Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

A Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no loss of consciousness in the “second death.” That soul is very much alive and aware of his surroundings. Jesus spoke of such a one whose only sin was self-centeredness.[5] Of course, a self-centered person has no need for God, which is ultimately what landed him in hell. “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23, emphasis mine). Because the soul is the whole person, he could feel the flames of hell, and he could see what he had missed. Later on, he has a sense of concern for his five brothers who are still alive, and he requests that Lazarus be sent back to earth to go warn his brothers about this awful place. Hell apparently does nothing to change his self-centered, selfish ways. His concern is only for his brothers and not for the millions of souls in the same condition.

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

Notes:


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

[2]  Genesis 1:27

[3]  Genesis 17:1-14

[4]  Genesis 27: 4, 19, 25, 31

[5]  Luke 16:19-31

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Priests and Wine

And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: (Leviticus 10:8-9)

As a young adult being away from the watchful eye of my preacher father, I developed a problem with alcohol. No, I did not become an alcoholic, nor did I develop a habit of getting drunk – very often. I joined the Navy just before my 20th birthday, and I easily passed for 21, so I never encountered problems gaining admittance into bars. As a sailor, I felt encouraged to behave like a sailor and hit the bars with my Navy buddies. I tried hard not to allow myself to get drunk because I had seen how foolish drunks looked returning from “liberty” on a Friday night. I did not want to look like those guys!

The Holy Spirit strongly objects to His temples engaging in acts that do not pertain to them. As a result, I always experienced a twinge of guilt when I was out barhopping with my buddies. I could hear the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “My son, this is no place for you.” I attempted to atone for my sin by going to chapel on Sunday morning, but there I felt like a real hypocrite. As a result, I never felt comfortable in the bars or in church. I tried to rationalize my behavior by Scripture. The Bible does not say drinking is wrong. Even Jesus turned water into really good wine. The Bible only discourages getting drunk, and I was not doing that (except one or two times when a few got by me). However, the guilt never left me.

Finally, I yielded to the Holy Spirit. No more would I ride the fence. No longer would I “halt between two opinions.”[1] I determined never to touch any form of alcohol again, and so far, I have been faithful to that commitment. However, I still maintain that there is nothing “sinful” about having a glass of beer or wine with dinner as long as one practices moderation. Drunkenness is another matter altogether. Drunkenness is sin and is strongly discouraged in the Bible.[2] I have good Baptist friends who drink wine or beer occasionally, and I have no problem with that. If the Holy Spirit has not dealt with them as He did with me, what they do is between them and God. I love them and refuse to pass judgment on them. We are God’s children, and I think, as any parent, God deals with each one on an individual basis. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ … I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (Romans 14:10, 14).

With that said, I would like to offer some food for thought and let the Holy Spirit use it as He sees fit. As I read the 10th chapter of Leviticus this week, I came across the instructions God gave to Aaron, Moses’ brother and newly installed High Priest. The instruction had to do with the priests that entered the Tabernacle to minister before the Lord. “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations” (Leviticus 10:8-9, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “wine” is yayin. It is “from an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication,”[3] The Hebrew word translated “strong drink” is shêkâr, which is “an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor.”[4] Clearly, this is not talking about grape juice. It is worth noting that the prohibition was against drinking wine or strong drink, period. It is also worth noting that the prohibition specified serving in the Tabernacle. (Later the same would apply to the service in the Temple.) The prohibition did not apply to them when they were “off duty.”

I found that interesting, but how does that apply to us? Some will rightly point out that this was Old Testament Law which no longer applies to Christians of the New Testament era. Is that so? To those who reject the application of the Old Testament to our lives, allow me to remind you of what Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). The New Testament did not exist when Jesus spoke these words; He referred to the only Scripture (Law) that existed in His time, the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul, who wrote 13 (arguably 14) of the New Testament books made countless references to the Old Testament. Every word of Scripture applies to us. We may be “under grace,” but that does not mean that the Law has become irrelevant. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7).

Well then, how does this prohibition given to Aaron and his sons, the priests of Israel, apply to us, who are “under grace”?

John, the beloved apostle, in his salutation to the seven churches of the Revelation said, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6, emphasis mine).

Later John observed the saints around the throne of God singing, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10, emphasis mine).

Clearly, we who are born again (twice-born) and call ourselves “children of God” are “priests.” The job of a priest is to intercede between God and man (humans). A priest carries the petitions of man before God and takes the Word of God before men. Is that not what we do when we pray on behalf of others and share the Gospel with others? We are priests.

