USA: Israel or Babylon?

Why is the assumption that America is like Judah in this text in regards to current parallel reflections? Why is it not an assumption that America is more like Babylon? A powerful nation that conquers others, took others captive, and is far from God? It seems to have more in common with Babylon than Judah.

This is a great question!

When I taught through Jeremiah, in application I often had this approach, “This is what God was doing among Judah in the days of Jeremiah – we can compare it to our own day.”

I think that is a valid way to apply a book like Jeremiah, but it is not the only way.

In Jeremiah, the two main kingdoms are Judah – under judgment but promised ultimate restoration, and Babylon – God’s instrument of judgment against Judah, which would one day also be judged.

My attention was drawn to the similarity with Judah, because just as Judah had forsaken God and was destined for judgment, so it seems to me that in many ways the United States has forsaken God and is destined for judgment. As Judah needed to repent and get ready for any judgment to come, so do we.

It is true that you could also see a nation like the United States in the place of Babylon instead – a mighty empire that God uses, but will also be judged.

The truth is that we can see many different ways to make application, and it’s good to listen to the Holy Spirit and see how God may apply it to us today.

It would be wrong to read or teach the Bible and always or only see a nation like the United States – or any other nation – in the place of Judah or Israel.

I don’t mind saying that I think that God has a role, a purpose, a plan for the United States. But don’t think that means only the United States! God has a role, a purpose, a plan for every nation.

Acts 17:26-27: And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

I’m speaking to you right now from Europe – specifically from Sweden. God has a plan and a purpose for this nation, and for all the nations of the world. God has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord.

As we read the Bible, we need to remember that we aren’t all Israel – of course not! But as Israel was chosen for its own role and purpose in God’s plan, so are the nations chosen for their own role and purpose in God’s plan.

In fact, you could say that in terms of how we see Judah and the tribes of Israel in the Book of Jeremiah, Israel wasn’t always Israel! In other words, just as God used Babylon as an instrument of His judgment against Judah, so God used Israel as an instrument of His judgment against the Canaanites centuries before.

What we want to avoid is always seeing ourselves as the “good guys” in the Bible. We need to read the Bible humbly (that’s what I was trying to do with Jeremiah), and we also have to read the Bible realizing that there may be more than one aspect of application.

Example: The seven churches of Revelation 2-3, and “let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” – in the plural, not just one church. We aren’t all the church of Philadelphia!

Most of all, remember this: The Bible does speak to us and our life today (no doubt about it). But more than speaking about our life, it speaks about God – and about Jesus Christ, the perfect revelation of God. It is a book that speaks to us, but even more it speaks of God.

We want to guard from being too “me-centered” in our reading and teaching of the Bible. Certainly, sometimes I need to do better with this also.

Is it correct to say that the practice of homosexuality is a sin, rather than simply “being gay”?

Is it biblically accurate to say that practicing homosexuality is a sin, or a sinful lifestyle, rather than just saying “being gay” is a sin?

This is an important subject, but to be honest, it’s quite a complicated subject today. I don’t know if I can give you a good sound bite answer. Let me take a little bit of time explaining this.

First of all, the Bible does specifically condemn homosexual conduct or homosexual practice. Now, we have to be aware of the whole counsel of God on these things. We don’t want to act as if homosexuality is the only kind of sexual sin that God condemns or disapproves of. We would say that any sexual expression outside the bond of a husband and a wife in marriage falls short of God’s will and God’s plan and is sin. You could say that God speaks about heterosexual sin more than he speaks about homosexual sin in the Bible, but he definitely speaks about homosexual sin. We don’t want to ignore it because the Bible talks about it nor do we want to speak about it out of proportion, acting as if it’s the only kind of sexual sin in the Bible.

You make your point well. The Bible does put its focus on the practice of these sexual sins, and it really doesn’t speak much about, what we might call, sexual orientation.

