Hi Dr. Luginbill!
I wanted to know if what came to my mind was correct. I thought that the crucifixion of Christ is a perfect example of Romans 8:28. The chief priests sentenced Jesus to death because of His so-called blasphemous claims to be the Son of God. However, God in His divine sovereignty allowed this to occur so that through His death the sins of mankind could be forgiven. Would this be correct? Thanks.
Thanks so much for your patience in waiting for this response! It is always a "load" to get one of these major studies finished and posted, and when I am in the final push it seems I always get behind on answering emails.
As to your question, yes indeed, I would fully agree. Jesus' sacrifice was ordained before the creation of the world. It is awesome to consider that He and the Father (and the Spirit) were willing to create the universe, angels and mankind endowed with free will, when they knew in an omniscient way what this would cost Them. Christ's sacrifice for us is something that should make us cry . . . tears of joy! Because without it, we would be condemned to the lake of fire with no way to avoid that second death; but with it, we have only a blessed eternal life to look forward to with the One who died that we might not see death but have eternal life with Him forevermore. If that is not an example of God working (otherwise) terrible things out for the good, I don't know what is! That He was willing to go into the darkness and face the continual burning in our place in order to win us for Himself will always thrill and amaze me. Praise the Lord!
There is a good deal about what that wonderful eternal life will look like in CT 6 section VII. New Jerusalem and the Eternal state: Revelation 21:1 - 22:2 (see the link).
Your brother in Jesus,
I have not forgotten you my friend, pray for you each day. I was just thinking the other day and realized that the Lord, has not only spoken to man but to a raven, a worm, a fish, and a donkey. Also a plant in Jonah. I just find that incredible, not of much value I suppose.
How are things going, well I hope.
Just touching base with you.
Very good to hear from you, my friend! I am keeping you in daily prayer as well, and I hope all is going well for you and yours too.
This is a very interesting observation, and one which I shall keep in mind. I think that most traditional and conservative Christians tend to underestimate the value of the animal world to the Lord. These creatures are not morally responsible, of course, and we are certainly worth much more than many sparrows (Matt.10:31; Lk.12:7), but the flip side of these passages is that God is concerned for all His creatures (cf. Ps.136:25). And as you point out, He not only uses creatures but speaks to them. And, as in the case of Balaam's donkey, we know of at least one instance in which He empowered the creature's speech (cf. what I have written about the serpent's speaking in Gen.3 at the link: in BB 3A, "The Temptation").
I would not be at all surprised to find out that in eternity all creatures "great and small" are present (somewhere in the new universe a very big place). If so, it is an awesome thing to contemplate that every sparrow will have an eternal existence, but that human beings who have shut Jesus out of their hearts will be shut out of the New Jerusalem forever.
Your friend in Jesus,
What need did God have for a guard prior to Satan's fall? What would have been profane? From SR Series Part One, III Satan's Original Status:
"Satan's original position can thus be described as that of the ultimate "imperial guard", charged with warding off all that is profane from the exquisite holiness of God"
Good to make your acquaintance. First, I would say that before Satan's fall this was a symbolic position. We may compare the fact that the New Jerusalem will have a colossal wall, even though there is nothing left to protect against. The purpose for the wall is to memorialize the protection believers received from the Lord during the struggle of life. But while there will be no possibility of that wonderfully beautiful wall being necessary for any actual defense of the city, because in eternity there will be no further possibility of creature sin or rebellion (the angels and ourselves having been confirmed in eternal holiness), there most certainly was the possibility of something profane coming into existence during angelic pre-history. Satan proved this by rebelling against the Lord. It is ironic that the creature charged with (symbolically) protecting the holiness of God is the very one who betrayed the Lord and sought to de-throne Him. It is also the case that God's holiness cannot and never could be compromised; therefore the role Satan played was ceremonial rather than functional. But it was, is, and always will be important for this principle to be graphically represented by the office of cherub (with the devil now replaced by a college of four who presently are and eternally will continue to occupy the guardian positions around the throne of the Father and the Lamb). Creature history is about choice the choice of whether or not to respond to the truth of His holiness and seek Him out on His terms so as to be saved. For those who have and do, He is working everything out for the good; and even in the case of those who refuse, He is glorified.
