Is the Bible authoritative?

The Bible claims to be the Word of God. The Bible does not claim to be an inspirational message about how to be more spiritual. The Bible claims to be instructions directly from God that have been written down by men. The Bible is what God has said to men. The Bible includes God’s requirements of people.

The Bible speaks with authority. The authority of the Bible does not come from the wisdom of its teachings, though it is wise. The authority of the Bible is not based upon its instructions being superior to all others, though its principles are best. The authority of the Bible is not a result of the superior skill of its human authors or because of the many millions who have followed its instructions. The authority of the Bible is based entirely on the authority of God.

As the Word of God, the Bible has the same authority over the individual that God does. Wayne Grudem said, “To disbelieve or disobey any word of God is to disbelieve or disobey God.” This is why James 1 says, “Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.” (James 1:22) The Bible certainly expects its words to be obeyed. For example, the commands in the books of Moses come with warnings of severe consequences if they are not obeyed. And the letter to the church in Thessalonika instructs the church to punish those who did not obey its commands. (2 Thessalonians 3:14).

The Bible’s authority covers every area of life. Though the Bible does not give specific instructions about every possible situation (Scripture does not teach a dentist how to repair a broken tooth), it does give instructions that apply to every possible situation. The Bible teaches a dentist what his behavior and attitude should be while repairing a tooth. The Bible gives many specific instructions that speak directly to daily life. The Bible teaches an employee to work with diligence for the pleasure of God. (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:22-23) Scripture teaches children to obey their parents and parents to train their children with care and compassion. (Ephesians 6:1-34) The instructions in the Word of God cover every area of life, and are to be obeyed.

God in His grace has given us commands that are good for us. The commands of the Bible are always wisest and best. Through obedience to the Bible, the individual is made wise, joyful and understanding. The Bible’s commands are not always easy to obey but they are always right and good. The one who obeys God’s Word will be blessed of God. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

Will we recognize each other in heaven?

One of the great hopes for the Christian is that the separation imposed by death is only temporary. Though all grieve the loss of loved ones, the saved know that all believers will be reunited together in Heaven. We look forward to this glorious reunion, but many wonder if they will recognize their loved ones when they get to heaven.

The Bible does not give a direct answer. Some of what the Bible says about heaven gives guidance towards an answer to this question. The Bible teaches that all the saved will be robed in new bodies, glorified bodies, in heaven. First Corinthians says that at the resurrection the Christian will be given a celestial body. Paul illustrates the difference between the earthly body and the celestial body is as different as a seed is from the plant which grows. The body we have in heaven will not suffer under the effects of sin. The glorified body will be entirely perfect. The Christian’s heavenly body is nothing like the body we have now on earth.

Despite the difference between the heavenly and earthly bodies, every time a glorified saint is seen they are recognizable to others. When Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man in hell saw Abraham in heaven and recognized him. At the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples saw the glory of Jesus briefly revealed. They also saw two Old Testament saints speaking to Jesus, Moses and Elijah. These men were recognizable to the disciples. We don’t know how, since Moses and Elijah died long before the disciples lived. Yet, the two men were recognizable for who they were.

Most telling is that Jesus was recognizable after His ascension and in His overwhelming glory. Late in his life the Apostle John saw a vision of a man surrounded by golden candlesticks. John said that one was “like unto the Son of Man.” (Revelation 1:13) John then describes the overwhelming glory of Jesus, but despite the incredible display of Jesus’ majesty, He was still recognizable to one who knew Him. This suggests that Christians in heaven will also be recognizable to those who knew them on earth. 1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

Did the prophets understand what they wrote about Jesus?

The Old Testament prophets foretold many details about of the coming of Jesus, His birth, death, resurrection, forgiveness and earthly kingdom. The prophecies do not come neatly arranged, organized by topic or even given in chronological order. The prophecies are sometimes difficult to understand, are scattered throughout the prophetic messages to Israel and often rely on dramatic imagery to make the point. Bible students struggle to understand what the prophets said about Jesus, which makes many wonder how much the prophets themselves understood about what they were writing.

We know the prophets did not know all the details of Jesus’ life and death. Few, if any, of the prophets would have had been familiar with crucifixions, so even though they prophesied a painful death for the Messiah, they probably did not understand He would be hung on a cross. The words of 1 Peter 1:10-11 show that the prophets did not understand everything about the coming Messiah. “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” They understood some things and they did not understand everything. How much did they understand?

Two dangerous assumptions need to be avoided. The modern reader cannot assume the Old Testament prophets were not as smart or thoughtful as we are today. The men who wrote the Bible gave a lot of thought and attention to the things of God. Consider Psalm 119. That Psalm reveals an incredible amount of thought was put into its crafting and its subject matter. In 176 verses the Psalmist describes in great detail the wonders of the Word of God and the effect of the Word on the lives of the people of God. David is not alone in giving evidence of much meditation on the Word of God. The prophets writing show they were diligent to search Scripture and able to understand in great depth the declarations and implications of the Word.

The second assumption that must be avoided is that the prophets shared the same attitude towards the Messiah as the people of Jesus’ day. The New Testament indicates many people in Jesus’ day were looking for a Savior from Roman occupation. They were not looking for one to save them from their sins, but from their political bondage. However, the prophets did not share the delusion of a purely political Savior. They recognized the work of the Messiah was a work to make His people righteous. “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.” (Jeremiah 33:8)

The prophets understood that the Messiah would live, die and rise again for the forgiveness of sin. Possibly the clearest statement to this effect comes from the mouth of Peter in Acts 2. Peter was speaking of David’s prophecy of the death and resurrection of Jesus in Psalm 16:10. “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” Peter says that David knew the oath of God. David knew the Messiah would be raised back to life to sit on the throne of God. David understood the death and resurrection of Jesus.

