Musings

Armageddon

By Tom Edwards

To the premillennialist, Armageddon will be where the final decisive battle of the world will take place. According to their doctrine, it will occur when Jesus returns at the end of the seven-year Great Tribulation to set up His kingdom on earth for a thousand years. Of course, if it were to be a literal warfare, as they teach, would not a weaponless ant, in comparison, have more probability in defeating a mighty herd of stomping elephants than for the forces of evil to have any success in triumphing over Christ in this final conflict between good and evil?

Armageddon is mentioned just once in the Bible: “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16, KJV).

It is rendered in the New American Standard Bible as “Har-Magedon.” “Har” is a Hebrew word used in 497 verses of the Old Testament and translated as "mountains" (161), “mountain” (156), “mount" (118), “hill country” (91), “hill” (18), and “hills” (6), to mention most of them. “Magedon” is referring to “Megiddo.” So together it can mean the “hill of Megiddo.”

Some archaeologists today refer to the “tell of Megiddo.” For a “tell,” as Daniel Webster points out, is “an artificial mound consisting of the accumulated remains of one or more ancient settlements (often used in Egypt and the Middle East as part of a place name)” (Random House Webster's College Dictionary). And at Megiddo, 25 layers of settlement, which have been built atop each other over a period of many centuries, have been discovered!

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “The city of Megiddo...ceased to exist after the Persian invasion of Palestine some 2,300 years ago and, today, nothing is left but the ruins of what once was a regional administrative and military center during the reign of King Solomon.”

So though the city of Megiddo no longer is, yet the area still remains; and it is being used symbolically in Revelation 16:16 because of what that region, down through the centuries, has been noted for. For it is where many armed combats and deaths have occurred. “In the history of Israel it had been the scene of never-to-be-forgotten battles... These low hills around Megiddo, with their outlook over the plain of Esdraelon, have witnessed perhaps a greater number of bloody encounters than have ever stained a like area of the world's surface” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

Interestingly, if you do a Google search for Megiddo, you might first of all find mention of the “Battle of Megiddo” way back in the 15th century B.C., which involved Pharaoh Thumose III and his army against “a large rebellious coalition of Canaanite vassal states led by the king of Kadesh.” It is said to be “the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail.” The HistoryChannel.com not only mentions of it being the first in that, but also "the first recorded battle with a body count, and the first use of the composite bow.”

Megiddo, Jezreel, Esdraelon (which is the Greek rendition of “Jezreel”), and Mount Gilboa are all places near the same area.

Others battles fought in that area:

* The King of Megiddo was one of the many kings that Joshua and the children of Israel had fought against and defeated (Josh. 12:7,21), and that latter verse is where we first see mention of “Megiddo” in the Bible.

* The judge Deborah, along with Barak, had defeated Canaanite kings “near the waters of Megiddo” (Judges 5:1,19).

* It was in the area of Megiddo where Gideon, with just 300 of his men, had defeated the large Midianite army (Judges 7).

* Israel's first king, Saul, and three of his sons (Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua) were all killed in the area of Megiddo (1 Chron. 10:6; 1 Sam. 31:1-3, .

* Ahaziah, the 6th king of Judah, and a wicked one at that, had fled to Megiddo, after being struck by an arrow; and there he died (2 Kings 9:27).

* The archers of Pharaoh Neco had mortally wounded Josiah, a good king of Judah, at Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:22-23), who had come out to battle against him (vv. 21-22); and all Jerusalem and Judah mourned, and Jeremiah chanted a lament (vv. 24-25). (The account in 2 Chronicles indicates that the "death" of King Josiah, recorded in 2 Kings 23:29, must have been a fatal wound he received in Megiddo that led to that death, though not immediately.)

The great mourning that was coming to Jerusalem is likened to “the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo” (Zech. 12:11), which is referred to as the national mourning over the death of King Josiah.

It has been said that there were no fewer than 34 wars that were carried out in the area of Megiddo, much which had to do with the invading army's attempt to control the plain of Jezreel for their own financial gain.

So all of this adds to the symbolism of the area of Megiddo and should not be thought of as the specific geographical location where a literal, physical battle will take place, sometime in the future, between Christ and those opposed to Him. For much in the Revelation letter is highly symbolic. This can also be inferred from the word “signified” in Revelation 1:1. The verse says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (KJV). Daniel Webster shows the primary meaning of “signify” to be “1. to make known by signs, speech, or action.” So those signs are the symbolic imagery often used in the Revelation letter to convey God's message. And note, too, that God revealed to John things that “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1).

The Revelation letter was written mainly to help Christians at that time who were undergoing an intense persecution for their faith. Life was difficult for them. Some were boycotted and no longer able to make a good income from their businesses; some were being persecuted in other ways; some were being imprisoned; some were being tortured; and some had even died as martyrs for the cause of Christ. But the message of the Revelation letter was to bring hope to all of them. That they could know that regardless of what they would have to endure for the Lord – even if it meant losing their own lives – they would ultimately be the victors! And their victory, because of Jesus, would eventually lead to its fullness in heaven's glory for all eternity!

The battle of Armageddon mentioned in Revelation 16:16 is seen more of in Revelation 19:11-21: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’

“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

This quote from Revelation 19 is not referring to the time of the final judgment. Rather, it pertains to many centuries ago, when Rome, the "beast" of Revelation 19:19, was still that ruling empire that was bringing persecution upon the Lord's people. As Rodney M. Miller writes, "Thus, the bowls of wrath in Revelation 16 represent God's judgment on this wicked empire that has single-handedly sought to destroy God's people. ...the bowls of wrath described not an end of the world scene, but a coming of Christ on the Roman Empire. ... The meaning of the battle is a decisive conflict between truth and evil. The Judgment of Christ on a pagan empire who sought to remove the force of Christianity from the world will in truth be a decisive struggle. ...Revelation 19:1-10 shows the rejoicing of the saints when the truth has triumphed and the cause of the Lord has been vindicated. Rome has been brought down" (The Lion & the Lamb on Planet Earth, pp. 200, 201).

