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Culture and Christianity VII:

Jury Duty, Witnessing, Biometry, Military Service et al.

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Question #1:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I just received a juror summons for jury duty on my Mom's birthday. I know that there are several passages in scripture instructing Christians not to get involved in judging the "world" (1 Cor.6:1-5). On the other hand it tells us to submit to authority. So I'm kind of in a bind as to what to do in this situation. I just want to do the right thing and be obedient to God first and foremost. What would be the biblical thing to do in this situation? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #1: 

I'm no legal expert, but in my understanding of these matters jury duty is not optional, especially not response to the summons. It is certainly legitimate to request being let off for some important scheduling issue, and in my experience courts are pretty good about allowing a person to reschedule for a later date. Also, for those who have issues of conscience, I would be surprised if there were not a way to voice this – although I hasten to add that would probably have to take place after sitting in the jury pool and expressing one's objection to the judge when and if brought into a courtroom for voir dire. That will also probably be up to the judge, but I know that pastors and even pastors wives very rarely end up serving on juries, so if a person expresses religious compunction that would probably turn off one of the lawyers if not the judge (but one still has to go down and wait one's turn and do one's time in the pool). Courts vary, so you will want to call the number on your summons and ask what the options/procedures are for the particular court. Also, if I am not mistaken, most courts pull their prospective jurors from the list of registered voters (although they sometimes claim that is not the case). This has the advantage of making it unlikely that the person summoned is not a U.S. citizen or a convicted felon. It also, it seems to me, makes it a bit more difficult for a person to claim exemption on grounds of conscience. After all, if a person has no issues with exercising judgment in regard to political office, civil and criminal trials would seem to be at least analogous.

I hope you are doing better – I pray for you and your deliverance and well-being daily.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Bob,

Me again. I was wondering your thoughts on street preachers and in particular those that attended the Michigan Muslim 2012 Festival. There are many articles and videos on how the Muslims ending up throwing eggs and plastic bottles at these folks. It is said that 'grey objects' were also thrown and that the might have been stones. Some people call this 'persecution' against Christians. I don't believe it should be called that for these people could walk away from the thrown objects and could go home and read their Bibles, they weren't being forced to convert and they weren't being pursued in any fashion. They chose to be there.

Now, I understand that the law gives everyone the right to gather together and that would include Muslims for Muslim affairs, which this was and these street preachers have the right to also gather. People are stating that this is witnessing and yet there are also videos showing these 'preachers' also shouting obscenities and had a pigs head on a pole or something. (I'll give you the link)

But, is this the way people should 'witness', as it seemed more of a protest than having a true love for these people and a wish that they would be saved. Is this what Jesus did or would do? Didn't Paul state that he would 'become' like those he would go and gather 'with', those he wished to teach? Am I wrong to think this way of witnessing is wrong? Are we suppose to stand on the corners shouting about Jesus? And if not, what is your opinion, advice and what does the Bible say?

Links:

The viral video showing the angry Muslims

http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=vnJBW49afzg&feature=player_embedded

The video showing the angry Christians (warning curse words can be heard)

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/screaming-
anti-islam-protesters-taunt-muslims-with-
pigs-head-youre-going-to-melt-in-the-fires-of-hell/

Sincerely,

Response #2: 

While I don't agree with pelting people one disagrees with, the provocative behavior of these "Christians" is also something I cannot condone. I think I might just take offense if a group of militants from some religion or cult that embraced vegetarianism invaded my church picnic screaming that we were going to hell for eating hot dogs. This is free country, after all (at least to some degree still), and that is a large part of the point here. As Christians, we should prize the religious liberty we have here as long as we still have it – because it allows us to grow spiritually minister to the Lord without being branded criminals for so doing. Behavior like that which you report not only gives all true Christians a black eye but in the long run also runs the risk that "non-affiliated splinter-group Christianity" (i.e., most true believers) may some day be regulated or banned. We know this will happen when antichrist comes to power.

The bottom line for me is that pleading individually with individuals who are willing to give you a hearing, and doing so in a godly way, is legitimate evangelism. However, screaming at people in a group with your own group is a political action and nothing but a political action. It doesn't change minds. It doesn't give the gospel. It almost certainly does more harm than good if the true objective is leading others to salvation. However, if the true purpose is to express hatred and intolerance for an (admittedly false) religion, well, that is definitely a political action, and all political actions are by definition not Christian because Christianity is a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, not a political movement which engages in political actions.

I certainly commend your "spiritual radar" in seeing this type of behavior as highly problematic. For me, this is another symptom of our era of Laodicea, where lukewarm Christians think they are "red hot for God" because they do this sort of thing, whereas in reality they are merely demonstrating their pathetic spiritual immaturity and their penchant for excitement over the diligent study and earnest application of the truth of the Word of God.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hello Dr.,

I came across Proverbs 18:9 and noticed a difference between different versions of the bible. The Amplified has extra tagged onto it while the other major versions don't even mention this add-on. Here is the link:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=
prov%2018.9&version=AMP;KJV;NIV;MSG

Biblegateway also notes the extra verse from the Amplified comes from the Septuagint. I'm curious if this verse can accurately be said to be a part of the bible. And if so, is it literal? Would this verse advocate the use of medicine and seeking conventional human means of healing?

Keep up the usual, excellent work as it's greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Response #3: 

Good to hear from you! Here is what the NIV has on Proverbs 18:9:

One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

Here is what the Amplified Bible has:

He who is loose and slack in his work is brother to him who is a destroyer and he who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is brother to him who commits suicide.

The NIV is essentially the same in overall meaning with all of the other versions – and so is the AMP in the first half of the verse. The AMP has a footnote on their "unique" translation (in the expanded second half of the verse) as follows:

This verse so reads in The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament). Its statement squarely addresses the problem of whether one has a moral right to neglect his body by "letting nature take its unhindered course" in illness.

The problem with this (or one of them, anyway), is that, while it is true that the Septuagint presents a somewhat befuddled translation, even so it would take additional, prodigious "befuddlement" to make the Greek say what the AMP wants it to mean. Here is how Breton translated the verse from the LXX in the mid 1900's:

A Man who helps not himself by his labour is brother of him that ruins himself.

One thing that is obvious in carefully examining the AMP translation is that they have actually translated the same Greek twice! In the first rendering of it, "He who is loose and slack in his work is brother to him who is a destroyer", we see the same type of translation all the other versions have. But in the second part in rendering the same words now twice they have "he who does not use his endeavors to heal himself is brother to him who commits suicide"; here we see them taking some pretty large liberties with the Greek of the LXX. Not that there are not problems with the Greek text. The first Greek verb, iomenos, is derived from the same root we see in English derivatives for medical specialties (i.e., the -iatry of psychiatry and podiatrist have to do with doctoring and healing). So "healing himself" is certainly possible. However, this is clearly a mistake in the LXX tradition. The Hebrew words for "being slack" and "healing" are almost identical (i.e., raphah vs. rapha' or רפה vs. רפא), and it is very clear that the Septuagint translator read the wrong verb here by accident. This is critical, because without "healing" in the first part, the chances of "suicide" being in the second – which were pretty remote anyway – disappear entirely. The second verb translated "commits suicide" (the second time it is translated) is lymainomai, and does mean "harm oneself". But in a context of "being slack", harming oneself is much more naturally taken as the damage done by indolence, a very common theme in Proverbs (whereas the idea of suicide as a parallel is not elsewhere seen). In any case, it would be a stretch to read lymaineto as harming oneself via suicide – that is not a natural way to take the verb. And while it is difficult to prove a negative, I am not aware of the verb ever meaning that: it usually means any sort of harm, damage or indignity, not suicide. So in my view, the esoteric interpretation that the AMP wishes to draw out of this equally esoteric Greek mistranslation of the original Hebrew (which is clear enough and does not need this interference) and their dubious translation of it in turn seems to me to be incredibly far-fetched – and entirely wrong. It also says something about a version of the Bible that can "double" a translation, adding an entire extra verse in the process, and have it not be at all obvious either from the English translation or from their notes that they have done so.

You have a keen eye! Hope this is helpful for your studies of the Word of God.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Dear Bob Luginbill,

I have recently found your site ichthys.com. It's very nice. I'm interested in your opinion about this: http://www.worlduin.com/

Is biometry, RFID, laser tatoo, DNA chip and so on mark of the beast or some of them is mark, some of them is preparing for the mark of the beast? Will it be mandatory even before seven-year Tribulation period since the beast from earth (computer-satellite system and/or countries or regions behind them) assigns the mark, not the beast from abyss (Antichrist). Are electronic and biometric cards (personal cards, passports, driver licenses, health cards, etc.) acceptable for Christians or not?

