Tag Archives: hell

June 2015 Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  idle words, sinning against God in heaven, degrees of eternal reward and punishment, 1 Corinthian 2:7’s “secret wisdom,” comparison of Sodom and the United States, participation in prayers led by non-Christians, bearing one another’s burdens, asking forgiveness in prayer

Yesterday was the most recent Bible Question & Answer session at the Duncan Church of Christ in Duncan, SC.  I really appreciate these questions, those who ask them, and the research required of me to provide biblical answers.  Activities such as these help us all to grow (1 Pet. 3:15).

Please explain “idle words” (Matt. 12:36-37).

“Idle” (argos) literally means “free from labor, at leisure; lazy, shunning the labor which one ought to perform.”  “Idle words” therefore refer to words which we utter lazily, at our leisure, shunning the responsibilities concerning them which God says we have.

God gives us many responsibilities concerning what we speak and how we are to speak it (cf. Matt. 6:9; Eph. 5:4; Matt. 5:33-37; Eph. 4:15, 29; etc.)  When we unrepentantly speak in haste (don’t think before we speak) or don’t care about what we say or how we say it, we are “idle” when it comes to our words and will be condemned accordingly.

The devil sinned against God in heaven by thinking he was more powerful.  Does that mean we could also sin against God by thinking we are more powerful?

The Bible says the sin Satan committed was pride (1 Tim. 3:6).  Pride in the sense that he thought he was more powerful than God?  Perhaps, but the Bible doesn’t clearly state as much (Deut. 29:29).

We will not sin against God in heaven for whatever reason because the righteous are promised ETERNAL life after judgment, without end (Matt. 25:46).  In the new heaven and earth, death/separation from God will be no more (Rev. 21:4; cf. Rom. 6:23).  Nothing unclean will ever enter Heaven (Rev. 21:27; 22:15).

Are there varying degrees of Heaven and Hell?

There’s no biblical evidence that our human spirit will be fundamentally and basically changed after death.  Thus, it’s likely we will be capable of various degrees of satisfaction in eternity, depending upon our capacity for such, since we are capable of different levels of satisfaction in this life.

The Bible implies varying levels of reward for the saved.  Jesus’ parable of the 10 minas teaches such (Luke 19:12ff).  He promised to “repay each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27).  “According to” (kata) implies a norm, a standard by which rewards or punishments are given, signifying a proportionately fair dispersal.  Paul knew he would have both joy and glory for converting souls (1 Thess. 2:19-20), yet he also cautioned us to seek true converts over superficial ones because if one’s converts did not endure, he himself would still be saved while also suffering “loss” of the joy and glory of knowing his work of converting those souls would be fruitful for eternity (1 Cor. 3:10ff; cf. Gal. 4:11).  In other words, the more of our converts who endure and finally arrive in heaven, the greater our joy and reward will be.

In like manner, the Bible also implies varying levels of punishment for the condemned.  Cities in Galilee were told it would be “more tolerable” for Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom than for them (Matt. 11:20-24; cf. 10:15).  The knowingly disobedient would be punished more than those who were punished because they ignorantly disobeyed (Luke 12:47-48).  Pilate was told that those who had delivered Jesus to him “have the greater sin” (John 19:11), implying a greater punishment.  Willful, unrepentant sinners under the New Covenant would receive a “worse” punishment than unrepentant sinners under the Old Covenant (Heb. 10:26-31).  The “last state” of apostate Christians would be “worse” than it would have been should they had never been converted in the first place (2 Pet. 2:20-22; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17).

What is the “secret wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:7)?

Not human wisdom (2:6, 8); rather, a mystery hidden from man which God ordained before creation (2:7) in order to glorify those who accept him (cf. 2 Thess. 1:10).  It pertains to things which we cannot perceive on our own which God first prepared (2:9), then revealed via the Spirit to the apostles and prophets (2:10-11; cf. John 16:12-14; Eph. 3:1-5), who received it (2:12) and then spoke/wrote it to us (2:13; cf. Eph. 3:3-4).

What is it?  The inspired New Testament, the gospel (Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).

