Signs in John's Gospel
Arlen L. Chitwood
Signs, Wonders, Miracles
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written 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).
Signs, often referred to in Scripture in connection wonders, and/or miracles (e.g., Acts 2:22, 43; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 8:13; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4) have to do with two things: (1) Israel, and (2) the kingdom. And 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), signs, wonders, and miracles, as seen throughout the gospel accounts and the book of Acts, cannot exist.
(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].)
The word semeion (sign) appears 17 times in the gospel of John and is erroneously translated “miracle” thirteen of these seventeen times (KJV, correctly translated “sign” the remaining four). Dunamis, the word normally translated “miracle,” does not appear in John’s gospel.
In order to properly understand the manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles in the New Testament, a person must have a correct foundation upon which to build — one beginning in the Old Testament and tracing 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.
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.
The first manifestation was through Moses and Aaron surrounding Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, with a view to the nation’s entrance into the land of Canaan; and, in a continuing respect, they were manifested by Moses’ successor, Joshua, surrounding Israel’s subsequent entrance into the land (Exodus 4:29-31; 7:10ff; Deuteronomy 6:22, 23; Joshua 3:7ff; 10:12-14).
Then, the second manifestation occurred some five hundred years later through Elijah and his successor Elisha surrounding the Jewish people while in the land (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. Numerous supernatural works are recorded in the Old Testament (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 dead [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 (individuals being empowered to perform signs, in complete accord with the way in which the word “sign” had previously been used in Scripture). And any future manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles of the nature seen at the time of the Exodus must be brought to pass with both Israel and the kingdom in view.
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 reached 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. And it was during these days that Elijah was called forth (with Elisha finishing his ministry) to call the nation to repentance (e.g., 1 Kings 18:17-21; 2 Kings 2:12-15).
The manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles accompanying their ministry pertained to Israel and the kingdom. It 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. Through a manifestation of supernatural powers accompanying the message, the Jewish people were to recognize that the messenger had not only been sent from God (Exodus 3:12) but the message had to do with the theocracy. And the people were to heed the message accordingly (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 eventually followed (722 B.C. and about 605 B.C., respectively).
“The times of the Gentiles” began with the Babylonian captivity, lasting to the present day, and it will last until the end of the Tribulation. This is simply a prolonged, uninterrupted period of time — lasting about 2,600 years — during which time 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.
Signs, Wonders, and Miracles in the New Testament
After moving through 1,500 years of Jewish history and seeing signs, wonders, and miracles manifested through individuals at only two different points within that history, things suddenly changed. Israel’s Messiah (following the ministry of His forerunner, John the Baptist) appeared 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, Jesus 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, as well, to perform signs, wonders, and miracles (Luke 10:1-19).
Christ had been sent only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), and Christ sent the disciples whom He called to Israel alone (Matthew 10:6; Luke 10:1). Both Christ and His disciples 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 an unprecedented manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles. 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.
Whether it was Jesus or His disciples proclaiming the proffered kingdom; signs, wonders, and miracles accompanied their ministry and formed not only the credentials of the messenger but anticipated and bore testimony to the subject matter of the message. These manifestations of power were supernatural events that authenticated their message as being true, from God, and having to do with Israel and the kingdom (John 3:1, 2; Acts 2:22; cf. Exodus 4:1-9).
These supernatural manifestations of power depicted Israel’s present spiritual condition — the head “sick” and the heart “faint,” “From the sole of the foot even to the head . . . no soundness in it…” (Isaiah 1:5, 6); and they depicted another side to the matter as well — the Jewish people's land, desolated and devoured by strangers (Isaiah 1:7, 8).
But these supernatural manifestations of power also went on to show how this condition could change, if . . . . that is, this same supernatural power could and would, contingent on Israel’s repentance, bring to pass that of which the signs spoke — i.e., Israel’s future supernatural healing, both the people and the land, accompanied by God’s supernatural provision for the nation in all areas of life, which are dealt with in all the other various signs.
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 and one-half 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].)