But I have raised you [Pharaoh] up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Exodus 9:16 NIV
For more on all this please see the links:
The Holiness of God
Satan as Guardian Cherub
Profane in Eden?
In Jesus Christ our Savior,
I have a question about Zionism. I don't know if it is important to understand this or not. I see the word tossed around so much, but I just don't get it. I cannot separate the truth from the fiction. The opinions just differ so drastically. It boils down to that I don't know who to believe out there in the world. I just have my own perceptions of Israel and they are what I have gleaned from the Bible. That the Jewish people are the "apple of God's eye", and will always be. I've never understood the hate that is felt for the Jewish people. I remember going to a Jewish camp when I was young. I sang their prayers before meals that were in Hebrew. And I guess I just never understood the jokes about them, or anything else. They were just a people, God's people.
From your site, it makes sense that during the Tribulation there will be leaders and governments that are evil. And I know we must separate governments from the people and cannot judge a whole people on the actions of their leaders. This is based on history alone.
But, are the Zionist around today evil? Were their initial intentions good for the Jewish people and has it now been corrupted?
I understand that there are always good and bad in every race and even within the Jewish race. And I know not all will be saved when our Lord comes back, but only a remnant. I also understand that their history is a part of God's plan and He said that they will be dispersed into the world and that they would be a stone around the necks of the world...that they will be hated.
But, in your knowledge, what is it that the world hates and has always hated? Direct me to any good reads.
Thank you, Bob!
I recently posted a weekly email response on this theme (among other things): "Some Jewish Issues". You will find a bit of online bibliography linked there. Also, I have much to say on this issue from a biblical, prophetic point of view in part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series under "The Uniqueness of Israel".
From the divine point of view, the world is composed of two types of people: believers and unbelievers. Since Jesus died for all, anyone, Jew or gentile, can become a believer through simple faith in Christ. Alternatively, they can choose not to do so. An unbeliever is not necessarily evil or even particularly sinful. Some unbelievers are incredibly moral, hard-working, patriotic, disciplined, kind, thoughtful and even religious. Jews who do not accept Christ constitute a special category only in the sense of the blessing by association that extends to all who are of Abraham's seed (Gen.12:3 et al.). Zionism was and is a political phenomenon. It is certainly true that God has used that movement to cause a sizable number of Jews to be re-established within the land but then God uses all sorts of events for His own purposes whether these are good, bad or indifferent. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery as a compromise for not killing him outright, but as he later told them: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Gen.50:20 NIV). This doesn't mean that what Joseph's brothers did was good or even defensible in any way it wasn't. But it does mean that God superintends history in all respects, large and small. Therefore on this particular point, I do not think it is necessary for us as believers to critique Zionism or the secular state of Israel or the current political situation or anything of the like. We are certainly free to do so, but in the end God is working everything out for His purposes, just as He has always done. I think it is very clear that the re-establishment of a large population of Jewish people was absolutely essential for the fulfillment of many prophecies about the end times, and I would also affirm that God has a role in everything that comes to pass. However, apart from clearly Christian actions by believers who are unquestionably Christian, I would be very reluctant to weigh in on the rightness or wrongness of anything political (except in cases where it might be so egregiously sinister as to warrant the verdict of outright evil). In my view as you know, Christians are better off staying out of politics altogether. It really matters very little whether we pronounce one person/group good and another bad, even if we may be right. Most of the time, they will be a mix of the two (and mostly bad). Nevertheless, the Lord keeps us safe and continues to give us opportunities to grow in Him and serve Him. We can observe what is happening and we can read the "signs of the times", but anything beyond that is probably mere speculation and pretty pointless too at least if we are wise enough to stay away from trying to "do anything about it" in a personal way. Then it can lead to disaster.
As is often the case, I'm not sure this answer it terribly helpful, but I do stand ready to continue the conversation. I suppose the main point is that God is working all of history out for the absolute good, and that we as believers should appreciate that His Plan is what is succeeding, regardless of how we may feel about the particulars day to day. You might also see the following link:
God's Plan to Save You.