To an intensely persecuted people of that day, God’s word gave hope — and it can do the same today! As Paul writes to the Romans: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

The Christians of John's day could receive encouragement through the Revelation letter. Its principle of the Lord triumphing over evil and, thus, enabling His people to also have that victory because of Him, is still true for all of God's children today!

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Contrasting The Old & New Testaments

By Sean P. Cavender

Bible students recognize the two major divisions of the Bible as the Old Testament and New Testament. Christians believe all 66 books are inspired and are God’s words which were written and recorded for us. However, there are stark differences between these two testaments. Which one is binding upon us today? Are there aspects of the Old Testament that we should continue to keep and practice today?

The Purpose of the Old Testament

Moses is recognized as the great lawgiver under the old covenant, thus, the Old Testament is often referred to as the Law of Moses. We need to consider the purpose, design, and weaknesses of the Old Testament in greater detail. While there are many benefits from reading and studying the Old Testament, we must realize the need for the new covenant which would be enacted by Jesus Christ.

There are a several reasons we are no longer under the old covenant. Moses’ law, divinely given by God, has been fulfilled and completed. Its purposes and design were limited. Notice several points for consideration.

1. The old covenant was a shadow of the true spiritual blessings that were to come later. “... since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle...” (Hebrews 8:4-5, NASB)

2. The old covenant promised a new covenant. “... Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant...” (Hebrews 8:8; Jeremiah 31:31, NASB)

3. The old covenant was not intended to be a permanent law. “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear,” (Hebrews 8:13, NASB).

4. The old covenant was a tutor to lead us to Christ. “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:24-25, NASB)

5. The old covenant could not take away sins. “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” (Hebrews 10:2-4, NASB)

6. The old covenant has been done away with. “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross,” (Colossians 2:14, NKJV)

The Authority of the New Testament

While Moses was the lawgiver and mediator of the old covenant, Christians believe that Christ is the Son of God and fulfillment of the Old Testament. The old covenant served as a tutor and schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses—“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus’ purpose was not to tear down, destroy, or invalidate the law; Christ came to fulfill, or complete the law.

The apostle Paul affirms this same truth as well, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” (Romans 10:4). Paul uses the phrase “end of the law” to describe Jesus as the goal, or end objective of the law. Jesus came and completed the law of Moses and fulfilled the prophets, therefore we are no longer under that law —“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor,” (Galatians 3:24-25). We are not under the law of Moses, but we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

So what does all of this mean?

We are under a new covenant. Even the old covenant prophets, like Jeremiah, stated plainly of God’s promise to bring a new covenant into effect. “For finding fault with them, He says, ‘Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant...When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete...” (Hebrews 8:8, 13).

The new covenant was made effective because of Christ’s blood. The new covenant was first proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:1-47). When Jesus died, He nailed the old law to the cross, putting it to an end, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross,” (Colossians 2:14).

We are no longer under the authority of the Old Testament. Dietary restrictions, circumcision, keeping the Sabbath day (7th day of the week) as a non-work day and day of worship, temple worship, and animal sacrifices are no longer required since we are now under the law of Christ. The Ten Commandments are no longer binding upon us. We must obey Christ under the New Testament.

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Questions and Answers on the Existence of God

By Tom Edwards

1) “How Do We Know That God Exists?”

We know that God exists because we exist! This doesn’t mean that He exists because we made Him up in our imagination; but, rather, that our very existence is the proof of His reality. Paul indicates this in Romans 1:19,20: “...that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His ETERNAL power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (emphasis mine). In other words, since we and everything else in the physical universe had a beginning, it required not only something that preexisted everything else (that Great “First Cause”), but also that which had high intelligence, tremendous power, and awesome abilities to bring about the creation and all things therein.

We also know that God exists by what we can infer in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that were given hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth and, therefore, prior to the New Testament Age, yet came to pass with even specific accuracy. God, thus, has that power to know beyond human ability of things to come—and through prophecy and its fulfillment, He has proven that!

2) “How Do We Know That Our Creator Wasn’t Also Created By an Even More Superior Being?”

One might say, however, that “to speak of God as having ‘preexisted’ prior to the creation,” as mentioned earlier, “doesn’t necessarily mean that He has always been. How do we know that He was not created by a God even more superior?” The answer to that is found within the word God has given us. For after acquiring faith through His word (Rom. 10:17), realizing the reality of His existence through the creation and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, and learning about the goodness of His nature, such as knowing that He cannot lie (cf. Titus 1:2), we can then very easily accept by faith the truthfulness of His word, such as in Isaiah 43:10-13, in which He says: “‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. ‘I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange god among you; So you are My witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘And I am God. Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?’” God is also referred to elsewhere as being “eternal” (Deut. 32:27), “everlasting” (Isa. 40:28); and, in addition, the idea of His being “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21:6) figuratively expresses His eternal nature.

In view of the indications of God’s reality through the creation and fulfilled prophecy, perhaps these are a couple reasons why the Bible declares that “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’ ...” (Psa. 14:1, Psa. 53:1). In other words, God’s existence should be easily accepted by any accountable person—and certainly much more reasonable to do so than to believe that everything on earth and throughout the universe came about without an Intelligent Designer behind it all.

