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June 17, 2017 at 5:30 pm #4567
Ron McGatlinKeymasterJUNE 2017CHRISTIANS TODAY EXPERIENCE THE
“POWERS OF THE AGE TO COME.” Hebrews 6:5
Charles CarrinStephen, “Being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said,
“Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7:55-56Dr. Eben Alexander, neurosurgeon, faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a graduate of that University, contracted a vicious E-coli bacteria that plunged him into a 7-day coma. During that time the neo-cortex of his brain was shut-down. Mentally, he was dead. The medical team had no hope for his recovery. While in that state Dr. Alexander experienced a journey into the afterlife. There, he saw realities he never thought possible. Other doctors have since ridiculed his claim but Dr. Alexander held fast to the truth of his Heavenly encounter. In Newsweek Magazine, he wrote: “As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.”
“Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief. I didn’t begrudge those who wanted to believe that Jesus was more than simply a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world. I sympathized deeply with those who wanted to believe that there was a God somewhere out there who loved us unconditionally. In fact, I envied such people the security that those beliefs no doubt provided. But as a scientist, I simply knew better than to believe them myself.”
After seven days in a coma and when all brain functions were shut-down, Dr. Alexander testified: “My brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility … But that dimension in rough outline, the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states is there. It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey.”
Dr. Alexander’s full account was published in the October 15, 2012, issue of Newsweek Magazine. As Christians, we have no difficulty believing Dr. Alexander nor the Bible’s corresponding message about the life that is to come. Years ago I met a saintly old man whom I immediately recognized was trustworthy in his love for God and his Christian testimony. We met at a restaurant and as he talked privately, he told me about an illness that not only put him in the hospital but caused his death. Of that event, he half-whispered to me, “I realized I was dead when I discovered that I could swing my legs down through the mattress.” Though the statement was shocking there was nothing unbelievable about him or his description of his death-encounter. He described the next life in terms that were breath-taking and real.
Over the years I have met numerous others just as believable as he who had such death-bed or out-of-body experiences. What happened in his case was that death momentarily separated him from his body; while his physical-part lay motionless on the bed, his spiritual-part was totally free and independent of it. There is a “natural body” and there is a “spiritual body.” I Corinthians 15:44. It was the spiritual aspect of his being that was unhindered by the material substance of the bed and enabled him to swing his legs through it.
We have a parallel of this the day of the Resurrection when Jesus appeared in the closed room where the disciples were hiding. Without effect on Himself or the wall, He simply passed through the material substance of the building in the same way the old man’s spiritual legs swung through the hospital mattress. John 20:22.
My mother had a death-bed visit into Heaven which she did not tell for many years because she feared no one would believe her. At the time, she was undergoing surgery in a Miami hospital and died on the operating table. Her heart quit and the doctors worked feverishly to resuscitate her. Ten years passed before she told me what happened. “I saw Heaven,” she said, “I was there–it is real. I was not hallucinating! I know what hallucinations are. I was not dreaming! I know what dreams are! I was there–Heaven is real.” She told of seeing her father, grandmother, an aunt, and described much, much more. Part of her description fitted the Apostle John’s testimony in the Book of Revelation.
Paul’s “Out-of-Body” Experience
The Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthian Church, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows, such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows, how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” II Corinthians 12:2-4.
Jonathan Edwards, whose preaching fired Colonial America’s “Great Awakening,” believed that many Christians were missing a great spiritual opportunity by not experiencing the spiritual realities God offered. Many in his own congregation were entering into that holy experience. It was common for scores of people to “swoon” (today we call that “slain”) as the Holy Spirit came upon the congregation. Jonathan’s own wife lay “under the power” of the Holy Spirit for seventeen days. His ministry was filled with manifestations of the Holy Spirit so amazing that modern churches would forbid him in their pulpits. Similarly, he would be appalled at the spiritual deadness in most of our congregations today.
A pastor who visited Edwards’ church described what he saw: “There were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up but in the meantime under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.” It is interesting that the writer mentions “strong imaginations” as being involved with these trance-states. In his day the word “imagination” was used favorably and did not convey the negative connotation it has today. The word scares the modern church because we wrongly associate it with nonsense and vanity. That is incorrect. What God has purposely built into us is intended for proper use. Imagination and creativity exist concurrently in our mind. An inventor, scientist, or artist is “creative” in his work because imagination is birthing creativity in his mental capacity. Edwards used the word in that way.
Unfortunately, the “Great Awakening” was stopped in New England by Charles Chauncy, Pastor at Boston’s First Church, who denounced the miraculous events as being mere emotionalism and excitement. As a result, genuine spirituality quickly died in that area and opened the way for Unitarianism, Christian Science, and atheism, to fill the void. Whether our evangelical churches will admit it or not, liberalism has similarly invaded these denominations to the degree that most discredit genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit, reject authentic spiritual gifts, and deny, rather than pursue any experience that challenges human rationale and logical explanation. For many, doctrines of unbelief have replaced reliance on Scripture and faith in God’s word. These focus so intently on religious appearance that they do not throw themselves into the search for Him who told Nathaniel “You shall see Heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:51.
I love the accuracy of the old King James Version which gives the most precise Greek-translation of Galatians 3:5. In that passage Paul said, “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Paul knew that a brother in the Galatian Church had been endowed by the Holy Spirit with the ministry of miracles and spiritual-impartation. Paul does not give his name but only refers to him as “he who ministereth to you the Spirit.” I repeat it for emphasis. Modern theologians are fearful of this text. The New King James capitalizes the “He” so that it is not a believer who ministers in power but the Spirit Himself. Of course, the Holy Spirit is the source of power! That is undisputed fact! But, Jesus said, “These signs will follow those who believe …” Mark 16:17. The one in Galatia to whom Paul referred was such a believer. The change in translation is a subtle denial of believers today being able to minister in miraculous power. The loss is regrettable. Thankfully, the translators of the original King James gave the Greek-intent accurately. Read it again.
