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The Greek word semeion is the word most commonly translated 'sign' or 'miracle' in the English bible. It is the word which is very prominent in John's gospel account, in which it occurs a significant seventeen times.

(There is another word, sometimes so translated, being dunamis, which has a broad spectrum of meaning, and is often translated 'power'. But it does not bear the specific concept associated with semeion.)

In John's visionary account, the Apocalypse, the very purpose of which is to show unto Christ's servants 'things which must shortly come to pass', we find that John uses semeion only seven times (again a significant number) in a very illuminating pattern.

  • 'Wonders', Revelation 13:13, are done by the second, earth beast, which 'miracles', Revelation 13:14, are those that deceive them that dwell on earth. And this false prophet which wrought 'miracles' is cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, Revelation 19:20.

  • Then three unclean spirits, like frogs, which are the spirits of demons work 'miracles' to gather the kings of the earth, and the whole world with them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty, Revelation 16:14.

In contrast, there are three mentions of semeion which are, exclusively, occurrences not on earth, but in heaven.

  • A great 'wonder' in heaven, a woman, clothed with the sun, who brings forth the huios arrhen, the son/batchelor, both a son and a prospective husband/Head, Revelation 12:1.

  • The response to this is another 'wonder' - a great red dragon, Revelation 12:3.

  • And, lastly, another 'sign' in heaven : seven angels with seven last plagues, Revelation 15:1.

Notably absent are any 'miracles' done by men on earth which do any good. Which bring any benefit. Which, in any way, are a testimony to Jesus Christ.

Not a single one.

But rather, during the Church age, during the motivation of earthly and spiritual powers to conquer the whole of earth, during the buildup of the final Armageddon, throughout all this revealed activity : all the 'miracles' done on earth are deceptive, demonic in origin and lead to a lake of fire.

What do continuationists have to say to this remarkable feature of the Apocalypse ?


EDIT after Comment (in relation to the two witnesses in Revelation 11: 3-14) :

Have we seen such things, visibly and practically ? No, we have not. Therefore it is symbolic. Is not the preaching of the gospel an occasion when 'fire pours from the mouth' ? When one prays for heaven to respond to atrocities on earth and there is a response of judgment : is not this 'striking the earth with plague' ? And that they are slain and arise again : is not this God raising up a prophetic ministry, generation by generation, a unified testimony. All symbolic.


All references are to the KJV.

My research used Robert Young's Analytical Concordance.

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  • What is your basis for assuming that this is symbolic? It seems to me like an easy way to sweep an opinion you don't agree with under the rug. Discounting "...And that they are slain and arise again : is not this God raising up a prophetic ministry..." as symbolic. Seems like pretty strong denial of the text to me.
    – nickalh
    Sep 18 at 0:09
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    @nickalh So, could you tell me of any instances of ministers being resurrected during the past two thousand years ? I haven't seen any documented occurrences, myself. Which is the reason I say it is symbolic.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 18 at 2:17
  • Israel has been reconstituted as a nation, which many thought would only be fulfilled the one time when Israel returned from captivity. Why restrict it to ministers? Stories of people being raised from the dead in the past 2000 years are around. The question is is one open to discerning through them and then believing them. History even tells us authorities tried to kill John, the revelator, but they couldn't so they exiled him to an island.
    – nickalh
    Sep 19 at 1:00
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A problem with any question about the way the book of Revelation mentions 'miracles / signs / wonders' is the confused way many translations have translated this Greek word semeion. It is used seven times in the book of Revelation but is inconsistently translated, and continuationists may try to answer by working in ideas about miracles and wonders when they are not in the equation at all.

There is reason to suppose from the Greek text that semeion should always be rendered 'sign', all seven times. If it were, then most of the heat about miracles and wonders as understood by continuationists would be taken out. This simple Greek word semeion has a clear English equivalent in the word 'sign', but miracles and wonders are far more excessive in description than is a 'sign'. Here are the seven occurrences of semeion:

Rev. 12:1 'There appeared a great wonder in heaven'. But it is actually the great sign of the heavenly woman.

Rev. 12:3 'There appeared another wonder in heaven'. But it is actually the sign of the heavenly great red dragon. He is called 'great', but the sign is not.

Rev. 13:13 Great wonders are wrought by the second beast. But the beast is not the sign; the great signs performed by him are the sign. These signs are called 'great'.

Rev. 13:14 The second beast 'deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do.' Here the deceptive signs of the second beast captivate mankind.

Rev. 15:1 John saw 'another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues.' Here the sign itself is great and marvellous and heavenly.

Rev. 16:14 Then out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet come 'the spirits of devils, working miracles' to deceive all the world's leaders. These signs are a combined concentration of evil powers.

