A Literal Bible – Part 2

page-turning-bible-animation-21Does the Bible lend itself to a LITERAL reading?

Our last post on this topic dealt with the question

“Is all the Bible to be read literally?”

We discussed the literal definition of the word “literal” – Oh how boring…., and genres of literature that passages within the Bible fall into. (somewhat interesting….)

This post, I would like to focus on the question

Is the message intended to be taken literally?

This is the heart of the message I am trying to communicate!

The intended (or true) meaning may be clouded or completely in error if taken literally.
Sometimes the message isn’t completely clear and the author will correct the misunderstanding. The following passages are offered to try to explain this concept.

Lets see if some of the messages Jesus gave in the Gospel of John were meant to be taken literally.

  • A Literal Temple

When Jesus said “Destroy this Temple”, the religious leaders understood the literal temple. Might this have been a mistake?

John 2:18-21

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
  • A Literal Rebirth

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus told him he must be born again. Did Nicodemus take this literally?

John 3:3-9

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
  • A Literal Well

When Jesus told the woman at the well about living water, and she asked Jesus about a bucket and the depth of the well, was she taking Jesus’ words too literally?

John 4:9-11

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
  • A Literal Lunch

When the disciples came back from the town, after Jesus discussion with the woman at the well, they were confused about what Jesus had eaten. Maybe the disciples understood Him too literally?

John 4:31-35

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
  • His Literal Flesh

How about when Jesus taught that His flesh was to be eaten and His blood was to be drank. Should that be taken literally?

John 6:48-52

48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

The Person of Christ

How about the “I am” statements in the Gospel? Shall literalness help us in our understanding of the person of Christ? Shall we consider the Messiah to be…

  • A Literal Light

John 8:12

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:5

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

  • A Literal Door

John 10:7

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

  • A Literal (Path)way

John 14:6

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • A Literal Vine

John 15:1

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

John 15: 5

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Two final points come to mind at this time.

  • Many times throughout the gospels, those who took the sayings of Jesus too literally either
    • Were in a state of confusion, but eventually found clarity,

or

    • refused to consider anything other than the literal understanding.

Those who were confused but hungry and teachable eventually got the message. Those who refused to consider any other understanding seemed to be associated with His enemies.

  • Throughout the gospel, there are thousands of instances where depending on literalness causes confusion. And thousands of instances where it occurs in Johns other writings. Thousands! Even in Revelation. Thousands I tell you, thousands!

Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.


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A Literal Bible – Part 1

page-turning-bible-animation-21

Does the Bible lend itself to a LITERAL reading?

Is all the Bible to be read literally?

First off, let me perfectly clear – I’m not saying we are not to read the Bible. Gosh golly nooooo. Read the Bible. Wrestle with it. Struggle with the Word. Argue with Him until it becomes clear. Honestly, if this post is competing for time that you could be reading the Bible, shut me down! Read the Bible instead. It will do your soul good.

Now that you have understood my stance on Bible reading, I suppose I am simply asking that when you read the Bible (remember you should read the Bible), are all portions of the Bible to be read in a strictly literal manner?

Literal Defn

Is it true that the best method of understanding the Scriptures is to interpret the message literally?

I suppose that depends.

First off, lets make sure we understand what the term “literal” means.

I checked the definition found on http://www.dictionary.com, and found the following information.

Literal
adjective

  • in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word.
  • following the words of the original very closely and exactly: a literal translation of Goethe.
  • true to fact; not exaggerated; actual or factual: a literal description of conditions.
  • being actually such, without exaggeration or inaccuracy: the literal extermination of a city.
  • (of persons) tending to construe words in the strict sense or in an unimaginative way; matter-of-fact; prosaic.
  • of or pertaining to the letters of the alphabet.
  • of the nature of letters.
  • expressed by letters.
  • affecting a letter or letters: a literal error.

noun

  • a typographical error, especially involving a single letter.

Like I said, reading the Bible literally depends on a number of factors. Let’s consider some of those factors.

The Genre of the Passage

Types+of+writing+in+the+Bible

Different genres demand different approaches to interpretation. Types of genres include historical narrative, law, wisdom, psalms, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel or epistle

In a historical narrative passage, such as the taking of the census before the birth of the Messiah, or the crucifixion of the Savior, literalness serves us well.

In an apocalyptic genre, such as in Revelation, where the writer describes scorpions with stinging tails, it would be wise to consider the genre before committing to a literal interpretation of the passage.

As an aside, it is not a literal interpretation to say that the apostle is describing fighter helicopters. That is an effort to interpret John’s vision by defining what he described as an object that is familiar to 20th century western culture. A literal interpretation will be that the scorpions are scorpions.

A Figure of Speech

Is the writer/speaker using a figure of speech. Some types of “figures of speech” are below with examples from the Bible

  • Hyperbole– an extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.

Jesus used hyperbole often to teach those listening.

Consider Matthew 5:29

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

  • ironyIrony/Sarcasm– The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. A statement or situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea. When used to taunt or ridicule, it is called sarcasm.

When the Pharisees went to trap Jesus in His Words, John records their saying with irony. The Pharisees didn’t mean it but the irony is is that He is true, teaches the way of God, etc.

Consider Matthew 22:15-16.

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.
16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.

sarcasm

Or for a good example of sarcasm, lets take a look at Elijah

1 Kings 18:27

27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

  • Paradox– A statement that appears to contradict itself.

Jesus used this method in His teaching very often.

One example is in Luke 16:19-31

Those who live in poverty and destitution while being looked down upon by the rich and powerful are really the first in the Kingdom, while those who are rich and powerful while looking down on those who live in poverty are really last in the Kingdom.

The first will be last, and the last will be first.

Or consider

Matthew 22: 1-14

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying,
2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,
3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.
4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’
5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,
6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’
10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.
12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Just as those who are initially invited to the son’s wedding reject the invitation, those who are initially left out of the wedding plans are accepted as insiders at the wedding banquet. The insiders are out, and the outsiders are in. (If you desire to further study the paradoxical statements of Jesus, I would refer you to http://www.renewtheology.org/paperCFreeman1007.htm .)

  • The historical/cultural use of a word/topic/phrase in the scriptures.

A good example of this is the phrase “an evil eye”. In my past reading of the gospels, when I came across the phrase “an evil eye” I understood it to refer to an eye full of hate or maliciousness. After considering the historical use of the term in the Old Testament, I now understand the term to refer to a greedy covetous person. Without the historical use of the term being considered, I could not have come to that conclusion.

Recently another good example of an incorrect use of a cultural phrase occurred in my office, when I noticed my boss had gotten a haircut. I made mention that he had “gotten his ears lowered”, without thinking that that phrase may be cultural. As a Canadian in Texas, this sometimes happens! I had to explain that his ears weren’t actually lowered but that his hair was higher’d, (huh?) Canadians can be so hard to understand sometimes, eh?

