Healing to Claim or not to Claim


When the Heavenly Physician diagnosed my case, this is what He found:


When He decided to treat and heal me once and for all, this what He did:


When He reviewed the post-operative results, this is what He declared:


So is healing provided in our Lord’s atonement on Calvary?

The short answer is: “Most definitely!” And that is total healing, not of a part of man, but of the WHOLE MAN: Spirit-soul-body. Do we mean that, when someone is converted to Jesus Christ, his spirit, soul and body are healed? Not exactly. So what are we saying? We are saying that God starts with one part of man and finishes with the whole. But why not read on? You are on to something.


By Jim van Heiningen

Healing has always been a popular topic. The Bible does have a lot to say on the subject – not all of that necessarily popular. Does it talk about the healing of the human body, or of the human spirit, or of both? Can healing be ‘claimed’ now? By any Christian? What does spiritual healing mean? What is in store for the future? Here are some reflections. And at the close there is a Question-&-Answer.

The Creator our Physician

Our great Creator left no doubt about his interest in his creature. It is a deep and completely involved interest. It is an interest in all of Man, not merely in a part of him. He became our Redeemer in order to redeem and heal the whole human being. To do that He had to become Man himself. Then He went on to willingly sacrifice himself – the only means by which fallen Man, hopelessly corrupted and lost, might be incredibly redeemed and made whole.

Healing in the testaments

Who doesn’t know about the differences between the testaments, but did you know that there are some real differences in the way the subject of ‘healing’ is dealt with?

The majority of healing passages in the Old Testament speak of spiritual healing; while in the NT the opposite is true. Nearly all speak of physical healings.

The OT passages speak of the corporate healing of the people of Israel (excepting a few, like Naaman); whereas in the NT it is individuals who are healed.

In the OT, healing is the wonderful promise that looks for that future day when Israel repents. In the NT, on the other hand, healings took place, right there and then, i.e. in the present, mainly through Jesus himself and the apostles.

Isaiah & Isaiah

Isaiah has quite a bit to say about healing, but he starts off with a diagnosis. The Physician gives his sad conclusions about the patient’s horribly grave condition. Israel, God’s people, is the ‘patient’. Now, if God is so ‘brutally’ honest with his specially chosen and beloved people, what, do you think, would be his diagnosis of all the other peoples? What would his diagnosis reveal to you about you…?

Isaiah 1 (5-6) gives us that shocking diagnosis of Man, rotten Man.

But then there is Isaiah 53 (3-5). It gives us God’s prophetic answer: the cross of the coming Messiah and through it: HEALING for his creature, diseased as he is to the core by the leprosy of sin.

At the expense of the Son of Man, there is now complete healing for the complete man. Before any Christian should sustain anything less, he’d better think again. If ‘healing’ is not in the atonement, what is?

Blown away?

Different “winds of doctrine” are blowing right across the planet.

There is this teaching that, if there is any healing in the atonement, then it’s only for man’s spirit. Yes, miracles of physical healing were given, but they were merely to confirm the Gospel at the beginning. That was then; things are different now… Or so they say.

Others emphasize that the atonement does provide healing for man’s present mortal body, just as definitely as for man’s spirit. They point to Isaiah 53 and maintain that a committed Christian simply should not be sick. Just as his sin was dealt with, so his sickness was conquered, once and for all. If he is sick, and he’s not getting healed, then really he is backsliding, and denying the power of the blood… Or so they say.

So does the Bible encourage us to confidently say good-bye for ever to cancer and to all the other things that can go wrong with the body now? In other words, can we and should we claim healing on the basis of the atonement?

Man’s make-up

It is clear that Man is not just a body. As a matter of fact Man is a soul, and that soul has two “vehicles” – if we may call them that – one for the physical realm and one for the spiritual realm (1 Thes 5:23). By means of his body he can amble about in that physical realm; and by his spirit he can move around in the spiritual sphere. That is the way God made him, even if sin then “threw a spanner in the works”. It should also be obvious that the two ‘vehicles’ were not meant to be independent of each other, but rather interdependent.

