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The Infinity, Magnitude, Glory, Providence and Plan of God

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Question #1:  

Hi Bob,

You wrote:

"We may think of the heavens as infinite, but if that is so, they are but unimpressively finite in comparison with the true infinity of God."

In mathematics there are different kinds of infinity, with some forms of infinity being, in fact, more "finite" than others! It is not impossible for the topology of the universe to be infinite but nonetheless be not as infinite as God is.

Response #1:   

Thanks. It's a matter of terminology. There are limits to the universe: time and space. But God exists outside of time and space and completely independent of it. After all, time and space, the universe, wouldn't be here unless He created it – and it did not exist before He did create it ex nihilo, i.e., not from something pre-existing but from nothing (that is the meaning on this issue behind both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1).

Question #2: 

Biblical Support for an infinite universe?

"This is what the Lord says: 'Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,' declares the Lord."
(Jeremiah 31:37)

This implies that the heavens, in fact, cannot be measured at all. They are without height, i.e. extending forever.

Response #2: 

They cannot be measured . . . by man. But God knows their extent. The universe is a small thing to Him. He made it, and He sustains it with His "Word of power" (Heb.1:3). And when these seven thousand years have run their course, He will destroy the old earth and old heavens in the blink of an eye and replace them with the new heavens and the new earth where only "righteousness dwells" (2Pet.3:13).

Looking forward to that wonderful day in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

There's this one Japanese anime named The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya where the main character effectively has the ability to change reality in accordance with what she wishes or believes to be true. Most Charismatics/Word of Faith teachers seem to believe that the Christian with enough faith is effectively Haruhi.

This is terrifying. God then, effectively has no will, or worse, our collective will determines God's will.

Response #3:   

Everything always comes down to who God is and what He has done for us in sacrificing His one and only dear Son. Everything always comes down to the degree to which we recognize the magnitude of God and the character of God – which cannot even be darkly limned without a proper appreciation of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Robert,

I understand that God is 3 separate personalities yet in Isaiah, when the Father describes the coming of His Son, He says, His Name will be called Blessed, counselor, King of Kings, Mighty God, Almighty Father, Prince of Peace . . . so is Jesus also The Father? I am confused. Ty for your time!

Yours In Christ,

Response #4:   

The Son and the Father and the Spirit share one collective divine essence but they are three distinct persons. Jesus is often mistaken for the Father in the Old Testament because He is the visible member of the Trinity (see the link). Here is how I translate the passage you ask about:

(6) For a child is born to us, and a Son is given to us. Dominion shall rest on his shoulder, and His name will be called "He whose counsel is wondrous", "Mighty God", "the Father of Eternity", "the Prince of Prosperity". (7) To His dominion and its prosperity there will be no limit or end. He will establish it and lay its foundation on David's throne and over his kingdom, in justice and righteousness, now and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

The Hebrew here in Isaiah 9:6, 'abi'adth (אֲבִיעַד), means that Jesus is the originator or "bringer in" of eternity, the One who "fathers it", so to speak. So "Father of Eternity" is the translation I prefer, referring to our Lord's reign "until all enemies are put under His feet" (Ps.110:1) and "then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power" (1Cor.15:24 NIV). That is when eternity will begin. So, yes, this passage is all about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, not the Father who commissions and sends Him.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

How are you doing my dear friend? If you have some time to spare may I ask for your help with a matter? It's regarding a disagreement that I and fellow brother in the Lord had. This brother is a pastor, and a very committed believer, however, he is quick tempered, and sort of difficult to talk with because, if you don't share his view on a matter (especially if you try to defend your position) he has a tendency to get rude, arrogant, and then if he still doesn't get you to turn, he'll will become "anti-social" (he'll quit talking, and will say "you're just trying to be difficult" or "you're just trying to argue", etc.)