Recently, I watched a BBC documentary of a baby developing in the womb. It was interesting to see that in just 18 to 19 days from conception, the heart began to form and then started functioning at around the 21 or 22 day. The heart, of course, is necessary in distributing food and oxygen for the continuation of the baby to develop and is, therefore, said to be “one of the first recognizable organs to form.” But while seeing the entirety of this unformed substance begin to form its own heart, I began to think of how anyone could actually deny this amazing process as having been made possible by God. For how would an unintelligible mass know it needs to first form the heart in order that the rest of the development can also occur? And that is just the heart! Think, too, of all the other organs that will also become necessary to sustain life. It is said that the body is made up of 70 vital organs. The top 10, in countdown fashion, are the bladder, the skin, the small and large intestines, the kidneys, the spleen, the stomach, the liver, the lungs, the heart, and the brain. Each one has its own special function, and each one has its own design, and each one is made up of numerous cells. But how did each cell know of which group of organ cells it was to be a part of and how it was to form with the others of that group to make possible a particular needed organ, and where it was to reside in the body? According to Smithsonian.com, the body is made up of 37.2 trillion cells! But each one is not merely anywhere in some haphazard fashion throughout the body; but, rather, where it needs to be with purpose in forming and performing. We know that all of that was made possible by the DNA code, but how did that highly complex code come about? Could we not compare it to a computer program? Modern technology has provided us with a wide array of programs to use in our computers and other electronic devices. We see on our screens what they can do. But within each program or app is the needed line after line of computer language that gives the instructions that make the program what it is, how it appears, and how it functions. For example, Windows 10 is said to have about 50 million lines of code, while Facebook has 61 million, and Google (with all its Internet services) is 2 billion lines of code! But if we thought of each human genome pair in our DNA as a line of code, it would require 3.3 billion lines! So just as a lifeless computer program has the need for an intelligent programmer, the same is similarly true of us—but of the need for a Creator who can also give life to that which He makes!

Yes, we can know that God exists because we exist!

3) “How Do We Know That God STILL Exists, and Is Not Now Dead?”

Someone might admit that God once existed, created all things, and set everything up to continue as it does—but could it be that God now no longer exists?

Fifty-one years ago, on the never-before pictureless cover of Time, were the three words—in large, red letters on a black background—that asked the question, “Is God Dead?” It was the cover story for the April 8, 1966 edition. Even 42 years later, the Los Angeles Times referred to it as being one of the “10 magazine covers that shook the world.” Do some still ask that question today? “Is God dead?”

The good news is that God is very much alive and well! He still exists and will always do so, because He is eternal. For that which is eternal cannot die. Even Jesus, who was put to death on the cross, only had His human body (which had a beginning) to die, while His true essence (His eternal spirit, which has always been) was still very much alive and in Paradise (cf. Luke 23:43) for those three days following His death and until His resurrection. Similarly, Jesus speaks of Himself figuratively as being the Bread of Life “which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die” (Jn. 6:50). And that “If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death” (Jn. 8:52). In saying these things, Jesus does not mean that a person who keeps the Lord’s word will never die physically, but that spiritual death will never come to the one who does so. His soul will remain spiritually alive unto God—rather than spiritually dead.

Imagine, for example, that before God could die, one would have to first go back in a time machine to the “beginning” of God, that time when He first came into existence. But since God has always existed, the individual in the time machine would never arrive at the “time” when God began. God, of course, dwells in eternity and not in linear time as we do or as indicated in this example. But we are using a stretch of endless time in both directions, past and future, to represent eternity and to point out that there will never be an end to God, any more than you could actually find a “beginning” of His existence—since He has always been. And what God, therefore, has always been, He will also always be. This, too, means that He never had to acquire or develop good traits or qualities, as we do. For His virtues have always and perfectly been a part of who and what He is. When the Psalmist, therefore, declares, “...Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psa. 90:2), he is not prophesying that God will still be God at some future time; but, rather, that God already is filling all eternity as fully God. It is only because we cannot actually imagine eternity that we think in terms of the linear time that we do know, with its past, present, and future. But how wondrously different an eternity in heaven will truly be!

Isn’t it great to know that this God, the only true and living God who has always been and always will be, also wants us to enjoy an eternity with Him in heaven? What an unsurpassed experience that will be for all those who believe and obey God’s plan of salvation!

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Political Correctness and the Christian

By Doy Moyer

Christians increasingly must deal with political correctness (PC). This is the idea, according to the online dictionary (.com), of “avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental.” They even add that PC is tied to “demonstrating progressive ideals,” and particularly involves “race and gender.” PC is quite pervasive these days, and at times it feels like we are walking on egg shells just to avoid offending anyone. How ought Christians to look at this issue?

Look at it through a biblical lens, not merely a political or social lens. It’s easy to fall prey to political propaganda today, but this issue must not be decided politically. We must see matters through the lens of Scripture and let that be what determines what we do. Understand the biblical principles by which we operate. There are several, so let’s be reminded of a few:

First, be dedicated to spiritual truth. Our salvation depends on it (1 Tim. 2:4; John 8:31-32), and this dedication is bigger than whatever winds of change happen in culture.

Second, and no less than the first, be dedicated to loving both God and others (the two greatest commandments, Matt. 22:36-40). “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).

Ephesians 4:15 puts truth and love together. “Speaking the truth in love” helps us mature in both doctrine and attitude. One without the other is futile. Where political correctness violates either of these, then we must avoid it.

Third, we should, as Paul, strive to become all things to all people (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Paul’s purpose for doing this was “so that I might win” others, “for the sake of the gospel,” to Christ.

Fourth, understand the limitations. We are to discern right from wrong (Heb. 5:12-14), which also means discerning what is morally or spiritually necessary from that which is not so.

Fifth, approach the world with wisdom. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:5-6). This should be a major factor in how we consider our reaction to PC.

Correlating to the above, then, here is what we can gather for practical application:

1. If speaking politically correct involves compromising God’s truth (e.g., by refusing to talk about sin), then it must be avoided. Truth is more important than anyone’s agenda, and truth will often be offensive to those who don’t want to hear it. This is what Jesus faced: “Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’” (Matt. 15:12). Paul faced it, also: “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). If speaking truth means the world is offended, we must never give up the truth to placate the world.

2. If our actions that involve political correctness (to whatever degree we practice it) are not motivated by love, then we are not doing anyone any good (1 Cor. 13:1-3). If we purposively speak politically incorrect, not from teaching the gospel of truth, but in order to push buttons and irritate those with whom we disagree, then we are being divisive and acting in a way that will likely drive people away from Christ.

