Category: Theology

The 3 Levels of Heaven

The 3 Levels of Heaven

In the previous article, “Is Heaven a Real Place,” someone posted a comment asking how many heavens are there and who lives in each of them. I say his question is valid because Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Heavens must mean more than one, right?

But instead of writing a long response to the commenter’s question, I decided to write an article about the 3 levels of heaven and look at the various Scripture references supporting the idea of more than one heaven.

Jesus Passed through the Heavens

Hebrews 4:14 says, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”

The fact that Jesus “passed through the heavens” seems to give evidence that there is more than one heaven.

Another translation puts it this way: “We need to hold on to our declaration of faith: We have a superior chief priest who has gone through the heavens. That person is Jesus, the Son of God” (God’s Word).

Consequently, the reference to plural “heavens,” seems to refer to more than one “heaven.”

The Third Heaven

The Bible specifically refers to the third heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul refers to himself in the third person when he said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven.”

So, if there is a third heaven it seems there must also be a first and second heaven.

What are the 3 Heavens

The 3 Levels of Heaven Explained

It is important to note that the term “heaven” is not used symbolically in Scripture; instead, it usually refers to one of three realms.

The three heavens are divided as follows:

1. Our immediate atmosphere

2. Outer space (the sun, moon, and stars)

3. The home of God

The Atmospheric Heaven – The First Heaven

The first heaven is linked to what we call the “atmospheric heaven.” This includes the air that we breathe as well as the space that immediately surrounds the earth. The technical term for this is the “troposphere.” It extends about twenty miles above the earth. The space above this is called the “stratosphere.”

The Bible uses the term heaven to describe this area in Genesis 6:7.

So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

In this passage, the “birds of the air” are the “birds of heaven.” The Hebrew word used here is the same word, in other contexts used of the presence of God, heaven.

Jesus also spoke of the “birds of the air” or the “birds of the sky” in the Sermon on the Mount. “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they” (Matthew 6:26)?

The word translated “air” is ouranos, the same Greek word that is elsewhere translated “heaven.” Thus, the word can mean heaven, sky, or air. It all depends upon the context.

Another example of this use of the term can be found in James 5:18. In this verse, we are told that the “heaven gave rain.” It is the sky, the first heaven, which gave rain. Therefore, Scripture often uses the term heaven in the same way as we would use the word “sky.”

The Celestial Heaven – The Second Heaven

The term heaven is also used of what we call the celestial heaven, known as the “second heaven.” This use of the term heaven refers to outer space or the stellar heaven. It includes the sun, moon, and stars.

We find this use of the term in the words of our Lord Jesus when He describes coming events. He said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29).

The stars are said to be “in heaven” or “in the sky.”

Deuteronomy 10:14 also speaks of heavenly spheres which beyond that is visible from the earth. “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it.”

The psalmist also wrote about this heaven of heavens when he said, “Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens” (Psalm 148:4)!

Therefore, there seems to be a second heaven, a celestial heaven.

Heaven, God’s Dwelling Place – The Third Heaven

The Bible is clear that God cannot be limited to any one geographical place. At the dedication of the first temple in the city of Jerusalem, King Solomon asked the following question when praying to the Lord:

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built” (1 Kings 8:27)!

King Solomon realized that the Lord was not limited to that one particular place. Indeed, the entire universe cannot contain Him.

Yet, Scripture also teaches us that there is a certain geographical place where God’s presence resides in some unique sense. It is also designated heaven. The writer to the Hebrews said, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1).

God’s throne is spoken of as residing somewhere – heaven.

Quote about Heaven

Heaven is God’s Presence

When Stephen was being stoned to death, he knew that he was going to a specific place and that would be in the presence of the Lord (Acts 7:55). While God does not reside in one particular area, there is a place where His presence dwells in a unique way. And Stephen was allowed to see that place as he was nearing death.

We also read this in Hebrews 9:24, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”

Although the exact location of the abode of God is not revealed in Scripture, it is spoken of as being above the first and second heavens.

Heaven is an Actual Place

We can conclude that that there is such a specific place as third heaven. And since the first two heavens are actual places we should also conclude that a third heaven is also a real place. There is no reason to assume it is symbolic especially since the first two heavens are speaking of known realities.

But then again, while the Lord is not limited to this third heaven, in some special way He has a place there. This is the clear teaching of the Bible on the subject.

Conclusion

Heaven may be beyond the limits of our vision and many people do regard it as merely a sphere of life, or a state of independent locality. But heaven is a real place – the three levels of heaven are actual places.

The first heaven is the immediate atmosphere above us, the second heaven is the place where the sun, moon, and stars exist, and the third heaven is God’s dwelling place. And someday we will be in the third heaven too. The Bible says we are citizens of heaven living as strangers and pilgrims on this foreign land (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11).

But while we wait for our Lord to come back for us and take us to our native home, we are to live heavenly lives here on earth.


Reference: Heaven, the final Destination of Believers by Don Stewart

Recommended Resource: Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths about Your Eternal Home

If any of us learned we were going to move to a foreign country, we’d do everything we could to learn about that place so that we’d be prepared when moving day arrived. As Christians, we know some day we will leave our familiar country and be united with God in heaven. And yet many of us know very little about this place called heaven.

In this enlightening book, bestselling author Dr. Robert Jeffress opens the Scriptures to unpack ten surprising truths about heaven and explain who we will see there and how we can prepare to go there someday.

Perfect for believers or skeptics who are curious about heaven.

How Does One Today Commit the Unforgivable Sin?

How Does One Today Commit the Unforgivable Sin?

In the previous article, we said that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the one sin that cannot and will not be forgiven in this life or in eternity. In Jesus’ day, this sin was committed by the religious leaders when they attributed the miraculous works of Jesus Christ, performed through the power of the Holy Spirit to the devil (Matthew 12:22-24).

Since the ministry of the Holy Spirit gave clear testimony to Jesus being the Messiah, those who rejected this truth could not be forgiven. Indeed, apart from Jesus Christ, there is no forgiveness of sin.

This brings up and all-important question. Since Jesus is no longer on the earth, how does one blaspheme the Holy Spirit today? How does a person commit the “unforgivable sin?”

In other words, what sin does a person commit that will keep them out of heaven for all eternity?

Explaining the Unforgivable Sin Today

We certainly do not want to be guilty of committing the unforgivable sin. So, how can it be avoided? We need to understand that this particular situation, where Jesus spoke of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, was unique. 

Jesus Christ was physically present on the earth, performing miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit to testify that He was the promised Messiah. The religious leaders rejected His miraculous deeds as coming from the Lord. Instead, they attributed them to a demonic source.

Thus, how they insulted or blasphemed the Holy Spirit was clear.

How Does One Commit the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

But Jesus Christ is not with us today in a physical presence like He was in the first century. Indeed, Christ is not on the earth to personally work His miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit.

How then does the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit occur in our day and age without Jesus’ presence? Can a person still commit the unforgivable sin?

The World Still Needs Forgiveness

To begin with, we find that the work of the Holy Spirit is still the same; nothing has changed. His mission is to testify about Jesus Christ and to show the world it needs His forgiveness (John 15:26).

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus said to His disciples that it is to their advantage that He goes away, for if He does not go away, the Helper will not come to them. But when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11).

Among other things, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to convict the unbelieving world of sin. His mission is to show them their need of Jesus Christ as Savior.

The Unforgivable Sin Today: Unbelief in Jesus

Today, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unbelief in Jesus.

It is insulting or rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit which testifies that Christ is Savior and Lord. This is confirmed by what Jesus said in Luke 12:8-12 (NIV), where He equated the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit with the preaching of the message by His disciples.

The message of Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, is still to be proclaimed today. Those who reject it are actually insulting the God of the Bible. It follows that those who continually reject the Holy Spirit’s ministry of portraying Jesus Christ as the only Savior of humanity are blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

If this state of sin continues they will not receive forgiveness for their sins but rather the wrath, or judgment, of God, will remain on them. The Word of God makes their fate clear in John 3:36.

Those who reject the Son can only expect to experience God’s wrath. They cannot ever receive forgiveness for their sin, neither in this world nor in the next.

A State of Continuous Unbelief

Today, as in Christ’s time, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a continuous state of unbelief rather than the commission of one particular sin. Unless that state of unbelief changes, the person will suffer eternal separation from the Lord.