Here's the issue: This brother and I were talking about the "New Heavens and the New Earth" [Revelation 21:1-5] spoken of in the Bible, however, I brought up the fact that the Scriptures speak in a few places of God "Creating (Heb. Bara') a New Heavens and New Earth" [Isaiah 65:17], not just "Making" (Heb. Asah), i.e. not just renewing the old one's. Even the Psalms speak of the heavens passing away [Psalm 118:22] On the other hand this Christian brother brought up the fact that God swore to Abraham that the land he "saw" with his eyes would belong to him and his seed, as an inheritance "forever", as an "everlasting possession" (Gen. 12:7, 13:15, 15:7, 17:8), yet we know that Abraham didn't see the "New Heavens and New Earth." God also said the same thing to others in the Old Testament, e.g. (Exodus 6:8, Deuteronomy 6:10, 31:20.) Then to compound the matter further, the Apostle Peter speaks of "The world that then was" [2 Peter 3:6], and even says that the current "heavens and earth which are now" are "reserved for fire", and "shall pass away." Then we are told to wait for a "New Heavens and a New Earth." [2 Peter 3:10-13] However, how can those statements all be correct? How will Abraham inherit the very soil his foot touched, forever, if in fact the current heavens and earth will be burned up, and God will create totally "New" one's? Now, I will agree with this brother on one matter, the wrong idea that people go to Heaven forever. That isn't taught in the Scriptures, for the Bible states that "New Jerusalem" will come down "out of heaven" [Revelation 21:2], yet even so, here again I am a bit confused, for the Apostles tell us that "here [this current earth] we have no lasting city" [Hebrews 13:14] but that instead "our citizenship is in heaven" [Philippians 3:20], but then we are also told that we await from out of heaven the Lord Jesus, and that God's dwelling will be with mankind on the earth, (Ezekiel 37:27, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, Revelation 21:3), Finally, I have heard that Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek do not have a word/words for "Forever", therefore implying that "Forever" is not even a biblical word. But if that is so, why does the Bible speak of an "everlasting" inheritance for Abraham and his seed, and why do Bible translators use the word "Forever", thereby causing confusion to folks?

Dr. Luginbill, I am not trying to be difficult, I'm just trying to take the plain sense of Scripture. However, if I am wrong, I am not "too big" to admit it. I only ask that my Christian brother, or anyone for that matter, show me my error by the rule of Scripture, coupled with a reasonable interpretation/hermeneutic. Also, I understand that you have other obligations so if you need time to respond to this, that's fine, take all the time you need sir. Thank you for your patience, and all your continued help.

You humble brother, in Christ Jesus, the Living Word !!!

Response #5: 

I'm very happy to respond, and I would wish all my fellow believers to be anxious to know the truth of everything in the Bible in this way.

There are many places in the Old Testament where as you say there seems at first glance to be a discrepancy between the here and now lasting "forever" and the "new" coming at some point in time. First, while from our human point of view of what can be and can't be this may seem to be a problem, we have to remember that there are many things which defy human logic or seem to be impossible to reconcile by those canons (such as free will and predestination) but which are entirely reconcilable by the power and wisdom of God. After all, "New Jerusalem" will still be "Jerusalem" – hence the name. The "new earth" will still be "the earth" – hence the name. The "new heavens" will still be "the heavens" – hence the name. They will be both things at the same time: Jerusalem, earth, heavens – but also absolutely "new" (analogous to our resurrection bodies being new in every way but still new, still us; cf. 1Cor.15:35-50).

So the promises of the Old Testament are true both in terms of their letter and their spirit – even if this offends some people who don't have proper appreciation of the Bible, or God, or the meaning of prophecy. Second, it is also true that English is not Hebrew. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the most common word translated "forever" is the noun 'olam (עוֹלָם). "Forever" is not a bad translation, but it can be misleading because of our English prejudice about that word. What is "forever"? I dare say that most non-Christians would give the explanation of something that goes on day after day and year after year to infinity – because the universe (in their view) is boundless, and its continuation is also limitless. Unfortunately, many Christians have that mind-set as well, even if it is not fully articulated. But we know that the world did in fact have a starting point, that there was in fact a "time" when there was no time and no matter – no universe at all (not even some primordial glob that exploded in a "big bang"), since God created everything from nothing (see the link: "ex nihilo creation"). And we also know that the present heavens and earth have not much more than a thousand years to run. So "forever" is a word that because of its English connotations has to be employed only advisedly in speaking about the Bible. Simply put, taking an English word and foisting its English meaning on the scripture is not a valid means of interpretation (whatever the word).

Translation is a tool. A translation cannot be not superior in meaning to the thing that is being translated. The word 'olam properly means something more akin to "vanishing point", that is in temporal terms, so far back that it is essentially invisible and so, practically speaking, the beginning, or so far forward that it is cannot yet be seen and so, practically speaking, the end. But beginning and ending are part of the idea; it is just that they are "hidden" (a part of the core meaning of this word = so far away as not to be visible). That is not the same thing exactly as "forever" as we use and think about the word in contemporary English, so using that English word as an argument is a very large interpretive error.

As to the "heavens", that is somewhat of a different issue. In the heavenly geography, the history and destiny of the earth and the twin heavens (pl.) of sky and space is somewhat different from that of the underworld on the one hand and the third heaven on the other. These other two realms, though they do belong to the created universe, were unaffected by the judgment on "the world" which was blacked out and inundated as a result of Satan's rebellion. They will also be unaffected by the purification by fire wherein all that is old will be renewed at the end of the Millennium – that event only effects "the old [twin] heavens and the old earth", not the third heaven or Hades etc. Perhaps that helps to explain your other question on that score as well.