3. Becoming all things to all men means that we try to understand our times, understand where others are coming from, and purposively act in a way that points them to Christ. There may be matters of PC that we personally dislike, but if it is not sinful, and if it helps to provide more opportunities for teaching about Jesus, then we should, in such cases, act lovingly and speak without trying to offend. The gospel makes people Christians, not Americans, so if our motivation is just to act like patriotic Americans, and in that process become unnecessarily offensive, we have missed the point that we are citizens of a much greater kingdom that takes precedence (Phil. 3:20-21).

4. If the PC issue is not a matter of moral or spiritual necessity, then what is our purpose for being stubborn about particular terminology? If someone is offended by being called a certain term, for example, and it really boils down to a preference, then why would we purposively keep speaking offensively? That is just being obnoxious, not spiritual.

5. We should always consider the wisdom of speaking in a manner that is not offensive to others, given the other caveats above. We are told to speak with grace, to act with wisdom, to respond appropriately to each person. If we know something is offensive and yet doesn’t violate the above principles, then wisdom tells us to be gracious about it. Give up what is offensive if possible. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18).

The goal, as always, is to glorify God. Seek the wisdom of His word, and let the biblical principles guide us in how we act toward the world.

Some Final Thoughts From James Baker About This Article

PC will send a lot of people to hell, and the reason is PC is not the commandment of God. PC is the thoughts and dogma of man, and it is floating around. If you want to be deceived it is easy to do. Just ignore the word of God and start listening to and conforming to men.

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Prehistoric Man

By Tom Edwards

Since prehistoric simply means “of or pertaining to the time prior to recorded history” (Webster), how can that phrase still be used when even the very first day of creation is recorded in the Bible, along with the six following days and what God did on each of those days? Recorded is the account of the first man and the first woman, their descendants, and events from that time that are also included in the book of Genesis to give us a look at the world in that beginning and early period of man.

As the Bible points out, Adam was created in the image of God, along with a female counterpart to be his wife and helper. They were given dominion over all else that had been made. They were to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:26-28). We are even shown of their diet to have been vegetarian at that time: Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you? (v. 29) — even the animals were then vegetarian, rather than carnivorous (v. 30).

We are also given the names of these first two people: “Adam” (Gen. 2:20) and “Eve” (Gen. 3:20). “Adam” is a transliteration from the Hebrew word “adam” and is said to mean “red earth” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary). It is also the same Hebrew word that is found in 348 other Bible verses where, instead of being used as a proper noun, it is used as a common noun that is translated primarily as “man,” and in 9 verses as “mankind.” It is also translated as “human” (19 times), “person” (6), “anyone” (4), and some other ways in the NASB.

By the way, the Hebrew word for “ground,” which the flesh of Adam was made from (Gen. 2:7), is “adamah.” And though that verse actually says “dust of the ground,” yet “dust” itself is defined by James Strong “(as powdered or gray); hence clay, earth, mud.”

We are also told of where that first couple lived, in the garden of Eden, and of the four specific rivers that flowed from the main river running through the garden (Gen. 2:8-14). Two we are probably more familiar with: the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

Adam was to take care of the garden (Gen. 2:15); and from any tree in it, they could freely eat — except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (vv. 16,17).

Adam also had the responsibility of naming all the animals that God had made (vv. 19-20).

We are told of the how and why that Eve came about (vv. 18,21-25)—because it was not good for the man to be alone. Perhaps God did it that way to symbolically show how much the wife was to be a part of her husband’s life, since she was made from Adam’s rib, which God fashioned into a woman.

On and on, we could continue with early events that this first couple on earth experienced, such as their sin and expulsion from the garden (Gen. 3); their children and other descendants (beginning in chapter 4 and more seen in chapter 5); the corruption that led up to the days of Noah, and God’s specific instructions to Noah in building an ark; the great universal flood, and the time spent on the ark (Gen. 6-8). Noah and his family back on dry ground to repopulate the earth, given the promise that God would never again destroy the entire earth with a flood, and now allowed to also include meat in their diets (Gen. 9). More descendants listed in Genesis 10. The Tower of Babel, and the beginning of the different languages; those of the same language going off into their own groups and being scattered abroad over all the earth; and another genealogical record including ages at death and ending in Genesis 11 with Abraham, along with mentioning that his father passed away in Haran. The history then continues of Abraham, followed by Isaac, Jacob, and others through the rest of Genesis—and especially of Joseph in chapter 37 and his time in Egypt in chapters 39-48 and also in chapter 50 which ends with his death.

These are all historical events from a most reliable source. The word "Genesis" actually means "an origin, creation, or beginning" (Webster), which is well-fitting for this first book of the Bible. Genesis covers about a 2,400-year period from Adam (at the beginning of the Creation) to the death of Joseph.

“Prehistoric man,” however, is often depicted as having evolved from an apelike creature, but slowly developing more of today’s human characteristics through long periods of time. In his early version, his vocabulary is sometimes portrayed as not much more than a few different kinds of grunts or other sounds.

But how does that compare with the very first man Adam who was articulate? He communicated with God, with his wife, and had the responsibility of giving names to all the animals. In speaking of his wife, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23). And Eve, when tempted to take of the forbidden fruit, said to the tempter, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ’You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die”? (Gen. 3:2,3). Both Adam and Eve could well communicate — and could understand not only each other, but also what God had been saying to them.

According to a published paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the earliest evidence of man’s use of fire goes back to 1 million years ago; and since evolution teaches that man began evolving from an apelike creature 6 million years ago, then that was about 5 million years before he was able to master the use of fire.

