Posted in Doctrine, Logic/Philosophy, Theology

It Shall Be More Tolerable

The biblical doctrine of hell has been part of the arsenal of skeptics for years. Along with the problem, as they see it, of reconciling an all powerful, all loving God with the reality of human suffering on this earth (and with the reality of animal suffering as well), skeptics have also used the biblical doctrine of hell as a justification for their rejection of the Bible as the word of God and of the existence of the God who is alleged to have written it. In Thomas B. Warren’s debates with Antony Flew, Wallace Matson, and Joe Barnhart, each of Warren’s opponents used the concept of hell against God’s existence and/or the ethic of Jesus Christ. In Flew’s fourth affirmative on Tuesday night, Flew said, “Suppose now, considering those alleged arrangement, someone says, as I would say, that it would be absolutely wrong to keep any conscious being, man or animal, in such torment forever; and, furthermore that it would be to the last degree monstrously unjust for a Creator Himself to punish His own creatures in that way” (Warren-Flew Debate, p. 69). In Matson’s second affirmative on Monday night, he referred to the New Testament teaching on hell (Warren-Matson Debate, p. 38). And while Warren defended God’s infinite love and justice, Matson denied that God’s love could be harmonized with God’s allowing a person to suffer punishment for even one moment in hell (p. 48). Matson inconsistently admitted that it would be right for mere humans to punish Hitler and wrong for God to do so (p. 76-77). And in his first rejoinder on Monday night of the debate, Matson in referring to Warren, said, “He did say that he loves his children and he has punished them. With a blowtorch in the face, Dr. Warren?” And if so, for one second, for one minute, for ten minutes, for an hour?” (p. 88).

In the Warren-Barnhart discussion, Joe Barnhart, in his first negative speech, said, “It is one thing to say that the vast majority of the human race of adults will be tortured and tormented endlessly because they did not subscribe to Tom’s (Thomas B. Warren, MD) ideological tenets. It is another thing to say more concretely that Tom’s grandfather or his brother is currently screaming in hell, and that Tom’s only word of comfort is, ‘Grandad (sic), you have what is coming to you. So take your torture and know that it is fully just’” (Warren- Barnhart Debate, p. 15).

Please note that both the Warren-Flew debate and the Warren-Matson debate were on the existence of God. The Warren-Barnhart debate was about ethics, and particularly it was a discussion of the ethical system proposed by Jesus Christ and that proposed by Jeremy Bentham as to which system was superior. Warren, of course, advocated the life prescribed by Jesus; Barnhart stood with Bentham. Barnhart’s position was completely exposed.

It is interesting that in each encounter, Warren’s opponents attempted to show that the concept of hell cannot cohere with God’s love and power (Flew and Matson) or with an ethical system that employs it (Barnhart). To Warren’s adversaries, any doctrine that entailed the concept of hell had to be false. Warren showed that any doctrine that denied hell had to be incomplete and was ascribing mere finite justice to God. Warren, of course, in my judgment did a masterful job in his effort to defend what the Bible claims about hell. Philosophically, he showed the justice of hell and the implications of denying the reality of hell. Furthermore, he pointed out the inconsistencies of philosophers who want to admit suffering as an objective concept and yet deny God who is necessary as a concept in making suffering objective in the first place. His defense of hell as an essential part of divine justice in the Matson affair was, in my judgment, extraordinary.

But, many people will never read those discussions, and I would think that many brethren have at times been bothered by what they read in scripture about hell as they reflect on the destiny of departed loved ones. During my lifetime, some preachers have even “opted” for a doctrine of a finite hell in their desire to find justice, but such effort is futile. I would suggest to all of them that they get the Warren-Matson Debate and devour it. This should help them immensely in becoming familiar with the intellectual concepts involved in the notion and necessity of divine punishment and with the eternality of it.

Let me just here present a few thoughts that I hope will be helpful to Bible believers, and perhaps even some skeptics, in trying to harmonize divine justice with our intellect and emotion as we experience suffering on earth and think about eternal suffering in hell. The doctrine of hell, it seems, can trigger human emotion somewhat like in our country the issue of abortion does. People can get awfully defensive or accusative very easily and very early. Let me mention and briefly elaborate on twelve fundamental facts that I hope will help us in putting the Bible’s doctrine of eternal punishment in perspective, thus seeing the doctrine of hell without intellectual and/or emotional distortion.

One, hell was originally made for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41; cf. 2 Pet. 2:4). However, it is the eternal destiny of men as well who die in their sin (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20:11-15). Jesus used the reality of hell as a warning to mankind to live according to God’s will or to face divine punishment (Mark 9:42-50). Even God’s own people, according to the New Testament, must be careful to live righteously so as to avoid having to face hell (cf. Heb. 10:30-31; Jude 20-21; Matt. 25:46). But it is also the case that a Christian can become so mature in spiritual development that he no longer relies on hell as motivation to his righteousness (1 John 4:18). He now loves God so much that the fear earlier felt no longer constitutes a part of his motivation to continual righteousness.

Two, the nature of hell is punitive. That is, it is not for correction. It is pure punishment. Too, it is unending punishment. Whatever heaven is in its duration, hell is in its own duration also (Matt. 25:46). If one attempts to rid hell of its everlasting quality, he must also do the same with heaven. This shows the enormous significance of sin which is the violation of God’s will and which inevitably leads to hell if it remains unforgiven (1 John 3:4; Rom. 6:23). Furthermore, hell shows the shame involved anytime anyone enters eternity having rejected the means of deliverance from it. A man who dies in his sin has turned his back on God’s desire and plan for his own salvation which plan had included the death of Jesus Christ. And a Christian who apostatizes from the faith is said to have “trodden under foot the Son of God, and to have counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and to have done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29-30). His final state is even worse than that of the alien sinner who never knew the gospel (2 Pet. 2:20-22). What a man, once having committed sin, does or fails to do with regard to the gospel is a central fact to consider in the analysis of his just punishment.

Three, the language of hell in scripture is, at times, extreme and at other times it is somewhat softened (Mark 9:47-48; Luke 12:47-48). That is, there are times when hell is described in extreme language as productive of much personal pain, and again there are times when the language is reduced to presenting a punishment with less pain. Luke’s reference to some who will receive “few stripes” indicates this use of language. Since God is always eternally and infinitely fair, hell would have to entail this characteristic (Gen. 18:25; Rom. 3:25-26; 11:32). Not everyone deserves the same amount or degree of punishment. In the law of Moses, God made it very clear that He is quite concerned about justice or fairness of treatment. His own nature is the background out of which the very precisely stated laws in Deuteronomy come. Consider Deuteronomy 22:22-29 which even entails the notion of granting the accused the benefit of the doubt (v. 24-25). The New Testament teaches that God is especially concerned with punishing (1) those who walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and (2) those who despise dominion (2 Pet. 2:9-10). Some sins are worse than others! Of course, neither heaven nor hell are physical places, and what they offer by way of reward or punishment cannot be physical as the spirits of men who enter these domains are not physical (Luke 16:19-31; 1 Cor. 15:50). But the language that God employs in describing both places is based on our acquaintance with physical pleasure and pain. Thus, we are able to make a comparison between human existence in time and in eternity.

Four, the concept of hell is intended to be a deterrent to wrong living. Both reward and punishment are utilized in the Bible as motivations to righteousness (2 Tim. 4:6-8; Rev. 20:11-15). Some would suggest that men do not need such, but the Author of the Bible knows human nature completely. And observant men know that children at times need incentives and even adults can find great motivation in rewards offered (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-25). And those bent on violence at times are curbed by the fear of facing punishment or having committed crime, they are incarcerated. Even with the presence of the Bible in the world today, we do not have to search for ungodliness among men. It permeates the societies of men. Indeed, the whole world lies in the evil one (1 John 2:15-17; 5:19). If human society is this way with the Bible within it, what would human society be like without it?

Five, the basic shared condition of all men in hell will be separation. It is a separation from God forever. John would call it “the second death” (Rev. 20:6). The Greek word for “death” here is “thanatos.” According to Vine, it signifies (1) the separation of man’s soul from his body, and (2) the separation of man from God (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 276). Of course, when speaking of man’s separation from God, the scriptures describe the condition while the man is on earth as spiritual death or as a death in sin (John 8:24; Eph. 2:5). When a sinner becomes a Christian, he becomes dead to sin (Rom. 6:2, 11). A sinner who remains in his sin faces eternal death or the second death (Rom. 6:23; Matt. 25:46). So, just as a human body separated from its spirit is physically dead (Jas. 2:26), when a man is separated by sin from his God, he is spiritually dead. When that man is punished by God in hell, he is being separated from God forever. This is eternal death. And that is what all lost men face. And there is no remedy or relief from it once a person leaves this earth (Heb. 9:27). Thus, there is the necessity of obedience to the gospel of Christ. The gospel frees man from sin and prevents any entry into hell! All men should love God for making life possible and for making such fantastic delivery from sin available (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:19). Heaven is what earth is all about (Heb. 2:9-10; Eph. 3:10-11)! This is so because of God’s love and will. However, hell is what earth tends toward in the lives of those who die on it without God.

Six, the fact is that if a man enters hell he does so by his own choice. Given human free will, each man decides his own eternal destiny. Neither God nor the devil can make this determination for him. Each man decides his own destiny. No man will ever on earth unravel the complexities involved in human free will. But the fact is, each of us is free and thus the personal agent of his own thoughts and deeds. The doctrine of hell is involved in the doctrine of human responsibility and accountability. The New Testament warns all of us that we will give account of our lives on this earth. The doctrine of hell is intended to help man live on this earth before God and with his fellow man in a responsible way. He is under obligation to love God and his neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). Whether he obeys his obligation or not, he will face God in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:11-15). If a man leaves this earth in his sin, he judges himself unworthy of eternal life (cf. Acts 13:46).

Seven, the Bible plainly teaches that God wants all men to be saved (Heb. 2:9-10; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4). God has always had in mind the eternal purpose of saving man from the sin which God knew he would commit (Eph. 3:10-11). God does not want man to enter hell! If a man enters hell that implies that the man left this earth in his sin which God wanted removed. Remember, God so loved the world that he sent Jesus to die for all of mankind (John 3:16; Heb. 2:9-10). God finds no joy in the physical death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23, 32). The death of the righteous, however, is “precious” to God (Psalm 116:15). The Bible is marvelous in its own description of the divine plan of salvation that God had in mind before the creation of the universe (Eph. 1:3-10). The plan of salvation is wonderful in its development throughout history down to the coming of Jesus and the establishment of His church. Romans 11 is a most excellent summation of how God used both Jews and Gentiles to make sure that the gospel of Christ eventually would go to all men throughout the world as God took men from Patriarchy (Moral Law-ism) and Judaism to amenability to the gospel. Indeed in about thirty years from around 33 A.D. to about 63 A.D. the gospel was preached in the whole creation (Col. 1:6, 23; Mark 16:19-20). God knew that when He created man that man would have to have help. It evidently was always God’s desire to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2.10). When a man physically dies in his sin, his spiritual death having been self-inflicted, now means that his “second death” destiny has been self-determined.

Eight, men who leave this world in their sin today do so having rejected all of God’s help available to them for their salvation. They have refused all divine aid available to rescue them from their evil ways. In other articles I have discussed this vital point, but I repeat that the system of divine delivery is sufficient to the salvation of each person. God is not helpless to deliver from sin. God sent His Son for all of us (John 3:16). God made each one of us by personal constitution such that we could and should search for saving truth (Acts 17:27). Paul told that truth to heathen idolaters in Athens. We are made to look for God! And God will help us find Him (Luke 11:5-13). While the church is responsible to uphold the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), God is still and always has been responsible to make sure that every person on the earth who desires the truth will find the truth. That is not up to the church. That is between that soul and his Maker!

