Answering Tough Questions!
Posted 28 November 2009 - 09:49 PM
by Matt Slick
Critics of the Bible often cite Old Testament instances of slavery, violence against homosexuals, wiping out nations, etc., as evidence of a morally inadequate set of rules. They will also often ask why present-day Christians don't follow these "barbaric" teachings today. They complain that Christians are inconsistent, and say that if we really follow the Bible then why don't we advocate such things as killing both homosexuals (Lev. 20:13) and disobedient children (Deut. 21:18-21).
The reason we don't is because the Old Covenantal system, that involved such harsh punishments, has been done away with. We are under a new covenant. Jesus said in Luke 22:20, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."
This new covenant was prophecied in the Old Testament in Jer. 31:31, “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." It is referenced in 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:8, 9:15; and 12:24.
Of particular importance to our topic is Heb. 8:13 which says, "When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." The Old Covenant with its harsh judicial judgments is no longer in effect because we are under a New Covenant.
Part of the reason the Old Testament covenantal system was so harsh is because first, the Old Testament law demonstrates the severity of righteousness and the requirement of perfection before a holy God. Galatians 3:24 says that the law is what points us to Christ. It does this by showing us that we are not able to keep the law and that the only way of obtaining righteousness before God is through the sacrifice of Jesus, who was God in flesh (John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9).
Second, the Old Testament times were very difficult and there were many nations that warred against Israel. Also, the devil and his demonic horde was constantly working to destroy Israel in order to invalidate the prophecies of the coming Messiah, to therefore prevent the Messiah from being born and delivering his people. Therefore, God instituted laws, as difficult as they were, that were consistent with the culture of the times, that ensured the survival of the Jewish nation, that helped to maintain social structure, and also reflected the harshness of the law.
The New Testament covenantal system says that we are to "be at peace with one another," (Mark 9:50) and "with all men," (Rom. 12:18). Rom. 14:18 says, "pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." After all, "God has called us to peace," (1 Cor. 7:15).
However, this does not mean that we are to approve of such sins as homosexuality, adultery, lying, and stealing. We are to not participate in the sins of the world. Instead, we are to avoid them. We are not to be violent to anyone since the old theonomic, covenantal system has been done away with (Heb. 8:13). Instead, we are to be kind to them (2 Tim. 2:24-25) and show them love (1 Cor. 16:14; 2 Cor. 5:14). But the moral condemnation of immorality still stands -- as is clearly taught in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 and Rom. 1:26-28.
So, the reason Christians are not obligated to stone homosexuals, disobedient children, and adulterers, is because we're no longer underneath the Old Testament covenantal system. It has been fulfilled and done away with (Heb. 8:13).
What right do you have to judge?
In order for someone to raise a valid objection against the moral statutes of the Old Testament, he or she must provide a standard by which such judgments can be made. While people may not agree with the moral judgments of the Old Testament, not agreeing does not invalidate them or mean they are wrong; nor does simply saying "they were obviously barbaric rules" mean that they were. Likewise, saying that "society has evolved" is a meaningless statement. By what standard does the critic offer morally objective criteria by which he or she can judge another culture's morals?
We have to ask what right does a person in a present-day culture have to judge any ancient culture which existed in a completely different economic, militaristic, judicial, and geographical configuration? Of course, people are entitled to their opinions and they don't have like what the Bible teaches, but not liking it has no bearing on whether or not it is good. So, those critics who insist that the Old Testament laws were wrong need to provide an objective standard (not their own opinions) by which they can make moral judgments.
Posted 01 December 2009 - 08:39 PM
by Ryan Turner
Catholics and Protestants disagree regarding the exact number of books that belong in the Old Testament Scriptures. The dispute between them is over several books known as the Apocrypha: Tobit, Judith, Additions to Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Additions to Daniel, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.1 However, there are a number of reasons why the Old Testament Apocrypha should not be part of the Canon or standard writings of Scripture.
