Signs – Wonders – Miracles
‘THESE SIGNS SHALL FOLLOW’ Christians are being upset and disturbed today by so many churches or preachers calling for a return to Pentecostal gifts. The lack of healing as a part of the ministry of the church is attributed to a loss of power through a weakening of faith. On every hand we hear contentions that if the church was right with the Lord the sick would be healed, the dead raised, and all other apostolic miracles restored. One of the passages of Scripture most commonly referred to and cited as authority for healing today is Mark 16:17, 18: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”I must confess that there was a time in my own personal ministry when this particular passage and kindred passages disturbed me greatly. Faith healers used a very subtle insinuation by saying, “If the Lord has any more for me, I want it.” It was some time before I appreciated the fact that all the Lord has for us is to be found in His Word, and that ones using such an expression do not know too much of the complete revelation of God as contained in the Bible. They are familiar with a few isolated texts which, when taken from their context and joined with others, might be used to establish a case for healing. I began to study in earnest all the passages of Scripture relative to healing and other apostolic miracles, and I want to give the results of my study of the particular passage in Mark 16:15-20.
As I read and reread this passage and gave time to earnest prayer for the wisdom which cometh from above, I became certain of two facts as set forth in this passage: 1) I was a believer, and 2) none of these signs followed me. One of the great times in my Christian experience was that moment when I passed beyond the realm of doubts, fears and misgivings concerning my own personal salvation. It is one thing to be saved. It is another thing to know you are saved. I reached the point at which I no longer trusted in my experience or in my feelings, but rested securely on the Word of the Lord. The Bible says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. . .” Again, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). I knew that I had believed on the Lord; I knew that I had confessed Him with my mouth; I knew I believed God raised Him from the dead; therefore, I knew I was a believer.
But this passage of Scripture says these signs shall follow them that believe. Now mark these truths. It does not say these signs will follow him that believes and is then baptized by the Holy Ghost, or is sanctified, or has received a special blessing. This Scripture simply says these signs shall follow them that believe.
The second great truth which I discovered was that” in addition to my being a believer, THESE SIGNS DID NOT FOLLOW ME. Not only did I not cast out devils, I did not speak with new tongues, I was and still am afraid of serpents, I had no desire to drink deadly poisons, I had no desire to lay hands on the sick in an attempt to heal them. What is the conclusion of this matter? Since these signs do not follow me, does it mean that I am not a believer? Or, since I am a believer, should these signs follow me? This is the conclusion to which the Lord brought me: that these verses of Scripture do not apply to me-that I am a believer and that these signs are not supposed to follow me.
In this connection, I want to call your attention to Mark 16:20, “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following.” Here we read that all who believed went forth and preached everywhere (see Acts 8:4), the Lord working with them and confirming the Word WITH SIGNS FOLLOWING. Here we have the experience of the Lord working with these early believers and confirming their testimony with signs. Ever since entering the ministry, I have gone here and there as I felt led of the Lord, and ministered the Word in the power of the Spirit, but God has not confirmed with these signs the Word which I have ministered. I have never carried with me serpents, nor vials of deadly poisons, nor a bottle of olive oil. I have been interested in many of these divine healers who are afraid of serpents and are afraid to drink deadly poisons but who still contend they have the power to heal. I am amazed at these so-called healers who do not attempt to raise the dead, as did the apostles and even our Lord Himself.
We have a key to this entire passage of Scripture which speaks of our Lord confirming the Word with signs following. This key is in Heb. 2:3: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” Here we have reference to the message of salvation which was confirmed by the Lord, but the distinguishing truth of this particular verse is that the Word was confirmed (as in Mark 16:20) with signs following. It was confirmed, I say, only unto those who heard Jesus Himself who first spoke the Word. We are told (Heb. 2:4) that the confirmation was with signs, wonders, divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, dispensed according to His own will. But again, these signs, wonders, and miracles were confirmed only unto those that heard Jesus speak. There is no Scripture which speaks of these signs, wonders, and miracles being used by our Lord to confirm the ministry of the Word by any of His servants other than those servants who heard our Lord preach the Word Himself. If you should be disturbed about the Apostle Paul, just remember that the Lord came and ministered unto him by Word of mouth the gospel which Paul preached, so that Paul also belongs to the number of those who “heard Him.”
With the completion of the revelation of God and the closing of the canon of the Scripture, neither I nor any other servant has need of serpents, deadly poisons, olive oil, raising the dead, talking in tongues, or any visible confirmation for the ministry of the Word other than that ministry by the Holy Spirit. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). I go forth with the Word of the Lord, praying that it will be in the power of the Spirit, knowing full well that the Holy Spirit of God will take the Truth and bear it home to the consciences of the hearers.
