Live from Israel!
Why were frogs chosen to represent unclean spirits in Revelation 16:13?
Why, out of all animals, were frogs chosen to represent unclean spirits in Revelation 16:13?
Revelation 16:13 – And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
That’s a great question. I don’t think there’s any clear answer to that question from the text itself, other than the association to Jewish dietary laws. The kosher dietary laws said that frogs were unclean animals, and they couldn’t be eaten. Therefore, these would be simply unclean animals. I think that’s the only emphasis in identifying these spirits with frogs.
Jewish readers of the first century, and maybe Gentile readers as well, would regard frogs as being somewhat loathsome and unappealing. They didn’t see frogs as mighty or intimidating, but rather more annoying and loathsome. That’s the best association I could find for it. The text itself doesn’t really seem to emphasize the “frogginess” of the frogs. It just puts them forth as unclean animals used to represent these demonic spirits that will affect the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet in Revelation 16. I don’t think there is a very strong or compelling answer other than nothing that these are unclean animals.
Can Israelites be saved through keeping the Law, without believing in Jesus the Messiah?
That is a wonderful question. I’m happy to say that the Bible tells us that an individual cannot come into right relationship with God by earning a place through their own good conduct in life. The simple reason for this is that nobody’s conduct is good enough. The Bible says that to have failed in one point of God’s law is to have failed in all.
I need to be a little bit careful here. The Bible isn’t saying that there are no gradations of moral evil, nor that there are some sins which are worse than others. Surely there are. Rather, the Bible indicates to us that any sin makes someone fall short of God’s perfect holiness and God’s perfections. Taking that seriously, we recognize that nobody can be good enough to earn their place before God. Instead, we need a righteousness that’s given to us by our relationship of love and trust in God’s Savior, God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, regardless of a person’s religious background, no one can through their own performance be good enough to be in right relationship with God. Now, I do want to make a caveat to that. People might ask, “What if someone has never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? How will God hold them accountable for rejecting a Savior that they’ve never heard of or been informed about?”
Well, I do believe that every human being has been spoken to by God, as Romans 1 relates. He is revealed to them by creation and through our conscience. God will judge each individual on that basis, not necessarily on the basis of having accepted or rejected Jesus if they’ve never even heard the Gospel. But it comes down to this: they can’t earn salvation by their keeping of the commandments or law performance, because no one can keep the commandments well enough.
For someone to reject Jesus as Messiah, for them to insist on saving themselves, is in a sense to be pushing away God’s only provision. There are not two paths of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except by Me.” So really, Jesus Himself said that He was the only way. And we must allow Jesus to speak for Himself. If Jesus said He was the exclusive way, not through law keeping or any other such way, then we just have to simply accept it. That’s what Jesus is.
The law of Moses was meant to show people their need for a Savior, and then through the various laws and ceremonies to point towards the Messiah that God promised He would provide, and ultimately did provide in Jesus Christ. To put it simply, the answer is no. Someone who rejects Jesus as the Messiah can’t be in right relationship with God. And they can’t be saved by law keeping, because nobody’s good enough to earn their right relationship with God through law keeping.
Where is the Ark of the Covenant? Was it around in Jesus’ time?
Please tell me about the Ark of the Covenant. Where is it right now? Was it there and available in Jesus’ time?
Just this morning, I was up on top of the Temple Mount with our tour group. That’s the area of land in the Old City of Jerusalem where the Jewish temple once stood, before it was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. We were talking about the Temple, and where it was situated on the Temple Mount. We were talking about that great institution of what is called Second Temple Judaism. The First Temple was the Temple under Solomon, which was destroyed by the Babylonians. The Second Temple is the Temple established by Zerubbabel and Ezra following the Babylonian captivity, but then greatly expanded and improved by Herod the Great leading up to the times of Jesus.
During the Second Temple period, when Jesus was here, there was nothing in the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant disappeared during the Babylonian captivity. There are theories as to what happened to it. Some people say that it was destroyed when the Babylonians plundered Jerusalem. Some people think that it was preserved. There are legends that it is deposited in some secret cavern in the Temple Mount underneath where the Temple once stood. There is a sect of Ethiopian Christians who are convinced that they have the Ark of the Covenant on an island in Ethiopia. While I appreciate their devotion to this tradition, I don’t think there’s a lot going for the validity of it.
