Miracle Healing Via Dead Spirits? What’s Going On?
May 7, 2010 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

I was recently chatting to some close family friends who had come back from a trip to Brazil where they witnessed a supposed miracle healer who goes by the name “John of God” performing open surgery on various people claiming to have healed them.

They said he was also a medium and was used by several deceased doctors to perform these surgeries. The Bible teaches us that the dead can’t come back to life, but I’m having a real hard time trying to convince them of this. Have you heard of this guy? And what would you advice be to me concerning my friends? as it deeply concerns me

God Bless You, S, Brisbane, Australia

I have not heard of this person and I won’t be able to say with 100% certainty what this man is doing as I have not seen him nor the subjects he is practicing upon. But, there are several possibilities regarding what he is doing and I will explore them in a moment.

But first, we can be certain that the dead, who have not be resurrected by Christ, are not capable of communicating with the living or interacting in any way. The Scriptures tell us:

  • For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; Ecc 9:5
  • No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? Ps 6:5

Further the Scriptures tell us what we call death is a “sleep” (Matt 9:24, John 11:11-14, 1Thes 4:13) and when Lazarus, who had been in the grave for 4 days, arose, he had nothing to say about his experience, why? Because his brain was not working while he was dead and without a functioning brain there is no awareness.

When a human dies the body decays back to dust. However, our individuality, our unique identity, our personhood, is safely stored with Christ in heaven. It would be like having a backup copy of your computer hard drive on a server. If the computer is destroyed, all you need do is get a new machine and download the information from the server to the new computer and you have “resurrected” your computer. Likewise, when we die, our individuality is stored safely with Christ in the “heavenly record books” i.e. the heavenly server. It is not until Christ returns that the stored identities are put back into brains and the people live again when they are resurrected. Until then those who have died know nothing, learn nothing, and can communicate nothing.

Therefore, if this man is claiming to be in contact with “spirits” of dead doctors we know for certain this is not true.  And since God is a God of truth we know that what this man is doing is not of God. But knowing his work is not a supernatural work of God still doesn’t tell us what is actually going on. Four possibilities come to mind:

  1. He is a charlatan, conman, and a scam-artist who is deceiving and tricking people using the specter of interacting with the dead to mesmerize people and gain popularity, money and power. He may have persons colluding with him in the con by pretending to be sick and the surgeries are fake.
  2. He is using hypnosis to put people into a trance, which allows him to do surgery without chemical anesthesia. If he has some basic knowledge of human anatomy and antiseptic principles it is possible he is doing minor surgeries and then using the specter of spirits to heighten his “prowess” and “reputation” beyond his true abilities.
  3. He is mentally ill and deluded and actually believes he is in contact with dead persons, but in actuality it is all happening within his own mind. His surgical skill would be only that which is within the realm of human knowledge and within his ability to learn or attain.
  4. He is involved with supernatural demonic forces who impersonate the dead and who do provide him with knowledge about human physiology and surgical skills all designed by these fallen angels to confuse the minds of men and lead them away from God.

I believe all of these are possibilities (and perhaps even some combination of them) and would not be surprised by any of them but would need more evidence to determine which is most likely. One of the founders of our church predicted that Satan and his confederate angels would use such methods to deceive as we get closer to Christ’s return:

* Fearful sights of a supernatural character will soon be revealed in the heavens, in token of the power of miracle-working demons. The spirits of devils will go forth to the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to fasten them in deception, and urge them on to unite with Satan in his last struggle against the government of Heaven. By these agencies, rulers and subjects will be alike deceived. Persons will arise pretending to be Christ himself, and claiming the title and worship which belong to the world’s Redeemer. They will perform wonderful miracles of healing, and will profess to have revelations from Heaven contradicting the testimony of the Scriptures. {GC88 623.3}

  • He [Satan] has power to bring before men the appearance of their departed friends. The counterfeit is perfect; the familiar look, the words, the tone, are reproduced with marvelous distinctness… Many will be confronted by the spirits of devils personating beloved relatives or friends and declaring the most dangerous heresies. These visitants will appeal to our tenderest sympathies and will work miracles to sustain their pretensions.- GC 552, 560 (1911).
  • The way in which Christ worked was to preach the Word, and to relieve suffering by miraculous works of healing. But I am instructed that we cannot now work in this way, for Satan will exercise his power by working miracles. God’s servants today could not work by means of miracles, because spurious works of healing, claiming to be divine, will be wrought. {2SM 54.2}

The scripture tells us that the warfare between Christ and Satan is a battle for our minds over the truth about God, (2Cor 10:3-5, John 17:3, John 8:32). Satan has no truth on his side therefore he must divert our minds and attention away from truth. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to use miracles, signs and wonders which will fascinate and enthrall, but which will not enlighten. There may even be real physical improvement, but such “healing” proves nothing. Satan wants to prevent souls from receiving eternal life, not from getting over appendicitis. The question is not, “did a real miracle occur,” but rather, “Is the truth about God being told?” In this case the “healer” is misrepresenting the truth and therefore his “power” is not from God as God is always truthful.

I don’t know how to reach your friend because I don’t know why he values this man, but I would start by asking your friend more questions, why does he value this person, upon what does he base his confidence in the healer? I would ask him if Eve’s confidence in the serpent was well placed because she saw the miracle of it speaking? When Jannes and Jambres threw their staffs down to counterfeit Moses miracle did that mean the priests of Egypt were to be trusted (2Tim 3:8)?

I would also pray that God will open your friend’s mind to discern the truth and expose this man as a fraud to the truth. Does your friend value scripture? If so it might be helpful to explore what the Bible says about human mortality and expose that the dead cannot communicate and thus this man is not working with God’s power.

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.