Searching for Signs and Wonders

By John J. Blanchard

December 1, 2012

Today is December 1, 2012.  You may or not have heard, but in three weeks the world might end.  That’s according to the Mayan calendar.  There are a number of people who are fairly vocal about that and think that it actually has merit.  There are other people who sympathize with that because they feel in their gut that something is going to go wrong very soon, so the world is rather on edge.

There are other people like NASA who say don’t let all that stuff get you down and fool you because you are just being preyed upon by people who want to make money on your fears.  There are other scientists who say don’t pay any attention to that stuff.  Then you have a few scientists who say, there might be merit to it because of the way the solar system, and on and on they go.  It reminds me of several events in the not-too-distant past.

You might remember Y2K twelve years ago.  That might have been the end of the world according to many.  There have been a few events between then and now.  It was last year in May when there was a prominent Christian minister saying that the world was going to end in May of last year.  When that did not come to past, he said there was a wrong prophetic calculation on his part.  It was going to end in October, and then it didn’t happen then either.  He apologized and sort of retired from the ministry.

I can reach back in time and say there have been occasions when I have heard 1975 might be the end.  I know back in the day people thought World War II with the advent of Hitler was going to be the end.  World War I was going to be the end.  Did you know that when the Pilgrims came here they thought they were preparing for the end of the world?  You can go back to the 1500’s and the Spanish Armada.  The English and the Christians in Britain thought that was going to be the end of the world.  If you go all the way back to 1,000 A.D., which I did a sermon on a year or two ago, many Christians believed 1,000 A.D.—or a thousand years ago—was going to be the end of the world (see sermon called “The Green Revolution,” April 25, 2011).

Actually for the last 2,000 years mankind has been obsessed with when the end of the world will occur and the return of Jesus Christ.  Why is it that we never seem to get it right?  You would think if you just named date after date eventually you are going to be right.  It has been wrong every time.  Why is it always wrong?

THE FALSE PREMISE OF THE END OF THE WORLD

I think you understand the idea of a false premise.  If you have a false premise, anything you build upon that false premise is going to give you a wrong answer.  I think the fact that all of these dates and all of these times and all of these events have been wrong for 2,000 years is because we have been basing them on a false premise.

The particular false premise I want to focus on about the end of the world is of course tied to religion.  It is a religious belief.  You could say that about people in the Christian faith whether they are Catholic or Protestant who believe in the end of the world.  It is religious based.  If you look at the Muslims, they believe the end of the world is religiously based.  As a matter of fact, they think Jesus Christ was a prophet and spoke a lot about the end of the world in their minds.  Even the Mayan calendar was supposedly a religiously based calendar using the position of the Solar System and the stars, so it still had a lot to do with their religion.

For Christians, we need to get it right.  We can’t be basing things on a false premise.  Let’s go to the Scripture that I feel is the main one that has inspired this false premise, and that’s in Matthew chapter 24.  We are going to start reading in Matthew 24, verse 1:  “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things?  Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’”

I am quoting and reading from the New King James.  That makes a very important distinction here.  We will get into that in just a second.  The disciples then asked Jesus two very important questions that are recorded here.  We are going to read now in verse 3.

Verse 3 of Matthew 24:   “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be?  And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’”

These are two very distinct and very clear questions:  when will the temple be destroyed (because Christ said all these buildings would be knocked down), and secondly, what is the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?

Notice the New King James Version says the “end of the age.”  You can go and read two very common—and probably the most common editions on the planet—the King James and the Douay Version. The King James is called the Authorized Version.  It is a Protestant translation named after King James who is the one who authorized it, and that’s why it has that name to it.  It came out in 1611.  That version quotes this as saying, “end of the world.”  There is also the Catholic Douay Version which is called the Douay Version because it was written in Douay, France about the same time—1609 to 1610.  It also renders this verse “end of the world.”  For a long time, people read that verse and said Christ was going to talk in these Scriptures about the end of the world.  The version I am reading from (the New King James) has it correctly rendered that we are talking about the end of the age.  There are Scriptures we can turn to that point to that, and we are going to in a minute.

First of all we want to talk about the fact that people ask, how do you know that?  Isn’t that just people looking at the Bible and thinking that, this is what it said there, and this is what it said here?  Maybe they are both right in some way.  Or maybe there is something confusing here, but we got it right the first time and wrong the second time?  There is all kinds of speculation.

