Correcting My Mistakes

Kim from Facebook writes:

I have used and greatly appreciated David Guzik’s commentaries for many years! In finishing the commentary on Leviticus this morning, I found this sentence: Melchizedek was praised when he gave Abraham a tithe of all (Hebrews 7:4-10).

Am I mistaken in understanding that in fact ABRAHAM was blessed when he tithed to Melchizedek?

  • Kim is absolutely right.
  • What I wrote is in error – I simply put the names “Melchizedek” and “Abraham” in the wrong place.
  • The bigger matter here is tithing and giving, from an old covenant and new covenant perspective.

How I Think About Errors and Corrections

  • My commentary is under constant revision and hopefully, improvement. When I go through a book again, I try to make it better. What is interesting about what Kim noticed is that it comes from a commentary that I most recently revised and had proofread – Leviticus (right now I’m working on Numbers).
  • We get suggested corrections all the time. Almost always the people are really kind, like Kim was – I have used and greatly appreciated David Guzik’s commentaries for many years!
  • Something good: it helps work some humility in me!
  • There’s a lot of material! 11,000 pages, 4.2 million words.
  • We have literally tens of millions of people who use the commentary – that’s a lot of eyes, and people will notice things.
  • I used to get a lot more down about them – now, I appreciate that we (1) have such a big “crowdsourced” team of proofreaders (2) It makes the commentary better.
  • We do have proofreaders who are really good – but no one catches everything, and this includes works put out by major publishing houses.
  • In this sense, my commentary has “improved” a lot over the years, but I’m glad that I didn’t wait for these proofreading improvements to put it out. I would like to believe that the commentary has done some good for some people, even if sometimes in a “rough” form.

We have a process, a procedure for making corrections, because the correction needs to go out in at least three places (not counting Blue Letter Bible).

So Kim – thanks for pointing out the error, and we will make the correction.

Is John 11:52 a reference to spiritual Israel, physical Israel, or both?

John 11:49-52 – And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

This is fascinating. Caiaphas made this statement considering that, in a cold-blooded, political, pragmatic sense, it was better for one man to unjustly be put to death than for the whole nation to suffer under the Romans or perish. By the one man, there’s no doubt that he meant Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ.

We read John’s comment about that statement in verse 51: “Now he did not say this on his own authority, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” Now, when John mentions “the nation” in verse 51, he’s talking about Israel, that Jesus would die for Israel. But John wanted to be very clearly understood that he didn’t think that Jesus died only for Israel. That’s why he adds on in verse 52, “And not for that nation only, but also that he would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”

So, in verse 51, “the nation” refers to the literal, tribal, ethnic Israel, and in verse 52, “the children of God who were scattered abroad” refers to the Gentiles who would come into the Kingdom. John is speaking of both the literal, ethnic nation of Israel, and of the Gentiles, those scattered abroad who would come in later. That’s a remarkable statement. John is trying to make sure that everybody understood that when Caiaphas was referring to Israel, but not only ethnic Israel (the Jewish people, the covenant descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), in God’s understanding, when he said that it was better for the nation for Jesus to die and to give His life for the nation.

At the Last Supper, did Jesus and disciples eat the Passover Meal in the way Exodus 12:11 describes?

Exodus 12:11 – ‘And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.’

That is a great question. No, Jesus and His disciples did not eat the Passover as it was described in Exodus 12:11, with a belt on their waist, sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hand; and they did not eat it hurriedly. You might think they were disobeying God’s command in Exodus 12. But the rabbis had long interpreted that command in Exodus 12:11 as applying to Israel at the Exodus, at the first Passover when they were escaping Egypt. It did not apply to Israel once they came into the Promised Land. Certainly, Jesus’ disciples partook of Passover in the Promised Land, in Jerusalem itself.

The rabbis understood that the reason to eat with your sandals on your feet, staff in your hand, and belt around your waist, was because you had to be ready to move; you were leaving out of Egypt and destined eventually for the Promised Land. That was not the case once they came into the Promised Land.

So, the rabbis said, and I think this is correct, “Now that we’re in the Promised Land, chill out. Eat the Passover while reclining. Take it easy; don’t eat it in haste. Eat it with your slippers on, so to speak. Be comfortable, because now God has brought us into the Promised Land.” By the time Jesus partook of Passover with His disciples, the Jewish people had for centuries been receiving Passover reclining at tables. No longer did they receive Passover according to the commands of Exodus 12:11, which were understood to be meant for that moment of the original Passover, and not for Israel to celebrate it in that particular way throughout all their history.