Unfortunately, in my lifetime, most preachers have attempted to put that responsibility of rescue on the church, but one cannot rightly place it there. The church can certainly cooperate with God in upholding and circulating truth, and we should do that in compliance with our obligation to love our brethren and to love all men. But the basic responsibility of rescue (as with the right of divine condemnation) has always been God’s. God made man so that he would look for his Maker (Acts 17:27). And all men have God’s promise that He will as a loving Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13). And that Spirit is given to one who finds the truth and who obeys it (Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:2). The program is God’s. God wants to be found! The church is composed of those who have found God and His truth (1 Tim. 2:4), and the church certainly is to live in and support that truth (John 8:32; 1 John 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:15).

The church should do what we can in supporting the gospel especially in areas where it seems to be currently welcomed. But God opens and closes the doors to gospel reception (Rev. 3:7). Consider that the brotherhood combined, if it lost all of its love for the gospel, could not possibly prevent one alien sinner with an honest and good heart from being saved by God! God saved people before the Lord’s church was even here (Matt. 8:11). Now that she is here, she certainly should love the saved and the lost and love the truth by which any man can be saved (1 Thess. 4:9-10; Rom. 12:9-10; 13:8-10; 2 Thess. 2:10-12). The priority of her efforts, however, puts her regard for her brethren above those who are not (Gal. 6:10). In my lifetime, most brethren seem to place the priority on the lost rather than on the saved. This wrong idea did not come from scripture! We misunderstood scripture regarding evangelism and applied our misunderstanding of it to ourselves as an obligation which is impossible to obey. The mistake we have made is that the “great commission” given to the apostles and only to the apostles, is now somehow an obligation perpetually bound on the church. But as I have shown, this is not even possible. (If you have not read it, please read “The Great Commission Has Been Fulfilled” at biblicalnotes.com). Divine salvation, as with divine condemnation, is fundamentally a responsibility of God Himself who will always do right by man whom He loves (Gen. 18:25). Surely, no Christian for a moment thinks that his own death will lessen the opportunity for a lost man to become a saved one by the grace of God. In the year that king Uzziah died, God remained on His lofty throne (Isaiah 6:1). With the passing of any man or many men, God remains on His throne and in complete control of affairs on earth. He still knows how to get a lost man who loves truth and desires salvation into contact with that truth! And Christians, to be like God, desire the salvation of all men.

Nine, the separation from God forever will be more tolerable for some than for others. Consider Romans 9:1-5. I have puzzled over this passage for years. For most of my life I took the passage to be hyperbolic. That is, I took Paul’s expression of potential sacrifice to be figurative. Read the passage very carefully. Paul desires the salvation of his fellow Jews. His desire is great. He bemoans their fate in hell because of their rejection of the gospel (as a nation). Consider Romans 10:1-2. He says that if his own damnation could be a guaranty of their salvation, he could bring himself to wish that he were anathema. In other words, if he could possibly trade his salvation for damnation in order to the Jews’ salvation, he could bring himself to make the trade. He doesn’t say he wished that, but we cannot escape the point that he claimed that if the situation which could not be actually could be, that by that actualization, he could bring himself to the point of wishing or willing his own loss for the salvation of his kinfolk!

I no longer consider his remarks as hyperbolic. Why? Notice that before Paul makes the extreme point regarding this proposed conceptual sacrifice that he introduces it by emphasizing what he is about to say by affirming the following: (1) I say the truth, (2) I say the truth in Christ, (3) I lie not, (4) my conscience is bearing witness with me, and (5) my conscience is bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit. These four supports stand behind the truthfulness of what he is about to say, and what he is about to say is that he has great sorrow and unceasing pain in his heart for his kinfolk and that he could bring himself to wish himself anathema for their sake. I no longer think that he is presenting hyperbole. He would not have given the five points to support exaggeration for the sake of emphasis, which is what hyperbole is. Of course, a Christian who loves the souls of men as much as Paul could not possibly be involved in any such trade as Paul, in concept, is willing to entertain. But in saying what he does with regard to it, Paul gives us insight into a great truth regarding eternal punishment. While faithful Christians cannot be lost as long as they are faithful Christians, if they could be lost in that condition, their love of their fellow man would lessen their misery in hell! Otherwise, Paul could not possibly say that he could, in the given situation proposed, wish himself anathema. Hell is more tolerable for those who on earth loved their neighbor even though they didn’t love God and His truth (cf. John 15:13).

Ten, the separation from God forever must be eternal. But why couldn’t God simply “snuff out” the spirits of wicked men who leave earth unprepared to meet their God? The answer is that God cannot simply “snuff out” or annihilate the spirits of men. And this is true because the spirit of every man is of the essence of Holy Spirit. In a context where God through Malachi is rebuking His people for the way that they have treated marriage, Malachi points out that if the ideal marriage state had entailed more than one woman for a man, God could have given Adam more than Eve. How was that possible? He had the “residue of the spirit” (Mal. 2:15). Moses had told us that God had made man in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). And the Hebrews writer years later referred to God as “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9). Men are in essence kin to God by our spirit which derives from Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23). We are not related to God because of our dust (Gen. 2:7). None of us can know exactly “how” God can produce kinfolk to Himself, but the fact is, per plain Bible teaching, He has done it. And somehow by using Holy Spirit in our construction, He made us in His image without making us divine. We could not become God (since we are created beings) but we could share with God His essence. Somehow the distribution of Spirit essence via human conception weakens that essence by its connection to flesh (cf. Matt. 26:41). This is why God cannot be tempted, but Jesus in the flesh could (Jas. 1:13; Matt. 4:1-11). So, man cannot be God. In fact, we are not even given the status of angels (Heb. 2:7). And while man’s body and soul can be terminated, a man’s spirit cannot because it is of the same essence as God Himself! God is eternal “in both ways” from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2); man has a “one ended eternity.” That is, while man certainly had a beginning, he can know no end, unlike creatures whose nature is below that of the human level. Man’s body (dust) can and does come to an end. His spirit does not. And since man can know no end, then final divine punishment given him can know no end either if remaining apart from God is punishment, and it is. Man’s eternal punishment must exist as long as he does, and since he cannot cease from existence, hell cannot end.

Eleven, God’s nature doesn’t change (Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17). Among other things, He is love (1 John 4:8). But we are instructed to accept His love and once having entered into the grace that that love brings, to remain in that grace or what, we will call, the expression of God’s love. Notice the warnings given in scripture regarding a disciple’s remaining in the love of God. Consider John 15:9-10. Jesus encouraged His apostles to abide in His love just as Jesus had abided in the Father’s love. And He stated that remaining in God’s love was attached to keeping God’s commandments. Jude wrote to brethren, “keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21). But now, given the fact that God doesn’t change His nature, what does it mean for a man to keep himself in God’s love? The answer lies in distinguishing between motive and methodology.

Paul exhorted the Corinthian church, “Let all that ye do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14). Earlier, however, he had asked the brethren with regard to a future visit that he himself hoped to make to them, “What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Cor. 4:21). The context shows us that Paul had been rebuking the brethren regarding many things. So much was wrong with the church in Corinth! And due to the sad and unfortunate situation, Paul was having to be quite frank. And he wanted the brethren to correct their errors and get things back in order lest when he come to them again personally, he would have to rebuke them further. He did not want this. But he shows that it is up to them. If they do not change their ways, he will bring a rod. If they do make the necessary changes, he will be able to face them in love and in a spirit of gentleness.

Now, since Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:14 by inspiration tells the brethren that all that they do is to be done in love, he cannot himself possibly be meaning in 1 Corinthians 4:21 that he has the right to do some things that are NOT “in love.” So, what can 1 Corinthians 4:21 mean? If he can bring “love and a spirit of gentleness” on the one hand if they repent, does bringing a rod as distinguished from “love and a spirit of gentleness” mean that he won’t bring the rod in love? The answer lies in making the distinction between Paul’s (1) condition of love and his motivation of love with (2) the expression of it. If he is compelled to bring a rod, while his heart remains one of love for them and his motivation in writing is prompted by love, the rod as an expression of that love will not be pleasant! So the key is in understanding condition and motivation as distinguished from the expression of that condition and motivation or intention (cf. Heb. 12:9-11; Prov. 13:24). God remains Himself and part of Him is the infinite trait of love (1 John 4:8). Man is His own creation (Gen. 1:26-27). God loves man (John 3:16). But He tells us that He will punish us eternally for our sins if we refuse to accept His deliverance from them. While His love remains constant as His infinite and eternal condition and motivation, the expression of that love will not in hell be pleasant at all! In Romans 11:22 Paul wrote, “Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God’s goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” God’s severity cannot cancel His goodness (as condition and motivation or intention), but it does eliminate the expression of that goodness as goodness (that which would be pleasant to receive). Rather, His personal goodness expresses itself to the lost finally in severity.

Jesus on one occasion was upbraiding some impenitent cities where He had performed miracles. The people had refused to repent. And so in speaking of Chorazin and Bethsaida, He said that if the mighty works that He had performed in them had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, that Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And then He compared the eternal destiny of Chorazin and Bethsaida with that of Tyre and Sidon. He said, “But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you” (Matt. 11:22). Indeed, greater privilege brings greater responsibility, and failure with regard to greater privilege brings greater condemnation (Luke 12:48). Individual situations are not the same, but all men die either in sin or forgiven of it. And those who die in sin are told by God that they cannot be with Him in eternity. Jesus made this clear (John 5:28-29; Mark 16:15-16). And the apostle John in writing the last book of the New Testament describes the awful and eternal ruin of those whose names are not written in the book of life (Rev. 20:11-15).

Twelve, man is in no position to criticize God for telling us what to Him an unforgiven sinner finally deserves given his rejection of the divine offer of forgiveness. Warren stressed in public debate that man simply is in no position to criticize God! From what vantage point does an atheist present his criticism? He attempts to put himself above God in his critique of God’s character. Granted, man can know by pure reason that if God punishes man for sin, He must be fair in the doing of it. This we willingly and gladly admit. Man knows that God would have to be fair in all things, and he knows this, first of all, by his conscience. It is his conscience which provides man with the insight into the distinction between moral right and moral evil. Without conscience, man cannot distinguish between moral right and moral wrong. But in order for that moral information to be available for intuition (his immediate grasping of this distinction without having to reason about it), his conscience must be a product of God Himself. The intellectual CONCEPT of the distinction between moral right and wrong is not simply floating around in space. It is content. It is information insight. And as a moral conceptual fact, it has to have ultimate source in MIND. Also, remember that man’s own awareness of and the need for, at some level, JUSTICE ITSELF implies that the source of conscience is God HIMSELF. God is the ultimately fair or just PERSONALITY in existence. He cannot be otherwise (cf. Rom. 3:25-26).

The atheist is simply wrong in his conception of what ultimate “justice” would have to be. He wants to claim that if God punished man in hell, God would be unjust in that He would be the committer of moral evil Himself. But unfortunately for the atheist, objective moral evil requires the prior existence of objective moral good, and the existence of objective moral good has to reside in a person, and that Person must be God. In other words, the atheist attempts to ascribe objective moral wrong to such a hell-providing God without realizing that the very existence of objective moral wrong would demand the existence of an ultimate moral being—God! Without good there can be no evil, and without ultimate eternal Good, there can be no proper criticism of anyone for anything at anytime for any alleged moral wrong. God will always remain beyond the scope of righteous criticism. And instead of constantly attempting to justify oneself to oneself because he thinks hell would be unfair, a man should seek to glorify the God who made him and who assures him that He loves him. Indeed the skeptic needs to realize that the goodness of God is intended to lead him to repentance and obedience to the gospel of Christ (cf. Rom. 2:4; Heb. 5:8-9). And that skeptic should also know that if he remains impenitent he is simply treasuring up wrath for himself “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:5).

Posted in Apologetics, Logic/Philosophy, Metaphysics

Giving Up On Creation

Several months ago, I wrote an article entitled, “Could God Create (Ex Nihilo) On The First Day?” It appeared in the Warren Christian Apologetics Center periodical, Sufficient Evidence (Fall 2020). I did not know that anyone ever later attempted to respond to my article. But on January 25, 2022 a preacher friend of mine informed me that he had come across an article entitled, “God Was Not ‘Within Time’ When He Began Creation?” by a writer who works with Apologetics Press. The writer’s article was published on October 22, 2021. I am glad to know of the article to which I will now make a response.

