Category Archives: Gospel

Is the Number of Stars Definite or Indefinite?

a2218_hstkelly

And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1:17)

Is the number of stars definite or indefinite? I recently posted that question my Facebook status, and I was completely unprepared for the firestorm of controversy that seemingly innocuous question would raise. The question, to me, seems simple enough. I have identified a subject – the number of stars – and offered an either-or response.

One person responding to the question suggested that the number of stars is indefinite. Certainly from man’s perspective that is true. There is no way for us to ever know the exact number of stars. There are billions of galaxies in our known universe, and each is composed of billions .of stars. Such numbers are staggering. And then there is that outside possibility that new stars are being “born” regularly. That has never been observed, and it is based solely on very questionable evolutionary theories – more on that later.

But from God’s perspective, the number of stars is definite. The psalmist says, “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names” (Psalm 147:4). The Hebrew word translated “telleth” (tells) is mânâh and it means to “weigh out, to allot, or to enumerate” and so could be translated as “to number.” By this we know that God keeps a complete inventory of the stars. He “calls” them – Hebrew qârâ’, which means “to call out to” or “to address” each individual star by name. Well, one might say, God could still be creating stars, and He would still know the number each time He creates a new one. That is also true. Jesus says that the very hairs of my head are numbered (Matthew 10:30). God knows exactly how many hairs on my head I started with, the maximum count I had at my zenith, the number of hairs I have lost and He knows my current count now. So, whether God has created new stars since the beginning of creation, or whether the number has remained static since creation, to God, the number is always definite.

One perceptive individual responded “Yes!” In other words, he was saying it’s both. I wrongly responded “No. It has to be one or the other.” But after thinking about it, he was more right than anyone, considering what I have just explained above. To man, the number is indefinite, but to God the number is definite.

But, as these “conversations” tend to go sometimes, it quickly degenerated into a discussion about whether God was still actively creating or not. Since the subject is “stars” I would suggest that the answer is no; God is not actively creating new stars, or anything else for that matter. I see all those red flags going up right now! Before you burn me at the stake as a heretic, hear me out. I base this on two very basic verses in Genesis. As we read the creation account in Genesis one, we see that at the end of almost every day, God’s assessment of the process was as that “it was good.” This is true of every day of creation except for the second day where earth was, for lack of a better term, a big mud ball; it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough to be called “good” by God. At any rate, we get the feeling that God was pleased with His creative work. Then when the sixth day of creation was completed “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). “Very good” (Heb. ṭôb me‘ôd) meaning vehemently good. Such an assessment coming from a perfectly good Creator implies that it could not be made better than this; it cannot be improved upon. So, when God “made the stars also” (Genesis 1:15), the number of them was perfect by His assessment. Furthermore, we read in Genesis 2:2 that “on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” That He “ended his work” translates the Hebrew word kâlâh, which means “to cease” or “to be finished.” This too seems to have a note of finality – it’s done! In addition to that, it says that “He rested.” God was not tired and in need of a break! The Hebrew word used here is shâbath, which also means to “desist from exertion.” What I get from this, is that when God finished His creative work, He set in motion the laws of physics and nature that maintain the current state of the universe in stasis. This is alluded to in our opening verse (Colossians 1:17): “by [Jesus] all things consist,” i.e., “hold together.” The Greek word translated “consist” is the compound word sunistaō from sun meaning together and histēmi meaning “to stand” or “to abide.” We see that it is God – Jesus – Who is keeping everything from flying apart! We see God’s promise to keep things together following the Flood. God promised, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22); in other words, things will continue as God designed.

There is a danger in seeing this from a deistic perspective and concluding that God, like a divine clock maker just got it all wound up and let it go without further involvement. That would be a very wrong conclusion considering the record of God’s involvement in the affairs of man that are contained in Scripture. Does this mean that God no longer creates? The answer is both yes and no. God is no longer creating the “stuff” of the universe; the first law of thermodynamics confirms that. But He has not stopped creating altogether. Each time a baby is conceived, God has created a whole new soul. God’s involvement in the development of a baby in the womb is beautifully described by the psalmist in Psalm 139:14-16:

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Jesus performed creative acts during His earthly ministry. He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11).  He healed a boy of a fever by reversing the effect of the first law of thermodynamics (John 4:46-54). He healed a paralytic and restored the atrophied muscles to his legs (John 5:1-9). He fed the 5000 (men, not counting women and children) from just two fish and five buns (John 6:1-14). He walked on water suspending the laws of physics that would cause Him to sink (John 6:16-21). He healed a man who had been blind since birth (John 9:1-7). He raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44).  All these He did by just His word. And His greatest creation miracle of all is when He gives new life to the walking dead by the regeneration of the “new birth” (John 3:3; John 1:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Not only does God continue to create in this way, but He will one day create a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1). But new stars, for now, I don’t think so.

