The English words 'baptize' and 'baptism' stem from the Greek verb 'bapto', various forms of which are found in the original Greek version of the New Testament. This word means to overwhelm, dip, immerse or drown something in water or some other liquid. The Greeks sometimes used this word to express the idea of washing something, or dipping something in dye in order to change its color. The word can also be used metaphorically to indicate being 'overwhelmed' by problems, grief or ultimately by death.

To understand what Baptism means in the Bible, we must look at the way in which it was used and understood. The idea of baptizing people is associated with John the Baptist. John was sent by God to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah. God instructed John to use baptism in water as a way of showing them what the Messiah had come to do. In all four of the Gospels we see John proclaiming one essential message; 'What I am doing with water, the coming Messiah will do through the Holy Spirit!' (Matthew 3, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3, John 1:19-34).

John answered, saying unto them all "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire".

Luke 3:16

What was it that the Messiah would do with the Holy Spirit and fire? The Old Testament prophecy that predicted John's coming (Malachi 3:1), also foretold that the Messiah would come to clean, refine or purify people, making them acceptable before God:

"Behold, I will send my messenger (John the Baptist), and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, He shall come" says the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appears? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

Malachi 3:1-3

John's message was simple; the Messiah was coming to cleanse the world. In the case of repentant sinners, this cleansing would be accomplished by the Holy Spirit. For unrepentant people, however, the Messiah would use fire to destroy them forever. The rest of John's message confirms this, where he described saved people as wheat, and the unrepentant as chaff:

Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge (cleanse) His floor, and will gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable.

Luke 3:17


Why did John enjoy great respect from the Jewish people, and command their obedience to his message? For two reasons:

    1)  John was a Levite, the son of a priest (Zacharias) who served in the Temple at Jerusalem (see Luke chapter 1); he could have been a priest himself. God chose John, however, to point the people of Israel to a new covenant, a new sacrifice, and a new Priest who would replace the old sacrificial system established by Moses. As the son of a priest, John was an expert on the worship of God. John's miraculous birth, his knowledge regarding all of God's laws and customs, and his devotion to God throughout his life commanded the respect and attention of the Jewish people.

    2)  The Jewish people were very concerned about cleanliness. They had received a number of laws (through Moses) requiring strict cleanliness (Leviticus 11-15). The priests had to wash carefully first, before serving in the Temple. If a person had leprosy, he had to be washed. If a person touched any dead thing, they were required to bathe before approaching God. If people had sexual intercourse, or if a woman was menstruating or gave birth to a child, certain rituals of cleansing had to be followed. Depending on the circumstances, clothes, furniture, and even houses had to be washed if they had been contaminated. For the Jewish people cleanliness truly was 'next to godliness'.

In light of their religious training, it is not surprising that the Jewish people responded strongly to John. The fact that the son of a priest was calling people to repentance, and washing them in the Jordan river, made perfect sense to them. They understood that sin makes a person unclean, so they came to John to confess their sins and wash them away. John's task was to prepare people for the Messiah by making them sensitive to the issue of sin, and aware of their need for the removal of its guilt and power. Given this background, it is clear that...



So what did John mean when he said that the Messiah would baptize people with the Holy Spirit? John did not mean that the Holy Spirit would be used as a substance, like soap or water, to wash people with. Instead, John was saying that the Holy Spirit Himself would perform the task of washing people. What is this baptism, or washing, that the Holy Spirit performs? It is the union of a repentant sinner with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. In other words, it is regeneration, or the new birth. By dying with Christ, a sinner receives two things:

    1)  The penalty of sin is carried out. His sins are punished, and his guilt is washed away.

    2)  The power of sin is broken. The sinner's body, together with the Sin that lived inside of it, is destroyed; his slavery is washed away. The sinner receives a new body, where the Holy Spirit has replaced Sin, through resurrection with Christ (Romans 6:1-14).

We see this idea of being washed through union with Christ in Paul's own 'new birth' experience, and in his words written to others:

Ananias said to Paul "And now why do you delay? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord".

Acts 22:16

Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-5

The great message of the Bible is that salvation is available to mankind through union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. All men are commanded to seek the Lord Jesus as their only hope of forgiveness, righteousness, and peace with God. For an explanation of this union with Christ see Death and God's Judgment, God's Forgiveness and The True Nature of Original Sin.

Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:3-4

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1

But of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that according as it is written "He that glories, let him glory in the Lord".

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Galatians 6:15

Greet one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 Peter 5:14


For a complete picture of the 'new birth' experience, one only needs to look at the baptism of Jesus Himself, recorded in Matthew chapter 3, Mark chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3. It consisted of 5 basic steps:

    1) Repentance and Faith   First, a person must come to God with a right attitude. Just as people came to John openly confessing their sins and seeking forgiveness through cleansing, so now people must come to Jesus confessing their sins and acknowledging that He alone, the crucified Son of God, has the power to wash away their guilt and bondage. Jesus Himself didn't have any sin to confess, but He underwent John's baptism in order to demonstrate His union with sinners in the entire process of salvation.

    When a repentant sinner condemns himself for his sins, and believes the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done for mankind, God recognizes his faith, officially imputing it to him for the righteousness of heart that it is. He has truly turned in his heart from rebellion to obedience, from self-righteousness to God's righteousness, and from lies to believing the truth. This faith, if it is genuine, will always be followed by an open confession that Jesus is the Son of God.

That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture says "Whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed."

