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The Soul

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

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

noun

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

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

SOUL, n.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes:


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

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

[3]   Strong’s Definitions: H5395

[4]   Strong’s Definitions: H7307

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Creation, Death, End Times, Heaven, Hell, Religion, Resurrection, Theology

Securing Eternal Life

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

Surely you have heard, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The adage applies to gimmicks intended to take advantage of the gullible. Those who believe they can obtain eternal life in heaven based on a system of merits think it is “too good to be true” that one can get to heaven by simply believing. Those who realize the gravity of their sinful lives think it is “too good to be true” that they can be absolved of their sin simply by asking and believing. However, it is true. Anyone who wants to can go to heaven. It will only cost you your life. Do not be alarmed. Let me explain, and make it as simply and clearly as possible.

First of all, no one can be good enough to go to heaven. That is the bad news.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (Romans 3:10)

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Romans 7:18) In other words, no matter how hard we try on our own, we can never be good enough!

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16) You see, even observing all the Law written in the Bible (as a matter of ritual) cannot secure for you a place in heaven.

Secondly, our sin keeps us out of heaven. Instead of eternal life, our sin earns eternal death (in hell) for us. That is more bad news.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die … (Ezekiel 18:20)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14) “Death” in this sense is eternal separation from “Life” which only comes from being in the presence of God. Our “soul” is an eternal creation created for fellowship with God. For the soul to continue to exist outside of the presence of God is “death,” but without ceasing to exist. That is indeed bad news!

Thou [God] art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity … (Habakkuk 1:13). God is holy and cannot abide sin; therefore, He cannot allow sinners to reside with Him in heaven.

Thirdly, God provided a way to eternal life. Here is the Good News!

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)

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)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name [than the name of Jesus] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

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)

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31)

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) We cannot work our way to heaven and eternal life. It is a “gift” of God that cannot be earned; it can only be “received.”

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) God did not wait for us to get “better.” Jesus died for my sins, as the old hymn says, “Just as I am.”

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10) All God requires is that you take Him at His word and believe the Gospel (i.e. the Good News that Jesus died and rose from the dead to pay “the wages of sin” on your behalf). However, if you truly “believe” you will also “confess,”i.e. tell others. One of the first and best ways to do this is to present yourself before a Bible-believing congregation and submit yourself to baptism (by immersion preferably). There is no “magic” in this, but it gives “testimony” to yourself and others, but more importantly to yourself, that your “belief” is genuine.

Lastly, once you have accepted God’s gift, it can never be lost. That is even better news!

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29) As one of Jesus’ “sheep,” we are doubly secure; we are secure in Jesus’ hands which is secured in God the Father’s hand. You cannot be more secure than that!

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36) “Hath” is present tense. Whoever believes in Jesus “has” eternal life presently and forever.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) NOTHING can separate us from the love of God when we have placed our trust in Jesus.

Sticking to Scripture as much as possible, I have made it as simple as I can. If this makes sense to you and the Spirit of God urges you to follow through, here is all you need to do:

  1. Talk to God. Use your own words. God is a person, and He knows and understands what is in your heart. No “magic” words are needed.
  2. Confess your sin to Him. We are all sinners. He knows your sins, but He wants you to recognize your sin and your need for Him to forgive you of your sins.
  3. Ask God to forgive you of your sins and invite Jesus to come into your heart and to be the Lord, i.e., the “boss” of your life. In doing this, you are in effect giving your life over to Him. That is not a bad thing. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

That’s it! If you are sincere (and God knows) in what you have just done, you have secured for yourself eternal life – you are “saved.” However, right now, you are just a “baby” Christian, and there are some things you need to do to grow in your new found faith.

