Counterfeiting the Holy Spirit: How to Know What’s Real and What’s False

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, there are currently 70 million dollars’ worth of counterfeit bills in circulation. But this practice is not new. Historians say that counterfeiting began shortly after the first currency was made around 600 B.C.

Spiritual counterfeiting, though, is an even older practice. God gave Adam dominion over animals, including “the serpent [which] was more subtil than any beast of the field” (Gen 3:1).[1] Having observed and interacted with the serpent when he named it, Adam and Eve were not shocked when the serpent spoke to them. But was it a devil-possessed snake or an imitation serpent? Either way, it was the beginning of the devious operations of the one “which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev 12:9).

The most popular counterfeit bill in circulation is the $20 bill, not the $8 bill. Why? Counterfeiters only produce facsimiles of what is real and valuable. Thus, considering the Holy Spirit, we should not be surprised that Satan seeks to imitate His role and activities.

So, how can we know what is genuinely of the Spirit and what is false? Jesus said that when “the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth” (Joh 16:13). Therefore, the Spirit of God always operates in agreement with Scripture. So how we feel or the results we see are not effective tools to determine the spiritual authenticity of a person, belief or activity. Instead, we must compare it with Scripture to see if it is of the Spirit or not.

For example, women prophesy and preach in many religious services today. However, the NT says, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (1Co 14:34). Likewise, many “speak in tongues.” However, the NT declares that these gifts no longer exist today (1Co 13:8-10), and simultaneously speaking in tongues violates 1 Corinthians 14:27-33. Therefore, because they contradict Scripture, they cannot be of the Spirit.

Counterfeit Purposes

The Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit “shall not speak of himself” (Joh 16:13); “he shall testify of me” (15:26). But charismatic groups speak of dancing in the Spirit, shouting in the Spirit, laughing in the Spirit, crying in the Spirit, and being slain in the Spirit. None of these are scriptural and their focus is on the Spirit, not Christ. Therefore, we know they are not of the Holy Spirit.

Counterfeit Powers

Moses and Aaron performed miracles in Egypt, and Pharaoh’s magicians also “did in like manner with their enchantments” (Exo 7:11-12,22; 8:7). Likewise, the disciples did miracles by the power of the Spirit, and Judas did too – by a different power. And he wasn’t the last spiritual fraud either. The Lord Jesus warned of unsaved men doing counterfeit miracles in the future. He said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Mat 7:22). Thus, Satan is currently counterfeiting apostolic miracles and will continue to do so for years to come.

Counterfeit Persons

Satan and demons are unholy spirits whom Paul calls “rulers of the darkness of this world” (Eph 6:12). As evil and tenebrous as they are, at times, “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” and “his ministers [can] also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (2Co 11:14-15). Most Christians could spot an overt Satan worshipper. However, we are all susceptible to being duped by false professors like Simon Magus. He was a counterfeit Christian (Act 8:21) who convinced Philip the evangelist to baptize him (v13). Satan’s business of fabricating spiritual knockoffs is still running 24/7, and it seems to be ramping up production.

Counterfeit Presence

Paul explained to Roman Christians that the “Spirit … dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11). His presence secures our salvation (Eph 4:30) and He desires to control our lives. Thus, we are called to “be filled with the Spirit” (5:18), in the sense of permitting Him to conform our lives to God’s Word. The result will be the development of the “fruit of the Spirit” in our lives (Gal 5:22).

Satan’s imitation of this divine marvel is demon possession, which only leads to works of the flesh. The word daimonizomai occurs 13 times in the NT and, according to W.E. Vine, means “to be possessed of a demon, to act under the control of a demon.” Thankfully, demons can never possess true Christians (Luk 11:21), only unsaved people who open their minds through drugs, music and emotional, trance-like states as seen in many modern charismatic services.

Counterfeit Projects

The Lord Jesus promised, “I will build my church” (Mat 16:18). Paul further explained, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:22 ESV). Likewise, Satan is trying to imitate this project, as he is constructing a world-wide religion of false believers. His dream will be realized in the Tribulation in the form of Babylon the Great (Rev 17-18). To achieve this end, he is producing false brothers (Gal 2:4), false witnesses (Mat 26:60), false prophets (2Pe 2:1), false teachers (2Pe 2:1), false apostles (2Co 11:13) and even false christs (Mar 13:22).

Perhaps the Devil gave his greatest counterfeit project a trial run when Satan entered into Judas (Luk 22:3). That attempt to imitate the incarnation of Christ flopped, but he will try again. During the Tribulation, Satan will possess a world leader called The Beast. Paul says that the Beast’s “coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2Th 2:9). That man will experience a “deadly wound” (Rev 13:3), which Satan will heal. It may even appear like a case of death and resurrection. Even though it will be far from the true incarnation, death, burial and resurrection of Christ, it will still bamboozle people around the world to worship the Beast.

Satan hates the Holy Spirit, and he will do everything possible to rob Him of honor. For 6500 years the Devil has been developing his “devices” (2Co 2:11) and “wiles” (Eph 6:11), which include spiritual counterfeiting. Recognizing this, John wrote: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1Jo 4:1). Thankfully, we have the Scriptures to help us determine what is genuinely of the Spirit and what is not. May God help us to have the courage and discipline to use them as we should.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.