Bible Questions and Answers (Page 1)
Q: How can a person get to heaven (become saved)?
A: To be saved from eternal torment, one must believe the gospel of grace. The gospel of grace is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, freely gave His life as the perfect sacrifice to pay for all of our sins, was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead on the third day.
Please see my article, Roman Road to Salvation, which provides more detailed discussion on this topic as well as scriptural support.
Q: What is the unpardonable sin?
A: The phrase "unpardonable sin" refers to Matthew 12:31-32 when Jesus Christ said, "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."
When trying to understand any Bible passage, you have to always look at when it is spoken and to whom it is spoken. In this case, it is spoken to and applies to unbelieving Jews before Christ went to the cross, and before the Holy Spirit was given to believers. They were under the law of Moses, whereas today we are under grace. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit seals us (Ephesians 1:13-14). That was not the case with people before the cross. It makes no sense to try to apply that verse to Christians today who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In this present dispensation of grace, we are saved as soon as we believe the gospel. At that point, all of our sins, past, present, or future, are forgiven (Colossians 2:13 and 3:13). So the only thing that is unpardonable is unbelief.
Q: If certain groups, who call themselves Christian, are mixing law and grace, yet still believe that Jesus Christ died for them and rose from the dead, aren't they still saved, even with their mixing of law and grace?
A: The key is, do they really believe they are saved by grace through faith in the gospel of grace without works? If so, then they are saved.
Now some groups believe they have to be baptized with water, or that they must not work on Sunday, or that they must speak in tongues or perform certain good deeds or rituals etc. If they believe that Jesus Christ died for them and rose from the dead, and know that their works have nothing to do with their salvation, then they are saved (through faith alone, without an ounce of works). But on the other hand, if they do believe that doing this or that is required for their salvation (as many groups and denominations teach) in addition to their faith, then that is mixing faith and works. It is the same as that which Paul sternly warned the Galatians against in Galatians 3:1-3, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" We are saved through faith. The works of the flesh play no part in salvation.
Adding in works for salvation is basically the same as telling Jesus Christ, "No Lord, your death was insufficient." That is not faith in the gospel, and I see no scriptural reason to think that such a person would be saved. The errant doctrine known as Lordship salvation makes this mistake in a more subtle, but no less harmful, way. Saying that one must make Jesus Christ "Lord of your life" to truly be saved is really saying that you must add at least a little works to your faith in order to be saved. That is tainting the gospel. Salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Faith does not equal works, but rather, faith is belief.
So among those who mix the dispensations of Law and Grace, the few who truly believe the gospel, keeping the works out of salvation, are truly saved, but the majority who are depending upon the works of the flesh are lost.
Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Q: Is speaking in tongues required for salvation?
A: Absolutely not. We are saved by faith in the gospel and nothing else. No works are required for salvation. Not speaking in tongues, being baptized with water, church attendance, tithing, or any ritual. Salvation is by faith plus nothing. In Romans 1:16 Paul writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth ...." Likewise in Romans 3:22 Paul teaches on, "... the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe ...." Also, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Both Romans and Ephesians clearly tell that we are saved by believing the gospel. It should also be noted that there is absolutely no mention of tongues in either the book of Romans or the book of Ephesians.
Q: How did Jesus Christ atone for our sins? We know that all of the lost will receive eternal damnation in the lake of fire. We also know that Jesus Christ was cruelly tortured and died, but was resurrected after only 3 days. How does the 3 days balance out with the eternal punishment that the lost would receive? Wouldn't Christ really have to experience the permanent death to make it a fair substitution?
A: That is a very good question, since atonement is something that is often misunderstood.
There are some who would say, "Well, God is outside of time, and we don't know from the Bible exactly what Jesus Christ was doing for those three days while He was dead. So we can't say what level of punishment Jesus Christ actually endured or for how long."
But, from our human standpoint, it was three days. Even if the time was spent in flames of torment (and I am not saying that it was), it is still three days compared with the eternity that lost people will spend in the lake of fire. Therefore it "seems" (as far as we can tell) apparent that the pain and suffering are not equal. So how could that be a fair substitution?
The key is that the atonement does not hinge upon the level of suffering at all, but upon Christ's shed blood and substitutionary death for us.
It does not matter whether the suffering was equal or not. Here is why:
Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ...." That one man was Adam. He sinned, and all people are descended from him. Therefore, we are all sinners, and unworthy of the glory of God.
Continuing in verse Romans 5:17-19 Paul writes, "For if by one man's offence (Adam's sin) death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." So we all became sinners by the sin of one man, Adam, and we can all be declared righteous by the righteousness of one man, Jesus Christ.
Here is how it works: Paul writes in Romans 6:3-6, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized (immersed) into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted (buried) together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man (our old sin nature) is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed ...."
