For the past three weeks we have been looking at the subject of Preterism and Spiritual Gifts. Preterism is an eschatological view which sees the second coming of Christ as a past event that happened in the year AD 70 and was a judgment and removal of the Old Covenant system (heaven and earth), and it established fully the kingdom, the New Covenant (New heavens and earth). Yeshua came soon, quickly, shortly, to that generation, while some of them were still alive, in the first century, just as He said He would. There is NO mention anywhere in Scripture of a "third" coming.
I have defined a spiritual gift as "a God-given capacity through which the Holy Spirit supernaturally ministers to the body of Christ." I get this from what Paul says about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV
A spiritual gift is a manifestation of the spirit. It is not your normal, natural abilities; it is a supernatural function.
It is my belief that when the Old Covenant ended so did the spiritual gifts. During the Transition Period, the second exodus, which ran from Pentecost to AD 70, the Church grew from infancy to maturity. Yahweh worked in the growing Church through miraculous gifts and spoke to His prophets to bring His Church to maturity. A spiritual house was being built in which Yahweh would dwell. Just as the miraculous stopped at the end of the first exodus, it also stopped at the end of the second exodus in AD 70.
I am well aware that even some preterists disagree with me on the ending of the gifts, but I am getting my view from exegesis and not experience. The Scriptures teach that when the perfect arrived, the gifts ended. In our second study, we looked at the gift of prophecy and saw that the Scriptures said it would end at the destruction of the Jewish Temple. Then last week we looked at the gift of tongues and saw that it was to end when the perfect came.
This morning I want us to look at the gift of miracles and what the Scripture has to say about them.
to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:10 ESV
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28 ESV
These gifts appear only in this list in 1 Corinthians. In the other lists, there is no mention of these gifts. 1 Corinthians is one of the earliest books written.
In 1 Corinthians 12:10 the text reads, "to another the working of miracles"— the Greek word used here for miracle is dunamis, which means power or inherent ability. It is used of works of a supernatural origin and character such as could not be produced by natural agents and means. The Greek word here for working is energo which means to work in, to be active, or operative. Verse six uses this word in connection with the work of God, and verse eleven uses it in the working of the Holy Spirit working in the gifts. When put together, dunamis and energo describe the gift as the active operation of the power of God in an individual's life, giving inherent ability to perform supernatural works.
We find two other words in Scripture used for miracle. One word is "sign" from the Greek word semeion. Semeion is used as a token and indication of the near presence and working of God. They are signs and pledges of something beyond themselves.
Another word used for miracles is the Greek word tera, often translated "wonder." It is used to indicate the astonishment which the work produces upon those who witness it. All three of these words are used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. 2 Corinthians 12:12 ESV
Signs is semeion and wonders is tera and mighty is dunamis. They are characterized as the signs of an apostle. Acts 2 uses all three words in connection with Christ,
"Men of Israel, hear these words: Yeshua of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— Acts 2:22 ESV
How did Yeshua do these miracles? Did Yeshua have the gift of miracles? Yeshua performed these miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, not from His deity. As a man, Christ laid aside the voluntary use of the divine attributes, He laid aside the prerogatives of His deity. From His own will, Yeshua did not use His attributes to benefit Himself. They were not surrendered, but voluntarily restricted in keeping with the Father's plan. Christ gave up any independent exercise of certain divine attributes in living among men with their human limitations in order that He might become truly man. Dependence is a necessary characteristic of real humanity. Christ lived in dependence upon the Holy Spirit in all that He did.
These three terms are used of Christ and the apostles during the introduction of Christianity to the first century. A miracle can be described by each or all three of these words.
Let's define what the Bible means by a miracle. We use that word quite casually today. A wife might say, "We had a miracle at our house. My husband got up from his La-Z-Boy recliner and helped me with the dishes." That might be out of the ordinary, but it isn't a miracle. Some of you wives might argue with me because as far as you're concerned it would take a supernatural act of God to get that to happen. Men, if your wife feels that way you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
A miracle is a supernatural intrusion into the natural law which can have no other explanation than that God is acting.
In Elmer Bendiner's book, "The Fall of Fortresses," he describes one bombing run over the German city of Kassel:
Our B-17 ("The Tondelayo") was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a twenty-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief said that not just one shell but eleven had been found in the gas tanks—eleven unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. Even after thirty-five years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn. He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless. Empty? Not all of them. One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually, they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling. Translated, the note read: "This is all we can do for you now."
There was no intrusion into the natural law here. Circumstances can accommodate many things, but a miracle can only be attributed to God. Now I believe in miracles. I am one. I have received the miracle of the new birth. The new birth is a supernatural act of God; it is a miracle.