The Bible speaks of the state of condemnation unbelievers now find themselves in John 3:18. Those who have rejected Jesus Christ are in this state of unbelief. This unbelief will result in eternal condemnation unless a person turns to Christ for forgiveness.

John 3:36

Conclusion

How does one commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in our day and age? Today, one blasphemes the Holy Spirit by rejecting the ministry of the Holy Spirit that speaks of the necessity of accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.

Jesus specifically said the Holy Spirit was to come into the world and convict the unbelievers of their sin. If they did not respond to His work, then there is no hope for them. There would be no forgiveness in this life or the next.

Jesus also made this clear when He spoke of the future ministry of His disciples. Those who rejected their testimony about Jesus would also be blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in our day and age, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the state of unbelief in Jesus Christ as Savior. It is more of a continuing and persistent rejection of the Holy Spirit than one particular sin.

To sum it up, the only unforgivable sin which will keep people out of heaven is the rejection of Jesus Christ as their Savior. Every other sin we do commit can and will be forgiven.

On the other hand, once a person trusts Christ as their Savior, then there is no possibility of them committing the unforgivable sin.


*Excerpt is taken from“Living in the Light of Eternity” (The After Life Series Volume 1) by Don Stewart.

Why is Jesus called the Son of Man?

Why is Jesus called the Son of Man?

During His earthly ministry, Jesus’ favorite designation in referring to Himself was “the Son of Man.” As a matter of fact, seventy-eight times the Gospels record Jesus using this title for Himself.

One of the most notable instances was when Jesus asked His disciples the question about His identity and put it to them this way:

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am” (Matthew 16:13)?

Why did Jesus refer to Himself as the “Son of Man?” Why not call Himself “the Messiah,” “the Son of God” or “the Son of David.” After all, each of these titles was rightfully His.

The Phrase “Son of Man” in the Old Testament

In the Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew expression “son of man” appears 107 times, the majority (93 times) of which appears in the book of Ezekiel. And there are three ways that this expression is used:

  • to contrast the lowly status of humanity against the exalted dignity of God and the angels (Psalm 8:4; Numbers 23:19).
  • as a form of human address to Ezekiel.
  • as a future eschatological figure whose coming will signal the end of history and the time of God’s judgment (Daniel 7:13-14).

The phrase Son of Man in the Old and New Testament

The Phrase “Son of Man” in the New Testament

In the New Testament, Jesus is called “the Son of Man” eighty-eight times. What is the significance of using this designation for Himself? Below are several ways by which the phrase is used.

It is Connected with the Sufferings of Jesus.

The title “Son of Man” is connected with the sufferings that Jesus would experience on behalf of His humanity. Notice that Jesus used this title when He began to predict what would happen to Him in the future (Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 8:31).

We do not find the Lord referring to Himself with titles such as Messiah or Son of God, when predicting His suffering on the cross, as well as His resurrection. Rather, He used the title “Son of Man.”

It is Connected with Jesus’ Earthly Life and Ministry.

When Jesus took on humanity to save mankind, Jesus was recorded saying He had no place to call home. Matthew records the following:

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).

It Refers to Jesus’ Perfect Humanity.

Some believe the title “Son of Man” refers to the fact of Jesus’ perfect humanity. Although He was God, Jesus came down and lived among us as the perfect human being. In so doing, He fulfilled the Law of Moses and did what no other human being was able to do.

By using the title “Son of Man,” Jesus was identifying with the people He had come to save. Jesus wanted to convey the truth that He was entirely human; that although He was God, He became a human being and lived among us for a short period of time.

It is Used in Contexts where Jesus Claims Deity.

Many people who believe that Jesus was just a man use the argument that Jesus never claimed to be God to support their position. In fact, they say, Jesus referred to Himself as the son of man. Yet, we find this designation used in contexts where Jesus claimed deity.

Here are just a few examples:

1. In Mark 2:10, Jesus uses the title Son of Man for Himself when claiming authority to forgive sins. The Jews recognize that only God can forgive sins and yet Jesus used this authority while using the title “Son of Man” rather than “Son of God.”

2. In Mark 2:28, Jesus claimed that He, the Son of Man was “Lord of the Sabbath.” Again, we find this designation of Himself used in a context of rights and privileges which belong to God alone. Indeed, only God Himself could claim that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

3. In Luke 19:10, Jesus used the title “Son of Man” for Himself when He stated that He came to earth to save the lost.

4. In the book of Daniel, we read of the prediction that the Son of Man would inherit God’s everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14).

In this context, the Son of Man is a divine Person who is in the presence of the Ancient of Days (God the Father). Obviously, this cannot refer to an ordinary human being for no human being could be in such a position.

Therefore, by using the title the Son of Man, Jesus was actually claiming deity. Furthermore, when Jesus was on trial for His life and was asked if He were the Messiah, He referred to this prediction in Daniel.

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).

Jesus’ statement infuriated the religious leaders and charged Him of blasphemy for claiming equal authority with God. They clearly understood that Jesus referred to Daniel’s prophecy and was claiming the position of authority with God.

Why is Jesus called the Son of Man

It Speaks of Jesus’ Exaltation and Rule.

Jesus also used the title “Son of Man” when He spoke of His return to the earth and His rule (Matthew 25:31). Jesus will come to rule and reign the title Son of Man will be His favorite once again.

Conclusion

Why did Jesus prefer to be called the Son of Man?

Some might think that the title Son of God refers to Jesus’ deity and Son of Man implies His humanity. However, the term Son of Man goes back to Daniel’s vision of a divine being who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that shall not be destroyed and will be worshiped by all peoples, nations, and languages.

Son of Man is not merely a title for a human being. It is a title that belongs to God Himself and the religious leaders who were schooled in the Old Testament Scriptures knew exactly what Jesus was claiming for Himself.


Recommended Resource: Son of Man: The Gospel of Daniel 7 and Son of Man: The Apostles’ Gospel by Samuel Whitefield

Jesus never used the title Messiah publicly and, instead, referred to Himself as the Son of Man 78 times. Why?

Son of Man by Samuel Whitefield

The New Testament Gospels, as they are written, depend on Daniel 7. Jesus referenced this chapter far more than any other to reveal Himself as the divine Human and to declare His gospel.

Jesus’ first-century audience understood His message, but we have lost sight of the way Jesus presented His gospel. Our understanding of Jesus, our grasp of the biblical story, and our ability to clearly communicate the gospel have been seriously hindered by our not fully understanding one particular chapter in the Bible.

Daniel 7 is not just an end-time chapter. Based on Jesus’ words, Daniel 7 is a gospel-centered chapter and perhaps the premier summary of Jesus’ majesty.

If we do not know this chapter, we cannot fully grasp the gospel. Jesus commissioned us to carry the message found in this chapter to every people, but we cannot carry what we do not understand. Let Daniel open your eyes to the gospel as Jesus proclaimed it.

Did the apostles continue to use Daniel 7 as a foundation for their gospel? When we examine the New Testament carefully, we find something surprising: Daniel 7 was a framework the apostles repeatedly used to present the gospel of the kingdom.

View the apostles’ gospel through the lens of Daniel 7 in Son of Man: The Apostles’ Gospel, and rediscover the message that turned the world upside down.

What is the Biblical Definition of Repentance?

What is the Biblical Definition of Repentance?

A correct understanding of the doctrine of repentance is very important because it is one of the basics of the Christian faith. The author to the Hebrews said:

“So, let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely, we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT).

This is why believers need to take time to study this subject.

Biblical Definition of Repentance

We hear so many definitions of the word repentance. But what does the Bible say? What is repentance according to the Bible?

In the New Testament, there are two different Greek verbs translated “repent,” each with a different meaning.

The first is the word metamelomai which means “a regret of past actions.” It has the idea of being sorry or a feeling of remorse for something that was done, but it does not necessarily result in a change of heart and action.

The second verb metanoia means “to change one’s mind as a result of after knowledge,” resulting in a complete change of attitude. It is important to note that when the Bible encourages believers to repent, what is being encouraged is this latter use of the Greek word “repent.”

What is the Biblical Meaning of Repentance

So, whenever we speak of “repentance,” i.e., the act of repenting, we are not speaking of being sorry for what we have done, or merely having a change of mind about our sins. Biblical repentance results in a complete shift of attitude toward God and our sins.

