SUPERNATURAL INFLUENCES

 

ANGELS

What was the purpose of angels before the creation of man?

                Here are some of the things that angels do--some of them took place before men were created:
They praise God (Psalm 148:1-2; Isaiah 6:3). 
They worship God (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:8-13). 
They rejoice in what God does (Job 38:6-7). 
They serve God (Psalm 103:20; Revelation 22:9). 
They appear before God (Job 1:6; 2:1). 
They are instruments of God's judgments (Revelation 7:1; 8:2). 
They bring answers to prayer (Acts 12:5-10). 
They aid in winning people to Christ (Acts 8:26; 10:3). 
They observe Christian order, work, and suffering (1 Corinthians 4:9; 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12). 
They encourage in times of danger (Acts 27:23-24). 
They care for the righteous at the time of death (Luke 16:22).
                *Note: This is a list that has been helpful to me when I studied angels many years ago (because I was just plain curious). I did not write it off the top of my head.

Do we have any idea what angels look like?

                Since they're not physical creatures, it seems almost inapplicable to ask what they would look like. But angels can take physical form. Many times in the Bible they appear as people (like the angels in Genesis 18 and 19 who look like men). Sometimes they just appear as otherworldly beings (like the angels (Matthew 28:2-4). Not all heavenly creatures have the same appearances it seems (Isaiah 6:1-3; Revelation 4:6-8).
                I think the only thing we can say with certainty is that when men see angels in supernatural splendor, they are terrified and even men like the apostle John can be mistaken and want to worship the angel, not realizing that angels are God's servants like we are, and God is infinitely more awesome (Revelation 19:10). 
                My guess: angels do not look like blonde, Caucasian, female hair models in bathrobes with colorful halos and cute little wings; and I certainly don't envision little babies with bows and arrows. Those just don't evoke terror or worship from me. If anything, I feel the opposite.

 

Can angels still turn away from God?

                Nothing in the Bible indicates one way or another, actually, so there's no concrete answer to give on that.
If I had to guess, my feelings make me want to say "no" simply because Scripture describes angels and demons as two distinct sides, and there's never a middle ground and never a mention of being able to convert from one to the other (besides the original rebellion of Satan and the demons).
                But if I came at it logically, I'd say it is possible, but just so ridiculous of a notion that no angel would choose to turn away. After all, once they saw what happened to Satan and his forces, and now that they know exactly how badly they're going to fail and suffer punishment for eternity, what angel would give up paradise and glory with God to gain hell and condemnation? I'm thinking it's possible, but it'll never happen. That, of course, is only my personal opinion. As stated above, the Bible doesn't remark on that.
                Here's a longshot, but theologically, angels in heaven are regarded as "elect" (or sovereignly predestined for heaven) in 1 Timothy 5:21. Now, the implication of that seems to say that God has foreordained the eternal security of some angels in heaven, and those that were not foreordained are the ones that have fallen. I'm sure someone might point to a verse like this and use it to claim an answer to your question, saying "no, it is not possible for angels to turn away since they have been predestined; it is no more possible for them to turn away than it is for human beings to opt out of God's sovereign election."
                That's a worthy argument and I don't find it faulty, but I don't think it's necessarily a concrete answer. Since angels don't get saved, the term "elect" would apply differently to them than to human beings. I think it's possible that "elect angels" is simply a term that can be contrasted with "fallen angels"--much like saying "God's angels" versus "Satan's angels." But the theological weight seems to side more on the prior argument that "elect" denotes God's sovereign selection and security of some angels in heaven. That is, after all, what that word "elect" is supposed to mean, so to shift the logic toward the second argument would require a much larger burden of proof than one's particular preference of interpretation.

 

Can angels appear to us right now?

                I'm sure they have the ability, but I don't know if they have the permission. Angels appear to people when God sent them to do so for very special purposes, almost always tied to the progress of the gospel of salvation being revealed to the world, or leading God's people victoriously in war. 
                Outside of those purposes, I think I'd be extremely skeptical and cautious if I heard someone saying an angel appeared to them. Even the apostle Paul taught us to be skeptical of those kinds of appearances (2 Corinthians 11:14; Galatians 1:8).

