What is God’s “still small voice”?

When seeking the will of God, some Christians counsel that we should be listening for the still small voice of God. When we are at peace, prayed up and waiting on the Lord, then He will speak quietly to the soul to make His will known.

The phrase “still small voice” comes from 1 Kings 19:12. At Mount Carmel the prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a test to see who was the true God. Though 400 prophets of Baal spent most of the day praying for their god to send fire heaven, their false god did not hear. Elijah offered a simple prayer to Jehovah and God sent fire from heaven that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and the altar it was offered on. After this dramatic victory, the Queen Jezebel swore to put Elijah to death. In fear for his life, Elijah fled. Over six weeks later he was 300 miles away at Mount Sinai. There on Mount Sinai God spoke to Elijah.

While Elijah was camped in a cave, a strong wind blew that broke the rocks in pieces, but God was not in the wind. An earthquake shook the mountain, but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but God was not in the fire. After all those terrifying events there came a quiet gentle whisper, the sound of silence. When Elijah heard the still small voice he went out of the cave and God spoke with Him.

The lesson many take from this passage is that God speaks to us quietly in a way that is often very hard to hear. If we will just listen carefully God will tell us His will. However, 1 Kings 19 has nothing to do with how Christians today find the will of God. Even if it did, the passage does not prove what is being asserted. God did not speak to Elijah in a still small voice. After Elijah heard the still small voice he went out of the cave. Then God spoke with Him. The conversation that Elijah had with God was clear and audible. God asked Elijah a question, Elijah answered and God gave Elijah specific instructions. When God began to speak with Elijah, there was no whispering involved. There was no gentle prompting of the heart. God spoke clearly.

If the still small voice is not God whispering to our soul, what is it? The still small voice was part of an object lesson to Elijah. Elijah was a fiery prophet who had just come from a great, dramatic victory. After the victory the people praised God, the prophets of Baal were put to death, God sent rain to end a 3 1/2 year drought. Things were going great, God’s power was on display and then Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life. In an incredible emotional reaction, Elijah fled to Mount Sinai.

At Mount Sinai Elijah saw the fire, felt the earthquake, heard the roaring wind, but God is not in them. God is not using those things to reveal Himself to His people. Instead, God was doing something else. God’s plan is not for a dramatic display of His power. God planned to do something even more effective- the quiet, almost unnoticed work. God was telling Elijah that He can and does work just as powerfully in the quiet as in the dramatic.

The still small voice of God is not the secret whisper of His will to your heart. The still small voice of God was an illustration to Elijah that God works in ways that are easy to overlook. God’s gentle goodness works powerfully to accomplish His perfect purposes. We do not need to listen for a still small voice in our hearts telling us God’s will. God speaks to men today just as clearly as He did to Elijah. His words are not audible, they are written down clearly for all to see and understand.

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What is Soul Sleep?

If a couple Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on your door to tell you about their church, there is one doctrine that they probably won’t talk about right away. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists are the two most well known groups in America that believe in soul sleep. The doctrine of soul sleep teaches that when a person dies, the soul, just like the body, loses all awareness and sensation. At death the soul of the person does not cease to exist, nor does it enter into heaven or hell, but it becomes unconscious of anything until the day of resurrection.

This doctrine finds support in the Bible’s use of the word “sleep” to describe death. When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, He told His disciples that Lazarus was asleep. In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul refers to those who have died when he says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep.” Proponents of soul sleep believe the figure of sleep applies to the deceased’s body and soul.

Other support is found in passages like Psalm 146:4, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” and Psalm 6:5, “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?” Since man is more just body, since the dead do not think, and since the dead do not praise God, then the soul the soul must go into an unconscious or unaware state after death.

While this may seem to be reasonable and compelling evidence, the Bible makes several clear statements death which make the doctrine of soul sleep impossible. When Jesus taught about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 He plainly taught that when a person dies he immediately enters into his conscious reward. There is no delay between death and awareness. If the soul has no awareness, then the rich man could not wake up in hell. He would be aware of nothing until the resurrection. If the rich man awoke at the resurrection, Abraham was a liar when he said that the man’s brothers could read the Old Testament and thus be saved from hell. What Jesus describes is immediate, conscious awareness of the afterlife.

The book of Revelation tells of martyrs at the throne of God pleading for the punishment of their tormentors. They are clearly conscious, clearly communicating with God and clearly in heaven between their death and the resurrection. Why would they be asking God how long until He would judge their persecutors if they had been resurrected and were at the judgment the same time as their murderers?

The Bible uses sleep as a figurative term to describe the apparent condition of the dead. Sleep is not intended to describe the condition or awareness of the soul. The poetic passages of Psalms and Ecclesiastes that refer to the silence of the dead are speaking of the inability of the deceased to do any thing upon this earth. Soul sleep is not a Biblical doctrine, but a false teaching which denies the clear truths of the Bible about death, judgment and the afterlife.

