Tuesday, December 27, 2011

OT Sacrifices Under The New Covenant

Biblegems #68
Question: How much of the Old Testament are we held to regarding the sacrifices and the Ten Commandments?

Paul and Barnabas brought this very issue before the apostles in Jerusalem because many Jewish believers in Jesus insisted that Gentile believers had to conform to Jewish laws and customs (Acts 15). Should Gentile males be circumcised when they come to Christ? Should Gentile believers offer sacrifices and worship on the Sabbath?

Here is the decision by the apostles in Jerusalem, confirmed by the Holy Spirit: 
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them [the Gentiles] by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” (Acts 15:8-11).

So the rule for all believers in Jesus is that we are not bound by the law of Moses. As the Scripture says:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ (Col. 2:16-17).

This idea of the sacrificial system, Sabbath day observance and celebration of religious holidays as being “shadows” of the reality found in Christ runs throughout the New Testament:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship (Heb. 10:1).

Even when it comes to the Ten Commandments, followers of Jesus Christ are not under the law written upon stone, but under Jesus’ new commandment to love one another (John 13:34). As Paul says in Romans:
         The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9).

But here is the crux of the matter: The law, sacrifices and ceremonies are not bad; they are just incapable of changing a sinful heart into a loving heart. Only Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit can transform a person from the inside out. Then, keeping the Ten Commandments becomes a desire, not a law.
         So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law (Gal. 3:24-25). The law, which highlighted our sin and condemned us, has been replaced in the life of the believer by the grace of God, who pardons our sins and transforms our sinful nature into a holy nature.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Jewish Temple In The Last Days?

Biblegems #67
Question: Will there be a new temple built by Jews in the Last Days? If so, will the ark of the covenant be in it?

According to Daniel 9:27, a new Jewish temple will have already been in existence, complete with animal sacrifices, by the middle of the seven year reign of the Antichrist. In fact, the verse tells us that the Antichrist will shut down the animal sacrifices after 31/2 years and that on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation.”

Jesus refers to that “abomination that causes desolation” as something “standing” (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14); and the apostle Paul very specifically states that the Antichrist will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4).

So the Antichrist will set himself up to be worshiped, or a statue of himself, on a wing of the newly rebuilt temple approximately 31/2 years into his 7 year reign.

The prophet Isaiah also refers to this temple, and makes it clear that it will be constructed by the Jewish people, not as a result of God’s leading but out of their own self-will. Isaiah 66:3-4 reads:
But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in them, so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me.

God is not pleased with the construction of the new temple and views the sacrifices which He has not ordained as contemptible as murder. Therefore, He allows the Antichrist to stop the sacrifices and set himself up as a god to be worshiped. This “abomination” results in the Jews revolting against the Antichrist and leaving the temple. Thus, “the abomination that causes desolation.”

As far as the ark of the covenant being re-instated in the new, or third, temple—it is highly unlikely. The ark has probably been destroyed. The reader should see Biblegems article # 16, “Where Is The Ark Of The Covenant”? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Revelation 3:10 & The Rapture

Biblegems # 66

Question: Does Revelation 3:10 refer to the rapture of the Church before the Great Tribulation?

Rev. 3:10 reads, Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

This verse has been called “the watershed in the debate over the timing of the rapture.”1 I have underlined the portions that are key to its interpretation.

Rev. 3:10 is addressed to the Church of Philadelphia. The promise given is specifically to the church of Philadelphia. However, the promise makes no sense unless the Philadelphian church is seen as a type of the future Church at the time of this predicted “hour of trial” because those of John’s day would not live long enough to see that period.

The promise is conditional: “Since” you have patiently endured, then (implied) I will keep you from the hour of global trial. Those who have endured are the Philadelphian Christians. No such promise is given to the other churches in Revelation 5. In other words, not all Christians will be ‘kept from the hour of trial,’ but only that remnant that has “patiently endured.”

The word “endurance” (Gk. hupomonais) means standing firm through trouble and adversity. So the idea is that standing firm through trouble and adversity now will result in God’s keeping you from “the hour of trial” in the future.