 

If demons are fallen angels, can people be "angel-possessed"?

                If demons are fallen angels, then when people are demon-possessed, they are angel-possessed. It just happens to be a fallen angel that possesses them.
                The holy angels do not possess people, since that would go against God's will for us. In fact, a fruit of the Spirit (meaning, a result of holy living) is self-control, not possession (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

DEMONS & EXORCISM

If all souls go to heaven, hell, or purgatory, what are the spirits and demons and ghosts roaming on earth?

                Every human soul goes to heaven or hell. Purgatory is an extra-biblical concept introduced by the Catholic church, based upon a rather inconsistent history of eschatological soteriology.  The spirits/demons/ghosts roaming around on the earth are:

1) movies and television shows.

2) wind and shadows.

3) fears and imagination.

4) angels and demons.

                In the fourth case (which is a very small percentage compared to the number of times we freak out over the first three items), we know that we operate in a world that is also inhabited by unseen spiritual beings. The activity of demons is that of deception and temptation--it is NOT to make strange noises at you at night in your driveway while you're walking from your car to your door so that you hurry to get into the house. They're not that bored or easily entertained. That's actually just childish.  Demons in our world will take advantage popular social values and ideas to prevent you from worshiping the true God and understanding and believing the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  In societies that are more involved with mysticism, they will operate within those boundaries, but less so in societies that are more atheist.

 

If ghosts and demons are real, is it okay that I'm scared of them?

                Ghosts are not real.  Demons are.  You should only be scared of demons if you give them authority in your life. If you are in the habit of giving in to temptation, compromising your faith, ignoring or denying the name of Christ when it threatens your popularity, neglecting to serve the Church, refusing to daily be in the company of believers, and refusing to worship God in song and reading and prayer--if any one or more of those things is your habit--then you certainly should fear demons, because they have power over you. You have forfeited your protection from the Holy Spirit by standing outside God's instruction in holiness.

                If you are in a pattern of growth in righteousness, faith, evangelism, service, fellowship, praise, devotion, and prayer, then demons have nothing on you. James 4:7 says "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." That's how you submit yourself to God, and it's a definite promise that no demonic force will be able to stand against you if you're filled with the Holy Spirit in that way.

                Fear of spirits is normal and not necessarily unhealthy unless it's fed by misinformation.  Most of our fears come from the kinds of things we see in movies and television, or often times the stories that people tell us. I'm sure they want to tell a true story, but stories get stretched and exaggerated for effect, because no one wants to tell or hear a mildly interesting event. We're drawn to sensationalism and extremes. I think the first and best way to prevent this kind of fear from coming up in your life is to stay away from those kinds of influences--especially when they call themselves entertainment. Movies about demons and things are seriously dangerous since they glorify the horrors of what's really true in the spiritual realms. Even after all their Hollywood-ization, they still blur the understanding that we need to have about spiritual concepts.

                Fortunately, if you're secure in Christ--loving Him and pursuing His righteousness--then you're being filled with the Holy Spirit. He alone is greater than any spirit in the world (1 John 4:4). No evil spirit has power over you if you are wholeheartedly following God (Romans 8:31). The only way a demon could overtake you is if you actually let it (James 4:7; Ephesians 4:27). Stand firm in Christ by your love for Him and your full obedience, and no power of Hell can stop you (Ephesians 6:10-18).

 

Can demons physically harm us?

                Yes. Demons are fallen angels. Angels can harm us, so demons are also capable. In the second chapter of Job, Satan causes Job to incur serious bodily harm. Satan is a demon, so there's a pretty clear example.

 

So when people talk about abnormal ghostly behavior, they're just referring to demons? I hear from friends and family all the time about cupboards/windows opening and closing on their own, chairs moving etc. It's just demons? Why are they doing that?

