Understanding Healing in its Biblical Context

[The following article is an edit transcription of our audio teaching, Understanding Healing in its Biblical Context by John Schoenheit.]

I am doing part two of a two-part teaching on healing. Last month, Dan Gallagher did a magnificent job teaching on Healing: God’s Gift of Mercy and Grace, and covered many of the aspects of healing and how it works. Healing is such a huge topic because there is so much sickness and disease in the world. People really want to be healed, and they should. God, thankfully, has made healing available today, as Dan covered last month.

We are going to be looking at three aspects of healing that Dan did not have time to cover. I am going to say upfront that it is a challenge to cover three aspects of healing in one tape/CD. I am not going to cover these aspects completely, but I hope that we are going to get a good start on it.

We are going to be covering the following three aspects of healing:

1) the patron/client model of the New Testament
2) an idiom used in the Bible called the prophetic perfect
3) the communion service

All three of these need to be understood in order to really understand the field of healing.

Before we go into these, I would like to set forth a model that we can use to help understand the Bible. I think that we all agree that all of our information for truth comes out of the biblical text. Certainly, we get revelation from God, but the Bible is our basis for faith and practice. If we are going to have right faith, right practice, and sound doctrine, then we need to properly understand the Bible.

I would like to think of our relationship to the Bible, if you will, as a stage play. Let us say that you fly to England and go to Stratford, Avon, to see Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. When you are sitting there in the audience, three worlds are going on: the world behind the stage, the world of the stage [what you see on the stage and what the actors say and do], and the world in front of the stage [the world in which you live and are a part]. In order to really understand the play, we have to understand the world behind the stage. We have to understand the time in which Shakespeare wrote, the phraseology, what did the culture understand, and how did the people think—what was the “atmosphere” of that time period.

We go into restaurants, and we talk about atmosphere. Well, the same thing exists in our lives. An atmosphere is there in which we live. An atmosphere also existed when the Bible was written or when the play was written, so a world exists behind the stage.

If you do not understand the world behind the stage, then you may not understand what is being said on the stage. For example, let us take the Bible as our stage. You are reading along in the Bible and read about Sadducees and Pharisees. If you do not know what those are, then that is a significant amount of material in the Bible that you do not understand. For example, what they think, how they are, and where they are. Think about the things in the Bible that are mentioned but are not described: the Assyrians, the Hittites, and locations of Nineveh, Joppa, and Jericho.

Let us go to a great example of this in Luke 10:4. This is an interesting one to show you how we need to understand the world behind the stage. In this verse, Jesus Christ is sending out the 72. He sends them out to bless people, to heal the sick, and to preach the Kingdom of God.

Luke 10:4
Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

At this time, I am thinking what? Don’t greet anybody on the road! Talk about being unfriendly! How can you be Christ-like and loving and not even greet anybody on the road? Why would Christ say that?

To understand that verse, you have to understand the world behind the stage. When you and I walk down the road, we have places to go and things to do. We are very busy. We have our watches on us; we know exactly what time it is. When somebody we know is walking in the other direction, we do not even break stride as we say, “Hi,” and walk on by the person. Sometimes we might not even say that, we say some kind of grunt or something in acknowledgement that we recognized the person (like nod our head).

That is not the way that they did it in the biblical times. Life was a lot slower, and greetings were long and protracted. If you do not know that when you read, “Do not greet anyone on the road.” You could come away thinking that Christ was asking the disciples to be unfriendly. This is a great example because we have the world behind the stage, which are these long protracted greetings that we need to know about, and we have the world of the stage where Christ just says, “Don’t greet anyone on the road.” That is what we can see. We have the world in front of the stage, which is the world (atmosphere) in which we live, which is how we think about greetings. The world in front of the stage includes the entire cultural atmosphere in which I live and how it affects me.

For example, if I have been stealing, and I become a Christian, and I read in the Bible where it says, “Do not steal.” What is on the stage is the simple sentence, “Do not steal.” How does that affect me? One response may be that I might make excuses for myself. Another response may be that I would crash and burn in condemnation saying, “God will never love me. God will hate me forever!” This is the world in front of the stage, which is the world that is my cultural atmosphere in which I live. That is, what I bring to the table when I read the text, which I may or may not be aware of, such as my prejudices.

During the time of the Civil War in the 1860’s, preachers in the north were reading the Bible, and they said that the Bible was against slavery. Preachers in the south were also reading the Bible, but they said that the Bible was for slavery, so you bring your cultural understanding to the text. The slavery issue may be a good one because I think that we all understand that God cannot be for and against slavery at the same time. Why is one minister saying that God is for slavery and the other minister saying that God is against slavery? What is going on here? What is happening is that they are bringing their cultural understanding to the text. To the degree that we bring our culture to the text, we are in danger of misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and worse, misapplying what the text says.

Of the three (the world behind the stage, the world of the stage, and the world in front of the stage), the world of the stage is easy to see. We just read or watch it; it is right there. What is much harder is to educate ourselves as to the world behind the stage. Also, what is very hard is to become cognizant or aware of what we bring to the stage, the world in front of the stage—what is the atmosphere in which we live, and are we aware of that atmosphere?

With that model, I would like to now look at three things that are important when it comes to healing, receiving healing, and getting healed. Healing is so important, and we want to be healed. I have gone to Texas and taken B. G. Leonard’s class on healing. B. G. Leonard was wonderful on healing and certainly was a great healer. One of the things that B.G. emphasized was faith. Ladies and gentlemen, we need faith. Faith is trust.

