We all have a bias concerning manifestations that is rooted in our individual human experience. Religious theology, personal exposure to manifestations and culture will determine whether or not we accept or reject them. No doubt, you already have a well-formed opinion on manifestations that reflects the sum total of your exposure to supernatural phenomenon. If you have questions, it is probably because you or someone you know has had an experience that doesn’t land on your grid. Many believers in foreign cultures have no problem accepting supernatural manifestations. Our rational Western culture insists on skepticism of anything that cannot be empirically explained. The church, the only scripturally sanctioned broker of supernatural phenomenon, has in modern times shied away from signs and wonders. Within the organized Western church, most choose to either denounce or discount physical or emotional demonstrations of the presence of God. Others go so far as to demonize any ministry that embraces or welcomes manifestations, deeming them false.
Maria Woodsworth Etter believed that a ministry that accurately represented God would be accompanied with unusual signs. She surmised that a lack of manifestations was a sign of doctrinal apostasy. When the Word is purely presented, the Lord will attest it by demonstrating the unusual. Mark 16:20 tells us, “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
Signs and wonders may include but are not limited to the following in scripture:
- healings – Acts 4:30
- deliverances – Mark 1:32
- resurrections – Acts 9:40
- crying – Luke 7:38
- shouting – Luke 4:41
- dancing – Psalm 30:11
- prophecy – 1 Samuel 10:12
- sensation of heat – Habakkuk 3:4 (particularly the hands)
- bowing or falling prostrate – 1 Kings 8:11
- physical weakness – Job 13:11
- impediment of natural senses – Luke 1:22
- heightened natural abilities – 1 Kings 18:46
- awakening of supernatural senses – 2 Kings 6:16
- the appearance of angelic beings – Luke 2:9
- divine attestations of God’s power – Numbers 16:32
- wind or whirlwinds – Job 38:1
- fire – 1 Kings 18:38
- rain – Hosea 10:12
- clouds – Mark 9:7
- heavenly sounds – 2 Samuel 5:24
- earthquakes and rumblings – Matthew 28:2
There are myriads of ways the Lord may choose to manifest His presence among mankind. Each manifestation has a purpose to transform man or to reveal Father’s heart, character, nature and will – to an individual, group or nation. He also manifests Himself through us. We may, from time to time, be animated by His indwelling Spirit to speak on His behalf, or to demonstrate some facet of His power. This generally happens by virtue of His spiritual gifts as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. At other times, phenomenon will accompany a wave of revival or an outpouring. Some manifestations become characteristic of a ministry, following a specific person or people, as a sign of what God is doing through them. I have observed ministers who operate in the gift of healing often describe a heat on their hands. It is a physical witness of when the anointing is present to “stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus,” Acts 4:30. My own hand will at times “burn” during a healing service, or whenever I come near a minister of healing. Numerous times I’ve witnessed or experienced specific manifestations that are unique to a specific minister/ministry. This is indicative of a specific flow of anointing.
Any sign or manifestation is not the point of ministry, but merely a sign that points to the Kingdom message that is being communicated. Signs and wonders accompany the Word, attesting the veracity of the message. When traveling on an interstate, no one pulls over to celebrate and camp out beneath a directional sign. Wisdom requires us to look, acknowledge and continue following on toward the destination. The sign serves as a confirmation that we are still on a certain path.
It is a given that demonic spirits can act out by inciting human beings to do things. In my experience, one can discern demonic manifestations by their uncleanness, indecency, blasphemy, mockery, intimidation, seductiveness, or any such hellish quality. Strangeity, however, does not make a manifestation demonic or false. I’m going to say something quite controversial, so please afford me the grace to explain. There is no such thing as a false manifestation. Every manifestation is a demonstration stemming from activity in the realm of spirit, soul or body. It is either sourced in heavenly, hellish or earthly stimulus. It is what it is… and cannot be false.
A person who is weeping in the presence of God may be manifesting from activity in one of several realms.
- He may weep because the divine has touched his spirit deeply to produce transformation or even intercession.
- He may weep because a wound in his soul or psyche has been uncovered in the presence of the Lord.
- His weeping may be a manifestation of a spirit of grief or mourning.
The possibilities are more than a few, and only by spiritual discerning can we know the difference. The same is true when it comes to more demonstrative manifestations. When someone is physically overcome and “falls under the power,” it might be because:
- The weighty glory of the Lord overwhelmed his being and rendered him powerless in God’s presence for purposes of impartation, healing, deliverance, or transformation.
- The person actively chose to fall in soulish imitation of a spiritual experience. This is not a “false” manifestation, but a manifestation of the soul’s desires to experience, imitate or even mock.
- The person falls not necessarily because of the Holy Spirit, but because of an oppressive spirit that seeks to dodge confrontation. An oppressive spirit may cause someone to fall in order to hide from further ministry.
Ministry is needful in all three instances. None of those manifestations are false, but really positive of some power that is at work. Discernment unlocks the manifestation to determine what steps might be need to be taken, next.
In the case of laughter, I’ve witnessed and experienced holy laughter that brought great inner healing and restoration of joy. There have also been times when I was tickled at something that was happening in the service and laughed from a place of soulish amusement. This was not evil or mocking, but a very human response to something funny. One of my least favorite encounters is with a spirit of mockery that laughs at the things of God, rather than laughing along with the joyful Spirit of God (Psalm 2:4). One can certainly sense the difference.
One of the great criticisms of manifestations is the mixture of true and “false” manifestations that happens during a move of God. When a storm brews at sea, living and dead things both wash up on the beach. A true move or wave of God will always bring up a mixed batch every time. Only at the end of the harvest are the wheat and tares divided and reckoned (Matthew 13:30). Every move has fakes, wannabes, and real deals. That doesn’t negate the move or the manifestations that come along with it.
Are there false prophets or ministers who concoct signs or wonders to dupe the naive into following? YES. Time always reveals this sort, as does their message. We must remember that the sign is meant to point us to the message. Don’t judge a minister/ministry by their signs, but by the message those signs are pointing to. What is he or she preaching? If you take the message and play it out to the end, where does it lead? If it leads in the path of the cross, I’ll listen – irregardless of what or who manifests when they speak. Even Jesus experienced demon spirits crying out during His earthly ministry. He was falsely accused because of it. Friend, be cautious before you judge on the basis of a manifestation. I’m sure this discussion will continue in the “reply” segment of the post. Blessings and thanks for reading and hopefully sharing your point of view.