Is the day of miracles past? Does the living God heal sickness and disease upon believing prayer today? This is the second in a series of articles on the subject of miraculous divine healing.
We come now to the biblical teaching on the subject of healing. And I can best bring this to the reader by relating my own personal and unusual experience in discovering it. When I first came among those of the Church of God in 1926 and 1927, they still carried the NAME "Church of God." They knew of the second coming of Christ to reign on earth for a thousand years, though they knew little, or almost nothing, of what would actually take place during that millennial reign. Back in 1860 the largest number of them had split off, coming to the belief that the millennial reign with Christ would take place in heaven. Leaving the truth they also left the true name. Although the knowledge of these simple but sincere people regarding the Kingdom of God was very incomplete, they did believe in keeping the commandments of God. They had more biblical truth than any religious body on earth. Even though God's Church had endured through the centuries, gradually much of the original truth of the Gospel apparently had been lost.
True knowledge revealed
Subsequent events have shown that I was being called by the living Christ for a very special end-time commission to raise up the Philadelphia era of God's Church (Revelation 3:7-13), to restore much lost knowledge (Daniel 12:4), to restore the great commission (Matthew 24:14) and publish (Mark 13:10) His true Gospel of the Kingdom of God "in all the world for a witness unto all nations" just before the end of this present world. We had now reached the final generation of this age — the generation during which Christ will return, setting up the Kingdom of God. The shock of my life came when I saw in the Bible, beginning in the autumn of 1926, that what I had heard as "the gospel" was in most basic respects the very opposite of the plain and clear teaching of the real Jesus and of the Bible! It was an almost unbelievable shock to see in the Bible the prophecy that ALL NATIONS — the world as a whole — would be deceived today! It was a tremendous shock to learn the full truth about the Kingdom of God and that God had inspired the apostle Paul to pronounce a double curse on any who would preach any other gospel! (Galatians 1:8-9). My eyes were opened to the true Gospel described so clearly and unmistakably in the Bible — for those willing to see and believe.
And so, as I have written before, I say with the apostle Paul (paraphrasing): "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which is preached by me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ... But when it pleased God, who... called me by His grace, to reveal His Son and His gospel in me, that I might preach it among the descendants of the House of Israel, and the Gentile nations, and kings [Acts 9:15], immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I to any theological seminary or source of religious teaching of this world, but I went to Christ, the living Personal Word of God, who instructed me through the written Word of God, the Holy Bible" (Galatians 1:11-17). After the first six months' intensive almost night-and-day study of the Bible, my conversion and baptism occurred in the spring of 1927 — but not the cessation of instruction the living Christ was imparting through His written Word. That has continued all through the 50 years since. My family and I were living then in Portland, Ore. As 1927 wore on, intensive Bible study continued. I was rapidly beginning to grow, as Peter said Christians must, "in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). Upon baptism, I had received the Holy Spirit of the living God. My mind had undergone a renewing. I was thrilled at this new ability to understand God's revealed knowledge. Still I was having to learn a step at a time, a doctrine at a time. The hardest part was having to UNlearn inherited false teachings.
Mrs. Armstrong stricken
In early August, 1927, my wife suddenly was attacked by a series of physical illnesses. First she was bitten on the left leg by a dog. Then immediately she was driven to bed with tonsillitis. She got up too soon and was stricken with a violent relapse. Meanwhile she had contracted blood poisoning from a rose thorn on the index finger of her right hand. The next two or three days her sister and I took turns night and day soaking her right hand in almost blistering hot Epsom salts water, covering her wrist and forearm with hot towels, holding her right arm constantly high. The backset from tonsillitis developed into quinsy. Her throat became swollen shut. Her jaws became locked. Of course we had called a doctor. For three days and three nights she was not only unable to swallow food or water, but worse. She was unable to sleep a single moment. She was nearing exhaustion. The red line of blood poisoning, despite our efforts, was streaking up her right arm. It had reached her shoulder on the way to her heart. The doctor told me privately she could not last another 24 hours. The third sleepless, foodless and waterless day was a sweltering hot day in early August. Late that morning a neighbor lady stopped in to see my wife. "Mr. Armstrong," she asked, "would you object if I ask a man and his wife to come and anoint and pray for Mrs. Armstrong's healing?" That sounded a bit fanatical to me. Too embarrassed to object, however, I said hesitantly, "Well, I suppose not." In two hours she returned, saying they would come at about 7 that evening. But I began to have misgivings. What if these people were Holy Rollers or wild, shouting fanatics? What would our neighbors say? I went to the neighbor lady and told her I believed we'd better not have them come after all. She was nice. She would start immediately and tell them not to come. I learned then she would have to walk over a mile each way to contact them. It was now the heat of the day, the hottest day of the year. "Oh, I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't realize you had to walk so far. But I was afraid these people might yell and wail and shout, and cause a neighborhood disturbance." "Oh, they are very quiet people," she assured me. I backed down. "Well, let them come, then," I concluded.
