Snakes, gasoline and demons (Part 3)

Jesus said: “These signs shall follow them that believe” (Mark 16:17.) (Part 3)

This article is a continuing series; the preceding article can be found here.

Have you ever seen someone raised from the dead by the word of a prophet?
Have you ever witnessed someone drinking a sufficient amount of poison as would kill them, but with no effect?
Have you ever heard someone instantly speak fluently in a language with which they were previously unfamiliar?
Do you know of a person who goes to cancer clinics and pronounces patient’s cancer to be in full and instantaneous remission?

Chances are, your answer to the above questions is “No.” Yet, effectively, these kinds things happened in the early days of Christianity, and throughout biblical history:

• The blind received their sight – not through the marvel of modern technology, but instantly, simply because a prophet of God said so (Mark 10:46-52).

• The paralyzed walked – not through the latest in stem-cell research, but in a moment, by a word (Mark 2:1-12).

• Dead people were brought back to life – and not people who lost all visible signs of life and then inexplicably revived a few minutes or even hours later. People like Lazarus, whose body was in a tomb and had begun to stink from the biological processes of death acting upon it, were instantaneously restored to life again as if nothing had happened (John 11:1-44).

• People spoke in tongues – not in cockamamie gibberish that no one could understand, but instantly became fluent in known languages they had not previously studied (Acts 2:1-4).

There is a reason why you have never seen these things: they do not happen. Inexplicable things do happen here on this earth, but true, biblical miracles do not.

The miracle is rare
Miracles are, by definition, rare. If they happened as often as some say, they would cease to be miracles. They would become natural occurrences. Conception, gestation and childbirth are wonders, for sure. But childbirth is not a miracle. It is quite natural. Surviving an accident is a wonder. I once read a story of two brothers who were working in a metal-framed basket, washing windows on a skyscraper. The rigging gave way and the brothers fell many stories, killing one of them. The other brother survived without so much as a bruise. People called it a miracle. It wasn’t a miracle. Physics so aligned that the other brother remained in the basket, which became wedged as it fell, and gradually friction slowed the fall, until the basket practically created a roll cage around him. Freak occurrence? Yes. Miracle? No. What kind of divine intervention treats one brother like a fragile egg, and the other like a rag doll? It was an oddity, a tragedy, but not a miracle. When the investigation was complete, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation.

In reality, very few people have ever seen a genuine miracle. Consider the Old Testament. It is rife with miracles: the global flood (Genesis 6-9), the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:1-5), manna from heaven (Exodus 16:15), Joshua’s long day (Joshua 10:13), Elijah carried to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11-12), the miracle of the axe head (2 Kings 6:5-6), the slaying of the Assyrian encampment (2 Kings 19:35), etc.

However, while historically accurate, the Old Testament is still but an extremely filtered and concise view of that history. The miracles reported therein are but small blips on an otherwise massive radar of global events, spanning several thousand years.

Multiplied millions of people lived during those times in places all over the world.* Even, say, 1,000 miracles scattered throughout that history means that the average person never actually witnessed a miracle (though, there are around 300 flood legends on every developed continent, so most people of the ancient world at least knew of one miracle). Miracles are, essentially, a few scattered needles in the haystack.

Though there are miraculous interventions prior to Genesis 12, Most Old Testament miracles center around Abraham, and the nation (Israel) that descended from him. Men were capable of deducing God’s existence from the natural wonders around them, and were expected to do so (Romans 1:18-25), but most of them never witnessed an actual miracle.

The same can be said of the New Testament era (4 B.C.-A.D.96). There are miracles throughout the New Testament pages. It is filled with exciting, super-natural events, culminating in the miracle of all miracles: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Most of these center around the life of Jesus. There are about 40 recorded miracles of Jesus, though John indicates that he performed many more (John 20:30-31, 21:25).

Miracles continued at least through much of the first century, accompanying the apostles and prophets of the early church (as we indicated in previous articles in this series, cf. Mark 16:19-20). Still, this represents a meager sampling of people then living. And remember, even our Lord pointed out that physical signs and wonders were not the only – or even the greatest – testimony of God’s work (Luke 16:29-31).

From this point alone, it is reasonable to assume that miracles did not have to continue to the present age. But we are content to let the Bible answer this question for itself. Was it intended for miracles to continue throughout all ages? Are miracles still happening today? In our final article in this series, we will cite biblical evidence as to why miracles are not happening today.

*According to the group Population Reference Bureau, that number is about 100 billion, but those numbers are derived from several unproven/unprovable assumptions. For an interesting and Bible-based demographic study, search for Henry M. Morris’ “Babel and the World Population: Biblical Demography and Linguistics,” or this study from Apologetics Press’ Jeff Miller here.

Next article in this series here.

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Rick Kelley

I began preaching in Wallace, WV (2000-2002), and worked with the church in Proctor, WV (2002-2004). I graduated from the West Virginia School of Preaching (2004), served the church in Prestonsburg, KY as pulpit minister from 2004-2014, and am currently laboring with the Massillon, OH congregation (2014-present). Outside of biblical studies, I enjoy spending time with my much better half, Samantha, and our six children (Christian, Hannah, Noah, Emma, Evan & Leah). We have an equal parts sweet and goofy Golden Retriever (Max), a rather energetic Australian Shepherd (Mallie), and a very chill Goldendoodle (Moses).

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