Please compare the continuous evil thoughts and actions of Sodom to the current state of affairs in the United States.

To clarify, the population of the world in Noah’s day were the ones of whom it was said that every thought and intention of their heart was evil, not Sodom (Gen. 6:5).

In comparing Sodom to the U.S., we must note several things:

  • Sodom was punished because of ungodliness (2 Pet. 2:6), fornication in the form of homosexuality (Jude 7), and selfish, prideful lack of benevolence to the needy in spite of excess of food and prosperous ease (Ezek. 16:49).
  • Cites who unrepentantly rejected Christ would be in a worse predicament than Sodom on Judgment (Matt. 10:15; 11:23-24).
  • God was willing to spare Sodom if 10-50 righteous people were found within it, possibly .5% of its population at most.
  • The entire male population of the town was willing to commit homosexual rape of strangers (Gen. 19:4).

The overall ungodliness and immorality of America is headed towards the same levels of Sodom…but are we there yet?  Compare…

  • Homosexuality is embraced by many as last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide proves…but are all or even most of the population of the United States in favor of homosexual rape of strangers?
  • It’s probable that more than .5% tops of the U.S. population are righteous or at the very least wanting to be righteous.
  • Christ is generally accepted far more in the U.S. than could have been said of the Galilean cities of his day, of whom it was said were in worse shape than Sodom.
  • The U.S. is prosperous, and we are pridefully selfish with our excess to a degree…but we are also well known for our benevolence toward many domestically and abroad.

If we continue down the road we’re on, we will arrive to where Sodom was perhaps within a generation or three.  Yet even now there is still much positive good in America, and we as Christians can make an impact for even more good.

But only if we are far more evangelistic than we currently are.

Is it proper for a member of the church to participate in a prayer led by a non-member?  If I pray along with that non-member, does my “Amen” validate that prayer led by that non-member before God?

God does not hear the prayers of alien sinners (Is. 59:2), save for those who are searching for the truth with honest hearts (Matt. 5:6; Acts 10:1-4; 11:13-14; Luke 8:15).  “Amen” (“so be it”) by definition shows verbal approval, so does God want us showing approval of error?  (Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11)

That said, many factors make each individual case in which this situation occurs a matter of personal judgment:

  • In some cases we know the hearts of an individual (Mark 7:20-23), yet in others we don’t (1 Tim. 5:24).  Can we in every case know if the non-Christian who’s leading the prayer is closed-minded to the gospel, or like Cornelius whose prayers outside of Christ were heard because he obviously was open to the truth?
  • If we bow our head during a public prayer led by someone not a member of the church, are we giving them and our brethren the impression that we endorse their prayer and thus consider them to be in Christ even though they’re denomination?  Would that be a stumbling block to weaker brethren, leading them to become more ecumenical?  (Rom. 14:21)
  • Children are not members of the church, yet they are not sinners either if they’ve not yet become accountable.  We are to train them how to pray (Eph. 6:4), allowing them to pray verbally themselves as a teaching tool.  We would hinder our efforts to teach them if they noticed we openly weren’t praying alongside them.

One would be wise to consider each of these and other elements and whether they truly play a factor in each individual situation, and then make a personal judgment accordingly and individually, keeping it between you and God (Rom. 14:22).  If you have any doubts whatsoever, then abstain because whatever violates your conscience is sin (Rom. 14:23).

Saying “Amen” itself doesn’t validate a prayer before God.  Rather, whether the prayer is in complete accordance with his will does that (Col. 3:17).

If what is being prayed by the non-Christian is completely scriptural, and if you’ve taken into account the previously-discussed factors and made the personal, private judgment that it’s okay to make it your own prayer to God…then your prayer would be valid before God, not because of the “Amen” per se, but because what was prayed is scriptural and you made it your own prayer.

To what extent are we to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2)?  Does this verse teach humility (v. 3)?  Does this verse teach us to still bear others’ burdens when they are the result of the person’s transgression (v. 1)?  If yes, we have a great need for love and humility when carrying out this command.

The father in the parable of the prodigal son unhesitatingly and compassionately took back his wayward yet penitent son and comforted him (Luke 15:20-32).  When we do the same, we help bear that person’s burdens.

