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Child-like Faith, Mark vs. Matthew, the Mahdi,

Who was with God in the Beginning?

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Question #1:  I have been reading my Bible quite a lot lately, and I find that the more I read it, the more I find questions I can't answer. Jesus said that we are to receive the Kingdom of Heaven as a little child. Does that mean to trust Him to get us there? If that is so, why does He say that many will say to Him, "Lord, Lord...", and that He will reply, "Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, I never knew you." (Matthew 7:22-23) Are the people He is talking about ones who trusted Him to get them there and they still fell short in some way? If iniquity is violation of the law, even in ignorance (according to my Bible concordance), how am I to trust Him? There are several issues of which I am not completely sure, so could He say, "Depart from me..." because I guessed wrong?

Response#1:  Please don't be discouraged because you are finding things in the Bible that cause questions without immediate answers. This is a universal experience for all who are seeking God. In order to grow closer to Him, we need to build our faith, and one of the ways this critical faith of ours is built is by standing fast with what we know to be true, and building on that base of faith day by day through what we learn from scripture. This is life-long process - it never ends, but it always gets better. We have to learn to trust Him that He is and is going to continue to answer our questions, solve our problems, and bring us closer to Him to the point where we can begin to help others through the gifts we have been given. The Bible is at once very simple and very complicated. Certain major truths come out clear as a bell on every page (the love of God, the mercy of God, the justice of God, the wisdom of God), while specific interpretations and fine points of detail about individual scriptures are often not possible to discern without expert help. But we are all called upon to drink in the truth of the Word, and approaching it in a diligent, daily way as you are obviously doing is the only approach that is safe, sound, and secure.

We have to approach this like little children, as Jesus told us. When we were very young, we didn't always know where our parents were taking us when they led us by the hand - but we trusted them, because we knew instinctively that they loved us and were there to care for us. We usually obeyed them too. And when we listened to their words, we did so with a very simple and genuine lack of subtlety, not imagining or pretending that we knew better. As we grew older, we tended to be more disobedient, tended to doubt they knew what they were talking about, tended to think that we knew better what was right for us. As we reached a more mature adulthood, however, we reflected and considered that they had done all right after all, and that we had been head-strong and suffering from the arrogance of youth in many of these adolescent assumptions.

Now everyone's experience is different, and no human parents are perfect either, but as we look through the human family generally and through time, these are pretty typical trends and experiences. Our heavenly Father, of course, is perfect, and knows perfectly well what is good for us - in fact He is working out everything in our lives for the good, especially for those of us who truly do love Him and Jesus beyond everything else in life, and want to do so more and more day by day (Rom.8:28). For every question, He will provide an answer, and for every problem, a solution. It may not be the one we want, or the one we expected, or come at the time we anticipated it, but we have to learn to trust Him like a child trusting His loving parents when it is yet impossible for him to understand completely what is going on.

Now the one other thing about this comparison our Lord makes that we should keep firmly in mind is that while a small child really has no choice but to follow his/her parents' lead, we do have a choice. Instead of banishing doubt, embracing faith, trusting God, and joyfully waiting for what He has for us, whatever that may be, we can, in arrogant adolescent style, doubt His ability, His mercy, His care, His attention, His timing, His knowledge. In the human analogy, this turned out to be foolish on our parts as teenagers - how much more is it not folly now when the One with whom we have to do is the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the One who loved us so much that He sent His own beloved Son to die for us in our place, a death on the cross at that!