Rejection by Jesus and the Apostles
1. There are no clear, definite New Testament quotations from the Apocrypha by Jesus or the apostles. There are references in the New Testament to the pseudepigrapha (literally “false writings”) (Jude 14-15) and even citations from pagan sources (Acts 17:22-34), but none of these are cited as Scripture and are rejected even by Roman Catholics. In contrast, the New Testament writers cite the Old Testament numerous times (Mt. 5; Lk. 24:27; Jn. 10:35).
2. Jesus implicitly rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture by referring to the entire accepted Jewish Canon of Scripture, “From the blood of Abel [Gen. 4:8] to the blood of Zechariah [2 Chron. 24:20], who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation (Lk. 11:51; cf. Mt. 23:35).”
Abel was the first martyr in the Old Testament from the book of Genesis, while Zecharias was the last martyr in the book of Chronicles. In the Hebrew canon, the first book was Genesis and the last book was Chronicles. They contained all of the same books as the standard 39 books accepted by Protestants today, but they were just arranged differently. For example, all of the 12 minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi) were contained in one book. This is why there are only 24 books in the Hebrew Bible today. By Jesus referring to Abel and Zacharias, He was canvassing the entire Canon of the Hebrew Scriptures which included the same 39 books as Protestants accept today. Therefore, Jesus implicitly rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture.
Rejection by the Jewish Community
3. The Old Testament was given to the Jews (Rom. 3:2) and they rejected the Old Testament Apocrypha as Scripture. Interestingly, Jesus had many disputes with the Jews, but He never disputed with them regarding the extent of the Canon of Old Testament Scripture.
4. The Dead Sea scrolls provide no commentary on the Apocrypha, but do provide commentary on some of the Jewish Old Testament books. This indicates that the Jewish Essene community did not regard them as highly as the Jewish Old Testament books.
5. Many ancient Jews rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture. Philo never quoted the Apocrypha as Scripture. Josephus explicitly rejected the Apocrypha and listed the Hebrew Canon to be 22 books. 2 In fact, the Jewish Community acknowledged that the prophetic gifts had ceased in Israel before the Apocrypha was written.
Rejection by many in the Catholic Church
6. The Catholic Church has not always accepted the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was not officially accepted by the Catholic Church until 1546 at the Council of Trent. This is over a millennium and a half after the books were written, and was a counter reaction to the Protestant Reformation.
7. Many church Fathers rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture, and many just used them for devotional purposes. For example, Jerome, the great Biblical scholar and translator of the Latin Vulgate, rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture. In fact, most of the church fathers in the first four centuries of the Church rejected the Apocrypha as Scripture. Along with Jerome, names include Origen, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Athanasius.
8. The Apocryphal books were placed in Bibles before the Council of Trent and after, but were placed in a separate section because they were not of equal authority. The Apocrypha rightfully has some devotional purposes, but it is not inspired.
9. The Apocrypha contains a number of false teachings (see: Errors in the Apocrypha). (To check the following references, see http://www.newadvent.org/bible.)
The command to use magic (Tobit 6:5-7).
Forgiveness of sins by almsgiving (Tobit 4:11; 12:9).
Offering of money for the sins of the dead (2 Maccabees 12:43).
10. The Apocryphal books do not share many of the chararacteristics of the Canonical books: they are not prophetic, there is no supernatural confirmation of any of the apocryphal writers works, there is no predictive prophecy, there is no new Messianic truth revealed, they are not cited as authoritative by any prophetic book written after them, and they even acknowledge that there were no prophets in Israel at their time (cf. 1 Macc. 9:27; 14:41).
Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology
1. Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, third edition, New Revised Standard Version, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 4. The complete list of the Apocryphal books also includes 1 and 2 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 3 and 4 Maccabees, which are rejected by the Catholic Church (see http://www.sacred-te...b/apo/index.htm for a complete list of the books of the Apocrypha excluding Laodiceans which is a later work).