The 10 plagues that Yahweh brought upon Egypt were all miracles. As was the dividing of the Red Sea, the provision of manna, and quail, the entrance into Jericho, the sun standing still in the sky, the fire falling from heaven to consume the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel. Let's look at a miracle.
But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, "Alas, my master! It was borrowed." Then the man of God said, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. And he said, "Take it up." So he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:5-7 ESV
This is a miracle, the natural law of density and buoyancy were suspended, and an iron ax head floated. The word "borrowed" is the Hebrew word shaw-ale' which is better translated, begged. The prophet's pupil had begged the axe because in his poverty he could not afford to buy one. This is why the loss was so painful to him. The majority of miracles recorded in the Bible were acts of mercy and compassion.
Some say that this was not a miracle because, "Elisha struck the eye of the axe with the long stick which he thrust into the river, so that the iron was lifted by the wood." If you think about it, that would be an amazing feat.
We see many miracles in the life of Christ. Turning water into wine, walking on the water, stilling the storm, feeding the five thousand, and supplying tax money from the mouth of a fish, teleporting a boat to the shore. These are miracles. They are supernatural intrusions into the natural laws.
In the strict sense, miracles are to be differentiated from healing. Healings are miracles, but not all miracles are healings. In our first message on Preterism and Spiritual Gifts, we said miracles are not indiscriminately strewn over every page of Scripture. There are large periods of history that are without record of miracles. We find miracles grouped into three great periods of history—Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and the apostles. There are gaps in between these periods of hundreds of years where we see no miracles.
What is the purpose of miracles in the Bible?
The introduction of a new revelation brought the need of miracles to authenticate the message and the messengers. Miracles were the testimony of God that those bringing in the new revelations were indeed His official representatives.
Yeshua did three types of miracles: (1) miracles of healing, which would include raising the dead. (2) miracles of nature such as calming the sea, creating fish and loaves, causing fish to go into Peter's net, walking on the water, teleporting a boat full of people, etc. The Gospels are full of them. They were signs pointing to the reality of Yeshua's constant claim to be God. (3) miracles of casting out demons.
The apostles only had the ability to do two types of miracles: Healing, including raising the dead and casting out demons. As far as miracles related to nature, apart from Peter walking on the water at Christs' call, there is no indication in the New Testament that anyone did them other than Yeshua. Since healing and the raising of the dead fall under the gift of healing and since they did no miracles of nature, it seems to me that the gift of miracles was primarily the supernatural ability to cast out demons. It is the gift of power over the forces of evil.
I said earlier that the Greek word for miracles is dunamis. Dunamis is the same word that is translated as "power" throughout the gospels. Dunamis or power appears as the point at which Yeshua defeated Satan again and again. Whenever Christ spoke the word, the demons were forced to obey Him.
And they were all amazed and said to one another, "What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!" Luke 4:36 ESV
"Unclean," is from the Greek word akathartos, which, in this sense, refers to evil. This was an evil spirit or demon.
As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, "Never was anything like this seen in Israel." But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the prince of demons." Matthew 9:32-34 ESV
Demon comes from the Greek daimonion, which, according to Thayer, means "a divine power, deity, divinity."
Before we go on, we need to park here for a minute and try to get an understanding on what a demon or evil spirit is. What is a demon? Where does it come from?
Many theologians and Bible experts have traditionally taught that demons are simply fallen angels. The Bible never offers a point-blank explanation for where demons come from. But Jewish texts in between the Testaments actually have a very clear answer as to where demons come from. They are the disembodied spirits of the dead Nephilim from Genesis 6:1-4.
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. Genesis 6:1-4 ESV
The "Sons of God," also called "Watchers," of verses 2 and 4 are rebellious divine beings from God's heavenly host who have taken the form of masculine human-like creatures. These gods married women of the human race (either Cainites or Sethites), thus violating the heavenly/earthly division that Yahweh established. The hybrid offspring of this abominable union were the giants called Nephilim. They had physical superiority, and therefore, established themselves as "men of renown" because of their power and military might. The meaning of the biblical word Nephilim has been a matter of unending controversy in Church history. That the word is still not translated into an English-defined word but transliterated in most Bible translations is evidence of the fact that no agreement can be made over its original meaning. While word studies have produced numerous suggestions for the meaning of this term, the biblical definition comes from its only other biblical source in Numbers 13.
And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them." Numbers 13:33 ESV
"We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them." This gives me the impression that the Nephilim were a race of giant super-humans who are the product of this divine invasion of the earth.
