Turning the Other Cheek:
Question #1: Hi Dr. Luginbill: How do Jesus' words about turning the other cheek and loving one's enemies apply to Christians who choose to serve in the military and go to war? Are preemptive strikes forbidden to Christians by the Bible? It seems this whole Iraq thing is just such a preemptive strike. I have heard Christians compare what we are doing there to the way the Children of Israel slaughtered their enemies in Canaan... as if God is on our side. I look forward to reading your response. Thank you. Blessings,
Response #1: The first observation I would make is that our Lord's instruction about "turning the other cheek" at Matt.5:39 and Lk.6:29 comes in the context of individual behavior in respect to claiming or eschewing one's rights under the Law. According to the Law, if someone hits you and damages you, they are to be hit and damaged to the same degree ("an eye for an eye"). But our Lord introduces a higher standard for believers, one that eschews retaliation and confrontation to the degree possible. In all of the examples He gives in those contexts, there is no indication that the behavior He commends and commands will result in undue further physical damage to the person who hears His words and puts them into practice, and certainly not in loss of life. In Gethsemane, it will be recalled, Jesus told the apostles that while in their previous ministries of announcing and offering the kingdom they had gone forth with a deliberate and studied lack of resources, in future after the cross they were to make prudent preparation, including whatever might be necessary for physical security and self-defense (i.e., "let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one": Lk.22:36). But again, this is talking about personal security rather than state policy or politics.
Both Peter and Paul go to rather extreme lengths to support the state's claim to authority over individuals, something that might well seem strange to Christians otherwise (Rom.13:1-5; 1Pet.2:13-15), given on the one that the Lord is our true ultimate authority, and on the other that the Roman Empire was anything but fair and impartial towards Christianity. In light of the specific reference to and justification of capital punishment (Rom.13:4), it is certain that both apostles clearly envisioned military security from external threats as a normal function of government. That is certainly the impression one comes away with when reading scripture in any case, and in both testaments. The simple fact is that without military security, there would be no nation states, and nationalism is a very important part of the plan of God since the flood (see the link: "nationalism as a restrainer of evil" in SR4). For only by compartmentalizing the human family into nations do we have an "immune system", so to speak, that prevents the devil from bringing the entire world into a state of catastrophic self-destruction all at once. One country might successfully outlaw the practice of Christianity, for example, but it is not such an easy matter for Satan to pull this off everywhere. Through the existence of nations, God has always provided safe havens throughout history for the search for the truth:
For from one man [Adam], [God] created the nations of
mankind, that they might inhabit the entire face of the earth.
And He predetermined both their appointed times and the
boundaries of their settlement, that they might seek God, if
perhaps they might even [deign to] grope after Him and so come
to find Him –
for He is not far from every one of us.
But your point is very well taken. As you are no doubt aware, I am not at all enthusiastic about the idea of politics from a Christian point of view. Certainly, people are free to make any application they wish, and in the history of our republic very many, perhaps the great majority of Christians, have come to the conclusion that being politically active is an important or even "godly" thing. In my own study of the Bible and history, I would say that the leadership of any given country always reflects its spiritual state. God is more than capable of providing "good leadership" for the benefit of His people, wherever they may be, and more than capable of delivering out a remnant according to grace whenever and wherever a particular country passes beyond the pale of toleration and tolerable circumstances for Christians. But if the spiritual state of the country is poor, poor leadership is a natural and, I would argue, inevitable result, no matter how intense the politicking of Christian groups may become. And as far as democracy is concerned, given that we as individuals have a difficult enough time gauging what is going on in our own hearts, how in world are we supposed to evaluate others? Of course the choices we are given, choices that for all practical purposes are beyond our abilities to influence in any truly meaningful way, can often be only between demonstrably terrible and perhaps not quite as bad. But even as far as the latter is concerned, we are really only guessing. God is more than capable of delivering us even from our own bad judgment on this score if only we are proving ourselves worthy of such deliverance.
Herein lies the true nub of the issue according to my lights. It is pointless to debate politics or foreign policy as a Christian, and not only because in practical terms it is a moot point (that is, we can't really do anything about it anyway, even if we do vote and are politically involved, pace the mythical protestations of opinion makers to the contrary). It is also pointless, because unless and until we as Christians are truly devoting ourselves to spiritual growth and ministry, we cannot expect divine help and deliverance. One genuine prayer is worth more than a million votes. One Christian determined to grow closer to Jesus and serve Him faithfully is worth more than a perfect national slate of candidates who say the right things. One life lived for Christ has more impact on our national well-being than all the well-planned carefully thought out foreign policy and military strategies ever devised.
So I guess I am answering this question in an indirect way. Military service is admirable and certainly not contrary to true Christian doctrine. Voting and becoming involved in politics is not anathema to the Lord. Arguing for specific military and foreign policies on a personal or political level is part of life. But none of these things are really "big picture" activities for Christians. Jesus Christ controls history, and if we would be on the right side of things, how we as individual Christians are living our lives, whether or not we are committed to personal spiritual growth through Bible study, Bible teaching, prayer and application, and whether or not we are preparing to engage and engaging with our our spiritual battles, being productive on the basis of the gifts we have been given to serve the Church of Jesus Christ, are questions which are so much more important and significant even to the secular state of things – not to mention to the spiritual state of ourselves and others – that it almost seems a waste of time and energy to consider the other more mundane effects we might have.
There is a down side too to becoming too preoccupied with politics. Generally speaking, when Christians start considering and looking to political solutions, there is almost of necessity at least some diminution of the care and effort they give to the truly important spiritual solutions. On top of that, we are near the end of things. No matter what we do, the Tribulation is approaching very fast, and our role in it as a nation has already been written. The disturbing spiritual trends in the church-visible are plainly there for all to see, and nothing we do as individuals is going to stop them. But rather than being a discouragement, this set of facts ought to motivate us to intensify our efforts and personal spiritual growth and ministry. Difficult times lie ahead. How we prepare between then and now is of immense importance. For whether it be fire or water, our Lord can safely lead us through the flame and the flood, provided we are but ready and willing to be led when the time comes.
In the One whose return we long for, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I've been doing quite a bit of reading on your site the last few weeks, I'm glad there is so much information, it's something that an individual can continue to study and to find many Christian answers to the problems life (and Satan) throws at us.
Let me ask you something about war. How do you feel about men that kill in battle, assuming the war is just, like the war against Japan or Germany. God is very clear (many times) throughout the Bible about taking life, it doesn't really make any distinctions. I know there were wars in those days, and men certainly killed other men (and woman) Cain killing his own brother covers God's feelings about murder, but is this different from murder in battle? To me it is but perhaps there is not a fine line, or any line at all?? Jesus preached non-violent solutions period, he didn't say that it was wrong to kill or harm someone unless they are trying to harm you. At any rate, it's something I've always been curious about, a bit political too but that's not my intention.