All the best,

Response #4: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your interest in Ichthys and also for your question. There is nothing in the Bible about biometry. The Bible does have some things to say about tattoos, but mostly in the context of pagan religion (see the link: "Tattoos and Salvation") – in my view they are not desirable, but I cannot say with authority that they would be absolutely wrong in any instance (or at least important, spiritually speaking). As to RFID and DNA chips, these are also, obviously, not addressed in scripture but would seem to fall into the category of body alteration such as piercing et al. (see the previous link where that is also addressed). Again, while not desirable in my view, I could not say that they are categorically outlawed by scripture.

The mark of the beast, on the other hand, will be a very definite and unmistakable mark: no one who receives that mark will be in any doubt about what it is, and everyone who receives it will be very well aware that agreeing to accept it constitutes a tangible "pledge of allegiance" to the beast. So while all of the things you mention are troubling to some degree – and to no small degree because they are wearing down the general feeling of resistance and antipathy to such practices – allowing oneself to be tattooed with the name and/or number of antichrist will not be an accident. It will not occur through deception (about what the mark is or means, at any rate). No one who truly believes in Christ will take the mark (Rev.20:4); and on the other hand taking the mark will amount to an irreversible action which guarantees damnation (Rev.14:9; 14:11). Where deception will play a major role, however, is in antichrist's representation of himself as being Christ:

He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
2nd Thessalonians 2:4 NIV

There will occur during the Tribulation a Great Apostasy of actual believers who will throw in their lot with the beast. They may or may not be deceived about who he really is (i.e., not Christ but anti-Christ), but they will understand full well that by taking his mark – a very particular and unmistakable sign – that they are linking their fate to his for all eternity.

But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
Revelation 19:20 NIV

I certainly appreciate the tenor of your question. Christians should be wary of any sort of action or activity which runs against the grain of good spiritual common sense. For more on the mark and the number of the beast, please see the link to the section where this is covered in detail in the Coming Tribulation series:

In CT 4: "The Mark of the Beast"

Thanks again your for question,

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 

Thank you, Bob Luginbill!

It seems so, but I'll still think about some things which are not quite understandable for me. E.g. Revelation 13 says that people will firstly be assigned by the mark and then they will not be able to buy or sell without that mark. Biometry wasn't mentioned in the Bible by word "biometry", but it's also not said that biometry is not mark of the beast. In Rev. 13 it is said that all "small and big, ..." will receive the mark. We can see that nowadays even newborn get biometric passport, e.g. computer numerical code is formed of newborn's face (forehead) and hand and is sent to the central database where it is connected with common code 666 (rw- rw- rw- access code in Linux operate system). It's the same case with all people. And at some moment world governments will say: "From nowadays all trade will be done by your biometric fingerprint or forehead (eye iris,...).". Then Antichrist will just take over the system made before his public appearance. Plus, improved biometric technology can make possible that permanent mark is put on body (for now, the mark, i.e., numerical code is "only" sent to the computer). Can't that be so?

I would also ask you for comment about something my friend seven months ago wrote about year of the Rapture and the Second Coming (in the attachment).

All the best from loved Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #5: 

Good to hear back from you. You are very welcome – I am glad this was helpful. As to your comments, I do understand what you are saying. However, consider the implications of this passage:

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb."
Revelation 14:9-10 NIV

According to this passage, all who take the mark are condemned. First, that would be entirely contrary to the justice of God if many (or indeed if any) who have the mark have it placed upon them without their free will consent. Taking the mark is an act of worship of antichrist, and those who worship antichrist have by definition rejected the true Christ – that is the theological basis for their condemnation. Secondly, we know that all who take the mark will be removed from the earth at the second advent (the so-called "baptism of fire" talked about John at, e.g., Matt.3:11; Lk.3:16; see the link). If this included every single person on earth, then earth would be completely depopulated at the second advent. But we know that 1) there will be many Christians alive at the second advent to be resurrected at "the last trumpet" (1Thes.4:13-17), and also that many Jews will still be alive and will be regathered to the land of Israel at that time in fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophecies of that event (see the link: "The Regathering of Israel"). So I don't think we should understand Revelation 13:16 to mean that the beast will be 100% successful in his bid to have everyone accept him and his mark: i.e., the compulsion will be universal but not the actual implementation (Christ will return before that is able to happen). The fact that no one can buy or sell without the mark shows me that there has to be economic compulsion to get people who are otherwise unwilling to take the mark to do so anyway. This also indicates to me that the issue of free will is important to the beast as well – not in a fair way, but still the devil wants to present God with a world where every single person has by their own choice rejected His Son and chosen for the devil's son instead (even if under severe duress). It doesn't matter to him that the compulsion will be severe and unfair (including the Great Persecution wherein one third of believers will be put to death as martyrs) – if a person agrees to take the mark, even under horrendous pressure, they have taken it nonetheless by their own consent (an action which will constitute rejecting Christ in their hearts). A child who is tattooed by its parents would not have made any sort of commitment to antichrist and this would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise. Also, the fact that scripture is so adamant about connecting the mark with condemnation and warning against taking it tells me that there will be a decision to be made by everyone in those days as to whether or not to take the mark: it will not be tattooed on anyone who says "no!" even on pain of death. I am certainly not saying that the mark will have no "biometric properties" (I have no basis for evaluating that); merely that it won't be given except to those who are willing to take it.

As to the attached file, I certainly agree with the dual proposition that 1) the "rapture" or resurrection does not take place until the second advent (the Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory is very prominent here in the US and is doing much damage in rendering many Christians disinterested in and therefore unprepared for the Tribulation; see the link); and 2) that the Church age lasts 2,000 years (the practical effect of all the dates included in the piece you attach at least). The question is how we arrive at the precise date. We know that the Millennium is 1,000 years and so, based upon Psalm 90:4 and 2nd Peter 3:8 compared to the seven Genesis days of re-construction, we are invited to see the Gentile age as 2,000 years, the Jewish age as 2,000 years, and the Church age as 2,000 (this was clear even to the early Greek fathers, Irenaeus in particular). Spending time in the chronological data of the Old Testament we see the first two figures confirmed, and given the state of things in our day, present circumstances certainly argue in favor of the latter as well: nearly 2,000 years after Christ's crucifixion we certainly seem to be close to the end. If so (and I certainly believe so), then the second advent will commence 2,000 years after . . . what? The most likely candidate for the date to begin the count is the year of our Lord's crucifixion, resurrection and ascension (this, after all, is the "conjunction of the ages": Heb.9:26), the year in which the first Pentecost of the Spirit happens as well. That date was by many estimates 33 A.D., which would place the second advent at 2033 A.D. and the start of the Tribulation seven years earlier: 2026 (see the link: "The start of the Tribulation"). I notice that your friend makes great use of 1) the traditional Jewish calendar, and 2) the year of the foundation of the state of Israel. However, the former is of no particular use since the years of Christ's life are not taken into account ipso facto by traditionalist Jewish scholars who do not accept Him as the Messiah, and the latter is of no prophetic moment whatsoever because the return to Israel so far has been entirely secular and has nothing to do with the return which the Lord will bring about when He comes back (see the link). There have been some Jews living in the "holy land" since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; the fact that since the nineteenth century and especially following the Second World War there have been more returns with a political nation being declared by human actions some years later has nothing to do with prophecy and does not occur anywhere in prophecy. Indeed, there is no specific, event-related prophecy in the Bible which occurs during the Church age, as this is a complete intercalation into the plan of God unknown and unanticipated in Old Testament times (i.e., the Church is a "mystery"; see the link).

So I think 1) things are actually much simpler than this piece suggests, and 2) we are actually much closer to these things than many people realize. I am certainly happy to discuss any of the above with you at length.

Thank you for your interest in Ichthys and in the Word of God!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hello Bob,

Maybe, I wasn’t precise, so you wrongly understood me. When I said "It's the same case with all people" I meant people of all ages (since I mentioned newborns in precedent sentence), not all people. Sorry for that you had to write a lot of unnecessary answer because I wasn’t precise. Of course, not all people will receive the mark, true Christians will not receive it.