Jesus Christ was using the language in the vernacular of the time, just like I am speaking in English.  You could go somewhere today and hear a sermon in French or Spanish or whatever.  They are using the language of the time, and they know how to use it.  Christ knew how to use the language of the time—the Greek and the Aramaic.  We can see right in this very same set of Scriptures the term in the King James that is rendered “world” and the term that is rendered “age” are different in the same set of Scriptures.  I will show you.

If you go to Matthew 24:14, we hear Christ speaking, and He says this:  “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

We see in the King James and Douay Version world is used twice in the same chapter, but they are two different words.  In the first case where the King James and the New King James differ, it is “age.”  The Greek word is aion (#165, Strong’s, 1995), which means properly an age, and specifically to the Jews a Messianic period present or future.

The second time that the word “world” gets used oikoumene (#3625, Strong’s, 1995), it means the land or terrene part of the globe.  Jesus Christ knew how to use the language, so He used two different words here.  It is human beings that are trying to make sense in their own minds who use the same English word in the Scriptures.  Finally over time it became realized by scholars that Christ was using two different words that meant “age” or “world.”  It makes a huge difference in what Christ was trying to say.  It is a huge difference.

When Christ is referring to the end of the age, He is talking about the end of a period of time.  When He talks about taking the gospel as a witness to the whole world, He is talking about the entire world—the physical globe.

We have two questions here, when will the temple be destroyed?  Secondly, what is the sign of Christ’s coming and the end of the world?  He answers the first question separately from the second question.  Let’s go to verses 15 and 16 of the same chapter to read His answer to how those buildings would get destroyed.

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE

Matthew 24, verse 15:  “‘Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand), ‘then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.’”

He is talking about a specific event.  That event took place physically in the time of the disciples.  That was in 70 A.D. Jerusalem became surrounded by armies and destroyed over a period of three years.  You can turn to Luke for a moment.  The same event is being talked about in Luke 21.

We will read Luke chapter 21, verses 20 and 21:  “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.

He is telling them—meaning His disciples—you will see this happen in your lifetime.  That will be the end of an age.  What age?  It is the end of the Old Testament period of time.  You could call it the Old Testament age.  Now we understand we are in a New Testament dispensation with God’s people.  The second question is more complex and is more appropriate for us to understand in our time, because it is 2,000 years later.

THE END OF THE AGE

Christ begins to answer the second question through most of this chapter, which we are obviously not going to have time in one sermon to go through.  But let’s look because He starts with warnings.  He starts with warnings.  First we define what the end of the world is, and it is not the end of the world but the end of the age.  Then Christ goes on to say, I want to warn you first.  Let’s look at verse 4.

Matthew 24, verse 4:  “And Jesus answered and said to them:  ‘Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.’”

What are they going to be saying in Christ’s name?

Verse 6:  “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”

He says, I am warning you now.  The first thing is don’t be deceived by what they say in My name using wars, and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilences as signs of My coming.

You can throw in a bunch of other signs right along with it.  He did not go and name every possible sign that people would use over the next couple thousand years to warn about His second coming.  We can throw in some of the things we have talked about:  Y2K and the Mayan calendar.  We can throw in global warming, hurricanes, droughts, the value of the dollar, the price of gold, the price of oil, scarcity of this or that, etc., etc.  The list is getting longer, it seems with each passing month, on what are signs of Christ’s return, but He said, do not pay attention to those.  We have always had problems:  earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, currencies coming and going, nations rising and falling, and nations fighting against one another.  We have always had these things, which is why people keep getting it wrong.

When the English saw the huge Spanish Armada coming and said, this is the beast power and it’s the end of the world coming, they were wrong because they were looking to physical war.  When the Pilgrims fled to come to what they thought was going to be like the promised land and set up the Millennium here to protect themselves and other believers from the tribulation, they were wrong.  Every time we look to something physical as a sign of Christ’s return, we are going to keep making the same mistake because Christ was not talking about the end of the world.  He was talking about the end of the age.  Yet all we hear in connection with Christ’s return is doom and gloom.  Doom and gloom is everywhere we turn.

Christ’s return is going to come at an unusual time, He says.  Turn to Luke chapter 12.  Why is it going to be unusual?  It tells us right here.

