As a pastor I have to be keenly aware of who is asking the question. Some people want the theological answer. They simply want to know what the Bible says about the issue of Divine Healing. They want to be informed as a good student of the Bible. Others, however, have a different motivation for asking.
Some are like my wife and me when on Memorial weekend 2001 our three-year-old son was diagnosed with Leukemia. Our life and faith were rocked! The one thing I never thought I could handle was happening. There was a chance we would lose our son because of sickness.
When that happened I remember a Christian friend of my wife’s saying that we simply needed to claim Isaiah 53:5 and in particular “by his stripes we are healed.” She emphasized that the verse read, “we are healed” (present tense). She said we needed to claim what was already done for our son namely that he was healed when Jesus died on the cross. Because of this truth we simply needed to believe it and receive healing. Her theological understanding of the text was affirmed by dozens of television preachers that were popular at the time.
Sadly, my wife’s friend and countless numbers of sincere believers today take “by His stripes/wounds we are healed” to mean something it doesn’t mean. Does it mean that we as believers in the LORD Jesus Christ are not ever sick? Does it mean that if we exercise our faith strongly enough that Divine Healing will happen? What does it mean when we believe with all our heart but healing doesn’t happen?
Isaiah 53 is a Messianic prophecy that foretells the coming of Jesus and what the result of His suffering would be. Verse 5 reads, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Did the LORD have a physical healing in mind when Isaiah was written? How does the Apostle Peter see it? He writes in 1 Peter 2:24 and quotes the Isaiah 53 verse, “He 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. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” It appears that Peter did not have a physical healing in mind but a spiritual healing- a healing from the deadly disease of sin.
As a Jew, familiar with the Old Testament scriptures, Peter would have been keenly familiar with this type of language. God often spoke about sin being “healed”.
Isaiah 57:16 I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me — the breath of man that I have created. 17 I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways. 18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, 19 creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.
So, it seems clear that both Isaiah and Peter had spiritual and not physical healing in mind when they wrote, “By his wounds you have been healed.”
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities “. Transgressions” is the Hebrew word pesha` (peh’-shah). It literally means a revolt. When we transgress the law of God we revolt against Him and as a result we are deserving of His just punishment. In addition, we have committed acts of iniquity, or moral perversity, by what we have done, spoken, and even thought. We clearly deserve to be crushed. But in God’s great mercy He provided a substitute for us in the Person of Jesus Christ and He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. By God’s grace, and through faith in Christ, we have been healed of a disease far worse than cancer or any other sickness. We have been healed of sin- the very thing that not only affects our bodies but our souls (Genesis 2:17).
Does Isaiah 53 speak of physical infirmities and bodily healing at all? Yes it does! 53:4 reads, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” Here’s the question; was this verse fulfilled on the cross in Jesus’ death or before Jesus went to the cross? Consider Matthew 8:16-17.
Matthew 8:16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”
Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, informs us that Isaiah 53:4 was fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and not a guarantee of physical healing by Jesus’ death on the cross. This is important for us to understand lest we become gravely discouraged or frustrated or even angry over our sicknesses and broken bodies.
My friends, our hope does not rest in a healthy, wealthy and prosperous life. Think of our brothers and sisters in the 1st century who suffered greatly under the persecution of the Caesars. Or consider the countless Christians who suffer today in the Sudan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Our hope is in the life to come. This is why Paul could write, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18).
This earthly home is full of sin and unrighteousness, sickness and ultimately death. The death rate is 1 per person and we will all make it. Suddenly there will be that crashing of glass or that pain in our pericardium and we will be translated from the temporary to the eternal. We will rid ourselves of these corruptible, mortal, perishable bodies and as 1 Corinthians 15 says we will put on our incorruptible, immortal, glorified bodies! Until that day, our bodies ache and wear down. We get sick and finally there is death. But we are not without hope!
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Please do not misunderstand me! I believe that God can heal a sick body in a microsecond!! After all, with a word God spoke and the limitless galaxies (Scientists can’t even number) leaped into existence! God made us; He can certainly heal us. I suppose the question is, “When?” When will there be no more sickness, disease and pain? When will death no longer be present? When will we no longer cry and hurt because a loved one has been stricken with disease? We must turn to the end of the Bible to see…
Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
May the truth of God’s word bring you peace to guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus when the reality of life and death come your way.