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Spiritual Warfare III:
 
Peter's 'Angel', Saul's Death, and Strange Events

Word RTF

Question #1:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

My friend had an unusual experience involving seeing someone who was already passed on. She was very nervous about a certain surgery she was soon to have, while she was contemplating this, she saw a beloved doctor who had treated her for many years and before she even thought about his being dead, she was about to approach him and then he was gone. Seeing him made her decide on the surgery and she was no longer afraid. I told her that maybe God sent and angel that resembled to her this doctor so that she would not be afraid and have this much needed surgery. Was I wrong in this? How else could she have seen someone who had already passed for several years except by God letting her see this? I have told her that when a person dies, their spirit is no longer in the shell in the grave, but has either gone to heaven or sheol.

Thank you for your excellent study forum; I can never get too much of God’s word,

A Believer in Christ my Saviour

Response #1:

Good to hear from you.

As to your question, as I often say, I'm not in a position to judge the experience of other Christians, especially not of those I don't know personally and particularly when it is a question of third party reporting. Here is what I read in a roughly similar situation in Acts (possibly the passage you had in mind):

Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" "You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel."
Acts 12:13-14 NIV

The "angel" here is probably meant to refer to the apparition of the person in question which these believers assumed the servant girl had seen or heard. However, this passage does not address the question of whether or not people really do have such "angels" in that sense of a visible apparition, and in fact only relates a popular belief of that time. Acts states what really happened without always passing on the doctrinal validity of what is said. This is what these persons thought, but they were not apostles or anything like that, and the record shows that they were wrong – it was actually Peter at the door.

As you rightly note, our spirits go to be with the Lord after death, so the situation you relate really can't be a question of that person appearing here before the resurrection (the one exception in the entire Bible is the appearance of Samuel to Saul at Endor, and that was a unique situation, one that occurred, moreover, before the transfer of believers to the third heaven at our Lord's ascension; see the link).

It is unquestionably true that the Lord uses all manner of means to encourage us and to guide us, so I would not wish to downplay your friend's experience. I only can't say any more than I do here without passing from scripture to speculation.

In these situations, I think what you have done is good and acceptable, namely, to encourage a fellow believer without judging, offering what scriptural guidance there may be on the matter yet without being dogmatic on matters about which the Bible has little to say. It is possible that your friend dreamed this, after all. Here are a few related links:

Third party reports I

Third party reports II

Third party reports III

Third party reports IV

And thank you so much for your good words of encouragement!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

 Hello Dr Luginbill, I pray all is well with you.

1) I was wondering, why does God want Christians to be patient?

2) In Acts 12:15, what is meant by Peter's Angel? Is this an indication of guardian Angels and do they look like us? 

Thanks again

Response #2:

Hello Friend,

Good to hear from you as always.

Patience is "suffering through", and it is always in the process of hanging on under duress that our faith is strengthened, tested and refined. This life is all about loving Jesus – or not. If we do love Him, then how much? Testing, the thing that requires patience, demonstrates to the world of men and angels both how genuine, deep and committed our faith really is. The Peter series (see the link), is devoted to the issue of Christian perseverance (patience) in testing and trial.

As to the incident in Acts 12:15, this is what the people said, and of course they were wrong. Their assumptions probably reflects a popular belief at the time, but not necessarily a legitimate one. There is no indication from scripture that anyone has "an angel" or "ghost" (which seems to be what is meant) that resembles the person in question (we all have a spirit, but it resides solely in our body during this life and goes to be with the Lord after death; see the link). So if this reference in Acts is any sort of a nod to "guardian angels" (of which we all do have at least one; see the link), then it was an accidental one (i.e., these folks have not been well-schooled on this point). The book of Acts is historical and reflects what people actually did and said, and therefore does not guarantee that they were right in what they did or said. These individuals who were praying for Peter's release should have accepted that their prayers were answered; so this false understanding is coupled with a remarkable lack of faith: not willing to believe a report that Peter was at the door – which was exactly what they were praying for.

Please see the link: "the historical nature of the book of Acts".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I have an odd question in which I am clueless on how to deal with it. I was trying to sleep the other night when I clearly heard someone moving directly behind me where my head was. As I look around I caught a glimpse of a figure which retreated at lightning speed. I prayed in the Name of Jesus that this spirit be rebuked by the power of Almighty God, and I was able to sleep afterwards. This occurred not too long after I had a discussion with a friend about the devices of Satan and how he deceives the world. I don't know how, but I somehow sensed that the enemy was angry at me. Earlier that day, I even sensed that the enemy was going to try to make me crash my car somehow and I don't know how I knew, but I just knew. I prayed before I got into my car for protection. A few cars ran through red lights and came as close as a few inches of slamming into my car. I would have been dead had those cars hit me. I pray a lot, as much as I talk to someone who is my best friend. Is there anything else that can be done to keep these spirits away?

God Bless,

Response #3:

I will certainly be praying for you about this concern, and I would suggest you continue to do the same as well. From the Lord comes deliverances from death (Ps.68:20). I have no doubt that He often saves us from just such satanic attempts. The good news is that we cannot see nor interact with the spiritual conflict taking place beyond our ken. All we can do is trust the Lord that He will save us from all unseen forces and agents, believing the truth of scripture that "more are with us than against us", and that nothing can separate us from His love, "neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation" (Rom.8:38-39 NIV).

Our job is to keep our head down and ignore what we cannot control, leaving it to the Lord in faith to take care of all such things for us. That is the way to fight this battle – by not allowing any such fears or manifestations even to gain our attention, as far as that is humanly possible. That, in my view, is what frustrates the evil one the most.

Whatever dark forces may manifest themselves, Jesus is right here at our side all the time – and He is more than capable of handling anything and everything, as we know quite well. Our task is to make Him more real in our mind's eye through faith in the truth than anything else in this world . . . or even out of this world.

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
Hebrews 11:27 NIV

Here are a few links on this subject:

Spiritual Warfare I

Spiritual Warfare II

Demon Influences

Demon Possession (in SR #4)

Your friend in Him who is our strength and our shield against all comers.

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello.

Hope you are well. Question. If angels cannot possess humans or animals, and we know Lucifer as an angel and as Satan then was the serpent in the garden of Eden a demon directed of Satan? Sounds weird but got to thinking about this and need a little guidance.

Thanks,

Response #4:

This is a question of terminology only. Satan is an angel, and all of his followers are also angels. They are, however, also called demons and evil spirits in the Bible. These are not separate classes of creature, merely alternative names. It is true that all angels, holy and fallen, have a particular rank (see the link), but that is not the issue here. Holy angels do not possess human beings or animals because doing so is against the WILL of God (in a big way); fallen angels, aka demons or evil spirits, sometimes do (there are limitations; for the "ground rules" see the link: "Demon Possession"); it's not a question of any restriction of power in the case of the angels of God versus the angels of Satan, but merely that this is something only the evil angels ever do.

Please do feel free to write back about this.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Good day Sir,

Hope my mail meet you well? I want to thank you for prayers for deliverance on my behalf and g thank God am delivered from false prophecy. And I pray for you and the ministry daily. I was reading your mail response on Spiritual warfare II and have a concerning your saying:

''God turned the tables on all expectations and did provide an interview with Samuel - in order to prophesy Saul's death and the death of his sons, things about which no demon or evil spirit could have any clear idea, since they do not know the future any more than any other creature, apart from what God reveals.''

There are many false prophet that can say things as if God shows then hidden and secret things to deceive. Where did they get such secret of things to happen if not from the devil?

Response #5:

The situation described in the passage you ask about was a unique one. A good Christian need not worry about being deceived in such a case, because a good Christian would not be consulting a witch in the first place. The fact that God intervened for good in a case where everything Saul did was wrong is for me a great encouragement. Even so, Saul stuck to his stubborn ways until the end. For we who love God, we can be assured that He is "working everything out together for the good"; even when it is hard to see that, we know it is true. And it is also true that even the actions of the wicked and evil and all of Satan's forces – which were never unknown to Him – have been completely accounted for in His perfect plan, and, in the end, will only work out for good in the accomplishment of His perfect will (Ps.76:10). That is the incomparable and unfathomable wisdom of God.

