One Truth, Many Lies
As Jesus began His ministry on earth, one of the things that identified Him as the Messiah and that drew the attention of the people to Him as a personal Saviour is that He really cared for people. He was not detached from their necessities and He empathized with their circumstances in life. He clearly combined preaching and teaching about the eternal world and guidance in this present life with the healing of the maladies that afflicted the people all about Him. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” It is this combination of work that attracted so many people to Him and that eventually led the leaders to become jealous of the crowds that flocked to hear Him and be healed. “And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” ().
This combined ministry is actually a part of the gospel commission given by Christ: “As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (, ). Both by teaching and example, the New Testament clearly shows that the work of healing is associated with the ministry of the word. The elders of the church have a special care for their constituents, the flock entrusted to their care. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” ( , ).
This is why when we evaluate the ministry of our Lord, we can immediately see that He spent more time in caring for the needs of the people than in the formal teaching of the message to them. “The Lord Jesus is our example. He came to the world as the servant of mankind. He went from city to city, from village to village, teaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing the sick. Christ spent more time in healing than in teaching.
“As our example, Christ linked closely together the work of healing and teaching, and in this our day they should not be separated. In our schools and sanitariums, nurses should be trained to go out as a medical missionary evangelists. They should unite the teaching of the gospel of Christ with the work of healing.”1 When people are sick, it is more difficult for them to comprehend the spiritual truths that bring eternal salvation. But when someone cares, when someone brings healing, then the heart is open to the condition of their soul. This is why it is so important for every medical worker to have a deep relationship with Jesus as their personal Saviour. In the same way, it is important for those in the gospel ministry to understand at least the basics of the medical missionary work so that they can give the help to the body as well as the soul.
For this reason, when we speak of the gospel minister or the ministry, we are not just speaking about merely the teaching aspect but all the various ways of caring for and helping people. “Jesus called [His disciples] unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (). When we understand this aspect of Christian ministry, we will have the same kind of success that Jesus had—and of course the same kind of opposition that He had as well. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. . . . The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” ( 24).
We also need to understand that Satan has always been a master counterfeiter of the truth. For that reason we can also expect that this healing ministry will have its false or fake aspect to it. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (). This fake caring, this fake working of miracles, this fake healing ministry will be so deceptive that it will shake, to some degree, the very elect people of God. We can thank the Lord that it says in this prophecy, “if it were possible.” This means that by the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, it will not be possible to deceive the true and faithful children of the heavenly King.
When we look at last-day events, we cannot help but think of the prophecies in Revelation when the beast and the image of the beast will be set up and the entire world will be convinced to worship them and to receive the mark of the beast in their forehead or in their hand. The majority of the world will fall in line with this and the faithful few that refuse will be persecuted. “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” ().
How does this take place? How do so many people get hoodwinked into giving up their freedoms, rejecting clear Biblical evidences of the truth about the seal of God and our duty to worship the Creator above the created? It is through the work of miracles. “And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live” (, ). Are people so hungry for miracles that they are ready to accept anything in order to experience them?
It is the same principle of miracle-working that brings the entire world to the final conflict with one another and eventually drags in very many of the people of God. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (, ).
Although there is some miracle-working that uses relatively obvious deception and trickery, when we read these verses, many will also be using real miracles that have no explanation in trickery. “No mere impostures are here foretold. Men are deceived by the miracles which Satan’s agents have power to do, not which they pretend to do.”2 The problem we find is when someone cries “wolf” (when there is no wolf) so many times that eventually the wolf does come—and people do not believe it but the wolf still destroys. So, when we see so many fake miracles, we eventually believe that all these miracles are fake—and then when something really comes that is a miracle (but from the wrong source), we are deceived and the wolf catches us. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” ( ).
Because of the way Satan works in the last days, we are not to depend on the working of miracles to prove that we are the people of God. The prophecy speaks of the coming Elijah to prepare the way for the second coming of Jesus. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (). Before the first coming of Christ, there was another Elijah. Speaking of John the Baptist Jesus said: “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come” ( ). It is very interesting that John the Baptist did not use miracles as a way to prove his authenticity. When comparing Jesus with the work of John, the people could say: “John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true” ( ).
For this reason the Elijah people of the last days do not prove their work through the use of miracles. “The way in which Christ worked was to preach the word, and to relieve suffering by miraculous works of healing. But I am instructed that we cannot now work in this way; for Satan will exercise his power by working miracles. God’s servants today could not work by means of miracles, because spurious works of healing, claiming to be divine, will be wrought.”3
How do we distinguish between the true and the false? Sometimes we can see the fake by careful examination. One time I heard of a preacher who used to try to prove that he was connected to God by telling the people that the cross would be shown on his forehead. So he would paint some kind of invisible ink on his forehead before the sermon and then when he got worked up enough and his head became heated, the cross would suddenly shine upon him and thousands of people then believed that he was a messenger from God because of this supposed miraculous sign. Although there may be some fakes of this nature, most are more complicated than that. “Through spiritualism, Satan appears as a benefactor of the race, healing the diseases of the people, and professing to present a new and more exalted system of religious faith; but at the same time he works as a destroyer. His temptations are leading multitudes to ruin. Intemperance dethrones reason; sensual indulgence, strife, and bloodshed follow.”4
Satan is naturally a destroyer and so as he heals some, he destroys others. “While appearing to the children of men as a great physician who can heal all their maladies, he will bring disease and disaster, until populous cities are reduced to ruin and desolation.”5
So, how can we really discern between the one and the other? How do we tell whether a miracle is wrought through the power of God or if it is coming from Satanic agencies? “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (). We are not simply talking about whether a person is healed or not—because Satan can bring a disease and then suddenly remove it. What are these fruits we are looking for that result in both good to our bodies and souls, and that glorify our Father in heaven? We need to keep in mind that that is ultimately the goal for all good things that God enables us to do. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” ( ).