The “hour of trial” clearly refers to a specific period of time in the future. It will be world-wide, therefore the principal of divine protection promised to the Philadelphian church would apply to the church universal at the time of this world-wide “trial.” The “hour” actually describes the beginning of the Great Tribulation, which according to Daniel 12, begins 31/2 years into the reign of the antichrist.

The word “trial” (Gk. Peirasmoun) means “testing,” which aptly describes the Tribulation, but not the Day of the Lord’s Wrath, where testing is replaced by judgment. The two events should not be confused as one.

So the expectation of the Church as it approaches the time of the Great Tribulation, based on the cause and effect promise given to the church of Philadelphia, is that some believers, those who “patiently endure” the period just prior to the Tribulation (i.e., the first 31/2 years of the antichrist’s 7 year reign), will be kept from that “hour of trial.” They will be “kept” by God from experiencing that last 31/2 years known as the Great Tribulation.

This is not the Rapture, because it does not include the whole Church, but represents God’s protection of a remnant within His Church. Remember Jesus’ warning to those believers who are alive during the Tribulation to hide in the mountains when the antichrist sets up his image in the temple at Jerusalem (Matt. 24:15-21). Those who have been anticipating this terrible climax of human history and flee into hiding when they see the antichrist set himself up as a god may be among those whom God keeps “from the hour of trial.” They have been watching, enduring and preparing for that very day.

1 Rosenthal, Marvin. The Pre-Wrath Rapture Of The Church, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tenn. 1990, pg. 238

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Explaining The Trinity

Biblegems #65

Question: How can the concept of the Trinity be explained in a way that is both clear and biblically sound?

What a great Christmas season question!

Explaining the Trinity has vexed the Church from the beginning, not because it is unbiblical but because it is too easy to misrepresent the Trinity by using poor examples and analogies.

The Bible clearly states that there is one God (Dt. 6:4) who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all share the same divine nature, yet they are three distinct persons who communicate with each other:
         Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness

Jesus is one with the Father, yet a distinct person:
         John 10:30 I and the Father are one.

The Spirit is a person and one with God in His holy nature:
         John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Examples of misrepresenting the Trinity incude:
• God the Father created Jesus; the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force or power.
• The Trinity is actually three separate Gods.
• God took on the role of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. An example sometimes used is that of water taking on the alternate forms of ice or steam.
• God and Jesus are the same person, just perceived sometimes as the Son and other times as the Father.

Perhaps the best analogy for the Trinity has been supplied by God Himself in the creation of man as a triune being. It is still not a perfect analogy, but then again, there is nothing else in all existence that perfectly compares to God. According to the Bible, man was created in the image of God as a three-fold being: body, soul and spirit. The soul is conscious life that animates the body (Gen. 2:7); the spirit gives him understanding and a connection to God beyond that of other living beings:
Job 32:8 But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.

I can point to my face and say, “This is me; my name is Paul.” I am carrying out the action of a living soul, pointing to the body inhabited by that soul and expressing a basic spiritual understanding of my existence in the world. My body, soul and spirit all belong to my one nature (human being), yet are also three distinct entities in that one nature.

God in His essential nature has no body. He is, by definition, spirit (Jn. 4:24). The miracle of Christmas is that —
Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with
God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking
the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
(Phil 2:6-7).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Contradicting Numbers In The Bible

Biblegems #64

Question: Why is it that one event involving numbers, such as a person’s age or the number of soldiers in an army, can be recorded in more than one place in Scripture and those references give apparently contradictory numbers?

For example, 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5 both give an account of the same event—a census of the number of fighting men available to king David throughout Israel and Judah, but give different numerical totals:

2 Sam. 24:9  Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.

1 Chr. 21:5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.

A second example has to do with a discrepancy over the age of Jehoiachin when he began his reign as king—was he 18, as recorded in 2 Kings 24:8, or 8 years old, as it says in 2 Chronicles 36:9?

These examples represent two of the most common types of apparent contradictions in the Bible when it comes to numbers. The first is an example of misunderstood context, while the other is an example of a scribal error during copying of the biblical text.

