Twenty Questions (1)
No, not the party game. Just 20 questions. And 20 answers.
I've wanted to do something like this for a long time, and this month I finally broke down and took the plunge. I spend a lot of time online at websites like YouTube, Quora, and so forth, and invariably end up in all kinds of discussions about all manner of things related to God, Jesus, the Bible, the gospel, and so on, and I end up hammering out answers to many people's questions—people ranging from sincere believers to hardcore atheists, and everybody in between.
Hard questions, easy questions. Sincere questions, snarky questions.
But all deserving of an answer.
Note that I titled this "Twenty Questions (1)." That way, if I ever decide to do it again, it'll be "Twenty Questions (2)," and so on. I have no plans for another such article, but you never know.
So, without further ado, here is a list of 20 questions I have answered online in the last few months (some with a wee bit of editing), and I hope that you find something among them that is in some way helpful, instructive, enlightening, edifying, or that just brings a smile to your face.
Q15. As a Christian, how do you reconcile your faith with the many horrific things done by the Church throughout its history, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, patterns of systematic child abuse by clergy, etc., not to mention slavery and so forth in the Old Testament?
Q1. If I don't belong to any religion, but comport myself as a decorous and forthcoming individual, how does God see me?
A. That depends: Have you trusted Christ for your salvation by believing in faith that He took the punishment for your sins?
If so, then God sees you as being as righteous as His Son.
In that case your sins have been cast as far as the east is from the west, you have been eternally reconciled to Him, and will spend eternity with Him in a place He has prepared for you that is wonderful beyond your ability to imagine. Incidentally, contrary to popular opinion, it is then and only then that you become a child of God.
If not, then God sees you as a sinner who has so far rejected His grace.
Comporting yourself as a "decorous and forthcoming individual" is an admirable thing to shoot for, and I'm sure it will make you a really nice person. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't cut any mustard with God. It is God alone who looks on the condition of your heart—and since God's the one who does the forgiving, He alone knows if you are forgiven or unforgiven.
Forgiven is better. =:)
Q2. Why does Revelation 20:5 say "this is the first resurrection"?
A. In my experience, one of the most common mistakes a lot of people make in regard to the "first resurrection" and the "second resurrection" is to automatically assume that each is one specific event that occurs at one specific time. The problem is this causes confusion and sends people off on creative snark hunts in their valiant efforts to reconcile things, and they just can't do it without breaking out a stout pair of interpretive pliers.
The confusion begins to dissipate, however, when we realize that the words "first" and "second" in this case denote two types of resurrections, not two singular events. The first type of resurrection is the resurrection of the righteous, and the second type is the resurrection of the unrighteous.
The apostle Paul could scarcely have made it any clearer that the resurrection of the righteous occurs in stages (as opposed to one singular event) in 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, and that the first stage was Jesus and a number of Old Testament saints who were resurrected at the same time (Matt. 27:52–53).
Next, according to Paul, is the resurrection of the dead in Christ, or the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16–17), which only applies to the Church (that's us), and which I am thoroughly convinced from Scripture must precede the Tribulation.
I mean, what does Paul have to do, come right out and say:
"OK gang, this is the first stage...and this is the second stage."
Finally, Tribulation martyrs and the rest of the Old Testament saints are resurrected after the Tribulation in order to be ushered into the Millennial Kingdom, or the literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth (that's the one in Rev. 20:5 you're referring to, which is nestled in what is admittedly a passage of Scripture that must be read with great care). Yes, it's the first type of resurrection (of the righteous), but John is talking about the final phase of something that actually began two thousand years prior to that final phase.
It's like I always say:
If you think the first resurrection is one single event
that occurs at one single time, then it happened
two thousand years ago and you missed it. Bummer.
Square peg, round hole: Reading the resurrection of the righteous as one single event is the reason so many people today feel they have no choice but to lump the Rapture in with the Second Coming in an effort to make a very round peg fit in a very square hole. That creates far more problems than it solves, however, because it requires seemingly endless reworking of some pretty clear Scripture.
After the Millennial Kingdom comes the resurrection of the unrighteous, where the unsaved of all time will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment, and will finally be consigned to the lake of fire and an eternity of separation from a holy God who made every conceivable provision for their salvation—and they thumbed their noses at it.
Anyway, that's my take on it. Now, I am acutely aware of the fact that it has reached the point, especially in the last few years, where if someone has the temerity to admit to holding to a pre-tribulation view of the Rapture, they are liable to be accosted by a gang of post-tribbers waiting for them out in the parking lot with brass knuckles and baseball bats.
But that's OK:
11I have put my trust in God. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Q3. I am a Christian, but I am at a loss for words when someone says they don't believe God exists. What can I say to them?
