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The true living God is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly free, perfectly good, eternal by nature, and creator of all things: “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19: 1); “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1: 1). All things depend on God. He depends on nothing outside himself. He is necessarily the terminus and ultimate principle of complete explanation of all phenomena. God’s existence and power do not depend on the laws of the operation of the physical world. God had designed, created and established the natural laws, and keeps the behavior of the universe and everything therein conforming to them.
The true almighty God is not a mere word in a book on a dusty shelf. He is alive and all-powerful. He intervenes in the created natural order with miracles from time to time for a variety of reasons. Genuine godly miracles are the supernatural works of the true living almighty God. Those miracles accompanied both the Jewish and Christian revelations, especially at critical moments in their history. They continue to occur under certain conditions in the history of the Christian Church. The following presentation provides a panoramic view of the miracles of the living God since the dawn of humankind’s history on Earth until this day.
II. CATEGORIES OF MIRACLES
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Godly miracles are wonders performed by the divine power of the almighty God for His glory, and for the benefit of man. Their effects are grasped by the senses of sight, hearing, etc. God’s divine power in the miracle acts either directly, or mediately through creatures or inanimate things. God may act through creatures, such as angels (e.g. the deliverance of the apostle Peter from prison in Acts 12: 3-10). God may also act through men: Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7: 9-10, 14-21), the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17), the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 5), the Apostles (Acts 2:43), St. Peter (Acts 9: 36-42), St. Paul (Acts 19: 11-12; 20: 7-12), the early Christians (Galatians 3:5), etc.
God may also channel His divine power through inanimate objects that
are related to Him in a special way:
1. Holy relics, e.g., the mantle of Elijah (2 Kings 2: 6-9, 14), the body of Elisha (2 Kings 13: 20-21), the hem of Christ's garment (Matthew 9: 20-22), the handkerchiefs of St. Paul (Acts 19:12);
2. Holy images, e.g., the bronze serpent (Numbers 21: 5-9);
3. Holy things, e.g., the Ark of the Covenant, the sacred vessels of the Temple (Daniel 5);
4. Holy places, e.g., the Temple of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 7: 1-2), the waters of the Jordan (2 Kings 5), the Pool of Bethsaida (John 5: 1-16).
A. Commanded Unnatural Events
God, who makes the natural laws operate, intervenes and transcends them on occasion for a variety of reasons, without affecting their marvelous stability and harmony. The miraculous events manifest the supernatural divine powers and glory of the almighty living God as he intervenes directly in the natural order that he had created. These miracles are scientifically inexplicable. Natural forces alone could not produce them.
These miracles abound in the Holy Bible. It is edifying to cite a few examples herein. Isaac was born miraculously after the Lord God had promised Abraham, his father, saying: “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac” (Genesis 17: 19a; 21: 1-8). His mother Sarah was an old woman of ninety years of age, well beyond the age of child bearing. And his father Abraham was an old man of one hundred years of age: “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing” (Genesis 18: 11). God fed his prophet Elijah, the widow who hosted him and her son for the three years and six months of drought from a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar (1 Kings 17: 12). Till the end of the drought, “The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah” (1 Kings 17: 16).
Christ performed miracles of creation—creating new substance. He fed the hungry crowds by multiplying the few loaves of bread and fishes to feed thousands of hungry people with plenty of left-over food which they collected in baskets (Luke 9: 11-17; Matthew 15: 32-39). He created two eyes for a man born blind (John 9). This man was born without eyeballs. Jesus created in him a pair of new eyeballs from clay with which he anointed the blind man’s eye sockets. This miracle reminds us of God’s creation of Adam from clay (Genesis 2:7). Christ raised Lazarus from the dead four days after his death after his corpse had begun to decompose in his grave (John 11: 1-44).
Some of the diseases that Christ cured in His many healing miracles are curable utilizing the medical knowledge of today, which was not available in His day. However, the manner of His performing the healing was miraculous, because it was instantaneous (e.g. the healing of the leper, and the paralytic (Luke 5: 12-26), etc).
B. Commanded Events Utilizing the Laws of Nature
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Sometimes God asks a prophet to request a certain event. God will then do this event utilizing natural forces timed to precisely coincide with the prophet’s request or prayer. For instance, God struck the land of Egypt with ten plagues in order to get the Pharaoh of Egypt to release the enslaved Israelites. In the eighth plague, God struck the land of Egypt with locusts (Exodus 10: 3-20). When Moses stretched out his staff as the Lord God had commanded him, “The LORD brought an east wind on the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts” (Exodus 10: 13b-14). God used natural forces to bring the locusts that Moses asked for. He also used natural forces to remove the locusts from the land of Egypt. When Moses prayed to the Lord to remove the locusts, “The LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt” (Exodus 10: 19). Similarly, the Lord God used natural forces upon the request of Moses to cause the parting of the waters of the Red sea that the Israelites might flee from the pursuing army of the Pharaoh: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14: 21).
III. ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF MIRACLES
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All miracles of our concern have important authenticating characteristics. They occur by the power of God invoked by the command, or by the prayer, of the person to whom they are attributed. That is, they are not random events of chance that may occur by themselves. So, the miracles of Moses, Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, etc. occurred at their prayers and requests. Christ commanded his miracles.
