Please answer these questions as a starting point for this inquiry:
Have you personally seen a case during your lifetime of a person dead and buried for several days being brought to life again by an individual telling him to come forth from the grave?
Have you witnessed—whether in person or through a television newscast—a man, woman, or child with a missing or withered limb have that body part restored in an instant, simply by a spoken word or by another person touching the malformed appendage?
Have you seen in your lifetime water sitting in a pitcher, verified to be good old H20, turned into genuine wine—or any other beverage, for that matter—by anyone simply touching the pitcher or through verbal command that the miracle happen? (I’m not talking here about the Amazing Kreskin or some other illusionist performing tricks.)
What about a miracle worker feeding a group of probably ten thousand or more people with no more than a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread? Have you personally witnessed that sort of thing?
What about a raging lake or sea suddenly becoming as slick as glass when a person spoke it to do so?
In discussing this topic, I’m addressing these types of miracles. I’m not referring to someone having a high fever, impending heart failure, or other indicator of one about to die, then being brought back to health. However, in this regard, I will ask: Have you, personally, ever seen someone this sick—so sick that the doctor says he or she has little chance of recovery—instantly come out of his or her condition by a person or persons laying on hands and removing the problem? (Not talking here about what happened to me, where doctors were part of a miracle in my case. More about that momentarily…)
I realize there will be those who will answer, “Yes!” to this final question. Then, cynical, old me must ask for the documentation: Where it is officially recorded in the medical annals—by an attending physician—that this happened?
I’ve lived seventy years, and have heard reports of many “miracles.” I have never, however, seen medical documentation or scientific data affirming any such report of these events.
I, myself, as many know, died three times clinically on Good Friday, April 22, 2011. Each time my heart stopped, I can tell you —and in vivid detail—that I stood before a heavenly throng of young, beautiful, and vibrantly healthy people. They were cheering, and the third time I went there, I joined them, and we were in a joyous race to somewhere…I don’t know where.
(Pause for a commercial: Our book, HeavenVision: Glimpses into Glory, about those visits and many more wonderful things about our destination called Heaven, will be available December 15, 2012.)
Nonetheless, as absolutely stunning as that near-death experience was for me, it is second-hand information to you. You didn’t see that happen to me. You must believe me or not when I relay the story—despite the fact that Saline Memorial Hospital will confirm my statements. I gladly give permission for the hospital to release full disclosure of what happened to me.
To me, it was an absolute miracle. My wife will agree. The doctors told her I was DOA (dead on arrival), and that there was little chance that they would be able to save my life.
So, these kinds of interventions into our life, as wonderful—even miraculous—as they are, are not the kinds of miracles we are examining in this inquiry. We are exploring here the kinds of miracles that Jesus Christ and His immediate disciples—the apostles—performed.
You and I have heard over the years of such miracles being performed by preachers and even laypersons (those who are in ministry, but not seminary-trained, etc.)—for example, how one man reached down, perhaps, to pick up a severed arm that had been cut off in an accident, then put it back on the injured individual so that it was like new, instantly.
We have heard of such things as an evangelist coming to town and removing an embalmed corpse from its casket, then raising it from the dead.
But, there is no record, no unassailable documentation anywhere that any such a miracle has ever actually occurred for nearly two thousand years. There are no such miracles today like the sort Jesus and the apostles performed, that prove—or even intimate—that these miracles occur following the age of the apostles (the time after their going to their rewards in Glory).
Had such things occurred—or if they were occurring today—there would be a thunderous clamor by mainstream journalists for interviews with the miracle worker. Our news would be dominated by sensational headlines about that person that would leave little room on the front pages and at the top of broadcast news for any other stories. Jesus Christ performed those miracles, and His Name is above every other name—even if He still is hated by most of the world.
And, that is something to consider during these times that look to be so near the end of the age, when Christ’s return is in view. There is predicted to come upon the scene a miracle worker for whom there will doubtless be that media clamor on an unprecedented scale. The Antichrist and his Tribulation-era partner, the false prophet, aren’t the only ones predicted to do some spectacular, supposed, miracles as the end of this Church Age draws near.
Some thoughts that I think you will find intriguing on the subject of miracles in post-apostolic times are offered up by some whose scholarship I find trustworthy. The following offers some food for thought regarding the upcoming days in which you and I will likely live.
