Tag Archives: death

Are You Good Enough?

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:13)

What will become of you when you die? That is arguably the most profound and important question one can ponder, yet it is probably the least considered. Perhaps the reason lies in the fear of the unknown.

Everyone, except perhaps for the very young, has experienced the death of a loved one, and witnessed the lifeless hulk of a once warm and animated person displayed peacefully in an ornate and satin lined casket. All that remains is a well dressed and made up, cold, waxy, empty corpse. Viewers often comment on his or her appearance noting how “life-like” they look without giving a thought to the departed’s final destination much less their own. That is something we do not like to think about.

Many people carefully plan for retirement by building up their nest egg to ensure they can meet their financial needs when they stop working. Others think they cannot afford to set money aside for their old age, and presume they will figure something out when the time comes. However, both planners and non-planners give more thought to retirement than they do to life after death. If pressed on the question of what happens after death they might say they do not know, or they might view death as “the end.” Those who suggest that death is the end are in denial, and they are lying to themselves. “[God] hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set [eternity] in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, emphasis mine). Every person alive, whether they will admit it or not, knows that this life – the life experienced in this physical body – is not all there is. Because they fear the unknown, many would rather not think about it hoping to cross that bridge when they come to it.

Some who have pondered the question of life after death think heaven and hell might exist. They see hell as the destination for only the most evil of people, like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, mass murderers, child molesters, rapists, etc. Comparing themselves to these really evil people, they see themselves as prime candidates for heaven. When asked why God should allow them into heaven, they will provide a long list of their good deeds hoping that will suffice. However, if they compare their good deeds against the Ten Commandments, their shortcomings are soon exposed. With that realization, the hope then becomes that their good deeds will outweigh the bad.

John describes the scene in heaven at the end of time. He says:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:11-14, emphasis mine).

It does seem that all who die will indeed be judged “according to their works” by “those things which were written in the books.” I envision a detailed ledger book for every person who has ever lived. That book contains every act, good and bad, ever committed by every individual. As with any court of law, the defendant’s actions are measured against an objective standard – the law. In this heavenly courtroom, known as the Great White Throne Judgment, one of the books by which every individual will be judged is the Law Book – the Bible. God’s Word is His perfect standard by which every person’s works will be measured – good and bad. There is only one big problem. Only a perfectly lived life gains entry into heaven. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

No one will be guiltless. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). But wait! There is still hope! “Another book was opened, which is the book of life … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12, 15, emphasis mine). That means that if the defendant’s name is logged in the Book of Life, that individual will gain entry into heaven.

Reader, is your name written in the Book of Life? Do not think for one moment that your good acts will outweigh your bad. Many “good” people will end up in hell. Only perfection qualifies for entry into heaven, and according to the Bible, no one qualifies. There is only one way to have your name written in the Book of Life. “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31, emphasis mine). “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6, emphasis mine).

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The Trinity

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is a hard concept to grasp, much less explain cogently. Explaining the Trinity becomes even more challenging when the inquisitor is ignorant of Christian tenets. I experienced such a challenge this week when I received an email from a Jew who was curious about the topic. His email follows:

I just visited in your site. I’m a 40yo Jew from Israel. I understand that you guys [ICR] are Christians. When I ran into this:

“The Creator of the universe is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one eternal and transcendent God, the source of all being and meaning, and He exists in three Persons, each of whom participated in the work of creation.”

I wanted to ask you a religious question. What is the meaning of triune God? Since for me there is only “one eternal God”

What follows is my response to him. It makes sense to me, but more importantly, I hope it made sense to him. Here goes …

Wow! That is a tough one! “Triune” is really a compound word: “Tri” meaning “three” and “une” meaning “union” or “one.” It refers to the Christian doctrine of the “Trinity.” As a Christian, I understand the doctrine, and I believe that it is taught in the Bible – both Old and New Testaments. It is a difficult concept to explain even for a Christian, and it is one that must be accepted by “faith” just as our belief in an Almighty, invisible God must be accepted by faith.

For me to continue, you may need to lay your kippah aside and let go of any presuppositions you may have. Try to listen to what I have to say objectively.

First of all, the word “Trinity” is found nowhere in the Bible; however, the concept is clearly taught in both Old and New Testaments. It is most clearly taught in the New Testament from which Christians developed the doctrine. You might want to keep in mind that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and He was faithful to all of the Mosaic Law (Torah). All the writers of the New Testament, except for perhaps Luke, were also Jews. The Gospel writer, Luke, author of the “Gospel of Luke” and the “Acts of the Apostles,” was a Greek, but because of his familiarity with the Jewish religion, he may have been a Jewish proselyte; however, we have no solid evidence for that one way or another. All of these, including Jesus, put forth the doctrine of the Trinity.

