extraordinary that causes wonder). The man of lawlessness (whom some consider the Antichrist) will appear on the world scene to oppose and "exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped" and will actually proclaim himself to be God. No matter how dazzling his acts may be, they are total deception.

Many Christians believe that miracles ceased with the passing of the Apostolic age. If that were the case, all occurrences of miracles since then have been counterfeit; none are of God. An increasing number of believers, however, recognize the continuing reality of miracles. But how do we tell the legitimate ones from the kind exercised by the man of lawlessness? There are at least five biblical tests.

1. The miracle glorifies God. Miracles always declare that God is active in our world and that he can disrupt the activities of nature to reveal his character and purposes. The principal test of any miracle—then, now, or in the future—is this: Who receives the glory? This can be a very subtle matter, for self-glorification is not always obvious. We should be on guard against anyone, however extraordinary his deeds, who glorifies himself (like Simon the magician who, in Acts 8:9, ...

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May 21, 2001

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