There is no biblical evidence that there will be a reoccurrence in the church of the sign gifts or that believers will work miracles near the end of the Church Age. However, there is ample evidence that near the end of the age there will be false prophets who perform miracles, prophesy, and cast out demons in Jesus’ name (cf. Matthew 7:22–23; 24:11, 24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12). During the Church Age there will be false leaders who fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13an15). During the Tribulation period, there is no indication that believers, other than the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3–12, will perform miracles. Those performed by the two witnesses are exceptional, and their actions are comparable to those of Old Testament prophets rather than to those of the apostles. The two witnesses are not part of the church, and if they were, they could hardly be considered typical of the church.1
Can Miracles Happen?
The charge arises often when coming down on the side against miracles of the sort Jesus performed taking place today: “You are putting God in a box.” “You are limiting His power.”
No. Those of us who do so are stating the facts that there are no documentable cases of such miracles taking place during these post-apostolic times. The dearth of evidence makes the case for the facts. We believe God chooses, for now, to not invest such power in individuals—and for reasons that can be put forward.
Some in-depth thought is found in the following excerpted piece by Dr. R. C. Sproul, a man with whom I often disagree when it comes to the view of the Rapture of the Church, but who is a great Bible scholar on many fronts.
I get this question all the time, “R.C., do you believe that miracles happen today?” If you want me to give the simple answer, the answer is no. Today, you can go into a pastor’s office and see a sign that says, “Expect a Miracle.” But if you expect a miracle—if miracles are expectable—there’s nothing miraculous about them. If they’re ordinary then they carry no certifiable weight. It’s by their extraordinary character that they have sign power: sign-ificance.
Now of course when people ask me, do I believe in miracles, they’re asking one question and I’m answering a different one. If they’re saying to me, “Do you believe that God is still working in the world supernaturally?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God answers prayers?” Of course I do. “Do you believe that God heals people in response to prayer?” Of course I do.
All miracles are supernatural, but not all supernatural acts are miracles.
Theologians get real tight in their making of distinctions, and when I say I don’t believe in miracles today, I don’t believe in the tight kind of miracle in the very narrow sense where a miracle is defined as a work that occurs in the external perceivable world; an extraordinary work in the external perceivable world against the laws of nature, by the immediate power of God. A work that only God can do, such as bringing life out of death, such as, restoring a limb that has been cut off—by command—such as, walking on the water, such as, turning water into wine.
Even some of the marvelous signs in the New Testament wouldn’t qualify as a miracle in this tight definition. So why do we labor so hard for this tight definition? For this reason: if anybody can perform miracles, if a person who’s not an agent of divine revelation can perform a miracle, then obviously a miracle cannot certify an agent of revelation. Let me say it again. If a non-agent of revelation can perform a miracle, then a miracle cannot authenticate or certify a bona fide agent of revelation. Which would mean that the New Testament’s claim to be carrying the authority of God Himself, because God has certified Christ and the Apostles by miracles, would be a false claim and a false argument.
So what’s at stake here is the authority, the authenticity, and the truthfulness of the Bible itself. That’s why I have this tight definition, and why I don’t expect miracles, because I don’t expect to find Apostles running around today. So the narrow miracles, they stopped at the end of the apostolic age.2
Reasons Miracles Don’t Happen at Present
My own thoughts regarding the cessation of the sort of miracles performed by Jesus closely match the examination and opinion rendered by John MacArthur, one of the great men of God today, in my estimation. Those miracles performed by Jesus and the apostles were primarily to offer proof of authentication from God:
I believe that if God chooses to do something miraculous, He can do it. I am convinced that most of the miracle signs and wonders, if not all, being claimed today in the Charismatic movement, have nothing in common with what we know about Biblical miracles. They do not fit the Biblical criteria. And I am persuaded by both Scripture and history that nothing like the New Testament gift of miracles, noted in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, is operating today. The Holy Spirit has not given any modern-day Christians miraculous gifts comparable to those He gave the apostles.3
1. The Cessation of the Sign Gifts
Prof. Thomas R. Edgar
2. Ligonier Ministries
Does R.C. Sproul Believe in Miracles?
By R.C. Sproul, July 11, 2012
3. Grace to You
Does God do Miracles Today?