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How many Angels were seen at the Open Tomb?

There is an alleged contradiction in the number of angels that appeared at the tomb of Jesus on the day that He was raised from the dead. Luckily, we have some excellent information on this because all four gospel accounts record angels at the tomb; all we need to do is put the puzzle pieces together into one harmonious picture. Interestingly, each account only gives one part of the story of the angels present that great day. Not one account repeats another, so we will not read about the same angel in any given two accounts.

Matthew 28:1-8

Matthew’s account records only what happens outside of the tomb. He speaks of two women (Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary) getting to the tomb early Sunday morning. There they see one angel outside of the tomb. Matthew did not say that this is the only angel there was or would be during the course of that day; he only said “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven.” Matthew does not record anything that happened when the women went into the tomb, he only records the angel telling them to “come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

Mark 16:1-8

Mark gives us “Part B” to Matthew’s account, showing us what happened when the two Marys went inside the tomb. Once inside, “they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side.” This is not the same angel that Matthew records, nor do Luke or John record this situation. This angel is without the glorious appearance of the angel that was outside the tomb; he is simply described as a young man in a long white robe. This young man proceeds to explain to the women that Jesus is risen and is traveling to Galilee.

Luke 24:1-10

Luke provides us with “Part C” of the presence of Angels at the tomb of Jesus. Like Mark, Luke records the women going into the tomb, but he doesn’t necessarily speak of any angels inside the tomb. It is unclear if the angels that Luke speaks of are in or outside of the tomb. Knowing what Mark records about the appearance of the angel inside the tomb, it seems most probable that Luke speaks of the women having a run-in with two angels after they exited the tomb when they were fearful and perplexed by what they saw and heard from the young man that was inside the tomb. These angels are described as “two men” who stood by them “in shining garments.” They, like the young man inside, explain once again that Jesus is not here, nor is He dead, but He is risen. Why do you think within minutes that God would repeat the same message to these two women? I am confident in saying that it was because they still didn’t understand. This is now the third time that morning that angels have appeared to them. These are life-changing events! These women are struggling with so many things. Notice that on this third occasion the angel repeats what the other angel in the tomb had already said, and follows with “remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” This further explanation points to the idea that these two women were struggling to understand what was going on. In a demonstration of their perplexity, we can read of Mary Magdalene saying to Peter “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:2). Therefore, we see that even after it was explained to them by the angels on multiple occasions that same day, the fact that He had risen was a truth that they were struggling to see. This is reason enough for the repetition of the angels found in the accounts.

John 20:1-14

Lastly, John gives us “Part D” of the record of angels that were present on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. John’s focus is on the period of time after the women first came to the tomb. John does not record the angel they first see outside the tomb who told them to come in and see; nor does he record the angel sitting inside the tomb, or the two angels who talked to them after that. John speaks of Mary Magdalene leaving the tomb to find Peter and John (himself) to report that Jesus is missing. Peter and John both run out to the tomb to see for themselves. John speeds ahead and witnesses the empty tomb first, followed by Peter. After this, Peter and John depart from the tomb to their own homes. But then we see Mary again; she had followed behind them, coming to the tomb for the second time that day. She stands outside the tomb and weeps. The weeping is another reminder of her lack of understanding of the resurrection of Christ. She then proceeds to peek into the tomb once again. This time she sees two angels in white, sitting where the body of Christ was laid. The angels speak to her, saying “woman, why are you weeping?”

So then, all together, there are recorded six angels that appeared in and around the tomb on the Sunday that the Lord rose from the dead. There are no contradictions in the accounts; only a focus on different events of that Sunday from each of the gospel writers.

Article by Tanner Campbell

Word Origins and Definitions

Jews

In a way, this term came around much later than the biblical text. The many times that it appears in the Old Testament, it is in place of the Hebrew word that would best be translated as “Judahite”. The word comes from the Hebrew word for Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, and literally means a descendant of Judah. However, since the Babylonian captivity, the term was applied to any Hebrew person, no matter if they were an actual descendant of the tribe of Judah. The Hebrew word was translated into Greek, then Latin, while maintaining a resemblance to the original Hebrew word, but once it passed into Old French it reached its three-letter state (Gyu). And it first appeared in Old English in the eleventh century, and it was spelled Giu. As the English alphabet grew, it gave more specific phonics to its letters, thus, the pronunciation of the English word did not change, but the letters did (from Giu to Jew).

 

Hebrews

Abraham was Chaldean, however, after obeying the command of God to leave his home, he was no longer Chaldean, but Hebrew (Genesis 14:13). The word literally means “one from beyond” and captures in a word the decision of Abraham to act by faith in God. There may be even more to this; Eber, or Heber, was that great-great-great-great-grandfather of Abraham. Eber’s name is similar to the word “Hebrew” and means “a region beyond”. Some believe that Abraham is called a Hebrew because he is a descendant of Eber.

Israel

This is a simpler word to define for it is explained in Scripture. The context of this name is in Genesis 32:22-32, when Jacob was in fear for his life, waiting to hear whether his brother Esau would accept him or not. During the night, Jacob finds himself alone and a man wrestles with him until dawn. This is no man according to the text, this is God. Jacob the trickster, Jacob the supplanter, was found utterly hopeless against his assailant and he could not prevail. Jacob soon realizes who he was dealing with and holds onto the man and would not let him go unless He blessed him. So, God blesses Jacob, saying, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” He was no longer to be called the supplanter, the self-seeker, and self-reliant man who found himself scared and alone that night. He was now disabled by the wrestler, dependent on another and seeking a blessing from another. So no more is he to be called Jacob, but a more fitting name under the new circumstances of his life; he is Israel. Israel, prince of God, prevailed not by himself but prevailed with God.

