Category Archives: Questions & Biblical Answers

Is the Roman Catholic Mass Biblical?

The Catholic Mass is a daily ritual performed by Roman Catholic priests.  Because the Sunday morning mass is the most well-attended mass of the week, many believe that the event is essentially equivalent to the Sunday morning Worship services held by Protestant churches.  This could not be further from the truth; there are a number of practices that set the Catholic Mass apart from Christian Lord’s Day worship.  The events of the Mass demonstrate the vast and unbiblical amount of power vested in the Roman Catholic Priesthood and should be very concerning to Bible-believing Christians.

Perhaps the most notable, and most troubling, aspect of the Mass is the sacrament of the Eucharist.  According to Paragraph #1336 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Mass seeks to “re-present” Jesus as a sacrifice during the observance of the Eucharist. CCC Paragraph #1367 communicates that the atoning Sacrifice of Jesus and the Eucharist are one in the same.  In other words, every time the Catholic Church observes the Eucharist during Mass, it is re-sacrificing Jesus. John O’Brien explains this well in his book The Faith of Millions, “The priest brings Christ down from heaven and renders Him present on our altar as the eternal victim for the sins of man, not once but a thousand times.”  These doctrines, as presented in the CCC, conflict with the biblical account.  As recorded in John 19:30, Jesus exclaimed “Tetelestai” as he died upon a Roman cross.  This verb is often rendered in English translations of the Bible as “It is finished!”. Its use indicates that the sin debt of the elect, for whom Christ died, has been paid in full.  The Greek perfect tense in which this verb is presented indicates that the debt has been paid in full with a perpetual effect; it has been paid in full once and for all.  Since the sin debt of the elect has been fully and perpetually paid, no further works are needed; Jesus need not be re-sacrificed in the Catholic Mass. The author of Hebrews put is this way “Christ (has) offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:12 ESV).

The work that Jesus did on the cross was complete and is sufficient.  Because the Roman Catholic Church is centered around the false Roman Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist, Christians should neither attend nor promote it.  Doing so, only supports and perpetuates the unbiblical claims of the Roman Catholic Church and its powerful class of priests.  Priests are not only in control of the Eucharist, which is an essential sacrament of the Roman Catholic Church, they are also vested with the power to forgive sins.

CCC paragraph #1461 states that priests have, “the power to forgive all sins.” In CCC paragraph #1468, it is asserted that Indulgences can actually reconcile sinners with God. Furthermore, CCC paragraph #1471 affirms that indulgences (which are a remission of some or all sins) can even be applied to the dead. The Roman Catholic system of confession, indulgences, and penance is a system of works righteousness. Paul wrote in his epistle to the Galatians, “…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16, ESV) Paul wrote a similar statement to the Ephesian church, “…by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).  Paul’s statements contradict the Roman Catholic doctrines of Confession and Penance.  According to these doctrines, one must confess his sins to a priest at least once a year and perform the penance prescribed for those sins in order to receive saving grace. These doctrines were codified in Canon 21 by the Fourth Council of the Lateran and are included in paragraph #1424 of the CCC.

The Catholic Mass and the Catholic Priest are unbiblcial and should be repudiated by bible-believing Christians.

Source: Is the Roman Catholic Mass Biblical?

CultureWatch: Dealing with Cults

Source: Dealing with Cults

Just this morning a Christian friend in another country contacted me, greatly worried about family members who had obviously gotten themselves involved in a deceptive and nutty cult. She was terribly concerned – and rightly so – about all this and asked for some advice, which I sought to give.

But this scenario is sadly far too common. The cults are certainly out and about, seeking to devour their prey, leading many astray. Thus it is vital for all believers to know a bit about the cults, what they believe, why they are so influential, and how we can protect ourselves and loved ones against them.

cultHaving spent my earliest year as a believer involved in several cults, I certainly have an interest in them. But we all should be interested, since they involve deceptive groups who are leading many people into deception and error – both Christians and non-Christians alike. Jesus and the disciples warned about such groups and individuals, so we had better be concerned.

So, what exactly is a cult? Well, there are various definitions, and sometimes folk distinguish full-fledged cults from aberrational Christian groups. And we can speak of counterfeit religions or heretical groups as well. But let me offer a few definitions from some experts in the field.