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith [trust] it is impossible to please God…

That makes good sense. Let me ask you this, “Do you know anybody who does not trust you, whom you are particularly pleased with?” Why should God be any different? God has done so much for us: we need to trust Him!

B. G. Leonard made a great statement. He said, “When it came to healing, many apples are in the barrel, but faith is the big apple.” Faith is the big apple when it comes to healing, but do you know something, it is not the only apple. As Dan covered last month, other aspects are necessary to healing besides just having faith.

If you think that faith is all that is needed for healing then a couple of things are going to happen. First of all, what happens in the world around us is not going to line up with your theology because a lot of very wonderful faith-filled people get sick and die. Another thing that happens is that a person can become one of Job’s miserable comforters. What happened to Job’s miserable comforters was that they had a worldview that you were only smitten or afflicted if you had sin in your life; thus, what did they accuse Job of having? They accused him of having sin. They became accusers and finger pointers. If you think that faith is the only answer to healing and if you have faith, you will be healed, and if you do not have faith, you will not be healed—that is it, sum and substance, then you are going to run around your whole life pointing your finger at people who are not healed and just accusing them of not having faith. If you are in the position of believing that, then you are going to be beating yourself up for not having faith. It is true that in some circumstances some people without faith need to have faith, and they get healed. Other times occur, when people are not being healed, and it is not because of faith; it is because of other issues.

One of the things that we need to obviate is this idea in our culture that we have a right to healing. At this point, I would like to take a look behind the stage at what the biblical culture was and how it operated.

1) The Patron-Client Model Of The New Testament

The biblical culture operated on a system that we today call the patron-client model of society. How did the patron-client model of society work? It worked because in the ancient societies a huge disparity in goods and services existed. In the biblical culture it was either the very rich or the very poor people with a very small middle class that worked very hard to keep their head above water. In the patron-client model of society, goods, services, and power, which were in the hands of the few, were given as favors to people in the “have-nots,” if you will. The “haves” were the patrons, and the “have-nots” came to the patrons.

For example, today, in the Roman Catholic Church they talk about Patron Saints, and that if you lost something, you would go to this Patron Saint. If you had a need to be met, then you would go to this saint or that saint. They are called Patron Saints because they help and dole out favors. This was the model of the ancient society. We will go into this in much more detail here in a minute.

What is the society (atmosphere) in which we live that becomes the fabric of our being and our thinking? It is a society based upon rights. You can turn on any T.V. show, any cop show, or whatever, and you hear, “I have rights!” The fact that we have rights that are enforced by laws is deeply imbedded into the fabric of our thinking and our being. We state in writing in our culture that we believe that every human being alive has God given rights. They are inalienable rights. They include such rights as the right to life, to liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To ensure these rights, we put laws in place. For example, even if you are a criminal, you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, you have the right to a trial before your peers, etc… These things are deeply imbedded in our society. We have rights!

What happens is that we take this concept of rights, and we read it back into the New Testament culture. When it comes to healing, we want to then go before God and say, “We have a right to healing.” However, the biblical world did not think that way. When the Bible was written, it was not written that way. If you went to a Roman citizen and told him that all the people of Rome were created equal and that all of them had inalienable rights and among them were the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he would just laugh at you. He would think that was the most absurd thing that he had ever heard. You are talking about a culture where slaves were regularly pitted against each other to the death. Slaves were regularly tortured for doing nothing at all. People were thrown in jail. Look at John the Baptist, he goes to Herod and tells him that you are not supposed to be sleeping with your brother’s wife, and Herod just throws him in jail. No trial occurred. When the Jews set up Paul, Paul was in jail in Caesarea. Felix kept him in jail for two years even though Paul was a Roman citizen.

This brings up a point. People might be thinking, “Wait a minute, didn’t they have some rights in the Roman world?” Some classes of society existed who had certain rights based upon that class of society but outside of that societal position, they did not have rights. The fact of the matter is that if you really look into it, all of the rights were violated regularly. Like I said, Paul was a Roman citizen, and he was thrown in jail. He was in Caesarea for two years according to Acts 24. Why was he kept in jail? It was because Felix wanted a bribe. Do you know what it would have taken for Paul to get out of jail? All he had to do was cough up some money, and he would have walked right out. Why did Paul not do that? He did not do that because he stood on principle.

The fact is that what we think of as rights just was not really thought about in the ancient world. They were not thought about until a long time after that. Perhaps you are familiar from your schooling with a document called the Magna Carta. What is the Magna Carta? In 1215 A.D., one thousand years after the biblical world, the Barons of England put together a Charter of Rights because they were being so mistreated by King John. They came together and forced King John to sign it. The 39th Article of the Magna Carta forbid arbitrary imprisonment and punishment without a lawful trial. We are a thousand years after the New Testament era and what did the Barons of England want? They wanted to not be thrown in jail for no reason and tortured. King John of course did not want to sign it but was pretty much forced to sign it. King John immediately sent the Magna Carta to the Pope. The Pope declared it null and void, and for extra measure excommunicated the Barons. What does that tell us? This tells us that in 1215 A.D. the Pope thought it was fine that if some ruler did not like you, then he could put you in jail and torture you! Rights? Ladies and gentlemen, we have to be very careful when we read the fabric of our society into the biblical world.