The issue of context is familiar to Biblegems readers. In the case of 2 Sam. 24:9 and 1 Chron. 21:5, the key to the problem is found in the reference to able-bodied men”  (“valiant men” KJV) in 2 Sam. 24:9. The term in Hebrew is “hayil,” meaning “battle-seasoned” troops. So the passage in 2 Samuel represents Joab’s report of 800,000 seasoned veterans ready for duty if called upon. The accounting in 2 Chronicles, however, is larger by 300,00 because it lists “all who could handle a sword,” in addition to the veterans.

The second example represents an error made by a scribe in the process of copying the text. Early Hebrew writing, such as that used in 2 Kings 24:8 and 2 Chronicles 36:9, used horizontal lines with a downward hook on the right end to represent a “10”. The number 20 would be shown as 2 of these hooked horizontal lines, one above the other. Vertical lines represented the number “1”. So 12 would be two vertical lines followed by a hooked horizontal line.

A scribe copying the number “18” onto a new parchment could easily misread the number as “8” if one of the horizontal lines were smudged, obscured by a crease or missing because of a tear in the original document.  This is not an error in Scripture, or a contradiction, but a human error made in the process of copying. The miracle is how few—and how insignificant—such scribal errors are!

For those interested in an overview of further explanations of apparent Bible contradictions, I refer you to Debate Topics Apologetics 101 at http://debate.org.uk/topics/apolog/contrads.htm

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who Are The Holy Ones? 1 Thess.3:13

Biblegems # 63

Question: Who are the “holy ones” Paul is referring to in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 who will be with Jesus when He returns?

There are three possibilities as to whom “all His holy ones” refers to. Either the phrase refers to all God’s angels, or all of those who are saved (the dead in Christ and those who are raptured at His appearing), or to a combination of God’s angels and the resurrected redeemed.

Some commentators say the phrase cannot refer to both angels and the redeemed of the Lord because “Paul would hardly include two such diverse groups in the same category.”1

I disagree.

The apostle Paul has much to say about the Lord’s Return throughout his letters. In 2 Thessalonians he talks about the Lord being glorified in His people at His Return:
         2 Th. 1:10 …on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

Paul stated previously, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, that the dead in Christ will join with those who meet the Lord in the air at His Return:
         1 Th. 4:15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

This “joining” of those who are raptured and those who are already with the Lord in heaven would constitute “all His holy ones,” if “holy ones” refers only to people and not angels. However, this joining of the living and dead in Christ at His return happens, we are told by Paul, “with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). The timing is important in identifying the “holy ones.”

Jesus spoke of this same event in Matthew 24:
         Matt. 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Notice that according to both Jesus and Paul, the Rapture takes place at the trumpet call of God, which Jesus says is blown by angels (Matt. 24:31), and Paul says is accompanied by the voice of the archangel. All this, Jesus says, is at the visible return of Jesus Christ to planet earth (Matt. 24:30) immediately after the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:29).

“All his holy ones” refers to all those who are in Christ at His appearing, together with all the angelic army of heaven.

1 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, Ed., Zondervan,1415 Lake Drive, S. E. Grand Rapids, MI 49506. ISBN: 0-310-36440-X Copyright © 1990 Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc., Version 1.5, in loc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Bible Through Fresh Eyes

Biblegems #62

Question: I wonder at times, can I trust the person reading said translation, meaning myself? Regardless of translation, I am trying to bring fresh eyes to the reading of scripture. Thank you.

What follows are four questions I use to help get deep beneath the surface. 

WARNING! You cannot dig deeper into Scripture without actually digging.


• What am I asking of God? (Meditation)
Open your Bible.

Close your eyes. Ask God to speak to you through His Word. Ask God to reveal new insights into His Word. Ask God to speak His Word through you at some time during the day.

Open your eyes. Read the passage. If it’s very familiar, read it aloud to force yourself to read each word.

Read it again. Slowly. Savor each word. Let it sink in.

Do this a total of five times.

If the passage is short—one or two verses—write it down on an index card that you can put in your pocket or purse and re-read it throughout the day.
Ps. 119:97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.