When John the Baptist preached repentance, he was basically telling the people that they needed to change their ways since the kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:1-2). Luke also records Jesus telling the people they had to repent (Luke 13:3).

In Acts 20:21, repentance is defined as turning from sin and turning to God.

The Nature of True Repentance

Repentance is more than sorrow. Feeling sad or sorrowful does not necessarily mean that a person is repentant. Godly sorrow is what leads to repentance.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:8-11 NIV), Paul wrote:

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it, I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while, yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”

Repentance results from godly sorrow, which in turn leads to salvation and an actual change in direction.

True Repentance Brings about Regret.

Sinners who genuinely repent cause them to regret how they have acted in the past. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul said this:

“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death” (Romans 6:21)!

True Repentance Leads to Action.

To illustrate true repentance, Jesus used the story of one of the two sons who was asked by their father to work in their vineyard. At first, the lad refused but afterward, he changed his mind and went.

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went” (Matthew 21:28-29).

Jesus taught that true repentance is not merely feeling sorry for something that has been done; it has to be followed by actions.


True Repentance Causes Sinners to See Who They Really Are.

When we are genuinely repentant, we will have a new view of who we are. Let us take a look at some examples in the Bible.

Job

While Job was going through his suffering, he protested his innocence and righteousness. However, this changed when he came face-to-face with God:

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42: 5-6).

Isaiah

Isaiah, though he was a prophet of God, realized his true nature because he was confronted with the holiness of God. Isaiah saw himself for who he truly was in the presence of God.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV).

Peter

After Jesus performed the miracle of the Great Catch, Peter saw himself in a different light. He recognized his sinfulness in the presence of Jesus. We read about this in the Gospel of Luke:

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

The Thief on the Cross

The criminal who was next to Jesus on the cross is another example of true repentance. At first, he joined with the other criminal in taunting Jesus. However, he changed his attitude toward Jesus as well as to the other criminal who was crucified when he realized that the one being crucified next to him was the Messiah.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:39-41).

The thief had a change of heart and asked Jesus if He too could be part of God’s kingdom. In response, Jesus promised him that he would enter paradise with Him (Luke 23:42-43).

Judging by human standards, we may regard ourselves as decent and moral people. But when we compare ourselves to the living God, we will have an entirely different view of who we are.

As the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and reveals to us how it looks before a holy God, we begin to realize how terrible sin is. This understanding of sin causes in us a change in behavior – repentance.

True Repentance Does Not Always Manifest Itself in Emotion.

We often equate repentance to some emotion of sorrow or remorse but just because the repentant person shows little or no emotion does not mean he is not sincere. True repentance is not showing emotion for our past deeds, it is changing the way we act in the present.

In other words, the key is the change in behavior, not the emotion that is shown. A person who truly repents has determined that his or her life must change.

True repentance is not showing emotion for our past deeds; it is changing the way we act in the present.

True Repentance vs. False Repentance

What is the Biblical Definition of RepentanceThe difference between true repentance and false repentance (mere sorrow for sin) can be seen in the example of Peter and Judas.

Matthew records that when Peter realized he betrayed Jesus; he was sorry for his sins. But it did not stop there. He went outside and wept bitterly. There was genuine sorrow for his actions.

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:73-75).

Judas, on the other hand, decided to take his own life instead of coming to God in repentance. Matthew explained it in this manner:

“So, Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5).

Judas only had remorse for what he had done, he did not repent. There is a huge difference between the two.

Results of True and False Repentance

Using the same example as above, we read that after he repented, Peter was restored to fellowship. He received the forgiveness of the Lord and learned that repentance can restore us into a right relationship with the Lord.

Also, Peter was given the honor to preach the very first sermon for the church on the day of Pentecost. And in that sermon, Peter urged the people to do the same thing that he had done – repent.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

When Jesus rose from the dead on that Easter Sunday morning, Peter was found with the other disciples. He did not leave the company of believers, nor did he kill himself. He repented of what he had done and had returned to be with the other believers.

On the other hand, Judas only felt remorse. Instead of repenting and looking to godly people for support, he hanged himself. And according to the Scripture, Judas went to his appointed place of judgment, as explained in the Book of Acts:

“With the payment, he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood” (Acts 1:18-19)

These two men provide examples of what we as Christians should do and should not do when we sin. Peter showed us that we should not merely feel sorry for what we have done, but we should repent. We must own up to our sin, and have a determination to change our behavior. The Lord will then restore us to fellowship.

This is what genuine repentance is all about.

Closing Words

Biblical repentance does not merely involve feeling sorry or remorse for sin but also a change of mind and heart that leads to a change in action towards sin. To repent is to recognize that we have sinned and our sins are offensive to God.

We are to turn away from sin, turn to God, ask for forgiveness, and walk with God in obedience to His commands.

God is calling everyone to repentance. The focus of Christ’s mission was to call all sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32) and this call for absolute surrender goes out to all people (Luke 13:5).

Have you accepted the call?


Reference: Winning the Spiritual War by Don Stewart

Recommended Resource: Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel by Richard Owen Roberts

It is a serious problem when society misunderstands or disregards sin and repentance. But when the church neglects these doctrines, the impact is profound. This book unfolds the nature and necessity of biblical repentance, but for the church in particular.

Roberts’ in-depth study heavily references both he Old and New Testaments and includes chapters on the myths, maxims, marks, models, and motives of repentance, as well as the graces and fruits that accompany it. There is also a wise warning about the dangers of delayed repentance.

7 Marks of a True Prophet

7 Marks of a True Prophet

Anyone who loves to study Bible prophecy should get acquainted with the men and women that the Bible calls prophets and prophetesses. Who are they and how were they identified? Are prophets those strange people, wearing strange clothes, eating strange things, preaching strange sermons, and doing strange things that no one understands?

It was a great and distinct honor to be a prophet of the living God. That’s why there were so many false prophets in Israel. The prophets anointed kings, performed miracles, and predicted the future.

At the same time, a prophet’s assignment could also bring great danger, difficulty, and even death. As God’s mouthpiece and spokesman for predicting and previewing the future, the prophet was called to speak God’s uncompromising message to an often rebellious people, which frequently brought reproach, opposition, criticism, and even execution.

Throughout history, many people have claimed to be a prophet and made several predictions about the future. How do we distinguish between true prophets and false prophets? In this post, we will look at the 7 distinguishing marks of a true prophet

The Test of a Prophet

The true word and way of God have always been plagued by imitation and counterfeiters. For this reason, the Lord established a clear set of test questions a person had to pass to be received as a true spokesman for God.

Four main passages in the Old Testament deal with false prophets.

Deuteronomy 13:1-14

In this passage, Moses warns the people that there may arise from among them prophets or dreamers who could also accurately predict the future or produce a sign or a wonder. So, they must be careful and not believe them right away. Instead, they should allow God to bring confirmation as it would be unusual for God to speak alone through a dream without confirmation.

Deuteronomy 18:15-22

In this passage, Moses makes a distinction between a true and false prophet.

First, Moses tells the nation of Israel that the Lord God will raise up for them a (true) Prophet like him from their midst, from their brethren, and they should listen to Him for God will put His words in His mouth and will speak to them everything that God will command Him (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

A false prophet on the other hand, who presumes to speak a word in God’s name, but speaks in the name of other gods shall die (Deuteronomy 18:20). How shall the people know he is a false prophet? If the thing that he speaks does not happen or come to pass, it means the Lord has not spoken through him (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

Jeremiah 23:9-40

This passage describes the pain inflicted on Jeremiah by the false prophets.

True prophets know how serious it is to be called by God to declare His word, and they accept the responsibility with fear and trembling. So, when they see self-styled prophets living like sinners, they grieve.

No wonder Jeremiah had a broken heart and trembled like a drunken man. He realized what the false prophets were doing to the people and the land, and it makes him sick. The false prophets were committing adultery and walking in lies.

Ezekiel 12:21-14:11

In Ezekiel 12:21-28, Ezekiel’s messages rang with the certainty and the nearness of God’s judgment on Jerusalem and the land of Judah. But the people were quoting a proverb that may have been devised by the false prophets to humiliate Ezekiel.

