Will Physical Pain Exist in Hell?
A question from Joanne last year:
Greetings, listening to commentary on Jeremiah 52 and have a question about “material world will pass away.” Then how can pain be felt in hell?
Thank you, and blessings, Joanne, thanks for your question – it is one that I have heard from time to time in several different forms.
First, I looked over my notes from Jeremiah 52 and couldn’t see just what I said about the material world passing away, but I certainly do know that this is the kind of thing I could say. When I or other Bible teachers say, “the material world will pass away,” we are normally being imprecise. What I would really mean is, “the material world we know by experience right now” will pass away. After the second coming of Jesus, after the fulfillment of the literal kingdom of Jesus, after the final judgment – after all that, there will be a new heavens and new earth – the present material world as we experience now will pass away and God will establish something new.
That new thing, and that thing that extends into eternity – will have a material dimension and aspect of it. They way eternity is described, in regard to both heaven and hell, is in unmistakable material terms.
One place this is spoken of in terms of hell is found in John 5:
John 5:28-30: The reality of the Son’s coming judgment.
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”
a.  The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice: Previously Jesus said that all who have everlasting life would hear His voice and live (John 5:25). He now extended the concept of resurrection to all humanity, both those who have done good and who have done evil.
i. “This does not mean that salvation is on the basis of good works, for this very Gospel makes it plain over and over again that men enter eternal life when they believe on Jesus Christ. But the lives they live form the test of the faith they profess.” (Morris)
b.  The resurrection of life… the resurrection of condemnation: Jesus explained this to the astonished religious leaders to explain who He was, the nature of His authority and deity. At the same time, it tells us something remarkable about humanity; that everyone, both those who have done good and those who have done evil will live forever, far beyond the physical and material life they know on this earth in this age. Jesus will command them to rise on that day, in bodies suited for eternity.
i. “The double resurrection assumes that both the righteous and the wicked will receive bodies in the future life and that presumably each body will express the character of the person who is resurrected.” (Tenney)
c.  My judgment is righteous: Jesus explained that He is qualified as a completely righteous judge, because His power is in submission to God the Father. He repeated the themes: I can of Myself do nothing… I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
- There is a literal, material aspect to hell.
- Yes, the Bible uses symbolic language to speak of hell – but that symbolic language points to a literal reality that is “more” and not “less.”
- Yes, there will be real pain and suffering in hell.
- Remember that Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible, by a great measure.
- God – specifically, Jesus Christ – has the right to judge.
- Many people who object to God’s right to judge have no problem judging God themselves!
- So many objections to God (especially among atheists) come down to this: “God didn’t do it the way I think He should.” Who cares?
Are practicing gay or lesbian Christians forgiven?
I’ve heard a preacher say that if a gay or lesbian believes the gospel, that this person is saved, no matter if he or she continues with this behavior for all their sins are forgiven. Is this right?
What you’re talking about here is a question that applies to all sorts of behavior that the Bible speaks of as sin. And make no mistake about it. The Bible speaks of homosexual behavior, whether that’s male homosexuals or female homosexuals, it speaks of homosexual behavior or action as being sinful. That’s just what the Bible plainly teaches.
We could talk about that in a larger sense some other time. But if we generally talk about what the Bible calls sinful, whether it’s a heterosexual sexual immorality, whether it’s murder, whether it’s stealing, or whether it’s this issue, the Bible simply says that if a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ, they take their trust off of themselves or anything else, and they put it squarely upon Jesus.
Let me just say two things that I want to bring up right now. Number one is repentance. We have to leave behind sin and self. Before we can truly turn to God, we have to turn away from sin and self. In order to turn to God, we have to do a “180” switching around. You were facing this side, now you’re facing this other side. Where once you were oriented towards your sin and self, now you’re oriented towards God. There needs to be repentance now.
Real repentance is a mark of faith. It’s a demonstration that a person truly believes. We’re not trying to say that someone earns salvation by their repentance. nor are we trying to say that a person’s repentance has to be perfect in order to be real. It is impossible for any human being to perfectly repent, because we can’t do anything perfectly. We’re human beings, we sin and we fall short of the glory of God. Repentance doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be real. But there is a line somewhere. It can be very hard to define, but there is a line somewhere where someone’s repentance is so fleeting, is so temporary, is just in terms of image and not in terms of reality, whatever you might say that classifies that repentance isn’t real. If somebody does not really repent, if someone does not really put their faith in Jesus Christ, and if someone does not receive a new nature from God, they’re not going to heaven.