A “cult” is a religious group that has a “prophet”-founder called of God to give a special message not found in the Bible itself, often apocalyptic in nature and often set forth in “inspired” writings. (Ruth Tucker, Another Gospel)

A cult may be briefly defined as a separate religious group claiming compatibility with Christianity but whose doctrines contradict those of historic Christianity and whose practices and ethical standards violate those of biblical Christianity. (John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions)

Cultism, in short, is any major deviation from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. (Walter Martin, Rise of the Cults)

A cult, then, is any religious movement which claims the backing of Christ or the Bible, but distorts the central message of Christianity by (1) an additional revelation, and (2) by displacing a fundamental tenet of faith with a secondary matter. (Gordon Lewis, Confronting the Cults)

It may be helpful to pad these definitions out by examining the various marks of a cult. At least two broad areas can be covered here: theological and sociological. As to theological or doctrinal marks, a cult will tend to deny or distort the key teachings of Scripture. The doctrines most often twisted include:
-The deity of Christ
-God and the Trinity
-The final revelation of Scripture
-The nature of salvation

There are of course many warnings in scripture about false teachers, false prophets, and false doctrine. Here are just a few of them:

-Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing.
-Matthew 24:4-5 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many’.”
-Mark 13:22 False prophets and false Christs shall arise with signs and wonders to seduce even the elect.
-Acts 13:9-10 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?
-Acts 20:28-31 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
-2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
-Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
-2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

The New Testament everywhere offers us such strong warnings against false teaching and false teachers, against deception and wrong doctrine. We would expect an unbeliever who may know nothing about the Bible and basic Christian doctrine to be susceptible to the deception of the cultists, but sadly many Christians can and do fall into their traps as well.

This is because they have not been given basic training of biblical truths and core Christian teachings in their churches, and/or have never studied Scripture and theology much at all. They may just run their Christian life on feelings, emotions, and entertainment, which is never enough to counter satanic deception and demonic doctrines.

There would also be various sociological reasons why people fall for the cults. These would include:

1. Often the cult has a strong, centralized authority structure, many times with a charismatic, domineering leader. Many folks are looking for some sort of security and authority, and these cults and cult leaders seem to provide that.
2. Often the cults have a very strong ‘us versus them’ mentality. And they are often quite isolationist. Thus they may keep people from interacting with others or getting out into the wider society. And often they will even ban all other books and materials, cutting off all contact with the outside world.
3. Often the cults are very committed to proselytizing others. Many for example will have mandatory periods of witnessing and proselytizing. Thus they can be much more evangelistic for their beliefs than most Christians are.
4. Often the cults are very legalistic, both in terms of trying to earn your salvation and keep your salvation. Often certain foods, drinks, activities and so on are strictly forbidden, and to partake of such things is seen as a damning apostasy, and an indication of not being a true follower of the group.

So why do people join cults? There would be various reasons for this. I already mentioned some theological reasons above: people just do not know their Bibles or basic Christin teaching, so they are so readily susceptible to false teachings which the cults specialize in. Here are some more reasons:

1. Sadly genuine churches are often not doing their jobs, whether in terms of real Christian love and concern, or offering genuine fellowship, a sense of community, and the meeting of basic needs. Cults seem to offer all these things in large doses.
2. A strong sense of community and purpose often seems to characterize a cult. They seem to offer love and acceptance. For someone involved in family, marriage or relationship breakdown, this can lead to a search for an alternative family structure, which the cults seem to offer.
3. As mentioned, cultists are quite keen on proselytizing, while so often most real Christians are not. Thus genuine seekers may encounter a cultist first before meeting a real Bible-believing Christian.
4. Satan of course seeks to deceive and turn people away from the truth. That is one of his specialties, and he is at it day and night.

So how can we best protect ourselves and others against the cults? Well, many of the points mentioned above just need to be turned around – eg., the Christian church needs to be providing real love and acceptance and genuine community. Alas, too often a superficial social club atmosphere seems to describe so many churches today.

Theologically speaking, a key area is to know the real thing. In this case, we must know our Bibles well, and we must know in some detail basic Christian doctrines. One popular illustration is worth sharing here: Bank tellers are not trained to become experts in counterfeit money. Instead, they are trained to become experts in the real thing, so that counterfeits are quite easy to spot.

So in one sense we too need to be experts in what we believe. We need to know our Bibles and know our basic Christian doctrines so well, that we can easily spot heresies and deviations from the truth whenever they appear. But sadly sound doctrine and good theology are ignored or minimized in far too many churches today.