                For the most part, when people talk about abnormal activity, it's usually their impulsive conclusion to an event of which they simply don't fully understand. Cupboards and windows opening/closing on their own--sure, let's pretend that's the work of demons...but like you said: why? Let's instead assume that something else could be causing those hinges to turn--like air pressure. Whenever I open the front door quickly to my house, one of the loose kitchen cabinets opens. That's the result of a change in air pressure that creates a mild vacuum effect and pulls the cabinet open. I'm not saying that's the explanation of your friends' cupboards, but I am saying that there are probably possibilities that s/he hasn't considered. To assume that an event is caused by demons is as unwarranted as to say that it's caused by mice, air, gravity, or a prankster. Do you have evidence and reason to believe any one of those is the cause over another?

                There's no precedence in the Bible of demons performing such useless (and pestering) tasks as moving chairs or closing windows. One would have to go to great lengths to convince us that the powers of hell think that he is such a big deal that they'd redirect their forces at war to go and play with his furniture instead. The better and more reasonable thing to think is: I ought to have my home inspected to find a cause, not make one up.

 

How should we approach the superstition of ghosts and magic?  How should we respond to ghost stories?

                One thing we have to recognize is the presence of the supernatural in the world. There are beings beyond our physical realm that operate among us with causative and manipulative powers to affect nature, tempt people, spread disease, among other things.
We don't know the extent to which they can operate, but it's pretty clear in Scripture that their powers are beyond any weapons we have ever created. In fact, in Revelation 8 and 9, we see seven angels given the authority to unleash the most unimaginable horrors ever wrought upon the earth.  When it comes to ghosts and magic and such, we need to keep our perspective very biblical.

1) Understand that supernatural power exists. Magic is frequently exercised in the Bible and condemned. Divination (magical methods of gaining knowledge supernaturally) was used by many characters who were polytheistic, such as Laban (Genesis 30:27). Joseph even refers to divination when deceiving his brothers about his true identity (Genesis 44:5). Leviticus 19:26 prohibits the use of divination or sorcery. Balaam practiced sorcery (Numbers 24:1). Witchcraft, spellcasting, and seances (the practice of speaking to the dead) are outlawed and called detestable to God (Deuteronomy 19:10-12).  All of this goes to say that God recognized that supernatural power truly operates in the world. Later in the Old Testament, we discover that this supernatural power is not really magic at all, but is the operation of demons who entertain such practices, as it is very effective in keeping people deceived and resistant to believing in God (for example, notice the equivalence of idols, false gods, and demons in Psalm 106:36-38).

2) Not every ghost story or sighting is true. Exercise an element of discernment when listening to such tales. If you watched it on television, then you know that it's a show that's trying to make money. Expect sensational stories and such. If you heard it from a person, weigh heavily on what you know of that person--whether he is given to exaggeration or over-dramatization; whether or not he gets caught up in the moment when he's telling stories; whether or not he is prone to seek attention to validate his self-worth. Chances are, most of the time you hear about ghosts, the information is tweaked beyond accuracy. 

3) Ghosts, magic, all that stuff--they do not actually exist. They are the operation of angelic beings (particularly demons) in the world. Avoid magic users because it is real--it is the satanic power of hell energizing a human being to affect the natural world for unholy purposes. There are no ghosts--there are no persons whose spirits roam the earth instead of entering heaven or hell. There are demons who are in the world, and they can imitate people, but the people are dead and their spirits are either with God in heaven or with Satan in hell and there are no exceptions to that.

 

Can material things (antique furniture, old clothing, etc.) be possessed by demons, evil spirits, and ghosts?

                There's no example of that in the Bible. That idea is very connected to animism though, which is a very common idea in undeveloped parts of the world. Demon-possession is only described biblically as a demon taking control of a living creature. There is never any mention of an angel or demon taking control of an inanimate object.

                For clarity, demons and evil spirits are synonymous. Ghosts are not real, since dead people do not have the power to come back to haunt the earth. Demons can certainly imitate or impersonate, but when a human being dies, his soul is either in the presence of God or in eternal separation from Him. No power besides God alone can change that.