Clearly, we all ought to be most grateful to the Lord if we have never had to spill blood, whatever the context. However, I find nothing in scripture or in our Lord's words to support a position of refusing to defend oneself or one's family by whatever means necessary in extreme situations. After all, Jesus certainly didn't tell the disciples to bring a sword along on their journeys after His departure only to be used for bluff. Capital punishment has to be carried out by someone, and that is certainly envisioned as a necessary function of government in the New Testament as well as in the Old. Military service is always portrayed as honorable in both testaments, and I can't see our Lord using military analogies (e.g., "if a king is about to go to war . . ." Lk.14:31) if the whole notion of military confrontation wherein the shedding of blood is inevitable was somehow anti-God. And, lest we forget, our Lord Jesus is the greatest warrior of all time. As the Angel of the Lord, He personally slew 185,000 Assyrians, and will slay millions at the battle of Armageddon with the sharp sword which proceeds from His mouth. As I say, no one should set themselves to take life, and praise God if we haven't had to. But I also praise God for those who have, for it is by their sacrifice that our freedom has been secured. Clearly, no human conflict will ever be a case of absolute right versus absolute wrong (until the Armageddon campaign), however, generally speaking, defending one's country is not only legitimate and honorable but also an obligation in the same way that obedience to the law and paying taxes are. Only through military defenses and oft times in the course of world history through their active use has the world been kept from being united into one conglomerate under the devil's control. And it is the diversity of individually sovereign nations that has made the continuation of the light of truth possible over the long centuries spanning back to the expulsion from Eden. That will all come to an end during the Tribulation when antichrist is victorious at the mid-point of the seven years, and the results of his one-world rule will be horrific for all, and especially for believers who refuse to worship him. It is certainly true that during those days being in the military will be something believers should avoid at all costs – in spite of the principle of the legitimacy of defending one's nation because the one who will be on the point of usurping all legitimate authority will be of the devil. A case can certainly be made for the position that in times past this has also been the situation albeit to a lesser degree (such as in Nazi Germany), but any decision to refrain from taking up arms in such circumstances would, in my view, have to be based upon the inherent evil of the regime for which one would be fighting rather than some principle of pacifism, if it were to be biblically sound, at any rate. Here are some links to other similar treatments of this issue:
In Jesus our Lord,
First, I want to thank you for your service to the Lord and consequently, the benefit I have received from it. I would like to know if you have any materials that deal with the issue of slavery in the Bible. Obviously our Savior came to make all men free, yet there are many that seem to think that the Scriptures silence on condemning slavery is problematic. I was wondering if you had anything that could help clear this issue up.
As I say in one email response (see the link: "Sensitive Topics"), while addressing the issue of polygamy, there are certain human institutions which were historical realities when scripture was written, and that fact needs to be taken into account in any consideration of issues such as slavery:
On top of all that, we should also notice that the vast majority of great Old Testament believers were not polygamous. So while certain things were tolerated in the Old Testament and even regulated – like slavery and polygamy, and while the same such things are not strictly prohibited in the New Testament (like slavery and polygamy), we as prudent, God-fearing believers in Jesus Christ should recognize that there is a difference between things which may be permitted but are very bad for us on the one hand, and God smiling upon such actions as we indulge ourselves in them on the other. Just as I would never advise another believer to be a party to polygamy, so I would never advise a believer to be a party to slavery. In fact, I would strenuously advise all believers to stay as far as possible away from both of these ancient "institutions", because no good could ever come from either of them, and, on the other hand, much evil is sure to come to anyone involved in either of them.
I think this is a fair representation of what the Bible has to say on the subject of slavery as can be seen from this statement of Paul's (please note my own translation here):
(20) Let each person remain in the calling (i.e., status) in
which he was called [to Jesus]. (21) Were you called [to Jesus]
as a slave? Let it not trouble you. But if you do get the
opportunity to become free, it is better to make use of that
opportunity. (22) For the one [now] in Christ who was a slave
when he was called [to Christ] is the Lord's freedman; likewise
the one who was free when he was called [to Christ] is Christ's
slave. (23) You were bought at a [precious] price. Do not become
slaves of men.
Obviously, being in slavery is not desirable, and Paul's words make it clear that this is the biblically accepted position as well. For if a believer is a slave, he/she should make use of the opportunity to become free if God presents that opportunity (v.21); and if a believer is free, he/she should not become a slave if at all avoidable. The second half of this proposition, often missed in discussions of this passage, has to do with a misapprehension and misapplication of Christian charity on the part of some of the (probably less well-off) Corinthian church who were apparently contemplating selling themselves into slavery to benefit the church (or the poor) with the proceeds (Paul also discourages the practice at 1Cor.13:3, where the correct translation is "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to be sold"). Therefore scripture's position on slavery seems to me to be very clear (and I would argue that nothing said about it in the New Testament is in the slightest conflict with anything said about it in the Old Testament where the regulation of it in the Law has primarily to do with its mitigation and termination [cf. the year of Jubilee]).
I think those who find fault or are merely genuinely concerned are so because there is no mandate in scripture for "fighting the injustice of slavery" in an organized, political way. But for all serious, orthodox students of the Bible, that should come as no great surprise. There is no biblical mandate for politically tackling other issues such as world-wide hunger, war, debt, prejudice, social injustice in general or any other manner of popular, political causes about which human beings are understandable concerned. Scriptures message on these things is consistent: as long as this world is in the devil's grasp, any solutions to such problems must be individual and spiritual, not collective and political. People can be fixed, spiritually, and, in God's great grace, perhaps materially as well (though the spiritual "fix" is what really counts, and no material "fix" can be counted on to have spiritual results); but the world cannot be fixed, either spiritually or materially by us. That "fix" will only occur when the Messiah returns. That will be the great day of true "liberation" because Jesus will be bringing and producing the freedom Himself.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me [the Messiah], for the
Lord has anointed Me. He has sent Me to proclaim victory on
behalf of the afflicted, to bind up the wounds of the broken
hearted, to announce liberation for the captives and freedom for
the prisoners, to announce the year of the Lord's favor [the
Millennium], and a day of vengeance for our God [the 2nd
Advent], to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who
grieve for Zion, to anoint them with joy as with a crown in
place of their grief, and to dress them in garments of praise in
place of their faint spirits.
In the meantime, we believers are individually priests of God and servants of Jesus Christ. We have individual spiritual responsibilities and challenges, regardless of our station in life or any other factor. We all have an equal opportunity to grow spiritually, progress through passing of tests, and to minister to the Body – not identical in form, but truly equal in that God will never allow positive desire to learn about His Son and His truth, to draw closer to Him, and to serve Him go unrequited, even in slavery, even in prison, even in a hospital bed or whatever other of the manifold worldly restrictions we may face. If we are free men, then we are obligated to use that opportunity to serve Jesus; if we are slaves, then, as with those who are laboring under poverty (cf. the "widow's mite"), God takes into account the circumstances of all in His evaluation of the service each member provides to the Body of Christ. But if we could eradicate poverty and every other sort of social ill on planet earth, the rest of the world would not as a result be one step closer to Jesus Christ. Indeed, at the conclusion of the Millennium, a time of perfect justice and plenty, the vast majority of the world's population will band together in an attempt to overthrow the Son of God Himself (Ps.2; Rev.20:7-9).
