“That Which Is Perfect”: Have Miracles Ceased?

tongues.jpgAnd so, does this mean that tongues and other miraculous manifestations are with us today? Well, it’s not the purpose of these posts to answer all the questions–largely because I don’ t have all the answers.

I have no reason to doubt the reality of miraculous manifestations of God’s love among his people. God is certainly capable of doing whatever miracles suit him, and I wouldn’t presume to tell God what he needs to be doing with his powers.

Nonetheless, I am skeptical of many claims, as so much of what passes for God’s work is doctrinally flawed or even exploitative. Too many faith healers have been proved to be charlatans and too many have been told they can’t speak in tongues because of their immaturity for me to accept all claims at face value.

But neither am I ready to deny all the testimony good people who’ve seen God work outside the bounds of nature just because some claims are false. God can do miracles and I know of no reason why he shouldn’t. (In fact, if anyone knows a good healer, I could use one!)

Finally, I suppose we have to deal with Hebrews 2:3-4:

(Heb. 2:3b-4) This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

It is often argued that this passage states that the age of miracles had ended by the date this book was written–sometime before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (see F. F. Bruce’s discussion of the dating of Hebrews in his New International Commentary). The argument doesn’t wash.

V. 4 does indeed speak in the past tense, saying that God’s salvation has been “testified” to by miracles. But this doesn’t deny that such testimony might be continuing–just that the testimony already given is enough.

Moreover, miracles could still be happening, just because it suits God’s purposes. Nothing says that testifying to God’s salvation is the only reason for doing miracles!

As the apostles weren’t all dead by this date–and the books of the New Testament hadn’t all been written–how could the miracles of prophesy and inspiration be over? How could Hebrews be written by inspiration if the age of miracles was already over?

It is therefore argued that the writer is simply speaking as though the age of miracles were drawing to an end, and this makes better sense but hardly proves the point. Most would agree that the overwhelming outpouring of the Spirit’s gifts in the First Century was an extraordinary time and this extraordinary time is over. But this doesn’t prove that the Spirit no longer works at all or that miracles are impossible.

And so, I remain skeptical but open, unwilling to prejudge claims of miraculous manifestations. Indeed, I wouldn’t at all wish to be found in the place of the Pharisees, who denied the Spirit’s work (Matt. 12), only to be charged with blaspheming the Holy Spirit! I don’t have all the answers, but this is one mistake even I know not to make!

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0 Responses to “That Which Is Perfect”: Have Miracles Ceased?

  1. Pingback: Amazing Grace: The Spirit Who Lives In Us, Part 2 « One In Jesus.info

  2. Gary Cummings says:

    No, miracles-charismata have not ceased. See 1 Cor. 1:7.

  3. iT IS STILL A BIG MIRACLE THAT GOD TPERSONAL; TALKS TO ME EVERY DAY TOO
    http://witnessed.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/reasons

  4. Richrad McPherson says:

    Tongues Have Ceased

    Now if we no longer live in the era of covenantal transition wherein God was changing His dwelling from the symbolic, man-made temple to the true, heavenly Temple in the heart of His redeemed people; and if the destruction of unbelieving, old covenant Israel and its imperfect temple took place in A.D. 70, then it is manifest that tongues ceased by A.D. 70.

    What Was the Purpose of the Gift of Tongues?

    What was the purpose of this known human language that hadn't been learned? Was it so we could preach the gospel to foreigners? Not primarily, look with me at 1 Corinthians 14, Paul provided here the only direct statement regarding the specific purpose of speaking in tongues:

    1 Corinthians 14:21-22 (NKJV) In the law it is written: "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me," says the Lord. 22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.

    Tongues are a sign for unbelievers. If any one today thinks he has the gift of tongues, he needs to deal with the reality of that statement, and he will be forced to reconsider just what he does have. This is the primary purpose of the gift of tongues. Verse 21 is quoting Isaiah 28: 11-12. In verse 22 Paul is applying it to the time of the Corinthians and tells them that if tongues were a sign in the time of Isaiah, they were still a sign. Tongues are not for believing people, they are for unbelieving people.

    In verse 21 "this people" refers to Israel. Tongues were specifically a sign for unbelieving Israel. Isaiah 28 is a warning of judgment, verse 21 refers to the Assyrians, which the people would hear if they rejected Isaiah's message. The Assyrian tongue was a sign of judgment to a generation of Israelites rejecting the word of God. So, Paul explained, tongues are a sign of coming judgment for rejecting Jesus the Messiah and the gospel of grace (cf. Matt. 23:37-38).