2. There are various divisions of the Hebrew canon. The Protestant Old Testament Canon contains 39 books while the Hebrew canon has 22 or 24. These are the exact same books as the Protestants have, but they are just arranged differently and some of the books are combined into one. For example, Kings is one book. There is not 1st Kings and 2nd Kings. Also, all of the 12 minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi) are one book in the Hebrew Canon.
Posted 01 December 2009 - 09:50 PM
by Matt Slick
2 Thess. 2:11, “And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false,”
Why would God send a deluding influence on people so they would believe what is false? Isn’t that morally wrong? First of all, let’s look at the context.
2 Thess. 2:8-12, “And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.”
Verses 8-9 are speaking of the arrival of the antichrist. Verse 10 speaks about those who rejected the truth. Verse 11 says for this reason God sends a deluding influence on them so they would believe what is false.
Paul is telling us that God will send a deluding influence to those who are already rejecting the truth (v. 10), so they would believe what is false regarding the coming antichrist. God isn’t sending a deluding influence upon those believing the truth, but upon those who reject it. This isn’t wrong since they are already believing what is false. Their judgment is right because they did “not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness,” (v. 12). It’s like God saying, “You want to follow lies and wickedness? Okay, so be it. Believe your lies!”
This is the same as God judging those who reject his truth by giving them over to the lusts of their hearts (Rom. 1:24), their degrading passions (Rom. 1:26), and their depraved mind (Rom. 1:28). God judges the hearts and minds of people so that they will be strengthened in their rebellion. He gives them more of what they want, and their coming judgment is proper.
God has the right to execute judgment upon all who would believe lies and seek wickedness.
Posted 16 December 2009 - 09:47 PM
by Matt Slick
John 18:20, "I spoke openly to the world, I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing."
Mark 4:12, “in order that while seeing, they may see and not perceived; and while hearing they may hear and not understand lest they returne and be forgiven.”
Mark 4:34, “and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.”
Two important points need to be addressed here. First, the word “always” in John 18:20 is pavntote. It occurs 42 times in the Greek New Testament and has several different meanings, depending on context. Following are some of its usages:
It can mean without exception:
Jesus is always with Christians (Matt. 28:20).
Jesus always did that which pleases the Father (John 8:29).
The Father always hears the Son (John 11:42).
It can mean frequently:
A son always with his father (Luke 15:30).
“men ought always to pray” (Luke 18:1).
“always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
“Giving thanks always for all things” (Eph. 5:20).
“I thank my God…Always in every prayer” (Phil. 1:3).
“praying always for you” (Col. 1:3).
“Rejoice evermore” (1 Thess. 5:16).
“evermore give us this bread” (John 6:34).
“your time is always opportune” (John 7:6).
Jesus and Paul both used the word in a sense other than the literal “without exception." So, since words mean what they mean in context, and Jesus obviously knew he spoke in other locations (in a boat, mountain top, field, etc.), he wasn’t lying. He was using the word in the same sense as many of us do when we exaggerate to make a point.
Second, Jesus said he spoke nothing in secret. Is this a problem? Not at all. Jesus knew, for example, that he prayed by himself (Matt. 14:22). Was Jesus simply lying, or like so many people of the time (and now) did he speak with the fluidity of language, using words in non-literal ways? We know he did this in many instances. He did it with the word “always” in Luke 15:30 and Luke 18:1 where it means ‘frequently.' He also used the word ‘never’ in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:29, when he has the son say that he had ‘never’ neglected a command of his father. What son perfectly keeps his father’s commands (except Jesus, of course)? In Luke 18:18 Jesus says, “No one is good except God alone.” Was Jesus saying that he himself wasn’t good? Not at all. The context is dealing with how a certain ruler had addressed him as being good. We need to ask, was Jesus saying he wasn’t good or that no one else can be good or do good things? Of course not. Consider the word “alone” in John 12:24 where Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone.” Did Jesus mean that a grain of wheat has to be alone with no other grains around it?