Paul is not talking about water baptism here. There is no mention of water at all in this passage. He is saying that when we become a believer, we are immersed into the body of Jesus Christ. Being in His body, we died with Him on that cross. Our old sin natures are accounted as dead in the eyes of God. We were buried with Him. If Jesus Christ had remained in the tomb, there would have been no hope for our resurrection, since we are in Him. But Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, and every believer rose with Him. Through His life, we have life. He is sinless, and since we are in Him, God sees us as sinless as well (even though we do still sin). So from the moment we believe, whenever God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death ....". We were in Adam when he sinned. So for that, we received death. But if we are in Jesus Christ, then His death counts as our death.
The atonement is accomplished by Jesus Christ's shed blood and substitutionary death for us. Atonement does not depend upon the level of suffering or length of suffering.
Q: Why do some people say this or that church or denomination is doomed? Is God going to line us up by our denomination on Judgment Day?
A: It is not proper to tell someone that their entire church is doomed. However, there are some denominations and churches that teach false gospels, which will lead all of those to their doom, who strictly follow that denomination's teaching. But those who believe the true gospel of grace, and not just whatever their denomination teaches, are saved regardless of the group with which they are associated. Conversely, one's denomination may preach the true gospel of grace. If one believes that gospel, then one has eternal salvation. But if one does not believe it, then one is lost even though the official teaching of one's denomination is correct. All the church attendance, baptisms, tithing, good works, and so on, will not save them.
Q: Who do you believe wrote the epistle of Hebrews?
A: Paul wrote Romans-Philemon for us in this dispensation of grace, whether we are Jew or Gentile. I also believe that Paul wrote Hebrews to the early Jews for their dispensation. Some people perceive a conflict with the idea of Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, writing a letter to a group of assemblies composed only of Jews. But I see no conflict with Paul being the author. After all, he preached to Jews in Damascus in Acts 9 and also to the Jews in Jerusalem in the latter parts of Acts. He did not even preach to any Gentiles until Acts 13. Here is why I believe Paul is the author:
1. The author knows Timothy well enough to be his traveling companion (Hebrews 13:23). Timothy and Paul had traveled together on Paul's second and third journeys.
2. The Hebrews had compassion on the writer when he was a prisoner (Hebrew 10:34). So we know that the author was once in prison, most likely in Israel. Paul had been a prisoner in Israel from 58-60 AD.
3. Paul ends all of his letters with "Grace be with you all" (Hebrew 13:25) or some similar phrase.
4. The doctrine has evidence of Paul's knowledge of the sacrificial nature of Christ's death, which had been a mystery until it was revealed to Paul.
5. The author was not a disciple of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry (Hebrew 2:3-4). That rules out any of the twelve as being the author.
6. Deep Old Testament knowledge shows the author was a well studied Jew. Paul was a Jew and a Pharisee, learned in the law of Moses under the highly respected teacher Gamaliel. Paul said in Acts 22:3, "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers ...." In Philippians 3:5 Paul wrote that he was, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee ...."
7. The author is in or has been to Italy (Hebrew 13:24). Paul was a prisoner there from 61-63 AD.
Paul meets all seven of these qualifications, and I am not aware of any other person who does. Also, we definitely know that Paul wrote at least one letter to the Hebrews from what Peter says when writing to Jews in 2 Peter 3:15-16, "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." The author of Hebrews did not sign his name, so I can see how some may still have a little doubt. But I believe that it was Paul to a very high level of probability.
Q: What was Apostle Paul's "thorn in the flesh"?
A: In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul writes, "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
The scriptures never really nail it down in any one place. However, based upon hints that are provided in the following passages, I believe that Paul had a problem with his eyes that resulted in poor vision.
(1) In Galatians 4:13-15, Paul said while discussing his infirmity, "... through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you ... my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not ... if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me." It is possible that this was only an expression of how much the Galatians loved Paul. However, it is more likely intended not only as an expression of their love, but also as a reference to the part of Paul's flesh (his eyes) which was most infirm.
(2) Even though Paul was learned in both Hebrew and Greek, he usually had others write down his letters for him. In the salutations of Romans 16, Tertius interjects in verse 22, "I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord."
(3) When Paul had to write the letters himself, he wrote with very large lettering. Galatians 6:11 (NASV) says, "See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand." Some say that this verse refers to the overall size of the letter he wrote to the Galatians, rather than to the size of the characters Paul used. But Galatians is a rather small letter, much smaller than either of the Corinthian letters or the one to the Romans.
(4) In Acts 23:2-5, Paul was unable to recognize the high priest who was very likely arrayed in his most unique and unmistakable robe. "... the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."
(5) Acts 28:3 says, "... when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand." Perhaps it was poor vision that kept Paul from seeing the snake in the bundle of sticks.
(6) As we saw in 2 Corinthians 12:7 above, the thorn in the flesh was given to Paul to keep him from being exalted. It would seem that the most logical time for this to have happened would have been when Paul became a believer. It was at that time that God touched Paul's eyes (Acts 9:8 & 18). Paul was blinded, and scales fell from his eyes when his sight was restored. Perhaps, like Jacob's thigh in Genesis 32:24-32, Paul's vision was never the same after that day.
