SIGNS AND WONDERS – Part 1

SIGNS AND WONDERS – Part 1

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.

(Exodus 7:3)

How great are his signs!  And how mighty are his wonders!   His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.

(Daniel 4:3)

SIGNS THAT CONFIRM THE COVENANTS

Signs and wonders are a common motif in the Bible. There are many instances where the two words are used together as a phrase, in fact a biblical catchphrase,[1] to express the spectacular actions of God.

We take up the phrase signs and wonders as used in both the Old and New Testament because the apocalypse is typified by amazing sights and sounds, usually coming forth from the sky or from ‘on high’ like Mount Sinai (be it in Egypt or Arabia[2]), or from the Throne of God in heaven. As the reader will see, not to minimize the possible pertinence of the Blood Moon Prophecy, but these signs are a good deal more spectacular than the appearances of solar and lunar eclipses.

God of Signs and Wonders
God of Signs and Wonders

The word sign (transliterated from the Hebrew owth, pronounced ‘oath’) appears 79 times within 77 verses of the King James Version Old Testament. According to Strong’s Concordance, it is used as “a distinguishing mark, banner, military ensign, remembrance, miraculous sign, omen, and warning.” And as we will see, it comprises an indispensable element to confirm a covenant between God and humankind.

The first instance of the use of this word in the Bible (as we have already mentioned), appears in Genesis 1:14: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”

The second usage stands out too. It deals with the infamous mark upon Cain, a mark meant to warn everyone not to harm Cain in any way, lest God Himself take vengeance upon the one who did. The word translated mark is the same as signowth. We read: “And the LORD said unto him, ‘Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD set a mark (owth) upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”

THE NOAHIC COVENANT

The third instance of the use of this word regards a heavenly sign—the rainbow. Three times the word owth is used in the passage below. Clearly, the placement of this sign in the clouds of earth was important to remind humankind that God had covenanted with humankind—he would never again destroy the earth with water. The passage indicates that the sign was to serve as a reminder to God; but, in reality (given we believe God has a very good memory!) this sign was our reminder that God would surely keep His covenant.

And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. (Genesis 9:11-17)

A classic writer from the first portion of the twentieth century, Arthur W. Pink, provides an overview of the Noahic Covenant:

The facts briefly stated above require to be carefully kept in mind, for they throw not a little light upon the covenant which the Lord God made with Noah. They explain the reason for the transaction itself, and impart at least some aid toward a right conception of the particular form it took. The background of that covenant was divine judgment: drastic, unsparing, [and] effectual. Every individual of the ungodly race perished: the great Deluge completely relieved the earth of their presence and crimes. In due time the water subsided, and Noah and his family came from their place of refuge to people the earth afresh. It is scarcely possible for us to form any adequate conception of the feelings of Noah on this occasion. The terrible and destructive visitation, in which the hand of God was so manifest, must have given him an impression of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and of the ineffable holiness and righteousness of God such as he had not previously entertained.[3]

Thus, the Noahic Covenant came upon the heels of judgment; and its token, the sign of the rainbow was associated with that judgment, specifically, the promise never to inflict the same judgment upon the world again. As with signs and covenants, we also often see signs and judgments linked in the Bible.

THE SIGN AS A TOKEN OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT

Just as the Noahic Covenant was commemorated with a sign, an owth, so was the Abrahamic Covenant. What specific sign? Circumcision: “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” (Genesis 17:11) The sign of circumcision could hardly be more memorable for the Judeo-Christian world. It stands a “sign in the flesh” as the covenant between God and the Hebrew people. (Many Americans born after World War II, whether Gentile or Jew, were typically circumcised “in due course” as a matter of hygiene).

The Apostle Paul discusses circumcision prominently in his let-ters. Some of his most important arguments use this sign to distinguish the principle of faith from the principle of law. In Romans 2, we read Paul’s signature statement on the topic of circumcision:

25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Circumcision was meant to be only a token of the covenant. Paul indicates the keeping of the law was preeminent.  If you failed to keep the law perfectly, then circumcision was invalidated.  If you kept the law and yet were not circumcised, the act of keeping the law would make you ‘circumcised’ in the eyes of God.  Circumcision in and of itself was not the crucial act.  It was a mere token (in the way we use the word in today’s vernacular—a ‘small symbol of little consequence’). What was crucial was the promise of God to keep His word as well as the faith of Abraham to believe God at His word.  From the Christian perspective, circumcision stands as a matter of the heart (the spirit) and not essence of the law.

THE NAME, THE PRESENCE, AND VOICE OF GOD AS A SIGN

We see the next use of the word owth in the Bible within the Book of Exodus, in the context of Moses’ first visit to the Mountain of God, known as Mount Sinai. Here the sign appears to be knowing the name of God—I AM THAT I AM (YHWH) and the experience of God Himself as the Hebrews would soon encounter Him in “the holy mountain.”

“And he said, ‘Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain’… And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.’” (Exodus 3:12).

Eventually, the people would hear the voice of God, a voice so loud, so fearful, and heard for such an extended time that the Israelites pleaded with Moses to make His voice stop. It is no small thing that the voice sounded like a trumpet. The voice of God appears always to sound like a thunderous, if not also shrill trumpet.

    • Isaiah 58:1, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”
    • Revelation 1:10-11, I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.”
    • Revelation 4:1, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

This sign of a voice emanating from the mountain, from on high, was a most fearful sign.

And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled… And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount. (Exodus 19:19-20)

The Apostle Paul (traditionally thought to be the writer of the Book of Hebrews) provides commentary on this event in the New Testament. Paul illustrates that the old covenant involved fear and trembling on the holy mountain outside of Egypt—Mount Sinai.

19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated [entreated] that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, ‘And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake”’) (Hebrews 12:19-21)

No doubt the sights and sounds were frightening. Living in Oklahoma, I can relate to such an awesome sight. When we see what meteorologists call a ‘wall cloud,’ we know a Tornado likely lurks within. The wall cloud is massive and sometimes appears as a giant spiral reaching high into the atmosphere. The sight can be enough to buckle the knees.

As articulated by Paul, however, the New Covenant takes us to an even higher and better place, where the sight looms awesome but the fearsomeness less palpable. It comprises a place where we enjoy a more excellent company of angels, perfected human beings, and Jesus our mediator—Mount Sion (aka Zion, in Heaven)—the Mount Zion of which the earthly Zion resembles only a facsimile.

22 But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:22-24).

 * * * * * * *

This article was drawn from Doug Woodward’s new book, BLOOD MOON: BIBLICAL SIGNS OF THE COMING APOCALYPSE.  Click here for information about the book or to purchase directly from Amazon.

Tomorrow, part 2 of Signs and Wonders will be posted.

NOTES

[1] The dictionary in Microsoft Word defines a catchphrase as follows: “A group of words, often originating in popular culture that is spontaneously popularized after widespread repeated use.” Phrases like “down and out,” “tired and hungry,” and “waxed and waned” are familiar catchphrases today.   “Signs and wonders” was a catchphrase in both the Hebrew Old Testament and in the Greek New Testament.

[2] For an outstanding article on this debate, see Lambert Dolphin’s treatment of the issue at http://ldolphin.org/sinai.html.

[3] See http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Divine_Covenants/divine_covenants_03.htm.