But the Bible, which does not teach the general theory of evolution, nor of man being millions of years on this planet, shows Abel, the son of the first man Adam, offering “the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” as an offering to God (Gen. 4:4). Would we not assume that fire was used with that sacrifice? During the Mosaical Period, God’s instruction with regard to the firstborn of an ox, a sheep, or a goat was that they were not to be redeemed. Rather, “You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and shall offer up their fat in smoke as an offering by fire, for a soothing aroma to the Lord. Their meat shall be yours; it shall be yours like the breast of a wave offering and like the right thigh” (Num. 18:17-18). This period of time, however, was about 2,500 years after the time of Abel.

Job, however, was a man who lived during the Patriarchal Age. In a chronological reading of the Bible, the book of Job is placed right after Genesis 11, which mentions Abram’s birth in the end of that chapter and goes more into the life of Abram in Genesis 12. But notice Job 18:5: “Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out, And the flame of his fire gives no light.” And in Job 23:10: “...When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Many centuries later, God said through Isaiah, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10, ESV). The use of fire appears to have been very early in the history of man.

Concerning Adam and Eve’s first two sons, “...Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Gen. 4:4).

Cain had a son named Enoch who built a city (Gen. 4:17). Enoch became the father of Irad, who became the father of Mehujael, who became the father of Methushael, who became the father of Lamech. And Lamech became the father of Jabal who was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock, which indicates a nomadic way of life, that kind that is still practiced in some parts of the world today. Lamech was also the father of Jubal who was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe (Gen. 4:20, 21), which is also referred to as stringed and wind instruments. Isn’t it interesting that even way back then, just 8 generations from Adam, the world had musical instruments? Lamech was also the father of Tubal-cain who was a forger of all implements of bronze and iron. How creative man was—even way back then in the most ancient of history!

I suppose the speculation of some would be that these individuals even Adam and Eve were not until some billions of years after the earth was made. For the general theory of evolution teaches that it took about 4 billion years since the beginning of the earth until man evolved into being similar to how he is today. Yet, as we have recently seen, it was “In the beginning” that God “created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). And man was made on the 6th day of creation (Gen. 1:24-31), with each day, being like our 24-hour day, having its evening and a morning (Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23, 31). So man did not begin 4 billion years after the earth had begun, but within the first week! Jesus’ declaration in Mark 10:6 also confirms this: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.”

The depiction of early man through the eyes of many today is far different from what is revealed in God’s word. And while man’s depiction is from the mind of man, God’s word, the Bible, contains His trustworthy account of those portions of His creation and the events that occurred, which He has seen fit to reveal through His divinely inspired word. What history book could be more authoritative and enlightening of actual fact? For God has never had to speculate, assume, or guess of these things in His account.

May we all, therefore, take the time to read this most important of all books the Bible. For it is more than a story. More than just a true account. For it also shows the way for fallen man to come back to His Creator, to be redeemed and brought into a meaningful relationship with God, which becomes a way of life -- and a life that ultimately leads to the blissfulness of heaven’s glory forevermore!

So may it be a book we each learn to love more and more as we repeatedly consider it, find great comfort in meditating upon it, and enjoy the blessings of God in living according to it -- throughout all our days. And for the world, in general, how wonderfully improved the present, the future, and the history of man would be if each one of us would do this!

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Bitter For Sweet

By Josué Hernandez

Today we call it:

1. “Art” when it is really pornography.

2. “Clever” when it is actually malignant or sinister.

3. “Old fashioned” when it is decent and godly.

4. “Authentic” when someone is rebellious.

5. “Honest” when someone is irreverent or obnoxious.

6. “Frank” when someone is rude or coarse.

7. “Prudent” when someone is too cowardly to respond.

8. "Open minded” when they lack morals.

9. “A good family” when they mean a successful worldly family.

10. “Good profit or business” of institutional theft.

11. "Cultured” of someone who is knowledgeable.

12. “Lovemaking” when it is fornication.

13. "An affair” for adultery.

14. “Intellectual” of any philosophy that excludes faith in God.

15. “For adults only” of anything that is immoral.

16. “The fetus” of the baby in the womb.

17. “Start all over again” when what they have in mind is adultery.

18. “Women's health” when it is the death of a baby.

19. “A woman's choice” when the choice is murder.

20. “He really knows how to live” when he is wasting his money in all kinds of pleasures.

But a false label cannot change the reality!

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

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False Ideals Regarding Death

By Wayne Jackson

Each day of our existence we are reminded of the grim reality of death.

It haunts us. We know so little about it. In fact, we know almost nothing regarding this ultimate physical experience, except for what is revealed in the Bible. But the biblical information is limited, and so false notions about death permeate society’s thinking. The following discussion represents a brief survey of some of these erroneous concepts.

Death Is an Illusion

Mary Baker Eddy, founder of “Christian Science,” alleged that “there is no death” (n.d., 575). She contended that death is but an “illusion.” How can a rational person subscribe to such a notion? We mention this more as a matter of oddity than anything else. Mrs. Eddy’s tombstone is an eloquent argument against this absurd doctrine.

Death Is Nothing More than the Ultimate Biological Reality

To the atheist, death is no more than the cessation of earthly life. But death is much more than a mere biological phenomenon. Just as life is a gift from God (Acts 17:25), so death is a divine punishment for sin. This does not mean, of course, that every time someone dies such is the consequence of his or her personal sin. Even innocent babies die.

But the fact is, God warned grandfather Adam that death would be the result of disobedience (Genesis 2:17), and Paul reaffirmed this divine truth: “[T]hrough one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

In a manner of speaking, Adam stood as the representative of the human race. When the first man violated Heaven’s law, humanity was cursed with the penalty of having to suffer the consequence of that initial transgression—though not the personal guilt. The truth is, the entire creation has been blighted as a result of sin (cf. Romans 8:20-22).