Miracles are God’s providence for man. Therefore, they are of high moral character as pertains to their circumstances, and their purpose. In general, faith is not required for performing miracles. For instance, faith is absent as evidenced by the fear of the disciples at Christ stilling the tempest (Mark 4:40), at Christ walking on the waters (Mark 6:51), at the large catch of fish (Luke 5:8-10), and in the miracles of expelling demons. In some miracles, Christ requires faith, but faith is not the cause of the miracle. It is only the condition and the environment of His exercising His power and authority.
In His miracles, Christ does suddenly and locally what God has done, or will do in the future universally in general. We cite a few examples of these miracles herein.
Christ created new eyes from clay for a man born blind without eyeballs, as God had created man from clay (John 9; Genesis 2: 7). Christ multiplied little bread and fish to feed hungry thousands of people (Mathew 14: 15-21; 15: 32-39). Every year God multiplies little wheat sown in the ground into much wheat at harvest. And every year, God multiplies the fish in every river, lake and sea.
Christ raised Lazarus from the dead four days after his death after his corpse had begun to decompose in his grave (John 11: 1-44). This miracle anticipates and prefigures the general resurrection when Christ will raise all the dead. Christ was transfigured on mount Tabor before His disciples Peter, James and John. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light (Mathew l7: 1-8). Christ walked on the turbulent waters of the sea of Galilee (Mathew 14: 22-33). These two miracles provide an anticipatory glimpse of the new human nature of the faithful after resurrection.
It is important to distinguish between miracles of the almighty living God and accomplishments of natural human talents. The achievements of human talents and special abilities are not miracles. Some persons may be gifted physically—they have strong large bodies. Others may have strong photographic memories. Some are gifted in the area of languages. They have the natural ability to learn many languages, including unwritten dialects, quickly and retain them. Some are gifted in speech. They talk very well and make captivating speeches. Others may be gifted writers and poets. They author excellent prose and poetry. It is important to stress the fact that language fluency, authoring and speech abilities are human talents. They are not miracles of the living God. Therefore, it is inappropriate to call any book a miracle because of its eloquent language. Great works of gifted authors and poets could not be called miracles. For instance, we cannot call the Eliad and the Odyssey, the great works of the illiterate blind Greek poet Homer of the eighth century B.C., miracles. Neither can we call the plays of William Shakespeare, the great English writer of the sixteenth century A.D., miracles. By the same token, we could not consider the Qur’an a miracle, even if it were a great literary work, which it is not. The question of why the Qur’an is not a miracle is analyzed in greater detail in this page.
It is also important to distinguish between miracles, and cases of neurological illness and demonic possession. If a person experiences seizures and his mouth foams, he is either afflicted with epilepsy, another neurological illness, or he is demon possessed. In fact, Jesus exorcized demons that had tormented the possessed person in this very same way: “Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, “Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father” (Luke 9: 38-42). There are striking similarities between the symptoms that boy suffered from and what used to happen to Muhammad when he claimed divine inspiration. Instead, was it a Satanic inspiration all along?
Seizures leading to trances the way Muhammad experienced are not miracles of the living God. God is all-holy, loving and faithful. Neither He nor His angels betray, torment or do violence to His prophets that serve Him. In fact, the Holy Bible teaches us that whenever the angel Gabriel appeared to deliver a message to someone, he always gave that person assurances of peace and safety: “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias… And the angel answered and said to him: I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings” (Luke 1: 13a, 19); “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Then the angel said to her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1: 26-27, 30).
IV. PURPOSE OF MIRACLES
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The living God intervenes occasionally in the human sphere with miracles for a number of very important reasons discussed herein. The primary purpose and final cause of any godly miracle is two fold: the manifestation of God’s glory, and the good of man. Hence, godly miracles do not produce disorder or discord, nor do they have elements that are evil, useless, or meaningless. That distinguishes them from mere wonders and tricks performed by magicians and evil spirits, which lack the meaning, purpose and high moral character of the miraculous acts of God for men. Only the power of the living God could perform substantial miracles, such as raising the dead to life (Luke 7; John 11; etc.), creating new eyes for a man born without eyeballs (John 9), etc. The power of evil spirits is limited. They could not do these miracles (Exodus 8: 18-19; etc.).
Godly miracles confirm and urge the acceptance of doctrines of faith, attest the sanctity of God’s servants, confer benefits, and provide divine justice. Godly miracles are the strongest and most certain evidences of the authenticity and genuineness of divine revelation.
A. Miracles Validate Divine Revelations
Miracles are associated with genuine divine revelation, and instill confidence in it. Quite often, miracles prove and verify the divine origin of the revelation. Godly miracles are the objective unquestionable hard evidence that guarantees, seals, validates, and authenticates the subjective inspiration bestowed upon man’s spirit.
