Category Archives: Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss

Blogging about real-life stuff where we apply God’s guidance

Ghouls, Spirituality, and Jesus . . . Compatible?

Christians are often conflicted over whether to celebrate Halloween.

For some, Halloween is a harmless time of fun when everyone can dress up and party. Their children love this time of year because of the costumes and quest for candy.

On the other hand, a growing number of Jesus’ followers are uncomfortable with the festival. They choose not to participate in it to avoid the appearance of a double standard once they learn of its origin. So, where did this contentious holiday come from?

Halloween is an ancient festival born of paganism and Christianity (Samhain for the pagans and Hallowmas for the Catholic Church – both 3 days long beginning on October 31st). The holiday was brought to the United States by European immigrants in the 19th century.

What does this have to do with God and our Christ? Embracing or condoning any kind of spiritualism, witchcraft, divination, or communication with the dead will bring certain judgment from God at the last days and open the door to demonic oppression or possession in the meantime. This could include the religious practice of praying to or for the dead, séances, or the pursuit of magical or astrological arts (i.e. consulting mediums, use of tarot cards, reliance upon horoscopes, etc.).

Should a follower of the Christ, celebrate the holiday? This is a personal decision that should be made carefully after consideration of its origin, current practices, and damage to a potential witness for Jesus.

 

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Suicide . . .

Is suicide a sin? Will those who commit suicide go to hell? There’s little in Scripture related to the taking of one’s own life. Nothing condones it, but neither is there anything that prohibits the act. What we’ll most likely discover is that, as with nearly everything else we do, intent is important to determining the eternal fate of someone who has committed suicide.

What does the Bible say about suicide? Very little, actually. What little information there is can be found in one of two categories: verses that tell us of a few individuals who killed themselves and others that may reflect an unfulfilled desire of some to end their lives.

Acts of actual suicide in Bible and history:

  • Samson. After being captured and blinded, he took advantage of an opportunity to kill not only himself but 3,000 Philistines by ‘bringing down the house’ (cf. Judges 16:25-31). It’s possible that Samson martyred himself as opposed to committing suicide. Only he and God know of his intent at the time of this final act.
  • King Saul. Seriously wounded, he asked his armor bearer to kill him. When the assistant refused, the king killed himself (according to at least one account). The armor bearer then committed suicide as well (cf. 1Samuel 31:1-6; 1Chronicles 10:2-6; 2Samuel chapter 1). In context, Saul sought death to avoid abuse by his enemies.
  • King Abimelech. A woman mortally wounded him by dropping a millstone on his head. Knowing he was about to die, the king had his armor bearer finish the job because he didn’t want it said that a woman had killed him (cf. Judges 9:50-54).
  • King Zimri. This king reigned only 7 days before committing suicide. King Omri of Israel besieged Zimri’s city of Tirzah and, probably out of fear, Zimri killed himself by burning the house down around him (cf. 1 Kings 16:15-20).
  • Ahithophel. King David’s counselor turned on the king in support of his son and enemy, Absalom. When his advice against the king wasn’t followed, he returned home and killed himself (cf. 2Samuel 17:23).
  • Judas Iscariot. This disciple of Jesus killed himself out of guilt for betraying the Christ (cf. Matthew 27:3-5).
  • Hundreds of Jews at Masada. Roman soldiers breached the walls of this hilltop fortress in 73 CE, compelling nearly 1,000 Jews to commit suicide. Husbands killed wives and children out of fear they’d be sexually abused and turned into slaves. The males then drew lots to determine which ones would kill the others.[i]

 

Possible unfulfilled desires to commit suicide:

  • Moses. In despair over the burden of caring for the Israelites, he asked God to kill him (cf. Numbers 11:12-15).
  • Elijah. . . . and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” —1Kings 18 and 19:4. Interestingly, this request came just after God had enabled a great victory over the prophets of Baal. Now that Jezebel was seeking his life, Elijah despaired and went from what was probably an extreme high to quite a low. This is common even with today’s followers of Jesus.
  • Jonah. This prophet was angry enough at God’s mercy with the Assyrians and discouraged at the lack of protection from intense heat that he asked God to take his life (cf. Jonah 4).
  • Those about to suffer during God’s end-times wrath.  At the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars of the sixth seal of the Revelation in the last days, Jesus’ followers will be gathered and the remainder of humanity will prepare for God’s impending wrath (cf. Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 6:12-17). Those left behind will cry out for the rocks to fall upon them because of the realization that God’s wrath is upon them (Revelation 6:16-17).
  • Those who’ll suffer during God’s end-times wrath. The fifth angel of God’s last-days wrath will cause the release of locust-like creatures from the abyss. They’ll torment men for 5 months (cf. Revelation 9:1-10). The pain will be so severe that the victims will wish for death, but it will elude them (Revelation 9:6).

 

While there’s nothing that directly condones or prohibits suicide, some insist you’ll find proof that suicide is wrong in the commandment that prohibits murder and in 1Corinthians 6:19-20 and 3:17:

You shall not murder. —Exodus 20:13.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. —1Corinthians 6:19-20.

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. —1Corinthians 3:16-17.

In the case of the commandment to not murder, remember that it’s one of 5 that tell us how to treat our fellow man. Regarding Paul’s admonishment to glorify God in our body in 1Corinthians 6:19-20, as with many of his words to a sin-riddled church, the message exhorts the followers in Corinth to rule the flesh with the spirit and honor God through purity and not the other way around. It’s not specifically addressing suicide.

What we’ve learned so far is that many people in Scripture and history have committed suicide for what they believed to be good reasons: to avoid worse fates or get relief from excruciating pain and certain death by more unpleasant means. We see this kind of activity today for similar reasons. Is it wrong? Will the act result in a sentence of hell? The answer may depend on the state of mind and therefore the intent of anyone who has committed suicide. Internal chemical/emotional and external factors can overwhelm an individual and temporarily cloud their judgment.

Most people understand the potential lack of accountability that can stem from blocked rational thought and an inability to use sound judgment. We often talk about something termed the ‘age of accountability’ whereby we believe God will accept and save from judgment the spirit of a child until it’s old enough to fully understand the need for God’s salvation through Jesus. The youngster would need to decide from that point onward whether to follow the Christ.

The lack of emotional and mental maturity keeps one from being able to make this choice regardless of whether it’s due to age, disease, or intense physical or emotional pain. Only God knows the heart of someone who has committed suicide and whether they were able to make right choices. And, since He’s a good and righteous judge, we can trust that God will judge each person according to their heart’s condition.

Two extremely unfortunate side-effects of suicide are grief and finality. In some cases, family members understand that death provided relief for the deceased. But in most cases, the grief produced by the loss of a loved one is overwhelming. And death is certainly final. If God’s plan had included a part for the deceased, then the chance to fulfill that role has been forever removed. Therefore, suicide is also a serious matter with possible heavy and lasting consequences.

Summary: The Bible says little on the subject of suicide. What it does report is strictly historical in nature. As a result, we’re left only with opinions on the subject and personal desires. Mine is that the act itself won’t condemn a person to hell – that condemnation depends alone on the individual’s heart including the presence (or absence) of faith and resulting obedience up to the time of death. My prayer and belief is that God does indeed consider the heart condition when determining the fate of someone who has committed suicide.

“Taking the Mystery out of Communion”

Communion is defined as sharing; intimate fellowship or rapport (Merriam-Webster).

What do Christians so intimately share and why? What you’ll discover is that our communion ritual has its beginnings in God’s covenant with Israel and the Passover celebration – something we’re certainly encouraged to participate in.

In fact, Jesus was celebrating the Passover Seder when He announced that His body would be broken and His blood shed for a new covenant with God. Jesus then encouraged His disciples to remember His coming sacrifice whenever they partook of the Passover elements – probably because of their fulfillment with His coming, death, resurrection, and salvation.

The Passover flat bread and lamb’s blood had significance then . . . and now. Let’s take a quick look at the communion components before discussing how they’ve been used to represent God’s actions and fulfillment of fulfillment of His words through the prophets:

  • The bread: from the Passover, and as our ‘bread of life’ – Jesus.
  • The wine: blood the Passover Lamb and Jesus shed for salvation.