Because Ezekiel’s prophecies had not been fulfilled immediately the people started paying more attention to the false prophets than to the Word of God. The visions of the false prophets were false and misleading (Ezekiel 12:23).

In Chapter 13 of Ezekiel, God declared that the false prophets had spoken only lies and explained how He would judge them.


7 Distinguishing Marks of a True Prophet

In the above passages and many others, Scripture presents at least seven key distinguishing marks of a true prophet. These marks were not always present in every case, but certainly, in some cases they were.

However, for any follower of God who really wanted to know, there would have been no question who was a true prophet and who was false.

1. The true prophet never used divination, sorcery, or astrology.

See Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Ezekiel 12:24; Micah 3:7. The source of the prophet’s message was God Himself.

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

2. The true prophet never tailored the message to cater to the desires of the people.

See Jeremiah 8:11; 28:8; Ezekiel 13:10.

The false prophets, or “pillow prophets” as some have described them, spoke the message that would bring them popularity and money. They were the “Fortune 500” prophets, the religious opportunists (see Micah 3:5-6, 11).

The true prophet spoke God’s unadulterated message regardless of personal loss, shame, and even physical harm.

3. The true prophet maintained personal integrity and character.

See Isaiah 28:7; Jeremiah 23:11; Hosea 9:7-9; Micah 3:5, 11; Zephaniah 3:4.

Jesus said that true and false prophets will be known by their fruits, that is, by what they do and say (see Matthew 7:15-20).

4. The true prophet was willing to suffer for the sake of the message.

When the prophet Micaiah, son of Imlah, prophesied the defeat of Ahab and Jehoshaphat, he was put in prison and was given nothing but bread and water (1 Kings 22:27-28).

Jeremiah was cast into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son when he declared the Word of the Lord saying, “Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but those who surrender to the Babylonians will live” (Jeremiah 38:4-13).

5. The true prophet announced a message that was consistent with the Law and the messages of other true prophets.

See Jeremiah 26:17-19.

The true prophet’s message must neither contradict nor disagree with the previous revelation of truth, but rather should confirm and build upon that body of truth (see Deuteronomy 13:1-3).

6. The true prophet, when predicting future events, had a 100 percent success rate.

See Deuteronomy 18:21-22.

Unlike the modern psychics, 25 percent (or even 99 percent) was not good enough! If alleged prophets were not 100 percent accurate, the people were to take them outside the city to stone them to death (see Deuteronomy 18:20).

7. The true prophet sometimes had the message authenticated by a miracle.

See Exodus chapter 5 to 12.

This test was not conclusive evidence, however, because false prophets also produced miracles on occasion (see Exodus 7:10-12; 8:5-7; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9). Therefore, Moses added further aspects to this test in Deuteronomy 13:1-5.

The true test is the content of the message, not miracles. The true prophet spoke only in the name of the Lord and called people closer to God, not away from God.

Conclusion

As the saying goes, prophets were both foretellers and forth tellers. Although they are usually thought of as being announcers of the future, they spent most of their time proclaiming God’s words about the age in which they themselves lived.

But as the prophets delivered God’s message about the present, it naturally spilled over into the future as they threatened punishment or promised blessing.

Do prophets exist today?

There may not appear prophets today as in the Old and New Testament periods. However, it must be noted that God can still speak through people in whatever way He chooses to reveal certain information at certain times. And this information will not contradict what God has already revealed about Himself in His written word, the Bible.


Reference: The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Mark Hitchcock

The End by Mark HitchcockThe end times have seen a great amount of interest in the last two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and eschatology for more than five decades.

Mark Hitchcock’s book is a comprehensive resource for the twenty-first century. The End will do for eschatology what Randy Alcorn’s Heaven did for people’s understanding of heaven. It provides a solid biblical foundation for Christians to explore the essential truths around the topic of the end of the world.

The End lays out Biblical prophecy in a clear and understandable way explaining how to interpret Bible prophecy, pointing out key passages, events, and characters. It also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the different views on the Rapture, the Millennium, and the chronology of end-times events.

Ecclesiastes 3 Explained

Ecclesiastes 3 Explained

Ecclesiastes 3 is unarguably one of the most quoted Bible passages not only by Christians but also non-Christians, especially when talking about the meaning of life. Now, why is that? What is this passage all about? What is Solomon, the author, trying to tell us about life?

An Introduction to the Book of Ecclesiastes

Some argue that the book of Ecclesiastes may not have been written by Solomon but by somebody else under his instruction. However, there are powerful arguments that the author was Solomon himself.

The author calls himself “the son of David, king in Jerusalem” in Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12. And Solomon was the best qualified Davidic descendant for the quest in this book as he was the wisest man who ever taught in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:16; 1 Kings 4:29-30).

The description of Qoheleth’s exploration of pleasure (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3), impressive accomplishments (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6), and unparalleled wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:7-10) were fulfilled only by King Solomon.

Note 1: The Hebrew title Qoheleth is a rare term, found only in this book (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8-10). It comes from the word qahal, “to convoke an assembly, to assemble.” Thus, it means “one who addresses an assembly, a preacher.”

The Septuagint used the Greek word Ekklesiastes as its title for this book. Derived from the word ekklesia, “assembly, congregation, church,” it simply means “preacher “ The Latin Ecclesiastes means “speaker before an assembly.”

Ecclesiastes 1:1 in Hebrew reads, “The words of Qoheleth, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.”

The book of Ecclesiastes was probably written late in Solomon’s life, about 935 B.C. If this is so, the great glory that Solomon ushered in early in his reign was already beginning to fade; and the disruption of Israel into two kingdoms would soon take place.

Jewish tradition asserts that Solomon wrote Song of Solomon in his youthful years, Proverbs in his middle years, and Ecclesiastes in his latter years. There are no references to historical events than to personal aspects of Qoheleth’s life and the location was Jerusalem, the seat of Israel’s rule and authority.

A Time for Everything

In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon affirms in fourteen paired statements that God is at work in our individual lives, seeking to accomplish His will. It must be noted that all of these events come from God, and they are good in their time.

A Time to be Born and a Time to Die

Ecclesiastes 3:2a

Things like abortion, birth control, mercy killing (euthanasia), and surrogate parenthood may give the impression that humans control birth and death, but Solomon said otherwise.

Birth and death are not human accidents; they are divine appointments, for God is in control. We may foolishly hasten death, but we cannot prevent it when our time comes, unless God wills it, such as in the case of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:1-8.

Psalm 139:16 NKJV

A Time to Plant and a Time to Harvest.

Ecclesiastes 3:2b

Farmers may plow and sow, but only God can give the increase (Psalm 65:9-13). “Harvest” translates a word that may refer either to reaping or pulling up unproductive plants.

A successful farmer knows that nature works for him only if he works with nature. This is also the secret of a successful life: Learn God’s principles and cooperate with them.

Casting Away Stones and Gathering Them

Ecclesiastes 3:5

Israel is indeed a rocky land, and farmers must clear their fields before they can plow and plant. To hurt an enemy, you would fill the enemy’s field with stones (2 Kings 3:19, 25). People also gathered stones for building walls and houses.

Whether stones are good or bad depends on how they are used. If your enemy fills your land with rocks, don’t throw them back. Instead, build something out of them!

A Time to Tear and a Time to Sew

Ecclesiastes 3:7

This tearing and mending probably refer to the Jewish practice of tearing one’s garments during a time of grief or repentance (2 Samuel 13:31; Ezra 9:5).

God expects us to sorrow and grieve during bereavement but not like unbelievers who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). At times we must get out of the needle and thread and start mending.

A Time to Love and a Time to Hate

Ecclesiastes 3:8

God’s people are expected to love others, even the unlovable, following Jesus’ example. But are they allowed to hate? The fact that the next phrase mentions “war and peace” suggests that Solomon may have had the nation primarily in mind.

However, believers are expected to hate some things such as covetousness (Exodus 18:21), evil (Psalm 97:10), the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6), the doctrines of Balaam and sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14), and the seven things that God hates in Proverbs 6:16-19.

The inference in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is plain: If we cooperate with God’s timing, life will not be meaningless. Rather, everything will be “beautiful for its own time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), even the most difficult experiences of life. Life is something like a doctor’s prescription. Taken alone, the ingredients might kill you, but properly blended, they bring healing.