Do we have dominion over angels, and can we dispatch them?

A couple different passages refer to these things. Hebrews 1:14 talks about believers receiving help and ministry from angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” It is the job of at least some angels to help, serve, and assist God’s people. Now, if that was the only thing the Bible told us about angels, then maybe somebody we could say that maybe, in some sense, believers have the right to direct, have dominion over, or to dispatch angels.

However, when you look at the Scriptures in the bigger picture, God is the lord of angels; believers are not. God dispatches angels on behalf of believers. At least some angelic beings serve believers and are ministering spirits sent forth to help them. But nowhere does the Bible say that we command them. God commands angels on behalf of His people.

I think it can be an example of maybe some spiritual pride, or a bit of spiritual arrogance, for someone to say, “I can command angels; angels answer to me; I’m going to tell them what to do,” and so on. I don’t think that’s the biblical way to approach it.

So that’s how I would say it. We do understand and receive the truth, because the Bible says it, that in some sense, there are some angels who are given to serve and help and minister on behalf of believers. But it doesn’t mean that believers have authority over them.

I’ll add one more Scriptural thought to the mix. In 1 Corinthians 6:3, Paul appeals to the fact that we will judge angels, not right now, but when we are resurrected and glorified with the Lord. Part of our resurrection glory will include being in some way above the angels; we will judge angels. But 1 Corinthians 6:3, Paul puts that in the future tense, not in the here and now.

I would strongly discourage believers from thinking, speaking, or acting as if they had dominion over angelic beings, to order or dispatch angels to do this or that. Talk to God, and God will dispatch angels as He sees fit.

Do we have birthdays in Heaven?

What a great question. I love thinking about Heaven and what life is going to be like when we get there. But let me give you an answer to that: I don’t have the slightest idea. Maybe, who knows?

First, I don’t know that time works the same way in Heaven that it works here. Here on earth, it’s kind of easy. There are approximately 365 days to a year, so we know our birthday comes after one revolution around the sun. But we don’t know how time works in Heaven.

Sometimes we speak of Heaven as being timeless. I don’t know if that’s exactly true because the Bible does give us some markers regarding time. For instance, it talks about there being a half-hour in Heaven. But we just don’t know how time works in Heaven. We don’t know if there will be anniversaries of things. We don’t know if there will be a cyclical calendar like that. And even if there was, would we remember the day of our birth in Heaven? Maybe we would remember the day of our being born again, our second birth. Maybe we would remember the day that we came to Heaven, as sort of a new beginning.

Maybe we won’t remember those things in Heaven at all; I don’t know.

It’s kind of hard to think about and talk about it, because we don’t know how time works in Heaven or in the eternal. We need to be very measured in how we speak about that. But I must say, it’s not often that I get questions about which I can say: I never thought of that before. Great question.

Can someone with the gift of tongues exercise it whenever they choose?

Can someone with the gift of tongues exercise it whenever they choose? Or is it when the Spirit prompts us to do so speaking in the context of private life use?

1 Corinthians 14:2 – For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.

The Scriptures only give us some hints about this question; there’s no clear answer to it. But from those hints, we know that a believer who does speak in tongues does so in their communication with God. Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:2, that whoever speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men but unto God. Whatever the gift of tongues is, it’s not fundamentally a tool for interpersonal communication on a horizontal level. It’s a tool of communication on a vertical level between the believer and the Lord. “Whoever speaks in an unknown tongue speaks not unto men but unto God.”

The hints in Scripture lean towards it being a gift, and that somebody who has the gift can use it whenever they please. Some spiritual gifts are like this. If someone has the gift of preaching or the gift of teaching, they can essentially use it whenever they please. The gift of mercy is a gift that someone can use whenever they please.

There are other gifts which are not like that. When the Bible describes the gift of miracles, or the gift of healing, there’s no indication Scripturally that it’s something which just resides in a person. I mean, if someone were to have the genuine biblical gift of healing, I don’t think they could go into a hospital and just empty the whole place out. We don’t have any Scriptural indication of that being the way the disciples acted. They use those gifts in a particular situation, as the Holy Spirit would lead them. But not every gift was like that.