Two vehicles

An illustration from modern life in the west may be in order. Imagine a police helicopter and a police car, chasing a criminal. The car can’t fly, it never will, it is meant to hug the road. It doesn’t have the wings, or the speed, or the “eyes” of the helicopter. The helicopter, on the other hand, is no good at all on the road; it was made to be up in the air. But together they form an admirable team. From up there the ’copter guides the car, road after road. It can do that, because ’copter and car are linked by radio. If the ’copter crashes, the police car and crew have to do their work without that vital guidance from ‘on high’. It may get them lost, the work may not get done, there may be greater danger involved. Things may get badly messed up.

That shocking diagnosis

Did you read that diagnosis in Isaiah 1? It is devastating; and as we look honestly at the function of our two “vehicles”, what do we find? We find that neither the spirit, nor the body, is functioning properly. In fact the spirit is not functioning at all… Its Creator pronounced it dead (Eph 2:1)! That leaves the body to function on its own, with no spirit to guide it. It is this state of affairs that got us into the mess we are in: more than six billion egos on one small planet ‘doing their thing’ without being connected to their spiritual counterpart… However, wait for it, there is healing!!

The Good News

Only divine intervention could save us from ourselves, and from God’s judgment. A loving God has not left us on our own to sort things out by ourselves. Far from getting sorted out, they could only have gotten worse. His Good News is that HE restores Man, ‘vehicles’ included. He does it through Calvary and the resurrection of Christ. That work was done, completely, and the word is out. Now it is a matter of responding. Wholeheartedly! Any man, woman or child who responds, receives healing.

All your diseases

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies…” (Ps 103:2-4).

The word translated “destruction” is really the word for “pit” or “grave”. What this shows us is that David is giving us a complete picture of redemption. He includes redemption from physical death. There is forgiveness for all our iniquities, there is healing from all our diseases, and there is victory over the grave. Some would spiritualize all these wonderful things, but that can never be a complete answer. Redemption from the grave is physical resurrection. It gives us a ‘healed’ body, healed in the truest sense: it has become immortal. That all-encompassing redemption reaches its culmination in the wedding feast of the Lamb, when Redeemer and redeemed are united forever. There at last all our diseases and the grave itself are left behind.., forever.

Just imagine

Apart from beating diabetes, MS, AIDS, TB, rheumatism, cancer, and all the other diseases, radically and for ever, things like aging skin also will be a thing of the past. The skin is young again and supple. Stiff limbs are strong and flexible, bald heads covered with luscious hair, toothless mouths filled with pearly teeth, deaf ears picking up the slightest sound, blind or dimmed eyes enjoying the keenest sight ever. Our bodies will be amazing resurrection bodies (Phil 3:21). They will reflect the glory of the Redeemer. When He appears (physically), we will appear with him in glory (Col 3:4). This is the full healing that is guaranteed by scriptures like Isaiah 53, as well as the national healing and restoration of his chosen people, Israel.

The number one priority

As we study John 10:10 and the rest of the New Testament, we discover our adversary’s priorities. We equally discover those of the Savior, which are to get man back to life, and back to health! It is what our Lord came for: that we might have life and that we might have it abundantly.

It should be obvious that God’s ‘therapy’ does not start with the body. His number one priority is spiritual life – new birth, growth, maturity, fruit! But He is not forgetting about that promised new body (1 Thes 4:13-16). He is not even losing sight of the old body.

That’s another priority

This old body, so soon losing its youthful elasticity and prowess, and clearly on the way to the grave, is called a “mortal” body in Romans 8:10-11. Yet from these verses we learn that God definitely has a purpose for that very mortal body. The Holy Spirit lives in it, and He can and will ‘quicken’ it. That is, He will give just enough physical strength and health for the Christian to serve him faithfully all the days of his earthly life. That “enough” may at times seem “too little” to the Christian, but then, if he lets the Lord show him in the Word, he will realize, again and again, that, indeed, his grace is sufficient!

image006Christ’s spiritual life within that old shell shines out powerfully, right through it. God just loves to do that, at times through a miracle, at times without a miracle (2 Cor 4:6-12; 12:7-10).

