Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Does The Soul Ever Die?

Bible Gems #99
Question: Does the soul ever die?

In the Bible, the term “soul” (Heb. nephesh; Gk. psyche) typically refers to a “living being.” In Genesis 1:20-21 God created the creatures of the sea, which are called “living souls” (ie., “living beings”). Then, in Genesis 2:7, God breathed into the inanimate shell of a man, and the man became a “living soul.” From a biblical point of view, people do not have souls; they are souls.

In its most common sense, “soul” is another word for “person:”
         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.        

Therefore, when Jesus said that He came to give His “life,” He used the word “soul” (Gk. Psyche), because He meant that He as a person would die:
         Matt. 20:28 …just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Death does not mean that the person ceases to exist. Rather, death means that the person as a “being” enters into a different state of existence. A person who dies apart from Christ goes to the “pit,” to Sheol (Heb.), or Hades (Gk.), the realm of the dead, to await Judgment at the end of history (Rev. 20:11-15).

This is why Jesus warned His followers about not giving in to fear over what their enemies might do to them:
         Matt. 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

The word translated “destroy” (aƓpole÷sai) means to wreck something beyond recognition, or to lose something beyond recovery.

A person’s soul exists forever. The question for each “soul” is “in what condition will I exist forever?” The answer depends upon what that soul is invested in during this earthly life. As strange as it may seem, a person who spends his or her life trying to fulfill, maintain and satisfy the soul will end up losing it. That soul will end up in sheol awaiting Judgment and an eternity in hell. Why? Because investing your soul in your soul is like stuffing your paycheck in your wallet. Where’s the benefit in that?

However, if a person invests his life, his soul, in Jesus he is investing in eternal life:
         Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

And the only way we invest the soul in anything is through love:
Matt. 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So in answer to the question “does the soul ever die,” the answer is “yes.” But for those who truly belong to Jesus, that “soul” is kept, protected and made pure for eternal life by God Himself—because that’s what He does for those He loves and who love Him in return. He Himself is what our soul was made for.
         1 Th. 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Building On Rock?

Biblegems #98
Question: We know and accept that Christ is our ROCK, and we are to be anchored to Him---our foundation built on a rock--not sand.  BUT, it puzzles me in the physical---with that being the example---how does one anchor a house to a solid rock foundation???  Or even "cling" to it?

This question is based upon the following passage:
Matt. 7:24-27  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

The setting for this teaching was near the Sea of Galilee in the first year of Jesus’ ministry. During the dry summers the sandy soil surrounding the large lake would become hard-baked, offering a tempting but deceptive surface for building a home. With the onset of the winter rains the baked sand would quickly wash out from under the house, causing the structure to collapse.

Simple homes in Jesus’ day were typically constructed of either mud-brick reinforced with straw, or else flat fieldstone that was readily available. Such houses were usually a simple square, with the brick or stone layered in courses one story tall, and the flat roof made of stone slabs stretched across wooden beams. If the builder was foolish enough to erect the home on the hard summer sand, the first serious rainfall could prove catastrophic to himself and his family when the house collapsed.

In order to build a house on a secure foundation in the area around the lake the builder would have to dig down through the sand to a depth of about three feet. There he would encounter volcanic rock (basalt and igneous) that would give him the solid foundation his house would need for protection against heavy rains. He would then have to dig a trench in the rock using hand chisels. The trench would have to be deep enough and wide enough to inset the first course of fieldstone. This kind of foundation is found in archeological sites throughout Israel and the Middle East. 

So when Jesus used this real-life object lesson, He was likening the lifestyle of putting His teachings into practice as a secure foundation for building a life that can successfully weather the heavy storms people inevitably encounter. Even if the soil around the house is washed away—a picture of all that in our lives that adds beauty and joy—the house still stands. A life firmly grounded in Jesus requires the hard work of putting His teaching into practice, but it will stand strong no matter what difficulties come.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Preaching And Reputation

Bible Gems #97
Question: Galatians 2:2 reads, "And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain” (Galatians 2:2 NKJV).
Why did Paul preach privately to people of reputation? Was it a secret because those people might get in trouble for listening to Paul? Why would he have potentially run in vain?

The background (and the answer) for Galatians 2:2 is found in Acts 15:1-2:
         Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

Paul had been proclaiming salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ to the Gentiles for 14 years—since the last time he had met with the apostles in Jerusalem. His message had consistently been “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). He never placed any requirements upon these new, non-Jewish believers to adhere to Jewish laws or customs such as circumcision. But for all of those years there had been some Jewish Christians who had followed him around trying to convince Gentile Christians that in order to be really saved they had to submit to Jewish laws and customs.

When Paul received confirmation from the Lord (Gal. 2:1) that he should meet with the apostles in Jerusalem to get this question settled once and for all, he did not know for certain whether they would agree with his position or not. If they did not, Paul was not about to change his gospel message. But at the same time, a public hearing of the issue—no matter how it turned out—could create a lot of confusion and mistrust of authority within the Gentile sector of the fledgling church.

The apostle Paul’s deep love for the Body of Christ, the church, guided his decision to meet with the leaders in Jerusalem privately. He did not want any potential disagreement between them to create division within the church at large. Creating division within the church he worked so hard to establish would render all his efforts and sacrifice meaningless. So he spoke “privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”

Paul’s discretion and diplomacy is a good example for all who want to know how to bring up issues in the church that they feel strongly about. Paul’s first concern was for the purity of the gospel message he preached, and secondly to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).  Too often people get so focused on their need to stand firm on an issue of importance that they become blinded to the damage they could cause the church as a whole by not practicing a little tact and diplomacy. 

Remember this adage that Paul practiced as well as preached:
         Phil. 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Body You Prepared For Me — Heb. 10:5

Bible Gems #96
Question: If Hebrews 10:5 is quoting Psalm 40:6, why does the NT quote sound so much different than the OT original?

Where Psalm 40:6 reads “mine ears thou hast opened” (KJV), or “my ears you have pierced” (NIV), Hebrews 10:5 reads: “a body you prepared for me.”  The New Testament quote appears widely different from the Old Testament source.

Here's why:

The apostles and the early church used the Septuagint, rather than the original Hebrew, as their primary version of the Bible. The Septuagint (commonly known as the LXX) is a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT made by Greek and Hebrew speaking Jewish translators in Egypt around 285 - 246 BC. Since Greek was the common language of the NT world, it made sense to use the Greek translation of the Scriptures.

In most ancient manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 40:6 reads (in English): “ears you have dug for me.”  The LXX translates this into Greek as “a body you prepared for me.” Most likely, the translators of the LXX were attempting to make a vague Hebrew figure of speech (‘digging out ears’) more understandable to a Greek speaking audience by making the ‘digging out of the ears’ a reference to God forming the human body, even as He first molded Adam out of the dust of the earth.

The writer of the book of Hebrews used the LXX as his Bible version. On the surface, the difference in his translation compared to the Hebrew seems significant. But the LXX was simply trying to make the sense of the Hebrew text clear to non-Hebrew speaking people. The Hebrew language is very colorful, much like the American Indian languages are very picturesque. Rather than presenting a word-for-word translation from Hebrew to Greek, the translators sought to accurately convey the meaning of the phrase.
So the meaning of the original Hebrew was captured by the LXX, and then carried faithfully over into English by both the KJV and the NIV, both capturing the LXX translation of the Hebrew translation of Psalm 40:6.

Once again, God demonstrates how He preserves His Word across time, cultures and languages.
         Ps. 119:89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.