On His use of evil spirits for His own ends, please see the link: "God's use of Evil Spirits". You are of course, absolutely correct in being concerned about being deceived. I think it is hard to deceive a growing and mature Christian like yourself, but those who are not mature and who are not progressing as the Lord would have them do are indeed in mortal danger – how much more so the unbelieving world in the dark days soon to come?

Because of the signs it (i.e., antichrist's false prophet) was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
Revelation 13:4 NIV

Thank you so much for your prayers, my friend. You and your family remain in my prayers too day by day. Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Thank you sir for the swift response. My concern is not about myself, but those who are not mature and who are not progressing as the Lord would have them do. Because I am always skeptical concerning so called prophecy, miracles et al some would say am not a genuine believer. But what is going on this side of the world is so unbelievable where people will not believe your testimony of Jesus because you are not telling them what they ate before they slept last night or tell them the colour of their underwear to show them you are of God. My concern is that those who do, where would be their source if not the devil to lure people. But does it mean that Satan can know the future?

Sir your thoughts will be appreciated.

Response #6:

You are very welcome. To answer your question, no, the devil and his minions do not know the future – any more than we do: we do know a lot about what is going to happen in broad-brush prophetic terms because of the information in scripture (although nothing will happen which has been revealed by the Bible before the Tribulation begins). On the other hand, the evil one and his lieutenants are ever "prowling around looking for someone to devour" (1Pet.5:8), and I am sure they can watch and see what we had for breakfast. In terms of the individuals with whom you are dealing, I am sorry to say that things are not any better on this side of the world. Only the manifestations of the general lack of true interest in the truth are different. Here, in my own country, many of those who are believers could care less about the truth. I fully expect that this country will produce a fair share of those who fall away in the Great Apostasy for that very reason. If a person is not really interested in the truth, there is little that we who are can do to change that level of interest. After all, the Lord Jesus did the most tremendous miracles the world has ever seen or will, but His contemporaries by and large still would not believe in Him. The apostles did great visible miracles too, and their words were believed only by the few. That things are worse today does not mean that they were ever "good" in this respect. The simple fact is that this life is all about free will and the choice each individual has to make as to whether to follow Jesus Christ or not. Even after believing, the choices don't end. It has to be sufficient for us who have chosen not only to follow Jesus but to follow Him more closely day by day through thick and thin that we will be rewarded for it – we cannot turn the "motivation switch" on in any other person, believer or unbeliever. But we can give a good witness. We can stick steadfastly to the truth. We can show by our resolute faith that the truth is really the truth . . . to us. And who knows how the Lord will use this witness of word and life to bring someone else around? We are Christ's soldiers. He has placed us where we are at this time for the mission He has for us. A large part of true faith is accepting that mission and carrying it out as best we can, even when to all the world we may seem crazy for so doing. But we walk by faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV

In anticipation of rejoicing at your great reward on that day of days.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for all your prayers. I am extremely thankful for the body of Christ giving me the much needed strength to endure the trials in my life.

I had some questions that came to my mind as I read several passages in the Bible, along with those who claim to come in contact with the dead. I can't find any references to the spirits of the departed coming into the earthly realm after they have died except the one passage where the spirit of Samuel prophesied about Saul's demise. Are all supposed ghosts claiming to be the spirits of the dead evil spirits or demonic? I heard that these evil spirits were familiar with the departed person and their habits in so much that they can take their form and know things about them that others wouldn't know. That these evil spirits are more common among those who lived lives full of evil or sin, attracting these evil spirits so that they are familiar to their lifestyle, and that this way they are able to masquerade as the departed. Does the bible give any direct references to ghosts and whether or not they are all demonic? And is there a difference between an evil spirit, unclean spirit, and a demonic spirit? Thank you in advance!

God Bless,

Response #7:

There are only three types of creature spirits: of animals, of human beings, and angels. Animal and human spirits depart the earth upon the death of the body and have no contact or interaction with the world again (until the resurrection). Fallen angels are variously described in scripture. To that point, evil spirit, unclean spirit, demonic spirit, etc. are synonyms for the same thing, i.e., fallen angels, with no particular distinction in kind or function.

The example of Samuel's appearance to Saul was absolutely unique in human history. Once a person dies, his/her spirit leaves the body and is conveyed to the appropriate place: Torments for unbelievers, heaven for believers (and before the cross, to paradise below the earth: these believers were transferred to the third heaven following our Lord's victory and ascension; see the link). The shocked reaction of the "medium" when Samuel appeared indicates that nothing like this had ever happened to her before. She was a witch, that is, a woman used by demons to deceive others and in her particular case to make them believe that she was conjuring up their dead relatives. Since the gift of the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost of the Church, the Spirit has been conducting a special restraining ministry which appears to prevent this sort of thing to a large degree (see the link). During the Tribulation, that restraining ministry will be curtailed and all manner of horrible things will occur including in particular the revelation of antichrist (2Thes.2:6-7). In the meantime – and at every time – there are most certainly no "ghosts" in the sense that the word is used in our culture. To the extent that there is any actual evil supernatural content to anything such people do or say, it comes from demon contact and demon influence. Believers receive a special measure of protection from such things, and should by no means get anywhere close to any person or any activity where such things are purported to take place.

Here are some related links:

What is the Difference between Demons and Fallen Angels?

Angelic Issues III: Demons, Satan, Elders, Female Angels and Guardians.

The Witch of Endor and the Spirit of Samuel

Saul and Samuel at Endor

Witchcraft, Sorcery and Magic in the Bible

Religion and the Occult

Thank you for your prayers too, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Dear Bob,

I just started reading 1 Timothy today, and came across the end of the first chapter. Paul speaks of two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he "handed them over to Satan" because they blasphemed the God. I was wondering who these two men were, and what did they do? Did they blaspheme unrepentantly, is that why Paul caste them out? I assume by "handed them over to Satan", he means caste them out of the church, right?

I hope to hear from you soon.

Response #8:

We don't know anything more about these men mentioned at 1Tim.1:20 except what can be gleaned from context and also that Paul mentions Hymenaeus along with Philetus at 2Tim 2:17 as a false teacher and an apostate. The blasphemy is thus the false statements of individuals who are not only fallen away from Christ but who are also attempting to lead believers after them in their apostasy (no doubt out of financial motives as is often the case). Given that Paul's letters to Timothy find him at Ephesus (cf. 1Tim.1:3) and that the central heresy there was one of Gnosticism, it is probable that both of these men had become involved in that system of false teaching. Whenever a believer goes down the road of apostasy, one of two things will happen: 1) either the person will entirely lose faith through willful rejection of the Lord he/she once embraced or 2) in cases of equivocation (usually where a person wants to sin with impunity and yet continue to believe), the end result is the sin unto death. The latter is a horrible end, but though "the body may be destroyed" at least the "his spirit [may] saved on the day of the Lord" (1Cor.5:5). What is different about the passage you ask about is that it was a feature of apostolic authority to be able to pronounce this "sin unto death" upon individuals who deserved it, and that is what Paul does here. As none of the twelve apostles are alive today, the sin unto death, when it does come, comes from God without any human mediation of the sort Paul reports in this verse. Here are some pertinent links for more information:

Sinlessness and 1st John (see Ques.#1 part #3)

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death

Apostles

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Bob

I have read portions of your site and find it filled with information which like all ‘good material’ raises even more valuable questions and sets the heart and mind ‘ringing’. I claim no great depth of knowledge and have certainly not had any formal theological schooling. Much of my ‘knowledge’ is garnered from people like yourself who write and discuss. My ‘testing’ of such lies in prayerful consideration and requests to our Lord that His Spirit filter incoming information and focus my attention on what portions He would want to be relevant to me. I have an unfortunate history of involvement in a form of the occult many years back and I must say that your series of Satan’s revolt certainly describes the essential truth of what is happening. The enemy would have had us believe that the final outcome CAN be influenced in his favour. His plan of deception is deep. Surprisingly I had given my life to the Lord as a younger man after this involvement only to shocking return to it later in life. The Lord met me a year or so ago and once again retrieved me. I am truly a blessed man for this. His grace and love is all encompassing. I have two questions which I am not sure you have answered in your material. I am convinced that the complete human is a physical body and a non-physical spirit which comes into being either at conception or birth. I believe we are considered a unique ‘soul’ from birth onwards. I don’t feel that the exact moment is relevant. The unity of this soul , will, after resurrection of the body portion continue to exist in the new earth and heaven which is yet to come.