I hope that we will not unconsciously receive permanent mark through biometric procedure, because servants of Satan are deceivers like their father and they maybe will not tell us that we will receive some permanent (laser or of some other type) mark on right hand or forehead through biometric procedure. Also, even nowadays in some places biometric is used for trade (though still not mandatory in all world). And I know that many say that Antichrist will assign the mark, but I don't see that The Holy Scripture says anywhere that Antichrist (the beast from abyss) will assign the mark. I see that The Holy Scripture says that the beast from earth will assign the mark and that beast is not only False Prophet but probably the computer-satellite system which will exist during Antichrist and False Prophet, but also exists even now. The number of the beast 666 is access code in central computer "Beast" in Brussels (and elsewhere). I hope that it is not sin when our photos are sent to "Beast" computer system. But, perhaps it is.

It is interesting some prophecy from an orthodox monk from 17th century that even some cards with 666 which will be used for traveling shouldn't be used by Christians.

Let’s see this verses:

"And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name." (Rev 15:2) If Christians won "the number of his name" then that means that to receive the number of the beast is sin. If we take personal electronic cards with number of the beast on them, haven't governments changed our (baptizing) name with number (of the beast). When we die, will God recognize us by our names or as some number? Will we go to Heaven if we refused our name having changed it with number of the beast. Doesn’t that number show who is our master? Can we serve two masters? I'm not sure about this, just my thoughts said with intention to better understand it in discussion with you.

What do you think about this:

http://markofthebeast.embassyofheaven.
com/whomarkedyou.php?

I’m also glad to discuss with you and when I get time I’ll talk with you about the Second coming too.

I wish you all the best from the Lord Jesus,

Response #6: 

It's no problem! I am always happy to discuss the Bible (even if I don't always understand the question properly the first time!).

The false prophet is a person. He acts like a person wherever he is described, and there is this passage as well:

But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
Revelation 19:20 NIV

It seems that 1) the false prophet is parallel to antichrist; and 2) that just like the beast he is personally thrown into the lake of fire – and only individuals can be so disposed and so condemned.

While it is true that the false prophet is the one given to "ramrod" the effort of marking, it seems very clear to me that he is effecting the beast's policy in every way.

I do hear what you are saying about deception, and I certainly do agree. That is one of the reasons why I am personally not in favor of tattoos. Although I cannot find any direct biblical pronouncement against them, at the very least it seems to me that being tattooed reduces one's natural inclination to see future tattoos as a problem (i.e., it breaks down at least one important barrier against taking the mark). And as mentioned, antichrist will proclaim himself to be Christ, so that those who believe him will indeed be deceived; and being marked – of their own free will – will be part and parcel of that deception. But such deception will only come upon those who have hardened their hearts to reject the true Christ:

(8) And then the lawless one (i.e., antichrist) will be revealed, [that same one] whom the Lord Jesus will slay with the breath of His mouth and destroy when He appears at His [glorious] return – [that same lawless one] (9) whose appearance [will come about] through Satan's empowerment [and will be] accompanied by every [sort of] false miracle, both signs and portents, (10) and by every [sort of] unrighteous deception [designed] for those who are perishing, [namely those who will believe these lies] because they did not open themselves up to the love for the truth so as to be saved. (11) And for this [very] reason God is going to send upon them an empowerment of error so that they may believe the lie, (12) in order that they may be condemned, [even all those] who have not believed the truth but have [instead] approved of unrighteousness.
2nd Thessalonians 2:8-12

Finally, since worshiping the beast is inextricably connected to taking the mark of the beast – precisely as the empowerment of error predicts above – the chances of anyone who is even a marginal Christian being willing to take the mark – regardless of the pressure, persuasion or deception – is in my view nil:

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or (literally "and") for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
Revelation 14:9-11 NIV

This fundamental principle of choice which is present wherever these things are discussed is the problem I have with the link you include. And for every misapprehension Christians have about this important issue, the more likely they are to be confused by the straightforward nature of the actual mark when and if they come face to face with it.

Looking forward to seeing you rewarded before Christ's judgment seat!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Thank you, Bob!

The most likely, so it is as you said, though we still should watch if the false prophet appears even before Tribulation period, i.e. before Antichrist (though he will act with Antichrist later too), I'm not sure.

As for the Second Coming I think that 2033 year can't be the year of the Second Coming, because it's not Sabbath year. The next Sabbath years are 2015, 2022, 2029, 2036, 2043. From the text I have sent you in the attachment and from that I didn't mention it all fits 2036-2043. as Tribulation period.

I think that God died and raised for us in 30 AD. But, I think that God will not come 2000 years later (in 2030 AD), because He said: "in the third day I'll raise". So, not after two days (two thousand years), but in the beginning of the third day, i.e. the third millennium, He will come again.

I believe the pre-tribulation rapture is scriptural.

Here is some nice explanation:

http://www.youtube.com/user/
eternalrhythmflow?feature=CAMQwRs%3D

All the best from The Lord,

Response #7:

I certainly wouldn't rule out being able to correctly identify many of these things in their incipient forms before they actually come on the scene in the book of Revelation. The false prophet's main "ministry" will take place, however, in the Tribulation's second half. We know that because it will involve, among other things, the abomination of desolation which will not be set up until after antichrist has taken his seat in the temple after the Tribulation's mid-point.

As to Sabbath years, I would be very reluctant to place any weight upon this sort of consideration. The traditional (medieval) Jewish calculation of the years since Adam and Eve is fraught with difficulties (as anyone who has looked carefully into the chronological information actually contained in scripture can easily ascertain). My reason for identifying fall 2033 as the year of the second advent is simple: it is gotten by adding 2,000 years plus six months to the most likely date for the year of our Lord's crucifixion and resurrection, 33 A.D.

On "the third day", it is important to note that counting in the ancient world tended to be "inclusive". Our Lord was crucified on Friday and rose on Sunday – but He rose at first light on Sunday even though He was not crucified until the third hour and gave up His spirit at about the ninth hour, the point being that Friday/Saturday/Sunday still equals three days, biblically speaking, so that spring 33 to fall 2033 would also equal three days, or more literally would result in the second advent occurring "on the third [millennial] day (since it is slightly more than two millennia)".

As to the pre-Tribulation rapture, well, you are certainly not alone in seeing that as a entirely wrong. I too believed in it (vehemently) – until I took it upon myself to prove it conclusive from scripture . . . and found out that it is not in scripture anywhere at all (e.g., the Greek word parousia, "coming", always refers to the second advent; see the link). It is also a very dangerous false doctrine in that it predisposes Christians to be lukewarm just at the time when they ought to be redoubling their efforts in spiritual growth to prepare for the storm ahead, and dangerous in a counter-intuitive way as well: the more the signs of the times point to the coming of the end, the more pre-Trib believers feel "warm and fuzzy" about the soon-to-come "rapture", and the more they come to fit the profile of lukewarm Laodiceans who are unprepared for the most difficult trial believers have ever had to face, corporately speaking (i.e., just as my students would no doubt stop studying if I cancelled the final exam, so contemporary believers seem to see no point in bearing down in spiritual growth the more they are convinced that they will soon be "raptured"). I am certainly happy to have this conversation with you (n.b., I'm not sure the link you included is the best defense of the position: this person spends a lot of time on the word "rapture" which, since that is a Latin word that doesn't have a true biblical reference, is beside the point, as well as on a curiously inapplicable foray into Old Testament ritual; he also believes as I do that the seven churches represent the Church age! – a position which leads in my view inexorably to the post-Trib rapture and one with which most pre-Trib-ers do not agree; finally, he sees the seventh trumpet as mid-Trib which, in addition to being obviously wrong, is also a very esoteric view; see the link). Before going into the details, it would be helpful if you first had a look at these two links:

No Rapture

The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hi, Bob!

Since we discuss many topics, for now I'll keep attention on two ones - Sabbath years and birth and death of Jesus Christ. I'll read these links about rapture you put here. I must notice that I'm amazed how much strength God gave you to write all those texts on your site. It is a lot of text for me even to read, I can't imagine what it is like to write all that. But, though I, unfortunately, have no much time, I'll try to read these two links about the rapture, because it is useful like many other texts on your site (the first one I read on your site was about repentance, I found out from your site that the priest is not necessary to confess sins to him, but only God, just in case we did something wrong to some people, we must ask for forgiveness from them). You have well noticed that this author of clip about the rapture I have sent you, has made a mistake when said that the seventh trumpet is in mid of Tribulation. I have also noticed it and I think that the seventh trumpet is same as the sixth seal and the seventh bowl of God's wrath. But, I haven't noticed anything other wrong in his clip. Earlier I was post-trib, now I'm pre-trib believer, but I'll read this you have sent me and we'll discuss it later.