Old Covenant/Passover fulfillment:

  • The bread – matzo – had no yeast and represented the urgent departure of the Israelites from Egypt. Its holes and stripes represent OT prophecies about the piercing and beatings our Christ would endure (Isaiah 53:3-5).
  • The wine represented the blood of the old covenant between God and Israel. Today, Jews celebrate the Passover with a Seder meal that includes matzo and four cups of wine: Sanctification, Deliverance, Redemption/Blessing (1Corinthians 10:16-17), and Hope – usually associated with the return of Elijah.

New Covenant fulfillment:

  • The bread represents the ‘bread of life’ (Jesus) broken for us to offer salvation from God’s judgment to the world (John 6:35-58). The matzo bread was broken and hidden in a specific manner during the Passover celebration. Jesus did this and made His comments about being broken for the forgiveness of sins while conducting the Seder. God asked Him to do this and He accepted the assignment: inhabit a human form, live a perfect life as a blemish-free sacrificial lamb, and then be sacrificed at the exact time the Passover lambs were to be sacrificed.
  • The wine represents the blood Jesus shed for salvation as our ‘Passover Lamb’ (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 5:7). It is the Seder Cup of Blessing and the covenant cup (like in a traditional Jewish wedding). One of the many prophecies and ‘dress rehearsals’ Jesus fulfilled (and is still fulfilling) was that of a traditional Jewish bridegroom. Let’s look at these things in greater detail.

Wedding – Covenant – fulfillment:

God called Israel His ‘bride’. We are called the ‘Bride of Christ’ because He and we have been fulfilling the marriage covenant since Jesus’ time on earth. No other relationship between humans should be as close as that of a husband and wife, so the comparison makes sense. Here are but a few steps that have, and will be, completed:

  • Choosing of a bride: The father of a potential groom would search for a wife for his son. We have been selected as a pure bride for our Christ (2Corinthians 11:2).
  • Contract (covenant) – first cup of wine (Matthew 26:27-28). When a suitable bride had been found, the two families would meet to discuss the potential union. If the young man and woman agreed, they would essentially say, “I will be yours if you will be mine!” This is akin to what God said to His bride, Israel. To cement the deal, the couple would drink from a cup of wine called the “cup of covenant”.
  • Separation and the building of a home (John 14:2-3). After vows, the giving of gifts, and ceremonial bathing (like the baptism we experience), the couple would separate for a short time. The boy and his father would prepare a home for the couple. This betrothal separation would normally last a year in a traditional Jewish wedding process; however, we continue to wait. Why? Because God’s timing is His timing, and He’ll wait until the number of those who’ll accept His mercy has been met.
  • Marriage and second cup timed by the groom’s father. This is also the final Seder cup and the second covenant cup in heaven: Matthew 26:28-29; the gathering for the marriage: Matthew 24:21-36; the marriage: Revelation 19:5-9). The father of the groom, at a time known only to him, would summon the groomsmen to announce that it was time for the marriage ceremony, which consisted of a supper and second cup of wine. The groomsmen made their announcement with shouts and trumpet calls.

We now understand that communion is a way of remembering the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf and reiterating our vow in the new covenant with God through Jesus. Should everyone take communion? No!

First, only those who have promised their lives to God and our Christ should consider engaging in the ritual.

Second, there are unsuitable ways to take communion (remember that drinking the cup of covenant serves as a reiteration of our vow to ‘be a faithful bride’ until our groom returns).

  1. With an impure heart (1Corinthians 11:23-28). Taking the cup during communion while practicing sinful behavior (akin to being an unfaithful bride) is a contradiction and a lie. This is why we must be careful!
  2. For the wrong reasons (1Corinthians 11:20-22). In this case, some of the people in Corinth were using the communion table for eating and drinking – even getting drunk! This was a total abuse of the ritual, which is meant to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and our covenant. It also reeked of gluttony . . .

In summary, Jesus’ sacrifice of flesh and blood mirrored the Passover Lamb of the old covenant with God and paved the way for the salvation of all mankind in a new one. Followers of the Christ remember His sacrifice and the new covenant (synonymous with a human marriage relationship) by taking symbolic bread and wine together.

Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!

And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

“For the Love of Money . . .”

There’s plenty in Scripture related to money management. In a nutshell, we are to work hard and pay our bills, avoid debt if we can, not cosign for others, pay taxes, care for fellow followers of Jesus, and save a portion of our resources. It’s also important that we’re content with what we have.

Understanding what Scripture has to say about these topics is important for a variety of reasons. For instance, debt turns one into a slave (cf. Proverbs 22:7) and can produce unnecessary stress. This may affect relationships with humans and God alike. The pursuit of money can result in the same negative consequences (see below). Yet, we must earn a living, pay taxes, save for the future, and help others. All of this must be done in a manner that promotes healthy relationships, lack of worry, a caring environment, and security. Of utmost importance is that we’re content with what we have (e.g. Hebrews 13:5). This will help us avoid the temptation to strive for things outside our financial grasp or take from others to get what we want.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” —Hebrews 13:5.

As we will see below, a focus on working hard will reduce the likelihood of ‘idle hands’ and the mischief that can follow. Avoiding debt will allow us to keep more of the resources we earn. Paying bills and taxes is a biblical principle that, if followed, will help keep us out of trouble. Giving to others out of what’s left of our resources is also a biblical principle that is absolutely necessary for being obedient to God and His Christ. Finally, setting aside some of the balance of our bounty will ensure we can weather financial lows when they come our way. Let’s explore each of these principles in more detail.

  • Work Hard. God’s instruction clearly states that those who can work but don’t shouldn’t eat! Remember the children’s story about the ant and the grasshopper? Do you know it’s based on a biblical proverb that uses the ant as an example for one who isn’t lazy and works hard? You can read more about this and the fact that laziness will result in hunger in Proverbs 6:6-11 and 19:15.
  • Avoid Debt. Going into debt moves an individual from freedom into slavery (cf. Proverbs 22:7). They must now pay a minimum amount of resources to another person or face consequences. Is debt contrary to God’s ways? Not necessarily, but there are risks and consequences (like the financial slavery I mentioned above). Here are a few tips to help reduce risks associated with going into debt when it’s necessary to do so.
    • Don’t borrow unless it’s absolutely necessary. God doesn’t prohibit borrowing and actually condones the charging of interest for money leant (cf. Proverbs 28:8; Matthew 25:27). But remember that borrowing turns us into a slave and any money we borrow will probably cost a lot more than imagined. The Bible tells us to consider the cost of anything we do; borrowing should be no exception.
    • Put ‘skin in the game’ – as much as possible. Insert as much of your own cash as you can to reduce the total amount of debt. This will keep payments lower and help ensure you have equity that can be taken back or used to pay off the debt should you need to sell whatever you borrowed for.
    • Never cosign for a loan!! First, the Bible tells us not to do this: Do not be among those who give pledges, Among those who become guarantors for debts. —Proverbs 22:26. Second, it’s just plain risky. Understand that, when you cosign, you’re guaranteeing the debt of another person. It’s as good as borrowing the money yourself since you’ll be responsible for the debt and its payments if the primary signer defaults. Another disadvantage cosigning may bring is that it can significantly stress or ruin close relationships.
  • Pay Your Bills (Including Taxes) in a Timely Manner. God and His Christ have made very clear that we’re to care for others and honor the authority of those placed over us. We do this in part by paying others what we owe them and satisfying our tax requirements (cf. Luke 20:20-25). Paul tells us to pay our debts and therefore owe nothing (cf. Romans 13:8) and we learn in Psalms 37:21 that those who don’t honor their obligations are wicked.
  • Be Benevolent. Jesus gave us two commandments: serve God appropriately and treat man charitably (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). The 10 commandments are summed up by these admonishments, and we’ll be judged by our obedience to them (i.e. Matthew 25:31-46).