Obviously, Jesus used words in figurative ways the same as anyone else does. Is it fair to extract his sayings, apply literal definitions to certain words and then pronounce that Jesus lied? No, it isn’t. Especially when we look at the context of John 18:20 where Jesus is talking about not being secretive about his teachings, which is why he mentions speaking in the synagogues and the Temple.
Mark 4:12 and 4:34 have nothing to do with Jesus speaking in secret. They deal with speaking in parables, and they touch on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election – a topic beyond the scope of this article.
Posted 07 January 2010 - 12:03 AM
In a culture heavily endowed with anti-Christian prejudice, many people assume that since much of the violence committed in the West during the past 1,700 years or so was committed by nominal “Christians” and “Christian nations,” there must be a connection between the teachings of Christianity itself and the violence committed by Western nations and people.
Violence is tragically ingrained in life on this planet. Like people everywhere, people of the West have experienced tribal, ethnic, and national conflict. They have endured plagues, famines, and natural disasters. The fact that they were exposed to the gospel didn’t shield them from these things or provide a simple formula for dealing with them. They also had to face ruthless, predatory enemies; and when they did, armed resistance was often necessary. No group of people, regardless of religion, can survive without self-defense against murderous aggression.1 Unfortunately, not all wars waged by self-professing Christians were defensive. Although “Christian” nations and rulers were by no means the only wagers of cruel, unjust war (examples like the Assyrians, Tamerlane, the Vikings, and the Golden Horde come to mind), the fact that they sometimes did can’t be ignored.
The “Christian” West has become the focus of the world’s attention during the past two centuries due to its political, military, economic, and cultural dominance.
Biblical theism nurtured the scientific achievements of the West, while the gospel nurtured its individualism and intellectual freedom. Science, individualism, and intellectual freedom were major factors in the creation of the West’s power, but the West has often exploited its power with little regard for biblical theism or the gospel.
Christianity is a personal faith, not a culture. Western nations have never been genuinely Christian, even if influenced by Christian ideals.
Christ’s coming set a boundary between Caesar’s kingdom and the kingdom of God and introduced tremendous pressure for social and political change. Although Jesus was clearly speaking metaphorically when He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 NIV). He knew His message was revolutionary. Jesus Christ wasn’t hated and put to death because He taught people how to improve themselves and go to heaven. He was killed because He, like the prophets who predicted His coming, confronted political and religious leaders about their wickedness and hypocrisy.
Following His death and resurrection, Jesus’ disciples continued to proclaim the revolutionary message that “Christ is Lord,” a message that was as unwelcome to Caesar as it was to the Jewish authorities. The declaration that “Christ is Lord” is just as unwelcome to worldly authorities in the 21st century as it was in the first.
Governments seldom have priorities in harmony with the gospel. There is tension between Caesar’s realm and the kingdom of God. This tension existed throughout the history of the West. In spite of the illusions of Western (or American) exceptionalism held by some,2 Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12 are more applicable today than ever. Yet in the midst of inhuman ideologies, revolutionary violence, and imperial wars, the gospel sows salt and light in a world that would be an utter hell without it (Matthew 5:13-16). In spite of the demonic currents of Western history, the Christian faith has nurtured—and continues to nurture—human dignity, freedom, and achievement.
Under the gospel’s influence, “old wineskins” of degrading and obsolete social structures will continue to burst (Luke 5:36-38). But bloodshed is rooted in the narcissism of our race, not the gospel.3
As in the West, when the yeast of the gospel message (Matthew 13:31-33) is introduced into areas of the world hitherto uninfluenced by Christianity, evil and hypocrisy will be exposed and revolutionary ferment will occur. But when there is violence, it will be due to resistance to the gospel, not its liberating message.
