There has always been some dis-ease among scholars and teachers about the whole issue of what is called the “occult” in the Bible. The idea of Moses staff for instance, is a sticky issue because the miracles that Moses and Aaron did are considered the acts of God. The priests of Egypt were able to reproduce many of the “miraculous” things that Moses staff accomplished which means that there must be some power out there which contends with God. That power can be learned and exercised by folks if they study and become “adept, is the historical idea of the mystics. Yet equally troubling to some is the idea that the disciples could do what Jesus did as far as the “miraculous” was concerned up to certain limits, and that Jesus said they, and we, would do even more. John 14:12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Then there is the interesting question of why miraculous things happened in the first place. The devil tempted Jesus to do miraculous things to get a following and Jesus refused. Herod wanted to see Jesus do miraculous things and he refused. Some kept asking Jesus for a “sign” and he said that the only sign he would give them was the “sign of Jonah”. I happen to believe that Jesus healed and raised the dead and fed the hungry because that is what he is, Divine Mercy. Yet some think that Christ did these things to bring people to faith and yet in his earthly life that did not happen. He says something to that effect in the verse before John 14 12 – Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you, I do not speak on My own. Instead, it is the Father dwelling in Me, performing His works. 11Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me— or at least believe on account of the works themselves.”
There are the troubling reports, at least the disciples thought they were troubling, that people who were not following Jesus were performing miracles in his name and they tried to stop them. That happens in Mark 9. Jesus defends the practice. In Acts 19 we have this hilarious incident described – 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. This is hilarious stuff and a bit confusing.
But as funny as it is there is a very serious issue raised about occult practices and esoteric knowledge and getting power to do supernormal things that kick off the modern world and set us on a path toward what some call “enlightenment” and others call the long march toward the beast and the apocalypse. The rise of anti-Christ in the Bible according to the new Testament was going on already in the New Testament but it was “occult” meaning hidden. It took a few centuries for it to become “in your face” in the Western world. It is a historical roller coaster and it is all around us. More on this later.