Now, I would like to hear your comment about this (about Sabbath years):

http://www.askelm.com/star/star020.htm

http://www.creation-answers.com/
chronoj.htm and this (about birth, baptizing and death of The Lord Jesus):

http://www.keithhunt.com/Wheborn1.html

http://www.keithhunt.com/Wheborn2.html

It seems reasonable for me.

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Response #8: 

I had a brief look at these links (three sources). I'm sure you've noticed that despite their scholarly pretensions they do not agree on their conclusions. Chronology is a difficult subject, it is true. One thing these three blogs seem to have in common is an over-reliance on secular records and Jewish traditional literature as sources (many of which, e.g., Josephus, are notoriously suspect). I would like to point out that there is not a single reference in the New Testament to sabbatical years. Not only that, but "keeping the Sabbath" is the one commandment which is not repeated in the New Testament. Indeed, Jesus regularly healed and did the work of His Father on the Sabbath. As grace has replaced law (and spiritual freedom has replaced ritual slavery), so Sabbath keeping has been replaced in the Church by a moment by moment "Sabbath rest" for the true people of God (Heb.4:9). The implications of this profound change are lost on most Christian groups (just as the implications of grace replacing Law are also often entirely overlooked as well). For our discussion, the point is that in these materials the highly actuarial focus on numbers is for this very reason suspect on its face. The fact that these three systems 1) all have recourse to extra-biblical documentation as their main support; 2) do not agree even so; and most critically 3) there is nothing I know of in scripture to suggest that we are to look at a sequence of seven year periods measured from some distant point to determine the dates of the Tribulation and Second Advent, all lead me to question this methodology. That is especially so since in my view the real accounting is much simpler and accessible to any Christian who considers the matter seriously. The re-construction of the earth took seven days, and these seven days are paralleled by seven millennia in the plan of God (as the parallel between the seventh day of re-creation and the 1,000 year Millennium alone makes clear; cf. Ps.90:4; 2Pet.3:8). Once that basic chronological outline of the Plan of God is accepted, adding 2,000 years to the date of the crucifixion/resurrection is a simple enough matter. Of course there is still the question of the precise date of that year, but we do have quite a bit of information with which to make an informed decision. You can find my calculations for that at the following link: in SR 5, "The Life of Christ" (I find the year to most likely 33 A.D. as you know).

There are other reasons too why turning this all into a Kabbalah-like exercise in numerology is probably wrong-headed: Israel did not even exist until Abraham was circumcised, and Israel herself did not follow the Law of sabbatical years before the Babylonian captivity (the reason for the 70 years of abeyance of her stewardship of God's truth: Lev.26:34; 26:43), and there is no biblical evidence that she followed any sabbatical cycle afterwards either. Accepting the very late Jewish reconstructions of the cycle as accurate, therefore, would be highly problematic – even if there were any point to it.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I hope I can make this coherent. I've followed many of the links you cited in this post on military service in the Tribulation and, for the most part, you have confirmed what I have come to understand. You may be right on the number of the beast, but I have realized that I probably won't know that until the time comes, but when it does, I will. So I've set that one aside.

Where I have a major disagreement with what you wrote is your opinion of the military. I was drafted during the Vietnam fiasco. I enlisted was 8th Air Force, 597th bomb wing and I watched as the drugs, bodies and wounded cycled in from Guam. I have known men who fought campaigns in Cambodia when we weren't in Cambodia. I've known F4 pilots who were ordered out of North Vietnam when it cost American lives, I've known men who dumped out Agent Orange on our own troops and I watched the betrayal of the Montagnards and the South Vietnamese who trusted us. I see no difference in the way the government is using the military now than I did then. In fact, I think we are in a position in the middle east to send more kids to die. What is Christian about that?

I have recently come to the realization that to "take up the cross" and follow Jesus means far more than I ever realized. I believe the reason the overcomers are to judge angels is because we will be tested beyond anything the angels have ever faced. Jesus was the model in his birth, education, ministry, persecution and death and portraying what we, as Christians, will have to face. Since we are so near the tribulation and that great day, that means that some of us will be taken, persecuted and killed and those that endure will win the crown because they suffered as did Jesus.

Perhaps that seems obvious, but it was a revelation to me. I had believed that we were to only follow his commands and spread the gospel as our individual gifts directed us. I never realized, as I'm sure that the early martyrs did, that His life was guidance in how to suffer and die.

The connection between these two is 1) given Jesus' example of "disappearing" before it was his time thereby avoiding capture and 2) his behavior during his capture in which the government of his time bore arms against him, I can see absolutely no reason to be in the military and I know of no Biblical guidance that would suggest that military service is a Christian thing to do or that running and hiding is unChristian. On the contrary, I see those that went to Canada no longer as cowards as I once did, but people who put it all on the line for their beliefs. (There may have been some cowardice, but there was also courage.) My experience has convinced me that government and military behavior is distinctly unChristian and something a Christian should avoid.

The point to this long winded prolog is not to argue; you get enough of that, but to ask you this: what, in the Bible, would contradict my opinions? What, in the Bible, would suggest that military service is either honorable or Christian? Does rendering unto Caesar mean volunteering to die for the drug trade?

I admit that this has scratched off the scab of an old and festering wound and I apologize for unloading on you. The question, though, remains; does the Bible support or encourage military participation? How much am I expected to render unto Caesar? How will we know when we are rendering unto the Antichrist instead of Caesar? Are they one and the same? Is military participation a prelude to what we will face in the tribulation?

Sorry for the long winded ramble.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #9: 

Good to hear from you as always. I certainly would never tell anyone that they had to join the military (unless there were a draft and it was legally required). The situation we have today is very similar to that of the New Testament. The Roman army was an "all volunteer force" and very often a career for those who joined.

Secondly, I am entirely in sympathy with a position that finds general officers craven and political, politicians self-serving and irresponsible, and foreign conflicts often questionable and avoidable; that was true to some degree in Rome, and even more so today. Anyone I have ever known who has been in the military realizes that you have to be a political toady to make general, that politicians do not care whether you live or die (regardless of what they say), and that if you are committed to battle somewhere the objectives are likely to be very poorly thought out, and that you are very likely to be inadequately supported, poorly led, and see the mission abandoned later on regardless of loss and sacrifice (to put the best spin on it). So I would wish to make a very strong distinction between individuals serving with honor (of which there have always been a sizable number, the Vietnam era certainly included) and the environment in which they serve: including the military bureaucracy, the government in general, the particular administration in question, and the international situation or present state of conflicts. Everything in the "environment" may be problematic. For Christians in the military, that truth has often made for difficult service, frustrating situations, and the need for a strong moral compass – but it has rarely resulted in a Christian who is walking close to his Lord being unable to serve with honor and a clear conscience.

After all, we live in "the world", and in order to stop associating with villains, thieves and scoundrels, we would have to leave the world (1Cor.5:10). That is not only inadvisable to try (as all monastic and cenobite movements have inevitably proved), but also in truth impossible to attain. Wherever a Christian finds him/herself and in whatever profession he/she finds him/herself, there will be the same sorts of frustrations, wicked individuals, ridiculous and harmful policies, horrible influences, etc. – and in this I speak from some personal experience and observation. What is different about the military when compared to most (though not all) other professions is that taking up that profession often represents a measure of sacrifice and a measure of risk that 1) most people are not willing to offer up and 2) without which we as a nation would soon be in very dire straits. Without a police force, there would be anarchy; without a military, there would be no freedom. So I have no problem with applauding individuals who are willing to take on this sacrifice and run this risk – especially nowadays when both the sacrifice and the risk have been greatly accentuated since my own years of post-Vietnam era service. The fact that a person of conscience has to bear up under all of the other issues you raise only makes my admiration for those willing to run that gauntlet the more pronounced.

The Tribulation will be different for many reasons. There will at that time be no "safe haven" in the world as antichrist will come to control it all by its mid-point. So the question of what about similar service in the Tribulation is a different one, in my view, since at that point, the beast will be using all police forces and military establishments for his own directly satanic ends. I would put this in the framework of illegal orders. Even today, it would take a large helping of guts to tell a commander who gives you an order which you are convinced is illegal that you are not going to carry it out. But I would hope that a Christian of strong conscience would take just such a position. During the Tribulation, however, it will be a case of illegality, immorality and blasphemy defining everything that is done (so I find the analogy used in the link you reference of the oath sworn to Hitler by the Wehrmacht an apt if not entirely exact one). There will come a time when such service will be incompatible with Christianity because of the nature of the beast who is in charge, literally. This, by the way, may be true of many other professions and organizations, not just the military and police. It is likely that before we are restrained from doing so by our refusal to join antichrist, we Christians will be forced to resign from all manner of government, quasi-government and even business positions because of the moral compromises which arise.