1. Christian thinkers have been troubled both by the necessity of war and the fact that fellow Christians were not always justified in resorting to violence. This is why Christian thinkers sought to define a set of principles that would define the circumstances in which war is justified. (SeeAre there any standards for determining whether a war is just?) (Back To Article)
2. Those who believe in Western exceptionalism are convinced that the values of the West are unique and superior in every way to the values of other civilizations, so that everyone should strive to become like us. In effect, they idealize the West—or idolize—it, ignoring its serious flaws. (Back To Article)
3. See Is Christianity less inclined to violence than other religions and ideologies? and Why is genuine New Testament Christianity opposed to war and violence? (Back To Article)
by Dan Vander Lugt
Posted 27 January 2010 - 09:22 PM
by Matt Slick
This is a very common question and the answer is found in understanding the Trinity and the incarnation of Jesus.
The Trinity is the doctrine that there is only one God in all existence. This one God exists as three persons: The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are not three gods, but one God. Each is a separate person, yet each of them is, in essence, divine in nature.
A close analogy of the Trinity can be found by looking at the concept of time. Time is past, present, and future. There are three "aspects" or "parts" of time. This does not mean that there are three "times," but only one. Each is separate, in a sense, yet each shares the same nature, or essence. In a similar way, the Trinity is three separate persons who share the same nature.
The doctrine of the incarnation in Christian teaching is that Jesus, who is the second person of the Trinity, added to himself human nature and became a man.
The Bible says that Jesus is God in flesh, "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," (John 1:1, 14); and, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form," (Col. 2:9). Jesus, therefore, has two natures. He is both God and man.
Jesus is completely human, but He also has a divine nature.
He is worshiped (Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33; 28:9)
He is prayed to (Acts 7:59; 1 Cor. 1:2)
He was called God (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8)
He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1)
He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15)
He knew all things (John 21:17)
He gives eternal life (John 20:28)
The fullness of deity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9)
He worshiped the Father (John 17)
He prayed to the Father (John 17:1)
He was called man (Mark 15:39; John 19:5).
He was called Son of Man (John 19:35-37)
He was tempted (Matt. 4:1)
He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52)
He died (Rom. 5:8)
He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)
As a man, Jesus needed to pray. When He was praying he was not praying to Himself, but to God the Father.
Posted 11 March 2010 - 08:47 PM
By Connie Strasheim
CBN.com – No answer seems to completely satisfy when it comes to why God allows pain. Since the dawn of history, mankind has wrestled with this question, only to come up with answers that scarcely fill the soul’s void.
While God grows our faith through pain, it is not His foremost reason for allowing us to hurt.
Paradoxically, love is the greater reason, and God will allow His creation to go through anything in the name of love. Anything at all. For God, love is a higher priority than comfort, enjoyment, and even happiness.
Pain was not part of God’s original design. Love, on the other hand, was, and God knew that in order for love to exist, free will would also have to exist. In a world where He gave humans the choice to love or hate, He knew some would choose the latter and pain would inevitably be the price. But, God apparently thought that this was preferable to taking away His creation’s humanity, even though He knew rape, murder, disease, and tragedy would plague our world.
Yet pain breaks God’s heart, and so God has taken man’s misuse and abuse of free will and redeemed it. God isn’t about righting all the wrongs on Earth. But, He is big on taking the wrongs and making something beautiful of them. And so He constantly offers opportunities for His children to exercise that free will in love towards one another, so that some of what has been broken can be remade. Pain offers opportunity for growth in love.
Also, pain is a unique opportunity for humanity to choose whether it will love God for who He is, rather than for the gifts that He bestows upon His creation. Granted, God loves to give to His children. But in a life void of suffering, there would also be little need to love God for any reason beyond his role as Santa Claus. God wants to be loved for who He is -- for His mercy, grace, kindness, compassion, and other attributes -- and not because He makes life easy for us.
