Category Archives: Questions & Biblical Answers

Questions about Creation: Were Adam and Eve Saved? How Many Children Did Adam and Eve Have? When Were Adam and Eve Created?

 

Were Adam and Eve saved? The Bible does not specifically tell us whether Adam and Eve were saved. Adam and Eve were the only two human beings who knew about God before they became tainted with sin. As a result, they likely still knew God better after their fall than any of us do today. Adam and Eve most definitely believed in and depended on God. God continued to talk with Adam and Eve and provide for them after the fall. Adam and Eve knew of God’s promise that He would provide a Savior (Genesis 3:15). God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:21). Many scholars understand this as the first animal sacrifice, foreshadowing the eventual death of Christ on the cross for the sins of the world. Putting these facts together, it would seem that Adam and Eve were saved and did indeed go to heaven / paradise when they died.

How many children did Adam and Eve have? The Bible does not give us a specific number. Adam and Eve had Cain (Genesis 4:1), Abel (Genesis 4:2), Seth (Genesis 4:25), and many other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). With likely hundreds of years of child-bearing capability, Adam and Eve likely had 50+ children in their lifetime.

When were Adam and Eve created? If Old Testament history and the ages in Genesis chapter 5 are traced, Adam and Eve were likely created in approximately 4000 B.C.

Were Adam and Eve cavemen? Genesis chapter 3 records Adam and Eve having a fully intelligent conversation with God. Adam and Eve were surely “primitive” in their understanding of many concepts, but they were not “ape-like” or intellectually deficient by any means. Adam and Eve were the most perfect human beings in the history of the world.

How long were Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they sinned? The Bible does not explicitly tell us how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden before they sinned. It seems as if they were in the Garden for a short amount of time, possibly as little as a day or two. Adam and Eve did not conceive any children until after the Fall (Genesis 4:1–2), so it is unlikely they were in the Garden for very long.

Did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons / navels? A bellybutton is formed by the umbilical cord that connects a baby in the womb to its mother. Adam and Eve were created directly by God, and did not go through the normal birthing process. So, Adam and Eve would probably not have had bellybuttons.[1]

 

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

Miscellaneous Bible Questions: What Is Hyssop? What Was Hyssop Used for in the Bible?

 

Since people in the biblical era did not have access to the products we do today, they often relied on naturally occurring resources such as plants, animal byproducts, and minerals for cleaning, cooking, food, medicine, and more. Hyssop, an herb in the mint family with cleansing, medicinal, and flavoring properties, was prolific in the Middle East and was used in a variety of ways.

The Bible mentions hyssop several times, mostly in the Old Testament. In Leviticus, God commanded His people to use hyssop in the ceremonial cleansing of people and houses. In one example, God tells the priests to use hyssop together with cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and the blood of a clean bird to sprinkle a person recently healed from a skin disease (likely leprosy). This act would ceremonially cleanse the formerly diseased person and allow him to reenter the camp (Leviticus 14:1–7). The same method was used to purify a house that had previously contained mold (Leviticus 14:33–53).

Hyssop is also used symbolically in the Bible. When the Israelites marked their doorposts with lamb’s blood in order for the angel of death to pass over them, God instructed them to use a bunch of hyssop as a “paintbrush” (Exodus 12:22). This was probably because hyssop was sturdy and could withstand the brushing, but it also likely signified that God was marking His people as “pure” and not targets of the judgment God was about to deal out to the Egyptians.

David also mentions hyssop in Psalm 51:7: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” David does not refer to physical cleansing—rather, he is asking God to cleanse him spiritually as he confesses his sin.

Hyssop also appears at Jesus’ crucifixion, when the Roman soldiers offered Jesus a drink of wine vinegar on a sponge at the end of a stalk of hyssop (John 19:28–30). This was, in fact, Jesus’ last act before He declared His work on earth finished and gave up His spirit. While the hyssop stalk may have been used for purely practical purposes (i.e., it was long enough to reach to Jesus’ mouth as He hung on the cross), it is interesting that that particular plant was chosen. It is possible that God meant this as a picture of purification, as Jesus bought our forgiveness with His sacrifice. Just as in the Old Testament blood and hyssop purified a defiled person, so Jesus’ shed blood purifies us from the defilement of our sin.[1]

 

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

Questions about the Christian Life: Why Is Following Christ so Difficult?

 

No sane parent has ever said, “I wish my children would misbehave,” and there’s never been a self-help book entitled How to Live an Unhappy Life. We all want blessings, happiness, and fulfillment, and we associate a happy condition with a certain amount of ease. Jesus promises blessing and fulfillment to those who follow Him (John 4:14), but many people have been surprised that the way of Christ is not as easy as they had hoped. Sometimes, following Christ can be downright difficult.

The fact is, blessing and hardship are not mutually exclusive. The disciples “left everything” to follow Christ, and the Lord promised them “a hundred times as much” blessing in return (Mark 10:28–30). Jesus warned that all who follow Him must deny themselves and bear a daily cross (Luke 9:23). Hardship, to be sure, but hardship with a purpose and leading to the joy of the Lord.

Followers of Christ also face resistance from the world. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus did not promise His disciples that everything would be coming up roses for them; just the opposite—He promised that they would have trials in this world (John 16:33). “But take heart!” He told them, “I have overcome the world.”

God’s moral laws have been written on the heart of every human—giving all people a conscience to aid them in determining wrong from right (Romans 2:14–15). When a person becomes a follower of Christ, he not only has God’s laws in his heart, but he also has the indwelling Holy Spirit to compel him toward living righteously (Romans 8:11). This in no way means the Christian will stop sinning, but it does mean the Christian will become more aware of his own personal sin and have a genuine desire to do what is pleasing to Christ (Romans 8:14–16).

In many ways, it is after a person is saved that the struggle against sin really heats up in his life. All people are born with a nature that is bent toward sin, which is why children do not need to be taught how to misbehave—that comes naturally. When a person is converted, the sin nature does not disappear—and so the internal conflict begins in the life of every believer.

The apostle Paul, who called himself a “bondservant to Christ,” writes of the struggle with his sin nature in Romans 7:14–25. In verse 15 he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). Christians engaged in this battle have a true desire to avoid sin, but they also have a natural desire to indulge the flesh. They become frustrated when they find themselves “doing what they don’t want to do.” And to further complicate matters, Christians not only do not want to sin, they hate sin. Yet, they still sin.