As the title of our critic’s article indicates, he is quite willing to take the position that God was within time when He created. I am quite sure that my critic has no idea as to what he has implied in taking that position, but I will try to explain very carefully.

In my first article I pointed out that some of our brethren have for years tried to prove a young earth, thinking that such was necessary in order to meet the challenge of atheistic evolution. I pointed out, furthermore, that such is simply not the case. The notion of Darwinian evolution, even though it claims much time for its theory, is not based on time. As I suggested in my first article (as well as in my chapter in The Utterance Of God, a book published recently by the Warren Center), evolution cannot be established on the basis of time. It entails the idea of impossible chance. If we grant the evolutionist billions and billions of years for his theory, he still cannot prove it, for time is NOT the issue.

Furthermore, in my first article, I pointed out that three of our our most accomplished scholars in the church (Guy Woods, Roy Deaver, and Thomas Warren) took the position that no one can know how old the universe is. That is my view also.

But since Apologetics Press has invested so much effort over many years in the attempt to prove a young earth, it does not surprise me that some staff member should attempt to dismantle my evidence. Let us see if the staff member was successful in his recent effort.

Our critic refers to two different approaches at establishing an older earth, one of which he refers to as the “Gap Theory.” First of all, let me suggest that such language is prejudicial and dismissive. I could refer to his view as the “Non-Gap Theory.” Calling something a mere theory does not make it so. But my critic thinks that he can persuade the reader to dismiss my contention by referring to it as a mere theory.

Second, he suggests that every now and then someone comes along and tries to argue for an older universe even though he is sure that staff writers at Apologetics Press have already proved a young earth. Let me just here suggest to the reader that if the articles from these men offered no more proof for a young earth than our current critic offers in his current effort at answering my article, then neither those men nor he have proved a young earth. In fact, I firmly declare that my critic is assuming what he has not proved. I state categorically that no one at Apologetics Press or anywhere else has proved the age of the universe.

In my first article, I used six arguments. My critic refers to only two of them, and he does not falsify either one of these. He does not question the validity of the syllogisms, so that the only route to falsification is by disproving one of the premises in the arguments. This is what he tries to do, but he does not accomplish what he wishes the reader to believe that he has. The conclusion to the first argument of mine that he quotes is: “Therefore, He (God, MD) cannot be within the first day’s 24-hour period.” The conclusion to the second argument of mine that my reviewer quotes is: “Then, Exodus 20:11 excludes Genesis 1:1 in its reference to six days.”

My position, as stated, is that God cannot be in time at the initial point of creation, and since that is so, then Exodus 20:11 must exclude Genesis 1:1.

Now, what does my critic do? He writes, “Time begins at the exact point at which physical matter and space come into existence. The initial creative event is a simultaneous occurrence of both matter and time. All time starts with the first atom of matter that is created since time (as it relates to the physical Universe) is connected to the Universe.” I agree that time begins when matters first exists. However, I do not agree that “The initial creative event is a simultaneous occurrence of both matter and time.” In my first article I showed why such was impossible.

Now, please notice how my critic proceeds. “The simple response to the above argument is to recognize that, though the author of the argument focuses on the ‘location’ of God in relation to time, Genesis 1:1 and Exodus 20:11 are not addressing how God relates to the events before the creation of the physical Universe. These passages address the passing of time that is connected to the physical Universe.” Dear reader, please notice the expression “passing of time.” We’ll come back to that.

My friend continued, “God existed before time, is currently outside of time, and is from everlasting to everlasting, as Psalm 90:2 states. Thus, all of God’s activities before the creation of the physical world were ‘before’ time, but those activities would have no bearing on the time that has elapsed in the material Universe. They would not add billions of years to the age of the Universe. Time is an aspect of the physical creation and cannot be separated from it.” Notice, please, the words “time that has elapsed.”

My first article was not on the “passing of time” or the “elapsing” of time. It was all about the very INITIATION of time! My critic’s argumentation here is completely beside the point and quite inadequate to the two arguments of mine that he did quote. He quoted my final two arguments. I will now present again the first four arguments for the reader’s consideration to show what issue my antagonist is up against.

Argument #1

1. If God initiated creation within time, then time existed before the heavens and the Earth did.

2. But it is false that time existed before the heavens and the Earth did.

3. Therefore, it is false that God initiated creation within time.

Argument #2

1. If God was within time at the point of initial creation, then He was not inhabiting eternity.

2. But it is false that God was not inhabiting eternity at the point of initial creation (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 57:15).

3. Therefore, it is false that God was within time at the point of initial creation.

Argument #3

1. If (1) God began creation from His habitation in eternity, and if (2) God made heavens and Earth for six days, and if (3) there is a conceptual pause between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:3 at Genesis 1:2 dividing the chaotic condition of the formless and void Earth from the initial orderliness beginning in verse 3, then the making of heavens and Earth for six days per Exodus 20:11 begins with Genesis 1:3.

2. (1) God began creation from His habitation in eternity (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 57:15), and (2) God made heavens and Earth for six days (Exodus 20:11), and (3) there is a conceptual pause between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:3 at Genesis 1:2 dividing the chaotic condition of the formless and void Earth from the initial orderliness beginning in verse 3 (the text reveals this).

3. Then, the making of heavens and Earth for six days per Exodus 20:11 begins with Genesis 1:3.

Argument #4

1. If God creates time, then He is not within time at the initial point of time’s creation.

2. God created time (with the creation of heavens and Earth—Genesis 1:1).

3. Then, He is not within time at the initial point of time’s creation.

Now, dear reader, it is important to see that my opponent in this issue simply did not address these arguments except by way of redirecting the reader’s attention away from the initial point of creation to the “passing of time” and to the “elapsing” of time. But, this is no answer at all! I was not discussing the passing or elapsing of time. I was discussing the enormously important point of the initial moment of time (that is, when time began and what its relationship to God had to be at that initial making of the first moment).

Furthermore, my friend noted that I had admitted that time arrived simultaneously when matter first appeared. That is correct. But what I did not admit and what I do not and cannot believe is that the initial movement of God in creation was within time because time did not exist when that creative movement began. Again, my critic said, “The initial creative event is a simultaneous occurrence of both matter and time.” My response is: while matter and time must occur simultaneously, the initial creative movement must precede them. It cannot at all simply be simultaneous with them. Why not?

This is very, very important. I am sure that my critic did not mean to be doing this, but when he suggests that the initial creation event is completely simultaneous with matter and time (thus willingly placing God “within” time), he is eliminating the conceptual distinction between CAUSE and EFFECT. If “cause” takes place at the exact same moment as “effect,” then “cause” IS “effect,” and “effect” IS “cause”! Theologically that lands my critic in the position of pantheism. That is the view that God is the world, and the world is God. Furthermore, if pantheism is correct, creation is NOT an event at all. Creation simply does not occur. There is no creation! Now, as I said, I am quite sure that my critic was not trying to imply pantheism, but he did so in his futile effort to falsify my argumentation. If the young earth view implies pantheism, and if pantheism is false, then the young earth view is false since any doctrine that implies a false doctrine is itself false. I am not saying, however, that the young earth view does imply such, but I am saying that my critic’s argumentation regarding simultaneity does imply such.

Remember, I am not contending for a young earth or an old earth. I am contending for the position that we cannot know how old our universe is. Furthermore, if modern space exploration suggests or seems to suggest at the moment that an older earth is what we have, then when theists try to “prove” a young earth, these theists are rendered ridiculous in the eyes of informed scientists. Now, I know that the “scientific method” is based on an invalid logical procedure, and that because of that, science can present by that methodology no absolutely proved conclusion. However, scientists even with that invalid method continue to explore and suggest. And when their suggestion is based on their actual findings or discoveries, theists cannot simply dismiss discovered facts or alleged facts.

For example, Fred Heeren in his tremendous book, Show Me God, declares, “Looking at the discoveries of modern science, Robert Gange finds powerful evidence of a Supernatural Creator. But he doesn’t start his argument with the discovery that the universe must have had a beginning or with the evidence for design. He starts with the evidence that the universe is old (Fred Heeren, Show Me God, p. 318).

Now consider carefully this quotation from Robert Gange:

“The thing that argues for the existence of a Supernatural Creator is the fact that the universe has been in existence for between 14 and 17 billion years. Now that almost sounds contradictory. Most Christians who are trying to argue the Henry Morris line are trying to say that everything is very, very young. What they’re not realizing is the fact that scientists today accept ages of the order of 14 to 17 billion years is itself proof of a supernatural creation.” (Show Me God, p. 318)

If space exploration is, in fact, currently suggesting an older earth, so be it. If the information gathered is being wrongly reasoned about, so be it. It does not matter one bit as far as a Bible believer’s soul is concerned as to whether we have an old universe or a young one or a young one that looks like an old one. What we have is a magnificently created one!

God could have created the universe in an orderly fashion, but He chose not to do that. The initial condition of matter was originally chaotic (Gen. 1:2). The earth was without form, and it was void. Notice my father’s words in his commentary on Romans:

“In Isaiah 45:18 the record says, “For thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited.” The King James Version says: “He created it not in vain.” The word translated “in vain” in Isaiah 45:18 is the same as that translated “without form” in Genesis 1:2. The Revised Standard translates it “waste” in both places. Hence, God created the earth “not in vain,” not a “waste.” Referring to the original condition of the earth Job tells us that when God first laid “the foundations of the earth” that conditions were such that “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:6-7), thus indicating the perfection and completeness of the work of creation. Many have called attention to the point that the original word for “create” (bara) implies perfect work, perfect and beautiful order.” (Roy Deaver, Romans, God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 168)

So, if God created the earth not in vain, and if the creation of the heavens and the earth was in vain in Genesis 1:1-2, then the creation of the heavens and the earth of which Isaiah speaks in Isaiah 45:18 excludes Genesis 1:1-2 and begins at Genesis 1:3.

Finally, God could have initially created an ordered universe, but He chose not to do that. He did create matter in chaos out of which order was brought. When did the initial creation take place? We do not know. The Bible does not say, and no one should be considered uninformed on the issue who refuses to submit to someone’s claim that he has found out how old our universe actually is.

Endnotes

This article is a response to Kyle Butt (2021), “God Was Not ‘Within Time’ When He Began Creation?”, https://apologeticspress.org/god-was-not-within-time-when-he-began-creation/, published by Apologetics Press on October 22, 2021.

Posted in General

The Impressiveness of the Horse

[Note: This piece was first published by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center.]

I have from early days been passionate about horses. My father, Roy C. Deaver, had loved horses before me. I guess we can say that they were “in his blood.” He had planned on going to another college when he was very young and had finished high school in Longview, Texas. But when he learned that brother N. B. Hardeman in Henderson, Tennessee, liked horses, my father changed his mind, and went to Freed-Hardeman College. I think that must have been a providential matter in the light of what all transpired in his life later, and in mine. After leaving Freed-Hardeman for more college work in Abilene, Texas my father kept on working with horses, and broke them while attending school. Later he moved to Spur, Texas to do local work, and while preaching in Spur and teaching in the high school in the 1940s, my father learned that ranchers would pay more money for breaking their horses than he would receive for either preaching or teaching school. I guess I inherited my passion for horses from him. He and I raised horses together years ago, and now though he has passed on to glory, I still appreciate a good horse.

American history, Texas history, and even church history have all been impacted by the horse. It may be hard for the most recent generation of Americans to appreciate the contribution that the horse has made to our past. “Horse power” used to be real horse power! The horse was a most necessary instrument of family welfare and community prosperity and national strength. Before the age of the automobile, there were centers for the supply of horses and mules both for our nation and for the world. Before there was Detroit, there were large markets such as Fort Worth, Texas and Memphis, Tennessee that provided buyers with access to many mules and horses. Men would come from many places including foreign countries to purchase animals for hauling wagons, pulling plows, and for riding, as well as for use in war.

