By Brannon S. Howse
Too often, people who do not have a firm grasp of Scripture—of the whole counsel of God—“discover” John 14:12 and head off in some very wrong directions. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (NKJV). So the question arises: What does it mean that we are to do greater works than Jesus did while He was here on earth—or are we even the ones Jesus is talking about? In this chapter, we’ll explore the correct answer to that question, and I’ll also make you aware of some extremely incorrect answers swirling among so-called believers these days.
Jesus gained the victory over death for all who believe, but to hear some preachers, you’d think He needs a little help from them. One, in particular, that provides an especially troubling example of “greater works” is online Canadian teacher Patricia King, whose Extreme Prophetic website refers to her as “a respected apostolic minister of the gospel.” In one of her videos, she makes a stunningly presumptuous statement about what Christians should be up to these days:
[quote] Raising the dead has always been a mandate of the Church. Jesus commissioned us to go in His name and preach the good news of the kingdom, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cast out devils, to cleanse lepers. And He said, “Freely, freely you have received, now freely, freely give.” And I think the reason why we haven’t seen more resurrections is because we’re not out there doing the stuff. [end quote]
Ms. King begins with an assumption out of the blue, not out of Scripture when she claims that “raising the dead has always been a mandate of the Church.” The Church has never had any such mandate. What did Jesus actually commission us to do? It wasn’t to raise the dead and cast out demons. King arrives at that conclusion only by taking scripture wildly out of context. She’s referring to Matthew 10:5-8 in which Jesus addresses His twelve apostles. The audience is crucial: His apostles. These men were a very select group. To be one, you had to be called of God, and you had to have seen the risen Lord. As part of their specific ministry and calling, the apostles could do signs and wonders for the purpose of giving credibility to the Gospel they preached and the foundational doctrine they laid down for all who followed them. But the office for this kind of apostolic activity was limited to them. There is no continuation of the office of apostle—or prophet, for that matter.
Let me show you what I mean by explaining Matthew 10:5-8 in detail. Here’s the passage:
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (NKJV)
One of the first things Jesus told the apostles to do was to preach to the Jewish people. They were sent first to preach specifically to the house of Israel, and all the acts they were assigned—healing the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the dead, casting out demons—were, in this commissioning, for Israel. In this passage, Jesus did not commission us to raise the dead. He commissioned His disciples who became His apostles.
In the New Testament Church, the apostles plus Philip (the evangelist who was raised up in the book of Acts), Stephen, and Barnabas are the only ones documented to have performed miracles. Even these last three—Philip, Stephen, and Barnabas—could do miracles only because they were under the direct supervision of the apostles. While the seventy commissioned by Jesus could cast out demons, there are no reports of the kind of miracles done by the Apostles or Philip, Stephen and Barnabas. That was then. This is now, and the only thing we’re commissioned by Christ to do—through the Great Commission—is to preach the Gospel. The Great Commission does not tell us to go out and raise the dead.
The apostles had the power to bring dead people back to life, to cast out demons, and to do these signs and wonders in order to give credibility to the message they preached and the doctrine they provided for the Church. But God will not do anything to support the credibility of today’s false teachers. What these people do is either fake or demonic. God will not allow a false apostle to raise the dead in order to become credible. Patricia King, though, is convinced otherwise.
In one of her extreme episodes, King introduces a guest named Melissa who describes her group’s visits to several Arizona morgues where they had gone to “practice” raising people from the dead. Seriously, here’s what she said:
[quote] But we’ve never really tried to raise the dead. So, we were wondering what that might be like. So, one of our team members came up with a mortuary outreach. And what better thing to do, if you want to pray for the dead, or to see them raised.
What we decided to do was just to map out all the different mortuaries in the Greater Phoenix Area, and we decided to go to about three or four per day. Now, the very first one that we went to, this is how it went. We’d approach ‘em. We’d say, “This is who we are.” And we said, “According to Matthew 10:8, we are commanded to raise the dead. So, we’re here because we want to practice. Do you have any people that are dead here that we can practice on?” [end quote]
Where do we see in Scripture that the apostles had to “practice” raising people from the dead? Nowhere. They were given the ability to do it, and the results were instantaneous. This is true of their healing ministry as well. People they healed didn’t get better over the next several weeks. There was no waiting for the healing to take effect. They were healed instantaneously.