1. What is the mechanism that befalls a man in demonic possession. Do you think that the human ‘engine’ is uniquely suited to ‘hijacking’ by these beings?

2. Should a person be a believer and suffer an organic brain injury due to disease or physical trauma and then rejects his beliefs or turns away from the Lord as a result of ‘insanity’, does the person remain ‘saved’. I.e. Does damage to the ‘machine’ of man make us susceptible to possession or oppression in some way. E.g. Damage due to alcoholism or drug use may make the human soul susceptible to invasion of some type. If this is the case -How unhealthy does this temple need to be before it is at serious risk?

What do you think?

Response #9:

Good to make your acquaintance! I draw special encouragement from your testimony: the Lord is able to bring us back "seventy times seven times" – if we are willing to be brought back.

On soul/spirit/life et al., scripture is very clear in my view about life beginning at birth when the Lord creates our spirit and places it into our body (see the link: "Life Begins at Birth"). From that point forward, we will never be disembodied (see the link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State").

As to demon possession, it seems that this only occurs with the acquiescence of the person possessed. Demons can afflict anyone (when God allows it); demons can only possess those unbelievers who allow it to happen. As the various scriptures which show examples of this phenomenon indicate, demons occupy the body of the person in question, and gain a great measure of control over that body in doing so. But as the cases of the possessed girl at Corinth in Acts 16 and the Gadarene demoniac healed by our Lord both demonstrate, even possessed individuals can and do maintain some measure of control over their free will: both of these individuals were able to seek out the source of deliverance. What I have about this issue will be found at the following links:

Satan's Revolutionary Platform (in SR 1)

Demon Possession (in SR 4)

The Demon Possessed Girl in Acts 16:16

Fallen Angels, Demons, Nephilim

The exorcism of Anneliese Michel

Prayers for binding

Exorcism

Demon Influences

Angelic Issues III

As to your second question, none of our "machines" are perfect. With the exception of our Lord, we have all been born with a sin nature, so that the most intelligent person who has ever lived was not without "mechanical flaws" of various and sundry sorts. Indeed, it seems to me from my observation and experience that the more gifted are often less willing to come to the Lord than those who realize they are "not that smart" – and I think in this I also have the Spirit of God:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
1st Corinthians 1:26-29 NIV

The Lord knows very well "where we are" in terms of our ability to perceive the truth, and for all those with only minimal perceptive abilities the creation rings with the truth about Him (see the links in BB 4B: "Natural Revelation" and "The Problem of Unbelievers"). If anyone ever accepts Christ, they do so from their own free will in accepting the truth illuminated by the Spirit; if anyone ever rejects Him or apostatizes, it is likewise an act of one's own free will. Our free will can never be taken away in this life; only our ability to use it: i.e., we may be put into a permanent coma by an auto accident. God surely knows the difference between a genuine decision of an individual made from genuine free will, and whatever might transpire after some traumatic event. If a person gets Alzheimer's and says any manner of things that make their relatives doubt their salvation, for instance, I would say that in the great mercy of God that person's genuine and true decision to accept Jesus when operating under actual free will is what will stand, not any pronouncements to the contrary once the ability to use that free will has been impaired. That is really the only theologically operative part of the question of perception: "does impairment make it impossible for the person's free will to make a genuine choice?" Sometimes, only God knows the answer to this question in individual cases, but we can always trust Him and rely on His mercy. For all individuals who are born without the mental capacity to choose genuinely in the first place, there is automatic salvation; and for all who die before they are old enough to be responsible for making the choice for or against Jesus Christ, salvation is likewise secure. Knowing the wonderful mercy and love of our Savior, I am confident that He is looking to save as many as will be saved, so that no such situation ever resulted in an "accidental" loss of anyone.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:17 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world,

Bob Luginbill

Question #10:

Hi Bob

Thank you so much for your answers. I will take some me time to go through what you have said (and linked) and reflect on it. I am not sure if you have read the book by Randy Alcorn, entitled HEAVEN. I found his method of providing answers to many questions by making use of a sort of ‘extrapolation’ from scripture. We have used the book in our church as a focus of a discussion fellowship and found that it revealed in us many odd beliefs and initiated many worthwhile discussions. His description of the ‘intermediate’ heaven is similar to your description of the ‘intermediate’ state. This is a matter which we as believers often do not like to talk about but which has become a the subject matter of many ‘new age’ beliefs as well as a number of claimed visions and even ‘visits’ to heaven. Some of these variations of the truth have very nasty consequences for believers who take their eyes off the Lord.

Thanks again for the truly massive work of faith you have produced. I pray that the Lord will use this to help us to test and refine our understanding in so doing, build one another up.

Response #10:

You're most welcome, and I certainly agree with your assessment of the negative effect on believers being too credulous about reported supernatural experiences. Please see the links:

Third party reports I

Third party reports II

Third party reports III

Third party reports IV

Feel free to write me back any time.

Best wishes for your continued and continuing growth in the truth of the Word.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Thank you dear brother, I know the Lord led me to your ministry, because I was getting very discouraged by all the wide range of strange teachings out there (especially on facebook), and I really need a "sane place" free of all those strange 'winds of doctrine.' What blesses me the most is when people are clearly exuding the fruits of the Spirit, and it's really a blessing to see that you speak with all the people who share with you in kindness, respect, and concern. I'm not sure that people are getting truly drawn to Christianity so much anymore because there is not a lot of love, but instead we see a lot of bickering, divisiveness etc. I wish people could realize again that in order to draw people to Christ, we have to draw people to His wondrous love. As I read your articles, I see that the one thing you tend to emphasize is the love of God and how He was even willing to sacrifice His own Son for the sake of this sinful world. That's a very healing message for a broken world to hear.

I was looking on your site about your thoughts concerning deliverance and I could not really find what I was looking for. There are many people these days who are saying that Christians have demons in them and that they need to be delivered from them, such as demons of anger, fear, etc. One lady I know claims to have delivered droves of demons out of herself, and says that I will not be free until I do the same for myself. Obviously, she is extremely convinced of her beliefs, and not much I can say can change her mind. I don't see anywhere in scripture where true believers were casting demons out of themselves or out of other believers. If you have an article on this subject I would sure appreciate reading it.

Note: This is the youtube channel that the lady I'm speaking about has. As you can see, she has had over 300,000 channel views and promotes the teachings of David Middleton mostly and shares this on facebook too. I believe that a man named Derik Prince had similar deliverance type teachings. You can check out this channel if you wish for information, but I'm sure you are highly informed about this widespread teaching. This is a teaching I'm very concerned about and many people are being drawn into it and becoming obsessed about it at times. If you have any key thoughts on this issue please let me know if you get the time. I do greatly appreciate it!

http://www.facebook.com/l/qAQHPKl-wAQEYdzFsgNAm2iv3TcjrC8W13yf6entbwjH68w/
www.youtube.com/user/repentingheart

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers brother, and how I pray the Lord continues to bless your ministry so strongly.

