Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jesus And The Drowned Pigs

Question: What happened to the demons that were transferred to the pigs when they drowned? Demons don't drown, do they?

The Passage (NIV 2011):
Mark 5:11-13     A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”          He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned

Demons, of course are evil, or “impure spirits” (Mk. 5:8), and therefore cannot be drowned. Rather, Jesus describes demons as spirits who are constantly in search of human bodies to inhabit like parasites:    
         Matt. 12:43-45  “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

This is why the “The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them” (Mk.5:12). A disembodied demon is like a creature desperately searching for water in the desert. The man Jesus encountered on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee in “the region of the Garasenes” (Mk. 5:1)—a Gentile community where pig farming was common—had become the host body for numerous demons.

The demonic spirits immediately recognized Jesus as “the Son of the Most High God” (Mk. 5:7), and assumed He had come to send them to the Abyss (Lk. 8:31), a place of confinement for certain demonic spirits (fallen angels) until the Day of Judgment:
         Jude 6  And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Terrified of the Abyss, and equally terrified of having no host body to inhabit, the demons begged Jesus to use the pigs as hosts (Mk. 5:12). The pigs proved to be an incompatible host to the demonic spirits (which Jesus already knew to be the case). Normally, pigs can swim. But these poor creatures went completely berserk under the influence of the impure spirits and rushed mindlessly out of control down the cliff side into the Sea of Galilee to their deaths. Yet, by agreeing to the demons’ request, Jesus not only released the tormented man from thousands of demons, He also demonstrated His total authority over the natural and spiritual realms to the Gentile community.

In the end, the demons still found themselves disembodied, wandering in a spiritual wilderness looking for other potential hosts. The man Jesus had set free was restored to his family and community; and the man’s family community no longer lived in fear—all for the small price of a herd of pigs!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Interpreting Prophecy Correctly

Biblegems # 280

Question: Zechariah 14:4 says that the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west”. Is this to be understood literally, or is there a more symbolic meaning intended?

Using Zechariah 14:4, here are four basic principles for interpreting prophecy correctly:

The immediate context, Zechariah 14:1-10, places the mountain-splitting event amidst other “Day of the Lord” events (v.1), including: Jerusalem overrun by “all the nations,” (vv. 1-2); half of Jerusalem’s survivors taken into exile (v. 3); the LORD appearing and “all the holy ones with him” to attack the nations formed against Israel (vv. 1, 3, 5); the LORD descending on the Mount of Olives, causing the mountain to “split in two from east to west” (v.4). Jewish survivors left in Jerusalem escape the city through the valley created by the earthquake (v.5). A bright, warm light accompanies the LORD’s appearing, continuing day and night (v. 6). A new river will flow east and west from Jerusalem’s greatly elevated mountain, the surrounding region leveled like the Arabah wilderness (vv.8, 10). The Lord will reign from Jerusalem as king over the entire earth (v.9).

The context describes very specific future events in a very specific timeline intended be understood at face value, not symbolically.

The fundamental rule of interpretation, prophetic or not, is to take Scripture literally (at face value, straightforward) unless the text itself dictates otherwise. Key words, such as “like”, or “as” can indicate comparison or metaphor. To interpret Zechariah 14:4 symbolically it needs to be worded something like this:
“…the Mount of Olives will shake [as if it were about to] be split in two from east to west…”

Instead, the language is precise and definitive, indicating these events are to be understood at face value, not symbolically.

Consistency in interpretation means we do not have the liberty to pick and choose which details we think should be symbolic, exaggeration, or literal. No matter how extreme or how scientifically unlikely the mountain-splitting earthquake might seem to us, either we take the entire passage as literal, or not at all. Consistency demands one or the other.

Scripture Interprets Scripture
In the book of Acts, Jesus gathered His disciples one last time on the Mount of Olives to give them final instructions (Acts 1:12). But He did more than that.
         Acts 1:9-11  After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus ascended to heaven visibly and physically from the Mount of Olives; and He will descend to earth in power and great glory, visibly and physically (Matt. 24:30), with all His holy ones (1Thess. 3:13), upon the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12), as the Scripture foretold in Zechariah 14:4. Jesus’ ascension verifies the literal interpretation of Zechariah 14:4 and its entire context.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Is The Third Heaven?

Question: What is the third heaven mentioned by the apostle Paul?

2Cor. 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know— God knows.

There are surprisingly several clues within the context of Paul’s mention of this “third heaven” that shed some light on the subject.

First, Paul uses the term without explanation, as if it were quite familiar to his contemporaries. This is because the “third heaven” was a familiar concept in Jewish circles, made popular by the book of 2 Enoch. While not Scripture, many of the concepts and terms were recognized as accurate and used by such New Testament authorities as Paul, Peter and Jude.

Second, “the third heaven” is experienced in this life through the portal of  “visions and revelations” (v. 1). “Visions and revelations” is a very general expression, and Paul does not specify which of the two was the vehicle for his own experience, and he may not have been sure himself. God reveals Himself in many ways, and “visions” are just one form of such revelations (Heb. 1:1). Twice in the book of Revelation, the apostle John described how his own experience sometimes seemed to engage his physical senses:
         Rev. 19:10  At this I fell at his feet to worship him.
         Rev. 22:8   I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me.

Third, the “third heaven” is identical to “paradise” (v. 4). “Paradise” is the biblical term describing where those who die in a righteous relationship with God enjoy life in His presence prior to their bodily resurrection at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (1Thess. 4:14-17; 1Cor. 15:52). Jesus promised the thief on the cross next to Him who professed his faith in Jesus as the Son of God that he would wake up in Paradise (the “third heaven”) that very day and see Jesus there (Lk. 23:43).

The “third heaven” could be experienced in both the physical and spiritual realm, even though Paul was not certain whether his own experience was “in the body or out of the body.” The book of Revelation supports this:
         Rev. 2:7  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Likewise, in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus describes Paradise as a beautiful place whose residents, like Lazarus, are fully conscious that they have entered God’s presence after death, and they are aware of those who await Judgment Day in Hades (not Hell, yet) after death. Lazarus and the crucified thief both represent those who Paul describes as having “fallen asleep in” Jesus (1Thes. 4:14, 15).