Please see the link for a chart and for a discussion on that second issue: "The Heavenly Geography".

Feel free to write any time, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

So from the reading, forever, means eons or ages - a certain time period with a beginning and an ending. But eternity means no beginning and no ending. If either is the case, the lake of fire isn't for eternity?

V/r

Response #6:   

What "reading" are you referring to? "Eternity" and "forever" are English words. One would have to consider what Greek and Hebrew words you are referring too and the passages connected therewith.

One popular Greek phrase in scripture is "to the ages of the ages", which is often translated "forever", but which allows for the specific reference of "to the end of the ages" (which phrase also occurs frequently in the Bible), and this can mean "forever" in the sense [only] of the end of historical time as we know it in this cosmos (i.e., the end of the "ages" or the seven millennial days and the commencement of eternity).

However, the lake of fire is not part of this cosmos/world, strictly speaking, since it is part of the under-world. Neither that place nor the third heaven is affected by the destruction of the old heavens and the old earth at the end of human history (to be replaced by the new).

So in any event, the lake of fire will never cease to exist; but this present earth and the heavens we presently see will be destroyed at the end of time and replaced by the new heavens and the new earth, then New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and be the eternal (read "forever" in every sense now) home of the entire family of God. Since the lake of fire won't be populated until the end of history, if it was destroyed along with the old heavens and old earth, I'm not sure what sort of punishment that might represent or what sort of motivation to repent that might be supposed to instill if a nanosecond after being filled it ceases to exist.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

How will we keep track of time in eternity?

Is this the right question to even ask?

Sincerely,

Response #7:   

I don't see anything wrong with asking it. But consider, time is important now because we have limited time, limited resources, necessary things to do, and important choices to make. Our time is limited, so we need to have an idea where we are on our personal time-line near and long term. Also, time is important for historical events and processes – which will be non-existent in eternity. So all of the things that make ticking off limited chronological time important now will be gone once this limited period of chronological time has ended. But whatever obtains in eternity seems as if it must be somewhat similar to what obtained in the period before the judgment and the commencement thereafter of the seven thousand years. Simply put, we will be so different in resurrection that all such perceptions and concerns will likewise necessarily be turned upside down. There will be no more night, so we won't have individual days to worry about, and since our bodies will be perfect in ways we can scarcely even imagine, it seems to me impossible that we'd need any sleep. Eternity, it seems, from what we can tell now, will be one unending "day"; but just as we know where we are in a the day at present and have a perfectly good sense of sequencing even though things did are and will happen on this single "today", I would speculate that the same will be true in eternity – except that there will be no end to that "day". Whether or not there will be formal temporal divisions will be of no moment as we enjoy the Lord and the new world He has created forever.

p.s., thanks for the other emails.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Thank you, I don't want to much bother you but I found scripture where it seems like there will be Sabbaths and festivals in heaven.

Isa 66: 22 "As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the Lord, "so will your name and descendants endure.23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the Lord

Response #8: 

The verse actually says "from month to month and from week to week", so there is actually no indication of festivals in eternity here (that is an [incorrect] supposition of the translator). That doesn't mean there won't be such things. One thing that will be different is the fact that there will be no night in eternity (Rev.21:25; 22:5). That leads me to conclude that we will never sleep in eternity. If so, the absence of the day/night routine which is so fundamental to our present concept of time will be missing. Yes, there will be a great deal different in eternity – but it will all be for the good! We just don't have all the information yet – nor do we presently have the capacity to understand it really, even if we did. But we do trust the Lord that it will be wonderful in every way.

But as it is written:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
1st Corinthians 2:9 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

God's creation

How does God create the quasars?

How does God create all of the millions of species of life? I was just looking at this photo.

Or how does God put in all that detail just in crafting SAND? This picture is just SAND zoomed at three hundred times magnification.

Or how does God create mountain goats that can climb massive cliffs using only hooves?

Response #9:   

It's an excellent idea to consider from time to time the wonders of the universe God has created. That is because it lets a believer know just how "big" and "smart" our God is – or at least it lets us know how far off we are in our estimation of the magnitude of Him. That is an easy thing to overlook – even for godly believers. If we truly saw Him as He is, there would no longer be any place for doubt. And that is why He shields Himself, so that our time here can be one of genuine choice from our own free will. But it's not "cheating" to tap into the appreciation of His magnitude and majesty that is available to be accessed in considering everything He has made – from the grains of sand to the farthest galaxies – and comparing them to the Maker for whom all this is merely "finger work" (Ps.8:3).  And He made it all from nothing (ex nihilo, see the link).

