Category Archives: Heaven

Suffering

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

The Sunday school lesson I taught this morning, based in 2 Corinthians 4, asked, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” Who likes to suffer? Who wants to suffer? The title of the lesson congers up all kinds of images of suffering. We might suffer due to a loss of work. We could suffer from loss of health. We can suffer from the loss of a loved one or the breakup of a marriage. We suffer when our children go astray.

Life necessarily includes a certain amount of suffering, and while the manner in which we handle our suffering can produce a testimony that honors God, that is not exactly what Paul had in mind when he penned this passage to the church in Corinth. Paul sets himself as an example of suffering, but not in the way we might think. Let’s examine the passage more closely.

(2 Corinthians 4:7)  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

What treasure to which Paul refers? It is a mystery veiled in the Old Testament to which the Jews were and still are blinded (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). At the beginning of Chapter 4, Paul explains that he has the task of unveiling the mystery (2 Corinthians 4:1) to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The “lost” cannot understand the Gospel because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Of this treasure, Paul says,  “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). He is compelled to preach, “For God, … hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [πρόσωπον – prosopon — in the presence] of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

This treasure is kept in “earthen vessels.” By this Paul is referring to his physical body. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The problem with “earthen vessels” – clay pots – is that they are fragile and easily broken. Consider the Fall. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:6-7). Man sinned resulting in physical and spiritual death and a curse upon God’s perfect creation.

Why place such a great treasure in such weak containers? When submitted to God, these fragile clay pots make is so “that the excellency of the power may be of God.” In that way, God receives the glory “and not of us.” Having this treasure hidden within comes at a cost. Paul, referring to himself as “we,” explains.

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9)  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

These two verses demonstrate that Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A close examination of some key words makes this clear. The word translated “troubled” (θλίβω — thlibo) means to be “pressed, squeezed” – as a grape in a wine press. Yet, Paul is not “distressed” (στενοχωρέω — stenochoreo) meaning “crushed.” He is “perplexed” (ἀπορέω — aporeo) seeming “to have no way out;” “to be at a loss;” “to be without resources,” but not in “despair” (ἐξαπορέομαι — exaporeomai), that is, “to be utterly at a loss; or utterly destitute.” As long as God grants us breath, we can take comfort knowing that God will never abandon us. The psalmist says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

Paul states that he has been “persecuted” (διώκω – dioko), that is. “made to run or flee,” but not “forsaken” (ἐγκαταλείπω — egkataleipo), which means “to leave behind, abandon, desert.” He has been “cast down” (καταβάλλω — kataballo) – “to throw to the ground, prostate.” The implication is to be put down hard with violence, but he’s not been “destroyed” (ἀπόλλυμι — apollumi), that is, “to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; to render useless; to kill.”

(2 Corinthians 4:10-11)  Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.

Paul bears the Gospel (the treasure) in his body – his “earthen vessel.” It is the Gospel is the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ outlined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The end to which he bears the Gospel is “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our [his] body.” The word “manifest” (φανερόω) means “to render apparent;” “to make actual and visible, i.e., realized;” also “to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown” That “mystery” hidden from the Jews – God’s salvation through Jesus Christ – reveals itself in Paul’s life as it should in the life of every true believer.

The words “live” and “life” are related. The Greek word translated “live” (ζάω – zaō , verb) means “to have true life and worthy of the name;” the “essence” of living. Like was the Greek word translated “life” (ζωή – zōē, noun) means “the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God.” Jesus said, “… I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

There is another Greek word translated “life” that expresses life to a lesser degree. The Greek word βίος means “the present state of existence,” biological life. This is just mere existence. Jesus spoke of this kind of life in His “Parable of the Sower” also known as the “Parable of the Soils” (more appropriately). Comparing the soil to people, Jesus explained,  “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). These people did not have ζωή (zōē), but Paul did.