Some gifts seem to be somewhat “resident” and other gifts seem to be more “spontaneous,” based on what the Holy Spirit is doing in that specific moment. I would put the gift of tongues into the category of being “resident” in a believer, for a couple reasons. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank my God that I speak with tongues more than you all.” That’s a hint; it’s not a clear statement. But it seems to indicate that Paul could speak in tongues whenever he pleased.

Here’s another hint. When Paul talks about the gift of tongues in the sense of it being a tool of edification for the believer, I think that’s another indication. 1 Corinthians 14:4 – He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

I don’t think the gift of tongues is something that God “does” to a person. It’s more of a “resident” gift, so to speak, which someone has. As they simply walk in the Spirit, they can use that gift as God would give them the ability.

Does the Catholic Bible mention purgatory or the Stations of the Cross?

The Roman Catholic Bible is mostly the same as the Bible that most Protestants would use, with the addition of the Old Testament Apocrypha added to it, which includes extra books like 1-2 Maccabees, Esdras, Wisdom of Solomon, and a couple other books. I would regard those as extra-biblical books. Some of them have historical or devotional value, but they’re not on the par of Scripture. Some Protestants include those apocryphal books in their Bible.

I’m not an expert on the Apocrypha. I think that there’s a few allusions to something like purgatory in some of the apocryphal books, but there’s nothing clear, concrete, or definite. The idea of purgatory comes more from theological development in the Roman Catholic Church. It’s not fundamentally a Scriptural thing. It’s not something that came forth clearly from the Scripture, such as the deity of Jesus Christ. No, it’s something that came forth over centuries of theological development.

Some of the Stations of the Cross describe clear biblical events; others are things that just happened in tradition. However, the arrangement and order of the Stations of the Cross is nowhere spelled out in any Bible, whether it be the widely accepted Protestant Bible, or the Catholic Bible which includes the Old Testament Apocrypha.

It’s also noticeable that the New Testament is largely the same in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Bibles. The added books belong to the Old Testament, not to the New Testament, so it doesn’t affect the Stations of the Cross at all. The Stations of the Cross are a traditional development of Roman Catholics, but they are not delineated anywhere in the Bible, whether it be a Roman Catholic Bible or a Protestant Bible.

Is Preterism a heretical, aberrant teaching? Is there any place for Partial Preterism?

There are people who are far better read developed on these subjects than I am, but I’ll give you my understanding.

I would not regard Preterism as heretical. Let me explain why. I reserve the terms “heresy” or “heretical” (sometimes I call it the H-bomb) for grievous error: something for which you will go to Hell if you believe it. Something truly heretical would be so divergent from biblical teaching, from the Gospel of who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do for us (especially what He did at the cross and in His resurrection), that if you believe it, you will go to Hell. I reserve the term “heresy” for that.

However, I do believe Preterism is aberrant. I believe it’s incorrect. Now, there are varieties and degrees of Preterism. Some people believe in Full Preterism. To give a bit of background, Full Preterism would believe that everything Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Discourse, which we primarily take to be Matthew 24-25, was fulfilled in Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Partial Preterism says that most of what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24-25, was fulfilled in 70 AD, when the Romans conquered Jerusalem. Now, you could say that, in some ways, I am a partial preterist. In some sense, I think that what Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse, had application and some fulfillment in AD 70, when the Romans conquered Jerusalem. But I don’t think the events in AD 70 came anywhere close to fulfilling what Jesus said would happen in the Olivet Discourse. I believe it was a foreshadowing and a partial fulfillment of those things.

I believe that Preterism is a wrong teaching, in the sense of being aberrant. I would not describe it as heretical, because I’m working to be straightforward with my definitions. I regard “heresy” as something for which someone believing it will go to Hell. If someone teaches a heresy, and you believe it, you’re going to go to Hell for believing what teacher said. I am much more reserved in my use of the term heretic than some other people might be. But I try to be upfront with that.

Concerning a potential place for Partial Preterism to be accepted in Christian doctrine, I think it’s in the recognition that what Jesus spoke about in the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in a limited way in 70 AD, yet not completely; there is still a much greater and a perfect fulfillment to come.

Where does a believer go directly after they die? Do they go straight to Heaven, or do they wait for the Rapture?

They go straight to Heaven. Paul said very clearly in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. It isn’t to go into “soul sleep” or into suspended animation.