In closing, I also have to say that the New Testament paints quite a positive picture of Roman military men and makes great use of military metaphors in a very positive light as well. In all of these cases, however, the focus is always on honorable individuals, and the ideal of honorable service in the face of all manner of challenges. If my own experience and observation of others means anything, I think it is true that most Christians are better for this experience too, even if the experience was difficult, frustrating or otherwise unpleasant. In large part, that sums up our Christian experience in the world: it's an awful place, but the character we demonstrate while in it in serving our own Commanding Officer, Jesus Christ, is what makes or breaks us in regard to our eternal rewards.

Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer.
2nd Timothy 2:3-4 NIV

Thanks for your email – I found your comments about the suffering we Christians will likely have to face in the very near future particularly poignant and on the mark.  Here are some other links:

War and Preemption

Military Service in the Tribulation

What does the Bible say about War, History, and Politics?

In Jesus Christ the Righteous whom we are here to serve,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I hope I didn't give you the impression I was against GIs; I'm not. I served with some of the finest. I also ran into some of the worst. My dilemma is knowing when this country has passed the point of no return and how to respond to it. I think we have passed that point and are under the beast system today. I believe the King of DC must be active for the insanity I see up there. Sadly, I've learned nothing over the past many years that prepares me for our new America.

My understanding is that we are to obey the laws government passes unless they violate God's law. I'm seeing many laws that qualify. The UCMJ specifies a duty to disobey an unlawful order. Should we not consider that one of God's general orders?

Your's in Christ

Response #10: 

I certainly didn't take your comments that way at all. Yes, things are bad. But they are not nearly as bad as they are going to get. On your question, here is what I read in scripture:

But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God."
Acts 4:19 NIV

As I often point out, Paul and Peter were severely persecuted by the Roman authorities, and yet are vehement about the need to obey legally constituted authority even so (Romans 13:1-5; 1st Timothy 2:1-4; 1st Peter 2:13-15). The dividing line comes when we are told to do something we ought not to do or, as in the quote above, are told to stop doing something we ought to do (the example of Daniel comes to mind here as well). Since at time of writing Christians are not being forced to worship the devil and are not being restrained from worshiping the One true God and His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ, in my opinion the line has not yet been crossed (bad as things have become). It is certainly possible to project current trends and see that we are heading in that direction. However, I would also point out that once the Tribulation begins the acceleration of societal degeneration on all levels will be dramatic, once the Holy Spirit's ministry of restraint comes to an end for the duration of those terrible seven years (see that link and also "The Unleashing of the Mystery of Lawlessness").

So, bottom line, I agree with your latest analysis. For more on all this please see the following links:

A Tribulational Code of Conduct

How should Christians behave during the Tribulation?

A Brief Christian "Code of Conduct" for the Great Persecution

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

I noticed in this question about the star of David you quoted and wrote the below. So my question is, as a Christian should I not be wearing ear rings? Nose ring? Etc.

"For you lifted up the shrine of your king (i.e., pagan god), and the pedestal of your idols, [even] the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.
Amos 5:26

As this verse indicates, in addition to the Lord's tabernacle and furnishings, Israel had also secretly carried about the paraphernalia of their former idols (a fact which accounts for the many failings and the insincerity of faith in that first generation "whose bones were scattered in the wilderness": 1Cor.10:5). This is of course not unprecedented as we are reminded of Rachel's theft of her father's idols (Gen.31:19), and the need for Jacob to cleanse his family of such things at God's command (Gen.35:4 NIV: So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem")."

Response #11: 

Good to make your acquaintance. The burying of the earrings by Jacob in Genesis 35:4 is directly conjoined in the text with the "foreign gods" mentioned in the same verse. Therefore we can safely say that in this particular case the earrings in question were more than mere decorative ornaments (which were often used by Old Testament believers; cf. Gen.24:22; Num.31:50; Prov.25:12; Song 1:10-11; Is.3:19; Ezek.16:1), and were in this case objects of veneration towards these foreign gods (like charms or amulets). To put this in modern terms, wearing a necklace with a bauble of no significance is merely fashion; wearing an amulet dedicated to some god is an entirely different matter, even if one looks almost identical to the other. What is important is what is in the heart of the wearer. If the person wearing the earrings is merely doing so to present a becoming appearance, there is nothing negative about it, spiritually speaking (especially if done in a modest fashion). If, however, the earrings are emblazoned with name of some pagan god and the person in question sees them as tributes to that god, then burying them or otherwise discarding them would be a legitimate act, should said person come to repentance and come to believe in Jesus Christ.

I hope this answers your question. Do feel free to write back about it.  Here are a couple of related links:

Should Christians wear Jewelry?

Should Christians wear a crucifix?

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12:  

I read your response to the person who was being overly careful about humor as a Christian. You said you did not see anywhere in the Gospels that Jesus was funny? Hello? The Lord was incredibly funny! Re-read your Gospels again, sir!

Anyone who follows Christ has a sense of humor and a clear joy about them! St. Francis and his friends clearly demonstrated that, too.  

Response #12: 

I don't suppose you could give me an example in the Bible?

Question #13: 

I grew up around Jewish people in my community, and they have carried with them a wit that is intrinsically all their own. When you see the bible animated through Jewish eyes, it reads differently!

I don't have to quote scriptural passages to explain His humor. Look at the colorful way He uses parables! Luke 6:41-42 is my personal favorite! He was serious in His teachings but used extremely colorful language to home in a point. Even His mom knew He would change water to wine at the wedding at Cana despite Him saying it wasn't His time yet. What did Mary say to the waiters? "Do what He tells you." This perhaps is a classic example of how Jewish families interact.

Levi invited the Lord as his guest of honor at a huge party. You think Jesus was just totally business? Who can command the attention of thousands nowadays? Really animated preachers, right? Even preachers use humor to lighten the mood and capture the attention of a congregation.

I'm about to read the Book of Ester through Jewish eyes. A rabbi I like says it reads like a comedy. :)

Anyway, understand the Jewish culture. Talk to some rabbis. After all, salvation came from the Jews.

May God bless you.

In His Name,

Response #13: 

I have read the book of Esther in Hebrew many times and it never struck me that the attempt to commit a holocaust against the Jews in Susa and Persia was funny in the least. My impression of what Jewish scholars in particular have said about it (e.g., Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon of the University of Jerusalem whom I had the privilege of hearing lecture about it many years ago) would seem to refute that premise (pace your Rabbi friend).

Jesus did use parables, but I cannot see how humor enters into that. As far as holding the attention of crowds, one of the things I find so admirable about our Lord's approach is that He did not stoop to the sorts of gimmicks one hears in pulpits today. All of His parables were truth and they all went straight to the heart like the sharpest arrow – and still do so and always will. This is very much different from preachers who tell jokes in church instead of exegeting the Bible.

If you are giving an unbeliever the gospel, I doubt that you will be wanting to make jokes about the last judgment. In a similar vein, no ministry was ever more important than that of our Lord's and if we are wise we will take it just as seriously as He did and just as seriously as it in fact was meant to be taken. Jesus went into the darkness of Golgotha for us to burn and not be consumed until He had expiated every single sin of all mankind. This is not the stuff of jokes. There will be a time for joyful celebration after His second advent victory, but the first advent was all about His humility and sacrifice, and should not be taken lightly in any way. I say this as someone who (although it may not be obvious from this email) makes liberal use of appropriate humor in my secular teaching. But everything about Jesus and His first advent ministry was different to a degree of fundamental importance and that is true with whatever "eyes" one approaches the biblical text. It may not be what we wish to project backward in "filling in the blanks", but it is what it is, and as Bible-believing followers of the Lord who died for us we need to respect that.

Yours in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Bob Luginbill

Question #14:   

I think you misunderstood me. Humor doesn't necessarily revolve around jokes. I am not saying you should make light of His Word. But, to truly evangelize, Robert, you must have "joy". If you think the Lord didn't smile or laugh, then I'm sorry you feel that way.

Blessings!

Response #14: 

Meaning no disrespect, but you opened this conversation by saying "Jesus was funny!", and have spoken, among other things, about the "use humor to lighten the mood and capture the attention", the need for a "sense of humor", Jewish "wit" and "the Book of Ester as a comedy". Moreover, the discussion you objected to was all about the use of humor – jokes, witticisms, comedy, humorous repartee, etc. These things are all very different from being joyful, smiling and occasionally laughing which, when it has anything to do with humor, is a response to humor not an initiation of it (i.e., people can laugh without ever joking; people can be joyful without humor; people can tell jokes and not really be happy).