Since my baptism-in-the-Spirit in 1977, I have seen literally thousands of people experience the power of the Holy Spirit and drop to the floor in the same fashion as happened in Jonathan Edward’s day. This occurs most frequently during the “laying-on-of-hands.” The Holy Spirit’s impact sometimes comes like an electric-shock and is usually irresistible. A Lutheran Pastor once came to a meeting where I spoke only to prove to his congregation that the whole experience was phony. When I gave the opportunity for people to receive “hands-on” ministry he leaped to his feet and hurried down the aisle. As I reached out, the man was slammed to the floor as if he had been hit by a prize-fighter. When he went down all the Lutherans came up! Many of them never returned to their old church. When people say to me “God doesn’t do things like that!,” my answer is “Don’t dare Him!–You may be knocked to the floor like the Lutheran pastor.”
In the same way an electric current passes through a metal wire, the Holy Spirit’s power sometimes passes through a living-body, bringing healing, mind-renewal, or meeting other needs. In many ways, the comparisons are identical. A police Sergeant once attended a service where I spoke. The man was a believer but had not been in church in ten years and had never been in a meeting where the Holy Spirit moved visibly. He was the Department’s thirteen-year S.W.A.T. Director, a martial arts expert, rappel master, undercover agent, bodybuilder, and former Marine. This man had been dropped headfirst from high-rise buildings, repelled in elevator shafts, and faced violent killers.
He and I met before the service began. Then, midway through my sermon, I felt a distinct urging of the Holy Spirit to call him forward. He reluctantly obeyed, I laid my hand on his shoulder, spoke briefly, and he dropped to the floor. Later, he explained that when I laid hands on him, an electric-like shock went through his body. That was followed by an intense pounding of his heart. He was alarmed and thought he was having a heart attack. Suddenly, he felt his body being pulled downward to the floor. “No!” he said to himself. “You are strong. You are not going to fall–not in front of all these people.” But he did.
As the congregation watched, the Holy Spirit overrode his human strength and reduced him to a powerless, humble man. He was on the floor for more than twenty minutes, a submission in which he physically acknowledged the Lordship of Jesus Christ. While in that state and stripped of all human resistance, like Saul of Tarsus, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. His life radically changed.
You and I cannot control that power. The choice is wholly with God. In Latin America, Africa, Turkey, the Far East, Europe, where language differences separated me from the congregation, the Holy Spirit still swept unhindered through the people. Many times hundreds dropped as they were filled with His glory. In one case, an atheist PhD. college professor was slammed to the carpet and came up sobbing, saved, and saying, “I found God! I found God!” Another time I baptized a young man in the ocean whose body was suddenly electrified, vibrated uncontrollably and became semiconscious. In that state, he sank to the bottom and rose again numerous times, praying ecstatically in tongues. “Signs and wonders”, as Jesus promised? Yes! Can I explain them? No! Are they real? Absolutely! Whether in the Churches of Galatia or the Church today, “signs and wonders” occur during the laying-on-of-hands because our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit. The hand has no power of its own; power comes because the hand is an extension of the Temple–the Holy Spirit is the instrument releasing the power.
I happily tell the experiences of Dr. Alexander, my mother, the police officer, the old brother I met in the restaurant, others, because without an understanding of our dual spiritual/physical nature we will never grasp the reality of true faith. And, apart from faith we will remain blind to the Scripture’s promise about our future life. Why is faith involved? Paul explained in Galatians 3:5, that the brother who “worked miracles” did it by the “hearing of faith.” True, spiritual faith is essential.
“By Faith We Understand” Hebrews 11:3
This spiritual realm which Dr. Alexander experienced and in which I try to minister, can be understood only by miraculous faith. Ordinary religious teaching cannot explain it. Every attempt to comprehend the divine mysteries of God through human explanation are abortive and harmful.
That was Dr. Alexander’s mistake when he formerly believed that “Jesus was a good man who had suffered at the hands of the world” and nothing more. Like other modern Christians the doctor tried to understand the message of Jesus academically, without spiritual faith, and devoid of divine manifestations. This type of thinking was what the Apostle Paul desperately avoided when he preached to the church at Corinth. He said:
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to “See demonstrations of the Spirit and power of God” that their faith would not depend on the “wisdom of men but in the power of God.” In another way, that happened to Dr. Alexander and the experience was life-changing. Hearing others did not convert him. Being “out of the body” and seeing Heaven for himself brought about a life-changing transformation.
The person who tells me–and some have–that all his theological issues about the Holy Spirit were settled years ago and he has no further need of doctrinal enlargement, is merely revealing the emptiness of his religious experience and the deception of his conceit. Eternity itself will not provide us with sufficient time to master the incomprehensible subject of the Holy Spirit. If that were possible, it would be equally possible for a mosquito to collide in flight with a 747-Jet, stop it, tell how he did it, and then explain all the inner-workings of the plane. Please hear this carefully: It is absolutely impossible for any of us–now–later–ever–to fully explore the Being and ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is God. He cannot be restricted to the interpretation of our denominational boxes. All of us are learners on earth and will still be that 100,000,000 years into eternity. The Holy Spirit is illimitable, inexhaustible, inexplicable, unreachable, unfathomable, impenetrable, inconceivable and much, much more. Our attitude before the Holy Spirit must remain one of unrelenting reverence, complete awe, and utter submission.
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