 

Hellenists

This is a group of people found in Acts 6:1, Acts 9:29, and Acts 11:20. In the KJV they are called “Grecians”. The word “Hellenists” is really just an untranslated Greek word, or rather, a transliteration. It is a word applied to people who were Jews by nationality, but were not born in Judea, and whose primary language was Greek, instead of Aramaic. It is evident from Acts 6:1, that Judean Jews did not count the Grecian Jews as equals with them.

 

Gentiles

This word is not native to the New Testament, as some might expect, but has been around since Genesis chapter 10, and was a term heavily used by the Old Testament prophets. In ancient Hebrew pictographs this word signified the back, by extension, the body. This word, when applied to people, refers to a nation as a body of people. The literal definition is a mass or swarm of people. The Greek word for “gentiles” is “ethnos”, from which we eventually got the English word “ethnic” (national). The Greek word refers to a nation or people group. In every instance that the word is used in the Bible (151 times) it is always used for any and all people who are not Israelites.

 

Heathens

This is an interesting word that is sometimes misused today. Today it is almost used synonymously with the word demon or some horribly wicked person, but this is not the true meaning of this word. Heathen is actually very closely related to the word gentile. In Greek, gentile is “ethnos”, and heathen is “ethnikos”. This word and its definition are almost indistinguishable from that of “gentile”. However, the word heathen can also carry the nuance of a person who has adapted themselves to the customs of another people group.

 

Barbarians

Here is another misunderstood word in our time. Today it is a term for rude, wild, and uncivilized acting persons. The picture of a barbarian today is that of an illiterate savage. But this is far from the truth. Paul preached to barbarians (Romans 1:14, Colossians 3:11), and they had just as much discernment from the truth as anyone else. In the first century, the word referred to anyone who is not a proper Greek, or could not speak with a smooth Greek dialect, or could only speak in a foreign language. The Greek word is “barbaros”. When Paul was on the island of Malta, he was met with “unusual kindness” by the “barbarous” (in the NKJV, the word is translated “natives”). So, a barbarian wasn’t a horrible person, they just weren’t well acquainted with the Greek language or Greek customs. In English, when one doesn’t ascertain the words flowing out of someone’s mouth, one might rudely mimick them with the sound “blah blah blah”, which denotes their opinion that what they heard was useless chatter or nonsense. Well, it was the same way for the Greeks, except instead of “blah-blah” they said “bar-bar”. Thus was born the term for people who spoke nonsensical words to the Greeks, “barbaros”.

Article by Tanner Campbell

What Must I Do to be Saved in 2022?

Below is a compilation of properly sourced information of what many of the major religions believe today concerning salvation. Followed by this is a data chart that shows how people were saved in the days of the 1st Century church. How close or how far apart are religions today from the biblical record?

The Catholic Church

  • We are Inheritors of original sin and all its consequences.
  • The saving grace won by Jesus is offered as a free gift to us through:
    • Repentance
    • Faith
    • Baptism

Source: catholic.com

 

Southern Baptist

  • Salvation is by grace alone, all that is left for us is to accept the gift through:
    • The Sinner’s Prayer

Source: Their official site: sbc.net

 

General Baptist

  • A general (i.e. for all) atonement is given by:
    • Repentance
    • Faith

Source: Their official site: generalbaptist.com

 

American Baptist

  • We are born depraved of good but can be saved by two conditions:
    • Repentance
    • Faith

Source: Their official site: abaptist.org

 

Pentecostal Church of God

  • Salvation made possible through:
    • Faith
    • Repentance
  • Baptism is commanded but only as a symbol of one’s identification with Christ.

Source: Their official site: pcg.org

 

United Pentecostal Church*

*Often under a different name like “Cornerstone Church” or “New Life Church”.

  • Salvation is made possible by the grace of Christ through
    • Repentance
    • Water baptism as a symbol of death.
    • Holy Spirit baptism (as a symbol of resurrection) with the initial sign of tongue speaking.

Source: Their official site: upci.org

 

Assemblies of God

  • We are born in sin but can obtain salvation through:
    • Belief
    • Call on the name of the Lord in prayer.

Source: Their official site: ag.org

 

Jimmy Swaggart Ministries

  • We are born with a sin nature but can be sanctified through:
    • Belief
    • Confession

Source: Their official site: jms.org

 

The Salvation Army

  • We are born with inherited sin but by the grace of Christ we can be saved through:
    • Faith
    • Repentance
    • Regeneration by the Holy Spirit

Source: Their official site: salvationarmyusa.org

 

Seventh Day Adventist

  • By grace we can be recreated through:
    • Being led by the Holy Spirit to sense our need.
    • Confession
    • Repentance
    • Faith

Source: Their official site: adventist.org

 

The Wesleyan Church

  • “We are saved by God’s grace simply when we have faith in His Son” and:
    • Acknowledge our sin
    • The Sinner’s Prayer

Source: Their official site: wesleyan.org

 

United Methodist Church

  • Salvation is through the process of justification:
    • Repentance
    • Expect to receive assurance from the Holy Spirit.

Source: Their official site: umc.org

 

The Presbyterian Church

  • We are born sinful but can be redeemed by the grace of Christ and our:
    • Repentance
    • Prayer of faith

Source: Their official site: pcaac.org

 

BUT WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

Challenges and Solutions for Church Growth

            I believe there are two types of small churches. One of them desires to grow but does not. The other desires to grow and does. The reason for this difference is the amount of work done toward the goal. Growth is driven by a broad spectrum of reasons, I’ll briefly discuss a couple of them here.