By the way, why does the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution have to be that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise there of or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press? Why does the first amendment have to guarantee our freedom of speech? It does because for so many years no freedom of speech existed. How did the biblical world work in the first century? As I said, it worked on a patron-client relationship. It was a society based upon the fact that a huge inequality existed between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” both with goods, services, and power.

It is important for us to be aware of this. A lot of people have written about it. An example of this is a book called The Social World of Luke – Acts by Jerome H. Neyrey. This is what he writes:

“Patron-client relations are social relationships between individuals based upon a strong element of inequality and difference in power. The basic structure of the relationship is an exchange of different and very unequal resources. A patron has social and economic and political resources that are needed by the client. In return the client can give expressions of loyalty and honor that are useful to the patron.”

It is important for us to understand that if the patron had all the goods and services what could the client give? The answer is exactly what Neyrey says. The client can give loyalty and honor. Remember, we are living in the ancient world where it was important to have people on your side.

We live in the information age where we can get the newspaper daily, we have the Internet, 24 hour cable news, and telephones. In fact, we have telephones all over. I was out with my wife last night, and it seemed every other person had a cell phone in his or her ear while walking down the street. Information passes so freely in our society.

In the ancient world, information was hard to come by, so having clients out there that were keeping their eyes and ears open for you was really important. Having clients that supported you in rallies and spoke up for you when you were not around them was really important. You, the patron, could give goods and services, and they, the client, could give you loyalty, support, and information.

I have another book here called, Honor, Patronage, Kingship, and Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture by David Desilva. This is what he writes:

“The world of the authors and leaders of the New Testament was one in which personal patronage was an essential means of acquiring access to goods, protection, or opportunities for employment in advancement. Not only was it essential, it was expected and publicized. The giving and receiving of favors was according to a first century participant, ‘the practice that constitutes the chief bond of human society’ [That is from the Roman Seneca]. To enter their world and hear their words more authentically, we have to leave behind our cultural norms and ways of doing things and learn a quite different way of managing resources and meeting needs. The ancient world was one of significantly limited access to goods. The greater part of the property, wealth, and power was concentrated into the hands of a few and access to these goods was through personal connection rather than bureaucratic channels.”

It is important that we understand how different from our society this really is. Do you and I really have any patron-client clicks or vestiges, if you will? We absolutely do! Do you know what we call them? We call them the good ol’ boy networks. The good ol’ boy network, where if you get known and get the eye of this guy and you do him a little favor, then he gives you a bump. They are all connected, so if you are on the outside, you will never get into it. How do we feel in our modern society about good ol’ boy networks? They are universally decried. They are spoken out against over and over again as a societal evil, yet the exact opposite was the case in the New Testament culture. Seneca writes:

“The good ol’ boy network was the practice that constitutes the chief bond of human society.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about something that is completely a different way of running the society than we run it today. People did not have rights; they were not considered to have rights. They needed to have patrons, people that would help them. Patrons expected that the clients would honor them. This is very important.

This is what Jerome Carcopino says in Daily Life in Ancient Rome:

“Even if they were unemployed, they no sooner got out of bed than they were in the grip of the duties inseparable from being a client, for it was not only the freed men that were dependant on the good graces of a patron. From the parasite do nothing to the great aristocrat, no man was there in Rome who did not feel himself bound to someone more powerful above him.”

He then goes on and this is interesting and important:

“The patron for his part was honor bound to welcome his client etc, etc, etc…”

The way (reason) that the society worked was that the clients offered honor, loyalty, information, and support to the patron, but the patron was then honor bound to help, bless, and do favors for the client. That is going to become very important as we look deeply into the subject of healing. Unfortunately, we do not have enough time on this tape/CD to really look deeply at the New Testament records (situation), so we do need to be aware that more study on this needs to be done.

I am going to quote from another book because I am introducing a concept that may be new to you. I know it was new to me. It is something that is so different from our modern world. I had been reading about it but did not really understand what I was reading. Even though I had seen it in the past, I had not really loaded it in my mind as far as how it would affect my understanding of New Testament verses.

This is what James S. Jeffers says in his book called the Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era:

“The politics of Rome like its religions and other institutions was driven in part by an ancient institution, the patron-client relationship. This model, which grew out of Rome’s tribal origin, allowed the aristocrats of the new republic to exercise power as patrons through their clients. A client, who was a Roman with less power in status than the patron, was expected to show honor to the patrons and to support him in any political action. The patron in turn owed his client legal protection and at times financial assistance. As Rome expanded it would see the world through the lens of this relationship. Its generals would become the patrons, first of their own soldiers, then of those people that they conquered, even of entire nations in the case of great generals like Sulla, Pompeii, and Julius Caesar.”

This is important to understand when he said that even the Roman generals were considered patrons because the generals were personally responsible to take care of their soldiers. Then, the people who the generals conquered became their clients.

You may be asking how this can affect our understanding of the New Testament? When a young man or young woman in the United States of America joins the military, they swear allegiance to the flag and to the nation. When a Roman joined the military, he swore allegiance to his general. That is why no Roman army was allowed inside the city of Rome. Why not? It was because the emperor knew that the soldiers in that army were not loyal to him as the emperor, they were loyal to their general. The way that coups occurred was that you brought a general with his army into the city and were told, “Men, take the city.” That would have been the end to that.

