So Great Salvation
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Which at the First
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Hebrews 2:1-4)
According to Hebrews 2:3, 4, the message having to do with “so great a salvation,” which is the central message to be proclaimed to Christians throughout the present dispensation, is the same message proclaimed to Israel in time past.
This is the message proclaimed by Christ, the Twelve, and later the Seventy, to Israel during Christ’s earthly ministry; this is the message proclaimed to Israel for about three decades following Christ’s ascension, as seen throughout the book of Acts; and this, as well, is the message proclaimed to Christians by those who had heard Christ during the same period of time covered by the book of Acts, along with the period shortly thereafter (Hebrews 2:3b).
This message has to do with that which was offered to Israel in time past, offered during Christ’s earthly ministry. And this is also the message rejected by and subsequently taken from Israel, with the new creation “in Christ” then called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel had rejected (cf. Matthew 21:33-45; Acts 2:1ff; 1 Peter 2:9-11).
And, though there was a reoffer of the kingdom to Israel during the Acts period (from 33 A.D. to about 62 A.D.), the nation, as before, rejected the offer. This reoffer of the kingdom to Israel was made at the same time that the kingdom began to be offered to the new creation “in Christ,” the one new man (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:15).
Since Israel, at this time, was still in view relative to the proffered kingdom, signs, wonders, and miracles, of necessity, had to continue in evidence as well. This is the reason that they are seen throughout the period covered by the book of Acts, which covers the complete time of the reoffer of the kingdom to Israel — from the Apostles dealing with the Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4ff to Paul dealing with the Jewish religious leaders in Rome almost thirty years later, in Acts 28:17-29.
And this is the period of time in view by a mention of signs, wonders, and miracles in connection with “so great a salvation” in Hebrews 2:4.
With that in mind, the remainder of this chapter will be taken up with an overview of signs, wonders, and miracles as seen throughout Scripture, allowing Hebrews 2:3, 4 to be understood within a proper Scriptural framework relative to the message surrounding “so great a salvation,” proclaimed to Israel during past time and to be proclaimed to Christians throughout the present dispensation.
(Defining “signs and wonders, with various miracles” [e.g., Acts 2:22], the “sign” is centrally in view; and the words “wonder” and “miracle” describe the “sign.” That is, the “sign” [Greek: semeion] is both a “wonder” [Greek: teras, something out of the ordinary] and a “miracle” [Greek: dunamis, meaning “power,” referring to the supernatural power necessary to bring the sign to pass].)
History of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles
The manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles in Scripture is inseparably connected with two things:
1) The Nation of Israel.
2) The Kingdom.
Both Israel and the kingdom must be in view at the same time for signs, wonders, and miracles to exist. If there is an absence of either one (either Israel, or the kingdom), a manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles, as seen throughout the gospel accounts and the book of Acts, cannot exist (for it would be out of line with the reason for their appearance in Scripture for them to exist).
And, in order to properly understand this manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles during time covered by the gospel accounts and the book of Acts, a person must have a correct foundation upon which to build. A person must begin in the Old Testament and trace the history of this supernatural work into the New Testament. Only then is he in a position to understand various, necessary things about this supernatural phenomenon.
1) Signs, Wonders, and Miracles in the Old Testament
Signs, wonders, and miracles, performed through individuals, were manifested only on two occasions in all of the Old Testament.
They were manifested by Moses and Aaron surrounding Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, with a view to the nation’s entrance into the land of Canaan; and they were manifested by Moses’ successor, Joshua, surrounding Israel’s subsequent entrance into the land of Canaan (Exodus 4:29-31; 7:10ff; Deuteronomy 6:22, 23; Joshua 3:7ff; 10:12-14).
That was the first occasion. The second was a manifestation by Elijah and his successor Elisha, some five hundred years later (1 Kings 17:1ff; 2 Kings 2:13ff).
Outside of these two occasions there is not a single reference to an individual being empowered to perform signs, wonders, and miracles throughout all of the Old Testament Scriptures. Numerous miracles are recorded in these Scriptures (e.g., the burning bush that was not consumed [Exodus 3:2], the sun being moved back ten degrees on the dial [Isaiah 38:7, 8], the three Israelites being protected in the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:19-25], or Jonah being raised from the place of death in the sea [Jonah 1:17-2:10]). But these were miraculous works performed directly by God, not by individuals whom God had empowered to perform them.
