Friday, 12/7/18 – Tough Question

“If Christians have already died and are in heaven with the Saviour, why would their bodies rise from the grave?”

This question came to me from a Bible study group looking at the following passage:

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29)

Studied against the broader teaching of scripture we come to see that this passage is referring to two separate instances of resurrection: first the resurrection of the believers, and later the resurrection of the lost. More on this later, but for now let’s consideration the resurrection of believers…

In 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 Paul writes,

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

When a believer dies his soul goes immediately into the presence of the Lord, as Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). We understand from Revelation 6:9-11 (and other passages) that these souls are conscious entities.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

These souls are presently bodiless. Judgment against their murderers has not yet occurred and they are asking how long it will be until this happens – i.e. until the end of the age and the Judgment of mankind. They are told to wait. More souls would yet join them after which would come the judgement — the end of the Age, “the last trumpet,” spoken of above in the Corinthian passage.

Many Christians tend to think that this spiritual only existence of our souls will be our state for all eternity. But Paul clearly talks about this mortal being transformed… putting on immortality… the redemption of God is ultimately a complete redemption. He transforms this mortal body into an immortal body, this perishable body into an glorified and imperishable one. This all happens at the end of the age, at the return of Christ.

Paul comforts The Thessalonians with these words,

we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:15-18)

Jesus returns… there is a shout… there is the trumpet call of God, and the bodies of all believers emerge from their burial places, or scattered atoms, or far corners of space, and in an instant are transformed from mortal, perishable bodies to immortal, imperishable bodies. (The souls under the altar along with the rest are now clothed in their imperishable forms.) Then believers who are still alive are caught up and transformed instantly as well so that those who died and those who never tasted death are all transformed and together as similar immortal, imperishable and glorified beings “and so we will be with the Lord forever.”

This is “the first resurrection” spoken of in Revelation 20, “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6) Another resurrection comes later: the resurrection of the lost, followed by their final and eternal judgment.

Here are some further passages that address the two resurrections and the fate of the lost…

Daniel 12:2 – Daniels vision of the end times…

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Acts 24:14,15 Paul’s trial before Felix…

“…I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Rev.. 20:11-15 – The Judgment of the Dead…

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Which resurrection will you take part in?
Not sure?
Use the Contact page. We’ll lead you to the One Who can help.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/30/18 – Tough Question

“Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?”

In January 1964 an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” aired In which in a dystopian future everyone, upon turning age 19, must undergo an operation to become beautiful according to approved standards of perfection.

On Aug 2, 1985 The movie Weird Science opened in theatres across the continent. High-school geeks Gary and Wyatt are inept with the opposite sex and create a computer generated “ideal woman.”

On March 10, 2000 The Outer Limits featured an episode called “Simon Says” in which an engineer, grieving the loss of his son who perished in a car accident, constructs a robot that incorporates the memories of the deceased child.

accomplishment accuracy accurate achievement

We seem almost obsessed as a society with the notion of creating or re-creating our image in perfection. But none of these recreated ideals seem to quite make the grade. Perfection always robs us of something essential to our humanity.

When we ask “Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” we forget the reason God created us at all. God already had a heaven filled with perfect angels, “ministering spirits” ready at any time to do His bidding. But these we’re unable to provide that for which the Creator longed: a relationship with other free-thinking beings, beings who loved and interacted with Him not from design, but from desire.

Love always entails risk. The only perfect companions, it seems, are those with imperfections. The only perfect love relationships, it seems, are those where hurt and hate are also possible. So God made us perfect from the start, perfect with the power to choose.

We chose poorly.

Yet God has made a way to make us perfect again! “Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” That’s exactly what He is doing, right now, in you. As you come to the multiple crossroads and decisions that accompany each day, you make decisions. Decisions to move a little closer to or away from holiness. With each one you are changing.

God is at work within you too (Phil. 2:13). He is committed to seeing this transformative work get done (Phil. 1:6)… “from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7), “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17), “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

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Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” He is doing that now. Our job is to work with Him until that day when the job is done.

“…now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/23/18 – Tough Question

“Where did Cain get his wife?”

Adam was made from the dust of the earth, Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs, but Cain was formed by the union of Adam and Eve – he was not only the firstborn child of Adam and Eve but also the firstborn child of all humanity. “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man,” Eve exclaimed (Gen. 4:1). I have to chuckle trying to imagine her surprise!