Still, he says that he is “alway delivered unto death.” The “death” to which he speaks is not the cessation of physical existence. He referred to death to self (Romans 6:4-5; 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3), death to sin (Romans 6:1-2; 8:10; 1 Peter 2:24), and death to the law (Galatians 2:19). Paul summed up his attitude toward his “suffering” like this, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul dies “for Jesus’ sake.”

Verses 10 and 11 repeat the same ending phrase: “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body/mortal flesh” We “suffer” so that the “life of Jesus” in us may be apparent to the lost world around us.

(2 Corinthians 4:12-13)  So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak (quoting Psalm 116:10).

By putting his life to “death,” Paul helps others to find “life.” One commentary put it like this: “The “death” of Christ manifested in the continual “perishing of our outward man” (2Co_4:16), works peculiarly in us, and is the means of working spiritual “life” in you. The life whereof we witness in our bodily dying, extends beyond ourselves, and is brought by our very dying to you.” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary)

(2 Corinthians 4:14)  Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.

The One who raised up Jesus will do the same for us. Death is not the end. We have a hope beyond. We are joined to the “living” Christ. Paul is dead to the things of this world because he is joined to Christ. We should follow his example!

(2 Corinthians 4:15)  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

Paul’s suffering is for the sake of the church; it is for their benefit – “for your sakes.” The Greek word translated “abundant” (πλεονάζω – pleonazō) means “to do, make or be more, that is, increase.” The word “grace” (χάρις – charis) is “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech.” The result of this “abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many “redound” (περισσεύω – perisseuō), that is, “to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous” “to the glory of God.”

(2 Corinthians 4:16)  For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Through his “suffering,” Paul presses on – “we faint not.” Paul expresses this sentiment when he writes to the church in Philippi. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Not dissuaded by his circumstances, Paul notes that “though the outward man, [i.e., the physical body] perish, the inward man [i.e., the spirit] is renewed” (through the power of Jesus Christ in us).

(2 Corinthians 4:17)  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Our suffering is small compared to our eternal reward. Our time on earth is but a nanosecond in the light of eternity. The “suffering” our Lord asks us to bear is but a “light affliction.” Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

(2 Corinthians 4:18)  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Everything in this life is temporal. What lies beyond in the unseen future is eternal. The writer to the Hebrews reminds is that following the Lord requires faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Paul’s example of “suffering” had more to do with self-denial for the furtherance of the Gospel. Indeed, Paul suffered physical and mental anguish and material deprivation. His list of sufferings was long.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, emphasis mine).

After all of this, he concludes,

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:12-13)

The answer to the question, “How can I honor God in my suffering?” is to die to self, live for God in all that we do, and trust Him to supply all your needs – especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel so that others may live. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

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A Soul

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

What comes to mind when you think of “a soul”? For most of my life, I imagined a soul as some ethereal, intangible, wispy inhabitant of our body that occupied our being that then departed when the physical body died. I suppose most people look at a soul in much the same way. Dictionary.com defines a soul as: (1) the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part; (2) the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come; (3) the disembodied spirit of a deceased person; (4) the emotional part of human nature; the seat of the feelings or sentiments; (5) a human being; person (emphasis mine).[1]

That last definition, I think, is the biblical understanding of “a soul.” In the Genesis account of the creation of man, I envision God (Jesus, in His pre-incarnate form) bending over a mass of reddish clay molding the human form. Scripture records, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “formed” is yâtsar, and it carries the idea of squeezing something into shape; to mold into the desired shape as a potter molds and forms a clay vessel. The idea goes well considering the construction material used – dust.

With the body plan complete, God, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “breathed” and “breath” are related. From the English translation, we can see that the former is a verb and the latter is a noun. The Hebrew words are nâphach and neshâmâh respectively and both mean “a puff.” The word “soul” is also related: nephesh. It means “living creature” and it can refer to either a human being or an animal. Yes, as defined here, animals have “souls” (nephesh); however, they do not possess that special neshâmâh of life “puffed” into humans by God.

