Category Archives: Bible

Does God Hold Me Responsible For What I Do In My Dreams?

It’s unlikely God holds us much more accountable for the fantasies that appear in our dreams than He does for the predispositions to sin that we all share, including temptations or evil thoughts that drift into our minds. In fact, some of the things that happen in the theater of our dreams may help us be more aware of our deepest longings, conflicts, and fears.

Sexual fantasy, rage, and violence often occur abruptly and seemingly uncontrollably in dreams. We don’t know how much we are capable of regulating behavior in dreams. Some of the ascetic church fathers thought we are responsible for what we do in dreams, but Scripture nowhere indicates that this is true.1

Dreams are generally things that “happen to us,” not things we consciously choose to do. To the extent that our dreams are “lucid”—that is under the control of our conscious mind—we may find we encounter some genuine temptation. (See What should I think of what I experience in dreams? and Is it possible that some dreams contain important symbolic meaning—or even a message from God?)

If troubled by dreams, we should commit them to the Lord, asking for protection as we sleep. We should also ask Him to instruct us as we sleep and strengthen our ability to resist both conscious and unconscious temptation.

  1. Furthermore, Scripture nowhere implies that we adopt the other extreme forms of self-discipline the ascetics embraced, such as living in isolation, eating starvation diets, tormenting themselves with hair shirts that constantly itched, remaining unbathed so that lice could multiply, and so on. Back To Article

 

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Where Was Jesus Before His Resurrection?

Jesus’ clear statement to the believing thief on the cross implies that He was in heaven between the time of His death and His bodily resurrection:

And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:38-43).

Nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian pastor David Brown paraphrased our Lord’s reply this way:

Thou art prepared for a long delay before I come into My kingdom, but not a day’s delay shall there be for thee, thou shalt not be parted from Me even for a moment, but together we shall go, and with Me, ere this day expire, should thou be in paradise.

The term paradise as used in Luke 23:43 can designate a garden (Genesis 2:8-10), a forest (Ezekiel 31:7-9), or (as in 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7) the place of peace and blissful consciousness that exists for the redeemed in the presence of God.

Just before dying, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). This implies that when He died He went immediately into the presence of the Father. Both He and the repentant thief were in heaven that day.

On the third day, Jesus was resurrected with a glorified body. But He had not yet ascended to the Father in His glorified body when He encountered Mary Magdalene (John 20:17). Jesus appeared and disappeared during the next 40 days, leaving heaven and appearing on earth in His glorified body, so His ascension wasn’t the first time He had been in heaven since His death. It was merely a deed done publicly to strengthen the faith of His disciples and to clearly demonstrate that His ministry on earth would now be replaced by that of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7).

When Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him because He hadn’t yet ascended to the Father, He wasn’t implying that He hadn’t yet seen heaven. He was saying that there would be a time in heaven when Mary would once again be able to embrace Him. Now, however, she must not cling to Him, for His earthly work was done.

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Does James 2:10 imply that God doesn’t consider some sins more serious than others?

James 2:10 states: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble at one point, he is guilty of all” (nkjv).

Some people have mistakenly thought that this verse means that all sins are equal in God’s view, that no sins are worse than others.

In the Old Testament, there were sacrifices to atone for sins done in ignorance or through weakness. But deliberate, premeditated transgressions were a more serious category of sin for which the law couldn’t atone (Hebrews 10). People who committed such sins (Leviticus 6:1-2; 10:1-2; 20:1-27; Numbers 15:32-35; 16:26-32) either had to make restitution (as in the cases of theft or lying) or be put to death (as in the cases of adultery, violating the Sabbath, cursing one’s parents). When David premeditatedly committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, he wrote, “You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:16-17 nkjv). David knew that no sacrifice could atone for what he did, and that he could only, like other Old Testament believers who committed such sins, cast himself on God’s mercy. The law provided no forgiveness. He needed grace.

Paul’s declaration in Romans 2 that God will judge “according to works,” “light,” and “opportunity” implies that there are degrees of guilt, as did Jesus’ declaration that rejecting Him and His gospel was a more serious sin than the sin of Sodom (Matthew 10:15; 11:23-24). If there are no degrees of sin, then it would be pointless to struggle to seek the lesser of two evils in the kinds of situations we all sometimes face.

What James is confronting in this verse is the self-righteous attitude that we don’t depend as much on God’s grace as someone who has committed more obvious and heinous kinds of sin. This kind of thinking is self-deceiving and encourages complacency. Any violation of the law is enough to keep us from being justified by the law’s standards. A person who doesn’t murder or commit adultery but shows partiality to the rich should not feel self-righteous. He is a lawbreaker too. The function of the law is not to justify but to bring awareness of sin (Romans 4:14-16; 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:56). We should be humbled and conscience-stricken by the many sins we do commit, and not feel superior to those who sin in ways we don’t.