In Jesus Christ our blessed Lord,

Response #11:

Good to hear from you, and as always thanks for your encouraging words.

As to your question, I believe that your observations about the quality of "teaching" out there in the ether today are absolutely accurate. It says in 2nd Timothy 4:3 that in the last days people will accumulate a great number of teachers "to say what their itching ears want to hear". For me, that is always one very clear "tell" as to whether a teaching ministry is legitimate. Clearly, we would all like to be able to heal the sick, speak in tongues, cast out demons, raise the dead, do other great miracles and signs . . . and be loaded down with prosperity. Just as clearly, on some level every Christian with just an ounce of "spiritual common sense" (that is, any brother or sister who is allowing the Spirit to guide them through scripture to any degree), also realizes that while these things did happen in the past, they are not, generally speaking, happening now ("now" being since the early days of the apostles with most such things coming to an end even before the apostolic ministries ended). For these are all "childish things" (in the sense of being useful for a period of immaturity or incompleteness) to be put away once "the perfect" comes on the scene (1Cor.13:8-11). We now have the Bible in its entirety, and as a result it is the truth of the Word of God which is to fuel all of spiritual needs and desires in the power of the invisible Holy Spirit. We live in a mature spiritual age, and it little behooves us as Christians who want to please our Lord not to behave as little children and run after things which have already been "put away". Mature faith needs only the truth; childish faith craves signs and visions and miracles. The latter are certainly wonderful, of course, and we would be happy to luxuriate in them if that was the will of God. But there is little that is worse than pretending about such things. It is bad enough when immature lay-Christians do it; it is appalling when such teaching comes from the pulpit. After all, either a person can heal with the laying on of his/her hands or he/she cannot. If a person has that gift, well and good. We all rejoice. But pretending to have it and deceiving oneself about that and leading other Christians astray in the process is a horrendous thing.

There are very good reasons why none of these particular gifts and miracles are being generally given today (please see the link: "Healing, Miracles, and Dreams: Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff by biblical Means"). Certainly, God can do anything. But claiming He has done or is doing something He hasn't or isn't is a dangerous lie. Casting out demons is not mentioned as a specific spiritual gift, but the putative ability to conduct exorcisms definitely falls into this category. The person linked on Youtube teaches that everyone can do this. But I don't remember anyone in the Old Testament ever casting out demons. Our Lord Jesus did it quite a bit, and He specifically empowered the twelve to do so (Matt.10:8), along with giving the power to cure diseases (leprosy in particular) . . . and to raise the dead. I know of only one instance of active exorcism carried out by a believer recorded after our Lord's resurrection and ascension, and that is Paul's command to the demon to leave the soothsaying girl who kept following him (Acts 16:16-18) – and that didn't turn out particularly well, as I recall. In any case, Paul was an apostle, one of only twelve, specifically commissioned and empowered by the Lord Jesus – and we are not.

So to start with, I would question whether all believers ever had this power, even during the period when we do have recorded instances. Please see the following links on this for more details:

"Deliverance" and demon possession.

Demon Possession (in SR 4)

Exorcism

Demon Influences

Binding and Loosing

Prayers for "binding" Satan

The notion that believers can be possessed by devils would be laughable if it were not doing so much damage to the Church at present. This is just the sort of canard that Satan loves to have us buy into. Once we do, we will spend all of our time and energy (and perhaps our money too) trying to "get free". And since we are not possessed in the first place, there is no possible solution – outside of coming to our senses and realizing that it has all been a horrible hoax. Demons can afflict us physically and intervene negatively in our lives in a comparable way to the positive help we receive from the holy angels. But since this spiritual warfare takes place completely outside of our comprehension, it is a wise policy to accept this truth in principle but never to try and apply it specifically to any particular problem we encounter. The reason for this approach is that we just cannot know when a skin rash (e.g.) is a demon attack and when it is merely a rash. And even if it is a demon attack it is likely to still be a rash. And since 1) we cannot tell the difference, and 2) in practical terms there is no difference, then 3) why would we assume that we need to invoke all sorts of strange and non-biblical procedures in order to "fight" against these threats? Jesus knows what ails us; God the Father entered it into His plan before creation; the holy angels are also well aware of the facts and there are many more of them on our side than against us (2Ki.6:16-17). The Trinity and the angels of God are all "doing their jobs" – of that we can be sure. Therefore should we also not just stick to our knitting and do our jobs too? We are authorized to pray to the Father and the Son in the power of the Spirit. How in the world would that not be sufficiently good and godly?

As I often remark, the Christian life is actually very simple. All we really need do to "do our job" is figure out "what is the right thing to do?" and then do it. If it were part of "our job" to worry about things we cannot see and things we cannot properly evaluate, surely there would be something in scripture to indicate how we ought to navigate such disputable matters. In fact there is nothing in the Bible that would even give us authorization to be involved in such things, let alone mandate that we worry about them. "Binding and loosing" (see the links above) are authorities given to the apostles and have to do with the power of the gospel (nothing to do with demon possession). Exorcism, as discussed above, is not even a spiritual gift. God does give power over the evil one and his minions but to those who are following Him properly through the function of a good Christian life of spiritual growth and godly application. In other words, our "deliverance" from such troubles is automatic for all who are truly "putting on the full armor of God" and "fighting the fight" the way Jesus wants us to fight it – with the sword of the Spirit, the truth of the Word of God and in the power of prayer (Eph.6:10-18). That is how we are to conduct our struggle "against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph.6:12 NIV), and not by involving ourselves with questionable people who are spouting biblical half-truths which do not pass the spiritual "sniff test". To use a sports analogy, as players in the game, our place is on the playing field, not in the stands. If we don't like the boos and catcalls and the fact that some of the spectators are throwing things at us, it still little behooves us to leave the field and charge up into the stands. Our job is to play the game the best we can according to the rules and block out anything extraneous.

The closer we get to the end, the more it is prophesied for our brethren in Christ to become distracted by such things (1Tim.4:1-3). Lukewarmness manifests itself in many ways. Unauthorized fascination with and involvement in things the Bible does not warrant (even if it talks about them in general), is just one such manifestation.

No believer in Jesus Christ can be demon-possessed. We are here to choose what is pleasing to God – life is all about the free will choices we make now that we have been saved. Demon possession involves by definition the handing over of a large portion of one's free will to a demon instead of following Jesus Christ. The two are not compatible and never have been. One cannot "drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too" (1Cor.11:21 NIV). And "no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus be cursed,' and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit" (1Cor.12:3 NIV). Now that believers all have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, it amazes me to think that anyone can actually imagine that the Spirit would admit the entrance of demons into a holy vessel He was occupying. For in the case of all Christians now our "body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" (1Cor.6:19 NIV), and as such cannot be corrupted or defiled or invaded by any unseen minion of the evil one.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior through whom we who believe have all achieved true deliverance,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Robert,

How are things going with you? I have a concern, not sure if it's valid or not but I know it's real. A couple of times over the last few weeks, some strange things have been happening in my home. This evening, I went into the kitchen to get a glass of water, clearly turning the light switch on to the up position. I had my back turned to the switch and it suddenly went off. Now, this isn't possible unless someone was there to turn it off, no one else was home though. About a week ago, I awoke in my bedroom to see a light on outside my room. This was strange since I always turn the lights off before bed. I'm not using drugs or drinking so we can rule that out! My family has been out of town for about 10 days so naturally, this sent me into a panic, thinking someone was in the house. I know lights don't turn off and on by themselves and when I'm sober, I have a very sharp memory. I have never believed in ghosts but I'm wondering if it's possible to have evil spirits on your home or possibly, for loved ones that have passed trying to get my attention. The latter would not fly with most Christians I know but in a home that's only 6 years old, it's literally impossible for a light switch to turn off by itself, I know it wasn't halfway up because I tested it. Like I said, I've never seen a so-called ghost or spirit in a sober frame of mind, so I don't know what to think (or do) I've also heard a lot of strange noises I can't account for. If this was happening to you, what would you do? I will definitely pray about it as I don't like being afraid in my own home. Probably seems silly to read about this, but it definitely gets your attention when something like this happens, no matter who you are or what you believe.