These six different hints seem to concur pretty conclusively that the thorn in Paul's flesh was or at least included poor vision, but there may still be a little room for disagreement.
Q: Who took the place of Judas Iscariot as the twelfth apostle, Matthias or Paul?
A: It was prophesied back in the Old Testament that the one who betrayed the Messiah would lose his position of authority, and it would be given to another. Peter said in Acts 1:20, "For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick (office as overseer) let another take." Acts 1:15-26 describes how Matthias was chosen to replace Judas.
Now there are many teachers who say that the 11 apostles were out of line for filling that twelfth spot in Acts 1, and that God later chose Paul to take the place vacated by Judas Iscariot. But close examination of the scriptures shows that this is not at all reasonable.
Acts 2:4 says, "... they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." God did not leave out Matthias, but confirmed his apostleship along with the others as the 12 spoke to the multitude. Acts 2:14 says, "Peter, standing up with the eleven (11 + 1 = 12), lifted up his voice ...." This confirms that Matthias was included in the twelve.
Acts 2:43 says that "... many signs and wonders were done by the apostles." If Matthias had not performed signs and wonders like the other 11 apostles, it would have been obvious that God was not working through him. But God confirmed the authority of Matthias with signs and wonders just like the other 11 apostles.
Acts 6:2 says, "... the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them ...." This shows that Matthias was one of the twelve, since Judas Iscariot was dead, and Paul was not yet even a believer. This is even confirmed by Paul himself in 1 Corinthians 15:4-5, "... he (Jesus Christ) rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas (Peter), then of the twelve ...." Again, Judas Iscariot was already dead, and Paul was not yet a believer.
God called Paul to a separate ministry as "the apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13), whereas the twelve were called to "the apostleship of the circumcision (Israelites)" (Galatians 2:8). Indeed, Paul did not meet the qualifications to be one of the twelve. The qualifications from Acts 1:21-22 included, "... men which have companied with us (the other apostles) all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." This clearly does not apply to Paul who was not even a believer at any time during Jesus Christ's earthly ministry.
Q: When and where did Paul die? What were the circumstances of his martyrdom?
A: The scriptures do not provide a much detail here. But Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:6, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." From Paul's mention of his chain in 2 Timothy 1:16, and Rome in verse 17, it seems he was in prison in Rome. He was apparently executed around 67 AD or so, shortly after writing 2 Timothy.
Q: What happens when we are raptured?
A: At some future time (we don't know when), before the tribulation, the trump of God and the voice of the archangel will signal the catching away of the true church. Then all of the souls of the Christians who have died will return to their dead bodies, which will be instantly changed to immortal, incorruptible, eternal bodies and come out of their graves. Then we who are left alive will not die, but our bodies will be instantly changed into immortal, incorruptible, eternal bodies. Then we will be caught up into the clouds to meet our fellow Christians who have died and our Lord Jesus Christ in the air. Then we all shall be with the Lord forever.
We know this from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 which are the two places in scripture which speak the most about our being caught up into heaven (commonly referred to as the rapture). This is not to be confused with the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation at which times Christ's feet will touch down upon the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
Q: What is the purpose of the catching away or rapture of the church?
A: The rapture has several purposes: (1) It brings the all true grace age believers, whether living or dead, together forever. (2) It is "that blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) which will bring us together with our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of the body. (3) It motivates us to watch in faith, love, and hope (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8). (4) It is a comfort to us as 1 Thessalonians 4:18 says. It rescues us from the wrath that God is about to pour out upon those that dwell upon the earth in the tribulation. (5) It fulfills the prophecy of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. When God says He is going to do something, it has to happen. (6) It ends this dispensation of grace by removing the church from the earth. Then, the Old Testament form of worship and the kingdom program can resume, with God's focus being on the nation of Israel the seven years which is the last week of years in the 70 weeks or years described in Daniel 9:24-27. This is yet another of God's prophecies which must be fulfilled.
There may be purposes other than those listed above.
Q: Isn't it safer for a Christian to believe in a post-tribulational rapture than a pre-tribulational rapture?
A: First of all, the question we should be asking is, "which belief is scripturally correct?" But no, it is not "safer" for Christians to believe that we have at least seven years to lead our friends and loved ones to our Lord Jesus Christ when we may not have until tomorrow. Satan would like us to believe that we have all the time in the world so that we will relax more. Some Christians may be above that attitude, but many are not. Besides, the "which is safer" question is irrelevant when one understands that the pre-tribulational view is the view that agrees with the scriptures. It is always safest to just take God at His Word.
Q: Can people who reject Jesus Christ before the rapture still get saved during the tribulation?