    Moses gave the following warning in:

    Deuteronomy 28:49 (NKJV) "The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand,

    Jeremiah 5:15 (NKJV) Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel," says the LORD. "It is a mighty nation, It is an ancient nation, A nation whose language you do not know, Nor can you understand what they say.

    In the Old Testament God had clearly pointed out to the people of Israel that when they were going to be judged, there would be a sign. That sign was that they would hear a language they couldn't understand. When they began to speak those languages on the day of Pentecost, every Jew should have known that the judgment of God was eminent.

    Acts 2:12-16 (NKJV) So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" 13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine." 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 "For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 "But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

    Peter says, "We are not drunk, what you are seeing is the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy." Then he quotes from Joel.

    Acts 2:17-18 (NKJV) 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.

    The term "last days" describes the period of time between the birth of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem. It refers to the last days of the house of Israel, the last days of the Old Covenant era. Peter didn't say that the miracles of Pentecost were "like"what Joel prophesied, he said that "this was the fulfillment." The last days were here. It was a sign of judgment upon Israel. The term "all flesh" refers to Jews and Gentiles. Israel was being judged, and the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11).

    Acts 2:19-21 (NKJV) I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.'

    Isn't this speaking of a future judgment of the whole world? No! This is prophetic language, speaking of the end of the Old Covenant system and the Nation of Israel. The same type of language is used in:

    Isaiah 13:9-10 (NKJV) Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

    This is prophesying the fall of Babylon to the Medes.

    Isaiah 34:4 (NKJV) All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree.

    This is prophesying the fall of Edom.

    Amos 8:9 (NKJV) "And it shall come to pass in that day," says the Lord GOD, "That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight;

    This is prophesying the doom of Samaria.

    Ezekiel 32:7-8 (NKJV) When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, And the moon shall not give her light. 8 All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, And bring darkness upon your land,' Says the Lord GOD.

    This is prophesying the destruction of Egypt. None of these events literally took place. Poetically however, all these things did happen; as far as these wicked nations were concerned, "the lights went out." This is simply figurative language predicting the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. The light of Israel was extinguished, the Old Covenant era was through.

    Tongues was primarily a sign of judgment to unbelieving Jews. But secondarily, when tongues were interpreted, they edified believers.

    1 Corinthians 14:26-28 (NKJV) How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.

    Verses 27 & 28 tell us that tongues uninterpreted don't edify. Therefore, if there is no interpretation, there is to be no tongues. Are these the same tongues as in Acts 2? Glossa is always used of the tongue or languages. To use the word glossa and mean ecstatic speech would be to confuse the issue.

    Does this mean that no one ever speaks in tongues today? Surely, if God wants someone to miraculously speak in another language, then that's what God will cause to happen. God can do whatever He wants. But the question should not be so much whether or not anyone ever speaks in another language by the Spirit of God today; the question should be whether or not Christians speak in tongues en masse as they did in the first century.

    It has been taught by some lately that God has re-poured His Spirit upon all flesh and has re-started the first-century tongues movement in our day because we are now, again, in "the last days." But why would God return His people to those imperfect, partial things which were to exist only while the Old Testament form of worship was still being imposed upon fleshly Israel in its last waning years? Are we to believe that God will return His people to the days of the child (the Old Testament age; cf. Gal. 4:1-7)? Will we have to go back to the days of transition (from Biblical Judaism to Christianity, from old covenant to New Covenant) when God's people saw Christ as through a mirror in dimness and not face to face as we do now since Christ long ago removed the veil at the Consummation of the old-testament age in A.D. 70 (II Corinthians 3:13-16)?

    The condemning, old (covenant) things passed away long ago. All (covenant) things were made new. Since the old-testament temple fell, Christ in the heart is forever the true "Tabernacle of God among men." Now in Christ our Redeemer -our Forgiver- the Church is enabled to realize the chief End of mankind: to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and body; and to love his neighbor as himself. Revelation (prophecy, knowledge and tongues) ceased, but the love of God in our hearts remains (II Corinthians 3:11).

    I Corinthians 14:21 and 22
    Tongues, a Sign of Israel's Destruction in A.D. 70

    The gift of tongues was given in the Last Days of the old covenant age as part of the process of covenantal transformation. It was a sign of the then-impending end of the old covenant (cf. Heb. 8:13):

    "It has been written in the Law, 'By other tongues and by other lips I will speak to this people, and even so they will not hear Me, says the Lord.' So that tongues are not a sign to those believing, but to those not believing." (I Corinthians 14:21,22a)

    Paul quoted this passage from Isaiah 28:11 and 12 where Isaiah in his day warned of the approaching invasion of apostate Israel by the Assyrians, a foreign nation which spoke in a foreign tongue. In the first century A.D., God gave the sign of "tongues" to apostate Israel ("those not believing") as a warning of impending doom for themselves, their temple and their city. But as Isaiah had predicted, "they would not listen." (cf. Deut. 28:49 and Jer. 5:15) Their house was left to them desolate, and they were destroyed in A.D. 70. The Kingdom was taken from them and was given to the blood-perfected Church –the true Nation, House, Body, Temple and City of God.