It is said that Charles Spurgeon said something like this. I’ve never been able to verify this as a Spurgeon quote, but it’s a good quote. So let’s attribute it to Spurgeon. It is said that Spurgeon said something like this: “The grace that does not change my life, will not save my soul.” You get what he’s saying through that. There has to be some life changing aspect to the grace we receive from God, or we haven’t really received it. Now, again, we want to go a little bit overboard and say, the changes don’t all happen at once. And they’re never complete on this side of eternity. But the change in some regard must be real.
So, if you are asking me: no matter what the sin is, if somebody claims to have put their faith in Jesus Christ or prayed a prayer, but there is no evidence of new life in Jesus Christ in them, can that person be confident that they are actually saved? And I would say no. The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul. And that would be in regard to a whole variety of sins, sexual sins being among them. So it’s a false idea to think that you can pray a prayer, or express a belief, or say a formula, and you’ve got something like fire insurance or a ticket to heaven, if there’s no change of life, no repentance, no ongoing Christian growth. We can’t say, “Hey, don’t worry about it, you’re good.”
I think that that’s something we need to speak against. Can you imagine the tragedy behind a person who genuinely believes themselves to be saved — and they’re not? That is a deep deception and a deep tragedy. Alright, let me continue on here. Thank you for that question.
Thoughts on the morality of vaccines?
I’ve heard it said that our moral responsibility is to get vaccinated, but others say that vaccines are immoral, especially if they contain aborted fetal material. What are your thoughts on the morality of vaccines?
It is a very difficult question to answer and I’ll explain why. I find it difficult to get trustworthy information. I have had people look me square in the eye — people that I would normally trust — and say, “such and such vaccine is made with aborted fetuses.” And I’ve heard from other people or read other things that say that same vaccination is not made that way. How would I know?
So first of all, it’s very difficult to get reliable information on this. And so, do the best you can to get the information you can. I would not go upon a casual second- or third- or fourth-hand opinion from somebody. If this is something that really concerns you or someone else, you need to do the very best research you can, number one — but then, number two, when it comes to anything that we would do for our health, such as a vaccine, I would say this: it is really up to that individual and God, because we don’t have a clear command in the scriptures regarding such a thing.
There are some people who claim that this vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is the mark of the beast, which is predicted to come in the very last days, as described in the book Revelation. I strongly disagree with that. I don’t think that is true at all. Now, if something were the mark of the beast, then obviously we’re saying don’t take it. But the mark of the beast, as it is described in the book of Revelation, has to do with economic transactions— every economic transaction. It also has to do with worship of or allegiance to the individual who is the Antichrist and/or his government. These are not factors in the vaccine that we see today.
There are people who say, “Well, it’s conditioning us for a future reception of the mark of the beast.” That may be true. I think that’s really something to talk about and think about. But the Bible doesn’t say that the vaccine itself is the mark of the beast, or speak specifically to this issue.
I believe that this is a matter of Christian conscience, that Christians should get as much information as they can. They should pray as much as they can. And they should act in their conscience before God in the way that God would lead them to do.
I think I need to do a teaching on this sometime. I think we need to come to a renewed understanding of the liberty of the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ. And where the Bible does not speak specifically to something or in clear principle to something, then I believe that we need to have a freedom of conscience before God to say “I will do or not do this as I believe God is speaking to my own conscience about it.” I think this is getting somewhat obscured in our present day. I hope that answers that question for you. Let me go on to the next question from good now.
Who is the bobblehead figure of a woman on the bookshelf behind you?
This woman on the bookshelf is Katharina Von Bora Luther. This is the former nun whom Martin Luther married, and she was quite a woman. So when I got my set of the Martin Luther bobblehead, I thought why not get his wife as well and they can be a husband and wife pair. So that is Katie Von Bora Luther, as Luther affectionately called his wife. She really had an important part in his ministry. And in the future of Protestantism, actually, the Luther household set the pattern for Protestant Protestantism and family relations within them from that point on. It was really something remarkable. Luther called her “My dear Katie,” and they had quite a relationship. It really is one of the more wonderful stories from church history, to see their relationship, and how much they helped each other. Katie Von Bora was a great help to Martin Luther.