Skeptics ridicule the biblical narrative regarding the commencement of death. It is viewed as an absurd myth that belongs in the Stone Age (Allen 1990, 108). But no infidel can explain why death occurs. If life had the ability to “jump-start” itself, as evolution’s theory of spontaneous generation asserts, why can’t it sustain itself within the individual? And is it not remarkable that evolution—supposedly a progressive, refining process—has not been able to eliminate death? If “natural selection” is working toward a higher evolutionary pinnacle, why doesn’t science observe an increase in human vitality? Actually, just the reverse is true. The history of biological life is a record of degeneration, not regeneration (see Jackson 1994, 2-3). Why haven’t we evolved immortality? Death is an argument that no materialist can answer!

Why hasn’t modern medicine been able to make significant advancement in human longevity over the past three thousand years? In David’s day, men lived to three-score and ten years—perhaps with strength to four-score—on average (cf. Psalm 90:10). We have not improved these statistics with our twentieth-century medical technology. Some people are paying thousands of dollars to have their bodies frozen, in the hope that science will discover a cure for the cause of their demise. They aspire to be ultimately thawed in order to resume an eternal earthly existence. What futility! Mortality points strikingly to God.

Death Is Merely a Transition to a New Mode of Earthly Existence

In India, four hundred million Hindus believe in reincarnation. This is the idea that the human soul passes through a series of earthly phases, i.e., bodies human or animal—depending upon the particular ideology—before finally attaining release from this chain of events. In recent years, New Age zealots in this country (e.g., Shirley MacLaine) have popularized the idea of the transmigration of the soul. Recent polls suggest that more than half of the American public believes in the possibility of these experiences. However, with the exception of a few miraculous cases back in history (e.g., the resurrection of Lazarus), “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). Each human being will give an account to the Lord for the deeds done in his “body”—not bodies (2 Corinthians 5:10). Bible teaching contradicts the idea of reincarnation.

Death Is the Termination of Human Existence

Suicide has reached epidemic proportions in America. Self-murder is becoming an increasingly popular way to “end it all.” But the fact is, death ends only one’s earthly existence, not his personal existence. Biblical evidence makes it abundantly clear that at the point of death, the spirit of a person merely leaves the body (James 2:26). Separation, however, is not the same as extinction.

Scriptural information indicates that in death the soul of man enters the Hadean realm (cf. Revelation 1:18; 20:13, 14). The narrative regarding the rich man and Lazarus forcefully reveals that death does not terminate human existence (Luke 16:19-31). Too, Christ promised the penitent thief that the two of them would be together again in Paradise that very day, following their respective deaths (Luke 23:43). Every biblical passage which speaks of the coming judgment argues for the continuity of human existence.

Death Is a State of Non-conscious Existence

While the Bible speaks of death as a “sleep,” that term is used only of the disposition of the body. Scripture knows nothing of “soul-sleeping.” The part of man which “sleeps” in death is that which is deposited in the dust of the ground (Daniel 12:2). This involves only the body, not the soul. Again, both the rich man and Lazarus were conscious following their deaths (Luke 16:19-31). Moreover, those souls who had been martyred for the cause of Christ, as depicted in Revelation 6:9-11, were obviously conscious as they cried out for divine justice on their behalf. (For further study, see Are the Dead Conscious?).

Death Involves the Continuity of Human Family Relationships

Our Mormon friends subscribe to the doctrine of “celestial” marriage. This is the notion that marriage is not for time only, it is for eternity as well—for those who reach the highest degree of exaltation (Smith 1952, section 132). But this dogma is woefully at variance with the testimony of Jesus. Certain Sadducees posed a problem for the Lord: A woman had been married successively to seven brothers during her lifetime. Whose wife would she thus be in the resurrection? Christ responded: “You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29, 30). The marriage relationship does not obtain in heaven.

There Is No Recognition after Death

Some allege that there will not be any remembrance of earthly relationships in heaven. Supposedly, heaven’s citizens could not be happy with the awareness that unredeemed loved ones are not there. However, the Bible presents solid evidence that there will be recognition in the celestial region. The Old Testament patriarchs fully expected to be reunited with their redeemed loved ones (Genesis 25:8; 37:35; 2 Samuel 12:23). The Lord promised that we will fellowship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11). Will one know when that promise is realized? If so, then the patriarchs will be recognized. And if we will know them, it is certain they will know each other! I have discussed this topic at greater length elsewhere (Jackson 1987, 1-3).

Death Constitutes a Period of Probation and Preparation

A number of religious groups advocate concepts which suggest the possibility of preparation for eternity after death. Roman Catholicism, for example, has the doctrine of purgatory—the place where souls are supposedly purged of sin before they enter heaven. Mormonism advocates the notion of “baptism for the dead.” Charles T. Russell, founder of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” argued that salvation is not “confined to the present life” (1912, 9ff). But there is no truth in these vain hopes.

After death, there is only the prospect of judgment—not a further opportunity for obedience (Hebrews 9:27). In the parable of the virgins, Jesus taught that in whatever condition one goes to “sleep,” i.e., dies, in exactly that same state he will meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). Moreover, there is a permanent, impassible chasm between the place of punishment and that of reward, and no man can cross it (Luke 16:26). There is no post-mortem plan of salvation. Now is the day of redemption (2 Corinthians 6:2).

It Is Possible to Communicate with the Dead

According to recent surveys, more than half of all Americans believe they have been in contact with someone who has died. But the Bible teaches that the dead have no knowledge at all as to what is transpiring upon this earth (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6; cf. Isaiah 63:16). If the rich man of Luke 16 could have communicated with his brothers on earth, he surely would have done so (Luke 16:27-31), but he was powerless to reach them. The fact of the matter is, the Scriptures condemn even an attempt to contact the dead (cf. Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27).

Death Is the Final and Permanent State of the Body

The ancient Sadducees denied the ultimate resurrection of the human body (Matthew 22:23). Their modern counterparts, the advocates of “realized eschatology,” are similarly deceived. Max King alleges that the resurrection discussed in 1 Corinthians 15 is merely a “resurrection” of the Christian cause from a period of intense Jewish persecution, and that such resurrection was fulfilled in A.D. 70 with the fall of Judaism (1987, 429ff). A more perverted concept cannot be imagined.