Therefore, as with all other such issues, the Bible reflects the spiritual priority every human being should have, and rejects all political solutions. In spite of the fact that the Roman empire was actively hostile to Christianity (more and more so as time went by), it is in light of that very political reality that both Peter and Paul very emphatically counseled all Christians to respect and abide by secular authority as something constituted by God (Rom.13:1-5; 1Pet.2:13-15) – and we need to keep in mind here that they were each personally severely and unjustly abused by that very Roman authority (and if tradition is correct, were executed by it as well); so much is it the case that scripture goes out of its way to lead us away from seeking political solutions. In my own experience, and more importantly in my reading of scripture (as I hope is reflected in all my writings), politics and Christianity do not mix. Indeed, politics is one of the key means the devil uses to entice Christians into the mind-set of looking for earthly solutions to their and to the world's problems instead of looking for spiritual ones. All meaningful solutions in life are spiritual and individual; it is, on the other hand very difficult to find collective, political solutions that do not dabble in evil, and indeed more often than not result in full-fledged advancement of Satan's plans. Ever since the Tower of Babel, the devil has been using all manner of political causes to create collective political action, for such collective political action of necessity subordinates the actions of the individual "to the whole" for "the common good". But we know that God is the One who is "working things out for good – for those who love God" and follow Him, looking to Him for solutions.
The letter to Philemon gives us a wonderful example of what an acceptable scriptural and spiritual solution to this particular problem you ask about might be. Believers who are/were concerned with issues of injustice such as slavery should most definitely have nothing to do with them. But we note that Paul stopped short of commanding Philemon to release Onesimus, and the latter was a believer dear to Paul's heart. Rather than looking for a global solution to slavery or even pronouncing it wrong, Paul intercedes in the case of a person he knows to be a Christian who will benefit spiritually from becoming a free man. To paraphrase a common bumper-sticker, "think spiritually, act personally". Since this approach flies in the face of all "movement" style tactics, it is very easy to see how a person who is concerned about a particular issue and has allied him/herself with such a "movement", cause, or political organization might feel that the Bible is "falling short" on slavery or any other such issue. In fact, of course, the Bible is speaking to that person as an individual, and if listened too, will keep that person safe from being used as Satan's pawn. Slavery, in my opinion, has always been a terrible thing of which we in the modern world are largely rid and well rid. But seeking to solve global problems through political action renders those who buy into such a philosophy slaves of the devil, and that is the worst sort of slavery of all.
For more on this in general please see part 4 of the Satanic Rebellion series: "Satan's World System".
In the One who died for each of us, personally and individually, in order to release us from the bondage of sin, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Are we as Christians during the tribulation allowed to protect ourselves? In the sense that if my family's life is at risk I would protect them and myself with whatever means even unto the point of killing our aggressors. Are we to give up if we our caught? Or can we fight for our survival? I believe that there needs to be a balance between relying on myself and relying on God. Or perhaps we should simply rely on God, but what then is to be said about simple reason and logic that God has given us to make good decisions (such as looking both ways before crossing the road)? Where do we draw the line? And especially in light of the impending Tribulation? We are to count it as joy to be persecuted for God and especially unto to the point of death, but does that mean we hand ourselves over to the enemy? Or let the enemy take us? I believe you can probably see where we are stuck and what our dilemma is but I will simplify it here: During the tribulation can we protect ourselves to the point of killing others? Would it be beneficial to prepare by buying equipment that would be helpful in survival situation? Not that we rely on these things more than God, but that we would use the signs God has given us which point to the end coming soon as a time to prepare both spiritually and physically for it. And one last thing, if a person were to take the mark of the beast thus sealing their eternal fate, and were subsequently killed by us in our effort to protect ourselves would it matter? (I ask this question in terms of the point that God would want us to evangelize and be Christ like to those hurting us in any normal circumstance, but in the case when their eternal fate has been determined what difference is there?) Hopefully that question makes sense the way I am meaning to. Thank you so much for your persistence in writing on the Tribulation and the other subjects and for your responses to emails!
I want to commend you for a very insightful e-mail. I think you have boiled down the dilemma quite nicely, and I think I see from the tone and tenor of your remarks that you have figured it out. I certainly would not want to issue some kind of all-inclusive opinion about the proper behavior of all believers during the Tribulation – as if I could do so! But the scripture happily gives us plenty of indication that the Tribulation will be quite different from the prior two thousand years of the Church Age in many respects. Just as the way the Israelites were to respond to "history" changed in practice once the Lord sent Moses and began to bring about their deliverance by His own hand, so we too will be called to "stand fast and watch the deliverance of the Lord": it will be His hand that delivers us not our own, whether we are called upon to be delivered from or through the fire to come.
I am currently in the process of producing the Coming Tribulation series which deals with all such issues, and while the final installment (which will include a "tribulational code of conduct" for believers) is some long time in the future yet, there is nonetheless much about these things in the parts currently available; see the link: Coming Tribulation). I have often remarked, for example, that anyone who is interested in preparing is much better off storing truth in their hearts rather than canned goods in their basements. The reason is that there is so much about the course of things to come that we do not know (i.e., we may be hauled off before we open the first can of beans), so that we are better off concentrating on the things we know for certain (i.e., we know for a fact that every bit of spiritual growth we can squeeze out ahead of time will only help our negotiation of those dark days).
Self-defense and national defense are certainly legitimate and biblical. But the Tribulation will "shuffle the deck", so to speak, because these two principles are designed by God to work under His system of human law, and during the Tribulation justice will be trampled completely underfoot. Two of the great trends of the Tribulation, one in each half respectively, are the Great Apostasy (wherein fully a third of believers will fall away) and the Great Persecution (wherein fully a third of believers will be put to death). So much of scripture that deals with these issues speaks to encourage us to persevere, and no scripture I know of tells the Church to fight. From this I take that rather than forming resistance organizations, we are to continue to live the best Christian lives we can and refuse to compromise with evil no matter what. Getting caught up in the politics of it all is likely only to make us spiritually vulnerable (indeed, politics always has this effect on Christians; how much more will this not be the cased during the Tribulation!).