This puff of life from God caused God’s mud sculpture to rise and become a living soul with a physical body, mind, and neshâmâh (breath/spirit of life). A triune creature created in the image of God[2] hitherto known as “a living soul.” God is triune in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Collectively we just say, “God.” Man, made in the image of God, is triune in nature: mind, body, and spirit. Collectively, the Bible refers to the unit as “a soul.”

There are many examples where this becomes obvious, but I will keep the list brief. The first example following the creation account comes when Abraham travels to Egypt and tries to pass off Sarah, his wife, as his sister. He tells Sarah, “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13). “My soul” (nephesh) here does not refer to his “spirit.” Abraham feared for his life – his physical life.

Later, when God confirmed His covenant with Abraham, God required that he and all males within his household be circumcised.[3] Disobedience to this command carried a penalty. “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:14). “That soul” (nephesh) refers to the whole person not just his spirit. Interestingly, in the account of Abraham rescuing his nephew Lot and others, the word nephesh is translated “persons” (Genesis 14:21).

Genesis 27 records the account of Jacob “stealing” his brother’s blessing by deceiving his father, Isaac. In the passage, “my soul” appears twice and “thy soul” shows up two times.[4] The meaning in each case is somewhat ambiguous; however it seems clear that its use refers to the whole person. More examples could be cited in Genesis, but other examples will help solidify my point.

Exodus records that “all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls” (Exodus 1:5, emphasis mine). Obviously, this refers to people, not disembodied spirits. Then when God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, God assured him that, “all the men are dead which sought thy life” (Exodus 4:19). The Hebrew word translated “thy life” is nephesh (soul). With regard to keeping the Sabbath, God said, “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Exodus 31:14, emphasis mine). Again we see that “a soul” is a person.

The book of Leviticus offers many examples where the word “soul” (nephesh) refers to an individual. Here is one example: “if a soul touch any unclean thing … he also shall be unclean, and guilty” (Leviticus 5:2). To touch requires a physical body. Regarding the prohibition against eating blood: “No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood” (Leviticus 17:12). Again, it requires a physical body to eat blood.

There are 420 occurrences of the word “soul” in the Old Testament and nearly twice as many occurrences of the Hebrew word nephesh translated in other forms, for example, life, creature, persons, man, mind, et al. In the majority of occurrences, the word refers to the whole person. There is at least one instance in which the word seems to refer to the spirit of one who has died. Of Rachel’s death in childbirth, Scripture records, “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:18). However, we may infer that when the spirit of a person departs from the body, that person is no longer whole, and therefore no longer “a soul.” The “person” is gone; only the shell remains. The soul has departed.

My conclusion is that “a soul” is the entire person: mind, body, and spirit. According to our beginning verse, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4). We all die sooner or later; however, death, in this case, is not merely the cessation of life. This death separates the soul from the Source of Life for eternity. This is the “second death” spoken of in Revelation 20:14-15, “And death and hell 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” (emphasis mine). Jesus warned, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30, emphasis mine). The “soul” – the whole person, mind, body and spirit – that sins shall suffer the eternal consequences of “the second death.”

There is no loss of consciousness in the “second death.” That soul is very much alive and aware of his surroundings. Jesus spoke of such a one whose only sin was self-centeredness.[5] Of course, a self-centered person has no need for God, which is ultimately what landed him in 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, emphasis mine). Because the soul is the whole person, he could feel the flames of hell, and he could see what he had missed. Later on, he has a sense of concern for his five brothers who are still alive, and he requests that Lazarus be sent back to earth to go warn his brothers about this awful place. Hell apparently does nothing to change his self-centered, selfish ways. His concern is only for his brothers and not for the millions of souls in the same condition.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) – mind, body and spirit. In what condition is your soul today? If you are breathing, and reading this blog, and you really don’t know, there is hope, and you can settle it right now. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Soul” – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul#