That is a recipe for disaster, and that is why so many people are succumbing to the cults. While external deception and doctrines of demons will always be there, there is no excuse for internal weaknesses, such as a lack of solid teaching and real Christian love. Churches are often their own worst enemy in this regard, and we need to repent of this and seek to turn things around.

(NTEB) Jehovah’s Witnesses: A History Of Failed Prophecies And Deception

Source: Jehovah’s Witnesses: A History Of Failed Prophecies And Deception

Jehovah’s Witnesses trace their origins to the nineteenth century Adventist movement in America. That movement began with William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher who, in the year 1816, began proclaiming that Christ would return in 1843

“And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 2 Timothy 2:26 (KJV)

Unlike the bible which never changes, the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses has changed markedly over time as the things that they have predicted to come true…haven’t. In 1920, they published a book called “Millions Now Living Will Never Die“. Well, nearly all of those people are now dead. Do they admit their false prophecy? Of course not. Instead, they simply republish the book with the title of “Millions Now Dead Will Live Again“. (Watchtower, May 1, 1990). This is what is known in the used car business as a cover up. Or a lie. Take your pick.

“The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914”- Charles Taze Russell

How the Jehovah’s Witnesses got started

Jehovah’s Witnesses trace their origins to the nineteenth century Adventist movement in America. That movement began with William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher who, in the year 1816, began proclaiming that Christ would return in 1843. His predictions of the Second Coming or Second Advent captured the imagination of thousands in Baptist and other mainline churches. Perhaps as many as 50,000 followers put their trust in Miller’s chronological calculations and prepared to welcome the Lord, while, as the appointed time approached, others watched nervously from a distance. Recalculations moved the promised second advent from March, 1843 to March, 1844, and then to October of that year. Alas, that date too passed uneventfully.

What Jehovah’s Witnesses Actually Believe:

After the “Disappointment of 1844” Miller’s following fell apart, with most of those who had looked to him returning to their respective churches before his death in 1849. But other disappointed followers kept the movement alive, although in fragmented form. Their activities eventually led to the formation of several sects under the broad heading of “Adventism” including the Advent Christian Church, the Life and Advent Union, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and various Second Adventist groups. An interesting side-note: The Branch Davidians who died at Waco, Texas, under the leadership of David Koresh also trace their roots to the same Millerite source through a different line of descent. In 1935 the Seventh Day Adventist Church expelled a Bulgarian immigrant named Victor Houteff, who had begun teaching his own views on certain passages of the Revelation or Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible. Houteff set up shop on the property at Waco.

After first referring to his tiny new sect as The Shepherd’s Rod, Houteff and his people in 1942 incorporated and renamed themselves Davidian Seventh Day Adventists. Houteff died in 1955, and in 1961 his wife Florence officially disbanded the sect, but a few followers under the leadership of west Texas businessman Benjamin Roden took over the real estate. Roden died in 1978, leaving behind his wife Lois and his son George to lead the group. Then, in 1987, David Koresh took over the leadership position, and the tragedy that followed is public knowledge. Jehovah’s Witnesses, likewise, trace their roots back to the Adventists. But they do not often admit this to outsiders; nor do many Witnesses know the details themselves. JWs are accustomed to defending themselves against the charge that they are a new religious cult. They will often respond that theirs is the most ancient religious group, older than Catholic and Protestant churches. In fact, their book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose asserts that “Jehovah’s witnesses have a history almost 6,000 years long, beginning while the first man, Adam, was still alive,” that Adam’s son Abel was “the first of an unbroken line of Witnesses,” and that “Jesus’ disciples were all Jehovah’s witnesses [sic] too.” (pp. 8-9) An outsider listening to such claims quickly realizes, of course, that the sect has simply appropriated unto itself all the characters named in the Bible as faithful witnesses of God. By such extrapolation the denomination is able to stretch its history back to the beginnings of the human family-at least in the eyes of adherents who are willing to accept such arguments. But outside observers generally dismiss this sort of rhetoric and instead reckon the Witnesses as dating back only to Charles Taze Russell, who was born on February 16, 1852, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

5 Facts Jehovah’s Witnesses Don’t Want You to Know:

Originally raised a Presbyterian, Russell was 16 years old and a member of the Congregational church in the year 1868, when he found himself losing faith. He had begun to doubt not only church creeds and doctrines, but also God and the Bible itself. At this critical juncture a chance encounter restored his faith and placed him under the influence of Second Adventist preacher Jonas Wendell. For some years after that Russell continued to study Scripture with and under the influence of various Adventist laymen and clergy, notably Advent Christian Church minister George Stetson and the Bible Examiner’s publisher George Storrs. He met locally on a regular basis with a small circle of friends to discuss the Bible, and this informal study group came to regard him as their leader or pastor. In January, 1876, when he was 23 years old, Russell received a copy of The Herald of the Morning, an Adventist magazine published by Nelson H. Barbour of Rochester, New York. One of the distinguishing features of Barbour’s group at that time was their belief that Christ returned invisibly in 1874, and this concept presented in The Herald captured Russell’s attention.