There are some people who insist that the Ark of the Covenant was actually taken up to heaven by God, because the book of Revelation mentions of an Ark of the Covenant in heaven. But I would regard that more as the model in heaven upon which the earthly Ark of the Covenant was built and patterned after.
So, nobody knows where the Ark of the Covenant is. For all we know, it’s been destroyed. If it were to be rediscovered, it would be one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of all time, and it would probably be a great impetus for the Jewish people to build a Temple again. Surely, you would think that if they found the Ark of the Covenant, it would spur them to build a building that would be worthy to receive it. I’m not saying that that’s the only circumstance under which the Jewish people might rebuild a Temple. But certainly, that would be one explanation for why they might do it.
But nobody knows. And it was not present in the days of Jesus, in the Second Temple, which was originally built by Zerubbabel and Ezra following the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians and the return from the Babylonian exile. Following that, there is no record of what happened to the Ark of the Covenant, or where it was kept after that.
When did the glory of God leave the Temple for the last time?
Before the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, Ezekiel had a very compelling vision of the glory of God, which is also called the Shekinah, a cloud of glory, or the presence of God’s glory. In Ezekiel’s vision, he saw the Shekinah of God leaving the Temple, going eastward over the Mount of Olives, lingering a while at the Mount of Olives, and then disappearing. It’s a very vivid description there in the book of Ezekiel.
To my knowledge, there is no specific mention of this cloud of the Shekinah glory of God being present at the Temple after that time, with one exception. I’ll speak about that in a moment. But to my knowledge, there is no further mention of fire falling from heaven or of the Shekinah glory. There was a miracle at the rededication of the Temple in the intertestamental time, which is celebrated by the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It memorializes the time when God miraculously provided oil for the proper time of cleansing and purification for the Temple, following its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanies. Perhaps this is due to my ignorance, but I’m not aware of any mention of a reappearance or an establishment of the cloud of glory, the Shekinah glory of God. If it’s present there, I’m not aware of it.
There is a remarkable statement in the book of Haggai, where he says that the glory of the Second Temple will surpass the glory of Solomon’s Temple. We understand that the Second Temple under the days of Zerubbabel and Ezra was a very humble building, especially compared to Solomon’s Temple. Nevertheless, God promised that the glory of the latter Temple would be greater. Even though we don’t see mention of the Shekinah glory of God being present at the temple built by Zerubbabel and Ezra, we do see the glory of God present there at the Temple, embodied in a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah, God the Son. It’s remarkable to consider that, as glorious as Solomon’s Temple was, Jesus in His physical form and incarnated body never visited Solomon’s temple. But He did visit the Second Temple. Surely that was a sense in which the presence and the glory of the Lord was present at the Second Temple. But as far as I know, the Shekinah glory of God was never again present.
Is Jesus considered to be eternally submissive to the Father, or was that only during His time on earth?
I don’t think in terms of the eternal submission of the Son, in any sense that would imply inferiority. I think that there was a sense in which Jesus was submissive to the Father during His earthly work, which isn’t necessarily true of the relationship of the Father and Son throughout all eternity. I don’t see a need for an eternal submission of the Son. So, I would be very cautious to tread upon that ground.
Now, I do find that there is something in those inherent titles. The relationship between father and son would generally imply some sense of authority and submission. But as a relationship between father and son comes into adulthood, it’s a different kind of thing.
I would put more of a stress on what is sometimes called the economic submission of the Son. That doesn’t signify a financial sense, but rather a certain duty or a certain purpose that took place during the earthly ministry of Jesus. The Son, enthroned in glory, now lives in that eternal cooperation with God the Father.
But make no doubt about it. The Son was utterly submitted to His Father. Jesus said, “I do nothing except what the Father wants me to do.” Jesus lived His life very consciously on this earth, in full submission to His Father, yet in His divine nature He was no less God than God the Father.