[2]  Genesis 1:27

[3]  Genesis 17:1-14

[4]  Genesis 27: 4, 19, 25, 31

[5]  Luke 16:19-31

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Making Time Count

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

On Tuesday of this last week, I completed my 69th lap around the sun. The Sunday before, June and I led the last lesson in the Crown ™ Do Well: The Crown Biblical Financial Study.[1] The lesson was on “Eternity,” and one of the questions we were asked to ponder was this: “Estimate the number of days you have left on earth. How does this impact your thinking?” Wow! That is a sobering thought! Psalm 90:10 brings this thought into sharp focus. “The days of our years are threescore years and ten [70]; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years [80], yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” For me, age 70 looms a mere 366 days (2020 is a leap year). And “if by reason of strength” I reach 80 years, that is only 4020 days away (there are three leap years between 2020-2030). For me, at least, that is not a lot of time. However, no one is guaranteed tomorrow; we are all living on borrowed time.

The same psalm, quoted above, offers a prayer to help us think soberly about the time we are given. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Time is a precious asset and to squander it on frivolity[2] is poor stewardship. Frivolity opposes “wisdom.” God gives us all the freedom to “apply our hearts unto wisdom” or to apply our hearts to frivolity. That was heavy food for thought.

Then on Friday, our devotional in Days of Praise: “Redeeming the Time,”[3] by ICR’s founder, Dr. Henry M. Morris brought this thought back to mind. In the devotional, Dr. Morris points out that “time is a very valuable asset, in danger of being lost forever unless it is rescued or redeemed.” It occurs to me that we experience the “present” in nanoseconds.[4] We constantly move from the past into the future, so when we misuse time, that is lost forever. Therefore, the only way to “redeem” time is to redeem it in the “future” toward which we are moving. That requires thought and planning – always.

Dr. Morris further asserts, “If we squander our money or lose our health, there is always the possibility of earning more money or being restored to health, but wasted time is gone forever.”

As I begin my 70th trip around the sun, I want to remember what a precious commodity time is. I what to remember that the time I am given is not mine and it can be taken away from me at any time. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal … But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:19-20, 33). My time belongs to God; therefore I want to invest it wisely in His kingdom. “So teach [me] to number [my] days, that [I] may apply [my] heart unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Notes:


[1]  Crown Financial Ministries website: https://www.crown.org/

[2]  Dictionary.Com definition of : frivolous: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/frivolous

[3]  Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., “Redeeming the Time”: https://www.icr.org/article/11211/

[4]  “No Time Like the Present”: https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/01/18/no-time-like-the-present/

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Faith, Hope, & Love

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Since my car accident at the end of November, I have been faithfully attending therapy sessions to realign my neck and spine. If you have to go, it is a blessing to have friendly people to work with you. Where I go, the therapist’s ages are all about mid-thirties and younger, and they are all very friendly and caring.

Last week a new one showed up at the clinic, and she fit in perfectly with the rest of the crew. One day as I picked up my chart to check out, I noticed an interesting tattoo on the posterior side of her left wrist. Personally, I dislike tattoos, but this one caught my attention. It was an anchor with an unfinished heart above the stock of the anchor. I asked her what it signified, and she said it stood for faith (the anchor), hope (the cross), and love (the heart). I picked up my chart, smiled, and said, “Nice,” and left to start the rest of my day.

At my next appointment, I saw her again, pointed to her tattoo and asked, “And the greatest of these is ______?” She looked at me as if I had two heads, so I clarified. “Your tattoo stands for faith, hope, and love. Of the three, which is the greatest?” She looked at me and then looked at her tattoo and then answered with a question in her voice, “Love?” I asked why, and she said, “because it’s bigger?” I told her that it was from a passage in the Bible, and I quoted, “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). She smiled, took out a pen and scribbled “1 Cor 13 13” inside the heart, and said, “I’ll have to look that up.”

