As part of this ongoing series which attempts to dispel any myths over commonly misunderstood aspects of Christianity, today we will be looking at the subject of signs & wonders. I intend to lay out clear biblical evidence of what is meant by the term signs & wonders; examples of these events from the pages of the Bible; and the modern understanding and teaching on what we should be looking for.
In this session we are also going to look at the supernatural manifestations that occur in the Bible, and compare them with what is commonly seen in some charismatic churches today.
But, firstly, let me say this:
I believe that Y’shua (that is, Jesus – His real Hebrew name) is the living embodiment of all of God’s word. As the opening chapter of John’s gospel declares, He is the word made flesh. By that we mean that all of God’s word can be found in the words He spoke, the life He led, and in His death and resurrection. Some of that will probably forever remain a mystery to us, but other aspects are clear for all to see, such as Him being the Lamb of God, which we can clearly see in the festival of the Passover.
To say that He is the word made flesh, we accept that He is the fulfilment of all of God’s word. He describes Himself as the Alpha and the Omega, which are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, in order that we understand that there will be no new revelation of God, only a deeper understanding of what has already been said by God, as we journey with Him.
We know that Y’shua performed many signs & wonders throughout His earthly ministry, and that He Himself, said that He did nothing unless He first saw His Father doing it (John 5:19). Many have speculated about what this truly means, but I suspect that the simple explanation can be found if you look to the Tanakh (Old Testament). All of the miracles that Y’shua performed can be found, in one form or another, in the pages of the Old Testament. When He said that He can do nothing unless He has seen His Father doing it, He was talking about the miracles that are already recorded in the Old Testament. He, of course, saw His Father doing them, because He was still with the Father.
For one of many examples of what I am describing, you might consider the miracle of Y’shua multiplying food when He fed the 4,000 and the 5,000, as being already done by His Father in 2nd Kings 4:42-44, when Elisha fed a hundred men with plenty left over.
Signs & Wonders Definition:
Let us be clear about to what we are referring to when we talk of signs & wonders. Let there be no misunderstanding. Throughout the Bible, the phrase appears on a fairly regular basis. There several words used in the original languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, but all have pretty much the same meaning for both words. Adjectives that could be used to describe the meanings of both signs and wonders include miracles, portents, marvels, omens, and many more beside.
The principle with God of using supernatural events is always in order to use them as a sign to those who witness it. Our worlds are perceived entirely by our senses; when we see something that our senses tell us is impossible, that is what a supernatural event is. But, we must remember that the supernatural can also be displayed by people who aren’t God’s disciples. A good example of this can be found in the book of Exodus and chapters 7 & 8 when the Pharaoh’s magicians were able to match the supernatural signs & wonders that Aaron produced at God’s command.
Signs & wonders, therefore, could be defined as events that take place which are beyond our usual understanding and are used by God (or Satan) as omens or evidence of a supernatural force in our lives.
Manifestations of Signs & Wonders:
You will see that in our definition of signs & wonders, that it isn’t only God who provides the ability and authority to perform such omens. That means that we need to be able to identify that which is of God, and those which are not.
The Bible provides us with a great many examples of miracles which we know are of God, but we also know, if we read our bibles, that the enemy can replicate many of these things, for his own ends. So, how do we tell the difference between the genuine and the false? Good question. And, because we know that the enemy will use signs and wonders in order to deceive people, it requires a good answer.
We can answer this in two parts. Firstly, there is a basic principle woven into God’s motivation for empowering His servants to perform such miracles. And, secondly, we can look at the way in which these supernatural events manifest themselves.
In all of the examples written in the Bible where we can absolutely identify God as the origin of the supernatural power that causes the signs & wonders to occur, we can see God’s purpose in doing so. It is always, in order to prove just who He is, or to endorse what one or more of His servants are doing or saying, in His name.
For examples of the former, that is God showing just who He is we can look to the miracle birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21); or to Jacob’s dream at Bethel of the ladder reaching to heaven (Genesis 28); or to Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3); or to Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6). The list could go on and on.
But, if we deal exclusively with the writings of the New Testament, we can see the latter reason for God endorsing supernatural events most clearly.
Y’shua, Himself, is where we should always start because in everything He should be the beginning and the end. In Mark’s gospel, after His resurrection and before His ascension, when Y’shua visits the disciples and commissions them to preach His gospel He says this:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptised will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My Name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [Mark 16:15b-18 NKJV]
Now let me paraphrase that a little. Y’shua told His disciples to go and preach the gospel. If the people listen and believe the message, then baptise them. If they don’t, then move on. Then all of those who believe will know that I am with them because these signs will follow them: Authority over demons; gifts of the Holy Spirit; nothing can harm them; and the will see the sick healed.
To confirm that this was true, Mark finishes his gospel with this:
“And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” [Mark 16:20 NKJV]
So, we know then, that now, for us, the purpose of signs & wonders, is no longer in order for us to know who God is – if we believe, we already know. But rather, the purpose is to endorse what is being said when we preach the word of God. Furthermore, it is clear that it will be Y’shua working these miracles with them.
Make your way through the Book of Acts and you will see this in practice everywhere. The believers simply went and preached the good news and the signs & wonders followed them around to confirm what they were preaching.
The believer’s motivation was always to do the will and work of God. They never had their own agenda. Only God’s. Perhaps that is why the kind of miracles found in the New Testament are harder to find these days? Perhaps, our motivation is all wrong?
I suspect that the answer really lies in the believing factor. Y’shua says that those who believe will be accompanied by these signs & wonders. Perhaps we simply don’t believe, and the signs we are looking for are still those that will let us know just who God really is.
