Raising the Dead should be Normal Christianity
Should Christians pray for recently deceased people to be raised from the dead? Are such Christians being delusional? Or do they really know what they’re talking about? Honestly, if you ask me, I believe raising the dead should be normal Christianity.
Do Christians Still Raise the Dead?
The Bible contains plenty of examples of prophets, Jesus, and various New Testament believers raising the dead. I have no reason to disbelieve these testimonies. Such activity happened often enough in Scripture to tell us that it shouldn’t surprise or spook us. But what I want to focus on here is more about present-day testimonies of raising the dead — and there are many.
Respected theologian Craig Keener, in his scholarly 2-volume set Miracles (2011) shares 29 pages of modern-day, documented dead-raisings on multiple continents (including extensive footnotes). He also provides strong argumentation for believing most, if not all, of these accounts.
In his book MegaShift (2005), the late author Jim Rutz documented hundreds of dead-raisings across 52 different nations, and that was just in the previous 25 years.
In my travels around the world, I’ve come to know several people who have raised the dead in Jesus’ name. A few of them have witnessed hundreds of dead raisings. Three of the people I know were current or former medical professionals who know how to identify death. They knew what should have worked medically (but didn’t) and what certainly should not have worked (but did in Jesus’ name).
And most exciting to me are the handful of people I’ve met who have themselves been raised from the dead. Their testimonies are powerful and compelling.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus still raises the dead.
Why Does God Raise the Dead?
Ecclesiastes says there is a time to live and a time to die (3:2). It also warns against being foolish and asks, “Why die before your time?” (7:17). So while there is indeed a time to die, it is also possible to die prematurely.
If people only ever died when it was their time to die, then why did Jesus raise the dead? If those people were supposed to be dead, then Jesus would have been going against the Father’s will to raise them. Rather, Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father doing and added, “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.” (John 5:19-21)
According to 1 Corinthians 15:26, death is an enemy of God. I believe it ought to be treated as such. If God was a fan of death, then He wouldn’t have sent Jesus to give us eternal life. Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 both tell us that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. Similarly, the death of the righteous is costly and of great consequence in His sight (this is the meaning of the word “precious” in Psalm 116:15).
Therefore, if God doesn’t like when the wicked die or when the righteous die, I have to conclude that He doesn’t like when anyone dies. Again, death is an enemy of God.
For this reason, as far as we know from Scripture, Jesus upset every funeral He ever attended during His ministry, including His own.
Should this be “Normal Christianity?”
The entire Christian faith is built on the idea that a crucified man was raised from the dead. Raising the dead ought to be one of the easiest things for us to comprehend as believers. It’s the foundation of our faith!
The same Jesus who always treated death like an enemy also sent out His disciples with a command to “raise the dead” (Matthew 10:8). Notice: Not some of the dead or certain dead but the dead, without exception.
Sure, this was a command to His twelve disciples, but do you know what else He commanded those same disciples? He commanded them to make new disciples and teach them to obey “everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). In other words, if it was a command to the disciples, it is a command to us. The same Jesus who commanded us to love our enemies also commanded us to raise the dead.
Until the time that our “final enemy” (death) is fully overthrown, it’s a reality we’ll have to deal with here on this earth (1 Corinthians 15:26; Hebrews 9:27). And there is no doubt that God–in Scripture–has allowed this enemy to roam free as an unwitting pawn from time to time to accomplish greater purposes (for example, Exodus 12:23). But that doesn’t mean we should always assume God is the one who “took someone home” or that He approved of the death.
Some of us are quicker to “accept what happened” than we are to accept what is available. It’s not easy to live with extreme hope and to risk being let down, but it’s right.
Personally, I lay hands on the deceased at every open-casket funeral I attend, and I command them to wake up in Jesus’ name. So far it hasn’t happened, but I guarantee it’s more likely to happen for me than for someone who never tries. Some of us need to rethink our priorities and start treating death like the enemy it is.
How Do You Raise the Dead?
The simple answer is: You don’t! Jesus does. But Jesus lives in us, and we are invited to minister in His name with all His love, compassion, authority, and power.
Every person I know who has raised the dead says it’s no more difficult than healing ministry. The same way we minister healing through no personal striving or merit, so the dead are raised. It’s the power and authority of Jesus that does all the work. We don’t have to be mature enough, good enough, educated enough, or qualified enough in any way. We simply need to believe the One who gave us the command, letting His Spirit do His work as we make opportunities.
In Matthew 10:8, Jesus commanded, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” In other words, it all works the same: freely giving what we have freely received. Remember what Jesus said in John 5:21–“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” As sons and daughters of God, we too are invited to “give life” in His name. Remember, Jesus said, “…As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Our mission is a continuation of His mission.