Why is it important to understand something like this? Take the word Christian. The word Christian was invented by unbelievers in Antioch, you can read about that in the book of Acts. The word Christian in the Latin is Christiani. The ani ending was added to a word for a specific meaning. For example, if you were a follower of Pompeii you were a Pompeiiani. The client who was loyal and a follower of the general, if you will, was a Pompeiiani or a Sullani. The Christians are following Christ, living sacrificially and even giving themselves up in death, witnessing for Christ, honoring Christ, holding him forth, and supporting his causes; thus, it would be natural for the unbeliever to say that these guys are Christiani. They are followers of Christ. They are clients of Jesus Christ; he is their patron. He supports them with goods and services, and he does. Power and revelation is there; all the things that come from Jesus Christ. How do we support him? We do this by being ambassadors for him, by honoring him, by boasting about him, by glorifying him, and by holding him up for others. No wonder the followers of Christ were called Christiani.

This is the background behind the stage that we need to understand. Why is what I am teaching important when it comes to healing? It is important because we come out of a culture that is steeped in the idea that we have rights based upon laws. A lot of times, what happens is that in our arrogance we can go to God and think that we have a right to healing, but the Bible in 1 Corinthians 12 calls healing a gift of healing.

What we want to do is go to God in faith that He loves us and will distribute the favor of healing. We do not have faith in our faith as if I had enough faith in my faith then I could pull healing out of God’s pockets. No, we cannot do that. Can I have faith? Yes, I can. Is it important to have faith? Yes, it is. In what do I have faith? I have faith in God and in Jesus Christ—that they love me and that they care for me and they want me to be healed; therefore, healing is available.

Do you understand the difference? It is a difference in attitude about me walking with a swagger in my step and a little arrogant saying, “By golly, I have a right to be healed and I am going to claim it!” Well, that is one way of looking at it, but I assert that is not the New Testament way and it’s not the right attitude to have. The New Testament way would be that God loves you, and He is a loving patron who has your best interest at heart, and you can trust that and have faith in that.

I also need to say that if you are in the situation where you are going to minister healing and God gives you revelation to command healing, then you command that healing. Absolutely you should because when God makes that available, you can go get it. It is important for us to do that. It is also important for us to understand the background of the New Testament culture so that we have a proper attitude toward God.

I am going to give you some examples about this from a verse that I have taught many times before I understood what I am teaching you now.

Matthew 7:7
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

The word ask in the Greek is aiteo. When you look at the semantic range of aiteo (the different meanings it can have), which by the way you can find in Bullinger’s Lexicon, Bower’s Lexicon, Thayer’s Lexicon, or Vine’s Lexicon, you will find a whole range of meaning for aiteo. It can mean “demand,” it can mean “ask,” and it can mean “ask with urgency.” It can also mean “ask with the freedom of bearing, plead for, or beg.” It has all those meanings. What I did was this, I am a 21st century American who is living in a world of rights and laws. I read that the word ask has a semantic range all the way from demand to beg for, and I say demand because I have rights. Out of that semantic range for aiteo, I picked demand because it fits me, my culture, and my background. This is the world in front of the stage in which I am living, and I have rights, so I am going to demand of God. I say, “You want to get something from God; you have to go and demand it!” That is me taking my culture and reading it into the biblical text.

In the biblical culture, do you want to walk into the king and demand something when you are a have-not? If you do, you are going to find yourself like Paul, or John the Baptist and end up in jail. When a patron, a rich and powerful man, would ask something of a have-not, one of his clients, it would have the force of demand. When the client would ask of the patron, it would have the force of “to ask for, to beg for,” or “to plead for”; in other words, you are setting your requests before the patron. In the biblical culture, no first century biblical Christian living in the Roman world, or a Jew living in the Jewish world, would think about going before God Almighty and making demands of Him. That would be so off their radar and so outside their nine dots that it would simply never occur to them.

We do not need to make demands of God. He loves and cares for us. He wants to give us the best. He wants to give us stuff more than we want to get it! We do not have to be arrogant and demand of God what is rightfully ours. First of all, it is misreading the text. Secondly, it is not the proper attitude to have toward God. We go to God, and we ask Him lovingly and kindly. Knowing, trusting, and having faith that He loves us more than we love Him and that He is always working on behalf of those that He has called. That is what Romans 8:28 (NIV) says. Because we trust that He will help us and because He is loving, we can expect that help is forthcoming.

Understanding this explains so many things; for example, in Matthew 8:2, the leper comes to Jesus Christ. The leper does not say, “Lord, I have rights; you have to heal me!” No, the leper says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus Christ said, “I am willing; be cleansed.” The leper had faith and trusted that what Jesus Christ said would absolutely come to pass, and he was healed.

Another example is in Mark 10:46. Jesus Christ is walking to Jericho. Bartimaeus hears the crowd and asks what is going on there. They say Jesus is walking by him, and he says, “Jesus son of David have mercy on me!” The crowd tries to shut him up, but he cries out even louder. Finally, Jesus stops and says, “What is going on here. Bring that man over here.” When Bartimaeus comes before Jesus Christ, Jesus looks right at him; and of course, Bartimaeus is blind, and he cannot see Jesus. Jesus says, “ What do you want?” Bartimaeus says, “Lord that I could receive my sight!” Jesus just says, “Okay it is done.” Bartimaeus trusted that the patron, the great lover of people, and the great shepherd of our souls would so love him that the healing power would be available, and that was the faith. He is totally delivered right then, instantaneously. Did Bartimaeus walk up to Jesus and say, “I have rights!”? Not on your life did he do that.