One of the reasons why this is difficult to deal with is because there has been a huge change in our society over the last few generations. In prior times, let’s say 100 years ago or in Bible times, people did not think of homosexuality as something you were. They thought of homosexuality as something you did. Do you see the difference between the two? Now, people think of homosexuality as an identity. I think it’s sad for any human being to primarily identify themselves by their sexuality. That is not our primary identity. Primarily, our identity is found in who we are in relation to God and not in who we are in our favored sexual expression.

I think the best way for us to teach this is to teach it as the Bible emphasizes it. The Bible deals with homosexual practice and doesn’t talk much more about orientation.

However, what is inside of a person is also related to sin and righteousness. In other words, we can’t act as if sin only begins with the act. Sin is practiced in our thoughts, the thoughts we choose, the thoughts we decide we’re going to hang on to. It gets reinforced in the habits that we allow; the habits of thinking, the habits of feeling that we cherish. We can’t act as if there’s nothing on the inside that’s relevant to our holiness when it comes to sexuality. Clearly, the emphasis in the Bible is on how we act out these things.

These are things that really take a much more extensive understanding of what the Bible says about sexuality in its big picture. It’s easy for us to be misunderstood or for us to misunderstand an explanation of what the Bible says by just focusing on narrow statements. We want to see what it says in the big picture, and the Bible calls us as people to practice holiness when it comes to sexuality. We are not to have the ethic of our age, which basically says, if it feels good, do it. That is not the biblical ethic of sexuality. God has something so much greater when it comes to that.

Did Gentiles before Christ believe in one God?

Do you think that the pre-Christ Gentiles believed in one God?

Most of the pagans did not. I’m not talking about the Jewish people. Understand this for a second. Before Christianity, Judaism was the only true monotheistic religion, as is Christianity. Outside of Judaism, Gentiles were, pretty much, just pagan. They believed in a variety of gods. There were some righteous Gentiles. There were some Gentiles who wanted to worship only the God of Israel, and we meet these people both in the Old and New Testaments. They’re known as God fearers or those who fear the Lord but have not fully embraced Judaism. They certainly have embraced the idea that there is one God, the God of Israel, but not many would be the answer to the first question. There were, certainly, a few though.

Did Gentiles before Christ know the Old Testament word?

Did the pre-Christ Gentiles know the Old Testament word?

The answer to that would be not many. It would mostly be those God fearers. They are mentioned in the New Testament and in the Old Testament in a few places, being this category of Gentiles who had not fully converted to Judaism, yet they honored the God of the Jews.

Does the Bible teach that God created other human beings apart from the creation of Adam and Eve?

I recently had a conversation with a mutual pastor friend who was questioning the idea that Adam and Eve were created alone at first. He was saying that Genesis 1:27-28 indicates that God created more people initially and that a plain reading of the text indicates that he was rejecting the common idea that Genesis 1 is a sweeping overview that Genesis two presents in more detail. Frankly, I’ve never heard of this idea and found it disturbing coming from my friend. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s what I find interesting about that question. First of all, I regard the belief that the Bible teaches a historical Adam and Eve to be very important. There are certain areas where I may think someone else is wrong, but they’re not a heretic for believing what they believe. If you wanted to stretch the Bible far enough, I could see where they’re getting at. I believe this is the truth about theistic evolution. Theistic evolution is not correct. The Bible does not teach this, but I don’t think people are heretics or that they’re going to hell for believing that teaching. I think they’re wrong, but I don’t think that they’re hellbound for teaching that.

I believe that a belief in a literal Adam and Eve gets very close to being a marking point between heresy and faithfulness to God’s word, and this is why. We have all descended from Adam in a definite and concrete sense. If I were to have a conversation with your friend, I would want to know from them the idea that God created a bunch of people in Genesis 1 and not just Adam and Eve. They would really have to think carefully through and explain well, because I can’t think of a good explanation for this.

How then is every human being traceable back to Adam and Eve? In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes to the Romans that we have as our father, Adam, and this is a very important principle. It’s not just a theological side note, a myth, or a story. This is something very important for people to understand.

So, this belief would cause me some significant concern. I would want to know a lot more about it, especially if the idea would deny the truth of a historical Adam and Eve.

What would you say to a believer struggling with pride?

What advice would you give to believers struggling with the sin of pride?

