Toward a Better Theology of Healing, Pt. 2

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the previous post, “Toward a Better Theology of Healing, Pt. 1”, for introductory remarks and points 1-3.]

4. The fruit of what was gained for us through Jesus has begun and is manifesting in us here and now; but it will not culminate in its fullness until He returns.
The Kingdom of God has come, but it’s full and ultimate reign is not yet. The favorite theological phrase is “already, but not yet.” It doesn’t appear to make much sense, but the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” is seen throughout the New Testament. Salvation itself is described as something that has happened, something that is happening, and something that has yet to occur. Traditionally, these “tenses” of salvation have been described as “justification”, “sanctification”, and “glorification”. Consider Paul’s letter the Ephesian church. In Eph 1:3, Paul says God “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” But a few verse later he says that “his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ” will “be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Eph. 1:9b-10). Again in verses 13-14, he writes that we “also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

We have the deposit. Moreover, we have the guarantee. But the culmination will be when “the times have reached their fulfillment”.  This is an idea that modern Americans struggle with. How could you make the down payment for something and not enjoy it fully now? We make a down payment on a house and expect to move in right away. Not so in the ancient world. A deposit guarantees that it is yours. But it is not fully yours yet. It’s not to dissimilar from buying a gift for your child and placing it under the tree as a sort of guarantee that it is his, and yet asking him to wait until Christmas morning to open it. Here is the point some Charismatics can’t grasp: just because a thing is paid for doesn’t mean you will have it all now. 

If we didn’t believe this, that what’s coming is better than what is, that the fullness of what Jesus paid for will culminate later at the end of time, then we should not stop by claiming healing for cancer. We should take authority over baldness and weak joints and shortness of breath after exercise. We should not expect to die at all. After all, what Jesus paid for was more than healing: it was the ultimate restoration of all things: no more bodies that age and break down, no more injustice no more tears, no more suffering of any kind. If we want it all now, we should never have another believer die. Instead, we ought to remember, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, that Lazarus was raised from the dead only to die again. In other words, the best, the fullness of what Jesus paid for is not all to be enjoyed here and now. Those who insist otherwise are not being consistent in their behavior…neither is the universe, for that matter, for people age and die. And, what’s more troubling to that point of view is the fact that none of the apostles– not Peter who quotes Isaiah 53, not Paul, not James who tells us to lay hands on the sick, not John who outlives all the apostles– taught the no believer should get sick or suffer disease if they had enough faith. Furthermore, to my best knowledge of church history (and though I am no scholar, I am a student of church history), no one has taught that theology of healing– that all should be healed if there is no sin and enough faith.

5.  We Can Enjoy the Firstfruits (i.e. Healing and Miracles) Here and Now
This may challenge some who believe that healings and miracles were only for an age but are not for now. While it is true that what is coming is better than what is, it doesn’t mean there is nothing to enjoy now. There is the “foretaste of glory divine”, the beginnings of what is coming in fullness. To put it plainly, we can enjoy healing and miracles here and now. That is not to say we ought to demand it or simply claim it. But it does mean we should pray for it and believe. We can receive the foretaste of God’s ultimate “restoration of all things” here and now. This is what Jesus meant we He announced, “the Kingdom of God has come.” It is here. That explains why when He sent out the 70 (or 72) he simply told them to heal the sick. He reaffirms this in the Great Commission, telling them that for “those who believe” (i.e. disciples), they will “lay hands on sick people, and they will get well”. (Mk. 16:18) 

Throughout the Christian centuries, there are instances of healings and miracles that take place at the hands of certain devout men and women. Gregory Thuamaturgus (the “Wonderworker”) is an example in the early centuries. But the list continues through the saints. And since there is no indication that it was merely for an age, I would contest that it continues through followers of Christ today.

So, what are we to conclude? Chiefly that God is good. That His ultimate plan for us is total and complete healing. And that He has suffered and paid for it on through Jesus. And based on His goodness and His ultimate plan for us, we should pray and ask for healing here and now. But above all, we have hope: for what is coming is better than what is.

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10 thoughts on “Toward a Better Theology of Healing, Pt. 2

  1. Glenn~ This is a very well written, balanced perspective. As a pastor, I am like many, continually confronted with the everyday reality of sickness and death and tragedy that blindside many wonderful people. More times than I would like, these people are wonderful believers, with great faith who are left with the residue of bewilderment, asking “why?”. Trite answers don’t help comfort people in their pain and loss. The compassion of Christ would refuse us to lay blame at someone’s lack of faith or religious observance. At the same time, we KNOW and have seen the power of the age to come break through at times and do extraordinary, unexplainable miracles and healing.
    I tell our staff in moments like these (recent opportunities to practice this) that the only hope we have is Jesus, The Kingdom is “now and not yet” or “fully realized”, we must expand and exert great faith and expectation for the power of God to be demonstrated, and we point people to the resurrection that is to come when it seems we “lose battles”.
    We must become more comfortable with mystery and not allow the centrifugal force of our human weakness or our lack of understanding to shake us. I want to believe for more, but I don’t want to set people up for an “over realized eschatology”.
    I am looking forward to part 2.