The meaning of faith
They proved to be simple and plain people, not highly educated, yet of good natural intelligence. "This is all rather new to me," I began, as soon as they were seated at my wife's bedside. "Would you mind if I ask a few questions?" He welcomed the questions. He had a Bible in his hands. One by one he answered every question by reading his answer from the Bible. I recognized every passage he read, but had not put them together this way before. Now I saw them for the first time as teachings, admonitions, explanations and, most important, PROMISES! I began to understand — and believe! And I knew well my wife did also. I knelt with them beside her bed. The man anointed my wife from a vial of oil he carried. Then he uttered a quiet, but deeply earnest, positive, believing prayer such as I had never heard before. He actually dared to talk directly to God, quoting what God had said in the Bible, quoting God's conditions and promises and applying those promises to my wife, saying in boldness and confidence that he was claiming and holding God to those promises. Never had we heard a prayer like that! We knew God in His Word had promised. We believed God. Mrs. Armstrong and I both KNEW she was healed — as this man had claimed — from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. As they rose to leave, the woman laid a hand on Mrs. Armstrong's shoulder and said quietly, "You'll sleep tonight." I thanked them gratefully. As they left Mrs. Armstrong asked me to bring her a robe. Without a word, she rose, and arm in arm we walked silently out to the sidewalk and back. My wife went immediately to sleep and didn't waken until 11 the next morning. She arose and dressed as if nothing had happened. She was completely healed — OF EVERYTHING! We had learned a new lesson in FAITH! And that experience has resulted in countless thousands of others learning that lesson! We had learned that we can rely on God's Word! God's FAITHFULNESS is perfect.
A new subject to study
That awe-inspiring experience brought before me for study a totally new subject — HEALING, and its accompanying subjects of FAITH and PRAYER. There was one real disappointment in this whole experience with my wife's healing. I felt extremely grateful to the man and wife who had brought this experience to us. I had learned a rather shocking truth in the Bible: The resurrection of Christ was NOT on Sunday, and the crucifixion was not on Friday. I had written in manuscript form an article on the subject. This man's fervent prayer not only saved my wife's life, it also opened my eyes to a new biblical truth. Now I wanted to share with him the eye-opening truth about the resurrection. I took my typed manuscript along and offered it to him to read, asking his opinion about the truth of it. I left it with him. A few nights later, I called again on this man I looked to as a man of God. I asked if he had read my manuscript. "Well, yes, Brother," he replied. "I took it to our pastor and we went over it together." He avoided giving an opinion as to its truth. "But did you find any error in what I wrote?" I persisted. "Well, no, Brother," he admitted. "We couldn't find anything wrong with it. But, Brother, we feel that studying that kind of subject is likely to be dangerous. It might get you all mixed up. We feel it would be better for you to just forget all about it. We feel there are more important things for you to study. It's best to just keep your mind on Christ."
God's knowledge rejected
I walked back home disillusioned, grieved, tremendously disappointed. He admitted I had brought him a new truth. He was unable to find any error in it. It was the pure teaching of the Bible, yet he not only rejected the admitted word of God, he advised me, a newly converted man who had confidence in him, also to accept tradition and false teaching and reject the Word of the living God! Arriving home, I happened to turn to Hosea 4:6 where God says that because people have rejected God's knowledge, He will reject them! It weighed heavily on my mind. A week later I walked back down Sandy Boulevard to the old tabernacle formerly used by Billy Sunday where this man and wife were caretakers. I hoped I might even yet rescue this man from the consequences of rejecting truth. I found him in the big auditorium, looking downcast and dejected. "Brother!" he exclaimed on seeing me. "Brother, something terrible has come over me. God has left me. He doesn't answer my prayers anymore. Before, God used me in a special ministry praying for the sick. He always heard and answered. People were miraculously healed. But not anymore! Not one, anymore. I don't understand it!"
'Truth — or consequences'
Poor man! I understood. I tried to explain, but he wouldn't listen. He had been a trusting and deeply sincere, if simple and uneducated man. God had used him as an instrument in performing miracles, helping people. I quoted to him from I John 3:22: "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." But he could not see that rejecting God's truth and refusing to keep His commandments had any connection with his case. I had to think of the radio-television show originated by Ralph Edwards, Truth or Consequences. God had required him to accept the TRUTH or receive the consequences. I haven't seen or heard from that man since. But Christ did continue to reveal His truth, as I diligently continued studying His Word. Not only did He open my mind to reveal His truth about healing, but also to understand the truth about His Gospel message — the Kingdom of God. I saw the great commission to His apostles: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel..." (Mark 16:15). I saw that it was a worldwide ministry, not a local one, nor even national to our own nation. It was now revealed to me how in the ministry of Jesus and His first-century apostles, miraculous HEALING of the sick and diseased went hand in hand with the preaching of the Gospel. What happened through Simon the sorcerer to stop the worldwide proclaiming of the true Gospel and stop the miraculous healings was not revealed to me until years later. But it was at that time revealed to me how healing is for God's Church today (James 5:14-15), and also the prophecy revealing HOW the great commission was to be carried out in this present END TIME of the 20th century.
That prophecy is in the pivotal prophecy chapter of the New Testament — Matthew 24. Before I cover what the Bible teaches about healing in both Old and New Testaments, it is vital that the reader understand how that Gospel message is today, after 19 centuries, going out into ALL THE WORLD for a WITNESS to all nations — not being proclaimed to all the billions of people in every nation, but proclaimed in all the world — worldwide — so that it becomes a witness to or against every nation. Jesus had been teaching in the temple in Jerusalem. Leaving the temple, His disciples came to Him privately on the Mount of Olives, asking: "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [age]?" (Verse 3). "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I (Jesus) am Christ; and shall deceive many" (verses 4-5). First, Jesus warned them of the great deception, the false "christianity" — preaching CHRIST to the world, preaching ABOUT the Messenger, but not proclaiming His message — His Gospel. He did not give the sign by which we might know when we are at the END of this present world and His coming is near until verse 14: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." The very fact He gave the proclaiming of the true Gospel of the Kingdom as the sign we are at the end time shows it was not preached to the world these past 19 centuries — otherwise it could not be the sign. But notice, this prophecy says the great commission will be going out again to the world, yet it says nothing about healing accompanying it. Elsewhere biblical teaching shows healing is for the Church. But it is NOT, today an integral part of the proclaiming of Christ's Gospel to the world! Why?