Daniel and his friends were great believers, and I have no doubt that they would have fought well in the Jewish army; but once they found themselves in Babylon, they were called to soldier on as warriors of the Lord in the spiritual rather than the material realm. Daniel's friends didn't fight being thrown into the furnace (it wouldn't have done any good, of course); Daniel didn't fight being thrown into the lion's den (to what purpose?). But they did fight the way the Lord had called them to fight: by their faith, faithful witness, and words of truth given them by God (cf. Lk.12:12), they demonstrated to all who observed them the power of God as He delivered them. This is the pattern, this is the model of all called to endure the great Tribulation to come, not trusting in our own puny efforts, but relying on the mighty hand of the Lord to deliver how and when He sees fit. For that time will be a time of judgment – from the Lord. So that we need not fear anything that will happen, since He is working everything out by His own plan for our own good. Like Daniel and his friends, we will find ourselves in Babylon, strangers and foreigners without means or resources, totally helpless and completely dependent . . . upon the Lord. And that is really the best place to be.
Therefore I rejoice in my weaknesses, in the abuses against
me, in these pressures, in persecutions and disasters on account
of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.
As I say, there is much more in the series referenced above. Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.
In the One who is our mighty fortress, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I pray that 2009 will continue to bless you and your ministry (which I continue to keep up with) so that you may continue to bless others.
Due to the financial crisis that began in 2008, I am now substantially poorer. But, unlike others, I realize how blessed I am. Other than having my invested savings greatly reduced, I am no worse for wear. Thus, I try not to even think about it especially in light of the effect the economic downturn is having on others. My grown son, who lives with us, will lose his job soon. His job loss will be a direct trickle down from the auto industry. Their layoff will affect employees with more than 15 years seniority. Because he lives with us and has no children or family, he will actually suffer little. I just cannot visualize where we're headed and don't see things getting better any time soon. This economic downturn is worse, I believe, than anyone expected. I recall the burglary in your home last year. Well, an armed robber approached my son as he was walking from the carport in the well-lit back yard towards the house. By the grace of God, he was unharmed because of several things: 1) he immediately began to run when he saw the gun in the man's hand, 2) the robber was not expecting him to run and was also apparently talking on a cell phone, 3) because we live in at rural area, it took only seconds for my son to be in total darkness in familiar area, and 4) the makeup of the back yard included a big truck, a pond, a trellis, etc that had to be maneuvered around in any type of pursuit. Because of where we live, this was a huge shock to our family and the neighbors. The police, who are just as scared as us, agreed with me when I commented that crime was on the increase.
Again, blessings to you and yours in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior,
Good to hear from you as always. I am sorry to hear about your son's predicament but it is certainly a blessing that he escaped that scrape without loss or injury! I am sorry to hear about your losses, but then as you say there are few people with such investments who weren't slammed in the downturn. And you present a very good Christian witness in spite of difficulties – we could all learn from your example. It is true that the times are scary, but what I find even more illuminating (or terrifying) is the reaction of people generally to a little bit of pressure. In the history of the world few peoples/nations went for more than a generation or more without being displaced or invaded or pillaged or enslaved or depopulated by war, famine or disease. Serious, life-changing disaster used to be a part of life (and still is to some degree around the world), but when faced with a setback which is somewhat minor in comparison to being invaded by the Visigoths, we seem ready to fork over our freedoms entirely for a little promise of minor relief. It seems antichrist will have a pretty easy time of it taking over here (if only gas prices hit $5 a gallon, people will apparently be ready to do just about anything).
But I take great heart in e-mails like yours because it makes me realize that in spite of all the chatter on the airwaves and the panic in the streets, there are still good Christians out there who would rather trust Jesus than "putting their hope in man whose breath is in his nostrils".
Thanks for the courageous report!
In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
What do you think of America's financial crisis, seems more like America's 2008 garage sale, how far down the pipe have we really fallen in the last 10 years. It doesn't seem that long ago that I had no worries financially, I was making plenty of money and stocks were booming, everyone seemed happy. I am most concerned about my parents, the stock market has certainly affected my job, to the point where I may need to start looking for a new one. However, I am not heavily invested, I pulled out of the market almost completely in early 2000 and I believe God helped me with that decision. I am very worried about the security of my parents who are heavily invested and are losing vast amounts of money, like many other people, is this part of America's judgement? If so, we certainly seem to deserve it, do we not?
I have been around a little while but never in my life have I actually feared for my country so much that I wept on my knees and prayed about it. I don't think most people realize how bad things really are. Most of us were not around during the Great Depression but something tells me what is coming, will make that look like a Sunday picnic. I don't mean to be all doom and gloom but it's hard to feel anything else right now. God said money is the root of all evil, but what exactly does he mean by that, please clarify if you can. I never had any desire to be rich, not even when Christ wasn't in my life, but I just wanted security not only for my own family but for other American's as well. Now, I am extremely frightened for our country. Perhaps, in some small way, I know what it's like to live in a 2nd rate country, a country going down, not up. This is a feeling I've never felt before but when I see the future, I see nothing but turmoil and war.
Even people I know who are not Christians are starting to think twice about what the Bible has to say. A friend from my youth, who I had not spoken to for 20 years, a fanatical atheist, who had heard I was a Christian now is asking me for answers. So perhaps, some good is coming out of all this.
Thanks Robert and God Bless You,
I'm happy to hear that the present crisis has sparked someone you know to seek the Lord. That is always encouraging to hear. I remain skeptical about the spiritual prospects at large, however. I remember how after 9/11 people flocked to church, and how I thought at the time "give it six weeks". As to judgment, I wouldn't be surprised, but as you correctly judge, it's nothing compared to what is coming – during the Tribulation. My own prognostication on events leads me to believe that things will actually be pretty comfortable here before the big storm hits. Naturally, that does not preclude serious ups and downs in the considerable meantime (even if I am correct). One thing that minor [compared to what is coming] crises like this do accomplish, however, is to take the spiritual temperature of the country, individually and collectively. The fact that as a country we are eager and willing to throw all principle, restraint, liberty, and good judgment to the winds merely on the fear of a possible recession shows you what the collective character has become (and we wonder how Germans could have voted for Hitler). Individually, as believers, it is a good time to take stock (no pun intended) and remember that Jesus Christ is our true security. We are here for Him and not for ourselves. We have a portfolio in heaven to which we ought to making deposits every day through strengthening our faith, growing spiritually, and serving Him in the ministries to which He has called us to help other believers do likewise. If we are doing this, then we can truly appreciate what as I often say are the only three days in the Christian life: 1) yesterday when Christ washed away our sins and we became one with Him through faith: we rest on the Rock; 2) tomorrow when we shall be with the One we love so much forevermore in a wonderful place where there will never be any want or lack or even a conception thereof (and where we will never regret a good decision we made for Him in time); 3) and today, this day for which He has provided our daily bread; on this day if we have clothes on our back and enough to eat, there should be no issue (1Tim.6:8); if we have more than that, then praise the Lord!; if we lack food and clothing, then we have the assurance that what we are suffering is only for today, and that in so suffering we are honoring Him by sharing His sufferings – if we only but acquit ourselves as persons of true faith by trusting in Him, accepting that He knows best, and showing the world by our conduct that we have confidence in the Lord who bought us even in the face of circumstances that terrify those who have no faith, and that we would rather have His approval than gain the entire world.