Now, as long as the priest is not ministering in the Tabernacle/Temple, he is free to drink wine or strong drink. So, we might assume that as long as we abstain on Sunday, when we go to church (the building), we are not in violation. Let us look at that a little closer.

In the Old Testament, God’s dwelling place was in the Temple. Even Jesus said as much. “And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him [God] that dwelleth therein” (Matthew 23:21). At the same time, Scripture is clear that God cannot be confined to a physical building.[5] “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet” (Acts 7:48, emphasis mine). “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24, emphasis mine). In the Old Testament, God’s presence manifested in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple even though He is not confined to any one particular place. This has to do with God’s attribute of omnipresence.

The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 A.D., so, where does God reside now? “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis mine). “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As Christians, we confess Jesus as our Lord (Boss) and Savior and that His Spirit dwells/resides within us. If that is true, then we are the dwelling place, i.e., the Temple, of the Holy Spirit, and we are living temples not “made with hands.” We also acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is fully God. Therefore, because God dwells in us, we are living temples of God. Does God only dwell in His temples sometimes or always? Always, of course. God promises, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5); therefore we are always His temples. At the same time, we are priests of God. We are priests occupying God’s temples continually. Since God prohibits His priests from drinking wine or strong drink while ministering in His temple, then it follows that we should abstain from wine and strong drink at all times. God has not abrogated this command simply because we are now living under the New Testament. Rather, the command has taken on greater significance. That is something to think about.

Notes:


[1]  1 Kings 18:21

[2]  1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:18

[3] Definition from Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6

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Old Testament Holy Spirit

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)

We often think of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, in New Testament terms. However, we have an abundance of evidence of His work in the Old Testament beginning with the first chapter of Genesis where He energizes Creation.[1] Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God in Joseph,[2] and He filled certain men to endow them with wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and skill in all manner of workmanship.[3] The Spirit of God showed up at the completion of the Tabernacle in the wilderness,[4] and later in the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.[5] Other examples could be cited, but these should suffice to make the point.

Before the Wilderness Tabernacle was completed, the Spirit of God manifested in the pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead the way for the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud reminds us of the cloud that filled the Tabernacle, and the later Temple. The cloud represented the presence of God with His people. Jesus said that God is a spirit.[6] Therefore, God cannot be seen; however, He manifests through His Son. “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). In like manner He manifests through His Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament, God made His presence visible by a pillar of cloud by day and by a pillar of fire at night. The Holy Spirit filled the Tabernacle (mishkân, a residence; dwelling place) and later the Temple. This same manifestation was repeated in the New Testament; only the temples were of flesh, not stone.

A week after Jesus’ ascension, the disciples, about 120 of them, were gathered in the Upper Room. Jesus had promised that “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8), and they waited and “were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). This time the Holy Spirit came, not as a cloud, but as “a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). And the pillar of fire came and “appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4). The Spirit of God was no longer restricted to one individual or to a tent or stone edifice, but He filled 120 temples of flesh and bone equipped to carry His message to all the world in a way that a stationary building cannot.

Paul reminds us, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The same Spirit that accompanied the children of Israel in the wilderness and filled the Tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament, is the same Spirit that fills the heart of every true believer. Therefore, Paul warns, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:17). There is something to consider!

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 1:2

[2]  Genesis 41:38

[3]  Exodus 31:3-4

[4]  Exodus 40:34-35

[5]  1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

[6]  John 4:24

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Neither Good Nor Bad

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:7-8)

Greg[1] pointed out to me last week something I had not stopped to consider. At the end of every day of creation, God assessed His work, “And God saw … that it was good.”[2] Genesis 1:4 is God’s assessment of the first day, specifically the light. In Genesis 1:10, 12, God gives approval of the third day’s work in separating the water from the land and bringing forth plant life. In Genesis 1:18, God is satisfied with His creation of the heavenly bodies on Day Four. On the fifth day, God gave His approval of the ocean creatures and the creatures that fly. He certified the “beasts of the field” created on the sixth day, and after He crowned His creation by creating man “in Our Image and after Our Likeness” on the sixth day, He declared His entire creation “very good” (Genesis 1:31). However, the second day, received no such assessment. Greg asked, “Why is that? Why did God have nothing to say about the second day?”

That is a very good question. I had to think about that. I consulted several commentaries on Genesis 1:6-8 and none made note of the absence of God’s evaluation of the second day. Not even The Henry Morris Study Bible had anything to say in this regard. Therefore I am left to puzzle this out on my own.