That’s a very important lesson for us. Submission doesn’t make a person any less. In faithfully living out our Christian lives, God calls us to submit in many spheres. He calls us to submission in the home, whether it’s between in the marriage relationship or the parent-child relationship; submission in the community, between citizens and government; submission in the workplace, between employers and employees; submission in the church, between the appointed leaders of the church and the congregants of the church. None of those relationships in any way teach or even imply any level of superiority or inferiority.
To summarize, I don’t see a need for any eternal submission of the Son. I would have to see a need and a specific outworking of that idea in Scripture. So, my basic answer is no, I don’t think that the Son in His nature is eternally submissive to the Father.
Is it possible for non-Americans to join your Israel trip?
Is it possible for non-Americans to join your Israel trip? If so, what does one need to do?
Of course, it is possible. In years past, we’ve been delighted to have people from several different nations join our Israel tour. One of the remarkable things about coming to Israel is seeing a wonderful fulfillment of God’s promise that He would draw all nations to Israel. It’s amazing to go around to the different sites, and to hear languages and see groups from all different nations. Just on this particular trip, we saw and noticed groups from Colombia, Mexico, Korea, India, Germany, Austria, Holland, Norway, England, Russia, and I could go on. It’s remarkable to see this gathering place of believers and seekers from all over the world.
So yes, the Israel trip is open. But I need to make a little caveat here. The particular trip that I’m on now was not organized by my ministry, Enduring Word. This trip was organized by the church I attend and where I help out as a teaching pastor. The name of the church is Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara. Now, the tour would be open to whoever signed up for it. But it’s hard to know how people from more distant places would even know about the tour.
My ministry, Enduring Word, has planned tours of the Holy Land in the past, and we are planning future tours as well. Next year, in the year 2023, we’re going to be doing a cruise through the Mediterranean that will make stops and have excursions at many sites in biblical lands. Off the top of my head, we’ll make stops in places relevant to the Bible such as Athens, Ephesus, Jerusalem, Galilee, Alexandria, and more. At this time, next year’s cruise is full, and we have people on a waiting list. Maybe there’s a chance somebody from another country could get on there. You can find information about that at enduringword.com/cruise. We hope in coming years to do tours of Israel and other Bible lands, such as Jordan, Turkey, or Greece. Maybe even we’ll do some church history tours in the future, because that’s another topic of great interest to us. If you keep an eye on the Enduring Word website, and subscribe to our monthly newsletters, you will receive news of those things.
What is your opinion on Landmarkism?
Hello Pastor, I’m currently watching your Church History series and I’m wondering about your thoughts on Landmarkism. From Google, “Landmarkism is a type of Baptist ecclesiology developed in the American South in the mid-19th century. It’s committed to a strong version of their perpetuity theory of Baptists origins, attributing an unbroken continuity and unique legitimacy to the Baptist movement since the Apostolic Period.”
Landmarkism is the idea that there’s been an unbroken chain of Baptists going all the way back to John the Baptizer. I don’t know how helpful or how true that is. Now, I would subscribe to a variant of that.
I do believe that God has always had His faithful people throughout church history, since the day of Pentecost. There have certainly been times when the church has been more corrupt. There certainly have been times when the number of genuine believers, those who are truly born again and have a real relationship with Jesus Christ, has been fewer and fewer proportionally.
But God has always had His remnant among His people, those who have a true faith in Jesus. That remnant is not exclusively defined by their practice of baptism. So maybe that’s an area where I would disagree with Landmarkism, the idea that there’s been a faithful train of Baptists going back to the very beginning, or at least at the time of John the Baptizer.
I do believe that God has had a faithful remnant. I do believe that Jesus was speaking truly, and that the promise was actually fulfilled, that the gates of hell would not and could not prevail against the church. There has never been a time since the church began when the church has been wiped out. God has always had His faithful remnant, even in times when there has been a lot of corruption in the church.
We also see that often that remnant has existed outside of the institutional church. Now, I believe that has always had His remnant within the institutional church as well. But outside the institutional church, there has always been a remnant. One interesting history that highlights many of these movements is an old book called “The Pilgrim Church” by Edmund Hamer Broadbent. It will be the subject of one of the lectures in our Church History series.