At my next session, I asked her if she had looked up the verse. She confessed that she had been too busy. I pulled out my cell phone that has my favorite Bible app on it. I looked up 1 Corinthians 13:13 for her and let her read it for herself. She was a little confused when she read “charity” instead of “love.” I explained that the Greek word translated “charity” is agapē which is translated as “love” in other parts of the New Testament. The reason the KJV translators used “charity” here is that “charity” explains the nature of agapē more clearly. Charity is a kind of giving or expressing of love that is offered freely without expectation of receiving anything in return. She seemed to appreciate the brief lesson, and I think she gained a better appreciation for her tattoo. (I still dislike tattoos.)

As I left the clinic, I thought about that verse. Why is love the greatest of these three? The verse begins, “And now abideth…” Currently, right now, exist faith, hope, and charity. We need “faith” because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine). John’s Gospel records, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The word translated “believeth” is the Greek word, pisteuō, and it means “to have faith in.” We must have “faith” in Jesus in order to be saved.

Once we have trusted in Jesus for our eternal salvation, then we have “hope” that one day He will return to take us to be with Him as He promised. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). All of this is future, and we have no “hard” evidence that it will come true, but in Hebrews, we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Our “faith” is “substantive,” and we have the evidence of the Holy Spirit within us to confirm the truth of those “things not seen.” That same Spirit assures us that our hope is real.

Then there is “charity” (love). The pages of the Bible are replete with demonstrations of God’s love. John reminds us, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16, emphasis mine). Paul tells us that “charity” (love) never fails. It stands to reason that if “God is love,” then love will never fail. Paul makes it clear that all things will fail, but love will never fail (1 Corinthians 13:8).

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). On the day we enter into our Lord’s presence, there will be no need for faith because our faith will be transformed into reality. There will be no need for hope, for our hope will be realized. However, love will remain as eternal as God Himself. Now remain faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest, because it will outlast the other two, is love.

P.S.

I searched the internet for a picture of a tattoo like the one this young lady had and could not find an exact match. The one I selected for this post was a close match, but I had to do a little “photoshopping” to get it to look right. Notice the unfinished heart. That made me think that the love – even God’s love – that we experience in this life is incomplete. Not until we are in His presence will we experience the completeness of His love. That is something for which to look forward!

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The Soul

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

My twice-brother and I engaged in a discussion a few nights ago concerning the meaning of “the soul.” What is the soul? Most people think of the soul as the spiritual essence of a person. The English dictionary seems to support that view:

noun

  1. the principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.
  2. the spiritual part of humans regarded in its moral aspect, or as believed to survive death and be subject to happiness or misery in a life to come: arguing the immortality of the soul.
  3. the disembodied spirit of a deceased personHe feared the soul of the deceased would haunt him.[1] et al. (emphasis mine)

Our English language (especially American English) has “evolved” considerably since the founding of the United States, so I thought it might be interesting to see how the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defined “soul.” I found the following definition:

SOUL, n.

  1. The spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the christian [sic] system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection.
  2. The understanding; the intellectual principle. The eyes of our soul then only begin to see, when our bodily eye are closing.
  3. Vital principle. Thou son, of this great world both eye and soul.
  4. Spirit; essence; chief part; as charity, the soul of all the virtues. Emotion is the soul of eloquence.
  5. Life; animation principle or part; as, an able commander is the soul of an army.
  6. Internal power. There is some soul of goodness in things evil.
  7. A human being; a person. There was no a soul present. In Paris there are more than seven hundred thousand souls. London, Westminster, Southwark and the suburbs, are said to contain twelve hundred thousand souls.[2] et al. (emphasis mine)

The idea that the soul is the immaterial “substance” or “essence” that animates us enjoys a long history of support, but I think there is more to the soul than that. Normally, the first and second definition listed in a dictionary provides the general understanding of the word. However, in this case, I prefer the seventh definition provided by the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary. It basically says that “the soul” is a human being or a person, and I believe I can show scriptural support for that idea.

The best place to start is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “God,” ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, is a plural noun. We understand God as Triune being – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three persons (we say) in one “Godhead.” We simply say “God,” but we understand His Triune nature.

God created humans according to His image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis mine). All humans bear the “image of God” and share many of His attributes albeit without the “Omni” prefix. It follows that we too possess a triune nature (more on that later).