There’s a story about how once Martin Luther, as he was prone, was in a season of great depression. Martin Luther was a man who would sometimes fall into seasons of great gloominess and melancholy, or depression, as we would call it today. This had been going on for some time. Luther was very, very depressed. One day, his wife Katie comes into the room, and she’s dressed from head to toe in black, as if she’s in mourning, going to a funeral, in very distinctive garments. She is wearing the garments of mourning, like the kind of thing you would wear to a funeral. And Luther was struck by this; it was not the way she normally dressed. It was a big statement.“This is terrible, who died?” Martin Luther asked his wife Katie. And Katie said, “God died.” And Luther was horrified; he thought this was bordering on blasphemy for his wife to say this. He said, “Katie don’t speak this way!”
And Katie said to her husband, “Well, the way that you’re acting is as if God has died. I think you should change your conduct.” And it cheered Luther up. It made a pretty big change in his outlook. And he said, “Well, I suppose God isn’t dead. I shouldn’t be acting as if he was.” So thank you for that question.
What is the difference between sacrifices in the Old Testament and atonement in the New Testament?
Why are sins listed in the Old Testament like adultery, idolatry and other serious sins? Were these not forgiven by offering a sacrifice? And why in the New Testament can these sins can be forgiven? Your thoughts, please.
That is a great question. The difference between atonement in the Old Testament and atonement in the New Testament is that atonement in the New Testament, is made. It is in light of the finished, completed, perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Messiah, who, as predicted in the Old Testament, and fulfilled in the New Testament, was a sacrifice for sins, a substitutionary atonement.
I know that in some circles, which claimed to be Christian, the idea of the substitutionary atonement is out of fashion. Brothers and sisters, do not let go of the biblical truth that Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for sins, that he took the sin and the guilt and the shame that we deserved. He bore it in Himself, perfectly satisfying the judgment, the wrath, the outpouring of God’s disapproval (to put it in mild terms), upon sinners. He bought it perfectly there at the cross.
Now, in the New Testament, forgiveness and atonement is spoken of being fulfilled by Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, all of it was offered by animals, in anticipation of the perfect sacrifice that Jesus would one day offer.
This is the truth that God promised to Abraham, even before the Mosaic Law, telling Abraham that in the mount of the Lord, it shall be provided: God will provide a sacrifice. That sacrifice would be His own Son, Jesus Christ, who was given as a sacrifice for the sins of all those who would put their trust in Him. So again, I think this is a very important idea for us to latch on to, for us to cling to this very simple idea that Jesus Christ provides this perfect atonement.
The difference between atonement in the New Testament and in the Old Testament goes back to the idea that in the Old Testament, the atonement of animal sacrifice was imperfect. It could never perfectly satisfy God’s justice, or God’s wrath, if you want to use that terminology. Therefore, it’s very important to see that this perfect sacrifice that Jesus made, does satisfy sins and therefore a perfect forgiveness can be offered in light of that.
I hope that explains that well enough for you. There is a difference in the atoning sacrifice that is made between the Old Testament and the New Testament. It has been said in these words: that in the Old Testament, sin was covered. That’s the sense of the Hebrew word as much as I understand it. The Hebrew word that’s translated “atonement” or “atoning” in the Old Testament is “kuffar,” which means “to cover over.” Sin wasn’t removed, it was merely covered over.
It’s in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ that our sins are truly taken away and removed from us. So I hope that’s helpful for you.
How can a pastor maintain a good reputation?
Hello, Pastor: there is weighty pressure I feel to maintain a good reputation in the eyes of those to whom I preach and whom I serve. What are your best tips to help a Christian pastor maintain a good reputation in the eyes of others?
This is a wonderful question. As Paul told Timothy, we need to give attention to our life and to our doctrine — to both things, not one or the other. Both our life and our doctrine need to be given attention in our life before God. I think it’s a very significant thing for us to take that responsibility seriously. And all I can say is, keep very dependent upon the Lord, and and let your life be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.
When we think about walking properly before others, usually our minds run to the idea of what we should not do. Now, that’s not entirely bad, because part of holiness is what we don’t do. But I think in the long term, in the big picture, it is wiser for us to put our focus on what we should do, upon the fruit of the Spirit, upon the walk that God intends us to have in Jesus Christ. So please consider it that way. Look up those passages having to do with the fruit of the Spirit, look up the passage in Philippians, where it says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all things in light of Lord”, “Set your mind on these things — whatever is good, whatever is trustworthy, whatever is pure,” and actively do the things that God calls us to do. Now, again, I want to emphasize that there is a place for saying “No” to ourselves; it’s very good. It’s a very useful thing to teach yourself to hear, to teach yourself to hear “No, I must not do this, I should not do this.” But again, think of it more in terms of the positives, and afterwards in terms of the negatives.
