Posts Tagged ‘Old Testament’

I have been a follower of Jesus for years and have spent a lot of time reading God’s Word, so I was astounded to find that so few Christians know the basic beliefs of Christianity. Take for example this simple question, “Do Christians go directly to heaven and unbelievers go directly to hell the instant they die?”

The Church and Immortality of the Soul

Many Christians are taught the doctrine of immortality of the soul, but the Bible doesn’t teach that. In fact, in Genesis, it proclaims that the first humans were created mortal, with only the POTENTIALITY for immortality if one reads it in context. They were told specifically to “replenish” the earth but then after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were sent in exile from Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) to PREVENT them from eating also of the tree of life and BECOMING immortal. Thus, the story, if taken literal, indicates human life, like all other life is mortal.

The same word used to describe the life-force, or soul, is used for both human and other animal life in many places. “…and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul.” (Genesis chapter 1: 30) By using Scripture we can explore the concept of the soul, or life-force ( nephesh) ) And note that it does not indicate that the soul is naturally immortal in these passages.

Job describes death as lying down and sleeping, not being awaken.

“But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come” (Job 14: 10-14)

Job is not arguing against the concept of the resurrection. Rather, he pleads with God to hide him in Sheol (The grave) until his wrath is past, and then remember him, causing him to live again! (v.13-14) One cannot ask for a more clear statement of the hope of resurrection. Later, Job asserts that he has a Redeemer who lives, and that he (Job) will see God in a resurrected body, long after his present body has been consumed.

Daniel describes the resurrection as waking from sleep in the dust.

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3)

Is it not clear what Daniel is predicting in chapter 12? He speaks of those who are sleeping in the dust, awakening to everlasting life. Others who awake will not see life, but suffer shame and everlasting contempt. Jesus used the same language to describe the resurrection. He said “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29)

Many will argue that Job and Daniel were Old Testament views and that everything changed after Jesus died came. But in John 11 Jesus comes face to face with the reality of death when his friend Lazarus dies. It is in this context that we read the shortest verse in the New Testament – “Jesus wept.” Death is real, and it is a real tragedy. Yet Jesus describes Lazarus’ death with that same metaphor that appears throughout the text of Scripture. He said that Lazarus had fallen asleep. His disciples did not get it. They thought that he was describing the beginning of Lazarus’ recovery.  They assumed that if he were literally sleeping, then the worst of his illness was over, and he would soon be getting better. So Jesus had to spell it out for them and explain that his friend was already dead.

Paul teaches that most will sleep, but some will be changed without it:

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 )

Paul affirms what readers have seen elsewhere in the Bible. Death is a sleep from which believers will be awaken. This awakening will take place “at the last trumpet.” (The resurrection)

When Peter delivered his sermon at Pentecost he said, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.” (Act 2:29) He later said, “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.” (Acts 2: 34-35)

If David, who was a man after God’s own heart, did not ascend to heaven, where is he? Peter said he is still in his sepulcher! Along with Clement of Rome (who died about100 AD), Ignatius (died about 107), the Didache (about 120), Barnabus (died about 140), The Shepherd of Hermas (about 154), Polycarp (died about 155), Justin Martyr (about165), Tatian (about 172), Iranaeus (about 202), and a host of others. They are all still dead in their graves!

So where did this notion of natural immortality come from?

Almost every ancient culture has some form of notion of either an immortal transcendent being or that the dead live on in some kind of other world or afterlife so it is almost impossible to note exactly when the very first instance of that belief appeared in the human mind. The ancient Egyptians had this notion evident in their elaborate preparations for the afterlife for their dead.

But the Early Church Fathers never questioned the Biblical teaching of the mortality of man, the sleep of the dead, and the resurrection to eternal life or to judgment. They never speak of the natural immortality of the soul, nor of eternal, unending punishment of hell. They present death as the cessation of life, and immortality of the righteous achieved only at the resurrection – therefore, immortality for man is conditional.

The Bible consistently uses a metaphor for death that is viewed as neither socially or theologically appropriate among most Christians. It calls death a sleep. But if a believer slips and refers to the dead as sleeping, judging from the reaction among traditionalists, you would think that they had shot God!

A long standing tradition within Christianity asserts that death is a move to a new higher level of consciousness where the righteous are rewarded for their good deeds on earth or punished for their rejection of God and Jesus. Consequently, anyone who dares to imply that the intermediate state of the dead is one of unconscious sleep runs the risk of being branded a heretic or cult member.

Nevertheless, it would do us all well to return to biblical terminology instead of traditions that keep us from using the Bible as our guide. The biblical authors knew what they were talking about. The Holy Spirit inspired them to write words which expressed the way things really are. It is not their fault that the popular church has chosen to see and say things differently.