Growth is driven by excitement. As a congregation gets a little taste of growth, the excitement level soars, causing even more involvement in inviting people to church or a bible study. This excitement level can easily continue as long as new faces continue to appear and commit themselves to the Lord.

Growth is driven by the word of God. This is a much richer reason than just pure excitement and requires a level of spiritual maturity to be driven by this. A disciple of Christ is to understand the function they serve as soul winners. Bringing souls toward salvation is the purpose of Christ and therefore the purpose of all those who follow Him. He has called His disciples to be fishers of men. This is our trade. It is something that we learn how to do; it is something that we become better at with continued learning and practical experience. The more we learn how to do it well, and the more experience we gain, the easier it will be to talk to others in the world about their salvation.

There is no problem with growth itself, the problem really lies in the character of the congregation. There may not be any problems, but there generally are. While a church has a great desire to grow, once the growth starts to take place, a sea of concerns and fears begins to surface among the long-time members. The status quo is being violently altered. While a congregation should never be content with the present and should seek a future of growth, there is still an inevitable form of complacency that exists among the members. Do not get me wrong; contentment is not wrong in itself; it is at what point where we are content that can be wrong. A congregation that is working hard to grow and is content with their efforts is different from a congregation that is not working to grow because they are content with the group staying the same.

Growth is driven by the commitment of the members to learn the skill of handling a growing church. There will certainly be some trial and error for each one of us, but it is important that we do our best to encourage personal growth in ourselves and the new converts. New converts will never know as much as you do, at first. Dealing with ignorance properly is important. When new folks say things that are not accurate or ask a question that has a very simple answer, we must be cautious not to discourage or hurt that individual by the way in which we respond to them. You may disagree, but with the few years of experience that I’ve had myself, my current conclusion is that not every error needs prompt correction. It takes time for people to learn, and just addressing a little mistake at a later date can make all the difference in the world with their ongoing relationship with you. It takes skill to help others to grow, it takes skill to influence people. In fact, the old best-selling book “how to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie is a book that I would recommend to every Christian who wants to be a part of helping others come along.

There are many challenges that come with a growing church, and a congregation must be able to address these challenges with grace. One of the larger challenges, especially during rapid growth, is the number of ideas that can be brought up for the church to be a part of. It takes a while for anyone to know exactly what Christ has authorized His church to do. So, during rapid growth, a congregation can expect to hear suggestions from zealous new converts, some suggestions may be perfectly scriptural while others may not be. Again, it will take skill to properly address this challenge.

If rapid growth is experienced by this congregation, and hopefully so, then handling the way that church decisions are made will become apparent. If we were a congregation with elders then this paragraph would not be written, but we do not have elders, which means that we have non-appointed individuals who come together and make the decisions for the whole group. While this is scriptural (as the example of the church at Corinth had to operate this way without elders), it can become a big problem during growth. When there was once a room of a few men in a men’s meeting, all of which have been Christians for a long time and know the scriptures well; let’s say that there are now twenty men in the men’s meeting, and those who are still green as to the scriptures outnumber the number who have a more mature understanding of what Christ has authorized the church. If a congregation is not careful, then it can end up looking like just another denomination in short order. Obviously, this is the worst-case scenario, but we must be prepared soldiers for all advances of Satan. One of the things that Paul encouraged the elders-less church in Corinth is to appoint certain men of wisdom and knowledge to make certain decisions (not all the decisions necessarily). Notice how, in 1 Corinthians 6:4, Paul talks to them about the shame in appointing the “least esteemed among you” to decide on a matter. By least esteemed he meant those who lack a certain level of biblical wisdom, we know that from what he says in verse 5: “Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?” As a congregation grows, one thing that can never change is the stand it takes for truth. Those who are still unfamiliar with the scriptures ought not to be deciding the fate of the church; their time will come and one day they will be pillars in the church and maybe even elders and deacons, but until that time they need spiritual nourishment for their own personal growth.

While I do not wish to be negative, especially about growth, we’d be fools to not suspect that Satan will always be up to something to harm us. The best resource a congregation has when it is enjoying good growth is the word of God. A steady stream of studies will be the quickest way to a like-minded group. We must trust in the power of the scriptures to not only bring souls to salvation but to make them strong in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The Christian is to be committed to studying the bible with their families, and with other members who make up the church. If these things are so, then a church should overcome all trials and enjoy the wonders of the working of God.

Article by Tanner Campbell.

Questions about Kneeling to Pray and the Fullness of Time

Question: “Since we follow the apostles’ examples for authority, why don’t we kneel when we pray? (References: Acts 7:60, 9:40, 21:5; Mark 1:40, Matthew 17:14, 18:26, 20:20, Psalms 95:6)”

It is true that we must follow the Apostles’ example as the Holy Spirit worked through them in the First Century establishing doctrinal teachings and practices. However, that also implies that we do not follow absolutely everything that the apostles did, only the things that pertain to doctrine. We would weary ourselves trying to do everything the apostles did, whether it be eating only foods with ingredients available in their marketplaces, wearing only materials authentic to their time, and traveling with only their means of transportation. We know all this already, but what is before us now is deciding where kneeling falls; is it a doctrinal example, or is it a piece of their lives and culture that is not bound upon anyone else to do? It’s a good question and worthy of some thought.