What is the symbolism of the bow in the hand of the Antichrist? Might it be a rainbow, similar to that used by the LGBTQ community?
In Revelation 6:2, could the bow that the Antichrist is holding be a rainbow and thus have symbolic significance as counterfeiting God’s symbol, but also using it the way that the LGBTQ community is using it?
I would say that could be true in a symbolic or metaphorical sense. Obviously, when it speaks of the horsemen in the book of Revelation, it’s speaking of people who are equipped to do battle. These are horsemen in the sense of a mounted cavalry among an army coming to make war there. They are soldiers, men of violence, that are depicted in this picture of the four horsemen. The Antichrist is holding a bow that would actually shoot arrows, that’s the idea. He’s making war. He’s not armed with a sword. He’s armed with a bow and arrow.
Now, for the association between the bow which God set in the sky, co-opted in the modern world as the rainbow symbol among the LGBTQ community. It may have a symbolic or metaphorical connection, but it’s not the first idea that comes to us as we read the book of Revelation. But we also want to say that this adoption of the rainbow as a symbol of the LGBTQ community is a very recent thing in history. Therefore, it wouldn’t have been understood that way throughout history. And so I won’t say that that determines something.
I think there’s some things in prophecy that really aren’t understood until the very time, or near to the time, of its fulfillment, but at least it helps put it in a little bit more perspective. This is something that I think is of ongoing concern to believers, and rightfully so. The increasing acceptance and requirement for conformity to this idea suggests wrongly that we shouldn’t take our morality from the Bible, but from the culture around us.
Can you explain who the Spirit is in 2 Corinthians 3:16-17?
Can you explain who the Spirit is in 2 Corinthians 3:16-17? “Nevertheless, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
The simple answer: this refers to the Holy Spirit of God. We read here in verse 17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” They’re making an equivalence now for a Jew of the first century, which the Apostle Paul was. He was a Christian with a Jewish background. That word, “Lord,” in the Greek is “kyrios.” It had a very special significance to a first century Jew. That was the word often used in their scriptures for Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. For Paul to say, “The Lord is the Spirit,” is to make an equivalence between Yahweh and the Holy Spirit. And then he goes on to say in verse 17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty,” speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit.
So yes, I would say that he’s speaking of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the passages that speaks to us about the deity of the Holy Spirit, that there is one God — the Lord, Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel — in three persons: the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit.
What is your, David Guzik’s, opinion about the North Carolina pastor calling the police on his congregants recently?
Did you hear about the case in North Carolina, about the pastor calling the police on two of his congregants to escort them out? What’s your opinion on that?
Well, I have to say, I really can’t give you an opinion of that because I don’t know anything about that situation. Your mention of it here is the first that I’ve ever heard of it. I could conceive of many situations where it would be disgraceful for a pastor to call the police and ask the police to escort people out of this congregation. I can also think of situations where it would be entirely right and appropriate for the pastor to call the police and ask him to escort people out of his congregation. There are people who come to church gatherings who sometimes are dangerous. Maybe they’re dangerous to themselves. Maybe they’re dangerous to other people. And so for those reasons, it might be wise and good to call the police to have them escort them from the meeting.
So without knowing the circumstances behind the situation, I can’t really speak to it, other than just to say, I can envision circumstances where it would be terribly wrong, or entirely justified.
How should we interpret and apply the Bible’s standards for women?
Concerning women not [leading] as pastors and head coverings: we uphold one and not the other. How do we biblically uphold those convictions?
I would just simply answer this way: “Women, not [leading] as pastors” is a command. And again, it’s more complicated than the stating of that. It really does have to do with positions of authority, and of teaching authority among God’s people. But I’ll take it just as you stated. There is more complexity than just to say women can’t be pastors. That’s an issue that’s spoken of in the Scriptures, I believe.
But then also you have the issue of head coverings. Here’s the issue of head coverings, as it is described in First Corinthians. The head covering was meant to demonstrate a principle in the Corinthian and other churches of the New Testament. The principle was that women in the congregation recognized the leadership of the congregation, which biblically speaking was male. They recognized the leadership of the congregation, the pastors, the elders, and those who lead in the congregation. They recognized their authority.
