“Stripes,” (Isaiah 53:51 Peter 2:24) in the language of the King James Version of the Bible, and in some  others, means “wounds,” as seen in more modern translations such as the New  International Version. These stripes were administered by whipping the bare  backs of prisoners whose hands and feet were bound, rendering them helpless. The  phrase “by His stripes we are healed” refers to the punishment Jesus Christ  suffered—floggings and beatings with fists that were followed by His agonizing  death on a cross—to take upon Himself all of the sins of all people who believe  Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No  one comes to the Father except through me” (John  14:6).

The whips used were made of braided leather, with pottery  shards and sharp stones affixed to the ends, which tore open the flesh of the  prisoner with each cruel swing of the whip. When we picture this terrible,  inhumane form of physical punishment we recoil in horror. Yet the physical pain  and agony were not all Jesus suffered. He also had to undergo the mental anguish  brought on by the wrath of His Father, who punished Him for the sinfulness of  mankind—sin carried out in spite of God’s repeated warnings, sin that Jesus  willingly took upon Himself. He paid the total price for all of our  transgressions.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter  wrote, “He 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.” In  Isaiah 53, Jesus’ future life on earth was foretold in the clearest of terms, to  include his eventual torture and death: “But He was pierced for our  transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought  us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds (stripes) we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter  2:24).

Although these two verses are central to the topic of  healing, they are often misunderstood and misapplied. The word “healed” as  translated from both Hebrew and Greek, can mean either spiritual or physical  healing. However, the contexts of Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2 make it clear that  they are referring to spiritual healing, not physical. “He 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). The verse is referring to sin and righteousness, not sickness and  disease. Therefore, being “healed” in both these verses is speaking of being  forgiven and saved, not being physically healed.