Kingdom Myth 7. The kingdom of God is the equivalent of signs, miracles, and wonders.
Today’s myth is the idea that the kingdom is the equivalent of signs, miracles, and wonders. This view is popular among some quarters of the charismatic segment of the body of Christ. The idea is that those who preach the kingdom today must always confirm it by miraculous signs and jaw-dropping wonders.
As I’ve explained in great detail in my Titan Collectible, I’m a post-charismatic. So I believe (and even function in) the gifts of the Spirit, but without the charismatic wrappings and Pentecostal packaging.
Those who believe God is in the business of always performing signs and wonders – and that every Christian should be walking the streets and visiting local hospitals healing the sick, casting out demons, and “doing the stuff” that Jesus did — overlook the following:
1) When Jesus was on earth in the flesh, He was the full and complete embodiment of the kingdom of God. For this reason, healings, miracles, signs, and wonders were frequent in His ministry. Why? Because in the Person of Jesus, the future kingdom had arrived in its fullness.
Today, however, we live in the spiritual tension where the kingdom of God is already, but not yet. This means that the kingdom of God is here, but only “in part” (see 1 Corinthians 13). The miraculous does take place, but not as frequently as it did in Jesus’ ministry.
2) During Pentecost, as well as in Paul’s ministry, God was initiating a new work that was initially accompanied by signs and wonders.
3) The signs and wonders of Jesus often pointed to something much larger. A healed ear, an opened eye, etc. pointed beyond those specific miracles. (I riff on this point in my upcoming book on the kingdom. Note that a “sign” points to something beyond itself.)
4) There are seasons when God invades the earth with the miraculous power of His kingdom. During such times, masses of people are saved, healed, and delivered. But then that season passes and such things don’t happen as frequently. (As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the book of Acts is a highly compressed narrative. There were such seasons of refreshing in that account when miracles were more predominant than at other times.)
5) The fact that the kingdom is “already, but not yet” explains why so many people are not healed today, and why God doesn’t always respond to prayers for the miraculous.
6) Those who expect God to perform the miraculous continuously are often forced to begin bluffing, exaggerating, and even outright lying about it. (I’ve seen this for years among people who weren’t willing to revise their theology in light of undeniable experience.)
Again, I believe in the gifts of the Spirit — all of them. (Remember, I’m the guy who wrote a scathing critique of John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire.)
The good news is that God is reclaiming the gospel of the kingdom in our time. And that gospel transforms, delivers, and changes, way beyond heart-pounding wonders.
The gospel of the kingdom also happens to be good news for the poor and a profound challenge to the wealthy (something that some of my charismatic brethren don’t quite understand). And it’s all about full allegiance to a Person – Jesus Christ, this world’s true King.
The people of the kingdom focus on the King rather than on what He gives.
All told, I’ve seen my share of signs and wonders over the years, and they don’t impress me much. The reason is simple. A person can be well-schooled in the miraculous, yet not know the King very well or be fully given to His kingdom. In fact, a person can live contrary to the gospel and still “do the stuff” that Jesus did.
Just ask the Corinthians.
P.S. If you’re looking for a footnote, you can find it in Matthew 7:22-23.
Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”