Miracles validate alleged divine revelation only if the new teaching is consistent, and in harmony with the entire complex of the former existing well-established revelation. It expounds on it, supplements it, fulfills it, completes it and provides progressive development to it as the religious capacity of the humankind matures and becomes more receptive. The new authentic prophet could not provide new teachings and doctrine that oppose and contradict the known and accepted consistent previous revelation which has been preached for centuries before him. “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul …” (Deuteronomy 13: 1-4; Jeremiah 14: 14; 23: 16-32). Jesus has warned us not to be deceived by miracles of false prophets, “False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24: 24).
God called Moses from the burning bush in mount Sinai in order to send him to liberate the Israelites from the bondage of the Pharaoh of Egypt: “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3: 10). Moses’ attention was attracted to God’s call by the miracle he saw as “he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3: 2b). One of the most important questions Moses asked was: “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you’” (Exodus 4: 1). Moses was asking how he could prove to the Israelites that God had indeed sent him. God responded positively to his legitimate concern by empowering him to do miracles in order to prove the authenticity of his revelation.
The Israelites confessed and worshipped the true living God in response to the miracle that the prophet Elijah had done on mount Carmel (1 Kings 18: 20-40). The prophet Elisha healed Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, from his leprosy. As a result, Naaman believed in the true living God (2 Kings 5: 1-15).
Miracles are not accidental or external to Christ. They are part of the very substance of the Gospel of Christ. They are inseparable from His holy life and supernatural teachings. He exercised Divine power in diverse ways at every turn. He healed the sick; He expelled demons that tormented people; He granted sight to the blind; He fed the hungry multitudes; He raised the dead; He stilled the storm; He walked on the raging waters of the sea; etc. In fact, Jesus Christ appealed often to His many powerful miracles, some of which are unique in history, as the most decisive proof of His divine Sonship to God the Father, and of the authenticity of His divine mission: “If I do not do the works of My Father (God the Father), do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10: 37-38; 5: 36; 20: 31). In addition, He condemned the obstinate Jews who did not believe in Him after seeing His powerful miracles as having no excuse for their disbelief (John 15: 22, 24). He gave His apostles, His disciples, and the Church the power of working miracles in His name (Mathew 10: 8; Luke 10: 9, 19; Mark 3: 15; 16: 17).
B. Miracles are Part of Divine Revelations
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Miracles are not mere proofs of the authenticity of divine revelations, but they themselves form part of the revelations. God manifests Himself in a supernatural manner through miracles that reveal and teach different aspects of His character and will, “Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down” (Psalm 146: 6-9).
In the Old Testament (the Torah, etc), God revealed himself through powers and miracles as the liberator of the enslaved Israelites from the bondage of the Pharaoh of Egypt: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20: 2); “So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders” (Deuteronomy 26: 8). Through powerful miracles, God revealed that he judges the inequities of man in great events such as the flood of Noah (Genesis 6: 5-8: 14), the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19: 1-29), and the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17: 6-23) and the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25) because of their apostasies, transgressions and inequities.
God has revealed and manifested his divine character fully as pertains to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, through words, character and mighty miracles. God in Christ has manifested His character of exceeding love, mercy and caring for humanity through the miracles of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, freeing the demon-possessed, and liberating those that follow him from the bondage of sin and corruption. These miracles have showed His compassion for sinful and suffering humanity. The many miracles of healing have pointed to Christ’s spiritual work of healing the ills of the human soul, and thereby, renewing it. The miracles of raising the dead to life have emphasized that Christ came to give abundant life to humanity and rescue it from the grip of spiritual death. In reply to the inquiry of John the Baptist, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me’” (Matthew 11: 4-6).
C. Miracles are God’s Living Interaction with Humanity
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One of the main modes of God’s interaction with humanity is His intervening in the natural order in response to the human situation. He responds to man’s transgressions by warning, and chastening followed by judgment. He responded to the inequities of the people at the time of Noah by destroying them by a catastrophic flood while sparing Noah and his family for a new beginning on the earth (Genesis 6: 5-8: 14). God responded to the moral decadence of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah by destroying them with fire (Genesis 19: 1-29). God responded to the arrogance of the Pharaoh of Egypt by striking him ten times (Exodus 7: 10-12: 36), and finally by destroying his army in the waters of the Red sea (Exodus 14). God responded to the faithlessness of the Israelites by condemning the generation that complained against Him to death in the wilderness of Sinai and by preventing it from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 14). God responded to the apostasies and immoralities of the biblical cities of the land of Canaan by destroying them by the army of Joshua whom he supported by powers and miracles in his military campaigns (Joshua 6-12). God responded to the apostasies and transgressions of the northern kingdom of Israel by destroying it by the Assyrian army in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17: 6-23), and the southern kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian army in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25). God responded to the true repentance of the people of the city of Nineveh as a result of the warning of the prophet Jonah by forgiving their transgressions and saving the city from destruction in judgment (Jonah 3).
