Are people today guilty for the sins of their fathers?

The Bible seems to indicate that descendants bear some weight of the sins of their ancestors. The Old Testament prophets confessed the past sins of Israel and included themselves as sharing in that guilt. However, the book of Ezekiel rejects the idea that a son is held guilty for his father’s actions. How are these things to be understood? Are Christian’s today guilty for sins committed by their fathers?

Consideration needs to be given to office of prophet. The prophets of Israel spoke to Israel on behalf of God. Moses, Daniel and Nehemiah show that prophets also spoke to God on behalf of Israel. As prophets they held a position and responsibility that is not held by any man in the church today. The prophet’s ability to speak to God for the nation does not exist in the New Testament church. Even if the prophets could be said to represent a principle that Christians today should follow, this kind of confession is very rare. Though Israel spent a thousand years in miscellaneous rebellions against God, the prophetic kind of confession only occurs a few times in the Old Testament.

When God decrees a fathers guilt is passed down to the children He does so primarily for the purpose of salvation. All are guilty in Adam that we all may be redeemed by Jesus. (Romans 5:19; 11:32) God does not hold children guilty as a way of penalizing them for sins they have not committed. God condemned all men in Adam that He might have mercy upon all.

In the books of Moses God warned that later generations would suffer as a result of the sins of their fathers. When one generation began to worship God they were taken into captivity. Of course, their children went with them. These children grew up in captivity, and at times had their own children in captivity. The sins of the fathers brought suffering to their descendants, but God did not hold the children guilty for that which their fathers did.

The book of Ezekiel is clear that all guilt for sin falls upon the people who commit it. While later generations may suffer because of the sins of their forefathers, God only holds them guilty for their own sin. The New Testament makes this even more clear. Romans 14 says, “So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God.” The New Testament never calls converted slave-holders, government officials, tax collectors or false teachers to confess any sin but their own. Herod came in a long line of despicable Herods yet John the Baptist called him to repent of his own sin, not the sin of his father.

This does not mean Christians today should ignore the sin of previous generations. We ought to honestly acknowledge the errors of those who have gone before us, but we do not confess those sins as if we somehow bear responsibility for them. If a denomination, church or Christian engaged in racism or allowed racist practices, then they should repent of their own sin without making excuse for the sin of previous generations. The sinner ought to acknowledge that he has disobeyed God. However, the Bible does not place upon him any extra burden of guilt because of what his fathers did.

Advertisements

Should Christians confess the sins of their ancestors?

From time to time, especially when racial tensions flare up in America, various Christian groups confess the sins of their ancestors. A group of Presbyterians who formed their own Presbyterain denomination in support of the South during the Civil War recently apologized for its racism and support of slavery. The Southern Baptist Convention has long faced pressure to apologize for its support of slavery during the Civil War. Some groups are quick to say Christians should apologize for the actions of their antecedents. Others deny Christians bear any responsibility for the actions of earlier generations.

Do Christians have a Biblical responsibility to repent of the sins of their ancestors? This is not a question about the evils of racism. Christians should oppose slavery, but that is not the issue. The question is whether Christians ought to repent of sins committed in previous generations by their spiritual or physical fathers. What does the Bible teach about an individual’s responsibility for the sins of his ancestors.

The Bible addresses this issue, but reaching a clear conclusion from its teachings is not easy. The answer is a bit more complicated than yes or no. The Old and New Testaments teach that later generations bear the consequences of the sins of their ancestors. In the books of Moses God warned that He would judge later generations for the sins of their fathers. “For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” (Exodus 20:5) The New Testament, especially the book of Romans, presents a powerful case that all generations of humanity are guilty and suffer under the curse of sin because of the sin of our common father, Adam. A Biblical case can be made that generations alive today bear some weight of the sins of their ancestors.

The Old Testament also shows certain prophets confessing the sins of Israel and previous generations of Israelites. In Daniel’s marvelous prayer he confessed the past sins of the nation. He includes himself in that confession when he says, “We have sinned, we have done wickedly.” (Daniel 9:15) Nehemiah said, “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.” (Nehemiah 1:6)

However, in the book of Ezekiel God specifically rejects the idea that children bear the guilt of their fathers. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezekiel 18:20) How is one to understand this apparent contradiction? The next article will seek to provide some clear answers.