Paul goes on to write, “It is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me” (Romans 7:17). Paul is referring to the dichotomy caused by the new birth—Paul is a “new man” through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). But he still sins because sin is still alive in the human flesh—the sin nature survives the new birth (Romans 7:18). Paul calls the internal strife a “war,” as the new man battles the old man. Paul found the battle quite distressing because he wanted to do well (Romans 7:23). “What a wretched man I am,” Paul cries out in his distress (Romans 7:24).

Every Christian who is attempting to live righteously is called to this battlefield for his entire life. We are in a spiritual battle. But in grace and mercy, God gives the faithful believer an entire suit of armor for the fight (Ephesians 6:13).

The Christian life is never easy, but the difficulties do not negate the joy. We consider Jesus, who “for the joy set before him … endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). God has set us free from the slavery to sin. The victory is ours (2 Corinthians 2:14). Through the Holy Spirit, believers receive encouragement, strength to persevere, and reminders of their adoption into the family of God. We know that our “present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed” (Romans 8:18).[1]

 

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

Questions about Sin: What Does It Mean that All Have Sinned?

 

This phrase is found in Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) and in the last clause of Romans 5:12 (“… because all sinned”). Basically, the phrase means that we’re all lawbreakers, because sin is the violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Sinfulness is the general characteristic of all mankind; we are all guilty before God. We are sinners by nature and by our own acts of transgression.

In Romans 5:12 the point of “all sinned” seems to be that all humanity “participated” in Adam’s sin and were condemned to death even before they themselves deliberately chose to sin; in fact, that is exactly what Paul confirms in Romans 5:14. Within this passage (5:12–21), Paul explains how and why the “death sentence” for Adam’s sin has come upon the entire human race.

Augustine explained Adam’s transmission of his sin to us with a theory known as “federal headship,” a view held by most evangelical scholars. Augustine taught the concept of “inherited guilt,” that we all sinned “in Adam”: when Adam “voted” for sin, he acted as our representative. His sin was thus imputed or credited to the entire human race—we were all declared “guilty” for Adam’s one sin.

Another view is that the phrase “all have sinned” refers only to personal sin arising from our sin nature. After clarifying in 5:13–17 how personal sin is imputed and then spreads, Paul explains why “all die,” even if they have not committed personal sin. The reason all receive this “death sentence” (5:18a) is that, through Adam’s disobedience, all were “made sinful” (5:19a). The verb made means “constituted”; thus, the sin nature is an inherited condition that incurs a death sentence, even in those who are not yet guilty of personal sin (5:13–14). This inherited condition inevitably spawns personal sin when conscience matures and holds a person accountable as soon as he chooses to knowingly transgress the law (2:14–15; 3:20; 5:20a).

We are all sinners because Adam passed on his sinful condition that leads inevitably to our personal sin and death. All share Adam’s death sentence as an inherited condition (the “sin nature”) that is passed down to and through the human race and that every child brings into the world. Even before a child can be held accountable for personal sin, he or she is naturally prone to disobey, to tell lies, etc. Every child is born with a sin nature.

“The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God” (Psalm 14:2). And what does the all-seeing God find? “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (verse 3). In other words, all have sinned.[1]

 

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

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Life of Silas?

 

Silas was a leader in the early church, a fellow missionary with Paul, and a “faithful brother” (1 Peter 5:12). He was a Hellenistic Jew who, it seems, was also a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). He is also referred to as “Silvanus” in Paul’s Epistles (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 1:1).

When we first meet Silas in Scripture, he is a leader and teacher in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:22, 32). After the Jerusalem Council, Silas was chosen to help communicate the council’s decision to Antioch, along with the apostle Paul. Soon afterwards, Paul set out on his second missionary journey, and he chose Silas to accompany him (Acts 15:40–41).

On this journey, Paul and Silas traveled to Greece. In Philippi, the missionaries were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned. But “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). God then miraculously released them, and the jailer, having witnessed their faith, asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (verses 30–31). The jailer was saved that night, and he and his family were all baptized. The next day, the city officials learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, and they were immediately fearful; their mistreatment of Paul and Silas the day before had violated Roman law. The city leaders immediately released Paul and Silas from custody. The missionaries left town, but they left behind a body of believers—the first church in Europe.

The start of the Philippian church is a great reminder that, even in extremely difficult times, God can bring about great things. God will glorify His name, even through our trials and tribulations. Paul and Silas had this perspective, and that’s why they were able to sing at midnight.

The fact that the prisoners were “listening” to Paul and Silas singing hymns is not a detail to be skipped over lightly. As followers of Jesus Christ, we, too, have people watching how we react to life’s circumstances. If Paul and Silas had been griping or protesting or whining about the injustice of their situation, the jailer would have never been drawn to believe in the Lord Jesus. But they responded to their situation gracefully and with joy—their actions were completely foreign to how others expected them to react. Because they were “salt” and “light” (Matthew 5:13–14), others had their hearts opened to the gospel.

Later, Silas and Timothy ministered in Berea (Acts 17:14), and Silas spent extra time in Corinth, ministering after Paul left that city. Silas served with Peter as well; in fact, he is thought to have delivered the epistle of 1 Peter to its recipients (1 Peter 5:12).

Silas is a great example of someone who used his gifts to serve the Lord and others with all his heart. The apostles called him “faithful,” and he was known as one to “encourage and strengthen the brothers” (Acts 15:32). Multitudes in the early church were blessed by Silas, and Paul and Peter were heartened by his faithful companionship. Silas was “a brother … born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).[1]

 

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

Catholic Questions: What Is the Cause of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church?

 

In recent years, hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals have come forward claiming sexual abuse from priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Numerous “pedophile priests” have been identified. Sadly, rather than defrocking the priests (removing from the priesthood), the Catholic Church has in most instances attempted to cover up the sexual abuse by transferring the offending priest(s) to different parishes. The scandal and attempted cover-up continues to expand, reaching all the way to the papacy itself. So, what is the cause of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church? Why does pedophilia seem to be such a common problem among Roman Catholic priests?

First, let us be abundantly clear, as an Evangelical Protestant Christian organization, we have strong disagreements with virtually every area of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice.

Second, with the priesthood of all believers and Jesus’ fulfillment/completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system and priesthood, we do not believe the New Testament instructs that there should even be priests. Biblically speaking, a priest is a mediator (primarily through sacrifices) between God and man. With Jesus as our High Priest, we already have direct access to God (Hebrews 4:14–16) and have no need for any other mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

Third, it is important not to take the horribly evil actions of some Roman Catholic priests and attribute them to the entire Roman Catholic priesthood. While we strongly disagree with Roman Catholic doctrine and practice, we have no doubt that many Roman Catholic priests truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, truly desire to minister to people, and would absolutely never molest a child. It is impossible to discover how many “pedophile priests” have been, or still are, active in the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever the number is, it is surely an exceedingly small percentage. The vast majority of Catholic priests has never, and would never, molest or harm a child in any way.