I am certain that our Lord was joyful, and I would be surprised to learn that He never smiled (though scripture never records it). But that is a very different think from "being funny" and "using humor" and "telling jokes" – these are the topics discussed in the postings you criticized.

At any rate, I am happy and joyful to learn that in fact this has just been a misunderstanding. And that is no joke.

I Jesus our dear Lord who is our joy and blessed happiness forever.

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Bob,

I just want to let you know that your web site has been a TREMENDOUS encouragement to me in my walk with the Lord, especially since I recently went through the dreaded "unpardonable sin" attack from the enemy. The Lord is setting my feet on solid ground in my walk with Him and He has used you to help greatly in that effort. I am praying for your protection and blessing also; no one can do the work of the Lord and expect that to go unchallenged by the forces of hell. Again, thanks so much for your ministry of encouragement.

Had one quick question. Is it wrong for a guy to have shoulder length hair? I know in 1 Corinthians it talks about long hair being a shame for a man, using nature as a reference. But that seems to be saying a man should not appear effeminate. I seen a lot of guys with shoulder length hair that looked anything but "sissy". How long is too long? I had mine down to my shoulders for a while since I am part Cherokee, but cut it back for the sake of not causing someone to stumble (since I am married into a family of another culture where longer hair guys to them bring up images of rock stars or gangsters).

Thank you for your time, and Jesus bless you richly!

In Jesus,

Response #15: 

Thanks for your email and also for your very encouraging good words. It is always a real delight to hear that these materials have been of spiritual benefit to my brothers and sisters in Jesus.

As to your question, scripture addresses the issue of hair length in 1st Corinthians 11 from the point of view of women who are told not to shave their heads or tear out their hair in imitation of Jewish vows or pagan practices (see these links which will lead you to others: "Hair length for Christian Women" and "Christian hair length"). The applicable verses for men are as follows:

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
1st Corinthians 11:7 NIV

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him?
1st Corinthians 11:14 NIV

The first verse here explains the second. The reason women should "cover their heads [with hair]" is as a "sign" (v.10) that they accept God's delegated authority (see the link). Since men represent God in exercising authority (in family relationships), their relatively shorter hair is an indication of being the one in authority. The issue of longer or shorter hair, therefore, is to some degree situational and cultural. What is long in the USA today is different from Civil War days, for example, and considerably so. The men who fought the Civil War were not sissies. Indeed, the Spartans of antiquity with whom Paul and his audience would have been very familiar wore their hair as long as possible – for the purpose of striking terror into their enemies.

As I have pointed out a number of times (see the links below), it is important to remember here that the context is all about some of the Corinthian women engaging in practices which were not acceptable. Paul uses the long-hair short-hair argument, which he believes anyone would understand "from nature", to show how women shaving their heads (for vows) or tearing out their head (for mourning) was wrong. That is to say, while there are applications to be drawn here, the question "how long or short should my hair be?" is not really what the passage is about. As also pointed out in the links above, length is relative and culturally conditioned. If nearly everyone in the society or culture in question would look at a person's hair and say "too short" then the hair is too short for these purposes; conversely, if nearly everyone in the society or culture in question would look at a person's hair and say "too long", then the hair is too long for these purposes. But if the man's hair is not too long and the woman's hair is not too short by this standard, then there is no biblical issue. Paul, moreover, appeals to the conscience here where men are concerned. If there is no societal judgment that the hair is "too long" and if the man's conscience does not condemn him that his hair is too long, then his hair is not "too long" – even if in other societies at other times it might be considered too long. Your personal experience, I would say, certainly seems to bear this out precisely, and I commend your personal application of avoiding being a stumbling block to others of different cultural backgrounds, even though in your heart there is no actual offense. And after all, there are so many things which are more important in the Christian life than this issue – and it's not even the real issue in this passage.

Thanks again for all your good words!  Here are those links:

1st Corinthians 11: Hats or Hair?

Are women required to wear hats or veils in church?

More on veils and hats in church.

What length of hair is considered long?

More on hats and hair length.

Your brother in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill

I got into a debate with a friend over whether Jesus had long hair or not. The bible says that it is a shame for a man to have long hair so I would think Jesus would follow these spirit written words. He argued that Jesus was a Nazarite so He must have had long hair. This is why I believe that the shroud of Turin is a hoax from Satan to have Catholics worship it. It shows an image of a man with long hair. Did Jesus have long hair? Thank you!

God Bless,

Response #16: 

I certainly agree with you. People often get Nazareth and Nazirite confused. As I say in BB 4A:

Nazareth thus becomes the place where Jesus grows up (cf. Jn.2:1). And herein we also see the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah about light coming out of the darkness (i.e., the secular north country: Is.9:1-2 – completed with the beginning and the end of Jesus' earthly ministry: cf. Matt.4:14-16; 28:7), as well as the prophecy of Jesus being a "Nazarene" (Matt.2:23).

Although beyond question our Lord certainly fulfilled all of the spiritual dimensions of the Nazirite vow, there is absolutely no evidence nor, in my view, any indication in scripture that He took a Nazirite vow or that He grew His hair long for that reason. One of the things which always seems to get forgotten in discussions of this sort are the particulars of the vow:

"Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that he dedicated. He is to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering. After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair of his dedication, the priest is to place in his hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and a cake and a wafer from the basket, both made without yeast. The priest shall then wave them before the LORD as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine."
Number 6:18-20 NIV

Jesus most definitely drank wine throughout His ministry (see the links: "Did Jesus drink wine?" and "Did Jesus drink the wine at the wedding in Cana?").

"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."'
Matthew 11:18-19a NIV

Thus even if Jesus had taken such a vow, He most certainly would have completed the vow – and fulfilled the regulations thereof which included shaving one's head and placing the shaved hair in the fire – after which only was it possible for a Nazirite to drink wine.

It is not accidental that although we have four gospels (and other information in Acts and the epistles) there is no physical description of our Lord in the Bible – until after His resurrection (and even that does not describe His hair as being long: Rev.1:13-16). This can only be because not only is knowing what our Lord "looked like" unimportant but also because if we had a precise physical description of Him it might tend to take away from what we should be focusing on: who He is and what He did for us. Nothing shows more perspicuously what the Christian life is really about, namely, the truth of scripture: learning it, believing it, living by it, and helping others do likewise. That is the way to honor our Lord Jesus Christ, and the only way to really "see Him" in this world.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
1st Peter 1:8 NIV

In Him forever,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Could you please clarify the application of 1 Corinthians 11:13-14?

Judge for yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with an uncovered head? Does not even nature itself teach you that a man suffers dishonor if he prays with long hair, but that long hair (i.e., God's "head covering") is her glory? For her long hair has been given to her in the place of a veil.

I assume this teaching of women covering their hair and men not wearing long hair applies today?

Response #17:

1st Corinthians 11:3-16 is a complicated and difficult passage. In my view of things, the covering throughout is hair (not hats or veils), and the abuse is female cutting of the hair very short or tearing it out – in emulation of Jewish vows and in Greek mourning practices respectively. As neither of these is common in the West today, the passage has little direct application in terms of the particular customs addressed, except to say that the relative length of male as compared to female hair length should be observed (as nature itself teaches). You can see the details at the links:

1st Corinthians 11: Hats or Hair?

Hats and hair length for Christian women

Hair Length:  How Short is too Short?

Short Hair and the Question of Cultures

The Image of God and 1st Corinthians 11:5-12

Question #18: 

Could you please clarify Romans 14:22-23:

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

What does Paul mean by 'blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves'?

Response #18: 

Paul is saying that the ideal situation is for a person's conscience and knowledge to be in perfect harmony. Immature believers may "know" something is right or wrong, but they may not have believed the truth they have been taught sufficiently or deeply enough not to have second thoughts about engaging in practices which in the past they were taught were wrong (or vice versa). It is not uncommon for our emotions to lag behind when we grow spiritually so that it often takes time for believers to learn the "drill" of comparing the truth we know to be true with whatever signals our consciences may be sending us, and thus discern between the genuine prodding of the Spirit and mere emotional detritus (see the link in BB 4B: Transforming our Thinking).

