Category Archives: Theology

No King In Israel

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

Thirty years after entering the Promised Land, Joshua died[1] without having accomplished that task God assigned the children of Israel, i.e., to rid the land of all its inhabitants. Even though God promised, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast” (Joshua 1:3-4). Before entering the Promised Land, Moses encouraged Joshua, “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Joshua further encouraged the people, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land” (Joshua 1:13). The land was theirs for that taking. God had given it to them. They had only to “be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).

Accounts differ about the time it took for the “conquest” of the land. Joshua 18-19 records the dividing of the “inheritance” which took place seven to eight years after they crossed the Jordan.[2] In the process of conquering the land, the children of Israel made some compromises that came back to bite them,[3] and they became battle-weary of fighting giants even though God did most of the fighting for them.

Joshua was getting old, and God told him so.[4] He was 40 years old when he first entered Canaan to spy out the land.[5] God punished the children of Israel for their rebellion and unbelief by making them wander in the desert for 40 years. So by the time he entered the Promised Land, Joshua was already 80 years old. At the end of his life, Joshua was 110 years old[6] making his time in the land 30 years. In all that time, Israel failed to take the land God had given them. In that time, they forgot God’s encouragement not to fear. Joshua’s own tribe, Ephraim, complained, “And the children of Joseph [Ephraim and Manasseh] said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel” (Joshua 17:16). This was only seven or eight years after seeing all that God had done in the near past and now they feared the giants and their “chariots of iron”! And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong” (Joshua 17:17-18). However, they did not complete the task, choosing rather to live among the Canaanites.

Without taking inventory, much of the land God “gave” Israel remained unconquered and worse, they failed to dispel the Canaanites that lived in the land contented rather to dwell among the pagans, something God had warned against.[7]

Joshua died “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger” (Judges 2:10-12). It was not long, perhaps 40-70 years, and they forgot all about God.

By my estimation, the period of the Judges lasted about 467 years after the “conquest” of the land. In that time God would punish them for their idolatry by instigating their Canaanite neighbors against them. They would cry out to God, and God would send a “judge” to deliver them. Some of those “judges” were not all that upstanding. For example, Gideon, after defeating the Midianites, erected a golden ephod in his city, “and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (Judges 8:27). Then there was the womanizing Samson, a Nazarite,[8] who killed a lion with his bare hands and later ate honey out of the carcass of the animal and shared it with his parents.[9] Touching dead animals violated the Mosaic Law[10], especially for a Nazarite.

The Book of Judges is a tragic history of Israel’s constant fall into idolatry and their rejection of God. The history ends with a sad account of a Levite that traveled to Bethlehem to retrieve his concubine (not wife) that had been unfaithful to him.[11] The woman had fled to her father’s house and the father was happy to entertain the Levite for several days before dismissing him to return with his concubine. They left late in the afternoon arriving at Jebus (Jerusalem) as it was getting dark. A man offered them lodging for the night and while they were there, some “sons of Belial” (worthless fellows) of the tribe of Benjamin came asking for the traveler so they might have sex with him. The man of the house begged them not to do such a wicked thing and offered them rather his daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men settled for the concubine and raped her all night long. In the morning, the Levite found her dead at the doorstep. In anger, he took up his concubine and carried her body home. When he got home, he cut her body up in twelve pieces and sent the dismembered body to all the tribes of Israel. That incited all the tribes of Israel to come against Benjamin to seek a settlement for the wrong done. However, Benjamin would not turn over the violators and refused to repent. The dispute ended in civil war and the near destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. Out of 25,100 fighting men of Benjamin, only 600 escaped alive. The rest of Israel mourned the desolation of Benjamin and the possibility of losing one of Israel’s tribes. The other tribes had sworn not to give any of their daughters to the Benjamites because of their wickedness, but their complete annihilation was inconceivable. Their resolution was to have something like a Sadie Hawkins dance where they permitted the Benjamites to come and kidnap their daughters. Sad, but true, and “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Toward the end of the period of the Judges comes the account of Ruth, a young Moabitess that lost her husband, Malon (meaning “sickly”) and returned with her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem. There she met Boaz, who was Naomi’s “kinsman-redeemer.” By law and by custom, Boaz was obligated to marry Ruth and “raise up seed” to his deceased next of kin, Malon. This he willingly did. As we read the account, Boaz was smitten with Ruth when he first laid eyes on her. Anyway, Boaz married Ruth, and she became the great grandmother of King David.[12] More than that, she entered the lineage of King Jesus.