Does the Bible forbid suicide?

Suicide is always tragic. Often it is the last despairing step of those who have lost all hope. Christianity has long taught that suicide is a sin. Now the wrongness of suicide is being questioned. What does the Bible say about suicide? Though the Bible mentions seven acts of suicide it does not specifically condemn any of those acts. The context of several of those accounts, like that of Saul and Judas, gives the impression that suicide is the act of a wicked man.

An understanding of the Biblical view of human life is essential to answering this question. All human life is sacred. Space does not allow a full exploration of this idea, but from the very first mention of man the Bible makes clear that human beings are unique creations. Man was created in the image of God. The destruction of that image is a great evil. God told Noah after the flood, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) In Numbers 35 God instructs Israel how to deal with murder and murderers. He impresses upon them the seriousness of taking a human life, “for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.” (Numbers 35:33) Any violence against a person is an assault against the image of God. This is why God forbids murder. This is why suicide is a sin.

The Bible’s commands against killing people must logically include killing oneself. The same reasons that make murder a sin, the desecration of the image of God and the extreme selfishness necessary to murder another, are the same reasons suicide is a sin. The individual has no right to plot the destruction of any human life. The person has no more authority over whether he lives or dies than he does over whether his neighbor lives or dies.

Suicide is an extreme act of selfishness. Whatever other motivations are behind suicide, the person ultimately decides to value his own escape from discomfort over the grief it will cause those left behind. Suicide sees the person’s own suffering as more important than anything or anyone else. Suicide declares “I will make the decision when my time on earth is done.” Such arrogant selfishness violates the command of God to love Him supremely and to love others selflessly. (Luke 10:27)

The example of the Psalmist is instructive of how to consider despair and death. David knew the brevity of life and many times felt the approach of death. His life was by the violence of men and grief of soul. In all things, David trusted the Lord. David went through times as dark and difficult as any faced by a person, yet he trusted the Lord. He gave no voice to suicidal thoughts, but said “My times are in thy hand.” (Psalm 31:15) His example shows how to respond in those times when, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:15) The right response is, “My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope in Thy word.” (Psalm 119:81)

Suicide is not unforgivable. But, whether it be through a self-administered gunshot or a physician administered lethal dose, the willful killing of self is a sin.

Happy Thanksgiving

Every year America sets aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day to give thanks to God. On that day many gather together with friends and family to express their thankfulness for the many blessings recieved during the previous year.

The pattern of Thanksgiving in the United States was set by the pilgrim fathers. They endured great hardship, suffered much loss of life and faced many difficulties. Yet they did not fail to pour out thanks to God for His provision. They model obedience to the command, “Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)

Christians today are still required by God to give thanks in the midst of difficult and sorrowful times. Many may consider their lives right now and say, “What do I have to give thanks for?” Some may look at the challenges facing the nation and wonder what cause America has for thanksgiving. With a little thought it soon becomes apparent that we have many things for which to be thankful. We have more than the daily provision of all needs and an of abundance physical blessings. (Philippians 4:19; James 1:17) We live in relative peace. Grocery stores overflow with an extravagant assortment of food. We have homes and warmth. We have our choice of clothing. We have a vehicle to quickly transport us long distances, often more than one. Many have a wide variety of toys and entertainment. We have the ability to read, count and think. We have the freedom to speak, assemble, pray, worship, protest and give thanks however we desire. We have much for which to be thankful.

Christians have the ultimate cause for thanksgiving. Every sin has been forgiven. Guilt and condemnation under the wrath of God has been removed. Our iniquities have been taken away by Christ and we are made righteous in Him. No matter how bad your life is, if you are a Christian, your rotten life is temporary, is still far better than the eternal suffering of hell you deserve and it will be replaced with eternal joy. Give thanks for your salvation!

The wonderful salvation of the Christian is abundant cause for rejoicing, but it is not the only reason to give thanks. Christians can give thanks because of the great promise that the abundant grace of God will be continually at work them. His grace abounds far more than sin (Romans 5:20) but also far more than need. (Ephesians 3:20) The grace of God is sufficient for all times and seasons. The grace of God is always working to do far beyond what we ask or even imagine. We can give thanks because God’s abundant grace is still overflowing.