Luke chapter 12, verse 40:  “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Isn’t that something!  He is coming at an hour we do not expect.  If everybody is expecting wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, stars and comets slamming into the earth and what not, of course they are going to be surprised and shocked when Christ’s return does not coincide with massive death and destruction.  He is going to take us by surprise.  He warns us in several other places, which we won’t turn to in this sermon.  He does warn several times where He says, I am going to shock you.  I am going to come when you are not ready!  I am going to come when you don’t expect it.

Let’s also turn back to Matthew chapter 24 again to look at an intensification of His warnings that He gave earlier in that chapter.  I want to read verses 23-25.

Matthew 24, verse 23:  “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand.”

He gave the disciples and the rest of Christianity who would follow warnings beforehand of what would happen.  We find that earlier in the chapter He says, they will come in My name preaching all this doom and gloom.  Here He tells us to be careful because people will say, here is the Christ.  This does not specifically mean there is Christ standing over there or hiding in the woods over there or behind that mountain over there.  It can be taken to mean Christ is working here.  He is working in this group or that group, or this church or that church.  This is where Christ dwells.  He said, be careful because if they are talking about wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilences, those aren’t the signs of My coming.  They can deceive many!  He says, many will come in My name, and will deceive many.  That is the majority, which has happened.  Even though Christ warned us in advance, it has happened!

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Since wars and rumors of wars and natural disasters are not the signs of Christ’s return and the end of the age, what are the signs?  We need to define those two words:  signs and wonders.  This will help us grasp this.  Signs in the ancient Greek was semeion (#4592, Strong’s, 1995):  an indication, especially a ceremonial or a supernatural thing.  In other words, Christ would warn us with indicators that were ceremonial and supernatural.  The two words, signs and wonders, often go together.  Wonders is the word teras (#5059, Strong’s, 1995) which means a prodigy or omen.

When we take those two words and their definitions and put them together, we find that signs and wonders means indicators, indicators whether ceremonial or supernatural that mark or indicate where we are in time and how God is interacting with humanity.  Since it is not the way the vast majority have come to view the end of the age, we have to think about this differently.

There are two ways that God uses signs and wonders.  We just read that, but let’s make it simple.  The first way is miracles which are supernatural.  The second way is ceremonial or ceremony, which is what believers do to worship God.  Those are the two ways.  It is very, very straightforward.  Both require two things:  Jesus Christ and the people He works through.  You must have both.

There is a fascinating set of Scriptures in the Old Testament that I want to read.  This passage explains this very clearly.  This is why the apostles were asking the question of Christ about the end of the age and why Christ started the whole conversation.  I am sure He knew where it was going to go when He was leaving the temple mount and said, look at all these buildings.  They are all going to be destroyed.  That got the apostles thinking about what was going to happen here?  Will that be the end of the world?  Will that be the end of the age?  What exactly is going to happen here?  Christ was setting up this whole discussion, and then of course it was recorded for our benefit and the benefit of all Christians if they had ears to hear and eyes to see.

I want to talk about a set of Scriptures in Isaiah.  If you would, turn to Isaiah chapter 8.  There is a very fascinating prophecy here that explains a lot of the conundrum that Christianity has been facing for a long time.  Isaiah chapter 8, verse 11:  “For the Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people…”

What did the Lord say?

Continuing in verse 12:   “…saying:  ‘Do not say, “A conspiracy,” concerning all that this people call a conspiracy…’”

The King James will say a confederacy.  It means people conspiring and thinking about conspiracy and that sort of thing.

Verse 12:  “…nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.  The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.  He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

Christ knew that false teachings about various conspiracies, warnings, and threats would trouble His people and confuse many of them, even prior to His first coming.  That was why it was so difficult for Christ to prove who He was, and so few people ended up believing even though they saw many miracles and heard Him speak wonderful things.

Verse 15 goes on to say:  “‘And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken.’  Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”

The word of God is the testimony, and the law is the Ten Commandments.  He says, bind this up and seal it among My disciples—My followers.

Continuing in Isaiah 8, verse 17:  “And I will wait on the Lord, who hides His face from the house of Jacob; and I will hope in Him.  Here am I [this is the Lord talking] and the children whom the Lord has given me!”

God the Father gave Jesus Christ children, and we know that in the New Testament they are called Christians.

Continuing in verse 18:  “…whom the Lord has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.”

Look at that!  It is Jesus Christ and His people who are for signs and wonders!  He goes on to warn about sorceries and what not.  Let’s read verse 19.  You can throw the Mayan calendar in here and various other strange prophecies and prophets that are out there.