A. One of my go-to verses in regard to personal evangelism, or just discussing the topic of God with unbelievers period, has always been this:
15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
(1 Peter 3:15 AKJV)
Couple of things to note:
(a) Notice what comes first: living a life that honors God as someone who has the hope of eternal life within you. No atheist alive can truly comprehend this, because this comes exclusively from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit—not logic and science and evidence and proof and all such things the flesh clamors for. These are things of the Spirit, and as such are foolishness to unbelievers (1 Cor. 2:14).
(b) Notice that others make the first move here—not you. The point is to live in a manner that honors God with a heart full of the hope of heaven; and when we actually do that, there will be those in the world who are curious enough to ask us what's up with that. Nobody is collaring anyone here, or hammering people over the head with what they believe, or arrogantly trying to prove someone else wrong. Now, if someone is called into full-time ministry or something like that, that's a different kettle of fish. If you read the context, however, you'll see that Peter is talking to ordinary believers here—regular Joes like you and me, just doing our jobs and going about our business.
(c) If you don't do (a), others will have no reason to do (b).
(d) The Holy Spirit put that "meekness and fear" thing there for a reason.
And it goes a very long way.
Q4. If a Christian and an atheist were drowning and you could only save one of them (and you know which is which), who would you save?
A. Easy. Absolute no-brainer.
I'd save the atheist.
Every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Wouldn't even blink.
The born-again, Holy Spirit-indwelt, spiritually regenerated, blood-bought child of the living God and believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ (according to God's Word the only kind of "Christian" there is) will immediately go to be with the Lord. His race is won. In the words of the apostle Paul:
21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Not only that, but I have no doubt that when I meet that guy in heaven (and I will), he will heartily commend me for what I did.
On the other hand, the atheist will slip into an eternity of separation from a loving God who sacrificed the life of His Son to save him, but he would have none of it. He rejected the grace and mercy of that loving God, and the moment he dies the deal will be sealed for eternity. Game over.
If I save the atheist, there is always a chance—however remote—that at some point he might hear the message of the gospel, sense and respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, humbly seek God in repentance, and come to a saving faith in the gospel.
And who knows—that moment might come when I explain to him why I grabbed him and not the other guy.
It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whose life is more "valuable."
It's only about how many are saved and how many are lost.
Q5. Can I be a Christian and not believe some accounts in the Bible?
A. Well, to be a Christian, you have to believe Jesus was the prophesied Messiah spoken of by the Old Testament prophets, and that He died and was resurrected to take God the Father's judgment for sin in your place so you could be forgiven and reconciled to Him through repentance and faith.
But here's the thing:
If you don't believe some accounts in the Bible, why would you believe the part about how Jesus died for your sins?
You see, when you begin to doubt God's Word, you begin to doubt God. If you doubt God, it's kind of hard to say you have faith in Him. If you don't have faith in Him, I'm not quite sure how you can justify calling yourself a born-again believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ (i.e., a "Christian").
It just doesn't work—the wheels begin to come off.
If you have doubts about some accounts in the Bible, the problem is that you haven't studied it enough. On top of that, you have probably been listening to the world, which will knock itself silly trying to trash God's Word and convince people to dismiss it as a pile of error-riddled myths.
But I'm here to tell you—the more you study God's Word, the more you begin to realize the world is wrong, and that's because Satan blinds men's minds to the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4).
It may not always be a walk in the park, but it's worth it.
Q6. Will there be a rapture of the Church before the Tribulation?
A. Yes, I am convinced strictly from Scripture that there will, and I'll tell you one other thing. Strangely enough, one of the little telltale clues that the pre-trib position on the timing of the Rapture is in fact the correct view is the vicious, vitriolic attacks unleashed by professing believers on that one particular view. This does not come from the Spirit of Truth—it comes from the father of lies. For example:
Ever hear post-tribbers attack mid-tribbers? Nope.
Ever hear pre-wrathers attack post-tribbers? I don't.
Ever hear post-tribbers attack pre-wrathers? Not that I recall.
Why not? Because it seems they are all much too busy ganging up on those deceived, good-for-nothing pre-tribbers (the only bunch that is far more concerned with rightly dividing the Word than mocking and demonizing those who hold to other views).
Satan may be evil, but sometimes he tips his hand.
And please, save all the death-to-the-pre-trib-Rapture arguments (and that goes double for all the thoroughly debunked fiction about J.N. Darby, Margaret MacDonald, and the whole crew). I've heard them all, and have refuted the majority from Scripture at some point. None of it holds a thimbleful of water.
I know, however, that the attacks on the pre-trib Rapture will not only continue, they will escalate—and that's because Satan knows it's almost showtime. It's reached the point where I hate to waste my time arguing about the Rapture, and listening to the same tired old straw men being regurgitated and pummeled over and over again. I'd rather focus on taking Jesus and the gospel of His salvation to a lost and dying world, and so I won't argue. I'm more than happy to leave it right there, and let others believe as they please.