Romans 10:9-11
    2) Regeneration (or the new birth)   Though the repentant sinner is inwardly righteous, he still stands condemned by the Law. He still has two problems; his sinful actions must be atoned for, and the enslaving Sin within his body must be removed. Both of these needs are met as the Holy Spirit washes (or baptizes) the sinner by uniting him with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Just as Jesus went down under the water, and then came up again, the sinner undergoes a very real death, burial and resurrection through union with Christ. This is called regeneration. Baptism in water is symbolic, as John the Baptist was always careful to point out, but the Holy Spirit's washing of the sinner through union with Christ is 'the real thing'.

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13
    3) Reception of the Holy Spirit   When He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus. This is a picture of the sinner's reception of the Holy Spirit; something that cannot happen until the sinner's old body has been destroyed, and a new 'resurrection body' has been received. The Holy Spirit cannot inhabit a polluted temple; He will not share a body with Sin. The sinner must be a 'new creation' before the Holy Spirit can be received. Here we see the two roles of the Holy Spirit in regeneration; 1) baptizing or cleansing the sinner, and then 2) entering into the Christian's new body to share His own divine nature with him.

    4) Justification   After His baptism and reception of the Spirit, God the Father immediately declared that Jesus was His beloved Son, and fully pleasing to Him. When a sinner is born again in Christ, this same thing happens. The Father also declares that the sinner is now His beloved child, and is fully pleasing to Him. This is called justification. It is a declaration by God, based upon facts, that the person is perfectly free from the penalty and power of sin, and is now fulfilling the Law through faith and the Holy Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin; He condemned (and destroyed) Sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry "Abba, Father". The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

Romans 8:14-16

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-5
    5) The Trial of Faith   Lastly, just as Jesus immediately entered the wilderness for the testing of His obedience to God, so the Christian also begins a 'wilderness journey' of trials and service to God in this world (see The Necessity of Christian Perseverance).

    There are some Protestant pastors and teachers who would disagree with the explanation of justification that I have presented here. They deny that God judges us on the basis of what is actually, subjectively true of us, and instead teach that God imputes sin to people who have not actually sinned, and also imputes righteousness to people who are not actually righteous The True Nature of Original Sin. Others mistakenly teach that regeneration (the new birth) must precede repentance and faith (see my discussion of the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity, under the subheading 'The Red Glasses of Calvinism', in my web page on Predestination and Freedom of Choice).


In Old Testament times, before Jesus came, the Jewish people performed animal sacrifices and washings that symbolized salvation from sin. But when Jesus established the New Testament, He replaced the old rituals with two of His own. He replaced the old washings with water-baptism, and He replaced the Old Testament animal sacrifices with communion (which is why He initiated the ritual of communion during Passover). It would be important for the New Testament church to continue performing outward rituals, just as the Old Testament church had done, in order to proclaim the faith and demonstrate how salvation through Christ is accomplished.

Jesus alluded to the fact that both water baptism and communion symbolize union with Himself in His death, when He described His approaching death as a baptism, and as a cup that He had to drink. When the mother of James and John asked that her sons be highly honored in heaven, Jesus said:

But Jesus answered and said "You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said unto Him "We are able".

Matthew 20:22

Jesus went on to say that James and John would indeed share in the baptism and cup of death that He was about to endure:

And He said unto them "You shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with. But to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father".

Matthew 20:23

Sharing in Jesus' 'cup' and 'baptism' is not unique to James and John; it is true of all born-again Christians. Everyone who repents of their sins and has been born again has been united with Christ in the 'cup' and 'baptism' of His death, burial and resurrection. The apostle Paul alluded to this in his letter to the Corinthians:

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13

One more important point needs to be made here. Many have been confused by a phrase that Paul used, referring to being 'baptized for the dead', thinking that somehow living people can be baptized on behalf of those who have already died.

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

1 Corinthians 15:29

Paul was not saying that a person can have themselves baptized on behalf of a dead person. He was referring to the fact that baptism symbolizes death with Christ. He was simply reinforcing a truth that he and the other apostles all taught; that all Christians have died with Christ, and that water baptism symbolizes this death that has occurred (Romans 6:3, 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 Peter 2:24, 4:1-2).


One might well ask "Instead of 'drowning' people in water, why didn't God choose to have people go underground, into a cave, or into a tomb, just as Christ was placed in a tomb, to symbolize union with Him. The answer is that drowning not only symbolizes death and rebirth, but at the same time also symbolizes the washing that Christ's death accomplishes.

The idea of deliverance through drowning has three great precedents in the Old Testament: Noah's flood (Genesis 6:8-9:29), Moses and the Red Sea (Exodus 14), and Jonah and the Whale (the book of Jonah). Each of these stories depict deliverance through death and resurrection. Jesus likened His own death, burial and resurrection to Jonah's experience, Paul identified Christians with the followers of Moses, and Peter compared the new birth to the deliverance of Noah:

But Jesus answered and said unto them "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth".

Matthew 12:39-40

Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:20-21

Jesus is the Christian's ark that carries him safely through the waters of God's judgment. He is the Christian's 'Moses' who leads him through the waters of the Red Sea to a new life, and Jesus is the Christian's great Fish, within Whom he passes through the stormy seas of judgment and begins a new life.


Sacramentalism is the belief that the Christian sacraments, water-baptism and communion, are able to save people. It is the belief that God has somehow placed supernatural power within those sacraments. Some people qualify this view by saying that the sacrament only has saving power if the person receiving it has genuine faith in Christ, but even in these circumstances a measure of supernatural power is attributed to the sacrament itself. In a sense it is understandable that some have arrived at this conclusion, because Jesus commanded that every Christian be baptized:

Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Matthew 28:19

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said unto them "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 2:37-38

It might seem logical to conclude that, if both Jesus and Peter commanded that every new Christian be baptized in water, then water-baptism must be necessary in order to be saved. Such a conclusion is mistaken for two reasons:

    1) It ignores the teaching of John the Baptist, who initiated the rite of Baptism. When John introduced water-baptism to the Jews, he went out of his way to contrast the powerlessness of water with the true baptizing power of the Holy Spirit. His entire ministry was based upon contrasting his own symbolism with the reality that would be accomplished by the Messiah. John was the perfect man to accomplish that task. He was the son of a Jewish priest, and could have been a priest himself. But God chose him to teach Israel and the world to move beyond the weak symbolic rituals of the Old Testament to the powerful spiritual realities of the New.