Well, perhaps you know the story… awhile later Eve gives birth to her second child, Abel… also a male. As the two brothers grow Cain becomes a farmer while Abel tends to flocks. Both boys decided to bring an offering to God. The Bible tells us what happened,

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Gen. 4:3-5)

Despite reassurances and warnings from God Cain lets his anger burn and in the end commits the first murder, killing his brother. (see Gen. 4:6-8)

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Because of this great sin the Lord banishes Cain from the area and sentences him to become “a restless wanderer on the earth” (v.12). Cain heads east and eventually settles in a place he names Nod. He is fearful for his life though thinking others may kill him. But God marks Cain in some way to prevent this (v.13-16).

The last thing we hear about Cain is this: “Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.” (Gen. 4:17). For generations skeptics and Christians alike have asked “Where did Cain get his wife? Did God make other first couples like Adam and Eve? Did Cain marry his own sister? Where did this wife come from?”

I believe the answer to this enigma has more to do with genetics than it does with theology.

Genesis chapter 3 we read “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” (Gen. 3:20). That statement alone demonstrates that there were no other divinely created couples on the earth. All of humanity sprang from Eve or by procreation by her offspring. Cain’s wife must therefore have been a close relative. (As would have been all those Cain had feared might kill him.)

Now… a little Genetics 101…

We all have two copies of most of our genes: one from each parent. If one parent’s gene is defective in some way the copy from the other parent is usually sufficient to ensure the health of the offspring. If both offspring get one good and one bad version of the same gene pair and then have children together the likelihood of their offspring having two defective genes of the same gene pair (one from each parent) is much higher. If that happens then the child will develop the disease or genetic disorder associated with that gene pair.

man wearing white and gray striped polo shirt

This is much less likely to occur when the parents are from separate family lines. While their offspring may receive some defective genes it is far less likely that they will be of a common gene pair, so the complementary good gene will protect them.

It’s all actually somewhat more complex than this, but boils down to the same thing: defective genes of the parents.

Adam and Eve were created by God, flawless in their genetic makeup. Neither Cain nor Abel could have received any defective genes from their parents because their parrnts had none — nor could have Seth or any of the “other sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:3-4) born to the genetically unflawed Adam and Eve.

As the gene pool grew, however, the possibility of defects in some genes grew too, simply by virtue of being copies of copies of copies of… You get the idea. At this point the danger of siblings transmitting defective genes of the same pair emerged.

But at this point too our wise and loving Creator stepped in, giving the law to His people, and defining the sin of incest: “Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.” (Leviticus 18:9). Subsequent verses in this chapter apply the rule to various other family members, explaining “because [he/she] is a close relative.” Thus today we recognize the sin of incest, provided by our loving Creator for our good.

 

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/16/18 – Tough Question

“What is the difference between soul and spirit?”

This is a particularly difficult question to answer because in the scriptures both the words “soul” and “spirit” have multiple meanings depending on their various contexts. The question is further complicated by the fact that two languages are being used: Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament.

We encounter this in English too. The word “run” is s classic example:

I’m going to run (to the office.), I’m going to run (for office.) My brother won’t run. My clock won’t run. My car is running. My nose is running. The river is running. …a running total. …a running commentary. …a run in with the law. …a run in with the in-laws. I ran into Fred at the mall. I ran into Fred (as I backed the car up) at the mall.

Well, I’ve run on with these examples long enough! Clearly, what the word “run” means depends greatly upon context.

So it is with the words “soul” and “spirit.”

Depending on context the word “soul” may mean an individual personthe soul who sins will surely die” (Ezek. 18:20), biological life “…those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Mt. 2:20), intellect and emotionAnd now my life ebbs away” (Job 30:16), and of course it is that eternal entity which Christ Jesus came to save “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt. 10:28).

Depending on its context the word “spirit” may mean breath or wind “…striving after the wind (Eccl. 1:14,17, a non-material beingGod is spirit…” (John 4:24), angels are spirit beings “Are not all angels ministering spirits…” (Heb. 1:14), a person himselfBeloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). It can also be used to describe one’s attitudespirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7), “meek and submissive spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4), “spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1). Most confusing of all is that in some contexts “spirit” refers the inner person “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) — in other words as a synonym for “soul.”

Humankind was created in the image of God, so it should be no surprise to find that just as God is a triune being (Father, Son, Spirit), so are we (spirit, soul, body). Paul mentions these three aspects of our being in his letter to the Thessalonians,

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23).

What is important for us to understand is not so much the lexicons and idioms of Hebrew and Greek, but the fact that we are eternal and God will bring us safely to Himself as we turn our souls toward Him. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb.4:12). One day we shall be like Christ, transformed by God: “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” (1 Cor. 15:45).