The best place to start, in context, is at the beginning. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “the earth” is ha’erets, and it can refer to earth as the planet, earth as land (either a parcel of land or as a country), or earth as ground (soil). Within the context of the first verse, the last option, ground (soil), probably fits best. In the first verse, God creates all the elements that comprise the universe: time, space, and matter/energy (the earth). Matter/energy occupies time and space. We call this the time-space continuum. So “earth” is the “stuff” from which all else is made.

Genesis 1:2 informs us that all this “stuff” was “without form and void” (not that it “became without form and void” as Gap Theorists speculate).[3], [4], [5] It also says that “darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Then, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Hebrew word translated “moved” is râchaph and it means to “flutter, move or shake.” I interpret this to mean that the Spirit of God hovered over the entire glob of the mass of matter to energize all the ‘erets God had created. Part of that energy existed as light. “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:3-5, emphasis mine).

We arrive at the second day, and what we have is a massive blob of matter and energy within the time-space continuum. It is void and without form; it has yet to be “shaped” into anything. On the second day, God gets to work at molding all the stuff of creation. “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1:6). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is râqı̂ya‛ meaning an “expanse” or the “visible arch of the sky.” Another dictionary[6] defines it as an “extended surface (solid).” The term seems to describe some sort of solid shell around this massive “earth” blob that fills the space of the universe – thus, the “firm” in firmament.[7] God installed this firmament “shell” between the waters to cause a separation from the waters from which He will form “Planet Earth” from the waters that will occupy the rest of space. I see this as the beginning of God “[stretching] out the heavens as a curtain, and [spreading] them out as a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so” (Genesis 1:7, emphasis mine). From the waters “which are above the firmament” God will create “the stars also.”[8]

“And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:8, emphasis mine). What God has at this point is a watery blob in the midst of a greater watery blob separated by the “firmament.” He still has more work to do to form Planet Earth. Perhaps this is why God made no assessment of His work at this point. He was not done with this part yet. It was neither good nor bad; it was incomplete. The finished product comes on Day Three where God brings the landmasses out of the water and causes the ground to bring forth vegetation.[9] At the end of that day, God declares it “good.”

Notes:


[1]  Greg is a volunteer at the ICR Discovery Center for Science and Earth History, and he is a very careful student of the Bible, hence the question. I did not use his full name because I did not request permission to do so, If he reads this blog article, he will know.

[2]  Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25

[3]  “The Gap – Not the Store” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2019/08/04/the-gap-not-the-store/

[4]  “No Gap” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

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

[6]  Brown-Driver-Briggs’  Hebrew Definitions

[7]  “רקיע  rāqı̂ya‛, “expanse;” στερέωμα  stereōma, רקע  rāqa‛, “spread out by beating, as leaf gold.” This expanse was not understood to be solid, as the fowl is said to fly on the face of it Gen_1:21. It is also described as luminous Dan_12:3, and as a monument of divine power Psa_150:1,” Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

[8]  Genesis 1:16

[9]  Genesis 1:9-13

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Missed One!

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; (Genesis 19:1)

Anyone who has spent any time in the Bible has experienced reading a familiar passage and all of a sudden, something new appears in the text. Well, it is not really new; it has been there all along, but for the first time, the Spirit gives new insight into that familiar passage.

Recently I started reading the Book of Genesis for the nth time and came to Chapter 19 where two angels come to drag Lot out of Sodom before God destroyed it. Lot ranks at the bottom of my list of Bible characters. Lot was the son of Abram’s brother, Haran,[1] making him Abram’s (Abraham) nephew. Haran died, and when God called Abram to “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1), Lot followed his uncle.[2] Later on, as their wealth increased, Abram’s and Lot’s shepherds started quarreling over grazing land for their sheep.[3] So Abram decided that they should split up in order to avoid further conflict. Abram gave Lot the choice of grazing land,[4] and Lot chose what he thought was the best grazing land.[5] The Bible describes the land Lot chose as “well watered every where … as the garden of the LORD” (Genesis 13:10). The land he selected lies in a valley on the east shore of the Dead Sea, so it strikes me odd that the Bible says that “Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan” (v. 10). Why would one “lift up his eyes” to see a valley that is below. That makes no sense to me unless his eyes were “lifted up” in pride. After all, he chose the best for himself leaving the least desirable land for his uncle.