For more on star creation listen to Ken Ham’s commentary on the subject: Star Formation – Can it Happen? Also, Answers in Genesis has a couple of short articles on the subject:

Classic Conundrum

Star Formation and Creation

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Shiftless Hired Hand

Brueghel-j_bad-shepherd

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  (John 10:12)

Jesus began this passage in the form of a contrast.  “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (v. 11).  Jesus substantiated this claim by giving His life on the cross for us, His sheep.  In contrast to this is the shiftless hired hand who is more concerned about his wages and his own skin than for the well-being of the flock.

Who is this no account hireling, and how does this illustration apply to us?  A hireling can be compared to a pastor or a teacher who is responsible for the care and nurture of those God has assigned to him.  The New Testament word is “bishop” (episkopos) meaning superintendent or overseer, and it is used only five times.  “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).  “A bishop then must be blameless,” (2 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7).  Jesus is compared to a bishop: “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

The no account hireling, then, would be the pastor or teacher who neglects the responsibility God has given him.  Sadly, there are some who have taken on the responsibility for reasons of self-aggrandizement rather than to serve the flock assigned to them by the Good Shepherd.  These, when trouble comes, shirk their responsibilities and abandon their post, leaving the flock to fend for themselves, often with devastating outcomes.

As Christians, we are all leaders in one way or another – as teachers, parents, friends, workers – we are all given a sphere of influence.  God has given each of us some “sheep” to nurture and defend.  Let us not be found negligent in the responsibility God has given us.

 

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Then Came Sunday

Empty Tomb

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun … And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. (Mark 16:2, 4)

The story of mankind is brief and straightforward despite the naturalistic stories invented by evolutionists. God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). God created man to enjoy fellowship with Him, but man erected a barrier between himself and God by his disobedience to God’s only command: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). That disobedience brought the curse of death – separation from God who is life and the giver of life. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). Holy God cannot abide sin. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” (Psalm 94:20).

From that time on, innocent blood has been shed to cover or atone for the sins of man “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Starting with that first sacrificial lamb slaughtered by the Lamb of God (Genesis 3:21), the innocent pay the penalty for the sins of the guilty. So the sacrificial system began carried on by Abel (Genesis 4:4), Noah (Genesis 8:20) and the law delivered by Moses. But the practice failed to bridge the chasm rived by sin “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

This hopeless situation required a better and permanent solution. This was mankind’s problem and the responsibility fell upon man for resolution. But Holy God cannot be satisfied with anything less a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Only the blood of a perfect, sinless man would do. Where could such a man be found? For, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 12). Such a conundrum was no puzzle for an omniscient God. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). So, God in human form died in the stead of His human creation, and He took upon Himself the penalty that was due to each one of us individually. This is an awesome thing! In all the world religions of man, man sacrifices himself to his god, but the Bible teaches that God sacrificed Himself for man. Is that not incredible!

So Jesus died on the cross at Passover. He became the sacrificial Lamb of God to atone for the sins of mankind. He took on the crushing blow of the curse of death. In His final words He declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), and He died. Death took its greatest prize, but then came Sunday! The curse of death was broken. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Isaac Watts, 1707)

His death on the cross covered our sins once and for all. His resurrection bridged the chasm of death separating sinful humanity from Holy God. He has made the way for you and for me. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). After all He has done for you, the least you can do is follow the way He has prepared. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!”

 

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Preach It!

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them … And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee. (Jeremiah 1:17, 19)

Sometime before the new year, I determined to do my daily Bible reading in my Spanish Bible (Reina-Valera 1960). I completed reading through the New Testament and started reading the major prophets in the Old Testament. I finished reading Isaiah (Isaías) and started reading Jeremiah (Jeremías) this week. When I came to the passage above, I sent it to my pastor as a word of encouragement.

Jeremiah lived in a time when Israel (the Northern Kingdom) had been taken captive by the Assyrians and Babylon was threatening Judah (the Southern Kingdom). These invasions were God’s judgement on the nation for their idolatry. Judah retained a form of religion. They observed all the prescribed feast days and performed all the required sacrifices, but pagan worship and rituals crept into their religious life. Whatever worship they offered God was insincere and offensive to God. His patience exhausted, God said, “… I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 1:16).

