Saturday, June 12, 2021

Signs! Wonders! Deception?

The world will be won by a cruciform church, not by awesome displays of miraculous powerToday, it seems the hope of the church is centered on the coming great outpouring of “signs and wonders” predicted by many voices, what has become the “Holy Grail” of the “prophetic movement.” Only a super revival can equip the church to transform the culture and harvest billions of souls for the kingdom, as an awestruck world turns in wonder from its wicked ways.

Abyss - Photo by Shawn Appel on Unsplash
[Abyss - Photo by Shawn Appel on Unsplash]

I am not so sure. I am not disputing that God performs miracles, or that the gifts of His Spirit are real and for us today. And most certainly miracles often win hearts and minds. What I do question is whether the whole emphasis on “signs and wonders” is misplaced, perhaps a trap that is leading millions of Christians into apostasy. Based on the track record of our self-appointed “prophets,” my comfort level does not extend beyond what I find confirmed in clear scriptures.

Certainly, Jesus and the apostles healed the sick, raised the dead, and exorcised demons; he even calmed a terrifying storm on the Sea of Galilee, though that miraculous act left his disciples confused, not converted - (“Who is that man that even the winds and the seas obey him?”).

But he also complained when the crowds sought him for his miracle-working powers. “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.” “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” And he also warned that deceivers and false prophets would employ “great signs and wonders” to deceive the “elect.”

I have looked long and hard, but I have failed to find any New Testament passage that promises some final super revival characterized by awesome miracles the likes of which even Jesus never saw. Instead, what I do find are warnings about deceivers who use “signs and wonders” to hoodwink believers.

The Apostle Paul, for example, warned of the coming “man of lawlessness,” whom he linked to the coming “apostasy.” This figure will be characterized by his ability to deceive the saints, using “all power and signs and lying wonders” to do so.

Likewise, according to John, the “beast from the earth” will use “signs,” including the ability to call fire down from heaven to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth,” causing them to render homage to the “beast from the sea.” True prophets are not distinguished from false ones by their ability to perform supernatural signs.

In two of his epistles, John warned of the coming “Antichrist.” Indeed, when he wrote this warning, the “spirit of antichrist” was already active in the world, which was evidenced by the activities of false prophets and deceivers within his own congregations, men he labeled “antichrists.”

The New Testament warns that in the “last days” deceit and apostasy will become rampant in the church:

  • Deceivers will deceive many.”
  • Some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.”
  • For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, they will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts.”
  • And they will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to fables.
  • Evil men and impostors will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
  • When the Son of Man comes, will he find the faith on the earth?

This satanic strategy is simple, clear, and effective. Raise expectation levels with promises of super “signs and wonders,” then send false prophets to deliver the goods along with even more false doctrines. It is an old but tried-and-true trick.

What the world needs is a cruciform church committed to the Word of God no matter what else might occur, Christians, who will daily “take up the cross” and “follow the Lamb wherever he goes,” men and women characterized by their love for one another and their self-sacrificial service for the gospel.

In the book of Revelation, the saints overcame the “Dragon” by the “blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they love not their lives unto death.” It is their faithfulness in and through tribulation and persecution that wins the day, and the world will be won by their lives conformed to the paradigm of “Christ crucified.”