Making Sense of God’s Gift: Life

Ecclesiastes 3:10

Given the travail that we experience from day to day, life may seem like a strange gift, but it is God’s gift just the same. We exercise ourselves in trying to explain life’s enigmas, but we don’t always succeed.

If we believingly accept life as a gift and thank God for it, we will have a better attitude toward the burdens that come our way. If we grudgingly accept life as a burden, then we will miss the gifts that come our way. As Dr. Warren Wiersbe said, “Outlooks help to determine the outcome.”

What Does Ecclesiastes 3 Mean

Understanding God’s Plan

Ecclesiastes 3:11

God created man (us) in His own image and has given him dominion over all other creatures (Genesis 1:26-28). Humans, therefore, are different from the rest of creation. God “has planted eternity in the human heart” and we are linked to heaven.

Don Richardson, a well-known missionary and author, used the phrase “eternity in their hearts” to describe the phenomenon of redemptive analogies in almost all aboriginal cultures. Almost every culture has customs, traditions, or ways of thinking that reflect basic biblical truth, and these can be used by missionaries to explain the gospel

The bottom line here is, God accomplishes His purposes in His time, but only when we enter eternity will we begin to comprehend His total plan.

Contentment and Enjoyment

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

The Teacher hinted at contentment in Ecclesiastes 2:24 and was careful to say that this enjoyment of life was God’s gift (see Ecclesiastes 5:19; 6:2 and 1 Timothy 6:17). Solomon is not encouraging pagan hedonism but rather the practice of enjoying God’s gifts as the fruit of one’s labor, no matter how difficult life may be.

Life appears to be transitory, but whatever God does is forever. So, when we live for Him and let Him have His way, life is meaningful and manageable. Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, let’s enjoy what we do have and thank God for it.

Fear God and Submit to Him

Ecclesiastes 3:14

The proper attitude for us is the fear of the Lord, which is not the cringing of a slave before a cruel master but the submission of an obedient child to a loving parent (see Ecclesiastes 5:7; 7:18, 8:12-13; 12:13). If we fear God, we need not fear anything else, for He is in control.

Proverbs 9:10 also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

God Controls the Cycle of Life

Ecclesiastes 3:15

This verse helps us recall Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 and gives us the assurance that God controls the cycle of life. The past seems to repeat itself so that “nothing under the sun is truly new” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), but God can break into history and do what He pleases (see Isaiah 46:10).

God’s many miracles are evidence that the cycle is a pattern and not a prison. God’s own Son broke into human history through a miraculous birth. He then died on a cross and rose again, thus conquering the life-death cycle.

The Common Fate of Man and Animals

Ecclesiastes 3:18-21

God will judge when history has run its course, but God is judging now.

In the experiences of life, God is testing humans (“proves to people”). (The Hebrew word means “to sift, to winnow.”) God is revealing what humans are really like; He is sifting them.

For example, when someone leaves God out of his or her life, that person becomes like an animal. (See Psalm 32:9; Proverbs 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2:19-20.) He or she lives like a beast and dies like a beast.

As Solomon thought of an animal dying and its body decomposing, he realized that the same happens to the human body. We sensed that he hoped there was a different destiny between humans and animals, yet in his thinking “under the sun,”  he saw no real reason to believe it.


Enjoying Life Everyday

Ecclesiastes 3:22

Is there a way for man to know what will happen after him? Nothing, because death ends it all, and therefore ultimately his life has no more significance or meaning than the life of an animal.

So in ending, Solomon calls us to accept life, enjoy it a day at a time and be satisfied. We must never be satisfied with ourselves, but we must always be satisfied with what God gives to us in this life.

If we grow in character and godliness and live by faith, then we will be able to say with Paul, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Vanity: The Key Theme of Ecclesiastes

The key theme of Ecclesiastes is vanity. It reports the results of a diligent quest for purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in human life. The Preacher poignantly sees the emptiness and futility of power, popularity, prestige, and pleasure apart from God.

The word vanity appears thirty-seven times to express the many things that cannot be understood about life. All earthly goals and ambitions, when pursued as ends in themselves, lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. Life “under the sun” (used twenty-nine times) seems to be filled with inequities, uncertainties changes in fortune, and violations of justice.

But Ecclesiastes does not give us an answer to atheism or skepticism; God is referred to throughout. In fact, it claims that the search for man’s summum bonum must end in God. Satisfaction in life can be found only by looking beyond this world. Contentment and joy are found only in God.

Note 2: Summum bonum is a Latin expression meaning “the highest good,” which was introduced by the Roman philosopher Cicero, to correspond to the Idea of the Good in ancient Greek philosophy.

Conclusion

Although the Preacher concluded that time is short and there is no eternity on earth, He connected beauty and eternity as ideas implanted in the human personality by God. Obviously, beauty in God’s creation or in our own creative efforts awakens in us an awareness of eternity.

When King Solomon wrote the balance and harmony of all the various aspects of human existence, he concluded, “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. The word translated “beautiful” in Ecclesiastes 3:11 is not the term translated “good” in Genesis (Genesis 1:12, 25, 31).

The word in Ecclesiastes is much closer to the English word “beautiful” with its emphasis on visible attractiveness rather than internal harmony.

Beauty gives us a glimpse of what endures forever – maybe as though it were a pale reflection of some aspect of God’s perfect beauty. A sunset, a scene of mountain grandeur, the ocean at peace or in a frenzy, a symphony, a painting, a poem or an innocent child can stab the human heart with a certainty that God – a personal God who embodies perfect beauty – is the source of all this.


References:

New King James Version Study Bible edited by John Hagee

The New Living Transformation Study Bible edited Dr. Warren Wiersbe

Recommended Resource: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Found: God's Will Does God have a path for me? How do I make the right choices in life? Why is it so difficult to uncover God’s will?

Trusted pastor and teacher John MacArthur answers these vital questions and more.

Offering assurance that God does have a plan for your life and that He wants you to know it, MacArthur examines six powerful biblical principles that will give you direction, fill you with purpose, and give you the confidence to live out His plan for you.

When those five fundamentals are operating, we’re free to exercise number six – and do whatever we want!

Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God

Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God

To be a Christian means you do not only believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God but that He is also God. Unfortunately, many people today who claim to be Christians believe that Jesus is nothing but human. They say Jesus was one of the prophets, or that He was a great rabbi (teacher) or a messenger from God.

Is Jesus God or the Son of God? What does the Scripture say? 

The Jews Reject Jesus

In John 10:22-42, we read how the Jews rejected Jesus. During the feast of Jerusalem in wintertime, the Jews surrounded Jesus as He walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch, and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24)

In reply, Jesus said, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:25-28).

Jesus could have stopped right there because He knew that no matter what He will say, they would not believe Him anyway. But He went on to say something that provoked the Jews to anger and they took up stones to stone Him. Why were the religious leaders so upset with Jesus that they wanted to kill Him? It’s because of what He said.

What did Jesus say? He said, “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:29-30).

I and the Father are One - John 10:30

Jesus has been teaching them about the kingdom of God and performing many miracles that caused division among the Jewish people. While some said Jesus was demon-possessed, others argued that the words He has been speaking could not be from someone who has a demon and that a demon can’t perform miracles.

Jesus Claims to be God

One of the most common arguments from people who do not believe that Jesus is God is Jesus’ claim that He is the Son of God. They say, “Jesus said that he is the son of God but he never said, “I am God worship me.”

What they are saying is that Jesus is the son of God in the same way that we are the sons of God. Okay! But if this is what Jesus meant, there would be no reason for the religious teachers to get so angry that they wanted Him dead, right?

Clearly, Jesus said something that a modern Bible reader might not fully grasp without considering the fact that Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience. The fact that the religious leaders charged Jesus with blasphemy for saying that He and the Father are one proves that Jesus spoke of much more than a purpose and will.

Note: The statement of Jesus in John 10:30 holds great importance regarding His deity and the nature of the Godhead. “I and My Father” means that the Father and the Son are not the same Person, refuting the doctrine of “Modalism” or “Sabellianism.” And the words “are one” means that the Father and the Son are equal in nature.

The Jews of Jesus’ day clearly understood what the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Oneness denominations today seem to miss – that Jesus clearly claimed to be God. And for a mere man to claim equality with God is blasphemy.

The Law of Moses laid down the penalty for such a crime: “And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death” (Leviticus 24:16).