Jesus promised that those who believe in Him would do the same works He was doing, plus greater (John 14:12). Everyone wants to debate what Jesus meant by “greater works,” but I say let’s start with the “same works” He promised. And one of those works is raising the dead.
All of us have lost people dear to us, and all of us have believed for certain miracles that we didn’t see happen. None of those things should change our minds about the character of God. He is relentlessly good–full of compassion and abounding in love.
And He still raises the dead.
January 29, 2020 @ 2:46 pm
Thanks for this article. You’re right: if we believe we should be healing the sick because Jesus told his disciples to do that, we have to conclude the same thing about raising the dead.
So, I didn’t even know this blog existed until I downloaded the Kindle sample of your book, “Healing Miracles for your Family,” and found the link in the introduction. I think I’ll probably go ahead and buy the book once I’ve finished reading the sample. What brought me to it (other than seeing some of your YouTube videos) was that my wife has cancer, one of my daughters has a potentially fatal peanut allergy, and my youngest daughter has Celiac disease. Consequentially, healing has been very much on my mind for a couple of years now.
Theologically, I think I’m very close to where you are. Having studied the Bible intensely on the subject for a couple of years now, read a lot, watched a lot, listen to a lot, and prayed a lot about it, coming to any conclusion other than that God’s will is always healing takes some serious mental gymnastics. In fact, I’d say “desire” is a better word than “will.” Although the Greek word thelo is translated as “I am willing” in most English translations of Matthew 8:3, it’s also commonly translated as “I desire” in Matthew 9:13.
Despite my studying, however, my current experience is where yours used to be: I am (to misquote and misapply Wimber) doing the healing stuff, or at least going through the motions, but no one’s getting healed (so, not ACTUALLY “doing the stuff”). I find myself wondering if my faith-er is broken. I wish I had come to faith because of miracles so my “faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5 NASB). I can’t blame it all on that though: when I was a teenager, Wimber et al taught a healing seminar at the church I attended in southwest London, and people got healed.
Nice observation from Ecclesiastes, by the way. It suggests (at the very least) that one can die prematurely, i.e., before your appointed time. That said, it’s hard to know when Ecclesiastes is being sarcastic. But, as people can die without accepting Christ even though it is God’s will that all should be saved (2 Peter 3:9), the idea that it is possible for things to happen that are not God’s will in a given circumstance seems pretty clear to me. So, accepting your premise from Ecclesiastes is not hard. At least, not for me, but I am not a Calvinist. Calvinists might not find it so easy to go with.
You mentioned that Jesus raised the dead, and that this would have been problematic if he was going against the will of God. But we all know that Jesus constantly undid God’s good work. I mean, just imagine all the good that would have come from all those sicknesses if only Jesus had had the sense to let God do his thing. Right? (Yes, that was satirical.)
Anyway, I really appreciated your article. I’ve mention to a number of people that Jesus commanded his disciples to heal the sick and also told them to make disciples, and if we’re disciples in that chain, Jesus’ instruction to them applies to us. I have, however, surreptitiously avoided pointing out that he also commanded them to raise the dead, as I think that would be too big of a mental leap for many. Plus I’m a little scared of having that theology tested on my family, which tells you have issues somewhere: I don’t want to say something God might use against me: I’ll never go to Africa! (unless, of course, it’s the typical humorist equivalent: I’ll never be a millionaire, Lord!)
I do have a question, though. What do I do next?
I came across some third party comments about the secret to the success of both Blaine Cook and Todd White. Both comments were something to the effect of “if it moves and it’s sick, they pray for it.” I’m trying to take that approach (and regularly praying for boldness [along with love, power, faith, and wisdom]). In my thinking, cancer takes no more or less miracle-ousity to heal than a headache. With either ailment, it’s not my power or godliness that would affect a cure, although clearly I’m on the hook to give freely that which I freely received. And anyway, I have I prayed for both conditions and had little less failure than Wimber did in his early days, although I have yet to “catch” someones headache.
I’m a bit dubious of teachings that say we require a special anointing. I mean, obviously we need to be filled with the Spirit, so there is that anointing. But a NEED for a separate event where someone who has the gift anoints you with it seems difficult to justify. That said, I live close to Andrew Wommack’s ministry, so I guess I go ask one of them to do that for me. I don’t stand to lose anything. Your own thinking on the specific subtopic seems to be more along the lines of Roger Sapp or Torben Søndergaard, that we all have the Spirit and that doing healing (if I can phrase it that way) doesn’t require the “gift” of healing.
So, at the moment it’s safe to, back to my question. What’s your advice? Do you have any guidance for me?