Miracles, Signs, and Wonders
In 1.Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul mentions several supernatural abilities the Father gives to specific individuals. One of these is the gift of miracles which Paul mentions three times:
"To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; . . . And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, different languages. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?" (1.Cor. 12:10, 28-31 KJV Para.).
In these verses, the English word miracles is translated from the Greek word dunamis, which means miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself).
Although there are many supernatural abilities the Father gives to individuals, the gift of miracles cannot be identified as one specific ability, such as the ability to heal people or to speak different languages.
In order to begin to understand why the Father gives this extremely powerful ability to some of his elect, it is important to review some of the biblical accounts that show individuals performing miracles, signs, and wonders before the advent of Christ.
This review of the ability to perform miracles, signs, and wonders begins with several accounts of individuals in ancient Israel who were authorized to use this power in the physical realm.
During Moses' encounter with the Creator at the burning bush, the Creator told him what he wanted him to do, but Moses protested and said that no one would believe him or pay attention to him. In answer to Moses, the Creator provided him with three visual demonstrations of miraculous power to prove to others that the Creator had indeed sent him:
1) Moses' staff turning into a snake and then to a staff, 2) his hand turning white and then to its normal color, and 3) his taking water from the river and turning it to blood after he poured it on the ground. See Ex.4:1-9.
In Exodus 4:8-9, the Creator identifies these supernatural demonstrations as owth which can mean (in the sense of appearing); a signal (literally or figuratively), as a flag, beacon, monument, omen, prodigy, and evidence. In the context of verses 8 and 9 the word owth means evidence.
"And the Lord said to Moses, When you return to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go" (Ex.4:21 KJV Para.).
In verse 21, the English word wonders is translated from the Hebrew word mowpheth, which has the sense of conspicuousness; a miracle; by implication, a token or omen.
The demonstration of these supernatural works before Pharaoh were meant to show him the power Moses possessed and that he was a messenger sent from the Creator God.
In verses 27-31, Aaron and Moses gather the Israelite elders, demonstrate these supernatural works to them, and the people believed what they told them:
"And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him. And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel: And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped" (Ex.4:27-31 KJV).
Although it was the Creator who brought all ten plagues on Egypt, it was through Moses that these plagues were initiated. Moses also opened the sea to allow Israel to cross over to the other side and then closed it to destroy the Egyptian army. He also held in his hands the rod, which symbolized the authority God had given him, to give Israel victory over Amalek. From what is recorded about Moses, it seems that he performed even more supernatural works than are recorded in the biblical record. See Deut.34:12.
Although there are several Hebrew words used to describe miracles, signs, and wonders, each of these Hebrew words are used at various times to emphasize that a specific supernatural event is evidence of the Creator's power being exercised by him or by one of his servants to benefit people, warn people to repent of sin and obey God, or punish the unrepentant.
The following are several of the miracles, signs, and wonders recorded in the biblical record that the prophets Elijah and Elisha performed at their discretion:
Controlled weather (1.Kgs.17:1; 18:41-45; Jms.5:17-18)
Created food (1.Kgs.17:8-16)
Resurrected the dead (1.Kgs.17:17-24)
Took men's life by fire (2.Kgs.1:1-12)
Created food (2.Kgs.4:1-7; 2.Kgs.4:42-44)
Caused childbirth (2.Kgs.4:11-17)
Healed leprosy through ritual (2.Kgs.5:1-14)
Cursed 42 very young men with death (2.Kgs.2:23-24)
Removed poison from food (2.Kgs.4:38-41)
Resurrected the dead (1.Kgs.4:18-36)
Turned a poison water spring into pure water (2.Kgs.2:19-22)
During Christ ministry, he performed many miracles, signs, and wonders as he went about proclaiming the Kingdom of God and his Father's message of salvation. Although many of the things Christ did through the awesome power he could use at his discretion were recorded, according to the apostle John, much of what he did was not recorded:
"And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book" (Jn.20:30 KJV).
"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" (Jn.21:25 KJV). See also Acts 2:21-24.
The following are several of the miracles, signs, and wonders that Christ performed during his ministry:
Changed water into wine (Jn.2:1-11)
Created money (Matt.17:25-27)
Created food for thousands (Matt.14:15-21; 15:32-38)
Healed the sick, the blind, and removed evil spirits (Lk.7:20-23)
Manipulated physical laws (Matt.8:23-27; 14:21-26)
Pronounced curses (Matt.21:18-20; Mk.11:12-14)
Resurrected the dead (Jn.11:39-44)
The Early Church
The New Testament record tells us little about what individuals did with the tremendous supernatural power they had been given in order to proclaim the gospel message, but it does record some of the things they did which were above and beyond healing people and removing evil spirits from them.
