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Hebrews 2:1-4 (ESV):

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Does the use of past tense indicate that signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit were something from the past, useful at some point to authenticate the preaching of the gospel, but now no longer necessary, and thus, obsolete?

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    So if something happened in the past, you immediately think it can never happen again? I don't think it's possible to do proper exegesis of a recipe book with that mindset, let alone scripture. The Ethiopian eunuch was converted so that's it, no more conversions of Ethiopian eunuchs are possible?
    – Robert
    Sep 7 at 19:09
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    Has the Lord ceased to declare such great salvation ? Is He declaring no -or another- salvation now ? Has the attestation of this salvation by human beings, from one to another, also ceased ? Are we declaring no -or another- salvation now, to one another ?
    – Lucian
    Sep 7 at 20:06
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    I am strugglong to understand this repeated line of questioning and the constant doubting of the work and function of the Holy Spirit, as though He went on vacation after the first century.
    – Dottard
    Sep 7 at 21:01
  • @Dottard - I'm just playing "devil's advocate" for the cessationist position. This is one of the passages they commonly bring up to justify their views. Of course, I'm not a cessationist, myself. Sep 7 at 21:09
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    That is OK. The cessationist position is extremely tenuous and (in my experience) based on an urgent need to justify the dead situation in their respective communities rather than on Bible data.
    – Dottard
    Sep 7 at 21:14
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Hebrews 2:1-4 is a discussion about the veracity and authority of what has already occurred, namely -

  • The message of salvation brought by Jesus was NOT a false message because it was confirmed by signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • Jesus was NOT a false Messiah because, by extension, His work was affirmed by God through signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit

Therefore, what we believed and preached was true. Obviously, the language is in the past tense because Hebrews was written after Jesus life on earth!!

The logical extension to this is, what we believed is true, then we can go on and continue to believe these things. This says nothing about any discontinuance of such activity.

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  • Well said. Keep it simple. Because such logic would also imply that “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution“ has ended as well.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 10 at 14:22
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Berean Literal Bible Hebrews 2:

2 For if the word having been spoken by angels was unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3how shall we escape, having neglected such a great salvation, which, having received a commencement [i.e., first] declared by the Lord, was confirmed

This is the main verb:

ἐβεβαιώθη (ebebaiōthē)
Verb - Aorist Indicative Passive - 3rd Person Singular
Strong's 950: To confirm, ratify, secure, establish; pass: I guarantee. From bebaios; to stabilitate.

to us by those having heard, 4 God bearing

συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος (synepimartyrountos)
Verb - Present Participle Active - Genitive Masculine Singular
Strong's 4901: To unite in bearing witness, sanction. From sun and epimartureo; to testify further jointly, i.e. Unite in adding evidence.

This present participle must be read with respect to the main verb's aorist.

witness with them both by signs and wonders, and by various miracles and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to His will.

The confirmation was in the aorist past and the bearing is associated with that aorist past.

Does the use of past tense in Hebrews 2:4 indicate that signs, wonders, miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit had ceased?

No, not necessarily, just because it is in the past, it does not necessarily imply that it does not carry to the present or the future.

OP: the use of past tense indicate that signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit were something from the past, useful at some point to authenticate the preaching of the gospel

Right, especially at that time.

What is the implication today?

Today, we can read these signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit from the gospel texts, so that we can believe in the great salvation on faith. We should not demand a repetition of these signs to believe.

John 20:

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Does this mean no more signs and wonders today?

No, not at all. It only means that signs and wonders had attested Jesus' great salvation work back then. We should not demand a re-run of the same.

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  • The 'bearing witness' is related to the confirmation (in the past). The whole (relevant) text reads spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders ... etc Was confirmed ... God also bearing ... are all in the past. There is nothing present (or future) in this particular text. One must seek elsewhere to support a continuance.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 7 at 17:58
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    Right, I'm working on the modification now :) Thanks.
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 7 at 18:10
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While Hebrew 2:1-4 is about the past, it does not specifically state anything ceasing. There was something significantly different about the signs of Jesus' miracles: sight to a man born blind and Lazarus raised after being dead for four days.

The passage in 1 Cor 13 is the only one I know of mentioning the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceasing.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes [ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ τὸ τέλειον], the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:8–13, ESV)

"When the perfect (τὸ τέλειον) comes is when the gifts of the Spirit cease. Some claim "the perfect" is the Bible and "when" is the completion of the New Testament canon. This interpretation has a major problem. While the Scriptures are inspired and the revelation complete, can we say we "know fully?" If so, why do we have this hermeneutics site? Also, "Face to face" seems you imply seeing Jesus face to face. This means in one's presence in Hebrew. Thus, most interpret "when the perfect comes" to mean when we get to heaven, or more accurately, the New Jerusalem.

Senses of the adj. τέλειος, α, ον as used in the New Testament:

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  • Oh I misread that. Well said. Also thanks for the chart very interesting and new to me
    – Al Brown
    Sep 10 at 14:33

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