We have brought nothing into this world - and are not able to
take anything out of it. Those who want to get rich fall into
temptations, traps, and many senseless and harmful lusts - the
kind which swamp men['s hearts] to their destruction and
damnation. For the love of money is a root [cause] of all evils
- [and it is] in the pursuit of which [love of money that] some
have wandered away from the faith (i.e., become apostates) and
have pierced themselves through with many pains.
As the quote above makes clear, it is not money, but our attitude towards it (i.e., loving it rather than the Lord) that causes problems. God knows very well what our situation is and that we need (in this society at any rate) income to survive and function. Problems arise when we begin to see our security in our earthly bank account rather than looking to our eternal reward. This is bad enough at any time, but on the cusp of the Tribulation it is doubly problematic. For I anticipate that those who are determined to stay true to the Lord no matter what will, during those dark days ahead, find themselves confronted with all sorts of terrible circumstances and hard choices. I would imagine that just as the Jews of Hitler's Germany had all they owned unjustly confiscated, so believers who refuse to compromise during the Great Apostasy and/or who refuse to take the beast's mark during the Great Persecution will also find themselves in the position of having all their material possessions taken away – and of course of losing their lives in martyrdom during the latter. Now most Christians I am sure would say how ready and willing they are to lose their lives for Jesus (just like Peter did, before the pressure was actually on). But what about their money? It says a lot about the perverse influence that seeing security in material terms can have that many people would rather die rich than live poor! And in fact of course, Tribulation or no Tribulation, people act as if wealth was something that endures. In fact, you really can't take it with you! As quoted above, "We have brought nothing into this world – and are not able to take anything out of it." This is God's truth and something that should be obvious to even the most a-spiritual unbeliever. And yet, just as most human beings tend to live life as if they really are not going to die (annulling the fundamental truth of existence and thus ignoring the whole point of why they are here on earth: to choose for or against God), so they also tend to forget or purposefully avoid the reality that they are only holding whatever assets they may have on temporary loan, the only question being just how temporary (and of course Satan aggressively encourages this studied ignorance; see the link: in SR4: "Satanic Lie #1). For in truth, if one "casts but a glance at riches, they take wings and fly away" (Prov.23:4-5), so that whether by death or by unexpected catastrophes which in the long span of human history have been more the rule than the exception, either way wealth is not something you can count on. So even if contemporary Americans are given to ignoring these spiritual, cosmic, and historical facts, crises of this sort I suppose do serve the purpose of reminding them that God is the only secure Rock; all other foundations are "sinking sand" (please see the link: in BB 3A: "The Vanity of Life").
For this reason I tell you [to] stop worrying about your
life, that is, [worrying about] what you will [have to] eat. And
stop [worrying] about your body, that is, [worrying about] what
you will [have to] wear. Isn't your life more [meaningful] than
food? And isn't your body more [meaningful] than clothing? Look
at the birds of the sky –
they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather
into granaries. And [yet] your heavenly Father feeds them. You
are more important than they are, aren't you? Now which of you
can add a foot and a half to his height by worrying? Why then do
you worry about clothing? Consider well the wild lilies –
[it is] that they grow, though neither toiling nor spinning. But
I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory used to clothe
himself like one of these. And if God dresses the wild plants in
such a way –
here today but thrown into the oven tomorrow –
He not all the more do so for you, O you of little faith? So
don't worry, saying "What shall we [have to] eat?" or "What
shall we [have to] drink?" or "What shall we [have to] wear?"
After all, these are the things that the gentiles are
frantically pursuing. Now your heavenly Father knows you need
all these things. Therefore seek first the Kingdom and its
righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you in
addition. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry
about itself: there is [already] sufficient evil in any given
day [without you adding to it ahead of time].
As I am told my old Scots Great-grandmother used to say, "blessed be nothing". I have confidence that the Lord will work everything out for the good for those who love Him (Rom.8:28). In this life, we are going to be tested in many ways. It is very easy when living in Sodom like Lot to get invested (pun intended) in the local society to the point of forgetting at least to some degree the true spiritual realities. But as believers in Jesus who are pushing forward day by day in spiritual growth and helping others to do likewise, we need to be concerned only about one thing: are we pleasing Jesus? If the answer to that question is "yes!", then other concerns will take care of themselves – or rather He will take care of them for us, even the world around us seems to be falling apart.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes
by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of
the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in
his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them
alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help
and our shield.
Best wishes for negotiating the present troubles – may your faith be built up by the experience.
In the One who is our eternal security, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I notice from reading your site emails that there are a lot of questions about the Rapture. Like you, I came to the conclusion that what we were taught so many years ago was incorrect in light of scripture. Beginning some 20 years ago I started reading the works and words of the early church fathers through the reformation leaders. There was certainly no Rapture as we know it to be found. It also seemed that the explanations I got for a Biblical support for the Rapture were a bit strained. Frankly I had the same feeling about the doctrine of eternal security as it was commonly taught. What made me concerned was that I noticed Paul never stopped running the race; he kept talking about it as something that needed to continue. As a former track athlete, though not a very fast one, I could identify with having to continue until the finish line. That might have also created my first doubts about the Rapture as I felt stuck in tribulation at times. Okay, so it's a bad pun. Anyway, I never got the impression from reading Jesus' comments to the disciples that there were special escape clauses for Christians in our journey through life.
I agree with the comments that when the Tribulation comes a lot of people who claim to be Christians will get a real shock to their system when they're left here with the Antichrist and his minions. They're as ignorant of scripture as they are of their country's history. We just have to prepare to accept that we may die physically for our belief and that it will not be pleasant. Lots of Christians faced that in the past and some do today in different parts of the world. While my inclination would be to go out like the character Ragnar that Ernest Borgnine played in The Vikings, sword in hand jumping in the pit to fight it out with the dogs so as to guarantee entry into Valhalla, that isn't what I find as guidance in the Word and Lord knows I've searched for it.
Keep up your run, I enjoy reading your thoughts.
Thanks for the thoughts, old buddy! I truly appreciate your words. Both of these issues, pre-trib and ES, were positions Col. Thieme took from others. In some respects, I think he made his most important contributions when he branched out in a biblical way. For example, I have never been able to do any better in general terms than what I learned from him on GAP, free will vs. predestination, and Christ's spiritual death (to name a few that have been on my mind lately). There always seems to be more work to do fine tuning, but we really got a huge leg up from the old man, and especially in regards to the whole mind-set of how important Bible study is, what it ought to be like, and how to go about it. I always be grateful for those books and pep-talks back at Los Flores.