God also responds positively to the prayers and acts of worship of the faithful who live in fellowship with Christ. He is a personal God. It is God’s pleasure in Christ to have a personal relationship and communion with the human person whom He has made as a conscious free being like Himself: “My delight was with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8: 31b); “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Genesis 1: 26). In response to Moses intercession, God provided manna and quails to feed the Israelites for forty years in the wilderness of Sinai (Exodus 16: 3-36; Numbers 11: 6-9, 31-35; Deuteronomy 8: 3, 16). God also provided them with water to drink in the desert (Exodus 15: 23-25; 17: 1-7; Numbers 20: 7-13). In response to the request of Joshua, God prolonged the day of the decisive battle for the land of Canaan that he might be victorious (Joshua 10: 12-14). God fed his prophet Elijah and the widow that hosted him in her house and her son for the three years and six months of drought and famine (1 Kings 17: 8-16; Luke 4: 25) in the reign of king Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel (874-853 B.C.). God subsequently ended the drought based on Elijah request (1 Kings 18: 41-45). The Lord God struck the army of Sennacherib, king of the Assyrian empire, in 701 B.C. in response to the prayer of Hezekiah, king of the southern kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 19: 14-37); “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses--all dead” (2 Kings 19: 35). Subsequently, Hezekiah was healed after he had cried out to the Lord God for healing (2 Kings 20: 1-11).
Christ healed the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead, exorcised demons, and calmed the forces of nature in response to the human situation.
The interaction of the Lord God with the human situation through miracles of healing, exorcism and other types of miracles has continued throughout the Church age till this day, and will continue to the end of the age, as God does not change.
V. EXAMPLES OF MIRACLES OF THE LIVING GOD
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We briefly present herein a few miracles from different periods of history.
A. The Old Testament (the Torah, etc)
1. The divine call of Moses
The Lord God called Moses to prophecy in the 15th century B.C. by the miracle of the burning bush. The bush was aflame. But the fire did not consume it.
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain”” (Exodus 3: 1-12).
The burning bush symbolized Virgin Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus. The fire symbolized the divine power and glory of Jesus Christ who indwelt her womb for nine months. As the divine fire had not consumed the flaming bush, the divine power of Jesus Christ did not harm his mother Virgin Mary.
Moses did not fear for his life in this encounter. It was not a scary painful experience inciting terror in Moses’ heart. The true living God is all-holy, loving and faithful. Neither He nor His holy angels harm or torment His true prophets and apostles that serve Him. In fact, the Holy Bible teaches us that whenever the angel Gabriel appeared to deliver a message to someone, he always gave that person assurances of peace and safety: “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias… And the angel answered and said to him: I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings” (Luke 1: 13a, 19); “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Then the angel said to her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1: 26-27, 30).
2. The prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel:
The living God destroys a lifeless pagan god
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In the reign of king Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel (874-853 B.C.), the Israelites apostatized after pagan gods called the Baal and Asherah (Baal’s consort), and left the living God of their ancestors. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6: 24a). The Lord God worked out a great miracle through his prophet Elijah to restore the Israelites back to him.
“Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, ‘Is that you, O troubler of Israel?’ And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.’ So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. And Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word. Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I alone am left a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’ So all the people answered and said, ‘It is well spoken.’
Now Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one bull for yourselves and prepare it first, for you are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.’ So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear us!’ But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near to me.’ So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name.’ Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, ‘Fill four water pots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.’ Then he said, ‘Do it a second time,’ and they did it a second time; and he said, ‘Do it a third time,’ and they did it a third time. So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water. And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.’ Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’ And Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!’ So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.” (1 Kings 18: 17-40).
Mount Carmel is an 1,800 feet high mountain ridge jutting into the Mediterranean Sea below the bay of Haifa. Places of worship to Baal were located on Mount Carmel. The prophet Elijah defeated the Baal in its own territory. Baal was the principal god of the Canaanite pagan religion, which used ritual prostitution in its cultic worship practices believing that it may achieve the fertility of the land. The Baal both owned and fertilized the land. The Israelites committed the sin of trying to combine the worship of their true living God with that of the Baal, the Canaanite false god. Consequently, the Lord God withheld both dew and rain from the Land three years and six months (1 Kings 17: 1; 18: 18; Luke 4: 25; James 5: 17).
Elijah ordered 12 jars of water be poured out to soak the wood of the stone altar that he built, wet the ground around it, and fill the trench around it in order to leave no doubt about the truth and power of the miracle about to happen. The 450 prophets of the Baal had kept up their rituals for the good part of the day, and ended up with dead silence from the false god who could not answer. Elijah’s prayer lasted only less than a minute, but produced a powerful visible response from the true and only living God. This convinced the Israelites of the one true God. After their repentance and return to the Lord God, He sent lots of rain on their thirsty drought stricken land (1 Kings 18: 41-46). At the end, Elijah commanded that the prophets of the Baal be seized and executed for their wicked crimes against man and God.
3. Destruction of Sennacherib’s Assyrian army
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Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.), king of the mighty Assyrian empire, invaded with a huge army the southern kingdom of Judah in the reign of king Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.). The Assyrian army laid siege to the capital city of Jerusalem. Hezekiah did not have sufficient troops to defend his capital. Sennacherib blasphemed the living God and sent messengers to Hezekiah saying: “Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, ‘Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?’” (2 Kings 19: 10-13). Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord in a fervent prayer. The Lord God interceded and killed 185,000 Assyrian troops in one night in 701 B.C.
