QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FROM THE QUESTION FORUM
Group Number 70
are some of the difference's between Jewish religion and Christian religion?
I will answer your question from the standpoint of Judaism in the Bible. That would parallel what today is called Orthodox Judaism.
1. Judaism is looking for the Messiah to come. Christianity believes He has come.
2. The heart of Judaism is the Law. The heart of Christianity is the Gospel of Christ.
3. Judaism emphasizes routine and formalities. Christianity emphasizes believing and trusting in the Lord in all of our ways.
4. Judaism observes the Sabbath day, with an emphasis placed upon rest. Christianity observes the Lord's day with an emphasis on remembering Jesus and His atoning death.
5. Judaism's main meal of remembrance is the Passover, when they remember their deliverance from Egypt. Christianity's main remembrance meal is the Lord's Supper, when they remember deliverance from sin.
6. Judaism places an emphasis upon fleshly lineage. Christianity emphasizes being born of God, or a spiritual lineage.
7. Judaism practices fleshly circumcision. Christianity honors the circumcision of the heart, which is accomplished by God.
8. Judaism has a few priests. All Christians are referred to as kings and priests.
9. Judaism traces its beginnings back to Abraham. Christianity traces its beginnings to before the foundation of the world, when Christ's death was determined, as well as the destiny of all who believed in Him.
10. Judaism relates a change of life to fleshly maturity, when a young man comes of age. Christianity traces a change of life to being born again.
There are a few comparisons.
What are your views of the "New Age" Bibles NIV and the rest that
eliminate whole verses of scripture.
I do not believe they have managed to destroy the truth, for God will not allow that to happen. The Scriptures are interrelated in such a manner as renders their destruction impossible. Jesus said it was easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for stroke of the pen to fall off of Scripture (Lk 16:17).
The versions to which you refer are like miniature commentaries. They follow the idea of translating the thought. I suppose that would be fine if the translators always knew the thought God was making. Their omissions, however, indicate their lack of familiarity with what God is saying.
I do not concur with the elimination of whole verses, and some sections (Mark 16 and John 8) of Scripture. This procedure is based upon a supposed analysis of various manuscripts, none of which are original, or autographed copies. I do not believe that approach makes enough room for faith. No one in Scripture ever approached the Word of God in that manner -- and Jesus and the Apostles dealt with Scriptures that had been in existence for centuries -- Scriptures that had been put into other languages. If the approach modern so-called scholars have taken to Scripture was correct, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles would have said something that indicated that validity. They did not, and we are under no obligation to accept these academic approaches to the word of God.
like to know your views on Ezekiel 38. I have heard many commentators
state that the event prophesied here is going to be before the 7 year tribulation, or at the very beginning of the tribulation.
First, I am persuaded of the truth of Ezekiel thirty-eight, and see no way that it could already have been fulfilled. Nor, indeed, do I believe that it has been negated by the disobedience of the Jews.
The intent of the things prophesied in this chapter is clearly stated in verse twenty-three. "Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD." The outcome, therefore, will be an extensive knowledge among many nations that God is the LORD, and besides Him there is none other. The real point is not the gathering and conflict that is mentioned, but the honor and glory of God that has been determined.
I do not know precisely when this will occur. Also, I am not inclined to fit this prophecy into a theological pattern that has been highly refined by men, but nowhere clearly declared by God. For example, the words "seven" and "tribulation" do not occur together in a single verse of Scripture-- in any translation of Scripture, to say nothing of "seven year tribulation." Second, the Scriptures nowhere say that Jesus will reign a thousand years -- nowhere. They do say those participating in the first resurrection will reign with Christ for a thousand years. That by no means implies Jesus started and ended a reign with them. Rather, they joined Him in a reign that already was in place. In fact, Revelation 20:4,6 are the only verses in the Bible that employ language about reigning for a thousand years -- and that is in a passage dealing with the souls of those who were beheaded for the sake of Jesus. It is a highly ambiguous passage from the standpoint of human history, and hardly lends itself to the construction of a doctrine.