Verse 19 of Isaiah 8:  “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God?  Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?  To the law and to the testimony [the law is the Ten Commandments or the first five books of the Old Testament]!  If they do not speak according to this word [the word of God], it is because there is no light in them.”

It is very clear.  When you continue in verse 21 and 22 He says what happens if you follow these types of things.

Isaiah 8, verse 21:  “They will pass through it hard-pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward.”

Like as if to say, God what are you doing?

Verse 22:  “Then they will look to the earth…”

What will they see?  It says here in verse 22:  “…and see trouble and darkness, gloom and anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.”

It can’t get any clearer.  If you do not follow the Scriptures and the law and bind them into your heart and believe them, you are able to be led astray by people proclaiming threats, conspiracies, troubles, and using false prophecies to confuse you.  This is what happens time and time again.

We could prove this whole thing about keeping the law—the Ten Commandments.  We don’t have time to do that in this sermon.  We have other sermons and booklets on that subject.  We can see clearly that God’s people are to keep the law and believe the testimony—the word of God, the biblical truths, the correct view of prophecy.  When they do that, they are for signs and wonders.  Doom and gloom and all these physical things are not for signs and wonders, which is why Christ said, don’t look to those things.

PEOPLE AS SIGNS

Christ working through His people for signs and wonders should be provable in the Scriptures, and it is.  I want to start by talking about Pentecost, so I want to turn to Acts chapter 1.  It was the first Pentecost after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.  Turn to Acts chapter 1, please. This is Christ talking to His disciples after His resurrection.

We will begin in Acts 1, verse 4:  “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’  Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’”

It is a logical question.  They were still looking for the Messiah to come in a permanent fashion.

Verse 7 of Acts 1:  “And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’”

Hence, what we read in Matthew 24:14 was this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness, then the end of the age can come.  Christ’s return can come, but the gospel must be preached to all the physical world as a sign that the end of the age is near.

The gospel of the kingdom has been going out for a while.  It has been interrupted by various false doctrines, false teachings, and among the worst are turning our minds away from the gospel of the good news of the kingdom.  Instead what is preached is exactly what Christ warned against and that is turning them to wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilences.  That is why Christ said, I am going to tell you ahead of time not to get deceived by these things because then you are going to miss the real signs that I am giving you.  Then I will return and shock you by coming at a time you are not expecting.  The ramifications of that are huge because it means God’s people won’t be ready.  They won’t realize what they should be looking for.  They will also be preaching the wrong things in His name such as threats, conspiracies, and warnings about all these disasters.  That’s getting people off track.  This is a serious matter.  It is a very serious matter.

Here we find in Acts Christ tells His disciples you will take the gospel to the end of the earth—around the terrene globe.

Now let’s go to Acts chapter 2. He had told them in the first chapter, I want you to be gathered together, and they were on Pentecost.  Acts chapter 2, verse 1:  “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”

We can read earlier that there were 120 believers.

Acts 2, verse 2:  “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

It was a sign and a wonder on a holy day.  God says in His law we must keep His Sabbaths and His holy days.  The 120 were gathered there, and they saw and heard a sign and a wonder.  People outside the building heard the noise of the rushing mighty wind.  We will continue reading about this miracle of speaking in other tongues.

Continue reading Acts 2:5-12.

Some said they had to be drunk, but that was a miracle.  If you can hear somebody speaking in one language, and dozens and dozens of other people of various languages are present and they can all hear it in their own language, that is a sign and a wonder.  We are seeing how God works through His people on a ceremonial day in a supernatural way.  Can you see that?  It has nothing to do with a disaster.

SUN AND MOON REPRESENT SIGNS

Continuing on with this amazing event here, we are going to drop down to verse 14.  Acts 2, verse 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.  For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  “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 [that means teach], your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.  And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.  I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath:  blood and fire and vapor of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”’”

A Scripture in Joel that many people use to prove disaster in the last days—our time—Peter says, you are seeing this fulfilled here and the latter days have begun.  The Christian dispensation of the latter period has begun.  The first period was the Old Testament age.  Now we have begun the New Testament age.  He says, you saw this fulfilled.  They asked, how did we see the sun go dark and the moon turn to blood?  We have covered that in great detail in past sermons, so we know the sun represents Jesus Christ.  We are going to see that again here.  The moon represents the Church.  The blood is the blood of Christ that covers the Church’s sin.

Let’s continue in Acts 2, verse 22:  “Men of Israel, hear these words:  Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know….”