A man with a horse very much had the advantage over a man without. I once read that anyone who thinks all men are equal has never been a man on foot who met up with a man on a horse! Even cultures shifted in the way daily affairs were carried on when the horse became available. Some of the North American Indians changed their hunting habits and their sphere of activity when once they were exposed to the horse. Things could be done that could not have been done before, and distances now possible to cover were far, far more than what could be traversed before. It must have been something like a new world of opportunity opening up before their eyes. Many Comanches became excellent horsemen and have even been applauded as some of the best horsemen of their time. Some people, after all, do seem to have a natural affinity for the horse and know how to make the most of him.

And there is something prestigious about riding a horse compared to having to walk. There is so much more that can be accomplished by riding than by merely walking that the rider feels a new sense of power in new possibility. And with that new possibility comes a certain sense of pride. King Solomon would declare that he had in his own experience seen extreme reversals in human situations. And among those reversals that he had personally witnessed was the scene of “servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth” (Eccl. 10:7).

In our day, much has been discovered with regard to training horses and to the value of the horse in therapy. “Horse whisperers” have become famous for their more gentle techniques in training horses. Men have replaced the harsher strategies of old for the more temperate handling of most horses today, having learned that rough methods are usually not all that necessary in bringing horses along under human control and training. And therapists have discovered that there is something very unique about the horse and the way that people can and do react to him when they are crippled by physical or emotional trauma.

It is not so strange that the Scriptures have a lot to tell us about the horse given the time when the Scriptures were penned. We know that on the same day that God made man, just before he did so, he made the animals including the horse (Gen. 1:24-28). Later when God administered a humbling test to Job, he asked him, “Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?” (Job 39:19, KJV). The Maker of the horse himself did so knowing that such strength as located in one horse should be an impressive thing to a thoughtful man even though such strength is not all that impressive to the horse Maker (Psalm 147:10). But after all, no created and localized instances of power can compare to the power of the Almighty!

But regarding human history, the strength of the horse has been a most impressive thing to mere men. In studying the Old Testament we find that in the divine development of the scheme of redemption there are many references to the horse. Armies have made much use of the horse in the history of mankind, and it is an interesting truth to consider that God did not want the king of His people to rely on the horse for its national strength. God demonstrated a powerful truth to Israel when, after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, God then collapsed the standing walls of water into moving fluid and drowned Pharaoh and his army, including his horses and chariots. We read, “And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them” (Exod. 14:28). The Psalmist would years later declare that God “overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea” (Psalm 136:15). It is hard to imagine the fear in the hearts of pedestrians being sought by men on horses or riding in chariots pulled by horses. How could men on foot possibly get away from men who have horses? At the Red Sea, among other lessons taught, this one was meant to impress God’s people that if they would but look to Him, they would see past the seeming triumph of warriors with horses and locate their victory in an altogether different kind of power. Power divine is far, far superior to power equine!

But still, to mere men the strength and the speed of the horse were and remain impressive. God would say to Jeremiah, “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses?” What a lesson! As children of God, we must learn to take on our problems and difficulties in life that are, relatively speaking, minimal in their power to impede in order that we might be in a better condition later to face the more difficult problems that occur. How can we hope to cope with monumental difficulty if small problems defeat us. Solomon wrote, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small” (Prov. 24:10).

And God knew, given the nature of the horse, and the purpose of the horse, that men would rely on him. But God’s people had to be different from those who trusted in themselves and in merely earthly instruments to gain victory over their fellow men. And while a horse was certainly useful, yes and even very useful, God wanted Israel to rely on the Maker of the horse rather than on the horse himself.

God was teaching this fundamental lesson of the necessity of complete dependence on God’s power long before we reach the days of David when the same lesson is taught again with David’s use of his sling and stone. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou has defied…And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands” (1 Sam. 17:45-47).

In one of Moses’ final speeches to Israel, God through Moses made it clear that in time to come, His people would want a king to be like the nations that would be around them at that time. And when that time came, God stated several prohibitions regarding the king. He could not be a man simply of their own selection (that is, God would choose him), and he could not come from another nation, and he could not multiply horses to himself, he could not multiply wives to himself, and he could not multiply silver and gold to himself (Deut. 17:14-17). These prohibitions are followed by the stated obligation that the king was to have his own copy of the divine law which he was constantly to read so as to learn it and to abide by it. Only in this way, God said, could the king prevent himself from becoming arrogant, and only in this way could he prolong his kingdom (cf. Josh. 1:7).

In the light of what God later said to David (2 Sam. 12:8), we conclude that the prohibition in Deuteronomy against the “multiplication” of horses, wives, silver, and gold was not a prohibition against the mere possession of these things, but rather a prohibition against the king’s focusing on or over-emphasizing the value of these things to himself. He was to count on God!

Indeed, Solomon had horses and chariots (1 Kings 9:19). In fact, he had a constant supply of horses and mules coming into his possession (1 Kings 9:25). At one time he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen (v. 26). He got horses from Egypt in droves (v. 28). And Solomon exceeded all other kings in both riches and in wisdom (1 Kings 9:23). The wives became a problem, not because of their number, but because of their idolatry and their influence on Solomon. He had seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines (slave wives) per 1 Kings 11:3. Sadly, Solomon’s idolatrous wives turned his heart away from complete devotion to God in his later life (1 Kings 11:4).

On one occasion when Israel’s enemies were as “the sand that is upon the sea shore” and who came against them “with horses and chariots very many,” God said to Joshua, “Be not afraid because of them: for tomorrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.” It happened as God said, and Joshua did what he was told to do (Josh. 11:1-9). By houghing (i.e. hocking) the horses, Joshua rendered these war horses useless as military animals once and for all.

As a part of his strategy to promote himself into prominence and into the favor of his fellow Israelites, the devious and rebellious Absalom “prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him” (1 Sam. 15:1). Likewise later Adonijah who would be king in David’s place “prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him” (1 Kings 1:5). In order to show his approval of Solomon to be the next king, the aged and now near-death David called Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, and David said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon: And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon” (1 Kings 1:33-34). Notice the contrast between the horses of the rebellious men who would be king and David’s own mule (the product of a male donkey and female horse) on which the rightful heir to the throne, Solomon, rode. It reminds us of the Lord himself years later riding into Jerusalem on a donkey in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy made with regard to another King that was coming (Matt. 21:1-17).

When Isaiah predicted the coming Babylonian captivity, one of the sins with which God’s people were charged was that in their rebellion, instead of taking counsel of God, they sought the help of Egypt with her horsemen and horses and chariots. God assured Israel that the Egyptians were mere men and that their horses were just flesh—not spirit (Isa. 30:1-7; 31:1-3). Can the lesson be any clearer? It has always been the case that a nation that trusts in its physical arsenal (including horses and chariots and airplanes and guns) rather than in God Almighty has wrongly invested its national confidence (Psalm 33:12; 127:1-2).

In 2 Kings 18:9-10 we learn that in the fourth year of King Hezekiah’s reign in Jerusalem that Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, besieged Samaria and at the end of three years Samaria was taken. The northern kingdom came to an end as the Israelites were deported to Assyria (v. 11). This happened because Israel “obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them” (v. 12).

Furthermore, in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign in Jerusalem, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, captured all the fenced cities of Judah, the southern kingdom (v. 13). Hezekiah, fearing the worst, sent word to the king that he (Hezekiah) had offended and promised now that if the king would leave that he would pay whatever fine the Assyrian king might impose. A heavy fine was imposed, and Hezekiah paid it, having taken all the silver and some gold from the temple and silver out of his own treasury (v. 14-15). The Assyrian king sent some soldiers on to Jerusalem with a message for Hezekiah. They warned Hezekiah about further rebellion and about trusting in Egypt for help. The messengers claimed that Egypt could not be trusted and that not even God should be trusted for they claimed (though wrongly) that Hezekiah had removed God’s high places and altars (v. 20-22). Hezekiah should not trust in the horses and chariots of Egypt he was told. If, however, Hezekiah will give pledges to the king of Assyria, two thousand horses would be sent to him if he could supply riders for them (v. 23). Fortunately, Hezekiah had sense enough and faith enough to inquire of God for help. He was not tempted by all those horses (ch. 19). God promised Hezekiah through Isaiah that the king of Assyria would not come into Jerusalem. In fact, he would hear a rumour, return to Assyria, and there die violently in his own land (v. 6-7). Two of his own sons killed him (v. 37). The psalmist would later write, “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 33:16-18).

God through Jeremiah provides modern America with a timely lesson. As we watch the further deterioration of our country before our very eyes, we see our national failure to seek God and his will. It seems as though our country cannot handle the prosperity that God has provided. We should pause and reflect on God’s people in Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah was sent by God to find a man who did justly and who sought the truth (Jer. 5:1). Jeremiah couldn’t find that man at first among what he later described as “the poor and foolish” (v. 4). So, he thought he would survey “the great men” (v. 5). But he could not find the good man among these great men either. In fact, what he found was men given to many transgressions and backslidings (v. 6). And then God asks, “How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” (v. 7-9).

“Fed horses” do not act like horses left to themselves to get their own feed. A non-fed horse spends most of his time in grazing in the effort to satisfy his hunger. But those fed by people do not have to fend for themselves and have plenty of time and will to exercise themselves in other pursuits given the opportunity. Many modern day Americans, because of their wealth, have plenty of time and plenty of opportunity to pursue evil. Many in our day have, in effect, “assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses.”

Interestingly, the New Testament writer, James, compares the human tongue to a horse. Just as men put a bit in a horse’s mouth in order to control all that power, the human tongue is a tremendous power, too, that must be controlled (James 3:1-11). How much good can be done and how much evil is often done by the tongue!

In the book of Revelation, we read how that the apostle John was enabled to see things in heaven. And in one scene which his eyes were permitted to watch, John beholds the heaven opened. And he sees Jesus Christ himself sitting on a white horse. His garment is sprinkled with blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And on his garment and on his thigh is written “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:11-16). Jesus is not seated on a lowly donkey as he once was when he rode into earthly Jerusalem, but rather now the picture of him has him riding a horse suited for battle, but the horse is white. The battle the Lord wages is completely righteous (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12), and the Lord in righteousness does judge and make war (v. 11).

Now, what have we learned from these various accounts that reference horses? (1) Horses are divinely made (they are not eternal, and they do not arrive by Darwinian evolution); (2) horses have speed and power, and that men should be impressed with such though God is not; (3) horses have been extremely useful in human history; (4) though impressive and powerful, horses are mere flesh and not spirit; (5) horses were never intended to be a substitute for the Maker of the horse; (6) men who lose faith in God will come to ultimately depend on the horse or the modern day equivalent as a source of power to deliver them; (7) men sometimes have used the horse to promote themselves and make themselves appealing to the populace; (8) and sometimes people who do not recognize God as the giver of legitimate prosperity and who refuse to acknowledge him become as fed horses neighing after their neighbors’ wives.

In the long ago, the time finally came for the courageous Old Testament prophet, Elijah, to leave this earth. But before going away, he asked his associate, Elisha, what he (Elijah) could do for him (Elisha) before he left. Elisha said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (2 Kings 2:9). Elijah commented that such a request was “a hard thing,” but if Elisha was allowed to watch Elijah leave, then Elisha could know that his request had been granted (v. 10). “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (v. 11-12a).

Years ago, I was in graduate school with several other young gospel preachers including Dick Sztanyo. The other day Dick reminded me that I had told one of our professors in class one day that there would be no horses in heaven. But, you know, I was thinking about flesh and blood horses. I wasn’t thinking about the horses that carried Elijah to glory. Those “horses of fire” give me pause. If God permits them to be in eternal glory, when I get there by his marvelous grace, I would like to have some of them.

Posted in Doctrine, Expository, New Testament

And So All Israel Shall Be Saved

The religious doctrine of “premillennialism” entails the notion that after the Lord comes back to the earth, the Jews as a nation will be converted by the gospel. They base this contention, at least in part, on a misunderstanding of Romans 11:26 where the expression “and so all Israel shall be saved” is found. To understand that expression in its context, one has to familiarize himself with the context. Otherwise, the expression becomes by misconstruction a conclusion that is not intended.