(19) For that which can be known about God [from everyday experience] is obvious to them, because God has made it obvious. (20) His nature, though invisible, is nevertheless plainly apparent, and has been since His foundation of the world, for it may be clearly inferred from this creation of His – [this is true of] both His eternal power and His divinity – so that they are without any excuse.
Romans 1:18-20

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hello Brother Bob-

Have you any writings on Glory. I am persuaded to believe that being "made in the image of God" is seen when we or our lives bring Glory to Him.

As always I eagerly await he wisdom you receive from our God!

Your Friend in Christ,

Response #10:   

Good to hear from you, my friend (whatever I get, I get from the Bible in the Spirit as we all do).

The image of God is something all human beings have, even those who want no part of Him; it is in its essence the ability to make choices – a godlike power which we are all given in this world in order to test us to see what our attitude towards God really is and where we really want to spend eternity. So I would agree with you that it is impossible to please or glorify God without the image, because He is glorified whenever we respond to Him with our free will in the way He desires. Here are some links apropos of your question:

Glory in scripture (keep reading the string)

The purpose of man: God's glory (keep reading into section II for the image of God) 

The Glory of God (in BB 1)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Thank you doesn't seem enough. Your prompt replies and insight to my questions mean a lot to me. I know of no other site that has the depth and obvious concern to respond to the writer. I know your helping me brings Glory to God!

Response #11:   

Thanks (Ps.115:1)!

Question #12: 

Dear Bob,

We read this morning about God creating all things. Rev 4:11 / col 1:16-17 / psalm 33.9 / genesis 1:1 / Gen 1:31

Why did God create all of this including man etc.

Thank you

Response #12: 

God is amazing, and much "more" in absolutely every way than we can even imagine. Consider how large this galaxy is – and how large the entire universe is. No one can actually conceive of that really, but the universe, all of time and space throughout all of history from beginning to end, is infinitesimally small compared to God. He exists outside of time and space and has no "origin". He not only "is" but He is the essence of being – that is essentially what YHVH means (see the link). God is light (1Jn.1:5b). And He is truth (Jn.14:6). And He is also love (1Jn.4:8; 4:16). Note, the Bible not only says that He does love but that He is love. This is critical for us even to catch a distant glimmer of His motivations. After all, we human beings are motivated by our emotions and by our intellect – by our human heart. But God is so much greater than that, and many of the instances where He is described as acting on emotion are really anthropopathisms (see the link), with His actions being put in human terms so that we can better understand them.

What all this means is that we have really no way of understanding His motives until we understand Him, and our ability to understand Him is necessarily limited on this side of eternity (and that is only possible to any degree by understanding the Bible).

But please remember that He is love, and nothing demonstrates that more clearly than that Jesus took on a human body, wedding Himself to us by so doing, obligating Himself to go to the cross and die for the sins of the entire human race, and after a perfect life of pushing through the most intense opposition endured a gauntlet of emotional and physical suffering which no other human being could have endured so as to do just that: the blood of Christ (His death for the sins of the world; see the link) tells us all we need to know about the love of God, for He was willing to die for us that we might live.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NIV

I have speculated before that God's wish to share Himself and all His good things with us explains a lot about the question you ask – that is something that seems logical for someone who is in love with someone else – how much more for Someone who is love and who has proven it in the most astounding possible way: the cross. And He has given us His image, the ability to choose for Him, that we might in some very small way respond to Him, appreciating Him for who He is and for what He has done for us – so that salvation is all about accepting who Christ is (God and man) and what He has done for us (dying on the cross for our sins). In this way, God is glorified when we do respond in acknowledging what He has done and in praise of Him, and that is the reason scripture gives for Him doing what He does for us.

Having foreordained us in [His] love for adoption to Himself through Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will, for the purpose of producing (at salvation) praise for the glory of His grace which He has graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved [One].
Ephesians 1:5-6

In whom we also have an inheritance, having been ordained according to the design of Him who is working everything out according to the desire of His will, that we who have previously placed our hope in Christ might serve the purpose of generating praise for His glory (in life).
Ephesians 1:11-12

[The Spirit] who is a guarantee of the inheritance that is ours in the [future] redeeming of what we have been working for (i.e., our resurrection and reward) bringing praise for His glory (in eternity).
Ephesians 1:14

Everyone who is called by my Name, for My glory I have created him, I have formed him, indeed, I have made him.
Isaiah 43:7

For more about the nature and essence of God please see the link where all these matters are taken up in some detail: Bible Basics 1: Theology.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi Bob,

I find the sovereignty of God to be terrifying.

