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Is Physical Healing Included in The Atonement... Part II

Carol Brooks

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel to you other than what we preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8



Authenticating The Messiah and Announcing The Arrival of The Kingdom
We should not expect the momentous and remarkable events that took place at the arrival of Christ and His kingdom, to be duplicated in the centuries following

Establishing The Kingdom

Greater Works
What works was Jesus referring to?

Paul's Thorn In The Flesh

Is Sickness a Result of Sin?

The Less Spectacular Unrecognized Miracles

001orange  The Atonement
Physical Healing Is Included in The Atonement, But When Are our sins fully atoned for?


Authenticating The Messiah and Announcing The Arrival of The Kingdom

An overview of the Scriptures shows that as God's plans unfolds, different periods are characterized by different elements and emphases. The arrival of the Messiah and the establishing of the Kingdom was a time so pivotal and so momentous that the remarkable and extraordinary events that took place should not surprise us. Nor should we expect that these happenings would be duplicated in the centuries following. For example, although He is perfectly capable, does anyone expect God to go around parting seas, drowning entire armies, or bringing down plagues of locusts? They were miracles necessary at that time. (On a lighter note, the Australians might argue with the last one).

While one can hardly doubt that Jesus often healed people because He had immense compassion for the suffering, the miracles He performed served primarily to authenticate His message and mission - to show that He was indeed God's chosen Messiah. In fact, at the very outset of His ministry, Jesus opened the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue and began to read. Note it is uncertain whether the single sentence Luke attributed to our Lord's reading was all He read or whether they were just the heart of His message.

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  (Luke 4:18 ESV) See Footnote I

In any case, although Isaiah was writing of his own mission to the Jews, Jesus reinterpreted the passage as being a prophecy of His own mission. There is absolutely nothing unusual about this. Scripture is replete with typology - a "type" being one or more event or person that foreshadowed, pointed to, and culminated in one final and very important event (or person) called the antitype.  See Prophecy and Typology

Anyway, the point Jesus was making was that He was doing things that the prophets predicted would be done by the Messiah. This should have been unequivocal proof as to who He was. 

Some time after this initial 'announcement', Jesus 1) declared His miracles to be evidence he had come from God and 2) when John the Baptist sent men to ask Jesus if He was "the Coming One" or whether they were to look for another, Jesus' reply was simply to point them in the direction of the miraculous works He had done. 3) He also claimed that His supernatural works did not just prove who He was, but indicated the presence of the Kingdom,

    1. But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish--the very works that I do--testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. (John 5:36 NASB)

    2. And he answered them,"Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.  (Luke 7:22 ESV)

    3. "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 NASB)

Not only did Peter stress this point to the assembled throng on Pentecost, but John made it clear that some of the miracles were recorded so that people who did not see these signs and wonders for themselves, would believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

    Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- (Acts 2:22 NASB)

    Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31 NASB)

The miracles certainly caused many to believe. See John 2:23, 3:2, and 6:14.

Establishing The Kingdom
Jesus' arrival on earth heralded the advent of the Kingdom however, His time here was short. As Ephesians 2:20 tells us, while Jesus was the cornerstone, the foundations of the church were built on the prophets and apostles. (Ephesians 2:20)

The first apostles healed and performed other miracles to authenticate their ministry. Certainly it is clear from several passages of the New Testament that the working of miracles was distinctly, if not solely, a ministry of the apostles. In fact miracles were called the signs of an apostle

    At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. (Acts 5:12 NASB)

    God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, (Acts 19:11 NASB)

    The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. (2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB)

Look at it this way.. if everyone and his brother went around healing the sick and raising the dead, then there was absolutely nothing to distinguish Jesus and the apostles from anyone else. Instead as the author of Hebrews said.. the signs and wonders were evidence that He was bearing them witness that they were His messengers. 

    God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:4 NASB)

Which is why the modern church has not been given the ability to perform miracles on the scale of those that took place in Jesus' lifetime and in the first years of the church.

But want a minute! Didn't Jesus say we would do greater works that He did?

Greater Works
John 14:12 says

    "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. (John 14:12 NASB)

This passage has led to the assumption that the "greater works" Jesus spoke about refer to healing people of sickness and disease. But is this true?

The word "greater" can refer to either quantity or quality, or a combination thereof. However, in spite of all the hype to the contrary, we have not seen any increase in the number or quality of miracles after Jesus was resurrected. As far as we know, even the apostles did not perform a larger number or more spectacular miracles than Christ did. Jesus healed the sick and so did they. Raising the dead is arguably the ultimate supernatural miracle, but there is no record of the apostles raising more dead people than Jesus did.

And, it is glaringly obvious that not every sick person prayed for, even by the leaders of the Health-Wealth gospel, is healed. In fact, it would be accurate to say that regardless of grandiose claims to the contrary, most people prayed for today are not miraculously healed.

