At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:10-14)
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. (Matthew 24:24-25)
The Lord Jesus warns us above that during the last days many false christs (literally, “anointed ones”) and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive even the elect. We believe that this prophecy is being fulfilled today—when some (not all) in the Church who claim to be specially “anointed” to minister to others might actually be false prophets who perform miraculous signs and wonders in the name of Jesus. Many in the Church might in fact be following these false prophets.
Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
For this reason many evangelicals are understandably wary of miracles and may even desire—whether consciously or not—to avoid them completely.
Near the end of the movie Jurassic World, the two protagonist boys and their young aunt are being pursued relentlessly by a Tyrannosaurus Rex bent on devouring them alive. Finally in hopeless desperation she screams, “what can we do?” The boys answer in unison, “MORE TEETH!!!” A sudden realization dawns upon the young aunt. She leaves the boys and dashes off, stopping in front of a gigantic enclosure where she orders the steel gates to be raised. The confused operator reluctantly opens the gates. Out lumbers a huge dinosaur even deadlier with more teeth to engage the Tyrannosaurus Rex and eventually kill it.
This is not the time for evangelicals to withdraw from our spiritual war against the dominion of darkness by postulating that God has withdrawn the miracles so evident in many accounts in the gospels and Acts—as in the teaching of cessationism. Some evangelicals simply avoid the area entirely, seeing that the area of the miraculous has been “hijacked” by certain extreme hyper-charismatic groups (aka “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”). Instead what we need, rather, is MORE TEETH.
The Lord Jesus never instructed his disciples to avoid the area of the miraculous. Rather, he gave them supernatural power and authority over diseases and demons and then sent them out to preach the gospel to the lost. With such awesome firepower superior to anything the servants of the enemy could summon, the disciples went forth in Acts and brought many souls into the kingdom of God.
Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city. 9 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, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
During these last days we are in the final chapter of Acts and must continue to proclaim the kingdom of God to gospel-resistant people groups who never heard the name of Jesus with overwhelmingly superior power and authority (“shock and awe”) in order to fulfill the Great Commission before the end.
But how can we discern between miracles from false anointed ones and those from God? The answer is sola scriptura—scripture alone. The miracles or practices must follow closely the pattern as recorded in New Testament Scripture. Specifically, they should be evaluated in terms of:
- the context in which they are seen or done,
- the exact manner in which they are done—is the miracle or practice actually recorded in the New Testament and if so does it follow the pattern in Scripture?—and
- the manifestation (if any) which accompanies the miracle or practice.
The pattern should not be based on a one-time mention in Scripture (like the use of handkerchiefs for miraculous healing in Acts 19:12), but rather recorded repeatedly in the New Testament. We should not major in what is minor in terms of its frequency in Scripture, but rather in that which seen over and over. Therefore we major in what is major.
Close examination reveals that the miraculous healings and the expulsion of demons in the gospels and Acts were primarily (but not exclusively) based on the use of power and authority over demons and diseases which Jesus entrusted to his disciples.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. …9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
- The context of the overwhelming majority of the miracles recorded in the gospels and in Acts is providing evidence to the lost that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. The ultimate purpose and result of the miracles were unbelievers receiving eternal life as they put their faith in Him. By contrast, clear-cut instances of the manifestation of the gift(s) of healing for ministering primarily to infirm believers according to 1 Corinthians 12:7, aside perhaps from Acts 5:15 involving Peter’s shadow, are not readily seen in Acts.
- The miracles were most often (although not always) performed by issuing authoritative commands or through the laying on of hands or through a combination of both actions together. As mentioned above, specific instances of the manifestation of the gift of healing are not clearly described in Acts.
- Generally few physical manifestations accompanied the miracles other than the sick person being actually healed (like a blind person seeing) or the demonized person actually set free from the demon which had been tormenting him or her. At times, a demonized person might be thrown to the ground as the tormenting demon was expelled (Luke 4:35). Generally, however, no strange physical manifestations were seen during miraculous healing or deliverance in the Biblical narratives..
If the miracle being evaluated satisfies at least two of these three criteria, then we can be fairly confident that it is a true miracle from God and not through a false anointed one or false prophet. If the miracle or practice does not satisfy any of the criteria, then it would behoove us to exercise “an abundance of caution.” As an example, the unusual practices of grave-sucking and waking up sleeping angels, taught by a California-based ministry well-known among some charismatic circles, are not at all seen in the New Testament.
Especially during these end times when night is clearly approaching and when no man can labor does the Church need powerful miracles to reach the gospel-resistant and fulfill the Great Commission. Our power in that realm must clearly exceed the power of the enemy who only seeks to deceive and destroy—just as in the ministry of Elijah at Mt. Carmel when he challenged and most dramatically defeated the prophets of the false god Baal.
Malachi 4:5 See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.
Today we are approaching “that great and dreadful day of the Lord.” The extraordinarily bold and powerful spirit which God gave Elijah is now being sent and restored to the servants of Jesus Christ to prepare God’s people for the Second Coming of the Messiah and to fulfill the Great Commission to all nations.
Revelation 11 speaks also of the two endtime witnesses who were given great authority and power before they were killed by the beast and after which they rose from the dead.
Revelation 11:3 And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” 5 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. 6 They have power to shut up the heavens 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.
Let us therefore not deny or shrink from ministering with the Lord’s power and authority during these last days. If we fear God and follow New Testament Scripture closely, we will not be in danger of becoming false anointed ones or false prophets. Rather we will need the Lord’s unmatched power and authority to preach the gospel effectively to those—like the Israelites during the time of the prophet Elijah—who have been blinded and walk in darkness.