In Hebrews is a verse that I read out of my culture, if you will, for a long time.

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

The King James Version goes so far as to say this:

Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,

I have done teachings on this for years. “Man, you have got to be bold before the throne of grace. You have got rights. You walk right in there and claim what you have. You tell God what is yours, and you have faith!” Wow, I just had this mind picture of myself, just kind of swaggering in with this bold step before the throne of grace and telling God what I had a right to have, and that He had promised me, and I could claim it!

Well, that is the way I think about the verse in the 21st Century, but it sure is not how it was written in the book of Hebrews, and it is not the way a first century person would read it. Nobody, who was a client, a have-not or somebody with needs, would just walk into the ruler with this confident, bold, and arrogant stride and demand what was theirs on the basis of rights.

What are we dealing with here? The word in the NIV that is “confidence” and the word in the KJV that is “boldness” is the Greek word parrhesia. If you do your lexical work on parrhesia, you will find out that in the Greek democracy, when the people went to the market place, they would be rounded up and picked, if you will, to speak in the political assembles. They were granted parrhesia. Parrhesia was the right to speak with complete openness, complete frankness, complete candor, speak what was on your mind, and speak what was on your heart. This is a political rally; we need your opinion. We need to make the right decision. The people who were rounded up in the political situation there in the Athenian Assembly were to use parrhesia to speak openly.

It is the same word when it says of Jesus Christ that the people would not speak with parrhesia about him because of fear of the Jews. The Jews would excommunicate you, so the people watched what they said. They were not honest; they were not open with what they said. This is the way that it was in the ancient world. You did not just speak what was on your mind in front of a ruler. That would get you in a lot of trouble. Even today in some situations, if you really speak what is on your mind in front of some people, you can get into a lot of trouble, but in the ancient world of the patron-client relationship, that was even more so. You did not just speak your mind in front of somebody.

This is a situation where God says, “Do you know what I want guys? I want you to approach the thrown of grace with parrhesia. I want you to be open with me and honest with me. I want to know what is really going on for you, no pretend, no flattery, no cover-up, just open up to Me what is really going on for you. What are your real needs? What are you really thinking?” Why do we need to do this? So that you can receive mercy and find grace to help in a time of need. If you are not open and honest with God in your requests and prayers, then how do you expect to find mercy and grace?

This verse is not about being bold before God and claiming what is ours because of our rights. This verse is about going before God with openness, honesty, lovingly, and respectfully. Letting Him know exactly what our needs are, and then we can have faith because He is a loving, good, and wonderful God. We can have faith that He will have grace and mercy, and we can get what we want. If it is healing that we want, so be it.

That is a little bit of a window into the client-patron relationship. Much more could be covered, but we need to move on to another aspect of healing that we do not understand, as we should. This has to do with an idiom of the Hebrew language that I am going to call the prophetic perfect.

2) Idiom Used In The Bible Called The Prophetic Perfect

I cover the prophetic perfect in detail in Appendix E of our book The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul. In the appendix I have many examples and quotations from Hebrew grammarians. Because of that, I am not going to go into great detail about what the prophetic perfect is. I simply want to reiterate what it is, and then talk about it in light of healing.

The prophetic perfect is an idiom in the Hebrew language, which is also in the Greek language and also leaks over into other languages; whereby, if something is absolutely going to happen in the future, it is written about in the past tense.

Idioms typically do not have names. For example, if you were to say, “My car can stop on a dime.” I say, “Oh, that is great. What is the name of that idiom?” You would look at me cross-eyed and say, “What? It does not have a name!” That is true.

If idioms do not have names, why does this idiom have a name? It has a name because it is important enough theologically that scholars have to discuss it. Any time that the scholars have to discuss something, they put a name on it. When you are reading about the prophetic perfect, sometimes you will hear it called the historic sense of prophecy, or sometimes you will hear it called the prophective of confidence. If you are studying the Semitic languages such as Hebrew, Aramaic, or Acadian, then you may hear it as the here now but not yet or sometimes the already but not yet. For the most part grammarians kind of discuss it under the heading of the prophetic perfect. I will say that this idiom of putting something in the past tense that has not occurred yet but will absolutely occur in the future is very common in the Bible. Why have we not read about this? We have not read about this because in order to keep people from being confused in almost every instance, other than a couple notable examples that we will cover, the translators translate it right out of the text.

Let me give you an example about what I am talking about. In Numbers 24:17, Balaam the prophet was hired by Balak King of Moab to speak against the Israelites. Balaam ends up giving a prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ. This is what it says in the NIV:

Numbers 24:17
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.

We read about this and say, “Yes,” the star will come out of Jacob, “We know who that is. That is Jesus Christ!” Super, except the Hebrew text says:

“A star has come out of Jacob; a scepter has arisen out of Israel.”

If you were reading it in the Hebrew, you would be familiar with the idiom. As I said, this is a very common idiom. I have given dozens of examples in Appendix E of our book The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul. So I’m not going to reiterate those examples here. The point is that when something was absolutely going to happen in the future it was written in the past tense. We do not know of this idiom because translators do what they did here. They take what is in the past tense, and they translate it in to the future tense. It is translated, “A star will come out of Jacob,” even though the Hebrew texts says, “A star has come out of Jacob.”