• What does the Scripture specifically say? (Meaning)
We all have a tendency to read into Scripture what we assume is already there or what we have been taught. This is called “eisegesis.” To avoid this it is important to force yourself to ask ‘What does this passage actually say?’

For example, many of us have learned that 1 Peter 3:18-19 teaches that Jesus descended into hell between His crucifixion and resurrection. Read the passage in your favorite translation. Does the passage actually say Jesus descended into hell?

Does it identify the “spirits in prison” as people in hell?

Well, who are these “spirits” then?
         Ah-ha! Now we have some digging to do!

• What does the Scripture in general say (Context)
Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Using 1 Pet. 3:18-19 again, does the Scripture anywhere identify these spirits? Begin your search close, then fan out into Bible in general. Does the Bible anywhere else talk about what happened between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection?

• What Is God saying to me? (Application)
Once you understand what the passage means, close your eyes. You are now protected from incorrect doctrine and ready for God to apply this to your life. Ask God, ‘What do you want me  to learn from this that will make me more like Jesus?’ Ask Him, ‘Is there someone you want me to share this truth with today?’

He may not answer you right away. You may need to walk into your day with Him before the truth of this passage comes into focus. You may need to share it with someone who needs it before you fully see its beauty and power. But God will answer.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Answering Fools

Biblegems #61

Question: It appears on the surface that Proverbs 26:4-5 is contradicting itself. Verse 4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him.” But verse 5 says, “Answer a fool according to his folly or he will be wise in his own eyes.” Does this mean that we are to answer a fool according to his folly, just do it with love and the Word of God, not in arrogance and ignorance like the fool himself or we will become like him and he will become wise in his own eyes?

We have a saying in English that there are two sides to a coin. This passage in Proverbs is an example of the two sides of a coin in dealing with “fools.”

On one side of this coin, Verse 4 gives the usual approach a person should take in dealing with a fool. Responding to a fool at all will likely make you look like a fool as well. The Bible is cautioning us to stay away from getting into a fruitless argument or discussion with fools. There is virtually no way to answer such a person without coming across ourselves as equally opinionated, argumentative or just plain ridiculous.

However, on the other side of that coin, in verse 5, there are times when the “fool” is expressing ignorant or even dangerous opinions about important topics, and to say nothing could give the impression of being in agreement. In that case, it can become necessary to “answer a fool according to his folly”—in other words, rebuke him for saying something foolish that could lead others astray. If the fool is not challenged and rebuked, he will prattle on and on, thinking himself wise.

The apostle Paul had to take this second approach in dealing with some self-proclaimed spiritual leaders in the Corinthian church who contradicted Paul’s teaching and boasted about their superiority over Paul. Like all fools, they viewed themselves more highly than they deserved. Because of the damage they were creating in the church, Paul had to answer these fools “according to their folly” by boasting about himself in order to show how ridiculous they sounded:

2 Cor. 11:16-17 I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.

So, rather than contradicting itself, proverbs 26:4-5 shows two different ways of responding to a fool, depending upon which response is the most helpful and wise.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Can I Trust My Translation? Part 2

Biblegems # 60

Luke 24:44 He [Jesus] said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

If Jesus believed the Bible, then it should be trustworthy and accurate, right?


Did you know that the Bible translation most often quoted by Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament? Sometimes they quoted directly from the Hebrew, and sometimes they mixed their quotes with both the Hebrew and Greek! Like most Christians today, Jesus and the apostles understood that God has preserved His Word through time and cultures by using translations into new and changing languages.

Last week’s blog highlighted the importance of manuscript evidence used in Bible translations. Today we will focus on how those manuscripts help provide accuracy and confidence in God’s Word.

There is a common misconception that there is one single Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT) manuscript of the Bible. That is not the case. The truth is there are literally thousands of ancient manuscripts, and portions of manuscripts, of biblical texts spanning 2,000 years in composition and copying over countless languages. All agree in content and meaning and prove the reliability and accuracy of Scripture!

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest OT manuscripts available were from about 900 AD (the OT was completed about 1300 years earlier!) The translators developing the KJV had available to them an edited Greek text from the 5th century A.D.  They relied upon this and the Latin Vulgate (383 A.D.) to bring to English speaking people a new, dependable translation which the average person could read.

