Did Paul rebuke Peter for being racist?

In Galatians 2 we learn of something surprising for its uniqueness. In that passage the story is told of a time when one apostle rebuked another in front of the church. When the gospel first began to Gentile communities the Apostle Peter visited the church in Antioch. He spent time with the Gentile believers and treated them as if they were equals. However, when other Jewish believers from Jerusalem arrived in Antioch Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles. Peter feared the condemnation of the Jews. In response, the Apostle Paul publicly rebuked the Apostle Peter for his actions.

One popular interpretation of this passage says Paul rebuked Peter because of his cultural prejudices. According to this perspective Paul chastised Peter for what is today called racism. Did Paul rebuke Peter because of his racial prejudices? The answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no.

The Apostle Peter was the first to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. When he did, he told the first Gentile convert, Cornelius, “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation.” (Acts 10:28) Generations of Jews had been taught that it was against the law of Moses to share a house or a meal with Gentiles. When Peter ate with a Gentile he became ceremonially unclean. Would have to be cleansed before he could offer sacrifices or join the temple worship. After the conversion of Cornelius it became evident to Christians that Gentiles could be saved without keeping the law of Moses. The division between Jew and Gentile was taken away by Christ.

Paul rebuked Peter because Peter’s actions compromised the gospel. Paul told Peter exactly what the problem was,“Thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” By separating from the Gentiles Peter was acting as if the Gentiles were still unclean before God. He was saying by his actions that despite their faith in Jesus the Gentiles were still not right with God. Peter was acting as if faith in Jesus was not enough. He was acting as if the Gentiles had to keep the law of Moses to be truly Christian.

Peter’s actions were the result of long standing prejudices against all Gentiles. However, Paul does not address Peter’s racial prejudice. Paul addressed Peter’s distortion of the gospel. To say this passage is about racism is to miss the main point. Racism is wrong, but far worse is a gospel which teaches works are necessary for salvation

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?

The gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-24) recount a surprising event in the life of Jesus. The day after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus returned to the city. As He walked along the road on His way back into town Jesus became hungry. He saw a fig tree alongside the road, but it had no figs. Finding the tree empty, Jesus cursed it, saying, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” By the next morning the fig tree was withered. The gospel of Mark adds a troubling detail, “for the time of figs was not yet.”

Apparently, Jesus was angered by a fig tree that had no figs on it despite figs not being in season. He got so mad he cursed the tree. What is going on? Why did Jesus act like this? Some consider this account to be proof Jesus was not perfect. He was hungry, maybe his blood sugar was a little low, and he lashed out in unreasonable anger against an innocent tree.  Those committed to the Biblical doctrine that Jesus was without sin cannot accept this explanation.

Jesus’ actions toward the fig tree are not directly explained in the Bible. To understand what Jesus is doing, the reader must consider the circumstances surrounding this event. Jesus cursed the fig tree the day after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was on His way to cleanse the temple of religious extortioners. Jesus walked past the fig tree, into Jerusalem and into the temple. In the temple He began to throw out the money changers. The chief priests and scribes began to dispute with Jesus. This led to some of Jesus’ strongest rebukes of scribes and Pharisees. He warned them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Jesus then told numerous parables of the dangers of refusing the Son of God. He says in Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” 

The cursing of the fig tree is believed by many, including myself, to be a warning to the Jews. Though these events took place before figs can normally expect to be ripe, the nature of fig trees is such that they begin to bear fruit before leaves are formed. A mature fig tree covered in leaves can rightly be expected to bear fruit. Jesus was not acting unreasonably in expecting figs on a tree covered in leaves. The absence of fruit was indication the tree was not healthy. Likewise, Israel had all the appearance of being spiritually healthy. The Jews of Jesus’ day read Scriptures, kept the outward forms of the law, observed Sabbath days and celebrated the feasts. Despite appearances the nation of Israel was not spiritually healthy. Israel was spiritually barren. The nation was on the verge of rejecting their Messiah and crucifying their Savior. Jesus’ actions towards the fig tree can be understood as a picture of what would happen to Israel for their refusal to believe Jesus. The cursing of the fig tree was one of many warnings to Israel of Divine judgment for their rejection of Jesus.