Now, the body of the deceased believer may await its resurrection. There is a sense in which that resurrection of the body may still be future for the believers gone to Heaven. This concerns how Heaven intersects with time here on this earth; we don’t always know all the answers to that question.

Even if the bodily resurrection waits for the end of the age, that believing person’s soul or spirit is with the Lord. Because we are more than our bodies. The immaterial part of our being – soul, spirit, or whatever term you want to use – is what Paul referenced very clearly: “To be absent from the body is to be present the Lord.” In Luke 23:42, Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise;” he was not waiting for future resurrection. I could give other examples.

We immediately go to be with the Lord, even if our body awaits upcoming resurrection.

How did Abraham and Lot know that the visiting men were angels? (Genesis 17-19)

How did Abraham and Lot immediately know, in Genesis 17 and 19, that the men who came to visit were angels? And was it Jesus or the Father who visited Abraham in Genesis 17-18?

Abraham knew that these were angelic beings because of the wings that were on their back. No, I’m joking. They didn’t have wings.

But my question back to you would simply be, “How do we know that Abraham or Lot knew that they were angelic beings?” Maybe they did. Maybe they didn’t. But how do we know? I don’t immediately recall those chapters of Genesis stating that Abraham knew he was speaking to angelic beings.

When the two angelic beings went on, and Abraham was left alone with the Lord, he spoke to Him as if he was God. So, Abraham knew that was the Lord. That was an appearance of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God made manifest or visible, not the Father. The Father fulfills that aspect spoken of God, that God is invisible, whom no man has seen. God is Spirit. That’s the Father.

The Son has revealed God, whether it was in the Incarnation, beginning at Nazareth and the conception, born at Bethlehem, and walking this earth for 33 years, or whether it was in pre-incarnate appearances of God, which are scattered throughout the Old Testament. When God appears in physical human form, it’s Jesus Christ, either pre-incarnate, or at the Incarnation.

Now, Lot would have had some reason to believe that these were angelic beings because of the supernatural power they displayed, but not at first. I would guess that Abraham didn’t necessarily know that those two men were angels, although later he knew that it was the Lord that He spoke to when the other two moved on. I would guess that Lot didn’t know at first that these were angelic beings, but that he probably figured it out later. How they appeared made no difference. They didn’t have wings or leave a trail of feathers behind them. They looked like regular human beings. Connect it to the idea in Hebrews 13:2, where the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that we should show hospitality and entertain strangers because by doing this, some people have shown hospitality or entertained angels without knowing it. So that’s something else to keep in mind.

Should pastors identify certain false teachers and charlatans by name to warn the flock?

Should pastors identify certain false teachers and charlatans by name in order to warn the flock? I think there are examples where Paul named false teachers if I’m not mistaken.

You’re correct, there are examples where Paul named false teachers. Demas is the one who comes to mind immediately, and there were a few others. But here’s the thing that complicates it a bit. There are also places where Paul did not identify specific wrong doctrines with names. For example, in Galatians 2, Paul talks about certain men from Judea who came to Antioch and started causing trouble, including trouble with Peter and Barnabas and some other people. Paul never tells us who those certain men from Judea were. They had names; Paul knew who they were. It’s not like these were strangers or anonymous people to Paul, but he doesn’t point out who they were. And there are a few other places where Paul deals with doctrinal issues in churches, without specifically naming the people who are promoting these doctrinal errors or problems.

I would simply say this to you, and especially to any pastor out there listening to this. There is a time for pointing out the name and naming names of false teachers and charlatans, and there’s a time and place to not specifically call people out by name, but to speak in general, either leaving people deliberately unnamed or just talking about their ideas.

We must be led by the Holy Spirit. I think there’s something wrong if a person is always naming names, and there’s something wrong if a person is never naming names. It needs to be done on a Spirit-led basis, because we have examples of both in the New Testament. Nowhere do we learn the names of any of the scribes or Pharisees who opposed Jesus in the Gospels. Isn’t that interesting?

We have accounts and instances of both. Therefore, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us wisdom along the way, to know when it’s appropriate to name false teachers and charlatans, and when it’s better to either leave them unnamed or just speak about their ideas.

What is the strongest passage of prophecy that can be used to prove the Bible is inspired?

What’s the strongest passage of prophecy that can be used to prove the Bible is inspired? What is the text even the critical scholars can’t dispute? For me it is the 70 sevens of Daniel.