“And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. Then Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said: ‘O LORD God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands--wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God, You alone.’ Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard.’ Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, Nor shoot an arrow there, Nor come before it with shield, Nor build a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, By the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ Says the LORD. ‘For I will defend this city, to save it for My own sake and for My servant David's sake.’’
And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses--all dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh. Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place” (2 Kings 19: 14-20, 32-37).
Despite the fact that the Assyrians worshipped false gods made of stone, God used the Assyrian empire in judgment on the nations of the Fertile Crescent for their transgressions and excesses. Sennacherib, one of its great kings, was but God’s instrument of correction for neighboring nations. God preordained the conquests of the Assyrian armies as He tells us by His prophet Isaiah: “Did you not hear long ago how I made it, from ancient times that I formed it? Now I have brought it to pass, that you (Sennacherib) should be for crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins” (Isaiah 37: 26-29).
Although Hezekiah did not know how God would accomplish His promises, he fully trusted in God and in His word delivered by His prophet Isaiah. That helped strengthen Hezekiah’s faith as he continued to pray and wait for God to accomplish His plan.
The prophecy of the Assyrian army’s withdrawal from the vicinity of Jerusalem was fulfilled shortly thereafter. However, the prophecy of Sennacherib’s demise (Isaiah 37: 7) was fulfilled some twenty years later in 681 B.C. when two of Sennacherib’s sons assassinated him in the temple of his pagan god. This completed the fulfillment of the divine prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Assyrian empire. The will of God is always fulfilled in His appointed time (2 Peter 3: 4-9).
Subsequently, God judged the Assyrian empire for its ruthlessness, cruelty and apostasies. It fell in 612 B.C. when its capital city, Nineveh, was destroyed as prophesied by the prophet Nahum.
4. Deliverance of three faithful Jewish men from the fiery furnace
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Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), the greatest king of the Babylonian empire, set up a golden image and commanded that all peoples in the empire worship it: “At the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3: 5-6). Three Hebrew men, who were captive in Babylon, refused to do that. As a result, he ordered them thrown in the fiery furnace. The living Lord God whom they worshiped rescued them from the fire unharmed.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’
Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king's command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ ‘Look!’ he answered, ‘I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’ Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.’ Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king's counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3: 13-30).
These three men loved the Lord more than life itself in accordance with the divine commandment: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6: 5). The Lord was the center of their lives. He was more important to them than fame, position, or security. They were ready to lay down their lives for Him, and to be burned alive in the fiery furnace rather than betray Him (Acts 20: 24).
They acknowledged Nebuchadnezzar as king and obeyed him in civil matters: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authority,” “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13: 1a, 7). However, their ultimate allegiance was to the King of kings and the Lord of lords—the true living God, the almighty. If a conflict arises between the commandments of God and the decrees and regulations of civil authorities, “We ought to obey God rather than men;” “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Acts 5: 29b; Matthew 22: 21b).
The three men got out of the furnace when the king asked to. They were unharmed. The fire had no effect on their bodies and clothes. Only their bonds were gone. The almighty living God they loved and served was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace.
Before that awesome display of the power of the almighty living God, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged and praised Him. He then decreed death and destruction for any one who blasphemed the true living God of the Israelites. This mighty miracle shows us the sovereignty of the true living God over the powerful kingdom of Babylon, which had taken the Israelites captive.
B. The New Testament (Injil, etc)
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1. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ
The birth of Jesus Christ was miraculous. He was born from a virgin, who never had contact with any man. He had no natural human father. This is a unique miracle in the history of humankind. The angel of the living God announced his miraculous conception to his virgin mother Mary:
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1: 26-38).
The birth of Jesus and His infancy fulfilled Old Testament (the Torah, etc) prophecies provided centuries before Christ (Isaiah 7: 14; 9: 6-7; Micah 5: 2; Hosea 11: 1b; Jeremiah 31: 15). God initiated the whole process of the birth of Jesus. The power of the almighty living God Himself, manifest in His Holy Spirit, miraculously brought about the virginal conception which was the direct action of the Holy Spirit. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1: 18, 20-21; Luke 1: 35).
The spiritual divine sonship of Jesus Christ to God the Father is real and unique. He is Emmanuel—“… God with us” (Matthew 1: 23). The incarnation of the eternal Son of God was a divine act of self-limitation in the human form (Philippians 2: 5-8). The name of “Jesus” (Hebrew: Joshua) means in Hebrew “God is salvation:” “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1: 21b; Luke 1: 31). The name of “Christ” means “the Anointed” (by the Holy Spirit of God the Father).
The virgin birth of Christ established two facts with equal effectiveness. On the one hand, it asserted a real human nature in Christ taken from His mother, the Virgin Mary, who gave Him His human birth. On the other hand, it asserted a real divine nature because of His exceptional birth which was unique in the history of humankind, setting Jesus apart as one whose entrance into the world was due to a new mode of contact of God with the human race: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3: 16a). The two natures are united without confusion or alteration to either nature in the person of Christ.