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:7-11). Here we have a most blessed truth concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He convicts the individual of his lost condition; He convicts the individual of the righteousness of God in dying for his sins; He convicts the individual of the truth of the Word of God; He gives the individual faith to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. In short and in fact, the Holy Spirit confirms the preached Word today, not with signs following, but with conviction as set forth in the above quoted verses.
Now in conclusion, let me ask you two very solemn and startling questions. First, do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Second, do these signs of Mark 16:17, 18 follow you? I think your answer to the latter will be in the negative, for I have never seen an individual yet who claimed that all of these signs followed him. Hence, the article you have just concluded-at-tempting to show that, whereas this passage of Scripture applied to the apostles and those who heard our Lord, they do not apply to us who learn of Him through the reading of the Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
There is a resurgence of attempts to reactivate so-called Pentecostal gifts. Not far from where I am dictating these words are those honest and wellmeaning individuals who continually try to handle rattlesnakes and copperhead snakes with immunity as evidence of the strength and depth of their faith, but they fail. There are also in our midst many who are attempting to heal people by the anointing with olive oil and the laying on of hands. Possibly the most popular, widespread attempt to prove the baptism of the Spirit is what is referred to as “speaking in unknown tongues.”
I t is extremely interesting to find a doctrine established upon a false premise for which there is no Scriptural foundation at all. I refer to the word unknown. The word unknown in connection with talking in tongues occurs only in I Cor. 14:2,4, 13, 14, 19 and 27. In each instance you will note that the word UNKNOWN is in italics. In the King James Version the printing of words in italics is a device adopted by the translators to show that the word itself does not appear in the original text but has been supplied by the translators with no authority whatsoever for so doing.
There is no such thing in all the Word of God as an unknown tongue. What is the meaning of tongue or tongues? The first time that word occurs in the New Testament is in Mark 16:17, “They shall speak with new tongues.” The next time it occurs is in Acts 2:4. We see the word again in vs. 8. The English equivalent of the Greek word for tongue is glossai, which means language or the sound of words made with the tongue. In Mark 16:17 the Lord had said that “They shall speak with new languages.”
In Acts 2:4 when they were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in other languages. In Acts 2:8 and 11 the people were astonished in that they heard the wonderful works of God in their own language. Acts 2:9-11 tells of the different nationalities who heard the gospel spoken in their own tongues or languages. In I Cor. 13 Paul says, “Though I speak with the languages of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” This gift of speaking in new languages was the result of being filled with the Spirit of God; and because of Paul’s experience-related in II Cor. 12:1-4, wherein he heard the angels speak in their language-he poses the possibility of his speaking in all of the different languages of the human race and in the languages of the angels.
The word translated tongues throughout the New Testament is the word for language. There is no experience mentioned in the New Testament which has to do with the so-called unknown language, that is, a language that is not known to men or angels in some part of the universe. As the early disciples went forth with the glorious gospel of Christ before the New Testament was written and completed, God gave certain ones the gift of talking in a foreign language without the necessity of having to study and learn that language. In I Cor. 14:22 we are told that the ability to talk in other languages was for a sign to unbelievers and it is not a sign to Christians.
We read of only three instances in which this gift was poured out upon a waiting people. In Acts, chapter 2, the Jewish apostles were given the gift of talking in foreign languages to all the foreigners who were present to show that they had received the Holy Spirit. In Acts, chapter 10, Cornelius and his household received the gift of talking in foreign languages to show unto the apostles that the Gentiles also had received the Holy Spirit. In Acts, chapter 19, the apostles of John who had been associated with Apollos also received the gift of talking in foreign languages to show that John’s disciples had received the Holy Spirit.