Israel’s history is one of constant rebellion against God, but it is also a tribute to God’s patience, faithfulness, and love in spite of our rebellion and rejection. Beginning with the Fall, God had a plan for man’s redemption.[13] I think about our nation. This year marks 400 years since the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. Are we any different than the Israelites? Think of all God has given us. Think of all His blessings to our nation, and think of how we have rejected Him. No, we are no different. The Wuhan bug that threatens our lives and our economy has us hiding in our dens afraid to come outside for fear of catching Covod-19. Some say this is a punishment from God. Some hope that it will bring revival to our land. However, I have serious doubts about that. Remember how church attendance spiked when many feared the end of the world from Y2K? Remember how church attendance jumped after 9-ll? Those “revivals” were short-lived. We cannot even attend church services now, yet I know attendance at “cyber church” is at an all-time high. Praise the Lord! Some are being saved, however, once this is all behind us, things will return to normal and our nation will return its own form of idolatry – professional sports, entertainment of all sorts, the worship of money and material things, etc.

We are no different than the children of Israel. However, our God, is the same God of Israel. He is patient, faithful, and loving, and His plan is nearing its completion. Consider the world-wide effect of this pestilence. Think about the increased number and intensity of earthquakes in different places on the planet. Have you heard about the swarms of locust devastating crops in Africa and moving north? These are just some of the signs Jesus gave concerning the “end of days.” Soon Jesus will return and Eden will be restored. Are you ready to meet King Jesus? If not, visit my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Joshua 24:29

[2]  “The Conquest of Canaan” – https://www.thesacredcalendar.com/book-of-joshua-conquest-of-canaan/

[3]  Unsanctioned (by God) alliances (Joshua 9)

[4]  Joshua 13:1

[5]  Numbers 13:8,16

[6]  Joshua 24:29

[7]  Deuteronomy 7:2-4

[8]  Numbers 6:2

[9]  Judges 14:5-9

[10]  Leviticus 5:2

[11]  Judges 19-21

[12]  Ruth 4:17-22

[13]  Genesis 3:15

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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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Stewardship

The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

When the topic of stewardship comes up in church, it typically comes up around the time of funding the next year’s church budget. The pastor usually brings a sermon encouraging church members to faithfully tithe – give 10% of their income – to the church. However, stewardship has almost nothing to do with tithing, although tithing is certainly a part.

A “steward,” by definition is a person who manages another’s property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another. A steward is also a person who has charge of the household of another, buying or obtaining food, directing the servants.

We find the first example of a steward in the Bible in Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2). He was steward of Abram’s household and heir apparent of Abram’s possessions since Abram at that time had no children. After Isaac, the promised son, came along and after Sarah died (Genesis 23:1-2), Abraham sent Eliezer to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son, Isaac (Genesis 24). The responsibility was unimaginably great, and Abraham entrusted Eliezer with great wealth trusting that God would direct him to the perfect bride. This was no small trust!

The second example of a steward in the Bible is Joseph, who was sold into captivity by his brothers (Genesis 37:28). In Egypt, Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard, Potiphar, bought Joseph (Genesis 37:36) as a household slave. Soon, Joseph showed his worth and Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. “And it came to pass from the time that he [Potiphar] had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field” (Genesis 39:5, emphasis mine).

Jesus offered two examples of stewards. In one parable, the master gave differing amounts of money to his three stewards to manage (Matthew 25:14-30), and he went off on an extended journey. When he returned, the ones to whom he gave five and two talents respectively doubled their master’s money, but the one to whom he gave only one talent did nothing with the talent and returned to his master the original amount.

In the second example, a “nobleman” gave his ten stewards equal amounts of money (Luke 19:11-27) and left on an extended journey to claim his kingdom. Seven of the ten refused to accept him as king when he returned and paid for it with their lives. One steward took what his master entrusted to him and returned ten times the amount. A second took the “pound” he was given and return five times the amount. The third did nothing with his charge and lost his position as a steward.

From these examples, we learn that the steward possesses nothing of his own; rather, he manages the possessions of his master. More than that, the “good” steward makes a profit for his master and increased the master’s wealth.

In a similar sense, we are the stewards of all that God has put into our possession. We own nothing. It all belongs to God, and we are responsible for everything He has placed in our trust. This not only applies to our money, but it includes our time, our family, and material possessions. It also includes how we relate to those around us, our government, and our environment – God’s creation. Everything that God has placed in our realm of influence is our stewardship responsibility. One day, maybe very soon, the King will return from His extended journey, and He will expect an accounting of all that He has entrusted into our care. Will we respond like the unfaithful stewards and return to Him only what He gave us?

Now, in regard to the tithe and in light of what has been presented, giving 10% of our income back to God is a small thing. Consider that all that money you earn is not really your own. From where do your abilities to earn income come? Who ultimately provided you a job? Everything, according to our lead verse (Psalm 24:1), everything belongs to God. He could demand that you return everything to Him with interest, but He does not. He only asks for 10% to test your faithfulness and your trust in Him for your provision. This too is stewardship.

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A Thousand-Year Day

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

The retirement lifestyle is a new experience for me. So far, it feels like an extra-long vacation. I’m enjoying doing things in the middle of the week and in the middle of the day that were out of the question when I was tied to a nine-to-five job. I am also enjoying the absence of fighting rush-hour traffic.