Rev. 19:20 'The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast.'

Please note that a sign is not the thing signified. A sign points towards something. It helps notice to be taken of something important, and if we spot the sign, we should be helped to understand something.

If consistency is applied to translating this word semeion, and it is understood as a sign, or multiple signs, all seven times it occurs in the Revelation, then that might free continuationists up to concentrate on whether any miracles are mentioned in Revelation, but they never occur in those seven instances.

I only offer this answer as an aid to assist in distinguishing between signs in heaven (either to do with God's 'party', or to do with the dragon's 'party') and demonic signs done on earth (to deceive the nations who think they are godly miracles). It seems clear that those seven times have nothing to do with what continuationists like to think of as the signs and wonders they associate with their continuationist theology, but as I'm not a continuationist, this answer might not be appreciated by continuationists (at best) or reckoned to be invalid (at worst).

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  • I remember you shared in the past about your interactions with missionaries who had first-hand miraculous experiences. However, you are now saying that you are not a continuationist. Does this mean that you believe in the continuation of miracles but not in the continuation of specific spiritual gifts? Do you make a distinction between the two? Sep 18 at 19:32
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    @Spirit Realm Investigator I hate pigeon-holes, spiritually speaking. You can call me anything you like; you can analyse my answers (if you've nothing better to do); you can try to fit me in to categories. This will be of no avail to you. Of course there's a distinction between God deigning to miraculously help some of his children sometimes over the centuries, and the beliefs of continuationists in thinking they have the same 1st century miraculous gifts of the apostles (almost as a right). That's too obvious for words. I will not discuss it, thank you all the same.
    – Anne
    Sep 19 at 8:03
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Revelation 11 describes the two witnesses.

4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Who are the two witnesses? We don't know! Suggestions are:

  • Two churches
  • The Christian Church and a revitalized Israel
  • Elijah and Enoch
  • Elijah and Moses
  • Two individual Christians

The time period may be the whole church age or a short time during the final tribulation.

The phrase "they went up to heaven in a cloud" may refer to the rapture of the whole church, or the translation into heaven of two individuals or a small group.

What is unmistakable is that these individuals or groups are granted power and authority to perform miracles.

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  • 2
    Have we seen such things, visibly and practically ? No, we have not. Therefore it is symbolic. Is not the preaching of the gospel an occasion when 'fire pours from the mouth' ? When one prays for heaven to respond to atrocities on earth and there is a response of judgment : is not this 'striking the earth with plague' ? And that they are slain and arise again : is not this God raising up a prophetic ministry, generation by generation, a unified testimony. All symbolic. (Saved as an edit within the question.)
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18 at 13:08
  • @NigelJ: Whether symbolic or not is beside the point; bottom line, they are described as happening on earth. The vision seen in the sky is also about things happening on earth (the persecution of Christ's followers, described in terms similar to those of Jesus' own flight from Herod, as a child).
    – Lucian
    Aug 18 at 14:23
  • @Lucian I'm sorry. I do not understand the reasoning of your argument and I do not see its relevance to the discussion.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 18 at 15:16
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    @NigelJ - if you see these descriptions of genuine miracles from the "good side" as symbolic, then there is no reason to not see the counterfeit miracles from the "bad side" that you reference in your question as symbolic as well. And if everything is symbolic, the objection against real, concrete, non-symbolic miracles falls apart (because the text would be saying nothing about real miracles, everything is symbolic, the text is talking about something else and cannot be used to argue either for or against miracles). Aug 18 at 15:45
  • @NigelJ: I do not understand the reasoning of your argument - Same here; I find myself unable to follow the main question's ad hoc and idiosyncratic reasoning.
    – Lucian
    Aug 18 at 15:45
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It's not quite so simple, the OP argument from silence.

Let's assume that the "Left Behind" folks are correct; that is, the church age ends as John is carried to heaven at Rev. 4:1. The signs thereafter then appear to be demonic. But this is not to prove that the gifts of the Spirit ceased some 2,000 years ago. They may only cease as the Spirit of God within Christians is lifted away.

On the other hand, let's assume the preterists are right; that is, Revelation is about 70ad, what came to pass shortly (Rev. 1:1). The demonic signs refer to that period. But again, this is not to prove that the gifts of the Spirit ceased some 2,000 years ago.

Finally, let's assume the OP is correct that since 30ad (ascension of Christ) or 70ad (temple destruction) the only signs are demonic. This ignores a couple of things.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Eph 4:8

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. 1 Cor 12:31

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 1 Cor 12:3

The point being that we have been warned. As there were false prophets in OT times, there are false teachers in NT times (2 Peter 2:1). Likewise, there are false signs. Revelation is not a standalone book, but one of 27 NT God-breathed Scripture. It is to be taken in context.