The next day the disciples marvelled at the death of the fig tree. Jesus used the situation as an opportunity to teach His disciples a lesson on faith. He promised them if they would have faith and believe Him without doubting, they would have the power to do much more than cause a fig tree to wither and die. They would have power to do mighty things for God. They would have whatever they prayed for. The lesson Jesus teaches His followers from the fig tree is the mighty power of God that works through and for His believing people. 

Does the Bible address the coronavirus?

Sunday morning, March 22, at 9:30 AM on 92.7 FM the Pastor’s Roundtable will be discussing the Coronavirus.  Many people are tired of hearing about it, but no one can deny the impact of this disease on the world today. All are being forced to confront the changes in society being imposed as a result of this infection. As everyone try to make sense of the situation, we can’t help but wonder, does the Bible say anything helpful about the Coronavirus?

The Bible does not, and would not, mention this particular virus by name. However, the Bible warns that as the return of Jesus approaches there will be wars, famines, earthquakes and widespread disease. In a sense, then, this virus is addressed by the Bible. The coronavirus is not addressed in any specific way, but it is part of what can be expected as things in the world get worse and worse in preparation for the return of Jesus.

The same passage in Matthew 24 that warns of increasing trouble also teaches Christians to not be troubled by the great difficulties that will come upon the world. Because of Jesus, the troubles of this world should hold little terror for the children of God. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The most important thing the Bible says about disease, plagues, pestilence and other widespread affliction is that God is in absolute control of every single catastrophe in the world. Whether it be a virus or the economic problems which come as a result of widespread quarantines, God is in absolute control of all things. Do not treat this declaration as a trite, religious saying that offers only hollow comfort to those who need an emotional crutch. This is bedrock truth more substantial than granite. This truth was Joseph’s comfort when he was sold into slavery by His brothers. “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good”. (Genesis 50:20) This truth runs throughout the Bible and assures people of every age in any trouble that God is still in control.

God’s control over all things is comforting because God is good and wise. He is working out all things according to His perfect plan. Nothing is random, accidental or contrary to God’s good purposes. Those who trust God know this infection will ultimately bring about the glory of God and the good of His children. God is working through the Coronavirus to bring people to salvation (Acts 17:26-27). God is using this sickness to remind humanity we are living in a world cursed by sin.

This virus also shows the powerlessness of the things worshiped in the modern world. When fear and panic is spreading around the globe, then it becomes obvious all the things we depend on for happiness and security are completely unable to secure those things for us. If coronavirus shuts down the sports we love so much, then maybe sports are not powerful enough to give the security and satisfaction we crave. If coronavirus shuts down the movies we anticipate every weekend, then maybe entertainment is not powerful enough to give us lasting joy and peace. Though the coronavirus is far less severe than the plagues that afflicted Egypt, it illustrates the same principle. The gods of this world are powerless. The Bible shows that only the God of heaven rules. He is not dismayed or embarrassed by this infection. He is orchestrating its spread to accomplish His loving purposes. Those who trust God realize this virus is not an interruption in His plans. The coronavirus not hindering what God is trying to do. The coronavirus is completely under the control of God. Through it He is accomplishing His perfect plans for this world.

Should Ministers Deny Communion to Congregants?

A few weeks ago former vice-president Joe Biden was denied communion at a Catholic church in South Carolina. The priest’s decision immediately made the headlines, prompting the usual range of reactions. Communion is a familiar ceremony repeated thousands of times a week in churches all across the world. Anyone who has regularly attended church has probably observed or particpated in communion.

Protestants and Catholics are not in agreement about the nature and purpose of communion. The Catholic church teaches communion is a necessary part of being saved and during the communion service the bread and wine are transformed to become the physical body and blood of Jesus. Protestant churches teach that communion is an important part of Christian obedience. The elements do not undergo a physical transformation, but spiritually a great transaction takes place during the Lord’s Supper. Despite these significant differences in teachings about communion, most Christian denominations treat the Lord’s Supper as a serious event which makes significant demands on the individual.

Because communion is a sober memorial of the suffering of Jesus many pastors take a few minutes before administering the elements to warn the church of seriousness of what is happening. Careful pastors exhort Christians to be serious and holy in their observance of the Lord’s Supper. Most protestant pastors do not refuse to serve the communion elements to any individual, but they do ask Christian’s to voluntarily not participate if they are living in sin.