Being ‘nice’ doesn’t count. No amount of money paid into the church building fund or given in offerings will save us in the end. However, obedience in the form of faith that leads to action and is seen by others as ‘fruit’ of God’s Spirit dwelling within us will. The display of fruit is how Jesus said others will know we’re His disciples. What is this fruit? According to Paul, they include love (charitable action), patience, kindness, and goodness – all lend themselves to honoring the Christ’s commandment to love others (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).

Children are to take care of their elderly parents. Jesus’ followers exhibit their faith best when they charitably support the faithful poor such as orphans, widows, the incapacitated, etc. In fact, early church offerings were specifically given for taking care of the needs of the faith community – NOT paying for a building, buying land, or funding religious staff.

  • Save. Lastly, I’d like to stress the importance of setting funds aside for a ‘rainy day’. Many, if not most people, live paycheck to paycheck, praying that they don’t lose their job or suffer a catastrophic event. This lifestyle leads to stress and broken relationships – both of which can be mitigated by living within our means and regularly saving some of our resources. Also, we’re admonished to consider the cost of anything we undertake, which may require us to save an appropriate amount to accomplish goals.

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Tattoos & Piercings: “Holy Inking, Batman!”

Question: “Is it a sin to get tattoos or body piercings?”

Is this more of a cultural than sin-related question? What drives an individual to ink or pierce their bodies? Could the intent (motive) itself be sinful? What does the Bible have to say about tattooing or piercing?

There’s been an incredible explosion in the number of people getting tattoos and multiple piercings these days. So, I’m not surprised at having been asked whether either is sinful. Anyone looking for a definitive sin line in the sand won’t find it here, as intent and culture make it impossible to draw one. This doesn’t mean that getting tattoos or receiving piercings isn’t related to sin, but the actions would most likely be manifestations of underlying sinful behavior such as pride, arrogance, or rebellion.

I mentioned that intent comes into play here (as it does just about anywhere!). Why an action is done is important to understanding whether it’s sinful. For instance, someone may get a tattoo to commemorate the life or death of a loved one. Someone else may have meaningful Scripture tattooed on their body for remembrance or some kind of witness. Is this sinful?

On the other hand, a minor may illegally and immorally receive tattoos or piercings out of rebellion against their parents or because of vanity.  Or, someone may get piercings in particular places for the purpose of enhancing sexual experiences or satisfying a narcissistic, prideful desire to stand out through the use of tattoos or piercings. Of course, these are but a few examples of what may be innocent intent on one hand and sinful desire on the other.  So, what does the Bible say about these activities? How could someone contemplating a tattoo or piercing determine whether they should follow through with the act? Let’s examine them one at a time.

Piercing. The only direct biblical reference to piercing is that of the Old Testament piercing of a slave’s ear by their master (cf. Exodus 21:6 and Deuteronomy 15:17). The Old Testament mentions earrings, but these may have been slipped on and not necessarily inserted through holes in the ears. Because there’s no way to tell for sure, references (e.g. Exodus 35:22) shouldn’t be used in support for or against ear piercings.

Tattoos. This one’s a bit trickier, as God specifically forbade the Israelites from gashing or marking their bodies.  I’ve heard it said that God was just talking about doing this in commemoration of the dead; however, look at the text and you’ll see that the tattoo warning comes after the mention of the “the dead”.

You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves . . .

Besides the biblical warning against tattooing, there are no benefits to the act. You’ll also find definite disadvantages and risks:

  • Permanence. Tattoos are relatively permanent, although today’s technologies may help in removing most evidence of inking.
  • Negative perceptions. These could come from potential friends, spouses, or employers. Why risk not getting an ideal job or missing out on close relationships for the sake of making a statement? You’ll likely find, though, that this isn’t quite the risk it once was; perceptions have changed somewhat as tattoos become more popular.
  • Roadblock to an effective witness. Presenting yourself as an inked Christian could have a detrimental effect on spreading the Gospel or invoking confidence in others. But, as with the ‘negative perceptions’ bullet above, the risk of a roadblock, while valid, may not be as viable as in the past.
  • Risk of infection. This does happen as a result of unsanitary conditions and equipment.

Summary: Unlike piercings, which seem to have no prohibition or permanent effects, tattooing carries a biblical warning and risks while sporting no apparent benefit. Also, the motive behind inking or piercings can be sinful – especially if born of sin such as pride or rebellion. Sinful motives (no matter what the action) should be repented of.

