Friday, April 18, 2014

Will I recognize my loved ones in Heaven?

Mankind has always pondered what eternity will be like. The Bible only gives the reader limited information about the afterlife. Oftentimes individuals will ask questions that the Bible does not answer (many of these questions are about Heaven and Hell). One common question is: “Will I recognize my loved ones in Heaven?”.

Answer:
Yes, there are numerous passages of Scripture that seem to show that individuals keep their identity and appearance in the afterlife.  Here are a few examples.

The Transfiguration
Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:1-4)
Moses and Elijah appeared next to Jesus upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter is able to recognize these two Old Testament figures.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
“But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”  (Matthew 22:31-32)
Jesus is showing the Sadducees the reality of the resurrection and afterlife. Jesus informs them that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob currently exist as “living”. It would appear that their identity must still be intact. 

Jesus’ Resurrected Body
Although Jesus was God, and He does not operate according to the same rules we often do, His resurrected body serves as an example of what our resurrected bodies may be like. It is clear from Scripture, that after the resurrection, He was recognizable.  In John 20:25 the Disciples tell Thomas “We have seen the Lord!”.

Conclusion
There is a lot of evidence to support the idea that we will recognize each-other in Heaven. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from NASB95.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What does Hebrews 13:17? Does it mean I have to do whatever a church leader says?

Hebrews 13:17 states,
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” (NASB). 
This passage is often used to promote the idea of total obedience to church leaders (such as Elders or Bishops). In some religious circles it is used as a proof-text for Pastoral Rule in a church. Is this what the passage is teaching? This post will ask a few questions of this verse in an attempt to better understand and apply its teachings.

Who are the “leaders”?
Scripture is its own best interpreter. Many form the conclusion from this passage that the “leaders” by necessity must be “elders”, but is that conclusion warranted? Previously in this same section of Scripture, the Hebrew writer declares, 
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7 NASB).
The leaders in 13:17 are the same as those who “led” in verse 7. The leaders in verse 7 are those who “spoke the word of God to you”. The Hebrew Christians needed to go back to what they were taught. They needed to remember these good leaders (whether, elders, apostles, preachers or teachers) and consider the “result of their conduct” and “imitate their faith”.  

These godly leaders had taught the Truth, and were living the Truth. The Hebrew Christians needed to follow what they were taught by them. If they didn’t, they would run the risk of being “carried away by varied and strange teachings”  (13:9 NASB).

These godly leaders cared about these Christians, in fact, the Hebrew writer states in verse 17 that they “keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account”. A person who speaks the Word of God to another is watching out for that person’s soul, and will give an account for what they are teaching and how they are living. This would include elders, but there is nothing in this passage that would exclude other teachers of Scripture such as apostles or preachers.

What does it mean to “obey”?
This term often causes confusion and results in false ideas. The English term “obey” is very strong. When employed, images of kings and dictators often come to mind. No other passage of Scripture paints church leaders as rulers who must always be “obeyed”. Is this what this verse is teaching?

The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek word translated “obey” in verse 17 is peitho. This writer is of the conclusion that “obey” is NOT an accurate translation of peitho in this section of Scripture. Most lexicons give the possible definitions of “persuade”, “convince”, “trust” and even “obey”. The student of God's Word must determine what definition is the most accurate for verse 17? Remember, Scripture is its own best interpreter and usage determines meaning. We must ask, how is the word peitho used in Scripture?

There is an abundance of New Testament passages that contain this term. In the NASB, most of the passages translate the word peitho as “persuaded”. However, different books are written by different authors and one Bible writer may use a term differently from another. 

When trying to determine the definition of a term, it is best to look at its usage in the passage and book under consideration. In the book of Hebrews, the word peitho is used  4 times (2:13, 6:9, 13:17,1 18). To the Bible student, the verse that should stand out immediately is 13:18 because it is in the same passage as the verse under consideration. In our English Bibles it is easy to miss that the same term is being used. In the NASB, Hebrews 13:18 reads,
“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things” (Hebrews 13:18).
The word peitho in verse 18 is translated as “sure”. We are wise to assume that if a term is used in back to back verses, that its meaning is not going to change. In verse 18, the Hebrew writer states that they are “sure” that they have a good conscience. If translated as “persuaded”, “convinced”,  or “trust” in verse 18, it would still convey the same idea, but “obey” would not!

To better understand the term peitho in verse 17, we must look at peitho in verse 18. When putting these two verses together, along with the other times this term is used in the book (2:13, 6:9), it is clear that “obey” is NOT the definition the Hebrew writer had in mind.

Conclusion

Hebrews 13:17 is not a verse about blindly obeying elders. Instead it is a passage that exhorts the reader to follow the Word of God as taught by godly leaders. We need to be persuaded by, and trust those who are teaching us the Word of God. When the Word is taught, we need to submit to it and understand that our teachers are watching out for our souls. If we do not follow the teaching of godly leaders (whether by word or example), we run the risk of being carried away by false teaching. 