When I see his sovereignty and justice, I cannot see his love, mercy, and goodness. When I see his love, mercy, and goodness, I cannot see his sovereignty and justice.

Theodicy is a big stumbling block for me.

Sincerely,

Response #13:   

In Romans Paul uses an argument based on a fortiori logic for the benefit of smart folks like you to be able to solve just this problem, showing how love is available because justice has been satisfied . . . and the logic of that is confidence of salvation (regardless of emotion):

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more (i.e., "with stronger reason" / a fortiori), [now] being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Romans 5:8-11 KJV

Even read carefully, most people have a hard time understanding this sort of thing, but I know it will speak to you.

Yours in the Name of the One who has already died for each and every one of our sins, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Hi Bob,

I've been hesitant to send you this email because I am ashamed that my thinking has devolved to this level. But I must bring the proverbial dirty laundry out in the open, so to speak, lest I fall into the trap of letting my loathing consume me to the point of becoming an enemy of the cross (Philippians 3:18).

In short, my faith in God's justice is wavering. I feel that I am going to find out one way or another that God lets wicked fools into heaven and casts my loved ones into perdition because the wicked fools found out how to say "the magic words" and my loved ones may have been cast into perdition on a technicality of not wholeheartedly embracing Evangelical theology. So the end reward of my salvation would be spending eternity with people I hate watching the people I love being tortured.

My friend's death was one straw. Watching Ken Ham squander $100 million building a boat is another straw. Listening to certain evangelicals compare me to Judas for criticizing the waste (apparently it is not blasphemy to compare Christ's dying for the sins of the world to Ham's personal OCD, but it is blasphemy and makes me into Judas for criticizing him). And Jesus Christ is going to reward him for this?

Before you criticize me, let me just say this: I tried, and I still am trying, to realize that somehow, someway, God is going to show how all of this is right and that he really is just. But it's becoming harder, not easier, to see.

Sincerely,

Response #14:   

You're looking at the appearance of things. You're also looking at what you can see going on "in the world". Just because something happens, doesn't mean God endorses it. Just because the wicked are not instantaneously swept away, does not mean they are going to end well. Just because some says they are a Christian, doesn't mean they are. God's justice is perfect, but of course by that standard unmitigated by grace we are all dead. God's love is perfect too, and because His justice has been satisfied by our Lord's death for all sin on the cross, salvation and eternal life are available for all . . . who want it.

There are no "magic words". And no one on this earth, neither noisy evangelicals or charismatics nor the pope, has the keys to the kingdom. Those keys are "in your heart and in your mouth". All who "call upon the Name of the Lord" in truth are saved; all who refuse to do so are not (Rom.10:6-13). Why would anyone refuse? It's not a matter of mouthing some words. It's because most human beings are not willing to submit their will to God's WILL in any way.

99% of what we see taking place around us is completely inconsequential to the real issues of life in this world. We are all here to see whether or not we really are willing to love the Lord back, even to a tiny degree, a seed of response so small that it's smaller than a mustard seed. If we aren't, then we get what we want in the end: a "world" without Him and without any necessity (or opportunity) to worship Him. Some people are never interested in the Lord or grateful for what He has done. Some people are for a while – until they suffer a disappointment, and then they turn back to selfishness. Some people are interested, but never can get the world out of their eyes enough to do anything about it. But for those who persevere in growing through the truth, drawing closer to Him, and helping others do the same, the rewards are greater than the human mind can imagine. It's all about choice. And someone else' bad choices (or the choices we imagine they are making or have made – we really can't know for sure), have no bearing on our choices – unless we let them. In which case we are still making a choice (a bad one, in that case).

My advice is to read the book of Job again, slowly and carefully. See how Job's friends had it all so wrong . . . basing their faulty conclusions purely on what they saw with their physical eyes (being oblivious to what God in His justice was really accomplishing). See how Job wrongly became exasperated with the Lord – even though he understood the truth better than any man alive at the time – and as a result foolishly impugned God's righteous character. God is perfect. He cannot be unrighteous to even the smallest degree – that's impossible! And if it ever seems so to us in matters great or small, we are the ones missing something, not God.

