Previous article in this series: September 1, 2015, p. 467.
The Spirit of God spoke through men that He inspired, and the Scriptures are the one and only infallibly inspired record of what the Spirit has said. God has warned about the severe judgment that will come upon anyone who adds to that Word or subtracts from it. Many who hate what God says have taken no heed to His warning. In a variety of ways they have attempted to corrupt the Word of God by adding to it and subtracting from it as they see fit. Yet those who love the Lord cling to what He says, without adding or subtracting anything, and experience joy as they grow closer to God by the power of His Spirit. Such is what we have considered thus far.
Now we proceed to consider the signs and wonders that were performed by some of the men through whom the Spirit of God spoke. What was the purpose of God with these signs? Are such signs still being performed by some people today? In this article we consider the purpose and the ceasing of them. In the next one, Lord willing, we will consider the lying signs and wonders done by false prophets of the past and still today.
Miracles Confirmed the Word of God’s Messenger
When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush and gave him a message to bring to the Israelites, Moses responded and said that the Israelites would not believe that God had appeared to him: “And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee” (). It was at that point that God gave Moses some miraculous signs to perform that would prove to the Israelites that God had spoken to him:
And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee ().
The signs would prove that God had sent Moses. The same is true of the signs that our Lord performed while He was on earth. Those signs showed that Christ was approved of God, and that God was the One who was working through Him to do and to teach what He did:
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know… ().
Then Christ sent out His apostles and continued His work through them. That which these men had learned from Christ, they now went out and preached to the nations. Christ also worked in and through them to perform miracles, which were signs that served to confirm that Christ was the One who was continuing to teach the people through the apostles. “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” ().
The Ceasing of “Signs of an Apostle”
It is important to note that New Testament miracles are referred to as “signs of an apostle.” “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (). In the book of Acts we find repeated reference to the fact that miracles were being performed by apostles ( ; ).
There is a key passage in Hebrews 2 that explains why it was the apostles specifically who were performing them. The apostles had been taught and sent by Christ Himself, and they were preaching the word that they had heard from Him:
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? ().
After our Lord ascended, He continued to perform miracles for a time by the hands of the apostles whom He had taught and sent. Once those apostles were no longer on earth, the time of such miracles was over.
There is a reason why miracles ended with Christ and the apostles who had heard Him. It served to indicate that Christ was the great Prophet that God had promised, and that after Him there would be no more prophets bringing additional revelation. It is true that there was a brief period of time when additional revelation was being proclaimed by apostles and prophets, but that was only during the time that the apostles were still on earth. For a time Christ continued making known new revelation through these messengers. But once those who heard Christ were in heavenly glory, that period of revelation came to an end.
Miracles served an important purpose in the days when the Scriptures were being written. It was a time in which God was adding to what He had revealed before, and the miracles served to confirm that this new revelation was from God. Now that the Scriptures have been completed and the apostles are no longer here with us, those miraculous signs have ceased.
The church continuing to profit from the miracles
Though the day of additional revelation and of miracles has come to an end, the church today continues to profit from the miracles that were performed in the past. We do not have to see a miracle with the eyes of the body to benefit from it. We profit when we believe what Scripture says about the miracles, and consider what they illustrate.
The miracles that Christ and the apostles and prophets performed were visible, symbolic illustrations of the message they were preaching. For example, Christ preached that He is the Bread of life, and then He fed the five thousand, which served to illustrate this. He said that He was the Light of the world, and then He demonstrated what He was talking about by healing a man who was born blind. He proclaimed Himself to be the Resurrection and the Life, and then He gave the people a symbolic example by raising Lazarus who had been dead for four days.
Recognizing this relationship between the message and the miracle is of great importance. When reading in Scripture about a miracle, one who understands this relationship will stop to consider how that specific miracle went with the specific message that was being preached at that time. Considering the message and the miracle together, we grow to see even more so how the miracles done in the past greatly benefit us still today.