  1. Talk to God daily. This is called “prayer,” but it is simply talking to God.
  2. Get a Bible are read it daily. I recommend that you begin with the Gospel of John – the fourth book of the New Testament. (You can find it in the index of the Bible) Also, read the Book of Proverbs; there is a lot of good practical teaching there.
  3. Find a good Bible-believing evangelical church. Most Baptist churches are very good as are many “Bible” churches. Either way, you want a church that believes that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.
  4. When you have found a good church, go forward at the pastor’s invitation (following the sermon) and let him know that you want to follow the Lord in “believer’s baptism.”
  5. Join a Bible study group or class where you learn more about what God has to say in His Word.
  6. Get to know the family of God – your brothers and sisters in Christ – by joining them in regular fellowship. This will help you to grow in your spirit and in your bond with fellow believers. The Bible encourages this: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Welcome to God’s forever family. Your place in eternal life is secure. I will see you in heaven!

If this still sounds too good to be true, read my page on “Heaven.” You may also be interested in other articles on the topic of salvation:

“Nothing Changes” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/04/15/nothing-changes/

“Not Here” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/04/01/not-here/

“Jesus’ Last Days” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/25/jesus-last-days/

“Jesus’ Brethren” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/03/04/jesus-brethren/

“High Cost of Admission” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/02/11/high-cost-of-admission/

“End of the World” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/01/21/end-of-the-world/

“Tough Love” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/01/07/tough-love/

“Pressed Three Times” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/10/22/pressed-three-times/

“The Millennial Kingdom” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/03/the-millennial-kingdom/

“Clueless” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/08/20/clueless/

“One-Verse Theology” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/08/06/one-verse-theology/

“Not Expecting to Die” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/30/not-expecting-to-die/

“The Eternality of God” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/06/04/the-eternality-of-god/

“Who Is Jesus?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/05/14/who-is-jesus/

“Good Guys Go to Hell” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/30/good-guys-go-to-hell/

“In the Twinkling of an Eye” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/23/in-the-twinkling-of-an-eye/

“Risen Indeed!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/16/risen-indeed-2/

“The King is Coming” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/09/the-king-is-coming/

“The Devils Believe!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/04/02/the-devils-believe/

“Are You Good Enough?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/03/26/are-you-good-enough/

“Not Passed On In The Genes” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/05/15/not-passed-on-in-the-genes/

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Bare Naked

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 3:7)

Man (and woman) was created in the image of God – Imago Dei for the sophisticates. That image incorporates many of God’s attributes without the omni- aspect of those attributes. Man is a rational being, although that ability to reason progressively wanes through constant rejection of God (Romans 1:28). Man creates beauty: art, sculptures, music, architecture, etc. Man invents gadgets that make life easier: machines that carry us over land, through the sea or in the air to get us where we want to go. We use all kinds of machines to help us perform our work more efficiently: computers, portable communications devices, power tools of all kinds, and even sophisticated diagnostic equipment that allow doctors to “see” into our bodies to find malfunctions. Man’s ability to design, engineer and fabricate finds resolution only in that we are created in the image of God. None other of God’s creatures possesses the almost limitless creative abilities that man has. However, no other creature bears the image of God. Evolutionists (who suffer from the Romans 1:28 syndrome), would have us believe that humans are just a more highly evolved specimen of animal. However, according to evolutionists, some animals currently in existence have been around much longer than humans have. So, one must ask, why do they remain the same with no evidence of evolution – not in the least bit? Nevertheless, that is not the point of this writing.

Humans demonstrate the image of God in their ability to love and in their ability to judge right from wrong. Humans, like God, are triune creatures with a mind, spirit and physical body. Some people have difficulty understanding that God is three persons in one Godhead. That confusion becomes clear when one understands that humans are also three persons in one “soul.” The mind directs man’s activities. The spirit of man motivates man into action, and the body carries out that the plan. Of us, God says, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalm 82:6, emphasis mine). Jesus made the same argument when the Pharisees would stone Him for blasphemy. “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34, emphasis mine). [1] Just as God is Three-in-One in complete unity, humans too possess a triune nature.

The body, the “carriage” for our mind and spirit, also represents the image of God. Jesus, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15, emphasis mine) is the Creator; “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible …” (Colossians 1:16, emphasis mine). “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3, emphasis mine). Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7, emphasis mine). Knowing that He would one day be “made in the likeness of men,” it stands to reason that Jesus, the Creator, would design the kind of body suitable for Himself for His time on earth (and after).