It meant that this Adventist splinter group had not remained defeated, as others had, when Christ failed to appear in 1874 as Adventist leaders had predicted; somehow this small group had managed to hold onto the date by affirming that the Lord had indeed returned at the appointed time, only invisibly. Was this mere wishful thinking, coupled with a stubborn refusal to admit the error of failed chronological calculations? Perhaps, but Barbour had some arguments to offer in support of his assertions. In particular, he came up with a basis for reinterpreting the Second Coming as an invisible event: In Benjamin Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott translation of the New Testament the word rendered coming in the King James Version at Matthew 24:27, 37, 39 is translated presence instead. This served as the basis for Barbour’s group to advocate, in addition to their time calculations, an invisible presence of Christ. Although the idea appealed to young Charles Taze Russell, the reading public apparently refused to ‘buy’ the story of an invisible Second Coming, with the result that N. H. Barbour’s publication The Herald of the Morning was failing financially.

In the summer of 1876 wealthy Russell paid Barbour’s way to Philadelphia and met with him to discuss both beliefs and finances. The upshot was that Russell became the magazine’s financial backer and was added to the masthead as an Assistant Editor. He contributed articles for publication as well as monetary gifts, and Russell’s small study group similarly became affiliated with Barbour’s. Russell and Barbour believed and taught that Christ’s invisible return in 1874 would be followed soon afterward, in the spring of 1878 to be exact, by the Rapture-the bodily snatching away of believers to heaven. When this expected Rapture failed to occur on time in 1878, The Herald’s editor, Mr. Barbour, came up with “new light” on this and other doctrines. Russell, however, rejected some of the new ideas and persuaded other members to oppose them. Finally, Russell quit the staff of the Adventist magazine and started his own. He called it Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence and published its first issue with the date July, 1879. In the beginning it had the same mailing list as The Herald of the Morning and considerable space was devoted to refuting the latter on points of disagreement, Russell having taken with him a copy of that magazine’s mailing list when he resigned as assistant editor. At this point Charles Russell no longer wanted to consider himself an Adventist, nor a Millerite. But, he continued to view Miller and Barbour as instruments chosen by God to lead His people in the past. The formation of a distinct denomination around Russell was a gradual development.

False teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

  • On the nature of God. They deny the triune nature of God and teaches that such a belief is inspired by Satan and teaches that Jehovah, the name of the one true God, corresponds only to God the Father. JWs also deny that Jesus is God (see next point). They deny the Holy Spirit is a person, and instead teach he is merely God’s active force, similar to electricity.
  • On the deity of Jesus Christ. The JW’s that Jesus is a created being who existed as Michael the archangel before being born as a perfect man. JWs believe that after Jesus was buried, God disposed of his physical body. He was raised a spiritual creature and “materialized” to make himself visible. Now in heaven he is once again known as Michael the archangel.
  • On salvation. The JW’s teach that only an elite group of Witnesses, known as “the 144,000,” or the “anointed ones” are presently credited with Christ’s righteousness. Only the 144,000 are born again and expect to reign with Christ in heaven. For the vast majority of remaining JWs, known as the “other sheep” or the “great crowd,” the atoning sacrifice of Christ only provides a chance at eternal life on earth. This is interesting because in the bible, the 144,000 are all males, all Jewish, and all from the nation of Israel. This is very much in contrast to the JW teaching on the 144,000.
  • On Hell and eternal punishment. Jehovah’s Witness denies eternal punishment and teaches that the soul cannot exist apart from the body. JWs believe that death ends all conscious existence. Hell refers to the grave and those who are ultimately judged by God will be annihilated and simply cease to exist.
  • On the Bible. Jehovah’s Witness teaches that the Bible can only be interpreted by the Watchtower Society and no individual can learn the truth apart from them.