St. Mary freely and fully submitted to the will of God (Luke 1: 38) disregarding any shame a premarital pregnancy could bring her, as she was engaged, but not married, to Joseph. She was the home of the fetus of Jesus for nine months. Likewise, Christ is the present and eternal home for all who believe in Him and live in fellowship with Him. Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1: 29b). Jesus, the lamb of God, was born in a cave used as a barn for animals (Luke 2: 7). Angels announced His birth first to shepherds keeping watch over their flock at night (Luke 2: 8). All that points to Jesus offering of himself on the cross to atone for the sins of those who believe in Him.
The angels of the living God protected Jesus in His conception and in his infancy from Joseph (Matthew 1: 19-21), from king Herod who wanted to kill Him (Matthew 2: 12-13), and from king Archelaus (Matthew 2: 22).
2. The many miracles of Jesus Christ
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Throughout his brief three-year ministry on earth, Christ performed countless miracles, some of which were unique in humankind’s history—miracles that no one had done any thing like before. Christ did a lot more miracles than any prophet in human history. He never used his divine power to hurt or to destroy anyone, or for his material benefit. His actions never issued in meaningless wonders or useless marvels. The most powerful miracle he did was raising a man called Lazarus from the dead after four days in the grave where his corpse had begun to decompose (John 11: 1-44). Other powerful miracles are miracles of creation of new substance. Jesus fed thousands of hungry people with plenty of left-over food by multiplying a few loaves of bread and fishes (Luke 9: 11-17; Matthew 15: 32-39). Jesus created two new eyeballs for a man born blind without eyeballs (John 9). In addition, Christ performed countless miracles of healing all kinds of illnesses, and exorcisms of demons tormenting people, thereby liberating those people from the control of the demonic powers of darkness.
Christ performed his miracles publicly so that people might see them and believe. Based on the Gospel (Injil) information, Christ did at least 900-1000 miracles. About 15,000 people saw those miracles. In addition, approximately another 86,000 friends and family members knew the sick people before and after their healing, and could confirm that they were sick and were subsequently healed. This means that approximately one out of every twenty persons living in Palestine at that time either had seen a miracle, or knew someone who had been healed. Only a small representative proportion of the miracles of Christ is described in the Gospels. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20: 30, 31; 21: 25).
3. Miracles of the apostles of Christ
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The apostles of Christ worked many miracles in His name in the first century A.D. that people might believe the gospel of Christ (Acts 2: 43; 8: 7). Christ gave them the power to work miracles (Mark 3: 15; 16: 17). The apostle Peter healed the sick (Acts 5: 15), and raised a faithful woman called Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9: 36-43). The apostles Peter and John healed a lame man (Acts 3: 2-11). Peter and other apostles were miraculously released from prison (Acts 5: 19-23; 12: 6-11; 16: 25-30). The apostle Paul struck Elymas the sorcerer with blindness (Acts 13: 6-12); healed the cripple (Acts 14: 8-10); cast out evil spirits and cured the sick (Acts 16: 18; 19: 11-12; 28: 8-9); and raised the dead man Eutychus to life (Acts 20: 9-12). The apostle Paul reminded the believers of his miracles in some of his epistles (Romans 15: 18-19; 2 Corinthians 12: 12).
C. Miracles of the Post-Apostolic Christian Era
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Throughout the course of Church history, well-authenticated miracles have continued to take place in the Church. The Christian Church from the time of the Apostles of Christ has claimed an uninterrupted succession of miraculous powers. Many miracles of healing, exorcism, speaking in tongues and prophecy continue to occur till this day in the name of Christ. In addition, other types of miracles take place in response to the human situation. We cite three major miracles herein—two of them occurred in Egypt and one in Jerusalem.
1. Moving Mount al-Muqattam1
The purpose of God in his plan of salvation is not to leave himself without a witness in the Middle East. His sovereign choice is that his witness be located in Egypt where the largest surviving, and therefore the most important, Dhimmi Christian community in the Middle East lives on: "In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border” (Isaiah 19: 19); "The Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, blessed is Egypt My people" (Isaiah 19: 25a). Every one thousand years, Christ makes his powerful statement in Egypt corroborating this prophecy. He seems to declare out loud that his witness in Egypt shall remain for the following one thousand years, or till his second coming in glory, whichever occurs first.