Note that the manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles during the days of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua was in relation to Israel and the kingdom. Supernatural manifestations of power occurred relative to Israel being removed from Egypt and being established in the land of Canaan, within a theocracy.
Thus, a first-mention principle was set forth at this point in Scripture, establishing an unchangeable pattern. Any future manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles of the nature seen at the time of the Exodus must be brought to pass with Israel in view, and they must have to do with the kingdom.
During the days of Elijah and Elisha the people of Israel had been established in the land, within a theocracy, for about five hundred years. But, because of continued disobedience on the part of the people, the theocracy never came even close to reaching the heights that God had intended. The theocracy reached its greatest heights during the days of David and his son Solomon (though far from the heights that God had intended). But after that, following the division of the kingdom, things began to go in another direction entirely, moving even farther away from that which God had commanded.
And it was during these days that Elijah was called forth (with Elisha finishing his ministry) to call the nation to repentance. The manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles accompanying their ministry pertained to Israel and the kingdom. They had to, for a first-mention principle had previously been established; and any future manifestation had to be exactly in accord with the way matters were set forth at the beginning.
These signs, wonders, and miracles were simply the credentials of those manifesting them in Israel’s presence, with the signs themselves, by their very nature, setting forth a message (like the sign of Jonah, foreshadowing a miraculous deliverance of God’s two firstborn Sons — Christ and Israel — from the place of death [cf. Matthew 12:38-40]).
Through a manifestation of supernatural powers accompanying the message, Israel was to recognize that the Messenger had been sent from God; and, accordingly, the people were to heed both the message set forth by the manifested signs and proclaimed by the Messenger (Exodus 4:1-9, 29-31).
The people of Israel though failed to heed the message; the nation didn’t repent. And the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities followed (722 B.C. and 605 B.C. respectively).
The “times of the Gentiles” began with the Babylonian captivity, has lasted to the present day, and will last until the end of the Tribulation. This is simply a prolonged, uninterrupted period of time — lasting about 2,600 years — during which Israel must dwell apart from a theocracy and remain scattered among the Gentile nations. And the Gentiles, among whom Israel dwells, will hold the scepter throughout this time.
(The remnant of Jews in the land forming the present nation of Israel — nearly 6,000,000 strong — is not there to stay. This remnant has returned under a Zionistic movement, due to man’s efforts, apart from repentance, before it is time for the nation to return.
And, from a biblical standpoint, a continued, indefinite presence of the Jewish people in the land is not possible.
In past history, because of Israel’s continued disobedience over centuries of time, God eventually uprooted the Jewish people from their land and drove them out among the Gentile nations. And among these nations is where God has deemed that they will remain until they repent. As well, this is the place where God has decreed that He will deal with His people relative to repentance, not in the land.
The remnant presently in the land is going to be uprooted in the middle of the coming Tribulation and be driven back out among the nations [Matthew 24:15-22; Luke 21:20-24]. God dealt with Jonah in the sea in the type, and that which the sea typifies [the Gentile nations] is where God has decreed that He will deal with the one whom Jonah typifies — the nation of Israel [Jonah 1:15-2:10].
The type has been set, and the antitype must follow the type in exact detail.
For additional information on this whole overall subject, refer to the author’s book, The Time of the End, Appendixes 1, 2, “The Intractable Middle East Problem” and “The Death of the High Priest.”)
2) Signs, Wonders, and Miracles in the New Testament
After moving through almost 1,500 years of Jewish history and seeing signs, wonders, and miracles manifested during only two different periods by only five different men within these periods (by Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha), things suddenly changed. Israel’s Messiah (following the ministry of His forerunner, John the Baptist) appeared to Israel with a message pertaining to the kingdom of the heavens; and this message was accompanied by numerous signs, wonders, and miracles (Matthew 4:17-25; 8:1ff).
Then, in conjunction with and very early in His ministry, Christ called twelve disciples to help carry this message; and they were empowered to perform signs, wonders, and miracles in connection with their ministry as well (Matthew 10:5-8).