    I Corinthians 13:8-12 That Which Is Perfect

    In the above passage of Scripture the Apostle Paul taught that at the coming of "that which is perfect," three things were to happen: "Prophecies" would be abolished, "knowledge" (supernaturally revealed knowledge) would be abolished, and "tongues" (supernaturally acquired speaking of languages) would cease. "Prophecies," "knowledge," and "tongues" were things that were "in part," incomplete or imperfect. Paul compared having them to still being a child and to looking through a mirror dimly instead of face to face. Whereas the doing away of those things was to mean the coming of completeness or maturity.

    Based on Paul's words in this passage, the only question as to whether or not the gift of "tongues" exists today as it did in Bible times is a question of timing: Has "that which is perfect" come? If it has, then tongues have ceased. But if "that which is perfect" has not yet come, then tongues have not ceased and God has meant for tongues to continue on throughout the centuries as a normal practice in the Church up to our present day.

    First, to determine whether or not "that which is perfect" has come we must determine exactly what "that which is perfect" is. The Greek word for "perfect" here is telios, and it means "complete," "full grown" or "mature"; it refers to something which has been brought to its end or goal. Paul was looking forward to a coming maturity or completeness.

    There are two other places in the New Testament which speak of that perfection to which Paul and the 1st-century Church were hoping to attain. From those two passages and their contexts we will be able to determine exactly what "that which is perfect" was to be, and also when it was to come. The two references are Eph. 4:13 and Heb. 9:11. Let's look at Eph. 4:13 first:

    Ephesians 4:13 The Perfect Man, The Temple of God

    "…until we all may come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown [TELIOS] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…."

    Here we see that "that which is perfect" was to be the full-grown Body of Christ, the mature Church. God was building up Christ's Body, the Church, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the end that the Church would grow up in Christ-likeness unto the mature or perfect (telios) Man (Eph. 4:11-13).

    And Eph. 2:21 teaches us exactly what this final perfection of the Body of Christ was to mean: When the Church finally reached maturity or perfection through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it was to become God's Temple. Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church was "being built together into a Dwelling-place of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). The Apostle Peter also referred to that future perfection when he wrote, "…you also as living stones are being built a spiritual house…." (I Peter 2:25)

    "That which is perfect" then was to come by means of the Holy Spirit and was to be the consummation of the work of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to the end that the Body of Christ (the Church) would eventually become the perfect (telios) Dwelling/Temple/Tabernacle of God.

    Now according to the Bible, when exactly in history was the work of the Holy Spirit in perfecting the Body of Christ to be consummated or finished so that the perfect Temple of God would be come in its fullness bringing about the cessation of tongues? To answer this, let's look at the final New Testament reference to the coming of "that which is perfect."

    Hebrews 9:11 The Perfect Tabernacle and the Imperfect Tabernacle

    But Christ having appeared as a High Priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect (TELIOS) Tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation….

    The "more perfect Tabernacle" here is that heavenly "Temple" or "Dwelling" unto which the Church was growing through the power of the Holy Spirit in Eph. 2:21, 22. It corresponds to the heavenly "building," "house" and "home" with which the Church was expecting to be clothed in II Corinthians 5:1,2,6; it is the "Abode" which the Father and the Son were going to make within believers (Jan. 14:23); it is the promised "Tabernacle of God among men" which the Church was anxiously awaiting (Rev. 21:3; 22:7,10,12,20). It was to be the formation of Christ in the Church which Paul was eagerly expecting in Gal. 4:19. It was to be the realization of the first-century Church's hope of glory: "Christ in you" (Col. 1:27). In very truth, it is that Kingdom which Jesus said is "within you" (Luke. 17:21).

    When the book of Hebrews was written (c. A.D. 66), the saints knew that the Way into the heavenly, telios Tabernacle or Sanctuary (the face-to-Face Presence of God) had not yet been manifest to all the saints (cf. Heb. 11:39,40) because the first, earthly tabernacle was still standing (Heb. 9:8,9). In other words, as long as the worldly, fleshly, old-testament tabernacle/temple of God was still standing, then "that which is perfect" ("the more perfect Tabernacle", the Temple of God; the complete, blood- perfected Church) had not yet come in its fullness. As long as the imperfect earthly house of God remained standing and its sinful ministers were still in power, the "more perfect tabernacle" was not yet established with finality in Christ's true people.