The first millennium was characterized by a series of persecutions of the Coptic Church of Egypt by the Romans, the Chalcedonian Byzantines and the Muslims. This miracle occurred at the end of the first millennium in the tenth century in the reigns of the Fatimid Muslim caliph al-Muizz (952-975) and the Coptic Patriarch Ephraem the Syrian (the 62nd Patriarch -- 975-978). The Muslim caliph had a finance minister called Jacob-ibn-Killis, who had changed his religion from Judaism to Islam in order to get a high position in the government. Jacob hated Christians and Christianity. He strove to prove that Christianity is a false religion. He requested that a debate be arranged with Coptic representatives in the court of the caliph. The Caliph granted him the debate. He failed the debate, and the top Coptic theologian, Bishop Sawires Ibn el-Muqaffa’, prevailed. This infuriated him greatly, and he walked out of the debate determined to do whatever he could to obliterate Christianity from Egypt. In order to accomplish that, he spoke to the Muslim caliph about Jesus’ teaching to his disciples in Matthew 17: 20: “For assuredly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” He advised the caliph to have the Christians of Egypt prove the truthfulness of their religion by moving a huge mountain called al-Muqattam at the outskirts of the city of Cairo. The caliph summoned the Coptic Patriarch Ephraem and gave him three choices: either to move the mountain; or all the Copts of Egypt convert to Islam; or all the Copts be dispossessed and exiled. Upon his request, the Patriarch was granted three days in order to prepare for what was to be done. The Patriarch then ordered the Christians of Egypt to fast every day to sunset, and to continually offer prayers that the Lord may protect his Church from final annihilation. The Church kept vigil and prayer for three days and three nights. In the morning of the third day, the Patriarch was totally exhausted. He dosed off briefly in the ancient church of St. Mary, known as the hanging church, where he was maintaining vigil (this church still stands till this day in Old Cairo). He saw a vision of St. Mary, the Theotokos. She gave him detailed directions to find a man on whose hands the Lord would move the mountain. He followed her directions and found that man who was a poor tanner called Simeon clothed in filthy rags. Simeon was one-eyed. He plucked out his other eye when a woman tried to seduce him, as he understood Jesus’ teaching of Matthew 5: 29 literally. He used to carry water jugs to provide water to the elderly, the handicapped, and the destitute—the brothers of the Lord (Matthew 25: 35,40). Simeon informed the Patriarch of what was to be done.
The Patriarch informed the caliph that the Lord would move the mountain. The caliph took all the prominent men of his court and his private guards and went to the vicinity of the mountain. The Patriarch took Simeon the tanner in his filthy rags, his bishops and a large congregation of the Copts and went to the foot of the mountain. After celebrating the divine liturgy, he and all the people bowed down crying out to the Lord and saying "Lord have mercy." At that moment, the earth shook, and a loud noise was heard as the rocks at the base of the huge mountain began to fracture. As the Patriarch and the congregation raised their heads up, the mountain was lifted up to the sky, as if by invisible hands, till the sun shone through underneath it. As they bowed down glorifying the might of the Lord, the mountain came down. They did that three times, and the Mountain rose and descended three times following their movement. This frightened the caliph, his court, and his troops. He ran to the Patriarch trembling with fear and begged him to stop, as he now knew for certain that Christ was true. As a result of this miracle, Christianity was spared in Egypt, and the conditions of the Copts were greatly improved during the reign of that caliph. New churches were built and ruined churches were repaired. Al-Muizz favored the Copts so much that he ordered the tearing down of a mosque that was built facing the church of Anba Shinuda in Old Cairo. Despite Muslim denials, there is a strong historical circumstantial evidence that al-Muizz converted to Christianity, was baptized, abdicated the throne to his son, al-Aziz, and spent the latter part of his life in a desert monastery.2 In fact, his son, al-Aziz married a Melkite Christian woman, favored the Copts in high administrative positions, permitted the building of new churches and restoration of old ones, and lifted the heavy tax burden off the Copts.
2. Apparitions of Virgin Mary, The
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One thousand years later, at the end of the second millennium, Christ made His second public statement in Egypt without delay.
Apparitions of Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, began to occur on April 2, 1968 inside and atop the domes of her church in al-Zaitun, a suburb of the city of Cairo. These apparitions continued to occur intermittently for over a year during the reign of the saintly Patriarch Cyril VI, the one hundred and sixteenth Patriarch of the Coptic Church. In some nights, her appearances lasted several hours continuously before thousands of people. Some of her appearances were accompanied by the appearance of luminous heavenly beings resembling doves flying above her luminous figure. And sometimes, lights flooded the central dome of the church, and luminous clouds hovered above the domes of the church.
People took photographic pictures of her. It is estimated that over a million people from all walks of life, including: Copts, Muslims, European and American tourists, the president of Egypt Nasser, his wife and daughters saw her. Many healing miracles occurred to sick people in the crowd signifying exceeding grace. These public apparitions are unprecedented in history. Never before has Virgin Mary appeared publicly to so many people for such a relatively long period of time. Once again, Christianity was spared in Egypt. Christ has issued his timely statement loud and clear that his witness in Egypt shall remain another millennium, or till his second advent in glory, whichever occurs first.
For more information on this miracle, including photographic pictures, please visit this website.
3. The holy fire of Easter
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Quite often, light and fire are associated with God’s activity and with manifestation of the presence of His glory. The Lord called Moses form the burning bush that was not consumed by fire (Exodus 3: 2-4). When the lord descended on Mount Sinai to give the law to Moses, “Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Exodus 19: 18); “The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exodus 24: 17); “Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34: 29-30). The Lord led the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai in pillars of cloud and fire: “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night” (Exodus 13: 21). At the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the Lord manifested the presence of His glory by a bright cloud that filled the temple (1 Kings 8: 10-11; Ezekiel 10: 4). The prophet Elijah offered to the Lord an animal sacrifice (a bull) on Mount Carmel in order to convince the Israelites that the Lord is the true God, not the pagan gods they had apostatized after, “Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18: 38). When Jesus was transfigured before some of His disciples on Mount Tabor, “the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening” (Luke 9: 29). When the women went to the tomb of Jesus after His resurrection, they saw “two men (angels) in shining garments” (Luke 24: 4).
