Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Degrees Of Pain In Hell?

 Biblegems #206
Question: Are there degrees of pain and suffering in Hell?

The sad reality is that hell is a condition of eternal suffering in a lake of fire designed for the devil and his demonic horde of fallen angels (Matt. 25:41).

While hell was not prepared for mankind, all humanity is born into Satan’s rebellion against God since Adam and Eve:
         Ps. 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Consequently, unless we are rescued from this predicament, we all face the same fate in hell as the devil and his angels. This will take place on the great Day of Judgment when all rebellious mankind will be judged “according to what they had done” in life (Rev. 20:13).

There, at the Great White Throne of God on the Day of Judgment, people will experience varying levels of judgment:
         Matt. 12:36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
Imagine you had been jailed for reckless driving resulting in a fatal car accident. Jail itself is terrifying enough as you encounter lifetime criminals also awaiting their day in court and the judgment they will receive.

Your day before the judge finally arrives and you are confronted with the charges against you. Your actions leading to the tragic car accident are replayed in front of a whole courtroom of strangers and the loved ones of the person who died. You are filled with remorse and anguish over the death caused by your reckless behavior, but you can do nothing to make things right again.

This is like the Day of Judgment where your sins and the judgment of “guilty” are announced throughout the universe. The public sentencing before the judge is greater for some than others because of the degrees of crime committed:
         Matt. 11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

Nevertheless, all who are guilty face the same punisnment:
         Rom. 2:12  All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.

 But at that moment of public judgment it is only your shame, your guilt and your fate that matters to you, even though others that same day will face far worse judgment for far worse sins.

God’s Day of Judgment confronts human beings with their sinfulness according to the level and understanding and responsibility they possessed while alive on the earth. Then, all that is sinful will be sent to hell, ridding the universe of sin’s contamination.

Hell is the eternal destination of all who die in their sins, having never accepted God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ.

         John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Jesus’ Sinless Nature”

Biblegems #205

Question: I have heard it taught that Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, did not receive the sin nature because that is passed down from Adam through human fathers. 
Here’s my problem with this teaching: Don't we all have sin natures? How can the sin nature be passed on only through fathers?

Your problem with this teaching is well founded! The sin nature is passed down through both parents, not just the male.

So how did Jesus remain sinless since he was brought into the world by a sinful human mother? 

Jesus’ sinless nature is the result of God implanting and bringing to conception within Mary a “seed” uncontaminated by sin:
         Luke 1:35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

In effect, God allowed Mary to serve as a surrogate mother. She was not impregnated by a man but by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, what would be conceived in her would also be holy. There would be no sin nature.

Just as God first created Adam (the first of the human kind) in the Garden of Eden, so now God was bringing into the world a new “Adam”—a human whose nature was uncontaminated by the sin transmitted from Adam and Eve through their descendants. And just as God breathed life into the physical body of Adam and created a living “soul” (Gen 2:7), so now God "made" a physical, human body within Mary's womb and imparted His own Holy Spirit into that new life—God in human form. The fact that Mary carried Jesus in her womb does not mean she passed on her sinful nature to him. She was a vessel; God alone gave Jesus life:
         Phil. 2:6-7 Who, 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.  

This new “Adam”—Jesus—would then be able to pass on His holy nature to others, not through biological means but through the working of the same Holy Spirit that had brought him into the world:
         1Cor. 15:45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

This is the believer’s wonderful assurance, that when a person surrenders all to Jesus he or she becomes a new creature in Christ. This is not a metaphor but a transformation of our fallen, sinful nature into a new nature created in Christ Jesus:
1Pet. 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

What great news! We are no longer under the control of the sinful nature passed down to us through our parents and ancestors. We have the power through Christ who lives in us “…to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:12).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

“The Dead Sea Scrolls And Jesus”

Biblegems #204

Question: What are the Dead Sea scrolls, and how does their existence have anything to do with Jesus?

Over the centuries there have always been skeptics who argued that the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus were actually altered by Jesus’ followers to make the Old Testament conform to the historical facts of Jesus’ life and death.  This argument was widely used because everyone admitted that the probability of one human being fulfilling all the Old Testament messianic prophecies — as the New Testament claims regarding Jesus — was statistically impossible. 

Skeptics argued their belief that the biblical text was “fixed” on the grounds that our oldest existing Old Testament manuscripts (the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint, or LXX) dated back only a far as 360 A.D.

While it was known that the LXX was first translated from the Hebrew into Greek between 285-247 B.C., the oldest surviving copies date back over three hundred years after Jesus. And the oldest Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament in existence dated back to only 1000 A.D. — nearly a thousand years after the life of Jesus! This gave the skeptics lots of ammunition (not evidence) for their claim of altered documents.

Everything changed, however, with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947 by a shepherd boy looking for a stray goat in an area littered with caves near the Dead Sea. These caves were used as a repository of safe keeping by a community of Jews known as the Essenes. They preserved copies of their own writings, and copies of the Hebrew Old Testament, in earthenware jars. These manuscripts have been dated by archeologists as originating between 150 and 100 A.D. — more than one hundred years before Jesus’ birth.

What is most astounding — and most exciting for those who trust the authority of the Bible — is that these ancient Hebrew manuscripts predating Jesus are identical in wording to the Hebrew text we already had available to us, even after 1200 years of separation and 1000 years of Christianity. When comparing the Dead Sea scrolls to the 1000 A.D. texts there is only a discrepancy of 5%, and these differences are obvious spelling errors and minor scribal mistakes. Nothing of substance has changed over the span of 2200 years!

All the prophecies pointing to details of Jesus’ birth, his life, ministry, death and resurrection were original to the Old Testament as the Jewish people had available to them for centuries.

         Ps. 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.