What do you think about the events unfolding in Israel? It's very difficult for me to understand the Middle East, it's almost like a spiritual battleground.

Your Friend in Christ,

Response #12:

Good to hear from you.

As to this question you ask, we do know from scripture that angels, elect and fallen, can affect the material world. We also know that the Lord limits what the evil one and his minions are allowed to do to us, and there does seem to be a rather "tight leash" on the devil and his angels during the Church Age in this regard – they do quite enough damage through demon influence of unbelievers as the historical events of the last two thousand years or so demonstrates quite clearly!

I don't know the explanation for this odd occurrence. I do know from my observation and experience in life that there are always a million explanations for everything that happens which we probably will never come up with but which may be "the right answer". That being the case, finding demons behind anything we can't explain is probably the last conclusion we should come to, even if it turns out to be directly or indirectly the case when we find out everything on the other side: the best defense would be to ignore them in any case. I can tell you that departed believers do not have any contact with anyone down here after death – and unbelievers are completely locked away in Torments until the last judgment. So that is not a possibility. I also think it is fair to say that once we become fixated on a particular explanation we tend to find reinforcing phenomena for that explanation around every corner. I would counsel you not to worry about it. God is in control, no matter what happened to your light-switch et al.

Things around the world seem to me to be declining at an accelerating pace. This is not proof that the end is at hand but it is certainly consonant with my understanding of our being on the cusp of the Tribulation.

Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Robert,

As always, thanks for your response! My relative, who is a Christian, to this day claims that she saw another relative after he passed away. I don't believe she is lying but it's certainly possible that this could have happened in a dream. As you know, anything is possible in a dream as I can't count the number of times I've died in my dreams. At any rate, I didn't see anything with my own eyes, I only know that the light switch turned off on it's own. This is a Christian home though so I am not concerned about it, although it did frighten me initially. I pray every single night and ask that Jesus bless our home and family. I've also come across a few Christians that have claimed to have seen angels. I believe they do appear to people on occasion, but I've certainly never seen one. That being said, I wasn't concerned that this occurrence was demonic in nature but anything that seems supernatural can be disconcerting.

The reason I get concerned about demons it because I was involved in some demonic activities at one time in my life. Drug use certainly opens the door for such things and the temptations to go back are a daily battle. I also agree that those who have gone before that our Christians are shut off from us, we can't see them or hear them. It's possible that angels are sent by God to comfort those they have left behind and that's what people are seeing, like my relative.

Like many people, I've had a very uneasy feeling about the state of this world since 9/11. A friend of mine sent me this link a while back, I wasn't really sure what to make of it, the photos are very telling but something about the Bible codes just doesn't seem right.

http://bibleprobe.com/smokeface.htm

At any rate, thanks again for the email!

In Jesus,

Response #13:

We should all be concerned about these matters on the one hand, but we should also be absolutely trusting in God that He has these things beyond our control completely in hand so that we don't really have to worry about them.

As to dreams, visions, apparitions, appearances, epiphanies and the like, my standard practice is not to take my brothers and sisters to task about "disputable matters". If something is clearly contrary to scripture, as in the case of the appearing of departed believers to other believers wide-awake, well, I don't go on "search and destroy" missions, but I do point out the impossibility of these sorts of things when others are relying on them for guidance et al. When it comes to things that are possible, however unlikely, I try not to judge. But for my own application, my practice is "In God we trust; all others pay cash". That is to say, I am happy for every supernaturally wonderful thing that my brothers and sisters have experienced and I allow as to how such things have happened in scripture, will definitely happen in the future, and may be happening now. But none of that changes the Bible or the fact that the Bible is still our sole source of truth. As Paul says, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal.1:8 NIV). So we have to go with the scriptures regardless of what we experience. And it is also the case that the devil is very good at deception. But if we put the Bible first, last, and in-between for all of our doctrinal beliefs, then it doesn't matter if a seemingly "good soul" who tells us a tale is right, or mistaken, or deceived, or even attempting to deceive us, because in all cases we are relying on the scriptures and not on third party reports. Indeed, we should believe the Bible even if and when it seems to be contradicted by what our own eyes see and our ears hear. That is what faith is all about.

Please see the links:

Third party reports I

Third party reports II

Third party reports III

Third party reports IV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Robert,

A Christian should never live his/her life in fear, which is what I did for many years because I wasn't following the path that God had planned for me. When I strayed from that path, it was God who allowed (some) horrible things to happen in my life to ultimately put me back on course. Even so, I still have a lot of work to do. I believe this is one of the ways that God gets our attention, sometimes it is obvious but most of the time it's not. I had to rely on people like you and Christian friends to remind me of how I should be living and that sometimes, bad things happen for a reason. In a fallen world though, they can happen to any person at any time. Because I'm aware of that, I don't question why horrible things happen anymore. For many people, if they could simply accept that we live in a fallen world they would be far better off. Much of the time though, the negative things in our lives can be attributed to mistakes (or poor decisions) we've made. That being said, I've never blamed God for anything bad that's happened to me.

I've only witnessed a couple of things in my life that I could not explain with my own reason, or through someone else. So I agree with you when you say that God keeps a tight leash on demonic activities in terms of what we actually see and experience. In my mind, these things occur in another dimension, one that is not visible to us. Only on rarely occasions (seemingly) does God allow someone to actually witness these things, as you say, it certainly happened in the Bible. For whatever reason, it doesn't happen today. Suffice it to say, I would prefer that it stay that way! Even if it were possible, I have no interest in seeing those who have passed away, it would scare the heck out of me which is probably one of the many reasons that God doesn't allow these things to happen. That and the fact that we would all be dead if God allowed demons to roam freely and do exactly as they please.

Someone asked me the other day who my favorite person was in the Old Testament. I thought it was a rather odd question as it occurred at a Christian support group I attend for people who have had issues with addiction and other vices. It didn't take long for me to come up with Job, to me, his story is truly remarkable and one I will never forget. I also find a lot of comfort in reading Paul's words, they are extremely easy to digest and understand.

I think your website does as good a job as any I've ever come across regarding spiritual matters for Christians. Reading Satan's World System would do any young person a power of good. I say young person because I believe that this is the point where most human beings make crucial decisions regarding which path to follow. Had I been able to read something like that 20 or 25 years ago, I believe my life would have turned out much differently! I will check the links out but will likely read the Peter Series first.

In Jesus Christ!

Response #14:

Well said, my friend!

I wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving, and I will be keeping you in prayer for your visit with your family.

Thanks for you good words about this ministry too.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Robert,

I did not realize that you were an officer in the Marines until I looked at your background on your page. I was wondering how the heck you knew who Kurt Rueber was when I mentioned the Stalingrad Madonna a while back. Most officers have a good understanding of not only US military history but world history. I've heard the USMC is very tough in terms of giving promotions to officers. Most guys I know who we're officers in the Marines never made it past 1st Lt. I suppose war time promotions come more easily for lack of a better word. To retire as a captain in the Marines is pretty impressive. So forgive me for not wishing you a Happy Veterans Day! We're you a company commander if you don't mind my asking?

Still trying to get through to my family. I don't have the gift that some people seem to have when they witness. Anyway, thanks for your prayers and for listening.

Response #15:

I never got a company command (except for a brief "acting C.O." stint): I made Capt. about the time of my mustering out. I very much enjoyed my time in the USMC (most of it, anyway); of course, I was blessed never to have been shot at. I would have stayed for a career, but I decided on a "career for the Lord" about half-way into my tenure in the Corps, and didn't want to let that much time go by before getting down to business, so to speak. It's a decision I have never regretted (this ministry could not possibly be what it is if I had not left for the additional eleven years of higher ed. when I did).