In the early afternoon of the Orthodox Holy Saturday (Easter Saturday), that precedes the Orthodox Easter Sunday, a delegation from the local non-Christian authorities (used to be Muslims, now Israelis) enter the tomb of Christ in the small chapel located inside the church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulcher), and check it out in order to ascertain that it does not contain any hidden source of fire whatsoever. They then seal its door with wax. This is reminiscent of what the Roman authorities had done after Christ’s burial. It sealed His tomb and posted Roman guards at it “lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first” (Matthew 27: 64b). Then all the sources of light are extinguished in the church. After circling the chapel that contains the tomb of Christ three times in the wake of a large procession, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem enters the tomb with two unlit candles. He kneels in front of the stone where Christ was laid after His death on the cross. He prays fervently for a few minutes. Then the holy light springs out of the stone. The celestial holy light appears as a blue indefinable light that may take many hues and colors. At the first moments of its appearance, it does not burn. It lights the Patriarch candles. The light then is passed on to the candles of the waiting faithful from the Patriarch candles. In addition, the holy light lights unlit closed oil lamps hanging in different places in the chapels and church beyond the reach of the faithful pilgrims. It also lights the candles of some pious pilgrims. It may move around the chapels and church. A person who receives the light directly on his candle as it bursts spontaneously into flames, leaves Jerusalem changed.
The miracle of the holy fire has taken place regularly in the same manner and in the same place every year without failing for over sixteen centuries since the forth century AD. This regularity of the miracle demonstrates Christ’s faithfulness towards us. He provides the holy flame annually despite our human frailties and failures.
The Paschal holy fire continues to shine on Orthodox Easter Saturday till this day announcing the most powerful miracle in human history, the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead on the third day triumphing over death, not only His death but also the death of all who are in communion with Him. It makes His resurrection very real and close to us. The Paschal fire is a gift of Christ’s love unique to the Orthodox Church. The Paschal candle represents Christ’s person, and its flame symbolizes his resurrection as the light of the world: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’” (John 8: 12). The passing of the light to the faithful congregation symbolizes Christ giving his life to his faithful believers.
During the reign of the Coptic Patriarch Peter al-Gawly (1810-1852), some opportunistic people claimed before Ibrahim Pasha, the son of the Muslim Turkish ruler Muhammad Ali Pasha, that Christians fabricated the Paschal fire, and that it was not true. Ibrahim Pasha called Patriarch Peter and asked him to prove to him the veracity of the Paschal fire. The Patriarch traveled to Jerusalem. Both the Coptic Patriarch of Egypt and the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem prayed in the tomb of Christ at the church of the Holy Sepulcher on the Orthodox Easter Saturday. The bright holy fire burst from the empty tomb of Christ, moved about the church, and split a massive concrete column at the left of the church entrance on his way out to meet the faithful that were congregating and waiting outside the church. This column still stands till this day testifying to, and declaring, the truthfulness and the power of the life giving resurrection of Christ the Lord. After seeing this miracle, Ibrahim Pasha became hysterical and trembled with fear. He ran to the Coptic Patriarch asking for peace.
The following webpage provides additional information on the subject matter:
Easter Holy Fire
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Throughout the history of humankind and until this day, the true living almighty God of the universe declares himself to humanity, his intelligent creation, through miracles and mighty powers in order to confirm the truthfulness and genuineness of his revelations to humankind, in order to reveal his divine character, and in order to respond to the actions of people and prayers of the faithful.
God authenticated the call of the prophet Moses with powerful miracles. Jesus Christ radiated the immediacy of God’s presence by his words and actions which included many powerful miracles bearing witness to his divine authority and his saving power. By contrast, Muhammad was unable to perform any miracle? Muhammad’s claims to prophecy were never authenticated by miracles. In fact, he declared in the Qur’an that he could not do any miracles: “For they say: ‘How is it no signs were sent down to him from his Lord?’ Say: ‘The signs are with God. I am only a warner, plain and simple’” (al-‘Ankabut 29: 50); “’And we shall not believe in your having ascended till you bring down a book for us which we could read.’ Say: ‘Glory to my Lord. I am only man and a messenger’” (al-Isra’ 17: 93b).
Miracles of the Lord God are indispensable to our apprehension of a real living God, to our belief in him, and to our trust in his saving work in our own souls and lives. A god who does not manifest himself in powers and miracles is an abstract idea that lives only in the mind of the person who believes in it. It is a powerless god. It is a god that does not exist in reality.
1 Iris Habib El-Misry, The
Story of the Coptic Church, Book 3 (Arabic), pp. 23-26; Manasseh
John, History of the Coptic Church (Arabic), pp. 376; Bishop
Yuannes, History of the Coptic Church after Chalcedon (Arabic),
pp. 100-102. (back to text)
2 Bishop Yuannes, History of the Coptic Church after Chalcedon, (Arabic), p. 102. (back to text)
3 Iris Habib El-Misry, The Story of the Coptic Church, Book 3 (Arabic), p. 93. (back to text)