Recommended Resource: The Forgotten Trinity by Dr. James R. White

The Forgotten Trinity BookWhile many of us struggle to understand it, the Trinity is one of the most important teachings of the Christian faith. It defines God’s very essence and describes how He relates to us. And while it can be a difficult concept to get our heads around, it is crucial for believers to understand how God explains His triune nature in His Word.

In this book, James R. White offers a concise, understandable explanation of what the Trinity is and why it matters. While refuting the distortions of God presented by various cults, Dr. White shows how understanding this teaching leads to renewed worship and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

And amid today’s emphasis on the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, The Forgotten Trinity is a balanced look at all three Persons of the Trinity.

May this book deepen your understanding of this important doctrine while also drawing you closer to the triune God Himself.


Jesus Defends His Claims to be God

When the Jews accused Jesus of making Himself equal with God, instead of denying their accusation He went into great lengths to affirm the charges and proceeds to defend His claims to be God.

In John 10:34-36, Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods?’” (which is a direct quote from Psalm 82:6). If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God?”

This is a rabbinic form of argument that some misunderstand. They claim that Jesus was toning down His claim to deity by showing that the term “gods” can legitimately be used of men in certain ways. Thus, He, a man may be called “the Son of God.” But if this is what Jesus was doing (toning down His claim to deity) the Jews would not have tried to seize Him.

Jesus Backs His Claim with Works

To back His Words, Jesus repeatedly appealed to His works (John 10:25).

When the Jews picked up stones to hurl at Him after His claim to be one with the Father, Jesus said, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me” (John 10:32). Then He adds, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38)?

In each case, Jesus pointed out that His works backed up His verbal claim. As we can see, all that Jesus said and did, especially His miracles confirm that He is God and the son of the Living God.

But despite all this evidence, some still chose to reject Jesus. We would have thought that Jesus would be welcomed in Jerusalem as Messiah because the people there had more than sufficient reasons to believe in Jesus; He was not only rejected but also the people were intent on murdering Him.

Note: You can read the arguments people have against the deity of Christ here.

The Father Sent His Son

Jesus made two other claims: He was consecrated by the Father for a special task and He was sent into the world to carry out His Father’s mission (John 10:36). The scriptural understanding of sanctification is to make holy for God – to be given over as free-will offering and sacrifice for God.

Jesus made Himself a sin-offering for us, to ransom us from condemnation and slavery to sin. He spoke of His Father sanctifying Him for this mission of salvation. Jesus challenged His opponents to accept His works if they could not accept His words. One can argue with words, but deeds are beyond argument.

Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God

Did Jesus claim to be God or the Son of God? Yes, He did by His words backed with works. Jesus is not only the Son of the living God; He Himself is God.

Jesus is also the perfect teacher in that He does not base His claims on what He says but on what He does. The Word of God is life and power for those who believe and accept it as God’s word for us.

Jesus shows us the way to walk the path of truth and holiness. And He anoints us with His power to live the Gospel with joy and to be His witnesses in the world.

Are you a doer of God’s word, or a forgetful hearer only?

Out of the Darkness into Light

Out of the Darkness into Light

Upon hearing of the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew to Galilee where He started His ministry. Jesus left Nazareth and went on to live in Capernaum in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.

This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah that the good news of salvation would reach Jews and Gentiles as Jesus will draw people out of darkness into His marvelous light (Isaiah 9:1-2).

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” – Matthew 4:15-16

Jesus Brings Light to a Dark World

Why did Jesus leave Nazareth to dwell in Capernaum? This was because the people rejected Him – in His own hometown. So He made His home in Capernaum and not in Nazareth.

As a fulfillment of prophecy, Light has come into the region of Galilee, which was largely populated by Gentiles. D. A. Carson describes Galilee to be a place where people live in darkness, that is, without the religious and cultic advantages of Jerusalem and Judea.

John 8:12

The Old Testament prophets spoke of God’s promise to send a Redeemer who would establish God’s rule. That time is now fulfilled in Jesus who brings the light and truth of the Gospel to the world. As Jesus began to preach repentance, light has finally dawned upon “despised” Galilee.

Before coming to faith in Christ, we were all under the power of darkness. But thanks be to God, He sent His Son to deliver us. Although we are still tempted by Satan, we are no longer under his power; we are not his slaves, and he has no rights over us. We must resist him so that the effects of the power of darkness become less and less evident in our lives.

Living in the Light in a Dark World

How do Christians live in the light while residing in a dark world? In Ephesians 5:1-7, Paul exhorts all believers to imitate God by walking in love and getting rid of all forms of sexual immorality, perversion, covetousness and foolish talking.

Paul continues in Ephesians 5:8 by saying, “You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord, so walk as children of light.”

Take note that Paul does not say believers were “in” darkness, but they “were” darkness. He is saying that darkness is the character of every believer before coming to Christ. And then he says we are to live and walk as children of light. What does it mean to live in light?

Paul McArthur says, “In Scripture, the figurative use of light has two aspects: intellectual and moral. Intellectually it represents truth, whereas morally it represents holiness. Therefore, to live in light means to live in truth and in holiness. The figure of darkness has the same two aspects. Intellectually it represents ignorance and falsehood, whereas morally it connotes evil.”

As children of God, we walk in the light by always remembering that light, not darkness is our nature. Paul uses the term “children of light” to remind us that we have our Father’s nature (2 Peter 1:4). In Psalm 27:1, David calls God “my light and my salvation” and Jesus said He is the light of the world (John 8:12).

That is the nature of God our Father and we have His nature.

Becoming a Light in a World of Darkness

How do Christians become a light in this dark world?

1. Shine your light for all to see.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

In the same way that we always place a lamp in the most advantageous position, we must place our light where it could shine the brightest. We must put our light on a stand for all to see.

*Read here: How to Let Your Light Shine

2. Live to please God.

In order to please God, we must discern what pleases Him by discerning His will. I’ve enumerated several ways by which we can discern God’s will in your life in this article.

3. Have nothing to do with darkness; rather, expose it.

Believers in Jesus are strongly advised to not only stay away from the works of darkness but also to expose them (Ephesians 5:11-12). And one of the ways we do this is by living a holy life.

To be holy means to be separated from the world. We may be “in this world” but we are not “of this world.” As believers, we do not curse, get drunk, cheat, and engage in any form of sexual immorality. We are to live a life that exposes the sin of those around us.

But we must be ready to get mocked and ridiculed by unbelievers who love darkness and hate the light. Living a holy life is indeed both rare and strange in this world. Consider Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den for praying to the One true God three times a day.

Then there’s Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into the blazing furnace for refusing to bow down to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Are you willing to welcome the cross of our Savior who was hated by the world? Then be different even if it would result in being treated weird and strange.

Out of the Darkness into Light

4. Produce the fruits of light.

As believers in Jesus who is the light, we must produce the fruits of light: goodness, truth, and righteousness.

Goodness refers to anything that is morally excellent. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Looking at this verse more closely, we can say that goodness is “love in action.” It’s pretty easy to say, “I love you” but these words do not really mean much if it’s not coupled with action. Like our Lord, we must go out of our way to extend a loving hand to those in need, especially to fellow believers.

Truth has to do with honesty, reliability, and integrity which are the opposite of falsehood and deception. Is the fruit of truth manifested in the way you live your life?

Righteousness has two aspects: as we relate to God and how we live our lives.

As it relates to our relationship with God, we are filthy as rags but the moment we trusted Christ for our salvation, God has imputed on us the righteousness of Christ, making us acceptable in His eyes.

As it relates to how we live, we know that we are justified by faith and are declared righteous before God but as true believers, we must practice a lifestyle of righteousness.

Are you producing the fruits of light in your Christian life?

Closing Words

Light reveals God, light produces fruit, and light also exposes what is wrong. The light reveals the truth and exposes the true character of things.

The idea that we are light is the main thrust of Ephesians 5:7-14, for Paul, was admonishing his readers to “live as children of light.” Now that we are out of the darkness we should “take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness.”

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

We are exhorted by the Word of God to not lean on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Proverbs 3:5). Yet, oftentimes, we choose to trust our own heart; we choose to trust ourselves. Do you know that trusting the heart is just another way of trusting in man?

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Now, why did the prophet Jeremiah say this? Why did he warn the people to be cautious about the directions and inclinations of the heart?

