In 2009 we’re going to be releasing my new book, Christianity in Crisis 21st Century, and in that vein I want to address something a lot of people ask me about. You hear the mantra over and over again, “By His Stripes you are healed.” You hear this repeated breathlessly by Christians; however, these words extracted from Isaiah 53:5 focus on spiritual rather than physical healing.
A quick look at the context makes it crystal clear that Isaiah had spiritual rather than physical healing in mind. Christ was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed. Peter in context builds on this when he says, “He Himself borne our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24).
While healing for the body is not refereed to in Isaiah 53:5, it is referred to it in the verse immediately preceding it. In context, Isaiah writes, “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted.” Physical healing here is not only clear in context but it’s affirmed by the gospels where it is given a very significant clarification or qualification.
We read in Matthew 8:16-17, “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to Him, and He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” In other words, the healing here was fulfilled during the ministry of Jesus Christ, and does not guarantee healing today.
One final note, in a very real sense, Christ’s atonement on the cross does extend to physical healing. It is in this sense there one be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev 21:4); however as the apostle Paul points out we hope for what we do not yet have and we wait for it patiently (Rom. 8:25). In the meantime, we’ll all experience sickness and suffering. Indeed all those who live before Christ returns will all die of their last disease. The death rate is one per person and were all gonna make it.