In our last feature lesson, we introduced the subject of the occult and asked the question: What does the Bible say about occultism? The answer is crystal clear: It condemns it in every age.
Today, we want to investigate the credibility of occult claims. Is there anything to them? Is there really a hidden power that men may use to their own ends? Is the occult genuine or fake? Are the occult arts the exercise of the devil's power? Can Satan actually perform modern-day miracles? Or, is the occult--blasphemous and wicked though it may be--merely a collection of myth, deceit, fraud, and delusion, which the devil uses to blind those who do not love truth?
It is often difficult to find helpful material on the nature of occultism. Much of it is written by those who are involved in it, and is filled with absurd and exaggerated claims. Others who write on the subject are Pentecostals who believe that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (which some first century Christians possessed) are still available to Christians today. Thus, their world is filled with "miracles" of both an angelic and diabolic nature.
Let me be clear in stating my position: I do not believe that the occult possesses supernatural power. No one is able to predict the future today, except naturally and coincidentally. The power to cast spells and work magic exists only through the delusion that such is real. The spirits of the dead neither return to us, nor communicate with us. No one is able to read or "divine" the secret thoughts of others.
If anyone thinks otherwise, I challenge them to demonstrate such under test conditions that would eliminate the possibility of natural means being employed. The challenge of demonstration under test conditions is the downfall for the claims of both occultism and Pentecostalism. To quote Foy E. Wallace, Jr.: "As goes the proposition, so must be the demonstration." Let all those who claim supernatural power today show proof or be quiet!
It is my conviction that the supernatural claims of occultism are just as "reliable" as the supernatural claims of Pentecostalism. In other words, they contain a lot of thunder, but no lightning. I believe both are described in the Bible in II Thessalonians 2:9-12 - "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteousness deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
Did you notice the words I emphasized? These powers and signs of the devil are false! They are deception and lies! These are the same kinds of frauds that our Lord sarcastically called "great signs and wonders" in Matthew 24:24 - "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." There were those in the first century who performed deceptive signs and wonders. Their miracles were fake! There are plenty of these type of deceivers around today also.
Please listen carefully friends: To deny that the devil has miracle-working power is not to deny the reality of the devil, or the reality of the evil he has produced in the world. The devil is real; he is not a myth, or a figment of the imagination. The Bible denotes Satan as a spirit being, having been created by God in an initially pure form, but with freedom of choice. To say otherwise would be to make him a self-existent being, equal and co-eternal with God. It would place evil on the same footing as good--both equal, but opposite.
Obviously the devil was created by God as good and without sin. To say otherwise would make God the author of evil, and relieve Satan of his responsibility for his own sin. He was given, just as man was, the power to choose between good and evil. He chose evil, and is variously known in the Bible as "Satan" (which means "adversary"), "the devil," "Beelzebub," "the prince of this world," "the prince of the power of the air," "the dragon," or "the old serpent." He is without doubt the adversary of both God and men. He is depicted as tempting men to sin, and as one who desires their eternal damnation. Peter declared that the devil "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). Yes, the devil is real. Yes, he tempts and deceives. But, I do not believe that the devil has ever performed a genuine miracle, and I don't believe that he ever will! I know that is a bold claim, but I believe the Scriptures establish it. Let us begin proving this claim by considering:
GOD'S PURPOSE FOR MIRACLES
The divine purpose of miracles has always been to confirm, in the minds of honest people, that God's word was being spoken. This is the reason they are described as "signs." Consider some passages on this point - "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs" (Mark 16:20). "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30,31; cf. Heb. 2:2-4).
The miracles that Christ and His apostles performed were their credentials. They were the means by which any honest person could know they spoke God's truth. Not only were they performed to confirm the word, but, as John said, they were written that we might believe. In the first century, miracles served those who witnessed them and today they serve those who read of them, as proof of the deity of Christ and the genuine nature of His message.
BUT, WHAT IF THE DEVIL ALSO POSSESSED SUPERNATURAL POWERS?
What if our adversary was also able to perform miracles? If so, then God would no longer have a way to confirm His word! If God and the devil could perform miracles, then it would be impossible to know whether God or the devil was responsible for a particular miraculous work! This is a real problem for those who believe in the reality of supernatural, demonic power. God confirmed His word by doing things that no one else could do. If the devil has miraculous power, then it is not possible to confirm God's word as truth!
The devil and his ministers did, can, and do engage in counterfeit miracles by trickery and fraud, but they cannot actually perform them. In studying and evaluating the work and power of the devil, we need always to remember "he is a liar and the father thereof" (John 8:44).