Now, through archeological research, we have discovered OT manuscripts dating from before the time of Christ. We have also discovered manuscripts of the Greek New Testament that are far older than anything previously available. These confirm the accuracy of the texts we already had. Where there are differences, these older manuscripts often help provide greater accuracy in determining a specific word or phrasing. Translations that take full advantage of these ancient manuscripts help bring us closer to the inerrant originals as composed by Moses, Paul, John, Isaiah, etc.

For example, Isaiah 2:22 in the KJV reads:
         “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?”

The NIV reads:
         “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?”

The same passage translated from the “Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa)” discovered in the Qumran caves at the Dead Sea that is nearly a thousand years older than any OT manuscript we had before this discovery reads:
         Stop focusing on mortals, who have only breath in their nostrils – for what are they really worth?”

What a beautiful reminder to trust God for the preservation of His Word as He uses human hands to bring it to new generations of Bible readers!  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Can I Trust My Translation (Part 1)

Biblegems # 59

Question: I use the NIV, along with the KJV and other translations. How can I be sure if the translations I use are accurate, according to the original Greek and Hebrew?

My first word of advice is to avoid all those angry posts and websites on the internet (as well as books, tracts and print articles) that condemn modern Bible translations because they may not conform to the KJV. Bible translations flourished and accurately conveyed the Word of God long before the KJV was published in 1611.

I thank God for the King James Bible. It is beautiful in its style and has been used by God for generations in leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, it uses 17th century English, and cannot speak to the Chinese, the French or Russian speaking people. Language is fluid and changes over time; archaic English is increasingly difficult for modern English speaking people to understand.

The real issue is one of integrity. Does the translation you use accurately convey the meaning of the original languages of the Old and New Testaments? For the average Bible reader, the answer can usually be found in the “Introduction” pages in the front of your Bible. If your paperback edition does not have an Introduction, find a hard back or leather bound edition. The Introduction should tell you Who did the translation, Why they believed a new translation was needed, What Greek and Hebrew manuscripts they relied upon the most, and How they decided to translate difficult or unclear words or concepts.

All of the above affect the way your Bible version reads and how accurate it is. But the most important factors are What Hebrew and Greek manuscripts the translators used and How they decided to translate difficult passages.

For example, look at Mark 2:9 in three translations, compared to a literal, word for word translation of the Greek:

Literal Greek Translation1: And they, hearing the king, went and — Look! — a star, which they had seen in the east, went ahead of them until it came to the place over where the child was.

KJV:         When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

NIV         After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

CEV         The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

Each of these translations aimed at bringing the Greek into the English language in a way that preserves accuracy and at the same time reads and sounds like the English language spoken at the time of the translation.

(Next week will be part 2 of this article)

Resources: 1 Nestle-Aland 26 at studylight.org

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yikes! Am I In A Cult?

Biblegems # 58
Jesus said, “There will be many false messiahs and false prophets who will do wonderful miracles that would deceive, if possible, even God’s own children. Take care, I have warned you!” (Mark 13:22, 23)

Have you ever been accused of being in a cult because you attend a church that does not belong to a familiar denomination or, perhaps, because of the Bible translation your church uses? This Biblegems blog should help you discern if you are in a healthy, Christ-centered church or in a cult.

First, we need to know what we mean by the term “cult.” As we use the term today, a cult refers to a group that has split away from one or more core doctrines of the Christian faith. Those key doctrines are listed below. Sometimes “cult” is used to describe a group, religious or not, that has a controlling, dictator-type leader who uses manipulative techniques to keep his followers loyal, and often keeps his followers isolated from the outside world. It is not uncommon for both of these types (bad doctrine and manipulative leader) to found in one group.

The Bible does not use the word “cult” at all. It is a modern term. But the concept is very scriptural, usually identified with false teachers and false prophets. For example, the apostle Peter writes: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2Pet. 2:1).

