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What Signs Are These?

Commentary by Roger Oakland
www.understandthetimes.org

Signs and wonders are happening all over the world! Are they genuine? Or could these be the signs Jesus said would occur before His Second Coming? If these signs and wonders are of God, who would want to be against them? If the signs and wonders are deceptive, then why would anyone want to be for them? Any attempt to answer these questions will naturally invite great controversy.

The Bible states we should "mark those who cause division."
1 The Bible also teaches that unity within the body of Christ is very important. But, what is the biblical definition of unity? Can Christianity be based on false ideas, error, deception or lying signs and wonders? What does the Bible claim? Should the Bible be overlooked in order to fabricate a false unity in the name of Christ? Shouldn't Christian unity always be based on the truth?

While those who question ecumenism are often labeled divisive and narrow-minded, the Bible does command that the word of God be carefully presented. While I have often been accused of being divisive, I wonder sometimes if I have been misunderstood.

Read Romans 16: 7 in its entire context and you will see the whole picture. Paul wrote: "Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them."
2 According to Paul, divisiveness is caused by those who teach "contrary" to what the Bible teaches.

Before writing this commentary I asked for God's help. I am not looking for more controversy. However, what do you do when you see a trend underway the Bible warns about? Or, what do you do when some are saying "these are the signs and wonders that we have been anticipating that will now prepare the way for Jesus to come?"

One of these two views must be wrong. If the signs are from God, then warning people against them would be blasphemous. If the signs are false, then the consequences are very serious and many people could be deceived if they are not warned.

Supporters of the "signs and wonders" are convinced they are right. Who are you they say to claim they are wrong? Or, it is unbiblical for you to attack a well known pastor or a famous evangelist? What about these healings and people being raised from the dead? Didn't Jesus say we could do what He did? Are you saying that "signs and wonders" do not follow the preaching of the gospel? 

Or, there is another common argument. Why would anyone be so bold to speak out against a revival? Are you more interested in eschatology than knowing the truth? Another one of my critics actually said, "No wonder you suffer so much hardship and your son was killed in an accident - you are guilty of blaspheming the Holy Ghost."

Yes, I have heard all these questions, comments and accusations. People write or call me every day. One brother told me, "The whole world is coming to Jesus whether you believe it or not. If you don't stop what you are doing, I am predicting God will take you out."

I take these claims seriously, of course. Who would want to blaspheme God? Who would want to be personally responsible for holding back a genuine revival? This is a serious matter. If my critics are right, I am wrong and a tool of the devil as they say. As well, I know that hell is a real place. I don't want to go there, nor anyone else that I know.

Nigeria's Miracle

If you have not heard about "Nigeria's Miracle," you will. Christians all over the world are talking about one of the most amazing "revivals" in history. People are gathering in the name of Christ by the hundreds of thousands. "Signs and wonders are following the preaching of the simple gospel," many say. Could this be the great revival the "New Wine Movement" has been predicting? Or is there a possibility the world is being prepared for a final grand delusion mentioned in the Bible?
3

An article "Come and Receive Your Miracle" from Christianity Today, February 5, 2001, provides interesting insight into the "revival" in Nigeria. The leading paragraph states: "German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke's mass healings and evangelistic crusades are setting records, but career missionaries say the quality of disciples, not the quantity of the crowd, is the key to reaching Nigerians."
4 While it is apparent that "miracle meetings" draw large crowds, not everyone who believes in miracles is impressed with Reinhard Bonnke's style.

Bonnke's meetings are often attended by over 500,000. On one occasion he shouted: "Jesus is the Savior of Nigeria. All of Nigeria is going to heaven."
5

While the massive crowds are a strong indication that many are being attracted to the meetings, how many in attendance understand the message of the gospel? Are the masses being led to Jesus as Savior, or are they being attracted to the miracles that are associated with His name?

Although Bonnke may be sincere in his objective to see all Nigerians saved, there is a possibility that he may be deceived. He claims that when he was a young missionary in Lesotho, South Africa, the Holy Spirit gave him a vision. According to Bonnke, he saw the entire African continent washed in the blood of Jesus.
6

Charisma, May 2002, also helps us to further understand the nature of the Nigerian revival. While it is true massive meetings are being held with hundreds of thousands in attendance, the style of leadership needs to be tested. According to an article titled "Nigeria's Miracle," observers say that God is raising up an army to evangelize a continent.
7

This idea of an army being raised up is not new. In 1948 the Latter Rain Movement founded in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, called for an army of empowered believers. Often called Joel's Army, a prediction was made that the whole world would be Christianized by these mighty self-appointed soldiers of God. While the army went underground for a while, it's now back in full force.