But, some will ask: WHAT ABOUT THE FEATS OF PHARAOH'S MAGICIANS?
Didn't they have supernatural power from the devil? Let us examine what the Bible says on this matter. Exodus 7:10,11 - "...And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments."
The Bible tells us that the magicians imitated the miracle of God by their "enchantments." The ASV footnote says "secret arts." It would seem that the Egyptian magicians, by the use of standard magicians' trickery, counterfeited the miracle of Aaron. We are not told exactly what the magicians did to produce the serpents, but a magician can seem to work wonders with the help of a cloth to cover his action at a crucial moment.
Though I don't know a lot about magic, I do know that there are ways to create the illusion of a stick turning into a snake. I believe that this is what Pharaoh's magicians did. After Moses and Aaron had performed the miracle of actually turning a rod into a serpent, Pharaoh sent for his magicians. We do not know how long it took for them to arrive. But, you can be sure they knew what was required of them before they got there, and being forewarned were well prepared.
It is both interesting and significant to note that when Moses and Aaron, without any prior announcement, struck the dust of the ground and produced lice, the magicians, caught off guard, were unable to imitate it. It is also extremely significant to note that in explaining and excusing their failure to Pharaoh, the magicians said regarding Aaron's work - "This is the finger of God" (Exo. 8:19). They were convinced that Aaron's powerful actions were not done by trickery. They knew there was divine power involved! They also knew that they did not possess such power.
Others will ask: WHAT ABOUT THE WITCH OF EN DOR?
Didn't she have special powers from the devil?" Let us consult I Samuel 28 for the answer. Saul, who was greatly afraid, said to his servants - "Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her" (28:7). They referred him to the witch of En Dor. Saul went to her in disguise with the hope of being able to summon Samuel from the dead (via a seance) to ask for advice.
"When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice" (28:12). Samuel appeared, and pronounced the judgment of God upon Saul. There is no doubt that Samuel appeared, being summoned from the Hadean realm. However, there is equally no doubt that it was God who caused him to do so. The witch was actually surprised when Samuel appeared. She was astonished and frightened and "cried out with a loud voice." She was obviously set to deceive Saul into thinking she could communicate with Samuel, but when Samuel actually appeared, she knew God had done it and was startled!
The very fact that Samuel spoke for God and prophesied correctly regarding the death of Saul and his sons should be enough to convince anyone that Samuel appeared by the power of God, not the devil.
WHAT ABOUT SATAN'S ACTIONS IN THE BOOK OF JOB?
The devil persuaded God to test Job, yet it is apparent it was by God's power that Job's afflictions came upon him. When Satan appeared before God the second time, God said concerning Job - "Still he holds fast to his integrity although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause" (2:3). And Satan replied, "But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (2:5). Although God gave Satan the authority to afflict Job, it was by God's power that Satan did it! The Bible attributes the sufferings of Job to both God and Satan--Satan acted, but not without God's permission.
This shows that Satan possesses no miraculous power of his own. Although God allowed Satan some power for a special purpose, He has not given Satan miraculous power for the occult arts. These things are forbidden by God in His word. They are not accomplished by Satan through God's power, as is the case with those things Job suffered. I believe that the record of Job shows Satan has no miraculous power of his own.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEMON POSSESSED GIRL IN PHILIPPI?
There is one other instance in the Bible that might confuse some about the nature of Satan's power. This event is recorded in Acts 16, and concerns the casting out of a "spirit of divination" from the maiden in Philippi. "Divination" is a word that also means "ventriloquism," which denotes "speaking from the belly." This is how the illusion of distance is achieved.
It is clear that the girl was actually possessed by a demon. It is also clear that the demon caused her to claim the ability to divine. It seems likely that the demon itself may have spoken these things from within her. There is no proof, however, that the demon was able to actually divine the future. Indeed, Scripture teaches us that such is nothing more than fraud. Consider Jeremiah 27:9,10 - "Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, 'You shall not serve the king of Babylon.' For they prophesy a lie to you..."
This demon, as in the case with all demons, was able (and seemed compelled) to recognize and confess Paul and Silas as servants of God. This seems to have been the extent of his actual divination. Nowhere in Scripture does it say or imply that the devil possesses the kind of power that the occult claims to have. These claims are baseless.
Dear listeners, there is not a single Scripture indicating that the devil can perform miracles. The occult is fake. It is trickery and deception. But, those who want to believe a lie and reject the truth are easily deceived. May we never be among that number!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.