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During the time of the Apostles, the Gospels show miracles occurred much more frequently than today. God does perform miracles today, such as the miracles of healing and protection, and the greatest miracle of all, the miracle of conversion, but great public miracles witnessing the power of God hardly ever happen.
In Hebrews 1:1 we are told: "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets." Those "various ways" included public miracles, as witnessed by the lives of the prophets, such as Elijah. God is working with His people in another way today --- not necessarily through miracles, but through the life, message and teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament as verse 2 points out: He "has in these last days spoken to us by His Son... .
The miracles we read about in the Bible were examples of the power and love of God and were at times used to attract large audiences, which was especially important during the founding of the New Testament Church. Today, we have the benefit of mass media technology.
Notice what Jesus tells us about the impact miracles often have in terms of conversion and salvation. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16), the rich man begs that someone be resurrected from the dead to convince his family of God’s truth. Christ replies: "If they do not hear Moses and the prophets [many of whom did perform miracles], neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead" (verse 31).
The Bible also records the reaction of the majority to the miracles performed by Christ, when He was on earth. After Christ healed a man with a withered hand: "... the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Matthew 12:14). When Christ miraculously healed a paralytic the scribes maintained "This Man blasphemes” (Matthew 9:1-3), and on a similar occasion Christ was accused of casting: "... out demons by the ruler of the demons…” (Matthew 9:32-34).
Importantly, Christians are told that being a ‘miracle worker’ does not prove conversion or spirituality. Matthew 7:21-23 warns that even those who have "cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name" will be confronted by Christ with the chilling challenge, "I never knew you." Matthew 24:24 informs us, "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
Perhaps one of the soberest examples of just how ineffective miracles can be in motivating people to change, is seen in the prophesied attitudes of the majority of humanity just before Christ's return. Consider the miracles performed through the power of God by the two witnesses as recorded in Revelation 11:3, 5 and 6. Fire will proceed from their mouths, and they will have power to shut up the heavens. In spite of this, verses 7 through 10 show they will ultimately be murdered. Then those on the earth will rejoice, not over their miracles and power, but over their death!
One of the greatest denials of miracle-working power in history was the attitude of ancient Israel to the God who miraculously delivered them from Egyptian slavery. Psalm 78: 12-16 reminds us of the "marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers," how He "divided the sea," and "brought streams out of the rock." The reaction of the Israelites in the face of this supernatural intervention was: "But they sinned even more against Him" (verse 17) to the point God's anger was kindled (verse 21).
As we draw nearer to Christ’s return we are warned not to react as the ancient Israelites did (Hebrews 3:7-12). Miracles—signs and wonders—can gain initial attention, but the answer to the needs of man is found in scriptures such as Hebrews 10:15-16, which speaks of the writing of God's laws in our hearts.
Only the miracle of the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit will do this, and that is what God is doing today. He offers the opportunity for the miracle of a transformed, Spirit-led life to those who are willing to accept that miraculous gift.
United News (November 2002)