As we examine the creation account, we see that God created all living creatures by divine fiat, i.e., He spoke them into being. However, He took special care in creating man. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, emphasis mine).

Humans and air-breathing animals possess the “breath of life.” The Hebrew word neshâmâh is defined as: “a puff, that is, wind, angry or vital breath, divine inspiration, intellect or (concretely) an animal: – blast, (that) breath (-eth), inspiration, soul, spirit.”[3] We see in Genesis 7:22 that animals possess the “breath of life.” That phrase is also found in Genesis 6:13 and 7:15, but the Hebrew word for “breath” there is rûach, which means: “wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions): – air, anger, blast, breath, X cool, courage, mind, X quarter, X side, spirit ([-ual]), tempest, X vain, ([whirl-]) wind (-y).”[4] Both neshâmâh and rûach are similar in meaning, but the latter includes the idea of a “spirit.”

To further confuse matters, Genesis 2:7 says that “man became a living soul.” The word “soul” is the Hebrew nephesh, which is defined as: “a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality; used very widely in a literal, accommodated or figurative sense (bodily or mental): – any, appetite, beast, body, breath, creature, X dead (-ly), desire, X [dis-] contented, X fish, ghost, + greedy, he, heart (-y), (hath, X jeopardy of) life (X in jeopardy), lust, man, me, mind, mortality, one, own, person, pleasure, (her-, him-, my-, thy-) self, them (your) -selves, + slay, soul, + tablet, they, thing, (X she) will, X would have it.”  It is not difficult to see that nephesh is related to neshâmâh in that both carry the aspect of “breathing.” However, nephesh includes the physical aspect of the creature.

Both man and animals possess a nephesh. The Hebrew word first appears in Genesis 1:20. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (emphasis mine). The Hebrew words translated “hath life” are nephesh chay (life), or “soul life.” Also, the following verse reads, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “creature” is nephesh. I could give more examples, but I want you to stay with me on this.

We see that both man (humans) and animals have souls – nephesh. What differentiates a human soul from that of an animal is the way in which it was given. Recall earlier that God created animals by divine fiat. He also created them en masse. Man was unique. He created one human couple. He did not speak them into being as he did with the animals. He “formed” man – the Hebrew word yâtsar meaning to mold as a potter forms and shapes a clay vessel. Then God breathed into man His own breath “and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Looking back at the 1828 Webster’s definition of “soul,” the seventh definition becomes clear here. The clay figure on the ground came to life when God breathed into it, and he became a human being, a person, a living soul – made in the image of God, with a triune nature like his Maker.

So, what is the triune nature of man? As I see it, just as God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, man is mind, body, and spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the God, or the Godhead if you prefer. The mind, body, and spirit is the soul. God has a physical body. That body is the Son, Jesus Christ. The other two “persons” of God are immaterial and invisible – the Father and the Holy Spirit. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18, emphasis mine). Likewise, the mind and spirit of the soul are immaterial and invisible, but the body reveals the soul. We have all heard the expression, “The eyes are the windows to the soul;” the eyes are physical, but they often reveal what is “inside.” In summary, the soul is the entire being or person, mind, body, and spirit.

We can know that the soul is more than some nebulous ethereal, intangible animator of our being by the consideration given “the soul” in Scripture. For example, when God called Abraham (Abram) out of his homeland, we read, “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Genesis 12:5, emphasis mine). Those “souls” (nephesh) were not disembodied spirits; they were people. When Abraham went down to Egypt he told Sarah (Sarai), “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee” (Genesis 12:13, emphasis mine). Abram was not thinking of his “spirit being;” he wanted to save his own skin! That nephesh refers to the whole person is clearly demonstrated when Abraham went to rescue his nephew Lot from the marauding kings of the north. “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Genesis 14:21, emphasis mine). The word translated “persons” is the Hebrew word nephesh.