 

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What did Paul Mean When He Wrote that God Loved Jacob and Hated Esau?

In Romans 9:13, we read that God loved Jacob but hated Esau. Some people think this means that God actively chose Jacob to go to heaven and Esau to go to hell.

The word hated didn’t have the same meaning to the biblical writer as it does to us. To the biblical writer, you “hated” someone when you chose another person for a position of more favor or honor. For example, in Genesis 29:31, we are told that God saw that Leah was hated by Jacob, so He opened her womb. Yet we have every indication that Jacob was fond of Leah. He loved Rachel more, but he treated Leah with kindness. (Before Jacob died he asked to be buried with Leah.) Luke 14:26 gives another example of the biblical use of the term hated. Jesus said that we should “hate” our parents for His sake. He certainly wasn’t telling us to dislike them or to wish them evil. He only asked that we regard them as less important than Him, which is completely reasonable given who He is.

When the apostle Paul declared that God “loved” Jacob but hated Esau, he was affirming that the Lord had chosen Jacob, not Esau, to be the channel through whom He would carry out His covenant promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:3). God’s choosing had nothing to do with election to heaven or hell.

The election of Esau and Jacob as described in Romans 9:13 had to do with privilege and covenant blessing, not with individual salvation. The door of salvation was open for both of these men and to all of their descendants. God offers salvation to all.

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With so many Translations, how can we know the English Translation we’re using is Accurate?

It is important to be concerned about the accuracy of the Bible translation we’re using, but the fact that the wording varies in modern English translations is no reason to think they aren’t reliable. The Lord Jesus and the apostles considered the Old Testament Scriptures the very Word of God, but they weren’t troubled that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by Greek-speaking Jews) differed slightly from the Hebrew text. The Old Testament quotations that sprinkle the New Testament are not word-for-word translations from the Hebrew text. The apostles quoted loosely from the Septuagint. Of the 175 Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament, not one of any length carefully follows the Masoretic Hebrew text. In general they are closer to the Greek Septuagint.

Jesus himself never sought to quote the Old Testament in a rigidly word-for-word way. An example is Luke’s account of His reading of Isaiah 61: -2 in the synagogue at Capernaum (Luke 4:17-21). We don’t know whether Jesus was reading from the standard Hebrew text or not. He may have freely translated it into Aramaic. In any case, Isaiah 61:1 (KJV) closes with the words: “Proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Luke 4:18 closes with the words, “Preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” The wording is far from exactly the same. Does this mean that Isaiah 61:1 as we find it in the King James Version is not the Word of God or that the words recorded by Luke do not carry authority? This has obviously not been the conclusion of the Christian church through the centuries. We are confident that the inspired words of Isaiah are faithfully recorded and that Luke accurately recorded the words of Christ. A slight difference in the wording doesn’t trouble us, because both passages have the same basic meaning.

We believe the example of Jesus and the apostles serves an important purpose. If the Lord and His disciples didn’t get hung up on a minor difference in wording, we shouldn’t either. If the best available texts seem to call for small changes in the contemporary language we use to express the content they contain, they should be made. Our core concern should be the accuracy with which the inspired concept or idea expressed in the Scriptural text is conveyed.

 

 

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Does the Bible Assure We Will Reunite with Loved Ones Who Preceded Us in Death?

The Bible doesn’t offer any details about relationships in heaven. Based on the words of Jesus and the New Testament writers, we can be confident that heaven will be a far better place than anything we have experienced in this life and will include reunion with people we love.

The rich man recognized Lazarus even though they were in different places and separated by a great gulf (Luke 16:19-31). The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, though the two great prophets lived many centuries earlier (Matthew 17:1-5). Jesus told the repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (nkjv). The apostle Paul said that we will someday have more knowledge than we have now, implying that we will have greater knowledge of other people than now (1 Corinthians 13:12). He also said that it is “far better” to depart and to be with Christ than to remain on earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:22-23).

Christ will be the heavenly Bridegroom and believers will fellowship with Him as His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7-9). There will be no marriage or reproduction in heaven (Matthew 22:23-33), but the fact that God will resurrect us as individuals (See the ATQ article, Does God Value Individuality?) implies we will recognize each other as individuals and remember earthly relationships.

