Delusional Christians

Its not good enough to only want to be a Christian or claim to be a Christian and not believe the truth. Nearly 70% of U.S. adults claim Christianity but are ignorant of the basics of faith. A Christian is one who knows God intimately by the Spirit of God, a personal being, whom the Son and Father co-indwell as stated in John 17.20-23: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (NIV).

Those who don’t have the Spirit are not true Christians: You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Rom. 8.9 NIV). Of course it is entirely possible to Have the Spirit but be ignorant about Him or His indwelling. If so, it is an unnecessary and pathetic existence, your choice. The Corinthian Church may have had the same problem, and, if so, were told to test themselves if they were in the faith: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2Cor. 13.5 NIV).

Also, The Apostle Peter uses words with possibly the strongest admonition (all effort): Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe. 1.10-11 NIV).

Here are the statistics, read it and weep:

The Potter’s Eye

LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. (Jeremiah 10.23 NIV)

God’s Scrutiny of His Creatures

Here is a brief bible study to trace the revelation of heart’s transparency to God. Perhaps, prior to Samuel, it was not readily recognized from what perspective God tested humans. The book of Hebrews repeats what is revealed both explicitly and implicitly in the Old Testament: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (4.13 NIV). This transparency to God is also recognized by every person who has ever lived (though it is often suppressed): “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Ro. 1.19 NIV).

The Era of Samuel the Prophet

The Prophet Samuel, when he went to anoint a replacement for King Saul, thought that David’s oldest brother was the Lord’s choice but God taught him differently: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sa. 16.7 ESV). As far as I can tell from the scriptures, this new explicit truth was revealed first to Samuel, a Levite and prophet, specifically born and chosen to transition Israel from the relative darkness of the era of the Judges to King David who received the Covenant that Messiah would be born of his lineage.

Samuel was a Levite and so could minister in the tabernacle wearing an ephod before the negligent High Priest Eli (1Chron. 6.27-28, 1 Sam. 2.11, 18). The birth of Samuel was auspicious after Hannah’s suffering abuse from her rival (see 1Sam. 1). Hannah’s song and prayer in 1 Sam. 2.1-10 reflect important truths concerning God and His future king. Her song is prophetic in itself noting a coming judgment and king (vs. 10).

Samuel was a pivotal figure raised up to Judge Israel at a critical time in that nation’s history. Samuel’s calling by God in 1Sam. 3 reflects the judgment of Eli the High Priest and his line. God would guide the nation through Samuel until the choice of David the man after God’s own heart. Samuel functioned as Israel’s prophetic leader much the same way as Moses served as a conduit for the Lord’s word during the Egyptian Exodus and subsequent wilderness wanderings. This functional leadership is referenced in Jer. 15.1: Then the LORD said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! (NIV). Also, in the the book of Acts after Peter healed a man lame from birth preached to the people noting the foundational place Samuel ministry functioned in the prophecy of Messiah’s coming and work of redemption: Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days (Acts 3.24 NIV).

Explicit References After Samuel to God’s Vantage

Again, David (who evidently was taught by Samuel) in Ps. 7.9 affirms this truth: “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!” (ESV). In the book of Proverbs, Solomon reveals the same concept: “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” (15.11 ESV). He (Solomon) also concludes the book of Ecclesiastes after surveying everything under the sun: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (12.14 ESV). All these truths, it seems, were handed down to him by his father David: “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chron. 28.9). This Solomon, the wisest man on earth, would later pray at the First Temple’s completion in Jerusalem, the place where God revealed to David that He would place His name forever: “then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind” (2Chron. 6.30 ESV).

Also in the Biblical Prophets God gives Jeremiah this same truth to reiterate to His people: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (17.10 ESV).

In the New Testament, not only do we have the Book Hebrews affirming heart transparency to God, Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 4.5: “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (ESV).

Practical Implications

When talking to others or writing, we do not need to first establish a case for God’s existence or exclusivity. When we set forth Christ, we should just give the word as we know it and testify what Jesus has done for us. All Christians should be ready to give an answer for the hope they have (1Pe. 3.15). Also, the commission Christ gave to His disciples applies to us if we are His disciples (Mt. 28.19-20). Finally, we will only be strong in the Lord and victorious spiritually if we prepare ourselves to speak the gospel to others whenever the Spirit opens the door to hold forth the power of Christ’s redemption (Eph. 6.15).

Book(s) Review and Personal Update

This post is an expansion and replacement of an earlier one. Most of my summer has been sort of hectic and intense in moving house, though some down times, such as plane travel and several times waiting for car fixes, have enabled me to catch up in reading downloaded books. I have read several of Larry Hurtado’s books which cover similar, if not identical ground.

Larry Hurtado’s main works refuted German theologian Wilhelm Bousset who wrote around the turn of the 19th Century. Bousset contended that Christians were influenced by the Greek ideology of many gods, and thus resulted in the inclusion of the worship of Jesus alongside the Father by the church. Bousset’s idea dominated scholarly circles and formed a Religionesgeschichteschule. Hurtado skillfully countered this thought with careful examination of the historical sources and the New Testament itself.

Hurtado’s study traced the worship of Christians instead of merely using Christology, the setting forth beliefs about Jesus from the text. By seeing the devotional practices, rather than what the text affirms, Hurtado thinks new information can be gleaned to help understand how a Monotheistic faith can have the worship of two persons. Hurtado contends that Christians are still Monotheistic along with Jews, with which I agree.