I could answer this in two ways, because I think there are two categories of Christians who struggle with pride. First of all, I think every one of us is in one of the two categories. Every one of us struggles with pride in some way or another. For some people, it’s a bigger struggle. For others, it’s a smaller struggle, but every believer struggles with pride.

The first category are those who are aware of the struggle. The second category are those who are blind to the struggle. If someone is blind to their struggle with pride, I don’t think there’s much you can do for them other than pray. It’s very difficult to persuade somebody that they struggle with pride if they don’t think they struggle with pride at all. I do believe, though, if a brother or sister is aware of their struggle with pride, there is room to say something, such as “hey, do you want me to tell you if I think you’re struggling with pride in a particular moment?” Ask them if there’s an invitation for you to come into their life and speak a word in a season like that, because there aren’t many of us who welcome being told that we’re acting in a proud way. It helps, though, if we invite certain people and give them the permission to do that in our life.

In conclusion, for somebody who has no recognition that they struggle with pride, pray for them. For somebody who does understand that they struggle with pride, ask if they want some help with it.

1 John 3:9 says that whoever is born of God does not sin. Why then do we sin?

According to 1 John 3:9, it says that whosoever is born of God does not sin. Why do we still sin? Please explain.

The Bible was not originally written in English, nor Swedish, nor German, nor Arabic, nor any of these languages. The Bible was originally written in a form of an ancient Greek language that we normally called koine greek. Languages are all different. They have a different structure and a different grammar.

One of the interesting things about the ancient Greek language, this language that we call common greek or koine Greek, is that it has a precision in its verb tenses and grammatical structure that is actually quite remarkable. It’s built into how the words are written out on the page. You can detect a very intricate, elaborate grammatical structure, especially with verb tenses.

1 John 3:9 says Whoever has been born of God does not sin. The verb tense really gives a better translation as being one who does not habitually sin. In other words, the person who is born of God is not a slave to habitual sin the same way that a person who is not born of God is. When we are born again, it doesn’t just mean our sins are forgiven. It also means that our fundamental relationship with sin and righteousness has changed. We are different people. We are born again by God’s Spirit. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things become new.

Now, that newness of life may take a long time to work itself out through our habits of life. Also, remember that the change that God works in us is never completed on this side of eternity. It will never finish being changed until we get to heaven. However, there should be some evident change in someone who’s born again, and there should be evidence of growth in their Christian life as well. One of those evidences of change should be that they are no longer mastered by sins, and now, because of the Spirit of God, they have the resources to have a different relationship with sin.

The way I would explain it is like this. I would say that a true believer cannot be comfortable in a lifestyle of habitual sin. I believe that they can have a season of habitual sin, but if they are a true believer they’re going to be miserable in that condition. Their conscience, the Holy Spirit speaking to their conscience, is going to make them miserable until they must leave it behind. Why? Again, because they are born again.

To summarize, we know this because of the grammar of the original language with which the apostle John wrote the letter of 1 John. He’s speaking about those being born of God, not being enslaved to habitual sin as they once were. It does not mean that we reach a state of sinlessness on this side of eternity. Praise God that believers will reach a stage of sinlessness, but it’ll be when we are glorified with Jesus in heaven. What a wonderful day that will be.

Does God hate unbelievers?

Psalm 5:5 says, You hate all evildoers, and Psalm 11:5 says, The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Does God hate unbelievers?

In a sense, He certainly does. God is against humanity that is in rebellion to Him. Humanity that is unbelieving and rejecting God hates Him. There is a sense in which God also hates them. Now, that does not define the entirety of God’s heart or God’s attitude towards the unbeliever. If you don’t know what it’s like to love and hate a person at the same time, then you probably don’t know very many people. What I’m saying is what we know in human nature finds some sense of perfection in God’s nature, and God can say, “I hate evildoers and the evil that they do. I am angry with them all day long, and I still love them enough to provide a savior for the world in Jesus Christ.” Remember, Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. That’s one of the titles given to Him in the Gospel of John chapter 4. There’s certainly a sense in which God hates the evildoer, but also a sense in which God loves them and has given a savior to the world in Jesus Christ

Now, God says that He will never reject someone who comes to him, so set aside your hatred of God and your rejection of Him. Look at the perfection of God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ, and simply put your trust in Him and surrender your life to Him. You will find the love of God poured out upon you. If you reject God, I don’t think you should be sore for God rejecting you.