A: Referring to the Anti-Christ, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 says he will come, "... with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Those that "received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" must be those who rejected the gospel of grace prior to the rapture. From this passage, it looks like those who have rejected the gospel of grace before the rapture, do not get another chance after the rapture. I will not go so far as to be dogmatic about this doctrine for which I only know of one passage of scripture. But I must admit that this does look very clear. They will believe the lie, and accept the mark of the Beast, if they live that long. Even so, there will be many from all nations saved after the rapture, during the tribulation. I believe these are those who did not hear the gospel of grace before the rapture. These tribulation saints are those that will respond to the gospel of the kingdom preached by the 2 witnesses and the 144,000 young, virgin, men of Israel.
Q: Will all children be raptured? And does scripture teach that there is an "age of accountability"?
A: Those Christians who are alive when the rapture occurs will all be raptured. Any adult who does not believe the gospel of grace will not be raptured. But the question of whether children who are too young to believe the gospel will be raptured or not is a difficult one, which I cannot answer completely. However, there are some scriptures that provide some insight. On the surface, there seem to be 3 possibilities for any one particular child: (1) The child will be raptured and go to heaven, (2) The child will remain on earth and be saved during the tribulation. (3) The child will remain on earth and not be saved during the tribulation.
We know that King David (himself a prophet), after the death of his infant child, said "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23). We know that King David went to paradise (the place of comfort where the old testament saints went prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ), and later, to heaven. From this we know that at least some babies and young children who die, will go to heaven. This does not necessarily mean that all babies go to heaven. Nor does it say that some babies will be raptured. But this passage does tell us that some babies that die will go to heaven. It therefore seems reasonable that some babies and very young children will be raptured.
We must keep in that mind God is all-knowing, even about the future. A trillion years ago, God knew what clothes you would wear today and how many hairs would be on your head. So God knows what an infant will turn out to be when he grows up. Would it have been just for God to have taken the life of Adolph Hitler when he was an infant and to have sent him to hell? Or would it only have been just for God to have waited until Hitler had killed millions of people first? Obviously, God, in His sovereignty, did the latter. However, I see no reason, as far as justice is concerned, why the all-knowing God could not have done the former, if He so chose.
We do know of many instances in which children were put to death along with their parents by God, as in the great flood (Genesis 8:21), or by His orders, as in the conquest of the land of Canaan (Joshua 6:21). This was the punishment for evil people whom God knew would get more and more evil with each successive generation. Because of passages like these, I believe that some babies will not be raptured.
Some churches and denominations have traditions in which they believe there is an "age of accountability". That is, they believe that all children younger than a certain age or level of maturity, who die (or come to the time of the rapture) will go to heaven. However, support for that doctrine is not found in the Bible. The "age of accountability" appears to have been fabricated by people, based upon their own thinking of what they feel would be just. The scriptures do not indicate that a person's soul can be saved simply due to their age or maturity level at the time of their death or the rapture.
The Bible does teach of young children being capable of good and of evil. 2 Chronicles 36:9 says, "Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign (as King of Judah), and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD." Contrast that with 2 Kings 11:21 and continuing on to the first two verses of the next chapter, 2 Kings 12:1-2, "Seven years old was Jehoash when he began to reign (as King of Judah). In the seventh year of Jehu Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him." So here we see the clear distinction between "that which was evil in the sight of the LORD" and "that which was right in the sight of the LORD" even among children of seven and eight.
There are some who believe that the faith of one or more of the parents covers the child until the child reaches a certain age or level of maturity. This belief largely based upon a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:13-14. God may indeed use a believing spouse or parent to share the gospel with an unbelieving spouse or children. But the unbelievers are by no means guaranteed salvation just because a parent or spouse is a believer.
It may very well be that God, with His all-knowing, future-knowing wisdom, will make His decision based upon what that child would have become, had he been allowed to remain on earth. Paul tells us about Jacob and Esau in Romans 9:11-13, "(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her (Rebecca, their mother), The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." This brings up the question, what if the pregnant Rebecca had been a Christian at the time of the rapture? Would she and unborn Jacob have been raptured to heaven and unborn Esau transported directly to hell? Who can say? But I would certainly not discount that possibility.
One thing is absolutely certain. God is just and will do the thing that is just. We must be careful that we do not try to put ourselves in God's shoes and try to make the judgment for Him. I think this is what some people do when they try to say that "all babies will go to heaven" based upon their unscriptural opinion of "the character of God" and their own opinion about what would be just. God said in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Q: Why do you say the 144,000 in the tribulation will all be young men of Israel?
A: We know that the 144,000 are all men because of Revelation 14:4 which says, "These are they which were not defiled with women ...." The obvious implication is that they are all men. But besides that, the 144,000 will be taking the position of priests, as was prophesied in Exodus 19:5-6 and in Zechariah 8:20-23. Of course, all of the priests were men, and they were all Israelites. We also know they are all Israelites because Revelation 7:1-8 lists the specific tribes of Israel from which the 144,000 will be chosen.