However, if we note in the scriptures how, for example, Moses and Joshua were commanded to take off their footwear in the presence of The Angel of The Lord, then, when recognizing that the Word became flesh, we see a natural progression in the worship of Jesus alongside God. In other words, it’s more of a recognition than innovation that believers now worship Jesus and God. The scriptures indicate from the beginning when the Lord God created mankind in His image, Adam and Eve communed with the Lord in their innocence face to face. This was the eternal Son, The Lord, who was fully God. Also, in the judgment scene after the fall of Adam (Eve was the first sinner but humanity sinned in Adam and not Eve), the man, woman, and serpent had no choice but to appear before the visible Lord. Conversely, God the Father dwells in unapproachable light and cannot be seen by humans. (1Tim. 6.16).

The Spirit of God, the bible contends, is a separate person from God the Father, but one in purpose like an extension (procession – Jn.15.26), if you will. This is seen in the first two verses of Genesis. Likewise, the Lord is the visible representation of the Father. No one but the Son and (presumably) the Spirit has seen the Father: “not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father” (Jn. 6.46).

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus quoted the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Mark 12.29). Paul also affirmed only one God: “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1Cor. 8.6 ESV).

The Son and Spirit are a unity in God and inseparable, since the term “echad” in Dt. 6.4 doesn’t speak of singularity but unity.

Hurtado terms the new worship of Jesus alongside the Father as a “mutation” and an “innovation,” seeing this new cultus as a result of revelations and experiences from God to the early church. My contention is that the cultic worship is a fulfillment, a perfect completion of what has always been the worship of Israel.

The “times of The Lord” are referenced in Lev. 23.1-2: “The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and tell them, These are the Lord’s appointed times which you must proclaim as holy assemblies – my appointed times” (NET). These assemblies were the redemptive feasts when every Israelite male was required to “appear before The Lord.” They (the feasts) spoke or represented future activities performed by the Son and Spirit. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptized he said “behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” Christ was crucified at Pesach and has become the Christians’ passover (1Cor. 5.7). Pentecost (Shavuot) was when the Spirit was sent (at 9am during the morning sacrifice) to the nascent church. It is thought by some that Yom Teruah will be the last trumpet (1Cor. 15.52, 1Th. 4.16). Therefore, the feasts of the Jewish people which were part of their cultic worship have been fulfilled in part by Jesus and the Spirit.

Further, one need only read the book of Hebrews to see how Christ was both the true High Priest and sacrifice. The cultic worship of the Jews in the Old Covenant were through the mediation of the priesthood and temple to God. Jesus was the fulfillment of this worship, the greater temple. Therefore, the early Church did not have a mutated worship in their inclusion of Christ in their address and prayer to the Father. Instead, Christ was God’s mystery: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2.2-3 NIV).

Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in the Hellenistic period

The four centuries between the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the Gospels are sometimes called the “Silent Years”. This time period is also known as the …

Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in the Hellenistic period

How Christians Can “Say Something About Jesus”

When this pestilence is abated, bible believing churches should reinstitute weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, if they haven’t done so already. I know many pastors and congregations, recently (in the past 10 years or so), have started to reincorporate this remembrance on a weekly basis. This observance seemed to be established, historically, in observance very early in the Apostolic Era. Acts 20.7: On the first day of the week we came together to break bread (NIV). Here is Paul, Luke, Sopater, Aristarcus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus, Trophimus, with the church at Troas, observing this remembrance and proclamation of Jesus’ death for our redemption.

Initially, the Lord’s people in Roman Judea seemed to recognize the rite as a daily necessity: They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2.46 NIV). Perhaps the early believers saw Christ’s sacrifice fulfilling the 2nd Temple daily sacrifice at 9am and 3pm: Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins (Heb.10.11). The Jewish Temple sacrifices were gracious. Supplicants didn’t have to personally pay for their sins, instead, an innocent victim stood in their place symbolically. In this way (and other ways also), the Jewish scriptures reflect Christ’s work of redemption: Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’ ” (Heb. 10.7 see also Ps.40.7 NIV).

When Christians observe the Lord’s Supper, they are saying something: For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1Cor. 11.26 NIV). Also, if Christians are reluctant to say this among the brethren, how will they ever witness to others? Further, to be prepared to speak the gospel is a vital part of God’s armor to thwart the schemes of the devil; and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. (Eph. 6.15 NIV). This is speaking of being prepared when the Spirit gives opportunity to tell others the gospel.

King Jehoash: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

Jehoash was the second of four kings who descended from Jehu to reign as king of Israel (Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, and Zechariah); he ruled from ca. 798-782 BC.1 The Bible summarizes his reign this way: In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz began to reign over Israel […]

King Jehoash: An Archaeological Biography — Bible Archaeology Report

Ancient Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

Gen. 3.15 Cylinder Seal?

Above I have posted a seal impression from the British Museum which seems to be no longer accessible. The pixel count of the above image is much less than the original displayed content. If I am correct on my take of the scene, it refers to the judicial promise/curse of Gen.3.15. Notice the woman picking the fruit while the kingly Messiah tramples the serpent leading humanity to victory.