 

You know the people that claim to see ghosts? Do you think they're just seeing demons? Are we able to physically see demons?

                I don't think everyone who sees ghosts is seeing demons. Personally, I think their imaginations are often times responsible for what they're claiming. But if you rule out that possibility, then all you have left is optical illusion or supernatural activity. If it's not illusion, then yes, assuming your spectator's perception is accurate and the perceived target is supernatural, what he sees is demonic.

 

How do I know if someone has a demon?

                I think the only answer that could be given for that would have to draw from biblical examples. I'm sure lots of people might have other opinions, but often times it's hard to separate those from exaggerated tall tales.  If we examine demon-possession in the Bible, we have the following "symptoms:"

1) Uncontrollable violent behavior (Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:4; Luke 8:29; Acts 19:16).

2) Direct opposition to God (Mark 1:23; Mark 5:7).

3) Self-destructive behavior without fear of pain or injury (Matthew 17:14; Mark 5:5).

4) Self-exile and lack of care for hygiene or appearance (Luke 8:27; Mark 5:3).

                So in light of the patterns we see above, demon-possession is not mild, subtle, nor hard to identify. The behavior of everyone who is possessed by an evil spirit is what we'd diagnose today as some sort of mental illness, accompanied by superhuman activity (feats of strength, for example) and lack of human concern for self and sensibility.  If someone has a demon, you will know. Demons can speak and stand in stark opposition to the name of Jesus Christ.

 

If we are confronted by a demon or supernatural event, what should we do?

                I'm sure the circumstances will dictate most of how to react. For instance, if you are confronted by someone who is demon-possessed and is violent, you should probably leave if it puts you in serious danger. If that person is not violent, prayer and laying of hands seems appropriate.  I think the general guideline is this: stay prayerful and missional, repentant and faithful, cautious but fearless for greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world (Psalm 23:4; 1 John 4:4).

 

Is it real when someone who calls himself a prophet touches a person's forehead and that person falls backward?

                Honestly, I don't know. Could it be real? Sure. Have I ever seen it done where I was convinced it was real? Never.
Each time I've seen it done, there was a lot of distracting noise (music, loud prayers) and often times a good push to the forehead (which is hard to notice when distracted, especially because there aren't many nerves in the forehead). Some fall down, some don't. Sadly, when someone doesn't fall, I've seen the pastor push harder or rebuke them.
 
                I've never seen that phenomenon bring about fruit in repentance and obedience, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Many churches I know hold those kinds of revival rallies very often, and I really wish I could say it's made a difference in the lives of their people, but to my eyes it has not. When I look in the Bible, times of revival have shattered societies to their core. They didn't just make people cry for a night and then continue on as if nothing happened. But I need to remember that truth is not based on what I've seen in my Orange County life. Maybe there are churches out there where God's Spirit is knocking people over. Maybe. I just don't think I've ever seen the real thing in my life.

Are movies about exorcism overly exaggerated?

                Yes, movies exaggerate. That should be kind of a "no duh" concept, honestly. Movies aren't really interested in teaching theological information about demons. They're interested in making money by entertaining.  But we find in the New Testament that demons can take over the minds and bodies of persons who invite their influence. That kind of "possession" doesn't happen to just anyone by random, but by those who entertain and foster certain types of temptations or spiritual influences in their lives. That's why James 4:7 reminds us to resist the devil and he definitely will flee from you. The believer has protection. The apostle Paul in Ephesians will refer to it as armor: helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, etc. Also in Ephesians is his instruction: "do not give the devil a foothold" in terms of how you handle situations in your life, particularly with anger in that passage. Responding with godliness is how we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Responding with sinfulness is how we are filled with other spirits.

  

There was a quote from Reader's Digest that said, "Out of the 200 people you see everyday on the street, 2 of them are ghosts."  Is this true?

