Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Lying Signs and Wonders

Many voices claim God is about to pour out tremendous signs and wonders” the likes of which no man has ever seenWell, let us hope so! And I certainly would love to see God’s Spirit move mightily in the days ahead, including miraculous healings, deliverances, and yes, the raising of the dead. But I remain skeptical that “signs and wonders” will achieve what so many hope and certain warnings and examples from Scripture trouble me.

Ringmaster Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash
[Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash]

Thousands of years ago, Moses warned the Israelites that when any prophet or “
dreamer of dreams” came along, performed “signs or wonders,” but then attempted to lure them away from Yahweh, they were to pay him no heed. And if anything, God had sent him “to put you to the test, to know whether you love Yahweh your God with all your heart.” And Moses did not say that such deceivers would perform fake miracles - (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

On one occasion, Jesus complained when certain Jews came seeking “signs” - “Except you see signs, you will not believe!” He certainly did many tremendous miracles, yet in the end, he died alone on the cross, abandoned even by his closest disciples. And when he miraculously calmed a violent storm in front of his disciples, even they could not understand who he was (“Who is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”).

And Jesus warned the disciples that before his return “many deceivers” would come and “deceive many.” And this included “false prophets” who would perform “great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect.”

Similarly, Paul describes the coming “man of lawlessness” who will deceive many with “all power and signs and wonders of deceit,” a figure the Apostle linked inextricably to the final “apostasy.” Likewise, in Revelation, the “false prophet” deceives many by the “signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the Beast.”

Certain “apostles” critical of Paul arrived at Corinth, men who fancied themselves “super-apostles,” boasted of their mighty speech, of their letters of recommendation, and of their “revelations from the Lord.” Yet Paul classified them as “false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ, and no wonder, for even Satan fashions himself into an angel of light.” Despite their credentials and “revelations,” they were “preaching another Jesus and a different gospel.”

And the veracity of a prophet or apostle cannot be taken for granted even if his claims have been confirmed by angelic visitations. As Paul warned the Galatians, “if even we or an angel of heaven preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be accursed!” Strong words.

God certainly does many marvelous supernatural things for His people. Nevertheless, “signs and wonders” do not guarantee that someone or some ministry is from God. The gifts of the Spirit and other displays of the supernatural may be the means to an end, but they are not in and of themselves the goal of the Christian faith. Yet today, for many, the pursuit of the supernatural has become their all-consuming passion, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the raison d'ĂȘtre of the church, and of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or at least, whatever “gospel” they are preaching.

And it is no coincidence that many proponents of the gospel of “signs and wonders” also propagate false teachings, “damnable heresies,” and they “proclaim another Jesus,” and frankly, an increasingly Gnostic Christ. Moreover, many now teach Christians to engage in occult practices in the pursuit of the supernatural, including astrology, numerology, and other forms of divination. And perhaps most ominous are the attempts by these self-anointed “prophets” and “apostles” to steer Christians away from reliance on the written Word of God.

But we are not without hope or remedy. Neither the “man of lawlessness” nor the “false prophet” can overwhelm us if we cleave to the apostolic tradition that has been preserved for us in the New Testament. And after describing the coming apostasy and the “lawless one,” Paul encouraged the Thessalonians.

God had chosen them “for salvation.” They would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus at his arrival if they “stood fast and held the traditions which they were taught” by Paul and his coworkers. And for us, during the darkest times ahead, it will not be visions, angelic visitations or “signs and wonders” that will sustain and guide us, but the same Word of God preached by Jesus, Paul, Peter, John…