(Also, Christ later “appointed” seventy others to go “before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go” — though very little is said about them in the gospel accounts — and He empowered them to perform signs, wonders, and miracles as well [Luke 10:1-19].
Thus, at this time, there was a manifestation of supernatural signs in the camp of Israel unlike anything heretofore seen in the history of the nation.)
Christ had been sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), and Christ sent the disciples whom He had called to Israel alone (Matthew 10:6). Christ and His disciples, both went to Israel with the same message and the same accompanying manifestation of supernatural powers. It was a message surrounding the offer of the kingdom of the heavens to the nation, attended by a manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles of an unprecedented nature.
Whether it was Jesus or His disciples proclaiming the proffered kingdom, signs, wonders, and miracles accompanied their ministry and formed the credentials of those carrying the message. These manifestations of power were supernatural events that, by their very nature, set forth a message themselves; and these signs, as well, authenticated the message being proclaimed by the Messenger as being true and from God (John 3:1, 2; Acts 2:22; cf. Exodus 4:1-9).
The religious leaders in Israel were to see these signs, wonders, and miracles and understand not only the message set forth by the signs but that the Messengers were God-sent, carrying God’s message for His people. Then, believing and understanding the message that they had both seen (by the signs) and heard (from the Messengers), they were responsible for carrying this message to the people of Israel (cf. Exodus 4:29-31; Numbers 13:1-26).
However, exactly the opposite occurred. The religious leaders refused to believe the message, rejecting both the signs and the Messengers; and they, in their unbelief, then sought to subvert the message and discredit the signs and the Messengers in the presence of the Jewish people (Matthew 12:14-32).
(This is why Christ, near the end of His earthly ministry, in no uncertain terms, condemned the actions of the scribes and Pharisees — the fundamental religious leaders of that day [Matthew 23:1ff]. They had seen the signs and heard the Messengers; but they had rejected the message and had sought to do away with the accompanying supernatural powers, mainly by attacking the central Messenger, by attacking Christ.
The scribes and Pharisees had rejected the signs and had sought to discredit Christ in the eyes of the people, bringing about reproach on the Messenger and casting doubt on His message [e.g., Matthew 9:27-34; 12:22-24; cf. John 12:10, 11]. And, whether by word or deed, this resulted in their bearing a false witness to the people of Israel.)
The scribes and Pharisees, the main body of religious leaders in Israel, controlled, more than any other group (by their very numbers), the religious life of the nation. And these religious leaders had “shut up the kingdom of the heavens against men [lit., ‘. . . in the presence of men’ — i.e., among those in Israel]” (Matthew 23:13). These religious leaders had no interest in entering the kingdom, and they were doing all within their power to prevent others from entering as well.
And all of this had its end result in Israel’s rejection of both the message and the Messenger, the removal of the kingdom of the heavens from Israel, the crucifixion of Israel’s Messiah, and God bringing into existence a separate and distinct entity to be the recipient of that which had been offered to and rejected by Israel.
Israel had failed to bring forth fruit in relation to the kingdom of the heavens, and the one new man “in Christ” was called into existence to be accorded the opportunity to bring forth fruit in this realm (Matthew 21:18, 19, 33-43; cf. 1 Peter 2:9-11).
But, though the kingdom was taken from Israel and the Church was called into existence to be the recipient of this offer, there was a reoffer of the kingdom to Israel, beginning at the time of the inception of the Church (Acts 2:1ff). And, if for no other reason, this is evident because of the continuance of signs, wonders, and miracles.
That would be to say, if God had terminated His dealings with Israel relative to the kingdom of the heavens at or before the time that the Church was called into existence, signs, wonders, and miracles would have ceased to exist. These supernatural manifestations of power had nothing to do with the one new man “in Christ” (who is “neither Jew nor Greek” [Galatians 3:28]). They had to do with Israel alone (1 Corinthians 1:22), and they had to do with Israel in relation to the kingdom.