Another part of the nephesh is the “mind.” We find that example when Sarah died, and Abraham negotiated for a plot of land in which to bury her. “And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar” (Genesis 23:8, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “mind” is nephesh.

I could cite many more examples, but these should suffice. The point is that we do not have souls; we are souls. Each soul made in the image of God is a triune being with mind, body, and spirit. For a soul to exist, all three must be present. Take away any one of the three, and the soul (at least in this present life) ceases to exist. A soul is immortal; it exists forever. However, because of Adam’s sin in the Garden, the physical part dies even though the mind and spirit continue; the soul is incomplete. At the end of time, the mind, body, and spirit will reunite for eternity, but not all souls will enjoy the same destiny. Some souls will live eternally in the presence of God; other souls will exist eternally separated from God in hell. Soul, where will you spend eternity? If you have doubts, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Dictionary.com – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/soul

[2]  1828.mshaffer.com – https://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/soul

[3]   Strong’s Definitions: H5395

[4]   Strong’s Definitions: H7307

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High Cost of Admission

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:23)

Another Super Bowl came and went. I did not go, nor did I watch it, but I know the cost of admission was outrageous, even for the cheap seats. I read that the cheapest seats in the upper level, 11 rows from the top in the corner of the end zone, sold for $4900.[1] Undoubtedly, people actually paid the high cost of admission for the “experience,” and I am sure that today they are boasting that it was worth the “sacrifice.” For those willing to shell out that kind of cash, the price of admission was not too high a cost.

The Gospel writer, Matthew, records an account of “one” who came to Jesus asking about the cost of admission to “eternal life.” One would think the cost would be higher than for tickets to the Super Bowl. This one said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). By Jesus’ response, it seems the “young man” (v. 20) was insincere in his query. “And he [Jesus] said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17a). The young man did not recognize that he was in the presence of God. To him, Jesus was just another teacher (meaning of “Master”) and the attribution of “good” provided the incentive for Jesus to affirm what he thought about himself.

Jesus played along; “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17b, emphasis mine). Jesus told him what we wanted to hear. Feigning humility, the young man responded coyly, “Which?” (v. 18) pretending that there might be one he missed. Jesus named off a representative list of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:18-19), and the young man could no longer contain his self-righteousness. “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20).

The young man must have thought Jesus would commend him for his righteousness and say, “You’re good to go! You are more than qualified to inherit eternal life.” Instead, “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21). The “follow me” part by itself was doable. If it got too rough, he could always go back to what he did before. However, selling all of his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor was irreversible. The young man probably inherited all of his wealth and had no idea how to build wealth from scratch. He had probably never worked a day in his life. “Work” was something for peasants, not for him. The price was too high. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:22, emphasis mine).[2]

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23, emphasis mine). The KJV translates the Greek word duskolōs as “hardly,” but what it means is “with great difficulty.” Jesus did not mean that rich people cannot get into heaven. What He did say was that getting into heaven for a rich person is difficult. Why?

Matthew introduced this account with a scene where people (probably mothers) brought their children to Jesus so that He could pray and bless them (Matthew 19:13-15). The disciples rebuked the people for bringing their little urchins to the Lord. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14, emphasis mine). Mark, in his Gospel (probably Peter’s account), records that Jesus was displeased with the action of His disciples. He further adds, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15, emphasis mine). We refer to children as dependents. They are dependent on their parents for food, clothing, shelter, protection, and guidance. They believe what their parents tell them. They trust their parents for everything.

The rich young man was “independent.” His riches provided all that he needed, and, as long as he had his wealth, he was secure. Jesus challenged his source of security. What Jesus basically said was, “I AM all you need. Follow Me.” A child would have followed without question, but this young man chose rather to trust in his many possessions rather than to trust in Jesus. For him, the high cost of admission was too great a price to pay.

“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26, emphasis mine). The disciples were shocked. If someone who follows all of God’s commandments and has been blessed by God with great wealth cannot be saved, then who can be saved? The lesson is simple. Wealth cannot purchase a ticket to heaven, even if you sell all of your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Neither can rigorous religious practice gain one entry into eternal life. However, when one places one’s trust in Jesus with a childlike faith and seeks to follow Him, God gives eternal life. Jesus already paid the high cost of admission.