                I bet whoever wrote that REALLY meant it and REALLY believed it. But ghosts are part of pagan superstition.  Interestingly, though, Hebrews 13:2 reminds believers to be kind to strangers--being hospitable and neighborly--because some of the Old Testament saints (like Abraham and Lot) unknowingly took care of angels in their hospitable practice. The point is not to be kind to people, waiting for the off-chance that one is an angel. But the idea is that God and the angels are pleased by our generous spirits, and sometimes unexpected blessing can follow.

 

SLEEP PHENOMENA

Does God still speak through dreams? 

                You know, the Church is pretty split on that answer. Some say dreams are just dreams, and anything that is predictive is purely coincidental or interpretively forced to sound so. Others say that God can speak to us in our dreams as one of the ways He gently communicates to His people.  And just to be very clear, when I'm talking about "dreams", I mean the things we see and hear while we're asleep. I'm not talking about dreams in any other sense, like "My dream is to be a rock star." I'm using the word the same way it's used in Job 33:15.

                The Bible has many undeniable instances of dreams where God speaks to people, both in the Old Testament and the New. He gives Joseph dreams of the future in Genesis 37. He speaks to Jesus' adoptive father Joseph in a dream in Mathew 1:20. These God-given dreams in the Bible usually had the purpose of either warn someone or prophesy. 

                Now, Ecclesiastes 5:3 informs us that dreams come when there are many concerns in our lives. It's normal for us to dream of things that we've been thinking about. Often times we'll dream about the stuff we just talked about or went through during the day.  And it's not unusual to dream about something you're worried about or excited for or whatever else is occupying much of your thought and emotion. In 5:7 we also see that much of our dreaming is actually meaningless. They're not always significant. My dream about building a go-cart with my landlord really isn't important. Most dreams are like that...you know, pure craziness. jk.

                What's strange though is that NOWHERE in Scripture does it indicate that prophetic, predictive dreaming is normative for God's people. No verse tells us to expect or wait for this manner of communication from God. No instruction is given on knowing whether it is or isn't from Him. That kind of lack of attention should actually point us to concluding that it is NOT a manner in which God normally communicates to us, especially since the two purposes of dream (prophecy and warning) are both fulfilled now that Scripture is complete. Prophecy is closed in terms of declaring future judgment (Revelation 22:18), and no warning is now necessary since the Bible is sufficient for our understanding of sin and repentance and righteousness. So in this sense, I'm very inclined to say that God does NOT speak to us in dreams the same way He did in the Bible. Not at all.

                However, I do think God speaks to us in dreams in a milder sense. I've known people who were urged in a dream to contact an old friend and ask if anything was wrong and needed prayer--and it turned out that person desperately needed someone to talk to. My own wife, actually, had a dream that we were married and I was a pastor...and this happened before I knew who she was, while I was working as a stuntman during college, having only been committed to Christ for 1 year. I've met a Muslim man who had a dream where a man told him to go to America to find him, and when the man did, he accidentally walked into a missionary seminar on how to preach the gospel to Muslims, and there he accepted Christ because the picture of Jesus was the man who spoke to him in his dream! Crazy stuff, right?

                My conclusion: God doesn't speak to us in dreams the same way He did in the Bible. He doesn't give us new and novel instruction. What He might be saying to us in some of our dreams will always be simply a reiteration or application of what we know to be true in the Bible. God is a living and active God who is not mute, and He has spoken with finality in His Word, but I'm under the impression that He continues to gently nudge us at times in our dreams.

 

Can you give an explanation for sleep paralysis?  Does it have anything to do with faith?

                Sleep paralysis is really the flipside of sleepwalking. In sleepwalking, your body is awake but your mind is still sleeping. In sleep paralysis, your mind wakes up, but your body isn't quite there yet. You're still in a semi-sleep state where your imagination is running wild because your brainwaves are emulating dreaming. This is why it's easy to see lots of strange things or sense presences during this time.
                Can sleep paralysis be some kind of demonic activity? Maybe, but I just really doubt it. It doesn't do anything to you except make you pray, which is the opposite reaction that demons would want you to have.  On the other hand, I can see how that kind of a private, oppressive phenomenon can scare a person out of spiritual involvement.  In those cases, it seems totally valid that the enemy is making an attack.  Ultimately, though, if it happens to you, you can always maneuver yourself through it by praying to God and simply waiting for it to pass.  No fear should seize us, since God is more powerful than any demon.