These were supernatural works, manifested through empowered individuals as they carried the message to Israel (Acts 2:4; 3:1ff; 4:29-33; 5:12ff; 6:8ff). Then, when Gentiles began to be added to the body of Christ, they were manifested within churches comprised mainly of saved Gentiles, such as the Church in Corinth (chapters 12-14). And a manifestation of supernatural works in the Church after this fashion could only have been centered on the thought of provoking Israel “to jealousy” (Romans 10:19; 11:11, 14).
That is, God was using those whom Israel considered Gentile dogs to manifest supernatural powers that naturally belonged to Israel in order to provoke the nation to jealousy.
And, between the segment of the one new man “in Christ” carrying the message to Israel and another segment seeking to provoke the nation to jealousy — all being done by a manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles — the Jewish people were dealt with in what might be considered a maximum manner.
In one respect, God pulled out all stops (cf. Luke 10:13-24; 11:29-32); but the religious leaders in Israel would still have nothing to do with the message. Thus, the nation continued in unbelief.
Purpose for Signs, Wonders, and Miracles
Most of the manifestations of supernatural power during the ministry of Christ and the apostles (during the periods covered by both the gospel accounts and by the book of Acts) centered on bodily healings. This was the manner in which they were introduced during Christ’s ministry (Matthew 4:23-25), and this was the manner in which they were brought to a close about three decades later during Paul’s ministry (Acts 28:7-9).
(And along with bodily healings, death was no longer irreversible [Mark 5:35-43; John 11:1-47; Acts 9:36-42; 20:7-12], material needs were miraculously supplied [food, drink, etc. (John 2:1-11; 6:1-14; Acts 5:19-23; 16:26)], there was deliverance from demonic spirits [Matthew 12:22; Acts 5:16], and angelic ministry was abundantly available [Matthew 4:11; Acts 12:7, 8, 23].)
The signs, centering on bodily healings (though including other related things), reflected on and had to do with a dual aspect of one thing: the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel.
1) The signs showed an existing condition (sickness, seen prior to the healings).
2) The signs also showed another condition that could exist (restoration, seen following the healings).
And deliverance for the nation after the fashion set forth by the signs was contingent on national repentance, followed by baptism (cf. Matthew 3:1-11; 4:17, 23-25; 10:5-8; Acts 2:37, 38; 3:19-21).
These signs, wonders, and miracles, along with being the credentials of the Messengers of the gospel of the kingdom, were manifestations of supernatural powers (powers necessary to bring the signs to pass) depicting Israel’s present spiritual condition and showing how this condition could change, if . . . . These same manifestations of supernatural powers could and would — contingent on Israel’s repentance — bring to pass that of which the signs spoke, i.e., Israel’s supernatural healing, accompanied by God’s supernatural provision for the nation in all areas of life, dealt with in all the other various signs.
1) Israel’s Present Spiritual Condition
Israel’s spiritual condition prior to God’s miraculous healing is revealed numerous places in Scripture. But note Isaiah’s description of the nation in this respect:
Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.
Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.
From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment. (Isaiah 1:4-6)
This was the way Isaiah introduced Israel at the very beginning of his prophecy; but he didn’t remain at this point, depicting Israel’s spiritual condition during his day (a condition that has continued to the present day). Isaiah went on, at the beginning, to relate the main subject matter of his prophecy.
Israel was sick, but Israel could and one day would be cured of this sickness. And the latter is what Isaiah went on to also relate. Israel’s condition was not permanent. The nation would one day be healed.
But this would occur only after God’s conditions had been met: “If you are willing and obedient . . . .” (Isaiah 1:19a; cf. v. 18). Only then would the Lord turn His hand, purge the nation, and restore her rulers (1:25, 26). Only then would redemption occur, and only then would the kingdom with all its glory be restored to Israel (1:27-2:5).
2) Israel’s Future Supernatural Restoration
But when will Israel repent, allowing healing to occur? The answer is provided numerous places in Scripture, but note Hosea’s prophecy where the matter is dealt with in so many words.
When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound [“Ephraim” and “Judah” referring to Israel], then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb [“Jareb,” a figurative title of the Assyrian]; yet he cannot cure you, nor heal you of your wound.
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.