In the context, Paul is developing the idea that God has used both Jews and Gentiles historically in such a way as to make the gospel accessible to all men. The gospel first went to the Jews (Acts 2) in harmony with what the Lord had predicted in Acts 1:8. Jesus had told the woman at the well that salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22). The Jews were the first ones to enter the church, and so were the ones from whom the gospel later was provided to non-Jews. Paul affirms in Romans 11 that he hoped that by preaching to the Gentiles, that his Jewish kinfolk would be moved to jealousy and so come to understand the gospel. My father, Roy Deaver, points out in his good commentary, Romans—God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, that the jealousy to which the Jews were moved was a jealousy with regard to their own Jewish law. That is, the divine strategy was that when Paul preached to Gentiles, Jews would be so jealous of their law that they would be moved to investigate it further so as to disprove what Paul and others were preaching. If they had honest and good hearts, by their jealous search of their Scriptures, they could come to understand the gospel. In Beroea we later find some noble Jews willing to search the Scriptures to see if the gospel was in harmony with the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 17:11). In Romans 11:11-15, Paul shows that the gospel reached the Gentiles by means of the falling of the Jews. We see this strategy demonstrated in Acts 13:46 at Antioch of Pisidia. Luke informs us that when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted what Paul preached (13:45). “And Paul and Barnabas said, It was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and just yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” This is the very strategy that Paul is discussing in Romans 11. He is showing that by means of the rejection of the gospel on the part of some Jews, the gospel then went to the Gentiles. Gentiles are represented in Romans 11 as a wild olive tree (11:17), and the Jews are represented as a good olive tree (11:24). Paul says that Jewish branches were broken off and wild Gentile branches were grafted in. If natural branches (Jews) came to faith, then they could be grafted back into the good olive tree. No one had to be lost; all could be saved. But salvation came by faith. Unbelief was not a condition in which a person (either Jew or Gentile) had to remain (20-24). And God had so arranged history so as to make the gospel accessible to all Jews and all Gentiles so that all could be saved (11:32). It was a remarkable divine scheme which evoked the great doxology that Paul by the Spirit provides in Romans 11:33-36.

Back in verse 25 Paul said, “a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” The rejection of the gospel by some Jews provided the historical circumstance in which the gospel then went to the Gentiles. Paul was even “an apostle of Gentiles,” and he hoped that by this Gentile ministry he could provoke Jews to jealousy that would motivate them to come to faith and be saved (11:13-14). The Jews could come back to the gospel if they would, and Paul so hoped. In fact, he desperately desired that they would (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1-3). But we also remember that he desired the salvation of all Gentiles as well as all Jews, while knowing that only some would be saved (1Corinthians 9:19-23). In Romans 11:25 Paul warns Gentile brethren against arrogance with regard to their salvation. They came into the church because of “the hardening in part” that befell Israel “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” And then he said, “and so all Israel shall be saved.” Notice, in the text we find in verses 25-26 (1) Israel, and then (2) all Israel.

Now, as before stated, premillennialism affirms that verse 26 declares that the time is coming when all of the ethnic Jews will be converted by the gospel following the Lord’s return (which they also wrongly declare will be a return to the earth to live on it). No passage says Jesus will ever set foot on earth again. Not one! And Romans 11 does not teach the universal salvation of the Jews at some future time. But let us proceed.

In my father’s commentary on Romans, he makes the point that the Greek word for our English word “so” in Romans 11:26 is an adverb (p. 414). The passage means that in the same manner by which the Gentiles were saved, all Israel would be saved. The word “so” is not a conclusion reached regarding numbers, but rather a word showing that Jews and Gentiles had to enter the kingdom in the same way or manner if they entered at all.

Now, please think about the expression “and so all Israel shall be saved” in Romans 11:26 and compare it with the expression “so also in Christ shall all be made alive” in 1 Corinthians 15:22. Read both passages very carefully, and then consider the following argument:

Argument

  • If the expression “and so all Israel shall be saved” in Romans 11:26 means that all ethnic Jews would in the future at some point be saved, then the expression “so also in Christ shall all be made alive” in 1 Corinthians 15:22 means that all men would be saved.
  • But, it is false that the expression “so also in Christ shall all be made alive” in 1 Corinthians 15:22 means that all men would in the future be saved (Revelation 20:11-15; Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24; 1 Corinthians 15:23).
  • Therefore, it is false that the expression “and so all Israel shall be saved” in Romans 11:26 means that all ethnic Jews would in the future at some point be saved.

Also, please consider that it is contextually possible that in Romans 11:26, when Paul uses the expression “all Israel,” he is not referring to ethnic Jews but rather to all the members of the church. Remember, back in Romans 2:14-15, Paul pointed out that Jews and Gentiles in days prior to the gospel system would be judged based on their laws. The Jews would be judged by the law of Moses, and the Gentiles would be judged by the moral law. And he pointed out that by means of the gospel, there was a new definition of an Israelite. A Jew, under the gospel, is not one by outward sign but by inward condition (Romans 2:28-29). And in Romans 9:6 he says, “they are not all Israel that are of Israel.” In other words, the church of the Lord constitutes spiritual Israel. Furthermore, in Galatians 6:16, Paul plainly identifies the church as “the Israel of God.”

So, it seems to me that it is possible in Romans 11:26 after referring to “Israel” in verse 25, Paul may well be referring to the church as a whole in verse 26. That is, all who come into the kingdom come in the same way, and this group constitutes “all Israel.” It would be similar (though not parallel) to what he had done earlier in chapter eight. In speaking of the suffering experienced in this world, Paul spoke of (1) the creation, and (2) the whole creation (8:19, 22). In context, “the creation” seems to refer to the church, and “the whole creation” would then refer to all of mankind. My father has an excellent discussion of this point in his commentary (pp. 280-283). Here in Romans 11:25-26 Paul refers to (1) “Israel” and then to (2) “all Israel.”

Let me make one further additional observation. If “all Israel” in Romans 11:26 implies the universal salvation of the Jews, then the “fulness of the Gentiles” would imply the universal salvation of the Gentiles. And if Romans 11:25-26 implies a time in which all the Gentiles and all the Jews will be saved, then we would ask, “Why didn’t that occur following the coming of the Lord the first time when the gospel was preached throughout the whole world? If there could be no guarantee of such a universal result following the Lord’s incarnation, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back to the Father’s right hand (John 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; 2:33), his dispatching of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Acts 2:1-4, 33), the apostolic preaching throughout the whole world with the accompaniment of miracles (Mark 16:19-20; Colossians 1:23), then how could there be a guarantee of such a universal result in some alleged future time since God has always desired the salvation of all men (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4)?

Posted in Abortion, Christianity and Culture, Church and State

What’s So Bad About Abortion?

Since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973 the elective taking of unborn life has been woven in the fabric of our unraveling society. Some think it murder. Some think it no big deal. Some resign themselves to it and move on. Some think the Court’s decision borders on the sacred and must be protected at all cost. For those who care what the Bible says, consider these truths.

Abortion takes human life. If God defines human death as the body’s separation from the spirit (James 2:26), then human life is the body’s being joined to the spirit. God is the “Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9) and, at death, “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). If an unborn baby is alive, then it has a spirit. The Greek word for “baby” is brephos, and the Bible uses it to refer both to a baby still in the womb (Luke 1:41) and a newborn baby (Luke 2:12). God makes no qualitative distinction between the unborn and the just-born. Further, Jesus is spoken of as being a person at the moment of conception (Luke 2:21). God claims credit for the formation of a child in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). As David wrote of God, “you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14, ESV).

Abortion sheds innocent blood. This is no small matter, as “hands that shed innocent blood” are listed among things the Lord actually hates (Proverbs 6:17). If an unborn baby is alive, then it has a spirit, made after God’s own image (Genesis 1:27). Is any blood more innocent than that of the unborn? America has enshrined into law a practice God says he hates. Can that be healthy for the country’s future?

Abortion is ingratitude for God’s gift. If “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3), then why is pregnancy often addressed as though there is a dilemma, or a choice that must now be made to either continue or terminate it? To abortion advocates, the unplanned pregnancy is a potential burden, punishment, or inconvenience. In reality, killing the unborn is a slap in the face to God, the Giver–a “thanks, but no thanks” written in innocent blood.

Abortion tries to cancel sin’s consequence. Children are supposed to be born to a mother and father married to each other. Abortion is the “get out of jail free” card for a selfish generation who want sin’s pleasure without sin’s price. The morality of many seems based on a barnyard model, but God still demands that sex be confined to a husband and wife, rightly married to each other. Sex outside marriage is sin. Fornicators and adulterers will be judged by God (Hebrews 13:4), and it will not be in their favor. Abortion is often the culmination of a train of sins, but it increases, rather than erases, them.

Abortion hardens hearts. The Lord asked, Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?” (Isaiah 49:15). Yet, some are “heartless” (Romans 1:31); some are “brutal” (2 Timothy 3:3); some have seared consciences (1 Timothy 4:2). Does abortion demonstrate the compassion of Christ, or make us more the devil? Women are supposed to “love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4). How does that square with paying to have the unborn ripped apart? Does it increase our respect for life, or make us calloused?

Abortion is sanitized child sacrifice. Millennia ago, a wayward Israel burned her own children as offerings to pagan gods (Jeremiah 7:31)–a practice the Lord found abominable. Americans do not sacrifice our unborn on a pagan altar. Instead, we sacrifice them on the altar of convenience, selfishness, irresponsibility. With abortion, there is no scream to hear, no mess to clean, no body to bury, no face to forget. In a sterile medical facility, murder is carried out as though a tumor were being removed.

Abortion is an entry ramp on the road to ruin. Once a culture rationalizes and accepts the killing of the unborn, there is no sustainable argument against killing other people who fall short of society’s evolving standard of acceptability. Euthanasia rears its head. Why not do away with those who impose an economic burden, or those whose religious convictions are out of step with the politically correct? If abortion is acceptable, it is very hard to argue the Nazis were wrong to send their unwanted to the gas chamber. We send ours to Planned Parenthood in greater numbers than Hitler ever presided over. If all human life is not sacred, no human life is sacred. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

Posted in Heaven, Nature of Man, Resurrection

A Tale of Two Bodies

The title of this article entails the use of the word “tale.” Webster gives as one of the meanings of that word, “a relation of a series of events or facts.” That is the way the word is being here used.

Recently I was studying 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, and a thought occurred to me that never had entered my mind before. And it has to do with our our second body, our spiritual body that we look forward as Christians to having following our departure from the body we have now (Jas. 2:26).

Throughout my preaching career, I have taken the view that following the death of a righteous Christian, that person enters Paradise. So far, so good. But I also took the position, as most of my brethren have done, that following a Christian’s death he does not receive his final or spiritual or second body. I thought that he would be given that body at the time of his resurrection from the dead which is still in the future. But that hasty conclusion deserves more and better thought. I think that in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul gave us a truth that we have simply overlooked but which when understood provides additional comfort with regard to the righteous dead (1 Thess. 4:18).

Think about this. We know that spirits are made to inhabit bodies. It is interesting that the New Testament teaches us that dispossessed spirits (those that lose their habitations) are not at ease. The demons that indwelt the Gadarene upon facing the fact that they were about to be cast out of the man’s body requested to be allowed to enter another body (Matt. 8:28-34). And in Matthew 12, the Lord said, “But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and findeth it not” (v. 43). An unclean spirit or demon is not at rest when outside of a body. Now, think about the fact that the human spirit was placed within the human body (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7; Heb. 4:12; 12:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Jas. 2:26). When a faithful Christian leaves his first or physical body at death, he cannot be at peace without another body being provided for him. Think about this point as you consider Paul’s remarks in 2 Corinthians 5.

The context of 2 Corinthians 5 is one in which the apostle Paul discusses our current physical body in preparation for, and yet in contrast to, the second body that will be supplied to us after death—the personal spiritual body. But just when after death is that second body to be given to the righteous dead? Is it after his physical death or after his spiritual resurrection?