Back to the question at hand, what is the cause of the sexual abuse that has taken place in the Roman Catholic Church? Our contention is that the unbiblical requirement that priests be celibate is a primary cause. It is biblical to say that celibacy can be useful to ministry (1 Corinthians 7:32–34). At the same time, it is completely unbiblical for any church to require celibacy of its leaders. In the qualifications of church leadership (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–9), the apostle Paul assumes that bishops, elders, overseers, and deacons will be married and have children. While these qualifications should not be viewed as requiring marriage/family to serve in church leadership, they are most definitely an allowance for married men to serve as leaders in the church. It is, therefore, completely anti-biblical for any church to require celibacy of its leaders.

The unbiblical requirement of celibacy on priests in the Roman Catholic Church likely contributes to sexual abuse in that men whom God never intended to be celibate are forced into celibacy, resulting in sexual tension and stress. Also, the stricture of celibacy is appealing to some men with abnormal sexual tendencies who view the priesthood as a means of keeping their desires under control. These men find that external rules do little to change the heart, and, when they give in to sexual temptations, the result is unnatural sexual acts, such as homosexuality or pedophilia.

Compounding the problem is the Catholic teaching of “once a priest, always a priest.” The fact that the “sacred ordination” cannot be invalidated has contributed to a reluctance to defrock pedophile priests. When abusive priests are transferred to different parishes, the same behavior is repeated. Also, lax rule enforcement and cover-ups have encouraged the application of pedophiles to the priesthood. Many pedophiles see the priesthood as a means of easy, unsupervised access to children.

Whatever the cause of the sexual abuse in the church, pedophile priests should be arrested and punished just as any other pedophile would be. Anyone covering up or, by negligence, enabling pedophilia in the church should be prosecuted. A priest who has sexually abused anyone should never be allowed back into church leadership, as he could most definitely not be considered “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2).

The pedophile priest scandal in the Roman Catholic Church is absolutely horrid. There is nothing more antithetical to the message of Christ than priests sexually abusing children. May God use this scandal to awaken the church of Jesus Christ to the presence of apostates within the church and to strongly motivate the church to be fully biblical in all of its beliefs and practices.[1]

 

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

Questions about God: Does God Have Emotions?

 

We can cite numerous passages of Scripture that speak to God’s emotions. For example, God demonstrated the following:

  • Anger—Psalm 7:11; Deuteronomy 9:22; Romans 1:18
  • Laughter—Psalm 37:13; Psalm 2:4; Proverbs 1:26
  • Compassion—Psalm 135:14; Judges 2:18; Deuteronomy 32:36
  • Grief—Genesis 6:6; Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10
  • Love–1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Jeremiah 31:3
  • Hate—Proverbs 6:16; Psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5
  • Jealousy—Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Joshua 24:19
  • Joy—Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41

However, are God’s emotions the same kind of emotions we humans exhibit? Is it right to think of Him as “emotional” (does He have mood swings)? In theological circles, personhood is often defined as “the state of being an individual with intellect, emotion, and volition.” God, then, is a “person” in that He is a personal God with a mind, emotions, and a will of His own. To deny God’s emotions is to deny that He possesses personality.

Humans respond to things in this world physically, of course, but we also respond spiritually—our souls react, and this is what we call “emotion.” The fact of human emotion is one proof that God has emotions, as well, for He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27). Another proof is the Incarnation. As the Son of God in this world, Jesus was not an emotionless automaton. He felt what we feel, weeping with those who wept (John 11:35), feeling compassion for the multitudes (Mark 6:34), and being overcome with sorrow (Matthew 26:38). Through it all, He revealed the Father to us (John 14:9).

Though God is transcendent, we’ve come know Him as a personal, living God who engages intimately with His creation. He loves us in ways we cannot fathom (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:3–8; 8:35, 38–39), and He is immeasurably pained by our sin and rebellion against Him (Psalm 1:5; 5:4–5; Proverbs 6:16–19).

We recognize that the demonstration of emotions does not alter the immutability or permanence of God’s will or His promises. In other words, God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29); He has no mood swings. God’s feelings and actions toward His creation, His judgment and forgiveness, His justice and grace, are all consistent with who He is (James 1:17). God’s responses to good and evil come from His same immutable will. God wills to judge and punish the sinner in order to bring about justice and, correspondingly, to bring the sinner to repentance because He desires that all men be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). We’ve come to know and relate to God as a feeling Person, one who loves and hates, grieves and laughs, feels anger and compassion. He loves the righteous and hates the wicked (Psalm 11:5–7; 5:4–5; 21:8).

This isn’t to say that our emotions and those of God are exactly the same. We sometimes speak of our emotions “clouding our judgment” because our sinful nature has corrupted our emotions. But God has no sin, and His emotions are incorruptible. For example, there is a vast difference between human anger and divine anger. Man’s anger is volatile, subjective, and too often out of control (Proverbs 14:29; 15:18; James 1:20). God’s anger is rooted in divine justice. God’s anger is perfectly righteous and predictable, never capricious or malicious. In His anger, He never sins.

All of God’s emotions are rooted in His holy nature and are always expressed sinlessly. God’s compassion, sorrow, and joy are all perfect expressions of the Perfect Being. Jesus’ anger at the synagogue leaders in Mark 3:5 and His love for the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21 were perfectly motivated responses of His divine nature.

God’s ways have been recorded for us in terms that we can understand and relate to. God’s wrath and anger against sin are real (Proverbs 8:13; 15:9). And His compassion for sinners is steadfast and genuine (2 Peter 3:9; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Isaiah 30:18). His works reveal His mercy and unending grace. But most of all, His love for His children is endless (Jeremiah 31:3) and unshakable (Romans 8:35, 38–39). God not only has thoughts and plans; He has feelings and desires, too. In contrast to the unreliability and instability of man’s sin-tainted emotions, God’s emotions are as completely dependable and immutable as He.

There are two wonderful things concerning God and emotions: first, He understands our emotions (since He created us with the capacity to feel them), and, second, His own emotions continually flow from His perfection. God will never have a bad day; He will never change His feelings toward His redeemed.[1]

 

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

Questions about Life Decisions: Should a Christian Woman Wear a Bindi?