The Bible also reveals a vast array of blessings and promises from God which are the Christian’s daily benefits. (Psalm 103:2) Your bank account may be empty and your future health may be doubtful, but God’s abundance is not diminished. For that we should always give thanks. Give thanks to God because He gives you many physical benefits and He gives you an infinite treatsure of spiritual blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What is “evil”?

President George W. Bush gained a lot of media attention when he called certain countries an “axis of evil”. Though the word doesn’t seem to get a lot of press coverage today, evil still exists. Anyone with a bit of familiarity with current events knows the existence of evil. We all know evil when we see it, but what does the Bible say about evil?

In normal use today the term “evil” is usually reserved for things that are really bad. Cheating on taxes is bad, but most people would not call it evil. Genocide is not just bad or wrong, it is evil. Though most rational people acknowledge the existence of evil, not everyone is agreed on the nature of evil. Some describe evil as an outside force working in this world. Satan is believed to be nothing more than the personification of evil. The Bible describes Satan as evil but never mentions evil apart from an act or an individual. Evil in the Bible is not an impersonal force. Evil is not an outside agency working upon people and events of the world.

Evil describes beings and actions. Angels are evil. People are evil. Deeds are evil. That which is evil is diseased and corrupted. It is infected, rotten and malignant. Evil is a corruption of what should be. Evil is not passive. Evil implies a willful, intentional action. Evil is not like a man being tripped. Evil is active in turning from the right path to follow a forbidden one. Evil is a moral description of a being’s or a deed’s corruption or sinfulness.

The Bible most often uses the word evil to describe something that is morally corrupt, but there are times when evil is used to describe something that is afflicted or destroyed. When God punished Jerusalem for her idolatry it is said He brought evil upon the city. God did not sin against Jerusalem. He brought destruction, sorrow and misery to the city as judgment for its sin. Evil describes events have bring ruin and calamity. They are evil in consequence though not evil in morality.

The presence of evil is a constant reminder that humans are moral creatures. People have a conscience and know the difference between right and wrong. The existence of evil is a testimony to the fact that things are not as they should be. The problem of evil points men and to women to God who will eradicate evil.

Though most people do not think of themselves as evil (the latest gunman probably did not think of himself as evil), all are evil. Everyone is corrupted by sin. No one is as God designed humans. All have turned from the proper path to follow their own corrupted desires. Evil is a reality, but not just in the world out there. Evil is a reality in the hearts of every person. Every heart has been corrupted by the rottenness of sin. This is why man needs a Savior. The wonderful news of the gospel is that through Jesus evil men are forgiven of their sin and made righteous. Evil exists, but God’s grace is much greater than the worst of evils.

Why doesn’t God stop senseless tragedies?

Another terrible tragedy has hit America. This time a gunman murdered dozens of people and injured hundreds more. We all grieve for the families of those killed and pray for those recovering from their injuries. We weep with the thousands of people directly affected by this horrible event.

Tragedy leaves many who are interested in the claims of Christianity tragedy asking the question, where was God? In times like these Christians also wonder what is God’s involvement in the catastrophic moments. Underneath everything is a sense that this should not happen and a question of why God does not stop senseless tragedies.

When tragedy strikes the presence and plan of God is no mere intellectual theory. God becomes personal and very real. For some God is the source of comfort and hope. For others God is the subject of their anger and bitterness. An in-depth theological discussion of all the issues is not appropriate. Now is not the time to solve the dilemma between Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. However, some principles from Scripture help us better understand why God allows tragedy to occur.

God allows tragedy as part of His judgment and His mercy. God allows tragedy so people might be brought to salvation. The tragedies of this world remind everyone that things are not as they should be. All know the sudden death of many is not right. All creation groans under sin. In tragedy it becomes impossible to ignore those groans. Tragedy brutally tell us something is wrong with the world and causes us to long for a fix. The solution is not in gun control, mental health care or tighter security. The solution to these problems is only found in the transformation of hearts and the eradication of sin. God allows these things to reminds us this world is broken and the only solution has been provided by Him.

God allows these things to bring sinners to repentance. Tragic death is a reminder that all humanity is under sentence of death. God decreed, “The wages of sin is death.” Because all have sinned, all will die. The people who die in tragedies do not die because they are more wicked than the others. Their death is a reminder that everyone will die and warns us, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5) When death dominates the news coverage it reminds us that we all suffer under the sentence of death.

