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The Purpose of Signs and Wonders in the New Testament: What Terms for Miraculous Power Denote and Their Relationship to the Gospel, Part 2, by Gary S. Greig

Many New Testament scholars such as Hunter, Powell, Richardson, and others have pointed out that in the New Testament’s view, the miraculous healings in Jesus’ ministry, which were continued by the apostles and the Early Church, show the coming of the Kingdom of God, God’s reign in Christ. They are tokens of God’s grace and illustrations of the forgiveness of sin accomplished by Christ’s Cross:

The miracles are tokens of the coming of God’s Reign in Jesus. They are the Kingdom of God in action—God’s sovereign grace and forgiveness operative in Christ.77

If we examine the utterances attributed to Jesus Himself in the Synoptic Gospels on the subject of His own miracles, we find that he regarded them as evidences of the drawing nigh of the Kingdom of God.
This is undoubtedly their significance both in the mind of Jesus and in that of the early Church; The author of Hebrews speaks of Christians as those who have “tasted … the dunameis [“powers”] of the Age to Come” (vi.5). That the mighty works of Jesus are the miracles of the Kingdom of God is plainly taught in the account of the Beelzebub Controversy, recorded both in Mark (iii. 22-30) and Q (Matt. xii. 25-37, Luke xi. 17-23).78

Jesus gave a radically new meaning to the “language” of the miracles: they are signs of the kingdom, signs of what God wants to do and is already doing for humankind in Jesus…
If this interrelationship between the miracles of Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God is disregarded, neither the miracles nor the message of the kingdom will be understood correctly. The connection between healings and the kingdom of God is particularly clear: “heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’“ (Lk. 10:9)…
Jesus’ healing ministry was one aspect of the manifestation of the presence of the kingdom (Mt. 12:28). Since disease was understood to be part of the disobedience of creation against its creator, healing meant that God’s plan for the redress of humankind was being activated… The resurrection is the sign par excellence which gives meaning to all Jesus’ signs.79

It seems to be generally agreed that basileia means primarily kingship rather than kingdom, reign rather than realm… The working of the dunamis [“power”] of God results in the manifestation of His basileia [“kingship, reign”]…
The charge which was given by Jesus to his disciples as he sent them forth on their mission is reported four times in the Synoptic Gospels and on each occasion the commission to heal is placed alongside of the commission to preach (Mark vi. 7-13; Matt. ix. 35-x. 23; Luke ix. 1-6, x. 1-20)… From the earliest days the ministry of healing was placed side by side with that of preaching in the missionary labours of the Church.80

The working of miracles is a part of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, not an end in itself. Similarly, the sin of Chorazin and Bethsaida [Lk. 10:13; Mat. 11:21] is spiritual blindness; they do not accept the preaching of the Kingdom of God or understand the miracles which were its inevitable concomitants… Even the heathen, it is implied, would have understood from the preaching the meaning of the mighty works, … and they would have repented…
Because the mighty works of Jesus are the miracles of the Kingdom of God, the appropriate response to them is: “Repent and believe the good news.”81

The New Testament evidence clearly shows that God desires to heal the sick as a sign of His kingdom reign and His grace toward us in Christ (Mat. 12:28; cf. Isa. 33:22, 24). Jesus healed the sick.82 The apostles and Early Church laity healed the sick (Stephen, Philip, Ananias, the Corinthians, Galatians, Jewish Christian churches, etc.).83 God gave the Church gifts of healing (I Cor. 12:9, 28, 29), and He commands the Church to pray for the sick (Jas. 5:14-16). Some scholars also point out that though God desires to heal as a sign of His Kingdom, healing, like the Kingdom, will only be experienced in part in this age:

But just as the kingdom of God has indeed begun but has not yet reached its final fulfilment, so too Christ’s healing activity has indeed started but is not yet completed.
Jesus’ works are the fully valid (in German: vollgültig) confirmation of his message; they are as valid as his word. But they are not the final definitive (in German: endgültig) act of God in the bodily realm. The totally new creation which begins with the resurrection will be definitive. The miracles are not just prefigurations of salvation but a real gift of salvation at the present time… The “already” of the salvation offered now is the presupposition and basis of the “not yet” of the definitive, total salvation.84

Thus, Scripture shows that in some cases Christians may not experience complete healing in this age.85 In I Corinthians 13 Paul says that in this age the church will only experience spiritual gifts, which include healing, “in part” (ek merous) until the second coming of Christ: “For we know in part and we prophecy in part” (I Cor. 13:9; cf. I Cor. 1:6-7; and 13:8-10, 12; I Jn. 3:2; Rev. 22:4).86 With this in mind, James 5:15, nonetheless states the general rule for healing ministry in the Church: “The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”

The scholars quoted above and cited in the notes appear to be unanimous regarding the New Testament evidence. The healings accompanying the preaching of Jesus, the apostles, and the Early Church were symbols, illustrations, and demonstrations of the presence of God’s Kingdom—God’s grace and forgiveness of sin through Christ.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2007

About the Author: Gary S. Greig, Ph.D. (University of Chicago), is Vice President for Content, Bible and Theology for Gospel Light Publications and Regal Books and an adjunct faculty mentor of United Theological Seminary (Dayton, Ohio) and of Dr. Randy Clark’s Global Awakening Ministries. He was an associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Regent University, School of Divinity from 1995–1998, and before that an adjunct professor of Hebrew for Fuller Theological Seminary. He was co-editor with Kevin Springer of The Kingdom and the Power of the Cross: Are the Healing and Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today? A Biblical Look at How to Bring the Gospel to the World with Power (Regal, 1993), a compendium to lay out the biblical foundations of power evangelism and power ministry. LinkedIn

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