As far as iniquity is concerned, we are called as Christians to be holy, to be sanctified, to be perfect. Let me tell you, that is the truth. But it is also the truth that apart from our Lord, no believer has ever perfectly fulfilled that mandate. It is good to read 1st John whenever one is concerned about this issue, for the very book that describes believers as essentially sinless (1Jn.3:9-10), is also the clearest in its description of how we should deal with the personal sins we do commit (1Jn.1:5-10; cf. 1Jn.2:1). We have passed from death to life in Jesus Christ, and have been crucified to this world. The life we now live, we live for the One who bought us. This means that all our failures are of this earth, and that we are to turn away from them and pursue instead the upward calling to which we have been called of growth and production for our Master Jesus Christ. It is true indeed that if we turn away from Him completely, no good will come of it. In fact, if we are so head-strong in our resistance and our rebellion that we get to the point that we put our faith to death (see “Apostasy and the Sin unto Death”), then the end will be worse than the beginning. But we should remember Paul's words to the Hebrews, who were in bad spiritual shape, but not yet in apostasy:

Remember the days gone by, when you first saw the light, when you persevered through that terrible trial of abuse. For you were publicly exposed to humiliation and persecution, and shared the lot of others who experienced the same. You supported those in prison, and accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew you possessed a more valuable estate, and a more lasting one. So don't throw away this conviction of yours - it leads to a great reward. You need to keep persevering so that you may carry off in victory what has been promised - after you have accomplished God's will. For yet a little while, how short, how [short the wait], and He who is coming shall come, nor will He delay. "Then shall my righteous one live by his faith, but if he shrinks back, My heart takes no pleasure in him." Now we are not possessed of cowardly apostasy which leads to destruction, but we have faith which leads to [eternal] life.
Hebrews 10:32-39

If we are walking forward in faith, building faith, and acting in faith, we can be confident that God will honor this child-like faith of ours and lead us into all truth.

Hang in there - if you are hacking your way forward, you are certainly not going backward. If you are concerned, you most likely don't really need to be. It is those who are not concerned that are usually the ones in true jeopardy. And my Lord and Savior will continue to lead you and me like little children around every blind corner - all we have to do is keep holding His hand.

Please see also the following links:

Faith -- What is it?

Imitating Christ

Walking with Jesus

Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God

In our loving and merciful Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up His life to save us from destruction.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Please explain the differences in the two passages below:

Take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.
Matthew 10:10

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic.”
Mark 6:8-9

The reason I'm asking this question because I have a friend from another religion who noticed these differences and made statement that Bible is full of mistakes.

Thank you and God Bless your ministry.

Response#2:
  

Jesus in both passages is commanding the twelve not to take anything extra on the journey, and for a very important reason. They were by their need and necessity to demonstrate clearly who among those they came to were truly responding to this mission of heralding the arrival of Israel's Messiah. Since the twelve had no extras, they were totally dependent upon the support of those they came to, and if they did not get any support from those to whom they were announcing the "good news" or "gospel", this would thus be obvious to all concerned - it was the responsibility of those ministered to to provide for those doing this important ministry.

That said, the key here is the first passage, Matthew 10:10, where in the Greek (and in the English too, although in the English it may seem ambiguous), the idea is that everything on this list of what not to take is an extra. Let me expand the translation to illustrate:

            . . .take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or [extra] sandals or a[n extra] staff . . .

This is like the case in English where I give a list of things and only use the modifying adjective with the first element: e.g., "fresh eggs, celery, and tomatoes" - no one who heard this would assume that the eggs were fresh, but the celery and tomatoes were not. They would understand that I had only used the word "fresh" once to avoid appearing redundant. That is what is going on in Matthew - Mark just says the exact same thing in a slightly different way (as indeed any two people telling the same story always do, even when they agree 100% in their facts).

Jesus is most certainly not telling His disciples to undertake this long and arduous journey throughout Israel without anything at all on their feet (or without a staff to help in the walking). What He is saying is that they are not to be providing for their own extra needs - that will be the job of those to whom they come so as to show to all the world who is worthy and who is not (cf. the v.14 command to "shake off even the dust" as a witness against those who do not carry out the responsibility of support).

In our Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

I just found your site today and I really am enjoying what I have found there. One question though: have you given any thought to the theories that the Revived Roman Empire might be an Islamic confederation? The Roman Empire also consisted of many currently Islamic nations. I found some very fascinating facts about Islam and their view of Jesus. For example, it is a common teaching in Sunni and Sufi Islam that Jesus Christ is coming back. They teach that 'he' will be the Herald for the Imam Madhi. Harunyaha.com is a very scary place indeed, but I found it to be very enlightening. They also aren't the only Muslim sects that advocate these views. Shia Islam also teaches these things, but the Sunni and Sufis, being more mystical in their understanding of these teachings on Christ, tend to discuss them more openly. Again, I really am enjoying your site. I'm adding it on to my 'favorites'.