They do not yet know that they will be among the 144,000. The 144,000 will be sealed with the Holy Spirit at some future time. Until then, they do not have the Holy Spirit for guidance. There is nothing in scripture to indicate that any of them will be aware that they are one of the 144,000 before the time that they are sealed.
Q: Okay, so all Christians, whether dead of alive, are raptured according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But who then are the good souls who will be called from the grave during the first resurrection at the beginning of the 1000 year reign of Jesus Christ?
A: The old testament believers are in heaven in soul and spirit form, without their bodies. The Christians will be resurrected in their bodies at the rapture, before the seven year tribulation. At the end of the seven years, at the beginning of the 1000 years, the old testament saints and the saints killed in the tribulation will be resurrected. See Daniel 12:1-3, 13 and Revelation 20:4-6.
Q: How do we know that the tribulation will last seven years?
A: Daniel 9:26-27 shows that there will be a seven year period (of 360 day years) in the middle of which the beast (or "prince" or "antichrist") will commit the abomination that causes desolation in the Holy of Holies, as Jesus Christ said in Matthew 24:15.
This seven year period is also laid out in the book of Revelation. In the first half, the two witnesses shall prophesy 1260 days (Revelation 11:3). Technically, the first half is not called the "great tribulation", but the plagues during that time will still be horrible. Then in the middle of that seven years (the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy) the beast shall kill the two witnesses and he will reign for 42 months (Revelation 13:5). That period is known in scripture as the "time of Jacob's trouble" or the "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21). It is that same 3 1/2 years that the remnant of Israel will be protected in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6 and 12:14).
Q: How accurate is the Mel Gibson movie, "The Passion of the Christ"?
A: Acts 1:3 says, "... he (Jesus) shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God ...." This is the only occurrence of the English word "passion" in the King James translation of the Bible. The Greek word "pascho", translated as "passion" here, occurs many times in the new testament, but is usually translated as "suffer". So as one might expect when someone is tortured to death, there is quite a bit of violence and blood in this movie. The physical suffering is portrayed about as thoroughly as any movie could do. However, there is no way that a movie could ever convey the suffering due to separation from God that Christ endured along with the weight of the sins of the entire world. The physical violence is very gruesome and difficult to watch, but it is probably pretty accurate.
That is my primary concern with the movie, its accuracy. So in this response, I will focus on the accuracy of the movie, rather than its entertainment value or emotional impact.
Most importantly, the movie does present the gospel. It clearly conveys that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, freely gave His life to pay for the sins of all mankind. He was crucified and rose from the dead.
Overall, the movie is pretty consistent with the scriptures, more than most movies about the Bible. But there are some inaccuracies that I noticed. Some of the key ones are discussed below.
In the film, Satan appears in a visible form, at least visible to Jesus, at many different points amidst the suffering. The scriptures give no indication that Satan appeared in visible form during the time covered by the film. But the greater error is that the movie credits Satan with knowing beforehand that Jesus was planning to sacrifice Himself for the sins of mankind. Satan is shown in the garden of Gethsemene trying to convince Jesus that no man, not even Jesus, is able to sacrifice himself for the sins of all mankind. But in actuality, if Satan had known that Jesus was trying to become the sacrifice to save mankind, he would not have entered into Judas to get him to betray Jesus to be killed. And this is what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 "... we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." The fact that the death of Jesus was going to pay for the sins of mankind was a mystery that was hidden from everyone, including Satan, until God revealed it to the apostle Paul, several years after the crucifixion.
Another inaccuracy occurs after Pontius Pilate washed his hands and proclaimed his own innocence as recorded in Matthew 27:24. Following this, Matthew 27:25 says, "Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." This line was not included in the movie.
The majority of the most glaring inaccuracies of the movie center around the way it portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Bible says very little about her at all in the record of these events. But the movie portrays her as an observer in the majority of the scenes and as an active participant in several of the scenes. Every couple of minutes it seemed the camera had to pan over to Mary to see what she was doing.
The only scriptural mention of Mary, mother of Jesus in association with these events is in John 19:25-27 which says, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother (Mary), and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple (John) standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (referring to John) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."
This is all that the scriptures say about her in relation to the events of surrounding Christ's crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The rest of her involvement as portrayed by the movie is unscriptural.
The error is magnified in the way that the movie attempts to elevate Mary to some sort of pseudo deity type status.
In two separate scenes prior to the crucifixion, Peter and John, each spoke to Mary and addressed her as "Mother". There is no basis for that in the Bible. After denying Christ three times, Peter is leaving the scene very upset. Then Peter sees Mary and kneels before her. She reaches to touch him, but he says that he is not worthy (apparently for her to touch him), and he calls her "Mother". Later, on the road to the cross, John twice refers to Mary as "Mother". Keep in mind that this was before the events of John 19:25-27 that we saw above.