 

 

OCCULT & PSYCHICS

Am I innately corrupt if I have an obsession with squick, nightmare fuel, body horror, occult stuff, etc.?

                Of course you are. Aren't we all? Everyone has his/her own particular inclination toward error, selfishness, wickedness, or addiction. Everyone is sinful by nature, and no one is righteous by essence (Romans 3:10-11, 23).  I can understand your fascination with the occult. I had a history with that too, not just for entertainment, but through religious exploration. Nothing I can say is going to make that fascination go away--I still bear it inside me too. But you have to make a very important decision:

                What you fill yourself up with is what will naturally flow out of you. If you fill yourself up with darkness, then even the best of what you can offer to people will be sourced from those kinds of thoughts and motives (Matthew 6:22-23). That's why it's our godly call to have our minds set on the things of heaven--not of earth, and certainly not of hell, nor anything related to those two--for true repentance and transformation to take place (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8-9). 

                The things that you delight in will display where you find goodness and gratification. It's simply not compatible to love the Lord if you also love the things He hates. The interest and fascination might always be inside you, but it's your choice whether to live by the sinful nature or by the Spirit, but you cannot choose both (Galatians 5:16-17). 

                Know that there is reward in denying yourself and taking up your cross and living as Christ. If you delight yourself only and fully in Him, you'll see a life that is fulfilled and satisfied (Psalm 37:4) no matter what earthly circumstances you're in. A loyal embrace of the occult (and the affiliated things you've mentioned) is a clear sign of unrepentance of the heart. No matter how many Bible studies you learn and prayer meetings you attend, it all comes down to nothing if in the end you will not turn away from sin (and fascination or entertainment from sin), be crucified with Christ, and live in newness of the Spirit who enables you to overcome these things.

 

What do you think of Baba Vanga?

I don't see her as anything more exciting than Acts 8:9-11 or 16:16-18.

 

There's a lady who predicted everything correctly so far and she predicts that humans will someday communicate with God, achieve immortality, contact aliens, and the earth will one day die but humans won't because we will be living on Mars.  Can you explain this?

                Do you know this lady?  How do you know she predicted everything correctly?  Do you have a compiled list of all her predictions that was published before any of them took place so that we know that none of the predictions were removed?  Are there any predictions that have not yet taken place? Are the predictions in clear, specific language or figurative and open to interpretation?
                From what it sounds like, she has not predicted everything correctly so far, since humans do not communicate with God in the manner that seems to be implied above, and aliens have not been contacted, and we don't live on Mars.  Given that you have at least three HUGE predictions that aren't anywhere near fulfillment, what makes you say she's predicted everything correctly so far? The "so far" concerns me, because it just means that if she's been wrong, she can just back up and say, "No, I'm not wrong. It just hasn't happened yet. I'm totally correct...so far."

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS  

I've heard a story where my friend claims to have said that after her grandfather's death, a butterfly landed on their family photos and sat on the faces of the family members. Do you think that there is a spiritual connection between those two?