Notice, please that Paul states that our current body in which our spirit lives is a physical one that he calls “the earthly house of our tabernacle” (v. 1). The ASV has a footnote that shows that the word “tabernacle” could be translated “bodily frame.” Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul had described this earthly body as one that is corrupt, dishonorable, weak, and natural in contrast to the second body which is incorruptible, glorified, powerful, and spiritual (v. 42-44). Here in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul informs us that if this physical body be dissolved or destroyed, another body awaits. Notice that Paul uses two images regarding our physical body. He uses the image of a “house” (v. 1) which is our bodily frame, and he uses the image of clothing (v. 2). In other words, the house or habitation of our body furnishes clothes to our human spirit. Adam’s body was made from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). Our second body, Paul affirms, will be eternal and in the heavens (v. 1). A righteous man, then, is not to think that when he loses his first body, the earthly one that bears the image of the earth (1 Cor. 15:47), that he loses out. His second body will be better than the first. It, too, will be a building from God, but it will be “a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens” (v. 1). It will be “of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47). In this first, physical, of-the-earth body, we groan, longing for the second body (v. 2; cf. Rom. 8:26-27).

Our spirit does not desire to be “unclothed,” however. It desires to be clothed permanently with “our habitation which is from heaven” (v. 2). If our first body is dissolved and the second body is not provided us, we would be in a state of nakedness or of being “unclothed” (v. 3). The very idea of a Christian’s being in a state of spiritual nakedness following his physical death would certainly detract from any rational desire to die and to be with the Lord. For the Christian, to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). And to depart and be with Christ is very far better (Phil. 1:23). Is it gain and is it very far better, if at death the Christian is in a state of spiritual nakedness or exposure that would shame him? Of course not! The righteous desire their final form which is the heavenly body that clothes our human spirit. We desire that our mortality give way to our immortality or to life (v. 4; cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-53). Our new form, then, will be that of an immortal body (v. 4), and God made us for that very state or condition. He made us to have immortality (v. 5). God “wrought us for this very thing,” and to prepare us for the next immortal body, he gave to us the Holy Spirit (v. 5).

This is our promise of the next body that will be an eternal-life body. The Holy Spirit is God’s promise to us of that next or second body (cf. Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit makes us members of the Lord’s spiritual body while we are here on earth (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 6:12-20; 12:12-13); the same Holy Spirit is the divine promise of our personal glorified body to come! Any accountable person leaving the earth now but without the Spirit within has no prospect for an eternal body of life. Whatever his body will be, it will not be a body of eternal life because he did not belong to the Lord (Rom. 8:9).

Paul goes on to say that since we have the Spirit, we have good courage, and we have knowledge that while we are now absent from the Lord, still being in our earthly body while the Lord is in heaven, we know that eventually we will be present with him and at home (v. 6).

Currently, all of us Christians must walk by faith rather than by sight since we are still in our earthly bodies (v. 7). But our courage fuels our desire to go on and to be with the Lord at home (v. 8). And please notice that Paul declares that when a Christian leaves this earthly body, he is then at home with the Lord! (v. 8; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-14). And of course, we are constantly whether still here or “over there” trying to please the Lord. That is our aim! (v. 9; cf. Heb. 11:5-6).

Paul then affirms that what we now do in our physical, earthly body determines the nature of our second body as to whether or not our first body will be “swallowed up” of life or whether or not it will be overcome by death (v. 10, 4; Matt. 10:28).

The amazing truth that for years I could not see in this passage is that immediately following the death of the righteous Christian, he is given his second set of clothes or his habitation from heaven, his second body which is a heavenly one. This is staggering!

All of my life, I wrongly assumed that the final glorified body of man would be given to him on the morning of the resurrection, but that is not so. I used to think that in Hades (the realm of the dead), a man did not have his second body. I thought that the second body was to come to him on the very morning of the resurrection. But Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians 5 does not fit that idea.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul shows us that following the dissolving of the earthly body, the second one is given! A Christian who leaves this earth is now at home with Jesus. Now, we can’t see Jesus in his glorified state unless we are glorified, too (1 John 3:2). So, those righteous dead in the Paradise part of Hades (Luke 16:22-23; 22:43; 2 Cor. 12:2-4), whom the Lord will bring with him on the morning of the resurrection, already have their glorified bodies (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-14). The Lord will bring the righteous dead back from Hades in their glorified bodies—not to receive them.

The righteous dead brought back from Hades will then enter physical graves from which they will be called out and caught up (John 5:28-29; 1 Thess. 4:17). Those saints yet alive on earth (who never died physically) at the Lord’s return will be caught up with the resurrected saints and will with them meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51).

But what is amazing to me just now is the fact that the second body (the spiritual one) is provided to the righteous dead immediately following their physical death! This second body is what prevents the righteous dead from being “unclothed” (v. 4).

Now, if someone objects by suggesting that the Lord had taught in John 5:28-29 that one must wait until the resurrection to receive his second body or spiritual one, we would respond by making the following observations.

Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs 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 judgment.”

Now, notice that Jesus does not mention at what point the dead received their second body. If you are like me, you always assumed that the second body was given to the Christian on the morning of the resurrection immediately before that body comes forth from the grave. But no passage explicitly states that, and no passage even implies that. Furthermore, Jesus did not say that the dead had not already received their spiritual bodies or forms in which to rise from the grave. He simply states that both the good and the evil will arise on resurrection day. When a man dies physically, if he were righteous, he dies into life (2 Cor. 5:4). Remember that even Jesus “being put to death in the flesh” was “made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). All the righteous who die physically die into “life.” This life is their second body—the spiritual one, our eternal one (2 Cor. 5:1, 4). But, in John 5:28-29, Jesus is discussing “resurrection” unto life or “resurrection” unto death depending upon one’s classification as to whether on earth in his physical body he had done “good” or “evil.” So, in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Paul is discussing the Christian’s dying into life. The Lord in John 5:28-29 is discussing rising from the grave unto life on the part of those that have done good, and rising from the grave unto death on the part of those who in their first body had done evil.

Let me make another point just here. Since Jesus entered Paradise, following his physical death and, so, without his physical body that Joseph and Nicodemus buried (John 19:38-42), he entered Paradise with his glorified body (1 Pet. 3:18). He was not “unclothed.” He was clothed with his second body. However, his stay in Paradise was brief, and his spirit came back to his grave and inhabited his physical body again, since that is the one that was put to death and by which Jesus would demonstrate his power over physical death (Rom. 6:8-10). The physical death required a physical resurrection to prove that Jesus had, in fact, overcome physical death (John 20:24-29). So, he had to give up temporarily his glorified body in order to re-inhabit his physical one. He regained that glorified body at his ascension (Acts 1:9) since flesh and blood cannot go to heaven (1 Cor. 15:50). But, since righteous dead Christians are now beyond their physical bodies that were dissolved or destroyed (2 Cor. 5:1), and they are at home with Christ (2 Cor. 5:6-8), when the Lord comes back for the resurrection of the physically dead, he will bring back the righteous dead in their glorified bodies to be resurrected since their physical bodies are no more and cannot inherit eternal life anyway (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50). Those righteous saints on the earth at the time of the Lord’s return will not die or sleep, but will be translated or changed from their physical to their spiritual body at that time (1 Cor. 15:50-51). And the victory of which Paul speaks which is the victory over death is experienced by the faithful in Paradise long before resurrection morning. They have their second bodies and they have their victory now (1 Cor. 15:54-58).

The final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) is a day of explanation or reckoning (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46), but it is not a day of decision. When a man physically dies, divine judgment is already pronounced regarding that man’s destiny in that the man sees himself either in Paradise which is the third heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:1-4) or in Tartarus which is, evidently, a part of Hades as well (Luke 16:23; 2 Pet. 2:4; Matt. 16:18), the place to which the unrighteous dead go following physical death. We will all appear at a final Judgment for sure, but eternal destiny will already have been decided either (1) by the nature of the second body given the dead following their physical death and its placement or (2) by the nature of their body following their change or translation if they did not experience a physical death (1 Cor. 15:51). Divine judgment will follow every human death both (1) immediately which is indicated by the nature of the new body and its placement and (2) ultimately by explanation at the final Judgment Day (Heb. 9:27; Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 20:11-15).

My good friend, Glenn Jobe, in our discussion mentioned to me that the Lord’s body on the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:2) was his glorified body! That must be right. Jesus was able in that body to communicate with and to see and to be seen by the late, great Moses and Elijah. Abraham was in his new body when the rich man talked with him in Hades, and the rich man and Lazarus were in theirs (Luke 16:19-31). And whatever the nature of the rich lost man’s body in Luke 16 is, it was not one that provided eternal life but rather eternal death (John 5:28-29; Matt. 25:46). The unrighteous dead are given a second or spiritual body (Matt. 10:28). But it is not a body that has eternal life in it (2 Cor. 5:4).

Faithful Christians look forward to the redemption of our body. As we grow older on earth, our physical body begins to give way (Eccl. 12:1-7). We wait now on earth in hope of seeing the glorified body that will be ours (Rom. 8:18-25). God makes a claim on every righteous disciple that enters the realm of the dead (Hades) by glorifying him with his new body. That is, the second body or the “of heaven” body (1 Cor. 15:47-49) given to each saint following his physical death. It is the glorified body in which the righteous disciple lives as he awaits the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14; Phil. 3:11). That is his body for eternity, and it is the body that will be raised from the grave on the day of the resurrection.

It is interesting that Jesus taught in John 5:28-29 that a person’s eternal destiny is based on what he did while in his physical body—the body that was placed later in a grave or tomb. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we Christians are constantly trying to please God (whether living in our first or second bodies [v. 9]), and that our judgment will be based on what we did while still on earth and living in our physical bodies. There will be a separation at death, unfortunately, of some Christians from other Christians, for some Christians did good and some did not (v. 10; cf. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; 25:31-46). But when the separation of the human spirit from the human body occurs in the experience of a faithful child of God, immediately as he leaves his earthly body, he enters his heavenly. My, what a thought to consider! That is how he is seen by those other righteous folk who now look at him and welcome him as he enters the eternal domain. He along with them is allowed to walk with the Lord in white for he is worthy (Rev. 3:4).

Posted in Doctrine, Nature of Man

An Interview with Death

Interviewer: Death, I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me. I know that you suggested that I call you Thanatos since that is the name for you in the Greek New Testament. And I will do that, but I wanted my English readers to know to whom I am speaking.

Thanatos: Fine. Let us proceed. I haven’t much time to linger here. There is work to be done—people I need to meet.

Interviewer: All right. I have just a few questions, please. The first one is: What are the various forms you have taken in pursuit of living men?

Thanatos: Well, there are three forms. When I take the life of someone, I can do it in two ways this side of eternity. The first way is simply to take his physical life. The second way is to take his spiritual life. There is a third way that has to do with the final and everlasting form which the New Testament refers to as eternal punishment or everlasting separation from God (Matt. 25:46).

Interviewer: I see. So, when Adam died. He died in two ways.

Thanatos: That is correct. But that truth has to be understood. He died physically in that he began to deteriorate, which deterioration would eventuate in the separation of his spirit from his body, which would mean that I had gotten him (James 2:26). This began because Adam lost access to the tree of life.

Interviewer: So, the physical death that came was an eventual thing that potentially began the moment he lost access to the tree of life?

Thanatos: Yes.

Interviewer: And his spiritual death was immediate in that he lost fellowship with God?

Thanatos: Correct. The spiritual death was immediate; the physical came immediately in potential but eventuated into actual physical death when Adam was nine hundred and thirty years old (Gen. 5:5).

Interviewer: So, when we read about you in the New Testament, the form that is referenced has to be decided by the precise language used and the literary context in which your name is called?

Thanatos: Yes. At times physical death is being referenced; at other times spiritual death is being referenced, and a few times, even eternal death is being referenced. And at times, even distant facts must come into play for the reader to correctly interpret a passage that uses my name.

Interviewer: Let’s consider an example. Paul wrote, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through the sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Is that spiritual death or is that physical death?