So just what is the Trinity? It is the concept of a triune God. We believe in One God, not three, as we have wrongly been accused by Jews, Muslims, and several neo-Christian cults (Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). There is only One God revealed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

To help you better understand this idea, think of yourself as a “triune” being. You have a mind, body and soul/spirit. All three are required for you to live. If your mind dies, your body will eventually cease to function, your spirit will depart, and your body will die. If your body dies, your spirit departs and your mind ceases to function, and if your spirit departs, your body and mind will cease to function. You are “three persons,” yet, you are one. People see your body and recognize who you are, but they cannot discern what goes on in your mind. People know you, but they do not really “know” who you are entirely because the “real” you is that invisible mind and spirit. The mind plans, the spirit motivates and the body carries out the directions of the mind. Your mind is you, your physical body is you, and your spirit is you, yet you are one, indivisible person.

The Bible teaches us that God created man in His own image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 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), There are many aspects of God’s nature inherent in man (i.e. human beings), but the triune nature of man demonstrates the triune nature of God. As acknowledged before, God is One revealed in three persons. In trying to relate the triune nature of God with that of man, the Father could be compared to the “mind” that plans and controls all activity of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is the energizing, motivating element that puts the Father’s plans in action, and Jesus is the body that does the physical work to carry out the Father’s plans. Of course, God is infinitely greater than His creation, but in this, at least in part, we can see a “family resemblance.”

We find the first “hint” of the triune nature of God in the very first verse of the Bible. בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ׃ (Genesis 1:1) God, Elohim, is a plural, masculine noun; however, bara is a singular, masculine verb. On face value, this would be incorrect grammar, however, it shows the plurality of the One God. Some would argue that God was using the royal “We.” Others say that this is just a way of expressing the limitless nature of God. Both of those are reasonable and plausible arguments, however the verse that follows introduces a second element. והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשׁך על־פני תהום ורוח אלהים מרחפת על־פני המים׃  (Genesis 1:2) In this verse, the Spirit (rûach) is presented as separate from God (Elohim). Why the distinction? The writer (Who I believe is God) could have simply said, “and God moved upon the face of the waters” and left off the “Spirit.” Why confuse the issue? God is not a God of confusion, so the distinction is intentional. Add to that the “self-talk” in vv. 26-27 – “Let us make … in our image, after our likeness” – speaking in the plural, and then in the next verse we read, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him” – speaking in the singular.

That is just for starters. You find many places (which I cannot cover here) in the Old Testament (Torah) where the LORD (HaShem) puts His Spirit in men to accomplish some special task. You also find many instances of God appearing to men in physical form as “the Angel of the LORD.” The way you can see that this is God and no ordinary angel, is because “the Angel of the LORD” takes personal responsibility for His actions, or for what He promises to do, and He accepts the worship of humans. We know that seeing God in His full glory would bring death to a man, yet Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson’s parents, and others saw God in physical form and did not die. These were all examples of Jesus in His pre-incarnate form. So we see that in the Old Testament, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all represented, but all are One God working together in unison. The prophet Isaiah reveals the Trinity this way: “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isaiah 48:16). In this verse, the Son is speaking, and He claims that He has spoken from the beginning, i.e., Creation (Genesis 1:1). The Son asserts that He is being sent by the Lord God (Father) and His Spirit (Holy Spirit). Here we see the Trinity represented in one Old Testament verse.

The writers of the New Testament constantly referred to the Old Testament in their teachings. This is why Christians should not discard the study of the Old Testament. Without the Old Testament, the New Testament makes no sense. Anyway, John the Apostle was Jesus’ cousin and also related to Caiaphas, the high priest at the crucifixion of Jesus. John begins his Gospel this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3), “Word” in the Greek is logos, which is a very complex word that includes reason, wisdom, logic. All the wisdom of God is contained in that one word. John affirms that the Word existed in the “beginning” and he identifies the Word as God. In fact, “the Word was God” literally appears in the Greek as “God was the Word.” And even though the Word was God, the Word was “with God.” Isn’t that strange? However, it is the Word that created “all things,” and from Genesis 1:1 we know that God (Elohim) created all things. A few verses later, John clearly identifies “the Word:” “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Genesis 1, we learn that God (the Word) made man in His image. In John 1, we learn that the Word (God) made himself in the image of man – God in human form. Jesus Himself said, “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (John 10:30-31). Their reaction was understandable given their perspective.