I contend this biblical promise is referenced in Gen. 4.1 when Eve mistakenly thought she gave birth to the Messiah. Also, I contend Gen. 3.15 is the redemptive origin of the blood sacrifice, the eternal covenant fulfilled by Christ who had His heal pierced by the deadly viper at the crucifixion. The symbolism of blood sacrifice also frames the story of Cain and Abel. It seems that Cain had a first-born animal he was unwilling to sacrifice and brought fruits of the ground instead.

Also, it seems the chaos of God’s original creation brought on by dark forces (Gen. 1.2) was not chargeable since no overt command was broken. Gen. 3.15 provides the judicial sentence upon the serpent since the human couple had died to God (Jn. 5.24, 1 Jn. 3.14, Eph. 2.1, Col.2.13, et al). In Jn. 8.44 Jesus tells us that the devil was a murderer and liar from the beginning giving the rationale for the judicial sentence in Gen. 3.15.

Here is a story from Aramco World featuring The Morgan Library & Museum holder of the world’s largest collection of ancient cylinder seals. The article is very fascinating as is the video which can be found by clicking the “video tab” in the top register.

https://www.aramcoworld.com/Articles/July-2021/Mesopotamia-s-Art-of-the-Seal

What Should We Make of Unanswered Prayers? — Southern Equip

Need encouragement to pray? John Calvin once said that “Nothing is better adapted to excite us to prayer than a full conviction that we shall be heard.” That’s why Jesus said things like: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For…

What Should We Make of Unanswered Prayers? — Southern Equip

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Abraham — Bible Archaeology Report

Abraham was the first and greatest of the Hebrew patriarchs; his story unfolds over 15 chapters in the book of Genesis (from Gen. 11:26-Gen. 25:8).  The Lord called him out of his own country to a new land and promised to bless the earth through him (Gen. 12:1-3). In our next top ten list, we’ll […]

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Abraham — Bible Archaeology Report

J. I. Packer on John Owen

If you read nothing else, read J. I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s work: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. If a person is struggling in their walk with Christ, the contents of Packer’s essay will save this person much time to find the glorious truth of Christ’s power. As a testimonial, I spent too many years wandering in the wilderness not clear on the nature of the gospel. Perhaps, the best remedy is to read and study the whole bible, prayerfully and consistently. The Spirit will teach His saints the truth from its pages.

The issue at hand is whether Christ merely died for all and that man chooses Him verses that Christ, in magnificent power, brings the sinner to Himself. Packer also gives some guidelines on how to read Owen. It is a relatively long essay, by today’s standard, but profitable as it is long. Packer uses no extraneous words.

I have written contra Owen in a post about understanding what exactly a covenant is. I stand by what I wrote. One can be in agreement in parts with other Christians since no Christian is infallible.

Accuracy in a Complex World

Admittedly, I copied this paragraph from another site’s post who added nothing else except its attribution. The paragraph notes the complexities in ancient 2nd Temple Israel. Our own world is likewise complex. Let us not think earlier times and lives were somehow simply cut and dried and that the bible is elementary; it is not. Yet, accuracy can be achieved despite the complexity and is able to instruct us to the degree that we understand it. Though basic truths lie at the surface and are able to save us through the Spirit’s workings; A fuller and richer understanding awaits those who seek to know God and His dealings in life. This takes effort and rewards its seekers with a sharper focus on what is really important. Salvation is by grace and free which is effortless; but as a baby is born not by itself, yet, in order to grow up it needs directed effort.

The Hebrew and Christian bible is rooted in history attested by texts and other archeological data. This fact is incontrovertible despite the attacks of evil. The bible speaks to our situation to the degree we understand it accurately. It is God’s preserved word. Though this world is evil, He will rule in the midst of His enemies one way or another (Ps. 110.2). The following quote is by George Rawlinson:

The political condition of Palestine at the time to which the New Testament narrative properly belongs, was one curiously complicated and anomalous; it underwent frequent changes, but retained through all of them certain peculiarities, which made the position of the country unique among the dependencies of Rome. Not having been conquered in the ordinary way, but having passed under the Roman dominion with the consent and by the assistance of a large party among the inhabitants, it was allowed to maintain for a while a species of semi-independence, not unlike that of various native states in India which are really British dependencies. A mixture, and to some extent an alternation, of Roman with native power resulted from this arrangement, and a consequent complication in the political status, which must have made it very difficult to be thoroughly understood by any one who was not a native and a contemporary. The chief representative of the Roman power in the East—the President of Syria, the local governor, whether a Herod or a Roman Procurator, and the High Priest, had each and all certain rights and a certain authority in the country. A double system of taxation, a double administration of justice, and even in some degree a double military command, were the natural consequence; while Jewish and Roman customs, Jewish and Roman words, were simultaneously in use, and a condition of things existed full of harsh contrasts, strange mixtures, and abrupt transitions. Within the space of fifty years Palestine was a single united kingdom under a native ruler, a set of principalities under native ethnarchs and tetrarchs, a country in part containing such principalities, in part reduced to the condition of a Roman province, a kingdom reunited once more under a native sovereign, and a country reduced wholly under Rome and governed by procurators dependent on the president of Syria, but still subject in certain respects to the Jewish monarch of a neighboring territory. These facts we know from Josephus and other writers, who, though less accurate, on the whole confirm his statements; they render the civil history of Judaea during the period one very difficult to master and remember; the frequent changes, supervening upon the original complication, are a fertile source of confusion, and seem to have bewildered even the sagacious and painstaking Tacitus. The New Testament narrative, however, falls into no error in treating of the period; it marks, incidentally and without effort or pretension, the various changes in the civil government—the sole kingdom of Herod the Great,—the partition of his dominions among his sons,—the reduction of Judaea to the condition of a Roman province, while Galilee, Ituraea, and Trachonitis continued under native princes,—the restoration of the old kingdom of Palestine in the person of Agrippa the First, and the final reduction of the whole under Roman rule, and reestablishment of Procurators as the civil heads, while a species of ecclesiastical superintendence was exercised by Agrippa the Second. Again, the New Testament narrative exhibits in the most remarkable way the mixture in the government—the occasional power of the president of Syria, as shown in Cyrenius’s “taxing”; the ordinary division of authority between the High Priest and the Procurator; the existence of two separate taxation—the civil and the ecclesiastical, the “census” and the “didrachm;” of two tribunals, two modes of capital punishment, two military forces, two methods of marking time; at every turn it shows, even in such little measures as verbal expressions, the coexistence of Jewish with Roman ideas and practices in the country—a coexistence which (it must be remembered) came to an end within forty years of our Lord’s crucifixion.