May the Lord grant you success in leading your family to the truth!

In Jesus Christ for whom nothing is impossible,

Bob L.

Question #16:

G'Day Brother

Hope you and all those around you are keeping well. Was Saul saved, even after the LORD Spirit had departed from him? Samuel says to him that he would join him, does that mean in heaven?

1 Samuel 28:19:
"Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines."

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #16:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

I think you have found the appropriate verse for answering this question. Samuel was not in heaven – he was in paradise below the earth (the place of all departed believers before being transferred to the third heaven after our Lord Jesus' ascension; see the link). But paradise is for believers only, so that this verse affirms that Saul, despite his "back-slidden" status, was still a believer. He is an example of the sin unto death rather than apostasy (see the link). Also, Samuel mentions Saul's sons as about to come to the same place – and certainly Jonathan was a believer, even if his bad judgment in staying loyal to his father rather than going over to David overtly was a mistake for which he would pay with his life. It goes to show that everything we do in this life has consequences. All the more reason to make it our goal day by day to "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly" with our God (Mic.6:8).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

G'Day Brother

Is it possible that what the witch showed him was not all true? She is a witch? They usually give half truths; i.e. satan in the garden. I thought Mediums are unable to bring back the dead. Christians are forbidden to go to mediums. I also thought satan's angels can and do impersonate the dead and therefore we become their prey. How do you deal with these verses concerning Saul?

Deuteronomy 18:10-12
There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.

I can't see an abomination entering the kingdom of God.

Leviticus 20:6
'And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.'

Does this mean that he will set his face against him, then welcome him into heaven? I really hope he is saved, but I can't see a case for his salvation squaring up with scripture. I believe he has departed from the faith. He is no longer a believer.

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #17:

As to Saul, I hear what you are saying about witches and mediums and demons and the testimony of scripture on all such matters, and I agree with everything you say. However, this is what the passage we are discussing actually says:

Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?"
1st Samuel 28:15 NIV

Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has departed from you and become your enemy?
1st Samuel 28:16 NIV

In both verses, it is the scripture which attributes the remarks to Samuel, and it does so in a very clear and unambiguous way. There is no way to interpret around the fact that the Bible declares this person to be Samuel and these words to be his. We might also add the fact that demons have no more clear idea of the future than we do – so the dead-on predictions given seem necessarily to have been of God. I have written about this issue before. Have a look at these links (and do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

The Witch of Endor and the Spirit of Samuel

Eternal Security and Perseverance (the case of Saul)

Spiritual Warfare II (the witch of Endor)

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

G'Day Brother

I guess I don't agree with you that Saul was eventually saved and is with God. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 pretty much delineates the fate of Saul for Bible believers.

1 Chronicles 10:13-14
So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.

Also, I do believe he meet up with Samuel after his death, but where? Sheol. Sheol in Hebrew, translated as "grave", "pit", or "abode of the dead", is the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible's underworld, a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and the unrighteous, regardless of the moral choices made in life, a place of stillness and darkness cut off from God.

Until:

Ephesians 4:7-10
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." (Now this, "He ascended"—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

That doesn't mean all those held in Sheol ascended to be with The Lord. Only the faithful unto death. What does it for me is I don't believe in anyway that a believer or anyone who has a mill of Faith in God can slaughter an innocent person, let alone a priest of The Lord. And not just One, but 85 and then a whole city of priests, and innocent men, women and children (1Sam.22:16-19). Anyone that can find it in his heart to accomplish such a monsters and horrific act has fallen from grace, departed from the faith. Is no longer Abiding In Christ. Is NOT a believer by any sense of the word.

I can see why we are also not agreeing on this topic, and it stems from the word FAITH, and what is Faith. Is it a quality or a quantity or both.

The issue is this:

- How much can one sin before he destroys his faith and becomes apostate?

- Can someone live in willful sin and still posses a living faith?

- Can someone be living unfaithfully and still have faith.

- Is there a relationship between having faith and living faithfully.

My understanding is that Faith is always in the continuous present tense. The best way I can answer these questions is to look at the nation of Israel in the wilderness. If we say that, Saul was saved, we would have to conclude that the nation of Israel that was destroyed in the wilderness was also saved. God wanted to destroy them after Moses came down from the mountain for making a golden calf. If he did, "would you call that the sin unto death?" If he did, "would they all be with The Lord?" Because I'm sure they didn't all turn apostate in 40 days while Moses was gone.

Moses had to beg The Lord not to destroy Israel. Which shows the power prayer on behalf of Moses. And that God is not in an independent dynamic relationship with man. Further on God destroyed them for grumbling, so do we conclude that he took them BEFORE they became apostate? And thus they are all with him in heaven. Or because they sinned and hardened their hearts and did not continue to believe or live faithfully?

In Joshua 7:25
But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi,[a] the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel. And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day." So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.

This story is very similar to Ananias and Sapphira. Do we conclude Achan was taken to be with The Lord? I believe he departed from the faith like Ananias and Sapphira before God removed them. And this is what I believe the Sin Unto Death Is. I must conclude, from studying Israel and the way God has dealt with them, that apostasy comes before they are killed by God.

I guess we will never agree on the fate of Saul.

Love In Christ

Response #18:

We can agree to disagree if you wish, but these are important issues – more so than may appear at first glance.

To begin, 1st Chronicles 10:13-14 doesn't actually say Saul was an unbeliever or lost. Further, scripture says "there is a sin unto death" (1Jn.5:16), so there is a sin unto death, and it is not visited upon believers who are honoring Christ, but rather upon those who, like Saul, are doing the opposite. The world is filled with evil people but the Lord singled out Saul and killed him . . . in the sin unto death (the terminal divine discipline for believers). This is along the lines of the incestuous Corinthian man was "handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh". Why? "So that his spirit might be saved on the day of the Lord" (1Cor.5:5).

1st Samuel 28 doesn't say that Saul went to torments (it doesn't even say he went to Sheol). It does say that Samuel told Saul he and his sons would "be with me". Being in torments while someone else is in Paradise is not "being together" in any sense. There is a "great gulf fixed" between the two, and the differences are not inconsiderable, as the story of the rich man and Lazarus makes abundantly clear (Lk.16:19-31).

Finally, as to Ananias and Sapphira, God is not responsible for what we do, whatever He does (Rom.9:21). If He chooses to have mercy on someone by taking them out of this life, we can be assured that He is righteous in so doing. In fact, this is not the whole story about how this all works: this life is all about free will, and that is at the root of who is destroyed while yet believing and who is left to their apostasy (please do read the link in BB 3B). Those who cast their faith aside are apostates. Those who sin egregiously but hold onto their faith may be removed terminally by the Lord. We all sin (Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:5-10; 2:1-2). That does not mean we lose faith because we sin, does it? Then we would all be lost. So this is not what the Baptists believe or teach. They are very much of the other point of view: "So and so couldn't have been a Christian to have behaved like that!" is really no different in principle from "So and so must have lost his/her salvation to have behaved like that!"

In fact of course salvation is about faith – not sin. It is about Christ's sacrifice – not our behavior. It is about what God does for us – not about what we do for Him. If you or I or someone else behaves better than Saul, well and good and well we should – but we are not saved because of our (relatively) better behavior but because of our precious faith, our decision to trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life, and to hold onto Him no matter what. Some do this even through the fire of the sin unto death; in contrast, some behave very well. The 144,000 will behave better than anyone I have ever met (see the link), but still and all, being human, they will not be sinless. So between the best (the 144,000) and the worst (Saul, Ananias and Sapphira, whomever), even in the case of believers, sin is relative – we are all sinners. Faith is what is absolute (so that, besides unbelievers, only apostates are lost – those who die the sin unto death refused to give up their faith . . . or their sin; see the link at BB 3B). Losing sight of that has been the downfall of many Christian groups (the Baptists come to mind), because it is the seed corn of all things legalistic.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus, the One who died by purging away all of sins in fiery judgment – for which we are eternally grateful.