Why do churches take up an offering?

One of the most common complaints that I hear about churches is that they are always asking for money. The implication is that the pastor or the church is just trying to get rich by taking money from the hard working people people who attend. This accusation has an elelment of truth. Throughout church history there have been those who used the church as a means to get rich. Today there are a number of high profile pastors and evangelists who make millions off their congregations. One recently made the headlines by asking his followers to donate $54 million so he could purchase a private jet. Far too many church leaders follow the “the way of Balaam” because they love money more than God or man. (2 Peter 2:15)

Despite the high profile abuse of greedy false teachers, most churches and pastors are not trying to get rich off their parishioners. For every greedy pastor there are many more who labor long hours for little or no salary. The average pastor is not trying to live the easy life by sponging off his church members. So why do churches collect money every week? Why do churches teach that Christians should be give a part of their income to the church?

The most obvious answer is that churches have to pay the bills. The gospel is freely extended to everyone, but gospel ministry is rarely cheap. The work of the ministry comes with many costs. Heating, cooling and maintaining a building involves substantial monthly expenses. Any effort to provide physical help in the community or to reach out to the community with the gospel requires money be spent. Materials and resources all cost something. Many churches send monthly payments to help those doing gospel work in foreign countries. The basic operational costs of a church can reach a substantial figure every month, even before including salaries for the pastor and any staff members.

Every church has an obligation to pay its pastor. The New Testament specifically commands this. (1 Timohy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:4-11) Consider how much a church needs to collect each week just to pay the pastor the average salary of your community? If you add health insurance and a retirement plan, things most American workers expect, how much more will the church need to bring in each week? Churches collect an offering to help Christians obey God’s command to partner financially with the ministry and pastor that teaches them. (Galatians 6:6)

All these expenses add up so that even small churches in America often operate on annual budgets reaching six figures. This means an average sized church in America needs to bring in at least $2,000 a week to meet their ministry obligations. Taking up an offering every week helps the church meet their expenses. Since God requires Christians to financially support their church, churches give their members an opportunity to obey by passing the offering plate every Sunday. On top of all this, God promises rich blessings to those who give generously to the work of the church. The weekly collection is just one more chance for you to be blessed.

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.

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.

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)

What is theological liberalism?

On the Everlasting Trusth website and radio broadcasts we have made periodic references to theological liberalism. The category theological liberal is important, but often neglected, distinction. Theological liberalism has nothing to do with American politics. Liberal politics are usually associated with the democratic party, but liberal theology is a category that refers to what someone believes about God and the Bible.

Liberal theology began to gain ground in America during the late 1800’s. Soon there was conflict in the major denominations between liberal and conservative groups. Those early battles were fought over the inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus and the genuineness of miracles in the Bible. The liberals denied all these. The theological conservatives strongly defended them.

A theological liberal elevates the authority of science and reason to be equal or greater than the authority of the Bible. In the 1800’s when reason declared miracles were not possible, the liberal agreed. When science concluded the world evolved over a long period of time, the liberal began to explain Genesis in ways that accommodated millions of years of evolution. The meaning of Scripture is shaped for the liberal by science, experience, modern philosophy, psychiatry and contemporary morals.

Sometimes the liberal theologian denies outright the truth of the Bible, but often he is more subtle. Many liberal theologians reinterpret a passage by manipulating the historical context. For example, since Paul was writing into a culture that did not value women’s rights, therefore his statements about a wife’s role in marriage have to be understood through the cultural grid of Paul’s day. The liberal theologian believes that if Paul were writing today he would agree with the progressive view of gender roles.

Liberal theology is frequently shaped by a single ethical ideal that is elevated over the rest of Scripture. This ethic becomes the interpretative grid through which everything else in the Bible is understood. For example, in liberal theology the truth that God is love reinterprets the Biblical commands regarding marriage and sexual purity. A loving God would never condemn loving relationships, no matter who were involved. Modern ethical concerns seem to dominate the focus of liberal churches. Usually the ethical standards of theological liberalism are closely aligned with the ideals of political liberalism. The liberal theologian is often concerned with promoting racial justice, economic equality, environmentalism, access to abortion and acceptance of homosexuality. These ethical concerns outweigh doctrinal concerns. Dealing with social injustice is far more important than preaching the Biblical truths of Jesus and salvation.

The great danger of liberalism is its denial of the authority of the Bible. By denying the truth of Scripture, the liberal effectively denies the gospel. Those who deny that Jesus is God, that Jesus was a perfect man and that Jesus rose from the dead deny key truths that must be believed to be saved. A message that ignores these core truths of the gospel is not a Christian message. Theological liberalism is not just a different viewpoint about certain difficult or minor doctrines. Theological liberalism rejects historic Christian doctrine and it rejects Biblical doctrine. Though it claims the name of Christian, theological liberalism is not Christian.