So, God assigned Jeremiah to proclaim His Word to the people with the assurance that they would not want to hear the message. God warned that they would fight against him, and indeed they did. Jeremiah was abused, beaten, and cast into a muddy cistern because he tried to warn the people of what was coming. However, God encouraged him, “be not dismayed at their faces … they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee … to deliver thee.” It seems strange that God warns Jeremiah that He will “confound” him if he is dismayed by the angry looks he gets from his audience. The Geneva Bible notes that “God’s vengeance is prepared against them who do not execute their duty faithfully, either for fear of man, or for any other reason.” In other words, God is telling Jeremiah to speak boldly, without fear, or God will allow him to look foolish before his audience.

We live in a time very much like that of Jeremiah’s day. Forget the secular crowd; they make no pretense of religiosity. The church crowd that has adopted the ways of this world and tried to put a religious spin on it will be our opposition. This is Super Bowl Sunday. Think of all the churches that have cancelled Sunday night services so their congregants can stay home and watch the Super Bowl at home. And even if services are not cancelled, how many “Christians” will skip Sunday night services so they will not miss one minute of the Super Bowl?

That is just a small example. What about the churches that have incorporated “critical race theory” and “wokeness” into their practices? How about those churches that for a long-time now have rejected biblical teaching against homosexuality and women pastors? Not only do they embrace the practice but they allow them in their pulpits to preach! If you speak up against such things you will be ridiculed and labeled as a bigot, a racist, a homophobe, intolerant, etc. They will come at you with a vicious vengeance. As God told Jeremiah, “they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee.” Do you believe that? God says, “gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee.”

Paul exhorted his young protégé, Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). This exhortation does not apply only to “preachers.” It is meant for every one of Jesus’ witnesses. Like it or not, if you claim Jesus as your Savior, if you claim to be a Christian, then you are a witness of Jesus Christ, for good or bad. We have a message to proclaim, in season and out of season. In other words, when it is convenient and when it is not convenient. Many will not appreciate the message, especially those who fancy themselves to be religious and are not. The adage is true that “the truth hurts,” and you can expect pushback when you deliver God’s Word (not your word or opinion). However, as God told Jeremiah, “I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.” God is faithful, and He will keep His promise. The question is, do you really believe that? We live in evil days and God does not want us to go into hiding, but to be bold and proclaim His Word in the midst of opposition. HE will deliver us. We need not fear. Preach it!

If you are unsure of where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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Hell

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:23)

No one wants to hear about hell, but someone needs to talk about it. Why not me? I do not write this blog to be popular or become famous. If anything, dealing with topics such as this may win my place in infamy. That is okay; I will take my chances.

Most people largely ignore hell. They ask, “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” Indeed, God sends no one to hell. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). In fact, when God unleashes the full force of His wrath upon the world during the seven-year Tribulation, He provides 144,000 witnesses to preach the Gospel to all nations.[1] He brings two Old Testament prophets from the dead to preach repentance and perform miracles in Jerusalem.[2] If that is not enough, God sends an angel to proclaim the Gospel to all of the world.[3] God does not want to send anyone to hell. He gives mankind every opportunity to avoid that place. (That is the main purpose of this blog.) However, it is up to every individual to make that choice for themselves. God does not force His affection on anyone.

If hell is not real, why would God go to such extremes – like taking on human form[4] to die on a cross for our sins[5] – to keep us out of that place? The Bible speaks more about hell than it speaks about heaven. Yet, some scoffers foolishly mock claiming that they look forward to going to hell so that they can party with all of their friends. Little do they know that they will suffer hell alone. (More on that later.) Still others, while accepting the fact of hell, reject the eternal nature of hell. Obviously, they have misinterpreted the multiple times that Jesus referred to hell as a place of “everlasting fire.”[6] While some may acknowledge that hell is eternal, they believe a sentence to hell is not. They believe that those that go to hell will only spend enough time there to pay for their sins and then cease to exist. However, that amounts to a lot of wishful thinking with no basis in Scripture.