God providentially both blesses and corrects the unjust (Matt. 5:45; Ps. 119:67).  In like manner, we bear the burdens of the one who is overtaken in transgression by no only correcting them (v. 1), but also by patiently comforting and encouraging them (v. 10: cf. 1 Thess. 5:11, 14-15).  Doing so requries much love for the one caught in transgression and for our brethren and fellow man in general (1 John 3:11, 14, 16-17).

The one who limits their interaction with a brother or sister caught in transgression to nothing more than correction or gossip loves themselves only…but not their brethren and certainly not God!!

To love others and help them shoulder their burdens requires much humility, a willingness to recognize that we are sinners who need each other’s help also (cf. Matt. 7:12), exactly what Galatians 6:3 is talking about.

Also, note that “bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) is baros in the Greek, which Thayer defines as “heaviness, weight, burden, trouble.”  Yet, “for each will have to bear his own load (Gal. 6:5) is phortion in the Greek, which Strong defines as “a burden which must be carried by the individual, i.e. as something personal and hence is not transferrable, i.e. it cannot ‘be shifted’ to someone else.”

Thus, Christians must bear each other’s sorrows over sins and misfortunes (Gal. 6:2)…yet each of us must still bear and fulfill our own individual responsibilities (Gal. 6:5).  Balance is required (Matt. 23:23).  We must never try to completely take the problems of another away from them or shoulder all of their responsibilities.  It can’t be done, and trying to do it will hinder them from becoming stronger (Heb. 12:5-11).  Yet we must also not have the mindset of “They laid their bed, now let them sleep in it!”, an attitude that joyfully takes heart in their hardships and selfishly refuses to try to help.

There also comes a time to walk away, yet with love (Tit. 3:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15).

When do we ask for forgiveness in our private prayers (1 John 1:9)?  Should we ask at the beginning of our prayer, or does it matter when we ask?

The model prayer which places forgiveness toward the end of the prayer is meant to be a model, not an exact replica to be repeated verbatim (Matt. 6:7-13).  David requested forgiveness right at the start of one of his prayers (Ps. 51:1-2).

Thus, it matters not when in the prayer the Christian asks for forgiveness, only that he asks…and with a penitent heart (cf. Acts 8:22).

The Curse Of Christ

Here’s today’s Scripture of the Day:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Galatians 3:13

The apostle Paul wrote this to Galatian churches who were struggling with the notion that they did not have to obey the Old Testament Law of Moses any more due to being under the New Testament Law of Christ.  Today’s verse is just one of many points Paul is making towards that end, namely, that the Law of Moses was taken out of the way and replaced with the New Covenant when Christ died on the cross (Eph. 2:14-16; Col. 2:13-17; Heb. 9:15-17).

Christ, our propitiation (1 John 2:2).Beyond that, let’s think of the huge ramifications of Paul’s statement that Christ “became a curse for us.”  As scriptural proof of that statement, he cited Deuteronomy 21:22-23, the statement in the Law of Moses which pronounced a curse on any criminal hung to death on a tree.  While Christ was not hung from a tree with a noose around his neck, that cross was made of wood and he hung there in the agony of crucifixion, thereby becoming a curse.  It is for this reason that God turned his back on his own Son, causing the Son to cry out in anguished spiritual agony:  “‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God my God, why have you forsaken me?'” (Matt. 27:46).

What will make the curse of eternal hell so terrible is that God will not be there (2 Thess. 1:9), for God cannot have anything to do with sin (Is. 59:2).  Christ went through that on the cross…and he did it for us.  The apostle wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).  Christ was cursed…for us.  He tasted hell…for us.

That’s how much he loves us.

Jesus died...for you

You Are Peter, And On This Rock I Will Build My Church…

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18 – Scripture of the Day (January 20, 2014)

Such an encouraging verse with a powerful, uplifting promise!  And yet, due to translation error and false teachings this powerful passage is misunderstood by so many!