Our next post will continue considering the Bible’s message, specifically the intention of the Biblical message.

Hope you continue to visit and open up a discussion.

Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.


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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 16:18

Institution?

when+jesus+said+loves+your+enemies.jpg?format=original

Organism?
Whats the difference?
Does it matter?

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build an institution called the church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

This misunderstanding held sway in my life for far too long. I mistakenly assumed that the status quo of a building and professional clergy were the correct interpretation of Jesus statement in Matthew 16:18.

Below are 20 points describing the differences between the institutional church and the Traditional Church, as described in the New Testament.

Each of these 20 points of difference are worthy of much more discussion, but these posts are intended to be brief and to the point – kinda like a bumper sticker!

The Traditional Church The New Testament Church
1. The church meets in a special building Churches met primarily in homes.
(Acts 2:46-47; 5:42; 8:3; 12:12; 16:40; 20:7-8; 20:20; Rom.16:3-5; 1Cor.16:19; Col.4:15; Philemon 2; 2Jn.9-11)
2. New converts are added to the existing church to make it bigger. When the number of believers outgrew a home, a new church was formed.
(Rom.16:3-5; 14-15; Acts 2:41-47)
3. The Christian church is fractured into hundreds of different denominations. There were no denominations; instead there was one church in each city, meeting in various homes.
(Acts 8:1; 11:26; 18:22; Rom.16:1; 1Cor.1:2; Rev.2:1; Col.4:16; 1Thess.1:1; Rev.2:12; 3:7; 3:1; 2:8; 2:18)
4. Pastors are trained in seminaries and sent out to serve in a congregation which has no real knowledge of his life or character. Elders were local brothers who arose from within a local church where their life and character were known.
(Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5)
5. The Sunday “worship service” is characterized by passivity among the laity with the Pastor or a select group of leaders doing nearly all the ministry. Church meetings were participatory and interactive – every member had a function and contribution to make.
(1Cor.12:4-27; 14:26; Eph.4:15-16; Rom.12:3-8; 1Pet.4:10-11; Heb.10:23-25; Rom.12:15; 1Cor.12:26)
6. The Sunday morning worship service is characterized by a rigid and inflexible order of service. Church meetings were characterized by informality, flexibility, and spontaneity. (Acts 20:7-12; 1Cor.14:26-31)
7. The goal of the meeting is worship, listening to a sermon or evangelism. The goal of the meeting was mutual edification.
(1Cor.14:3,4,5,12,17,26; Eph.4:11-12,16; Heb.10:24-25)
8. The church is led by the Pastor (or Senior Pastor in a large church). The church was led by a plurality of co-equal Elders.
(Acts 14:23; 20:28; Phil.1:1; 1Tim.4:17; Heb.10:17; James 5:14; 1Pet.5:1-2)
9. The Senior Pastor is seen as set apart from and over the other pastors and elders. The church was cared for by a team of pastors who were accountable to each other and the church; they were also known as elders or overseers. No one elder functioned as the head of the church. (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-7; 1Pet.5:1-2)
10. The Pastor is paid a salary by the church. Some elders might be financially supported, but they were usually bi-vocational
(1Tim.5:17-18; Acts 20:33-35)
11. The church is composed of both clergy and laity. There was no clergy/laity distinction in the church – all the members comprised a fully functioning priesthood.
(Heb.13:15-16; 1Pet.2:5,9; Rev.1:6)
12. The Lord’s Supper is observed monthly, quarterly, or annually. The Lord’s Supper was observed as often as the church regularly gathered and was the stated purpose for their meetings.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.11:18-20,33)
13. The Lord’s Supper is observed with a piece of cracker and a sip of juice. The Lord’s Supper was observed as a full meal.
(Acts 2:42,46; 1Cor.11:20-21; Jude 12)
14. The Lord’s Supper is observed in a solemn funeral-like atmosphere as the worshippers reflect on Christ’s sufferings and death. The believer’s vertical relationship with Christ is emphasized. The Lord’s Supper was observed with glad and sincere hearts as the church not only reflected on Christ’s death, but also on the future marriage supper of the Lamb which it depicted. The believer’s horizontal relationship with other believers was emphasized.
(Acts 2:46; Luke 22:15-18,30; 1Cor.11:26; Acts 2:42; 1Cor.10:16)
15. A new believer must go through membership or instructional classes before he can be baptized. New believers were baptized as soon as it was humanly possible.
(Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 8:36-38; 9:17-18; 10:45-48; 16:31-34; 19:5)
16. Baptism is performed by the clergy. Baptism was performed by any Christian.
(Jn.4:2; Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 9:18; 22:16; 1Cor.1:17)
17. The church must be present when someone is baptized.. The church was not always present when someone was baptized.
(Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 16:31-34)
18. Pastors deliver monologue sermons with no opportunity for questions or input from the congregation. Various brothers taught the church, and allowed the congregation the opportunity to question them and/or add their own insights.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.14:29-35)
19. The church allocates the great majority of its finances for administrative overhead (salaries and building expenses). The church gave primarily to relieve the poor and assist Christian workers, often beyond their means; they had very little if any administrative expenses
(Acts 2:44-45; Gal.6:9-10; 1Jn.3:17; 1Tim.5:17-18; 1Cor.9:6-14; 2Cor.8:3; Phil.4:15-18; Lk.12:33-34; Eph.4:28; James 1:27)
20. Believers are often urged to tithe; that is, they are taught to give a minimum of 10% to the church. Believers gave voluntarily as God had blessed them and they had purposed in their heart; tithing was not carried over into the NT church.
(2Cor.8:3-4; 9:7)

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Gates-of-Hell-Sign

Remember that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church.

I don’t know if there is any guarantee for the institutional church. (I am afraid it might be skating on thin ice!!!)

Leave me a comment, lets start a discussion.

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 5:9

I admit it it – I am Canadian by birth.

I am thankful for my Canadian heritage. As I grew up in the Great White North, I assumed many social norms as being absolutely without debate, the way it should be. One of these social norms, that carried with it a certain nationalistic pride, was the Canadian armed forces . It was commonly understood that the Canadian armed forces were principally a peace keeping force throughout troubled areas of our planet.

Making Peace for Our Benefit

Fast forward to 2001. I had moved to the USA and was living in a small town in the Texas panhandle. The towers had just fallen and the church I was attending had a special meeting to hear what the President had to say about this. The nation I was living in was going to hunt all terrorists down. The populace demanded peace and security. I felt the national pride oozing out of my friends and understood their desire for defending their nation.

But, as a Christian, I was confused. I had been brought up within a peace keeping society, and was now I lived in a nation that has been involved in warfare for 214 of 235 yrs of existence. (see bottom of post for further information)

Peace Keeper or Peace Maker

Imagine my surprise when I read the Masters words (without the group dynamic of believers cheering on a social norm). His words are simple and incredibly challenging, not only for a believer in America, but also for a Canadian believer. You see, He didn’t say…

Blessed are the peacekeepers: for they shall be called the children of God. Nope – nice try but that’s not what He said.