Failed prophecies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

Jehovah’s Witness leaders for over 100 years have claimed to be God’s only living “prophet” on the face of the earth. However, if one looks at their record, the documented evidence proves they are what Jesus described as “false prophets!” Most Jehovah’s Witneses have no clue about the true history of their organization. The false prophecies that we will list here are barely 10% of the total of false prophecies they have made since 1877.

  • 1877 ‘The End Of This World; that is the end of the gospel and the beginning of the millennial age is nearer than most men suppose; indeed we have already entered the transition period, which is to be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation Dan. 12:3.” (N.H. Barbour and C.T. Russell, Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World, p. 17).
  • 1879 “Christ came in the character of a Bridegroom in 1874…. at the beginning of the Gospel harvest.” (Watchtower, Oct 1879, p. 4)
  • 1880 “We need not here repeat the evidences that the “seventh trump” began its sounding A.D., 1840, and will continue until the end of the time of trouble, and the end of “The times of the Gentiles,” A.D., 1914, and that it is the trouble of this “Great day,” which is here symbolically called the voice of the Archangel when he begins the deliverance of fleshly Israel. “At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince (Archangel) which standeth for the children of thy people and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” Dan. xii. 1. Nor will we here, again present the conclusive Bible proof that our Lord came for his Bride in 1874, and has an unseen work as Reaper of the first-fruits of this Gospel Age. (Zion’s Watchtower November, 1880 p. 1)
  • 1886 “The outlook at the opening of the New Year has some very encouraging features. The outward evidences are that the marshaling of the hosts for the battle of the great day of God Almighty, is in progress while the skirmishing is commencing. … The time is come for Messiah to take the dominion of earth and to overthrow the oppressors and corrupters of the earth, (Rev. 19:15 and 11:17, 18) preparatory to the establishment of everlasting peace upon the only firm foundation of righteousness and truth.” (Zion’s Watchtower, January, 1886;Watchtower reprints I, p. 817)
  • 1889 “Remember that the forty years’ Jewish Harvest ended October A.D. 69, and was followed by the complete overthrow of that nation; and that likewise the forty years of the Gospel age harvest will end October, 1914, and that likewise the overthrow of ‘Christendom,’ so-called, must be expected to immediately follow.” (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 2, p. 245)
  • 1908 “True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved” (The Time Is At Hand; 1889; 1908 ed.; p. 99)
  • 1914 “While it’s possible that Armageddon may begin next Spring, yet this purely speculation to attempt to say just when. We see, however, that there are parallels between the close of the Jewish age and this Gospel age. These parallels seem to point to the year just before us part particularly the early months.” (Watchtower Reprints, VI, Sept 1, 1914, p. 5527)
  • 1917 “And the mountains were not found. Even the republics will disappear in the fall of 1920. And the mountains were not found. Every kingdom of earth will pass away, be swallowed up in anarchy.” (The Finished Mystery, 1917 edition, p. 258)
  • 1918 “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews 11, to the condition of human perfection.” (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, p. 89)
  • 1925 “The year 1925 is here. With great expectation Christians have looked forward to this year. Many have confidently expected that all members of the body of Christ will be changed to heavenly glory during this year. This may be accomplished. It may not be. In his own due time God will accomplish his purposes concerning his people. Christians should not be so deeply concerned about what may transpire this year.” (Watchtower, Jan. 1, 1925, p. 3

Can YOU trust an organization with a 100% FAILURE rate?

Short Answers 03: Isn’t Faith Just for the Stupid and Gullible? (Video)

In the third video of the Short Answers to Big Questions series, Nathan Betts of RZIM answers the question, “Isn’t faith just for the stupid and gullible?”

In the Short Answers to Big Questions series, Nathan and Andy Bannister take 50 of the most common questions and objections about Christianity and attempt to give short, succinct answers to each of them. In such short videos, we realize we can only often scratch the surface — nevertheless, we hope to give you lots of food for thought. Feel free to download each video, circulate it to friends, or share it on social media.

If you want to read more widely on this particular, check out “The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails” by Randal Rauser.

Short Answers 02: Islam and Christianity, Is It the Same God? (Video)

Andy Bannister of RZIM answers the question “Islam and Christianity: Is it the same God?” in the second video series of Short Answers to Big Questions. If you want to read more widely on this question, then check out “Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross” by Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb.

In the Short Answers to Big Questions series, Andy and Nathan Betts take 50 of the most common questions and objections about Christianity and attempt to give short, succinct answers to each of them. In such short videos, we realize we can only often scratch the surface — nevertheless, we hope to give you lots of food for thought. Feel free to download each video, circulate it to friends, or share it on social media.