Question #19:  

Your explanation of Luke 7:31-35 shed light on this passage and I've got the general grasp, but could you please clarify why the following words are used:

"‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’

Response #19: 

On Luke 7:31-35, most exegetes take both of these examples as describing children at play. They mimic adult behaviors as is common in all cultures. In this example, they are described as playing at a (wedding?) celebration and inviting onlookers to "have a good time" (dance), and later as playing at a funeral and inviting onlookers to "mourn" . They castigate those who do not do so. Jesus uses this as an analogy against those who were "not pleased" with John (they didn't like the fact that he didn't "dance" and used his asceticism as a reason to devalue what he was saying) and yet were still "not pleased" with Jesus (they didn't like the fact that he didn't "mourn" and used his lack of similar asceticism as a reason to devalue what He was saying). Jesus makes it crystal clear with this analogy that the people who find fault with Him or John on either basis are really only "playing games" and are not serious about the message but only interested in discovering a way to find fault with the messenger.

Question #20: 

I wanted to ask about Exodus 21:12-14:

'12 "Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.'

How does this passage (and some others) fit with 'Thou shall not murder'? I remember your explanation about self-defense and what would really help me there is to understand the biblical meaning of 'murder'.

Response #20: 

Most legal codes make this distinction between premeditated murder and involuntary manslaughter. They are both crimes, but the intent is the key. Murder is premeditated killing "with malice aforethought" as we say in this country. That is what the sixth commandment is talking about. It is true that some version translate "thou shalt not kill", but I believe that to be incorrect (or at least a bit misleading). It is the context and the rest of the information in scripture which leads me to this conclusion more than the vocabulary. The Hebrew verb here at Exodus 20:13 is ratsach – not the most common verb for taking life but in some cases it is used not to mean murder in a technical sense. Still, ratsach expresses the violent taking of life in the context of a simple code which is focused on prohibiting civil behavior which wrongly disadvantages others in the society. I.e., this is not a military or judicial context. And, after all, the Lord frequently directs the Israelites to put to death certain individuals and to destroy certain evil peoples. It seems clear to me that this prohibition is directed towards individuals in a society acting on their own taking the life of another and doing so deliberately. That is murder by almost every known definition. For the interfacing of the commandments with the principle of free will and our purpose in life see the link: The Ten Commandments.

Question #21:  

You wrote: 'What truly is surprising is that universal "evil and madness" have not by now led to the complete annihilation of the human race (and that has only been the case because of God's gracious restraint of human sinfulness through the power of His Holy Spirit: 2Thes.2:6-7).'

Could you please clarify both your statement and the passage? I thought it was the restraining of Satan that prevented total annihilation - or are the two linked?

Response #21: 

Given the inveterate evil in human beings, it would be very surprising to me if we would last long as a species even without any attacks by the devil – without the restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit (see the link). The verse citation is to the restraint of antichrist's appearance, added here to give one of the clearest scriptural examples of the Holy Spirit's restraint. Yes, clearly the devil cooperates with our inner-demon (i.e., the sin nature), but we are very much responsible for what evil we do, and we would do plenty of damage to ourselves and others of our own accord even absent Satan's machinations:

The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
Genesis 6:5 NIV

Question #22:  

Could you please clarify this sentence: 'Even in cases where by prior sinful behavior we have put ourselves in a box so as to suffer consequences if we do not continue to follow a sinful course' - what does it mean to put oneself in a box so as to suffer consequences?

Response #22: 

Here is an overused example on my part: A fellow who was a good believer was suffering of cirrhosis of the liver having been an alcoholic before salvation. A friend expressed surprise that he would be suffering from this disease even though he was now saved and clearly living a good, upstanding Christian life. "Yes", he replied, "God gave me a new heart, but He didn't give me a new liver". If we commit crimes and end up in jail, then repent and turn to the Lord so as to be saved, God will forgive us all of our sins but the state of Mississippi (e.g.) is not likely to be so accommodating. Actions have consequences, and they are capable of limiting our future actions in many ways. All the more reason to make more good decisions and less bad ones. Without question, God is on our side, and without doubt in the case of every Christian there are times when God either "lets us out of the box" or prevents us from falling into it in the first place. But we should not "tempt God" by taking Satan's bait and leaping off the roof of the temple just because he dares us to do it: God in His great mercy may save us from breaking our necks even so, but we might just have a limp for the rest of our lives. All of us who have committed our lives to Jesus Christ should view ourselves as His instruments designed to do His work for the benefit of other believers (e.g., Rom.12:1). Seeing ourselves instead as free agents who occasionally "nod to God" is a sure way of falling into one of these hypothetical boxes, given human nature.

Question #23:  

I know this will be a very basic question, but I would like you to clarify the second commandment to me. You wrote:

1. No other gods: guarding the sanctity of how we think about Him.

2. No idols: guarding the sanctity of how we act toward Him.

I'm wondering - is the prohibition to make idols basically a practical application of the first commandment ('no other gods'), or does it also involve a ban to represent Our God or Our Lord (in form of a painting or sculpture)?

Response #23: 

The former rather than the latter, I think. In many ways, the first three commandments parallel the three satanic lies and the three phases of the hardening of the heart (see the links). When turning away from the Lord, first a person departs from Him mentally, then begins to act in concrete ways which demonstrate that mental departure, then finally arrogates to him or herself God's prerogatives – which is what using His Name to proclaim a curse, for example, certainly is. These violations of God's Law seem to me to be very close on the one hand to lie #1: "I don't need God" (and choosing against God always results in choosing for another "god", oneself or the devil or both however represented in idolatry), lie #2: "I am like God" (in having the right and equality with Him to say what and who will be worshiped and how represented), and lie #3: "God needs me" (in "helping Him" by taking over His rights and authority to proclaim curses or the like as if said rights and authority to judge had been ceded to the person in question); and on the other hand they are parallel to phase one hardening of the heart (the truth is darkened by mentally turning away from the Lord), phase two hardening of the heart (the truth is overtly rejected as evidenced by outright pursuit of all manner of things which are false substitutes for the Lord), and phase three hardening of the heart (the truth is perverted when the person proclaims they have the truth by usurping God's Name – and thus puts the truth to death in his heart as he consider himself superior to it and becomes a truth unto himself). The commandments put these things in very simple, concrete form and in the context of the overt temptations that faced 15th cent. B.C. believers, but they clearly have a broader application along the lines of what has been discussed (and in the previous question on the commandments; see the link). If Law-keeping Jews of Jesus' day had been as honest with themselves about the tenth commandment as Paul was in this regard, perhaps more of them would have come to salvation.

Question #24:   

I've got a question regarding charity work - on one hand helping through an organization comes inevitably with numerous problems, on the other hand, we may not sometimes be able to help in any other way (at least materially, prayer obviously is always a good option). If the organization isn't Christian, then the problem of values also appears (and that probably refers to Christian organizations too). Thus material help has become a dilemma for me - on one hand helping an organization like Unicef may not be the best option, on the other hand - it's very difficult to make a right decision through whom to help, if through anyone. Even before I immersed myself in your readings I was already starting to move away from 'systemic' and political changes and I certainly feel now even more that this is a correct course of action. I'm just wondering in what way should we as Christians offer the help to people in need, the poor or victims of disasters, if we cannot help them directly.

Response #24: 

The question of charity is certainly an individual one. There are two elements here: what is in a person's heart and what good is actually accomplished. The first is a question of motive, the second of effectiveness. It is certainly possible to have pure motives and give money to entirely worthless causes. In my country there are any number of "Christian" preachers on television, many of whom are only in it for the money. The people who send them money may have good motives (I would hope), and we know that not even a cup of water given in the Lord's Name fails to earn its reward. However, I do have a problem with such a stark separation of motive and result because it strikes me that only a very immature Christian – or one whose motives are not really so pure (i.e., if operating out of guilt or out of a misguided notion that God works like a slot-machine and that by giving they will be materially blessed) are likely to be giving to unworthy causes and individuals regularly. When it comes to the disasters you mention, here too there are problems, because we only know about disasters we don't observe first hand through the media, and the media is neither omniscient nor unbiased. By way of contrast, the early church at Antioch learned about the famine in Judea through prophecy and set to minister to their needs as directly as possible through the agency of willing believers (Acts 11:27-30).  Later, Paul did the same sort of thing through his own network of Christian contacts and personal involvement (e.g., Rom.15:25-27).