Lets read what He said

Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Believers are to make peace. Being a peace keeper or at least being associated as one, was not His intent.

Some may say that His intent was only to direct the believer in their personal relationships, foster peace among friends, but this seems to unnecessarily compartmentalized His words, dontcha think?

Maybe He meant “Blessed are the peacemakers (cept for situations where the enemy has done something bad)”.

Duh, that don’t make no sense. It’s easy, even pleasurable to be at peace with those who at peace with you.

It is important to remember that as believers we have become followers of another King, and that any time a conflict between an earthly king and our Heavenly King becomes apparent, we must follow Him. When the nation we live in decides to pursue military action, as believers we have the privilege of praying for the safety of all those involved, and relieving those who have suffered due to the conflict.

Do we have the freedom to kill or hurt?

Matthew 5: 9

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

As an aside, consider the list “American involvement in warfare” at the bottom of the post, and reflect on the effectiveness of using violence to engender enduring peace.

Of course, Jesus was speaking to His followers when He gave these instructions, and not to government power.

Government power ultimately used violence/war to shut Him up.


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American involvement in warfare

  1. The American Revolution
    1775-1783
  2. The Indian Wars
    1775-1890
  3. Shay’s Rebellion
    1786-1787
    Rebellion
    Anti-(state)Government Rebels vs. Massachusetts
  4. The Whiskey Rebellion
    1794
    Rebellion
    Anti-Tax Rebels in Western Pennsylvania
  5. Quasi-War With France
    1798-1800
    Inter-State (Naval) War
    France
  6. Fries’s Rebellion “The Hot Water War”
    1799
    Rebellion
    Anti-Tax Rebels in Pennsylvania
  7. The Barbary Wars
    1800-1815
    Inter-State War
    The Barbary States
    (Tripoli, Algiers & Morocco)
  8. The War of 1812
    1812-1815
    Inter-State War
    Great Britain
    The Growing & Troubled Republic
  9. Mexican-American War
    1846-1848
    Inter-State War
    Mexico
  10. U.S. Slave Rebellions
    1800-1865
    Slave Rebellions
    Various Slave groups
  11. “Bleeding Kansas”
    1855-1860
    Civil War (state of Kansas)
    Pro-Slavery vs. Anti-Slavery Kansans
  12. Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry
    1859
    Rebellion
    Anti-Slavery Rebels (Led by John Brown)
  13. United States Civil War
    1861-1865
    Civil War
    United States (The North)
    vs.
    The Confederate States (The South)
  14. U.S. Intervention in Hawaiian Revolution
    1893
    Internal Rebellion & Foreign Intervention
  15. The Spanish-American War
    1898
    Inter-State War
  16. U.S. Intervention in Samoan Civil War
    1898-1899
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
  17. U.S.-Philippine War
    1899-1902
    Colonial War, War of Imperialism
  18. Boxer Rebellion
    1900
    Internal Rebellion & Foreign Intervention
    Chinese Government & “Boxer” Rebels
  19. The Moro Wars
    1901-1913
    Colonial Wars
    Philippine Muslim Rebels
  20. U.S. Intervention in Panamanian Revolution
    1903
    Secessionist Revolution & Foreign Intervention
    Colombia
  21. The Banana Wars
    1909-1933
    Civil Wars & Foreign Intervention
    Various Rebel Groups In Central America
  22. U.S. Occupation of Vera Cruz
    1914
    Inter-State War
    Mexico
  23. Pershing’s Raid Into Mexico
    1916-1917
    Inter-State, Border War
    Mexican Government & Mexican Rebels (“Bandits”)
  24. World War I
    1917-1918 (American involvement only)
    Inter-State War
    Germany
  25. Allied Intervention in Russian Civil War
    1919-1921
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    Russian Bolshevik (Soviet) Government
  26. World War II
    1941-1945 (American involvement only)
    Inter-State War
    Germany, Japan & Italy
  27. The Cold War
    1945-1991
    Global Inter-State Cold War
    The Soviet Union & Communist China
  28. The Korean War
    1950-1953
    Inter-State War
    North Korea & China
  29. The Second Indochina War “Vietnam War”
    1956-1975
    Civil War, Inter-State War
    North Vietnam & South Vietnamese “Viet Cong” Rebels
  30. U.S. Intervention in Lebanon
    1958
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    No real foe for U.S. Troops landed to support Lebanon Gov.
  31. Dominican Intervention
    1965
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    Rebels in the Dominican Republic
  32. The Mayaguez Rescue Operation
  33. News Story 1975 (May 15)
    Hostage Rescue & Inter-State Conflict
    Khmer Rouge Guerrillas (the new government of Cambodia)
  34. Iranian Hostage Rescue “Desert One” or “Operation Eagle Claw”
    1980 (April 25)
    Hostage Rescue & Inter-State Conflict
    Iran
  35. U.S. Libya Conflict
    1981, 1986
    Inter-State War
    Libya
  36. U.S. Intervention in Lebanon
    1982-1984
    Civil War,Foreign Intervention & Inter-State War
    Syria & Various Muslim and Leftist Lebanese Militias
  37. U.S. Invasion of Grenada
    1983
    Inter-State War
    Marxist Grenadian Faction & Cuba
  38. The Tanker War
  39. “Operation Earnest Will”
    1987-1988
    Inter-State War
    Iran
  40. U.S. Invasion of Panama
    1989
    Inter-State War
    Panama
  41. Second Persian Gulf War “Operation Desert Storm”
    1991
    Inter-State War
    Iraq
  42. “No-Fly Zone” War
    1991-2003
    Inter-State War
    Iraq
  43. U.S. Intervention in Somalia
    1992-1994
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    Various Somali Militias
  44. NATO Intervention in Bosnia (Operation Deliberate Force) Summary
    1994-1995
    Civil War,Foreign Intervention & Inter-State War
    Bosnian Serb Rebels
  45. U.S. Occupation of Haiti
    1994
    Foreign Intervention
    Haitian Government
  46. U.S. Embassy bombings and strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan (The bin Laden War)
    August, 1998
    Terrorist Conflict
  47. “Desert Fox” Campaign (part of U.S./Iraq Conflict)
    December, 1998
    Inter-State War
    Iraq
  48. Kosovo War
    1999
    Civil War, Foreign Intervention & Inter-State War
    Yugoslavia/Serbia
  49. Attack on the USS Cole
    October 12, 2000
    Terrorist Conflict
    Terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden
  50. Attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
    September 11, 2001
    Terrorist Conflict
    Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization
  51. Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom)
    October 7, 2001-Present
    War against Terrorism
    The Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida organization
  52. Third Persian Gulf War “Operation Iraqi Freedom”
    March 19, 2003-Present
    Inter-State War
    Iraq

What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – John 13:19

when+jesus+said+loves+your+enemies.jpg?format=originalWho wants to know the future? 