Questions about Jesus Christ: If Jesus Is Our Atonement, Why Did He Die at Passover instead of the Day of Atonement?

 

Every one of the Old Testament sacrifices typified Christ. The Passover, or paschal, sacrifice was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. The paschal lamb was to be a male, without spot and blemish, and not a bone was to be broken. Jesus fulfilled this picture perfectly. As the Israelites applied the blood of the sacrifice in faith, so we today apply the spotless blood of Christ to the “doorposts” of our hearts. In all these ways, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

An objection sometimes arises that the paschal sacrifice was not considered an atonement; rather, atonement was provided for the Jews via the sacrifices on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Ergo, Jesus, who was killed at Passover and who is called “our Passover” in the New Testament, could not have been an atonement for sin.

There are two ways to counter this objection. The first is simply to show how Jesus also fulfilled the symbolism of Yom Kippur. Jesus bore our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24) and tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). In doing so, He offered a better sacrifice than those of Yom Kippur—better because Christ’s sacrifice was permanent, was voluntary, and did not just cover sin but removed it altogether (Hebrews 9:8–14).

The second counter is to point out that Jewish tradition did indeed view the Passover sacrifice as being expiatory; that is, the lamb removed sin from God’s view. The Passover lamb died under God’s outpoured wrath, thus covering over the sins of the one offering it. Here’s what Rashi, a well-respected medieval Jewish commentator, has to say: “I see the Paschal blood and propitiate you.… I mercifully take pity on you by means of the Paschal blood and the blood of circumcision, and I propitiate your souls” (Ex. R. 15, 35b, 35a).

During the tenth and final plague in Egypt, the Passover sacrifice literally saved individuals from death (Exodus 12:23). On the basis of the redemptive offering of the Passover blood, the firstborn lived. Again, Rashi comments: “It is as if a king said to his sons: ‘Know you that I judge persons on capital charges and condemn them. Give me therefore a present, so that in case you are brought before my judgment seat I may set aside the indictments against you.’ So God said to Israel: ‘I am now concerned with death penalties, but I will tell you how I will have pity on you and for the sake of the Passover blood and the circumcision blood I will atone for you’ ” (Ex. R. 15.12, on Exodus 12:10).

The Passover lambs brought atonement to the believing Jewish households on that signal night of judgment and redemption. Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra also links the Passover with atonement: “The mark of blood was designed as an atonement for those within the house who partook of the paschal offering, and was also a sign for the destroying angel to pass by the house” (Soncino Chumash, pg. 388).

When John the Baptist saw Christ, he pointed to Him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is the “Passover lamb” in that He was silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) and in His death bore the wrath of God, preserved the lives of all who trust Him, and gave freedom to the former slaves of sin.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Commentary: Who Was the Queen of Sheba?

 

The Queen of Sheba, according to the biblical narrative, was a woman of great wealth, beauty and power. Sheba, believed to be either in Ethiopia or Yemen by most biblical scholars, was a well-established city, and although there is little evidence outside the Bible as to the nature of the monarchy and how it was established, it is clear that the Queen of Sheba ruled alone and was not enamored with the religions in her own land.

The Queen of Sheba traveled to Jerusalem as she had “heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, [and] came to test Solomon with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). As God had granted Solomon the gift of wisdom (1 Kings 3:5–12), “nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her” (1 Kings 10:3). After a meal together, the Queen of Sheba declares how impressed she is with Solomon’s answers, hospitality, and the reputation that preceded him. The story ends with an exchange of resources and Queen Sheba returning “with her retinue to her own country” (1 Kings 10:13).

Sources outside the Bible suggest that the Queen of Sheba conceived a child in secret with King Solomon, while some Bible commentators have suggested that the nameless woman in the Song of Solomon is the Queen of Sheba (with the man being King Solomon). Both are speculative and while interesting, cannot be declared factual. Whether she has any relation to the “Sheba” mentioned in Genesis 10:7 and 28, or if she was the ancestor of “Candace, queen of the Ethiopians” (Acts 8:27), is again, open to speculation.

The Queen of Sheba is mentioned again in the New Testament, by an alternative title, the Queen of the South (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). Jesus refers to her, reaffirming her historical personage, as a means to illustrate the point that, despite being originally pagan in belief and Gentile in race, the Queen of Sheba recognized the truth and reality of God, unlike the religious leaders who opposed Jesus. As such, they would be condemned for their ignorant and defiant nature.