The reason for these warnings is found in the warnings given in 1 Corinthians 11. The apostle Paul rebuked the church in Corinth for their abuse of the Lord’s Supper. Some people, before taking part in communion, were selfishly stuffing their faces causing the truly needy to do without. Some in the church were fighting with one another over which preacher was best. Some in the church were openly supporting immorality. Some in the church were treating the church gathering as a show time for their own self-aggrandizement. Some in the church were participating in idol worship during the week and participating in the worship of God on the weekend. The Bible commanded these believers to repent of their various sins before participating in communion.

The Bible does more than command repentance. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 It warns, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” Communion is the memorial of the death of God the Son for the salvation of the world. A failure to treat the ritual with the respect and reverence it deserves brings the chastening of God. In Corinth people were sick and some had died because of their sinful participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Joe Biden was refused communion because of his open, willful and continued advocation of murder. None should be surprised a Catholic church, which teaches that every unborn child is a living human being, would withhold communion from one who supports killing babies. What should surprise people is the church doesn’t do this more often.

Warning people away from communion or denying them the elements is not a judgmental act of hypocritical meanness. It is the response of a compassionate minister who understands the gravity of the Lord’s Supper and is concerned for the spiritual well-being of his parishioners.

Are there contradictions in the Bible?

The Bible claims to be free from all error. Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect.” Psalm 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words.” Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God is pure.” Since the Bible claims to be perfect, the reader has a right to expect Scripture to be correct in every matter it addresses and to be consistent with its own teachings. If the Bible contradicts itself, then it is not what it claims to be.

The reader’s presuppositions about the Bible play a major role in evaluating the apparent contradictions in Scripture. Those who accept the claims of the Bible as true or plausible will examine apparent discrepancies with a willingness to accept reasonable answers. Those who absolutely refuse to accept the Bible’s claim will be quick to find contradictions where there are none and deny the validity of plausible answers.

The answers to many of the apparent contradictions are not intended to be undeniable proofs. They are plausible explanations that show passages which appear to contradict each other can be reasonably understood in a way that is not contradictory.

Many of the apparent contradictions are differences of detail or differences in the author’s perspective. In the gospel of Mark Jesus mentions a rooster crowing twice, but the other gospels only speak of the rooster crowing. The specific number in Mark does not contradict the more general accounts. Jesus did not say the rooster would crow only once. The specific does not necessarily contradict the general, nor does a greater number exclude a lesser. Did Jesus heal two blind men in Jericho or just one? Though Matthew says two, the other gospels only mention one. Any child knows that if Jesus healed two blind men, he must have also healed one blind man. (Matthew 20:30; Mark 10:46)

Some apparent contradictions are actually two different but similar events. The Beatitudes of Luke 6 and Matthew 5 are described as being given “in the plain” (Luke 6:17) and on “a mountain.” (Matthew 5:1) This is no contradiction. Luke 6 describes a later event than Matthew 5 in which Jesus repeated a portion of the message he had preached in the Sermon on the Mount.

Some differences are explained by differences of the particulars being discussed. When David bought the threshing floor from Ornan, 2 Samuel says he paid 50 shekels and 1 Chronicles says he paid 600. Further reading in these passages reveals 2 Samuel specifies that David paid 50 shekels for the oxen and threshing floor, while 1 Chronicles says David paid 600 shekels for “the place.” 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles are describing the transaction differently. 2 Samuel tells of his purchase of the oxen and threshing floor and 1 Chronicles includes his purchase of the land surrounding the threshing floor.

Some differences are explainable by a different truth being taught. One of the most confusing apparent contradictions in the Bible is that between the books of Romans and James. The apostle Paul says justification is given “to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him.” but James says, “By works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” These two statements seem to be unreconcilable. Yet, reading the statements in their context it becomes evident the apostles are talking about two different things. Paul is describing the means by which a man receives justification. James is discussing the evidence of justification. The statements are not contradictory but complimentary.

A few contradictions can be traced to scribal error. The scribes who copied the text of Scripture took great pains to avoid any mistakes. The manuscript evidence shows they were incredibly accurate copyists, but some errors did creep in. For example, 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles record different numbers for Solomon’s horses. Though one passage says 4,000 and the other 40,000, the difference between the words for these numbers in Hebrew is very small, similar to the difference between four thousand and forty thousand in English. A scribe could easily misread the number, or a flaw in the manuscript could obscure the number.