Bob L.

Question #19:

G'Day Brother

I hear what your saying and I can see why we are not agreeing.

First I'm under the understanding that the Old Testament teaches life after death, and that all people went to a place of conscious existence called Sheol. The wicked were there (Psalm 9:17;31:17;49:14;Isaiah 5:14), and so were the righteous (Genesis 37:35;Job 14:13;Psalm 6:5;16:10;88:3;Isaiah 38:10).

Abraham’s bosom is referred to only once in the Bible—in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). It was used in the Talmud as a synonym for heaven. The image in the story is of Lazarus reclining at a table leaning on Abraham’s breast—as John leaned on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper—at the heavenly banquet. There are differences of opinion about what exactly Abraham’s bosom represents. Those who believe the setting of the story is a period after the Messiah’s death and resurrection see Abraham’s bosom as synonymous with heaven. Those who believe the setting to be prior to the crucifixion see Abraham’s bosom as another term for paradise.

My understanding is that the picture The Lord gives of the rich man and Lazarus is reference to heaven and hell not a separate gulf in Sheol. I believe the soul of the believer and unbeliever ended up in Sheol waiting for judgement. There was no gulf between them. That's why Samuel could say to Saul you and your children will be with me tomorrow. Because: Man could not be judged before the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Christ had to defeat death, before judgement can be issued. Therefore, that's why the unbelievers soul was not tormented in Sheol.

Can you find one verse that states that souls of the believer and unbeliever were separated in Sheol, and one was tormented and one was not. Or that there was a gulf in Sheol between the souls of the believers and the souls of the unbelievers?

You might want to use this verse;

Luke 23:43
43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

But: It appears from the comments that reasoning persons are wondering whether the meaning of the word 'today' and/or the punctuation, may have been lost in translation. The answer is that there was no punctuation in the original Greek Bible manuscripts. Further, 'today' could not have meant that very day, since Jesus himself was not raised up until the third day and had not defeated death until he rose.

The original Bible had no punctuation. It very well could be that the verse is actually the following:

Luke 23:43
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee to day, shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Paradise can only mean heaven, not a place in Sheol (Hades). Further to that, the thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him once he came into his kingdom. Jesus was affirming him that he will be in his kingdom calling it paradise.

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #19:

Dear Friend,

1) Jesus said to the thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk.23:43). That is what the text reads in the Greek (I would stake my Ph.D. on it). So these are Jesus' words. There is much to say about the structure of the underworld and the reasons for it. Paradise has (will have) seven iterations, the last of which is the New Jerusalem (please see the link if interested: "The Seven Edens"). The details about torments and Abraham's bosom (i.e., Paradise) are also given by Jesus – Jesus' words again (Lk.16:19-31). And the words in 1st Samuel chapter 28:15-19 are attributed to Samuel by the Bible. The Bible only has to say something once for it to be true. Here we have three instances where it is not only in the Bible but stated directly by our Lord (twice) and by one of his greatest prophets (and this does not by any means exhaust the scriptural evidence; if interested, see the link: "The Geography of Heaven, Hades, and Hell").

2) Faith is the proof of things we cannot see (Heb.11:1); faith is what this life is all about. Faith is relying on the Lord, not on ourselves. As long as we are relying on Him for our salvation, that salvation is secure; if we cast off our faith so that we no longer believe in Him, that is the definition of apostasy: "they believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize" (Lk.8:13). Believing in one's own goodness is just as bad as not believing in God – because it really is "not believing in God" but oneself. This is what the Pharisees did. The great trap for those who want to elevate themselves over others by a comparative standard of behavior is that by doing so they are really only alienating themselves from God by substituting a false code of self-congratulation for faith.

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Luke 18:10-14 KJV

Jesus' words again, and as in every case ones well-worth taking to heart.

For more on faith see the links:

Faith: What is it?

Faith Dynamics (Peter #24)

BB 4B: Soteriology

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Dear Brother

Please read this short article below, it will help you understand my position and why man is not being judged before the resurrection of Christ. Why the bible does not support that position in any way: http://www.sheol-know.org/#A

You say unbelievers are tortured before the resurrection; "by what standard?" Please provide, 1 verse to support that position other than the story of Abraham and Lazarus (as I have already said) this is describing a future heaven and hell. Compared to the dozens and dozens of verses provided in the article above that contradict your explanation.

Did Christ lead captivity captive from paradise? That is an oxymoron. If you say Christ went to paradise the day he died, "which paradise is this?" Please provide 1 verse introducing this paradise, or describing this paradise. My understanding is, the only paradise is the Kingdom of God. And he didn't go there till after his resurrection. After reading the article in full, you will understand why Samuel can say to Saul you and your kids will be with me tomorrow without concluding that Saul was saved.

You said:

"As long as we are relying on Him for our salvation, that salvation is secure; if we cast off our faith so that we no longer believe, that is the definition of apostasy: "they believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize" (Lk.8:13).

I agree whole heartedly with that! Was Saul relying on Christ when he slayed the priests of The Lord? Faith must be accompanied by acts of faith or else it's no longer faith. IT'S DEAD!!! Faith Without Works Is Dead: James 2:14-26. What's dead? Was Saul's faith accompanied by works or actions of faith towards the end of his life? The answer to that will help you understand if he still had faith.

I believe, Saul became apostate the second the spirit of The Lord departed from him. His "WORKS", after that proved he no longer had faith in God. That squares with the Word of God. The Word of God does NOT cut to much slack between Faith and works of Faith. And Faith is always in the continuous present tense. That's why we need to be on guard at all times, lest we fall and be cast away.

You also said;

"Believing in one's own goodness is just as bad as not believing in God -- because it really is "not believing in God" but oneself. This is what the Pharisees did. The great trap for those who want to elevate themselves over others by a comparative standard of behavior is that by doing so they are really only alienating themselves from God by substituting a false code of self-congratulation for faith."

I totally agree with that too. Further to that, The Lord has given us his spirit to discern a believer from a non-believer. And to encourage backsliders by telling them about the great danger there in and urging them to keep fighting that good fight of faith.

You also said:

"Abraham's Bosom (below the earth opposite Torments – now evacuated to the third heaven);"

Can you please provide scripture to prove that Abraham's Bosom is below the earth? Just one verse. In the article forwarded to you in my first email, there are many verses that refute this idea. I believe that is a future description of heaven and hell. If man was tormented before the resurrection? Would that be just by God considering he had no standard to judge them by? Also, considering death and sin were not defeated yet.

God Bless

Response #20:

After perusing your link, it seems that the article is essentially correct in much of what it has to say (i.e., these places are below the earth, which is what I have been saying), even though it fails to distinguish between the compartments of Hades. In that point it is clearly mistaken as anyone would be able to see just in reading Luke chapter 16 (assuming the reader accepts the truth of the passage at face value and does not try to "interpret it away" as being inconvenient to some pet doctrine – as for example the "soul sleepers" do). Do you not see that the rich man and Lazarus are in distinctly different places down below? Jesus said, "There was a rich man . . ." – which means that this happened in the past from our Lord's point of telling the story. Thus this cannot be a "future description". If it were, it would make no sense for the rich man to request that someone be sent to warn his brothers to repent (i.e., history would be over). If it were, it wouldn't be taking place below the earth in Sheol/Hades (torments/paradise; believers in eternity are in the New Jerusalem). If it were, Jesus wouldn't be describing it as something that happened in the past.

Since Sheol/Hades is below the earth, and since there are several discrete compartments to it as is clear from every passage where these matters are discussed, Samuel's words can only have the meaning they clearly seem to have. If you would have a look at the links I gave you, you would see that this is an important aspect of the conversation.