I wouldn’t believe in Landmarkism as Baptists often explain it. But as a general principle, I think that there has always been a faithful remnant. And sometimes, maybe even often, that remnant has been outside the institutional church.
Must the Jewish Temple be rebuilt for “the end” to take place?
I believe so. Whenever we’re talking about biblical prophecy and eschatology, I always like to acknowledge that there are believers who have different opinions on this. But you’re asking the question to me, so I’m going to share my perspective, which is held by others also.
I believe that certain aspects of what God says will happen in the very last days require there to be a Jewish Temple. Most pointedly, for there to be any kind of literal fulfillment of what God spoke about with the abomination of desolation, a Temple is required. This abomination of desolation is an idolatrous image set up in the Holy Place. I don’t believe at all that it was fulfilled when the Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70. I don’t think it’s fulfilled today by modern totalitarian governments. I believe that there will be a rebuilt Temple, and that a world leader will command that an image that must be worshipped and set up in that Temple. This leader is properly called the Antichrist. I don’t know if that’s the best title for him, but that’s the one that seems to stick in the minds of most people.
So, I do believe that there will be a rebuilt Temple. Now as Christians, we have mixed feelings regarding a rebuilt Temple. On one hand, we see that there is a small but dedicated group of Jews today who are very serious about rebuilding the Temple. We see things such as excitement about the existence of red heifers, that is certain types of cattle that have been identified and moved to Israel for the purpose of having a role in the future administration of priestly service and temple services. When we see those things, on the one hand, there’s a sense of excitement in the sense of seeing what we believe to be fulfillments of biblical prophecy. Again, not every Christian sees it this way. But I’m certainly among those who do see it as a step towards fulfillment. But on the other hand, as believers, we do not regard with enthusiasm the setting up of any kind of sacrificial system which hopes to atone for sin. Jesus Christ is the end of the sacrificial system when it comes to the atonement of sin.
We as believers do not embrace what a Jewish temple would stand for, which attempts to be an alternative for being in right relationship with God and would reject the finished work of Jesus Christ. No, we’re not enthusiastic about that. But we would simply be enthusiastic about the indication of things happening which the Bible says will happen.
Did sacrifices for sin stop when the Second Temple was destroyed? What was done for remission of sins after its destruction?
Did sacrifices for sin stop when the Second Temple was destroyed? And what was done for remission of sins afterwards in Israel?
I think that’s a very interesting question. Let me answer in a few different ways.
You’re right; there was no more temple sacrifice performed by the Jewish people after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. So that ended the carrying out of the sacrificial system among the Jewish people. Since then, they have looked for their own good deeds and repentance to be a substitute for the sacrificial system. That’s essentially it. Instead of looking for sacrifices to take away sin, they look for their own obedience to cancel out prior sin, and perhaps for repentance or sorrow over their sin to be accepted by God as something greater than a sacrifice.
I understand why they would say something like that. There are verses where God says, “I’ve desired mercy or obedience and not sacrifice.” But I don’t think that those particular verses speak to the real point. The Bible says that there is no remission or removal of sin without the shedding of blood. It’s true that God would rather have us obey than try to please Him with any kind of sacrifice. That’s absolutely true and is stated clearly in the Bible. But I don’t think our obedience can remove the guilt of our past sin before God. I don’t believe there is any adequate satisfaction for sin apart from the perfect sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.
Now, I could say to you that the sacrificial system ended in AD 70, and that would be true. But I would also say to you that there’s a very real sense in which the sacrificial system ended when Jesus finished His work on the cross and He rose from the dead. God did not regard any sacrifice for sin made in the Temple after that period. It was fulfilled. Instead of looking to the imperfect shadow of the sacrifices that were being offered at the Temple, God invited His people now to look at the finished, perfect sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ, the Messiah. That is detailed in many places in the New Testament, especially throughout the book of Hebrews.
You could say that the real end of the sacrificial system was not when the Temple was destroyed, but some 40 years before that, when Jesus finished His sacrificial work once and for all. He, being perfect, was able to offer a perfect sacrifice for the satisfaction of sins.
Why did Daniel do a partial fast, and not a full fast (Daniel 10)?