During the ministerial conference held in Jerusalem to discuss whether or not non-Israelite men should be circumcised, Barnabas and Paul were allowed to tell of their experiences with non-Israelites:
"Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them" (Acts 15:12 KJV).
We are not told what these miracles and wonders were that Barnabas and Paul related to the apostles and elders gathered at this conference; we are just told that this is what they did as they preached the gospel among the Gentiles.
Stephen was one of the seven men chosen to serve the widows. He was given the ability to perform supernatural works which were above and beyond the other gifts of the spirit which are mentioned by the apostle Paul:
"And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders, and miracles among the people" (Acts 6:8 KJV).
Perhaps Stephen also resurrected the dead just like Elijah, Elisha, Christ, Peter, and Paul, but we are not told exactly what he did with his supernatural ability. However, what he did brought much attention to him and the message of salvation he preached. This account of Stephen also shows that a man does not have to be an elder to receive the gift of miracles.
The Two Philips
There are two Philips mentioned in the Book of Acts—Philip the apostle and Philip the evangelist who was one of the seven chosen to serve the widows. Because only Philip the evangelist is clearly identified in the Book of Acts, it is not possible to know which one is being spoken of in all of the references to Philip. However, it is certain that both Philips were given supernatural abilities because of their functions and responsibilities to proclaim the gospel message and the Philip mentioned in Acts, chapter 8, had the ability to work miracles:
"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ to them. And the people with one accord gave heed to those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did" (Acts 8:5-6 KJV).
The English word miracles in verse 6 is translated from the Greek word semeion, which seems to mean something seen i.e., an indication of something:
"For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city" (Acts 8:7-8 KJV).
Verses 7 and 8 identify several of the supernatural works Philip performed as he went through the city preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Verses 9 through 13 show that many believed his message and even a famous sorcerer believed and followed Philip, watching him perform other supernatural works:
"Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw" (Acts 8:9-13 NIV).
The English word signs in verse 13 is translated from the Greek word semaino, which seems to mean a mark to indicate something. The English word miracles is translated from the Greek word dunamis, which means miraculous power (usually by implication, a miracle itself).
Although these scriptures do not say exactly what these miracles and signs were that Philip did, these supernatural works may not have been the ones mentioned in Acts 8:7-8, but something different which gave credibility to what he was saying about Christ and salvation.
Shortly after the beginning of the early church, Ananias and Sapphira, a married couple, dedicated all the money that they had received from a land sale to God. Because this money was dedicated to God, it was considered holy and it belonged to God. But, Ananias and Sapphira violated the law of holiness by first stealing a part of what they had dedicated to God, and then lying about the price of the land. Because of their violation of the law of holiness, they died through the apostle Peter's power to punish evil people.
After Ananias died and was carried away to be buried, about three hours later, his wife Sapphira came and Peter questioned her about the price of the land. She lied to Peter and also died.
"And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch" (Acts 5:11-12 KJV).
Although it is not recorded what these signs and wonders were, the context of verse 12 seems to indicate that they were performed in Solomon's porch on the temple grounds where people were allowed to gather.
Some might assume that the reference to the hands of the apostles is metaphorical and does not mean that the apostles used their hands in performing supernatural works. However, there are many accounts in the biblical record which show a hand or both hands used as instruments to exercise supernatural power in order to initiate and accomplish tangible results in the physical realm.
One or both hands are often used in the biblical record to visually symbolize an action or an event that is to occur; however, reference to the use of one or both hands is often more than just symbolism. There are many biblical accounts showing that supernatural power is exercised and projected into the physical realm though the hands.
Cursed With Blindness
Acts, chapter 13 contains the account of Paul and Barnabas on the island of Paphos being called by a public official to speak to him about God's truth. But, a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Elymas who was benefiting from his association with the official was trying to discourage him from listening to Paul and Barnabas, so Paul cursed him with blindness:
"O full of all subtlety and all mischief, you child of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is on you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. When the deputy saw what was done, believed, and was amazed at the doctrine of the Lord" (Acts 13:10-12 KJV Para.).
There seem to be two reasons for Paul blinding Elymas:
To warn Elymas to stop interfering with God's servants who were teaching his truth.
To convince the official that he and Barnabas were telling him the truth about Christ and salvation.
Paul and Barnabas in Iconium
After spending many days preaching the gospel at Perga in Pamphylia, Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium where they preached the gospel to both Jews and Greeks and performed supernatural works to prove they were sent from God and that their message was true:
"And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony to the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands" (Acts 14:1-3 KJV). See also 2.Cor.12:10-13.
Paul's Special Miracles
"And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought to the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12 KJV).
The English word special in verse 11 is translated from the Greek word tugchano, which in the context of verse 11, means to bring to pass.