By Cliff Sabroe

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Should I “tithe”? How much should I give?

What does it mean to “tithe”?
While under the Law of Moses, the Israelites were commanded to give a tenth of what they earned back to God. The term “tithe” means “tenth”. The text of Leviticus reads:
 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30-32 ESV).
Should a Christian “tithe” today?
The commandment to give a tenth was for Israel for a specific purpose. This command falls under a law/covenant that we are not under today. The Old Testament Law was given to the Nation of Israel (the Jews) in order to separate them from the rest of the nations of the world and to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. All of the laws, the requirements, the feasts, the sacrifices, the priesthood, how to worship, the Sabbath and more, were designed to lead one to the Messiah (Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, that system has been done away. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote the Galatians: 
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 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. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-26 NAS).
The Old Testament Law was like a math tutor hired to get a student ready for a test. Once the student masters the material and takes the test, the tutor is no longer needed. The student may look back at what he learned, but ultimately, the tutor's purpose has been fulfilled.

Are Christians supposed to give?
Yes! Several passages show that giving should be part of the Christian’s life and part of the activity of the assembled Church. In 1 Corinthians 16 the Apostle Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give every Sunday.
 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper... (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
Although the command in this passage is specifically for one church to gather funds to help Christians in another region, it seems that a pattern is being established for the church to give when they meet. Notice, he says that he also “directed the churches of Galatia” to do this.

How much should I give?
No where in the New Testament is an amount or percentage specified. God wants us to be generous givers and God knows our hearts. If we are pushing ourselves to greater generosity all the time, God will be pleased. The second letter to the church in Corinth reads:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,  (2 Corinthians 8:1-3 NAS). 
Paul complemented the giving of the Macedonian Christians, because they gave “beyond their means”, this is a great example for us as well.

How should I give?
Oftentimes it is hard for us to give. We selfishly want everything for ourselves and have a hard time sharing. God never wants us to give with a bitter heart.  We must give cheerfully and plan ahead on how much we are going to give. God does not wants our “leftovers”.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV).
Conclusion:
God has given us so much! Let’s always be generous people who cheerfully give to others and back to Him.


By Cliff Sabroe

Monday, March 3, 2014

Who is the Man of Lawlessness in (2 Thessalonians 2)?

This author has just finished a teaching a course on the book of 2 Thessalonians. A great deal of class time was devoted to answering this question. Through my study I have concluded that the Man of Sin/Lawlessness is most likely in reference to the persecutions that originated from the Roman Emperors. 

Other popular theories among God’s people include the Roman Catholic Papacy, the Jewish Priesthood or a future evil yet to be revealed. Scripture does not definitively identify the Man of Lawlessness, so one should not be overly dogmatic about any conclusion that they draw. Dr. Dan Owen does a good job identifying the Man of Sin in light of the context of 2 Thessalonians 2. His thoughts on this often controversial passage are as follows.
The second chapter concerns some misunderstandings that were evident among the Thessalonians regarding the return of Christ. Some of them were convinced that Jesus was going to return immediately. Because of this belief, they had quit their jobs and become idle. Paul dispelled this belief by saying that Jesus would not return until two things happened. First, the “apostasy” or the “rebellion” must occur. Secondly, and in conjunction with the apostasy, the “man of lawlessness” must be revealed. There has been much wild speculation about what Paul had in mind here. The Scriptures are the best commentary. 
The most reasonable and biblical explanation of this has to do with the rise of the great persecutions from the Roman emperors in the first three hundred years of Christianity. The emperor cult grew very strong and emperors demanded that their citizens worship them as gods to demonstrate their loyalty. Those who would not do this were subjected to terrible persecutions, especially during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Decius, and Diocletian. The book of Daniel foretold all of this in Daniel 7. The Book of Revelation confirms that it happened. 
As 2 Thessalonians 2:4 states, these emperors literally placed themselves in the position of God and demanded to be worshiped. They actually built temples for their own worship and called upon people to worship them as gods. Those who promoted the emperor cult did lying signs and wonders to convince the people of the emperor’s deity. A comparison of Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2 demonstrates that “the Beast” of Revelation 13 is the same as the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2. The great “apostasy” refers to the great falling away that occurred when many Christians denied their faith in the face of this terrible persecution. The entire book of Revelation deals with how Christ eventually destroyed the Roman empire and brought peace to his people. 
A key passage in this chapter is 2:8-9. Here it says that Jesus will overthrow the man of lawlessness by the breath of his mouth at the splendor of his coming. The NIV translates this “by the splendor of his coming,” making it seem like we are talking about the coming of Jesus. In fact, the “coming” in view is not the coming of Jesus but the coming of the lawless one. As verse 9 begins, the text reads “whose coming is according to the work of Satan…” This does not refer to the coming of Jesus but the coming of the man of lawlessness. What the passage is saying is that at the height of his coming (the coming of the great Roman emperors) Jesus will destroy him. This is what happens in Revelation 19, which Christ and his armies destroy the “Beast” and his armies. It is talking about the destruction of the Roman empire. This is what had to happen before Jesus would return. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to stand firm and hold to those teachings they had received from him whether in person or by letter. (Owen, Dan - Study Your Bible Online - StudyYourBibleOnline.com).
Final Thoughts

Let’s be careful to not be overly preoccupied with questions that the Bible says little on. Often times we spend so much time on the controversial questions that we neglect the purpose of Biblical instruction. The Man of Sin is designed to illustrate a bigger point in 2 Thessalonians. That point is do not be “shaken” or “deceived” by false teaching about the 2nd Coming of Jesus.