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    Why do you think the OP maintains "that since 30ad (ascension of Christ) or 70ad (temple destruction) the only signs are demonic"? The OP referenced Rev.13, 16 & 19 which deal with pen-ultimate stages before Armageddon and Christ's return. Then his Edit makes clear that the signs of the 2 witnesses in Rev.11 cover the whole period from John till Christ returns, but that they are symbolic, e.g. gospel witnessing = fire from their mouths. Praying re. atrocities = God responding with judgments on the earth & raising up more, continued prophetic ministry. Not miracles as continuationists think.
    – Anne
    Sep 25 at 8:43
  • @Anne OP "But rather, during the Church age, during the motivation of earthly and spiritual powers to conquer the whole of earth, during the buildup of the final Armageddon, throughout all this revealed activity : all the 'miracles' done on earth are deceptive, demonic in origin and lead to a lake of fire. What do continuationists have to say to this remarkable feature of the Apocalypse ?" The OP is asserting that signs/wonders post ascension are demonic (or merely symbolic as you point out). Continuationists believe signs/wonders may point to God and be real. My answer is about the OP.
    – SLM
    Sep 26 at 20:53
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Q: What answer do continuationists have to the seven mentions of 'miracles/signs/wonders' in Revelation?

Continuationists would probably respond by pointing out that the OP is making an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence (as Carl Sagan's standard suggests), and the OP's use of Revelation fails to meet that burden of proof.

Argument 1: the OP is making an extraordinary claim.

The OP said:

Notably absent are any 'miracles' done by men on earth which do any good. Which bring any benefit. Which, in any way, are a testimony to Jesus Christ.

Not a single one.

[...]

all the 'miracles' done on earth are deceptive, demonic in origin and lead to a lake of fire.

Notice that the thesis defended by the OP is that, during the end times, all miracles, without exception, would be demonic in nature. No miracles from God. According to the OP's interpretation, God would completely withdraw his miracle working power off the face of the earth, the Holy Spirit would not perform a single miracle through any willing vessel, and the entire body of Christ would be completely devoid of the miraculous, of signs and wonders. Instead, all miracles worldwide would be counterfeits performed by demons in service of the Satanic agenda. All of them. 100% of them.

With no exceptions whatsoever ...

I think the above should be more than enough to see how extraordinary the OP's claim is, but the extravagance of the claim becomes even more obvious when we realize that the picture the OP is painting is the polar opposite of the powerful Church that Jesus and the Apostles preached:

  • 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [Acts 1:8, ESV]
  • 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [Mark 16:17-18, ESV]
  • 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. [Acts 4:29-31, ESV]
  • 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. [Hebrews 2:4, ESV]
  • 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [1 Cor 2:4-5, ESV]
  • 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; [Romans 15:18-19, ESV]

Argument 2: the OP's use of Revelation fails to meet the burden of proof.

First of all, the extraordinary claim made by the OP, at least in explicit, unambiguous terms, is nowhere to be found in Revelation, and I would even say nowhere to be found in the entire Bible. There is not a single verse in scripture that unambiguously asserts that "all miracles from God, without exception, will come to an end and only counterfeit demonic miracles from Satan will remain during the end times".

There is no 'proof text' the OP can point us to to justify a claim like that.

Instead, what the OP offers is an inductive argument (see inductive reasoning) in support of his claim. This argument can be paraphrased as follows:

  • P1: All mentions of miracles/signs/wonders in Revelation are linked to the demonic.
  • P2: The only possible counterexample (the two witnesses) can be dismissed as probably symbolic (i.e. it is possible to argue that the witnesses are probably symbolic, and if so, then they probably don't count as evidence of miracles from God during the end times).
  • P3: There is no explicit mention of genuine miracles performed by the Church.
  • P4: The book of Revelation is describing the state of affairs during the end times.
  • C1: Therefore, all miracles, under all circumstances, with no exceptions whatsoever, are linked to the demonic during the end times (based on P4 and inductively on P1, and reinforced by P2 and P3).

I don't find this argument compelling at all for the following reasons:

2.1 Inductive arguments are risky

Inductive arguments are not bullet proof, and when used indiscriminately they can easily lead to the wrong conclusions. Wikipedia has a classical example of this:

A classical example of an incorrect inductive argument was presented by John Vickers:

All of the swans we have seen are white.
Therefore, we know that all swans are white.

The correct conclusion would be: we expect all swans to be white.
Succinctly put: deduction is about certainty/necessity; induction is about probability.