For example, “the gates of hell” should be more accurately translated from the Greek “the gates of Hades.”  Hades and hell are actually two different words in the Greek which describe two different places, but many think they’re the same thing due to many English translations translating Hades as hell, which in turn is due to the translators being influenced by the erroneous teaching that Hades and hell are the same.  Hell is gehenna in the Greek (Matt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6).  The word originally referred to the city of Jerusalem’s garbage dump, and then was used to symbolically refer to the eternal lake of fire reserved for Satan and his followers after judgment.  Hades is where the dead wait for judgment.  The rich man was in torment in Hades, although several translations erroneously translate the word as “hell” (Luke 16:23).  However, Jesus and the thief whom he forgave were also in Hades after they died, in the part referred to as Paradise or Abraham’s bosom or side (Acts 2:27; cf. Luke 23:39-43; 16:22-24) which is separated from where the rich man is tormented by a gulf or chasm (Luke 16:26).  Thus, Hades is a place where both the righteous and unrighteous dead are, unlike hell which is reserved for the unrighteous for all eternity.  On the day of judgment, Death and Hades will deliver up the dead that are in them and then be cast into the lake of fire which is hell, after which all who are judged by God to be condemned will also be cast into hell, along with Satan (Rev. 20:10-15).  Thus, Hades and hell are two different places.  By telling Peter that “the gates of Hades” shall not prevail against the church, Jesus was in effect promising that the church would not die.

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the mistaken notion that one church is just as good as another.  This ecumenical mindset ignores several biblical points about the church:

  1. When Jesus spoke of building his church in this passage, notice that he spoke of the church in a singular fashion, not as pluralistic.  In other words, he said, “…I will build my church.”  He didn’t say, “…I will build my churches.”
  2. This is because the New Testament reveals that there in fact is only one church.  Paul spoke of the body of Christ as being his church (Eph. 1:22-23), and then specifically said that there is only one body, as well as only one faith (Eph. 4:4-5).  If the body is the church, and there is one body, then there is one church.  One church, one body, one faith.  Compare that to the thousands of different denominations, sects, and cults which all believe different things while claiming to all follow Christ…even though Christ’s New Testament specifically commands Christians that “…all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10; cf. John 17:20-23; Phil. 2:1-2).

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession which teaches that Peter was the first Pope.  This verse is commonly cited by Catholicism to mean that Jesus was saying that the church was built on Peter.  However, this notion is mistaken for two reasons:

  1. Peter could not have been the first Pope, because Peter was married (Matt. 8:14-15; 1 Cor. 9:5) and Catholic doctrine teaches that the Pope and other bishops must be celibate, even though the New Testament specifically states that bishops must be married (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6).  (With this in mind, compare Catholic doctrine to the prophecy of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-3.)
  2. It is well known that “Peter” means “rock,” and so the assumption is made that when Jesus said, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”, he was saying that the church would be built on Peter.  However, a study of the Greek words used in Matthew 16:18 reveals that Jesus actually used two different words here.  When he said, “…you are Peter…”, he used the masculine Greek word Petros, which refers to a rock or stone.  However, when he then said, “…upon this rock…”, he used the feminine Greek word petra, which refers to a large rock or stone, or a cliff.  The two similar but different words show by definition that Jesus had two similar but different concepts in mind when he spoke this sentence.  The church would not be built upon the rock of the apostle Peter (Petros), but upon a large rock or cliff (petra).  Contextually, the only thing Jesus could have in mind in reference to the petra would be the confession Peter had just made that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), which of course we know is the foundation of faith upon which the church is built (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11).

Thus, today’s Scripture of the Day records a promise Jesus made to Peter, the other apostles, and us that gives me comfort every time I read it.  He promised to build his church, of which there is only one, upon the rock of the confession of faith in him as the Son of God, and that his church would never die and thus be overcome by the gates of Hades.

Are you a part of his church?  The Bible specifically states that he is the Savior of his church (Eph. 5:23).  Do you want Christ to be your Savior?  Be a part of his church, not some man-made denomination.  Make the same heart-felt confession of faith that Peter made (Matt. 16:16; Rom. 10:9-10), choose to repent of your sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19), and wash your sins away via immersion into the body of Christ, his church (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).