New Testament,  Theology

The Link between Eschatology and Spiritual Gifts

Picture of fire, symbolizing eschatology and miraculous gifts

Although not often thought about, there is a link between eschatology and the spiritual gifts. There are many ways to argue for the cessation of spiritual gifts (for example, the cascade argument). But in this article I simply want to look at the correlation between one’s eschatology and the belief about miraculous gifts. Simply put, what what believes about eschatology, specifically the kingdom of God, has a logical impact on their understanding of the spiritual gifts.

Before talking about eschatology, we can overview the Bible and see that there are specific times in history when there are major displays of miracles. Further reflection shows that these miraculous exhibitions are linked with time periods that are related to the Kingdom of God. To show this in summary form, I have adapted a chart from Mike Vlach:

Kingdom SituationTime PeriodKingdom Mediator(s)Result
Signs and wonders to deliver Hebrews from EgyptThe period of the ExodusMosesIsrael established as a kingdom
Signs and wonders as the kingdom in Israel deteriorates (1 Kings 17–2 Kings 13)Time of Elijah and ElishaElijah and ElishaIsrael continues downward spiral to captivity
Signs and wonders as the kingdom presented to Israel (Matt 3–12)Early ministry of JesusJesus the MessiahIsrael refuses to repent; kingdom to come in the future
Signs and wonders as Jesus and kingdom presented to Israel after Holy Spirit’s outpouring (Acts 2–28)A.D. 33–70The ApostlesIsrael refuses to believe; kingdom to come in the future

Most people won’t have a problem with this chart. The major disagreements deal with what happens after the last category. Some advocate a cessation of the miraculous spiritual gifts until the time foretold in Revelation 6–19. Others argue for a continuation of the miraculous gifts in the current day.

The simple point that I want to make is this: what one believes about eschatology, and specifically the Kingdom of God influences one’s belief about the miraculous spiritual gifts.

The Kingdom of God is linked with miracles. Jesus himself declared that His miracles pointed to the Kingdom (cf. Matt 12:28). In Matthew 11:2–5 Jesus answers John the Baptist’s question about His identity by quoting Isaiah’s prophecy about the miracles which accompany the Kingdom of God and the Messiah.

For the dispensationalist, since the Kingdom of God was rejected and still awaits a future coming, the miracles which we expect to accompany the Kingdom also faded out to await a future time. However, for amillenialists and some progressive dispensationalists, since the Kingdom of God is present in some form now, there is no reason not to expect the accompanying signs and miracles which we would expect to accompany the Kingdom.

I am not saying every amillenialist or progressive dispensationalist believes in the continuation of the miraculous gifts today. However, I would propose that it seems an inconsistent position to hold to a present Kingdom of God model, and yet deny the miraculous—which was evidence for the Kingdom.

Photo by Benjamin DeYoung on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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