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

Labeling people with generalist classifications often leads to pigeonholing them wrongly. For instance, Jesus was thought to be closely aligned with the Pharisees early in His ministry. He held Pharisaical positions such as the resurrection from the dead and acceptance of the Prophets and Writings along with the Pentateuch. The other major 2nd Temple Jewish Sect, the Sadducees, believed only in earthly life and its consequences without any kind of afterlife.

Jesus, however, had to differentiate Himself from the Pharisees as a group since they were not correct in all of the beliefs or practices. When the disciples informed Him that the Pharisees were offended in a particular point of His teaching about defilement, He called them blind guides and that the twelve should have no dealings with them (Mt. 15. 1-13). Later, in Mt. 23 Jesus condemned their hypocrisy. Yet, after the ascension, when Jesus chose someone to be an instrument to proclaim His name to the Gentiles, kings, and the people of Israel (Acts 9. 15), He chose Saul (Paul) the Pharisee and transformed him. Later, Paul did not see any contradiction in being a Pharisee and a Christian (Acts 23.6). Paul took the good out of the bad and still clung to the basic doctrinal positions of resurrection and belief of all of the scriptures.

May we today not lump together disparate people and label folks because they espouse certain things that generally heretical groups believe when those positions are correct. The chaff will retain some wheat just as the wheat will retain some chaff.

The Mechanisms of Establishing the Old Testament Text

Peter J. Gentry has an article dealing with how and why the present shape of the Old Testament exists. The article is fairly comprehensive and technical but very readable for any layperson familiar with the bible. One does not need to analyze all his technical charts he presents, from himself or others, to fully grasp the points he is making. He writes in a very straightforward manner. I believe the article has great explanatory power and have benefitted from it probably more than any other work on this topic either in writing or speech. He says just enough in 20 pages along with about 7 pages of footnotes.

https://equip.sbts.edu/publications/chaos-theory-and-the-text-of-the-old-testament/

The Accurate Transmission of the New Testament

Timothy N. Mitchell explains some of the issues of how the authorial text was preserved. This is a great read. I have been following his own blog for the last several years and am very sympathetic to his thesis in this article. Enjoy!

https://equip.sbts.edu/publications/where-inspiration-is-found-putting-the-new-testament-autographs-in-context/

A Valuable Resource in Finding the Subtextual Reading of the Bible

These studies are at the college-level and are short. Often, they take ten minutes to read if one is generally familiar with the bible and its concepts. Some articles may take fifteen, or, twenty minutes with adjacent searches of terms.

https://www.etzion.org.il/en/tanakh/studies-tanakh/literary-readings-tanakh/introduction-i-subtextual-reading-biblical

A Refined View of the Concept of “Covenant”

While I may not agree with all of the following description in this Jewish site, it does help to explain the idea of the “covenant” which is rooted in ancient biblical thought and continues with the establishment of The New Covenant. A particular disagreement involves labeling the 66 books of the bible into old and new testaments, which I agree with, since they refer to the redemptive order. While the Jewish Temples existed they were symbolic of the grace that would appear when One in the order of Melchizedek would minister in the greater temple in heaven.

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/berit

Cambridge Symposium Lectures Online — BiblePlaces.com

A number of lectures related to the archaeology of Jerusalem have now been posted from the Cambridge Symposium held in March 2019. The official title of the gathering was “The Ancient City of David: Recent Archaeological Exploration of Jerusalem. An Academic Symposium co-organized by Megalim: The City of David Institute and Von Hugel Institute of…

Cambridge Symposium Lectures Online — BiblePlaces.com

No Evidence of Angel Cohabitation in Jude 6

Jude 6 is a parallel reference to 2Pet. 2.4. Both of these passages refer to angelic judgment without any idea of human/angel sexual union. I reject any Jewish myths about angel/human cohabitation, and both Peter and Jude reject this notion as well. Also, only scripture is without error and not Jewish legendary texts, which some want to reference as authoritative, but are not.