A detailed analysis of every apparent contradiction in the Bible is not possible in this post. Excellent discussions of Bible contradictions are available online and in Christian books. A thoughtful reading of Scripture will readily provide reasonable answers to the supposed contradictions in the text. The Christian can have confidence the Bible is accurate in all it teaches. “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” (Psalm 119:140)

Is cussing a sin?

Recently President Trump gained attention for publicly taking the Lord’s name in vain and for frequently using profanity. Observers have noted the increased willingness of public figures to use profanity in forums where it was once considered impolite to use foul language . This trend is a reflection of the widespread use of profanity in American culture. A Christian cannot avoid hearing cuss words, but should he use them? Many Christians lerned to cuss long before they ever heard the gospel. Should they be expected to go through the trouble of breaking that habit?

The Bible does not include a list of prohibited words. Since the Bible does not forbid any specific words, can anyone really say the Bible forbids cussing? According to Scripture, the way  a person speaks matters a great deal. What a person says reflects who they really are. “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34) The things we say have a significant effect on others. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21)

Scripture forbids the Christian to engage in any corrupt communication. Corrupt speech is like a rotten apple. It is useful for nothing and could cause harm if consumed. Cussing is useless speech that is hurtful to others. Most cuss words fall into two categories: curse and profanity. A curse is wishing ill upon someone. One common curse is a command for someone to depart to infernal regions. Should the Christian state a desire for someone to be damned, or wish them to go to hell? Isn’t such a statement the opposite of Christian compassion, the great commission and Christlikeness?

Profanity is that which attempts to corrupt or belittle with the mouth. Often these words are scatological or sexual in nature. Specific examples need not be given. Those who have heard them used know these words are used in a fashion which intends to destroy, defile or demean.

Recent decades have seen some American preachers take up the habit of cussing in the pulpit. Thankfully the fad has lost momentum, but those who engage in this despicable practice have defended their speech by pointing out that the apostle Paul cussed. This is simply not true. The epistles of Paul do not contain one single equivalent of a Greek cuss word. One supposed example of Paul’s using foul language is in Philippians 3:8, “I do count them but dung.” Paul is making a strong point, but is he using profanity? The Greek literature from that era has             numerous examples of the word Paul used. Not once is it portrayed as profanity or foul language. Paul used the proper term to describe filth, including human waste. Other supposed examples could be given, but when the words Paul used are examined in light of how they were used and understood in his day they can not be construed as cuss words. Some are strong. Some are harsh. None are profanity.

Because what we say matters. The Christian ought to speak words that “minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) To use profanities and curses is to speak of things which ought not be spoken of (Ephesians 5:3-4) and to trivilize matters of eternal importance. Cussing is the opposite of gracious speech tht edifies the hearer.

From the wisdom of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, to the warnings of Jesus,   to the instructions of Paul and the rebuke of James, Scripture consistently teaches that a Christian’s speech ought to be different. It must be careful, gracious, wise and helpful speech that builds up. Profanities and curses do not meet this standard.

Do we have access to the original Biblical languages?

Americans today can chose from a wide range of Bible translations. The Bible has been translated into every major language in the world. Few countries have no access to a copy of the Bible in their predominant language. Despite the widespread availability of Scriptures in modern languages, there is a small group of skeptics who insist no one knows what is really in God’s Word because we no longer have access to the original Biblical languages.

We know the original writings of the apostles and prophets were lost long ago. No one has the parchments that Paul wrote on. No one has the stones the Ten Commandments were recorded on. What we do have are thousands of ancient copies of the original writings. Certain skeptics say the ancient copies do not reflect the original languages of the prophets and apostles. Are those languages lost to history, thus making it impossible for Christians to every really understand the Bible?

The Bible was written in three languages. Most of the Old Testament was written in Ancient Hebrew. Most of the New Testament was written in Koine Greek. Small portions of the Old and New Testaments were written in Aramaic. All three of these languages are dead languages no longer spoken today. However, like Latin, though no one speaks the Biblical languages they are far from inaccessible.

Some of the many ancient copies of the Old and New Testaments were written within a couple hundred years of the conclusion of each Testament and in the same language as the originals. Language changes over time, but a language does not change beyond comprehension in a few hundred years. Take English as an example. English of the early 1800’s would be very understandable to any English speaker today. English of the early 1600’s would sound strange but would remain mostly understandable. The English of the early 1400’s would require more work and thought, but would still be broadly understandable to an educated English speaker. Likewise, the early copyists and translators of the Bible would have had no problems understanding the original language.