The Bible affirms that our resurrection from the dead on the “last day” (cf. John 11:24) will be analogous to the Lord’s bodily resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:20; cf. Philippians 3:20). Actually, Paul puts the denial of a future bodily resurrection in the same category as a repudiation of the resurrection of Christ himself (1 Corinthians 15:13-16). What are the consequences of proclaiming such a heresy?

How tragic that there are so many false ideas regarding death. It is incumbent upon the serious Bible student to study the sacred Scriptures so that he does not fall into any of these fallacious views.

REFERENCES

• Allen, Steve. 1990. Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.

• Eddy, Mary Baker. n.d. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Boston, MA: First Church of Christ, Scientist.

• Jackson, Wayne. 1987. Does Personal Recognition Exist Beyond Death? Christian Courier, May, Vol. 23, No. 1.

• Jackson, Wayne. 1994. Genesis and Degeneration. Christian Courier, May, Vol. 30, No. 1.

• King, Max R. 1987. The Cross and The Parousia of Christ. Warren, OH: Parkman Rd. Church of Christ.

• Russell, Charles T. 1912. Russell-White Debate. Cincinnati, OH: F. L. Rowe Publisher.

• Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1952. Doctrine & Covenants. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES

Acts 17:25; Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12; Romans 8:20-22; Psalm 90:10; Hebrews 9:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10; James 2:26; Revelation 1:18, 20:13, 14; Luke 16:19-31; Luke 23:43; Daniel 12:2; Revelation 6:9-11; Matthew 22:29, 30; Genesis 25:8, 37:35; 2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 8:11; Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 16:26; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6; Isaiah 63:16; Luke 16; Luke 16:27-31; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 27; Matthew 22:23; 1 Corinthians 15; John 11:24; 1 Corinthians 15:20; Philippians 3:20; 1 Corinthians 15:13-16

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Mentally Strong People Don't

Amy Morin, adapted

Mental strength isn’t often reflected in what you do; it’s usually seen in what you don’t do. It’s about controlling your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.

They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. Feeling sorry for yourself is self-destructive. Indulging in self-pity hinders living a full life. It wastes time, creates negative emotions, and hurts relationships.

They don’t give away their power. People give away their power when they lack boundaries. Stand up for yourself and draw the line when necessary. If other people are in control of your actions, they define your success and self-worth.

They don’t shy away from change. Rather, they embrace the inevitable. Making changes can be frightening, but shying away from them prevents growth.

They don’t focus on things they can’t control. Instead, they focus on what they can do. Trying to be in control of everything is likely a response to anxiety.

They don’t worry about pleasing everyone. Judging ourselves by what other people think of us is the opposite of mental toughness. People-pleasing is a waste of time. People-pleasers are easily manipulated.

They don’t fear taking calculated risks. Instead, they prepare for what’s ahead. A lack of knowledge about how to calculate risk leads to increased fear. To better analyze a risk, ask yourself the following questions: What are the potential costs, What are the potential benefits?, How will this help me achieve my goal?, What are the alternatives?, How good would it be if the best-case scenario came true?, What is the worst thing that could happen?, How bad would it be if the worst-case scenario did come true?, How much will this decision matter in five years?

They don’t dwell on the past. They do take time to reflect and learn from the past, but the past is in the past. There’s no way to change what happened, and dwelling on it can be self-destructive, preventing you from enjoying the present and planning for the future.

They don’t make the same mistakes over and over. They accept responsibility and change behavior. Study what went wrong, what you could have done better, and how to do it differently next time.

They don’t resent other people’s success. Focusing on another person’s success will not pave the way to your own, since it distracts you from your path. Even if you become successful, you may never be content if you’re always focusing on others. You may also overlook your talents and abandon your values and relationships.

They don’t give up after the first failure. Success isn’t immediate, and failure is almost always an obstacle you will have to overcome. Thinking that failure is unacceptable or that it means you aren’t good enough does not reflect mental strength.

They don’t fear alone time. They make time for solitude. Solitude can increase productivity.

They don’t feel the world owes them anything. No one is entitled to anything. It must be earned. The key is to focus on your efforts, accept criticism, acknowledge your flaws, and don’t keep score.

They don’t expect immediate results. They do take small steps toward the goal. Develop realistic expectations and an understanding that success doesn’t happen overnight to reach your full potential. Mentally weak people are often impatient. They overestimate their abilities and underestimate how long change takes.

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Does Romans Call for the Death of Homosexuals?

By Doy Moyer

Bad interpretations can have devastating consequences. This is especially seen in the recent debates regarding the LGBT movement and the push to get those who oppose the practices to bow to the movement and, not just tolerate it, but affirm and condone it. A good example of the “bad interpretation” problem is seen in an article published on Roll Call. The headline says, “Homosexuals ’Worthy of Death’ Bible Verse Read Before Key Note.” Rep. George Allen led a prayer by reading first from Romans 1:18-32. This, of course, has been condemned as being “vile and dangerous remarks,” and accuses Allen of spreading hate. The author writes, “Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior.” This was interpreted to mean that those present “heard a Bible verse that calls for death for homosexuals.”

This is not about the circumstances in which the prayer was made or the political ramifications of what they were voting on, but rather how a Bible verse interpreted so badly can do more damage in the minds of the interpreters than can ever be warranted. The fault lies not with Scripture, but with horrific interpretive lenses based on political agendas rather than sound theology. We often make the point that people can make the Bible say anything they want if they are willing to twist things, and this is another case in point. Only this time it is not to allow for a practice that is desirable, but rather to try to show how a Bible passage spreads hatred by calling for practicing homosexuals to die.

Interestingly (though not funny), the same people who now say that this Bible reading calls for the death (i.e., execution) of homosexuals would have also told Bible believers that the Bible nowhere condemns homosexual behavior and should not be seen as a barrier to the acceptance of the LGBT agenda. Which is it? The fact that they react so strongly to Romans 1 shows that they know that Scripture does not condone homosexual practice. Now they take this another step by saying that the passage calls for their deaths. If they can make this stick, then they will have sufficient political warrant to ban Scripture altogether because it foments hatred and violence against the LGBT community. Just watch.