I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. (Hosea 5:13-6:2)
In these verses from Hosea, Israel is pictured as sick, having a wound (near the end of Israel’s time of sickness, during the coming Tribulation), with the Assyrian (Antichrist) being unable to provide a cure (5:13). Help though is available, but it must come from the same source that Isaiah or any of the other prophets foretold. It must come from the Lord (5:14-6:1).
Israel’s sickness was brought about by the Lord because of the nation’s refusal to obey that which the Lord had commanded. And the same One who brought about Israel’s condition is also the only One who can effect a change in Israel’s condition. And a reversal of the nation’s condition after this fashion is dependent on a reversal of the nation’s attitude and action regarding the Lord’s commandments (cf. Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-12; 4:19, 20).
Israel being positioned in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the head of the nations, within a theocracy, is conditional. It was conditional in history and remains so today. It was/is conditioned on Israel obeying the Lord’s commandments.
Once the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt and were at Sinai, about to receive the Law [the Magna Charta for the kingdom, the rules and regulations governing the people within the kingdom], the Lord made one thing very clear — the necessity and importance of the people obeying His commandments.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. (Exodus 19:5, 6; cf. Leviticus 26:1-13; Deuteronomy 28:1-14).
(Note that obedience to the Lord’s commandments follows repentance [a change of mind] in both the type and the antitype.
In the type, the Israelites changed their minds and received the one whom they had previously rejected [Moses]. In the antitype, the Israelites will change their minds and receive the One whom they previously rejected [the One greater than Moses, the nation’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (Zechariah 12:10-14; 13:6)].
It is only after this, in the type or the antitype, that subsequent events leading up to the reception of the Lord’s commandments governing the Jewish people in the kingdom occur [in the type, following the Passover, the Exodus from Egypt . . . ; in the antitype, following that which is foreshadowed by these events].
In the type, the Lord’s commandments had to do with the old covenant, the Law received at Sinai; in the antitype these commandments will have to do the new covenant, the Law placed “in their inward parts,” written “in their hearts” [Jeremiah 31:31-33]. And the new covenant may very well be made with Israel at the same place that the old covenant was made with the nation — at Sinai.)
And it was later clearly revealed exactly what would occur if Israel refused to obey the Lord’s commandments (Leviticus 26:14ff; Deuteronomy 28:15ff). The nation would be punished “seven times [a number signifying the completeness of that which was in view, i.e., a complete punishment at the Lord’s hands],” all types of curses would befall the people, they would be removed from their land and scattered among the nations, and they would find themselves in subjection to the Gentile nations where they had been scattered.
They would find themselves at the tail of the nations rather than at the head, and their lot in this position would be that of curses rather than blessings. And, though remnants of those scattered would, at times, leave the Gentile nations and return to their own land (a remnant was present 2,000 years ago, and another is present today), the nation — the whole nation, including any remnant in the land (Isaiah 1:5-7) — would remain in the same spiritually sick condition, with its land desolate. Only the Lord could bring about healing, but in His time.
And that’s what Hosea 5:13-6:2 is about — Israel’s present condition and that future time when the nation will repent, resulting in the nation being healed. Note again Hosea 6:1, 2 relative to Israel’s repentance and healing:
Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days [after 2,000 years] He will revive us; on the third day [the third 1,000-year period] He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.
Then, note the two things revealed immediately before this, in Hosea 5:15, which introduce Israel’s future repentance:
1) The two days (the 2,000 years) begin with Israel’s “offense” (i.e., the nation’s rejection and subsequent crucifixion of her Messiah).
2) The two days (the 2,000 years) come to a close with the Jewish people seeking the Lord’s face during a time of “affliction” (during the coming Tribulation), receiving the Lord when He returns.
Both the time of the Tribulation and the time when Israel will seek the Lord’s face will be two days (2,000 years) beyond the crucifixion of Christ, which was four days (4,000 years) beyond the creation of Adam. Thus, healing for the nation will occur after two days, on the third day (counting from Calvary), or after six days, on the seventh day (counting from Adam [cf. Numbers 19:11, 12, 19]).
As God worked six days to restore a ruined creation in the beginning and then rested the seventh day (Genesis 1:1-2:3), so is He presently working six more days (6,000 years) to restore a subsequent ruined creation, with a view to resting the seventh day (the seventh 1,000-year period). And all subsequent sections of Scripture, such as Hosea 6:1, 2, merely rest upon and provide additional light for the foundational framework — showing the septenary structure of Scripture — set forth at the very beginning.