We do not need to master the inner structures of the dichotomy of mankind. We need only collapse before Him, and acknowledge Him as our Lord and God. When we do, He will see our souls safely home to Himself.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/9/18 – Tough Question

“Is the devil everywhere like God?”

The big theological word for the idea of something that is present everywhere is “omnipresent.” The prefix “omni” means “all,” so together “omni+present” means all-present – existing in all places at all times.

Omnipresence is certainly an attribute of God.

“’Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” (Jer. 23:24)

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Ps. 139:7-10)

He [Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17)

God is also omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), immutable (un-changing), holy and eternal to name a few.

The devil, or Satan, however is none of these. The devil is limited in every area of power and presence, the exact opposite of holiness, and destined to eternal torment in hell “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

In regards to his presence in space he and his demons are limited. Consider these insights from the Word of God…

When the devil appeared before God to discuss godly Job he did a lot of coming and going…

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.’…Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord… and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.’…Satan went out from the presence of the Lord…” – Job 17,12; 2:1,2,7

When Jesus was tempted by the devil scripture is clear that his presence was not continual… “The tempter came to him… Then the devil left him…” – Matt. 4:3,11

lightning during nighttime

Later, during His ministry, Jesus testified “…I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” – Luke 10:18

We are also promised that when we persist to resist temptations the devil will eventually flee away from us. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 1:7).

Thankfully, in our trials, we have the Lord Christ by us and within us at all times. Indeed, He is “an ever-present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1).

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/2/18 – Tough Question

“What is the difference between ‘disciple’ and an ‘apostle?’ Are there still apostles today?”

The word “disciple” is from the Latin discipulus meaning “pupil, student, or follower,” The online Visual Thesaurus links the word “disciple” to just one other word: “adherent” – which is derived from the word “adhere,” meaning “to stick to.” A disciple is one who “sticks to” the teachings of the one followed. Every true believer who has made Jesus Christ Lord is a disciple of Christ.

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The word “apostle” has both a general and a special usage in scripture. The Greek word simply means “one who is sent” and the Bible uses the term to describe several individuals who were not part of the twelve set apart by Jesus. [e.g. Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Apollos (1 Cor. 4:6–9), Timothy and Silas (1 Thess. 1:1, 2:6), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25)]

After a full night of prayer Christ chose the twelve apostles from the larger group of many disciples (Matthew 10:1–4; Mark 3:14; Acts 26:14–18). He “gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…” and He sent them out “to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 1:1,6). They were to announce that the kingdom of heaven had come near. He told them “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (v.7).

When the eleven sought a twelfth apostle to replace Judas, a requirement was that the candidate had been an eye-witness to the full ministry and resurrection of Christ. “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22)

Later, Jesus Christ appeared to Paul (then named Saul) as he journeyed along on his way to Damascus. He appointed Paul as an Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 26:14–18). For this reason Paul wrote of himself as “one abnormally born” (1 Cor. 15:8).

We do not see true “apostles” today. There can be no new “eye-witnesses” of the earthly ministry and resurrection of Christ. However the term is sometimes used of missionaries who bring the gospel to a particular people group for the first time. Every believer who follows and obeys Christ is a “disciple” of Christ.

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 10/26/18 – Tough Question

“Will We Recognize Each Other in Heaven?”

A question like this was asked recently on Crosswalk.com. I thought it was a good one worth taking a look at here as well.

When the Sadducees asked Jesus about marriage in heaven, Jesus was very clear. He said, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30), and as we looked at on Tuesday, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the resurrection he stated “…we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Cor. 15: 52,53), and again as John declared, “when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

white clouds and blue sky
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Paul writes the Galatians “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) But this does not necessarily mean there are no genders in heaven. Nor does Jesus’ statement (above) that “they will be like the angels” conclusively mean we will be genderless. Even angels are referred to in scripture as “he” at times — e.g. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow” (Matt. 28:3) describing the angel who rolled back the stone covering the (temporary) burial site of Christ.

Certainly things will be different! Yet, evidence remains that in some way we most certainly will recognize one another.

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When David’s son died in infancy, he consoled himself saying, “I will go to him” (2 Samuel 12:23). Jesus stated that “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11).

At the transfiguration Peter, James and John all saw and identified that it was Moses and Elijah who appeared and conversed with Jesus. “…there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:3).

Paul looked forward to that day when he would see the Thessalonians with Him in heaven, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). And he comforted grieving believers saying, “we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Best of all, we know we will see and recognize Jesus! As John stated (above) “we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) and that’s something to look forward to!

Press on…

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.