The English word handkerchiefs in verse 12 is translated from the Greek word soudarion; a sudarium (of Latin origin), which means a sweat-cloth, i.e., a towel for wiping the perspiration from the face or binding the face of a corpse. The English word aprons is translated from the Greek word simikinthion (of Latin origin), which basically means a narrow covering.
The account of Paul healing the sick and casting out evil spirits through the use of a cloth or apron sent from him does not tell us if this method of healing was to be applied within or outside the congregations. However, if cloths were used within congregations, it seems logical that, whenever the aprons and cloths were sent, there was no elder available to cast out demons or perform the healing ritual as set forth by the apostle James. Otherwise, there would have been no need for these special miracles. Moreover, there is no mention of Paul anointing a cloth or apron with oil as some believe. What is clear is that this was a special authorization given to the apostle Paul.
Although not recorded in the biblical record, it is obvious that Paul would have also sent along instructions detailing what to do and say surrounding the use and disposal of the cloth. In the case of the removal of an evil spirit, it seems logical that Paul delegated authority to cast out evil spirits to the one who was to perform this task on his behalf through the use of the cloth or apron.
This account does not reveal whether or not the people who received healing or the removal of evil spirits were of the elect or not. However, we know that the holy spirit and evil spirits are not compatible; therefore, it would seem that the evil spirits were removed from individuals without the indwelling of the holy spirit. For a more detailed study of this subject get a copy of Survive and Thrive as a Follower of Christ, ISBN 978-0-9844608-6-1or visit www.bibleresearch.org.
We are given very little insight into the discretionary authority and power the Creator gave to individuals before he came to the earth as the Messiah. But, we are told that Jesus had unlimited authority and power to use at his discretion and that he authorized his twelve disciples and seventy other men with tremendous supernatural power in order for them to perform the responsibility he gave them to proclaim the Kingdom of God.
These men had the power to cast out evil spirits and heal the sick, and on one occasion when Jesus was not received into a Samaritan village, James and John asked for permission to command fire to come down from heaven to destroy the villagers. Jesus did not say that the brothers did not have the power to do this; he just kept them from doing it. See Lk.9:51-56.
Jesus' authority over the physical and spiritual existence was absolute. Nothing in the physical and spirit realms was beyond his ability to do if he wanted to do it. This is the same kind of authority and power that a person who has the ability to do miracles has.
Because Christ said that the elect would do greater works than he did (Jn.14:11-12) it is logical to assume that some, if not all, of the miracles, signs, and wonders that were authorized to be performed in the past will also be authorized for those to whom the Father gives the gift of miracles. The Sovereign God's power is absolute. When he gives the gift of miracles to an individual, that person has absolute authority to use that power at their discretion within the boundaries the Father has set.
Few people realize the awesome power the Father gave to the early church as a unified body and the discretion with which they were authorized to use this power. The gift of miracles helped to build the early church into a powerful and dynamic entity.
The Two Witnesses
The two men called the Two Witnesses in the Book of Revelation, chapter 11 play a pivotal role in fulfilling prophecies about the calling of humanity to repentance and the proclaiming of God the Father's good news message to the world. The scriptures show that these two men will be given tremendous authority and power from God the Father in order to accomplish their mission just before the first resurrection and the return of Jesus Christ to conquer the earth and establish the Kingdom of God. See Matt.24:14.
"And I will give to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lamp-stands [candlesticks] before the Lord of the earth" (Rev.11:3-4 Para.).
Their proclamation of the gospel as a witness and warning to the world will be accomplished over a period of 3½ years with unimaginable power, signs, and wonders:
"If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want" (Rev.11:5-6 NIV).
The English word devours in verse 5 is translated from the Greek word katesthio, which means to eat down, i.e., devour (literally or figuratively).
These men have the same ability as Elijah did to vaporize anyone who attempts to stop them from completing their ministry. They are also given the discretion to cause tremendous destruction on the earth in order to prove that what they say is from the Sovereign God.
It seems that these two men will have the kind of faith, authority, and power that Christ spoke of to his disciples:
"For truly I say to you, That whoever shall say to this mountain, You be removed, and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatever he says" (Mk.11:23 KJV Para.). See also Matt.17:20-21; 21:21.
"And the Lord said, If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this sycamine tree, You be pulled up by the root, and you be planted in the sea; and it will obey you" (Lk.17:6 KJV Para.).
These and other scriptures pertaining to the gift of miracles shows that this gift allows the recipient to resurrect the dead, create and destroy, control and manipulate the physical realm, all of which are done to do good works, proclaim the gospel message, and warn people of Christ's return to conquer the earth and establish the Kingdom of God.
By B.L. Cocherell b14w6