Thanatos: Well, think about it. The death referred to passed to “all” men. Earlier Paul had written, “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All Jews and all Gentiles had all sinned. But physical death had not passed to “all” men. I would have taken Enoch, but before I could get to him, God had already removed him from the earth (Gen. 5:24). Spiritual death had come to him because he, like all others, had sinned. But he was the exception to the rule regarding physical death. Years later, Elijah became an exception, too. I was not allowed to take him (2 Kings 2:11). The death that Paul referred to in Romans 5:12 did come to all men who sinned and it came because they sinned. That kind of death included Enoch and Elijah. That was spiritual death or the loss of spiritual fellowship with God. Fortunately, Jesus died for all men including Enoch and Elijah (Heb. 2:9; 9:15). All others for whom Jesus died, died or will die physically (unless they are in the group that is alive at the Lord’s final coming [1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 22:20]).

Interviewer: Let’s take one more passage. In Romans 6:23, Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Which death is here mentioned?

Thanatos: Well think about the contrast Paul made. Think of the opposite concepts he mentions that are antithetical to one another. In other words, think of the words before the word “but” and then think of the words after the word “but.” The nature of the first concept is countered by the nature of the second concept.

Interviewer: What do you mean exactly?

Thanatos: The verse ends with the words: “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is the opposite of what the wages of sin is! It is the remedy to the wages of sin which is death. What eternal life is counters what the death is that sin produces. So, since the gift is “eternal life” rather than spiritual life and rather than physical life, the death that constitutes the wages of sin is spiritual death rather than physical death.

Interviewer: Yes, that is clear. We must consider the context, the way the words are used, concepts employed, and all relevant facts that must not be contradicted. So, in Hebrews 9:27 when we read that death is an appointment for all men, we know it is physical death because the context (verses 23-28) is a discussion of the Lord’s own death (which was physical—not spiritual, and not eternal) as distinguished from all other authorized physical sacrifices for sin.

Thanatos: Indeed.

Interviewer: My second question is: How many people have you already claimed?

Thanatos: Do you mean by claiming them physically or spiritually?

Interviewer: I mean physically.

Thanatos: I have up to the current living generation, taken everyone with the exception of Enoch and Elijah. Since God performs no miracles today, there are no “Enochs” or “Elijahs” that get to pass to the next domain without my claiming them. I have always been the “general rule,” but God excused two men from my clutches. What men they were! However, now, no one escapes. It is, as the Hebrews writer referred to it, an appointment (Heb. 9:27). Jesus himself met that appointment. His was a special death for a special reason, but the death that he died was still his meeting that appointment. That is the writer’s very point in the passage. In other words, as other men had kept the appointment and as all men will continue to meet the appointment, so Jesus himself was appointed to meet me as well.

Interviewer: I sometimes like to say that we live by permission, and we die by appointment (James 4:15; Heb. 9:27).

Thanatos: That is a fair way to describe mankind’s condition regarding life and death.

Interviewer: Who was the first to die physically?

Thanatos: Well, as you read in Scripture, Adam and Eve were the first who began to die physically when they lost access to the tree of life. So, we can say that Adam and Eve were the first to die physically in a potential sense. As far as the first to die in an actual sense, that was Abel. The first historical physical death was the one Abel experienced. I reached out for him early in the history of man. And it is interesting in that the first actual, historical physical death that I initiated was a violent one in which a man shed his own brother’s blood (Gen. 4:1-8). That certainly was a foretaste of things in the sad and sinful history of mankind to come. Abel’s blood cried to God for vengeance; fortunately for you, the Lord’s own blood cried out for mercy (Gen. 4:10; Heb. 12:24).

Interviewer: Thanatos, how many ways or means have you used to get people within your grasp in order to end their physical lives on this earth?

Thanatos: Well, I have never counted them, but I will be glad to identify some of them. They are so common place, you will recognize each one that I describe. There are various ways to get to a person. And, of course, all that I do, I do by allowance (James 4:15). I have been stopped many, many times from accomplishing what I was about to do. Various things may prevent my grasping a person including the prayers of righteous men (James 5:16; 1 John 5:13-15). However, unless God intervenes, I have access to many methods of establishing my claim regarding physical death.

For example, as a broad category, I have taken, as with Abel, many a person through some expression of violence. Many men are so sinful that they engage in violent behavior one toward the other. The “golden rule” (Matt. 7:12) is not only flagrantly disobeyed; it is often held in absolute contempt. Many men murder other men. Not everyone dies who is assaulted, but I do claim a lot of people who are violently attacked. And in war time, I am especially busy. Regardless of the cause, I claim many a life as nation rises up against nation. It is a good harvest for me.

Other methods that I have used with men include sickness. People get sick for various reasons, and at times I am allowed to come in and take some of those people. People become diseased, and I may be allowed to move in and remove that person. A few people are overcome by animal predators (such as lions, bears, snakes, etc.). These deaths are not as common, and when they occur, the report may become a headline in a newspaper given the horror or the drama involved in the incident. Natural catastrophes take some (tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.). And all kinds of accidents account for the passing of many. And you might be surprised how many times I am solicited to come to the scene of homicides that have continued since the days of Cain and Abel. Many a man still marches “in the way of Cain” (Jude 11).

Interviewer: Why do we men fear you?

Thanatos: There are, I suppose, various reasons why a person on earth would fear me. No man living has yet to meet me personally. So, I am feared because though men know of me and know others who have met me, no one who has met me has revealed to the yet living what I am like. The living may have been close to others whom he watched as I took hold of them, but the yet living have never met me themselves. So, I am a mysterious stranger to them. Too, men may fear some pain or imagined pain or duress that they think is essentially connected with me as I come for someone. Also, the living fear me because of the pain my coming will cause to those loved ones left behind. No one wants his loved ones to have to grieve, but they must, and they will. Leaving entails loss for those who stay. No one enjoys grieving for those I have taken; no one facing me himself enjoys the prospect of grief for those loved ones that he will soon leave behind.

Interviewer: Should the living fear you?

Thanatos: That depends.

Interviewer: What do you mean?

Thanatos: Well, if you believe God and you are prepared to face judgment, there is no need for fear. In fact, death is a release to the righteous so that they are unburdened. Ever since sin entered this world and me through sin, this world has been a rough environment in which all men must live. If a man takes God at his word, obeys His will, and trusts His promises, he should in his maturity welcome me as the one who will make possible for him a much better situation.

Interviewer: I remember that Paul expressed the thought of a place very far better than this vale of tears (Phil. 2:23).

Thanatos: Indeed. But that place is only for believers—those who take God at His word and walk in His way (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 5:8-9). For them, I am a blessing. I provide a release; I become a relief. When I come for the prepared, they can gladly welcome my approach and look forward to blessedness about which they have read but regarding which they have never felt until they meet me. That is why the Scriptures tell you people that God views the death of the righteous as “precious” (Psalm 116:15). God wants His people to look at me that way, too, in regard to them.

Interviewer: But what about all the others? What about the unprepared?

Thanatos: That is another matter altogether. For the unprepared, I bring more heartache. I lead them to a metaphysical or spiritual domain but one in which their continued spiritual separation from God continues, and it will continue forever. I am an enemy to those people—all of them (1 Cor. 15:26). I bring them no joy but only that which is to be most dreaded. And the only way to escape this eternal prospect is to accept the salvation offered by God through Christ who was raised from the death in order to bring life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). Jesus overcame ME in order that YOU humans can have spiritual life on earth and eternal life in glory. He “abolished” death not in the sense that men no longer die physically, but that though they die, given their spiritual life on earth, they may beyond earth and death live again!

Interviewer: Amen and Amen!!

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Doctrine, Ethics, Marriage

Adultery, Forgiveness, and Definition

When I was a very young gospel preacher and while teaching in a preacher training school, I would on Sunday’s drive to my regular preaching appointment in a small farming community. One day one of the members of the congregation explained to me that people in the world were not amenable to God’s New Testament teaching on marriage and divorce because they haven’t heard the gospel. I think that was my first experience with a brother in Christ advocating such nonsense about marriage and divorce, but I have remembered that experience to this day.

Over the years many faithful gospel preachers have written books, preached sermons, wrote articles, and even engaged in public debate on what the Bible teaches on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Of course one of the major controversial aspects of the subject was the matter of the application of the law of Christ on marriage. I have been in three debates myself on the application of New Testament teaching on the topic. And my father engaged in a great written debate that went on with his opponent for about five years.

And after all these years, one might still on occasion hear of someone’s still trying to uphold the view that people in the world are not amenable to Christ’s teaching on marriage and divorce, or one might hear that while it is admitted that they are amenable to the law of Christ, it is still the case that they surely do not have to give up adulterous spouses in order to become Christians. Now, there is already much, much audio, video, and written material available to settle the issue for an honest and good heart, but in this brief article, I simply want to make a few basic points, anyway, hopefully to help further clarify the matter.

Let’s begin with a few questions:

  1. Can a man in the world commit fornication (have sex with someone who is not his wife)?
  2. Can a man in the world commit adultery (have sex with someone who is someone else’s wife)?
  3. If a man in the world can commit either fornication or adultery or both, what law is he violating in committing the sin? In other words, what law makes the act itself sinful?
  4. What law is it that defines for a man in the world who a wife is and what fornication is and what adultery is?
  5. To what law was the next generation obligated following the time when the gospel was preached throughout the whole world in the first century?

If someone says that the law that makes fornication or adultery sinful is the “moral law,” then we would respond that that was the law for the Gentile prior to the time when the gospel completely reached the Gentile community about 63 A.D. (Col. 1:23; Rom. 2:14-15). If someone suggests that it was the law of Moses, then we would respond that in the first place, that was for Jews only, and in the second place, that law was nailed to the cross when Jesus died (Col. 2:14). Furthermore, what is the law that defines for the man in the world what a “wife” is and what a “fornicator” is and what an “adulterer” is? Fornication and adultery are connected to the very definition of what marriage is. So, again, to the man in the world (allegedly not under obligation to the gospel), what law provides definition to him of what the concepts of marriage, wife, husband, fornication, and adultery precisely entail?

If someone says that even though the gospel was preached to the whole world (including what the Lord taught on marriage and divorce), that the second generation reverted to the earlier responsibility to moral law only (for Gentiles) and to the law of Moses (for the Jews), we would respond, that such is not so. The Jew could not revert to an earlier responsibility because his law had been divinely removed. And the Gentile could not revert to an earlier responsibility because moral law had now been completely inculcated within the New Testament law of Christ. Universal obligation to the gospel was once fixed; and when finalized, amenability to it remained perpetually constant. If the Jew could not revert to Jewish law only, the Gentile could not revert to moral law only either.

Some admit the foregoing but then suggest that even though this is all true, and even though it is the gospel itself that now defines for all men what fornication is and what adultery is, still when alien sinners today become Christians, they do NOT have to put away their adulterous wives per Matthew 19:9 because their adultery which is against the law of Christ is forgiven by the law of Christ, so that the adultery is no more adultery. In other words, we still have people among us who contend for the view that if an alien sinner living in adultery wants to become a Christian, then he can do so while retaining his adulterous partner on the grounds that following baptism, his adultery ceases to be adultery.

Now, I raise the question in all kindness, how does that exactly work? How can adultery cease being adultery? How can adultery at one moment not be adultery the next moment? Now, at this juncture someone may victoriously shout, why, it is “forgiveness” that changes adultery into non-adultery! Oh really? Let us carefully delve into that.

First, we have no New Testament instance of such a thing with regard to any act whatever. Stealing remains stealing, drinking alcohol remains drunkenness, lying remains lying, coveting remains coveting, and blasphemy remains blasphemy after a person’s baptism. These acts by definition all remain the same following baptism as before baptism. Read Acts 5:3-4 for a case in point! Baptism is not a form of magic. Definitions still hold. Wife abuse before baptism remains wife abuse after baptism. The deed is the same. It is not modified by one’s attempt to enter the church via baptism.

Second, since the definition of all acts remains in place following one’s baptism, in order for a person to be “forgiven” of a sinful act or relationship in baptism, he must repent of that act or of that relationship before his baptism. Godly sorrow produces repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). A man can no more be scripturally baptized while remaining in an impenitent state than he can be scripturally baptized while remaining in an unbelieving state. A man must come to faith and repent before his baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 3:19).