I cringe at the thought of these people representing themselves as Christians showing up to raise people from the dead. Can you imagine being a guy who runs a county morgue, and these folks show up, asking if you’ve got any dead people they can practice raising up? Apparently, the morgue keeper they talked to was at least nice about whatever he thought. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:
[quote] Now, the first guy, what he said was, “Well, I’ve never had anybody ask me that before.” He goes, “And I believe that Jesus heals and can raise the dead.” He said, “But I can’t let you in the room with the dead people, but I can let you in the room next door to them.”
And so, we were like, “Okay.”
And what was even funny is that he said, “Do you want me to go back there with the dead people and tell you how it’s going?”
And we said, “Okay.”
And he goes, “Do you need like 10 or 15 minutes?”
We were like, “Okay, we’ll take that.” So, we went into the room, me and another team member, and we were just praying and calling life back into the bodies. We didn’t know how many were back there. We just started calling life into ‘em. And I’ll tell you what, the power of God fell. The glory of God hit. We even started getting oil and diamond dust on our hands. And so we started to anoint the room. We were just calling the glory down. It was so awesome.
We went out of the room, and we couldn’t find the guy anywhere. We just assumed maybe he went down in the power somewhere in the mortuary. We don’t know. But it was just a great first fruits. It was a great outreach to go to. [end quote]
“Great first fruits”? Even though no one was raised from the dead? Isn’t that what they were there for? I guess they were satisfied with oil and diamond dust, although I can’t say I see any mention of that in Scripture, either. Where do people come up with things like “diamond dust on our hands”? That sounds a lot like the odd happenings at Bethel Church in Redding, California that I’ve covered in my radio and TV programs. Whatever glory cloud she’s talking about, though, is either manufactured or it’s demonic. Melissa also seemed satisfied with the experience because:
[quote] It turned out that this woman [at one of the morgues] is a counselor for the families of the deceased. And so, she took our number and said that if anybody wanted to have their loved one raised, that she would give us a call. And so, we got one step closer. [end quote]
Undeterred by the lack of raisings, the group tried their luck at several other local morgues:
[end quote] Our next one that we went to, our team went in and it was a man who also was very open as well. But he didn’t have any dead people there. . . .
All of these mortuaries that we went to have never had any anybody go in there and ask to raise their dead. [end quote]
Despite the fact that this group admits that they have yet to successfully raise anyone from the dead, here’s Melissa’s final recommendation to Patricia King’s audience:
[quote] So, this could be an idea for you, in your area, to get out there and start practicing raising the dead. The dead aren’t gonna be raised if we don’t pray for them. And so, this is just an encouragement for you to go out there. Now, we haven’t seen any dead raised yet. But we know, we have been pressing in that it’s going to happen eventually. [end quote]
In my book Religious Trojan Horse, I explain in detail why the office of apostle is closed—and therefore why no one is raising people from the dead these days. To summarize, though: it’s closed because no one sees the risen Lord today. To be an apostle, you had to see the risen Lord. What’s more, we no longer need the office of apostle and prophet because we have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
Patricia King and her friends would spend their time more wisely to go out and preach the Gospel. God, of course, can choose to do whatever He wants that is consistent with His character and nature. He can and does do miracles. Like me, you probably know people who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer but whom God, in His sovereign will, chose to heal, and now they’re living years later, having survived the disease. Doing such things is God’s prerogative, but no one today has the gift of healing or signs and wonders. It’s crucial not to confuse what God can choose to do with a person’s special gift or ability.
The first problem that causes things like this raising-people-from-the-dead belief is that the teachers of it do not understand the Bible in its full context, but perhaps the even bigger motivator is the sin of pride. People want to do these amazing acts for themselves. They want the experiences of power or the emotional high they get from trying such things as raising dead people. For them, the Word of God is just not quite enough.
To perform signs and wonders also indicates that these people are more spiritually evolved, if you will. They’re more spiritually advanced than the rest of us, and so they feel a need to be the ones leading the Church. They need to be the “apostles and the prophets” we lesser Christians should be following.
When I’ve raised this issue, some people have tried to minimize the significance by suggesting that the folks doing this are simply “more Pentecostal or charismatic” than I am. Yet many Pentecostal and charismatic people do not agree with this sort of activity. The Assemblies of God (Pentecostal) denomination, in fact, issued a statement in 2001 declaring that the offices of apostle and prophet are closed, much as I have argued. That they had to issue such a statement indicates just how serious the problem has become. If it were relegated to a few fringe “crazies,” it might not be so bad, but this is going mainstream. It is creeping—and in some cases flooding—into major non-charismatic churches and denominations.