I do understand the events of Ezekiel thirty-eight will take place after the conversion of Israel, which is depicted in the thirty-seventh chapter, and before the decimation of the enemies of Israel, which is chronicled in chapter thirty-nine. Beyond that, I have no understanding of the times related to the text.
Why aren't the old testament
saint's resurrected until near the end of tribulation?
The Word of God does not say the Old Testament saints are not raised until near the end of tribulation. That is a human opinion that has been superimposed upon the Word of God. I know of only one text that can even be twisted to suggest this. There is an expression in Daniel twelve that might be wrested to suggest a belated resurrection of believers under the Old Covenant (Dan 12:1-2). There a great time of trouble is mentioned in which the great angel Michael will stand up for the people of God, the Israelites. They will then be delivered in an extraordinary way, which deliverance will be followed by a resurrection of those sleeping in the earth. That resurrection, however, is not limited to the "saints" of the Old Testament times. Some who are raised, Daniel declares, will be raised "to shame and everlasting contempt."
Daniel's prophecy is made more clear by the words of the lord Jesus, who spoke of the resurrection of the dead in almost identical language. 'Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).
The Word of God never speaks of resurrection in the plural form. It is always in the singular. Jesus clearly declared all that are in the graves, both righteous and wicked, will be raised at the same time by His mighty voice. That voice is called a "shout" in First Thessalonians 4:16, and will accompany His glorious return. It is His word that sheds light on every other text pertaining to the resurrection.
you explain "the marriage supper of the lamb"
The marriage supper of the Lamb is the occasion when all of the redeemed are at last joined to their Savior, or, to say it another way, the bride is joined to her Bridegroom. It is depicted in Christ's parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13). There, Jesus is pictured as coming again to receive His own. The five wise virgins, or the saved, are described as being "ready," or prepared, for the coming of the Bridegroom. When He came, they "went in with Him to THE MARRIAGE" (25:10). That is "the marriage supper of the Lamb" referred to in Revelation 19:9. It is also portrayed in Christ's parable that likened His work to calling people to a great supper (Luke 14:16-24). This is the beginning of the saints being with their Lord forever.
If we "immediately" ascend to Heaven, or
descend to Hell upon death then
1. How does 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 apply
2. How does judgment day apply?
3. How does cremation apply?
First, it is not correct to say we "ascend to heaven" upon our death. The word "ascension" refers to a bodily entrance into heaven, not a spiritual one, or that of the unseen part of man. As soon as the child of God is "absent from the body," he is "present with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). Yet, that is not the fullest sense in which we will be with Him. At the resurrection, when our bodies are raised from the grave, our adoption will be complete -- spirit, soul, and body. For that reason we read, "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom 8:23). That, of course, refers to the resurrection.
The full sense in which we are "present with the Lord" prior to the resurrection has not yet been revealed. It is certainly more extensive than what we experience while in the body, but not as complete as it will be when we obtain our resurrection body, our house which is from heaven (2 Cor 5:1-5). For this reason, the very few references we have to those who have died in the faith, and their present status, are extremely vague. Lazarus was in "Abraham's bosom" (Lk 16:22). Souls that were martyred for their faith are said to be "under the altar" (Rev 6:9). The masses of people who have died in the faith are referred to as "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb 12:23).
We are also told that when Jesus returns, He will bring those who left this world as believers with Him. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" (1 Thess 4:14). They will then be united to their new bodies in the resurrection, and be joined by those who are alive and remain until the Lord's coming, who will themselves be "changed" in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:51; 1 Thess 4:17).
Being present with the Lord (for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord) represents a very general view. We will be "present" with Him in the sense of being in the same heaven. We will be "present" with Him in the sense of having a more profound access to Him. But we will not yet be in His throne with Him (Rev 3:21), or enter into the judging of the world and angels (1 Cor 6:1-3). That is the fuller presence that will be realized when we are fully "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 98:29-30).