He said you saw Jesus Christ do signs and wonders.

Verse 23:  “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”

He says, you saw this fulfilled with your own eyes, and you were a part of it.  When you killed Jesus Christ, you put out the light of the sun.  God knew that would happen, and that provided the blood to cover the moon [the church—the congregation who would believe] of their sins.  We had to have the death of a savior.  It is interesting that it took place on Passover which is another holy day.  It is another ceremonial time to get together that God commanded.  We see ceremony and signs and wonders come together once again in the same set of Scriptures!

Now let’s go to Acts 2:43.  We can’t read everything or we won’t get through this sermon, but I want to point out to you in several instances that it is the people and Jesus Christ working through them who are for signs and wonders.

Verse 43 of the same chapter, Acts chapter 2:  “Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”

I can’t argue with that!  It’s there in black and white.  The apostles were for signs and wonders.

Now go to Acts chapter 4.  This is after Peter was released from prison.  Acts 4, beginning in verse 23:  “And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.  So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said:  ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:  “Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things [vain things like strange conspiracies and what have you]?  The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.”  For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.’”

This led to the death of Jesus Christ.

Continue reading in Acts 4, verse 29:  “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word…”

They were told, you must stop preaching this name of Jesus Christ.  You must stop preaching this gospel of the kingdom.  We are sick and tired of your signs and wonders, too, by the way!  This is what the powers that be were telling the disciples.

Verse 30:   “…by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

He said, we don’t want this, but the disciples were praying, God, don’t stop it!  Continue to help us preach the truth and continue to give us signs and wonders through Your name.

Verse 31 of Acts 4:  “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

That was another sign and a wonder.

Turn to Acts chapter 5, verse 12:  “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.  And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.  Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.  And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.  Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.”

This was a sign and a wonder that Christ did through His disciples.

For one last Scripture along this line, if you would, turn to Romans chapter 15.  Romans 15, verse 14:  “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.  Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points [this is Paul speaking], as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God [the good news], that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit [sharing this blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit with others].  Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God.  For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient—in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.  And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written:  ‘To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand.’”

Here are more signs and wonders.  He says in verse 19, by mighty signs and wonders the Holy Spirit has worked through me to help bring Gentiles—who never had a prayer in the past—a chance to come to Christ and receive His blood and the Holy Spirit.  These were tremendous signs and wonders, all having to do with hope, truth, and the gospel, which is good news.  None of them has to do with doom, gloom, death, destruction, wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, or pestilence.

It has always been this way.  Signs and wonders through God’s people is how Jesus Christ has worked.  Even in the Old Testament.  Let’s look at a few Scriptures in the Old Testament.

Turn to Exodus chapter 4.  This is coming out of ancient Egypt.  Exodus 4, beginning in verse 1:  “Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, “The Lord has not appeared to you.”’”

He said, what if the Israelites don’t believe that You sent me and what if the pharaoh will not believe that I am working for You or that You are working through me?

Continue reading Exodus 4:2-17.

We know there were multiple signs and wonders as they came out of Egypt and then, of course, heading toward the Promised Land.  In the wilderness there were tremendous signs and wonders.

Turn to Deuteronomy now.  Moses was definitely for signs and wonders.  We want to read Deuteronomy chapter 6, beginning in verse 17.  “You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you.  And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the Lord swore to your fathers, to cast out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has spoken.  When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son:  ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household.’”

We still talk about them!  We talk about the parting of the Red Sea, the manna, the quail.  There are so many signs and wonders that were done through the hand of Moses.

Verse 23 of Deuteronomy 6:  “Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers.  And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.  Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.”

We must keep God’s Ten Commandments.  Today we don’t keep all the statutes and sacrifices because Christ was the sacrifice for all, but we need to keep the commandments and honor the testimonies—the Bible of God, the word of truth—and seek after His righteousness for our benefit and the benefit of all mankind.  It has always been God working signs and wonders through His people to help us in that regard.

HOLY DAYS ARE A SIGN

Go back to Exodus again.  Exodus chapter 31, verse 12:  “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak also to the children of Israel, saying:  “Surely My Sabbaths [that is plural because it is the regular weekly Sabbath as well as the holy days] you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”’”

That is a sign.  Keeping the Sabbath and keeping the holy days is a ceremonial sign, but it combines with supernatural wonders like what happened on Pentecost.  It happened on Passover.  It is amazing!  They go together.