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  2. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
    For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
    As far as the Theology of healing..Children of God must first have
    the understanding that we belong to God..not our Flesh
    As God knows the very number of hairs upon our head..he also
    knows the number of days on this earth.
    All of Gods people will be healed…not always of a affliction or disease…but the healing and restoration of their souls..
    Just sayin’

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  3. Dearest Glenn,
    I just received some “Holy Spirit Fire” via facebook. How (if at all) does this apply to the biblical healing hermeneutic? Also, in the future, will you spread fire this way through social media? If you do, please send some my way.
    Ok, seriously now. What does it say about the world we live in that the word healing evokes feelings of skepticism in my heart, images of bad hair in my imagination, and an overall dismissive reaction?
    This is the creator of stars, the father of music, and architect of laughter we’re talking about. It’s time for Healing to get some new PR. I wanna be a part of bringing glory and honor to Christ’s work. Lot’s of stuff in your posts to chew on. I’m sure it will be helpful to those seeking a better theology of healing. cheers.

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  4. Glenn,
    An excellent recap for me on what was a great discussion last night. I guess for me, experiencing what I am, I wonder what the balance of faith in His goodness coupled with a realistic oulook looks like. Do we continue to pray and believe in full healing long after healing does not come? My inclination is to believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit but is there scripture that’s points the way on the issue?

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  5. wow… after the chills went away I got the ol hypm “blessed redeemer, Jesus is mine… OH WHAT A FORETASTE OF GLORY DIVINE!”
    My healing, my wife’s healing, were but a tasty morsel from the plate of the living God and from the banquet he prepares for me and my beloved one day..
    Cant wait!

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  6. What a beautiful balanced theology. Too often we swing from one extreme to another. It is refreshing to see someone take a broader look at theology instead of being focused on just one camp. I also loved how you threw in a little N.T. Wright!

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  7. God is Good because he is God. Whatever he does is Good. His Good is not our good. We have to be careful applying our parameters of good to God.
    Could it be that the Western Protestant church is so consumed with healing because we are afraid to die? Could we be trying to find the perfect fit and fix for what ails us, because we have not accepted our own mortality. Especially in the United States where our entire existence is centered around being comfortable, happy, and young, the Church has failed at teaching its people that this world and pleasures are not our home and reward. It is only through death that we find union with our Maker. It seems to me that this fear is a significant motivating factor in our hyper-theology of healing. Those saint of old overcame the world by the blood of lamb, the word of their testimony, an loved not their lives even unto death. Our over-concern with health and youth betray our mission…to die.

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  8. Glenn, although I appreciate your theology and detailed explanation of how we are not yet experiencing the fullness of Christ, I must say I dont agree with you and your perspective.. The bible clearly states that Jesus who conquered sickness, disease and every oppression gave us the body, authority over all of it and said “go do what I did and more”…. also the word says that “all” received their healing that believed and the only place they did not was in Jesus’ home town where they could not get past the fact of him being just a carpenter… and it further states “be it unto you according to your faith” so!! I must conclude that although one may be well learned and have faith to move mountains in one area, but may not have faith to believe that sickness is not God’s will and they can receive their healing, that God’s word is truth and we are to do exactly what Jesus did and expect the same results… You used Lazerus as an example… yes he was raised from the dead and still died, indeed but the second time he died it was not due to sickness as was the first and also the word says that we are to live to be 120 years or until we are satisfied… not until we allow sickness to take us.. We are going to die until Jesus comes back, but it is up to us on how we die… sickness, disease are the result of sin and Jesus took the power of sin away from Satan and gave it us, therefore, it is up to us… if you are not going to believe the word for what it is, then dont believe any of it… and if you are claiming that we will not all be healed… as Jesus did, then why bother trying??? Isnt this calling our almighty father a lier?? pray and believe but you may still die from sickness?? doesnt make much sense… we cant be half baked when it comes to the bible… no wonder so many people choose to be athiest…. cause we have religious people that dont always understand because of their lack of knowledge. I pray for you to receive the revelation of exactly what the great commission means and if you dont, you cant receive, what is legally ours… and when Jesus returns our bodies (that we are responsible for taking care of and making right choices) will be made whole as in no more death… In the meantime, we are to believe what God told us too and receive what he said we would receive. We will not need healing in heaven because their is no sickness… isnt this part of the Lords prayer? Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?? isnt it God’s will that people walk in divine health right here on earth?? as it is in heaven?? God gave us the keys! Also, when people still die and have great faith.. we dont know what that person may be doing that God commanded us not to do, such as a sin never confessed or unforgiveness or something of that nature…or they have the head knowledge but it didnt make it to their hearts… does the word not say “do this and be blessed, dont and you will be cursed???” We cant say God isnt healing like in Jesus’ days on earth! We must believe and leave the rest up to God and if their healing didnt come, I can guarantee that it wasnt God’s fault!!! Pray for wisdom, you are responsible for everyone who reads this and doesnt receive healing due to their doubts that you have placed in their minds…

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  9. Chris…Jesus healed loads of people and had much to say about faith. But faith in the entire NT is always about faith IN God not faith FOR an outcome. As for the idea that the FULLNESS of Christ’s victory still awaiting it’s culmination, read:
    Rom. 8:18-25 (NLT)
    “8 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[a] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope[b] for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)”
    Hard to argue that there is not a fullness that is yet to come. We pray the Lord’s Prayer as we experience a “foretaste” here and now (healings do happen today!)…while anticipating the fullness in the Age to Come (Jesus Himself spoke of this in numerous occasions). If you think the Lord’s will in heaven is to be done fully here on earth, don’t stop with healing; it should mean we can make all wars and poverty and sex slavery end simply by faith and prayer.
    To be honest, Chris, I am not worried about what results in others I may be held responsible for; I fear for the so-called faith teachers who have distorted the Word of God, have taught things that NO ONE throughout Church history have taught (not even Paul or Peter taught the view of healing you have described), and have caused so much disillusionment and misunderstanding about the character of God and what it means to have faith in Him.

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