Come on – I see you out there, just famished for a bit of prophecy to understand.

And when do you want to know it? 

Of course, I wanna know the future, and I wanna know it NOW!

But more importantly, WHY? 

Doh, this is a bit hard to admit to.

Jesus helps us to get our head on straight in the following passage.  Let’s read it together.

John 13:19

Now I tell you before it come, that, before it is come to pass, ye may know the future.

Ah, Carl – you have not been honest with us!  Is that what the Word actually says?  Or is it just what you understand it to say?

OK – you found me out.  Lets look at the passage as it is written.

John 13:19

I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

What is wrong with me?  Again, I understand the message of the Bible differently than what the Bible is trying to communicate to me.

A few days back I was listening to Mark 15.  In that passage Joseph of Arimathaea took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb.  My thoughts turned to questions.

  1. Did he perform this action out of obedience to the Word? 
  2. Did he see an Old Testament passage and decide to take action to fulfill the prophecy? 

Joseph’s decision to take Jesus body and bury it fulfilled…

Isaiah 53:9.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

In this instance, the text seems to teach that the fulfillment of the prophecy was not Joseph’s objective.  If so,  this particular prophecy in Isaiah was not given to inform prior to its fulfillment, but after its fulfillment. 

What????

Well – if that is generally true of prophecy, do we in the modern church look at Biblical prophecy incorrectly?  Do we try to find out the future for our own purposes? 

Granted, some information (ex. Olivet discourse) was given to the disciples prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, that they might escape the judgement of God on the nation of Israel.  Even considering the Olivet discourse though, might the higher purpose of that prophecy be somewhat different from merely saving the disciples lives?  After all, most of the apostles were going to be martyred, and persecution was going to fall on the church shortly after the fall of Jerusalem.

I suppose the general thought of trying to figger out the future is very popular among western Christians (of a certain stripe).  I admit I used to delve into the future forecasting quite heavily, but am now considering the wisdom of this attitude.  After all, each of the obvious prophetic fulfillments I spoke of failed to materialize – I was 100% wrong and in using the Scriptures to prove my point, only made a mockery of the Word – to my shame!)

A year or so back, a particular passage in John got me thinking.  Actually, when I read it carefully, it created more questions than answers!  Jesus is talking to His disciples, telling them of a particular future event and actually lets them know WHY He tells them.

John 13:19

Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

Did you catch the WHY when I supplied this verse above?  Get ready – here it comes 

exploding head

Why did you supply that prophecy Jesus?

“…that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.”

The purpose was to direct the disciples faith to the person of Christ, not to instruct them of how to save their own bacon.  Not for some temporal reason, but to direct the attention to the Messiah.

Consider

  1. Could revealing the Son of God be the highest purpose of prophecy? 
  2. Should we consider revealing the Son of God to be the primary focus of prophetic interpretation? 
  3. When we come to a particular prophecy in the Word, would the revelation of the Son of God in understanding the prophecy help us to know the heart of God better? 
  4. Would considering the revelation of the Son of God help us to rest in Him instead of hurrying about protecting ourselves from what we think may happen?

Lets consider Biblical prophecy to be a gift, not to inform us of future events, but direct our attention to the One who is faithful!


 

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 22:39

 Interpretation

Gotta Love Ourselves?

 I have often heard in Sunday School classes and small fellowships, (heck – even in big churches!) that in order to love God we need to first love ourselves.

Sort of like when Jesus said in Matt 22:39 …

Thou shalt love thy neighbor after you love thyself.

What?  Is that what the Lord meant?

No.  As a matter of fact, it be important to simply read what Matthew actually records from the Masters lips.

Matthew 22:39

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Notice that the Lord made a command with an assumption embedded within it.  The assumption is that we already love ourselves.  The command does not say, “You shall love your neighbour after you have fully loved and honored and satisfied thyself.”

Lets read it once more

Matthew 22:39

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This seems so obvious, but I still find the occasional believer who has not read what Jesus said but merely listened to some teacher refer to this passage in propping up his humanistic message.  The teaching goes somewhat like this.

In order to love your neighbor, God said that you have to love yourself first.  Only a believer full of love for themselves can supply love for their neighbor.

Is it not obvious that when Jesus said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, self love was assumed.  This self love is the standard that Jesus was using to compare the amount of love that needs to be expressed to the neighbor.

Love myselfTo Love Ourselves is the Problem

As a matter of fact, it seems that self love is a problem.

2 Timothy 3:2-5

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,

treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Verse 2 includes self love but it sho isn’t in a list of admirable qualities.  It is also interesting that the culmination of this type of life will produce an appearance of godliness, but alas, denying the power of godliness.

Finally, Paul says – Avoid such people.

Wow.  Kinda harsh a bit, Paul?  He didn’t say to teach them, or to pity them, or to correct them, or to love them ….

Avoid such people.

Jesus also had something else to say about self love.  In Luke 9:23 he states that denying ones self is the way of discipleship, not to find some nebulous self love as the foundation of loving others.

Luke 9:23

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

i-love-myself-quote-1I don’t know about you, but when I have fallen into this thinking, I just can’t seem to love myself enough.  I gotta coddle myself just one more time, one more pleasure, one more right exercised, one more time of me me me.

My problem is that I love myself more than my neighbor, more than Jesus.  I hate it!

Lets read the Word for what it says, not what we want it to say!

Matthew 22:39

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – John 14:1-6 – Part 2

 Interpretation

In our last post, we were considering the message Jesus was trying to communicate to his disciples in John 14. If you haven’t read it, this post will be of no benefit to you.

Go ahead and check the previous post out – I will wait for you.

WHAT JESUS PROBABLY DIDN’T MEAN – John 14:1-6 – Part 1

OK – so what did He intend for his disciples to understand?

We discussed the “Father’s house” concept and settled on a possibility.

Lets dig a bit more.

The ESV took a word that John uses only twice in his gospel. In the first instance it is translated as “rooms” The greek word is μονή, (mone).

Interestingly John is the only author that uses this word and he uses it twice in the same chapter. Of course the first instance is where “rooms” is used as the translation.

The second instance is found in verse 23.

John 14:23
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Can you guess where we will find the greek work μονή? In the verse above, μονή is translated as “our home”.

Let’s think about this. Using Vine’s Expository Dictionary as reference material (see below) we find that the word μονή, (mone) defines an abiding place, a dwelling place.

So we have the following considerations:

  • The Fathers House is the Temple.
    • Heaven is not referred to in the passage,
  • The rapture was unknown to the disciples at this time, so they could not have associated Jesus message with any catching up after His death and resurrection and ascension and church age and…. (They had a lot to still learn!)
  • The reference to room in verse 2 seems to cloud the intended meaning of an “abode”.

So what is the Master’s intended message for His people in this passage?

