Monday, February 13, 2012

Wondering about Signs and Wonders?

Question –“What do you think about: gold dust, diamond dust and gems appearing in church services? Do you think they are from God?”


A: I have to admit, when I first read this question I had no idea what the questioner was talking about. I had not heard of these things or even similar things happening…so I figured I had better find out if in fact they were happening and under what circumstances.

With a little “surfing”of the internet, I was able to find several stories relating to this claimed “phenomenon.”

CaseOne: A small church in San Juan, Puerto Rico, had reported that precious gems had miraculously appeared during their church services. These included what “appeared to be” diamonds, gold, silver, topaz, emeralds, and rubies. They also claimed that mysterious oil with the fragrance of “roses” began pouring from their ceiling and walls.

They assert that the numbers of precious stones that appear are based on their “worship and adoration” as they praised God. They even claim that “sometimes” they find a very large pair of footprints formed in gold dust…which “must be a foot print of an angel with a height of 8ft.”

Case Two: A church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, reported that when their pastor preached on Isaiah 60:2 that gold dust, precious stones, and oil began to fall and appear in the hands of many present. They also claim that it has continued to happen ever since.

Isaiah 60:1-4 - Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. 3Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. 4Lift up your eyes round about and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms. (NASB)

So, what are we to do with these stories? Is God raining down precious jewels on people as a sign of His “glory” appearing on them? And if He is, what is the purpose?
Or, could this be a trick from the enemy to take our eyes off of God and the Gospel of Christ and to focus them on “looking” for signs and wonders? Could this be a distraction designed to lead people away from the truth and glory of God—attracting the “nations” away from the light, rather than toward it?

The first thing I did was to “get off the internet” and go to the source of absolute truth—God’s word—and see what it has to say about signs, wonders, and how and when God uses them.

In the Old Testament, God gave signs to His people; signs that served as reminders of His covenants or even promises. Some of these were as follows:

• Genesis 9:11-17 – God placed a “rainbow” in the sky after the Great Flood had wiped out all life on the earth except for those whose lives were preserved in the Ark. This was a “sign” that we could see and would serve as a reminder to Him (and us) of His promise to never again use a flood to destroy “all flesh.”
• Genesis 17:7-11 – God gave Abraham (and the resulting nation of Israel) the “sign” of circumcision as a reminder of His “everlasting” covenant with Abraham and his descendants. This was a permanent reminder, one that could not be reversed once it had been performed.
• Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18 – The Jews would wear phylacteries (little leather pouches containing sections of scripture) as signs, bound to their foreheads and on their left arms as reminders of God’s words and His law.
• Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-17 – Even the Sabbath was given as a sign from God to man that was intended to remind us that He is the one who sanctifies us. The Prophets Jeremiah (17:19-27) and Ezekiel (20:12-24) even linked Israel’s spiritual condition with their keeping of the sign of the Sabbath.

There are more, but notice what all these signs have in common. They are given directly from God, with explanation, preserved in His word, and linked to a specific purpose or promise. So far, other than the vague link to appearing first during a sermon on Isaiah 60:2, I don’t believe that these “modern signs” that we spoke of meet these biblical criteria.

I also noticed that through the OT prophets, God gave us signs to authenticate the words of prophecy that they spoke:

• 1 Kings 13:1-5 – A “man of God” (prophet) predicted that about 300 years into the future a king named Josiah would be born and “reform” the nation of Israel who had gone astray from God. This prophecy was authenticated by a specific “sign” which was the “splitting apart” of a false altar that the current King had erected in Bethel (the true altar was in Jerusalem).
• 2 Kings 20:9 – The Lord gave King Hezekiah a specific “sign” through the prophet Isaiah that he would be healed. In this case the suns shadow on the steps went backward 10 steps!
• Isaiah 7:14 – The “sign” that the promised Messiah had come was specifically given as a “Virgin birth” and the naming of him as “Immanuel” (literally meaning “God with us”); both of which came about at Jesus’ birth (cf. Matthew 1:23).
• Luke 2:12 – Even the shepherds were given a specific “sign” to know when they had found the Christ child.

I’m sure I could keep going…but since this question asked “what I thought,” I believe this is enough for me to begin to see a consistency in the “signs and wonders” given by God to this point:

• They are given by God for specific and clear reasons and are announced either by divine revelation or through His messengers (Angels, Prophets, or Scripture).
• They don’t leave people wondering or guessing what they mean or what they are for…at least not the people they are given too! (I’m sure there were some pagan nations who had all kinds of weird ideas about rainbows and things like “pots of gold at their end”).

So, what about the New Testament? Was God doing something new or were there new signs and wonders that would validate these modern phenomena?

Jesus Himself performed many “signs and wonders” while He ministered here on earth.

All of these were signs with a purpose; they authenticated who He was (God with us) and pointed to Him as the Redeemer of mankind. He healed people of all kinds of diseases both physical and mental, He made food miraculously multiply (John 6:14-35) to feed the multitudes as a sign of His divinity, He drove out evil spirits and even raised people from the dead, bringing them back to life.

• John 4:48 – Jesus gives the reason behind why He would work signs and wonders: so that they (we) would believe.

All of these things and more, Jesus did as a “sign” of who He was and what He was going to do. They authenticated His ministry. He demonstrated His power to overcome the effects of sin in eternity, by overcoming its effects in the physical world. These “signs” assure us that we can trust in the One who can heal us from the disease of sin and truly forgive us and set us free.