The care that He took to design the human body becomes apparent when we read the creation account in Genesis 1. Every creature God created came about by Divine fiat. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (Genesis 1:20, emphasis mine). “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so” (Genesis 1:24, emphasis mine). However, when it came to man, God took greater care. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis mine). Chapter 2 provides even greater insight. “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 … And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man” (Genesis 2:7, 22, emphasis mine).

Still, man lacks one aspect of God’s physical form. Of Jesus, Paul writes, “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16, emphasis mine). The Beloved Apostle also wrote, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, emphasis mine).[2] The Bible often describes angels as possessing a glow about them. Moses, when he came down from the mountain after spending 40 days in the presence of God had a glow about him. The glow caused the children of Israel to fear so much that they asked him to cover his face.[3] There was a glow about Jesus when He was transfigured that left the disciples awestruck.[4]

It seems likely that part of the image of God in man would include a glow about our bodies, but we no longer see that. Oh, I know some psychics claim to see an “aura” around people, but if one is there, it is too dim for “normal” people to see it. As the guy in the motel commercial says, “Nobody glows.” Why is that? I have a theory.

As we noted, God is and dwells in light. In the beginning when He said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), He actually created darkness to contrast the light. He says as much to the prophet Isaiah: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”(Isaiah 45:7, emphasis mine). So, I believe that when God created man in His image, He created man robed in light. Perhaps that was included in the “breath of life.” When Adam disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit, the light went out (and so too did “life”), “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). It is instructive to note that it was not until Adam (not Eve) ate of the fruit that their eyes were opened. It was Adam, not Eve, who received the command not to eat of the forbidden fruit directly from God; thus, his was the greater responsibility.

To cover (atone) their nakedness, God had to kill innocent animals to make clothing for the bare naked pair. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21, emphasis mine). There may be an intentional play on words here. The Hebrew word for skin is ‛ôr, spelled עוֹר. The Hebrew word for “light,” the clothing they had lost, is ‘ôr, spelled אוֹר. When Adam sinned, the couple lost their ‘ôr (light), and God had to cover their nakedness with ‛ôr (skins).

That temporary covering for sin required the shedding of innocent animal blood. The permanent covering for sin required the innocent blood of the Son of Man, the Lamb of God. Now God offers that gift to us at no cost. Only one thing remains – that we accept the gift by faith. See my page on Heaven for the rest of the story.

Notes:


[1]  See John 10:24-39 for context.

[2]  This is often understood to say that God is the source of all wisdom, knowledge and truth. This is certainly true given the context surrounding this verse. However, Henry M. Morris, Ph.D sees the physical aspect of God’s light as he notes in The Henry Morris Study Bible: http://www.icr.org/Bible/1John/1:5/

[3]  See Exodus 34:30-35.

[4]  See Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36.

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Plant Death

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. (Genesis 1:29)

Plants do not possess life in the biblical sense. The Bible almost always refers to plant “death” as “withering.” The Bible says that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Plants do not have blood; therefore, plants do not have life, neither do they die in the biblical sense. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). Notice that he says that the grass “withers,” not that it dies.

If that is true, then why did Jesus say that a grain of wheat falling to the ground dies (John 12:24)? In this passage, the word “die” translates the Greek word apothnēskō. According to Strong’s (G599), the word means, “to die off (literally or figuratively).” Jude applies the same word to “trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 1:12, emphasis mine). The word translated “dead” is the same Greek word, apothnēskō, but note that it is associated with “withereth.” Therefore, death, in the Bible, can be applied to plants, but it is more in the figurative sense than in a literal sense.

Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24, emphasis mine). However, He used the word “die” in the figurative sense. He was referring to His pending death and resurrection. He was not using the word in a literal sense that a seed actually dies.

When a seed gets buried in the ground, it does not remain a seed. Rather, it germinates and transforms into a new plant that produces many more seeds. Similarly, Jesus died and was buried in the earth. On the third day, He came up out of the ground, and His resurrection produced eternal life for all who would believe on Him.

So, talk to your plants, if you like, but they really do not hear you. Plants are food, not pets.