And in those cultures, a woman’s recognition of authority was demonstrated by the wearing of a head covering. Here’s what I’m saying: head coverings are not required for women today, but we’re not setting aside the principle. We’re setting aside the way that the principle was carried out in that cultural context.
Let me give you an illustration. Do you kiss other people at church with a holy kiss? Now that I understand that some cultures do this, European believers and others. Sometimes that is just in their culture, while largely in America, and in other places in North America, in many, many places in the world, this is not done. You wouldn’t kiss another person greeting them at church; you might shake their hand, or give them an appropriate hug. You might give them a pat on the shoulder, or whatever it would be. But, you wouldn’t kiss them. Doesn’t the Bible say greet one another with a holy kiss? Didn’t Paul write that in the scriptures? Are we breaking the commandment of God by not kissing each other in church? I don’t believe so. I believe it’s just this simple. The kiss was the expression of a warm, heartfelt greeting in that culture. It’s not the kiss itself. That’s important. It’s the principle behind it.
So I go the same thing regarding a head covering. It’s not the head covering itself that is important. It’s the principle behind it. The expression of the principle may differ from time to time, place to place, culture to culture. The principle endures.
Now, if somebody could show a way to respect the principle of quiet, qualified male leadership in the church. By the way, I want to stress that word qualified. Nobody should be recognized as a leader or an authority in the church, just because they are male. The idea that every woman in the church should submit to every man in the church is unbiblical, and I think it’s very harmful. What the Bible says is that qualified men should be recognized as leaders in a congregation. I don’t know if I can’t think of a way to carry out that principle in ways that would honor it, ways that would still say, “Yes, women can be pastors and elders in a church.”
I hope you get the idea and the distinction I’m making here. It’s not apples and oranges at all. I think it’s a consistent carrying out of the principle in regard to both of those things. We should and must carry out the principle behind the head covering to this day, while recognizing that the way the principle was expressed in that culture may be different than in our culture. Just as in most churches, at least churches I visit, we are not greeting each other with a holy kiss. We’re greeting with a holy handshake, or holy hug or whatever it would be. Thank you for asking.
Why did Martin Luther want to remove some New Testament books from the Bible? Why was the Apocrypha removed from the Bible?
Why did Martin Luther want to remove New Testament books such as Hebrews, James, Jude and revelation? And why was the Apocrypha removed from the Bible?
Let’s take Luther’s opposition, so to speak, to certain books of the Bible: for example, the book of James. By the way, I am not familiar with Martin Luther’s writings enough to say, “Oh, yes— he said, ‘Take the book of Revelation out of the Bible’ or ‘Take the book of Hebrews out of the Bible.’” What Luther did say about the book of James was this: he called it an “epistle or letter of straw.”
Now, he said that within a definite context. I don’t think he was saying that as a whole the letter of James was useless. That’s what an “epistle of straw” would indicate. That’s not what he indicated. What Luther meant was that in regard to demonstrating the central doctrine of the New Testament, the justification of the believer by faith alone. In terms of that principle, or that doctrine, the book of James didn’t help you at all.
Now, I might disagree with Martin Luther on that. I believe that the book of James actually has a lot of useful things to say about justification by faith, but I can understand why Luther would make such an objection to it. But I think that it’s overstating it to say that Luther said, “Take James out of the Bible.”
And I’ll just be honest with you. I am not aware if you can point me to a specific passage in the writings or the preaching Martin Luther, where he said, “Get James or Revelation or Hebrews out of our Bibles.”
I believe that Martin Luther was a man who loved the Bible and loved the scriptures. He pored over every page. You know, it’s really remarkable. Luther was a man who had never even seen a Bible until he went to college. That’s how rare the Bible was in those days. And what a beautiful thing, you know? I’m surrounded in a room here by Bibles and biblical literature. And it is an unbelievable gift that the church has today for which we should be very, very grateful.
Now, your other question was, “Why was the Apocrypha removed from the Bible?” I’m going to correct your question there. I think a better way to ask that question is, “Why was the Apocrypha added to the Bible?” You see, the Apocrypha was added. And again, I’m doing this from memory. So please forgive me if I don’t get all the details right.
But I believe the first major addition of the Apocrypha to the Bible happened in the Latin Vulgate of Jerome, which was in the fourth or fifth century. Understand this, that the Bible that Jesus and His apostles had did not have the Apocrypha; they never quote from the Apocrypha. They quote from virtually every book of the Old Testament, but they do not quote from the Apocrypha. It was not in their Bibles, so to speak.