So what are the “destructive heresies” Peter is referring to? Below is a list of basic Bible doctrines that are fundamental to true Christian teaching. As you go through the list, ask yourself (and if necessary, ask your church leaders) where your church stands on these doctrines. Christians can disagree on many secondary issues, but the doctrines below are fundamental to biblical Christianity.

1. GOD. There is one God, who is infinitely perfect, existing eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Dt 6:4; Matt. 5:48; 28:19).

2. JESUS. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. He died on the cross for our sins, was resurrected on the third day and is now at the right hand of God as our great High Priest. He will come again to establish His eternal kingdom, righteousness and peace (Phil. 2:6-11; Lk. 1:34–38, 21:27; I Pt. 3:18; Heb. 2:9, 8:1, 10:37; Rom. 5:9; Acts 2:23–24; Matt. 26:64; Tit. 2:11–14).

3. The BIBLE. The Old and New Testaments, inspired by God and without error as originally given, are the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of men (2 Pt. 1:20–21; 2 Tim. 3:15–16).

4. Man. Man, created in the image and likeness of God, fell through disobedience, resulting in physical and spiritual death. All men are born with a sinful nature, are separated from the life of God, and can be saved only through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who die without Christ will exist forever in hell, while those who trust in Jesus will exist forever in heaven (Gen. 1:27; Rom. 3:23;1 Cor.15:20–23; Rev 21: 1–4, 8).

5. Salvation. Salvation has been provided through Jesus Christ for all men, and those who repent and believe in Him are born again of the Holy Spirit, receive the gift of eternal life, and become the children of God (Tit. 3:4–7).

6. The CHURCH. The Church consists of all those who believe in Jesus Christ, are redeemed through His blood, and are born again of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the Head of the Church, which has been commissioned by Him to go into all the world as a witness, preaching the gospel to all nations (Eph. 1:22–23; Matt. 28:19–20; Acts 2:41–47).

7. Christ’s Return. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be personal and visible (Heb. 10:37; Lk. 21:27; Tit. 2:11–14).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Jesus' Name

Biblegems #57
If we are to pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, do my prayers become null and void when I am praying to Jesus and end it with “in Jesus' name, amen”?

Jesus is the name given to us by which we know and approach God at the most intimate and personal level. Keeping our relationship to God personal is what Jesus had in mind even with regard to baptism when He taught us to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. "Jesus" is the personal name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

When you, as a follower of Jesus, pray to the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, whether you use Jesus' name or not, God knows who you are talking to. He's not interested in correct formulas; He's interested in you! The role of the Holy Spirit is to direct us to Jesus, and Jesus always directs us to our heavenly Father. That's why we pray "in Jesus' name": "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).

“God the Father” is a description, not a name. It’s accurate, but it is not personal. It’s like saying “Bob the teacher” or “Margaret the librarian”… accurate, but not personal. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is descriptive of God in His character (He is holy) and of His nature (He is Spirit). That’s like saying “the good-natured man.” It describes someone’s character (good-natured) and his nature (human, male).

Even in the Old Testament, when God revealed Himself by name to Moses at the burning bush—“Yahweh,” i.e., “I Am Who I Am”— (Ex. 3:14), He gave a name which described His relationship to Moses and the Hebrew people: “I Am the One who always exists, and who will be with you always.” This name was, and is, personal. In fact, it was so personal, so holy, that the Jewish people would not say it aloud or even spell it out completely, but only use the consonants: YHWH.

Consequently, when Jesus declared to the Jewish people of His day, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58), they understood Jesus was identifying himself with God and they attempted to stone him to death for blasphemy. In effect, Jesus was saying, ‘I am the great “I Am” in human form.’ God in flesh—the final and complete revelation of God that would provide salvation not only to the Hebrew people but to the whole world.

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The 4 Spirits of Zechariah 6

Biblegems #56
I was reading in Zechariah today and something just caught my attention. In Zec 6 it is talking about the four spirits...when explaining where each one was going, it did not mention the fourth, which would be the one going to the east. Is there a reason for this and is it ever explained somewhere else? Thanks for taking your time to help those who want to know the Lord's Word in better detail.