Personally, I think it is exquisitely ironic that the only thing that will ever settle the Rapture debate is the Rapture itself—and I'm ready.
If you're ready, that's fine—regardless your opinion of the event.
If you are, I'll see you there. =:D
Q7. Do any Christians believe Joseph was Jesus' biological father?
A. The short answer is no.
The long answer is nooooooo.
Now for the long-winded answer—which goes out to anyone who believes this.
A Christian, according to the Bible (the only definition that matters), is someone who has heard the message of the gospel, responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the resulting godly sorrow that comes from realizing one is a sinner separated from a loving God, believed in faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died and was resurrected to atone for their sin, and asked for the forgiveness that His sacrifice has made available to all who ask in simple, repentant faith.
The reason that Jesus' death was sufficient to atone for the sin of mankind is because He was God in a body of flesh, God the Son. He was sent by God the Father to step out of eternity and be born into the world and live a life in a body of flesh as a man. Even while living in the flesh as a man, He still possessed the divine nature of God, and thus was able to remain sinless. This is because He did not inherit the sin nature that we inherited from Adam through our earthly fathers, and this is because God caused His seed to exist in Mary's body, enabling Him to be born into the world without the aid of a (sinful) human father (i.e., Joseph). Although Joseph was an observant Jew and a godly man, he had a sin nature just like the rest of us.
Since Jesus was without sin, He was qualified to be the perfect sacrifice to take the judgment for sin in our place. Had He not been sinless, He would have been on the hook for His own sin, and would have been disqualified to atone for anyone else's.
Long story short, the one single, solitary reason you can be forgiven of sin and eternally reconciled to a holy, just, loving God by repentance and faith is because the man Christ Jesus was God the Son—a human man born with the very nature of God.
• He had to be fully human (and was, on His mother's side) because He was sent to redeem sinful humans—not sinful spider monkeys.
• He had to be fully God (and was, on His Father's side) in order to remain sinless and for His sacrifice to be of infinite value.
Now, please understand: If Jesus wasn't what I just said, then we have no hope whatsoever of ever spending eternity with that holy, just, loving God I mentioned. None. Zero. The reason is because there would be no legal basis whatsoever for God the Father to be able to cancel our sin debt, which would remain outstanding. The Ultimate Cosmic Unpaid Parking Ticket. And so it would be on us.
He can't just wave a magic wand and say,
"Git over here, you knuckleheads. We're talkin' mercy, you know what I'm sayin'? You're all forgiven just because I said so! POOF! Done deal. Hey, am I merciful or what? Fuhgeddaboudit."
His perfect justice must be satisfied—all sin must be judged. Period.
Every single one of us would be condemned to die in our sin and stand before God with nothing but a smile and a shoeshine, accused of countless offenses against an infinitely holy God and found guilty as charged—with the pardon that Jesus purchased for us with His blood crumpled up and tossed in a trash can somewhere back on earth...perhaps one conveniently located at the exit of a church.
Pardon me for saying, but anyone reading this who hasn't caught my drift by now isn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.
If Joseph was Jesus' biological father,
THERE IS NO CHRISTIANITY!
And not to put too fine a point on it, but that means you ain't one. It all collapses and crumbles into a pile of smoking rubble—it blows away like a grass hut in a hurricane. If there's a God, He sure as heck doesn't have a Son. Plan of redemption? Fail. The Bible is a big fat lie, and "Christians" are nothing but a gaggle of deluded dimwits. Churches may as well be converted into halfway houses.
We might as well join the Kool Kids and take up atheism. Or hey, I hear good things about Buddhism...pretty laid back. Islam on quaaludes.
The bottom line is do not be deceived. The Bible confirms itself as God's Word through fulfilled prophecy—if that doesn't do it for you and you want to believe Jesus was an ordinary mortal man, then there's nothing I can say.
At least He knows I did my level best.
Q8. Can someone who has committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit be forgiven if they have repented?
A. I wish every believer who is worried that they have somehow "blasphemed the Holy Spirit" could read this.
In order to literally commit the sin Jesus referred to as "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit," first you would have to invent a time machine and go back in time two thousand years, observe Christ Himself performing miraculous healings and casting out demons and such through the power of the Holy Spirit as God incarnate, and then stubbornly refuse to believe and accuse Him of doing it through the power of Satan:
22Then one possessed by a demon, blind and mute, was brought to him and he healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23All the multitudes were amazed, and said, "Can this be the son of David?" 24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "This man does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons."
25Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. 29Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first bind the strong man? Then he will plunder his house.
30"He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn't gather with me, scatters.
31Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come.
(Matthew 12:22–32 / emphasis added)
It wasn't just that the Pharisees had committed some type of blasphemy. It wasn't just that they didn't believe Jesus or accept Him as the Messiah based on something less than a full revelation of Him.
They got the full monty.
If they had gotten anything less, they could have been forgiven if they had repented. In fact, Saul of Tarsus stood and watched with approval as a young "heretic" named Stephen was stoned, and God transformed him into the boldest, most powerful preacher of the gospel the world has ever known.
The Pharisees stood face to face with God in the flesh—a man fully and uniquely indwelt and empowered by the very Spirit of God. And when they witnessed Jesus exercise complete and consummate authority over the power of Satan, they didn't just disbelieve. They staunchly and steadfastly refused to believe in spite of the most powerful, overwhelming evidence anyone had ever witnessed.
In their hardened self-righteousness, they mocked Jesus and dismissed the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit operating through Him with a sneer and a wisecrack, snidely attributing it to Satan himself. And there is no indication that any of them felt bad about it later and came back to Jesus to learn more of Him. There is no hint of any of them regretting what they had said and done and coming to Jesus to seek His forgiveness.
They watched with their own eyes as Jesus openly demonstrated that He possessed the divine nature of God, a fact thunderingly confirmed by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit operating through Him. And in spite of all they had witnessed, they simply made up their minds they would not believe and in so doing effectively put up a permanent roadblock between themselves and a place of repentance and thus the hope of salvation. That's "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit."
Anyway, good luck with that time machine thing.
Let's think this through, shall we?
OK, so you feel guilty or remorseful because you feel you have blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
Q. Why do you feel bad or remorseful?
A. The Holy Spirit is (successfully) convicting you of sin.
Q. How can the Holy Spirit do that?
A. He dwells within you. He is sealed within you forever.
Q. When did that start?
A. The moment you believed the gospel in faith.
Q. Why is the Holy Spirit doing that?
A. That's His job.
And He will never stop, although if you try hard enough you can tune Him out temporarily by refusing to listen to Him.
But He's still there, because God is faithful even when we're not.
It is impossible for anyone today—much less a believer—to commit the literal sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit because no one today has actually witnessed the miracles Jesus performed. The difference between the Pharisees who committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and you is this:
They saw it all, and didn't believe.
You saw nothing, and did.
You never saw Jesus make lepers clean, the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead live. You never saw Him cast out every demon in sight with a single terse command.
Yet you believe—and that's why you are so precious in the Father's eyes. That's why He promised He would keep you and never leave you.
My point is that the simple fact that you feel bad because of whatever you said or did proves the Holy Spirit is present in your life, doing what He does for all believers every single day of their earthly lives.
Q9. How do you argue with Christians when they won't accept that the Bible isn't proof?
A. Counter question:
How do you argue with atheists who deny/ignore/bury under tons of philosophical manure/obfuscate with historical sleight of hand the fact that the Bible is filled with hundreds of prophecies that have been and continue to be fulfilled in detail, and then have the unmitigated gall to treat people who believe the Bible is the self-confirming Word of the living God as if they were deluded simpletons who only believe such an absurdity because they are scared of the dark and their mommies and daddies told them so?
For example, show me passages in the Qur'an or the Buddhist sutras or the Bhagavad Gita or whatever other so-called "holy book" you care to name that has prophecies that are in the same league with the following appetizer:
Old Testament prophecies dating back two-and-a-half millennia state that the Jewish people would be scattered all over the world, and in the last days they would be regathered into their original land in a country named "Israel," that Israel would be a prosperous, fruit-producing, Hebrew-speaking nation, that they would be regathered in unbelief in their Messiah Jesus Christ, that the nations of the world would be aligned against them, be preoccupied with their capital Jerusalem, and seek to divide their land.
How am I doing so far?
Q10. When atheists say that they need proof to accept the existence of God, what kind of proof do they actually want?
A. Don't be naive—they don't want proof. They want to lure you into yet another pointless, flesh-based argument that they know they will win, so they can walk away feeling validated and justified in their unbelief and mockery of God. They will continue with this no matter what you say. If the miracle of creation itself and reams of fulfilled prophecy doesn't do it, nothing will.
Including whatever arguments you throw at them.
Love them, pray for them, politely explain the gospel to them if you feel led to do so and the Lord gives you the opportunity.
But don't play their game.
God has given us all the proof we need—more than enough for any reasonable person. They simply reject it out of hand because to do otherwise would put a damper on their efforts to be their own god.
Q11. What is the future of fundamentalist Christianity in America?