 

Hindu women have a custom of wearing a round, red mark between the eyebrows called a “bindi” (also spelled “bindhi”). The application of bindis is common in South Asia, including the countries of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. In some parts of India, a bindi traditionally signifies that a woman is married. In other sections of India, all girls wear bindis. A bindi can also signify the caste or sect a woman belongs to. In every case, a bindi carries a spiritual and religious meaning in addition to its cultural significance. Of the various Indian decorations of the body, the bindi is considered to have the strongest religious implication.

A bindi represents an individual’s “spiritual eye,” also called the “third eye,” which some claim gives spiritual vision. Through the third eye, Hindus believe they can obtain extraordinary perspective, seeing that which cannot be seen through their physical eyes. Hindu gurus and saints meditate by focusing their energies toward the spiritual eye. It is believed that, when the individual’s spiritual eye opens, he attains true enlightenment and gets closer to whatever god he’s trying to reach.

The bindi is located over the sixth chakra, assumed to be one of the psychic “energy spots” on the human body. Thus, a bindi marks the nexus of concentrated, secret wisdom associated with mantra meditation. Bindis are also thought to purify the intellect, improve concentration skills, retain energy, bring good fortune, and ward off evil spirits. The red color is said to be a symbol of power and strength.

A bindi is also seen as an enhancement of beauty. An old Indian proverb says, “A woman’s beauty is multiplied one thousand times when she wears a bindi.”

Western culture, with its ever-shifting notions of style and fashion, will advocate wearing just about anything, including bindis. Just as non-Christians sometimes wear crosses as a fashion accessory, non-Hindus sometimes wear bindis. In Western fashion, a bindi is often a shape other than round and a color other than red. Some women choose to tattoo or pierce their foreheads for a more permanent bindi. Celebrities such as Madonna, Selena Gomez, and Katy Perry have all sported bindis in public. Whatever statement these persons are trying to make, the connection to Hinduism still exists.

Every custom within Hindu culture has a certain meaning to it, and all Indian customs are linked in some way to their gods. For this reason, a Christian woman should have serious reservations about wearing a bindi. Even if she herself does not see her bindi as a lucky charm or source of psychic energy, others—especially those familiar with Eastern mysticism—will associate it with pagan traditions.

“What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” Paul asks. “For we are the temple of the living God.… Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you’ ” (2 Corinthians 6:16–17). Christians should have nothing to do with the stuff of idolatry. Those who wear a bindi identify themselves with cultural practices that deny the One True God.[1]

 

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

Questions about Salvation: If a Christian Commits Suicide, Is He/She Still Saved?

 

It is a sad fact that some Christians have committed suicide. Adding to the tragedy is the false teaching that committing suicide automatically consigns one to hell. Many believe that a Christian who commits suicide will not be saved. This teaching is not supported in the Bible.

Scripture teaches that, from the moment we truly believe in Christ, we are guaranteed eternal life (John 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess eternal life (1 John 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39). No “created thing” can separate a Christian from God’s love, and even a Christian who commits suicide is a “created thing”; therefore, not even suicide can separate a Christian from God’s love. Jesus died for all of our sins, and if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, commits suicide, his sin is still covered by the blood of Christ.

According to the Bible, suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven. If an unsaved person commits suicide, he has done nothing but “expedite” his journey to hell. However, that person who committed suicide will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ, not because he committed suicide (see John 3:18). We should also point out, however, that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart the moment he or she died. Some people have “deathbed conversions” and accept Christ in the moments before death. It is possible that a suicide could have a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy. We leave such judgments to God (1 Samuel 16:7).

The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Suicide is still a serious sin against God. According to the Bible, suicide is murder; it is always wrong. Christians are called to live their lives for God, and the decision of when to die is God’s and God’s alone.

May God grant grace and the psalmist’s perspective to each one who is facing trials today: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).[1]

 

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

Topical Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Mean When It Refers to Something as a Perversion?

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines perversion as “a diverting from the true intent or purpose; a change to something worse; a turning or applying to a wrong end or use.” Anything can be perverted. Using opiates for non-medicinal purposes, for example, is a perversion of the poppy plant. In the Bible, the word translated “perversion” is used to define a deviation from righteousness in sexual behavior (Leviticus 18:23; Romans 1:27; Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5), speech (Proverbs 10:31), or justice (Ecclesiastes 5:8). In each case, there are warnings against using for evil something that God created as good.

Satan twists things. Every good thing that God created, Satan works to pervert. God created sexuality and called it good (Genesis 1:27–28, 31). Sexual union has a dual purpose—procreation (Genesis 1:28; 9:1) and joining marriage partners as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:8; 1 Corinthians 6:16). Since early days, human beings have found twisted uses for sex that accomplish neither of God’s intended purposes. The perversions were so widespread by the time God gave the Law to Moses that admonitions against specific perversions had to be included in detail (Leviticus 18:23; 20:12–13; Deuteronomy 27:20). According to Scripture, any sexual activity outside the marriage union of one woman and one man is a perversion and condemned by God (1 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). The New Testament lists some specific sexual perversions such as homosexuality, adultery, and fornication, stating that those who practice such aberrant behaviors “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:19–21).

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about perverted speech. Our mouths were created to praise God, encourage each other, and speak truth (Psalm 19:14; 120:2; 141:3; Proverbs 12:22). Perverse speech occurs when we use the gift of speech for evil purposes such as cursing, gossiping, using foul language, coarse joking, and lying (Proverbs 10:18; 12:22; 16:27; Ephesians 5:4). Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (NASB). In Matthew 15:11, Jesus indicates that perversion is a matter of the heart: “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

God also hates the perversion of justice, especially when it victimizes widows and orphans (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 27:19; Isaiah 1:23). God is perfectly just and commands human beings to model that justice. Proverbs 11:1 says, “The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him.” When we choose to seek our own interests at the expense of the rights of others, we have perverted justice. Some examples of perverted justice are the taking and offering of bribes (Proverbs 17:23), oppressing the poor (Amos 5:12), killing the innocent (Exodus 23:7), and bearing false witness (Exodus 23:1; Proverbs 19:5). God loves justice, and godly people will love it, too. God desires His children to actively defend those who are being oppressed (Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8).

Satan cannot create; that power belongs to God alone. So he perverts what God has created. If he can entice God’s most cherished creations to follow him in his twisted ideas, he succeeds in perverting the image of God we were designed to magnify (1 Corinthians 11:7). It is Satan who introduced the idea that perversion equals freedom. But he knows quite well that perversion is a slippery path that leads to bondage and then death (Romans 2:5–8; 2 Peter 2:19). By perverting sexuality, speech, or justice, we mar the likeness of God in our own lives. But by using God’s gifts in the way He intended them to be used, we find true freedom and can enjoy a healthy relationship with God (Psalm 24:3–4; Matthew 5:8; Galatians 5:1).[1]

 

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

Questions about the Church: What Is Vacation Bible School?