On the whole "Christian code of conduct" issue regarding the Tribulation, I very much appreciate what you're saying. I do think that one of the stumbling blocks for establishment types will be the desire to stand up and be counted. Problem is of course we have to figure out God's way of doing it – the situation is unique. I also think another major stumbling block may possibly be antichrist's attractiveness from a right-wing perspective. Too early to tell, but for example if the beast showed up today draped in the American flag and leading a crusade to put an end to this crazy left wing rule, well, it would be tempting. How much more so when things have gone down this road another decade or so?
Psalm 137:9 - Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones
I've listened to atheists who use Psalm 137:9 in an attempt to prove that the bible has examples of wrongful justice such as the Psalmist in that verse who speaks of killing infants. I've never quite understood that verse and can't seem to make sense of it. I've heard that infants go to heaven, so even if God allowed for the death of infants and children...it's an act of mercy. How is this verse rightly interpreted? A friend of mine stated that he thought that it could be one of the actual musicians speaking in this Psalm because it states "WE" hanged "OUR" harps upon the willows; and how it is expressed in the form of a song. He wondered if it was a very somber composition, perhaps a dirge? Thanks in advance!
This is, like all the "imprecatory passages" in the Psalms and elsewhere, a difficult issue for Christians who are taught to have love and compassion. However, even though we are told not to hate and to pray for our enemies, we are still very glad that God is a God of perfect justice. When divine judgment comes, the wicked are often destroyed "stock and stem" so that there will be no quick repetition of their evil. There were plenty of children in Sodom and Gomorrah, you can be sure, and Israel was specifically commanded to exterminate the Canaanites including their young, so as not to be lead into their idolatry. Also, you are precisely correct: anyone who dies before coming to the age of being able to make and actually making a decision about wanting (or not wanting) an eternal relationship with the Lord is automatically saved.
It doesn't matter who penned this Psalm; it is part of the Word of God in any case, and the anticipated joy of God's justice being rained down on the evil adversary is thus seen to be a sanctified emotion. Please note, however, that the blessedness is attributed to the slayer, and the slayer was not Israel but Persia. We will face a similar situation during the Tribulation. We should certainly not feel bad about the destruction of so many people by our Lord at the battle of Armageddon – indeed, it will be a similar matter of great joy. True, these will be adults who have made their own decisions, but we are told to love everyone, and these individuals all have mothers and fathers (and many of them will no doubt have children too). We will also rejoice in the fall of Babylon, the prime mover in our persecution (and there will be many infant deaths when that occurs as well). The main point is that in both instances it is God who brings about the act of justice, either indirectly (using Cyrus and the Medes and Persians), or directly (as Jesus Himself will be the One who destroys antichrist's massive armies at His return).
There is a time and a place for everything. There is a time to kill and a time to heal (Eccl.3:3), and our Lord knows the proper time for every single thing. Our job is to be very careful to walk humbly with Him and accept His words of truth. It is just as wrong to become indignant at this or similar passages and cast aspersions on God (or, alternatively, to question His Word) as it is to be cruel, hateful, and vengeful, calling down curses on those who oppose or wrong us instead of praying for their salvation. This is a time of healing, and until the Tribulation begins it is indeed our mandate to walk in love towards all. During the Tribulation, however, it will be part of our hope to anticipate our Lord's return and deliverance of us, and it will be entirely legitimate to be encouraged by the knowledge of His swift retribution on those who terribly abused us:
Strengthen the hands that are weak. Bolster the knees that
are giving way. Say to those with anxious hearts, "Be strong!
Don't be afraid! Behold! Your God will come, as an Avenger.
[Your] God will come, as a Rewarder. He will come, and He will
In a similar way, the Jews who had been deported to Babylon and who had been horribly maltreated on the journey there (many had died along the way), and who were in this Psalm, in the sadness of their hearts, being mocked for their faith in God, had a sanctified and legitimate basis for anticipating their prophesied release from captivity and judgment on their captors. The fact that this judgment extends to their children tends to shock us today here in the U.S. (we live pretty sheltered lives, most of us, any way). But even we are not unacquainted with this sort of destruction where evil must be confronted, even when God is not directly involved. Our bombing raids on our enemies Germany and Japan during WWII certainly destroyed people of all ages, infants included, and did so by the hundreds of thousands (putting Persia's partial destruction of the Babylonian kingdom in the shade). Furthermore, the divine punishment endured by the future, eschatological Babylon will be equally fierce.
(5) For [Babylon's] sins have been piled up to heaven, and
God has called to mind her wicked deeds. (6) Repay her just as
she also herself has repaid. And give her a double measure
according to her deeds. In her own cup with which she mixed [her
evil brew], mix a double batch for her. (7) To the same degree
that she glorified herself and indulged in wonton excess, to
that same degree give her torment and grief. For she says in her
heart, "I am enthroned as a queen, and I am not a widow and I
shall not see grief". (8) Because of [all] this [arrogance of
hers], her plagues will come in one day: death and mourning and
famine. And [then] she will be burned down with fire (the
invasion undertaken by the beast and his confederates). For the
Lord God who has judged her is mighty. (9) And the kings of the
earth will cry and mourn over her, even those who committed
fornication with her and indulged in wonton excess [with her],
when they look upon the smoke of her conflagration, (10)
standing at a [safe] distance on account of their fear of her
torment, saying, "Woe, woe for the great city, Babylon the
mighty! For in one hour the judgment [due] you has come [upon
you]." (11) And the merchants of the earth [who did business
with] you are crying and grieving over you, because no one buys
their cargos any longer, (12) cargos of gold and silver, of
precious stones and pearls, of linens and purple [fabrics] and
silk and crimson [cloth], and every [sort of product made of]
fragrant wood, and every [sort of] product [made of] ivory, and
every [sort of] product [made of] exceptionally precious wood
and bronze and iron, (13) and [spices of] cinnamon and anise and
[various sorts of] incense and myrrh and frankincense and wine
and olive oil and fine flour and grain and livestock and sheep,
and of horses and chariots and bodies, that is, human beings
[enslaved or indentured]. (14) Indeed, the imports your heart
lusted for have departed from you. And as to all your sleek and
shiny [cultural] exports, [the people of the world] will never
find them again. (15) The merchants of [all] these things who
grew rich from her (i.e., Babylon) will stand at a distance on
account of their fear of her torment, crying and grieving, (16)
saying, "Woe, woe for the great city, the one clothed in linen
and purple and scarlet, and gilded with gold and precious stones
and pearls! (17) [Woe to her,] for in a single hour she has been
made bereft of such great wealth!" And every captain and
everyone sailing to that place, and sailors, and as many as make
their living from the sea stood at a distance, (18) and as they
looked at the smoke of her burning they cried out, saying, "What
[city was ever] like this great city?" (19) And they cast dust
upon their heads [in grief] and they cried out, wailing and
grieving, saying, "Woe, woe for the great city, [by consorting]
with whom all who have ships on the sea became wealthy from her
exceptionally expensive [tastes]! [Woe to her] for in a single
hour she has been made bereft [of it all]".