So, if Jesus was referring only to physical healing when He told the apostles that they would do "greater" works than He did, He was guilty of false prophesy. And since we can safely rule out that possibility, we have to face the fact that the word "greater" cannot refer to the miracles themselves.

So what then did Jesus mean?

The only accomplishment of the apostles that was "greater" than that of the Messiah was the sheer numbers that became believers through their preaching. Christ's ministry was confined to a relatively small geographical area and witnessed by few. On the other hand, the apostles brought took the Gospel to the Gentiles well beyond the boundaries of Judea. It was they who established the foundations of the church in all the earth.

Thus it seems pretty obvious that the word "greater" did not refer to miracles, but to the spreading of the Gospel.

Paul's Thorn In The Flesh
Besides which, we know that God does not intend everyone to be healed because Paul himself suffered from a condition which he prayed about, but was not healed - we certainly cannot accuse him of a lack of faith. Philippians 2:25-27 recounts the story of Epaphroditus who almost died but recovered without any help from Paul. Nor did Paul heal Timothy of what seemed to be recurring stomach problems, but suggested that he take some wine for his ailments.. which in those days was pretty much a 'medical' recommendation (1 Timothy 5:23).

Finally, if Paul, in the quote below, is referring to physical illness and , it provides conclusive evidence that God does not always heal faithful believers and, in fact, sometimes has a definite purpose for allowing the incapacity to continue.

    Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me - to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (Gk. astheneia)." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses (Gk. astheneia), so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NASB)

Some claim that the "thorn in the flesh" refers to oppression or persecution. However astheneia, used some 24 times in the New Testament literally means weakness - physical or moral.

    But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses (Gk. astheneia) . (Luke 5:15 NASB)

    And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness (Gk. astheneia) caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your sickness.(Gk. astheneia) " (Luke 13:11-12 NASB)

    In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness (Gk. astheneia)  for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; (Romans 8:26 NASB)

    So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness (Gk. astheneia)  it is raised in power; (1 Corinthians 15:42-43 NASB)

    No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments (Gk. astheneia)  (1 Timothy 5:23 NASB)

Is Sickness a Result of Sin?

Job is a prime Old Testament illustration that our calamities are not necessarily brought on by sin - not yet anyway. See The Wrath of God

Job was a wealthy man, described in the opening chapters of the book of Job as "blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. (Job 1:1, 2:3 ). However, Satan accused him of only serving God because he was so well off. To show Satan that he was wrong, God permitted him to destroy every aspect of Job's once comfortable life.

Although his three friends could not figure out why Job would be afflicted in such a way if he had not sinned, Job steadfastly maintained that he had done nothing to warrant his misfortune and sickness. His later repentance was not related to sin but to not understanding how powerful, holy, and exalted God really was.

On one occasion, some of the crowd told Jesus that Pilate had worshippers killed while they were offering sacrifices at the temple.

    Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5 NASB)

Then, as now, people probably felt that the victims had to have been really bad sinners to have suffered and died as they did. Jesus not only soundly refuted this idea, but warned His listeners that unless they repented, they too would perish in the same way. He then reinforced His point with the example of an accident in which 18 people were killed when the tower in Siloam collapsed on them, saying that those that perished in this tragedy were no worse culprits than all other men in Jerusalem.

In John 9:1-7, Jesus again discredits the idea that there is an automatic connection between suffering and the morality

    Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. "We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. (John 9:3-7 NASB)

Although some may understandably feel that allowing the man to be born blind in order "that the works of God should be made manifest in him" was a cruel thing to so, we have to bear in mind that it may have been this miracle that caused the man (and who knows how many others who witnessed the miracle) to become a believer. He may have traded some years of blindness for an eternity of perfect vision.

Again in his instructions to the church regarding sick people, James reinforced Jesus' teaching that sicknesses are not always the result of sin.

    Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15 NASB)

The Less Spectacular Unrecognized Miracles
It seems that all too many of us are focused on miraculous instantaneous healing, and if someone isn't healed before our very eyes we don't think God has done anything. But there are a variety of ways God heals and a variety of types of healing as pointed out in a message preached by Nadine E. Ridley at Christ The King Lutheran Church, in Vestal, NY.

She brought up the case of Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria. This reputedly "great" and "honorable" man was also a leper. Hearing that there was a prophet in Samaria who could heal him, he made the trip to Israel.

To cut a long story short Elisha didn't even meet Naaman, but sent a messenger to tell him to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times, and his flesh would become clean. Certainly very simple instructions. However this was not what Naaman was expecting and he was far from pleased.

He wanted to be cured, but his way.

And as the story goes.. "he turned and went away in a rage".

The problem was he still had leprosy. 

Luckily for him, he had servants who, probably putting their jobs on the line, persuaded him to do as Elisha instructed. Naaman finally dipped himself in the Jordan seven times and was made whole. As Ms. Ridley says (All Emphasis Added)

    Were an awful lot like Naaman in so many different ways. We ask God to bring us healing, but then we try to direct God's hand, to make sure God does things our way. We ask God to bring healing into our lives or others, but when God asks for participation, when God asks us to make changes in our lives, we stomp away, all huffy and out of sorts because that's not the kind of healing we want or were expecting. We don't expect healing to happen because of some change that we make in our lives, but we expect it to happen because of some miraculous snap of Gods fingers, some magic touch, some spiritual intervention.