The two passages quoted above are the only two places in the Bible where the Hebrew word Nephilim is used. What would surprise some Bible readers is that these are not the only places where the Nephilim are talked about in Scripture. Nephilim has a theological thread that begins in Genesis 6 and goes through all the way to the New Testament.
So, what does the Hebrew word Nephilim mean? Some scholars looking at the root word claim that it means "fallen ones" because the Hebrew means "to fall." But there is a problem, and that is that the Septuagint (LXX), which is sometimes quoted by the New Testament authors as authoritative, translates this word as "giants." Did those ancient Hellenized Jews not know the true meaning of the word? Or did they know something we don't? Most all the ancient Jewish sources understood this term to mean "giant." There are also some Second Temple Jewish texts that tell us that these were giants.
Jubilees 5:1 And when the children of men began to multiply on the surface of the earth and daughters were born to them, that the angels of the Lord saw that they were good to look at. And they took wives for themselves from all of those whom they chose. And they bore children for them; and they were the giants.
Enoch says the flood was sent because of the Watchers. The consensual, sexual transgressions of the women with the Watchers was a violation of heaven and earth, which caused the humans to share the blame. The wickedness of men was their sexual union with the Watchers.
The Nephilim (they are also called the Rephaim in the Tanakh) were already in the land when Abraham came to the promised land. They represent an attempt on the part of demonic powers to derail the divine program of bringing a Redeemer into the world through the human race.
So, demons are second-generation divine beings. First Enoch says:
And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. (Enoch 15:8-10)
These spirits that were once in bodily form in the Nephilim are once again seeking human hosts to reside in. These demons wreak havoc on the earth.
And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless hunger and thirst, and cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them. And at the death of the giants, spirits will go out and shall destroy without incurring judgment. (Enoch 15:11-16:1)
What we need to understand is that this Second Temple Literature is the context of the New Testament. All the biblical writers were familiar with and influenced by Second Temple literature. The context of the Bible involves the people who produced it. When we read the New Testament, we must perceive and consider it like a first-century Jew would have. We must have their supernatural worldview in our heads.
Now that we know what demons are, let's continue to look at Christ's power over them.
And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. Luke 6:17-19 ESV
We continually find Yeshua casting out demons by His power.
I believe that the gift of miracles or power was primarily the supernatural and instantaneous ability to cast out demons, although I would not limit it to that.
Yeshua entrusted this same power to His disciples as they went out on their mission for Him. We see the disciples using the gift of power on certain occasions but, by and far, the apostles used this gift to defeat Satan by casting out demons.
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Matthew 10:8 ESV
The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. Acts 5:16 ESV
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So, there was much joy in that city. Acts 8:5-8 ESV
The main thrust of the gift of miracles seems to be the casting out of demons.
As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. Acts 16:16 ESV
This woman has what Luke calls a "spirit of divination." The literal Greek reads "She had a spirit, a python." That's the same term as a python snake. This referred to the legendary snake in Greek mythology that guarded the Delphic Oracle in Central Greece. Apollo supposedly killed this snake, and the snake's spirit dwelt in the priestess there. So, a "python spirit" referred to a spirit that enabled someone to predict the future. Such people generally spoke with the mouth closed, uttering words completely out of their control and were known as "ventriloquists."
And when they say to you, "Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter," should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? Isaiah 8:19 ESV
In the Septuagint (LXX), the words "chirp and mutter" come from the Greek word eggastrimuthus, which means ventriloquist. The term "python" then became synonymous with ventriloquist. Ventriloquists were called pythons.
The word "fortune-telling" at the end of the verse comes from the root word which means frenzy. These fortune tellers would almost go into a fit, and in this frenzy, they would become totally distorted.
This girl, then, was one of the thousands of priestesses from Delphi who were called pythons because they were plugged into Apollo. She was seen as having contact with the gods and as being able to foresee the future. It seems that the slave girl could really see into the future, and so her owners earned money from her. But the power came from an evil spirit. This girl was possessed by a demon.
She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation." And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Yeshua the Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour. Acts 16:17-18 ESV
The spirit within her knew of Paul and announced through her who he was and what he was doing. Paul's response was the same as the response which Yeshua made to the possessed man in the synagogue at Capernaum.
"And it came out that very hour"—this demon obeys the words of Paul. Here Luke is demonstrating Paul's authority over the fallen spirit world. What we have here is Paul exercising the gift of miracles, defeating the python spirit, and revealing that Yeshua was more powerful than Apollo. I see here a picture of Yahweh crushing the serpent's head.
If the gift of miracles was the supernatural ability to cast our demons and to have power over the evil spirits and if all the gifts ended in AD 70, then demonic possession must have also ended at that time. Did Yahweh remove the gift of miracles and leave us to deal with evil spirits in our own power?