The wise man considers death. He says, “teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Like the judgments of Israel, the warnings of the prophets and the tribulations of Revelation, God uses tragedy to call men to turn to Him that they might be saved. Tragedy reminds us that this world and all humanity is under the judgment of God. God allows tragedy that we may not forget our condemnation. God works through tragedy that men might turn to Him for mercy. God says through the prophet Ezekiel, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11) God uses tragedy so men will cry out like the Psalmist, “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me.” (Psalm 30:10) When men call out to the Lord He saves them. “His anger endureth but a moment; in His favor is life.” (Psalm 30:5)

Is Weird Weather a Sign of the End?

The second coming of Jesus will be preceded by seven years of catastrophe. The seven year tribulation will begin with the rise of a powerful leader who will consolidate world power into his hands and require everyone to worship him. During the seven years of tribulation the world will be rocked with earthquakes, wars, famines, plagues, darkness, demonic assault and Divine judgment. The earth will reel under the catastrophes of that time. Many people are interested in knowing when these things will begin. Many turn to the Bible looking for clues to know when the Great Tribulation is approaching. Some say changing weather patterns is evidence Jesus is about to return. Is an increase of extraordinary weather events a precursor to the Great Tribulation?

Many passages in the Bible describe events on earth during the tribulation, including Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21, Joel 2 and most of the book of Revelation. These passages all describe events after the tribulation has begun. None of them give specifics about the physical conditions of the world just before the tribulation except to say that the world will endure many troubles in the time between Jesus’ earthly life and the tribulation.

The Bible makes no statement about an increase of unusual weather events before the tribulation. The Bible is silent on the world’s weather before the tribulation. Scripture does promise in Genesis 8:22 that normal seasonal cycles will continue until the very end. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

The book of Revelation reveals that the events of the tribulation are supernatural in origin. A gradual increase in natural disasters is not required to accommodate the horrendous catastrophes of the tribulation. An upswing in weird weather is not an indicator the tribulation is about to begin.

The only warning of the beginning of the tribulation will be the rapture of Christians. When all Christians are taken out of the world then the antichrist will rise to power and the worldwide catastrophes will begin, but then it will be too late for many. The Christian is not to concern himself with trying to figure out when Jesus will return, but is to live in his life in faithfulness and service he will be ready whenever the Lord comes for His people. “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” ( 1Thessalonians 5:2-3, 6)

Does the existence of Canaanite DNA in Lebanese people disprove the Bible?

A recent news article was published in Great Britain under the title “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out”. The story went on to explain that scientists discovered and tested ancient remains in modern day Lebanon. They compared DNA from five of those remains to a group of modern day people in Lebanon. They discovered that modern Lebanese share over 90 percent of their DNA with the ancient inhabitants of the area. The scientists concluded that present day Lebanese are descendants of ancient Canaanites. The article goes on to say “contrary to a Biblical account the Canaanites were not wiped out.” Does this DNA evidence prove the Bible to be in error?

The Bible never claims the Israelites wiped out all the Canaanites. God commanded the Israelites to destroy several specific tribes living in the promised land. These included Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Hittites, Jebusites and Canaanites. (Deuteronomy 20:17) However, Scripture does not say the Israelites obeyed God’s command. Joshua 12 lists the names of kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites and Canaanites that were conquered under Joshua. Joshua led the nation to conquer significant portions of the promised land, but they did not conquer all the land or destroy all its inhabitants. Joshua 13 lists the territories still to be conquered, territories which included significant Canaanite holdings.

The Bible says that after the death of of Joshua the Israelites disobeyed God and did not destroy the people of the land. Judges 1 describes additional Jewish conquests over the Canaanites and Perizzites, but the Jews did not destroy all the Canaanites. They conquered many Canaanite cities, but not all of them. Judges 2:2 says they disobeyed God by making covenants and treaties with the people. Because of the Israelites disobedience God told them “I also will not henceforth drive out from before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died.” God’s Word says the Israelites did not destroy the Canaanites.