In the dear Lord who bought us, the Messiah, Savior of all mankind, our dear Jesus Christ.
Hi Dr. Luginbill!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my bible questions. It gives me the assurance I need regarding whether or not my beliefs are doctrinally sound. My question is not so much as theological per se but does deal with a topic in the bible many are afraid to discuss. I've noticed that Pastors rarely speak on the topic of hell from the pulpit. Nonbelievers such as Muslims even believe in hell and speak about it. Why are Christians afraid to speak about it? and what are the facts about hell that discourage believers from speaking about it? Is it because of itching ears or Pastors are afraid of losing members? I personally have no problem on speaking about hell and why people go there regardless if it offends others. The truth needs to be heard and many need to know how serious sin is to God. What do you think? Thanks.
Good to hear from you, and thank you so much for your kind words. As to your observations, I agree with you completely. After all, our Lord was very frank with His contemporaries about the fact that failure to believe in Him meant the loss of eternal life.
"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being
condemned to hell?
Matthew 23:33 NIV
I am certainly sympathetic to the point of view that more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar; however in the case of human beings that is often not the case. The gospel most certainly is "good news", but a big part of that "good news" is that we who believe in Jesus are not going to hell as we would otherwise deserve to do! As I have pointed out many times in my writings at Ichthys, knowledge of God is universal, knowledge of our mortality is universal, and knowledge of our moral insufficiency in face of a perfect God when judgment comes is universal. These three truths which every human being comes to know (until they harden their hearts and blot them out) render all who truly want to be saved ripe fruit for the picking. The good news that Jesus died for our sins is so good precisely because it means that we have been rescued from damnation by His sacrifice on our behalf. Since He died for all, people choose to go to hell (by choosing not to believe in Christ), and it is an important part of the gospel to point this out to believers (as a guard against apostasy) and unbelievers (for the group that really needs to be prodded with this truth in order to come finally to Jesus). In the issue of salvation as in all things in God's Plan, we find Him working everything out perfectly and for the absolute good of those who truly love Him.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36 NIV
Here are some of the more pertinent links where this subject is addressed:
God's Plan to Save You.
Choosing Hell: Questions about Salvation and the Love of God.
The Great White Throne of Jesus Christ: The Last Judgment of the Unbelieving Dead (in CT 6)
What does the Bible say about Heaven and Hell?
Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.
Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved.
The Saved and the Unsaved.
Unbelief and its Consequences.
Keep standing fast in the faith!
In Jesus our dear Savior,
I am a 21-year old believer, and was struggling a little bit with the teaching of universalism. I knew that it was unbiblical, but had searched, somewhat fruitlessly, for thorough rebuttals of it. I stumbled upon this email, http://ichthys.com/mail-Against-Universalism-II.htm, and it was a great help to me. I just wanted to thank you for your polite, firm, and Biblically accurate responses. Also, do you know of any exhaustive (or nearly so) refutations of the teaching? I want a book that addresses as much as possible. Thanks again.
By faith in the grace of Christ alone,
Very good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your comments; it is always a pleasure to hear that these writings have helped my brothers and sisters in Jesus.
As to recommendations for further reading, I am not, sadly, aware of any comprehensive treatment on the false doctrine of universalism. Most good systematic theologies treat it in passing (Chafer's Systematic Theology has a few pages in volume 4). The lack of topic-specific works probably has to do with the fact that the refutation covers several areas of doctrine which are usually treated individually. Part 4B of Bible Basics: Soteriology deals with the doctrine of salvation in detail, so perhaps section II.2, "Natural Revelation and Accountability", which demonstrates that everyone knows they need to be saved to avoid death and judgment, may be of some use (see the link).
Please also check out the section on the Last Judgment in part 6 of Coming Tribulation (see the link). In that place, I do go into detail about the basis for the unbeliever's condemnation and the process of the trial by which each person who rejected Christ is judged and wherein it will be made absolutely clear that everyone "knew what they were doing" and what they were choosing while in this life. The perfect way in which God has and is working every detail of history out for the absolute good of us all is thrilling and amazing "even the wicked for the day of disaster" (Prov.16:4).