Then Lot moved near the “cities of the plain,” two of which were Sodom and Gomorrah, but he “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”[6] “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Genesis 13:13). Scripture clearly indicates the direction Lot was headed, and it was not a good place. Later we learn that Lot left his tent and moved into Sodom[7] and even became a city leader sitting “in the gate of Sodom”[8] – the place of judgment.

Lot does not make it into the “Faith Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11), but the Apostle Peter calls Lot “just.” “[God] turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation [i.e., lifestyle] of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:6-7, emphasis mine). Except for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, I fail to see how Peter arrives at that conclusion. However, the Greek word translated “just” is dikaios and it means “equitable,” so perhaps as a judge, Lot dealt fairly with all.

Yet, had he faced his tent a different direction and stayed out there with his sheep, he may have averted the troubles that came with living in Sodom. He was kidnapped by marauding kings and his uncle had to rescue him,[9] and then God sent fire and brimstone to destroy all the cities of the plain for their wickedness.

I may be wrong (it would not be the first time), but it seems to me that Lot got sucked into the “city life,” perhaps not all the way, but just on the edge – at the gate. We do that too. We want Jesus, but we want to have a little of what the world offers too. I see Lot this way. Peter says that Lot was “vexed with the filthy conversation” of the city, but when the men of the city came to his house demanding that Lot give over his two male guests so they could have sex with them, Lot offered them his virgin daughters to do with them as they pleased.[10] What kind of “righteous” man does that! Later, as the angels tried to get Lot to leave the city before they destroyed it, “he lingered” and “the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city” (Genesis 19:16). Lot had to be dragged out of the city for his own good!

We might think this story ends happily. No, it gets worse. After being saved from destruction, Lot’s daughters, who had been raised in the “conversation” of Sodom, became concerned that they had no man to get them pregnant, so they get their father drunk and have sex with him and have sons that become enemy nations of Israel – Moab (the Moabites) and Ammon (the Ammonites).[11]

Perhaps you can see why Lot is at the bottom of my Bible hero list, and I am disgusted every time I read this account. However, here is what I have missed all these times I’ve read this passage. It really begins in Chapter 18 when three angels come and speak to Abraham. After the angels finish the meal Abraham prepared for them, they get up to leave in the direction of Sodom, but one stays behind to inform Abraham of what He is going to do. We learn throughout the passage that this “angel” is actually the LORD. Theologically, this is known as a “theophany,” or better yet, a “Christophany” because these are appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

So Abraham intercedes on behalf of Sodom with the LORD. “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). What if there are 50 righteous in the city? What if there are 45, 40, 30, 20, 10? The LORD agrees that for 10 righteous, He will spare the city. Then in Chapter 19, we see two angels enter the city. I always assumed these where the two angels that went ahead while the LORD stayed behind to speak with Abraham, but I saw something different this time.

Eight years ago, I wrote a thesis entitled Images of Christ in Genesis where I discuss ways in which Christ appears in the Book of Genesis. These include typology and theophany, but the one I missed was the one that appears in this encounter with Lot. One way to recognize a theophany is when the angel is referred to as “the angel of the LORD.” However, the best way to recognize that the angel is actually “the LORD” is that He takes credit for what the LORD does or will do. Rather than say, “the LORD will …” the angel says, “I will …”

So we have two angels enter the city (we know the account), and they try to evacuate Lot, his wife, and two daughters. The first hint that this is “the LORD” appears in Verse 16 where it says that the angels took them by the hands to drag them out of the city, and it makes this comment: “the LORD being merciful unto them.” Then, once they are out of the city one of the angels commands Lot to escape for his life and not look back. Lot protests and addresses Him as “my Lord” (‘ădônây) and pleads, “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (Genesis 19:19). Lot pleads to be allowed to go to Zoar, and the angel says, “See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken” (Genesis 19:21).

Zoar was one of the cities of the plain, and the angel unilaterally granted Lot’s request and spared the city. Matters of life and death belong to God alone. Angels cannot act in opposition to God’s directive. Even Satan is subject to God’s authority. Because this angel acted in response to Lot’s request, we know that either he acted against God’s wishes (to destroy Zoar) or He indeed is God and within His rights to grant the request. “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven … And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt” (Genesis 19:24, 29).

All the times I read this passage and I missed it. However, it shows how God cares for His own, and that He will protect them even when they are not living according to His will. I know it to be true in my life. But just because God protects His children when they are outside His will, there are often consequences to pay. Consider Lot’s incestuous daughters. Life is so much better if we stick close to Him. I speak from experience.