He is speaking of the fulfillment of God’s desire to abide with His people. He will prepare a place by way of His crucifixion and resurrection. He will come to take up residence in His church.

John 14:2
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

I am thinking that He is talking to His disciples in a manner that they can understand, referring to the temple (the Fathers House) as a place that has many abiding places. I don’t see in this portion any reference to who is abiding in these abiding places. Is it for the believer or for the Father? Could He be saying I am going to prepare a place for you (that place being the church, the body of Christ?) Consider verse 23, where John is speaking of the Father and the Son as abiding with His people.

John 14:3
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

When he prepares this place (the Church, the Body of Christ), He will come again (Pentecost?) accepting/receiving the disciples unto Himself (in the Church, the Fathers House, the new Temple), with the purpose of having His people with Him in the same place (the Church, the Fathers House, the new Temple).

This kinda make sense!

John 14:4
And you know the way to where I am going.”

And you know the way to where I am going. He is going to prepare the body of Christ, and the disciples have been with Him for three years by now – of course they knew “the way” He IS the way. No wonder Jesus was surprised by the question posed by Thomas.

Do we sometimes insert later revelation into a text to support our ideas? Do we sometimes miss the tremendous blessing of the Body of Christ by hoping for something better? The rapture and end of the world is coming, the resurrection has been secured by the Savior. We need to enjoy His presence, and that of others in the Body now, and not simply look to the future as the beginning of (real) eternal life.

It is available now. Are you abiding in his room?

With these thoughts, I would ask you to read the passage with new eyes and consider His message for your life today.


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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – John 14:1-6 – Part 1

 Interpretation Is Jesus preparing a mansion for you?

I was in Sunday School a while back and we ventured into John 14 for some discussion.  It was a good class but I was distracted with something I discovered a while back.

I suppose that is why I am writing this very post.

Whenever I read John 14:1-6, I previously understood it as follows. (italicized inserts my understanding)

John 14:1-6

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

2 In heaven are many buildings. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to heaven to build a castle/palace/house for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a castle/palace/house for you, I will come again at the end of time and will take you to myself in the rapture, that where I am in heaven you may be also.

4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Is this the message the apostles understood from the Master?  I am not so sure and I would like to try to explain why.

This message was given to the disciples after the last supper and prior to the arrest of the Messiah.  At this point in the life of the Messiah, the apostles had not yet accepted the idea of the Master being taken from them in death.  Jesus had informed them of His departure,  but they did not want to accept it, they had no idea of a resurrection, and the rapture as we understand it was a completely foreign concept to them.  (To insert the idea of a rapture into this passage seems to be a very fine example of eisegesis*.)

But Carl – he talks of mansions in heaven.  Does He?  Does he really?  Consider the following.

Is Jesus referring to heaven when He speaks of His Fathers house? Are there any passages in the Old or New Testaments that are able to reinforce this teaching?

Consider all of the passages I found in the Bible that equate the Fathers house to heaven.

…tick tock tick tock…..

Dang – I couldn’t find any either.

But I did find passages that speak of the Fathers house as being the earthly temple of God.  Try these passages out, eh?

John 2:16

And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”.

At no time have I ever considered that the thief’s had set up shop in heaven – It was in the temple that the thieves created a “house of merchandise”

Often in the Scriptures, the Lord speaks of dwelling with His people on earth.  Currently I understand that His house is with the saints, the Body of Christ and we are the living stones, creating a holy temple for the Lord.  These concepts and truths are easily recognized by those who have spent time in the Word.

But I still can’t find where the Fathers house is equated with heaven.  Maybe – just maybe that wasn’t His message.  Maybe heaven is what Jesus probably didn’t mean.

Well then – what did He intend for his disciples to understand?

Lets consider this question in our next post.  Hope to see you then.

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Introduction

 Interpretation

When Jesus said to love our enemies, He probably meant not to kill them

My favorite and I were on our way to a Sunday School class when we stopped by a Starbucks to pick up some black vitamin.  As we were heading into the coffee shop, I noticed a bumper sticker that said something like…

“When Jesus said love your enemies, He probably didn’t mean to kill them”

This bumper sticker “stuck” in my mind and made a point simply and forcefully.  I also started to think of other statements of the Lord that may be misunderstood in my thinking.

Occasionally, in my reading, some of these culturally acceptable misunderstandings of what we think the Lord meant may become apparent to me and I would like to share them with you.

Hence, some future posts will be titled –

“What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean”

As you are reading your Bible, let me know of passages that seem to be at odds with the cultural conditioning we live and breathe in.

Join me as we are wrestling with the text and Considering the Bible.


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Jesus in Hell? Response to a Brother

brown book page

Brother

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog, “Did Jesus go to HELL?”  I had been looking forward to your comments since Monday.  Many of your points were well stated and caused me to look at some of the post again.

I would like to clarify a few items.  I may have said or written something that was not clear and I would like to correct that.  With that said, I have taken your comments (in blue) and inserted my thoughts for your consideration. 

With all due respect.  It is written… you have a copy of scripture. I read some of it to you when we talked. I believe in a plain normal grammatical historical plenary interpretation

  • Plain
    • When you mention plain interpretation of scripture, I assume that you are referring to a literal reading of scripture. In many portions of the Word, I would agree with you.  Some passages give me pause though.
      • When Acts 2 speaks of tongues of fire, would you understand it to be literal fire?
      • I am sure you do not consider the Messiah to be a door, or a sheep, or a light
      • I think the apostles and prophets spoke to their audience in a manner that would communicate clearly to them, in their culture, language, social structure and religion. It is our labor to try to decipher their message from that environment, and not to read the Word as if it has been written for 21st century American believers.  That just seems a bit provincial.
    • Normal
      • I looked up normal for a definition and found
        • conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural
      • I would appreciate a little clarification on what you mean when you say normal. It’s almost as if the other terms in this description is defining your “normal” reading of Scripture
    • Grammatical
      • Definition for grammatical
        • Of or relating to grammar, Conforming to the rules of grammar:
      • I assume you are describing your method of Bible interpretation/understanding as being different than my efforts. I tend to analyze a passage through word studies, the flow of the sentence structure and the context of the sentence/verse/paragraph I am studying.  I think I am on the same page as you on this.
    • Historical
      • I believe the historical context of the passage when spoken/written is critical to understanding the message. As an example, when Jesus spoke of thine eye being evil, I used to think He was referring to a wickedness of some sort.

Matt 6:23

but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

What does it mean “if your eye is bad”?  Could it refer to a murderous intent, wicked thoughts or evil schemes?  I never really understood this verse until I checked the historical background in Deuteronomy 15:9

Deuteronomy 15:9

Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.

Deuteronomy refers to “…your eye look grudgingly”.  The most common translation of this hebrew word is “evil”.  