In the Old Testament, “hell” often translates the Hebrew word she’ôl, which is the abode of the dead. Sometimes it is translated as “the grave” or “the pit,” and it is a place of no return. It is not clear to me, but it seems that she’ôl refers to “life after death,” and it could be either bad or good. King David expressed this idea at the death of his son by Bathsheba.[7] When the child was sick, David fasted and prayed unto God for the child’s life, but when the child died, he washed, dressed in his kingly apparel, and ended his fast. When asked about this seemingly odd behavior, David said, “But now he [the child] is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23, emphasis mine). David understood that there was life after death, and his anticipation of that event was not cause for dread; rather, David looked forward to that day.

She’ôl also has a not-so-pleasant side to it. In describing Israel’s reward for idolatry, Moses records God’s plan. “And he [God] said, I will hide my face from them [Israel], I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them” (Deuteronomy 32:20-23, emphasis mine). While the language may be figurative (I take it literally), it describes the extent of God’s wrath against sin, and it is not pretty.

We see, then, that she’ôl, the abode of the dead, has both a good and a bad side. Jesus confirmed this idea when He recounted the death of a rich man and Lazarus.[8] Some assume that this was one of Jesus’ parables, but a close inspection reveals that Jesus relayed this as an actual account. Lazarus died as did the unnamed rich man, but they ended up in two different locations. Lazarus died “and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried” (Luke 16:22). Albert Barnes points out that “Burial was thought to be an honor, and funerals were, as they are now, often expensive, splendid, and ostentatious. This is said of the rich man to show that he had “every” earthly honor, and all that the world calls happy and desirable.”[9]

That the rich man was buried also expresses the finality of, at least, his earthly life. However, that was not his end. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). “Hell” here translates the Greek word hadēs which is equivalent to the Hebrew she’ôl. Two regions of the abode of the dead are expressed here: “Abraham’s bosom” and “torments.”

“Torments” is what we normally understand as “hell.” Notice that the rich man possessed consciousness. He could see Abraham and Lazarus “afar off.” However, Lazarus seems to be unaware of the rich man’s suffering. It appears that part of the torture of those in hell is seeing those who are enjoying heaven. At the same time, those in heaven remain unaware of those suffering in hell. Heaven would not be so heavenly knowing the fate of friends and loved ones suffering in hell.

Jesus described the rich man’s end as a place of fire. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24, emphasis mine). Some deny the fire of hell, but Jesus never did.[10] Notice that the rich man retains his selfish nature in hell. He dares to ask Abraham to send Lazarus to relieve him of some of his suffering. Later, he asks that Lazarus be sent to preach to his five brothers (vv. 27-28). He does not care about the rest of the lost, only his brothers. Sinners in hell do not change their sinful ways.

Finally, Jesus does not mention others suffering along with the rich man. He appears to be alone and isolated. So much for those who think they will party in hell with their friends. When one rejects God’s free offer of salvation, that one alone bears the responsibility for that choice. It is important to point out that nothing in this account describes the rich man as a particularly wicked or sinful person. Nor does it portray Lazarus as a particularly upright man. However, by implication, the rich man took no thought about God, while Lazarus depended on no one else but God. The rich man counted on his riches and thereby rejected God – not overtly – he probably attended synagogue regularly – but in his attitude of self-sufficiency.

Hell is a real place and the final destination of many. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait [i.e., “narrow”] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, emphasis mine). Sadly, Jesus makes it clear that the majority of people will end up in hell.

Many believe that at “judgement day” their good deeds will outweigh the bad and they will gain access into heaven by their good works. They correctly conclude that their deeds will be judged, but the standard to which they will be evaluated is the perfect, sinless life of Jesus Christ, and all will fall short of that standard. Everyone’s life is recorded in the annals of heaven and everyone will give an account. John the Revelator writes, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works … And death and hell [hadēs] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12, 14-15, emphasis mine). “The lake of fire” is the place we understand as “hell,” and it is eternal.

The question remains. Which way do you choose, the broad way or the narrow way? Do you want to follow the majority on the way to hell or choose the narrow way that leads to eternal life? The choice is yours and yours alone. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). Does that seem narrow? It is! If you are on the broad way with the majority, you can get off of that road to destruction. Please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Revelation 7; 14:1-5

[2]  Revelation 11:1-14

[3]  Revelation 14:6-7

[4]  John 1:14

[5] Philippians 2:5-8

[6]  Matthew 18:8-9; 25:46; Mark 3:29; 9:43-48

[7]  2 Samuel 12:1-25

[8]  Luke 16:19-31

[9]  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible (Published in 1847-85; public domain.)

[10]  Matthew 3:12; 5:22; 7:19; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8-9; 25:41, et al

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