What’s interesting is that even as Jesus did all these “signs and wonders” people kept asking Him for a different, additional, or new sign:

• Matthew 12:38-39 and 16:1-4 – The religious leaders came to Jesus and asked for a new or additional sign from Him to authenticate who He was. His response was consistent. He rebuked them as evil and adulterous for not seeing or accepting the signs that had already been given! He declared that the only additional sign they would receive would be the “sign of Jonah.” Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after 3 days would be the ultimate sign of His authenticity.

How many more signs did Jesus have to give to them or to us?

Some could argue that these “gems” and manifestations are new signs designed to strengthen the church. However, Jesus gave us specific signs that would accompany the authentic church and the things that are happening with gems, oil and gold dust are not what He told us to expect.

• Mark 16:17-18 – Casting out demons, speaking in new tongues, un-harmed by serpents or poison, and healing of the sick. All of these were demonstrated by the Apostles and some early saints like Stephen and Phillip to mention just a few. (Even though there is no specific mention of the drinking of poison, there is the account of Paul being bitten by a deadly serpent and being un-harmed in Acts 28:2-6).
• 2 Corinthians 12:12 – Paul makes the case that the signs, wonders, and miracles he performed validated his “Apostleship” even though we are not told what specific signs and wonders he performed, they were not spontaneous but rather deliberate(John 4:48).

Could these claimed extra-biblical “signs and wonders” that these churches are experiencing today be tools of the Devil to distract people from the truth?

I ask this, because throughout the Bible, and specifically in the New Testament, including the direct words of Jesus from Matthew 24:4-28 (specifically verse 24), we are warned that there will be many“signs and wonders” worked by the power of Satan in order to fool, block, or draw away people from the faith:

*This verse was very eye opening…
• Deuteronomy 13:1-4 – God warns us that He will allow false signs and wonders as a test of His people’s faith. Will we be distracted by false signs and wonders, or will we “cling’ to God, His commandments, His voice (spoken and written), and seek to serve Him? Are these “new signs” taking us away from the focus of the Gospel as authenticated by Jesus in His death and resurrection or the “sign of Jonah” that He spoke of?
Could Satan use things that appear “good” or godly to draw people away from the truth? I believe the Bible makes that case quite well!
• 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 – Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and so do his servants.
• Genesis 3:6 – Satan got Eve (and Adam) to doubt God by getting them to “look” at what God had called forbidden and seeing it as desirable: “…the woman saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise…”and sin entered the world. All by a deception that looked “good.”

The Bible warns harshly against being fooled by false “signs and wonders”:

• 2 Thessalonians 2:9 and Revelation 13:13-14 – Speak of the “lawless one” or the Antichrist and his “false prophet” who will perform “great signs” and “false wonders” with power, to deceive people!
• Mark 13:22 – Even believers could be in danger of being led astray by false prophets who show signs and wonders!
• Revelation 16:14; 19:20 – As the end grows near, there will be spirits of demons who lead people astray with signs; to deceive people who worship and follow the beast.

So… What do I think?

I wanted to approach this with caution, because as scripture points out, when the religious leaders saw what Jesus was doing as far as miracles, signs, and wonders, they sinned by attributing these things to Satan (Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 11:14-23).

However, Jesus was “seen” performing these signs, and they were consistent with scripture and His purpose or mission. Jesus’ mission was to “deliver us from bondage to sin” and to “un-do the works of Satan.” The signs and wonders He performed illustrated this perfectly, whether it was a merciful healing, driving out of a demon, or raising someone from the dead!

Even the signs and wonders that accompanied the Apostles and Church (and as I believe still do today) were all in accord with scripture and consistent with the message and ministry of Jesus.

I cannot support these phenomena of jewels, feathers, or oil appearing spontaneously as being consistent with what scripture teaches. And, scripture is my authority. I believe that Jesus meant what He said when He stated that the only sign we would receive would be “the sign of Jonah” when He rose from the dead after 3 days.
I believe that the signs spoken of in Mark 16, as well as the coming, indwelling, and gifting of the Holy Spirit are the only signs the Church needs to authenticate the Gospel and bring glory to God.

I believe that these “extra-biblical signs and wonders” could be the enemy’s attempt to deceive, confuse, and draw people away from the true “Good news.” The news that Jesus Christ died on the cross as the atonement for our sins and rose in complete victory over sin and death 3 days later!

I believe He gave us all the power and signs we need at Pentecost, when He sent his Spirit to live in us and work through us. I just don’t see where spontaneous gold dust, gems, or even oil and feathers point toward the Gospel. If people ignore the call to repent and be forgiven, do we really think that a pinch of gold dust will make them change their mind? I suggest that we focus on our mission: to love God and others, and to tell the world the Good News of the Kingdom of God!

In the end all the gold, jewels, feathers, and oil in the world won’t matter a bit if people don’t know Jesus!

Stay in the Word…P. Scott

3 comments:

Rita said...

This is good - I love learning His word!

D Curran said...

I have this supernatural oil and gold dust in my life. It has not distracted me one bit from the true gospel. It has made me fall more in love with Jesus an it made it possible for an awesome visitation from God the FATHER!!! Things that take place when you worship God in Spirit and truth are from God. Otherwise God would be giving His children bad gifts which He does not do according to scripture!!!

JRK83 said...

Hi D Curran,

Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!

I appreciate your willingness to share that you have experienced some of the things that this post from P. Scott is talking about.

You said that these experiences do not distract you from the gospel. Would you mind sharing with me your understanding of the gospel so that I can make sure we are referring to the same thing?

I never want to take for granted that because we use the same word, we are referring to the same thing.

Galatians 1:8-9

Peace,

JRK