Finally, God allows pain to remind us that our home is not in this world, that our real life begins in the afterlife, in Heaven. He wishes for us to long for that place. And pain has a way of keeping our hope there, rather than on Earth. This is a good thing, for Heaven promises more wonderful, beautiful things than those which are found here. Earth is for deciding whether we will love one another as well as our Creator; Heaven is where our experience of life will find its fruition.
Do You Want a Relationship with God?
If you want this kind of relationship with God, pray this prayer right now:
Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you took the pain of the cross to give me new life. I ask you to come into my life and to give me your peace and joy. I confess that I am a sinner -- that I have gone my own way and have done wrong. Please forgive me for my sins. I receive you now as my Lord and Savior. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to follow you and to serve you all my life. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, you are now a child of God. The things of your old life have passed away and He has made all things new.
Posted 30 May 2010 - 08:50 PM
Matthew 5:17 and Ephesians 2:14-15
No. (Matt. 5:17), "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill."
Yes. (Eph. 2:14-15), "For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace."
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus is speaking about the Old Testament principles and authority of rule and revelation. When Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law, He came to establish it and demonstrate how it pointed to Him and how He would live it perfectly.
In Eph. 2:14-15, Paul is speaking about how the gentiles who were called the uncircumcision (v. 11), were separated from Christ (v. 12), but have now been brought near (to God) by the blood of Christ (v. 13). Jesus removed the requirement of having to follow the Law in order to please God, established justification by faith, and thereby united both Jew and Gentile into one group in Christ. This is when Paul says in verse 15 that he abolished in his flesh the enmity which is the law of commandments in ordinances. The Law was that which separated Jew from Gentile and since it has been fulfilled in Christ, it is no longer something that would separate Jew and Gentile.
Posted 18 November 2010 - 09:02 PM
Is there a passage of Scripture that implies Jesus descended into hell following His death on the cross?
There is an early Catholic tradition, preserved in the Apostles' Creed, that Christ descended into hell following His crucifixion. Some take this to mean that Christ literally descended into Hades,1 although most of the Scripture references that purportedly supported this view are ambiguous and weak when used for that purpose (Acts 2:31; Ephesians 4:9-10; Psalm 49:15). The only passage that seems worth consideration is 1 Peter 3:18-20.
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water” (NIV).
Some maintain, on the basis of this passage, that Jesus Christ (in His preincarnate state) preached through Noah to the wicked generation of Noah’s day. Others say that between His death and resurrection Christ went to the prison where the fallen angels are who left their proper state and married human women (Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6 ). Others say that between His death and resurrection, Christ went to the place of the dead and preached to the spirits of Noah’s wicked contemporaries.
All of these views of this passage have serious exegetical problems, including the declaration of Hebrews 9:27-28:
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (NKJV).
Nearly all orthodox Christian Bible teachers today deny that Christ descended into hell in a literal sense following His death on the cross. In addition, it goes clearly contrary to biblical teaching to imply that the spirits of the dead can be reached with the gospel.
Yet Scripture does corroborate a sense in which Jesus “descended into hell.” Jesus dreaded “the cup” (Matthew 26:39). This “cup” cannot have been merely death by crucifixion. Other martyrs have faced equally horrible deaths, and done so with composure. Nor can it symbolize a premature death in Gethsemane at the hands of the devil. Our Lord said that this cup came from God—“Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11). Moreover, Jesus had expressly declared that He wouldn’t die until He voluntarily laid down His life. He said, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18).
This “cup” symbolizes the agony of hell that Jesus had to endure on the cross. It is a symbol of God’s wrath as seen in Psalm 75:8: “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.” On the cross, God made His Son, “who knew no sin, to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He poured on Jesus Christ His wrath against all sin, causing Him to endure the desolation of hell. This sense of abandonment began to sweep over Jesus in Gethsemane. On the cross, it finally caused Him to cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46 ). The cup that Jesus dreaded, therefore, was the agony of hell—the abandonment by God that makes hell what it is.