Continue reading Exodus 31, verse 14:  “‘You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you.  Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.  Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord.  Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.  Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant [that means forever].  It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’  And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”

We can see that to have signs and wonders we have to do something as well.  We have to be compliant.  We have to obey God. We have to honor His Bible, honor His Sabbaths, His testimonies, and His commandments.

OBSCURED SIGNS

There are times in which the signs and wonders have been obscured to God’s people.  We have seen why.  If they are disobedient, they are preaching the wrong thing, or if they go off in error, they can lose that spiritual vision to understand what signs and wonders are.  There are a number of places that this is spoken of in the Bible, but I want to turn to Psalms chapter 74.  We are going to read verses 1-12.

Psalms 74, beginning in verse 1:  “O God, why have You cast us off forever?  Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?”

We know the Church today is the sheep of His pasture.

Verse 2:  “Remember Your congregation, which You have purchased of old, the tribe of Your inheritance, which You have redeemed—this Mount Zion where You have dwelt.  Lift up Your feet to the perpetual desolations.  The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary.”

We know the ultimate enemy is Satan and his demons.

Verse 4 of Psalms 74:  “Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; they set up their banners for signs.”

In other words, they set up what they want you to follow:   wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilence, and the Mayan calendar.  These are all the things we have been talking about.

Verse 5:  “They seem like men who lift up axes among the thick trees.”

We know what the tree of life is and that the disciples were called trees.  We have studied that in the past.

Continuing in verse 6 of Psalms 74:  “And now they break down its carved work, all at once, with axes and hammers. They have set fire to Your sanctuary…”

We know this is the Church today.

Continuing in verse 7:  “…they have defiled the dwelling place of Your name to the ground. They said in their hearts, ‘Let us destroy them altogether.’  They have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land.  We do not see our signs…”

When you get off track too far, you can’t see the signs God is actually sending you.  The way markers become obscured.  It is like driving down a highway at high speed in the fog.  You keep missing the signs.

Verse 9:  “…there is no longer any prophet [no teacher]; nor is there any among us who knows how long.  O God, how long will the adversary reproach?  Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever?  Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?  Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them.  For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.”

How long, God, how long?  We could go through and look at signs extensively that show us it is drawing to a close.  We don’t have time in this sermon, but we have books and CD’s on the subject.

THE SEA OF MANKIND WILL BE CONVERTED

We know that ultimately the whole world is going to know the truth, and it is coming very quickly.

Turn to Isaiah chapter 60 where that prophecy is uttered in the Old Testament.  Isaiah chapter 60, beginning in verse 1:  “Arise, shine; for your light has come!  And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.  For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth [and it certainly has], and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you [this is upon His people].  The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Jesus Christ did rise, and His light was shining through His disciples.  It should be shining through His Church throughout the ages, but we see it goes dim sometimes.  For a time in or lifetime, it has been very dim.  It is getting brighter again now!  Look at the result in verse 4.

Verse 4 of Isaiah 60:  “Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.  Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you…”

The King James Version renders that a little better there with:  “shall be converted.”  We know that the abundance of the earth will be converted, and God is talking about people.  They can’t all be dead from death, destruction, wars and what have you and get converted.  You have to be alive to get converted!

A New Testament Scripture refers to this event.  Turn to Revelation chapter 7 for our final Scripture.  We will be reading in Revelation 7:9-17.

Revelation 7, verse 9:  “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’  All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:  ‘Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.’  Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’  And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’  So he said to me ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”

Obviously they survived the tribulation, so it is not death and destruction.  It is a struggle to learn the truth.  They wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, just like the twelve disciples and the 120 gathered on Pentecost.

Continuing in verse 15 of Revelation 7:  “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple.  And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.  They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

It is a beautiful plan that God has for mankind.  He has given us an abundance of signs and wonders down through the ages.  Unfortunately, Satan did a masterful job of obscuring them from even the majority of Christians.  At the end of the age that is going to reverse.  The words are true and sure.  God knows the beginning from the end.  Everything is going to work out to God’s glory, and we will fully understand and share those signs and wonders with a world that is soon going to be converted.

If you want more literature on this subject or more information, please contact us at GLCG.net or TheBeautifulThoughtsOfGod.com.  Or you may write us at the Great Lakes Church of God, P.O. Box 1272, Aberdeen, NC 28315.  We will be glad to send you lots of helpful Bible studies and sermons on this subject to help you be one of the first to understand God’s signs and wonders.

 

Share With Others
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+