We will no longer need the exclusive relationships that protect us from loneliness and despair in this fallen world, but since heaven is a place of greater and fuller experience than our current life, we will still know and cherish our earthly loved ones. The joys and ecstasy of marital and family love will be far surpassed by perfect intimacy and trust. Perfected bodies and minds will find fulfillment in perfected relationships and a full sense of heavenly joy and gratitude to God.

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Don’t the Boundaries Promised to Abraham Imply that Modern Israel is Entitled to More Land?

The boundaries of the land God promised Abraham are given in Genesis 15:18-21:

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Gen. 15:18-21 nkjv).

These boundaries included all of the land occupied from the river of Egypt on the south to the River Euphrates on the north. As Israel made preparations to enter the land, they also captured some of the area on the east of the River Jordan, and 2 1/2 tribes were given this area (Num. 34:14-15). The area just west of the River Jordan was occupied by the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, Issachar, and one-half of the tribe of Manasseh.

No one can make a certain identification of the “river of Egypt.” Some identify it as the River Nile. But Israel was clearly not in the Promised Land when it was in Egypt. Others think this river is a desert stream that flows during the rainy season. This would concur with Kadesh-Barnea being the southern border. It was from Kadesh-Barnea that the spies entered the land.

At the least, the area promised by God to Abraham would be all of the area west of the River Jordan from Wadi-el-Arish on the south to the Euphrates River on the north. (The area occupied by the 2 1/2 tribes east of the Jordan River was not specifically promised by God.)

Does God’s promise to Abraham entitle modern Israel to expand its territory? We need to remember that God promised to chastise a disobedient Israel by taking away its national sovereignty, place it under foreign rulers, and exile many of its people (Deut. 28:15-68). These warnings were fulfilled first under the Assyrians and Babylonians and then under Rome (ad 70 and 135). Prophecies of the spiritual restoration of Israel in the last days have not been fulfilled.

 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” (Ezek. 36:27-32 nkjv).

How does this prophecy of Ezekiel relate to modern Israel in its current state of unbelief? It states that at some future time a spiritually repentant and renewed Israel will be given security and peace in her ancestral homeland. However, we can no more assume God’s blessing on the unbelieving state of Israel today than we could have assumed God’s blessing on Israel before its destruction by Assyria, Babylonia, and Rome. God allowed the reestablishment of Israel, but He often permits things He doesn’t approve.

It would be helpful to remember that the rabbis who survived the Jewish-Roman wars of ad 70 and 135 fervently taught that a return to the land should occur only under the leadership of the Messiah himself.

Because of all of this and other reasons the Torah forbids us to end the exile and establish a state and army until the Holy One, blessed He, in His Glory and Essence will redeem us. This is forbidden even if the state is conducted according to the law of the Torah because arising from the exile itself is forbidden, and we are required to remain under the rule of the nations of the world, as is explained in the book Vayoel Moshe. If we transgress this injunction, He will bring upon us (may we be spared) terrible punishment. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International)

This seems wise counsel, given the warnings of Deuteronomy and the disastrous past attempts of Jewish nationalism to achieve independence in the land on its own. In contrast, the atheistic leaders of the Zionist movement1 had little patience with the heavenly ideals of the religious who advocated patience in waiting for Messiah. They employed worldly means—political intrigue, economic influence, propaganda, violence, and terror—to establish and expand the modern state of Israel.

What are we to think? Christians should have a heart of compassion for Israelis and Jews, but genuine compassion involves willingness to confront injustice. We are under no obligation to help an unbelieving and unrepentant national Israel use worldly means to acquire the land promised Abraham. We should take biblical prophecy with great seriousness, realizing we aren’t called to be mere spectators of history. We shouldn’t enable Israeli discrimination, injustice, and violence towards non-Jewish citizens and neighbors any more than we should enable that of other nations towards their citizens and neighbors.

In accordance with the words of the prophets, if the state of Israel continues to pursue a path of unbelief and injustice, it will bring judgment upon itself—and its supporters.

  1. The founders of Zionism were all atheists who denied the Torah. All the Torah sages of that time opposed them and opposed Zionism, saying that Zionism would lead only to destruction. (“Why Orthodox Jews Are Opposed to a Zionist State,” Neturei Karta International) Back To Article
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Do the Same Kinds of Prophets Exist Today as did in Biblical Times?

While all Christians have the ability to prophesy in the sense of speaking forth the truth, there was a group of church leaders in the apostolic church who functioned uniquely as prophets. These were apparently next to the apostles in the order of authority within the church (1 Corinthians 12:28-29 ; Ephesians 4:11). The function of the prophets was to edify, console, and exhort (Acts 15:32;1 Corinthians 14:3).