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XIII “Fear is not of God!”

Misquote: “Fear doesn’t come from God” Well, actually, it does. Our emotion of fear, healthy respect, or awe isn’t some demon with a job title of “the Spirit of Fear”. Instead, it’s an important part of our makeup that aids in our protection by warning of possible or impending danger. Read the entire Bible, keeping references to ‘fear’ in context, and you’ll learn that we’re taught to fear – God, for instance, because of His incredible power and just nature.  You’ll also find that the ‘fear’ we often take out of context actually refers to cowardice in proclaiming the gospel of salvation through Jesus!

This misunderstanding hinges on taking 2Timothy 1:7-8 out of context. Here’s the abused reference:

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God —2Timothy 1:7-8.

The Greek word used here for ‘timidity’ (also translated as ‘fear’ in some versions) is deilia (Strong’s G1167). Incidentally, this is the only place this word is used! It comes from the Greek word deilos (Strong’s G1169), which is used in only three places and represents the fear of men – cowardice (Matthew 8:26, Mark 4:40, and Revelation 21:8).

Indeed, cowardice isn’t of God. In fact, He gives His Spirit to those who follow, and that Spirit brings boldness and the wisdom necessary to tell others about the gospel that leads to life (i.e. Mark 13:11). So, who are the cowardly? Those without the Spirit who are headed to God’s judgment and wrath. Let’s take a brief look at the other types of fear that can be very good for us who do have the Spirit.

  • Fear of God and Christ (i.e. Luke 7:16, Acts 13:16, Romans 13:7, 2Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:12, 1Peter 1:17). This healthy fear is represented by the Greek word phobos (Strong’s G5401); it indicates alarm, fright, or terror.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. —2Corinthians 7:1.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling —Philippians 2:12.

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth —1Peter 1:17.

  • This next ‘fear’, phobeō (Strong’s G5399), comes from the one we just covered, and it basically means to ‘be in awe of’ or revere. Examples of its use can be found in Luke 12:4-5, Romans 11:20-21, Acts 5:10-11, and 1Peter 2:17.

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!—Luke 12:4-5.

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. —1Peter 2:17.

So, what’s the takeaway here? Don’t be a coward. God has offered you a way out of His judgment and wrath through our Christ’s sacrifice. If you’ve taken that path, then you know the gospel that brings life and have a testimony of some kind. Share it with others by the wisdom and boldness of the Spirit. And, have a healthy respect for the power, authority, impartiality, and just nature of our God and Christ!

With this, we’ll end our current series of Apocalyptic Misquotes.  Never fear, though – we’ll continue to train in righteousness through weekly blogs as we equip believers to become followers.

Ron Braley

www.ronbraley.com

www.findingdiscipleship.org

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part XII “Nothing can separate us From Jesus!”

Misquote: Nothing can separate us From Jesus!” This misunderstanding hinges on taking Romans 8:35-39 out of context and paves the way for dangerous doctrines. Here’s the abused reference:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? . . . neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:35-39.

Actually, WE can separate ourselves from the love of God (which is action – not emotion!) through disobedience and our own lack of faith-born action.

To understand and apply Paul’s intended message, we must answer these questions:

  1. “Who was Paul speaking to and in what context?”
  2. “What is the ‘love of God’?
  3. “Who are ‘we’ who can’t be separated from God’s love?”

Let’s tackle the question regarding Paul’s audience and the context of his letter to the Church in Rome first. Paul was speaking to both Jew and non-Jew (Gentile) believers, and the overarching theme of his letter was the gift of salvation and eternal life to those who choose to follow, being led by the Spirit. This theme included a reminder that nothing can keep the righteous from God’s mercy and protection. Here’s a breakdown of the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter.

Chapter One: The righteous live by faith; all others will experience God’s judgment (v.17-18).

Chapter Two: More about the judgment of the righteous, who “by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality” will attain eternal life (v.7) and the unrighteous who practice evil and will suffer God’s wrath.