While not conclusive, Lk. 20.35 seems to point to no cohabitation of any kind in the angelic realm, But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage (NIV). Therefore, I would argue that no reproduction or sexual desire is possible in the heavenly state. Further, it was through and for Jesus that all the heavenly hosts were created, For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him (Col. 1.16 NIV). If He created all angelic persons, then, they could not cohabit to create other spiritual beings by themselves. The origin of spirits rests with God.

Exposition of Jude 4-7

For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about  long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (NIV)

Those who want to see sexualized angels in this text will have to link all of Jude’s examples together to show a consistent description of sexual sin. But that cannot be done since Jude’s first example is of disbelief. The Israelites who came out of Egypt were discouraged by the spies’ bad report and wanted to choose a leader to go back to Egypt, and consequently were judged to die in the wilderness (see Num. 14. 1-4, 20-23).

The next problem for those who see a sexual connotation in Jude 6 is the smuggling of homoion (the Greek word meaning “similar”) to the first part of verse 7. Hos occurs instead which is an adverb meaning “like manner.” They may retort that hos means the same thing but they miss the flow of the text. First, homoion (an adjective meaning “similar”) is inextricably and clausal in connection to the cities who were like Sodom and Gomorrah. The adjective cannot be moved.

The second reason that Sodom’s sin cannot be connected to the angels is that what “like manner” (hos) refers to is not the sexual sin of Sodom but of the same judgment. Jude begins by speaking about the infiltrator’s judgment (condemnation-vs.4). Jude then gives examples of other groups who will be judged for various things. The overriding common theme is the condemnation these groups are facing. Sodom will be judged in like manner as angels but for different reasons.

The infiltrators in Jude’s day exhibited the same type of sin as Sodom in that they were immoral (vs.4) and polluted their bodies, and therefore Jude, again, uses homoion, in vs. 8, to indicate their sameness. Therefore, only the present infiltrators were similar to Sodom. Neither the people who disbelieved, nor the angels who were separated into darkness have any record of sexual sin.

The Replacement Angels

Brief Angel Definition

Angels can be thought of as God’s assistants, Who makes his angels spirits, His ministers a fire (Ps. 104.4). Often a military aspect is observed as a vital role given angels, For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (Ps. 91.11 NRSV). Also, Michael and his angels conduct war, Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. (Rev. 12.7 NIV).

The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (O.T.) translated as early as 3rd century BCE (Torah) and 2nd century BCE (Prophets and writings). It translates the Hebrew term for angel (mal akh) into the Greek angelos. Both Hebrew and Greek terms denote the concept of “messenger.” Therefore, the good angels seem to be messengers of words or deeds from God. Angels are also divided into ranks, which involve hierarchical relationships that can be seen by the term “archangel” in places like Jude 9.

Replacing Fallen Ranks

Peter was resurrected Jesus’ initial spokesperson of the nascent Church. He recognized the need to fill the post that Judas deserted among the Twelve to make up that number, Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us (Acts.1.21 NIV). Peter quotes Ps. 109.2 to make the point that a formal and established office existed of those whom Jesus had chosen, Let his days be few, his office, let another take (Acts 1.20b). In the scriptures, it seems that some ministries and offices are meant to be filled up to a certain number.

Therefore, it seems that since some angels have fallen, their ranks need to be filled. This concept aligns well with what Jesus describes as the believer’s afterlife in Lk. 20. 35-36a, But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels (NIV). I have argued elsewhere https://beliefspeak2.net/ that the imprisonment of evil angels that Peter speaks about in 2Pet. 2.4 is best fulfilled by the first day of creation (re-creation) in Gen. 1. 2-4. If I am correct in my reading, then what we see in Genesis, from the first day onward, is a divine plan to raise up replacements for the angels who have fallen. Of course, this is not the only purpose of God in redemption, but one to praise our Savior forever.

Simon Peter Identifies Angelic Imprisonment as Gen. 1.2-4

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment

2Pet. 2.4 NIV

(A personal note) Several unusual bible issues feature in some of my writings. I did not choose them, they chose me, if you will. On this issue of the angelic Fall, I was challenged in my conception of a pre-Edenic Fall by another theologian many years ago. He insisted that the devil’s Fall happened in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve. I had nothing to claim as a counter argument, and so had to remain silent. I never completely bought into this notion, however, and now feel I can retort. In actuality, the theologian’s argument was from silence. He stated that no where else prior to the Garden of Eden does scripture record the devil’s Fall. I can now provide him the scripture.

Simon Peter, in warning his readers of false teachers, writes about others who were judged for their wickedness, all to encourage them to stay true to the faith since judgment was sure to come. Peter lists angels first as a group that faces judgment for evil (sin). The problem of identifying the event that Peter refers to is seemingly the most difficult task for interpretation, but it’s fairly easy. Recently, many Christian and Jewish commentators have identified this angelic judgment with the mythical human and angel cohabitation of Gen. 6. It did not happen at that point, however, since no connection occurs with the elements of Peter’s account. The angels were imprisoned somewhere dark which doesn’t feature in the Gen. 6 passage.