While infants are not mentioned above, it is certain that they are included. The best thing I can tell you about all this is that what we have here is yet another instance where something in scripture may seem contradictory to us but in fact is only so according to human logic, not in God's logic. God is a God of love; God is a God of justice. If we are prudent, we will make it our business to stay solidly in His love through our faith and faithful following of Jesus Christ, that we may never run afoul of His justice.
In the One who endured the judgment of the justice of God in dying for all our sins, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thanks for your emails as they have contributed a lot to my spiritual growth and knowledge of the bible. God Bless you.
I had jury duty yesterday and felt reluctant in serving as part of the jury because I felt that it wasn't in my right to make a decision of whether a person is innocent or guilty. The judge had told me that this isn't judging but examining the evidence, etc. The bible tells us not to swear in heaven or on earth and I was wondering if this applies to oath taking in court. Also, in 1 Cor. 6 it tells us not to get involved in disputes with the unjust and small matters. I may be taking this passage out of context and wanted to know if this or any passages prohibits our getting involved in jury duty.
Thank you for your kind words; they are much appreciated. I always get quite a lot out of the very pertinent and probing questions readers ask, so this is definitely a two-way street of ministry.
As to the jury duty question, I have served in the past and didn't find anything in my own experience of the process which bothered my own conscience. In my view the passages about judging are not referring to legitimate areas of human administration. For example, if you are ever a supervisor in a job, you will certainly have to "judge" your subordinates. Since it is not only legitimate but necessary to have a legal system, it is necessary and legitimate for those involved to make decisions, pass "judgments", which otherwise in private relationships (the focus of these New Testament passages) we should indeed refrain from doing. The 1st Corinthians six passage is indeed talking about legal disputes, but it is dissuading direct Christian involvement in law suits against other Christians. This does not mean that Christians should never have recourse to the legal system or that they are forestalled from accessing it or participating in it, only that they should not be trying to redress perceived wrongs at the hands of other believers in this way. On the swearing issue, this has historically been a problem for many Christians and Christian groups. I don't pretend it's an easy one. My own conscience has no difficulty with this sort of legal affirmation of the truth of what I may say or promising thereby to do my duty in an honorably way. The biblical restrictions are aimed at the practice of people making a show of their own holiness in non-official contexts, not the legitimate function of law and order. Also, I believe that it is common practice to allow those Christians who are averse to saying "I swear" or the like to instead "affirm".
At any rate, these are my thoughts on that issue. I hasten to add that since some (or perhaps all) of these questions are not hypothetical but actual applications you are currently having to make, that paying attention to your conscience is certainly something you should do. It is also true, however, that in this sort of situation refusing to go along is a type of civil disobedience that generally should only even be considered in the most dire circumstances, and when the Christian's understanding of the issues and the reasons for demurring (along with the consequences) are absolutely clear. As I say, I personally see no cause for alarm at anything you are being asked to do.
In Jesus our Lord,
Just wanted to thank you for your prayers. The babies are all doing very well, as well as can be expected. They are by no means in the clear yet but they have a good chance now. They have a lot of people praying for them, all true Christians. That makes a difference in my mind, so I thank you for your prayers. God speaks in the Bible several different times of children, like us, I think he too considers them special. He even gives a warning to those who would harm children, can't recall the exact passage. Anyway, the point is that I think Jesus pays special attention to those who can't help themselves, divine intervention I guess. At the same time, bad things do happen to good people. Years ago, my dear Grandmother watched her 3 year old child get struck by a large truck out in front of her house. She was a good Christian who always talked about Jesus, she never drank, smoked or cursed, by no means perfect but I know she is in heaven.
You've spoken to me before about music, and how you don't listen to it because of it's effects on your mood and emotions. I can only say that this is absolutely true for myself as well. I recall hearing a song from the mid-80's by Don Henley a few days ago, Boys of Summer. As I was standing in a store this song came on and brought on a rush of sinful memories and emotions, deep memories that would have never surfaced otherwise, some painful as that was a painful part of my life. The song played in my head for 2 hours before I thought of praying about it, the prayer worked immediately. That's how I know Jesus listens, many times, he brings instant help, not always, but many times I've witnessed this personally! I guess sometimes we can't avoid hearing it. Why does music do this and is it true that most mainstream music is indeed demonic or Satanic in nature? Could we say that at the same time, true Christian music (not rock and roll) brings us closer to Christ? Say, if you are singing Christian songs in church?? I actually enjoy that and have felt the spirit of the Lord in doing so, perhaps I imagined it, but I don't think so.
Thanks as always, God Bless,
I am very happy to hear that the children are coming through this, and will indeed continue to keep them and you and your family in my prayers. It is my fondest hope their parents will see God's mighty hand at work in the grace provided through the prayers of good Christians like yourself, and will be moved to respond.
It is true that with the world's eyes all sorts of terrible things seem to happen. But of course we don't know the big picture. We see the battle just out in front of our own little fox hole, and that often gives a very distorted picture. It is certainly true that in any human army, it may well be the case that our commanders have either forgotten us or blundered or just don't really care, but that is never the case in the Christian fight. As you report so eloquently, we are often blessed to see some of our prayers answered instantaneously, but are also often tested in having to wait a very long time for God's perfect timing.
I know what you mean about joyous response to Christian music in church (or elsewhere) – it is certainly possible. But in my experience what makes the (proper and controlled) response possible is the truth residing in the heart of the person listening, not the music. That is to say, a good Christian lyric (of which there are few) or good Christian music can produce an out-sized response in a true Christian warrior who has learned much about Jesus, including how to walk close to Him, even as it leaves unbelievers cold. For Christians who are not where they need to be spiritually, no amount of music, no matter how good, is going to have any edifying effect, and can lead to an emotional dependency instead. The "fore-fighters" on the front line may benefit from a few hours in the rear, warm food and a hot shower, but if they don't get it, they will still fight. The 4-F's in the rear with the gear are not going to be any better at the combat of the Christian way of life no matter how much they eat, sleep, or are pampered. Indeed, it is probably only making them weaker.
It is the Word of truth which is the most powerful spiritual ammunition in the universe, even if there is no musical accompaniment.
In the dear Lord who fought the fight of fights for us, and died for all our sins, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Some of my friends are telling me that women shouldn't vote according to the word of God. Some people think that women's right to vote came from the feminist movement. And that women's rights is a good thing - the feminist movement is evil. They supposedly want equality, but instead it turns to dominance. Men and women have equal standing before God - but He made us to fulfill different roles - in the home, in the church. God made women the weaker vessel - so I don't agree with women working in all the same fields as men. But what about this and aren't we suppose to obey authorities (what about the 19th amendment?)?
I appreciate any feedback.