    John the Baptist's message was still ringing in the ears of every Jew on the day of Pentecost when Peter told them to repent and be baptized in water. They knew that water-baptism could not save them. Their forefathers had been washing themselves for 1500 years under the laws of Moses, and it had done little good. They knew that John had been pointing them to a much greater cleansing, and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the fulfillment of that promise. There was no confusion in their minds about what was symbolic ritual, and what was real substance. So they did the most important things first; repented of their sins, believed and called upon Christ to save them, were cleansed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and then were baptized in water as a symbol of what had already happened to each of them.

    2) Attributing supernatural power to the sacraments ignores the teaching of the apostles. Nowhere in any of their epistles do any of the apostles emphasize the importance of water-baptism, or attribute saving power to it. Paul clearly downplayed the importance of baptism when he wrote about it to the Corinthians:

I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius, lest any should say that I had baptized in my own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

1 Corinthians 1:14-17

If Baptism had been indispensable to salvation, then Paul and the other apostles would have said so, and would have shown a higher regard for it. I suppose it is possible that, if a new Christian refused to be baptized in water, his disobedience might represent a rebellion against God that could ultimately separate him from God's grace. But the fact that a refusal to be water-baptized might damn somebody, does not mean that water-baptism itself has saving power. Water-baptism has no saving power, and is not necessary for salvation. It is not the sacrament itself, but the attitude of the person's heart that matters.

This entire discussion is really hypothetical. Most newborn Christians are so thrilled and overjoyed about receiving forgiveness, that they leap at the opportunity to obey and identify with their Savior. It is sad that there are 'legalistic Christians' out there who mishandle the word of God, teaching that because God commands Christians to be water-baptized, that therefore water-baptism is necessary for salvation. Such people encourage hypocrisy, saying that outward rituals mean as much to God as the inward heart. They fail to distinguish symbol from substance, enslave people with falsehoods, and do the exact opposite of what John the Baptist did. John downplayed his water-baptism, and directed people to the only One, Jesus, who can save them, and to the only baptism that can truly wash us; the baptism of the Holy Spirit.


The Bible gives us three reasons why Jesus commanded Christians to be water-baptized.

    1) Jesus instructed that Christians were to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; in other words, all Christians were to be instructed on the nature of the Trinity. An acknowledgement of the Trinity is essential to the faith, because it is the truth.

Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19
    Some people have raised questions about whether or not this verse is an original part of the Bible. We know that it is because, when Paul met some disciples in Ephesus, he asked them whether or not they had received the Holy Spirit. They said that they hadn't even heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul immediately asked them what kind of baptism they had received because he knew that, if they had received a Christian baptism, they would have heard about the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7 For further discussion on the nature of God, see God is a Family Called the Trinity).

    2) Secondly, water-baptism symbolizes union between the believer and Christ. Baptism is God's great teaching tool, instructing both Christians and the world that people are saved through union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. An understanding of the Trinity is necessary in order to appreciate this union, because a Christian's oneness with Christ is like the oneness of the Persons within the Trinity, as the following verses illustrate:

As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats Me shall live by me.

John 6:57

Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me: because I live, you shall live also. At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

John 14:19-20

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that you have sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

John 17:21-23
    3) Lastly, the Bible tells us that a public declaration of our faith is essential for salvation, and represents a proof of that faith. For some new Christians water-baptism represents that first important public declaration. All new Christians, if properly instructed, will be told that a lifelong profession of faith in Christ, coupled with ongoing obedience to Him, is necessary for salvation. This is not salvation by works, but by a tested and proven faith (see The Necessity of Christian Perseverence).

That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture says "Whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed".

Romans 10:9-11

But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 10:33

If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us: If we believe not, yet He abides faithful: He cannot deny Himself.

2 Timothy 2:12-13

I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan's seat is: and you hold fast My name, and have not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells

Revelation 2:13

The reason that the apostle Paul did not place great stress on baptism is because he knew that people, like the thief on the cross (Luke 23:40-43), had died and gone to heaven without it. It was the thief's open confession of faith, not water baptism, that God was looking for. That same thing has been true down through the centuries since then. Many people have come to saving faith in Christ in all kinds of places and circumstances. Many have died without water baptism, but few, if any, have been unable to openly confess their faith in Christ. All born-again Christians are instructed to be baptized with water, if they are able, but the Bible nowhere makes it a condition for salvation.

The only way to understand the two Christian sacraments is to view them in the light of everything that the Bible has to say about them. Although a refusal to observe them, or a misuse of them, might represent damnable disobedience or heresy (1 Corinthians 11:29), the sacraments in and of themselves have no power. God looks upon the heart; everything else is secondary with Him.


Pentecostalism is the belief that the 'baptism of the Holy Spirit' is a second experience that a Christian can have after he has been born again and has received the Holy Spirit. It is a misunderstanding based upon the experience of Christ's disciples, who received the Holy Spirit from Jesus shortly after His resurrection (John 20:22), but were not baptized by the Holy Spirit until the day of Pentecost, 50 days later (the word 'pentecost' means 50). Pentecostalism is the belief that a two-stage experience of the Holy Spirit is the norm for the Christian church.