On Friday of this week, I experienced an outing to the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, my former employer, with a group of senior adults from our church. Of course, I know the place inside and out, but it felt different to visit as a “guest.” Our visit was too short (only two and a half hours). After that, we boarded our bus bound for lunch at El Fenix, the oldest Tex-Mex restaurant chain in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Our driver took us to the one in Irving, Texas, not far from the Discovery Center.

In the course of conversation over lunch, a lady sitting at the table across from me asked me how I would respond to someone who thinks the Genesis creation account is a myth and argues for an old earth based on 2 Peter 3:8 (our verse above). Of course, attempting to change someone’s mind who is convinced that the miracle accounts in the Bible are myths will take some doing. Their main problem is that they have a very small view of God. They usually also have an overinflated view of man. However, their support for long ages based on 2 Peter 3:8 can be easily debunked.

Many use this verse to argue for long ages in the Genesis creation account. They wrongly interpret 2 Peter 3:8 to say, “one day is with the Lord a thousand years, and a thousand years is one day.” The Day-Age Theory[1] uses this interpretation to argue that the days of creation were 1000 years each making the creation event last 6000 years. Giving credit where credit is due, at least they are not arguing for millions or billions of years for creation. By their reckoning, Creation is about 12,000 years old. However, that raises the question; why does God need that much time to create? Furthermore, the purpose of the Day-Age compromise is to allow for evolution to take place, which brings up another question. Evolution requires death and suffering. How then can death be the penalty for sin[2] if death had taken place for thousands of years before the fall of man? And, how could God declare His creation “very good”[3] when He calls death “the enemy”?[4] Some concede that God used evolution to create. This raises yet another question. Why would God need to “experiment” on His creation in order to improve on it over time? Is He not all-knowing and all-powerful? Can God not simply speak things into being as described in the Genesis account of creation? The notion that God used evolution to create serves only to undermine faith in the power of God!

The resolution to the problem of misinterpreting 2 Peter 3:18 comes down to one word – “as.” Peter employs simile to describe the infinite nature of God. God created time; therefore, He is not bound by time. “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands…But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end” (Psalm 102:25, 27). “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). What Peter is saying is that, to God, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. Peter is not attempting to define time for God, but rather he is expressing the timeless nature of God. Therefore, attempting to define the days of creation as 1000 years each based on 2 Peter 3:18, misrepresents both Peter’s message and the Genesis account of creation.

However, without being dogmatic, a parallel could be drawn between 2 Peter 3:18, the days of creation, and historical time. God created in six 24-hour days and rested on the seventh. According to biblical chronology, the earth (all of creation) is about 6000 years old, and we look forward to a final, seventh, 1000-year of rest with Christ’s reign over all the earth.

A visitor to the Discovery Center showed me something in the Prophet Hosea that I had missed although I had read that passage many times. It reads as follows. “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. Come [Israel speaking now], and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (Hosea 5:15-6:2, emphasis mine).[5]

In the previous verse, the Lord (Jesus) says[6] that He will destroy Ephraim [the Northern Kingdom, i.e., Israel] and Judah. Then He says that He will return to His place (heaven) until they acknowledge their offence (i.e., the rejection of their Messiah) and seek His face. For over 2000 years, the Jews were scattered all over the earth until recent times (1948), but they, for the most part, have failed to seek His face – they still reject Jesus as their Messiah. However, they will return to Him in the near future. Then in Verse 2 of Chapter 6, they (the Jews) say, “After two days he will revive us: in the third day he will raise us up…”

My friend, referring to 2 Peter 3:18, pointed out that Jesus was crucified around A.D. 30, which means that the year 2030 will be 2000 years – two days.  On the third day (1000 years), Jesus will restore Israel. Although we cannot be dogmatic about such things, my friend’s reasoning is sound and his conclusion logical. If his assessment proves correct, that means the seven-year Tribulation could begin in 2023. The Rapture of the Church can take place anytime between now and then. Again, we must be careful not to be dogmatic about these things, but as Christians, the Word instructs us that the return of the Bridegroom for His Bride is imminent[7] and we must be ready at all times, “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Are you ready? If you are unsure, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “Age of the Earth” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/10/14/age-of-the-earth-2/

[2]  Genesis 2:16-17; Genesis 3

[3]  Genesis 1:31

[4]  1 Corinthians 15:26

[5]  This quotation spans two chapters. The reader must keep in mind that the original text did not have chapter and verse divisions.  The first English Bible to include chapter and verse divisions was the 1560 Geneva Bible.

[6]  Hosea 5:14

[7]  “Imminent” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/01/12/imminent/

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Creation, End Times, Evolution, Origins, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

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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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Death, Evangelism, Gospel, Heaven, Hell, Origins, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Theology