That's just simple, basic logic. But it is amazing how a little ego can overturn something so clear, if we let it. God is faithful, and absolutely so. He can't be anything else – He's God. But it is so easy for human beings to despair over what are, in the grand scheme of things, very trivial matters, and then blame God for their troubles (cf. Prov.19:3). He works everything out for good – for those who love Him (Rom.8:28). That's a fact. If we don't "see it" in our case today, we are the ones who have spiritual myopia. Logically, that has to be case if God really is perfect (and He is); if He really is just (and He is); if He really has planned the end from the beginning (and He has); if really is omnipotent and omniscient and omnipresent . . . and if He really does love us with a perfect love: and He most certainly does! He is love (1Jn.4:8; 4:16). He sent His one and only Son to the cross to die for all of our sins. If we spent an eternity at it, we couldn't do anything to propitiate God's justice for our smallest sin. And if all of our troubles and sorrows and pains and disappointments were rolled into a ball, they would not even equal what it took Jesus Christ to take away that smallest sin, burning in the darkness in our place.

Does God love us? Jesus knows! Question is, do we love Him back for all He's done for us, even just a tiny little bit? Or is our ego so massively big, coursing through the universe in rage, that we are going to "get even" with Him for this or that minor inconvenience – at the cost of our eternal lives? That is the horrible bargain most human beings make (only the insignificant details differ). But then most people are fools and hate true wisdom.

"And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
And to depart from evil is understanding.’"
Job 28:28 NASB

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

I can't speak for others, but my ego is not that big. I trust that God will do the right thing. I hope it all ends well for me.

Response #15: 

I am confident that it will end well with you, my friend. How can it not for anyone who loves the truth and keeps faith with the Lord steadfast until the end?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 NIV

Question #16: 

Hi Bob,

How many wills does Jesus Christ have? Orthodox Christology says two wills, human and divine, but how can one person have two wills?

Sincerely,

Response #16:   

You are absolutely correct. One person; one will.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hi Bob,

After analyzing Vincent Cheung's very clever but very wrong essay on what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, I realized that he has a very dangerous misunderstanding of the Trinity:

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is often portrayed as only a more stubborn or a final rejection of Jesus Christ. But this does not fit the context, which has to do with the ministry of miracles and the casting out of demons. And it does not fit the explicit teaching, which distinguishes blasphemy against Christ and blasphemy against the Spirit as two different offenses. The objects that receive the insults are different. Jesus said that speaking against the Son is forgivable, but speaking against the Spirit is unforgivable. So it is possible to speak against the Son instead of the Spirit, and it is possible to speak against the Spirit instead of the Son.

I do not blame Mr. C for thinking that there is a difference between slandering the Son and slandering the Holy Spirit, because most Evangelicals are taught the doctrine of social trinitarianism. As formulated by the Cappadocian Fathers, social trinitarianism states that God is of one substance instantiated by three hypostases: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. By itself this is not wrong but Mr. C's interpretation of social trinitiarianism is dangerously close to tritheism, as he tries to teach that it is possible to direct an accusation against the Son without blaspheming the Holy Spirit (or for that matter the Father). If the hypostases of God are so separable so that we can talk about the Son without bringing into consideration the Father or the Holy Spirit, then there really isn't a Trinity to speak of. What we really have is a council of three gods operating as joint-owners of an eternal, uncreated divine essence called "divinity."

But this is wrong. Whoever rejects the Holy Spirit, rejects the Father and the Son. Whoever rejects the Son, rejects the Father and the Holy Spirit. Whoever rejects the Father, rejects the Son and the Holy Spirit. It's not possible to just reject the Son (and have this be forgivable) but not reject the Holy Spirit. All three are so united together that we are justified in speaking of one singular God, who is the sole unique source of creation. As the Holy Spirit makes truth intelligible, the "slander" against the Holy Spirit is identical to that of unbelief, as the only way to persist in unbelief is if the Holy Spirit has been completely and totally ignored due to self-will.

Response #17:   

It's an excellent point that God is "one", meaning that there is never a shadow of difference in any purpose or action the three Persons take, and any theory or interpretation which misses that is essentially seeing three gods instead of God who is blessed forever.

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
John 5:23b NIV

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

HYPERCALVINIST: How do you propose to do this without the well-meant offer [a term of mockery referring to the idea that the gospel is to be preached to all with the best will on God's part, hence "well-meant."]

ME: That God both hardens some and that God wants all to be saved are not contradictory facts. Major John Andre had committed treason and George Washington had to execute him, with supreme regret and much compassion, because the big picture demanded compliance with wisdom, patriotic duty, and his office as leader. This is obviously a metaphor, but it shows how something like exercising compassion but fulfilling justice can be conceivable for God as well.

"And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, 'Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.'" (Luke 19:41-42) Jesus sincerely wept over Jerusalem, even though it was in his power to open the people's eyes. If there was no well-meant offer for the inhabitants Jerusalem, why didn't he just laugh at them and say "those fools!"?