By Cliff Sabroe 

Will the mentally handicapped go to Heaven?

This question is a little broad considering the number of different conditions that may fall under the umbrella of “mentally handicapped” or “disabled”. This question usually arises in a situation where a person is wondering if a loved-one with limited abilities will ever be able to truly “believe” and “obey” God. This post will provide a couple different thoughts to consider when faced with this question.

#1 God is loving, kind and just.

God has compassion for the less fortunate. Throughout Scripture the disabled are shown to be worthy of care. It would be contrary to God’s compassionate character for Him to condemn an individual for not doing something that they were incapable of doing. God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), and He will do everything consistent with His character to make that happen. 

God does require a person to “believe and be baptized to be saved” (Mark 16:16), however, there are some who are incapable of true belief in the Lordship of Christ. I do not believe that a loving God who wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), would punish a person for not doing something they are incapable of doing. Some mentally challenged individuals are unable to understand salvation, but we can trust that a loving God would still take care of these precious souls.

#2 Children are innocent

Sin is what keeps a person out of heaven. It is not possible for a child to truly sin. Sin is a willful transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Sin is knowing the right thing to do but choosing to do wrong (James 4:17). A child may do bad things, but a child cannot commit sin that would separate them from God for all eternity. This principle would also apply to the mentally disabled.

Jesus emphasized the pure state of a child in (Matthew 18:1-5).
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me
It can be concluded, that even an adult (who due to a disability has the mental functions of a child), would also be considered pure in the sight of God.

Conclusion

Every situation is different, there are some individuals with impaired mental abilities who still have the capacity to believe and obey Jesus. On the other hand, there are some who have disabilities so severe that they may never understand God’s Word in anyway.

God’s people need to be kind, compassionate and patient with those, who through no fault of their own, have different disabilities or special needs. The church needs to be a place where these individuals, loved by God, receive love and care from their fellow man.

By Cliff Sabroe 
Quotes from NASB95

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why would Jesus weep when Lazarus died if He knew He was going to raise him?

The shortest verse in our English Bibles is John 11:35. The verse simply states, “Jesus wept”. Jesus’ friend Lazarus has just died (John 11:14). Jesus and His disciples arrive at Bethany after Lazarus’ death and Martha greets them. She tells Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (11:21). 

Jesus responds to Martha with a powerful statement, “Your brother will rise again” (11:23), thus declaring that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Martha is confused, she believes that Jesus’ is referencing the final resurrection at judgment, but Jesus explains to her “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies...” (11:25). Jesus wants her to know that He is the source of life even after death. 

Jesus has the power to raise the dead. It seems as though Jesus predicts the resurrection of Lazarus in (vs. 23) and then in (vs. 43) He makes it happen. What makes this section perplexing to some, is that in between Him predicting the resurrection of Lazarus and it taking place, Jesus cries. Some ask, “Why would Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus if He knew that He was going to raise him?”.

What made Jesus cry?

It was not that Jesus was crying over the loss of a friend, He was crying out of love and care for those who were mourning at Lazarus’ death. Jesus knew all things, Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus, but Mary and the Jews with her did not. Mary and her companions were crying and the text reads that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and was troubled” (vs. 33). Jesus’ compassion for these people overcame Him and caused Him to weep in (vs. 35).

Some who were there wondered and assumed that Jesus was weeping over the death of Lazarus (vs. 37), but He was not. Jesus wept because His heart ached for those who were brokenhearted. Jesus cares about people. When people hurt, He hurts. In the case of Martha and her companions, He hurt so much for them that it brought Him to tears.

By Cliff Sabroe

Quotes from NASB95
Image from psdgraphics.com

Did God create evil?

Answer:
No, God did not create evil, but He does allow it to exist. God created the world and man. God created man with the ability to choose. God is eternally good and gives good laws. When a person disobeys a law of God; they are doing evil (they are sinning). God created Adam, Adam was not evil, but he did have the ability to choose to do evil. God gave Adam a law. 
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17).
Adam and Eve had the ability to choose. God gave them a rule and they chose to not follow that rule. Thus, they did evil. God did not create evil. He created people with free will and gave them laws. Beings with free will have the ability to disobey God. Evil occurs when one chooses to disobey God and sin.

God wants us to serve Him out of our own free will. God did not create mindless robots programed to serve Him. Instead, He created beings with free will, in His image, that He hopes will make the choice to serve and obey Him.

By Cliff Sabroe
Quotes from NASB95 Bible
Image from 144.tinypic.com