Further, in all such situations I have observed or known about, there have been serious problems with organized relief efforts in terms not only of the "tooth to tail" ratio but also in terms of how the relief is distributed and what effect it has. I have heard that in Haiti one effect of free food distribution was to destroy the country's normal food distribution network without at the same time alleviating the poverty and the suffering (mom and pop operations were put out of business by free food). When we try to play God, we always find out we are not God (unless we are very good at deceiving ourselves). If someone asks me for money, I may give them some money, even if I have doubts about the validity of their need or their cause, because at least that is personal. And I have learned in my life that there are almost always those close to home who are in need and who are suffering – but who may not be getting press coverage or who may not be whining about their lot but keeping their troubles largely to themselves. And even in cases of mass distribution of aid, it often seems that those who need it most can still be overlooked. So I have no confidence in organizational charity. Ideally, the Church takes care of itself. If local churches were functioning as they should, then they would help the suffering member of their portion of the Body whenever need arose, and would reach out to others in an undeniable Christian witness. I would also have no problem either with an informal network of contacts from church to church (conducted by volunteers). Beyond that, I part company for reasons discussed in previous emails. But I find it hard to criticize anyone who does anything for or gives anything to any charity, and certainly hope and pray that 1) the effort or gift will do at least some of the genuine divine good intended (good motives reaping some truly good result), and 2) that Christians engaged in such activities will be given the discernment to stay away from activities and organizations which do more harm than good or which are merely wasting their talents and resources.

Question #25: 

A question regarding physical activity. The Bible doesn't say much about it, and there must be a reason for it. Obviously, in the day that it was written, most people would by default be active and many of the health problems that numerous societies suffer from were not an issue. Would you consider it a valuable part of a Christian's life? I am starting to take things for what they are as I'm slowly growing and I understood how much time I spent on it, and spent this time for completely wrong reasons. Although these are all 'weeds', there remains some value to exercising, if the motivation behind it is different and one knows how much time should be devoted to it. The body will die and it should never be the primary focus, but then even our service to the Lord to an extent depends of how this body functions and, importantly, how long it lasts, which is something we may have some limited influence on. Obviously, we need to remember that it's all up to the Lord in the first place, but just as putting the effort into spirituality (the important effort) pays off and the Lord listens if our intentions are correct, so the effort put into bodily development and health maintenance (infinitely less relevant) can also change things for the better - the question is how much that can help us in the service to our Lord, if at all.

Response #25: 

Everything you say is true, including the fact that just by having to get from point A to point B on foot most of the time, the ancients were in far better shape than most of us. I certainly think that exercise is important and very beneficial, even if all things spiritual are infinitely more so:

For physical exercise is of value for a little while [and for some things], but godliness is of value for everything [and for all time], having a promise [of benefit and reward] in both this present life and in the one to come.
1st Timothy 4:8

Paul also of course compares our race for reward to Greek athletics, and while it is very clear that the meaning is of the vast superiority of the former over the latter, the point of comparison would not have been lost on those hearing his words. Staying in good physical shape is for me an important application of the Word, since it is a means to the health necessary for doing the things we need to do to serve the Lord. Athletics is along the lines of all things cultural. Christians should be careful about getting over-committed to any cultural activity, especially if and when these begin to influence us too much and lead us into thought patterns or behaviors which are counterproductive or even sinful. But culture is pretty difficult to avoid entirely (short of becoming a hermit), and many if not most of us, myself included, have occupations with cultural connections large or small (Classics, my secular profession, while it is great for one's Greek, is the study of the Greco-Roman culture). So in my view, as long as one is not making exercise a religion, and as long as one is keeping cultural enthusiasms at least at arms length in subordinating them to the truth of the Word, this approach will at least be a viable one towards getting through the world in a way which will not seriously hinder our spiritual growth, progress and service to our dear Lord Jesus.

[Here is an excellent resource with lots of good advice about how those of us who spend a lot of time in sedentary professions and studies can combat some of the negative effects of sitting in one place too long:  "Desk Breaker" by Christian Vassallo]

Question #26:  

A good friend of mine got into poker recently. I wanted to know your thoughts on this game in light of what the Bible says about such things. In the conversation I restrained from judgments, as I thought that the game that I myself coach (football, or soccer in your country) is in many aspects similar, for example with regard to deception being an important part of successful offensive play (I'm sure you can relate to it through your military experience). There is obviously an element of randomness in poker on the one hand, but element of 'skill' as well and people who sit at tables, and lose or win money, do it at their own volition. So on one hand it's not 'pure' gambling (winning by chance only) and no one is coerced to do it. On the other hand, for many it is a trap that leads to addiction and can take a toll on one's life and it involves generating income without delivering service or producing goods, but rather 'taking it' from people who decide to put it on the table in the first place and have not got the ability to keep it. Let me know your thoughts.

Response #26: 

As with my many faults and failings, I have played some poker in my time – penny-ante only (no serious money). But in spite of the small stakes, I can still remember the series of negative emotions the game generated. I suppose to some degree that is a feature of all things competitive, but at least if we are speaking about athletics, winning requires sacrifice, and in losing at least we recognize that in most cases someone who worked harder (and/or was more talented) beat us. But in poker, there is huge amount of "luck" present. I do understand that it is often possible for a "good player" to beat others even if he/she has worse hands. But how? Only through being able to convince others of something not true. I understand that one uses deception in all contests, and I understand that "luck" is (or seems to be) an element in all competitions. However, what other "sport" or competition is meaningless without money? And not only that, but a game of poker is entirely different depending upon how much money is involved and how much a person can afford to lose. For me, that is a telling indictment against it (and against all such endeavors). Finally, perhaps for these same reasons poker along with all sorts of gambling is highly addictive. To the extent that we "green-light" it for our brothers and sisters in Christ, to that extent we are probably going to regret it when someone we care about falls into the trap.

Just because we are "strong" and would never be thrown off by something like this does not mean that there are not others who are not "weak" who might be destroyed if they are emboldened to do something they would otherwise not do by our bad example (Rom.14). And we all have our weaknesses. All things are permissible, but not all things are profitable, spiritually speaking, and I would place just about anything that involves potential addiction into the later category. Generally speaking, believers should steer clear of anything that might trap them or compromise them, and they should also avoid sending a wrong message to others or vitiating their witness. That does not mean that poker is a sin (that would depend on the circumstances: playing for toothpicks around the kitchen table seems innocuous enough to me), but it does mean that every decision we make as believers is important, and that we ought to think long and hard before doing anything that engages our basest emotions, pricks our consciences, or has the potential of harming others. No one is perfect about all these sorts of issues – culture and society are filled with them. But it is prudent to steer towards the seaward side in such matters, in hopes of avoiding the rocks and the shoals.

Question #27: 

I've got two questions regarding Luke 10:27-37:

a) When the lawyer asks our Lord about the commandment of loving our neighbour like ourselves, He tells him the parable of the good Samaritan, explaining that it's the Samaritan who is the neighbour of the beaten man. Does this mean that the commandment does not span to the priest and the Levite? Would the commandment of loving the enemies be applicable to these two?

b) If it is true that the love we are commanded to have towards our neighbour applies to the Samaritan, but not to the Levite and to the priest, then I think it could help me understand what you wrote about for example deceiving the enemy during the time of the war - although we are required by the commandments to tell the truth, telling the truth and disclosing valuable information during the war can sometimes directly cost people lives. Am I correct to link the passage with your words? Since our enemy, which might be willing to murder us and our family is not our neighbour, we don't 'owe' him the love that we have for our neighbours, which includes being truthful?

Response #27:

The Levite and the priest failed to show mercy; but Jesus tells this man "go and do likewise", i.e., you show mercy too like the Samaritan did. As one of my old seminary profs pointed out to the class, for a Levite or a priest to potentially make themselves unclean in aiding this man (whose status they could not know beyond the obvious fact that he needed help) would have been a sacrifice, but it would have been the right thing to do. As it was, they preferred the ritual of the Law and their own convenience to doing what God's love would really commend. This is different from the self-defense/law-enforcement/warfare exception to the law of love because no such threat emanated from the wounded man. The only threat was one to legalistic righteousness and personal convenience. If there is a legitimate need, one that is urgent and cannot be met by the person in need, and one that we are in a position to solve, we should likewise act in accordance with the law of love.

Question #28: 

One more question on Luke 16:

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings

Do these words mean the way in which we use worldly wealth can contribute to eternal rewards (i.e. giving to the poor or cancelling the debts of others)?

Response #28: 

I believe it is more general than that. According to these verses, we should be using everything we have, all our resources and all our strength, for the one goal that is really important: eternal life. Of course gaining eternal life is as simple as putting one's faith in the Person and work of Christ. But the follow-on analogy for believers is that since we know that what we see is temporary but what we cannot see is eternal, it makes the most rational sense for us to devote ourselves "body and soul" to the prosecution of the process of growth, progress and production to which Christ has called us: only in this way do we earn rewards that outlast and transcend the things of this world (see the link).
 

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