At best the OP could attempt to make a probabilistic case, something like "it is very probable that most miracles during the end times will be demonic in nature", but even then the OP would need to justify first that:

  • the seven mentions of miracles on which he bases his induction are not symbolic, otherwise they could be dismissed just like the OP dismisses the counterexample of the two witnesses. (Notice this is a hard task to do, given the overall symbolic nature of the book of Revelation.)
  • the seven mentions of miracles on which he bases his induction are an exhaustive representation of all the miraculous experiences during the end times, otherwise the inductive generalization would be unjustified. (I don't see any obvious way this could be done. What if they are not exhaustive? What if there are genuine miraculous experiences from God that Revelation is simply being silent about?)

2.2 Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

The OP also appeals to the absence of unambiguous mentions of miracles done by the Church. This is a clear example of an argument from ignorance, and in particular, an appeal to the absence of evidence as if it were evidence of absence.

The only way this argument could work is by proving first that Revelation is an exhaustive description of the end times. If Revelation is not exhaustive, then there is clear room for things to take place that Revelation does not mention, such as miracles in the mission field, spiritual gifts, etc.

Moreover, the same argument could be used against the OP's position: Revelation includes no explicit mention of the cessation of Godly miracles. Therefore, there is no cessation of Godly miracles.

Argument 3: Revelation and 1 Corinthians 13 can be used together to argue for the continuation of Godly miracles.

In this answer I present an argument based on 1 Corinthians 13 for continuationism. I contend that several sign gifts will cease when "the perfect" comes, which is the same moment when we will be able to see "face to face". One could argue that this act of seeing "face to face" is exactly what Revelation 22:4 describes:

4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. [Revelation 22:4-5, ESV]

In other words, the cessation of the sign gifts will take place after the second coming of Christ, when those deemed worthy will be able to see God and the Lamb face to face. Since that hasn't happened yet, the sign gifts still continue.

See the question When shall we see "face to face"? 1 Corinthians 13:12 to find more answers that arrive at the same conclusion.


Answers to comment section objections

Q. Then where are your miracles ? A real miracle, a sign, a signification that is witnessed, documented and that has real meaning. I have yet to see one properly set forth in my own lifetime or one that was properly documented since the days of the apostles. I know of not one single occurrence. But I expect them to appear as we move towards the very end and at the point when men claim that Christ has returned to earth. Then we shall see them - demonically produced to falsify the claim of an earth-centred Christ and a supposed Utopian 'millenium'.

A. There are have been efforts to collate modern-day miracle reports. Some examples you might be interested in:

  • Craig S. Keener's book Miracles : 2 Volumes: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (amazon link)
  • Lee Strobel's book The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural (amazon link)
  • Jack S. Deere's book Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks and Heals Today (amazon link)
  • Mh. D. H. Richard Casdorph's book The Miracles: A Medical Doctor Says Yes to Miracles! (amazon link)

That said, if you feel justified to offhandedly reject all books and forms of content that may provide some revenue to its authors and/or other parties involved in their publication, you might perhaps feel more comfortable reading instead the testimony of @Anne (which I presume you are more likely to trust since you accepted her answer), which you may find here. This is her answer to my question How often do Christian missionaries report occurrences of miracles while on the mission field?.

Now, if after all this you are still skeptical, I would very much appreciate your answering the question What are apologetic responses to objections to the credibility of witnesses of miracles?, because I'm sincerely struggling to understand how you can be so skeptical of modern-day miracle reports and still be able to accept miracle claims from the 1st century without any skepticism whatsoever.

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    Then where are your miracles ? A real miracle, a sign, a signification that is witnessed, documented and that has real meaning. I have yet to see one properly set forth in my own lifetime or one that was properly documented since the days of the apostles. I know of not one single occurrence. But I expect them to appear as we move towards the very end and at the point when men claim that Christ has returned to earth. Then we shall see them - demonically produced to falsify the claim of an earth-centred Christ and a supposed Utopian 'millenium'.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 18 at 4:39
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    You quoted the prefaces of those two books. You have not quoted the content. The prefaces are what sell the books. You are quoting advertising.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 18 at 4:42
  • @NigelJ - I found a free preview of Keener's book here, in case you may want to take a look at the index and possibly decide to purchase the book. Sep 18 at 4:54
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    I just explained to you - let me do so again - that I expect them towards the very end when the Dragon (through the second beast, the false prophet) deceives the entire world and when (as Paul tells us in Thessalonians) there shall be that on earth which mimics heaven as (supposedly) Christ reigning on earth and establishing an earthly kingdom. We are warned of all this.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 18 at 5:14

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