We cannot be completely with the Lord until we ourselves are complete, with renewed spirits, souls, and bodies. Now, in this world, our spirits are regenerated, and our souls, governed by our spirits, experience the joy, peace, etc., that come from salvation. It remains for the Lord Jesus to return for us to be made complete. Then, and only then, we "shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1-3).
How does 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 apply?
The point of this passage is that dying does not cause one to be excluded from participation in the glory of Christ's return. The Thessalonians thought only those who were "alive and remaining" at the coming of the Lord would actually be a part of it. However, that was not at all the case. Even now, they are "with the Lord," even though they are not yet in their resurrection bodies. Regarding the full entrance into life, or the completion of our salvation, spirit, soul, and body, we will all be gathered unto the Lord at the same time. For those who have already died, the final "change" will not be as dramatic as for those who are "alive and remain" until Christ's return. But until that glorious day, they are not as close to Jesus as they will be, not as much like Him as they will be, and not as rewarded as they will be.
How does judgment day apply?
The purpose of the judgment day is NOT to determine who is saved or lost. That is determined now, and fixed at the point of death. The purpose of the judgment is to vindicate God -- to openly display His righteousness in every way. He will be proved true in every saying and every judgment in every way. I should not be surprised if the judgment day does not last at least as long as the history of the world. God is going to be glorified when an assembled universe sees Him proven true in "all of His sayings." That, of course, is why it is written, "yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged" (Rom 3:4).
There are other matters related to the day of judgment that confirm its purpose. God is going to judge the world through Jesus (Acts 17:31). In this, the One whom the world rejected will be seen to be the Righteous One. Additionally, Jesus will judge the world through the saints, who will be given to judge both men and angels (1 Cor 6:1-3). In this, the effectiveness of His great salvation will be seen, for their judgment will perfectly accord with His own.
How does cremation apply?
Although cremation has become popular, there is not a shred of revelation that provides the slightest hint that it is proper. For the believer, the disposal of the body is an act of faith. The burial of the body is depicted as the sowing of a seed that will come forth from the ground again (1 Cor 15:35-37). It is interesting that in opening up the matter of the resurrection, the Spirit built upon the premise that the body was buried. That, of course, is the preference of God Himself, who personally "buried" Moses (Deut 34:5-6). That is not to mention the burial of Jesus Christ, which is declared to be a vital component of the Gospel itself (1 Cor 15:4).
It is not up to man to seek convenient ways to dispose of the body, for the body belongs to God. First, He has purchased it, and therefore ought to be honored in both life and death through it (1 Cor 6:19). Secondly, it is expressly stated, "your bodies are the members of Christ" (1 Cor 6:15). While it is largely a matter of drawing inferences from that fact, I cannot conceive of a sensitive soul consenting to cremation, which has its sole origin in heathendom and hopelessness.
All of this is highly technical, and I do not believe it would be proper to consign someone to hell over the matter. All of the dead will be raised, whether Nadab and Abihu (whom God cremated), those who perished in the flood, Herod who was eaten of worms, or those devoured by beasts. How the body is handled after death has no bearing at all on whether or not the person went to be with the Lord. The believing heart, however, has more to think about than that. I would not want to explain to Joseph why I was so slipshod in preparing for the disposition of my body, when he was so careful about what happened to his body after his death (Ex 13:19).
My question is: how do you interpret
Hebrews 6:6 in light of this discussion? What degree of sinning constitutes a
"falling away"? Does it mean only when a person chooses not to believe in Christ
anymore, but then wants to be a Christian once again? Do you see here evidence
that whenever a person sins, he crucifies Christ again? If not, what is the
"Falling away" and "sinning" are not synonymous. Sinning leads to falling away, but is not itself falling away. Provision has been made for those in Christ who sin. That provision is realized when we walk in the light, or in the awareness of God that is produced through the word and by faith. As we walk in the light, we are apprised, 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." Further, upon recognizing we have sinned, we must quickly run to the Lord, confessing and acknowledging our sin. We will then realize forgiveness, and cleansing from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7,9).