A Not-So-Bright Spot
A friend of mine who attends a Southern Baptist Church told me about a Sunday school class in which the participants were talking about raising the dead and reports from overseas of people being raised from the dead. My friend and his wife challenged the idea on grounds similar to what I teach and write about, but many of the class members accused them of “trying to limit God.”
Unfortunately, this sort of misunderstanding of God’s work has been growing for quite some time and has been promoted by some of evangelicalism’s most influential people. In 2003, for instance, Campus Crusade founder, the late Bill Bright, wrote an article entitled, “Girl Raised From the Dead.” He reports a supposed account of a modern-day example of a dead person coming back to life:
[quote] One of our [Campus Crusade’s] Jesus film teams approached the Malto tribe, but the resistance was so stiff that they bypassed the area and went to more receptive villages to show the film. A few days later, a 16-year-old girl died in one of the Malto villages. It was evening, and the family had finished preparations for burial. Many had gathered around to pay their respects and support the family. They were about to bury the body when the girl suddenly, miraculously awoke. In stunned disbelief, the people told her, “Then you were not dead!”
She said, “Yes, I was.” She told them, “I went to the place of the dead, but God told me I must come back and tell you about the real God, the true God.” Before every crowd, she fearlessly proclaimed, “I was dead, but God has sent me back to tell you that this film is about the true and living God. He has given me seven days to tell you. You need to believe in Him.” Then after the seventh day, although physically she appeared fine, she collapsed and died just like she said. [end quote]
Bright uses Mark 10:27 to support his contention that such occurrences are legitimate: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible, but not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Yet this scripture has nothing to do with raising the dead. Instead, Jesus is talking about salvation.
We should all be highly skeptical of stories like the one Bill Bright recounts. They’ve been passed around evangelical circles for years and time and time again have proven to be fabricated. At the very least, they stretch a real story. For example, a man once called into my program to say he agreed with my assertion that people are not being raised from the dead. Then he told me his own story:
[quote] I was pronounced dead five times. I never died. I was pronounced dead, but I was not dead, because I’m talking to you now. I never died. Medically, they thought I was dead, but I wasn’t.” [end quote]
There are numerous reports of people who were “medically dead” but somehow "came back to life." These stories are well known within the medical community. People are left alone or put in a body bag, only later to be discovered alive. It happens. It is not uncommon for someone to be declared dead by medical personnel, even though the person is actually still alive. The victim’s breathing is shallow or their pulse is stopped or whatever indicators of death might be present, but the medical specialists simply were wrong in the pronouncement of death. The patients appeared to be deceased, but were not clinically dead.
Let’s look in more detail at why Bill Bright’s use of Mark 10:27 was so far off base. To understand the context, we need to back up ten verses. Note Mark 10:17:
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (NKJV)
What is the context? A man asks Jesus what he must do to “inherit eternal life,” to be saved. Salvation is the context, not raising the dead. And Jesus explains:
You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not bear false witness,” “Do not defraud,” “Honor your father and your mother.”
And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have, give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
Jesus does not say one word in this passage about signs, wonders, or raising people from the dead. He says specifically that salvation is impossible except through the work of God.
His example of a rich man is especially interesting because first century Jews, who had been schooled in the Jewish Talmud, believed a person could buy sacrifices or give alms in compensation for sin. Therefore, Jewish leaders often gave preferential treatment to the rich. The wealthy had more money to buy sacrifices, and as a result, had an easier time getting into heaven. Jesus, though, says the opposite. No one can earn salvation, and it certainly cannot be purchased. God is the one who grants the ability to repent and receive salvation. Paul reflects the same truth later in his letter to the Romans:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (8:28-31, NKJV)
You see, salvation is the miracle. I’ve been accused of not believing in miracles, but I do. The problem is that people just don’t grasp what a miracle salvation actually is. They’ve gotten so used to people “being saved” that they’ve lost sight of what a huge deal that is. Salvation is the greatest of all possible miracles. Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear on this:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God—not of works, lest any man should boast. (emphasis mine)
And consider what 2 Timothy 2:25 says about how we come to repentance:
[I]n humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance so that they may know the truth. (emphasis mine)
And finally, John 6:65:
And He [Jesus] said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
The Scriptures clearly teach that salvation is a gift of God and that the Holy Spirit must convict people of their sins in order for them to repent and receive salvation. No one can earn his or her salvation. It can’t be purchased. But with God, it is possible.
Copyright 2016 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.