This idiom occurs in English too. For example, let us say that I was talking to my son Sam, which I did some years ago when he lived at home and was a teenager. Every young boy grows up with the concept that his job is to take out the garbage, and so Sam’s job was to take out the garbage. Like a dutiful father, I would remind him about it if the garbage was not out by the curb. I would say, “Sam it’s Monday night, you have to take out the garbage tonight.” He might look at me and say, “Done.” Now, I know that it is not done yet, which is why I am reminding him, so why does he tell me it is done if it is not? By making the statement in the past tense, he is assuring me that it will get done. Maybe another Monday night, he might say to me, “Dad, I will do it.” That would be a literal statement. Other nights, he would just look at me and say, “Done.” That is the figure of speech, and I understand that he means that it will absolutely get done.

This idiom occurs in the New Testament also.

Jude 1:14 and 15
(14) Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones
(15) to judge everyone and to convict all the ungodly…

I am real excited about that. I am reading this and thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can’t wait. The Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones;” except that the Greek text reads, “The Lord came with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones….” If I do not know the idiom, then I am going to be genuinely confused thinking, “Oh, wait a minute now, the Lord came? I do not remember him having thousands? He had 12 Apostles. He had 120 followers in Jerusalem after his ascension, but he certainly did not judge anyone?” You could get genuinely confused if you did not know the idiom. What is the Bible telling us when it says, “The Lord came with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones”? Well, it is telling us exactly what this translation says, “The Lord is coming.” What it is doing by putting what is going to happen in the future, in the past tense, is saying in the strongest terms, “What will absolutely happen.”

The problem when it comes to biblical interpretation is that on rare occasions the translators, for reasons known only to them, decided that they would leave the text in the past tense, then because we are not familiar with the idiom, we do not have a clue what to do with it. This is where I was for years with Ephesians chapter two. I read this for years and had no clue what it meant.

Ephesians 2:6
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

I am reading this verse and said, “Wait a minute. God seated me with Christ in the heavenly. I am seated with Christ!” What I did for years past was that I came up with a lot of wild gyrations to explain how I could be on earth and in heaven; and worse, this contradicts other Scripture as in Colossians chapter three where it says, “Set your thoughts on things above where Christ is seated.” It does not say, “Look around where you are and where you are seated.” How do you reconcile Colossians which says we are supposed to look up where Christ is seated and Ephesians telling us that we are already seated up there. What is going on here? The answer is of course that it is a usage of the prophetic perfect idiom.

When you get born again, your salvation is so secure and your hope is so of being raptured to be with Christ that the Bible speaks to us as already being up there. It is just an example of the prophetic perfect. If we were going to translate Ephesians 2:6 like we translated Jude, then we would understand it perfectly. We would say, “And God will raise us up with Christ. He will seat us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” If we read it that way, we would say, “Oh yeah, of course, because my salvation is guaranteed that makes perfect sense.”

About this time, you might be saying, “Wow, John, this is really interesting, but how does it fit into the context of healing?” The answer to that is found in 1 Peter 2:24.

1 Peter 2:24
He [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

What I have taught in the past based on this verse and what I have heard taught and still hear being taught is that you and I have all been healed. Our healing is a done deal; we have already been healed. All that is left is for us to realize that it is a right and that we can claim it. If we claim it, then we will all be totally healed. If we cannot claim it, then we will not be healed. That is a misunderstanding of what the text is saying. Think about the fact that if we handled any other prophetic perfect that way, then it would not make sense. When we look at Jude 1:14 where it said, “came with ten thousands of his saints,” we do not say that the Lord has already come and all you have to do is claim it, and if you claim the Lord’s coming, then he has already come for you. That would not make any sense.

Let us understand what 1 Peter 2:24 is saying. It is quoting Isaiah, which by the way is also a prophetic perfect. It is a prophetic perfect that is a quotation of another prophetic perfect because Isaiah was telling us that we were healed 700 years before Christ ever came and paid for our healing. What is 1 Peter 2:24 telling us? Well, thank God that this verse is telling us that we will absolutely be completely healed in the future. When Jesus Christ comes back, I do not care what kind of ailment that you have, what kind of problem that you have, how deeply imbedded it is, what you have gone through, maybe you thought you had faith, maybe you thought that you have not had faith, whatever it is. I do not care if you are dead. When Jesus Christ comes back, even the dead will be totally healed. You know what this verse is? It is a promise. It is a promise that at the return of Jesus Christ every single Christian will be completely and totally healed. It is the same exact promise that was given in Isaiah, which itself was in the prophetic perfect that when the Messiah came and set up his kingdom, complete healing would be there for everyone.

What happens a lot of times is that we misread this, and then we think that our healing has already been accomplished, and that we can go in and claim it, and by our faith, we are going to pull this healing out of God’s pocket. The problem is that this becomes very confusing to people that do not get healed. At that point, we only have one thing that we can point at, and we point at their faith and say, “Well, if you had more faith, you would be healed.” That produces confusion and hurt!