Two lessons can be learned from the story of the Queen of Sheba. First, like King Solomon, believers are to show evidence of God’s favour in their lives, whatever their role, profession or environment. Second, the reputation of believers should precede them by their godly words and actions, for we are “Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Translations: What Is the GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)?

 

GOD’S WORD Translation—History Completed in 1995, the GOD’S WORD Translation (GW) is an English translation of the Bible by the God’s Word to the Nations Society. GW had its beginnings with a New Testament translation titled The New Testament in the Language of Today: An American Translation, published in 1963 by Lutheran pastor and seminary professor William F. Beck (1904–1966). In 1982, work on a revision was begun by Phillip B. Giessler, a pastor from Cleveland, Ohio, and his committee. This yielded another NT translation released in 1988 and titled New Testament: God’s Word to the Nations (GWN). In 1992, earlier work was abandoned and a new translation was begun, this time based on the best Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic manuscripts currently available. In early 1994 the translation was renamed GOD’S WORD prior to being turned over to World Bible Publishers for publication in March 1995. In 2008 rights to GOD’S WORD were acquired by Baker Publishing Group.

GOD’S WORD Translation—Translation Method The GOD’S WORD Translation uses the translation method known as “closest natural equivalence” which seeks to combine dynamic equivalence (thought for thought) with finding equivalent English ways of expressing the meaning of the original text. This procedure, the translators contend, ensures that the translation is faithful to the meaning intended by the original writer. Closest natural equivalence seeks to avoid the awkwardness and inaccuracy associated with word-for-word translation, and avoids the loss of meaning and oversimplification associated with thought-for-thought translation. Another consideration for the translators was readability, so they used common English punctuation, capitalization, and nearly perfect English grammar to express the text in clear, natural English. The GOD’S WORD Translation is printed in an open, single column format that enhances readability.

GOD’S WORD Translation—Pro’s and con’s The GOD’S WORD Translation sometimes does a good job at rendering words/phrases how they would be rendered if the Bible was being translated into English for the first time today. With a 400+ year history of English Bible translations, new translations are often rendered a certain way because that is how the translators are used to reading/hearing it. The GOD’S WORD Translation seeks to avoid this, and should be commended for this effort. However, sometimes in its goal of “closest natural equivalence,” the GOD’S WORD Translation strays a little too far from the literal meaning of the text, interpreting rather than translating.

GOD’S WORD Translation—Sample verses John 1:1, 14—“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became human and lived among us. We saw his glory. It was the glory that the Father shares with his only Son, a glory full of kindness and truth.”

John 3:16—“God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.”

John 8:58—“Jesus told them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Before Abraham was ever born, I am.’ ”

Ephesians 2:8–9—“God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it.”

Titus 2:13—“At the same time we can expect what we hope for—the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Are the Different Types of Prayer?

 

The Bible reveals many types of prayers and employs a variety of words to describe the practice. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Here, all four of the main Greek words used for prayer are mentioned in one verse.

Here are the main types of prayers in the Bible:

The prayer of faith: James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” In this context, prayer is offered in faith for someone who is sick, asking God to heal. When we pray, we are to believe in the power and goodness of God (Mark 9:23).

The prayer of agreement (also known as corporate prayer): After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Later, after Pentecost, the early church “devoted themselves” to prayer (Acts 2:42). Their example encourages us to pray with others.

The prayer of request (or supplication): We are to take our requests to God. Philippians 4:6 teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Part of winning the spiritual battle is to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).

The prayer of thanksgiving: We see another type of prayer in Philippians 4:5: thanksgiving or thanks to God. “With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Many examples of thanksgiving prayers can be found in the Psalms.

The prayer of worship: The prayer of worship is similar to the prayer of thanksgiving. The difference is that worship focuses on who God is; thanksgiving focuses on what God has done. Church leaders in Antioch prayed in this manner with fasting: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2–3).

The prayer of consecration: Sometimes, prayer is a time of setting ourselves apart to follow God’s will. Jesus made such a prayer the night before His crucifixion: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’ ” (Matthew 26:39).

The prayer of intercession: Many times, our prayers include requests for others as we intercede for them. We are told to make intercession “for everyone” in 1 Timothy 2:1. Jesus serves as our example in this area. The whole of John 17 is a prayer of Jesus on behalf of His disciples and all believers.