When I read Matthew 6:23, I assumed I understood the phrase “if your eye is bad”.  But when I studied the historical background of the phrase, and how it relates to the audience Jesus was immediately addressing, the application for my life becomes so much clearer.  So I would heartily agree that the historical interpretation of any passage is critical

  • Plenary
    • If by plenary, you mean that the canon of Scripture is complete (plenary = full), I would also agree.

If we don’t believe the scripture itself when read, how can we expound upon deeper truth?

I think we need to understand the Scripture (as much as possible) in order to believe it.  I consider belief/faith an action word Gal 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

and not mental consent, and therefore the day to day decisions I make, exercising my faith/belief has to come from an understanding of the message God has provided.

If Christ went to the grave and that’s it. We are still dead in trespasses and sins.

I do not recall saying that Christ went simply to the grave.  If I did, I spoke wrongly.  What I was considering in the blog post was whether the Messiah went to hell, ie the place of torment.  The few NT passages that seem to speak of the Messiah going to hell are not convincing to me in my study.

What is the point as Paul said in 1 Cor 15? The early church got it right historically as I told you Saturday. I stand with them even though the “Soli Scripta” Scripture alone speaks for itself.

Sola Scriptura is what I am trying to do as I study.  I seek to find how the Scripture interprets itself, and in the blog, I made mention of a few Old Testament passages that may supply hints as to what the apostles were pointing to.

An example was the “lowest parts of the earth” phrase that Paul used in Ephesians.   The OT supplied three possibilities for understanding what Paul meant when he wrote “the lower parts of the earth”

Regarding the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) I feel you still consider my thoughts to be of denial of the resurrection.  I am not sure where you get that from, but let me assure you that I believe in the bodily resurrection more now than when I first believed.

What is the point of judgment if you are going to be forgiven anyways?

Judgement (krino and its compunds – anakrino, diakrino ) have many shades of meaning, from simply to “discern” all the way to “condemn.”  To judge (krites and its compounds – dikastēs, kritērion) defines the one judging.

You surely will agree that at the believer’s judgement, condemnation is not considered.  Also, we who have been forgiven, will be judged.

New Testament (Greek) for “judge”
G350ἀνακρίνωanakrinōexamine, judge, ask question, search, discern
G1252διακρίνωdiakrinōdoubt, judge, discern, contend, waver, misc
G1348δικαστήςdikastēsjudge
G2919κρίνωkrinōjudge, determine, condemn, go to law, call in question, esteem, misc
G2922κριτήριονkritērionto judge, judgment, judgment seat
G2923κριτήςkritēsjudge, Judge

New Testament (Greek) for “condemn”

G176

ἀκατάγνωστος

akatagnōstos

cannot be condemned

G178

ἀκατάκριτος

akatakritos

uncondemned

G843

αὐτοκατάκριτος

autokatakritos

condemned

G2607

καταγινώσκω

kataginōskō

condemn, blame

G2613

καταδικάζω

katadikazō

condemn

G2631

κατάκριμα

katakrima

condemnation

G2632

κατακρίνω

katakrinō

condemn, damn

G2633

κατάκρισις

katakrisis

condemnation, condemn

G2917

κρίμα

krima

judgment, damnation, condemnation, be condemned, go to law, avenge

G2919

κρίνω

krinō

judge, determine, condemn, go to law, call in question, esteem, misc

G2920

κρίσις

krisis

judgment, damnation, accusation, condemnation

G5272

ὑπόκρισις

hypokrisis

hypocrisy, dissimulation, condemnation

G6048

καταδίκη

katadikē

sentence of condemnation

Judgement has an implication of separation, or even of making a determination between right and wrong.  Katakrino is the term that strictly refers to condemnation, and at that, I am not sure if there is a time element associated with it.  By that I mean, the word itself simply means condemn, not necessarily condemn forever.  The context may supply that information, but I do not see where the word itself carried a time element.

KatakrinoAs a matter of fact, it looks like men do a lot of the condemning (ie the men of Ninevah, the Queen of the South, even ourselves (Rom 2:1, 14:23)).  Other occurrences in the New Testament speak of the Messiah receiving condemnation.  One time the Messiah spoke on condemning, but that He would not condemn the sinner.  He is something else, eh? (John 8:10-11)

The list may be found at the end of this post (if of interest).

(As I am studying this concept of judgment, I have found a much larger body of data in the New Testament than first reviewed.  In the interest of brevity, I will leave the above mini-study as is, know that it is incomplete, and I will return to it.)

So When Jesus said it was better for Judas not to have been born, (Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21) woe doesn’t have any significance if there is no consequences for betraying the Son of the living God.?

I am going to assume the consequence you are referring to above is Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT)

Matthew 26:24

The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Mark 14:21

For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

I understand your point, but note that the Messiah said “it would have been better” for Judas to not exist than to be born, not “Judas will burn in hell forever”

“Better” is a comparative term.  If I said “I am better than Joe” this doesn’t mean I am equal to the great apostle Paul.  Better simply compares to conditions, but it does not supply the extent of the difference between the two things being compared.  In other words, Judas destiny was defined as being less than the condition of existing (ie being born). A negative condition.

So, if the Scriptures teaches ECT, Jesus may have been hinting at Judas’ destiny.  (A negative condition!)

If He meant something else, (like living and dying under the guilt of condemning a just man), that is also possible. (Also a negative condition!)

Both of these destinies (I am sure there are additional destinies that may be possible for Judas) for Judas would surely fit the description Jesus provides of  “not existing”

At this point in my studies, to demand ECT is taught in this passage would be considered eisegesis.  The verse does not clearly inform us of Judas destiny, other than being a negative condition.

Or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

One verse in the New Testament speaks of blasphemy against the Spirit

Matthew 12:31

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

There are multiple ways to understand this passage.  I will address this passage in a future post as a separate topic.

Or the woes of Matthew 23.

Greater condemnation, v.33-how will they escape the condemnation of Hell?

I guess you don’t believe what Jesus said in v.35 either?

No purgatory in Scripture.

No escaping the judgment of God having received the knowledge of the truth( Hebrews 10:26-31).

If you believe otherwise with all due respect I pity you.


I appreciated this brothers challenge to my thinking, and wish him the best.  Since our discussion, he has found something in me that is unacceptable to associate with.  I have reached out to him a number of times, but he is a busy family man and was not available.  I hope that in the near future, I will have the opportunity to find peace in our relationship.

If you have comments or I have missed an imprtant concept, ignored a Bible passage or represented a teaching incorrectly, let me know.  Look down a few inches and you will find a convenient contact form for you to use! 