 

Vacation Bible School, or VBS, is a fun-filled program many churches offer, usually during the summer (“vacation”) months, to connect with the children and families in their communities. Vacation Bible School is an outreach meant to bring in children who don’t normally attend church and to teach them the gospel. As an evangelistic tool, VBS helps churches fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19).

Vacation Bible School began in the 1890s. A New York doctor’s wife wanted to find a way to keep children off the streets in the summertime, and so she rented a large beer hall in the East Side in order to conduct what she called “Everyday Bible School.” Her idea expanded, and eventually the New York City Baptist Mission Society established several of these Bible schools around the city.

A man named Robert G. Boville, formerly of the Baptist Mission Society, was key in the program’s expansion to other cities around the country. By 1907, he had established a national committee for Vacation Bible Schools.

Today, Vacation Bible School is a popular summer activity for Christians and non-Christians alike. Churches generally run Vacation Bible School for a week, and each program has its own theme (medieval castles, water parks, the Old West, etc.) that children can explore. A week of VBS usually includes games, snacks, crafts, skits, and, of course, Bible lessons. There is always a connection between God and the theme, allowing kids to discover God in a creative way. Many Christian publishing companies offer curricula to guide churches in setting up and running a VBS program, but some churches choose to write their own curricula.

Over the years, many churches have used Vacation Bible School as a fun, low-pressure evangelism tool. Many adults today can attest to the fact that VBS was where they first learned about Jesus Christ, resulting in their salvation. Vacation Bible School is a good way to reaffirm the commitment of God’s people through the centuries: “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4).[1]

 

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

Questions about the End Times: Who Is the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12?

 

The man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 is the Antichrist who will come on the world scene at the beginning of the Day of the Lord. This Day, sometimes called the “end times,” starts after the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11). It is good to note that the Day of the Lord is not a twenty-four-hour period of time; rather, it is an extended period of time that includes the seven-year tribulation, the return of Christ to put down all rebellion against Him, the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth, the final defeat of Satan, and the Great White Throne Judgment.

The Antichrist is given the title “man of lawlessness” because he will oppose in every way the biblical God and His law. He will be completely lawless. Daniel 7 speaks of this man as a “boastful” king who will “try to change the set times and the laws” (verses 11 and 25). He will come offering a false peace to the world and will with his charismatic personality, incredible promises, and breathtaking miracles unite all nations politically, economically, and religiously under his leadership. At the same time, he will make a covenant with Israel for three and one-half years (cf. Daniel 9:27, where “seven” indicates seven years). In the middle of the seven years, the man of lawlessness will break his covenant with Israel, stop their sacrifices (Daniel 9:27), and enter the temple to set himself up as “god” and demand worship (2 Thessalonians 2:4). This is the “abomination that causes desolation” that Jesus spoke of in Mark 13:14.

Satan works through the Antichrist, for Satan himself is not able to become incarnate. By possessing and controlling the Antichrist, Satan is worshipped in the temple where the biblical God is to be worshipped. No wonder the Antichrist is called the man of lawlessness. To act as “god” is the ultimate rejection of the biblical God’s character and laws.

This action of the Antichrist will cause an upheaval in his worldwide kingdom, and forces from the East will gather to fight against him. But instead of fighting each other, the forces of the world unite to fight the King of kings and Lord of lords, who comes to put down the man of lawlessness and his allies in the great battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16; 19:19). Of course, the man of lawlessness loses that battle. He and his false prophet are then cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). The Word of God (Revelation 19:13), Jesus Christ, will be the Victor.

A quick observation of the happenings in our world today reveals that lawlessness is on the rise. Such lawlessness will continue and increase (2 Timothy 3:13), and when the man of lawlessness appears on the scene, he will be welcomed with open arms. Those who have rejected the true Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, will fall for the Antichrist’s empty promise of peace. It is vitally important that each of us is sure that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and are living for Him. “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:33).[1]

 

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

Questions about Cults and Religions: What Is the World Mission Society Church of God, and What Do They Believe?

 

The World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCOG) was founded by a man named Ahn Sahng-Hong in South Korea in 1964. He was born in 1918 to Buddhist parents and spent many years with the Seventh-day Adventists. He claimed to have rebuilt the Church of God—the same Church that Jesus established and with the same truths of the Early Church. Ahn Sahng-Hong died in 1985.

The WMSCOG believes in God the Father and God the Mother, who came to earth in the flesh. Ahn Sahng-Hong’s spiritual wife, Zahng Gil-Jah, is known as “the Heavenly Mother.” According the WMSCOG, “God the Mother is the core of our faith and the figure that guides us.… God the Mother stands by and prays for us whenever we face hardships.” The Bible does not teach the existence of a “heavenly mother.” God is consistently referred to as our Father. Revelation 21:2 describes the New Jerusalem as a beautifully adorned bride. But verses 9–10 show that the “wife of the Lamb” and the “New Jerusalem” are synonymous terms. Obviously, the New Jerusalem is a city, not a person. In this case, the city is the church, the redeemed of the Lord living in God’s heavenly city. The Lamb’s “wife,” then, is figurative, not literal.

Another false teaching of the WMSCOG is that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not different Persons but simply different manifestations of one God. This teaching is a heresy called modalism. The Bible presents God as one God, but then speaks of three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The World Mission Society Church of God believes that Jehovah is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and Ahn Sahng-Hong is the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, a being with a mind, emotions, and a will. The fact that the Holy Spirit is God is clearly seen in many Scriptures, including Acts 5:3–4. For any man to declare he is the Holy Spirit is blasphemy.

The WMSCOG teaches that salvation is in the names of Jehovah, Jesus, and Ahn Sahng-Hong, and that baptism is required for salvation. The Bible declares that salvation is through Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Salvation is in the name of Jesus Christ. To claim salvation in the name of Ahn Sahng-Hong is blasphemy. Requiring anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a works-based salvation. To add anything to the gospel is to say that Jesus’ death on the cross was insufficient to purchase our salvation. The Bible says that Jesus’ death alone paid for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ righteousness is appropriated to our account by faith alone (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8–9). Therefore, baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation.

The WMSCOG claims that “Christ Ahn Sahng-Hong” came as the Savior in the age of the Holy Spirit and was truly the Second Coming of Christ. This teaching conflicts with what the Bible says about the second coming in Revelation 19:11–16: “He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” To claim to be the very Word of God is blasphemy.