We really do have a situation where the attitude of God towards the unbeliever is more complicated than simply saying it’s all hate and all love.

Should we stop following pastors who falsely prophesied that Donald Trump would win a second term as President of the United States?

Should we stop following pastors who falsely prophesied Trump’s win?

If anybody makes a false prediction in the name of the Lord, you have to take that into account for anything they would say in the future. Now, if somebody would humble themselves and say, “Look, I was wrong. I thought it was this. I thought God was speaking to me. Apparently, it wasn’t God speaking to me.” If somebody humbles themselves, I think you can put more trust in them.

You just need to take an account when somebody speaks in the name of the Lord and they’re wrong, because God is never wrong. We can just agree on that principle, can’t we? God is never wrong, and we take peace in that and rest in that. If somebody says that they’re speaking in the name of the Lord and they’re wrong, then they weren’t speaking in the name of the Lord. I don’t think we need to take them outside of town and stone them, but we must factor that in with how we would regard that person in the future. I would put it that simply.

How can Bible teachers say there is no time in heaven when Revelation 8:1 says there was a half-hour in heaven?

I’ve heard Bible teachers say there’s no time in heaven, but Revelation 8:1 says that there was silence in heaven for about half an hour when he opened the seventh seal. Thoughts?

The more precise way to state it is not that there is no time in heaven. That is the way that sometimes we, as pastors and as Bible teachers, will speak in, what I might call, shorthand. It’s not entirely correct, but it’s mainly correct.

I would just simply say this, time doesn’t work in heaven the way that it works on Earth. There’s obviously some kind of time in heaven, because there is some kind of sequence to things in heaven and that implies some kind of time. The more accurate way to state it is this. Time doesn’t work the same way in heaven that we perceive it to work on Earth. What exactly that means, I don’t really know. All I know is that there’s the eternal realm, and there’s, what we might call, the time realm or the temporal realm.

I think what you’re talking about here is somebody who’s speaking theologically imprecise, but the main idea is correct.

Was Jesus killed by others, or did He give up His spirit?

The Bible says that Jesus was killed, but it also says that He gave up his spirit. I have heard some preachers say that Jesus wasn’t killed but that He gave His Spirit up. How do I understand this?

Part of what we’re talking about here is that the people who arranged and carried out the death of Jesus, the execution of Jesus, did everything they could to kill Him. They whipped him viciously. They put them on a cross. They made sure He was dead by piercing His side to make sure they did everything they could to kill him. Both the religious leaders of Jesus’s time and the Roman government officials working in cooperation together, carried out the events that led to the death of Jesus on the cross. It’s in that sense that we say that humanity killed Jesus.

However, Jesus was and is God. He never stopped being God. One of the characteristics of God is that God is in complete control. There’s one place in the Gospel of John where Jesus says, “I lay down my life. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own accord and of my own choice.” There is a sense that even though humanity did everything they could to kill Jesus, He would have never died on the cross had He not yielded His life. We see the similar sense in which Jesus did, in fact, yield His life on the cross. Why did He yield His life? Why didn’t He just skip death and go immediately from the cross to the resurrection? Why did he stop at death in between? He did it so that He could surrender to the power of death and therefore conquer death. That’s exactly what Jesus did. He conquered over death.

There’s a sense in which Satan overstepped his bounds. He had no legal right to the death of Jesus. There’s an aspect of that that figures in as well. This is just one of these things where we would say, theologically speaking, Jesus was killed and He did yield His life as a ransom for sin.

Jesus told us to pray that God would not lead us into temptation – why would God tempt us?

Matthew 6:13 says, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. My question is, why does Jesus instruct His disciples to pray this way if God does not tempt us.

