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Is Healing Past-tense or Present-tense?

Everywhere I travel, I run into believers who are convinced that they’re already healed, even though the physical evidence would suggest otherwise. Whereas Isaiah said that by the Messiah’s wounds we “are” healed, these people point out that Peter wrote, “…by His wounds we WERE healed” (1 Peter 2:24). While Isaiah spoke in present-tense terms about a future reality (prior to Christ), Peter spoke of it as a past-tense reality (after Christ).

The problem with which we have to wrestle, though, is the multitude of people in wheelchairs, people with chronic pain, people with terminal diseases, and others who claim they’re healed but plainly aren’t in any present-tense demonstrable way. Many such people have been convinced that to verbally admit that they’re sick or disabled is to partner with the sickness and block their healing from “manifesting.” In some cases, they can even become downright superstitious, fearing any mention of their sickness as though those words will somehow curse them and keep them trapped in their condition.

I write this article as one who has been miraculously healed of several chronic, incurable conditions including a heart murmur, degenerative discs, scars on my face, Crohn’s disease, and more. I never “claimed my healing” or worried about saying the right words. In this article, I want to set you free from the fears that many preachers and teachers have planted by teaching things about faith that frankly aren’t true. I’ll share the pros and the cons of saying you’re healed when physical circumstances disagree. Regardless of your current position, I believe this article will bring much-needed freedom to you.

The Practical Problem with Past-Tense Healing

Let me share two hypothetical scenarios that are based on real-world interactions I have at churches all over the world — especially here in the United States:

  1. Person A comes up to me in a church meeting and says, “I’m in serious pain. I have arthritis in both knees, bone-on-bone, and I really don’t want surgery.”

  2. Person B comes up to me in the same meeting and says, “The doctor claims I have bone-on-bone arthritis in both knees and need surgery, but I’m not believing his report and know that I’m already healed. Jesus did it 2,000 years ago.”

In response to Person A, I think, Okay, great… Let’s do something about this. In response to Person B, I think, If you’re already healed, what are you wanting from me? Granted, I never say such things because what both people need is healing, not a theological debate. In both cases, I minister the same. But notice the difference in the typical response I receive from people:

  1. I lay hands on Person A, command arthritis to leave in Jesus’ name, and ask them to test out their knees. Let’s say they’re not healed the first time, so I minister again… and again… and again… until finally the pain leaves, the mobility returns, and Person A goes jumping all over the room.

  2. I lay hands on Person B, command arthritis to leave in Jesus’ name (even though the person claims they don’t have it), and ask them to test out their knees. Person B gives their knees a little bend, says, “Thank you so much! I’m claiming it!” and limps away in pain.

See the problem?

If Person B would simply admit that nothing changed, I would be able to minister again like I did for Person A. But time and again, I meet people who are afraid to admit when there isn’t any change because they’re afraid of jinxing their healing or not being “in faith.” As a result, they walk away before I have an opportunity to minister again.

Present-Tense Salvation

I do believe that healing is a past-tense reality, but so is spiritual salvation. Nevertheless, I don’t go around preaching to people, “You’re already saved!” Even though it was purchased 2,000 years ago and God doesn’t need to make a new decision about it, there needs to be a present-tense encounter with Jesus’ saving work for it to be of any value to the person.

What would you do if a drunk staggered out of a brothel and said, “All my friends and family tell me that I’m living in habitual sin, but I’m refusing to believe their report because Jesus saved me 2,000 years ago. I’m just waiting for my salvation to manifest”? How would you respond? You’d say that this man is living in denial! He can confess whatever he wants, but the evidence proves that there hasn’t actually been an application of the work of Christ.

Here’s the thing: While I do believe that healing is part of the price Jesus paid on the cross (to hear the biblical case for it, check out my sermon “Healing and the Blood of Jesus“), I’m not convinced that Isaiah and Peter were specifically referring to physical healing. Notice the context of Peter’s words:

1 Peter 2:24–25 — “He Himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by His wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (NIV)

Many theologians would argue that the “healing” of which Isaiah and Peter spoke was a metaphorical release from the “soul-sickness” called “sin.” Peter is most likely talking about the destruction of sin and the wholeness we receive through Christ’s sacrifice. The most context-based reading of Peter’s commentary is that Jesus has (past-tense) accomplished our salvation from sin. But remember the tipsy drunk stumbling out of the brothel: Is he saved in a present-tense sense?