Chapter Three: All – both Jews and Gentiles – have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Righteousness isn’t attained through works of the Law (note: this is a reference to the Law of Moses and NOT ammunition to claim that belief needs not result in action!).

Chapter Four: More about righteousness through faith (not works under the Law).

Chapter Five: The gift of redemption through our Christ. Also included is a reminder about what the faithful may need to endure and the growth that comes as a result: “. . . tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; . . . through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (v.3-5).

Chapter Six: God’s grace offers no leeway to continue in sinful behavior. We are to be obedient and not sinful (see “live by faith” in Chapter One; “doing good” in Chapter Two; perseverance in Chapter Five, etc.). “. . .  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed . . .” (v.16-17).

Chapter Seven: Comparing and contrasting the law of God and the law of sin.

Chapter Eight: No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. By the way: the way ‘in’ is used implies that there’s no distinction between us and our Christ with regard to our behavior . . . “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (v.9)  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (v.14)

Next, we need to define the ‘love of God’ the righteous can’t be separated from. This is the action-based agape love made manifest by God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice. It has nothing to do with emotion and is the same kind of ‘love’ we’re told by Jesus to have for him and our God through obedience (John 13:34-35 and 14:15-31, James 2:14-26, and many others). This is the ‘fruit’ resulting from the Spirit at work in the lives of the righteous. No obedience to God and Christ’s commandments, no Spirit. No Spirit, no fruit . . .

Finally, although it should be clear now, let’s look at ‘who’ can’t be kept from God’s saving grace. As we saw in several chapters climaxing with Chapter Eight, they are the righteous – those who are led by the Spirit, live by faith, do good, persevere, and are obedient to our God and Christ. They don’t practice sin and aren’t those who only believe and yet don’t act.

In summary, these early chapters of the letter to the Romans establish a baseline of righteousness and unrighteousness and introduce the choice that can bring life. Those who choose to accept God’s gift of redemption through an ongoing covenant by being will be rescued from God’s judgment to come, and nothing can change that. Conversely, the unrighteous disobedient (including those ‘believe’ but are inactive) will experience God’s wrath. Be righteous and live!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part IX

 “The Tribulation is Seven Years of Bad Luck – and we’ll be raptured before it Starts!”

Misquote: We’ll escape the 7-year-long Tribulation!There are two inherent problems with this statement.

1. The ‘great tribulation’ will last for no more than 3.5 years (the last half of a remaining 7-year period yet to be fulfilled). This great tribulation will be the wrath of the Antichrist.

2. True followers of our Christ will have to endure it until we’re ‘rescued’ and God’s wrath begins. What follows will guide you in a short study of this and is a reiteration of an earlier blog titled, “Wrath of Con”.

Ask the average Christian in America about the ‘Great Tribulation’ and, if anything, they’ll probably tell you it’s “seven years of really bad stuff from the Antichrist and God after Christians have been raptured!

But, study what the prophets, the apostles, and our Christ said about this ‘time like never seen before or will ever be seen again’ (e.g. Joel 2:2, Matthew 24:21, etc.) and you’ll find a truer and much more sobering version of this terrible time to come. Here are some key facts about the coming Great Tribulation:

  • It will be no longer than 3.5 years and will occupy the last half of the last seven years of the overall timeframe Daniel spoke of for Israel to come to repentance and reconciliation with God (Daniel 9:24-27).
  • This will be the time of the Antichrist’s wrath against God’s people – Israel and those who hold to the testimony of our Christ (Daniel 7:19-25, Matthew 24:15-21, Revelation Chapters 11, 12:9-17, and 13, etc.). The Antichrist and his cohort will con God’s people if possible through lies and deceit (e.g. Revelation 13:12-14). How will this happen? Because of shallow or non-existent faith made possible through ignorance fueled by a lack of exposure to the Scripture, discipleship, etc. necessary for building faith.
  • The time of the Antichrist’s con and wrath will be cut short by the Christ’s appearing. His presence will earmark two important events identified as ‘harvests’ in Scripture: the gathering of Jesus’ followers (e.g. Matthew 24:29-31 and Revelation 14:12-16) and the beginning of God’s wrath against what and who remain on the earth afterward (e.g. Revelation 6:12-17 and 14:17-20).