What’s really interesting here is the idea of do not lead us into temptation basically means keep us from the tempting place. The Bible tells us specifically that temptation does not come from God. It comes from us. Temptation arises from ourselves and from our own sinful desires and inclinations. Temptation never finds its source in God.

What we want is God to keep us from the place where we could be tempted, so we pray for that. We do recognize that God allowing the believer to experience temptation has a place and a role in the believers life. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10, God is faithful with every temptation that comes our way. He will give us a way of escape that we may escape such temptation.

In other words, this passage is not here to pray that God wouldn’t tempt us. Rather, it’s to keep us from the tempting place.

How can the Antichrist be cast alive into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20) if 2 Thessalonians 2:8 says he is killed at the second coming?

My question is about the Antichrist. How can he be killed at Christ’s Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8) but at the same time he is thrown alive into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20)?

2 Thessalonians 2:8 says,

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

The brightness of his coming may not necessarily be a reference only to the Second Coming but to the coming of Jesus in every one of its aspects, including being cast into the lake of fire. What he’s really talking about here is the ultimate defeat of the Antichrist, so I could see where the consuming and the destruction that’s promised in verse 8 actually happens when he is cast into the lake of fire.

Other than that, you’re probably talking about some kind of destruction or consuming that stops short of death.

Is the Christ-centered preaching movement a good thing?

I’m wondering about the Christ-centered, gospel-centered movement that seems to be growing in popularity. Is this an allegorical way to interpret the scriptures or is this a legitimate way to interpret the scriptures?

Interpreting and understanding the Bible in how it points to Jesus Christ is a wonderful thing. I do think there are some interpretive dangers that we want to avoid in doing that. First of all, we don’t want to become excessively allegorical. What I mean by excessively allegorical is this; treating the allegorical understanding of the Scriptures as being deeper or the real interpretation. In other words, there have been times in church history where it was quite popular to believe something like this: If you want to believe the Bible literally, that’s fine. You can do that, but the real meaning is the allegorical meaning that I’m going to explain to you. Now, that is dangerous. There is nothing wrong and many things right with gaining allegorical understanding of how the scriptures may point to Jesus Christ, but we just need to realize the limits. I would say that the allegorical understanding does not surpass or is not more important than the literal, plain, straightforward understanding of the Scriptures.

The other danger I see is that it can twist the scriptures to say that everything in the Bible is about Jesus. I don’t think it is a twisting of the Scriptures to say everything in the Bible points to Jesus in some way or another. It’s one thing to say that a particular passage is about Jesus. It’s another thing to say that it points to Jesus. A classic example is the story of David and Goliath. I think there is a fair amount of mishandling of the story of David and Goliath, which makes the story of David and Goliath about the believer. It’s not primarily about the believer. Does it have application for you? Certainly it does, but it’s not primarily about you.

In the opinion of some people, the story of David and Goliath is not primarily about Jesus. I would say that it points to Jesus in a wonderful, glorious, and God exalting way. Who is the story of David and Goliath about? It’s about David and Goliath. We don’t have to look for a hidden meaning. The story of David Goliath is about David and Goliath, and about how God worked in and through his people. This story points to Jesus in a marvelous way, and it’s wonderful for us to point that out. It’s an error if the story of David and Goliath is about you that it neglects any pointing to Jesus. That’s not right, either.

I think it’s wonderful for us to look at how the Bible points to Jesus, but I shy away from saying everything in the Bible is about Jesus.

What is going on with Ravi Zacharias?

I usually don’t listen to rumors, but are the rumors true about Ravi Zacharias?

I have not done a deep research on the controversy and accusations surrounding Ravi Zacharias. For those of you who don’t know, I’ll just say it very succinctly. This man was a great apologist and defender of the faith who died within the last year. Accusations are being made that he lived a life of significant sexual immorality, and this was completely covered up and hidden. It’s only exposed now after his death. From the little I have seen, it seems that there is some substance to those accusations. The reason I say that is because of the statements I have seen and heard coming from the Ravi Zacharias organization itself. I’m not trying to say that they are the only trustworthy source of such information, but if they are saying it, there certainly is some merit to it. I’m sure there will be more information in the coming weeks, but this is what I know for now.