The first difficulty with binding kneeling as the authorized way to pray is that the Apostles did not always kneel when praying. Jesus instructed His Apostles concerning praying while standing (Mark 11:25). Paul spoke to Timothy about the public prayers of men, but he mentions nothing about kneeling, only that “the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). When Jesus was walking with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane and talking with them along the way, He “lifted up His eyes to heaven” and prayed (John 17:1). Later that night, He told Peter, James and John to “sit here” (Matthew 26:36) in the Garden, then when He found them sleep, He told them to “Rise and pray” (Luke 22:46).

In Acts 10:9, when Peter was at Joppa, “he went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour”. Now, while this is an inspired apostle, we would all admit that this is not a binding example of apostolic authority. We need not go up on a housetop in order to pray, nor does a prayer need to be done at the sixth hour of the day. I believe that these things, like kneeling, were cultural preferences that were not always done at all times and in every situation. Some of the references made by the questioner exemplify kneeling when not in moments of prayer (Acts 7:60, Mark 1:40, Matthew 17:14, 18:26, 20:20), this is good, for it establishes that kneeling was something done by them at other times as well, pointing to the cultural significance of kneeling, particularly in intense, dire, and passionate situations (such as in Mark 1:40). With all that said, kneeling is a great tool for our prayer lives, especially for effective fervent prayers, and should not be ignored or passed off entirely as a cultural difference. In the same manner, closing the eyes, bowing the head, and folding the hands, all hold a place sometimes in staying focused and intent.

Question: “Galatians 4 – Why did the Lord come at this time in history? The fullness of time?”

Galatians 4:4 states that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law”. It is often believed that the fullness of time refers to the time in human history when the world was especially prepared to receive Christ. But this is not what Galatians 4:4 is dealing with. It is true that, from our dim perspective, it appears that there were a number of things in place in the First Century that would have contributed to the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church. The vast Roman road system, the somewhat universal Greek language, and the relatively peaceful time among the nations may have been part of God’s determined time to bring the Christ into the world. But this is all looking at the “fullness of time” from a physical perspective; this does not consider the context of Galatians 4.

Paul began the chapter by pointing out that an heir is no different from a slave for “as long as he is a child”. Even though the heir of the house is “master of all”, while he is a child he is kept “under guardians and stewards” and must be told what to do, just like a slave in the house. But this kind of life for the young heir lasts only “until the time appointed by the father” (Galatians 4:2). Paul is referring to the common practice of Roman culture in those days, how every father would set a particular date for their child to reach maturity; this is a foreign concept to American society. Upon the father’s appointed date, the young man is no longer counted as a minor and is loosed from guardians and stewards.

Now that we understand what is happening in the context, we are ready to understand the fullness of time. The fullness of time is referring to the time appointed by the Father in heaven when the people would no longer be like children under guardians and stewards (the Law of Moses and the Prophets) and would now be free (from the Law of Moses), ready to be counted as sons and heirs of the Father’s house. Paul explains that in order for the heirs to obtain freedom from their guardian, The Son of God must come and redeem them, “that they might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5). Thus, the “fullness of time” is not a reference to the situation of the world at that time, nor is it a reference to Christ specifically, but a statement that speaks to the appointed date for the maturity of those under the guardianship of Moses’ Law. It was their “fullness of time”; it was their time for reaching maturity and freedom. In other words, God had predetermined a time for the people to no longer be under Moses’ Law in order to be accountable to Christ. Just as in Roman custom, it may not be that a child has reached the intended maturity level by the time their father’s appointed date for them comes up. Thus also with the Jews, many of them had not paid much mind to their guardian and schoolteacher (the Law of Moses), and as a result, were inadequately prepared for the Father’s appointed date of their maturity. This immaturity is clearly visible throughout the gospel accounts, the book of Acts, and many of the New Testament letters.

Article by Tanner Campbell

Does God Have A Special Plan for Me?

There are a number of ways to answer this question. First, he absolutely does have a plan for you and everyone else on this earth. A plan for us that is so important that it is the cause for every page of the Bible. God designed a plan for man to live with Him eternally. God first wants man to hear about His plan. This is accomplished through the revelation of His plan documented in the pages of the Bible (Romans 16:25). Then, it is through the spreading of His revelation by His disciples that this is fully accomplished (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 10:14-15). Without this step of the plan, man is not able to live by faith in Jesus (Romans 10:17). The revelation of God’s plan is purposed to convince man of their sinful state and the condemnation to come and explain the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that can provide them with forgiveness of sins. If one’s heart is sincere, then the words of the gospel will provoke them to believe in Jesus as the Son of God who came to this earth 2,000 years ago to take away their sins. This belief and a confession of this belief are the next two steps found in the plan of God for you (Romans 10:9-10). Following this, the natural conclusion would first be to stop our ways of sin (Acts 3:19). Once this initial foundation of faith, truth, and commitment is laid, then it is time for the work of God to forgive sins. This is accomplished through immersion in water (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18; Colossians 2:11-13; 1 Peter 3:21). Coming up from the water, we are a new person, clean, pure, and holy; having put to death the man of sin to be resurrected out of the water as the man of godliness (Romans 6). This is the plan of God, as revealed in the scriptures.

Secondly, God does have a plan for you in your everyday life. Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God purposed in His plan beforehand that the man of godliness (which resulted from hearing, believing, confessing, repenting, and being immersed) would be created in Christ Jesus. Yes, it was God’s plan from the beginning that salvation would be possible only through His son. The Christian is “His workmanship,” that was created again (born again) a new man, free of sin. The purpose of this new creation according to the text is “for good works.” God’s plan for our everyday life is that we’d be committed to good works. Not works that we think are good works, but the text is clear that it is God who defines the good works that we are to do. Notice again that these good works were “prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God has taught us in His word what good works He expects out of us every day (some examples of these can be found here: Colossians 3:18-25). God does have a plan for every day of our lives.