I have heard so many Christians refer to the passing of their loved ones as watching over them from heaven. But thinking logically, how could one enjoy their eternity in heaven if they had to witness the murders, rapes, and other crimes being committed against their loved ones on earth? And what sense does it make for God to condemn an unbeliever to the flames of hell only to pull them out at the resurrection to judge them and then throw them back into the flames? Is that the actions of a loving God?

John Wyclif, while Professor of Theology at Oxford University, translated the Bible into English. He taught soul-sleep, and that the Rich Man and Lazarus was a parable and couldn’t be used as a basis of theology. Wycliffe also declared that the fate of the wicked was everlasting punishment, not continuing punishment.

Martin Luther also emphatically rejected belief in the immortality of the soul, and held that death is a sound, sweet sleep. Had it not been for John Calvin, it is possible that Conditional Immortality (soul sleep) would have become the predominant view in the Protestant churches. Whereas Luther rejected the Roman Catholic teaching of the immortality of the soul, John Calvin re-introduced it.

Now we can understand what Jesus was doing in John 11 when Lazarus died. He was explaining to his disciples that death is not the end, because he (the Resurrection and the Life) will not allow it to be. But make no mistake about it – if there were no Jesus, death would be the end. We can call death sleep only because there is a Jesus who intends to raise the dead. So calling death sleep is a statement of faith in Christ.

Refusing to call death sleep is also a statement of faith. It reflects a faith in death itself.  It joins Plato and other pagan philosophers in affirming that God created the human soul indestructible, and therefore it must remain alive after the death of the body. So the real person never sleeps but remains conscious during the intermediate state of death, and indeed for all eternity.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we read, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

That time HAS come. So it is even more important to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

To teach and perpetuate fables that are not biblically sound is worldly and carnal.

More to come….

I watched the movie “Noah” this weekend with my wife. And I have to say in spite of some of the inaccuracies of the familiar Bible story; it was still a powerful film.

Some have criticized that Noah is portrayed as a dangerous religious-extremist who blames people for destroying creation and makes no mention of man’s sinfulness. I suggest that these people watch it again. Because in the very beginning of the film it gives a short synopsis of the story written on the screen and mentions that what happens is the direct result of sin.

I have absolutely no problem with a filmmaker taking a biblical story and adding or subtracting from it as a way to craft a compelling film. There are all kinds of artistic license that have been taken as far back as Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 masterpiece “The Ten Commandments”.

Critics complain that the Noah film portrays Noah as a schizophrenic who goes off the deep end in a fit of self-righteousness that ends with a promise to kill himself and his own family; including his newborn granddaughters. Although this is not mentioned in the Bible, is it possible that Noah had these suicidal thoughts? Would these critics conclude that Abraham was a self-righteous schizophrenic as well? Personally, I don’t know how I would react if I was stuck inside of an ark with a bunch of animals with no idea of when I would find solid ground. Throughout history, people have done terrible, terrible things believing that they were following God’s instructions. (The Crusades come to mind)

Many Christians I know would also have a problem with the “Rock Angels” portrayed in the Noah film. (Sorry for the spoiler) They are more comfortable with their own version of angels portrayed as these huge heavenly beings who fly around with the use of their great wings. Interestingly, whenever the Bible describes angelic visitations, there is no mention of them having wings.

I have no problem watching Bible-based movies produced by unbelievers for the sake of making money. And that’s all the Noah movie is. What I DO have a problem with is self-professed Christians who say they produce movies to show the truth of the Bible in a dramatic way, but have just as many, if not more, biblical inaccuracies as those done by Hollywood’s elite atheists.

When I was a kid all I had was a King James Bible with a small concordance in the back. But today my kids and grand-kids have a ton of resources to help them at learning some of the best stories in the Bible. (Including Hollywood movies) As a Christian, I find this to be truly amazing. If there are things that don’t line up in these Bible-based movies with your opinions on what happened, then you have a great chance to follow up at dinner with your family or friends or small groups and talk about it.

Talk about what you agree with and what you don’t. (Remember, you also have a ton of resources for Biblical truth) And then bring the conversation back to Jesus. As Christians, that’s supposed to be the point, isn’t it?
Imagine what would happen if, instead of a heated debate about the inaccuracies of the Noah movie, we just had people from all walks of the Christian faith share the great stories of faith from God’s Word. What if we embraced these movie versions and used them to point people to the Gospel? Wouldn’t that look a lot like Jesus?

Ken Ham of “Answers in Genesis” recently wrote a scathing review of the upcoming “Noah” movie, starring Russell Crow.
http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2013/11/19/dont-be-taken-in-by-the-noah-movies-promotion/

Personally I don’t see what’s got him so upset about this movie; especially when you compare it to the History Channel’s miniseries, “The Bible”.