One purpose of cleansing is to further sensitize the soul to sin, lest we fall repeatedly into it. Nowhere does the Lord suggest that we will ever, in this world, reach a point where it is impossible to sin. Such a condition would obviate the need for a Savior and Intercessor. In the meantime, the grace of God teaches us how to avoid sin (Tit 2:11-12). All of this presumes we are serious about living unto the Lord.
The person who is born again possesses two natures, not one. The Nazarene view of sin and perfection postulates a single nature, not a dual one. The "old man," or "flesh," which is the remnants of our old nature, remains with us, and is to be crucified (Gal 5:24), mortified (Col 3:5), put off (Eph 4:22), and denied (Tit 2:11-2).
All believers, including those who say they are "perfected," or have received the second work of grace, are warned of the dangers of walking in, or living after, the flesh. The warnings are remarkably pungent, and no one is excluded from them. "For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Rom 8:13, NASB).
The "falling away" of Hebrews 6:6 is the result of living according to the flesh, consistently yielding to fleshly lusts instead of denying them. It is the result of failing to live by faith, moving forward toward the goal. When men do not live by faith, they draw back from God. That drawing back leads toward the falling away of Hebrews 6. In fact, the solemn warning of Hebrews 6:4-6 is cited as the reason why moving forward is imperative (6:1-3). Hebrews 10:38-39 gives the reason for this. "Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul" (NKJV). God simply will not sustain those who insist on living at a distance from Him. Salvation cannot and will not be accomplished in those who insist on being closer to the world than to Him.
The specific point of Hebrews six is that believers are to go on to perfection, not lingering in the outer court of discipleship. That perfection is a spiritual maturity in which fellowship with Jesus is realized (1 Cor 1:9), affections are placed on things above (Col 3:1-3), and a sustaining understanding of the love of God and His purpose is realized (Eph 3:15-20). If men fail to move forward in faith, they are actually moving backward to perdition, or the condition of falling away. There is no static position in Christ Jesus, because we are in a war zone. We occupy a frail frame that is bent toward sin. We have an enemy that continually presses us, and we live in a world that lures men away from God. Should one in that environment imagine he is impervious to sin, he has only been deluded. As long as we are "in the body," we must be vigilant, pressing toward the mark (Phil 3:10-14). We are not to trust in a mythical state of perfection, but in the living God. Faith is not required where sin is iimpossible, and "the just shall live by faith."
Since falling away is a state from which men cannot recover, it is assumed their hearts have become so calloused they do not want to recover. The Lord has made clear that anyone who comes to Him will not be turned away (John 6:37).
My friend's dad is a Jehovah witness. He
knows that I am a Christian. At times we openly discuss our view points on the
differences and religion. I would like to show him that JW'S are an occult and a
false set of beliefs/teachings without offending him in the least bit, what
types of things should I point out? He gave me the JW version of the Daniel
papers to read so I gave him the Left Behind book to read and am sending him
RBC's Christian version of the Daniel papers. He says "the new world
translation) (JW Bible) is completely accurate. And the Christian bible is
missing words etc. Please tell me some good points I could tell him without
majority offending him -- this would be very much appreciated.
First, I am not sure you can show the truth to your friend without offending him. If Jesus could not avoid offending people (Matthew 13:57; 15:12; Mark 6:3), it is sure we cannot, if we truly follow Him.
The whole issue with the Jehovah's Witnesses revolves around the Lord Jesus Christ and the possession of His Spirit. Jesus is not central in their religion -- that is why they call themselves "Jehovah's Witnesses." They acknowledge Jesus and His death, but do not place the emphasis upon Him that God does. Neither do they make much of the possession of the Spirit of Christ, even though it is written, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Rom 8:9).
The main thing to point out is the role of Jesus Christ in salvation, as well as His Deity, which they deny. Jehovah refers to His Son Jesus as "God" (Heb 1:8). Thomas said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Isaiah said the name of the Messiah would be "The mighty God" and "Everlasting Father" (Isa 9:6). The book of Colossians affirms that the "fulness of God" dwells bodily in Jesus, and that it pleases the Father for that to be so (Col 1:19; 2:9).