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Passages containing the greek word “Katakrino”

Matt 12:41The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
Matt 12:42The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Matt 20:18Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn G2632 him to death,
Matt 27:3Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, G2632 repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Mark 10:33Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn G2632 him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
Mark 14:64Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned G2632 him to be guilty of death.
Mark 16:16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. G2632
Luke 11:31The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn G2632 them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Luke 11:32The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn G2632 it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
John 8:10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath G2632 no man condemned G2632 thee?
John 8:11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do G2632I condemn G2632 thee: go, and sin no more.
Rom 2:1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest G2632 thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
Rom 8:3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned G2632 sin in the flesh:
Rom 8:34Who is he that condemneth? G2632 It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Rom 14:23And he that doubteth is damned G2632 if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
1Cor 11:32But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should G2632 not be condemned G2632 with the world.
Heb 11:7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned G2632 the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
James 5:9Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: G2632 behold, the judge standeth before the door.
2Peter 2:6And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned G2632 them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

 

Did Jesus go to Hell?

hell-awaits-fire-redDid Jesus go to Hell?

What type of question is that?

Three passages seem to tell me that, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, Jesus actually descended into hell.

The passages are as follows.

1 Peter 3:18-20

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

The popular teaching goes like this – the spirits are those of Noah’s generation that are in some type of prison at the time of Peter’s writing.  The assumption is that at the time of being put to death in the flesh, Jesus preached to these spirits in prison, before the resurrection. To the disobedient, He confirmed their condemnation and to the righteous He declared His victory, and their subsequent being led out of the prison they are in. (See Eph 4:8-10 below for verses that seem to teach this scenario.)

Another interpretation is that he – Noah, during the construction of the ark, by the Spirit, preached unto the disobedient, who are now spirits in prison.

This seems to make sense to me, since:

  • Whoever “He” is in verse 19, the power of the preaching was by the “Spirit”
  • Peter refers to Noah in the very next verse.
  • Peter is referring to a specific time frame – “while the ark was a preparing”
  • Noah is described as a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) and the souls in prison are described as disobedient.

The passage in 1 Peter in not conclusive, to say the least

Lets go on to the next passage and see if it sheds any additional light on this subject.

Acts 2:25-28

For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

The passage of interest focuses on verse 27, where Peter quotes the 16th Psalm, declaring that the resurrection was prophesied.

A major assumption needs to be made if this verse is to teach that Jesus was in the traditional concept of hell. The term used in the Old Testament referring to this hell is Sheol, which by all accounts refers to the grave.

Even within this passage in Psalm 16 itself, with the use of Hebrew poetry (restating the same concept with different words) the psalmist describes what he means when he says “hell”. Hell seems to be synonymous, in this psalm, with corruption. It is commonly understood that Old Testament believers did not have a clear understanding of the afterlife, and Sheol simply meant the grave.

If this is true, then Peter is declaring the resurrection from the grave, not the resurrection from hell.

As an aside, a very interesting study, for those interested, is the number of times the apostles referred to hell in their preaching to the lost. It is true that Jesus preached on hell (gk term hades) very often, but why didn’t the apostles keep up the message? That particular topic is for another time!

Given the last two passages, and the possibility (probability) of alternative interpretations, is this teaching depending on assumptions instead of Bible teaching for support?

The last passage that seems to support the teaching that Jesus visited hell is the following.

Ephesians 4:8-10

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  

(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

captivity captiveWhen Paul mentions that He descended into the lower parts of the earth, is it a safe assumption that he meant hell?  I taught that for decades and assumed it was without fault.  After all, what else could he mean?

I have a greater appreciation for the Word, now that I have finally understood that Paul, along with the rest of the New Testament authors, were preaching the risen Christ from the Old Testament. When a passage like Ephesians 4:9 is compared with the Old Testament, and found to shed light on a weak assumption, I will gladly confess my error.

Consider what I found after a simple search.

Psa 63:6-11

When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.
But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

This passage uses the very same phrase Paul uses, and seems to describe Sheol within the context. Simply defining the grave. Nothing to see here folks – lets move along!.

Isa 44:21 – 25

Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.
Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that preadeth
abroad the earth by myself;
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;

Realizing Isaiah is using Hebrew poetry, the “lower parts of the earth” are coupled with “ye heavens”. The very next verse, Isaiah 44:24, is coupling heaven and earth, and seem to be defining the “lower parts of the earth” as simply “the earth”

At the very least, it would not prove that “the lower parts” are necessarily hell.

One other passage that I find amazing is the following.

Psa 139:12 – 16

Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

lowest parts of the earthBased on the passage in Psalm 139:15, the lowest parts of the earth, are referring to the womb. This is an incredible passage in light of Ephesians.

Granted, it is not the exact phrase that Paul used in Ephesians 4:9, but it shows the difference between my independent interpretation (lower parts of the earth = hell), compared with Scripture interpreting Scripture.

In view of the previous three Old Testament verses, Ephesians 4:9 could be referring to

  • “the grave” (Psa 63:9) – This interpretation seems to have some strength based on the passage in Acts.
  • “the earth” (Isa 44:23) – This interpretation would coincide with the incarnation of the Messiah.
  • “the womb” (Psalm 139:15) – This interpretation would also coincide with the incarnation of the Messiah.

I have also understood that Paul may be referring to the class of people Jesus came to be among, that is, the lower class. This is a possibility and a teaching that Paul has brought up in his writings before.

With all of this being said, I find there to be very little Biblical support for the popular teaching that Jesus visited our traditional concept of hell, ie. a holding place of suffering for the lost.

What think ye?

 

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Purpose of Prophecy – Mark 15:43-46

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Biblical prophecy has a purpose. Am I sure I get it?

A few days back I was listening to Mark 15 and a few verses grabbed my attention.

Mar 15:43-46

Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

In that passage, Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb.

OK – so did he perform this action out of obedience to the Word?

Did he see an Old Testament passage and decide to take action to fulfill the prophecy? The text says that Joseph “took courage”, but does not define the motivation of the action. Was it simply to bring some honor to his Rabbi, or was it due to his seeking to obey Isaiah 53:9.

Isaiah 53:9

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

In this instance, the text seems to teach that the fulfillment of the prophecy was not Joseph’s objective.

If so, this particular prophecy in Isaiah was not given to inform prior to its fulfillment, but after its fulfillment.

Well – if that is generally true of prophecy, do we in the modern church look at Biblical prophecy correctly?

Do we try to find out the future for our own purposes? Granted, some information – the Olivet discourse comes to mind – was given to the apostles prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, that they might escape the judgement of God through the Roman armies on the nation of Israel.

Even considering the Olivet discourse though, might the higher purpose of that prophecy be somewhat different from merely saving the disciples lives? After all, most of the apostles were going to be martyred, and persecution was going to fall on the church shortly after the fall of Jerusalem.

I suppose the general thought of trying to figger out the future is very popular among western Christians of a certain stripe. I admit I used to delve heavily into future forecasting, but am now considering the wisdom of that attitude.

A year or so back, a particular passage in John got me thinking. Actually, when I read it carefully, it created more questions than answers! Jesus is talking to His disciples, telling them of a particular future event and actually lets them know WHY He tells them.

 John 13:19

I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Did you catch it? “…that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.”

The purpose was to direct the disciples faith to the person of Christ after the fulfillment of the prediction, not to instruct them on how to save their own bacon. Not for some temporal reason, but to direct the attention to the Messiah.