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 11:27

[2]  Genesis 12:4

[3]  Genesis 13:7

[4]  Genesis 13:8-9

[5]  Genesis 13:10-11

[6]  Genesis 13:12

[7]  Genesis 14:12

[8]  Genesis 19:1

[9]  Genesis 14:12, 14-16

[10]  Genesis 19:4-8

[11]  Genesis 19:30-38

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The Church

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Today is Sunday, and June and I just got out of “church.” We enjoyed a wonderful time of worshiping God our Savior, Jesus Christ, and listening to the Word of God exposited by our “under shepherd,” our pastor. Then we gathered in our Sunday school classroom to enjoy family time by fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters and enjoying a time of deeper study into the Word of God. Currently, we are studying the book of Isaiah. We have been in the book of Isaiah for nearly a year, and we are only halfway through the book. I really appreciate our Bible teacher and his dedication to the careful study of God’s Word.

I have said this before, and it is still true. I love church! But what is church? Some people think of a building where people meet on Sundays for some unknown reason. Others have a vague notion that people gather there to sing and listen to some preacher talk. Many Christians consider church attendance as some kind of obligation. It’s just something one does.

Before going into what “church” is, perhaps we should understand what it is not.

“Church” is not a building. The first definition of “church” found at Dictionary.Com says that it is “a building for public Christian worship.”[1] While that may be the modern, accepted understanding of the word, it is nonetheless in error. The second definition says that a church is a “public worship of God or a religious service in such a building.” That comes closer to a correct understanding; however, it is still false.

Some people who attend church services select their place of “worship” based on the style of music that is played. They want to hear stirring music that stimulates the emotions and elevates their spirits to euphoric heights. Many church leaders are keenly aware of this “need” and they go to great expense and effort to tailor music that attracts the most number of attendees. Many “worship” services employ loud, screaming guitars, jungle-beating percussion sets, laser-light shows, and even smoke machines to stimulate the emotions. After 45 minutes or so of ear-splitting, pulse-raising “music,” the speaker comes up to give a 15-minute motivational speech specifically intended to maintain the hearer in a happy state – no talk of sin and the need for the Savior, or the prospect of hell; only talk about God’s love and how He loves you just the way you are (a partial truth originating from the “father of lies”).[2]

No, the church is not a place to be entertained, emotionally elevated, or encouraged in your sin. Even churches that still sing the “tired old hymns” can degenerate into places where we can go to just feel good about ourselves. That is not what church is. Neither is the church intended to attract unbelievers, which the modern “church growth” movement emphasizes.

The word translated “church” in the Bible is the Greek word ekklēsia, and it could be translated the “called out ones.” Immediately we notice that the definition precludes a building of any kind. So, the “church” is not a building. The church is people, and not just people, they are people that have been “called out.” The question that immediately comes to mind is, “called out of what?” Simply put, the church is an assembly of people who have been “called out” of the world. To use a “churchy” term, the church is a body of those who have been “saved” out of the world, out of sin, and out of an eternity in hell.

Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain …” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “ordained” means “to place” or “to set.” In other words, Jesus has “chosen,” i.e. “called out,” His church and set it in a place to do His work on earth – to “bring forth fruit.” “Bringing forth fruit” does not necessarily mean increasing the number of attendees in a particular church body. Indeed, Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The “call” goes out to all, but only a few will respond. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis mine).

Jesus said these things before the church was established at Pentecost.[3] The church, therefore, consists of individuals who are “called out” by Christ through the Holy Spirit, regardless of man-made “branding” – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc. The unifying theme of the Church is a belief in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross in payment for our sin, His resurrection from the grave (after three days), His ascension into heaven and His soon return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, emphasis mine). If one trusts simply in that, that one is included in “the Church.” If, on the other hand, one is trusting in the practices observed by their church, they are probably not included in “the Church.”[4]

The Bible refers to the body of all true believers, the “called out ones,” i.e. “the Church,” as “the Bride of Christ.”[5] This is the Church – not a building or a particular “Christian” denomination. The Church is a body of “called out” individuals who join together to worship God, to “feed” on His Word, to grow and mature in the Spirit, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, to fellowship and encourage one another, and to work together to “bring forth fruit,” i.e., bring others to Christ.

The purpose of the local church is to build up the body – the Church – for the work of the kingdom. It is not to entertain, nor is it to gain numbers for the sake of numbers. The Church is not confined to a single building; however, the smaller gathering that meets in a “church” building plays a major role as part of the “greater” Church. Therefore, “… 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).