Thirdly, although we just answered whether God has a spiritual plan for us, I know that this question is usually asked in reference to whether God has a plan for your physical life on this earth (such as marriage, children, careers, health/illness, where to live, prosperity, etc.). There are so many aspects to consider in order to properly answer this. One piece of the answer is the freedom of choice for every person. This complicates things; for example, would God have us choose to sin? Certainly not, but against the counsel of God individuals choose to sin. Sometimes these sins have drastic consequences that change the course of both the life of the person who committed the sin and the people involved.

There is another uneasy side to the answer that chapter nine of Ecclesiastes does a good job of addressing. In verse two he says: “All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.” And later, in verse eleven he says: “I returned and saw under the sun that— The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.” In these verses, the bible brings up hard truths that many have found difficult to accept today. Nevertheless, the truth is that “one thing happens to all” (v.3), whether it be the good, pure and true worshipper of God, or the wicked who brings no honor to God. Even the fastest runner loses a race and the strongest army is conquered. The idea that “time and chance happen to them all” is a painful truth sometimes when we fall on the wrong side of time and chance. Bad timing is a real thing, and it has an effect on the question of whether God has a plan for our earthly circumstances.

Another thing that changes the course of our lives is the effect of prayer. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16). Through the requests of the righteous, God provides for their wants and needs. Many examples can be seen in the scriptures of changing circumstances due to prayer. One simple example is Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10, who asked for blessings and a larger portion of territory. The Lord granted what he asked. For the righteous, prayer will always be an important aspect of their condition of life, both spiritually and materially.

Many other things can be added to the equation as well, such as making wise and godly choices; such will have a dramatic impact on the quality of one’s life on earth. 1 Peter 3:10-11 says, “he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

Ultimately, God can work in our lives, causing good things to come our way, and allowing trials to fall upon us in order to help us to grow stronger. Mary’s words are fitting here, not just for her life but for all the righteous: Luke 1:49 “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” God is our Creator and He remains in control over His creation. We cannot limit His abilities or willingness to help us, do good to us, and answer the prayers of His children. Limitations can only be placed on God in the areas in which He Himself has limited Himself in accordance with His righteous justice.

So then, we have considered both the spiritual and material side of the question “does God have a plan for me?” However, I am compelled to make one last point. Did you notice in this article how direct I was able to be about God’s spiritual plan for us to follow in our lives? Did you also observe the somewhat vagueness in an attempt to answer whether God has a plan for our physical life? This is because we are limited to what has been revealed to us in God’s Word. It becomes clear then what is most important to God and should be most important to us. The focus of the Bible is not about improving the state of our earthly life, it is about doing that which is necessary for our eternal salvation; to live for Christ in the purity of holiness, in anticipation of an eternity with Him. That is the plan that needs to be our priority. Whether God has a specific plan for our individual physical lives is unimportant in light of eternity; nevertheless, as was discussed in this article, one thing we can be certain of is that God most certainly does work in our lives and on this earth. So, maybe this life will be a little easier for us, or maybe not, but that’s no matter, let us follow the plan of God that will lead us to an everlasting home. Yes, God does have a plan for us, and yes, it is very special.

A common verse that people often use concerning God’s plan for our lives is Jeremiah 29:11, which says “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I can see how this statement brings people a lot of joy and encouragement, but I did not use this scripture in this article. A closer look at the surrounding context of this verse will reveal that the plans mentioned in this verse are not God’s plans for our lives, but God’s plans for the remnant of Judah. His plans are for their return from captivity in Babylon and for the Savior to come from this remnant of people. Thus, it is a text that should not be applied to our personal lives.

Article by Tanner Campbell.

 

Questions about the First Language, Animals on the Ark, and Eating in the Church Building

Question: “What was the first language?”

The first language, the language of Adam and Eve, has been lost, with no hope of rediscovery. While it is clear from the book of Genesis that Adam and Eve and their descendants had a spoken language, we have no idea what language it was, or how long it survived. From the creation of man to the universal flood was 1,565 years. A lot can happen in 1,500 years, and if more recent history is an indication, the original language likely evolved over time into different languages. But if there were any documentation of the first language, it would have been destroyed by the flood. But after the flood, there was only one family left alive on the earth, and they spoke only one dialect. The next few generations continued to speak that one language (Genesis 11:1), but we still don’t know what that language was. Then, during the tower of Babel incident, the Lord “confused their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:7). This infers that even the one language that they had all once spoken was now lost forever. So, how do we have a written record of these things, and with what language was the book of Genesis written? Genesis was written by Moses whom God provided these truths. Moses spoke and wrote the Hebrew language, the language of Abraham’s descendants. Abraham was from Ur of Chaldea (Babylon), and would have most likely spoken the Sumerian language, which, by the way, is the oldest known written language). The Sumerian language was spoken in southern Mesopotamia, the same area where Abraham was from. However, when he traveled to the land of Canaan, either he or his descendants after him began to speak a new language, a modified form of the languages that surrounded them in their new area, such as Phoenicia, Moab, and Canaan. And at some point, the Hebrew language obtained an alphabet of pictographs, and the written version of the spoken language was born. The word Hebrew means “one from beyond”, and relates to Abraham’s journey by faith in God, who called him out of his country to another land that he would give to his descendants. This is the language that Moses used to record the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Question: Do you know how many animals were on the ark?