Another interesting thing about the talking in foreign languages is that whereas most of the proponents of this strange doctrine today are women, we do not find a single instance in the New Testament where a woman was given the gift of talking in a foreign language. In fact, in I Cor. 14:34, women are absolutely prohibited from speaking in foreign languages in churches. (It is in I Tim. 2:11-15, where the woman is prohibited from speaking at all in any public assembly where men are present.) Continuing in I Cor. 14:37, the Spirit of God says through the Apostle Paul that if anyone imagines himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, then let him acknowledge that the prohibition in vs. 34 is the commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the ability to talk in foreign languages is not the sign of the filling of the Holy Spirit, then what is? In Gal. 5:22, 23, we have the evidence of the infilling of the Spirit and the outflowing as a result: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
What difference does it make whether or not one seeks Pentecostal gifts? Primarily this: that when one earnestly and honestly seeks a so-called bap. tism by the Holy Spirit and then cannot talk in foreign languages or heal the sick or raise the dead or drink deadly poisons and play with deadly snakes with immunity, shipwreck is made of his faith. One of the most pro. mising young ministers with whom I have ever been acquainted went astray into seeking the power to talk in foreign languages, heal the sick and raise the dead: and when he failed to do any of the above mentioned, he resigned from his church and ultimately quit the ministry. I have known laymen who sought these gifts, thinking they were for the day in which we now live; and when they failed to receive them, they turned away from the faith once delivered to the saints, disassociated themselves from the church and became most unprofitable servants and witnesses.
I will mention one very poignant verse which should set at ease any openminded child of God. Study carefully the following verse and all of its implications: Matt. 16:4 “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”
NO SIGNS, WONDERS OR MIRACLES
In the light of so many efforts to resuscitate Pentecostal gifts, I think it well for us to consider the dispensational aspects of signs, wonders and miracles. It is a notable fact that during the early ministry of the Apostle Paul, he raised the dead, healed the sick, was immune to poisonous snakes: whereas, in the latter part of his ministry none of these signs, wonders and miracles were evident.
In I Tim. 5:23, he advised Timothy to use a little wine for his stomach disorder, rather than perform an act of healing upon him. In I I Tim. 4:20, we are advised that Paul did not heal Trophimus but left him at Miletum sick. In Phil. 2:25.30, we read of Epaphroditus’s sickness nigh unto death and, again, he was not healed by the Apostle Paul.
All three of the above instances occurred in the latter part of Paul’s ministry and in particular, after the experience of Acts 28:28, which manifestly is the dispensational boundary of signs, wonders and miracles. Prior to the time of Acts 28:28, all of these signs were in evidence. After that time, they were not in evidence. The significance of that particular time period is that it was at that moment that the Lord set Israel aside and no longer was the kingdom proffered to them on the basis of national repentance, but instead God turned to the Gentiles. (This is on a national basis and not individual; the gospel was still to the individual Jew first, but also to the Greek.) As long as the offer of the kingdom was extended to the whole nation of Israel, the preaching was accompanied by signs, wonders and miracles. But when God turned to the Gentiles, these signs, wonders and miracles were no longer needed. “The Jew seeketh a sign.”
Listed below, you will find the books of the New Testament in the order in which they were written relative to Acts 28:28, which event took place somewhere between the beginning of 59 A.D. and the end of 63 A.D.
ThefourGospels about.. . .45 A.D.
James . . . . . . .. . . . . . . .45 A.D.
Jude. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 A.D.
I Thessalonians . . . . . . . 52 A.D.
II Thessalonians . .. . . . . 52 A.D.
Hebrews . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 A.D.
I, II, III John . . . . . . .. . . .56 A.D.
I Corinthians . . . . . . . . . .57 A.D.
II Corinthians. . . . . . . . . . 58 A.D.
Galatians.. . . . . . . . . . . .. 58 A.D.
Romans. . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 A.D.
All of the above were written before the dispensational boundary of Acts 28:28, after which there are NO SIGNS, WONDERS AND MIRACLES.
I and II Peter. . . . . . . . . . .. .. .63 A.D.
Philippians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63 A.D.
Philemon. . . . . … . . . . . . . . . .63 A.D.
Colossians. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63 A.D.
Ephesians . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .63 A.D.
I Timothy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67 A.D.
Titus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67 A.D.
II Timothy. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .68 A.D.
Beginning with the fourth chapter of Revelation we again witness signs, wonders and miracles, for at this time God begins to deal with the Jew once again on a national basis. Rev. 4:1 is chronologically identified with Rom. 11:25.
The order of signs, wonders and miracles, as well as spiritual gifts manifested in the lives of Christians, seems to be after this fashion: For a few years those who had the privilege of hearing Christ Himself as He ministered here on the earth in the flesh, had the signs of Mark 16:17-20 following them. Study carefully the word confirming in Mark 16:20, in connection with the same word in Heb. 2:3, 4.
As the gospel spread and churches began to form, we have then the distribution throughout the church of spiritual ones described in I Cor. 12. But with the crossing of the dispensational boundary of Acts 28:28, the only gifts given to the church are enumerated in Eph. 4:11. Those are the only gifts God has placed in the church for the particular days in which we now live.