One day soon the Church will gather together from all parts of the earth in one great assembly forever to be united with our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. I so yearn for that day! In the meantime, I enjoy the little piece of Heaven God has provided here on earth in my local church with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Notes:


[1]  Church – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/church?s=t

[2]  John 8:44

[3]  Acts 2

[4]  See my articles on “False Religion”

[5]  Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 19:7-9

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Dry Bones

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35)

With the cross looming just days away, Jesus’ naïve apostles wondered about Jesus’ coming kingdom and what part they would play. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, emphasis mine) The question inaugurated Jesus’ end-times sermon known as the Olivet Discourse. The sermon, addressed to Jesus’ Jewish disciples, delineated the events that would take place in the Great Tribulation spoken of by the Prophet Daniel[1] and detailed by John the Apostle.[2] Now, in order to pinpoint the proximity of these events, Jesus offered the Parable of the Fig Tree (our passage above).

Israel is compared to a fig tree in the Old Testament,[3] and Jesus uses this imagery to signal the last days. Just as the budding of a fig tree singals the proximity of summer, so the “budding” of Israel singals the nearness of the Lord’s return. The generation that witnesses Israel bud, Jesus said, “shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34).

Ezekiel was one of the Jewish priests taken to Babylon in the first group of captives.[4] He was contemporary with the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, and he ministered to the captives in Babylon. God gave the Prophet Ezekiel a preview of Israel’s rebirth. Ezekiel describes his experience as “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones” (Ezekiel 37:1). “The spirit of the LORD” refers to the Holy Spirit who appears often in the Old Testament. Often we think of the Holy Spirit showing up at Pentcost[5] in the New Testament, and indeed He operates differently today than in Old Testament times, but He was no less active in those days. Today, the Holy Spirit indwells every true believer. In Old Testament time, He “came upon” individuals for specific purposes.

The Holy Spirit carried Ezekiel in a “vision” to a valley full of dry bones. We learn later that these dry bones represent the nation of Israel. “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (Ezekiel 37:11, emphasis mine). Dry bones indicate that these bodies died many years before, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years. We know by experience that when a body dies and is left unattended, it will decay. Scavengers will eat away at the flesh until nothing is left but the bones. The bones maintain their “boniness” for a long time, but eventually, the sun will bake them dry and they become brittle and eventually turn to dust.

The bones Ezekiel saw were disarticulated and scattered throughout the valley. The vision foretold of a time when Israel would be broken and scattered all over the world with no sign of life and no hope for revival. “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:3). Ezekiel saw no hope of life for these bones, but he trusted that with the Lord, nothing is impossible.[6]

God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones. In his vision, Ezekiel witnessed the bones come together and tendons grow to hold the frame together. Then muscle and finally skin, but the bodies remained dead.[7] Then God told him to prophesy to the wind so that it would breathe life into the lifeless bodies. Ezekiel prophesied as instructed and the bodies came alive and stood to their feet and became a mighty army.[8]

After rejecting their Messiah, God punished Israel by destroying the nation and scattering the Jews all over the earth. This took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem and razed the Temple to the ground. The nation of Israel died that day, and its bones were scattered among the Gentile nations. Everywhere they went, they were persecuted, often having to flee from one nation to another with no place they could call their own. Remarkably, they never lost their national identity, traditions, customs, and language, and at every Passover celebration they recited the incessant prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

For nearly 2000 years, the land lay fallow. By all human reconning, the land became a barren desert wasteland. Jews throughout the world could only dream of returning once again to their beloved homeland. Then at the turn of the 20th Century, God started working on Israel’s behalf again. The dry bones started coming together, Then on May 14, 1948, the dry bones stood up “a mighty army.” Immediately, they faced a fight for their lives, but God intervened and the newborn nation survived. Then in 1967, another invasion by their hostile, more powerful neighbors ended in only six days by God’s help, and Israel regained control of their beloved Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Today, more than 70 years later, tiny Israel is considered the eighth most powerful country in the world.[9] And we are that generation of which Jesus spoke that has witnessed the fig tree bud and the dry bones rise. This is the generation that will see the Lord’s return. Are you ready? If not, read my page, “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Daniel 9:24-27; 11:36-45

[2]  Revelation 6-19

[3]  Joel 1:7, 12

[4]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[5]  Acts 2:1-4

[6]  Jeremiah 32:27

[7]  Ezekiel 37:7-8

[8]  Ezekiel 37:9-10

[9]  “Top 10 Most Powerful Countries in the World 2019

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