A. I guess you could say I am a fundamentalist Christian, and to be honest the mockery and scorn of others (both from other professing believers and unbelievers) are precisely what the New Testament told us to expect, and so are of little concern to me. In fact, I savor the exquisite irony that this mockery is in itself a fulfillment of prophecy (2 Pet. 3:3–4).
Oh, and as for the future of fundamentalist Christians? That's easy:
15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
(1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 KJV)
Folks can caterwaul all they want—I don't care.
And I can't wait.
Q12. Why do some Christians not believe that God's incarnation really happened?
A. This is actually a simple question, but I'm going to take my sweet time with it because this is where the proverbial rubber meets the proverbial road.
This is the nuts and bolts of the gospel.
The biblical definition of a Christian (the only one that counts) is someone who has heard the news about how God sent His Son Jesus into the world to fulfill the law perfectly for us because we couldn't, die on a cross to take the judgment for our sin in our place and satisfy the Father's justice on our behalf, and on the third day rose from the grave in victory over sin and death.
This is called the gospel, and they have responded to the gentle conviction of the Holy Spirit, who convicts men of sin and draws them to Christ, and they have humbled their hearts before God and asked Him to forgive their sin, and believed in faith in the atonement for sin Christ accomplished for them. At that moment, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in their spirit and seals them as an adopted child of God. God removes their sin, imputes His Son's righteousness to them, and they are spiritually reconciled to Him forever. They are born of the Spirit—they are born again.
At that moment, they become a "Christian"—the only kind there is according to the Bible.
If you've done that and believe that, you're a Christian.
If you haven't and you don't, you aren't.
It's pretty much that simple.
If you want to call yourself a "follower of Jesus" and make a sincere effort to live according to many of the philosophical precepts Jesus taught, like turn the other cheek, love your neighbor as yourself, forgive others when they wrong you, etc., you may be an exemplary human being, that does not make you a Christian.
Jesus said it Himself:
7You must be born again.
(John 3:7b AKJV)
Now, here's the thing. If Jesus is not who the Bible says He is—God in the flesh, the visible manifestation of the invisible God, sent by God the Father to be born into the world to save that which was lost (us)—everything I just said is not merely impossible...it's nuts.
The thing about Jesus is that if you read through the Gospels, one thing shines through with stark clarity:
Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.
So, as you can clearly see, someone who doesn't believe that "God's incarnation really happened" is about as much a Christian as they are the Queen of Sheba.
Q13. How do you reconcile a loving Jesus with a God who sends people to hell?
A. I love this kind of question, because it gives people a chance to peek into the nature of God.
God has three eternal, unchanging attributes: He is (a) supremely loving, (b) infinitely holy, and (c) perfectly just. He created us with the capacity to choose to obey Him or disobey Him (i.e., sin).
Long story short, we sinned, and passed that propensity to sin on down to all our human descendants.
An infinitely holy God wanted man to spend eternity with Him. But since Adam and Eve disobeyed Him, we have all inherited a sin nature—sin is in our DNA.
That's not holiness.
So scratch the idea of us spending eternity with God. And God's perfect justice must be satisfied—sin must be judged. That's why He can't just casually toss out blanket forgiveness to all of mankind.
That's not justice.
So, that leaves God with no choice but to let every single human being who ever lived spend eternity separated from Him in a place He created for Satan and all the fallen angels who followed him in his rebellion against Him.
That would be the situation today, except for one thing:
That's not love.
God loves us too much to let that happen without giving us an out. But how??
One thing we need to realize is that God could allow every sinful person who ever lived (and that's 100 percent of us) to spend eternity in hell and He would still be an infinitely holy, perfectly just God. It wouldn't diminish His holiness or justice one iota.
So where does that leave us? Yes, He loves us, but He can't let our sin go unpunished because that would violate His perfect justice. He can't let us live with Him for eternity in heaven because we're sinful—that would violate His infinite holiness. Looks like poor God is between a rock and a hard place.
But here's the kicker:
God is a triune Being who exists eternally in the form of three distinct Persons, typically referred to as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All three have existed together since eternity past, and each possesses the divine character of God and together form one God. This is called the Trinity. To see all three in action at the same time, read about Jesus' baptism in the Jordan river in Matthew 3:13–17. God the Son is in the water, God the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove, and God the Father announces His approval from heaven, and confirms Jesus' part in the Trinity.
First of all, please understand: God is never between a rock and a hard place. That's because He's God—I was being facetious. God had a plan firmly in place from before the creation of the universe. He was going to manifest His love and His grace by creating a way for us to be redeemed from our sinful condition. He was going to do it for us, because we never could.