Then, with all of the preceding in mind, note Isaiah chapter fifty-three. This chapter outlines Israel’s confession in that coming seventh day, following the healing of the nation:
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53: 1, 4, 5)
It was this future condition of Israel that Isaiah (along with the other prophets) dealt with so extensively. And it was this future condition of Israel to which the miraculous signs throughout Scripture pointed, whether during Moses and Joshua’s day, during Elijah and Elisha’s day, or during the days of Christ and the Apostles (both preceding and following the events of Calvary).
The central thought when the Spirit of God closed the Old Testament Canon pertained to Israel being healed [Malachi 4:2, 3], and this was likewise the central thought when the heavens were once again opened over four centuries later in the New Testament [Matthew 3:1, 2; 4:17, 23-25]. The New is simply a continuation and unveiling of that which has lain in the Old from the beginning.
Do you want to understand the New? Then study the Old. Do you want to see Israel and the Christ of the New? Then view Israel and the nation’s Messiah in the eyes of the Old.
Cessation of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles
Signs, wonders, and miracles, manifested during time covered by the gospel accounts and the book of Acts, were inseparably connected with the offer of the kingdom of the heavens to Israel (both in the original offer and in the reoffer).
In the gospel accounts (in the original offer), these manifestations of supernatural power were more evident prior to Israel’s climactic rejection of the message and Christ’s departure from the house (Matthew 12:22-32; 13:1), though seen throughout this period.
And in Acts (in the subsequent reoffer), these manifestations of supernatural power were more evident prior to Israel’s climactic rejection once again and the introduction of Paul to carry the message to the Gentiles (Acts 7:51-58; 9:1-15), though, as in the original offer, they were seen throughout this period.
There was a definite, revealed reason for the particular type of manifestations of supernatural power — something that would not be true at all beyond that time when the offer was removed from Israel and the nation set aside, awaiting “the fullness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25). These signs, wonders, and miracles were not only inseparably connected with the offer of the kingdom to Israel (a connection established in the Old Testament Scriptures) but they spoke volumes in and of themselves. These manifestations of supernatural power reflected directly on Israel’s spiritual condition, past, present, and future — something dealt with throughout the Old Testament.
In this respect, before Israel’s climactic rejection in both the original offer and the reoffer, it was only natural for these signs, wonders, and miracles to be very prevalent. However, in each instance, once these climactic points had been reached it was also only natural for the signs, wonders, and miracles to become less prevalent, though still in evidence because the offer of the kingdom remained open to Israel. Then, once the offer had been withdrawn (about 62 A.D.), it was not only natural but absolutely necessary that the signs, wonders, and miracles cease altogether.
They had to cease at this time. They would have been completely out of place beyond this point. And this can be seen from a Scriptural standpoint entirely apart from referencing 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen — a section of Scripture in which Paul stated that they would cease, giving both the time and the reason.
1) 1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Paul’s reference to this matter in his first letter to those in Corinth was made necessary because the church in Corinth was a Gentile church in which signs, wonders, and miracles were being manifested, which could only have been with a view to provoking Israel to jealousy (Romans 10:19; 11:11-14; cf. Acts 13:44, 45). And Paul, viewing that which was occurring in the light of the Old Testament Scriptures, called their attention to the time and the reason when these manifestations of supernatural power would cease.
In 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, Paul called attention to the fact that the spiritual sign-gifts being manifested in the church in Corinth were only temporary, for a revealed reason. And it is evident that the whole panorama of spiritual sign-gifts (chapter 12) would be alluded to by the three that Paul singled out — prophecies, tongues, and knowledge.
All of the spiritual sign-gifts would have to be looked upon together — as a unit, comprised of different parts — simply because of their interrelated purpose. They all existed for exactly the same purpose. And when the Lord saw fit to bring His purpose surrounding these gifts to a close, they (all of them together, delineated by the three in 1 Corinthians 13:8) would no longer exist.
Actually, from a Scriptural standpoint, they could no longer exist. Any existence of these gifts beyond this time would be contrary to the revealed Word of God and, thus, impossible.