The so-called New Testament apocrypha is of a different category altogether. But we’re talking about the Old Testament Apocrypha, such as First Maccabees, Second Maccabees, First Esdras, Second Esdras, The Wisdom of Solomon, and other books such as this. These books were not regarded as Sacred Scripture by the Jewish people themselves in Bible times. They may have been books they appreciated or honored, but they were not accepted as holy Scripture. And we should not accept them as holy Scripture. They may be of interest historically, culturally, socially, but they should not be regarded as holy Scripture.
Did Jesus bleed to death? What does it mean that He shed His blood?
We don’t have a death certificate for Jesus. I’m not trying to make fun of your question at all, please understand that. Obviously we don’t have a death certificate or a medical examination of the cause of death of Jesus on the cross. However, it has been suggested, and I remember reading about this in an article of the Journal of American medicine, the JAMA. The article talked about the physical cause of Jesus’ death. If I can find that article, I’m going to put it in the show notes. In that article, the author, a medical doctor, speculates that the actual cause of death of Jesus was a ruptured heart. If you want to get a little bit poetic, you could say it was a broken heart.
But the ruptured heart works like this. When the soldier pierced the side of Jesus, out of Jesus’s side came forth blood and water. That was an indication medically that the heart of Jesus ruptured and the blood contained in his heart leaked into the sac that surrounds the heart. That idea could have been possible. That’s the closest I’ve heard to an intelligent discussion about the cause of the death of Jesus.
Now, the idea of shedding His blood. First of all, we understand that Jesus actually did shed his blood on the cross. He shed His blood when the blood dripped from His brow. He shed His blood when His blood dripped from His back, torn open from the scourging. He shed His blood from His hands and from His feet that were pierced with nails. He shed His blood through innumerable other wounds that covered His body. So He definitely shed His blood.
But that phrase, “the shedding of blood,” is a biblical word picture. It’s a word picture of death and of dying. We see this phraseology in the Old Testament: “Whoever sheds the blood of another man, by man, his blood shall be shed.” So we might think, “Well, what if I cut somebody else?” No, it’s talking about death. The shedding of blood is a biblical phrase, referring to dying, being killed or murdered.
How do we biblically pray for government leaders and Israel?
That is a tremendous question. Let me give you some ideas. First of all, when it comes to our government leaders, pray that God would give them wisdom. Pray that God would keep them from evil. Pray that God would guide them and exhort them to do justice, in whatever land you live in. And pray that God would bring them to salvation. When Paul says in 1 Timothy that we should pray for all men, for kings and leaders in this and that, the idea most immediately seems to mean praying for their salvation. So pray for the salvation of these leaders. Pray as well that God would give them wisdom and guide them.
Now, this is my understanding of this, and if you differ, maybe we could talk about it sometime. I don’t believe that Christians should desire any special favor or treatments within a country, not more than any other religious group. No, I think it’s appropriate for government to do things to accommodate and to allow the free expression of religion. What we want as believers is freedom. We want liberty. We pretty much say, “Let us have liberty to do what God has called us to do.” And God will work through us.
We’re not looking for special favors. So we don’t pray that governmental leaders would give Christians or any other religious group special advantages. We pray simply that we would be able to serve the Lord in the way God asked us to, that, as it says in the Bible, the word of the Lord would have free course and be glorified.
Now, how do we pray for Israel? I would suggest a couple of ways. First of all, pray for the peace of Jerusalem in Israel. It’s a good thing to pray for peace in Israel and in Jerusalem. I believe that God has given a special place for the Jewish people, for Israel in the land. I do think that it is important for Israel to live well and to treat their Arabic neighbors well who are not Jewish. It’s very important that they do rightly towards them, that that’s beyond dispute.
But I believe God has a place for the Jewish people in that land. And let me continue: not only should we pray for the peace of Israel, but we should pray for the salvation of Israel. One of the great promises of Scripture is that all Israel shall be saved. And we look forward to that with great anticipation: that Israel would come to recognize Jesus Christ, their blessed Messiah, and that they would put their trust in who He is and what He did for them, especially what He did on the cross as a fulfillment of every Old Testament prophecy and sacrifice that was made. This is what we should pray for, and ask God to speed that day when Israel as a whole trust in Jesus Christ as their Messiah.