It has everything to do with what happened to the people of Judah. Instead of giving their devotion and obedience to the true and living God, who had blessed them, the Jews followed the dictates of their evil hearts which eventually led them astray.

The Folly of Trusting You Own Heart

It’s interesting that the Bible calls it foolishness to trust and follow your own heart.

The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart. Indeed, our heart often deceives us. It convinces us that heart-fulfillment is the key to happiness. Our heart tells us that if we would just be true to it and fulfill all its desires then we will be happy. However, what we desire is often not what we need.

But the human heart is not only deceitful but also desperately wicked. By following their heart without judging it by the measure of God’s truth, many people have been led to disobedience, rebellion, and eventually great sorrow. I’d say the advice to “always follow your heart” is not good advice at all.

God Has Given Us a New Heart

As believers under the New Covenant, we have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), we have been made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and have become a new man according to the image of our Creator (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24).

Ezekiel 36:26

Although there are still some elements of sin and flesh remaining in us and we still have to deal with inward deceit and wickedness, we can be confident that the Lord will give us the strength and grace to overcome. We just need to trust in the Lord to guide and lead us and allow Him to carry out His plans and purpose in our lives.

God searches the heart and mind and knows exactly how to reward each one of us. If we want to know how our hearts are like, we must read the Word and let the Spirit teach us.

God is Continually Transforming Our Hearts

In Philippians 2:12-13, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is working in us.”

A very important note in regard to this verse. Paul is definitely not saying that we must work to earn our salvation. Rather, Paul calls the Philippians (and every believer today) to put forth real effort into their Christian lives. The Christian is to make evident in every area of their lives the salvation that God has given them freely.

God does not automatically make you a sanctified Christian. You have to put the work into it to foster that relationship with God.

It’s kind’ a like a plant. After a seed is planted in fertile soil, it sprouts. That is when salvation occurs, but it is only a baby plant. Now, it needs to grow, but if it does not have the right conditions, it can’t grow.

We need the water of the Word and sunlight. God is described in many places in the Bible as being the Light (Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 60:19; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5). We need an unobstructed view of the Light. We need to make sure we do not have any obstructions in our view.

God is our main priority, our main focus. And our main motive is our love for God. You may want to read Deuteronomy 5:29 again.

Has God Changed Your Heart?

As people, we are predisposed to sin. Why? It’s because our hearts desire to sin. We are not able to change that. Romans 7:18 says “nothing good dwells in men.” So when God saves us, He saves us by first allowing our hearts to change.

As I said earlier, sanctification is not automatic after salvation. We did not automatically get a heart for God the moment we got born again. Rather, we need to allow God to work in us and through us. And it starts by submitting to the will of God as shown by our obedience to Him and His commandments.

In his appeal to Israel, Moses urged the people to remember the majesty of God and respect the Word of God. He quoted Yahweh’s own words, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29)!

Obedience is always a matter of the heart, and if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21-24). There is no conflict between the greatness of God and the grace of God, His transcendence and His immanence, for we can love the Lord and fear the Lord with the same heart (Psalm 2:10-12; 34:8-9).

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

As God changes our hearts, we will fear Him more and more. When we love Him, we will keep His commandments. God does not want us to be petrified of Him. He is our Father.

Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

We are children of God and He wants to bless us for our obedience. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30 that we can “swap our burden of sin, for His burden is light.” Why? It’s because we want to live for Him.

Are you serious about putting your heart, soul, mind, and strength into loving God? If not, why not start now? God has done so much for you, how are you going to say thank you to Him?

Closing Words

Why is the human heart deceitful and wicked? Because it often desires things that are contrary to what God wants for us. And if we let our own hearts make decisions without taking into consideration what the Word of God says, we will be led astray.

Let us learn from the Jewish people who allowed their hearts to turn away from the Lord and His truth. Consequently, they made unwise decisions and plunged the nation into ruin.

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible (Part Two)

In part one of this article, we answered questions that have to do with the origin of the Bible, its nature, the authors, and how they got their message from God. As we continue with the tough questions about the Bible, we will be answering questions about the inspiration and authority of the Bible, its reliability and the reliability of the biblical witnesses.

The Inspiration of the Bible

What do we mean when we say that the Bible is inspired? 2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV) declares that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Combine this truth with 2 Peter 1:20-21, which affirms that the Scriptures were given by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” and we see that inspiration as a whole is the process by which Spirit-moved writers produced God-breathed writings.

Are the very words of the Bible inspired by God, or only the ideas?

Numerous Scriptures make it evident that the locus of revelation and inspiration is the written Word – the Scriptures (Greek gapha) – not simply the idea or even the writer, but his actual writing.

Notice the reference to revealed or divinely inspired “Scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21), “words taught by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13), “the Book” (2 Chronicles 34:14), “His (God’s) word” (2 Samuel 23:2), “My (God’s) words” (Isaiah 59:21), and “the words that the Lord Almighty had sent” (Zechariah 7:12).

When referring to the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God, the New Testament most often (more than ninety times) uses the phrase “it is written” (eg. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus described this written word as that which “comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

So important were the exact words of God that Jeremiah was told, “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word” (Jeremiah 26:2).

What does it mean when we say that the Bible is Inspired

So, it was not simply that men were free to state God’s word in their own words, the very choice of words was from God. Exodus 24:4 records, “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.”

In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses writes, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

Sometimes God chose to emphasize even the tenses of verbs.

Jesus said, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32). Paul based his argument on a singular versus a plural noun in Galatians 3:16, insisting, “Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Even one letter (the letter s, for example) can make a big difference. Jesus went so far as to declare that even parts of letters are inspired. In English, if a t is not crossed, it looked like an i. Thus, Jesus said, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).

Does the Bible claim to be inspired on all topics or just spiritual ones?

Inspiration does guarantee the truth of everything the Bible teaches, implies, or entails (spiritually of factually). Paul affirmed that all Scripture, not just some, is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter declared that no prophecy of Scripture comes from man but it all comes from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Jesus told His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). In this same discourse He added, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). And the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42), recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament, which was considered to be sacred Scripture along with the Old Testament.

The inspiration of God, then, extends to every part of Scripture. It includes everything God affirmed (or denied) about any topic included in Scripture. It is inclusive of not only what the Bible teaches explicitly but also what it teaches implicitly. It covers not only spiritual matters but factual ones as well.

The all-knowing God cannot be wrong about anything He teaches or implies. Jesus verified historical and scientific matters, including the creation of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5), the flood during Noah’s time (Matthew 24:37-39), and even Jona being swallowed by a great fish (Matthew 12:40-42).

Indeed, Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things” (John 3:12)?

Why do some people misunderstand what is meant by the inspiration of the Bible?

The Bible is inspired by God with regard to everything it teaches. There are, however, a number of common misunderstandings:

  • That every part of a parable has to convey a fact rather than help the parable illustrate its point (see Luke 18:2).
  • That everything it records is true rather than something merely taught or implied (Genesis 3:4).
  • That no exaggerations (hyperboles) are used (Psalm 6:6; Luke 14:26).
  • That all statements about God and creation are purely literal (Job 38:7; Hebrews 4:13).
  • That all factual assertions are technically precise by modern standards as opposed to a common observational standpoint (Joshua 10:12).
  • That all citations of Scripture must be verbatim as opposed to faithful to the meaning (Psalm 2:1 and Acts 4:25).
  • That all citations of Scripture must have the same application as the original (Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15) rather than the same interpretation (meaning).
  • That the same truth can be said in only one way as opposed to many ways, as it is in the Gospels.
  • That whatever a writer personally believed, as opposed to merely what he actually affirmed in Scripture, is true (Matthew 15:26).
  • That truth is exhaustively revealed or treated as opposed to adequately presented in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:12).
  • That quotations imply the truth of everything in the source it is citing rather than just the part cited (Titus 1:12).
  • That a particular grammatical construction will always be the customary one rather than an adequate one to convey the truth.

How do we know these misunderstandings aren’t part of what inspiration covers?

What the Bible says must be understood in view of what the Bible shows. What it preaches must be read in view of what it practices. The doctrine of Scripture is to be understood in light of the data of Scripture.

For instance, the Bible uses round numbers. Thus, when the Bible claims to be true, it does not mean to exclude the use of round numbers (2 Chronicles 4:1-22). The same is true of hyperboles, figures of speech, observational language, and literary genre (as poetry, parable, and the like).