The movie also has a scene on the road up to the cross, where one Roman soldier saw Mary and was so struck by her very presence that he stopped what he was doing and stared at her. As his fellow soldiers had to snap him out of his almost trance-like state, he gasped, "Who is that woman?"
Earlier, there was a scene when Jesus was chained in the dungeon beneath the stone floor. Mary, who was above the floor, used her special insights (bestowed upon her by Hollywood) to locate the spot right above Him and knelt to put her face on the floor at that spot. The camera then panned down below the floor to show Jesus chained to the ceiling at that spot.
Other than the inaccuracies listed above, the rest of the movie appears to be pretty consistent with the scriptures. There are a few instances of artistic license being taken. For example, in the garden of Gethsemene, Christ stomps on a snake that had been sent from Satan to attack Him. From scripture, this obviously did not happen. It comes from the metaphor given in Genesis 3:15.
For the most part, it is a good movie. But as always, we need to do as the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures to see if what we are being told is really the truth.
Q: Around the time of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ, there seem to be various women named Mary present at different times. Who is who?
A: At the crucifixion, from John 19:25, we see that there are three different women named Mary. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother (Mary), and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene."
The first Mary listed here is obviously the mother of Jesus, the widow of Joseph. The second Mary is the sister of the first Mary. This second Mary has a husband named Cleophas. We also know from Mark 15:40 that she is "... the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome ...." Mary Magdalene is the one out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils (Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9).
John 19:26-27 "When Jesus therefore saw his mother (Mary), and the disciple (John) standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (referring to John) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."
At the burial, Mark 15:47 tells us that Mary (the wife of Cleophas) and Mary Magdalene were present and saw where Jesus was buried. "And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he (Jesus) was laid." Matthew 27:56-61 also confirms that they were present at the burial. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not said to have been present at the burial.
At the resurrection, Mark 16:1 tells us, "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary (the wife of Cleophas) the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him (the body of Jesus)." See also Matthew 28:1 and John 20:1. After they find the tomb empty and go tell the apostles (Luke 24:10), Peter and John come see the empty tomb. It is after this that Jesus makes His first appearance to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9 and John 20:11-18). Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not said to have been present during these events on the resurrection day.
Some verses mention other women being present at some of these events, in addition to those specifically named.
Q: When did this present dispensation of grace begin, and when did the body of Christ begin?
A: Many dispensational Bible students see these two questions as the same question, but are they really? When I think of someone being a "mid-Acts dispensational" or "Acts 2 dispensational" or "Acts 28 dispensational", I see that as a question of (1) when a person believes that this present dispensation of grace began, rather than (2) when a person believes that the body of Christ began. Each of these two questions are discussed below:
(1) For the Bible to be properly understood, it must be studied with the dispensations in mind. I believe this present dispensation of grace began in Acts 9 (about 37 AD) when God called Paul to be the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). This view is often called "mid-Acts dispensational" or "Acts 9 dispensational".
I should clarify though, that the kingdom dispensation to Israel, did not end suddenly in Acts 9 when the grace dispensation began. Rather, the kingdom dispensation faded away over many years, until being put into complete abeyance in 70 AD when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans. Also, the revelations of the mysteries of the grace dispensation were not all suddenly given to to Paul in Acts 9. Rather, God revealed the mysteries to Paul somewhat gradually over many years. Never-the-less, Acts 9 is where this dispensation began. The grace dispensation came in and the kingdom/law dispensation faded into abeyance during the transitional period from about 37 AD to 70 AD. [The scriptural basis for this is detailed in the article Israel's Kingdom Gospel and Our Grace Gospel.]
The early believing Jews who were saved via the gospel of the kingdom taught by the twelve apostles of the circumcision were all part of the law/kingdom dispensation, not this present grace dispensation. Those early believing Jews include all those saved prior to Acts 9, as well as those saved through the preaching of the twelve during the period of 37-70 AD. [Those saved via the grace gospel preached by Paul are part of this present grace dispensation, whether Jew or Gentile.]
Those saved under the gospel of the kingdom taught by the twelve apostles of the circumcision (and by Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry and by John the Baptist) are all part of the law/kingdom dispensation like the old testament saints from the period of the law of Moses. The article The Seven Churches of Revelation provides many examples of how the doctrine given to those Jew-only churches in Revelation chapters 2-3 as well as the letters of Peter, James, and John, are often almost verbatim quotes from old testament scriptures.
The doctrines that apply only to us in the grace dispensation do not apply to them. For example, they will not be resurrected at the time of the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), which will be before the seven-year tribulation. Instead, they will be resurrected at the end of the seven-year tribulation, and go into the 1000-year kingdom on the earth. Daniel was told this in Daniel 12:13 right after being told about the days of the tribulation, "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." At that time, the twelve apostles of the circumcision will be resurrected to judge the twelve tribes of Israel in the future kingdom (Luke 22:30 and Isaiah 1:26).