Yes, that is, if we can count every kind of animal that is alive today, as well as any animal that has become extinct. God explained to Noah that He would bring to Noah every animal “of their kinds” (Genesis 6:20), thus the ark did not contain every species of animal, but only every kind of animal, for example, one kind of cat, one kind of dog, one kind of horse. Biologically, we know that within every animal is the genetic code of every species within its kind. Thus, only one male and female according to their kind is all that is needed to rebuild thousands of species within a kind. Today, there are 5,000 kinds of animals. But God brought upon the ark 2 of every kind, thus there would be 10,000 animals on the ark. But we also must account for any animal that is now extinct in our day. To be more than fair, let’s double the number of animals to account for the extinct; so, we are up to 20,000 animals on the ark. However, God also brought 14 of every clean animal, let’s estimate the clean animals on the ark to be about 1,000 more animals; thus, we have a total of 21,000 animals. Considering the capacity of animals in modern shipping vessels, and since we know the exact size of the ark, simple math would put the ark’s carrying capacity to be 180,000 animals. Thus, all the animals on the ark would have taken up only 12% of the ark’s capacity. So, we see that the animals had plenty of room to stretch out!

Question: “Is it sinful for the church to fellowship at the church with a meal if the food is provided by the members? I don’t feel 1 Corinthians 11:22 is applicable due to misuse of the Lord’s Supper – that is not this issue.”

There are many things to consider concerning this question, both scripturally and historically. And sadly, churches have split due to conflicting stances on this issue, and such division is foolish, unscriptural, and ought never to happen. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” (Romans 14:20). Certainly, the question of whether we can use the church’s building to eat together is no cause for the body of Christ to be rent asunder, for hate to arise, and souls destroyed; if even an inkling of this begins to occur, then the matter is to be dropped immediately. Now then, let’s consider this question. On the surface, eating a meal together shouldn’t be wrong, and the location where we have that meal doesn’t seem like it could pose a problem; but from a historical standpoint, there are many examples of churches turning to offer meals in their building, and where are they now? What do these churches look like years later? So many who have followed this pattern have adopted many other forms of entertainment, festivals, and plenty of other distractions that truly are unscriptural for the church to involve itself in. So, if the door is open to something seemingly innocent, such as eating together in the building, what else might slip through the door behind it? This is only my opinion and my own observations of churches. As for the text of 1 Corinthians 11:22, I do believe it is applicable to this situation. I agree that the context concerns the misuse of the Lord’s supper, but according to Paul, a certain group of brethren was arriving ahead of the rest to partake of the Lord’s supper. Paul rejects their actions, saying, “it is not to partake of the Lord’s supper”. So, the emblems they were eating were the same as the Lord’s supper, but it was not the Lord’s supper because of their attitude and focus. But if it is not the Lord’s supper, what is it? If it was no longer a spiritual meal, then it was a common meal; a meal that was enough to stuff their stomachs full (11:21). Therefore, Paul says “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” Here, Paul cites an appropriate location for having a common meal: our homes. So, it is important to separate our common activities (that we still ought to enjoy together as Christians!), from our place of worship. The Jews had understood this well; from a cultural standpoint, they did not use their synagogues for secular activities. The Greeks of Corinth, however, came from a culture where feasting was a major part of their activities in an idol’s temple. In the previous chapter, Paul already spoke against the activities of a worldly-minded church, saying, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” (1 Corinthians 10:7). So, from a scriptural standpoint, I would not be comfortable with holding meals in the church’s building, because, according to God, eating leads to playing; and from the historical perspective, I would be too fearful of what else this would open the door to.

Article by Tanner Campbell.

A Question Concerning the Devil’s Origin

I received this question: Who is the Devil? Where did he come from?

             God never gave us the devil’s name, but that hasn’t stopped some to assign him names from words that they happen upon in the Bible. Names like “Satan” or “Lucifer” are the most prominent examples of this, but neither is the devil’s name, and one has nothing to do with him (lucifer). The word “satan” is a transliteration of the Greek word satanas, and it means “opponent”. It is not a proper name assigned to the devil, in fact, the Greek word satanas is always preceded by the definite article. Unfortunately, in the English translations, we do not see the English definite article (“the”) before the word “satan”, as we do for the word “devil”; likewise, the word “devil” is usually uncapitalized while “satan” is always capitalized (in most English translations), further promoting it to a proper name. This is not good. The presence of the definite article in the Greek before the word “satan” reveals that the scriptures do not use the word as a proper name, but as a description: “the satan” (the opponent); just as the scriptures use “the devil” (the accuser). As to the other popular name, “Lucifer”, it is likewise not a name, nor a reference to the devil. Christians must be careful to not continue the use of words such as “Lucifer”, for it perpetuates misunderstandings and the next generation will be left with erroneous conceptions concerning the devil. Lucifer is not a proper name, and the newer English translations do not use the word lucifer anymore. The word refers to the morning star in the sky, and the reference is found in Isaiah 14:12, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” (ESV). Now, everything in the context before and after this statement is a “taunt against the king of Babylon” (verse 4), and once we reread the chapter again (also check out the previous chapter), it all makes much better sense that the fallen star was indeed the great king of Babylon, just as God said. So, Isaiah 14 has nothing to do with the devil and how he came to be.