If you do find a helpful book on the subject in your own research, please let me know and I would be happy to recommend it to others. Also, please do feel free to write back about any particular questions on that or any other biblical subject. On last thought on this, a very good website dealing with all things apologetic in a solid, doctrinal way is CARM: Christian Apologetic Research Ministry (see the link).
In Jesus our dear Lord who is the only Way to salvation.
Thanks for your excellent work and faithfulness to the Scriptures. Would you consider doing a basic study on Musicology and Israelology? These are two areas, in my estimation, largely overlooked and misunderstood in the Body of Christ today.
Thanks for considering this!
Good to hear from you. For the next several years (at least), I'm committed to finishing the Coming Tribulation series (one more installment) and the Bible Basics series (five more installments), then finishing the Peter series (seven installments, most likely).
I don't know enough about music even to consider a musicology study. As far are Israelology goes, there is a lot on this scattered throughout the material at Ichthys now, and more will be added in the future. Knowing a little something about Jewish culture, I don't think I would be the one to do any more than I have done on this, that is, beyond describing Israel theologically within the scope of the various studies where the subject is treated. Arnold Fruchtenbaum (Ariel ministries), for example, has a series on the gospels from the Jewish perspective. While I would never be able to give carte blanche to anyone else's opus, it is fair to say that listening to a few hours of his teachings on the subject will be sufficient to show how important a deep background in the Talmud and Jewish culture generally is for such an approach.
I do appreciate your confidence though! Perhaps you will do a musicology study. I would be interested to read it!
Yours in Jesus our Lord,
What do you read in the old testament regarding the treatment of heresy and heretics? The Roman church and even those who succeeded them seemed to take their cue for killing of heretics from the old testament but, then, how much is there in the OT regarding this matter?
I think if I were of a mind to defend the practice I would cite scriptures like "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Lev.22:18 KJV), or any one of a voluminous number of passages which command no quarter for pagan idolatry, both in terms of the Lord's specific commands and also in terms of righteous behavior being commended in this regarding, cleansing Israel of stumbling blocks (e.g., Phinehas' killing of the Israelite and the Moabite woman for which he is praised by the Lord, Num.25:6-12; or Jehu's complete destruction of the priest's of Baal, 2Ki.10:18-28).
However, your connection of the practice with Roman Catholicism is spot on. Before Christianity became an established religion in the Roman Empire (a religio licta, i.e., a "permitted and lawful" cult), Christians were persecuted extensively (i.e., the "ten days" of Rev.2:10; see the link: "Martyrdom"). When Constantine converted, much of the trouble with perverting true Bible doctrine began. In my view, that was due in no small part to the fact that now not only was it not dangerous to be a Christian but it had also become beneficial to convert, in no small measure because the church quickly became a political vehicle. Institutionalized Christianity quickly fell into the role that the Roman state religion of paganism had enjoyed and turned the tables on the pagans for the sake of political power more than anything to do with misplaced zeal. When they ran out of pagans, Christians with alternative views became the natural targets for a church-in-name-only which was more concerned with rooting out any potential competition that might interfere with its status, power and prosperity than anything to do with doctrine.
In terms of arguments for justification, the Old Testament practices were a natural place to go for Rome, since Rome, very early on, had turned to the Old Testament out of complete spiritual bankruptcy. The papacy is based on the high priesthood, the Catholic priesthood on the Aaronic priesthood, cathedrals are temples, complete with altars and menorahs and incense, sacrifices give way to confession, indulgences et al. One could go on. The R.C. church attempted and came at times very close to being the theocratic rule that the OT envisions only without the divine mandate, without the Spirit of God, and without in fact any legitimate basis in the truth of the Word of God.
Under such conditions, justifications for its horrendous abuse of true believers in Jesus Christ amount to very little. I, for one, am convinced that they would have happily burnt "heretics" (i.e., all opponents real and perceived) even if none of the above Old Testament parallels were ready at hand. Blessedly, of course, God used this situation to separate out the true believers and to refine them and also to condemn the entire false edifice in the case of those called to die for the true faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom.11:7).
And we know that, for those who love God, He works everything together for good [that is to say,] for those who have been called according to His plan.