Jesus also said He is the only one who knows who the Father is. Only He can reveal to a person who God the Father really is (Matt 11:27). The Jehovah's Witnesses do not depend on Jesus to define the Father, or Jehovah.
You must not allow your friend to sidetrack you on their peculiar doctrines. Jesus is the point. Demand that he tell you their teaching on Jesus. It will not take him long to do it.
Here are some websites containing helpful articles on your question.
Bible says the Garden of Eden was on earth. It also says it will never be found
by men. The Bible also says Angels with swords will be protecting its entrances.
I believe humans have discovered every place on earth. So what happened to the
Garden of Eden? Does it still exist and where? Thanks for your response.
First, the Bible does not say the Garden of Eden will not be found by men, although it does insinuate that. Second, I know of no scientist, archeologist, or geologist that affirms men have discovered every place on earth. That may be assumed, but it certainly cannot be proved.
God did place Cherubims at the East of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life. The reason for doing so is stated like this: lest man "stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Gen 3:22-24). Like the ark of the Covenant, the tabernacle, the tables of the covenant, and other such articles, God has not allowed men to find the Garden of Eden. We do not know if it still exists in the world. It may have been destroyed in the flood. Its appearance may also have been changed because of the curse of sin. But all of that is guesswork. The truth of the matter is, we do not know if it is still in the world. We must be willing to accept God's testimony about its existence, and realize access to it was lost because of sin.
Simple questions - Is masturbation
wrong? Why is smoking wrong? And church and pastors preach drinking is wrong. I
believe the bible teaches that drinking is OK as long as you don't get drunk.
Drinking in moderation is the way to go. What is your view point?
We are told, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Col 3:17). Again, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." If you can masturbate, smoke, and drink, but not get drunk, to the glory of God, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and giving thanks to the glory of God, perhaps you have a point.
The question you must ask yourself is whether or not you want to be found doing such things when Jesus comes, or when you die. And, why would a person do them in the first place? Is it because they glorify God, or make people better, wiser, more faithful, or anything else that is good and wholesome? These are questions you have to answer for yourself. No one else can do it for you. They are not matters of opinion, but of conscience. You have to decide if God is glorified by such practices.
As for drinking being all right if you do not get drunk, you would have a difficult time convincing John the Baptist of that. He was a Nazarite. Before he was ever born, the angel of the Lord his father, "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb" (Luke 1:12). Jesus said that he drank no wine (Luke 7:33).
Samson was also a Nazarite. The angel of the Lord told his mother, "Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink" (Judges 13:7). Under the Law, God also forbade the priests to drink strong drink when they went into the tabernacle. if they did so, they would die. "Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you may not die-- it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations" (Lev 10:9).
It seems as though the more God used a person, the less tolerant he was of drinking any strong drink.
scriptures point to Heaven being in the North. Some people believe (though we
will never know) Heaven is behind the North Star. the Bible says everything
points to God. When traveling at night -- people always looked to the North Star
for guidance. Scientists have looked behind many stars -- and there is always
something. Behind the North star there is no galaxies -- no nothing -- it goes
as far as you can see with nothing. There is another belief. Someplace in Job I
heard it refers to Heaven/God being in the North - I know this doesn't matter to
our faith - but do you think this could have any factual evidence for this?
First, the Bible does not say even one time that heaven is in the North, much less multiple times. There are, however, texts that associate Him and His working with the North.
There is a reference in Isaiah that speaks of Satan aspiring to ascend into heaven, exalting his throne above the stars of God. He said in his heart, "And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the North" (Isa 14:13). I think it is stretching the text a bit to say it teaches heaven is in the North.
On another occasion, Ezekiel was brought to Jerusalem in visions of God, to the entrance of the North gate (Ezek 8:3). It seems to me to also be abusing that text to see it as saying heaven is in the North.
