Popular ministries today are built around public miracles. Huge crowds are drawn into gigantic stadiums where ministers sing, preach and pray. They invite the lame, the blind, the crippled, the infirm, the deaf and dumb on stage to be healed. Prayers are offered before TV cameras and victims of various diseases arise from wheelchairs, throw away their crutches, cast off their ailments and walk, jump and shout freely. Stage managers are careful to catch those who fall backwards, "slain in the spirit." Can you trust these miracles as proof of God's mighty hand at work? Are the lost being saved by these miracles? Are these mighty works verification of the later day rain of Holy Ghost power?
by Jerry Gentry
"There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one" (Acts 5:16).
The scene repeats itself over and over across the land and around the world. From Dayton to Dallas, from Sacramento to Tulsa, from Long Beach to Pensacola; from Bombay to Manila, Seoul to Buenos Aires, Capetown to Cairo, healing ministries flourish. Famous miracle healers fly into town, attract tens of thousands in live audiences, hold meetings, and broadcast their appearances to millions around the world by satellite TV. Believers weep with emotion as they witness the process and respond with generous donations.
Today, miracle ministries are the greatest show on earth. These draw greater crowds than Barnum and Bailey or Ringling Brothers ever thought of. The largest tent in the world, which holds 54,000 people, overflowed when audiences across Africa nearly ten times that size showed up. Sometimes half a million people&emdash;500,000 at a time&emdash;attend the outdoor miracle performances of German born South African faith healer Reinhard Bonnke.
Miracles have never been so popular as today. Miracle ministries, like the circus, attract sell out crowds, pack stadiums and ultimately bring millions of people together into mesmerizing worship services.
Miracles are big business. Benny Hinn, a protege of the late California faith healers Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson, is one modern purveyor of miraculous healings. He amasses record crowds for his "slain in the spirit" miracle healing campaigns. Constant mainstays on TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network, which now boasts a worldwide audience via satellite), both Bonnke and Hinn feature the gospel of miracles as their theological main course. The gospel they preach is summed up as: "Jesus saves and heals!" If Oral Roberts is the granddaddy of living faith healing preachers, Benny Hinn, born in Israel in 1953 to a Greek father and Armenian mother, is perhaps the greatest crowd puller in America today, among a plethora of third wave miracle making ministries.
Everybody loves miracles. Miracles appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike. Many people would just about die to witness a miracle. Miracle making preachers pull record audiences and donations by the millions of dollars with their personal appearances and satellite TV marketing techniques. These broadcasts tap the lucrative financial base of millions of affluent Western homes around the world. But are these miracles a genuine witness for Christ? Do they come from heaven? Are these miracles a fraud, a giant hoax? Believe it or not, the Bible gives the answers, which are not what you think. Many of these miracles are very real, but just how far can you trust them? How can you tell an effective looking but phoney miracle from a genuine miracle from God? The Bible answers these questions clearly.
It is true that when Jesus "called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease" (Mat. 10:1).
Jesus and his disciples "went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following (Mark 16:20). Concerning a man named Lazarus, dead for four days, his body already entombed and beginning to decay and stink, Jesus "cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go" (John 11:43-44).
On other occasions, Jesus and his disciples restored sight to the blind (John 9:6-7); cast out devils (Luke 8:27-39); made the lame to walk (Mat 9:1-9); cleansed lepers (Luke 7:22); even brought the dead back to life (Luke 8:49-56). After Jesus' death and resurrection, his apostles performed many mighty miracles (Act 3:1-10; Rom. 15:19; 2Cor. 12:12). Genuine miracles were used to confirm the word, the true gospel, and inspire believers, but never to convert the wicked.
Even with such evidence of mighty miracles performed by Jesus and his disciples, wicked men still refused to repent. Jesus' personal ministry confirmed: "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him" (John 12:37). True believers are warned against a certain kind of miracle maker "whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2Ths. 2:9). We are warned: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8).
Is this gospel of "Jesus saves and heals" the true gospel of Jesus Christ? Now there are true miracles, and there are "lying wonders." You, Christian, must discern the difference. If you fail to discern the message of the miracle making preacher, you will be deceived, as illustrated by the following story.
In the Bible there is a story about a rich man. He was a very, very rich man, who wants a miracle. He is a real person, not a fictitious character. Actually this rich man died, went to hell, and now looks for a miracle! He believes in miracles. He believes firmly in his own wicked heart that, by witnessing the miracle of one raised from the dead, people will surely repent and turn to God. He has bet his very soul on the hope for an eleventh hour miracle.