Why is Ecclesiastes in the Bible?

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most controversial and difficult books of the Old Testament. The author of the book, the time of its writing, the purpose of its writing and its message are all questioned by Bible scholars. While many books of the Old Testament are questioned by theologically liberal scholars even theological conservatives have raised serious questions about the book of Ecclesiastes.

Some Bible teaches have said Ecclesiastes give a cynical view of life that teaches everything is worthless. Some have said Ecclesiastes is a call to enjoy life to its fullest because everything comes from God. Some have said Ecclesiastes is an exploration of the failure of human wisdom. Some have said Ecclesiastes examines the folly of life without God. Some have said Ecclesiastes has no clear theme, and others have said Ecclesiastes is unified by a single clear theme that runs throughout the book. With all this difficulty in understanding Ecclesiastes many have wondered if it should even be in the Bible.

Ecclesiastes says it was written by the son of David, king in Jerusalem. The natural conclusion is that King Solomon wrote the book. Ecclesiastes was written at the end of Solomon’s life after a long season of great wickedness. Two major building projects define his life. During the first half of his reign Solomon led the construction of the temple of God in Jerusalem. Toward the end of his life he led the construction of many temples to false gods. At some time in his life Solomon began seek out the pleasures of work and leisure, wisdom and folly, wealth, possessions and women. After trying everything available, he declared, “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

In all his wisdom Solomon wrestled with the major questions of life: what good is work, what good is pleasure, what good are riches, what good is family, what good are all things? Again, he answered is “all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes examines all the ambitions of life: wealth, power, fame, wisdom, happiness, women, simplicity and concludes they are all meaningless. Ecclesiastes examines all the toils, successes and failures of life and declares that none of them last. Ecclesiastes examines life from every angle and finds life is without purpose.

The book of Ecclesiastes calls the reader to consider the futility and frustration of a life lived apart from God. Though much of Ecclesiastes expresses the hopelessness of living apart from God, the book does not leave the reader without a solution. When all is said and done, Solomon goes back to the principles he learned as a child and taught in Proverbs. When all other philosophies of life have been considered, the conclusion of the whole matter is, “Fear God, and keep His commandments.”

Ecclesiastes explains that life is unexplainable. No one will know all the reasons why. No one will see all their plans and dreams come to pass. Life will seem pointless and frustrating at times. Yet, God rules over all. Though man now suffers because of the curse of sin, life does not have to be pointless or hopeless. A life lived for God will be worthwhile. Ecclesiastes is a very profitable book of the Bible because it teaches all men the value of living according to God’s commands.

Do adult children have to honor their “bad” parents?

Child abuse and neglect are widespread problems in our nation. Many adults today grew up in households where one or both parents did not parent as they ought. The Bible commands children to honor their parents. In situations of abuse or neglect this becomes a very difficult command to obey.

The fifth of the ten commandments says, “Honor thy father and mother.” This command is repeated for modern day Christians in Ephesians 6. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for teaching a tradition that justified not honoring parents. The Bible clearly expects children to honor their parents.

To honor someone is to highly value them and to treat them in a way that shows they are valued. This is not the same as obedience. Obedience does what it is told. Honor treats the parent with respect appropriate to their position. Honor will not mock, will not call names, will not yell and will not hate. Proverbs 23:22 says, “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.”

Young children or those still be supported by their parents are not the only ones required to honor their parents. Honor is owed the parent even when the child supports them. A child never reaches an age when he does not owe honor to his parents. In New Testament times some Jews would dedicate all their possessions to God. The tradition of the Pharisees allowed the person to continue to use those things for himself. If a parent had a need the child could refuse to meet that need because his possessions had been dedicated to the Lord. This pious sounding selfishness overthrew the fifth commandment. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this teaching, “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6)

Jesus taught that adult children were under obligation to honor their parents. Even children with their own households and possessions are obligated to honor their parents. This implies, as well, that ensuring older parents are properly cared for is an essential part of honoring them. Giving to parents that have need is the obligation of any child. Refusing to care for parents is a refusal to honor them.

Is it appropriate to treat abusive, foolish or bad parents with respect, value and compassion? The Bible gives no exceptions to the command to honor father and mother. A similar instruction is given to Christians, commanding them to honor all governmental authorities. Most of the New Testament was written durign the reign of Nero who has gone down in history as one of Rome’s most infamous Caesars. Yet, the New Testament clearly teaches that Christian’s are to honor their rulers.

Despite the many corrupt rulers in the Roman Empire, no exceptions were given to this command. Honor is given to civil authorities because they are given their rule by God for the good of all men. In similar fashion, parents are entrusted by God with the care of their children. Honor is due them for their position and their responsibility. Parents will not always act respectably, but they must always be valued because they are your parents.