The mantra “by his stripes we are healed” is repeated endlessly in Christian circles. However, these words extracted from Isaiah 53:5 focus on spiritual rather than physical healing.
First, a quick look at the context makes it clear that Isaiah had spiritual rather than physical healing in mind: Christ “was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 nkjv). Peter built on this understanding of spiritual healing when he wrote, “[Jesus] himself bore 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).
Furthermore, while healing for the body is not referred to in Isaiah 53:5, it is referred to in the verse immediately preceding it. There Isaiah wrote, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). Physical healing here is not only clear in context, but it is also affirmed by the Gospels where it is given an important qualification:
“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to [Jesus], 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’” (Matthew 8:16–17). Thus, the healing Isaiah spoke of was fulfilled during the ministry of Christ, but his prophecy does not guarantee healing today.
Finally, I should note that in a real sense Christ’s atonement on the cross does extend to physical healing. One day, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). However, as Paul pointed out, “We hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25). And as we wait, we will all experience sickness and suffering. Indeed, those who live before Christ returns will all die of their last disease—the death rate is one per person, and we’re all going to make it!
“For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” Says the Lord of hosts,
“That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.”
Malachi 4:1–2 NKJV
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009).
***Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming. When available we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***