From the flames of hell, this formerly very, very rich man looks across the great gulf into Abraham's bosom, or paradise. Across this great gulf he sees a poor beggar named Lazarus, whom he has known previously during his life on earth. Lazarus, a poor repentant sinner, has also now died and has been taken into Abraham's bosom. The formerly very, very rich man gropes in hell in his soulish misery and torment, desiring Lazarus "that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue" (Luke 16:24).
Poor beggar Lazarus is having a good time now, resting in Abraham's bosom where "now he is comforted" (v. 25). Learn a lesson from the advice of a very, very rich, but lost, man, who wants a miracle. Learn the lesson of the lost man's plan for salvation. Learn this lesson well, and you will never be deceived by miracles, no matter how real they are, even "though one rose from the dead" (v. 31). Learn that a miracle is not what the world needs most. Learn that hearing, believing and obeying the word of God rates far above miracles!
Look again, this time in more detail, at the story of this formerly very, very rich man and poor repentant beggar Lazarus.
During his life on earth, this certain rich man "was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores" (Luke 16:20-21).
You see the picture clearly. You know various people in your own life who might parallel the rich man. You know some also who are, as Lazarus, poor as proverbial church mice! In the course of time both men die and their souls are carried to their respective resting places&emdash;Lazarus into Abraham's bosom, and the rich man into hell.
"And in hell he [the rich man] lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:23-24).
These ideas are more than a little scary to contemplate.
"But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented (v. 25).
"And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (v. 26).
This story thus far illustrates the great truth that "now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2Cor. 6:2), "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27).
You see, both the rich man and Lazarus, from their quite different perspectives now after death, know quite well that they have entered eternity. They have no further opportunity to make a decision for Christ, do good works, repent, or take any other action. Their souls are now conscious, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. Neither has full executive capabilities now. Their eternal destiny is now sealed forever.
Now, in hell, the wicked rich man prays:
"Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him [Lazarus] to my father's house. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment" (Luke 16:27-28).
A lost man's plan of salvation, as with this rich man, always demands a miracle, and your money. The lost man wants a witness sent from the dead. A lost man's plan requires a great miracle. In his own self deception, a lost man covets and demands a miracle. And only if he can personally witness some great miracle does he think men will repent and turn to God. However, you see, there is a reason that a lost man is lost. There is a reason he cannot be trusted. Because he has no fear of God, he will not repent, even in the face of a great miracle. Hear the full counsel of God on miracles, from the Word of God:
"Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (v. 29).
Let the lost men of the world hear the only true gospel, that is, the words of Moses and the prophets. What message did Moses bring to God's people? He brought the Ten Commandments, the Law of God. Now if people refuse to hear "Moses and the prophets"&emdash;the call to repentance and obedience of the law of God&emdash;they will not repent though they witness a great miracle!
"And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (v. 30-31).
Do you want to see a great miracle? Do you relish the idea of witnessing one having risen from the dead, which you think would frighten people into repentance? Would you give your money, even die for a miracle? Then think again! Learn to look not for a miracle, but learn to look to the Word of God. For if you will not hear the Word of God, then neither will you repent "though one rose from the dead."
The Bible issues a standing challenge to all Christians of our day. Christian, which will you believe and follow&emdash;miracles or the Word of God? The Bible says: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20).
Miracle workers who "speak not according to this word," do so "because there is no light in them." What is that missing "light?"
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Friend, though miracle workers "cast out devils? and in thy name [do] many wonderful works" (Mat. 7:22), even though they line their church walls with cast off crutches and wave abandoned wheel chairs high for all to see, even bring medical doctors to testify on their behalf, if they fail to preach the full gospel of God, that is, "to the law and to the testimony" "it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). Jesus Christ is not present in these miracles! Of these miracle workers Jesus says, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mat. 7:23).
Christian, neither should you be impressed with miracles absent the Word of God. Treat them as "lying wonders" and you will be safe. Moses cast down his rod and it became a serpent, a genuine miracle from God. Pharaoh's magicians then performed a phoney "lying wonder" by producing snakes with their rods too. Only Moses spoke the Word of God. Pharaoh's miracles were those of a lost man's plan, phoney miracles from the devil. Pharaoh's miracles could not save him from the Word of God, which he despised! Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea and not one magician's miracle could bring him back!
It is a sobering challenge, a serious choice, no trivial matter every Christian must decide. Which will it be, Christian, miracles or the Word of God? Think again before you pray for a great public miracle&emdash;the lost man's plan for salvation. Think again before you say, "Show me a miracle!" Just say, "No!" to the gospel of public miracles&emdash;"lying wonders"&emdash;when the preacher's message fails to declare the whole counsel of God. Instead, say, "Keep your public miracles, preacher! I'll take the Word of God, Moses and the prophets' "to the law and to the testimony." Say, "I'll take "the light of the world," Jesus Christ, and every Word of God, thank you!"