The early church father, St. Augustine, had a theory that Satan and evil cannot create anything. Satan and evil can only come alongside what God the Creator has made and twist it, distort it, misshape it. In this sense, Augustine saw evil as a parasite on the good. Evil, he said, was actually “nothing” or non-being. By “nothing,” Augustine did not mean that Satan and evil do not exist. What he meant was that evil did not have being in itself. Evil is the lack of being. In fact, evil is anti-being. Maybe an example will help. What is a pothole in the road? It is nothing where there should be something. The road surface is supposed to be flat and made of concrete. A pothole is empty space where concrete should be. Now, the pothole, although it is nothing, can cause great damage to a tire or even cause an accident. The road is not as it should be. A pothole in the road is a distortion, a defect. So it is with Satan and evil. They exist, but their existence is only by way of negation and distortion. I hope this makes sense. Where am I going with this?
Satan’s kingdom and the kingdoms of this world are not authentic; they are posers. As NT Wright says, these kingdoms are nothing but parodies of the real thing, i.e., the Kingdom of God. This second monster in Revelation 13 is symbolic of the puppet rulers and nations that prop up and support the worship of the first monster, the beast. The second monster (puppet rulers and nations) is there to support the first monster (Rome), which gets its authority and power from the dragon (Satan). John tells us that the first monster has “two horns like a lamb” – note that he is posing as the lamb who was slain, that is, Jesus. However, this poser lamb — “it spoke like a dragon” (v. 11). These kingdoms are claiming worship and allegiance that only belongs to the one true God and the lamb. They deceive people by spectacular tricks copying, imitating, and counterfeiting the signs and wonders that God and the lamb can and did do. Calling fire from heaven here in Revelation 13 is a copy of what Elijah did in the OT (1 Kings 18:16-40).
Some interpreters of Revelation think that because Satan and his followers are able to duplicate signs, wonders, and miracles that we should dismiss modern day miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit as works of the devil or fraudulent. I have personally heard a pastor instructing his congregation that gifts like healing and speaking in tongues have ceased since we have the New Testament. Therefore, if healing and speaking in tongues happen, it is the deceptive work of the devil! While it is true that there are frauds and counterfeit miracles, to dismiss them completely is unfortunate. It runs contrary to the teaching of the NT. Also, it is contradicted by the experience and reports of the worldwide Church. Just because Satan can duplicate and imitate miraculous powers of God does not mean that we should deny or depreciate authentic miraculous works of God. Remember that Pharaoh’s magicians could copy many of the signs and wonders that Moses performed (Exodus 7-11). The fact that these magicians could counterfeit miracles did not prevent Moses from performing them for the glory of God and deliverance of God’s people. You do not reject dollar bills just because there are counterfeits out there. If you do, please send them to me.
How can we tell the difference between real authentic miracles and those from posers and imposters? First of all, we have to look at the source of power for the signs, wonders, and miracles. If the source is other than the God of Jesus Christ, then this is a copy, a counterfeit, a sham. Second, the person or ministry should teach and act in ways that are in harmony with what is revealed in the ministry of Jesus and the NT (this includes those who deny that miracles are possible today). Third, there should be positive fruit from signs, wonders, and miracles. Not only should healings and prophetic words be authenticated and verified, but those who minister and those receiving ministry ought to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Signs, wonders, and miracles are not to make people wealthy or simply to entertain crowds. Satan’s works can also be known by their fruit: hatred, despair, violence, impatience, rudeness, evil, faithlessness, harshness, and loose-living. In the end, Satan and his posers’ work leave one empty – like a pothole.