It is impossible to know exactly what the Old Testament prophets knew. We can be confident they had a robust understanding of the broad outlines of the work of the Messiah. They knew He was coming to bring forgiveness and to make His people righteous. They knew He would suffer and die. They knew He would rise again. They knew He would reign over a righteous people in a righteous kingdom. The prophets understood the significance of what they wrote. They may not have understood the work of Jesus as fully as we do today, but they understood it enough.

How should I respond to a loved one who has just come out as a homosexual?

During this holiday season some Christian’s gathering with friends and family will be faced with the challenge of responding to a loved one who has recently come out as a homosexual. Responding wisely to this heart breaking news presents a lot of challenges for the concerned Christian who wants to help homosexual loved ones.

The Christian cannot approve of this sin, yet it is not always appropriate for you to tell them of your disapproval. Use wisdom and discernment to decide if you should speak to the person about their homosexuality. The deciding factor must not be that you have a strong desire to say something to them. Do not speak just because you want to get something off your chest. Speak if you are in a position where you are responsible to correct them or if they seek your input.

Be aware that any response you give short of applause and full affirmation will possibly be seen as unkind, hurtful or toxic. Be ready to show your love for the person though they do not respond well to your words. Be prepared for the possibility that they or another family member will explode in anger.

For many, homosexuality is not a sexual attraction, it is an identity. Often rebuke of the sin of homosexuality is viewed as a personal attack. Do not be afraid to express your love or to confront their sin, but do not expect them to understand that you can still love them without loving their sin.

Do not let the possibility of a negative reaction stop you from speaking truth at an appropriate time. However, a rebuke of homosexuality is not the first thing that needs to be said. Nor is a lecture in front of the entire family the best option. Seek a good time when you can speak personally to that individual so you can gently share Biblical truth with them.

Because the goal is to communicate God’s truth, prepare ahead of time. Study what the Bible says about personhood and sexuality. Don’t look for “gotcha” verses that will prove homosexuality is a sin. Look to develop a solid understanding of all the Bible’s teachings about sex and sexuality. Seek to think like the Bible so you can present from Scripture a Biblical worldview of humanity and homosexuality that will give a foundation from which the person can begin to turn from their sin.

Be honest. Speak the truth directly and lovingly. Do not attack the person, but address their actions. Do not call them names, belittle them or berate them. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) Be careful to always speak in a way that edifies and reflects the grace of God. Do not make remarks about them or pointed statements calculated for them to overhear. Reject passive aggressivism and any attempt to manipulate the person. Be forthright, honest and kind. No matter how they may respond, always respond with gentleness. Remember that “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) and “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

Remember, you cannot change the person and changing them is not your job. Don’t try to do it. Speak truth to them in love, with boldness and forthrightness. If you are going to confront their sin, be prepared to help them through the long and difficult process of growing in obedience.

Often the one who declares themselves a homosexual has been dealing with these deep seated desires for a long time. They have given the matter a lot of thought and have struggled with telling their friends and family. Don’t expect all of that to be set aside because of a five minute conversation with you. Give them time to change. In the meantime, pray earnestly for their repentance and show your love to them in as many ways as you can.

When will the Rapture Happen?

The Bible prophecies several things that will happen at the end of the world. I am a premilliennialist who believes Jesus will rapture the church, the antichrist will rule the world for seven years, those seven years will be a time of massive natural disasters and great tribulation, the seven years of tribulation will end with the return of Jesus to the earth, and when Jesus returns He will judge the wicked and establish His kingdom. The kingdom of Jesus on earth will last for one thousand years. At the end of the thousand years Satan will stir up a final rebellion against God. That rebellion will be smashed, the unsaved will be condemned to eternal suffering in the lake of fire, the entire physical universe will be destroyed and a new heaven and new earth will be created.

Those who hold to postmillennial and amillennial views arrange these events differently and do not believe the church will be raptured. However, the timing of the rapture is an important question for those with a premillennial perspective. Those who believe the church will be raptured are divided on when they think it will happen. A minority group believes the church will be raptured in the middle of the tribulation. The two most popular views on the rapture are pre-tribulational and post-tribulational. The post-tribulationist believes the church will be raptured at the very end of the tribulation when Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on earth. The pre-tribulationalist believes the church will be raptured at the beginning of the tribulation at or before the start of the antichrist’s reign.

A pre-tribulational rapture seems to fit best with the Biblical prophecies, primarily because of one compelling reason. Revelation 19 describes the return of Jesus to the earth in power and victory. Just before the description of Jesus’ triumphal return Revelation 19 describes a scene of great praise in heaven. The saints in heaven praise Jesus for His justice and mercy. The great multitude praises God for His powerful rule and they then say, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” This marriage supper of the Lamb is the wedding feast for the bride of Christ- the church. The wedding feast of the church and Jesus takes place in heaven before Jesus returns to the earth. Therefore, the rapture cannot take place at the end of the tribulation when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on earth.

The pre-tribulational rapture seems to be the best interpretation of the Biblical prophecies regarding the church, but the Bible does not give a definitive statement on the timing of the rapture. Faithful Christians who uphold Biblical truth reach different conclusions on the timing of the rapture. This matter is of great interest, but should not be a cause for controversy or division in the church.