Whatever else the DNA comparison in Lebanon may show, it does not disprove the Bible. In fact, it gives further evidence to the accuracy of the Biblical records. The claim to the contrary is just another in a long line of failed attempts to discredit the reliability of the BIble. No archaeological evidence has been discovered which contradicts Scripture. Archaeological evidence overwhelmingly supports the historical and geographical references in the Bible.

Are the Sun, Moon and Stars Prophetic Signs?

“God put the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens as signs for all of creation to understand His will.”
-Rabbi Berger

The recent solar eclipse in America and the four lunar eclipses of 2014-2015 led many to seek for the Biblical importance of these remarkable celestial events. One famous television pastor wrote a best-selling book about the role of the lunar eclipses in God’s prophetic plans. Some Bible prophecy teachers argue that the sun, moon and stars are given by God to warn of major events in the history of the world.

This claim is based on Genesis 1:14, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” Since God put the celestial bodies in the sky as signs we should be paying attention when something unique happens in the heavens. God might be trying to tell us of an important event that is about to happen.

Genesis 1:14 does not say God uses the celestial bodies to warn of future events. Just like in English the Hebrew word for sign has multiple meanings. The correct definition is determined by the rest of the sentence or paragraph. Genesis 1:14 says God put the things in the sky for four reasons: for signs, for seasons, for days and for years. The last three purposes are related to telling the time. The sun, moon and stars mark out the changing of the four seasons. The rising and setting of the sun marks out the days. The revolutions of the sun and the stars in the sky mark out the passing of the years. They are signs related to the passing of time not to omens and portents.

In the Pentateuch, the five books written by Moses, a sign is a mark, token or memorial of something. The miracles accomplished by God when He brought Israel out of Egypt were signs. They were tokens of the great power of God that confirmed His promise to the Israelites that He would deliver them. The law of God was given to Israel as a sign reminding them they were the covenant people of God. The rest of the Old Testament uses signs predominantly as a reminder of something that happened or as confirmation a promised event is going to happen. When God promised to heal King Hezekiah He gave to Hezekiah a sign that confirmed what God had promised would happen.

In the Old Testament a sign is always connected to a specific promise or event. A sign is never a vague portent of impending doom. An eclipse does not promise anything specific, nor can a single eclipse be connected to a definite promise of God. The signs of the Old Testament were attached to specific events or promises. The sun, moon and stars do not forebode the future. They are tokens of God’s faithfulness, continual reminders that He is Creator and unfailing memorials to His glory.

Did God give Palestine to the Jews?

Conflict has long raged in Palestine over the right of Jews to have their own kingdom in the Middle East. Most of the disagreement today is political and ethnic, but many Christians and religious Jews see the possession of Palestine as a Divine right granted to the Israelites thousands of years ago. Did God promise to give the Israelites the land along the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea?

In Genesis 15:8 God promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:” In Ezekiel 47 the promise is repeated to the Israelites as part of the kingdom to be established by the Messiah. In Ezekiel is given a more specific description of the borders of the promised land. The geographical markers have changed or been lost over the millennia so it is hard to identify the exact boundaries of the promised land. Despite the difficulties of finding the specific borders it is clear that the land God promised to Abraham is all the territory between Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River stretching north to the Euphrates river (in modern day Syria) and south to beneath the Dead Sea towards a point parallel with the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean. Something like this:

After the exodus from Egypt God led the Israelites to the eastern border of the land of Canaan. He commanded them to go in and conquer the land He had promised them. If they would obey Him God would give them victory over the inhabitants. If they disobeyed God and turned to idolatry then the Canaanites and other nations would take Israel captive. Israel began to conquer the land. After early successes the nation fell into a vicious cycle of disobedience, captivity, repentance, deliverance and then disobedience again. As a result Israel conquered very little of the promised land until the time of David. Under King David and his son Solomon Israel took possession of most, but not all, of the land promised to Abraham. After Solomon’s death the kingdom split and began to dwindle. Israel has never held all of the territory promised to her by God.

The history of the Israelites and the current political situation makes it seem unlikely that the Jews will hold all the promised land. However, God’s promises will always be fulfilled. When Jesus returns to establish His kingdom He will make Jerusalem His capital city. He will rule over the whole earth. He will be King of Israel and give to the Jews the land promised to Abraham’s descendants. God always keeps His promises.