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Not Expecting to Die

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

Everyone dies eventually, but that is not my expectation. No, I have not discovered the fountain of youth, nor do I possess some secret, life-extending formula. Neither am I in denial about the certainty of death as it applies to me, nor do I fear the inevitability of death – although the process of dying is not too appealing. I fully accept the possibility that God could take my life at any moment. My life (and yours) belongs to Him, and He can recall it at His will. As the psalmist prayed, “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4).

That said, I expect not to die. Although our leading verse emphasizes that “it is appointed unto men once to die,” there is biblical precedence for it not being true for all men.

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him (Genesis 5:24).

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both [Elijah and Elisha] asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11).

Two men recorded in the Bible escaped natural death, Enoch and Elijah. Some believe that the two unnamed witnesses described in Revelation 11:3 are Enoch and Elijah brought back to fulfill their unfinished prophetic mission. “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them” (Revelation 11:7, emphasis mine). Those who hold this view use this passage as confirmation of the truth of Hebrews 9:27 above, i.e., Enoch and Elijah did not die while they were on earth, so they must complete their earthly task and die as appointed to all men.

However, Hebrews 9:27 does not say παντες [all] οι ανθρωποι [men] – transliterated, pantes hoi anthropoi. While some may say that I am arguing from silence, I believe I have a valid point. The truth of this verse begins in Genesis when God commanded Adam, “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, emphasis mine). Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the curse of death fell upon mankind.  “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19, emphasis mine). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12, emphasis mine). Adam’s sin brought the curse of death “upon” all men. The Greek word translated “upon” is the preposition eis, which can also be translated “toward” or “among,” meaning that all men are under the curse of death, but that does not necessarily mean that all men will die physically, although that is generally true for all men. All of us are susceptible to physical death – for the most part. However, the spirit lives on forever.

Death is more than physical death. Indeed, the worst death of all is that of the spirit separated from its Creator. Every person is born under this curse. Without Christ, everyone is dead in sin – eternally, but not irrevocably, separated from God. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened [made alive] us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5, emphasis mine). Those who continue in that condition will suffer the second death. “And death and hell [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14, emphasis mine). The second death is eternal separation from God for eternity in hell. What a chilling thought!

Everyone is born under the curse of death and is spiritually separated (dead) from God; but God has provided the way to be made spiritually alive by placing one’s faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. However, along with that remains the fact that physical death is part of the curse. It is appointed to humans to die once, i.e., physical death, but those without Christ can also expect the second death – eternal spiritual separation from God.

However, Hebrews 9:27 implies that not all die physically. Indeed, there is coming a time when many millions of Christians from all over the earth will escape the bonds of this world without experiencing physical death.[1] “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis mine). “For 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, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “caught up” is harpazō, and it means “to seize,” “to catch away,” or “to pluck or take by force.” In Latin, it is the word rapturo, from which we get our English word “rapture.” That time is very near.[2]

While the possibility remains that God may take me at any moment – all of us live with that possibility – I rather anticipate that I will not experience physical death. I expect to be caught up in the Rapture. That too can happen at any moment, but I fully expect that it will happen before I die, and I fully expect it to happen very soon[3] – perhaps this very year.

When the Rapture takes place, millions from all around the globe will vanish in an instant. I will be one of them. The Rapture will cause havoc around the world, but especially in the United States. Many in our government, including President Trump (from what I hear), are “born-again” believers in Christ – genuine Christians. At the Rapture, they will all vanish. Think of the chaos that will ensue when that happens! The US Government and economy is on the verge of collapse right now. Think of what will happen when many of our leaders disappear!

Reader, how about you? Will you go to meet Jesus in the air with me, or be left behind to face the seven terrible years that will follow. If you do not know, I would invite you to place your trust in Jesus for your salvation. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

If you want to know more about the “Rapture” and the “Second Coming” of Christ, just type the phrase into the search box on this page or under the “Categories” column, select “Second Coming of Christ.”