When discussing Pentecostalism it is important to distinguish it from the 'Charismatic movement', because they are two completely different issues. A Charismatic Christian is one who believes that the supernatural spiritual gifts which God exercised in the early apostolic church, such as speaking in tongues, healing and performing other miracles, are still being experienced today (the Greek word for 'gift' is 'charismata', hence the name Charismatic). It is true that most Pentecostals are also Charismatic; most of them believe that the Baptism of the Spirit will manifest itself in miraculous signs like speaking in tongues; but not all Pentecostals are Charismatics. There are some Pentecostals (very few) who believe that the Baptism of the Spirit is simply a deeper filling by the Holy Spirit that follows a 'crisis' experience in a Christian's life, where he or she is called by God to a deeper commitment and obedience to the faith. There are Pentecostals who do not believe that God is still exercising the supernatural gifts, signs and wonders in the church. I know this because I have met some, and have worshipped with them.

Why is it important to make this distinction? Because there are some who use one issue to confuse and distract from a discussion of the other. There are some who will insist that if you reject Pentecostalism, you must reject the Charismatic viewpoint, and visa versa. This is not true. In fact, the Charismatic movement gained much of its momentum in the 1970's as people left non-Pentecostal traditions (coming from Catholicism or mainline Protestant backgrounds) in a pursuit of the 'spiritual gifts', without a Pentecostal perspective on the Baptism of the Spirit. A belief that one is experiencing the gifts of the Spirit does not require that one believe that the Baptism of the Spirit is a secondary experience for Christians.

Some might suspect that I am trying to 'divide and conquer' here in regards to these two doctrinal issues, separating Pentecostals from Charismatics and potentially pitting them against each other; but I am not. I am simply trying to remove the confusion, defining each question clearly and then addressing each one separately. In order to address the issue of Pentecostalism, two things must be done:

    1) We must understand the nature and purpose of Pentecost, one of three Old Testament feasts that God appointed for the people of Israel.

    2) We must examine what the New Testament says regarding the Baptism of the Spirit.


Shortly after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). This bestowal of the Spirit did not mean that the Spirit was entering their bodies, however, but that He would be present with them in a greater way, preparing them for the experiences and work which lay ahead. This distinction between being accompanied by the Spirit, and being indwelt by the Spirit, is important to notice. Jesus distinguished between these two things:

Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him. But you know him, for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.

John 14:17

After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to wait for the blessing that John the Baptist had foretold, a blessing that the Messiah would bestow through the Holy Spirit upon all those who are His:

And being assembled together with them, Jesus commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father "Which", He said, "you have heard of from me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence".

Acts 1:4-5

Why did Jesus' disciples experience this two-stage reception of the Holy Spirit? Because God wanted Jesus' disciples to be born-again, and to experience the indwelling of the Spirit on the Feast day that had foreshadowed this blessing for 1500 years. Just as Jesus died on the day of Passover, fulfilling everything foreshadowed by that Feast, so also the disciples were to be born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

The Feast of Pentecost is described in the book of Leviticus. Since the days of Moses, the people of Israel had observed three religious Feasts each year; Passover, Pentecost and Ingathering (Leviticus 23). These Feasts were prophetic symbols of God's salvation work. Passover symbolized Jesus' death. Pentecost symbolized the union of Christ's people with Him in His death, and their reception of the 'firstfruits' of the Holy Spirit that would result come with that. The Feast of Ingathering, occurring in the seventh or 'end time' month of the Feast cycle, represented the second coming of Christ and His final harvest of God's people to dwell with Him forever. Most Christians understand that Passover symbolizes the death of Christ. Many Christians, however, don't understand the direct connection between Passover and Pentecost; the connection between Christ's resurrection from the dead on the first Sunday after Passover, and the resurrection of His disciples to newness of life exactly seven weeks and one day later, on the eighth Sunday.

When God instituted the Passover, He also established a special offering on the first Sunday after Passover. On the first day of the week following Passover, a single sheaf of grain from the new harvest was to be waved before the Lord (Leviticus 23:10-11). This sheaf was a 'firstfruit' of the harvest, and symbolized the resurrection of Jesus as the firstfruits from the dead. Because it occurred on the first day of the following week, it represented a 'new beginning'. God instructed the Jewish people to count seven full weeks (Sunday through Saturday) from the waving of this first sheaf, and then to present a second offering to God on that Sunday; the 50th day. This offering was to be leavened bread. It is this connection between the resurrection of Christ, and the associated resurrection of His disciples to a new life, that must be seen here. Pentecost points to the union between Christ and His people, and shows us that because He lives, His people can live also:

If you love me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Companion, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not, neither knows Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world sees Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you shall live also. At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

John 14:15-20

It is the direct connection of 'seven sevens', or seven weeks of time between Passover and Pentecost that must be appreciated; the new birth of God's church is directly connected to the resurrection (new birth) of Christ Himself. 'That day' that Jesus was referring to (above) was Pentecost, when the disciples would know that they lived because Christ lived, and that they truly were 'in Christ'. The apostle Paul also spoke of this connection between the resurrection of Christ, and the new spiritual life of his disciples:

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you.

Romans 8:10-11

The first sheaf had no leaven; it was sinless, and thus no sin offering was commanded to accompany it. The second offering, however, contained leaven (symbolizing sin within God's new church), and thus required a sin offering (Leviticus 23:17-19). What is important to see here is that, just as the first sheaf was raised before God on the first day of the week, so also the bread was offered to God on a day of 'new beginnings'. Pentecost was not just on any Sunday, but on the eighth Sunday, doubly reinforcing this idea of new beginnings or a 'new birth' for those who had a part in it.