Not so fast. A careful reading of the text, coupled with a careful notation of the context of Romans, shows that the book does not in any way “call for the death” of homosexuals. It does show that the practice is sinful, so what does the whole “worthy of death” phrase mean in verse 32?

First, whether this passage is referring to spiritual or physical death is debated (I believe it is spiritual), but even if physical death is under view, it is not a call for others to take such action. That, in fact, goes against the whole message of Romans, which prohibits any individual from taking personal vengeance or harming anyone else (read chapters 12-13). It would simply be saying that sinners are “worthy” of it without calling for violent action against the practitioners. There is a difference, and the passage cannot rightly be interpreted as some kind of overarching call to kill anyone. In other words, it does not mean “kill those who do this,” and any interpretation that makes it say that is doing extreme violence to the text. Let’s pray that no believer would actually take it that way. The point is that we all know that death is a horrible consequence of sin.

Second, the point being made is not that certain people need to die. Paul is setting up a bigger argument here, and the text cannot be rightly interpreted in isolation. I wonder how many who are reading this passage as a “call for death” have actually studied Romans as a whole and seen the overarching context of Paul’s argument. It is unconscionable that anyone who has done this would ever come up with the interpretive spin being put on this text for political purposes.

Third, please notice in the reading of Romans 1:18-32 that those who engage in homosexual practices are not the only ones in the list: “God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful” (vv. 28-31).

If this is meant to be a “call for death” for homosexuals, then it is also a “call for death” for everyone who has ever been unrighteous, wicked, greedy, evil, envious, deceitful, malicious, murderous, and full of strife. This includes gossips, slanderers, the boastful, and the unmerciful. You get the point. Who among us is not in that same list somewhere? If this is meant to say that homosexuals ought to be executed, then it is meant to say that all of us ought to be executed. And then, no one would be left. But the truth stands: all of us are “worthy of death.” Romans 1:32 uses the legal term, “decree.” If we are standing on trial, we know the decree, and we know the penalty for violation. We are all guilty. None are righteous (Rom. 3:10).

This brings us to the point that Paul is really making. Sin makes everyone -- EVERYONE -- worthy of death. That includes me and you, straight or gay, male or female, American or otherwise. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). To crook our fingers only over to homosexual behavior, then to act smugly like we don’t fit into that same passage, is to make the same grave mistake that many back then made:

“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:1-3)

But if all of us are worthy of death, then why is Paul writing Romans? Look, this is not a full exegesis of Romans, and I know all too well that there are debates over the interpretation of the whole book, but I hope we can all agree on this point. Paul wrote Romans in order to show that, even though all of us are worthy of death because of sin, God enacted another plan that changes the outcome of this problem. Paul wasn’t writing this in order to lay out the penalty that all should have known (sin causes death), but was writing in order to show the solution of grace. Legally, God can condemn us, but that’s not what He wants to do. Romans 1 is part of the set up to show how everyone is guilty, but God wasn’t willing to leave it at that.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23-24).

“Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:21-23).

Paul speaks of death multiple times in Romans, but he does this in order to demonstrate how God delivers sinners from death through His grace. In other words, Romans is a textbook gospel message, and even before he speaks of anyone being “worthy of death,” he has already proclaimed, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ’But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (1:16-17).

In other words, we must not read any of the “worthy of death” language without also seeing God’s offer of grace, of which we are not worthy. God is willing to exchange what we are worthy of (death) for what we are not worthy of (grace, salvation). Thank the Lord for this!

Yet none of that should be mistaken for thinking that we can continue to do whatever we wish. The gospel is a message of salvation, but it is also a message of repentance from that which makes us all worthy of death. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)

If God’s patience, kindness, and grace does not lead us to repent, then we only have ourselves to blame for the outcome. We are all guilty. We are all deserving of death. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. Paul’s argument in Romans presents a beautiful picture of the grace of God, into which, through faith, we may gain access.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

Please drop the horrible interpretations that foster only political agendas and divisions. See the book for what it is: a mature theology of God’s grace for those who otherwise could only see death because of sin. It’s for all of us.

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Letter to President Donald J. Trump

By James Baker

Greetings President Trump:

I want to congratulate you on becoming the 45th president of the greatest country on earth. You ran well and now you are in the office for which you labored so hard to enter. I am an independent, but I voted for you in this election because I felt the your party gave me the best chance to serve the Lord without being persecuted as a Christian.

I wish you the best, and I plan to support you as you attempt to bring the vision of a greater American to reality.

However, I wanted to remind you that the enormous task which you have undertaken cannot be done by you alone. You will need wise people at your side, and most of all you will need the help of Almighty God (1 Kings 3:5-14).

Listen to the words of Samuel the prophet which he spoke to the nation of Israel, after God allowed them to have their first King. Samuel warned the people to stay within the principles of God?s word and be faithful to that word and if they did so, God would bless their land (1 Samuel 12:7-8). However, if they violated the law of God; the nation along with their new King would be destroyed (1 Sam 12:14-15, 24-25).

God hasn’t changed His thoughts on that matter. He still hates a wicked nation lead by a wicked King (2 Kings 21:1-12). It is God, not man, who blesses a nation, and God does that because He is pleased with the righteousness of the land (Proverbs 14:34). God will not bless a mess. If you will not forget the word of God, you will be the one by which God will bring about the return to greatness in our land.

I want you to succeed, and I will pray for your success. And if you ever need additional Bible advice, I stand ready to help. But keep this fact in mind: the Bible teaches that no nation can become great without respect for God (Deuteronomy 28:1-68; Daniel 4:28-37).

Here’s to taking the word of the Lord and making America great again.

Sincerely,

James Baker (preacher for the Mt. Airy church of Christ)

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