So, the wrath of the one who will con will come in the form of the Great Tribulation. After nearly 3.5 years, the faithful will find relief as they’re taken to heaven for the ‘marriage supper’. God’s incredible wrath against the earth and her inhabitants will end the Antichrist’s wrath and great con.

Would you be able to resist being conned by those who say you don’t have to worry about any of this or by the Antichrist and his cohort in the last days? If not, waste no time in learning truth that leads to salvation!

For a very comprehensive and detailed study of this very important topic, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!

Next week, we’ll look at more great examples of personal interpretation and bad hermeneutics as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture. The next misquoted or misunderstood topic: “God is Love!

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part VIII

“We’re not to Judge Anyone!”

Misquote: “We’re not to judge anyone!” or “Who am I to judge?!?”  Well, we as followers of our Christ are indeed to judge those within the Church! The means we’re to hold one another accountable to the standard given by God through the prophets, apostles, and our Christ . . . and we do it for the sake of our brothers and sisters to help keep them on this path to our God and heaven. The following text supports this and is a reiteration of an earlier blog titled, “Judge Dread”.

The idea of judging really trips people up. Many know their own faults or past sins and feel they have no right to judge others about anything as a result. On the other hand, some people behave as though it’s their duty to inform everyone around them of every act they feel is contrary to God’s Word. The truth regarding judging others resides somewhere in the middle.

Are we to judge at all? Definitely! But, let’s take a look at what the word judge means before we go any further. It comes from the Greek word kree’-no, which means to ‘call into question’. Of course, we can’t call anything into question if we don’t know what should be questionable or why. Who should judge whom? According to Jesus, God will judge the world – those who aren’t Jesus’ followers – and Jesus will judge followers at His return and the end of this current age. Meanwhile, we’re to hold one another accountable for growth and moral positioning.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst . . . Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. . . . Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. —1Corinthians 5:1-13.

            So, how are we to judge other followers of Jesus? We are to be careful and gentle, basing the ‘questioning’ on adherence to the Christ’s commandments and not on emotion. The goal must always be to help those followers who are ‘sinning’ to turn back to the truth and be reconciled with the church (e.g. James 15:19-20).  The text below not only confirms that but also reminds us that we’re not to tolerate the unrepentant practice of sinful behavior within the Church.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” —Matthew 18:15-17.

Want to ‘love’ your brother or sister in the Christ? Then judge them according to God and our Christ’s commandments with a sense of urgency before it’s too late for those who are practicing sinful behavior that will earn them a one-way ticket to God’s judgment!

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at more great examples of personal interpretation and bad hermeneutics as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture. The next topic: “Seven Years of Bad Luck”.

Apocalyptic Misquotes . . . Part VII

 “The Bible says you can’t change anything in it!”

Misquote: The Bible says you can’t add to or take away . . .”

Like in my last misquote (“In Jesus’ Name”), this misquote is really more of an annoying misunderstanding than anything. Here’s the misused biblical reference:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. —Revelation 22:18-19.

This is the only place in the Bible you’ll find such a warning. And, it pertains to a very specific message given directly from God through Jesus to the Church at large. This makes sense, as it’s the only such direct admonishment from God through our Christ to us. We MUST NOT alter the message!

Having said that, I don’t think I’d want to be responsible for changing the intent of any of the writings of the prophets or Moses in the Torah or the apostles in our New Testament!

Here’s a great rule of thumb: always do your due diligence to understand a biblical writer’s intended message and not interpret it for personal significance or bend it to address a particular situation. In other words, avoid: “this is what it means to me . . .”

“There’s only ONE meaning, but many possible applications . . .”

For more information regarding the return of our Christ and our ‘marriage’ to Him, and of the end of our world as we know it, please consider studying my very comprehensive guide “Finding the End of the World”. You’ll easily find it in paper and electronic format at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and www.ronbraley.com.

Next week, we’ll look at more great examples of personal interpretation and bad hermeneutics as we continue to explore common misquotes and abuses of Scripture. The next topic: “Judging Others