This is your Messiah (and mine), who came to live as a man without sin, so that He could offer Himself up on the cross to make atonement for the sins of all men. You may well ask, if Jesus is God, then how could He die? Remember earlier when I described the triune nature of man? Do you recall that I never referred to the spirit as dying? Rather, I referred to the spirit as “departing.” The flesh dies, but the spirit lives on. When Jesus died, His body was offered as the perfect sinless sacrifice that only could atone for all the sins of man, but the Father and the Holy Spirit (Elohim) did not die. However, three days later, the Spirit returned to Jesus’ lifeless body, He rose again, ascended back to His throne on high, and one day, very soon, your Messiah (and mine) will return again to establish His royal throne – the throne of David – in His Holy Temple in Jerusalem. I can hardly wait!

I know this was a lot of information. If nothing else, I hope I helped you to understand the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is all through the Torah, but as I said to start, you may need to set aside your kippah (i.e. traditions) to see it. If you would like to read more on this, here are a couple of articles that may be helpful to you:

http://www.icr.org/article/wonderful-truth-trinity

http://www.icr.org/article/20941

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Creation, Death, Gospel, Origins, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (1)

john3_1_jesusandnicodemus

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(John 3:3)

                   This passage, recorded in John 3:1-21, is the first of seven discourses spoken by Jesus and recorded by John. Certainly Jesus preached many more sermons than the seven recorded by John, but these seven, as least for John, uniquely demonstrated the deity of Jesus. Indeed, John records, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31, emphasis mine).

                   The passage opens with the introduction to the audience – one man, Nicodemus, “a man of the Pharisees … a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). His name means “conqueror of the people”[1] or “victorious among his people.”[2] Given the strength of his name, it seems strange that “The same came to Jesus by night” (John 3:2). At a glance, it seems as though Nicodemus came by stealth to avoid detection by those more adamantly opposed to Jesus, but that is not the case. “The Pharisee may have chosen this time in order to be sure of an uninterrupted and leisurely interview. During the day, Jesus would be busy and there would be crowds (crowds of common people!). Not so at night. Then there could be a long, private discussion.”[3]

                   At this point in his Gospel, John had not detailed many of Jesus’ miracles or any of His teachings. Certainly, turning water into wine (John 2:1-12) rates highly as the first of His seven signs. From there, Jesus celebrated the first Passover of His ministry by turning over the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple (John 2:13-22). His action drew fire from the “Jews” who challenged Him: “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (John 2:18). Apparently, Jesus made Himself known during this time, although John provides little detail. “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did” (John 2:23).

                   So, it seems that Nicodemus had at least heard of Jesus. Perhaps he witnessed the miracles of Jesus, and heard Him teach. Now he comes to Jesus by night for a private meeting. “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Nicodemus addresses Jesus with the sincere title of respect. “Rabbi” acknowledged Jesus as “Master,” that is to say, “Master Teacher.” What little he knew of Jesus instructed him that He was more than an ordinary man. Jesus, he concluded, came “from God” because “no man can do these miracles … except God be with him.”

                   Nicodemus assessed correctly, but Jesus was not interested confirming what He knew to be fact. Nicodemus was not unlike the other “Jews” in many respects. “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25, emphasis mine). Instead, He went right to the heart of the matter. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, emphasis mine). “Again” is a poor translation of the Greek anōthen, which means “from above.” Being “born from above” is in keeping with what John penned in the prologue to his Gospel. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13, emphasis mine). Nicodemus clearly understood the term “born,” genneithei, in the normal sense of procreation (John 3:4), but he missed the spiritual aspect of Jesus’ message.

                   To clear up the confusion, Jesus affirms John’s statement in the opening chapter. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Jesus prefaces His statement with “verily, verily,” i.e. “truly, truly.” Coming from God incarnate, this makes the statement immutable – it is unchangeable. Rebirth is not a matter of external changes, but rather it is a transformation from within, and accomplished “from above” through the saturation of the Holy Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). We are all born of flesh. That is by design. The spirit of man died at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and thus we are excluded from “the kingdom of God.” Only the rebirth of our spirit can fit us for heaven.