Could this be the highest purpose of prophecy?

Should we consider this to be the primary focus of prophetic interpretation?

When we come to a particular prophecy in the Word, would this concept Lightning help us to know the heart of God better?

Would it help us to rest in Him instead of hurrying about protecting ourselves from what we think may happen?

Lets consider Biblical prophecy to be a gift, not to primarily inform us of future events, but direct our attention to the One who is faithful!

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Promises to Israel – 4. A Conclusion

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In a previous post “Promises to Israel – Introduction” we considered a central question.

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future?

I suggested that God supplied three promises to the people of Israel in the Old Testament. Each of the following promises have been discussed in previous blogs.

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land
  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed
  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation

Let’s wrap up and try to provide a conclusion.

A SIMPLE CONCLUSION

The conclusion of the matter is that each of the three central promises of God to Israel (via Father Abraham) have been fulfilled physically. The people of Israel enjoyed the status of nationhood and resided in all or part of the land for centuries. Jesus the Christ is the seed upon all the faithful flock to.

Abraham’s physical offspring received the physical promises.

Joshua 23:14

14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things[a] that the Lord your God promised concerning you.

All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.

Although Joshua was reminding the people of his day regarding the fulfillment of the promise of the land, this sentiment is also applicable for the promise to Israel of nationhood and the seed.

Abraham’s spiritual offspring (the Body of Christ) can look to the faithfulness of God to the physical offspring of Israel and learn much.

But we have so much more in the way of promises. So much more.

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Promises to Israel – 3. The Nation

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In a previous post “Promises to Israel – Introduction” we considered a central question.

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future? 

I suggested that God supplied three promises to the people of Israel in the Old Testament

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land
  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed
  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation
  4. Promises to Israel – A Conclusion

This post will address the Promise of the Nation.  So, “let’s get at ‘er”

THE NATION PROMISE

The promise of a nation, I feel is an extension of the land promise in some regards. (“Promises to Israel – The Land“) First off, the Lord stated that He would make Abraham a Father of many nations. We sometimes forget that, and the promise completely came to fruition with the many (mostly extinct) nations that grew out of Abraham’s physical seed. Consider the family tree below. Patriarch+Lineage+Abraham+through+Joseph.JPG?format=original

Kingdoms included the Ishmaelites, Edomites and those of Abraham’s last wife, Keturah. Dang – for a man who had all his children so late, his posterity is huge!!!

The promise of nationhood may be found in the following verses

Genesis 12:2-3

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 17:5-6

No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham,  for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.

But what does it mean to be a nation? What was the Lord implying when He promised this?

One distinguishing feature of a nation is a governing body of authorities, a government, combined with laws and statues to frame a social order which defines the nation. A nation has to have a territory to reside in. A nation usually possesses, to varying degrees, a unifying culture, language and religion.

Abraham’s family, in Egypt possessed a unifying culture, language and religion. But without laws, statutes, and a land to reside in, they were simply a really big family, twelve tribes from the loins of Israel.

The laws and statutes came at Sinai under Moses. The land came during Joshua’s time. So could we say that between Sinai and Canaan, the Israelite’s were a nation without land?

But let us leave that for another post – The point is that the Lord fulfilled His promise in creating a nation of the family of Abraham. His word was true and faithful. He kept His word.

 Exodus 33:13

Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.

Deuteronomy 4:6-8

Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

II Samuel 7:23

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods?

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Promises to Israel – 2. The Seed

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In a previous post “Promises to Israel – Introduction” we considered a central question.

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future? 

I suggested that God supplied three promises to the people of Israel in the Old Testament

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land
  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed
  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation
  4. Promises to Israel – A Conclusion

This post will address the Promise of the Seed.  So “let’s get at ‘er”

THE SEED PROMISE

Growing up with the KJV, I always read the following verses with “seed” being used instead of “offspring”. Paul makes a deal about this in Galations. I am using the ESV below (and throughout the post) for clarity sake.

This promise is murky in my mind, and I am thankful we have an Apostle defining the intent of the promise in Galations 3.

Murky, cause it seems to emphasize Abraham’s genetic offspring, that is, all of his children. This isn’t Paul’s point in the New Testament. Paul emphasizes “the seed” as referring to Christ, not “the seeds”, referring to the multitudinous children of Abraham.

The offspring in this verse are linked directly to the promise of the land. We’ve considered the land promise and if this was the only verse relating to the “seed”, we might conclude that when the land was forfeited, the offspring would be effected somehow. (After all, where would the offspring settle without the land?)

Genesis 12:7

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 15:5 seems to be defining the promise in relation to the volume of Abraham’s offspring. Abraham’s offspring would be innumerable!

Genesis 15:5

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Genesis 17:7 gets hairy – What is He promising? This promise relating to Abraham’s offspring has the intended result of an everlasting covenant of God being God to the offspring.

Genesis 17:7

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

How did this work out? Before we get to Galations, lets consider the story of Elijah.

1 Kings 19:18

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Abraham’s physical offspring resided in the nation of Israel at the time of Elijah, and yet God informed Elijah that a remnant existed within the nation. The apostate nation could not be considered to be included in the “everlasting covenant” since they were apostate. (God was not their God!)

But they were the physical offspring! This distinction is critical to note. Jesus made much of this concept in His teaching.

Matthew 3:9

“and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

 Matthew 8:11

“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 19:9

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;

 John 8:39-40

They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.

Notice that Jesus did not associate Abraham’s children as physically related, that is by blood, but by the actions performed in their lives.

It think my point is obvious and I don’t want to get too distracted so lets move on. (How ‘bout John the Baptist talking about repentance – No – I said I would stop!)

Galations 3:16

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

If Paul’s point is that the covenant promise was between God and His Messiah, things become somewhat clearer. The Christ is the only One who truly established an everlasting covenant for the offspring of Abraham. That is, the offspring of Abraham, those who have the faith of Abraham. Physical lineage was not crucial. Consider Ruth, Naaman, the Egyptians that joined the exodus, Rahab…. The remnant has always existed and that remnant recognized the Savior when He arrived.

OK, so we made a few minor detours going through the post. Sorry bout the remnant rant, but finding that thread of truth through the Word has helped me understand so much!

What is the conclusion of the matter? Does God have any responsibility to the people of Israel?

Oh nooo! That is another problem – Who specifically are the children of Israel today? Can a Jewish person prove his lineage back to Abraham Isaac and Jacob? I understand that it is impossible to trace lineage back to the fathers since all the records were destroyed in the temple fires during the Roman siege. But that is another rabbit trail that I may tackle at a later date.

It looks like the New Testament confirms God’s promise of the Seed to be an accomplished fact in the person of Jesus Christ.

Contact me or make comment to further our discussion in Considering the Bible.  I look forward to your thoughts.

Hope to see you in the next post.

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