There is a fair amount of controversy over the chronology of Sir Robert Anderson, which brings the 70 sevens of Daniel down to the exact day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. I can’t say with absolute certainty that the calculations of Sir Robert Anderson, written in his 1894 book, “The Coming Prince,” are correct. But I do believe what John Walvoord says about them, that they haven’t been categorically disproven. They may very well be true.

If you want to use prophecy to show the inspiration of the Bible, here are some great places to start.

First, look at the prophecies concerning the coming and ministry of Jesus. The best place to start is with these prophecies that concern the coming and the ministry of the Messiah, and how amazingly they were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

If you’re looking for something a little more esoteric, the prophecies of the destruction of Tyre and Sidon in Ezekiel were specifically and amazingly fulfilled. The prophecies in Daniel 10-11 about the kingdoms and empires that would succeed the Babylonian Empire are so impressive that most scholars who don’t believe the Bible is inspired by God, insist that they had to be written after the fact.

Those are the top three passages I would suggest to you. Look them up on my commentary to read more about their fulfillment.

What are your thoughts on Dispensationalism?

First, let me define Dispensationalist. I believe that anyone who believes that there is a difference between Israel and the Church is, in some sense, a Dispensationalist. So, I believe there’s a difference between Israel and the Church. In that simple sense, I am a Dispensationalist.

The world of Dispensationalism is a big world with a lot of frankly crazy ideas out there. Please don’t identify me with everybody who claims to be a dispensationalist. Some of those people have a very strange understanding of the Bible. There are some dispensationalists who will tell you that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is not for believers today, but it was only for Israel, according to the dispensations. I say, that’s nuts.

So, again, I am a dispensationalist in the basic sense of believing that there is a difference between the Church and Israel. If you do believe there’s a difference between the Church and Israel, you are in some sense a Dispensationalist. If you don’t believe there’s a difference between the Church and Israel, then you could say you’re not a Dispensationalist; maybe you’re a Covenant theologian or something like that.

My thoughts are that Dispensationalism is the most straightforward way to understand and make sense of the Bible. It’s the right way to understand the Bible, to let the Bible speak for itself as much as possible, without putting our own interpretations on it.

I do not at all have confidence in what many of our Reformed brethren call Covenant Theology. The Scriptural backing for Covenant Theology, as explained by our Reformed brethren, is tiny. It’s minuscule. They’re hanging huge systems of theology on the tiniest Scriptural foundation. I liken it to trying to hang a piano from a nail that you pound on the wall. They attempt to hang an immense theological weight on the few biblical passages which speak about an overarching covenant of grace and works that God is working out through all eternity in His plan to the ages. I don’t see it. I don’t agree with the Reformed understanding of Covenant Theology, though I very much believe in God’s unfolding plan expressed through the covenants in the Scripture.

What does “I AM” means in the Hebrew? (Exodus 3, John 8) How is “I AM” the name for God?

To the best of my understanding, “I AM” is simply a statement of the existence and the self-existence of God, that God is an independent being, not dependent upon anybody else. He is the God of gods, He is the ultimate, the first cause, the origin of all, the Logos. “I AM.” There was never a time He was not. God’s self-existence, His absolute uniqueness, His simplicity, God’s eternity, it’s all wrapped up in that simple declaration, as it is in the Greek Scriptures, “Ego eimi,” “I AM.” “I exist.”

For humans and angels, we are all beings that depend upon something else. There were times when we were not, but not God. He’s eternal. He is the “I Am,” and always has been, and always will be.

It also has a sense of, “The Becoming One.” God is to His people what His people need. There are many nuances to that great declaration of God in Exodus, “I Am.” We also see that Jesus took that title very consciously upon Himself in John 8.

Why did Moses at 40 years old think he would save Israel if God had not called him yet?

We can only speculate. The Bible tells us that Moses was the adopted son of Pharaoh. We also have pretty reliable extra-biblical tradition, from Josephus and other sources, that Moses was also the Crown Prince of Egypt. He was the one destined to take over when the present Pharaoh died. That being the case, you could see why Moses would think, “When I take the throne over Egypt as Pharaoh, then I can deliver my people.”

To me, that’s a very logical explanation why Moses would think he would be Israel’s deliverer, even though after 40 years had still not done anything active to deliver them. He was waiting to take the throne of Egypt, waiting for the current Pharaoh to die before he could enact the deliverance that was on his heart for Israel.