Thus, 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. The signs showed an existing condition (sickness, seen prior to the healings) and a 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).
The religious leaders in Israel were to see these miraculous signs and know, from these, the authenticity and subject matter of the message. Then, believing and understanding the message that they had heard, they were responsible for carrying it to the people of Israel (cf. Exodus 4:29-31; Numbers 13:1-26).
However, exactly the opposite occurred. The religious leaders rejected the signs and the accompanying message; and they, in their unbelief, then sought to subvert the message and discredit the Messenger in the presence of the Jewish people (Matthew 12:14-32; 23:13).
(This is why Christ, near the end of His earthly ministry, condemned the actions of the scribes and Pharisees — the fundamental religious leaders of that day — in no uncertain terms [Matthew 23:1ff]. Seeing the manifested signs and hearing the accompanying message, they had rejected both. And they had sought to do away with that which was set forth by the supernatural signs by attacking the Messenger.
The scribes and Pharisees had sought to discredit the Messenger 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 [Matthew 23:13].)
And all of this had its end result in Israel’s rejection of not only the message but the Messenger as well, the removal of the kingdom of the heavens from Israel, the crucifixion of Israel’s Messiah, and the bringing into existence of a separate and distinct entity to be the recipient of that which had been offered to and rejected by Israel. Israel 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 of bringing forth fruit in this realm (Matthew 21:33-43; cf. Ephesians 2:11-15; 1 Peter 2:5-10).
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 re-offer of the kingdom to Israel following the inception of the Church, lasting for almost three decades (from 33 A.D. to about 62 A.D.). And, if for no other reason, this is evident because of the continuance of signs, wonders, and miracles during this time.
That would be to say, if God had terminated His dealings with Israel 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); and when Gentiles began to be added to the body of Christ, these signs were manifested within churches comprised of saved Gentiles, such as the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14). And, a manifestation of supernatural works in the Church after this fashion centered, not around Christians, but around 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 a 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 through a manifestation of signs, wonders, and miracles — the Jewish people were dealt with in what could only be considered a maximum manner.
In one respect, God pulled out all the stops (cf. Luke 10:13-24; 11:29-32). But the religious leaders in Israel would still have nothing to do with the manifested supernatural signs and the message; and the Jewish people, following their religious leaders, continued in unbelief.
Accordingly, the re-offer of the kingdom was eventually removed from the nation, with a corresponding cessation of miraculous signs.
Israel’s Present Spiritual Condition
Israel’s spiritual condition prior to God’s miraculous healing is revealed numerous places in Scripture. But note again 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 (establishing a beginning point for the subject matter in his book); 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, at the beginning of his prophecy, went on to relate the end of the matter.
Israel was sick, but Israel could, and one day would, be cured of this sickness. And the latter is what Isaiah went on to 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).
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.
In Hosea 5:13-6:2 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 that which the Lord has commanded (cf. Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-12; 4:19, 20; Leviticus 26:3, 14).
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 is conditioned on Israel obeying the Lord’s commandments.
The Lord made this very clear to the Israelites through Moses immediately prior to the giving of the Law:
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 that you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5, 6; cf. Leviticus 26:1-13; Deuteronomy 28:1-14).
And it was also made very clear 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].” The Jewish people would be removed from their land and scattered among the Gentile nations; and, among these nations, not only would they find themselves in subjection to the Gentiles but all types of different curses would befall them.
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 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 He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. (Hosea 6: 1, 2)
Then, note the two things revealed in Hosea 5:15 that introduce Israel’s future repentance: (1) The two days begin with Israel’s “offense” (i.e., the nation’s crucifixion of her Messiah); and (2) the two days 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).
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 to restore a subsequent ruined creation (6,000 years), 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 God’s 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 [Matthew 3:1, 2; 4:17, 23-25]. The New Testament is simply a continuation and unveiling of that which has lain in the Old Testament from the beginning.
Do you want to understand the New Testament? Then study the Old Testament. Do you want to see Israel or the Christ of the New Testament? Then view Israel or the nation’s Messiah in the eyes of the Old Testament.