Thanks for your question!
In our dear Lord Jesus Christ for whom we are ready to endure whatever may betide.
Thanks so much for the quick answer. Especially the expanded information that really helps. Brings up Elijah's killing of the prophets on Mt. Carmel, the stoning of an incorrigible son, and the Lord directing the killing of His enemies - all of which shows the totally different manner God was dealing with people before Jesus came. Seems as though He was setting Israel as a model for a perfect theocracy, similar to the complete fulfillment of the commandments by man (if he could do it) would make him a perfect man. In the end, man is a total failure on all points and needs a Sin-Bearer, in Jesus.
While I have your ear - I am a Sunday school teacher of adults and get all kinds of Bible questions (they are really inquiring students) and the perennial question of predestination keeps coming up. I came to a satisfactory answer for myself many years ago but explaining it to others, particularly if they have a bent toward the hyper-Calvinism side is difficult. If you take only the passages regarding predestination and election themselves and ignore the free will passages, an argument could be made for hyper-Calvinism and, conversely, taking only free will passages, you could make a case for total free will without ANY predestination involved. However, the Lord included teaching using both ends of the spectrum. My first church when I was young Christian became hyper-Calvinistic under a former Presbyterian pastor who carried the teaching out to its full T-U-L-I-P explanation. What is your take regarding this teaching?
I really do appreciate you taking the time discuss these things with me.
May God richly bless your ministry,
It's my pleasure. You make some very good points here on the role of Israel vs. the Church; I think we would be much better off as a Christian community in this country if more people understood the difference as you clearly do (the email response postings on the dangers of "Messianic Legalism" show pretty clearly that many people have these issues confused; see the link).
On predestination, I invite you to have a look at part 4B of Bible Basics: Soteriology under "God's Plan to Save You". This sets forth the issue of predestination as I see the Bible teaching it (and as you suggest), namely, that, as with many things in scripture both sides of the issue are true: human history is predestined AND we most certainly do have free-will. In fact, as I try to demonstrate in this study, God's decree of human history was absolutely essential if there ever were to be a free exercise of moral choice by His creatures (for He could not be ignorant of every choice they would make ahead of time, and no choice in a world He constructed could ever possibly be made without His prior ratification of it); predestination does not prevent free will; free will is impossible without predestination. He works it all out and for the good for all who choose for Him.
Here are some other links where the issue is also addressed in one way or another:
An overview of the Plan of God
The Image and Likeness of God
Choosing Hell: Questions about Salvation and the Love of God.
Our will and God's WILL
Thanks again for your interest and encouragement! Please feel free to write me back any time.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Hi again, Doc!
I have one more question. A host on a Christian program stated that when it says God desires all to be saved, "all" cannot mean all in a literal sense because it would mean that all would be saved and therefore teach the false doctrine of universalism. He cited a bible verse (can't find it but I recall him quoting it) that stated that God will do all that He pleases, therefore if all meant al then everyone would be saved. How would this be reconciled? Thanks in advance!
This is very typical, hyper-Calvinist confusion. The opposite is in fact true. If Christ did not die for all, then the offer of salvation to all would not be genuine. And if, having died for all, all had no choice but to believe, then free-will would not be genuine. The only way for there to be salvation and for that salvation to be the result of our uncoerced free-will response in faith to God's grace in the gift of Jesus, Christ had to die for all, and all had to have the ability and genuine opportunity to say "no" as well as "yes!". God's independence of time and space and the profound nature of His deity means that He could not not know ahead of time how we would react in time. But His knowledge and subsequent decree of what we actually wanted, what we actually decided, does not obviate our free will; rather it makes our free-will choices in this life possible (since nothing could exist at all without His decree). Properly understood, this is truth to make one's heart sing as we recognize the lengths and the depths to which our God went in working every detail out for the good that we might be saved even sacrificing His one and only beloved Son on our behalf.
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV
God works all things out for the good for us who love Him and His Son: that is the essence of His Plan. There is much more about all this at the following links:
God's Plan to Save You.
Faith: What is it?
Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.
Putting the Word of God First.
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord who died for us that we might be free to choose for Him.