Third, one cannot be repenting of a sin while desiring to retain the fruit or product of it. If a man steals his neighbor’s cow and later allegedly becomes a Christian, can he rightly claim the cow as his own now on the basis that he was a non-Christian when he stole the cow, but that now his “new” condition renders his relationship to the cow legitimate. The sad fact is that the man doesn’t have a new condition.

Even if he never commits a momentary act of theft anymore, the fact that he wants to keep stolen goods indicates that he has not repented regarding thievery. Regarding his thievery, he remains in the same condition following his baptism as he was before it. If a man “repents” of thievery and keeps the “goods” that he stole, who in his right mind would believe for a moment that if the man now claims to have a right to the goods on the basis of “forgiveness,” that the man genuinely repented? No one! If definition remains the same of what a deed is, and if forgiveness is divinely granted for the commission of the deed, it is because the man’s relationship to the deed has changed! But if an adulterer desires to keep his adulterous wife following his baptism, his relationship to her has not changed! He did not repent of his adultery any more than our thief repented of his stealing his neighbor’s cow.

Just here let me make a few points about David. Some reader may be thinking: Well, after all, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and got to keep her. Yes, but notice these relevant points:

  1. Neither David nor Bathsheba lived under the law of Christ.
  2. The law under which they did live entailed a very generous divorce law (Deut. 24).
  3. David committed several other sins in connection with his affair with Bathsheba, all of which were actual sins, including the sin of murdering her husband!
  4. Why God allowed David to live and allowed Uriah to die is God’s business.
  5. David could not return Bathsheba to her husband since he no longer lived.
  6. God required the life of the child produced rather than to take the life of either David or Bathsheba and that, too, is God’s business.
  7. David did not “keep” Bathsheba following his adultery with her and following the murder of her husband. David became her husband after the death of her husband.

Fourth, some claim, however, that adulterous marriage is not like stealing and so should not be compared to it. We ask, why not? How is it that Bible principles that apply to lying, stealing, coveting, etc., apply to all of these things but do not apply to adulterous marriages? Who made up that rule? Where can we locate it in Scripture? It is a human fabrication.

Fifth, if someone says that an alien sinner living in an adulterous marriage should not be told to separate from his wife prior to his baptism on the grounds that Jesus said that man should not put asunder what God has joined together (Matt. 19:6), the proper response would be that this man living in an adulterous relationship was not by God joined to anyone! God never joined two people together in adultery in the history of God or man! God only joins two people together in scriptural wedlock according to his law on marriage, just as he only forgives men according to his law of forgiveness. Adulterous marriage may be legal, but that does not make it scriptural!

Sixth, going back to the matter of definition, when an alien sinner actually repents of stealing prior to his scriptural baptism, since it is not the definition of stealing that changes (and it is not), then it has to be that his relationship to the act changes. He no longer steals! And when a man living in an adulterous marriage is scripturally baptized, it cannot be because the definition of adultery changes, but rather it is because his relationship to the act changes. He no longer commits adultery! But if he remains with his current adulterous wife, he keeps on committing adultery (Matt.19:9).

Dear reader, our wicked culture has had a tremendous influence on the church of our day here in America. The morals of the world have degenerated to such an alarming degree that it now makes some Christians uncomfortable, and some perhaps even unwilling to stand up for plain New Testament teaching with regard to marriage, divorce, and remarriage. May God help us do better and hold our ground.

Posted in Doctrine, Holy Spirit, Inspiration

John 14-16, The Holy Spirit, And The Writing Of Scripture

How many times have we heard it said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles only (excepting Cornelius and his household and near friends—Acts 10), to enable them to write scripture? How many Christians still hold to this unfounded idea?

Not long before his death, Jesus met with his apostles in an upper room to observe the Jewish Passover feast (Mark 14:12-16). He observed the Passover, instituted the Lord’s Supper, predicted his betrayal, and spoke of various matters (Matt. 26:17-29; Luke 22:7-38; John 13-17). The passage from John provides some extraordinary information regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Many times in the past, some gospel preachers have tried to distance us Christians from what the Lord promised regarding the Holy Spirit in John 14-16 by making the statement, “The Lord was talking only to the apostles,” thus attempting to suggest that whatever the passage said about the Holy Spirit was intended for the apostles only. And if intended for the apostles only, then the Lord’s statements were not intended for any other Christian in days to come.

Let me kindly suggest just here, that whatever the merit of the claim regarding the fact that the Lord was talking to the apostles only, the suggestion that therefore what was said could not apply to anyone else is going to have to be supported by something other than the fact that the statement or statements were made only to the apostles. Surely, no one in his right mind would be willing to affirm that everything the Lord said to the apostles only was intended (in application) for the apostles only!

For example, in John 14:6, to the apostles only Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Obviously the “no one” who could not come to the Father but by Jesus applied to the apostles, but not to the apostles only, because it included all other men as well. So, even in the context, we know that to say that something was said TO an apostle ONLY does not entail the idea that it could not then apply to anyone else also.

Now if somehow at this point asks me, “Are you saying that everything in John 14-16 that was said to the apostles only applies equally in the same way and in the same sense to EVERYONE else?” I would answer, “No.” But that leaves “some things” in the passage that do apply both to apostles and to non-apostles as well, including the promise of the Holy Spirit whom the world cannot receive (John 14:17; 3:3-5; Acts 2:1-4, 38; 1 Cor. 12:13).

Now, I do not want to take up an analysis of the complete context of John 14-16 in an effort to see everything that applies in the same way and in the same sense to both apostles and to non-apostles. However, I do want to explore what restricting all of the passages on the Holy Spirit to “the apostles only” means with regard to the doctrine of inspiration and the writing of New Testament Scripture.

In John 13:30, Judas, one of the original twelve apostles, left the upper room before Jesus spoke about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The words of Jesus in John 14-16 were not spoken to Judas, so our first relevant point is that not even all of the original apostles were the recipients of the Lord’s words in chapters 14-16 of John regarding the Holy Spirit. The second point is that of the eleven apostles left, not all of them wrote Scripture, even though all of them did preach (Mark 16:14-20). Matthias later replaced Judas (Acts 1:15-26), but we have no Scripture from Matthias. Of the original group of twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4), the only ones who wrote Scripture were Matthew, John, and Peter. Of course, later Saul of Tarsus would be converted, and he became an apostle born out of due season (Acts 9:1-18; 22:16; 1 Cor. 15:8-9). But he was not present when the Lord spoke in John 14-16. So, thus far we have the following:

  1. Eleven apostles heard Jesus in John 14-16 (these were the apostles to whom he spoke);
  2. One apostle (Judas) was not present so the Lord did not speak directly to him;
  3. One apostle replaced Judas later (Matthias), so that he was not present either in John 14-16;
  4. One apostle (Paul) became such later, so that the Lord did not speak directly to him either in John 14-16.

So, of the twelve original apostles, one (Judas) was missing in John 14-16. The replacement (Matthias) was not present either because he had not been selected yet, and Saul who became Paul the apostle was not present either. So, of the apostles present on Pentecost of Acts 2 when the church began, there were only eleven of them who had been present in the upper room in John 14-16. And Paul was not yet a Christian and certainly not an apostle yet. Did all twelve of the apostles in Acts 2 speak by virtue of their having the Holy Spirit within? Of course (Acts 1:26-2:4)! But one of them never heard Jesus in the upper room promise him the Holy Spirit. Since he did receive the Holy Spirit, it was NOT because the Lord had spoken to him in John 14-16.

What is our point? Our first point is that what Jesus said TO the apostles ONLY in John 14-16 about the coming of the Holy Spirit was not said EVEN TO ALL OF THE APOSTLES! The second point is that since others became apostles later and did receive the Holy Spirit, their absence from the upper room in John 14-16 DID NOT EXCLUDE them from the application of the Lord’s remarks with regard to the coming of the Holy Spirit even though the Lord did not address them directly in the upper room. If Matthias and Paul both received the Holy Spirit, it was not because the Lord spoke to them as a part of the APOSTLES ONLY group in John 14-16 because they were not apostles at the time. If the Lord’s words applied to them, it was not because the Lord had spoken directly to them in John 14-16 about the coming Spirit. Now, as noted, we have no inspired writings from most of the apostles including Matthias. We do have inspired writings from the apostle Paul.

But now, consider: if most of the apostles did not write Scripture (and they did not, though they preached by inspiration), and if Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul (as apostles) did not write the totality of Scripture, then who were the writers of the rest of the New Testament?

Well, Scripture claims that non-apostle prophets did that. Notice these passages:

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers…” (1 Cor. 12:28-29).

“So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief corner stone;” (Eph. 2:19-20).

“And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;” (Eph. 4:11).

All apostles were prophets, prophets being those through whom God spoke by his Holy Spirit. The word “prophet” refers to someone who speaks for someone else. Prophets of God spoke for God. Prophets received revelation and spoke or wrote by inspiration (cf. 1 Cor. 2:12-13). In Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 12 and in Ephesians 4, prophets are second only to apostles. And this group included those non-apostle men whom God selected to write the rest of the New Testament. These were John Mark, Luke, James, and Jude. The apostle writers were Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul.

Now consider that about half of the New Testament writers, then, were non-apostles! That means that if they were in fact inspired to write Scripture, their receiving the Holy Spirit in order to write Scripture was not because the Lord was speaking to APOSTLES ONLY in John 14-16! They were NEVER apostles, and yet the same preachers who try to disconnect brethren today from the Holy Spirit on the basis that the Lord was talking to apostles only in John 14-16, evidently forget about this group of inspired writers to whom the Lord in John 14-16 was not speaking at all! And yet our restrictive preachers allow them “in” to receive the Holy Spirit so as to write Scripture (though they claim that these prophets did not receive the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit), but they keep us Christians today “out” of the application of any of the Lord’s remarks regarding the coming Spirit in John 14-16. What a hermeneutical mess!

Furthermore, when preachers today claim that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of enabling the apostles to write Scripture (as this precise point has been made by some of our preachers for years and years), it seems as though they forget the second class of writers (the prophets) altogether! Why? Because our preacher friends do not concede that the prophets were ever baptized in the Holy Spirit! Well if the prophets wrote Scripture without the baptism of the Spirit and the apostles received the baptism of the Spirit, certainly it wasn’t the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit that enabled them to write Scripture any more than the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit enabled Old Testament writers to write Scripture either. No one today in our brotherhood claims that David or Moses received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to write Scripture! What an absolute confusion some of our preachers experience with regard to the Holy Spirit. But a focused consideration of the above material ought to provide some clarity on the matter. While having the Holy Spirit was necessary to a person’s speaking or writing by inspiration (1 Cor. 2:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:10-11; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), the “baptism” of the Spirit had nothing to do with either inspired speaking or inspired writing.

Please note that our opponents on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit go to John 14-16 and claim:

  1. In speaking of the Spirit, Jesus is talking about the baptism of the Spirit even though the word “baptism” in the context cannot be found;
  2. They claim that this “baptism” of the Spirit was promised to the apostles ONLY thus eliminating about half of the New Testament since about half was written by non-apostle prophets who according to our opponents never received the baptism of the Spirit but received the so-called “laying-on-of hands” measure of the Spirit.

Now, if it is true that Jesus is in John 14-16 speaking of Holy Spirit baptism (and our opponents claim that he is), and if it does apply to some non-apostles (New Testament prophets), and if non-apostle prophets wrote Scripture without receiving Holy Spirit baptism, then the apostles clearly did not write Scripture because they had received Holy Spirit baptism but rather because from the Holy Spirit they had received the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 12:10-11). This shows that Holy Spirit baptism has nothing at all to do with the writing of Scripture! The gift of “prophecy” is what enabled men to write Scripture. This came FROM the Holy Spirit but was NOT the Holy Spirit any more than “the gifts of healings” constituted the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-11).

Furthermore, if Holy Spirit baptism has nothing to do with the writing of Scripture (and it does not), and if prophets and apostles wrote Scripture by means of the gift of prophecy (and they did), then if the non-apostle prophets who wrote the rest of the New Testament were “guided into all the truth” as well as the apostles in order to write Scripture (and they were—John 16:13), then there is no way for our opponents to restrict the application of the Lord’s remarks in John 14-16 on the Holy Spirit to apostles ONLY!