                   The “teacher of Israel” failed to grasp the lesson the Master taught. This called for further instruction. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12, emphasis mine). Jesus addresses Nicodemus (thee). “We speak that we do know.” Some commentators suggest that Jesus refers to Himself and His disciples. However, at this point in His ministry, His disciples were novices; there was little that they “did know.” Indeed, His disciples did not receive “full knowledge” until after His resurrection, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Therefore, I believe the “we” Jesus refers to is the Trinity. I conclude that from His statement in the next verse: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). He, the Son of Man, has direct knowledge “from heaven,” from the Creator Himself (John 1:1-3). When Jesus said, “ye receive not our witness,” the “ye” in the KJV indicates that the Greek, second person personal pronoun is plural. Jesus did not single out Nicodemus; He referred to all the “Jews,” i.e., the religious establishment to whom Jesus later referred to as “blind guides” (Matthew 23:16, 24).

                   The rebirth is simple; Jesus explained. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Jesus referred to Jewish history recorded in Scripture, the Torah to be precise. Numbers 21:4-9 records the time when the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness complained against God and Moses for the free food God provided daily. “And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died” (Numbers 21:6). The Hebrew word translated as “fiery” is śârâph, which means, “burning.” The same Hebrew word (seraphim) is applied to the angelic creatures witnessed by Isaiah in his vision of God on His throne (Isaiah 6:2, 6). In the case of the Hebrew Children, it referred to the burning bite inflicted by the venomous snakes. It may also imply the copper color of the serpents. We derive this from the instructions given to Moses. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated as “brass” is nechôsheth, which means “copper.”

                   The act of looking upon the bronze snake on the pole when bitten included recognition of the sin that brought about the snake bite, and the faith to believe that simply looking upon the likeness of the serpent on the pole would result in healing and preservation of life. In the same way, Jesus compared the simplicity of the rebirth. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15, emphasis mine). Once again, this reaffirms John’s assertion, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).

                   If one has a red-letter edition Bible, verses 16-21 are attributed to Jesus. However, man, not God, inspires red letters. While many Bible scholars agree that Jesus spoke these words, to me this seems that John added his commentary to expand on what Jesus said. It seems redundant that Jesus would say, “That whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life (v. 15), and then repeat “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (v. 16) in the next sentence. Regardless, the Holy Spirit, inspired these words through John’s pen, so they remain God’s Word whether they were spoken directly by Jesus, or whether John, through the Holy Spirit, expounded on Jesus’ words.

                   The teaching is clear. “That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Revelation 12:9) inflicted a deadly bite on mankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) from which there is no cure.  “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). “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). Death is antithetical to God who is life (John 1:4; 14:6). Simultaneously, God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Yet, He loves His creation too much to allow it to “perish,” i.e., die, with no hope for reconciliation.  So, “He gave.” His gift stemmed not from man’s merit, but from His love. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis mine). “He gave His only begotten Son.” The burden of sin was too great for any man to bear, so God Himself took on the insurmountable debt of man’s sin. “And the Word [who was God] was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God became man so “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Greek word translated “perish” is apótai meaning “to destroy fully.”  The verb is in the aorist tense indicating that it occurred in the past and its effects continue into the present. It is in the middle voice indicating that the subject is acting on itself, and it is in the subjunctive mood meaning that the action is contingent, probable and eventual. That all means that man in the past brought eventual death and destruction upon himself contingent on what he does with the gift God offers.

                   As in the beginning, it comes down to two choices: the tree of life or the tree of death, aka the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For the children of Israel in the wilderness it was to look upon the bronze serpent and live, or doubt and die. We all have the curse of death upon us. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We also have a choice. “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The other choice is unbelief. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18, emphasis mine). We are “condemned already” because, to begin with, we are all born of the flesh, but not of the Spirit. Then, we are “condemned already” when we reject the gift of salvation God freely offers.

                   “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).  The condemnation was accomplished at the Fall. God’s solution was to take on human flesh to pay the “wages of sin.”  He paid the debt with His own innocent blood. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats … sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14, emphasis mine). He did all the work. The choice to believe  or not believe is ours.

                   Nicodemus took Jesus’ words to heart. In the end, he came to His defense. At the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews wanted to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus spoke up for him. “Nicodemus saith unto them, … Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:50-51). After they crucified Him, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathaea in the burial of Jesus, without regard to his Pharisaical reputation (John 19:38-40). He made the choice to believe. We have the same choice.

Notes:


[1]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Tel Aviv, Israel, Jewish Studies for Christians, 2015), 32-33.