1. “Hell” in the (English) New Testament renders the Greek word transliterated as “Gehenna” (New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale). This word refers to the place of eternal punishment for the damned. The Old Testament had a less clear view of the state of the dead, and pictured them as being held in “Sheol” (translated “Hades”).
Posted 05 December 2010 - 09:01 PM
from Our Daily Bread
Jesus declared His deity when He said, "I tell you the truth, . . . before Abraham was born, I am!" ( John 8:58 ). In Matthew 25:31-46 , Jesus taught that He will judge the world. This is an authority that only God can exercise. His enemies understood Him clearly because they called for His execution on charges of blasphemy. They said, "He claimed to be the Son of God" ( John 19:7 ). And when Jesus was required to state whether or not He was the Christ, He replied, "Yes, it is as you say. . . . But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" ( Matthew 26:64 ).
While we cannot grasp the mystery of the incarnation, the Scriptures require us to view Jesus Christ as God and man in one person. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was not only a great prophet or a man gifted with supernatural powers. He was truly God and truly man. Writing to defend the deity of Jesus against Gnostic teaching that claimed that the divine presence had departed from Jesus' body before His death and crucifixion, the apostle John wrote:
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:2-3).
Belief in Christ's deity offers great comfort to Christians. We read:
We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Only by being both God and man could Jesus suffer in our place and atone for our sins.
Posted 08 July 2011 - 06:22 PM
In Numbers 14 it appears that Moses changed the mind of God. How can you explain this?
“To change one’s mind,” in the New Testament means to repent. When the Bible speaks of my repenting or your repenting, it means that we are called to change our minds or our dispositions with respect to sin—that we are to turn away from evil. Repent is loaded with these kinds of connotations, and when we talk about God’s repenting, it somehow suggests that God has to turn away from doing something wicked. But that’s not what is always meant when the Bible uses this word.
Using a word like repentance with respect to God raises some problems for us. When the Bible describes God for us, it uses human terms, because the only language God has by which to speak to us about himself is our human language. The theological term for this is anthropomorphic language, which is the use of human forms and structures to describe God. When the Bible talks about God’s feet or the right arm of the Lord, we immediately see that as just a human way of speaking about God. But when we use more abstract terms like repent, then we get all befuddled about it.
There’s one sense in which it seems God is changing his mind, and there’s another sense in which the Bible says God never changes his mind because God is omniscient. He knows all things from the beginning, and he is immutable. He is unchanging. There’s no shadow of turning within him. He knows what Moses is going to say to him before Moses even opens his mouth to plead for these people. Then after Moses has actually said it, does God suddenly changes his mind? He doesn’t have any more information than he had a moment before. Nothing has changed as far as God’s knowledge or his appraisal of the situation.
What in Moses’ words and actions would possibly have provoked God to change his mind? I think that what we have here is the mystery of providence whereby God ordains not only the ends of things that come to pass but also the means. God sets forth principles in the Bible where he gives threats of judgment to motivate his people to repentance. Sometimes he spells out specifically, “But if you repent, I will not carry out the threat.” He doesn’t always add that qualifier, but it’s there. I think this is one of those instances. It was tacitly understood that God threatens judgment upon these people, but if somebody pleads for them in a priestly way, he will give grace rather than justice. I think that’s at the heart of that mystery.
Is God confused, stumbling through all the different options—Should I do this? Should I not do that? And does he decide upon one course of action and then think, Well, maybe that’s not such a good idea after all, and change his mind? Obviously God is omniscient; God is all wise. God is eternal in his perspective and in his full knowledge of everything. So we don’t change God’s mind. But prayer changes things. It changes us. And there are times in which God waits for us to ask for things because his plan is that we work with him in the glorious process of bringing his will to pass here on earth.
Posted 23 November 2017 - 06:05 AM
Posted 28 November 2017 - 06:17 PM
I have appreciated reading about the Apocrypha, & will read the others too.
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