(2) I see the question of when the body of Christ began as a separate question. If the term "body of Christ", which Paul uses in his epistles, is meant to refer only to those who became believers in this present dispensation of grace, then the body of Christ began when Paul was saved in Acts 9, which was in about 37 AD. But if the term "body of Christ", in Paul's epistles, is meant to be a broader term that includes not only grace dispensation belivers, but believers from other dispensations as well, then the body of Christ did not begin in Acts 9.
In 1 Timothy 1:15-16, Paul wrote, "... Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." Paul makes it clear that he was the first, and a pattern for us who have come to believe after him. This supports the fact that this dispensation began with the salvation of Paul in Acts 9. But it does not directly address the term "body of Christ", and does not seem to conclusively show that the term "body of Christ" is meant to apply only to this dispensation of grace, even though the concept of the "body of Christ" was not taught until this dispensation. So when I use the term "body of Christ", I try to avoid using it in a way that either includes or excludes believers from other dispensations. I do not say that the body of Christ existed before the dispensation of grace began. But I am not certain that the scriptures exclude that possibility.
For further study, see The Basics of Understanding the Bible and Dispensational Guidlines.
Q: When did the creation take place?
A: As shown in the article, Old Testament Timeline, by counting back using the chronological information provided in the scriptures, it is clear that the six days of creation took place sometime around 4000 BC. For the most part, it is simply a matter of looking up the verses and doing the addition and subtraction to arrive at the time of the creation. There are some minor questions discussed in the article, that different chronologers may disagree about, but most still come up with the creation being within 100 years or so of 4000 BC.
While accepting that most of the creation described in Genesis took place around 4000 BC, still some Christians believe that the original creation of heaven and the earth described in Genesis 1:1 was much longer ago than 4000 BC. Many of these Christians believe that there must be a large time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, and that Genesis 1:1 describes a previous creation that was destroyed and then left in the state described in Genesis 1:2. Genesis 1:1-2 says, "1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Beliefs about the characteristices of this alleged previous creation vary quite a bit, but they generally include some type of life, whether dinosaurs, other animals, or beings similar to humans, living, dying, and eventually being desroyed by God as a result of sin. After that the earth was allegedly left in the state described in Genesis 1:2.
Does the Word of God allow for such a time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2? No. There are at least three reasons why the scriptures leave no room for such a time gap:
1. All things created in six days: The Bible says in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." On this topic, Exodus 20:11 specifically says, "... in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day ...." See also Exodus 37:16-17. That is about as straightforward and clear as it can be stated. How much time did God take to make heaven and earth and the sea and all the creatures that are in them? Four billion years? One hundred thousand years? No, six days!
2. No death before Adam's sin: Paul wrote in Romans 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ...." There was no death before Adam sinned. Death had not yet "entered into the world".
Paul also wrote in Romans 8:19-22, "For the earnest expectation of the creature (creation) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." When Adam sinned the whole creation fell under the curse and was placed under the "bondage of corruption". So none of the dinosaurs, or any other animals, could have died prior to Adam's sin. All of the fossils of dead animals that are found are from creatures that have died since Adam's sin.
3. Earth and man both created "in the beginning": As we saw above, Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." When responding to the Pharisees' question about divorce, Jesus said in Mark 10:6,"... from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female." See also Matthew 19:4. So the creation of Adam and Eve was "in the beginning", when "God created the heaven and the earth", not billions of years or even thousands of years after God created heaven and earth.
Thus, the Bible makes it quite clear that the creation of heaven and earth took place only about 6000 years ago, around 4000 BC.
Q: Who is the Creator?
A: There are several Bible passages which clearly state the Jesus Christ is the creator of all things. For example, Hebrews 1:1-3 says, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person ...."
A few verses later Hebrews 1:8-10 says, "But unto the Son he (God) saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands ...." Here, God is calling Jesus Christ "God" and accrediting Him with the creation of heaven and earth.
Likewise John 1:3 says of "the Word", Jesus Christ, "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."
Paul writes in Ephesians 3:9, "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ ...." Then in Colossians 1:14-17, Paul says of Jesus Christ, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist."
Q: What evidence is there in the portion of scripture known as the "Old Testament" (Tanakh) that God would come in the form of a man to rule the earth?
A: Isaiah 9:6 says, "For unto us (Israel) a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David (In Jerusalem), and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Here we see a child being born in Israel who is actually "God, the everlasting Father", who will rule forever. Of course we know who the child was as John 14:8-9 says, "Philip saith unto him (Jesus), Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father ...."
Notice also where Isaiah 9:6 calls the child that is born "The mighty God". Lest there be any doubt who this is, know that Isaiah 10:20-21 uses the same title saying, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God." Jeremiah 32:18-19 also uses this same title, "Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name, Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings ...." Also know that Isaiah 10:21 and Jeremiah 32:18 use the same Hebrew words from which "the mighty God" is translated as does Isaiah 9:6. So this child, "The mighty God" is "the LORD (Jehovah), the Holy One of Israel", "the LORD (Jehovah) of hosts".