[2]  Definition from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.

[3]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 187.

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Resurrection

colorful sunset

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up … When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:20, 22)

Christians today, especially in the Middle East, suffer martyrdom by the hundreds at the hands of brutal ISIS executioners. These undergo a gruesome and horrific death by beheadings or being burned alive. Yet, as ghastly as we may perceive such brutality, the pain and suffering of these victims is short-lived, unlike that experienced by our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.[1]

On the Lord’s Feast of Passover,[2] Jesus, already physically drained from lack of sleep[3] and subjected to a sham of a trial by the Jewish religious leaders, was brutally beaten and scourged at hands of Roman soldiers, experts at inflicting pain without killing the victim. Then in that depleted condition, He was forced to carry His own cross to the place of execution, and whether it was a fully assembled cross or just the cross beam, for a man in Jesus’ condition at that time was next to impossible – but He did it. Under the weight of that burden, determined to complete His mission, He faced the horror of the cross. God, wrapped up in human flesh, with His host of angelic armies standing at the ready awaiting the command to rain down vengeance upon His tormentors. At the time of His arrest, Peter pulled his sword in His defense, but Jesus stopped him. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  Nothing would deter Him from His mission. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Determined to give to the very last, He carried Himself up Calvary’s hill, laid Himself down upon the timbers and spread His arms out to receive the nails – our pain, our guilt, our sins. “For [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). At the last, He gave His life. He did not die. Jesus said, “… I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18, emphasis mine). He was not killed. “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” (Matthew 27:50, emphasis mine). He was not the victim. He was in full control until the very last. John, the beloved disciple, and the only one of the twelve to witness the event said, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30, emphasis mine). Finished! Paid in full!

That was not the end. On the first day of the week, on that spring Sunday morning, He broke the chains of death and brought sheol’s captives with Him. Matthew records, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53).[4]

His resurrection is key! Had Jesus died and remained in the tomb, we would venerate a martyr, nothing more. His bones would be marked by an ornate shrine. Perhaps followers would make faithful pilgrimages to the site to stand in awe and wonder. If that was the case, our faith’s reward would be death and eternal separation from our Creator with no hope of redemption. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).  Because of His resurrection, “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). So now we can say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Before going to the cross, Jesus left us with this promise: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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 14:1-3). His resurrection guarantees the promise. On that day, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world are brutally killed daily by the enemy of God. We can thank God that for many, death is swift; it is nothing like what their Lord and our Lord endured for our sakes. But the guaranteed promise of the resurrection assures us that one day soon, we will be together with Him in His house.

Notes:


 

[1]  It is said that victims could linger on the cross up to three days until succumbing to dehydration and asphyxia.

[2]  Despite conventional tradition, this even could not have taken place on Friday. Jesus said He would rise in “three days,” not three partial days. Jesus specified “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:39-40). No matter how one may try to convolute the time to fit a “Good Friday” scenario, one cannot get “three days and three nights” from Friday evening to Sunday morning. Jesus said, “three days and three nights” – 72 hours, nothing less will do!

[3]  Jesus had spent the night in prayer while His disciples slept (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) before being betrayed by Judas, arrested and tried.

[4]  Matthew’s recording of this event that seems to coincide with Jesus’ death and the renting of the veil to the Holy of Holies, but a close inspection of the text reveals that this event occurred after the resurrection. See again Matthew 27:52-53.

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A Day Is A Day

Evening and Morning Was One Day

Evening and Morning Was One Day

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)

In a previous post, No Gap, I discussed the “Gap Theory” compromise of the biblical creation account.  The Gap Theory is only one of several compromises of theistic evolution.[1] Another popular compromise is the “Day-Age Theory.” This offshoot of theistic evolution maintains that God used long ages – billions of years – and evolution to create rather than the six literal days stated in the Bible. The Day-Age Theory attempts to stretch the days in Genesis 1into six long periods of undetermined time. “[The] ‘days’ of creation were interpreted figuratively as the ‘ages’ of geology.”[2]  In order to back up that assertion, the proponents of the Day-Age Theory will cite the psalm above or 2 Peter 3:8: “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.”