The sons of God in Gen. 6 were the human righteous such as Enoch who walked with God. Before the Flood, peoples were divided into families and social groups who either longed for a better homeland with God, or were the rebels and scoffers. These are the two groups mentioned in Gen. 3.15: the seed of the woman and seed of the serpent. God divides the two groups differently in the span of history. Later, God would call one group of people, and only one, the Jews, to be his witnesses. God has revealed Himself and His plan in various ways and at different times (see Heb. 1.1). In our age, where the Spirit has been given, the righteous and wicked are practically intermingled. An example of intermingling is the Church in the world, not of it. Also, the wicked pretending to be righteous within the Church is an infiltration. This is what Peter was warning about: be careful not to fall into the false teachers’ trap since their intermingling is a reality (2Pet. 2.1).

Where do the specific elements of imprisonment in darkness which Peter speaks about occur? They happen at the first day of re-creation, the separation of “good” light and darkness recorded in Gen. 1.2-4: Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness (NIV). I say a re-creation since Gen. 1.1 has a prior creation. God doesn’t create a flawed creation in the beginning. Instead, darkness seems to invade it. It was the later addition of light that dispelled the darkness, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (Jn. 1.5 NIV). Also, by recognizing God’s prior creation, His people comprehend why the earth and universe appear so old and chaotic. It appears old probably because it is old, billions of years. It appears chaotic because the devil has been active spreading darkness for a long time.

This separation of darkness from light in Gen. 1.4 connects with what Peter says about the sinning angels in 2 Pet. 2.4: that they are bound in darkness. Peter will again reference creation and flood in ch. 3. 5-6, as he does in 2. 4-5, But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. Therefore, since Peter speaks about creation, and subsequent flood, in almost one breath in chapter 3, he probably states the same in 2.4-5.

Jesus Taught Human Conditional Immortality

One of the arguments Traditionalists employ for holding to their view that the unredeemed are tortured forever, is that the church has always believed such. This is not true. Justin Martyr writing about 160 C.E. clearly rejects notions of human immortality both in his introduction and 5th chapter of his Dialogues.

Jesus plainly taught human extinguishment in at least two places. Mt. 10.28 explicitly affirms body and soul destruction, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (NIV). This certainly sounds like requisite punishment and then destruction. I say requisite since the bible is clear on the timeframe for which the person is judged: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2Cor. 5.10 NIV). Though, here in 2 Corinthians it is speaking about the experience of Christians, the timescale for judgment would be the same for the lost. Therefore, the retribution would be only for bad things done while on earth in their physical bodies. Some philosophers, such as Jonathan Edwards (I count him not as a theologian but more a philosopher), makes up the idea that, in the afterlife a sinner gets worse and worse, and so is infinitely punished. Edwards is wrong, however, since the scope and scale of the judgment encompasses only what occurred in their lives while on earth. Both the righteous and wicked are recompensed proportionally to their earthly life. Neither will the saint gain more in glory eternally nor the sinner lose in perdition any more than what earth’s deeds deserve.

Also, Jesus describes the Christian’s eternal state as one of everlasting life, such as the angels, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection (Luke 20.36 NIV). The previous verse limits this blessing only on those “worthy” (vs. 35), therefore, the unworthy will not have immortality. This passage further tells us that the angels were created with native immortality. This native immortality fits the idea of those who will suffer the everlasting torment of Rev. 14. 10-11 and Rev. 20.10. It is true that both references of Revelation involve humans who are assigned the same place as the evil angels. The difference with the wicked humans is that their durability in the flames is commensurate with their sin while they were on earth.

Rules Were Meant to be Broken

1 Cor. 15.56 tells us that the strength of sin is the Law. In Rom. 4.14-15, For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. The purpose of giving the Law some 400 years after the promise was to proliferate sin, The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Rom. 5.20 NIV). The Law imprisoned people, Before the coming of this faith,  we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed (Gal. 3.23 NIV). The ancient Jews of Israel were unfaithful to the Mosaic regulations just as the Law intended to show them. They could, however, repent and return to the Lord. Many of them did respond to prophetic preaching and hearing of scripture. Given our knowledge of human nature, it is unsurprising that some Jews did not keep kosher:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/those-fishy-reports-on-ancient-israelites-eating-non-kosher-seafood/

New Testament Baptism is Believer’s Immersion

Immersion can seem to be an impractical imposition resulting in an undignified outcome for the recipient. However, by performing this modern humiliation, the baptized is saying that he is dying to self and living in Christ.

This week I have been reading John Owen and have been struck how much he diverges from scripture. John Owen was a confident and powerful rhetorician in the Cromwell Era of British history. Although he was an able theologian and a godly Christian, he was not without his faults. To me, much of his writings about covenants amount to bald assertions since they cannot be tied to scripture. Therefore, along with his other Puritan friends, he confuses Israel with the Church and applies O.T. circumcision to baptism, and thus becomes a paedobaptist. This confuses the biblical concepts.

Is Baptism a Sacrament?

In itself, neither baptism nor observing the Lord’s Supper impart grace. What I mean is, these observances can bless the believer greatly, but, by themselves, are not devices for dispensing grace. Instead, the one being baptized is conveying a message. He is really giving something instead of receiving grace. He is saying that he is identifying himself with Christ, leaving his old ways and, hence forth, living a Christ-filled life. The whole rite is meant as a sort of confession, a testimony, a stand.

It is a bit off topic, but the Lord’s Supper has the same purpose of communication as does baptism. Paul explicitly says that the observers are, in a sense, preaching by performing the rite, For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1Cor. 11.26 NIV).