Response#3:  

I very much appreciate your e-mail and your encouraging words. You make some good points. On your question about revived Rome specifically, yes I do indeed believe that scripture teaches that the ten kingdom empire will, at its height, include a good portion of the Muslim world. This is why the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation make a distinction between ten and seven “horns” and “heads”, as, for example, in Daniel 7:24:

Then I wished to know the details about the fourth beast (i.e., Rome/revived Rome) which was different from all the others. It had iron teeth which were exceedingly terrible, and claws made of bronze. It devoured [all the others], crushing [them] to bits and trampling under foot whatever was left. And [I also desired to know the details] about the ten horns on its head, and the other one (i.e., antichrist) which came up later, and before which three of the former ones fell (i.e., the southern alliance) . . . . .
Daniel 7:19-20a

And as to the ten horns, from that kingdom (i.e., Rome, the fourth beast) ten kings will arise, and another one (i.e., antichrist) will arise after them. And he will be different from the former ones, and he will cast down three kingdoms.
Daniel 7:24

As indicated in the phrases highlighted above, three of power-centers of Revived Rome will initially be opposed to the rest of that confederacy, and it is my view that this is because they will represent an Islamic alliance defeated by antichrist. I also think it very likely that the belief in a coming "Madhi" will be instrumental in the creation of that alliance which will do battle with the beast during the Tribulation's first half. All this is set out in some detail in the posting:  Coming Tribulation Part 3B: Antichrist and his Kingdom.

Glad you are enjoying the site.

Yours in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:

I have the following question about who was with God in the "Beginning." Would you mind sharing your thoughts on this?

Genesis 1:26 states that God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 3:22 states the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

Genesis 11:6-7 states the Lord God said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

Isaiah 6:8 states, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'”

My question relates to the use of “us” and “our.” Who was with God when he created all things and later confused the language of men? Who comprises the “us”? Was God not alone in the beginning?

Response#4:  

The short answer is that God was with God. In all these cases, God is speaking in His three Persons, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jewish scholars often take these passages to mean that God is speaking in company with his angels. But all of these passages you provide show God acting from His sovereignty: creating man on the re-created earth; expelling man from the garden; dividing the nations; evangelizing Judah. These are decisions and actions which God alone can take, and are not in the sphere of angels who, after all, are all "ministering spirits" (cf. Heb.1:14). God holds court with the angels (and now with saved, departed human beings as well), but it is He who is enthroned above, with His Son at His right hand, and with the "seven spirits" (i.e., the Holy Spirit) blazing before the throne (Rev.4-5), who is Sovereign and who acts as Sovereign of the universe.

Genesis 1:1 starts out bereshith bar`a `elohiym, which means "first God created" - that is, not "in the beginning". God existed before any beginning, and existed in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The universe, the creation of this world, its destruction, recreation, the current 7,000 year span of human history, the future destruction and new heavens and earth that follow - all this is "outside of God" in a way, and certainly not necessary for God. What He has done for us in creating us and a place for us (i.e., the universe) is truly blessed and amazing.

The Hebrew word for God, `elohiym is technically a plural form, while the Hebrew word for LORD, yhvh, is singular. God is one in essence, but three in Person. As such He is never alone, but He is also never conflicted, since the unity of the three Persons is closer than anything we can imagine, but He does not for that reason fail to be a true Trinity of three truly distinct Persons (please see the link: “The Trinity” in Bible Basics #1: Theology).

Incidentally, it is almost certainly the case that the angels heard all four of these pronouncements you include here, including the one in Genesis 1:26, for they had been created long before (see part 2 of the Satanic Rebellion series: "The Genesis Gap").

In our Lord.

Bob L.


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