Besides the hermeneutical problems with this view, a logical dilemma arises that refutes any form of theistic evolution. To see this, one must have a clear understanding of who God is and what His attributes say about Him. To begin with, God is inconceivably great beyond anything the human mind can imagine. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, emphasis mine). Considering God’s “thoughts,” one of His attributes is that of omniscience; He is “all-knowing.” Hence, He innately knows all that can be known, and there is nothing He does not know. “Shall any teach God knowledge?” (Job 21:22). “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?” (Job 40:2). “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Since that is so, why would God need to take billions of years to create by means of evolution, slowly developing from a single cell one thing, and then the next, and then the next, etc. until in the end He evolved man? That makes God out to be something of a mad scientist experimenting in a laboratory to see what He can come up with next. God does not need to experiment! God has nothing to learn; He has no need to practice. Besides all that, billions of years of evolution also involves billions of years of death. This is contrary to God’s nature. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4, emphasis mine). God is concerned with life, not death. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26, emphasis mine). If death existed before the completion of creation, God would have erred when He said that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Besides that, death before the fall creates greater theological problems. (I deal with this issue in No Gap.)

In addition we must consider God’s omnipotence; He is “all-powerful.” There is nothing He cannot do. “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Given that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, i.e., there is nothing impossible for Him, it is not unreasonable to believe the Genesis literal six-day account of creation. In fact, given His omniscience and omnipotence, He could certainly have created in an instant what He took six days to create.

Simple logic with a basic understanding of God’s nature refutes theistic evolution and the Day-Age Theory. Furthermore, these compromises fail when applying proper hermeneutical principals. A plain reading and understanding of the text of Genesis 1, as I explained in No Gap, precludes any possibility of long ages. The Hebrew word, yom, for day can only mean a normal 24-hour day. To further stress this point, God encapsulated the completion each creation day between the boundaries of “evening and morning.” There is no other way to interpret this narrative without pulling in from outside sources information not contained within the text. This system of hermeneutics is known as eisegesis – reading into the text what is not there.

The proponents of the Day-Age Theory in attempting to legitimize their compromise will cite 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4, but when properly interpreted, in context, these passages speak of God’s eternal nature and have nothing to do with specifying time limits. God is not bound or limited by time; His transcendent nature places Him outside and inside of time simultaneously. Therefore, one day with Him is like one thousand years and one thousand years is like a day. Peter employs a literary device known as simile; otherwise he would have left off the “like.” Likewise Moses in his psalm says, “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, emphasis mine). But when God says He completed the work in one day, He means one day. So, why did He take six days to create rather than an instant? He created in six days and rested on the seventh day to set the pattern for our work week – six days of work, one day of rest. Have you noticed that the seven-day week is ubiquitous around the world? Furthermore, He wrote it in stone: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word yom for “day” used here in the Fourth Commandment, is the same word yom used in Genesis 1. God was not talking about long ages when He gave this commandment, and He was not talking about long ages when He gave His creation account.

Another argument offered by the compromisers suggests that Genesis uses “poetic” language. This argument falls apart simply by comparing the narrative text of Genesis 1-4 with the literary style of parallelism employed in the Wisdom Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). One does not even need knowledge of Hebrew to see the difference. So, claiming that Genesis 1 employs poetic language is a weak argument in support of a sad compromise.

No long ages fit into the narrative of Genesis 1. The Day-Age Theory compromises and weakens the Word of God. It is a diabolical instrument of Satan to create doubt for God’s Word, and disparage the very character and nature of God. There is no gap in Genesis 1, and there are no long ages. A day is a day, plain and simple.

Notes:


[1]  Henry M. Morris, “Evolution and the Bible,” http://www.icr.org/article/evolution-bible/, accessed 10/23/15.

[2]  Ibid.

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No Gap

earth-implosion

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)

Ever since Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, (in which, by the way, he never addresses the main thesis of his book) it seems that Christian theologians have been scrambling to defend the Genesis creation account and allow for millions of years of evolution. Even now with all the great research being done by creation scientists in the fields of biology, cosmology, geology, meteorology, paleontology, physics, and others, and by great organizations like Answers In Genesis, Creation Ministries International, the Creation Research Society, the Institute for Creation Research and others, still we have far too many Christian pastors and theologians that cower at the roar of atheists and evolutionists when it comes to the question of origins. They fear being labeled as ignorant and uneducated and likened to geocentric flat-earthers. Rather than defend the clear teaching of Scripture on this matter, they will either completely capitulate to the evolutionists, or they will find some compromise to accommodate evolutionary concepts. What really frustrates me is when some of these cowards claim to defend the infallible, inerrant, Word of God. If the Word of God is truly infallible and inerrant, then compromise is not an option.