I never said that anyone was judged before the last judgment.

I never said that anyone was tortured by God.

We know Saul was saved because the Bible states it plainly, so that is where we should start in sorting these matters out. Every believer has "works"; that does not mean that a believer does not sin. A "work" in scriptural terms is a proper response to the Lord (acting out of faith is a proper "work" as James makes clear in his examples of Abraham and Rahab; see also Hebrews chapter 11). Sin does not cancel out legitimate good works, although it can compromise a believer's rewards; sin does undermine faith and can lead to apostasy. Saul's good works were not canceled out by his sins (cf. 1Cor.3:12-15; we will have to wait for the judgment seat of Christ to find out if he completely obliterated his rewards); his sinfulness certainly did not help his faith or spiritual status! It is a fact that in some cases believers continue to sin egregiously until reaching the point of the sin unto death (like the incestuous Corinthian), just as the Bible states it (1Jn.5:16). I would have doubts about Saul's salvation too . . . except that scripture makes the point clear: "tomorrow you and your sons will be with me" (1Sam.28:19). While I don't find anything in your article or reasoning to change the very clear meaning here, it strikes me that we are in danger of running rough-shod over many scriptures and doctrines just to try and prove this one point (whereas genuine systematic theology builds from scripture and lets the chips fall where they may).

By your article's own admission, Sheol/Hades is below the earth, and every verse where these words occur affirms that (I don't know of anyone, secular or Christian, taking another view). Therefore since believers are said to go to Sheol in the OT, paradise for believers before the ascension had to have been subterranean (as your article says too). Jesus tells the thief on the cross: "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk.23:43), and we know that our Lord descended "into Hades", meaning that there is a paradise down there as well as a torments (Eph.4:9-10; see the link: "The Descent of our Lord into Paradise"). Importantly, the passage in Luke chapter 16 also makes clear that there are divisions in the underworld. We also know that the Abyss is in Hades (the place where certain fallen angels are imprisoned; see the link). Moreover, since the rich man is in Hades/Sheol/torments, and from that vantage point sees Abraham in paradise but cannot go to him, all of the evidence is consistent in explaining the situation just as I have expounded it; please do see that link: The Geography of Heaven, Hades and 'Hell' (schematic included). It strikes me at the heart of the objection about Saul is a desire to terrify believers of questionable conduct into good behavior. Believe me, the Lord is well able through a perfect application of divine discipline to accomplish exactly that, so we don't need to worry that someone else is "getting away with something" or that it is incumbent upon us to "go beyond what is written" for the good of others – as if the ends justified the means. Nothing could ever justify twisting the truth, even a little bit (although this is happening more and more in our day from all manner of "ministries" and with just this sort of justification).

I think I have answered all your questions and objections in these latest emails. In the past, you have asked me questions, and I have done my best to answer them. These latest emails are difficult to process because they seem more like lessons intermingled with rhetoric rather than actual questions. If you have specific questions, I am happy to answer them, but I hope you will see – when you get to the links provided – that these matters are put forward at Ichthys in a very detailed and comprehensive way, one which has been carefully considered, thought out, and tested over many years. You are certainly entitled to your opinion. However, spiritual growth is only possible by believing what is true. To grow spiritually, a believer needs to find a source he/she has confidence in, then accept the truth of what is being taught, believing that truth so that it becomes epignosis in the heart (rather than merely "knowledge"), because only "truth believed" can be of use to the Holy Spirit. I am sorry that you have come to find fault with this ministry and its teachings. In the interest of your spiritual health and growth, brother, it is important for you to find a place where you can have confidence in the teaching so as to continue to grow, progress and produce for the Lord. This life is all about choice, and the choices that count for believers are all about responding to the truth. When Saul did that, he accomplished wonderful things; when he stopped doing that, he came to resemble an unbeliever in his conduct. Saved or not, hardly a pattern worthy of emulation.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

G'Day Brother!

Thanks for your help; all I asked for was one verse showing different compartments in Sheol. How can you use a parable or a metaphorical story (Abraham's Bosom) that does not specifically say this is talking about Sheol and set it up against 66 verses that specifically talk about Sheol, describing it in an absolutely different way?

God Bless

Response #21:

One passage is Luke chapter 16:19ff. (also Lk.8:31; 23:43; Eph.4:9-10; 1Pet.3:18-20; Rev.9:1-2; etc.; please do see the link: The Geography of Heaven, Hades and 'Hell').

Luke chapter 16 is not a parable nor a metaphorical story. It is a historical description. Abraham is a historical person (Lazarus too). No parable or metaphorical story uses actual people – not in the Bible anyway. Adopting that sort of hermeneutic for the sake of explaining away this passage would require/allow us to explain away the entire Bible and throw out anything we find uncomfortable.

The Bible is not a text book. Information has to be pieced together in a godly and comprehensive way. That is what I have been doing for some four decades, having received training in this process and building upon the godly work of others. If you devote yourself to this process you will find that the Bible is entirely consistent. And all of the passages which speak about these matters we are discussing are entirely consistent. If you have found (apparent) inconsistencies, the problem is with the interpretation.  The so-called "66 passages" of your source only mean what your source wants them to mean by interpretation (and in this case, faulty interpretation).  The Bible often calls heaven "heaven" – but we know from elsewhere that there are really three heavens, and the place of the Father is the third heaven; we cannot take the majority of passages that do not make this distinction to mean that no such distinction exists.

As I mentioned before, you are certainly not beholden to me or to this ministry. However, the one thing I would counsel you against is a contemporary Christian disease I call "Smorgasbord-itis", that is, the tendency of some Christians nowadays to pick and choose what they want to believe from multiple churches, ministries, internet sites, etc. No one will ever grow that way (cf. Heb.13:9). If this ministry does not inspire your confidence that its teachings are correct, then what you need to do is to find a good source – a single source; some place / person / church / ministry which, after testing, you can accept as (largely) doctrinally correct. Because every time you go your own way or disagree or dispute with the body of work you are giving your attention to, you are breaking down your faith rather than building it up. Even for those with the gift of pastor/teacher, it is only after long study and preparation that implementation of the gift is possible to the extent of "feeding oneself". Believers with other gifts (and even those with this gift who are not prepared to put it into full use) are not capable of feeding themselves. Their spiritual common sense and knowledge is useful in discovering that "place/person A" is "not good" but that "place/person B" "is good". Once "B" is found, the correct procedure is to embrace said ministry with joy (Matt.13:46), and to put aside all qualms (Mk.10:15) – unless it begins to become clear that "B" is really . . . or has become "A" in fact (in which case the search must begin again). But believers are not built to be referees over every point of doctrine. If that approach is adopted, then it will turn out that the person in question really believes almost nothing with any confidence – and usually also that much of what is believed with confidence will be wrong. The point of the Body of Christ of which we are all members is for each part to do its job, part helping part. An ear that tries to be an eye will only waste time and compromise growth.

I can certainly understand, brother, if you do not agree with me or with my approach, et al. But I can't do you any good arguing with you – regardless of who "wins" the argument.

Your friend in Jesus Christ the Lord,

Bob L.

Question #22:

 G'Day Brother!

Please ignore my last email. You are more learned than me and have been a great blessing to me, and I have found and continue to find great information on your website that continues to help me grow as a Christian. Your work on that false doctrine of OSAS has helped me the most. I guess we are not going to agree on these last few points. But that's also fine with me. I have to get back into doing something positive for The Lord as you already are. Please forgive me if you feel like I've come across in an arrogant way.

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #22:

Thanks so much for this – and for all your good words.

I appreciate your positive attitude in spite of disagreements. That's another thing that really is necessary for a Christian to grow, if only because there is zero possibility of finding a place that teaches the Word of God in the correct way where agreement will be had on 100% of everything.

Your friend and brother in Christ,

Bob L.
 

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