Mount Zion, the location of Jerusalem and the ancient Temple, is described as "in the far North, the city of the great King" (Psa 48:1).
One of the Psalms associates Divine workings with the North, at least by insinuation. "For exaltation comes neither from the East Nor from the West nor from the South. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another" (Psa 75:6-7). The fact that the North is left out suggests that is the direction from which God works.
The text in Job to which you referred is, "He stretches out the North over empty space, And hangs the earth on nothing" (Job 26:7).
One thing about the North, it is always up, no matter where you are upon the earth. As to whether or not heaven is in the North, we do not know.
is the unpardonable sin and how can I be certain that I have not committed it?
The term "THE unpardonable sin" is not mentioned in Scripture. What Jesus DID say was, "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation" (Mark 3:29). Matthew's Gospel reads this way, "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt 12:31-32).
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is more a condition than a specific deed or word. It occurs when a person so hardens his/her heart against the Lord that the Spirit will no longer strive with them. The Lord does not specify when this occurs -- only that such a point does exist. It is for this reason we are admonished, "quench not the Spirit," and "grieve not the Spirit of God" (Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19). Unbelief, stubbornness, resisting the Lord, and refusing to hear Him cause the heart to grow hard and calloused. The process is called in Scripture "drawing back" -- like moving backward, further and further from God (Heb 10:39). If that process is not aborted, the inevitable result will be blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It would serve no purpose for God to precisely define such a point. People would try and live as close to that line as they could, imagining they were capable of keeping on the safe side. Such people forget there is a devil. God warns us of Satan, and tells us there is a point from which recovery is not possible. The point is to make us aware of the need of seeking after God consistently.
No person has blasphemed the Holy Spirit who is concerned about committing such a sin. The very fact that a person does not want to do such a thing is itself proof that they have not done so.
so many religions in the world, how can you say that Christianity is the only
way? Isnít Buddha as good as Christ?
The way is not "Christianity," but Christ Himself (John 14:6). The role of Jesus is to "bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). He is showing the Father to us -- that is, helping us to understand God and His provisions for humanity (Matthew 11:27). Christ is better because God anointed Him, making Him His exclusive representative (Heb 1:1-2). Buddha makes no boast of bringing anyone to God. He does not offer the forgiveness of sins, or a new birth. He, nor any other professed God, or representative of God, announces people can be changed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29). All other world religions major on this world. Jesus majors on the world to come, and provides a means to prepare for the day of judgment and entrance into the presence of the Lord. The best way to make a comparison between Buddha and Jesus is to examine what each one has done for you, and the core message that each one gives to you.
second coming of Jesus Christ has been preached as imminent for a long time. Why
is it taking so long?
When the word of God speaks of the coming of Christ, it is speaking to the heart, not the intellect. That word is intended to be believed, or embraced by faith -- and faith does not think in terms of time. The imminence of Christ's return is not declared from the standpoint of time, but from the standpoint of key or principle events. It is like saying, "The next thing you should look for is the coming of the Lord. Everything else is secondary to that." The point of NOT identifying that time by a date is to assist us to live by faith.
When Jesus returns, the work of salvation will be brought to its culmination. The dead will be raised, receiving new bodies. For the children of God, all weakness will be removed. There will be no more tears, sorrow, pain, or death. The devil will be cast into the lake of fire, together with all of his angels. Those who have lived for Christ will enter into the joy of the Lord, forever joyful, safe, and satisfyingly productive. We do not know when that time will occur, but when we live with it in mind, and the benefits it will bring to those in Christ, life becomes bearable, and blessings attainable.
From God's viewpoint, a thousand years are like one day, and one day as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). In other words, there is no time with God, for He is eternal. Often, when He speaks, it is from HIS point of view instead of ours -- without regard to times and dates. That is why He speaks of the Lord's return as occurring "quickly," or "soon" (Rev 22:20). It is why Jesus is said to be "at hand," or "near" (Phil 4:5; James 5:8), and standing at the door (James 5:9).