God the Father sent His Son into the world to live temporarily in a body of flesh as a man—the man Christ Jesus. Since Jesus didn't have a human father, He didn't inherit the sin nature that infects all of us. Thus, He was able to live a sinless life, and willingly went to the cross to die and take the punishment we were due: death and separation from the Father. That's why Jesus cried out from the cross "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" For the first time in His eternal existence, God the Father had to temporarily turn away from His Son, who literally became our sin on the cross. At that moment, He took out all His wrath and poured out His judgment for our sin on His perfect, sinless Son.
What this did was give the Father an opportunity to judge all sin once and for all, satisfying His perfect justice. And when we believe in faith in the finished work of atonement Christ made for us and ask in faith for the forgiveness He purchased for us with His blood, the Father casts our sins as far as the east is from the west, and remembers them no more. Thus, we can spend eternity with Him because now our sin has been completely expunged and He is free to see us as being as righteous as His Son, and His infinite holiness is intact.
It's up to you: Note that God doesn't send people to hell—they send themselves there by refusing to believe what I just said. It's your choice.
Even though I love this type of question, it never fails to break my heart because what I see is sincere, well-meaning people viewing God through the lens of their fleshly, cardboard-cutout image of God that man has created—an image so utterly divorced from what God has revealed to us about Himself in His Word that you'd literally be better off believing in Santa Claus.
Q14. Why do fundamentalist Christians take the Bible so literally?
A. Because the only reason to do otherwise is because you (a) don't like, or (b) don't believe what it says in black and white.
The Bible should be taken as literally as context and common sense allow. Are there examples of allegorical or figurative language in the Bible? Yes, of course, and the context makes it apparent. Is there hyperbole? Are there figures of speech? Sure, just as with many kinds of writing.
The problem isn't whether to take what the Bible says literally.
The problem is people don't like what the Bible literally says.
Q15. As a Christian, how do you reconcile your faith with the many horrific things done by the Church throughout its history, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, patterns of systematic child abuse by clergy, etc., not to mention slavery and so forth in the Old Testament?
A. A couple of things to bear in mind:
1. Please don't make the mistake of equating the "Church" with the Roman Catholic Society of Unregenerate Men Who Revel in Useless Man-made Religious Rituals and Seek Nothing But Worldly Wealth and Power.
Instead of seeking
to mock God, maybe
people should make
an effort to get to
know Him better.
The "Church" is an invisible body of people from all over the world formed during the last two thousand years who have heard the gospel and responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and have believed in faith that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for their sin. As a result, they have been spiritually regenerated by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and have become an adopted son or daughter of the living God. Big difference.
If you think the Roman Catholic...Whatever is the "Church," you have no hope of ever gaining any degree of understanding of God and His Word. You may as well try driving to work blindfolded: you ain't gonna get there.
2. Please remember one thing: the men who carried out such things as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and so forth were unregenerate men acting in direct disobedience to the Bible they claimed to be promoting and defending. Just because they did it in the name of Christ doesn't mean they were obeying Christ. (Unlike Islamic terrorists, who do worse and are acting in direct OBEDIENCE to the Qur'an.)
3. Don't yank things out of their Old Testament context and criticize them in the light of politically correct twentieth century society without really understanding them.
Thousands of years ago, it was common for many people work as servants for wealthier individuals because of the nature of what was a relatively primitive agrarian society. Otherwise, they would have starved because society was a very different animal back then. Obviously they didn't have the large-scale agricultural technology, food processing plants, refrigeration technology, transportation and distribution systems, supermarkets on every street corner, and so on and so forth that we so conveniently take for granted today.
Of course, today the word "slave" has become radioactive, and taints everything it touches. As a result, it's the easiest thing in the world today for people who hate God and are looking for an excuse to mock and criticize people who love Him and know the Bible is His Word to grab an Old Testament reference to "slaves" and wave it around and squeal:
"Looky what your nasty old politically incorrect God of 'love' did!!"
Instead of seeking to mock God, perhaps people should make an effort to get to know Him better. And maybe they should learn more about those who abuse His holy name and His holy Word for their own selfish, worldly agendas.
Q16. What time is it now according to the prophesies of the Bible?
A. Understand that this is a hot-button issue for many believers, as you can see from the potpourri of answers you've received from others.
That's because the answer you receive depends on which camp they happen to be a card-carrying member of. There are:
• preterists, etc., etc., etc.
And the beat goes on.
All use the Bible to support their particular camp's doctrine, and many tend to pillory and demonize the others as deceived heretics who spew lies spawned in the pit of hell.
This has always been true to varying degrees, but I've noticed that it's reached fever pitch in the last few years. Before I continue, however, a disclaimer:
Attitude adjustment: I want to consciously remind myself that all other born-again believers in the gospel are my brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter what they may think about the topic of Bible prophecy, Christ died for their sins the same as He died for mine and I will spend eternity with them in the same heaven, praising the same holy, just, loving God who reconciled us to Himself through His grace—grace He expressed to us through His Son: the one and only mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. The Bible commands me to love them, pray for them, edify them, and build them up in their faith in whatever small way I can as the opportunity arises, and that precludes allowing differences of opinion over secondary doctrinal issues to engender strife and division—much less bitter acrimony—between them and myself. In addition, I want to humbly and gently admonish other believers to strive to maintain the same attitude, the only attitude that befits those who have been washed in His precious blood.