“Sickness is to the body as sin is to the soul.” Jesus paid the price for both to be eradicated. When Jesus said, “It is finished” on the cross, the matter was settled. When a sinner seeks salvation, God doesn’t have to make a new decision because forgiveness and freedom were already decided 2,000 years ago. Likewise, when a person seeks physical healing, God doesn’t have to make a new decision because that healing was already decided 2,000 years ago. Both are settled, past-tense facts.

But until there is a present-tense experience with Jesus’ sacrifice that produces present-tense results, it doesn’t make sense to walk around pretending that it has happened.

While the Christian creeds of the past are full of great doctrine and biblical information, a man’s ability to recite a Christian creed is not what saves him. Unfortunately, this is how many have treated the creeds: “Believe this list of doctrinal statements, and that makes you a Christian.” Yet time has proven that agreeing with a list of beliefs is not equal to salvation. In the same way, agreeing to a belief about what Jesus has done for your healing is not the same as being healed. Just as salvation isn’t found in the denial of one’s sin but in an encounter with Jesus, healing isn’t found in denial of one’s sickness but in an encounter with Jesus.

A Better Perspective on Healing

There can be benefits to recognizing the past-tense aspects of our healing. It is healthy to realize that God has already ruled in your favor and that, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). No new decision needs to be made, and your healing is 2,000 years overdue.

What’s not healthy is to superstitiously avoid admitting the reality of a present problem. If we sin, we confess as a way of embracing the solution. And if we’re sick, we can admit it as a way of embracing the solution. Any time we bring something into the light, we remove it from the influence of the prince of darkness.

If you’re battling sickness of some kind, I recommend the following mindset to help you contend for the healing Jesus purchased:

  1. My healing was settled 2,000 years ago at the cross, and God is already convinced that He wants me healed. He doesn’t need to make a new decision, and I don’t need to beg.

  2. I refuse to call this condition “my” disease because Jesus took it upon Himself, and there’s no sense in both of us owning it. (See Matthew 8:16-17.) However, note the next point…

  3. I’m not going to worry about whether or not I always say the right words when referring to my condition because no matter how much power my words may have, they are not more powerful than the blood of Jesus. Every person who Jesus healed in the Bible explained exactly what their problem was.

  4. If I’m in pain, it’s okay to admit that I’m in pain. If I need medication, it’s okay to take medication. If I need help, it’s okay to ask for it. Until I’m healed in the present-tense, It’s okay to be honest about my physical condition. I’m not going to whine, complain, or despair; but it’s okay for me to be realistic about what I’m presently going through while maintaining hope in Christ and what He has made available.

  5. I don’t need pity; I need healing. But I won’t reject the compassion and kindness of others while I’m still seeking to be healed.

  6. The absence of faith is not stronger than faith. No one can jinx my healing by saying the wrong words. I don’t have to police everyone else’s language when they talk about my condition. Jesus is more powerful.

  7. Nobody deserves healing, but Jesus deserves everything for which He paid. Jesus paid for my healing. I don’t need to be healed for my sake; I need to be healed for His sake.

  8. I am more likely to experience healing by regularly asking people to minister to me than I am by pretending I’m already healed and avoiding the ministry of other Christians.

Being healed is better than merely claiming you’re healed. The price Jesus paid was for you to be healed in experiential reality, not merely in spiritual principle. Until that happens, Jesus hasn’t received what He paid for. Therefore, seeking healing is seeking for Jesus to receive something He purchased with His blood, and that makes your pursuit of healing an act of worship.

Worship Jesus by seeking healing. It’s a form of worship you can only do in this world (because you won’t need to seek healing in the world to come).

If you’re seeking healing, I’m agreeing with you for complete wholeness.  Be healed in Jesus’ name.

Be blessed, –Art