Jesus was crucified on Passover. This was a powerful testimony to the world that He was the true 'Lamb of God'. God wanted to fulfill the symbolism of Pentecost on that particular feast day as well. That is why Jesus commanded His disciples to wait fifty days for the baptism of the Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 2:33). The disciples received the Holy Spirit from Jesus shortly after His resurrection, in order to strengthen them and prepare them for the tremendous work that would begin at Pentecost; but this 'reception' of the Spirit was not the Baptism by the Spirit that John the Baptist had foretold. Although they were righteous in God's sight, and had received the help of the Holy Spirit, this unique group of people would have to wait 50 days to be 'born again' and experience what would, from that day forward, become the immediate possession of all true Christians afterward.


Pentecostals ignore the plain teaching of the New Testament in two ways:

    1) They ignore the fact that the New Testament directly connects baptism by the Spirit to the repentance and faith of sinners.

    2) They ignore the fact that, after the day of Pentecost, not one Christian who had received the Spirit was subsequently baptized by the Spirit. Nor is there any instruction or encouragement anywhere in the epistles where people who are already Christians are told to seek the baptism of the Spirit. On the contrary, they are told that they already have been baptized by the Holy Spirit.

The Bible very clearly says that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is given by God in response to repentance and faith. On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter told his listeners what they needed to do in order to experience the same gift of the Holy Spirit that he himself was experiencing.

"Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ." Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said unto them "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

Acts 2:36-39

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was presented as a basic part of Christian salvation. Lest there be any confusion on this issue, we need only look at the conversion of Cornelius and his household. Cornelius heard and believed the word that Peter spoke, and Peter himself then described Cornelius' reception of the Holy Spirit as being identical to his own.

While Peter yet spoke these words (the Gospel), the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then answered Peter "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?

Acts 10:44-47

This whole question is further clarified for us as Peter defended himself before his fellow Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Peter said that Cornelius and his household had experienced the Baptism of the Spirit, and that it was given after they believed on the Lord Jesus. Then the other Jews confirmed Peter's assessment, saying that Cornelius' Baptism by the Spirit was directly connected to his repentance:

And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said "John indeed baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost". Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying "Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life".

Acts 11:15-18

God's word cannot be any more clear on the matter. It teaches us that the Baptism of the Spirit is bestowed upon all those who sincerely repent and believe the Gospel. There are two situations that might tend to cloud this discussion somewhat, but they are easily explained. They have to do with people who had come to repentance and faith, but had not received the Holy Spirit at all. They are the examples of the Samaritan believers who did not receive the Holy Spirit until the apostles came down from Jerusalem (Acts 8:14-17), and of the twelve Ephesian believers who received the Holy Spirit through the laying-on of Paul's hands (Acts 19:1-7). Neither one of these cases describes people who had received the Holy Spirit, but who had not been baptized by the Holy Spirit. In each of these cases we find believers who had not received the Holy Spirit at all, and who needed further instruction from God before the Holy Spirit could be given.

In the case of the Samaritans, God wanted them to know about the apostles, and the apostles to know about them, before the Spirit could be given. The fact that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying-on of the apostle's hands confirmed their divine authority in the eyes of the Samaritans, and that God's leadership and word would come to the Samaritans through these appointed leaders in the church. In the case of the twelve Ephesians, they needed instruction concerning the nature of the Trinity and the Person of the Holy Spirit, as well as regarding the apostleship of Paul, before they could receive the Holy Spirit. Apart from these examples of the disciples at Pentecost, and of the believers at Samaria and Ephesus, there are no other examples of any delay between a person's repentance and faith, and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the norm for all Christians, and it is directly tied to repentance and a properly informed faith:

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13


If you are a Pentecostal Christian, and remain unconvinced by my presentation, then I would present a simple challenge to you:

    1) Can you show me one single example in the Bible, apart from the disciples at Pentecost, of any Christian who had received the Holy Spirit, but who had not been baptized by the Holy Spirit?

    2) Can you show me a single verse anywhere in the New Testament epistles where an apostle of Christ tells Christians that they have received the Holy Spirit, but that they need to go on to experience the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

If not, then I would suggest that you need to re-examine your beliefs. This is not a matter of 'splitting hairs'. To be mistaken about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is to err regarding one of the most fundamental questions of the Christian faith; 'What does it mean to be born-again?'

I would submit to you that to be a 'born-again' Christian is to experience God in a profound, personal and life-changing way. It is an encounter between the repentant sinner and God that radically changes him, turning him from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, and from fear to peace. Most importantly, it is an experience of God's power; an experience that seals forever in the new Christian's mind the realization that it is nothing less than Christ's own resurrection that is at work in his life. It is an experience that always points backward '50 days' to the death, burial and resurrection that made the sinner's new life possible. It is only those who rightly understand the Bible's teaching on this subject, and who appropriately rejoice in the regenerating, sanctifying and justifying work of the Holy Spirit, who truly have the right to call themselves 'Pentecostal'. Those who are in error about this actually obscure the truth about Pentecost.

I suspect that Pentecostalism owes much of its widespread acceptance to the fact that many people make professions of faith in Christ, and join churches without ever having truly come to repentance and the new birth. They never truly receive the Holy Spirit and enter into an 'experiential' Christianity. In response to these 'lifeless Christians' filling the pews of churches, the idea of needing a 'second blessing' arose. Both Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement have enabled 'lifeless Christians' to believe that they truly are Christians, but that they simply have not entered into a second, spiritually powerful stage of the Christian experience.