One such compromise is known as the Gap Theory which proposes that there is a “gap” of long ages – billions of years – between the first two verses of Genesis 1. “According to this concept, Genesis 1:1 describes the initial creation of the universe. Following this, the standard events of cosmic evolution took place, which eventually produced our solar system about five billion years ago. Then, on the earth, the various geologic ages followed, as identified by their respective assemblages of fossils (trilobites, dinosaurs, etc.).”[1] Following this, some sort of global cataclysm takes place destroying all life and God must re-create the earth. Thus, Genesis 1:2 is describing the earth “becoming” without form and void. This idea was popularized by the Scofield Bible, and widely accepted for almost a century, but it was due more to fear of ridicule than solid Bible apologetics.

The first problem with this view begins with the first word of the second verse – “And.” We must first keep in mind that the original text did not include chapter and verse divisions. The text was a continuous reading. The “And” at the beginning of verse two is the Hebrew letter waw (pronounced “vav”). In Hebrew grammar, this construct is known as a “waw consecutive” indicating that there is no break between what precedes it and what follows. The text, then, is one continuous thought without any break: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void.” By the way, punctuation marks were not part of the original Hebrew text; punctuations were added by the translators as they thought proper according to English grammar. The same is true for the remainder of verse two: “and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Each of those “ands” is a “waw consecutive” indicating no break in the action. Furthermore, verses 3-5 all begin with a “waw consecutive,” indicating no break in the action from the beginning of verse one to the end of verse five. Simply analyzing the Hebrew grammatical construction of these first five verses of Genesis destroys any notion of “gaps” in the creation account in Genesis. Attempting to insert a gap in the text is simply sloppy hermeneutics.

The second problem presents itself with the final statement in verse five: “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” “Evening and morning” define a normal 24-hour day. In addition, the Hebrew word translated “day” is yom, and it is normally understood to mean a single 24-hour day. Although it is rarely used to indicate an undetermined time as in “the day of the Lord” or “in that day” or “in those days”; it is never used to indicate an indefinite amount of time as in millions of years. There are other options for specifying longer periods of time. For example, in Daniel 9:24, the use of shâbûa‛ meaning “seven” and translated “weeks” in the King James Bible (KJV), is used to indicate a period of seven years. Later, in Daniel 12:7, the use of mô‛êd, meaning “an appointment” or a “fixed season” and translated “time” in the KJV, is used to indicate a year, although “year” in Hebrew is actually shâneh. Hebrew does have a word for an indefinite amount of time; that word is ‛ôlâm, which is often used in the sense of eternity. So, God had other word options to indicate eons of time, yet He chose to use the word for a normal 24-hour day.

Finally, God regards “death” as an enemy. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26, emphasis mine). At the end of the sixth day, God assessed His work, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31, emphasis mine). Think about this: God, who is incapable of any error whatsoever, declares His creation, not just “good,” but “very good.” The Hebrew word for “very” is mǝ‘ôd, and it is an adjective meaning “vehemence” or “vehemently.” That is a very strong word describing God’s assessment of His perfect creation. Now think about this: if God considers death the enemy, why would He allow billions of years of death inserted between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 and then turn around and exuberantly declare His creation “very good”? That makes no sense! God does not contradict Himself like that. Furthermore, the enemy, death, entered through Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12), and the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). That being true, then how could death have existed before Adam’s sin? And if death existed in “the gap” prior to Adam’s sin, then how could death be “the enemy” and the “penalty” for sin? So, the “Gap Theory” raises some serious theological issues.

If a preacher, pastor, theologian or layman professes to believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, it is time to claim ALL of it, stand by ALL of it, defend ALL of it, and stop making excuses and compromising with the secularists that disregard both the Bible and the Creator. There is NO GAP in Genesis. The only gap that exists is the chasm of sin that separates man from God, and that gap cannot be bridged by compromising any part of God’s Word.

Notes:


[1]  Henry M. Morris, “Why the Gap Theory Won’t Work” (http://www.icr.org/article/why-gap-theory-wont-work), accessed October 16, 2015.

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The Curse of Death

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27)

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27)

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.  (Genesis 2:17)

This week a young man, who labeled himself an agnostic, wrote in with a very good question concerning the curse of death. His question was posed as follows:

Genesis 2:17 says, “in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Assuming that day equals 24 hours (big assumption, but Gen 2 is still part of the creation account) then the death must be spiritual or non-literal, since Adam lived to be 930 years – Gen 5:5. If the death resulting from sin is not literal, what is the relationship between sin and physical death? Is there any relation at all? Could physical death have occurred before sin? If sin and physical death are not related, why would Jesus have to rise from the dead? Is a bodily resurrection necessary for salvation? Why? Does any of the apostle Paul’s teaching of Christ conflict with a spiritual interpretation of death and sin? (I Cor 15:12-22)

Alternately, if the term “day” in Genesis 2:17 is not 24 hours, but instead an unspecified length of time equalling [sic] at least 930 years, most of the same questions about the relationship between sin and physical death would still apply.