Ahn Sahng-Hong was a false prophet. He predicted Christ would return in 1967, then changed the date to 1988. The WMSCOG believed the world would end in 1967, then 1988, and then at the end of 2012. History has proved Ahn Sahng-Hong wrong. It is noteworthy that one of the signs of the end times is the increase in false prophets and false messiahs. Ahn Sahng-Hong clearly falls into the category of false prophet and false messiah.

The beliefs of the World Mission Society Church of God are not compatible with Christianity.[1]

 

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

Bible Summary / Survey: Book of Isaiah

 

Author: Isaiah 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Isaiah as the Prophet Isaiah.

Date of Writing: The Book of Isaiah was written between 701 and 681 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Prophet Isaiah was primarily called to prophesy to the Kingdom of Judah. Judah was going through times of revival and times of rebellion. Judah was threatened with destruction by Assyria and Egypt, but was spared because of God’s mercy. Isaiah proclaimed a message of repentance from sin and hopeful expectation of God’s deliverance in the future.

Key Verses: Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” ”

Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 14:12–13, “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.”

Isaiah 53:5–6, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.”

Brief Summary: The Book of Isaiah reveals God’s judgment and salvation. God is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3), and therefore He cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Isaiah 1:2; 2:11–20; 5:30; 34:1–2; 42:25). Isaiah portrays God’s oncoming judgment as a “consuming fire” (Isaiah 1:31; 30:33).

At the same time, Isaiah understands that God is a God of mercy, grace, and compassion (Isaiah 5:25; 11:16; 14:1–2; 32:2; 40:3; 41:14–16). The nation of Israel (both Judah and Israel) is blind and deaf to God’s commands (Isaiah 6:9–10; 42:7). Judah is compared to a vineyard that should be, and will be, trampled on (Isaiah 5:1–7). Only because of His mercy and His promises to Israel, will God not allow Israel or Judah to be completely destroyed. He will bring restoration, forgiveness, and healing (43:2; 43:16–19; 52:10–12).

More than any other book in the Old Testament, Isaiah focuses on the salvation that will come through the Messiah. The Messiah will one day rule in justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7; 32:1). The reign of the Messiah will bring peace and safety to Israel (Isaiah 11:6–9). Through the Messiah, Israel will be a light to all the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 55:4–5). The Messiah’s kingdom on earth (Isaiah chapter 65–66) is the goal towards which all of the Book of Isaiah points. It is during the reign of the Messiah that God’s righteousness will be fully revealed to the world.

In a seeming paradox, the Book of Isaiah also presents the Messiah as one who will suffer. Isaiah chapter 53 vividly describes the Messiah suffering for sin. It is through His wounds that healing is achieved. It is through His suffering that our iniquities are taken away. This apparent contradiction is solved in the Person of Jesus Christ. In His first advent, Jesus was the suffering servant of Isaiah chapter 53. In His second advent, Jesus will be the conquering and ruling King, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Foreshadowings: As stated above, chapter 53 of Isaiah describes the coming Messiah and the suffering He would endure in order to pay for our sins. In His sovereignty, God orchestrated every detail of the crucifixion to fulfill every prophecy of this chapter, as well as all other messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The imagery of chapter 53 is poignant and prophetic and contains a complete picture of the Gospel. Jesus was despised and rejected (v. 3; Luke 13:34; John 1:10–11), stricken by God (v.4; Matthew 27:46), and pierced for our transgressions (v. 5; John 19:34; 1 Peter 2:24). By His suffering, He paid the punishment we deserved and became for us the ultimate and perfect sacrifice (v. 5; Hebrews 10:10). Although He was sinless, God laid on Him our sin, and we became God’s righteousness in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Practical Application: The Book of Isaiah presents our Savior to us in undeniable detail. He is the only way to heaven, the only means of obtaining the grace of God, the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Knowing the price Christ paid for us, how can we neglect or reject “so great a salvation”? (Hebrews 2:3). We have only a few, short years on earth to come to Christ and embrace the salvation only He offers. There is no second chance after death, and eternity in hell is a very long time.

Do you know people who claim to be believers in Christ who are two-faced, who are hypocrites? That is perhaps the best summary of how Isaiah viewed the nation of Israel. Israel had an appearance of righteousness, but it was a facade. In the Book of Isaiah, the Prophet Isaiah challenges Israel to obey God with all of their heart, not just on the outside. Isaiah’s desire was that those who heard and read his words would be convicted to turn from wickedness and turn to God for forgiveness and healing.[1]

 

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

Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: Why Should I Believe in God?

 

Belief in God is the most basic of all human considerations. Acknowledgement of one’s Creator is foundational to learning any more about Him. Without believing in God, it is impossible to please Him or even come to Him (Hebrews 11:6). People are surrounded with proof of God’s existence, and it is only through the hardening of sin that men reject that proof (Romans 1:18–23). It is foolish to disbelieve in God (Psalm 14:1).

There are two choices in life. First, we have the choice to trust in man’s limited reason. Man’s reason has produced various philosophies, the many world religions and “isms,” different cults, and other ideas and worldviews. A key characteristic of man’s reason is that it does not last, for man himself is not lasting. It is also limited by man’s finite knowledge; we are not as wise as we think we are (1 Corinthians 1:20). Man’s reason starts with himself and ends with himself. Man lives in Time’s box with no way out. Man is born, grows to maturity, makes his impact on the world, and eventually dies. That is it for him, naturally speaking. The choice to live by reason leaves one weighed in the balance and found wanting. If a person objectively thinks about such a lifestyle, it should cause him to consider the second choice.

The second choice we have is to accept God’s revelation in the Bible. To “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Of course, to accept that the Bible is from God, one must acknowledge God. Belief in the God of the Bible does not negate the use of reason; rather, it is when we seek God that He opens our eyes (Psalm 119:18), enlightens our understanding (Ephesians 1:18), and grants us wisdom (Proverbs 8).

Belief in God is bolstered by the evidence of God’s existence that is readily available. All creation bears silent witness to the fact of a Creator (Psalm 19:1–4). God’s book, the Bible, establishes its own validity and historical accuracy. For example, consider one Old Testament prophecy concerning Christ’s first coming. Micah 5:2 states that Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Micah gave his prophecy around 700 BC. Where was Christ born seven centuries later? He was born in Bethlehem of Judea, just as Micah had predicted (Luke 2:1–20; Matthew 2:1–12).