Reader, in what do you place your trust? Jesus asks that you lay all that aside, and place your trust in Him. If you need help with that, read my page on “Heaven.”

Notes:


[1]  “Super Bowl 2018: How much do tickets cost? Any cheap flights and hotels for Eagles fans?” – http://www.nj.com/eagles/index.ssf/2018/01/super_bowl_tickets_cheap_flights_to_minnesota_eagl.html

[2]  “Too Rich for Heaven: – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/04/19/too-rich-for-heaven/

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End of the World

Tares – a kind of darnel, resembling wheat

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:41)

In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus relates several parables illustrating the “kingdom of heaven.” Beginning with verse 24, He compares the kingdom of heaven to a field that a farmer sowed with wheat (“good seed”). Then at night, while the farmer slept, an enemy came and sowed tares in the same field. The tares to which Jesus referred were probably some kind of darnel that looks much like wheat before it matures. Once it matures the difference becomes obvious.

The farmer’s hired hands detected the tares early on and reported their discovery to the farmer. “So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?” (Matthew 13:27). They suggested pulling out the tares to keep the wheat from being stunted. The farmer wisely told the workers to leave them alone lest they accidentally pull up some of the wheat. Once the crop matured, the wheat would be separated from the tares and the tares would be burned.

Jesus compared the field to the world. He, “the Son of Man,” is the field owner that sowed the good seed. One commentator suggested that the “good seed” is the Word of God and the “bad seed” – the tares – is false doctrine sown by Satan, the enemy. There is an element of truth in that interpretation; however, it is not interpretation Jesus gave. Jesus said, “the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38). The enemy is the devil who sowed the tares – products of his false doctrine no doubt – and the reapers are the angels (Matthew 13:39).

Jesus portrays the image of the world where His “seed” and Satan’s seed exist together.[1] Often, and sadly, they are indistinguishable from one another. Jesus says that “the harvest is the end of the world” (Matthew 13:39). This cannot be the Second Coming of Christ, because when He comes again, He will set up His kingdom on earth (Revelation 19:11-16), and He will reign for 1000 years (Revelation 20:4).

The “end of the world” comes after the 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. “But the rest of the dead [the tares that died prior to Jesus’ Second Coming or were killed in the battle of Armageddon] lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5, emphasis mine). “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison” (Revelation 20:7, emphasis mine). Satan then incites many on earth to rebel against the rule of Christ, but the insurrection ends quickly (Revelation 20:9).

The tares – “the rest of the dead” – are raised and brought before “a great white throne” (Revelation 20:11) to be judged. Many today hope that on “judgment day” their good deeds will outweigh their bad deeds on the great cosmic scales. Indeed, good and bad will be judged.  “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” (Revelation 20:12, emphasis mine). “The books” contain the life record of every individual that ever lived – both good deeds and bad deeds. “The dead,” i.e. the “tares,” are judged by the content of their books. Note that the “good seed,” i.e. the “wheat,” are not being judged. They were “gathered up” before the 1000-year reign and ruled with Christ for the 1000 years (Revelation 20:4).

James says that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [sheol – “the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:13, emphasis mine). No one will be found guiltless. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). To be fair, none of us can live up to such strict standards, so “the tares” are given one final test. Their names are checked against the Book of Life,[2] “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, emphasis mine).

That is the end of the world, but it is not the end. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

Reader, is your name recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Has Satan filled your mind with false teachings and turned you into a tare? While there is breath in your body, you can alter your destiny and secure your name in the Book of Life. Call on Jesus; He alone can save you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). For more information, read my page on Heaven from the tab at the top of this page.

Notes:


[1]  “Tares Among the Wheat” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2013/05/19/tares-among-the-wheat/

[2]  “The Book of Life” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/02/03/the-book-of-life/

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