Also see where Isaiah 9:6 calls the child "the everlasting Father". Compare this to Isaiah 63:16, "... O LORD (Jehovah), art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting."
Zechariah 14:3-4 says, "Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south." So the LORD will come and His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, causing an earthquake. Further down in Zechariah 14:9 we see, "And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one." And in Zechariah 14:16, "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles."
Malachi 3:1 says, "... the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in ...." Note term "his temple". Of course many Bible passages show that the temple belongs to God. For example, Leviticus 26:2 says, "Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD." Ezekiel 37:28, "And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." Jonah 2:7, "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple."
Ezekiel 43:7 says, "... the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places." Note the One with the "holy name" (God) references "the soles of my feet",
Ezekiel 44:1-2 says the LORD, the God of Israel, will enter the temple through a gate. "Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the LORD unto me; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the LORD, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut."
Q: According to the portion of scripture known as the "Old Testament" (Tanakh), do the Jews have to get back into the will of God before they can return to Israel and the Messiah will come and the Kingdom will be set up?
A: No. The scriptures teach that when God is ready to set up the Kingdom, God is the One that will purify and refine Israel and bring them back into His will. It will not be their doing, but His. Furthermore, God will do this after He has brought the people of Israel back to the land of Israel.
Malachi 3:1-4 says, "... the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years." Note that when the Lord comes, He will purify the Levites (the priests). Obviously the Levites were impure, if He must purify them.
Zechariah 13:8-9 says, "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God." Note that this is after Israel will have returned to the land of Israel. And obviously, they must be far from the will of God if two thirds of them will be killed and the remaining third have to be refined by God.
That the context is the day of the LORD (the Tribulation) is clear, especially considering the verses which follow immediately after this passage in Zechariah 14:1-4, "Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."
Now let's look at Ezekiel 36. Verses 22-24, "... Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land." So it is not that Israel behaved righteously among the Gentiles and is being rewarded by being brought back to their land. No, God will bring them back in spite of their unrighteousness, not for their sakes, but for His holy name's sake.
Continuing in Ezekiel 36:25-28, "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God." So God will cleanse Israel and cause them to follow His commandments after He brings them back to the land.
Similarly, God said in Ezekiel 11:17, "I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel." Then in Ezekiel 11:19-20 God said, "... I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
Those who believe that the people of Israel are going to get back into the will of God and then get to return to the land of Israel have both the source and the sequence wrong. The people will not purify themselves. God will purify them. This purification will take place after they are back in the land of Israel, not before.
Q: What evidence is there in the portion of scripture known as the "Old Testament" (Tanakh) of there being two comings of the Messiah?
A: Two main prophecies about the Messiah in the Tanakh are (1) that the Messiah would be killed (Daniel 9:24-26 and Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12), and (2) that the Messiah will reign on the throne forever (Isaiah 9:6-7 and Daniel 7:13-14). Both cannot be true unless the Messiah comes to earth, is killed, and returns to the earth a second time to reign on the throne for ever.
Isaiah 9:6-7 says, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Here we see that His kingdom will be eternal. He will rule "upon the throne of David" forever.
Likewise Daniel 7:13-14 says, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
On the other hand, Daniel 9:26 foretold that the Messiah would be killed. "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off ...." This Daniel 9 passage also prophesied when the Messiah would be killed, 483 years after the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem (445 BC, in Nehemiah 2:1-6) and before Jerusalem and the sanctuary (the temple) would be destroyed (by the Romans in 70 AD). Daniel 9:24-26 says, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: [(7 + 62) * 7 years = 483 years] the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined."
Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 tells a lot about how the Messiah would suffer and die for the sins of the people. Look at these phrases in the sequence in which they appear in this passage. "My servant ... shall be exhalted ... visage was so marred ... sprinkle many nations ... wounded for our transgressions ... sheep have gone astray ... laid on him iniquity of us all ... oppressed ... afflicted ... slaughter ... cut off out of the land of the living ... stricken ... he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death ... his soul an offering for sin ... poured out soul unto death ... he bare the sin of many ..."
From these passages, we see that the "Old Testament" (Tanakh) teaches that the Messiah would both be killed and reign on the throne forever. That cannot happen unless the Messiah comes, is killed and returns again, raised from the dead.
Q: Did God promise the saints in the old testament eternal life?
A: Yes. The saints in the old testament were promised that when the Messiah would come to bring in the kingdom, that if they had previously died, they would be resurrected into that kingdom. But not only that, the saints in the old testament were promised eternal life as indicated in the passages below:
Psalms 23:6 "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."
Psalms 37:18 "The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever."
Psalms 37:27-29 "Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever."
Daniel 7:18 "... the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.",
Daniel 12:1-3 "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
Copyright © 1999 Matthew McGee. All rights reserved.