Healing and the Gospel of the Kingdom: Matthew 4:23-25
“23) And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24) So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25) And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” Matthew 4:23-25 ESV
As Jesus began to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, amazing miracles began to happen. People were transformed from life in a fallen world that is full of sickness, pain, suffering and demonic oppression into a foretaste of what things will be like when the Messiah sets up His kingdom on earth.
People were healed and set free from everything that afflicted them. What is unusual in this present age will be normal when the Messiah begins to reign. The sickness, pains and suffering of this life governed by the consequences of sin and the fall all fled away in the presence of the Messiah as recorded in Matthew 4:23-25.
The news about Him spread far and wide. People came from great distances to see Him and the text says “He healed them all.” That describes universal healing!
Keep in mind, this was before His work on the cross. Jesus was offering the kingdom to the nation of Israel with a full glimpse of the healing and freedom that would accompany His physical reign on earth. His gospel of the kingdom came with a glimpse of virtual reality.
But John 1:10-13 presents the saddest story in the Bible. “10) He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11) He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13) who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” ESV.
I certainly believe Jesus can and does heal today, but what was happening during His public ministry was different. This was a foretaste of the kingdom for Israel and they rejected Him. This kind of universal healing, health and longevity will happen when the Messiah comes back and rules on earth.
However, there is a difference between Matthew 4:23-25 and today. Those healings were based on His role as Messiah offering the Kingdom to Israel. Healing today is based on faith in His finished work on the cross. Universal healing during His public ministry was a foretaste of the kingdom for Israel. He came to His own and they rejected Him.
This helps explain the dialogue recorded in Acts 1:4-8 between Jesus and His disciples about Him restoring the kingdom to Israel. Because Israel rejected Him and He went to the cross, another system was put in place. Jesus summarized this as the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Take time to understand the significance of Acts 1:3-11 and how it shifted the dynamics of the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus as the Messiah was offering Israel in Matthew 4:23-25 and the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit that has now come by default.
The Gospel of salvation and regeneration through the indwelling Holy Spirit is different from the gospel of the kingdom with the rule of the Messiah present on earth. The promises of the restored kingdom to Israel in Old Testament texts like Isaiah 11:1-10 do not apply to today. They are still future tense.
Confusion comes when sincere believers try to force the universal healings of Matthew 4:23-25 and the gospel of the kingdom on today and the system we are under with the indwelling Holy Spirit. There is some overlap, but they are not the same.
Granted, healing is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit for this present age, but starting with the book of Acts things changed. Healings were frequent but not universal in the book of Acts and the Epistles. They served the purpose of opening the door for the gospel as seen in Acts 3-4 and the healing of the lame beggar. Peter and John didn’t use the miracle to start a healing service, they used it as an open door for an evangelistic crusade… and there was only one healing!
So how does this harmonize with John 14:12 where Jesus promised that believers will do greater works than Him because He goes to the Father? Shouldn’t we see more healings than Jesus performed? That’s an awesome question. Let me give the short version.
First, the gospel of the kingdom was rejected. That part of His mission failed. Instead of staying to set up the kingdom, Jesus went to His Father! Second, He came only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel and we are sent to the entire world. That is far greater. Third, His going to the Father instead of setting up an immediate kingdom brought the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit on every believer. That was not necessarily part of the kingdom promise. Finally, His work on the cross because of His rejection as Messiah by Israel paved the way for eternal salvation for every believer. This is a far greater work.
I praise God for the healing power of the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus Christ for today, but I do not expect it to be universal. We are not in the kingdom age. That is still future for when Jesus comes back and sets up His Kingdom. When He rules on earth there will be no more sickness or oppression.
Here is the bottom line, not everyone is going to be healed in this present age, but everyone who calls on the Name of Jesus will be saved! This present age is still governed by 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. People age, the body wears out and they die. No one is going to beat aging and death in this present age.
But God does call us to pray for healing and He often validates the gospel and His power by healing people for His glory. The purpose for healing at this present time is to advance the gospel. I believe in miracles and the power of God, but my faith does not waver when God gives grace to endure suffering instead of healing. Both are essential and glorious. I am fully content letting God be God and depending on Him for both sides of the coin of healing and suffering with grace and power. Paul did both and taught both.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
Healing and the Gospel of the Kingdom: Matthew 4:23-25