No Origin Story

                There are several places in scripture that are believed to tell the origin of the devil or his fall. The most popular is the fall of the day-star (lucifer) in Isaiah 14:12, which we just identified to be a figurative picture of the downfall of a Babylonian king, not the devil. Another place that is believed to tell of the origin of the devil is Ezekiel 28:11-19. Here God uses vivid imagery to speak of the great fall of an individual. This person is described as having been “in Eden, the garden of God” and is identified as “the anointed cherub who covers” the throne of God. But because their “heart was lifted up”, they became corrupt and were cast to the ground by God. This description has caused some to be persuaded that this is the original fall of the devil, even though the text says otherwise. Chapters 27 and 28 of Ezekiel are all about the judgment against the cities of Tyre and Sidon, and this specific section is God’s words to the “king of Tyre” (28:12). Similar to the Babylonian king who is described as a glorious star in the heavens, Tyre’s king is also portrayed in celestial imagery as a high anointed cherub. This type of dramatic imagery is most common among the prophets, and those well versed in the books of the prophets will not be alarmed by this figurative language, nor seek a literal interpretation of it. The words are powerful messages to these kings who had reached the greatest heights of power on earth but would soon fall to the lowest low as their power and country are stripped from them.

Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18), and at first glance, it appears that Jesus is describing the origin of the devil, but a closer look proves otherwise. In context, the seventy-two disciples have returned to the Lord after he sent them out with power. The disciples return with joyous news, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” This wasn’t news to Jesus, for he gave them the power to do so. Jesus tells them that indeed he has seen the opponent fall. He does not say that he saw the devil fall from heaven, but that, as lightning falls from heaven, he saw the opponent fall by the work of the disciples. In Matthew’s account, Jesus said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Matthew 12:28-29). So, the fall of the devil that Jesus is referring to has nothing to do with his origin, nor of his past background, but his fall to the overwhelming power of the kingdom of God coming in the first century and plundering his house.

This leaves only one more scripture that is believed to tell of the fall of the devil. Revelation 12:7-9 says, “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, (8) but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.  (9)  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” The first problem I have with this text as the origin story of the devil is that the timing of the story happens after Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven (verse 5). Therefore, this text has nothing to do with the origin of the devil. Rather, the text is a figurative picture that teaches the spiritual truth that the victory of Jesus left no “place for them [the devil and his angels] in heaven”. What does that mean? The text explains in verse 10 that the victory of Christ means victory for the faithful, for our sins are forgiven and there is, therefore, no more place for the devil to accuse the faithful of sin before God; they are now guiltless in Christ.

What is the devil’s name? We don’t know. What type of being is he? We don’t know. How and when did he lose his relationship with God? We don’t know. As God told Israel, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29). There is much we don’t know, but what has been revealed was revealed for the purpose that we may be faithful to our Creator and God. The Bible is not a book about the devil, he is neither our focus nor our desire; the bible is about Christ, therein is everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

 

 Article by Tanner Campbell.

How the First Century Church Established Bible Authority

You’ve likely heard that there are three means of accurately establishing Bible authority for all that we believe, teach, and practice. By direct commandments, by approved examples, and by necessary inference (a conclusion we are forced to make by the scriptures). Now, some have mocked these means of establishing authority from the bible for what we believe, often citing that they haven’t found a verse in the bible that says that we must use direct commands, approved examples, and necessary inference. These are the same folks, by the way, whose practices often have no resemblance to the practice of the New Testament church. But they are right, in that, there is not one single verse that commands all three of these things together. But seeing as there are over 31,000 verses in the bible, it appears that God never purposed to explain authority to us in a single, self-contained verse. We are deceiving ourselves when we look to single out a verse, whether on authority, salvation, or worship, and take it as the only verse we need to follow on that subject, even though God has revealed so much more about all these subjects throughout His word. The only reason I believe that there are three means by which we recognized what God has authorized for us, is because these are the three ways that continuously pop up throughout the Bible. So, while there are many texts that we can go to in order to see these things, I would like to use Acts 15:6-21 as an example for all three of these things.

Acts 15:6-21 demonstrates how the apostles (who were inspired by the Holy Spirit) and the first-century church established God’s authority for their teaching and practice when sufficient revelation had already been made. In this chapter, a dispute among the brethren arose as to whether the gentiles were to be circumcised in order to be saved. It is interesting that the apostles do not turn to the Holy Spirit for direct revelation on this matter; instead, they rely on the revelation that had already been provided previously by the Spirit (just like we are to do today). So how did they go about determining the truth? Peter, in verses 6-11, makes his point on the basis of necessary inference. Notice the three facts that Peter makes use of to properly understand what God would have the Gentiles do: 1) Peter points out that earlier he was sent by God to preach to the Gentiles. 2) God acknowledged the gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit even as He did to the apostles back in Acts chapter two. 3) God made no distinction between the Jews and the gentiles as to their salvation.

With these three facts laid out, Peter draws the necessary conclusion: “Now, therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (10-11). Even though God did not specifically say that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised in order to be saved, Peter was able to infer (out of necessity) that they were not under such a requirement because of the facts of how God went about saving Cornelius and his household.

Paul and Barnabas are next to speak in the chapter, and they take up after Peter using the idea of approved examples. An approved example is not something that we, mankind, have approved, but examples in the scriptures that God has approved as the right way of thinking or doing something. Paul and Barnabas begin by telling of their experiences in preaching among the Gentiles, and that God performed miracles through them as they preached the gospel to them. Their preaching did not speak of requirements of circumcision or anything else that can be found in the old law, and yet God showed his clear approval through the miracles which they performed.

In verses 13-21, we see the use of direct commands (i.e. “book, chapter, and verse”) in scripture where God plainly approved the acceptance of the Gentiles. It is unusual for most people to reject the idea that direct commands are not important in establishing what has been authorized by God. It seems like the approved examples and necessary inference is where the struggle is. But have we ever taken a look at the laws of the land? Have we read through some of them? It is easy today to get our hands on that information through the internet. The laws of the land are listed and numbered, precept by precept. A reading of the Bible will show that God did not provide us with a book of just direct laws, one after the other, but rather He chose to establish his authority through other means as well, giving us examples to follow, and recording information and accounts that would lead us to one and the same conclusion by absolute necessity. These are the things that we saw in Acts 15, and the rest of the bible will consistently show the same things.