Manifestations of the Supernatural:
Now, this is probably the part that needs the most myth busting, because it is the manifestations of the supernatural where people can be easily deceived. I am going to list supernatural manifestations that are found in the Bible. That is, the manifestations that are displayed in people when the supernatural is occurring. Then I am going to list some of the more common manifestations that occur in charismatic churches services all over the world and explain the difference between the two.
Manifestations That Occur in the Bible:
Godly fear, or awe – We can see examples of this in the account of Jacob in Genesis 28; with Moses in Exodus 3 and the burning bush; In Joshua 5 when Joshua meets with the angel of the Lord’s army; and with Samson’s parents when the angel visits them. On no occasion in the Bible is there any physical manifestation alongside the awe or godly fear. There is no violent shaking or wailing or writhing on the floor.
When God calls Ezekiel to do His work, the prophet fell upon his face, again in a godly fear or awe. And Daniel, on two occasions describes falling on his face and falling into a deep sleep. On one occasion, he also describes being without any strength or vigour.
I have spent the day thumbing through the pages of the Bible and can only find these examples of fear or awe as any manifestations when supernatural events occur. On each occasion, a spiritual presence, such as an angel, is recorded as being there.
There are many, many other occasions when angels or the Lord, Himself, appear and the people upon whom the visitation is occurring show no outward manifestations whatsoever. Some of these occasions are pivotal moments in the history of Isra’el and God’s purposes, and the men and women to whom God spoke, didn’t flinch. They certainly showed no signs whatsoever of any of the manifestations which charismatic pastors claim to be of God today. They only similar manifestation that it written in God’s word, is that of the deep sleep that Daniel experienced when Gabri’el appeared before him. I have been in meetings where people have been prayed for and they have seemingly passed into a kind of sleep.
Manifestations That Don’t Occur in the Bible:
Shaking, violently or otherwise.
Snapping back of the head in a jerk-like movement often accompanied with a audible sound or yelp.
People rolling around on the floor.
People laughing uncontrollably.
People appearing to be intoxicated.
The appearance of gold teeth or glitter.
People on all fours making the sounds of animals.
People running around uncontrollably.
Pastors claiming that God told them to kick people in the face to heal them – that’s a lie.
None of these things are to be found in the Bible, with the exception of the punishment of God as handed to Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel, which saw him on all floors, eating like an ox.
This beggars the question – If they are not to be found in the Bible, why are people insisting that it is the work of the Holy Spirit?
The few involuntary acts that do appear in the Bible are all based around the fear and awe of God. I am pretty certain that God has no desire to see us make fools of ourselves, ever. In fact, even the apostle Paul tells us that when under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we always maintain control. In his first letter to the church at Corinth, he makes it clear that the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet. That is to say that the prophet, or whoever is under the influence of the Holy spirit, remains in control at all times. See 1st Corinthians 14 for details.
These charismatic preachers all claim that the manifestations that occur in their meetings are the work of the Holy Spirit. But it can’t be. The work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Son. How is the Son possibly glorified when people are writhing on the floor, wailing like banshees? How can that be to God’s glory. Simple rule: Look to the Bible – if it’s not in the Bible be very, very suspicious.
I did a great deal of research into these kind of unbiblical manifestations last year and found some interesting facts. I will direct you here to two of the sources I researched. Both of the authors were involved with the so called Toronto Blessing and the events that followed. The conclusions of one was that the manifestations are all part of a Hindu based belief system. Demons in other words. I will let you make up your own mind about this. Here’s the links:
Now, fairly recently, I got into a debate with two brothers whom I have no doubt love God. Their suggestion was that God will allow us to come under involuntary (things we have no control over) manifestations at times. They claim that it has a biblical basis. One of them cited David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant and saying that he was embarrassed and claimed he had no control – that it was God causing him to act that way. The fact is, David wasn’t embarrassed at all – he danced with delight at having the Ark in Jerusalem. His wife, however, was jealous and accused him of being an embarrassment. It is a very different thing. David clearly danced out of choice. The people who manifested things like shaking or wailing or crowing like cockerels, all claim that they had no control. That isn’t how God works. At least, I can find no example in the Bible to support anything other than humility in the presence of a holy being.
The New Testament is littered with warnings about not being deceived. People today crave the supernatural. They are longing for it and will accept the fake over the genuine, because they are so desperate. For the past thirty years, pastors of charismatic churches have claimed revival in these meetings, but if you check the Bible, then revival only ever occurs after reform. Check out the kings of Judah, such as Josiah and Hezekiah for the evidence.
I am sure God is still at work among His people, but I am equally sure that He doesn’t overpower their free will. I cannot find a single example of that anywhere in His word. If Y’shua didn’t do it, didn’t talk about it, or didn’t tell you to do it, then don’t do it. Do not be deceived. There is not going to be any end times revival, only a great falling away. If your church is subscribing to being drunk on the Holy Spirit, to meetings which people are shaking and wailing, then get out now. Before it’s too late.
What happened at Toronto, Lakeland, and Brownsville, has to come under serious scrutiny. When God works in us, He is gentle and patient. He encourages and builds up. These so-called revivals appear to be all about bums on seats, and not about discipleship.
Our relationship with God is personal and singular. It is not a one-size-fits-all type of deal. God is God. He is able to meet with each of us all at the same time. We don’t need to be at the next revival or Holy Ghost meeting to meet with Him. He is with you right now. Take the time to seek Him while He may still be found.
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