Let us examine the prayer for the sick that the elders are supposed to perform. Do we just accept any request and then just pray for the sick and suddenly they are healed? After speaking about calling the elders together and praying for the sick and anointing them, the Bible gives specific guidance. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” (). This means that the persons themselves who are requesting prayer must themselves have faith. We can see this in the working of miracles that Jesus did. It was not just, “Let me touch you and you are healed.” He first worked to develop faith in the supplicant. “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” ( ). The individual petitioner must have that faith that claims the promises of God. On many occasions the person would recognize that their faith was insufficient for the miracle that they needed. But there was still a remedy. Christ was still there to help. “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” ( ). If we see that we do not have sufficient faith, then we need to plead for such a faith so that God can bless us in accordance to His will.
The greatest illustration of the type of faith needed is seen in the experience of the centurion whose servant was sick of the palsy. Jesus assures him that He would come and heal the servant personally. But this man understood more than the entire Jewish nation about the method of healing that Jesus was using. As a soldier he understood what it means to obey commands. So instead of accepting the offer of the Great Physician, he said, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (). The centurion recognized the mighty power of the word of God. He trusted in the power of the word of God to accomplish exactly what the Word says it will do. That is what faith is all about and Jesus recognized it as such. “When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” ( ).
This faith in the mighty power of the Creator is not just for healing of disease, but is also for cleansing of the soul from sin. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (). Saving the sick in this context does not always mean physical healing. It is also (and especially) speaking of forgiveness of sins. The main thread in all healing is removal of sin from the person. “And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” ( ). This is why we are told to recognize our sins and the sinful nature that comes with it. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” ( ).
We know that the healing of the body is not the main purpose of the miracles of Christ, because ultimately all the people that were healed by Jesus died. We also know that men of God in ages past who did great miracles themselves suffered from sickness. “Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died” (). Elisha, a faithful man of God, healed many people and even raised some from the dead—but he himself died of an illness. We need to understand the will of God and be yielded to God’s will for us whatever that may be. “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” ( ).
Even Jesus ultimately died. His prayer shows the true nature of any miracle. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (6). If Jesus did not die the death that we deserve, we would not have the possibility of salvation. The same may happen in our life. We need to be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake and experience whatever is necessary—even death if need be. So to expect the miracles to take place in the way we want and expect regardless of the will of God in the matter is simply presumption. “Some have professed to have great faith in God, and to have special gifts and special answers to their prayers, although the evidence was lacking. They mistook presumption for faith. The prayer of faith is never lost; but to claim that it will be always answered in the very way and for the particular thing we have expected, is presumption.”
When we compare the time remaining for this earth from the time Satan was banished from heaven, we can see that time is constantly getting shorter and shorter. “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (7). And what does the enemy of souls do the shorter the time seems to be? “Satan is a diligent Bible student. He knows that his time is short, and he seeks at every point to counterwork the work of the Lord upon this earth. It is impossible to give any idea of the experience of the people of God who shall be alive upon the earth when celestial glory and a repetition of the persecutions of the past are blended. They will walk in the light proceeding from the throne of God. By means of the angels there will be constant communication between heaven and earth. And Satan, surrounded by evil angels, and claiming to be God, will work miracles of all kinds, to deceive, if possible, the very elect.”
The less time we have on this earth, the more desperate Satan becomes. And what does he do in desperation? The performance of miracles to deceive if possible the very elect. For that reason, the basis of our message proclaiming Christ’s second advent cannot be the working of miracles—just as John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ’s first advent, did not use miracles as proof of his authenticity. “God’s people will not find their safety in working miracles, for Satan will counterfeit the miracles that will be wrought.”8
Instead of the use of miracles, we have greater proof. “God’s tried and tested people will find their power in the sign spoken of in 9. They are to take their stand on the living word: ‘It is written.’ This is the only foundation upon which they can stand securely. Those who have broken their covenant with God will in that day be without God and without hope.”
This sign in which we are to place our trust is found in the Sabbath commandment. “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. . . . It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” ().
The real sign is a change of heart. This change of heart has to do with the inner man. “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love” (, ). This is called the new birth or new creation. This new creation happens when we pray to God to miraculously create in us a new heart. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” ( ). The sign of that new heart, the sign that we have had a born-again experience (John chapter ) is the seventh day Sabbath that is a memorial of the creative power of God.
Do you want a sign? A real miracle? It does not necessarily have to do with healing necessarily. It does not have to do with other miracles that may or may not happen. It has to do with the greatest of all miracles in changing the sinful human heart into that of a truly born-again Christian. The sign of that is the observance of the seventh day Sabbath as a memorial of that new creation—not just the creation of this world about six thousand years ago—but a new creation in Christ Jesus. This is how we know the true God of our salvation. “And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God” (). The choice is yours. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” ( ).