    The Throwing Down of the Hand-Made Tabernacle

    In light of the above, we are now in a position to answer the question, When in history did the Tabernacle/Temple/Body "which is perfect" come? The answer is, When the tabernacle/temple/body which was imperfect went; that is to say, when the old-testament temple was thrown down and the old-testament world and way of worship passed away and vanished (Heb. 8:13). At that time, tongues ceased.

    Jesus said concerning the old, imperfect temple at earthly Jerusalem,

    "Do you not see all these things?" [the beautiful stones and gifts and buildings of the temple] "Truly I say to you, there shall not be left here one stone on a stone which shall not be thrown down."

    In A.D. 70, about 40 years after Jesus' prophecy, the old temple and the old covenant world were thrown down. God's heavenly Temple was then completely established among men. That which is telios had come! God gathered His elect into His House (Kingdom) when the earthly, hand-made house was thrown down (II Corinthians 5:1). The Church was complete in the New Covenant Presence of Christ.

    To sum up, prophecy, knowledge and tongues came to an end when:

    1. The Church became the TELIOS Tabernacle/Temple/Body of God through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit,

    2. When the Way into the heavenly, TELIOS Tabernacle of God was made manifest to all the saints,

    3. When the non-telios, Old Testament tabernacle was thrown down by the judgment of God and the saints in the consummation of the old covenant age in A.D. 70.

  5. With all due respect to Richard’s considerable rhetorical efforts, his arguments are not convincing to the millions of believers who speak in tongues today. At least doubting Thomas would believe when HE saw…

    I am reminded of the physicist who sat on the park bench next to a pigeon that was missing feathers from its left wing. The physicist began to explain to the pigeon why he wasn’t flying. He explained Bernoulli’s principle, expounded on cross-lateral stability in wing loading, described in detail how the bird lacked the requisite redundant control surfaces to engage in flight under the present conditions. At which point the pigeon flapped hard, rose unsteadily into the air, and flew away.

    Said the physicist, “Stupid bird.”

  6. nyron says:

    Thanks for your article. I identify with people who are passionate about Gods word because I am. I Holy spirit work in my life as a guide But not to do Miracles. Look at the miracles of the first century Church; they were extraordinary, frequent and collaborated by many people because it was obvious. I havn’t seen one such miracle By an apostle, faith healer or holy person. The question is not whether God do miracles,But does He do through apostles like the first century Church?

  7. Alabama John says:

    I really don’t know what it would take for something to be considered a miracle.

    I’ve seen and heard people prayed over and then upon later examination what was wrong with them had disappeared. In every case,the explanation was the x-ray was flawed or the doctors missed the diagnosis . How does that make God feel if He did answer the prayer.

    Miracles have ceased was what I was taught from my youth and by gum they have ceased regardless of what might happen, was and is still the teaching of the day. We just can’t be wrong.

    It seems such a waste of breath to pray if we believe that.

    For example, as I mentioned yesterday, all the crap Tim Tebow has taken nationally for months for praying to God on the football field and wearing John 3:16 on his face and then having such a ‘coincidence” of so many things that came up totaling 316 in his last game. Been all over the national news. Why not give God the credit for having this be a sign to all those making fun of him instead of joining them? Could this open some opportunities for us?

    Would it be better to: (A) give God the credit and glory and be wrong, or, (B) would we be better off to not give God the credit and glory and be wrong?

    You choose, I already have.

  8. Todd Collier says:

    Ok, In July I was diagnosed with stage four cancer- abdomen full of tumors, one the size of a softball. Within days I was being prayed for globally. One month later after two chemo treatments the CAT showed the tumors were gone. The doctor was amazed at the rapid response all he more so since the first chemo treatment was accompanied by constant dialysis to prevent kidney failure. Miracle in the sense that I was touched and immediately walked out of the cancer ward? No. Miracle in the sense that prayer and the presence of God made a huge difference and so I lived when I should have died? You bet. Do I praise God any less for the way He chose to heal me? Absolutely not. Especially since some pretty awesome lessons accompanied the season of trial and my sickness has led to great blessing for the Body at Valley.

  9. nyron says:

    I think that many times in our trying to understand Gods word, we ‘mix things’ things. Defining what Miracles have ceased helps us to answer the right question. 1st corinthians is the passage used, where God gave human agents the miraculous measure to: heal,speak in tongues, prophecy,and interpret tongues. These miracles were extra-ordinary, frequent and obvious. I’ve never seen a miracle in my lifetime that met these conditions by a human agent like an apostle or prophet. I don’t question God’s prescence working in the lives of people because he has done great things for me. Does God work in peoples lives? sure, just not by giving human agents the ability to work miracles.

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