The Charismatic movement is comprised of professing Christians who believe and teach that God is exercising the same miraculous spiritual gifts today, that He bestowed upon the early apostolic church. These 'charismata' or gifts encompass a broad range of things, from speaking in tongues to healing injuries and diseases, and from giving 'prophecies' to handling snakes without being harmed. Some within the Charismatic movement are restrained, and concerned about whether or not their actions bring honor to Christ. Others, by flopping around on the ground and laughing like hyenas (among many other things) prove themselves to be out and out enemies of Christ, bringing ridicule upon Him and the Bible. My own opinion is that neither of these two extremes, conservative or ridiculous, are valid. I will give two reasons for my belief; my own personal experiences and the testimony of scripture

    1) Personal Experience I have never witnessed any person perform what I would consider a valid miracle, sign or wonder. This is not to say that God is no longer working miracles. I believe that He is. I believe that He answers prayer, and that miraculous healings and other answers to prayer do occur. But during the apostolic era the spiritual gifts were exercised by specific people. God's power flowed through individual human agents to accomplish His will. I have not seen that happen today. I have seen people who claimed to be speaking in tongues, but as far as I am concerned it was simply gibberish or glossolalia (sometimes referred to as 'ecstatic speech').

    One might say that my experiences and exposure are limited, and they would be right. My own opinion on the matter is not authoritative. I believe that I have God-given 'instincts' regarding these things, however, and that when I combine these instincts with a study of God's word, He will lead me into the truth. Jesus said something very important about those who are truly His:

And when He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

John 10:4-5

But you believe not, because you are not of My sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

John 10:26-27

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in Him.

1 John 2:27

I know that this aspect of my judgment is subjective, and based upon my own 'gut' feelings, but those feelings have served me well over the years, and I have learned to trust them now more than ever before. They have not been sufficient, in and of themselves, to keep me out of danger. I have been greatly blessed by God's word, and by the ministry of those whom God has raised up within the church to warn others concerning false doctrine. But I believe that the spiritual 'anointing' that John speaks of is an important part of what keeps God's people safe.

    2) The Testimony of Scripture The scriptures divide the work of the Holy Spirit within the Christian church into two categories:

A) The fruit of the spirit, to be evidenced by every Christian, such as love, joy, peace and patience (Galatians 5:22), or as Paul says in Ephesians 5:9..."goodness, righteousness and truth".

B) The ministries of the Spirit within the church. Paul sets these various ministries forth in 1 Corinthians 12:28: "And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues".

There is no doubt that Jesus is still regenerating people, and causing them to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit today. Nor is there any doubt that He is still equipping some people, through the Holy Spirit, for ministries in the church; such as teaching, sharing (helps), and leadership (governments). The question that I pose is this: 'Are the miraculous, supernatural ministries of apostleship, prophecy, miracles, healing and speaking in tongues still operational today?' My answer is 'I do not believe so'.


To begin with, it is important to understand the connection between the New Testament apostles, and the God-given signs and wonders that authenticated their words and leadership authority. This connection is seen in the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus by night:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that You do, except God be with him." Jesus answered and said unto him "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:1-3

In this passage we see God's purpose in Jesus' miracles; not to draw attention to the miracles themselves, but to demonstrate Jesus' divine authority and to draw attention to His message. In this case the Father worked miracles through His Son so that both Nicodemus, and we also would be exposed to one of the most important truths ever uttered; that we must be born again.

God's signs and wonders not only spoke to non-believers, but also gave great courage and comfort to those whom He sent. We see this in the confidence of both Moses and Elijah, whose power demonstrated to the people of Israel and the world that they were sent by God. This same supernatural power rested upon the Lord Jesus, leaving those who rejected His words without excuse, while also prompting them to seek His death as their only means of silencing this overwhelming proof of His authenticity:

Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said "What shall we do? For this Man does many miracles. If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation." And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them "You know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not." And this spoke he not of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death.

John 11:47-53

If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hates Me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both Me and my Father.

John 15:22-24

We can see that God continued this pattern of authenticating His word through miracles in the rest of the New Testament:

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching forth Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Your holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:29-31

For a long time, therefore, they continued speaking boldly in the Lord, Who gave testimony unto the word of His grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

Acts 14:3

For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Romans 15:18-19

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written "With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear Me" says the Lord. Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.

1 Corinthians 14:20-22

How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord (Jesus), and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Hebrews 2:3-4

In these passages, from both the Old and New Testaments, we see a pattern; miraculous signs and wonders were not common events, meant to be a normal part of the everyday Christian experience, but were given at very special times by God in order to authenticate and focus attention upon His word. We can see that healing was uncommon, for instance, in the words of the apostle Paul to Timothy:

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your often infirmities (frequent illnesses).

1 Timothy 5:23

If there was anyone who could have healed Timothy of his illnesses, it would have been Paul. Neither one of them relied upon this, however, because they knew that healing was a rare sign that God occasionally gave to demonstrate the genuineness of the His message and His messengers. Paul might have gotten his advice for Timothy from Luke, the 'beloved physician'. There is no reason to think that Luke's skill and experience as a physician were not as necessary throughout his travels with Paul as doctoring is for us today. There are churches and preachers who teach that God wants every Christian to be healthy and wealthy, and claim the supernatural power to provide these things, but perfect health and wealth has never been the norm in the church. All those who have ever been healed in Old Testament times, by Jesus Himself, or by His apostles, including those who were resurrected from the dead, have gone on to die of illness or injury. God has said that the blessings of health and wealth (eternal life) will not be bestowed upon any of His saints until all of them are ready. That blessing awaits the day when they shall all receive it together at the second coming of Christ:

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

And these all (Old Testament saints), having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect without us.

Hebrews 11:39-40

One other observation is important here. God placed supernatural, miraculous power upon those who were prepared to suffer the consequences of that power. All of those whose power has convicted men of their sin, and their need to repent and seek God's mercy, have suffered persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). From Moses and Elijah to Christ and His apostles, suffering and being treated as the filth of the world (the 'offscouring of all things') has been the price of a divinely empowered ministry (1 Corinthians 4:13). This stands in stark contrast to the so-called miracle workers that have come since apostolic times.