I don't know about anyone else, but I think I'm going to print that out and tape it to my monitor.
OK, now I'll tell you my honest view of Scripture. I have studied the Bible for a number of years, and have always been drawn to end-time prophecy. I recognize that some are and some are not, and that's fine.
I personally believe there is a coming event known as the Rapture or the catching up of the Church, and also a coming seven-year period of time commonly referred to as the Tribulation, or Daniel's 70th Week. I believe the Tribulation has several purposes, but two of the most fundamental are to (a) purge Israel and bring forth a believing remnant who will finally embrace their true Messiah, and (b) judge the nations of the world who have spurned God's grace and mercy and persecuted His people Israel.
I believe the Tribulation is triggered by the actual implementation of a treaty that, among other things, will divide the land of Israel. (Two state solution? Your guess is as good as mine.) I happen to be convinced based on my study of the Word that the Rapture not only will, but must precede the Tribulation. I personally can find no other way to literally, consistently, and sensibly interpret Scripture, with all due love and respect to those who disagree.
As far as what time it is, prophetically speaking, that's easy: I believe Revelation 2–3 is a prophetic summary outline of the entire Church Age, and we are coming right to the end of chapter 3. Plus, the "great sign" in Revelation 12:1–2 is going to be literally fulfilled on September 23, 2017. I am not saying that's the date of the Rapture (nor should anyone else), but it is indicative of the lateness of the hour, and it's telling those with ears to hear that it's getting real—that the curtain is about to come up.
If I'm anywhere near being right, then we're staring right down the barrels of it. The still, small voice whispering into one ear tries to convince me that we could have as much as five to seven more years before the Rapture. The still, small voice whispering into the other is convinced we may not have one.
Just my two shekels.
Q17. Why did God reveal Himself and clearly interact with people in biblical times, but has seemingly "disappeared" today?
A. Excellent question. As usual, the Bible has the answer for those willing to study it.
First of all, God chose a man to begin a race of people who would be His people. That was Abram (later changed to Abraham), and those people became known as the Jews. God chose this race of people to be His chosen people for four basic reasons:
• Israel was to be the vehicle through which God would give man His written Word. They were to write down the things God said and did as the Holy Spirit moved upon them and preserve them with absolute accuracy (Isa. 42:9).
• Israel was to be God's witnesses on earth that He existed and was the only God (Isa. 43:10–12). That is, the miracles He performed on their behalf and His manifest presence among them was to prove to all mankind that He and He alone was the one true God.
• Israel was to be the instrument through which God would be glorified on earth (Isa. 49:3).
• Israel was to be the channel through which the Messiah would come to bring blessings and salvation to the world (Isa. 49:6).
After all God did for them and on their behalf, however, they still repeatedly played the harlot and chased after pagan gods. God would judge them according to the terms of His covenant with them, they would return to Him, He would bless them again, and then the cycle would repeat. Finally, God sent them their promised Messiah to remove their iniquities and establish the kingdom He had promised them.
And they killed Him.
But this was God's plan from before the foundation of the world. God used the Jews' rejection of the Messiah He promised and then sent them to open the door of salvation to the Gentiles—the entire world. The Church was conceived on the day of Pentecost 50 days after the Resurrection, and it is an invisible body of people who hear the gospel and believe in faith that Christ paid the penalty for their sin. At the same time, Israel has been temporarily set aside and hardened while the Church is being formed (Rom. 11:25).
But here is what a lot of people miss. In John 20, Jesus appears to His disciples the evening of the Resurrection. They've all no doubt seen the empty tomb, but Thomas isn't there. When the disciples go to Thomas later and tell him they've seen the Lord, He staunchly refuses to believe—he demands physical proof. Eight days later, Jesus appears to them again, and Thomas is there—he sees the Lord and believes. But notice what Jesus says:
29Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
(John 20:29b AKJV)
That's the Church. By its very nature, the Church consists of those who believe the gospel in faith. They don't believe because they have seen some earth-shattering miracles, but because they have responded to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit telling them they are sinners separated from a holy God who loves them enough to send His Son to die for them.
Q. How much faith do you need to believe if God overtly manifests His power and presence in front of your face?
A. Not a whole lot.
The Bible gives us the Messiah's response through the prophet Hosea:
15I will go and return to my place, until they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face. In their affliction they will seek me earnestly.