The four spirits of Zechariah chapter six refer to angels of God’s judgment upon the rebellious nations of the earth, especially those who come against Israel in the Last Days just before Jesus’ Return. The scene in Zechariah’s vision seems to be the same one described in Revelation 6:1-8:
(1) I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” (2)I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. (3) When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” (4) Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. (5) When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. (6) Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” (7) When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” (8) I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

All four spirits are described in Zechariah as “coming out from between the two mountains” (1), indicating that they were carrying out God’s judgment from heaven over the entire earth.

The spirit identified by the red horses represents worldwide war (Rev. 6:4), as Revelation 6 picks up where Zechariah leaves off. The black horses represent starvation and death as a result of this war (Rev. 6:5-6). The “pale” or “dappled” horses represent death on a massive scale, not only from war but from diseases and disruptions throughout earth’s collapsing societies (Rev. 6:8). The white horses symbolize God’s victories over His enemies as Jesus returns in power and glory with His vast army of angels (Rev. 6:2; 19:11, 14; Matt 24:30-31).

As Jesus Himself reminds us, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk. 21:28).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Parental Accountability

Biblegems #55

Question: When parents dedicate their children to the Lord then backslide, how far does God hold the parents and disobedient children accountable?

The limit of parental accountability is an emotional as well as spiritual issue. We all know stories of poor parenting where the children have grown up to be responsible, spiritually mature adults, and great parents whose children rebel and become a source of grief to their parents. In the latter case, the parents cannot help but ask, ‘Where did we go wrong?’

The truth is, responsibility and accountability are both shared by parent and child, once the child becomes personally responsible for his or her own actions. There is no magical age of accountability here.

There was a popular belief in ancient Israel that God would punish parents for the sins of their children and even grandchildren. Behind this belief was a misunderstanding of the second commandment:
… I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me… (Ex. 20:5).

The “punishment” is aimed at “those who hate me.” If the sin of idolatry is passed down from one generation to the next, it will reveal itself in each generation in a hatred for God, and that generation will be punished for its own sin. This commandment against idolatry reveals how sin is so easily passed on from one generation to the next; but that punishment for the sin is leveled only against those who actually commit it:
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin (Deut. 24:16).

Even so, the idea that parents would be held responsible by God for the sins of their children took on the form of a popular saying:
‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Ezek. 18:2b).

God set the record straight through the prophet Ezekiel:
Ezek. 18:4 For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

And to make sure that Israel got the message right, the Lord emphasized again:
Ezek. 18:20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

There is no question that God will hold parents responsible for the way they raise their children, as the story of Eli and his wayward sons illustrates (1 Sam 2:22; 1 Sam. 3:12-14; 1 Sam. 4:13-18; 1 Ki. 2:27). But God is just; He does not charge the sins of the children to the parents, or the sins of the parents against their children.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vain Repetition

Biblegems #54

The Bible says not to use “vain repletion” in our prayers. Does that include our constantly repeated prayers for lost loved ones? Should we just "ask" and turn it over to the Holy Spirit and say “done"? How does one differentiate between "repetition" and "concern"?

The passage in question comes from Jesus’ sermon on the mount:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking (Matt. 6:7 KJV).

The word in the Greek NT for “vain repetitions” more literally means “to babble.” There are two ways this can be interpreted, both of which may well have been what Jesus meant. To “babble” can mean to talk on an on, filling the air with words for the purpose of impressing others and impressing God. To “babble” can also mean to utter meaningless sounds, nonsense words, repeating such sounds over and over. This practice is frequently used—then and now—to aid in self-hypnotic meditation.

Either way (or both), Jesus says, ‘Don’t do it.’
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matt. 6:8 NIV).

In contrast to this kind of babbling prayer, Jesus teaches us to be persistent in prayer regarding things of importance. He gives an example in Luke 11: 5-8 of a man who wakes up his friend at midnight to borrow some bread, but is unsuccessful. However, because of his friend’s persistence, the sleepy man finally gives in.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Luke 11:9).

Praying persistently for the salvation of your unsaved loved ones does not fit the definition of babbling. God wants us to remain persistent in this kind of prayer, and not to give up, because He is not giving up on those we are praying for…
who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).