Article by Tanner Campbell

The Seven Abominations

“These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19).

There are six things that the LORD hates. “Hates” is defined as loathsome, repulsive, an enemy, a foe. Thus these six things are loathsome to and against God. But wait, there aren’t just six, there is a seventh added along with the word “abomination.” The text lists seven things that the LORD not only hates but finds abominable. “Abomination” means a disgusting thing, an abhorrence. It seems that “hate” and “abomination” can almost be used interchangeably; so, why are they both used in the text and why is the seventh thing not listed at first with the other six things? The wise writer is using a certain mode of speaking that seems to be customary (as it is also found in Proverbs 30:18, 21, 29; Job 5:19; Ecclesiastes 11:2; Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6). This mode of speaking is possibly used in order to arouse one’s full attention to what the writer is saying. Does it work? I can’t speak for you but the statement definitely has my attention.

The first thing that demands our attention is that these seven things are not the only abominations to God. Other scriptures mention that the LORD hates one’s justification of bad choices (Proverbs 17:15), dishonest salesmen (Proverbs 11:1), the worship of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8), the prayers of the wicked (Proverbs 28:9), evil thoughts (Proverbs 15:26), idolatry (Jeremiah 32:34), and divorce (Malachi 2:16). Overall, we can say with scriptural proof that all sin is hated by God (Psalm 45:7; Proverbs 15:9). So then why are there only “six-plus-one” things mentioned in the text under discussion?

Before we seek an answer to that question, we should remember that the doctrine of sin in the scriptures is well defined, and we should cautiously make sure we don’t reach any conclusions about Proverbs 6:16 that would be in disharmony with the bible’s teaching on sin. For in James 2:10 we read a perfect summary: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” One cannot point to Proverbs 6:16 and say that there are only seven things really important to God that we shouldn’t do, and all other sins may possibly go unpunished, or at least we will receive leniency. This is false doctrine. James clearly points out that if one stumbles in one point (i.e. falls into one sin, it doesn’t matter which one), then they are guilty of breaking the law of God. James’ point is that there is no partiality with God and His commandments. Therefore, Proverbs 6:16 is not teaching that God shows partiality to some who commit so-called “lesser sins,” but cannot at all bear with someone who has committed one of the seven listed abominations. So again, let’s have our views be in harmony with the word of God.

The truth behind Proverbs 6:16-19 is found right in the very context that it is often taken out of. This text is not the start of a new subject, but the middle of one. The context begins in verse 12, saying: “A worthless person, a wicked man, Walks with a perverse mouth; He winks with his eyes, He shuffles his feet, He points with his fingers; Perversity is in his heart, He devises evil continually, He sows discord. Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.” The description of this wicked man, given in verses 12-15, is in exact agreement with verses 16-19 which list the seven things about verses 12-15 that God hates. See the parrallels:

  1. “A proud look” = “He winks with his eye” (v.13)
  2. “A lying tongue” = “Walks with a perverse mouth” (v.12)
  3. “Hands that shed innocent blood” = “Perversity is in his heart” (v.14)
  4. “A heart that devises wicked plans” = “He devises evil continually” (v.14)
  5. “Feet that are swift in running to evil” = “He speaketh with his feet” (v.13)
  6. “A false witness” = “He points with his fingers” (v.13)
  7. “One who sows discord among brethren” = “He sows discord” (v.14)

Therefore, in light of the context, we understand that the seven things mentioned as abominations are not the only abominations of God, they are just the ones that particularly relate to the scenario of the “worthless man” in the context (count them for yourself: there are 7 things in vs. 12-15 and the same 7 things in vs. 16-19). And why is he considered worthless? Because every choice he makes on this earth is an abomination to God. He is both wasting his earthly life and throwing away his eternal life just for the gratification he finds in these seven things. Let’s briefly consider each one in this article.

“A proud look:” a lofty looker; so lofty that you’d think that he would have the best view of heaven, but rather, he has made his eyes lofty only to look down upon others and sit as judge against them.

“A lying tongue” and “a false witness:” what an unruly evil. He who has rejected God has no love for truth, nor respect for what is true. He thinks nothing of lying. Even some good people find themselves lying, so we all must remember that such a thing is entirely detestable to God.

“Hands that shed innocent blood:” today this statement is often used in opposition to abortion, and rightly so, but let us not forget the many who are slain in robberies, school shootings, and the like. These murderers do not see the worth of precious life and are thus called “worthless” themselves (v.12). However, one who can see the worth of life will bear much fruit in God’s kingdom and be worthy of eternal life.

“A heart that devises wicked plans:” we must be diligent to keep our hearts secure from evil, for from our hearts comes out every word we speak and every action we commit (Proverbs 4:23).

“Feet that are swift in running to evil:” One has fallen far when they do not even stop to contemplate the temptation before them or make any kind of effort in attempting to not fall into temptation. One who is constantly running to commit the next sin will soon hit the wall of calamity, and there will be no remedy (v. 15).

“One who sows discord among brethren:” The seventh abhorrence of God. Spreading and creating gossip or slander is a quick way to cause that blessed tie that binds to rot. If one can’t treat their brethren with love, then they cannot love the Lord.

“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13). If we honor and revere the LORD, then we will hate evil also. For we will love the things He loves, and hate the things He hates.

Article by Tanner Campbell