Notes:


[1]  “Coming Soon!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

[2]  “Pentecost” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/05/28/pentecost/

[3]  “Rosh HaShannah” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/03/rosh-hashanah/

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Good Guys Go to 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)

A popular idea going around these days suggests that anyone can go to heaven, if he or she is a “good” person. That sounds good, but by what standard does one measure “goodness”? The fornicator may say, “I’m not so bad; I won’t cheat on my wife.” The adulterer might say, “I’m not so bad; I’ve never molested a child.” The child molester could say, “I’m not so bad; I’ve never murdered anyone.” The murderer excuses himself, “I’m not so bad; the one I killed had it coming.” He would also add, “I am not a mass murderer,” and so on. Each one is not as bad as the other person is; by their own standard, they qualify for heaven. However, heaven’s standards exceed those we place on ourselves.

Jesus recounts the death of two men. The account is often mistaken as one of Jesus’ parables; however, the matter-of-fact telling of the account carries no alternative meaning, as do the regular parables of Jesus. In this instance, Jesus gives the proper name of one of the characters, Lazarus. He refers to the second man simply as “a rich man.” In this account, Jesus gives the impression that He has firsthand knowledge of the parties involved, so it makes one wonder why the rich man remains unnamed. The Bible tells us that “when the roll is called up yonder,” those who have died without Christ will be judged by their works recorded in “the books” (Revelation 20:12-13). When their “works” fail to meet heavenly standards, those being judged will be looked up in the Book of Life, and when their names are not found there, they will be cast into “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Perhaps this is why Jesus does not name the rich man. On the other hand, Jesus knows Lazarus by name. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28, emphasis mine). Apparently, Jesus did not know the rich man meaning that the rich man was not one of His sheep.

As Jesus relates the account, the worst thing said about the rich man is that he “was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19). Is there anything sinful about being rich? Surely, that cannot be the reason for his eternal life sentence! Indeed, “in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off,” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Abraham was one of the richest men recorded in the Bible, yet there he is in paradise, so wealth was not the man’s problem.

Jesus tells us that Lazarus, a beggar, “was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:20-21). The account implies that the rich man took no notice of the beggar’s plight, although Jesus does not explicitly say so. Very possibly the rich man tossed a few coins to the beggar from time to time as might be expected of a man of his status. Even here, we find no “sin” worthy of an eternal sentence to hell.

One characteristic about the rich man that clearly comes through in Jesus’ account is his self-centeredness or self-focus, especially upon his arrival in hell. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24, emphasis mine). Even in his circumstance, he considered himself superior to Lazarus so that Lazarus should serve him. His request denied and realizing that his fate is permanent, he suddenly becomes evangelistic. “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Luke 16:27-28, emphasis mine). Notice his concern is not for a lost world, but only for his family.

We see that the rich man was self-indulgent – “But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things” (Luke 16:25) – and egocentric. So what! Did that make him an evil person deserving hell? My guess is that the rich man was probably a pretty good guy over all. Jesus does not say that he mistreated Lazarus in any way, only that Lazarus desired “to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:21). That only means that the rich man took no real notice of the beggar’s plight. If such neglect condemns one to hell, then I plead guilty as charged. Not a day goes by that I do not see someone begging on some street corner of Dallas, and I drive on by. No, that was not the rich man’s problem.

The unnamed rich man’s problem was his ignorance of the Good Shepherd. The rich man was not one of Jesus’ sheep; Lazarus was, though. Jesus knew his name, and he gained entry into the presence of God. The rich man did not go to hell because he was some kind of great sinner; he went to hell because his name was not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Heaven – the New Jerusalem – is an exclusive place. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27, emphasis mine). The rich man’s name was not recorded in that book, but Lazarus’ name was recorded there, which is why Jesus knew his name.

How about you, Reader? Is your name recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life? If not, you will end up with that nameless rich man, and humanly speaking, you may even be a better person than the rich man. You may consider yourself to be a good person, but at the Great White Throne Judgment, when the books are brought out (Revelation 20:12-13) (one of which is the Word of God, the Bible), your good deeds will be judged according to the standard of God’s Word. Prepare yourself. You will not measure up. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Your only hope is for your name to be listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Ask Jesus to write your name in His book today. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Good guys go to hell, but those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be saved. Do it today!

Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus is recorded in Luke 16:19-31.

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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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