In Cuba, not long ago, I had the privilege of getting to know Joni Eareckson-Tada and her husband. I had read some of her books and so I knew what to expect. Pathetic invalid lady in a wheelchair?

Joni is a paraplegic, she is in a wheelchair, but she is anything but pathetic. She is radiant and she thanks God for permitting the terrible accident that left her in that state – 36 years ago. It is the Spirit of life in that helpless body that makes all the difference. For all these years her living Lord has “quickened” her and that body – just enough to make wonderful use of her eyes, her voice, her books, her meetings, mightily blessing millions of people around the world.
Find out more at: www.joniandfriends.org/

Seven signs and…

Having a look at John’s Gospel will help us to grasp better what God’s ‘healing program’ is all about. We discover there are “seven signs” and “seven sayings”; you’ll find them listed here. The seven signs were purely physical. There were three healings, two provisions for the stomach, one defiance of the law of gravity, and one defiance of the law of the grave. Not only believers benefited, but also many unbelievers! These were ‘signs’ that clearly pointed, and point, to the Savior’s love and power. Only Jews witnessed them, and to them the signs pointed out, unmistakably, that this must be the promised Messiah (John 15:24).

The best is yet to come

Yet, exhilarating as the signs were, they were only temporary and provisional. Lazarus, eventually, died again and his body was laid in a tomb a second time. The thousands who were fed had to look for food again the next day. The new eyes, given to the man born blind, stopped being new. They died when he died.

The signs displayed powerfully who Jesus was and what He is able to do; also that He is not ignoring the needs and the sufferings of the body. And they point to the future. In this present body we still have to cope with weakness, sickness, disabilities, accidents, hunger etc. and then death. All that in spite of the Messiah’s first coming. However, the Messianic prophecies await further fulfilment! And they are coupled with the most amazing promises for the body of the believer.

image008In the midst of all her distress about her brother’s death, Martha fully believed that those promises were going to be fulfilled (John 11:24-27). It was then that Jesus raised her brother from the dead, confirming to her, and to us, that, indeed, He is the one who is fully able to bring about all that is promised for the future.
The signs were like demonstrations, and He can give more demonstrations today. He has often done so, but ‘demonstrations’ are not guaranteed by the atonement.

What is guaranteed is the ‘end product’, if we may call it that. Healing is in the atonement, it couldn’t be otherwise. But the temporary healings of the Messiah’s first coming are not. They were only the signs and the foretaste of the perfect and permanent healing, in the resurrection body.

Seven sayings

Now if the seven signs are not a part of the atonement – though they do point to its fulfilment – the seven sayings show us what is absolutely included in the atonement. They are all about LIFE. Significantly, three have the word ‘life’ in them. They are eternal, not provisional or temporary. They are already real in the believer now, that is spiritually, and they will be real physically. Their reality flows from Calvary to the true believer. They cannot be experienced by any unbeliever.

They show us that perfect and permanent healing is in the atonement. This poor, abused body will not for ever be denied the full power of the resurrection. The Sun of Righteousness when He finally rises on that great and awesome morning will bring healing in his wings (Mal 4:2)!

Peace and healing

The doctrine of “Healing-in-the-Atonement-for-the-Body-Now” is invariably based on Isaiah 53:5. But many don’t notice what comes before the ‘healing’. It is peace! Peace is in the atonement. But what peace is our Lord talking about? What kind of peace did He purchase for us through his “chastisement”? Was it ‘physical’ peace between human enemies now? May we claim peace between nations at this time because of the atonement?

Or did his atonement bring us, first, peace-with-God (Rom 5:1) and the peace-of-God (Phil 4:7), in other words, purely spiritual peace (which includes peace among God’s children)? And then, for a later day, “peace-on-earth”? Jesus made it clear that in physical terms his first coming was not to bring ‘peace’, but a ‘sword’… (Mt 10:34). But as He comes the second time, and reigns in Jerusalem, the Prince of Peace will establish universal peace on earth. Then the second phase of peace-in-the-atonement will be a wonderful reality.