Even Charisma attempts to add a word of warning. One statement reads: "While Nigeria's churches are growing, many of them are preaching an imported message that focuses on money. They borrowed it from the United States."
8  A further comment confirms there is a genuine concern: "There is no question that Nigeria has been fertile ground for the American faith message. Kenneth Haggin Sr.'s teachings on healing and prosperity have enjoyed wide circulation in Nigeria since the 1970's, partly through the influence of Nigerian magachurch leader Benson Idahosa. Kenneth Copeland, Jerry Savelle, John Avanzini and many other preachers who specialize in the prosperity message have huge followings in the African country. " 9 

While supporters of the Signs and Wonders movement in Nigeria claim God is at work, there are others who are suspicious of the "revival" saying that it may be tainted with error. Many pastors, they say, "have adopted an American model of celebrity Christianity - which has been eagerly embraced by a patriarchal African culture that struggles with hero worship. People follow their leaders rather than God."
10  One spokesperson has stated: "I know of churches where they will not pray for you at the altar unless you give money first. They teach that you must give seed money first in order to receive any kind of blessing." 11

When I read the Charisma article about the great "Nigerian Miracle," it was about one week after I had visited Fort Worth Texas. On the way to my Sunday morning speaking engagement, we drove past a massive church called The Church of John Avanzini. Although it was a huge complex there were only a few cars in the parking lot. When I asked how many attended services on a Sunday morning I found out there were only a few. "They actually meet in a classroom and not the sanctuary," I was told.

Perhaps in the future, the "signs and wonders" that are happening in Nigeria will be exported back to the USA. In order for Latter Rain prophecies to be fulfilled, this definitely would have to happen. For now, I believe it would be beneficial to check out current trends with the Bible.

A Biblical Response

Many are saying that a global manifestation of "signs and wonders" will be essential for the spreading of the gospel on a worldwide scale. Over the past several decades, experience-based Christians have been promoting a style of evangelism that requires "Christian unity" as the prerequisite. Unity in the name of Christ, they say, produces miracles that are attributed to Christ. This method, better known as "power evangelism," is built upon the premise that "signs and wonders" bring about conversions to Christ necessary to usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

However, a careful study of the Bible indicates that before Jesus returns to earth there will be a time when people should be cautious about signs and wonders. Jesus said the signs and wonders at this time would be of the deceptive variety.
12   Paul also warned about such supernatural phenomena as part of a grand delusion that would deceive many and prepare the way for the antichrist. 13

Jesus also proclaimed a warning about a faith primarily focused on the miraculous. He said many would be deceived and spend eternity in hell. Even though they had experienced supernatural phenomenon in His name, they had never understood the simple gospel. 
14

On another occasion Jesus warned about the dangers of seeking after signs and wonders. He said: "Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation."
15  Later in the same chapter Jesus made it clear to His followers that they should understand the true reason for following Him. He declared: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; and whoever loses his life shall for My sake and the gospel's sake shall save it." 16

It is obvious that Jesus placed a high propriety on the importance of understanding the gospel. He did not seem to promote the idea that people should seek Him for signs and wonders alone. So what is more important - to be healed, then later die and go to hell, or to understand the gospel and live forever?

One final example from the scriptures confirms that Jesus was not supportive of people following Him for the sake of miracles. Although Jesus is the God of true miracles, and it is true that signs and miracles follow the preaching of the gospel, people must not follow miracles for the sake of following miracles. They must understand the gospel. If they do not, there is great potential for deception in Christ's name. In Luke 3: 23-25 we read: "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, beholding in His signs which He was doing. But Jesus on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man."

It would seem to me, based upon what Jesus has said and His actions as recorded in the Bible, that signs and wonders are secondary to the preaching of the true gospel. Should we not pay attention to what Jesus has said and done?

With regard to the signs and wonders that are supposedly behind the great "Nigerian Miracle" - how can we know for sure if these reported miracles are genuine or counterfeit? Are the masses being saved or could this be a preview of a future delusion that will send many to hell?

Before making a judgment it would be important to check out the facts. Remember, the road to hell is wide and many are those who travel on it. While the way to heaven is a narrow way, it is possible to travel this road if you understand the gospel.

And finally, there is one thing we can know for sure. The gospel is the ticket to go to heaven, not "signs and wonders." Of course, time will tell who is right and who is wrong. Meanwhile, remember that the consequences of being wrong are very serious. Eternity is a long time to spend in hell and there are no second chances to escape.

 


1. Romans 16: 17
2. Ibid.
3. 2 Thessalonians 2
4. Corrie Cutrer and Obed Minchakpu, "Come and Receive Your Miracle," Christianity Today, February 5, 2001, volume 45, No. 2, page 40
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. J. Lee. Grady, Christianity Today, May 2002, "Nigeria's Miracle," page 38
8. Ibid. p. 42
9. Ibid. p. 43
10. Ibid. p. 50
11. Ibid. p.
12. Matthew 24:24
13. 2 Thessalonians 2: 9
14: Matthew 7: 21-23
15. Mark 8:12
16. Mark 8: 24


For additional information regarding experience-based Christianity and other related topics, consider ordering Roger Oakland’s new book:
“New Wine and the Babylonian Vine: Last Days Delusion in the Name of Christ”
($11.95 plus $3.50 mailing and handling - 342 pages – 22 chapters)

 

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