The prayer of imprecation: Imprecatory prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g., 7, 55, 69). They are used to invoke God’s judgment on the wicked and thereby avenge the righteous. The psalmists use this type of appeal to emphasize the holiness of God and the surety of His judgment. Jesus teaches us to pray for blessing on our enemies, not cursing (Matthew 5:44–48).

The Bible also speaks of praying in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:14–15) and prayers when we are unable to think of adequate words (Romans 8:26–27). In those times, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us.

Prayer is conversation with God and should be made without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). As we grow in our love for Jesus Christ, we will naturally desire to talk to Him.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Humanity: Why Do People Die?

 

People die because of what is called the “original sin”—the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God had warned the first couple that transgressing His law would result in their death (Genesis 2:17), and that is what happened. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).

Adam and Eve were meant to dwell with God forever, so they probably did not even know what it meant to “die.” Unfortunately, sin had at some time in eternity past invaded the heavenly realm of angels, and Satan tempted Eve, and she fell into sin. Eve gave the fruit to her husband, and he followed her into sin. That sin brought death into the world, as mankind separated themselves from the Source of Life.

Since that time, every human produced by a woman with the aid of a man has produced sinful offspring. This sin nature brings with it death. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Genesis 3 describes the curse that God pronounced upon the world. The curse included these words to Adam: “You [will] return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). Physical death of the body is what God spoke of here. Physical death did not occur immediately for Adam and Eve, but, because of their sin, innocent animals did die (Genesis 3:21).

The other type of death that Adam and Eve’s sin brought was spiritual death—their spirits were separated from God’s Spirit; their fellowship was broken. This spiritual death occurred immediately after they partook of the forbidden fruit and were fearful and ashamed (Genesis 3:10). Spiritual death, like physical death, was passed on to their descendants (Ephesians 2:1).

Ever since Adam, the human race has labored under “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). God in His goodness sent His Son to abolish the law of sin and death and establish “the law of the Spirit who gives life” (Romans 8:2). First Corinthians 15:20–26 states, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.… The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Marriage: What Is the Definition of Marriage?

 

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that gives same-sex couples who hold a legal marriage in their state the same federal benefits as married straight couples. In their ruling, the justices overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage as legal. The court claimed that DOMA displaced the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equality for all people. Across the Atlantic, in mid-July 2013, the Queen of England signed into law “The Marriage Bill,” which allows same-sex couples to marry legally. Around the world, at least fifteen other nations have legalized marriage between same-sex partners. Obviously, the definition of marriage is changing. But is it the right of a government to redefine marriage, or has the definition of marriage already been set by a higher authority?

In Genesis chapter 2, God declares it is not good for Adam (the first man) to live alone. All the animals are there, but none of them are a suitable partner for Adam. God, therefore, in a special act of creation, makes a woman. Just a few verses later, the woman is called “his wife” (Genesis 2:25). Eden was the scene of the first marriage, ordained by God Himself. The author of Genesis then records the standard by which all future marriages are defined: “A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

This passage of Scripture gives several points for understanding God’s design for marriage. First, marriage involves a man and a woman. The Hebrew word for “wife” is gender-specific; it cannot mean anything other than “a woman.” There is no passage in Scripture that mentions a marriage involving anything other than a man and a woman. It is impossible for a family to form or human reproduction to take place asexually. Since God ordained sex to only take place between a married couple, it follows that God’s design is for the family unit to be formed when a man and woman come together in a sexual relationship and have children.

The second principle from Genesis 2 about God’s design for marriage is that marriage is intended to last for a lifetime. Verse 24 says the two become “one flesh.” Eve was taken from Adam’s side, and so she was literally one flesh with Adam. Her very substance was formed from Adam instead of from the ground. Every marriage thereafter is intended to reflect the unity shared by Adam and Eve. Because their bond was “in the flesh,” they were together forever. There was no escape clause written into the first marriage that allowed for the two to separate. That is to say that God designed marriage for life. When a man and a woman make a commitment to marry, they “become one flesh,” and that is why they say, “Till death do us part.”

A third principle from this passage about God’s design for marriage is monogamy. The Hebrew words for “man” and “wife” are singular and do not allow for multiple wives. Even though some people in Scripture did have multiple wives, it is clear from the creation account that God’s design for marriage was one man and one woman. Jesus emphasized this principle when He appealed to the Genesis account to counter the idea of easy divorce (Matthew 19:4–6).

It should come as no surprise that the world desires to change what God has instituted. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). Though the world is attempting to provide their own definitions for what they call “marriage,” the Bible still stands. The clear definition of marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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