The handling of the Scripture in the above dissertation is commanded and described by the Holy Spirit of God through the Apostle Paul in II Tim. 2:15. Augustine of Hippo said something to the effect, “Distinguish the dispensations and the Bible is easy to understand.”
The primary trouble today with all these signs, wonders and miracles is to be found in the fact that people are trying to have Pentecostal experiences and gifts in a day in which we are to walk by faith and not by sight.
I SIGNS, WONDERS AND MIRACLES
One of the strange phenomena of today is the attempt of several evangelical groups to re-inaugurate Pentecostal gifts. There is a demand for ministers of the gospel to give evidence of their calling by use of the credentials of the kingdom. Signs, wonders and miracles, as described in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, are so far removed from the days in which we now live that it seemed good to write a few words setting forth some Scriptures on these truths.
I call your attention first of all to Hebrews 2:4: “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.” All through the ages God has confirmed His testimony by means of these supernatural gifts. When God spoke through the prophets there were signs (Isa. 7:11, 14). When He sent His Son, again the ministry was confirmed by signs (Matt. 11:1-5). After the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the message was confirmed by these signs on the part of those WHO HAD HEARD THE LORD IN PERSON. But even those who had heard the Lord did not have their witness confirmed with signs following unto the end of their personal ministries, but only to a certain documented point in history.
Let us consider first of all the meaning and significance of the words signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost.
1. SIGN: This manifestation is simply a sign-no more, no less. It is a sign that the witness himself is from God and it has a peculiar relationship to Israel as is revealed in the fact that every time the word miracle is found in the book of John it is the word which means a sign; and all of these signs in John were for the nation of Israel.
2. WONDER: A wonder is so called because of the effect produced on those who witnessed a mighty work. They wondered Who? Why? How? and Whence? this supernatural power.
3. MIRACLE: Rightly translated would be powers. It is used to describe the inherent power by which this mighty work had been done.
4. GIFTS OF THE HOLY GHOST: This is not the Holy Spirit Himself, but such gifts as He chooses to bestow upon certain individuals.
You will look in vain for these four expressions-signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost-in any of Paul’s Epistles written after the time of Acts 28:28, which was approximately 63 A.D. These signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost were given to signify-to witness to Israel-that Jehovah was the God of Israel. Throughout the history of the nation of the children of Israel, Jehovah had manifested His presence and power with His messengers who had been sent in His Name. After the final rejection and the crucificion of the Lord Jesus Christ, after the final rejection of Jehovah’s great witness Paul by the chief Jews of the dispersion in Rome,there was no further need of such signs. These signs ended with those to whom they were given (those who had heard Jesus in person).
When God set Israel aside and turned to the Gentiles (see Acts 15:13-17 and Acts 28:28), these signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer in evidence. Prior to Acts 28:28 the Apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake and not harmed (Acts 28:3-6). During this same period of time Paul worked many miracles (Acts 19:11, 12). Paul also raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:9, 10). After Acts 28:28-after God had set Israel aside-after the withdrawal of the offer of the kingdom to Israel on the basis of national repentance, none of the signs, wonders, miracles and divers gifts of the Holy Ghost were in evidence.
After Acts 28:28 Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletum (II Tim. 4:20). After Acts 28:28 Luke, the physician, stayed with Paul, who suffered greatly from the thorn in the flesh, which seems to have been a severe eye malady (II Tim. 4:11; Col. 4:14, Gal. 4:13, 14; Gal. 6:11; II Cor. 12:7). It was after Acts 28:28 that Paul was unable to minister to Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-27). It was after Acts 28:28 that Paul, unable to heal Timothy, prescribed wine as a tonic (I Tim. 5:23). Prio!’ to Acts 28:28 Paul and the other disciples had the signs of an apostle (II Cor. 12:12), but after the time of Acts 28:28, which was approximately 63 A.D., none of these signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost were in evidence.
It was the Jews who demanded a sign and God gave them signs. The Gentiles did not require a sign, did not seek a sign and no signs have been given to them. It is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeketh for signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 16:4). All these signs and promised blessings await Israel’s repentance. Signs are a part of the birthright of Israel. Study the signs with which Moses went to Israel. Signs do not belong to the church as such. They are not in evidence in the church after the time of Acts 28:28. If you will study carefully you will see that the Corinthian Epistles were written before Acts 28:28; likewise, the book of J ames was written before the time of Acts 28:28. When Israel repents of her sin and turns again to the Lord, all of these signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit will be in evidence. See Joel 2:28-31.
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” -Isa. 8:20