There are no prophets today in the same sense as there were under the old covenant and in the apostolic church. Before the canon of Scripture was complete, God used prophets to maintain order and teach correct doctrine. After the canon was completed, however, prophecy began to be more of a problem within the church than a help. Eventually, the office of prophet died out completely except among heretical groups such as the Montanists.

Today, however, a prophetic word can be spoken in the church in the sense that God’s Word can be proclaimed based on Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit. But there will be no new revelations that will supplant or contradict God’s written Word.

According to 1 Corinthians 14, there are two tests that must be passed by any supposedly prophetic statement. First, verse 29 states that after two or three speak a prophetic message, the others are to “judge” (NKJV) or “weigh carefully what is said” (NIV). In other words, the prophetic message must not disagree with the knowledge of God’s Word and of truth held by the other members of the assembly. Second, verses 37 and 38 demonstrate that just as the apostle Paul submitted his words to the examination of the Corinthians on the basis of their knowledge of the Word of God, any prophecy that is given must be judged by the standard of the truth already known to the church of Christ. In other words, no completely new truth would be revealed, but rather the prophet would expound and explain truths already accepted and recognized by God’s people.

The New Bible Dictionary summarizes the purpose of New Testament prophecy in this way:

It is in this sense that the apostle urged the church of his day, and would urge us also, to desire earnestly to prophesy: not to desire the notoriety of doctrinal innovators, but to contend earnestly for the truth once for all delivered to the saints.

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Is the Issue of Eternal Security Worth Arguing About?

Many Scripture passages support the security of the believer (See the ATQ article, Should I believe in the Doctrine of Eternal Security?), while a few passages can be interpreted to imply the possibility of falling from grace. Overall, Scripture seems to support the view that genuine believers can backslide and experience discipline, but never fall from grace.

There is no way of knowing for sure whether a professing believer caught up in deep sin or apostasy was ever truly converted. So, practically speaking, when we consider our responsibility to God, it makes little difference whether we believe apostasy could lead to loss of salvation or whether someone who thinks they are a believer might be mistaken. Whichever view one takes, there is no grounds for living carelessly and irresponsibly.

Regardless of one’s view of eternal security, anyone self-satisfied and insensitive to sin in his life should be on guard. It is more important to pursue spiritual growth than to resolve the theoretical question of whether an apostate has never been saved or has lost his salvation.

Self-examination and re-dedication are important not so much to ensure that our salvation has not departed (or that we have truly been converted) as to keep our hearts tender and sensitive to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. True spirituality isn’t based in fear but in our confidence in a heavenly Father who has already demonstrated His love for us (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9).

Whether we identify with Calvin or Arminius, our main concern should be relieving the fears of the insecure believer while confronting sinners (whether inside or outside the church) with their need for repentance.

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19 NKJV).

Practically speaking, eternal security isn’t worth arguing about.

 

 

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Does the Bible Show Contempt for Women When it Refers to God as Father?

The Bible presents God as Father and uses masculine pronouns to refer to Him. But God isn’t limited by the sexual distinctions of His creatures. God is eternal Spirit, and should not be perceived in an anthropomorphic way. He may be conscious, personal, and masculine in some significant way, but His consciousness, personality, and masculinity so far transcend our experience of these things that we should always be on guard against thinking of Him in merely human terms.

Many people believe that since the Bible was written in an age when women were often perceived as being of less worth than men, they automatically portray God in a way demeaning to women. However, since the New Testament teaches clearly that women and men are equal in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28), this premise is questionable.

Scriptures written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit cannot be assumed to express a bias against women. It is unlikely that when the Lord Jesus instructed us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), He was expressing contempt or disrespect for mothers and women in general. Jesus demonstrated high regard for women (Matthew 9:22; 28:1-10; Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42; John 4:7-29).

Is it safe to assume that inspired Scripture has no reasons for referring to God in masculine terms? And if so, why then is the church described in feminine terms in relation to God (Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 21:2; 22:17). Does this metaphor of the church (obviously including both sexes) as “wife” and “bride” also bear unnecessary “cultural baggage”?

C.S. Lewis outlined the dangers of such a perspective in his brief article “Priestesses in the Church”:

Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. . . .  Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. And as image and apprehension are in an organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.

We should not think lightly of altering the figures of speech used by the prophets, apostles, and our Lord. Judging from the metaphors of Scripture, God clearly relates to us in a masculine way (a masculinity uncontaminated with human flaws), but this doesn’t mean that femininity (including the feminine role of the church) isn’t based in and created by Him as well!

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