Do we still need the gift of miracles to deal with demons today? We need to understand that most of the New Testament references to demon possession appear in the Gospels and represent the outburst of satanic opposition to God's work in Christ. We have no reference to demon possession after the book of Acts, and we don't have much reference to it in the latter half of the book of Acts. We have no reference whatsoever to demon possession in the Epistles. Not in any of them. We have no reference in the Tanakh to demon possession either.
Demon possession seems to be something that happened only during the time of Christ and the transition period for the purpose of manifesting the power of Christ over the demon world.
What does the New Testament teach about dealing with demons today? Nothing! Does it tell us to find the person with the gift of miracles? No! Are we told to plead the blood? No! Don't reduce Christianity to a bunch of hocus pocus. The New Testament teaches very clearly that the devil and his demons have been defeated and destroyed by Christ.
We see from the teaching of the Gospels that the demons are to be destroyed.
And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Matthew 8:28-29 ESV
The demons understood the mission of Yeshua. It was to utterly destroy them. Notice the final words in this verse—"before the time." This is presumably the time of judgment at the consummation of the ages. The destruction of Satan and demons was prophesied from the beginning.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15 ESV
This verse is often called the protoevangelium (literally, "first gospel") because it is the Bible's first prediction of a Savior. This is the "mother prophecy" of all of the prophecies in the Bible. This is a prophecy of Christ overcoming Satan. But notice that Christ will suffer in this conflict. The serpent will "bruise his heel." A snake bite can be painful and/or it can be deadly. In the case of Christ, it was deadly. Christ suffered in this conflict in that He was crucified. But then He rose from the dead. The serpent was destroyed with a mortal wound ("he shall bruise your head").
One of the aspects of Christ's earthly mission was to destroy the devil.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14 ESV
The Greek word for "destroy" is katargeo which means "to be entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.: abolish, cease, destroy, do away, make of no effect, bring to nought." Was Christ a failure in this mission? Most Christians act as though He was because they're still worried about the devil. I think we want him to still be around so that we have someone to blame for our sin.
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 ESV
The Greek word for "destroy" is luo which means "to loose, destroy, dissolve, put off." Christ is said to have destroyed the devil and his works. When did this judgment of the gods take place? The Psalmist and Paul connect it to the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, Ephesians 1:20-22 ESV
Christ has had "all things put under His feet." This is Christ's dominion—His managerial ruling of all things. Peter also speaks of the preeminence of Yeshua over all heavenly beings.
who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:22 ESV
Yeshua arose from the grave and ascended into heaven. He judged these gods.
Now, I'm sure that you are thinking that if the gods were judged by Yeshua in his resurrection and ascension, why does Paul say the following to the Ephesians thirty years after the resurrection and ascension:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV
Paul, therefore, tells the Ephesian believers round AD 60 that they are in a spiritual battle with divine beings. But if the gods were judged by Yeshua in his resurrection and ascension, why are believes still in a spiritual battle with them 30 years later?
The victory of Christ over the gods was won at Calvary, but it was not consummated until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Notice what Matthew writes.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 ESV
The "the stars" and "the powers of the heavens" are the same spiritual "cosmic powers" and "spiritual forces of evil" that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:12. We know that this is speaking of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem. What began at Pentecost was completed in the holocaust of the AD 70 judgment on Jerusalem.
In Hebrews 2:5, the author indirectly establishes the rulership of their world by powerful angelic beings (prior to AD 70).
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. Hebrews 2:5 ESV
By saying that God will not subject the "world to come" to the rule of angels, the author implies that their current world was being ruled by spirit entities. But that world ended in AD 70, and we now live in the "age to come." Satan and his demons have been defeated.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Christ be with you. Romans 16:20 ESV
Satan, the Roman heavenly spirit ruler, was destroyed, the battle is over.
and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 ESV
The battle is over; Christ is victorious. Those gods who rebelled against Yahweh have been judged.
Since Satan and his demons were destroyed at the end of the age, why would there be any need for the gift of miracles? These gifts were important in the New Testament times. The apostles and disciples used them to cast out demons. I believe that the Bible teaches that these spiritual gifts ended at AD 70.
We could also summarize it this way: Since all the gifts ended in AD 70, it makes sense that so did the spiritual war. The gods and demons were judged and destroyed.
The main thrust of the gift of miracles seems to be the casting out of demons. The gift of miracles or power was a temporary sign gift. It was primarily the power to deal with the demonic world. It was a sign used to confirm the truth of God's messengers until the New Testament was finished and the Body matured.