When people live without regard to the coming of the Lord, they tend to become indifferent and lethargic in their souls. When they live with it in mind, they are more alert, and seek to please the Lord more consistently. That is why we are told to regard the coming of the Lord from God's point of view instead of from the perspective of time.
people seem to suffer a lot. Why do bad things happen to good people? And why do
so many bad people seem to have it made?
Suffering is the result of sin entering into the world. Sin drove a wedge between God and man, thus opening the door for all manner of difficult experiences. Ultimately, suffering, in all of its aspects, is a prelude to death, which has been passed upon, or spread to, all people because of sin (Rom 5:12).
God told Adam if he ate of the forbidden fruit, disobeying Him, he would "surely die" (Gen 2:17). Dying is mortality, and suffering is part of that mortality. Innocent people (infants, for example) do not suffer because they have sinned, but because they are mortal.
"Bad things" can happen to good people for a number of reasons. First, God may be using such people to demonstrate the power of faith, and how one of His children can survive great hardships, yet still love and believe in God. An example of this is Job, who has proved to be a great encouragement to those who are suffering (Job 1 and 2). Second, good people can suffer because they are being chastened, or disciplined, by the Lord. David is an example (2 Samuel 12:10). Third, good people can suffer to show how much they are at variance with the world. The Scriptures call this "suffering for righteousness sake" (Matthew 5:10). An example of this is the stoning of Stephen, who was a good and godly man (Acts 7:59).
Bad people often do appear to, as you put it, "have it made." This circumstance once troubled a man named Asaph, who was a musician among the ancient Jews. He felt like he was slipping, with things growing worse for him. He said he became "envious" of the foolish, particularly when he saw the "prosperity of the wicked." Everything seemed to be going so well for them. They did not seem to suffer difficult deaths. They did not appear to have any troubles, nor were they "plagued like other men." It looked like they had everything they wanted, yet he seemed frustrated on every hand. He even heard such people scoffing at God and making fun of those who trusted in Him. It all seemed so unjust. As he thought on these things he confessed, "It was too painful for me."
But a change came in Asaph's perspective when, as he put it, "I went into the sanctuary of God" -- that is, when He saw the wicked from God's point of view. The first thing that came to his attention was "their end," or how things would be for them after they left this world. They were actually headed for destruction, even though they were going there on a luxurious road, with seemingly great advantages. They were not in as good a condition as they thought. As he pondered this, Asaph said to God, "Surely You set them in slippery places." What he meant was that by allowing the wicked to have an easier time in life, they had been brought to think they were actually greater than God Himself. But they were on a slippery slope that led to Hell itself. Instead of thanking God for what they had received, they imagined they had outfoxed the Lord. Asaph's observations are found in Psalm 73:1-19.
Think of it this way. The only place godly people will ever suffer is in this world. Even in their sufferings, they can be blessed with joy and peace, being an example of how a person can be sustained by God. On the other hand, the only place the wicked, or "bad people," will every have any good things or pleasantries, is in this world. After they die, no one will want to experience what they are experiencing.
I know some non-Christians who seem to
live better than professing Christians. Since there are so many hypocrites, why
does anyone need to be a part of the church?
It is true that many non-Christians actually live more exemplary lives than some professing Christians. However, no non-Christian lives a more acceptable life than a true Christian, or a person who is really in Christ Jesus. The church is not to judged by the hypocrites that are associated with it. That would be like refusing to go to a grocery store because there are some grocery stores that cheat the people. It would be like refusing to be married because some husbands and wives are hypocrites -- or refusing to be an American because some Americans are murderers and thieves. The church is to be judged by the REAL Christians, not the fake ones.
The reason for being a part of the church is not because of the people in it, but the Savior of it. A real church is one where the Spirit of Christ is found, and the word of Christ is honored. Such a church might have an evil person in it, like Judas among the twelve Apostles. Our response to such a condition should not be to avoid contact with the church, but to join in ridding it of such people.
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