HYPERCALVINIST: According to the truth of election/reprobation, the elect by nature are no better than the reprobate, but we are equally involved in one common misery. (Canons Head I Art. 7) The only reason for their election is God's good pleasure. (Canons Head I Art. 10) In other words, he saves us just because he wants to. The WMO teaches that God wants to save the reprobate too, so then why doesn't he, if he's able? God's will isn't like our will. We don't have the power to bring about what what we want, but he does. His will (what he wants to do) is synonymous with what he actually does.

Because sin saddens God, he doesn't delight in it. Jesus was grieving over the city of Jerusalem as it was a picture of Christ, Israel, the Church; the scribes and Pharisees turned it into a den of thieves.

ME: I think, then, that we are on the same page. God does want to save all, but a higher will is involved that prevents such a thing from happening. So I'm not sure how this contradicts the "well-meant offer." There is a choice God is presenting you (the offer) and God sincerely desires you to say "yes" (the "well-meant" part). Whether you're ultimately self-determining in the choice (nobody is) doesn't factor into the equation. The only way the "well-meant offer" could be a false teaching is if either there is no offer or if God does not sincerely desire you to say "yes."

HYPERCALVINIST: Then you make God have 2 wills in direct contradiction to each other.

ME: Then when Jesus said, "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings," (Matthew 23:37) he was being insincere. I don't know how it is possible to read "how often I have longed" as "I actually never longed at all."

HYPERCALVINIST: The children there refers to the elect, which are all gathered. Here is a citation from Augustine:

Our Lord says plainly, however, in the Gospel, when upbraiding the impious city: ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ as if the will of God had been overcome by the will of men, and when the weakest stood in the way with their want of will, the will of the strongest could not be carried out. And where is that omnipotence which hath done all that it pleased on earth and in heaven, if God willed to gather together the children of Jerusalem, and did not accomplish it? Or rather, Jerusalem was not willing that her children should be gathered together, but even though she was unwilling, He gathered together as many of her children as He wished: for He does not will some things and do them, and will others and do them not; but ‘He hath done all that He pleased in heaven and in earth’ 

I'm not sure how to continue with him from here, because I don't think this refers to the elect, but if I argue from the text that it doesn't, I risk getting accused of making God have two contradictory wills.

* * *

On a dialogue with an atheist, a Catholic/Orthodox gave this good word to me:

I saw your dialogue exchange with /u/True_Unbeliever in the "Becoming a Christian After Being an atheist" thread. And I want to thank you for being quite level-headed and logical in your response. We may not agree theologically. But any Brother/Sister who makes a strong defense on Christianity's behalf is a friend of mine. :) God bless you friend.

Response #18: 

Your argument makes good sense. The "two wills" business is gibberish. God made us with "the image of God", gave us the ability to choose. If He didn't, why does nearly every single page in the Bible contain appeals to our will? Why bother to read the Bible at all if you're looking at it with the idea that you either don't have to or are unable to change? Of course these types will always fall back to "God willed it so" – and that is true, but it does a great disservice to Jesus Christ to say that He didn't pay the price for the sins of unbelievers when He did in fact do so (as the Bible clearly teaches without sophistic gymnastics being brought into play; see the link: "unlimited atonement").

Anything that diminishes the cross in any way is abominable, and limited atonement attempts to take away 99% of it. And by the way, whenever someone starts quoting their denomination's creed as if it were on an equal basis with the Bible (like the Canons of Dort), you know there is no profit in continuing the discussion. And whenever some starts quoting Augustine . . . well, there's little hope for anyone getting to the truth if they put any trust in Augustine (see the link).

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

See: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/39429/from-a-calvinist-perspective-does-limited-atonement-make-the-gospel-offer-empty

Anything that diminishes the cross in any way is abominable, and limited atonement attempts to take away 99% of it.

From my understanding of Calvin, limited atonement originally stated that the atonement was provided for all, but made effective only for the elect. It was only later on that it was retconned into a statement that atonement was only made for Christ's elect with no offer for the non-elect.

Response #19:   

I've often made the distinction in writing about it between hyper-Calvinists and Calvin (link). It's always difficult to characterize accurately the thoughts of somewhat that prolific and profound, especially in summary form. Calvin has to be understood in his time and special circumstances on top of that.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Good morning Dr Luginbill!

Hope all is well and that you're enjoying the summer season!