There were many inaccuracies portrayed in the miniseries but a few that stood out for me was in the episode about the angels visiting Lot in Sodom. The angels are portrayed as vengeful warriors killing many of the men in Sodom. But Genesis 19 never mentions the angels doing anything to the men of Sodom except striking the men with blindness. (And not swords)

During the story of Jesus’ birth, a common mistake is made by having the Magi visit at the same time as the shepherds. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi arrived much later- possibly years later. (Matthew 2:1-12) Although the Bible does not give us the number of wise men, Matthew wrote the following concerning the magi’s visit: ‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.’ (Matthew 2:1-3)

Would King Herod and many in Jerusalem be upset because of only the claim of two or three men? Probably not, but if there were many Magi on the same mission to find and worship a new King of the Jews; that would have been cause for great concern for a sitting king of that time. It is possible that they were religious or scholarly envoys of royalty in a distant land. These magi did not arrive until possibly almost two years after Christ’s birth-certainly sometime after his presentation in the Temple. (Luke 2:22-39) Immediately after their visit the magi were warned in a dream not to return to King Herod and left the region.

Considering their target audience, the producers of the History Channel’s miniseries could have easily been much more faithful to what the Bible says in many instances without losing cinematic appeal. I see little to no value in most of the “artistic license” the producers took in these episodes. And yet there was no outcry from the Christian community about the blatant inaccuracies.

Look, movies are produced for entertainment and to make money, not for accuracy. Movies based on the Bible are no different than other movies “based on a true story”. If nothing else, these Bible movies may encourage people to actually study the Bible themselves. After all, the Bible has plenty of excitement all on its own.

We’ve been told that this year’s presidential election will be the most important election in our history. We have been bombarded with negative political ads by candidates in order to convince us that they are the best choice. It is my opinion that the leader that we have is simply a mirror of the people he or she leads. As proof, one only has to look at I Samuel when the people rejected God’s rule over them and cried out for a king:

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel.  The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba.  But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.  So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”  But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.  And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”  Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.  He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.  Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.  He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.  When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”  But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us.  (1Sam. 8:1-19)

Soon after, Saul was chosen to be king over Israel and Samuel gave the people a warning: “But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.  Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” (1Sam 12:24-25) As it turns out that’s exactly what happened.

Saul’s first act as king was to attack a Philistine outpost and made Israel an enemy of the much larger Philistine army. (1Sam. 13:4-7) Samuel told Saul to wait seven days and he would meet him on the battlefield to make an offering and intercede for him. But Saul became impatient and made the offering himself placing himself on the same level as the prophet of God and in doing so, Saul jeopardized his kingship. (1Sam. 13:8-14)

Surprisingly, even after Saul’s missteps the majority of the people continued to follow him. Why? Because they wanted a king to rule over them rather than God. It wasn’t until years later that godly King David would rule over Israel; and even he was plagued by his sin.

It is no different today. Throughout our history we can name good presidents and bad presidents. But rarely can we name presidents that were truly godly men. The reason is simple: If a leader is a mirror of the people he leads, then it is a rare thing indeed for an ungodly nation to elect a godly leader.

Proverbs teaches that “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (Proverbs 29:2) Are we mourning over the spiritual, moral, cultural and political direction of our nation? Christians of many denomination and ethnic backgrounds are indeed approaching judgment over the rapid and rabid growth of ungodly, wicked laws and policies by our current elected leadership. What we have to recognize is that just as surely as the sun rises in the east, ungodly lawmakers will produce ungodly laws.

We have tens of thousands of local churches, led by their pastors that effectively and consistently engage in political awareness, education, and action to promote their personal, partisan, or ethnic standards.

But our mourning should be fostered by hearts broken with the recognition of our own disobedience and our rejoicing should be inspired by a God of mercy and grace and that He gives us the means to restore His righteousness within us.

I am not suggesting that we not be concerned about our political process, but as a follower of Messiah we should be even more concerned about the kingdom of God than the kingdom of this world.

I believe that whoever becomes our political leader will be placed in that position by God – Either for our good or for our judgment, in order to bring us closer to Him.  “But it is God who judges: He brings one down, He exalts another.” (Psalm 75:7) God is the judge – All depends on Him, not on the natural advantages of a country; not on human strength or human skill, or human prowess. Whatever may be the natural resources of a country; whatever alliances of peace or war they may form with other nations; success ultimately depends on God. He presides over all; He can give success when it is least expected; and He can also humble people – no matter how much they have prepared, and regardless how confidentially they anticipate success. He removes kings, and sets up kings for His own purpose. (Daniel 2:21)

God will use any means necessary in order to draw us closer to Him – Even if it means going through difficult times. He used the Babylonians to draw Israel back to Himself and He will use our political leaders to do the same for us. May God give us the grace, wisdom, and strength for the days ahead.

“If you’re a leader and no one is following – you’re just out for a walk.”