    I'm not saying that kind of healing doesn't happen. But if you look at the story of Naaman, you realize that Naaman had to be willing to take some action. Naaman had to be willing to do what was asked of him. Naaman had to be obedient for healing to occur.

She goes on to say...

    Healing requires us to be open to the whole assortment of ways God works in the world and God works in our lives. We have to be open to not only the big miracles, but to the small changes that occur the changes in attitude that make us feel better or see the world differently, the feeling of hope when there was only despair, the call of a friend who lends support when we feel alone, a kind word, a gentle touch, a change in medication, a visit, a shared story, a note, a card, a prayer, a whispered word of encouragement. [01]

Finally, Physical Healing Is Included in The Atonement, But...
If I have given you - the reader, the impression that physical healing is not included in the atonement, I apologize.  In reality there an unshakable watertight, unassailable connection between physical and spiritual healing. Note what Paul says at the very end of his epistle to the Thessalonians.

    Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely (Gr. holokleros); and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete (Gr. holokleros), without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NASB)

The Greek word holokleros come from holos - whole, complete or all. In other words, the entire person, spirit, soul, and body is preserved by God. However the error is in assuming that God makes you whole in the here and now.

Read the verse again.

    Paul said "may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". He reiterated the point when he added that God is faithful and "will (future) bring it to pass".

Every Christian I know of assumes that the atonement has already taken place. If asked, they will give you a wide variety of answers to the question of when a person is fully and finally saved.

Some will tell you that God's elect were saved in the dim mists of God's eternity. Others that a person is saved when he prays the sinners prayer, when he is baptized, or when he joins a church. Yet others will say that salvation comes when the person has received the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues, or been born again. Perhaps the most popular answer is they are saved when they make a sincere confession of faith in Jesus ...when they "call upon the name of the Lord". (Romans 10:13)

See Baptism   and    Tongues and The Second Blessing

However, those who are actually interested in what the Bible says on the subject - and who are actually paying close attention to the words the apostles chose to use will run across some extremely confusing statements. Statements that seem to flatly contradict each other.

For example, the New Testament sometimes says that salvation is an accomplished reality (past), is an ongoing process (present continuous), and even that it has yet to happen (future). Also note that this seeming contradiction is not limited to salvation alone. It also occurs with bewildering regularity in statements about other crucially important topics - justification, redemption, glorification, and adoption.

There are many, many of these contradictory statements listed in the article linked below. However, here is one example.

Past: Ephesians 2:8-9 states that Christians have already been saved

    For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB)

Present: But 1 Corinthians 1:18 says the process is ongoing

    For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB)

      (Note: The KJV has this verse as "to us who are saved". However Young's literal translation and many others translate this verse as "to us who are being saved ", because it reflects a greater degree of accuracy and faithfulness to the Greek, which has both perishing and saved in present tense, continuous action verbs. Vincent's Word Studies also says the Greek reads "being saved: in process of salvation").

Future: While Matthew 10:22 and Romans 13:11 both say it is still in the future

    You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Matthew 10:22 NASB)

    Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. (Romans 13:11 NASB)

So my question is - how can anyone who claims to believe everything the Bible says flatly ignore verses that say we are being saved or yet to be saved and come to the conclusion that our sins have already been atoned for, i.e. we are already completely saved?

And since it is impossible that Jesus' hand-picked messengers didn't realize or understand what tenses they were using, there is only one possible answer to the conundrum - all three tenses are correct. See The Two Phase Atonement

Footnote I
Isaiah said nothing about sight being restored to the blind in chapter 61. However he he did say the Messiah would do so in the following verses.

    Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you." Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. (Isaiah 35:4-6 NASB)

    "I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. (Isaiah 42:6-7 NASB)

On the other hand, the clause, "recovering of sight to the blind" in Luke 4:18, matches the clause, "recovery of sight to the blind" in Isaiah 61:1 in the Septuagint or LXX. The Masoretic text does not explicitly mention the "blind."

However, if Jesus quoted from the Septuagint, then one has to wonder where He got the extra words "To set at liberty them that are bruised" which are not found in the LXX, but bear some resemblance to the clause "the opening of the prison to them that are bound" found in the Hebrew (Masoretic text).

See more about this on THIS page - under the heading Did the New Testament authors usually quote the Septuagint?


End Notes
[01] Does God Heal Today?. A Sermon Preached by Nadine E. Ridley at Christ The King Lutheran Church, Vestal, NY. The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost. August 6, 2006. http://www.ctkmedia.biz/group_55/S3BZUX6MFP2VGZER4QRBBVQNQYK2PS79/06-08-06.ner.pdf


Part I of Healing In The Atonement