Jesus will return at the climax of the Great Tribulation (the purpose of which is to judge the Christ-rejecting nations of the world and effect the national redemption of a believing remnant of Israel) to save His people who have returned to God with all their hearts (Deut. 30:1–4).
So, you think God has "disappeared." Well, you wanna see some heavy duty wrath of God stuff? You wanna see His hand move in judgment and slay a few billion people? You want God to wow you with megaquakes, asteroid strikes, and 100-pound hailstones?
Be careful what you wish for, because if you are not part of the group I mentioned earlier called the Church (which God has clearly promised in His Word to remove beforehand), the Bible says you just may get your chance.
P.S. On the other hand, maybe all the atheists are right. Maybe it's all a bunch of myths and all the Old Testament prophets were just incredibly lucky guessers. Maybe ancient historians are wrong and Jesus never existed—or if He did, maybe He really was a deluded nut job who died for nothing.
Q18. If you become a Christian by believing the Bible, why do Christians still believe everything in the Bible is true when they know every single word of it was changed?
A. Couple of things:
First of all, nobody "becomes a Christian" by believing the Bible. Allow me to explain.
First, you are a sinner who has fallen short of God's standard of holiness. This is not in dispute, because God's standard of holiness is absolute perfection. Your sinful condition has spiritually separated you from God, but the good news is that God had a plan in place to remedy the situation from the very beginning.
He sent His only Son into the world to live a sinless life as a man in a body of flesh, go to the cross and allow God the Father to judge all sin. He rose from the grave, demonstrating that He had broken the curse of sin and death and providing forgiveness of sin for any and all who will ask and believe in faith.
That's how one "becomes a Christian." In reality, it is nothing short of the one and only way to be forgiven of sin and reconciled to a holy God you are spiritually separated from. If you want to call that the "Christian religion," knock yourself out.
But in fact, it's not a "religion." It's a relationship with God through faith in the redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ.
Second, you, along with legions of others who enjoy trashing the Bible, simply haven't done your homework. =;)
This idea that "every single word of it was changed" wilts quickly under even the most cursory examination. The evidence for the accurate preservation of the original autographs of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) is absolutely light years beyond any ancient text in existence. That is not the biased opinion of religious charlatans seeking to perpetrate a fraud—that is a fact recognized by every serious scholar, religious and secular, who has any actual idea what they are talking about. If you do your homework, this is what you will find.
Q19. If Christians had a chance to save Jesus from the Crucifixion, would they?
A. They might try for obvious human reasons, but they would fail. Jesus was voluntarily submitting to the will of His Father, which was for His Son to lay down His life for us—the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous. Had He not done so there would be no such thing as a "Christian." Jesus went to the cross to atone for the sins of mankind and take our punishment so we could be forgiven of sin and reconciled to God by His grace through faith, and so that the Father's justice could be satisfied on our behalf.
And that's a good thing. =:)
If, theoretically, someone had somehow been able to prevent Jesus from submitting to the will of the Father, we would all die in our sins and spend eternity separated from a loving God.
And that's not a good thing. =:(
Q20. Can atheists and theists at least agree that God exists within the hearts and minds of men?
A. This is a wonderful "Why can't we all just get along?" question, but sadly it misses the point. In reality, this question does little more than seek a kinder, gentler atheism. A warm, fuzzy atheism that slaps theism on the back and wishes it a very Merry Christmas.
But here's the thing. There is intensifying spiritual warfare raging all around us, and there are only two sides (and neither is neutral). Here's how it works: you believe the gospel in faith and thus choose the side of righteousness, or you get chosen by Satan by default. Satan is free to pounce on all the "non-choosers": the stragglers, deniers, snoozers, and fence-sitters:
8Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
(1 Peter 5:8)
So rouse yourself from your spiritual slumber and choose...or hit the snooze button and be chosen.
Or perhaps I should say devoured.
And that's 20. I hope you enjoyed reading some of these half as much as I enjoyed writing them, and that you were blessed in some small way.
If you were, then so was I.
Greg Lauer / February 2017
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1. Deriv. of "Sunset Over Grass Field" © AOosthuizen at Can Stock Photo
2. "Questions and Answers" © OutStyle at Fotolia.com
3. "Hand of Drowning Man" © Lilyana Vynogradova at Fotolia.com
4. "Back in Time"—derivative work based on 4a–4b:
4a. "Healing of the Blind Man" by Carl Heinrich Bloch [PD]
4b. "Time Machine Capsule" © aleciccotelli at Fotolia.com
5. "Nuts and Bolts" © agphotos at Fotolia.com
6. "Clock Face" © stuartbur at Fotolia.com
(All PD works are via Wikimedia Commons.)
All Scripture is taken from the World English Bible, unless annotated as KJV (King James Version) or AKJV (American King James Version).