Prior to this time, Paul had the power to effect bodily healings (portending Israel’s healing), for the offer of the kingdom was still open to Israel (Acts 19:6, 11, 12; 28:8, 9). But after this time, when the offer of the kingdom was no longer open to the nation — when healing for Israel was set aside with the nation, with the corresponding cessation of signs, wonders, and miracles — Paul no longer possessed this power.
After this time, Paul instructed Timothy, “. . . use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23); and he later left Trophimus “in Miletus sick” (2 Timothy 4:20).
In 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, two expressions relative to these sign-gifts are used in opposite senses — “in part,” and “perfect”:
Love [KJV: “Charity”]. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
In these verses, “in part” has to do with incompleteness (from ek meros), meaning “out of a part [plural in the Greek text of vv. 9, 10, ‘out of parts’],” and “perfect” has to do with completeness (from teleios, meaning “complete,” “bringing to an end”). Thus, ek meros and teleios are used in antithetical senses.
And both expressions, since they have to do with either the continuance or the end of the manifestation of supernatural signs, are inseparably connected with either the continuance or the end of the offer of the kingdom to Israel. This is a connection that must be recognized in order to properly understand that which is being stated in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.
In this respect, incompleteness (shown by ek meros) has to do with that time prior to God finishing His work pertaining to the offer of the kingdom to Israel (with signs, wonders, and miracles still in evidence); and completeness (shown by teleios) has to do with that time following God finishing His work pertaining to the offer of the kingdom to Israel (with signs, wonders, and miracles no longer in evidence).
Thus, the thought set forth by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:9, 10, contextually, is something quite easy to see and understand as long as the proper connection with the manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles is made. But remove this key, and the whole matter becomes impossible to properly see and understand.
Verse nine teaches that Paul and others were exercising supernatural spiritual gifts. And they were exercising these gifts during a time of “incompleteness,” i.e., they were exercising these gifts during the period prior to the time God would “complete” His work with Israel relative to the proffered kingdom.
Verse ten then goes on to state that the time was coming when God would “complete” His work surrounding the reoffer of the kingdom to Israel. Then, the things being done during the time of “incompleteness” (during the time when the offer of the kingdom remained open to Israel, prior to God completing His work in this respect) — things pertaining to Israel and the kingdom — would “be done away” with.
2) Acts 28:28
This is exactly what occurred when the offer of the kingdom was withdrawn from Israel, with a view to God removing from the Gentiles “a people for His name.” The manifested signs, wonders, and miracles ceased. And this was in complete keeping with their usage in the Old Testament (pertaining to Israel and the kingdom), in complete keeping with their usage during the time covered by both the gospel accounts and the book of Acts (again, pertaining to Israel and the kingdom), and in complete keeping with that which they portended (Israel’s spiritual condition, both present and future).
In Acts 28:28, Paul told the Jews for the third and last time that he was going to the Gentiles with the message that they had rejected.
Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!
And when he had said these words, the Jews departed . . . .” (vv. 28, 29a; cf. Acts 13:46; 18:6).
At this time, God set Israel aside for the remainder of the dispensation, and, correspondingly, signs, wonders, and miracles ceased. With God’s termination of His dealings with Israel in relation to the kingdom, signs, wonders, and miracles had to cease.
For sign-gifts to continue beyond this point would have been out of line with Scripture. And, remaining in line with Scripture, these sign-gifts cannot again be in evidence until that future time when God resumes His national dealings with Israel in relation to the kingdom.
This is a truth drawn from the Old Testament, the gospel accounts, and the book of Acts which, from a biblical standpoint, cannot be denied.
And that’s where we are today — living during a time in which Israel has been set aside awaiting “the fullness of the Gentiles” being brought to pass (Romans 11:25). We’re living during a time when signs, wonders, and miracles can have no part within the framework of God’s plans and purposes. And this can be easily understood, for any present manifestation of supernatural powers of this nature would portend God dealing with Israel in relation to the nation’s spiritual condition and the theocracy during the present time; and this is something that God is not doing.
Thus, such a manifestation of supernatural powers during the present time, from a Scriptural standpoint, can only be completely out of place.