Greek and Hebrew have been studied for millennia. Scholars have a good understanding of how the languages developed and changed over the years. Bible students today have access to ancient copies of the Bible and the works of ancient scholars who studied the Bible in the decades immediately following the writing of the Biblical books. The Bible itself gives us every reason to expect the older portions to be understandable, since the authors of the New Testament frequently quoted, explained and applied the Old Testament to first century believers. In addition, the argument that we cannot understand the Bible because we do not have access to the original languages would also eliminate our ability to understand many ancient historians and philosophers, like Plato and Socrates.

We can have absolute confidence in the accessibility, accuracy and understandability of the Bible today. God’s Word has been carefully preserved throughout the centuries. The Words of God given by Him through His apostles and prophets is still available to people today.

If God is Sovereign Why Pray?

God rules over everything, He is the ultimate authority in the universe and sovereign over all. The nature of God’s sovereignty has been frequently discussed and debated by Christians for hundreds of years. Some have said God does not always accomplish His will in this world and the fulfillment of His purposes is dependent on the actions of men. For those who believe God limits His interference in the affairs of mankind, there is no tension between prayer and sovereignty. However, others believe God’s will is always being accomplished and He has predetermined all events that will happen. For those who hold this view of God’s sovereignty there exists a real tension between the function of prayer and the will of God. 

The Bible strongly affirms the sovereignty of God. In Ephesians 1:11 we are told that God “accomplisheth all things after the counsel of His own will.”  Isaiah 46:10-11 God says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” A literal reading of these verses leads to the conclusion that what God has determined to do He will definitely acomplish.  

If God will always do what He plans, what is the role of prayer in history, human lives and the plan of God? Does prayer change the mind of God? Does prayer serve any purpose in accomplishing God’s will or in changing the events of this world? Does God really answer prayer or does He just do what He had always planned on doing in the first place? These are not trivial questions. They cut to the heart of prayer and the believer’s relationship with God. 

The Bible also strongly affirms the effectiveness of prayer. James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” In Matthew 7 Jesus promises that if we ask, God will give what we ask. James 4 says, “You have not because you ask not.” The Bible describes a real connection between praying and receiving. The Old Testament gives examples of men like Moses and Abraham who prayed and changed the mind of God. Without a doubt God answers the prayers of His children. He changes His plans and gives good things in response to the prayers of His people. The Bible teaches that God genuinely answers the prayers of His children and He always accomplish His purposes.

If the only purpose of prayer was to get stuff from God, then any attempt to answer this question would be frustrating and ultimately futile. Prayer is about more than making requests of God. Prayer is a vital part of the believers relationship with his Heavenly Father. Genuine prayer includes praise, confession and thankfulness, as well as asking. God delights in answering the prayer of His children, but God delights even more in having a relationship with them. John 15 makes answered prayer dependent upon a healthy relationship with God. Prayer is all about relationship with God. The incredible privilege of the beleiver is to personally speak to the Sovereign God who rules all things. God graciously promises to answer the prayers of His people. 

In the end there is still some unresolved tension because we are not able to fully understand the Bible’s truths about God. He is in control of all things. He does work all things according to His will and He does answer the prayer of His people. The Bible affirms all these truths, and so Christians joyfully affirm them as well. We pray with faith, patience and hope because it is our privilege to do so, knowing we have a gracious Father who will hear and answer. 

What is the best way to begin reading the Bible?

The New Year is right around the corner and people are thinking about their resolutions to start off the year on the right foot. Many Christians will resolve to read their Bibles more faithfully. Those who have tried reading the Bible in a year know that the task is difficult, and unfortunately, often a failure. As you look at the Bible and consider reading it this year, is there a better way to begin that will help keep the reader on track?

The best way to begin and continue reading the Bible is to start with the right understanding of the importance of the Word of God. The Bible is the only record of God’s communication to mankind. Scripture is God’s words written down and kept for the benefit of every person. The Bible brings sinners to saving faith. The Bible teaches men what God expects of them. The Bible tells God’s purpose for creation. The Bible declares God’s commands to mankind. The Bible unfolds the plan God has for humanity. The Bible reveals who God is and what God is like. A knowledge of the Bible is essential to answered prayer. The Bible is challenging to read at times, but it is always essential if the child of God is going to have a close relationship with God. Read the Bible because you cannot do without it.