Again, I need you to hear me, I am not saying that healing is not available. Healing is available, and we see people healed all the time in Spirit & Truth Fellowship, absolutely we do. I pray for healing, and I minister healing to people. I lay my hands on the sick. When God gives me revelation, I claim that, absolutely I do. I speak that into being, you bet I do! I understand that it is not that the person is already healed, and all that they have to do is claim it and walk off with it. Healing is a gift from God, who is a great giver, a great patron. Just like Hebrews says, “We come to Him, and we are honest and open, completely open with Him.” We are not hiding anything from Him. We are not trying to trick Him by positive confessions or whatever. He knows what is going on in your life. You are not going to be able to hide anything from Him anyway. Be completely honest with Him, lay before Him what you need as anybody in the first century would go to a patron and say, “This is what I need,” then you will find grace and mercy to help in time of need! You can trust Him and have faith that He has your best interests at heart!

When it comes to healing, it is the truth that sets us free. I have seen so many people condemned, broken, and confused, “Why can’t I get my healing? Why can’t I have faith to get my healing? What is wrong with me that I can’t rise up and claim what is mine?” We need to get over that. It is not ours, yet! We need to go before God, and ask God to be gracious, kind, merciful, and loving to us. We need to pray for the revelation to be able to step forth and speak that healing into being, absolutely we do.

As Dan covered in the last tape/CD on healing, we need to look at our own lives to see if we are doing the kinds of things that will help God help us.

I trust that this has been clear and helpful on the prophetic perfect, now we need to move into another aspect of healing which is the Lord’s Supper, the communion service.

3) The Communion Service

In 1 Corinthians 11, we are going to read about the communion service. I have heard it taught that the communion service is one of the great healers in Christian history. As you break the bread and drink the cup, God makes great healing available. I need to be honest with you in that I do not see this in Scripture; however, that is not to say that I have not heard of people being healed in communion services. I have run communion services where people were healed. Please, do not hear me say that you cannot get healed in a communion service because I have seen it. What I am saying is that the communion service is not primarily about healing.

What I would say about healing in the communion service is that if you go to God, honestly, openly, and trusting that He will meet your needs as the good and loving God that He is, you can be healed in a communion service. You can be healed when somebody lays hands on you in faith. You can be healed when you go before Him in prayer. You can be healed as you are reading the Bible. It is not the communion service that is somehow magical or mystical that then provides a kind of a healing covering. The communion service is a kind of memorial service to remember what Jesus Christ did for us, and we are to use that as a model for our own lives.

If you come to the communion service and you need healing and you come in faith and you get healed, then that is an act of God’s grace, just as it is any other time that you would be healed. I hope that you understand what I am saying.

Let us look at the historical roots of the communion service. When did the communion service really start? You will have to go all the way back to Exodus chapter 12. In Exodus 12, the Passover Lamb started as a sacrifice. The blood from that sacrifice was then placed on the doorposts, which allowed God to pass over the Israelite’s houses so that the Israelites would not die and could then live with their families and households in tact. The Passover meal was then established and done every year looking back to that great deliverance of God. Remembering and keeping in the forefront of their minds that God is a God of deliverance and God is a God who loves, supports, and fights for His people. It was at the Last Supper then that communion service started, and it was not the Passover meal.

We cover this in another teaching that we have on Communion. I am not going to be able to cover as much in this time frame as we could in the other entire ninety-minute teaching on Communion. In this teaching I am emphasizing healing. Our other teaching is called Eat, Drink, and Remember.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Christ is at the Last Supper, and the communion service is in the context of the whole meal. They are eating and drinking. They are together. It is in the context of the whole meal that Jesus Christ stops and takes the bread, and says, “This is my body which is broken for you.” He takes the cup, and says, “This is my blood that is poured out for you.” What is Christ saying? In the context of the whole meal, he is saying, “Look guys, pay attention. I am giving myself for you. I do not have my own agenda here. I am not elevating myself. I am not holding myself up over you. I am giving myself for you.” That is the way we are supposed to live. We are supposed to break ourselves for each other. We are supposed to pour out our very life for each other. The blood was the life, and it was poured out. That is what Christ was teaching, that we are supposed to live sacrificially.

We need to understand that in the early Church the communion service was not separated out from a meal like we separate it out today. Today, many times you will go to a communion service and no meal is there; it is just bread and wine. That was not done in the early Church. It had not been separated out in the Passover meal, which was their historic roots, and it was not separated out in the meal that Jesus Christ ate. Christians would get together and eat together. This eating together was called the love feast. You can see that in Jude verse twelve. When the Christians got together they would have a love feast; however, in Corinth, when the Christians got together, they were a mess! If you read the book of Corinthians, the Corinthians had a lot of problems. They had problems of division, elevating one above another, money, manifestations in Church, and they had problems with sex. They had so many problems in Corinth, and one of the problems was that they did not honor one another. They did not recognize the Body of Christ with each member being important. That is why Paul takes almost half a chapter in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and talks about the body. He says, “Look the eye is not more important than the ear.” You and I are probably thinking, “Well of course not,” but look at the society that we come from. We come from a society where all men are created equal and have inalienable rights. The Corinthian people are coming from a society where right in the fabric of their being it is stamped that some people are more important and some people are not, and you can put those in an arena and make them fight to the death for your pleasure. One of the three big Greek Isthmian games was held in Corinth. Man, you are talking about a culture that is steeped in inequality.