Today faith healers are treated like 'rock stars', and are bathed in adulation. This, in and of itself, proves that they are not of God. They would say that the criticism they receive constitutes persecution, but they say this from their million-dollar homes and their private jets. For people to expose false miracle-workers as frauds does not constitute hatred or persecution; it simply constitutes truthfulness.


It is my personal belief that, with the completion of the New Testament and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, God has had no further need for signs and wonders. I am not saying that God no longer works miracles, or that He no longer accomplishes profound things in the hearts and lives of men. The many Christian revivals that have occurred down through the centuries, as well as the present-day return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, are only two examples of God's supernatural work in our world. But I believe that God's working of signs and wonders through specific people, for the authentication of His word, ended in 70 AD. This is revealed in the second vision of John's Little Book, where God's two witnesses (symbolizing God's word, 'The Law and the Prophets'), are killed and lie dead in the city of Jerusalem throughout the second half of the 70th Week of Daniel:

And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceeds out of their mouth, and devours their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

Revelation 11:3-6

And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

Revelation 11:7-10

I explain this vision in my web page on The Timetable for Jesus' Return. It is a picture of the two halves of the great week of the Abrahamic covenant. During the first half, God gave His word (the Bible) to the world through the Old Testament prophets, from Moses to Malachi. The giving of His word has been completed by Jesus and His apostles. The second half of the vision describes Israel's guilt, foretold by the Lord Jesus, which they would incur by first delivering Him to the Romans for death, then by rejecting His offer of forgiveness, and ultimately by persecuting His apostles and opposing the proclamation of the Gospel to the rest of the world (the Jews caused Paul to die at the hands of Rome also).

What I wish to draw attention to here is the unique 'power' that rested upon God's witnesses during the first half of the Week. It was a supernatural power that convicted men of sin and God's coming judgment, leaving them without excuse; a power for which these witnesses were killed. Because the tormenting 'conviction of sin' that their power caused has ceased, their bodies are rejoiced over by the entire world. It is this power of divine signs and wonders that ceased with the completion of the New Testament and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

I believe that Jesus alluded to this time when God's power would no longer be exercised miraculously in the world:

And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered "Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night comes when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said unto him "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is interpreted 'sent'). He want his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

John 9:1-7

There are some who believe that the book of Revelation was written after 70 AD. I believe that this is a mistake which ignores the testimony of the book of Revelation itself, and is also based upon a misunderstanding of the words of the early church father, Irenaeus (see Before Jerusalem Fell, chapter 4, by Dr. Kenneth Gentry for an able discussion of Irenaeus' words. Gentry is a Postmillennialist, and I disagree with him in that regard, but I believe that his thoughts on Irenaeus are valid and useful).


Jesus described the period between His first and second comings in two different ways:

    1) It would be the time of His absence.
    2) It would be a time of false Christs, false prophets and false miracles.

Jesus likened the period between His first and second comings to Him going into a far country, leaving His servants to labor for Him until His return:

He said therefore "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them 'Occupy till I come'". But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying "We will not have this man to reign over us".

Luke 19:12-14 (Matthew 25:14)

God's word warns us that this period will be one in which unbelievers will ridicule the possibility of Christ's return, and during which some Christians will stray from obedience because of how long Christ has been away:

But if that evil servant shall say in his heart 'My lord delays his coming', and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looks not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him in two, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:48-51 (Luke 12:45-46)

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation!"

2 Peter 3:3-4

God's word describes the period of Jesus' absence as one characterized by false religion, false apostles and Satanic miracles. The greatest of these false prophets will be alive and deceiving the entire world at the second coming of Christ. God's people are warned not to be taken in by these things:

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before.

Matthew 24:24-25 (Mark 13:22)

And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.

2 Thessalonians 2: 8-9

And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And deceives them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

Revelation 13:13-15 (Revelation 19:20)

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Revelation 16:13-14

If anything, Jesus' words about His absence tell us that this is a period of time when miracles will be less frequent and less visible, and when those who claim to perform miracles will have to be closely scrutinized. Why would God, who wants to glorify His salvation and His word, lead His church into a dry time of testing and seeming abandonment? I believe it is meant to test our faith, and also to glorify the sufficiency of God's word; a word that was completed in 70 AD, and will be able to sustain God's people until Jesus returns. Jesus' departure from the world stage is similar to the departure of Moses up to Mount Sinai. After forty days the people of Israel began to doubt that he would return. Most were unfaithful, but a few loved Moses, waiting and watching for his return:

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him".

Exodus 32:1, 23

Take heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for you know not when the master of the house comes; at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning. Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all; watch!

Mark 13:33-37

For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.

1 John 5:4

And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Revelation 12:11


I think that spiritual 'dryness' presents a challenge for Christians who have known times of spiritual power in their lives. Sometimes a profound sense of God's presence, power and love is experienced at conversion, and for some it may be experienced again at various points in their lives. One of the things that the Bible says about Christians is that they know something about God's power, and that false Christians are those who appear religious, but deny His power:

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

...lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. From such people turn away.

2 Timothy 3:4-5

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Hebrews 6:4-6

Hence, during times of relative powerlessness, Christians can become frustrated, or doubt themselves and ask whether or not it is their fault that the power of God is not upon them. Indeed, it may be true that it is their fault, and that they need to examine themselves. But sometimes this is not the case. Sometimes the Christian's life is simply 'quiet'. This can become disconcerting, especially when others are claiming to experience glorious supernatural power. There is a need to persevere during these times of dryness and uneasiness. During these times the Christian needs to continue exposing himself to God's 'means of grace'; to Bible study and prayer, and good fellowship if available.

