Saturday, August 8, 2020

Are We Physically Healed By Jesus' Stripes?

So what does Isaiah 53:5 promise Christians if it’s not an offer of immediate, unblemished health for all Christians? John MacArthur sheds clear light on the matter in his commentary on 1 Peter 2:24 (which, noted earlier, quotes from Isaiah 53:5):

Christ died for believers to separate them from sin’s penalty, so it can never condemn them. The record of their sins, the indictment of guilt that had them headed for hell, was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:12–14). Jesus paid their debt to God in full. In that sense, all Christians are freed from sin’s penalty. They are also delivered from its dominating power and made able to live to righteousness (cf. Romans 6:16–22).

Peter describes this death to sin and becoming alive to righteousness as a healing: by His wounds you were healed. This too is borrowed from the Old Testament prophet when he wrote “by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Wounds is a better usage than “scourging” since the latter may give the impression that the beating of Jesus produced salvation. Both Isaiah and Peter meant the wounds of Jesus that were part of the execution process. Wounds is a general reference—a synonym for all the suffering that brought Him to death. And the healing here is spiritual, not physical. Neither Isaiah nor Peter intended physical healing as the result in these references to Christ’s sufferings. Physical healing for all who believe does result from Christ’s atoning work, but such healing awaits a future realization in the perfections of heaven. In resurrection glory, believers will experience no sickness, pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:1–4; 22:1–3). [4]

To be fair, Matthew’s gospel does seem to make a connection between Isaiah 53:5 and physical healings that occurred during Christ’s earthly ministry:

They brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16–17)

But was Christ’s healing ministry His end game, or did it point to an eternal cure? After all, the people he healed still died. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he still eventually died again. People were healed but the curse wasn’t reversed. Jesus died for the sins of men, but men still continued to sin. He defeated death but His followers continued to die. There is an ultimate fulfillment of Christ’s atoning work that will not be realized this side of eternity (Romans 8:22–25). That’s why John MacArthur rightly observes:

Those who claim that Christians should never be sick because there is healing in the atonement should also claim that Christians should never die, because Jesus also conquered death in the atonement. The central message of the gospel is deliverance from sin. It is the good news about forgiveness, not health. Christ was made sin, not disease, and He died on the cross for our sin, not our sickness. As Peter makes clear, Christ’s wounds heal us from sin, not from disease. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). [5]

There is healing in Christ’s atonement but it’s obviously not fully realized in the present. Christians and non-Christians alike still feel the effects of the curse, and will ultimately die. Our ultimate perfect healing is certain, but it awaits us in the same way that we still await our resurrection bodies. And that shouldn’t bring disappointment to this present life. Rather, it is a glorious future reality for us to anticipate with great joy.

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B160817

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