Same verse, same sentence

Realizing that Isaiah 53:5 speaks about spiritual-peace-for-now – physical-peace-for-later, makes it so much easier to understand that healing, mentioned in the same ‘breath’, is also spiritual-for-now, physical-for-later. Why be impatient and ‘claim’ for now, from Isaiah 53, what is not for now but for later? If in prayer we take God’s Word seriously day by day, He will show us in time where He is leading us, whether He means to give a miracle of healing, or a new revelation of that amazing grace, always all-sufficient. Why not joyfully leave the choice to him?!

Remember when 70 disciples rejoiced that demons were subject to them? The Lord told them to rejoice rather that their names were written down in heaven (Lc 10:20). Very often, in times of physical infirmity, the Christian’s joy can be boundless as he experiences the full health and liberty he has received spiritually through Christ’s atonement, knowing at the same time that one day, not far off, it will all be physical too.

A Question – an Answer


Dear brother,

 I was very interested in the article on “Healing in the Atonement”. I found it most thought provoking, especially the idea that physical healing is not for now, but later and the suggestion that we should joyfully leave the choice with God, whether we should be healed or not.

I have some difficulty with this interpretation when I come to James 5:13-15. If what your writer says is true, then, to me this Scripture seems irrelevant.

I would welcome your writer’s opinion on these verses. I should say I enjoy reading about the work of the mission and pray that God will bless your labors for Him, and give you many souls for His Kingdom. Yours in His Service,


Dear R,

Glad the Healing article had your interest. There is a bit of a mix-up though. The wonderful possibility of God healing the old body now was never disparaged. The burden of the article, however, is to show that such a miracle cannot be claimed on the ground of it having been provided for in our Lord’s atonement.

If that were the case, then, indeed, there should not be a sick or invalid Christian about ever, nor for that matter with spectacles or hearing aids, unless they were really seriously backsliding. Have you noticed how many preachers who preach this, eventually succumb themselves to cancer or something else? Obviously something is out of sync somewhere.

Thank God for miracles, but in this old world they will continue to be the exception, not the rule. If we look at James 5 in this light, then we understand that there too, it must necessarily be part of the bigger picture; of what God is doing and working up to.

I myself have anointed a number of persons with oil, i.e. Christians, who walked with the Lord, and requested this. God used it for healing at times, while at other times He did not. Paul must have read James’ (early) epistle, yet he left his companion Trophimus behind sick at one point, and in Rome, while Epaphroditus was with Paul, he was so seriously ill that he nearly died. Timothy had his persistent stomach troubles, while it seems reasonably clear that Paul himself had serious eye problems.

Certain Scriptures give us the impression of “absoluteness”, like James 5:15, but if we compare the “and the Lord shall raise him up” with what James says earlier on in the same chapter about the afflictions of the prophets and Job, with whom we should identify and have patience, we understand that in the case of the sick in verse 15, he could hardly be giving us a hard-and-fast rule of the sick always invariably being raised up.

Perhaps we should think of James wanting to emphasize God’s power to do this. It reminds me of the proverbs that, at first sight, preclude an interpretation that is less than absolute. I am referring to so many that speak about the righteous, like 10:30: “The righteous shall never be removed…”; and 11:8: “The righteous is delivered out of trouble…” It seems to me that James, whose epistle, of course, has many typically Jewish traits, is continuing in that same strain.

Another consideration is that James is referring to “the prayer of faith”. Faith, as we know from Romans 10, is engendered by the Word of God. Faith that God will undertake in a personal matter would also need a clear, and a personal, word from God, otherwise that faith is unfounded and unfocused, apart from the fact that this person may truly know God by saving faith. If there is no clear word from God for this particular need, I can still pray and my faith in Him is exercised, but I cannot say, “Father, I believe that you are going to fulfill what you promised me, namely, that you will raise me up.”

If there is no particular promise, there cannot be a particular faith, nor a particular prayer of faith. God can still heal, and will undoubtedly do this on many an occasion, but there is no guarantee, because there is not that particular promise.image010

Psalm 147:3