Daniel 10 speaks of Daniel refraining from certain foods. Here’s how I would put it, and how my father-in-law, Nils Bergström, would put it. He has a great book titled Dedication through Fasting and Prayer. (Click the link to find it on Amazon.) I’m sure he talks about this in his book.
In Daniel 10, Daniel denied himself certain foods, but I wouldn’t really regard that as a fast. Fasting is when you don’t eat, not when you eat from a limited menu. Now, eating from a limited menu and denying yourself certain foods, such as Daniel did in Daniel 10, can be a helpful and a good practice of self-denial. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that. It may be a good and godly thing to do and may be led of the Lord in that particular situation. However, it’s not the same as fasting.
Fasting is to not eat; it’s to deny yourself caloric intake. You’re not in taking any calories. That’s what fasting really is. Fasting is to stop eating for a period of time to give yourself focus on the Lord, to practice self-discipline, to give special attention to the things of God, to demonstrate your earnestness about a particular need to yourself and to God. These are all very practical and biblical ideas and impulses for fasting.
I would just make a separation between truly fasting and practiced self-denial, such as eating from a limited menu, not eating any sweets or any meat, or whatever it might be. Again, that’s a fine form of self-denial, but it’s not fasting. Fasting is not eating. It is denying yourself the intake of calories.
And why did Daniel make that kind of self-denial? He did it as a way to deny self, and to draw close to the Lord. There is an aspect of our life with God that requires some measure of self-denial, and Daniel was simply entering into that in Daniel 10.
Are we alive with God before we are born, and we return to God after we die?
Is it true that we are alive with God before we are born naturally, and then return to God when we die in the Lord?
That’s an interesting question. Basically, you’re asking about the pre-existence of souls. Is it true that souls exist and live unto God before they are conceived in the womb and born on earth? No, I believe that idea has no real biblical support.
Instead of believing in the pre-existence of souls, I would say that human beings are created by God at conception in the mother’s womb, whether you’re talking about their body, their soul, or their spirit. I don’t know of any other adequate place to mark that.
I certainly don’t see any evidence biblically for the idea of the pre-existence of souls. Because we don’t find that idea in the Bible, I don’t think it’s best for us to really believe in it, and certainly not to emphasize it in any way. As human beings made in the image of God, we are eternal or immortal, in one direction. We will live forever, but God is immortal or eternal in both directions. This relates to the future, because God will never die or come to an end, but He has no beginning either. Human beings have a definite beginning. And God has put eternity not only in our hearts, but in our very nature. However, I don’t find any biblical precedent for the idea of the pre-existence of souls.
What does “the Kingdom of God” mean in the Bible?
This is a big and broad question. I’ll summarize it with a definition that I heard many years ago. You could define the kingdom of God like this. The kingdom of God is anywhere that the reign of Jesus is recognized, and the benefits of His reign are enjoyed. As Christians, we are called to recognize Jesus as our King. And in fact, Jesus is King. He’s King over the whole earth. And eventually His kingship and reign over all the earth will be exercised in a literal Earth and recognized all over the earth.
Now, I don’t believe that it’s our job to make that reign happen. But it’s our job to live in that reign in our personal lives right now. But one day, Jesus Christ will reign over all the earth in a very literal, real way. But right now, He reigns in and among His people. The kingdom of God is not yet fully realized, in the glorious reign of Jesus over all the earth and all its fullness, in its ultimate sense. But there’s certainly a sense in which Jesus reigns in His kingdom right now.
Churches and communities of Christians should be Kingdom communities. My wife is Swedish. We used to interact occasionally with a chapter of Swedish women that had their own community in Southern California. These Swedish women and their families were living away from their home in Sweden, but they could gather together and enjoy some Swedish culture, language, and customs, because they all live together in a different place.
To use that analogy, there’s a sense in which we are citizens of another Kingdom. We’re here in a faraway place, but we should collectively enjoy the customs, values, traditions, and commandments of our Kingdom. Even though our Kingdom is in heaven, God has us here on Earth to live out the values and the ethics of His Kingdom.