His question is a very good one, and one of the key points in our biblical apologetics. The “death” described in Genesis 2:17 must be taken in context with the entire account of creation and the Fall, and in light of the rest of Scripture. Genesis 1 and 2 both narrate the creation account. Genesis 1:1-2:4 is God’s account of creation, and it gives a broad overview of the creation week. (For more details, see the notes on Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:1-4). Genesis 2:5 begins Adam’s account, and the focus is on Day Six and the creation of man. Allow me to regress and point out that chapter and verse divisions are not inspired. The original text was a continual reading with no breaks. This can sometimes be an obstacle, if one does not recognize that fact.

Another point that needs to be clarified is that the 24-hour day is not an “assumption” as he suggests. The Hebrew word used is yom, and it almost always means a normal 24-hour day in the Bible. When it is not a 24-hour day, such as in the “day of the Lord” (yom laYahweh) it is referring to a specific time, but never an extended period of time. Furthermore, God clearly defines the meaning of “day” with the phrase “evening and morning were the nth day” (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23).

At the end of the sixth day, God declared His creation not only “good” as in the previous five days, but “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Keep in mind that this assessment comes from an ultimately perfect being. So, if death existed before the fall, can death be considered a very good thing? If we say death is good, then how can death be a curse? And if death cannot be a curse, then why should Jesus die to pay the curse (the wages) of sin? If death was just a “spiritual” death, then, again, why should Jesus die a “physical” death to atone for a “spiritual” death? That really does throw a huge wrench in the works of the Gospel.

But “physical” death is NOT good. The Bible calls death the “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). In the end, “death and hell (Greek hades “the grave”)” are cast into “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). So, physical death cannot be part of a “very good” creation, if the Creator counts it as an enemy and something to be abolished. When God issued the command “thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17), He was speaking of physical death. “Spiritual” death, i.e., separation from God, was a necessary consequence of that disobedience because He is the source of life (Job 33:4; Psalm 36:9; John 1:4; 5:26; 6:48; 10:28; 11:25; 14:6, et al). So, the death was both physical and spiritual. To further emphasize the point, Adam and Eve, since they had never experienced or observed death (keeping in mind that this all occurred shortly after creation – probably within a week or so), God (in the form of the pre-incarnate Christ – my opinion) sacrificed two (or more) innocent animals (probably sheep) in order to “cover” (atone for) their sin (Genesis 3:21). This was the first physical death of anything to this point, but on the spiritual side, man had already lost that intimate relationship with their Creator (Genesis 3:8).

This young man observed that Adam lived 930 years and concludes that the death curse must not have been physical but only spiritual, because they did not die immediately. One needs only to read Chapter 5 of Genesis and count how often the phrase “and he died” is repeated. Adam and Eve did not die instantly when they ate of the fruit, but they initiated the dying process. The phrase “you shall surely die” (Hebrew: mot tamot) would be better translated “dying you shall die.” Furthermore, the couple was denied access to the “tree of life” (Genesis 3:22) because apparently it had properties that would extend their life forever. The fact that they lived the long ages that they did is attributable to near perfect DNA (with the exception of the death mutation), and a near perfect environment. You may want to note the steady decline in longevity following the Global flood (Genesis 11:11-32).

Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 confirms that the curse of death is both physical and spiritual – physical in that our bodies degenerate to the point that they cease to function (we die), and spiritual in that our sin separates us from God (as physical death separates our spirit from our body). Jesus was sinless, like the first lambs sacrificed for Adam and Eve. Paul tells us that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); here we are speaking of that spiritual death that separates us from God. Jesus’ death on the cross was the only sacrifice suitable to pay that debt of sin that separates us from God for all of mankind. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Then when He rose again, He conquered the curse of physical death so that we can have eternal life. The choice, however, remains with us. From beginning to end, God has provided the way to restore that broken relationship and to enjoy eternal life with our Creator. We can either accept His offer, or reject it. “He came unto his own [not only the Jews, but mankind in general], and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11-12).

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