In short, everything the Bible affirms is true, but what is meant by truth must be understood in the light of the phenomena or data of Scripture.

The Authority of the Bible

Does the Bible claim to have divine authority? The Bible uses many other words or phrases to describe itself in ways that validate its divine authority. Jesus said that the Bible is indestructible (Matthew 5:18); it is infallible (or completely reliable and authoritative) or “unbreakable” (see John 10:35); it has final and decisive authority (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10), and it is sufficient for faith and practice.

Jesus spoke of the sufficiency of the Jewish Scriptures, “‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Paul added this: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

How far does this divine authority extend?

The extent of divine authority in Scripture includes all that is written, even the very words – including even the smallest parts of words and the tenses of verbs. Even though the Bible was not verbally dictated by God to humans, nonetheless, the result is just as perfect as if it had been.

For the biblical authors claimed that God is the source of the very words of Scripture, since He supernaturally superintended the process by which they wrote, using their own vocabulary and style to record God’s message (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Reliability of the Bible

Evangelicals affirm the reliability of the biblical text from God to us. Can we trust the Bible historically? Is it really a reliable record?

Since the historical reliability of the Bible is a crucial link in knowing that the Bible is the Word of God, it is important to address these questions.

Answering Tough Questions About the Bible

Does the Bible have errors in it?

The original text of the Bible does not teach any error. The logic of the Bible’s errorlessness is straightforward:

1) God cannot err (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).

2) The Bible is God’s Word (John 10:34-35).

3) Therefore, the Bible cannot contain errors.

Since the Scriptures are breathed out by God and God cannot breathe out falsehood, it follows that the Bible cannot contain any falsehood.

Are there errors in Bible Manuscripts and translations?

There are some minor copyist errors in the Bible manuscripts. A couple of examples will suffice. The Masoretic Text of 2 Chronicles 22:2 says Ahaziah was forty-two, yet 2 Kings 8:26 asserts that Ahaziah was twenty-two. He could not have been forty-two (a copyist error), or he would have been older than his father.

Also, 2 Chronicles 9:25 affirms that Solomon had four thousand horse stalls, but the Masoretic Text of 1 Kings 4:26 says he had forty thousand horse stalls, which would have been way more than needed for the twelve thousand horsemen he had.

It is important to keep these things in mind with regard to these copyist errors:

  • No original manuscript has ever been found with an error in it.
  • They are relatively rare.
  • In most cased we know which one is wrong from the context or the material found in parallel passages.
  • In no case is the doctrine of Scripture affected.
  • They vouch for the accuracy of the copying process since the scribes who copied them knew there were errors in the manuscripts but they were duty-bound to copy what the text said.
  • They don’t affect the central message of the Bible.

Someone, may, in fact, receive a message with errors in it, yet have 100 percent of the message come through clearly. For example, suppose you received a message from Western Union that read as follows: “Y#u have won 20 million dollars.”

No doubt you would gladly pick up your money. And if the telegram read in any of the ways that follow, you would have no doubt at all:

  • “Yo# have won 20 million dollars.”
  • “You #ave won 20 million dollars.”
  • You h#ve won 20 million dollars.”

Why would we be surer if there are more errors? Because each error is in a different place, and with it, we get another confirmation of every other letter in the original message.

Three things are important to note. First, even with one line, error and all, 100 percent of the message comes through. Second, the more lines, the more errors – but the more errors, the surer we are of what the intended message really was.

Finally, there are hundreds of times more Bible manuscripts than there are lines in the above example. And there is a greater percentage of error in this telegram than in all the collated biblical manuscripts.

Are the copies of the Bible reliable?

The biblical scribes were meticulous in how they copied Scripture. The overall reliability has been measured in several ways.

First, with regard to any major doctrine in the Bible, there has been no loss whatsoever. Every important truth of Scripture from the original text has been preserved intact in the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek manuscripts.

Second, errors that exist in the copies are in minor matters, such as numbers that affect no major or minor doctrinal matter in the Bible. In fact, in most of these, we know either from the common sense of the text, the context, or other passages which ones are correct.

Third, not only is 100 percent of all the major truths and the vast majority of minor truth of Scripture preserved in the manuscripts we have (and in the translations based on them), but more than 99 percent of the original text can be reconstructed from the manuscripts we possess.

The reason is twofold: (1) we have thousands of manuscripts, and (2) we have early manuscripts. The proximity to the original text and the multiplicity of the manuscripts enable textual scholars to accurately reconstruct the original text with more than 99 percent accuracy.

Renowned Greek scholar Sir Frederic Kenyon affirmed that all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99 percent of the verses in the New Testament. Another noted Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, said the real concerns of textual criticism are on “a thousand part of the entire text” (making the New Testament 99.9 percent pure).

The Reliability of the Biblical Witnesses

Were the biblical witnesses reliable? Yes, they were very reliable for many reasons.

First, the writers of Scripture were by and large contemporaries of the events. Moses was a witness of the events in Exodus through Deuteronomy (see Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:24). Joshua was a witness of the happenings reported in his book (Joshua 24:26), as were Samuel (1 Samuel 10:25, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah after him.

The same is true in the New Testament. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus. Mark was a contemporary and associate of the apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:13). Luke was a contemporary who knew the eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). And John was a disciple of Jesus and eyewitness of the events (1 John 1:1-2).

Second, in the case of the New Testament writers, all eight (or nine?) of them were either apostles or associated with the apostles as eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude. These were all men who held the highest standards of ethics and were willing to die for their beliefs, as most of them did.

Third, these writers were credible as indicated by:

1. Their tendency to doubt whether Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:17; Mark 16:3; Luke 24:11; John 20:24-29).

2. The inclusion of material that reflected badly on themselves (see Matthew 16:23; Mark 14:47).

3. The multiple accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc.) that establish their words by two or three witnesses as the court required (Deuteronomy 17:6).

4. The divergence in accounts that reveals they were not in collusion (see Matthew 28:5; John 20:12).

5. Confirmation of the accounts through hundreds of archaeological finds.

6. The evidence for early dates for the basic material about Jesus’ death and resurrection by A.D. 55-60.

Noted historian Colin Hemer confirmed that Luke wrote Acts by A.D. 62. But Luke wrote the gospel of Luke, which says the same basic things about Jesus that Matthew and Mark say before he wrote Acts (say, by A.D. 60)

Further, Bible critics admit that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15:1-9, which tells of the death and resurrection of Jesus, by about A.D. 55. This was only twenty-two years after Jesus’ death, while more than 250 witnesses of His resurrection were still alive (see 1 Corinthians 15:6).

Would the New Testament witnesses have stood up in a court of law?

Simon Greenleaf, one of history’s greatest legal minds, former Harvard law professor, and author of a book on legal evidence, carefully applied the rules of legal evidence to the Gospel accounts in his book The Testimony of the Evangelists.

Greenleaf argued that if the Gospels were submitted to the scrutiny of a court of law, “then it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result, by receiving their testimony in all the extent of its import.”

He added, “Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.”

Here’s a 3-minute video presentation by Daniel B. Wallace explaining why we can still trust the New Testament even when the original manuscripts are different.

Conclusion

The Bible both claims and proves to be the Word of God. Both the internal and external evidence overwhelmingly reveal the accuracy of the Bible.

Having examined its origin, nature, and reliability, we may confidently assert that the Scriptures came from God through men of God who recorded it in the Word of God.

Here’ part one of Answering Tough Questions About the Bible.


*Reference:  Who Made God? (Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith)

*Recommended Resource: From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible
By Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix

The Bible was written in multiple languages by dozens of authors whose lives spanned a period of more than fifteen hundred years. How did it all come together?

Best-selling authors Norman Geisler and William Nix thoroughly answer this question and many more in this revised and expanded edition of a classic which has sold more than 78,000 copies. Helpful charts, photos, and indices have been added, rendering this book ideally suited for Bible students, pastors, and professors.

Major topics addressed include: theories of inspiration, the process of canonization, major manuscripts and recent discoveries, textual criticism, Greek and Latin translations, and modern English translations. The entire field of general biblical introduction is covered.

This is a long-trusted resource for understanding why we can trust the Scriptures really are God’s word.