Sacraments don’t really exist. I mean, think of the concept: a rite to impart grace? The bible says grace is given through faith and not works. In the final analysis, it is unavoidable to not see works raising its head as a means of grace for those who want to have a sacramental understanding of baptism.

Also, another issue is making baptism a necessary requirement of salvation. It is not. The Rite of Baptism is a wonderful display of a cognizant believer desiring to make his confession of faith. However, for various reasons, not all Christians, in history, will have performed this observance. Nonetheless, if they know Him, they are accepted by God in heaven.

The Candidates for Baptism

Though heart circumcision signified redemption in the O.T., and baptism is a confession of faith signifying prior salvation, they are not equal. Both reference salvation, but this fact does not mean baptism and circumcision are interchangeable. The rite of biblical circumcision points to the truth of not relying on the flesh for acceptance from God. I believe this O.T. rite is interpreted and defined by Paul in Phil. 3.3: For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh (NIV).

Circumcision was much elaborated in the Mosaic Law, though it was first given to Abraham in Gen. 17.11: You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you (NIV). Notice that it was a symbolic rite pointing to a spiritual reality that Abraham was redeemed by faith prior to the act of circumcision, and, of course, all the requirements of the Mosaic Law. This fact Paul makes much of in Rom. 4, Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! (vss. 9-10 NIV). Blessedness and salvation are by faith, and therefore only a cognizant person, not an infant, is the candidate for baptism.

Please notice also, the issue in Rom. 4 above was about Gentile circumcision. They were actually requiring literal circumcision and not baptism. This implies that these rites were never confused with each other in the way that paedobaptists want to conflate them today. I mean, just think of it, if they were the same, why couldn’t the person say: “I’ll take the baptism instead of the snip.”

In Col. 2. 11-12, Paul notes that the rite of circumcision and baptism symbolically refer to salvation: Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead (NIV). All these actions are performed by someone with the capacity to make eternal decisions: “through your faith.” Therefore, one cannot transfer the sprinkling of infants (and call it baptism) for circumcision in Moses. Since, in that case, the subjects were unwitting. Furthermore, Paul is speaking of Spirit Baptism in the Colossians passage, which happens to the believer at the point of faith. The rite of Christian Baptism is subsequent to faith and constitutes a testimony by the person being baptized to indicate what has occurred in his heart earlier.

Why would anyone follow the Mosaic statute of the Old Covenant (of circumcising 8-day-old males) by baptizing infants, when the original circumcision of Abraham occurred when he was 99 years old and a conscious believer? Christians are saved through the promise to Abraham and not in keeping the Law, which no one could observe perfectly. The Purpose of the Law was for humans to recognize they were hopeless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression (Rom. 4.15 NIV). Infants of Christian parents are holy (1Cor. 7.14) and don’t need an additional rite.

The Mosaic Law was only given to the Jews and was an intercalation until Christ fulfilled both the regulations and temple sacrifices. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise (Gal. 3.17-18 NIV). Why would any Christian think it valid to adopt a feature of a covenant not given to them with practices that have now passed and been fulfilled, all without biblical warrant? Paedobaptists cannot have accuracy as to what the sign means since the rite they are performing on an unwitting child doesn’t reference salvation in the New Covenant. The subject is unwitting, and no one can believe for another.

Also, “household baptisms,” such as in Acts 16.32-33, were performed upon those whom Paul spoke to prior to their baptism, and therefore were witting recipients, Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his housethen immediately he and all his household were baptized (NIV). An honest examination of the scriptures of these matters yields a position of believer’s baptism.

The Mode of Baptism

Furthermore, the bible employs Greek words for “pouring” and “sprinkling” in other contexts unrelated to baptism. Therefore, if the bible wanted to express those concepts to reference this rite, the authors could have used these terms but never do. No, the Greek term baptizo means “dipping under water”, “immersion.” This immersion method conveys the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which neither pouring nor sprinkling do. A Christian who wants to correctly keep this rite of baptism will express this stance, subsequent to believing, by being immersed in water.

Old Testament Baptism

Paul interprets for us certain O. T. acts as baptism in 1 Cor. 10.1-2: For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea (NIV). Everyone of the O.T. images of baptism picture a total engulfment of the persons without any idea of sprinkling or pouring. Also, a metaphorical death and burial of the recipients seem to be portrayed, in that, when Pharaoh’s army tried the feat, it was destroyed.

Gospels Era Baptism

Undoubtedly, Jesus was immersed in His baptism since the rite John the Baptist was performing required a certain depth of water, …Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River and As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water (Mt. 3.6, 16a NIV). It is very clear that this rite featured immersion and all that this image conveys. Also, it wasn’t the Jordan River, per se, that the Baptist employed, since he moved his operation of baptism to a place of sufficient depth at another time: Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized (John 3.23 NIV).

The Mikveh

There were certain Mosaic Covenant directives in the O.T. that referenced a cleansing after certain defilements which involved complete immersion in water. The Mikveh featured prominently in Second Temple Judaism and was specifically designed for immersion. We know of these mikveh through archeological finds, especially around the Jerusalem area. The sites may have been known only through word of mouth, when they were operational, since pilgrims would either have undergone cleansing previously, if they were observant, or a priest showed them the site for their cleansing prior to offering sacrifices.