The kingdom of God is any place where the reign of Jesus as King is recognized and received, and the benefits of that reign are enjoyed. I think that’s a great definition of the Kingdom of God. In that very real sense, the Kingdom of God may be among us now in one measure, and ultimately, He’ll reign over all the earth when His Kingdom is fulfilled in our midst.
What was Elizabeth’s reproach in Luke 1:25?
In Luke 1:25, Elizabeth is said to pray before God for five months for God to take away her reproach among men. Why did men condemn her? Did they judge women who couldn’t have children?
Luke 1:24-25 – Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Yes, people did judge women who couldn’t have children, especially in biblical times, but this is still true in some cases today. This isn’t something that the Bible says; this was a tradition among people. But in Bible times, there were many people who believed that if a woman couldn’t have children, it was because she was specially cursed by God. And so, they did look down upon her. They held that woman to be in some measure of disgrace. They were thought to be disgraced because they couldn’t have children, and that God was cursing them because they couldn’t have children.
In Luke 1:25, Elizabeth is rejoicing that God has taken away this disgrace. This disgrace was not put upon her by God, but by the culture. And we all know that the values of a culture may not reflect the values of God’s Kingdom at all.
Our children are in Catholic school. Should they take a class on sacraments?
We have our children in the Catholic school system. Would it be right to allow my children to carry through with the class on the sacraments, such as the first communion and reconciliation?
I might give you another answer upon further reflection. But for now, I would say this. If that Catholic school system was the best educational option for your children, and there was no way for them to opt out of those classes, I would simply encourage you to teach them the biblical truth. Teach them what the Bible says concerning what communion is and what it isn’t, and what confession of sin is and what it isn’t.
With all respect, I don’t agree with the Roman Catholic theology behind their sacramental system in general, and in the details of their sacraments such as the Lord’s Supper, or what they would call Holy Communion, or reconciliation, which they would call the confession of sin.
If it were me in that situation, and I felt that was the best choice for my children and I couldn’t opt them out of those classes, then I would make it a point to teach them the truth at home. We can’t always stop the influences that may come to our children from other sources. But when we’re aware of those influences, we can very deliberately teach our children the truth. We can equip them to know what is true. From my perspective, with all respect to my Roman Catholic friends, I would disagree with the theology of the sacramental system in general, and the specific details of what is called Holy Communion and reconciliation in the Roman Catholic Church. From my biblical perspective, I would teach them the truth regarding those things.
If a drug addict or alcoholic truly surrenders their life to Jesus, are they guaranteed to be set free?
If a drug addict or alcoholic truly surrenders their life to Christ, are they guaranteed to be set free? What would you say to a hardcore addict that wants to be free?
First of all, I would look that person in the eye with great love and compassion, and I would say, “God bless you.” I know people who, when they surrendered their life to Jesus Christ, their addictions were taken away, and they never again touched the drugs or the alcohol to which they had been in bondage.
And then I know other people who have also been genuine believers in Jesus Christ, who have still struggled mightily with those enslaving, addictive habits. For whatever reason, God did not grant them the immediate deliverance that He has granted to some other people.
What I would say to a dear brother or sister in that situation is to keep persisting, and to the best of your ability, keep a focus upon Jesus Christ. Don’t give up in the battle against sin. Don’t accommodate and say, “Well, this is just my sin, and it’s never going to go away, so I’m just going to yield to it.” No, keep fighting against it. Even if you were to fall a hundred times, then keep getting up a hundred times. Continually surrender to the Lord; don’t surrender to the sin.
Take practical measures to the very best of your ability. Keep yourself distant from addictive places and patterns and things that would lead you into the use or abuse of these drugs or alcohol or whatever it is that dominates your life. Take wise, practical steps.
But don’t give up. Be honest about such your situation. And to the very best of your ability, keep your eyes on your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who loves you. He has promised that one day you and every one of us will be delivered not only from the penalty of sin, not only from the power of sin, but also from the very presence of sin. In Christ, we’ve been delivered from the penalty of sin. Right now, not only those who struggle with addiction, but every one of us is learning how to live life set free from the power of sin, by the power of Jesus. And one day, every believer will be set free from the very presence of sin. So, I would want to encourage them, and bless them in the name of the Lord.