How is that inequality going to show up in their love feast? Well, it is going to show up like this:

1 Corinthians 11:17
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.

I have been known to go on for a long time about this verse because I have been to a lot of Christian meetings that do more harm than good. Let me tell you something, Christian meetings are happening today that do more harm than good. You and I have a responsibility before God to understand the text of Scripture, apply it in our lives, and live a godly life before people. If you do hold a meeting it should be a blessing and not a curse to the people.

1 Corinthians 11:18
In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.

Then Paul uses irony (sarcasm) here:

1 Corinthians 11:19
No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.

This is because the haves are feeling very approved as they have, and the have-nots, of course, are feeling very condemned and wondering what is wrong with them.

1 Corinthians 11:20 and 21
(20) When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, [no love feast for you]
(21) for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.

No community is here. No one body is here. Just a bunch of individuals getting together like you would get together on a lawn and eat picnic lunches and not even know each other. You are just grabbing your own lunch and eating. Nobody is waiting for anybody. Nobody is sharing their food.

1 Corinthians 11:21
One remains hungry, another gets drunk.

When the verse here says that one remains hungry, we are not talking about when my wife and I have been working in the garden and it is 6:30 PM and I am used to eating at 5:30 and I look at my wife and say, “Man, I am starving. What is for supper?” That is not the kind of hungry that we are talking about here. We are talking about the kind of hunger that you are hungry when you do not have any money to buy anything or you are a slave and are not properly fed. You are hungry; you are starving. You are on the brink, and your health is not as it should be because you do not have enough to eat.

The Apostle Paul says, “There is somebody over there getting drunk. There is other Christians in the community that are part of the body but remember the social mind set, “Hey, they are just peons, who cares about them.”

1 Corinthians 11:22 and 23
(22) Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
(23) For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,

Now again, what is the context of Paul bringing up the Communion here? What is the context of him bringing up the body and the blood? Is it a communion service? No, it is not. It is a meal, where everybody was being selfish. Paul says, “Look, that is not the way that we are supposed to live. Let me remind you of what I have received from the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 11:23 and 24
(23) The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
(24) and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Not just to do it in the sense of breaking a piece of bread. “Oh, break this piece of bread in remembrance of me.” No, he meant to live sacrificially. When you break the bread, you think of Jesus. How his life was broken and beaten 40 hours for us. How he lived his whole life for us. Lord, help us do that for somebody else. Help us not come to a communal meal and eat and get drunk while my brother in Christ is so hungry that he is sick. Help us to live like that, help us to act like that.

1 Corinthians 11:25 and 26
(25) In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
(26) For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Amen! As we are doing communion and as we are being sacrificial, we are proclaiming the Lord’s death because the Lord Jesus died for something. He died that we can be one body. He died that we would love each other. He said, “Greater love has no man than this that he would give up his life for his friend.” That does not mean to just die. It means to give up your life, be sacrificial.

1 Corinthians 11:27
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

What is it in the context of a meal to eat your bread and drink the cup in an unworthy manner? It is to eat all your food and not share or care that someone else is so hungry that they are sick. That is how you eat in an unworthy manner. It is also to not care to spread the wealth and help out people that are in need.

1 Corinthians 11:28 and 29
(28) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
(29) For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

How do we recognize the body of the Lord? 1 Corinthian’s chapter twelve, the very next chapter, is going to spend an entire half of a chapter telling us that the body of the Lord is the body of Christ which are the people around you. This verse still rings true today. Absolutely, it is as true as it was when it was written over 2000 years ago.

If we can sit there and eat bread and drink and not care about the people around us, and not recognize that we are part of the Body of Christ and that we have a responsibility before God to help our brother and sister Christians, then we drink judgment on ourselves.

1 Corinthians 11:30
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [died].

Why are there people who are weak and sick? It is because they were not getting enough food and enough nourishment.

1 Corinthians 11:31
But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a verse of hope. If we would judge ourselves, then we would not come under judgment. How hard are we willing to look at our lives? What about our prayer life? Do we really pray or do we say we pray? How do we spread love? Do we really love or do we just say we love? How do we live sacrificially? Are we really sacrificial or do we just say that we are? If I judge myself, then I would not come under the judgment of God.

We have Christianity backwards sometimes. We are easy on ourselves and hard on others. Do you know what? We are not sin exterminators. We are ambassadors for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are grace disseminators. We spread grace around us. We spread love around us. We are hard on ourselves and loving, kind, and gracious toward others. We open a space for them to really experience the love, mercy, tenderness, goodness, and the forgiveness of God.

That is what 1 Corinthians chapter 11 is telling us. It is not telling us about the fact that if you break a piece of bread or if you drink a glass of wine that you will be healed. Like I said, “Can you be healed in the communion service?” Absolutely, you can be healed in a communion service or on a telephone praying with your friend or whenever you come before God. You lay your petition out before Him with complete openness and frankness of speech and candor. You expect Him to be a good, gracious, and loving God, and having faith that He absolutely has your best interests at heart. Healing is absolutely available.

Again, I want to remind you that many apples are in the barrel when it comes to healing, but faith is the big apple. We really need to trust that God will heal us. Do not live in unbelief. Do not live in doubt. You should trust that God has your best interests at heart because He does.

May God bless you as we walk forth together to better understand the New Testament text, to understand what God has in store for us, and to walk in the freedom and the blessings that God has given to us.

God bless you!

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1 comment

  1. This is a very informative articles. Great work and thank for sharing this!

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