I believe that one of the things that will characterize a true Christian is that he will prefer having no power at all, to having false power. He will wait forever at the base of Sinai for his 'Moses', even until death, before he will follow any lesser leader. To truly have known God at all, and to have tasted the love of Christ and the saving power of His shed blood, is to be forever spoiled for anything else. It is the experience of that love, for however brief a time, that keeps the bride of Christ faithful in her waiting for Him. It is this same admiration for God, I believe, what prompted the words of the prophet Habakkuk:

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like deer feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

I think the Christian can learn something from Elijah. Elijah saw and experienced God's power like few others ever will. After his victory on Mt. Carmel, however, Elijah was confronted with a degree of wickedness that terrified him. Although she knew full well that God had manifested Himself at Mt. Carmel, and had cast Baal-worship down, Jezebel was still determined to put Elijah to death (1 Kings 19:2). And so Elijah, terrified by such aggravated wickedness and discouraged about the future of Israel, fled for his life.

When Elijah arrived in the wilderness of southern Israel, God met him there. The Bible tells us that Elijah saw a great wind tear into a mountain and brake its rocks, and then witnessed an earthquake and a great fire. But the Bible tells us that God Himself was not in any of these powerful things. Then Elijah heard "a still, small voice", and knew that this was God. This is what the Christian knows. The Christian is not awed by power, but by character. It is not 'what' Christ is, but 'who' Christ is that commands his admiration; and thus he can patiently wait for that 'still, small voice' of the Spirit. It was this still, small voice that renewed Elijah's courage and gave him strength to return to the realm of the enemy. It is that same still, small voice that the Christian should wait for today, and that gives God's people divine peace:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

I know that my scripture quotations will not convince everyone that God is no longer performing signs and wonders. I don't expect them to. I cannot produce a verse where God expressly says 'I will not be speaking in tongues, healing or working miracles during the second half of the 70th Week'. I myself must be open to the possibility that He is. I will first remember, however, that Satan can also work miracles, just as he did in opposition to Moses (Exodus 7:11,22, 8:7, 18-19). I will also remember that God commands that if a 'prophet' works a miracle, but also seeks to turn people away from God, I am to reject that prophet. Every 'prophet' must be scrutinized regarding his doctrine. God tells us to 'test all things, holding on to what is good' (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Holy Spirit does not direct our attention to Himself, but to Jesus, and what He has accomplished at the cross (John 16:14). Those who obsess over the Holy Spirit, power and miracles are not sent from God. Those who obsess over the Son of God, and the saving power of His shed blood, are sent by Him.

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, while he says to you "Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them"; you shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice; and you shall serve Him and cling unto Him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to turn you out of the way which the Lord your God commanded you to walk in. So shall you put the evil away from the midst of you.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

Christians are not instructed by God to put anyone to death. They are instructed, however, as the ultimate step in the disciplinary process of the church, to abandon unrepentant people to Satan so that he can destroy them (1 Corinthians 5:5). This is to be done in the hope that such a drastic step will prompt the rebel to reconsider his ways and turn from his sin, with the resultant saving of his soul. Those who profess that their miracles are done through Christ, yet promote doctrinal heresy, turning people away from the true faith, are to be subjected to the discipline of Christ's church. The word of God tells me that if such persons continue in their sin after one or two warnings, I am to openly and pointedly abandon them to Satan for destruction, and to tell them that I have done so. False prophets would do well to consider the possibility that Christ will choose to manifest His power and honor His word through their untimely deaths.


As I have already mentioned, I myself have not seen anything that I would consider a genuine supernatural miracle, sign or wonder from God. I believe that those who spoke in tongues at Pentecost, spoke in one of the known languages of the world. God created the languages of the world at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:7), scattering a rebellious human race. He alone has the power to reverse that scattering, bringing people from many nations together in Christ, and I believe that He supernaturally pursued that purpose, enabling the disciples to speak in genuine languages during the apostolic era. That is still what I would expect from God today. I have seen gibberish and glossolalia at church meetings, but nothing that I would consider a genuine language. This prompts me to utter a warning.

When false prophets stand on a stage before TV cameras, and smack people in the head and have them fall down in faints and trances, they are telling the world that this is what Jesus did when He walked on this earth. They are telling the world that the miracles of Christ recorded in the Bible amount to nothing more than this. Such people are enemies of God, and put Him and His word to an open shame. Those who support and join these deceivers are also shaming God, telling the world that Christians are fools, and that Christ is unable to give His people wisdom and discernment, and to help them escape such deception. God is not glorified by Christian gullibility, and He is just as prepared to judge those who are deceived as He is to judge the deceivers.

After Jesus began working amongst the people of Jerusalem at Pentecost, He destroyed Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, for lying to the Holy Spirit. As a result, nobody in Jerusalem dared to join the Christians under false pretenses (Acts 5:13). Today there is almost nothing that wicked men and women will not do or say in the name of Jesus Christ. A day of accounting is coming for all those who have claimed to perform miracles in Christ's name, when in fact all they have been doing is bringing dishonor to Him. I would beg my Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters to examine themselves, and to be absolutely sure that the supernatural 'power' they are demonstrating is really from God. Just as it is better to enter heaven with one hand or one eye, rather than to go to into the lake of fire with two (Matthew 18:8-9), so also it is better to be a powerless Christian, than to make false claims of power, or worse yet to be empowered by Satan. Both of these possibilities bring with them the danger of joining Satan in his eternal fate.




created by Chuck Porritt

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(Bible quotations are from the old King James version, with modifications by the author.)