Peter Stoner, in Science Speaks (p. 100–107), has shown that coincidence in prophetic Scripture is ruled out by the science of probability. By using the laws of probability in reference to eight prophecies concerning Christ, Stoner found that the chance that any man would fulfill all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. That would be 1 chance in 100,000,000,000,000,000. And that is only considering eight prophecies; Jesus fulfilled many more. There is no doubt that the Bible’s accuracy and reliability are substantiated by prophecy.

Reading the Bible, we discover that God is eternal, holy, personal, gracious, and loving. God has broken open Time’s box through the Incarnation of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s loving action does not impinge on man’s reason but provides enlightenment for man’s reason so he can begin to understand that he needs forgiveness and eternal life through the Son of God.

Sure, one can reject the God of the Bible, and many do. Men can reject what Jesus Christ has done for them. To reject Christ is to reject God (John 10:30). What will it be for you? Will you live by man’s limited, faulty reason? Or will you acknowledge your Creator and accept God’s revelation in the Bible? “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7–8).[1]

 

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

Questions about Eternity: Is the Idea of Seven Heavens / the Seventh Heaven Biblical?

 

The phrase “in seventh heaven” means to experience great joy or contentment. The expression also implies that there are seven heavens to be had, which is a common teaching among several religions.

Two of the oldest religions that teach seven heavens are Hinduism and the ancient Babylonian cult. In Hinduism, there are seven higher worlds and seven lower worlds; the earth is the lowest higher world. The six higher worlds above us are places of increasing wonder and delight where people who have accumulated good karma go after they die. When the dead have spent all the time their good deeds have earned them, they are reincarnated and return to earth. Those who live extraordinarily pious lives can break out of this cycle and experience Nirvana, a state of eternal existence.

The ancient Babylonians did not teach that the seven heavens were for humans. Rather, they divided the different heavens into seven levels of space between the earth’s atmosphere and the spirit of the heavens; beyond was the Zodiac. Each of the seven heavens was associated with a particular god and a celestial body: the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, the sun, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Historians aren’t sure when the Jews first learned of Babylon’s seven heavens; Abraham might have been exposed to such a belief before he left Ur, or Hebrew scholars may have learned of it while exiled to Babylon. Either way, rabbis adapted the myth, integrating it into the Talmud—their extra-scriptural writings. The Jewish “heavens,” associated with the same celestial bodies, contain a mix of people, angels, demons, Nephilim, and natural phenomenon, the specifics changing with the teacher. As the astronomical and meteorological sciences have advanced, Jews have rejected a literal seven heavens and now see them as metaphorical—there’s no way hail could come to earth from Jupiter, after all.

Islam combines the seven heavens of Judaism with a story from Zoroastrianism. Hadith literature tells how Muhammad was taken on a journey through all seven heavens. In each heaven he met a character from the Bible or another prophet of Islam. Centuries before, the Zoroastrian priest Arta Viraf supposedly made a similar trip to heaven. In Islam and Zoroastrianism both, the heavens are levels of paradise reserved for increasingly devout worshipers.

Dante Alighieri combined Babylonian mythology with Christian metaphor when he wrote The Divine Comedy. In Dante’s epic poem, the seven celestial bodies represent ever more virtuous natures. Above these heavens, in which the righteous are rewarded after death, are four more levels. The last is Empyrean, the immaterial dwelling place of God.

The Bible says nothing that would validate a belief in seven heavens, but the word heaven itself has several meanings. The Hebrew for “heaven,” shamayim, only appears in the plural form and can mean “sky” (Genesis 1:8–9), “outer space” (Genesis 22:17), or “the place where God dwells” (Joshua 2:11). In the New Testament, the Greek ouranos can mean “the dwelling place of God” (Matthew 12:50) or “the sky” (Acts 10:11). And paradeisos (“paradise” or “garden”) can refer to the place where dead believers await resurrection (Luke 23:43), to where God dwells now (2 Corinthians 12:4), or to our eternal home (Revelation 2:7).

In 2 Corinthians 12:2 Paul says he knew a man (assumed to be himself—he is speaking in the third person) who went to the “third heaven.” The “third heaven” here simply means the spiritual dwelling of God, as opposed to the other two “heavens,” the atmosphere and outer space. The three “heavens” implied in 2 Corinthians 12:2 would be the terrestrial, telestial, and celestial.

In our vernacular, “seventh heaven” means “the best, happiest place to be,” but the Bible doesn’t give any indication that a seventh heaven actually exists. God promises He will not always live above us, but He will live with us in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21). And although we will receive rewards according to our works (Revelation 22:12), the Bible never suggests that we’ll be segregated from each other.[1]

 

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

Questions about Christianity: Who Are the Free Will Baptists, and What Do They Believe?

 

The Free Will Baptists are one of many denominations within the widely varied Baptist realm. They are organized under the National Association of Free Will Baptists, or NAFWB, an association of autonomous local churches in regional, state, and national fellowships. Each church is governed in a congregational style, meaning the entire membership votes democratically on nearly all decisions the church makes.

As their name indicates, Free Will Baptists teach a strong Arminian theology, which holds neither to predestination nor to an unconditional assurance of the perseverance of believers in their faith. As Baptists, they believe in believer’s baptism by immersion. Their understanding of God, the Trinity, salvation, and the Bible are all congruent with common Protestant teachings. One distinctive in the practice of all NAFWB churches is that they practice foot washing as a required ordinance of the church, alongside baptism and communion.

Aside from their practice of foot washing, Freewill Baptist churches represent fairly standard, conservative Baptist churches, with an Arminian point of view.[1]

 

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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Coping/Dealing with a Terminal Illness?

 

It certainly can be difficult to accept some of the sorrowful twists and turns that life brings our way. And there are few things that can stir the human soul more than the news of a terminal illness diagnosis. First of all, know that Jesus cares. Our Savior wept when His beloved friend Lazarus died (John 11:35), and His heart was touched by the sorrow of Jairus’ family (Luke 8:41–42).

Jesus not only cares; He is at hand to help His children. Our God is an “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The Holy Spirit, the Comforter of our hearts, dwells with us, and He will never leave (John 14:16).

Jesus told us in this world we would have troubles (John 16:33), and absolutely no one is spared (Romans 5:12). Yet coping with any degree of suffering becomes easier when we understand God’s overall design to redeem our fallen world. We may not be guaranteed physical health in this life, but those who trust in God are promised spiritual security for all eternity (John 10:27–28). Nothing can touch the soul.