                No. That would be my default answer, until there is something compelling and convincing--beyond that of convenient coincidence--that speaks otherwise. That actually ends my response to this question, but I added a second section below just to be fun.
                Based on my experience with movies (again, I'm just saying this for fun; it's not a theological answer!), I think all of the following would have to be addressed:
                1) There would need to be a reason for this event. Butterflies are not sent simply to make us wonder if this is important. Is some message meant to be given? What is the deceased trying to tell the family?
                2) Butterflies would have to have had some kind of connection with the deceased or the deceased's family. Were butterflies a symbol of something significant in their lives? Is the butterfly a significant symbol of something in the afterlife?
                3) Death should not be able to stop the butterfly phenomenon, since it is the deceased who is causative to this event. After that butterfly has died, if another takes it place, then there's something going on, as long as the photos are not covered in nectar. 
                4) Physical limitation should not be able to stop the butterfly phenomenon. Even if you close all the doors, keep them shut, and encase the photos in glass boxes, you should still see a butterfly there every morning (or whenever the butterfly appears).
                5) There would need to be some condition that would end the butterfly phenomenon. Does the family simply need to realize or do something (besides kill the butterfly)?

 

 Do you believe in healing miracles?  I have trouble with this because of televangelists.  Isn't healing by faith, not sight? 

                I know God heals, and I know God heals miraculously, and I know God heals miraculously even today. But that doesn't mean I think big church events where people line up to get healed by some guy who claims to have a gift of it is legitimate. James 5:13-20 instructs us to pray faithfully, righteously, with integrity, corporately, and confessionally if we want to see real healing happen. That's very different from dramatic, televised, pastor-centered, fevered hype.
                If your judgment is biblical, charitable, humble, and motivated with a love for God and for your neighbor (yes, even the one you're judging) then you are doing it right. That kind of judgment is the product of growing in the understanding of God's mercy, exercising it in self-sacrifice, and living conformed to Christ instead of the world (Romans 12:1-3).

 

What is stigmata? Is it real?

                Stigmata is the term to describe when a person's body exhibits the same wounds that Christ received for his crucifixion. This includes 5 major points: both hands, both feet, and his side. There have been tons of claims of stigmata, many of which were falsified. A bunch of them were self-inflicted in attempts to gain fame and popularity.

                I guess Galatians 6:17 is one of the kinds of verses a person might use to think that a believer can somehow inherit the wounds of Christ, but the apostle Paul is speaking figuratively there in saying that he suffers for his faith just as Christ suffered. He's not talking about evidencing the same nail marks; he's saying that he's following Christ's pattern of being persecuted for righteousness--a point that Jesus predicts for all his disciples many times (for instance, John 15:18-20).

                If wounds appeared on believers' bodies, that would mean that the work of Christ wasn't finished on the cross and that it wasn't Christ ALONE who bore the marks of our sin on his body. Isaiah 53:5 states clearly for us that it is by His wounds that we are saved--not that by His saving us we are wounded.

 

Can there be prophecy still going on today?

                The meaning of prophecy is somewhat unclear these days.

                If you mean prophecy as in the declaration of God's judgment and will, spoken by direct revelation and divine authority from God toward a wayward people, then no, that kind of prophecy does not still exist. Those prophets were means by which God spoke His Word to an illiterate, ancient oral culture. Deuteronomy 18:14-22 instructs us to put these kinds of prophets to death if they are ever wrong--after all, God is never wrong, so if they were ever His true messengers, they wouldn't be wrong either.

                If you mean prophecy as in the declaration of God's will, inspired from Scripture but spoken publicly, then the better word for that is "preaching" instead of "prophecy." That is God's primary means of transmission of divine instruction to people.

                If you mean prophecy as in the declaration of divinely-received information that was otherwise unknown to the speaker, usually spoken in the context to teach, rebuke, correct, or encourage someone in need, then you're going to get a mixed opinion on this in the church. Some think this is superstition or false prophecy. Others think it's God's way of applying His general instruction (as received in Scripture) to specific situations (namely, the recipient's life circumstances).

                Different churches have different opinions on this, though the general majority recognize its possibility and also its scarcity. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 instructs us not to dismiss prophecy as a whole, but to test it with Scripture. That means prophecy still existed during the time that the New Testament was being written, and there's no indication in Scripture to tell us that prophecy was going to phase out. But what is certain is that no prophecy is in higher authority than the Bible. See also 1 John 4:1 and 1 Corinthians 14:29, two other instances where prophets are acknowledged, but subject to scriptural scrutiny and discernment.