Before you begin reading, pray for God to help you comprehend what you are reading. The Bible is a supernatural and spiritual book that can only be rightly understood when the Holy Spirit opens the understanding.

Before you read, have the right expectations of the Bible. Do not expect the Bible to be like a magazine, newspaper or novel. The Bible is a collection of various books that contain history, Jewish poetry, parables, prophecies, commands and personal letters. The Bible contains types of literature that are unfamiliar and, at times, difficult. Scripture deals with difficult subjects that will not be easily understood. Expect to face some challenges along the way.

Plan to read the Bible the same way you would eat an elephant, one bite at a time. The book of Genesis is fascinating, but many people would struggle to spend the three hours necessary to read all of Genesis in one sitting. Read the Bible in bites small enough for you to handle. Find a reading program that is doable for you and it will be a great help to remaining faithful. Though it seems to be a massive book filled with strange ideas, the average reader can read the entire Bible in about seventy hours. By spending one hour and twenty minutes every week, you can read the entire Bible in a year. Spend fifteen minutes a day reading Scripture and you can read through the whole Bible in one year.

Determine ahead of time not to let a missed day or two keep you from continuing. Many drop out of their reading plan because they get behind. Often those who have the goal to read the Bible in a specific period of time get frustrated and quit when they miss a few days. Instead of trying to reach a deadline, commit to reading every day. If you miss a day, read the next day and just keep plugging away.

Most importantly, reading the Bible is very important, but you cannot just read it. Read to know your God better. Read to have your life changed. The Bible is the authoritative decree of the God of the universe. He gave you the Bible so you would know Him. He gave the Bible to tell you what He expects of you. Submit yourself to the instructions of the Bible and let its rules guide the way you live.

Many tools and resources are available to help you read through the Bible at any pace you desire. Smartphone apps like You Version offer daily Bible reading plans and a wide range of downloadable plans are available here.

Is the world headed towards the extinction of man?

Apocalyptic scenarios usually describe the extinction, or near extinction, of all life on earth. In many fantasy movies and literature the apocalypse leaves only a handful people left scattered around the world. Some believe the Bible predicts a worldwide catastrophe that will essentially wipe out humanity. The Bible’s description of the last years of the earth are truly apocalyptic, including earthquakes, war, famine and plagues, but does the Bible teach that human life will be wiped out? 

The seven years before the return of Jesus is a time of intense judgment known as the Tribulation. Three of the judgments at the beginning of the Tribulation are death, famine and war. In later judgments the Bible begins to describe the death toll. In one judgment a third of all the ships on the seas are destroyed. This could result in the loss of as many as 1 million people. Then the waters of the earth are poisoned and “many men died of the waters.” (Revelation 8:11). Then a massive army of demons destroys one-third of the remaining world population. The death toll from this judgment alone could be as great as two billion people. Then there is a huge earthquake that shakes the whole earth and wipes out many cities of the world. When Jesus returns the armies of the world will unite in rebellion against him. These armies will be annihilated by the conquering Christ.

Though the Bibles does not give enough details to reach a definite number, the death toll during the tribulation could be as high as 3-5 billion people. The loss of human life during the tribulation will be horrific.  Despite the massive loss of life there could still be between 2-4 billion people left on earth when Jesus returns. To put that in a little bit of perspective, the population of the earth was less than 1 billion people until the early 1800’s. In the mid-1920’s earth’s population reached 2 billion people. During the apocalypse the loss of life will be massive, but mankind will be far from extinct, or even endangered. 

God’s plan for this time of terrible judgment is not the elimination of human life. God will work through the terrible events to establish righteousness on the earth. The events of Revelation are tragic on a level never seen since the flood of Noah’s day but there is a reason to hope. The events of the Tribulation are God’s judgment on sin and God’s final call to men to repent. During the tribulation God will send out 144,000 evangelists to preach the gospel to the whole world. He will also send two prophets from heaven to preach in the middle of Jerusalem. These two men gain the attention of the entire world. God will then send angels across the globe to call men to repentance. During the judgments God will also be actively working to bring men to repentance. The horrible cataclysms of the tribulation are a final wake-up call to rebellious humanity. 

The judgments of the tribulation remind humanity, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.” However, God says, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Ezekiel 33:11)