It is good to remember that not everything bad that happens to us is a direct result of our sin. Having a terminal illness is not proof of God’s judgment on an individual. Recall the time Jesus and His disciples came upon a man who had been blind since birth. They asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:2–3, emphasis added). Likewise, Job’s three friends were certain that his calamity resulted from sin in his life. Like Christ’s disciples, they were very wrong.

We may never understand the reasons for our particular trials this side of eternity, but one thing is clear—for those who love God, trials work for them, not against them (Romans 8:28). Moreover, God will give the strength to endure any trial (Philippians 4:13).

Our earthly life is a “mist” at best, and that’s why God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God’s plan for His children includes their death, which is “precious in the sight of the LORD” (Psalm 116:15).

Ultimately, God’s will for us is to glorify Him and to grow spiritually. He wants us to trust and depend on Him. How we react to our trials, including the trial of terminal illness, reveals exactly what our faith is like. Scripture teaches us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). In fact, “dying to self” is a requirement for those who seek to follow Jesus Christ (Luke 14:27). This means we completely subordinate our desires to those of our Lord. Like Christ at Gethsemane, “my” will needs to become “Thy” will.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to consider the suffering our Savior endured so that we ourselves do not grow weary and lose heart in our own trials. It was “for the joy set before Him” that Christ was able to endure the suffering of the cross. This “joy,” for Christ, was in obeying His Father’s will (Psalm 40:8), reconciling His Father with His creation, and being exalted to the right hand of the throne of God. Likewise, our own trials can be made more bearable when we consider the “joy” set before us. Our joy may come in understanding it is through testing that God transforms us into the likeness of His Son (Job 23:10; Romans 8:29). What we see as pain and discomfort and uncertainty our sovereign Father—who ordains or allows every event during our time on earth—sees as transformation. Our suffering is never meaningless. God uses suffering to change us, to minister to others, and, ultimately, to bring glory to His name.

Paul reminds us that our earthly troubles, which last only a short time, pale in comparison to our eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17–18). Commenting on these verses, one theologian stated, “God will never be a debtor to anyone. Any sacrifice we make or hardship we endure for His sake and by His Spirit, He will amply reward out of all proportion to what we suffered.”

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, we would humbly offer this advice: make sure that you are a true child of God, having trusted Jesus as your Savior (Romans 10:9–10). Then, as Hezekiah was told, “put your house in order” (Isaiah 38:1); that is, make sure your will is ready and other important arrangements have been made. Use the remaining time God gives you to grow spiritually and minister to others. Continue to rely on the power of God for day-to-day strength, and, as the Lord gives grace, thank Him for your “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). Finally, take comfort in Jesus’ promise of eternal life and peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).[1]

 

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

Bible Commentary: What Should We Learn from the Account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den?

 

The story of Daniel in the lions’ den, recorded in Daniel 6, is one of the most beloved in all Scripture. Briefly, the story involves Daniel, a prophet of the true and living God, who defies King Darius’s decree that the people should pray only to the king for 30 days. Daniel, an otherwise law-abiding man, continues to pray to Jehovah as he has always done. Evil men, who instigated the decree in the first place in order to entrap Daniel, of whom they were jealous because of his good reputation, report him to Darius, who is forced to put Daniel into a den of lions where he would be torn to pieces. Darius, who is greatly distressed about having to punish him, says to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you” (Daniel 6:16). God does indeed rescue Daniel, sending His angel to shut the mouths of the lions so they do not harm him. Daniel is removed from the lions’ den the next day, much to the relief of the king.

One of the chief lessons we learn from this narrative is gleaned from the confession of King Darius himself: “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:26). For only by faith in such a God could any man have “shut the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33). As with Daniel, the faithful Christian must understand that God is sovereign and omnipotent and His will permeates and supersedes every aspect of life. It is God’s will that takes precedence over everything and everyone. The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us in Isaiah 55:8–9. Nevertheless, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will and believe that whatever He ordains will be for our benefit and His glory (Romans 8:28). In Daniel’s case, “no wound was found on him, because he had trusted his God” (Daniel 6:23). Joseph, too, understood that sometimes evil men plan things for evil, but God means them for good (Genesis 50:20).

There is more to learn from this remarkable story that makes it relevant to our postmodern culture. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:13–20 to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him” (1 Peter 2:13–14). Daniel not only followed this principle, he exceeded it by distinguishing himself as one with “exceptional qualities” (Daniel 6:2–3). Taking this lesson further, we read that submission to our political authorities “is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk as foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). Daniel’s faithfulness, his outstanding work ethic, and integrity made it next to impossible for his adversaries to find “grounds for charges against him” (Daniel 6:4). Instead, they found that “he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” The world now, as it did then, judges us not by our faith but by our conduct (James 2:18). How many today could stand such a scrutiny as did Daniel on this occasion?

The story ends badly for Daniel’s accusers, just as it will for those who accuse and persecute Christians today. King Darius, on the other hand, recognized the power of the God of Daniel, turned to Him in faith, and commanded the people of his kingdom to worship Him (Daniel 6:25–27). Through the witness of Daniel, his faith, and the faithfulness and power of God, an entire nation came to know and reverence the Lord. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”[1]

 

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

Bible Translations: What is the English Standard Version (ESV)?

 

English Standard Version—History The English Standard Version (ESV) is a revision of the 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version. The first edition was published in 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. The ESV Study Bible, also published by Crossway Bibles, was published in October 2008. It uses the ESV translation and adds extensive notes and articles based on evangelical Christian scholarship. Under noted theologian J.I. Packer, who served as general editor, the translators sought and received permission from the National Council of Churches to use the 1971 edition of the RSV as the English textual basis for the ESV. Difficult passages were translated using the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other original manuscripts.

English Standard Version—Translation Method The stated intent of the translators was to produce a readable and accurate translation that stands in the tradition of Bible translations beginning with English religious reformer William Tyndale in 1525–26 and culminating in the King James Version of 1611. Examples of other translations in this genre are the Revised Version (1881–85), the American Standard Version (1901), and the Revised Standard Version (1946–1971). In their own words, they sought to follow a literal word-for-word translation philosophy. To that end, they sought as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer, while taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. The result is a translation that is more literal than the New International Version, but more fluent and colloquial than the New American Standard Bible.

English Standard Version—Pro’s and Con’s The English Standard Version receives complaints from both sides. Some say it is too literal. Others say it is too dynamic. Often, criticism from both sides of an argument indicates that something has achieved a good balance between the two.

English Standard Version—Sample verses John 1:1, 14—“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 8:58—“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ ”

Ephesians 2:8–9—“For 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.”

Titus 2:13—“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing 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.