As I have explained in the past (see the link: Political Action versus Biblical Christianity), I personally feel that political action and involvement is, while not sinful or forbidden, a big, negative distraction for Christians. I don't think there is anything sinful in Christian woman voting since that is the law of the land. And I don't have a problem with a woman making a personal application that she would rather not vote for some of the reasons you advance (or for whatever reason). But as I often say to you in these discussions, what I do have a problem with is someone else or some group of people trying to make that decision for everyone else. Legalistic bullying is sinful and wrong, no matter what one may think about voting and democracy.
Dear Brother in Jesus the Christ,
Heb 13:3 "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering." As you know, this verse is taken by many to refer to criminals in prison. I wonder if it may rather be in relation to Christians who were in prisons for their belief, not because of crimes as we think of it. How do you interpret it?
May the Lord bless you and give you peace.
You are exactly right. I would add to imprisonment for faith directly any and all trumped up charges or circumstances caused by living for Christ. Identifying oneself as a Christian in Judea in the years between the resurrection and its destruction was a sure way to be ostracized, and would naturally lead to all sorts of negative economic and social consequences, many of which individually or in combination could result in the circumstance of being jailed. For example, they most definitely did jail debtors in that time. If a person's business failed because of professed Christianity (a not unlikely occurrence) they might end in prison for this more mundane reason – but as a result of their living for Christ. So, yes, this verse is not talking about unbelievers who are evil-doers and who are being justly punished for their crimes. Mercy of all kinds is always laudable when it is practiced in a proper and godly way, so I would certainly never dream of telling someone involved in prison evangelism or even less so in ministering to Christians who have erred that they were "out of line" for so doing. We all have our own unique spiritual gifts, and we are all called to different fields of ministry. However, what you say is absolutely true: this verse is speaking very particularly of those jailed for their faith.
In our dear Lord Jesus who suffered outside the gate for us.
Why was it commanded an "eye for an eye" in the OT and love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, and bless them that curse you in the NT. Why did it not begin this way in the OT? Why was the penalty for an adulteress death by stoning in the OT and not done today? Some have told me that Jesus would have allowed for the adulteress to be stoned if there were indeed witnesses. Is this true? I've been asked these questions by someone who thinks that the God of the OT is not as merciful as the God of the OT, but I know that they are one in the same.
First, the "cast the first stone" passage is a very late false addition completely without any sort of textual support. It is most definitely not part of the Bible (any good study Bible should point that out). Secondly, the Bible often says things that seem inconsistent to us at first glance, and it may sometimes take years of study and listening to good teaching before all of our questions of this nature are resolved. However, the New Testament and the Old Testament are absolutely 100% compatible in terms of the truth. When it seems they are not, it is because there is something we have not correctly understood. For example, we would know that "love your neighbor" is from the Old Testament originally, even if we have only read the New:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first
and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your
neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on
these two commandments."
Thus love – love for God and for those who are likewise alive to seek God (whether or not they choose to do so) – is at the heart of all God's commands. One thing to keep in mind here is that there is a big difference on the one hand between civil authority which must maintain order in society at large and which even in the New Testament "does not bear the sword for nothing" (Rom.13:4), and on the other hand regulations governing our own personal behavior. If I have suffered a mild, non-life and limb threatening slight, it does me no great harm nor does it harm society in general if I ignore that slight. Notice, Jesus does not say anything like "If someone is attempting to cut your head off with a sword, don't run away and don't call the police". If a fellow believer gave me a slap for something I said, even if I didn't deserve it, it would be appropriate and entirely justifiable not to respond. But if someone were trying to kill me, not resisting, not trying to avoid it, and not trying to report such a person to the police, would be decidedly un-Christian, and would be gross misapplications of the "turn the other cheek" command (it might result in him killing someone else, for example, because I didn't turn him in).
As to "eye for an eye", this is a very sound procedure for us to use even today, at least as a general principle, because this stipulation is most decidedly not being given to individual Israelites, as if they could personally go out and get vengeance for wrongs suffered. Rather this is the instruction to the civil authority. Severe crime is to be deterred with equally severe punishment, equally, proportionally, and justly applied. Otherwise, law and order will break down.
When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the
hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.
Whenever and wherever there is no justice, people tend 1) to take the law into their own hands and 2) to ignore the law entirely since there is no fear of ignoring it. The "eye for an eye" standard is thus designed to prevent crime 1) by fixing a just, proportional penalty for crime which satisfies the righteous and encourages them to respect civil authority, and 2) demonstrates to the wicked that they will most certainly pay for their crimes in a proportional and just way – making them less likely to do such things, not out of goodness, but out of fear. Finally, the "eye for an eye" is indeed a just, proportional standard: it sets the principle of not doing more to the wrong-doer than is just and appropriate based upon his crime.
Lastly, it true that we do not have stoning today, but the offenses for which stoning was proscribed all revolved around blasphemy and idolatry, and that is significant. We are not a nation ruled directly by God as Israel was meant to be. In such a theocracy, those who gave gross affront to God were, in effect, insulting and challenging their ruler. Thus stoning was in effect the punishment for treason and rebellion (and even today we have it on the books in this country to execute those guilty of this high crime). In such cases it was very important for all those who witnessed the act of blasphemy/idolatry to join in the act of stoning – making it viscerally clear to them what they personally must avoid not to suffer such a fate. Since we do not have a state wherein it is assumed that by birth we are believers, but one in which spirituality is entirely a personal matter having absolutely nothing to do with the state, there is no place for stoning (since blasphemy and idolatry, however repugnant, are not crimes). As with many features of the Mosaic Law, this regulation cannot be applied in any state except Israel – and an Israel governed by God at that.
I hope all this helps to show that there is a complete unity between everything in the two testaments; whenever Jesus teaches something, it is almost always possible to show not only the same truth similarly stated in the Old Testament, but also repeated later in the New Testament epistles. The differentiation between a sanctified and secular polity, and between regulations for civil versus personal behavior, are often at the root of these sort of perceived contradictions.
In our Lord Jesus who is the very truth incarnate.
Did the Roman Empire ever rule Persia - what is today Iran?
No, they never did. Not that they didn't have a go. During those days, present-day Iran was known as the Parthian Empire, a rather dissolute monarchy, but protected by geography. Rome was very involved with client states on Parthia's borders (Armenia, for example), and did try to conquer the place, first under Crassus (one the original Triumvirs – his death was a large part of the reason for the falling out between Pompey and Caesar), then later under Mark Anthony. Both expeditions ended in complete disaster (although Crassus' was a total loss, while Antony managed to escape with some troops). The Parthian army was composed mainly of horse arches, and they never let the Roman legions close on them for a stand-up fight. The Mongols used similar tactics later to equally great effect against heavy infantry. Augustus made use of threats and aggressive diplomacy to bring a sort of peace to the frontier which resulted in the return of the eagles (standards of the lost legions) which had been captured in Crassus' disaster.
Yours in Jesus,