There seems to be scant textual witness to these “baptistries,” but normally such sacred rites are very personal and private, and therefore, would hardly be recorded. Clearly, these Mosaic cleansing practices and John’s Baptism seem to transmit the idea of newness and immersion. One was a required biblical command for metaphorical cleansing, while the other was a sign of repentance.

Apostolic Procedure

After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the apostles continued this same procedure of immersion to the new Christian converts, such as the Ethiopian Eunuch, Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him (Acts 8.38b NIV). How then is it possible for some Christians to adapt a biblical established rite with all its signs and references and apply it to infant sprinkling or pouring?

Covenant or Dispensational Theology?

John Owen was a champion for Covenant Theology and infant baptism. These critiques of mine are not novel or excessive. However, critics have been known to go too far in their opposition. One such overreach by critics involved constructing a completely new synthetic theology: Dispensationalism. Evidently, they thought by developing a rival system, they could defeat the mistake of infant baptism. This new synthetic idea of dividing the bible into specific epochs with their unique means of salvation was worse than the original disease of Covenant Theology. They should have stuck to their guns without resorting to half-baked ideas. Instead, they crafted an additional synthetic grid to superimpose upon scripture.

A better reading than either of these synthetically-devised schemes is an organic promise given by God and traced progressively throughout the bible. This promise was Gen. 3.15 of a Savior who would suffer a fatal metaphorical snakebite. This progressive tracing results in a subtext where sacrifices feature prominently throughout the divine disclosure and speak to the readers about the mystery of God: Christ.

The Arrabon – Confidence in Our Hope

And hope will not disappoint since the love of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given us. (Rom. 5.5)

After having established that Abraham was justified by faith, while he was still uncircumcised and without the Mosaic Law, in Romans chapter 4, Paul transitions in chapter 5 to speak about the blessings of those who are justified by faith, like Abraham. Paul mentions the fact of peace with God through faith in Christ (vs.1). This is a legal cessation of hostilities rather than a nice feeling. Sometimes, new Christians are doubtful whether God really saved them, since they don’t always experience feelings of peace. However, there are many reasons for the feelings of a person, but they are not a good indicator of relational standing. No, justification (dikaiothentes ) is a determination from God, the righteous Judge. What Paul was previously (chapter 4) talking about is the means of right standing with God. He has accepted Christ’s sacrifice of His righteous life for our stead, a legal exchange. Therefore, we are free from God’s wrath and now free to serve Him in grace.

These realizations cause the apostolic team to rejoice in hope of the glory of God in verse 2. The New Covenant has come and ensured its members of the ultimate hope of entering the eternal Kingdom of God. Paul could also rejoice in suffering (vs.3). This ability to rejoice in hard times comes from experience and faith in God. He keeps bringing us through to victory; therefore, we anticipate future deliverance from the temporal trials. Eventually, the Christian develops steadfastness as a result of seeing His handiwork. Also, solid character will soon be evident in the growing believer. The final state is a confident expectation of Christ’s Kingdom (vs.4). Paul then asserts this hope will not be frustrated since we have the confirming fruit and presence of God in the Holy Spirit in verse 5.

The Arrabon

What Paul speaks about in Rom. 5.5 is conceptually the same thing as a deposit (earnest money), in 2 Cor.1.22, …and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (NIV). The word Paul uses is arrabon which was the ancient equivalent. God gives the Holy Spirit and pours love into our heart to assure us of our expectant hope. Paul repeats this claim in the same letter at 5.5, Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (NIV).

Finally, Paul writes what can be considered a probable circular letter to churches in the province of Asia in what we have in the bible labeled “Ephesians.” Without bogging down to show the general nature of this letter, it is sufficient to observe no personal greetings at all in a place where Paul spent nearly three years in total. What Paul wrote to the Romans and the Corinthians, he wants to share this same concept with the Christians of the province of Asia, …were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1.14 NIV). Again, Paul mentions the arrabon which the NIV has translated as “guarantee.”

God is Not Bored – He is Triumphant

It was unusual that I was listening to Christian radio, but, since I needed to travel by car for some distance, I tuned in. Usually, I’m a book person, that is a reader of print, and don’t have any audio on. So this car trip was an opportunity to surf the regional Christian radio offerings. There was this call-in program with a pastor answering callers’ questions, when one caller stated something along the idea that God must have been “bored” as the reason He created the world. The pastor responded by giving a grand view of salvation offered in the bible, which was a good and adequate defense of the faith. The pastor should have corrected the caller’s statement, however, as to the purpose of creation and God’s attributes. The purpose of creation is more opaque than God’s character, but not much more. God’s attributes are easy to understand since they are explicit in the bible.

God is never bored. Boredom implies lack of something, or perceived lack of something. God never lacks anything since He exists from Himself: I AM (Ex.3.14 NIV). Paul clearly explained to the Athenian Philosophers what God was like: And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else (Acts 17.25 NIV). God is who He is and doesn’t change. Change would imply He is not perfect which He most certainly is. Mal. 3.6 affirms: I am the lord, I change not (KJV). Although God created everything, He is not dependent upon it, since “He is not served by human hands.

While God is not dependent upon His creation, He can, and will bring it to His glorious control. God is advancing to transform the chaos which has infected His creation by entering it in the person of Christ: What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe (Eph. 4.9-10 NIV).