Wanted to enlist a little theological direction/reference from you in this area: as I've been studying with your SR series, et al. I've been trying clarify in my spirit the particular point of Christ's incarnation. Would it be right to conclude that, at once, the coming of Christ as Messiah for mankind was eternally in the mind of God; yet, if Adam had not fallen thus allowing sin to enter into this world (mans world), that Jesus would not have had to come as He did, since His life, death and resurrection (salvation provided by coming as the Son of Man) was the plan of redemption for mankind not angelic kind? Through studying, and in no small way utilizing your "quickened" materials and commentary, it's become evident that there would still need to be some identifiable event that consummated the replacement of the fallen angels by the number of mankind determined by God, as well as the final eradication of sin, death, etc. But, though the Bible does not allude to what this "alternative ending" might look like, would it indeed have been a different narrative (namely, one where Jesus didn't come in the flesh) had man not sinned?

Thank you for the fellowship, when you have time.

Kindly and in Him,

Response #20:   

It is true that in the history of theologizing, there have been many such "what if" discussions. What I always try to emphasize at such times is that there is only one Plan of God, and that this plan was set down in absolutely complete detail before God commenced creation. Not one single thing was unanticipated; not one single thing was not decreed. Everything has already been determined – based – in terms of moral creatures – by incorporating our every free-will decision. Therefore, far from there being any actual "what ifs" in the plan, the plan has no ifs and or buts at all. Everything has been perfectly melded and molded into the whole. I have a lot to say about this in BB 4B Soteriology at the link: "God's Plan to Save You". I think it's a very important perspective for all believers to have: God is not reacting . . . to anything. Everything that happens has already been planned and couldn't happen unless it was already planned and decreed. This does not eliminate our free will choice – it makes it possible.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

It's probably the first time that I've seen your view (to which I subscribe also) on predestination based on God's foreknowledge of one's choices expressed - in Walker's "History of the Christian Church" it seems that although there are some other doctrinal discrepancies (it is quite amazing how the church just kept growing further and further away from the truth and salvation by works became almost universally accepted), following is written about Ockham:

"Predestination, in short, is equivalent to the divine foreknowledge of human behavior - a doctrine that the Ockhamists considered necessary to defend human freedom and dignity."

Response #21:   

Thanks – though I wouldn't want to describe my position in terms as simple as this; foreknowledge is only possible because of predestination (not the other way around); please see the link.

Question #22: 

Hi Bob,

On Friday night I got into a big car accident. My car is totaled, but God's providence was working: my mom accidentally upgraded to a very good insurance plan and never reverted to our older plan. I now need a new car.

Response #22: 

I'd say God's providence was working in that you were not hurt (?).

Praise God if that is the case!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Yes, I was unscathed.

Response #23:   

God is good!

You might want to consider the obvious: He's kept you completely safe even though with a totaled car you might have been seriously hurt. He no doubt has something (ministry) in mind for you.

Keep fighting the fight – in the knowledge that He is looking out for you.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #24: 

Good day Rob

Trust you are well. Thank you very much for taking your time to answer the questions. I was reading the book of Kings. Where they had defiled the house of God with idols. I don't understand how does the presence of God still remain on the temple. And the fact that they could get away with it.

Thanks

Response #24:   

You're very welcome.

Here's what I read in scripture about a previous generation:

The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it."
Number 14:20-23 NIV

This is our Lord's response to His people's rejection of the land of promise and desire to "return to Egypt" instead. Notice that He forgave them even so, and that it took their overt rejection of Him and His provision ten times before He pronounced the punishment on them of not being allowed to enter into the land. From all this I take it that our God is longsuffering and amazingly patient with us (Ex.14:6; Num.14:18; Ps.86:15; Rom.2:4; 9:22; 1Pet.3:20; 2Pet.3:9), that He forgives even the most outrageous offenses (1Jn.1:9), but that He does not let the guilty go completely unpunished (Heb.12:1ff.), and will not permit the sort of conduct you ask about forever. Indeed, He did remove them from His presence entirely in 586 B.C. at the hands of the Babylonian army, and this idolatry you note was a large part of that discipline which destroyed the Jewish state at that time (2Chron.36:14-16).

Our Father is a God of the greatest mercy. But just like a wonderfully loving human father, there are limits to patience, especially when correction is necessary to prevent behavioral decline or when ultimate limits are broached which cannot be ignored. So we are right to love Him with all our hearts, casting out cowardly fear – but we should never suppress the due reverence and godly fear which is His due (just as it was in the case of our earthly fathers).

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
Psalm 19:9a NIV

No one ever "gets away" with anything. God the Father knows all things and Christ our Lord died for all of our sins. We all need God's mercy or we would all be destroyed, but wickedness never prospers in the end, even if it may seem so sometimes from our limited human perspective (that truth is to a large degree the theme of the book of Job and also of Psalm 73, q.v.).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hi dr,

I hope all is well with you and your family. How is your son's job search coming? I pray he finds something soon and suitable to his strengths.

I have a question. In reading the Soteriology series, when you talk about the overall plan of God can be considered in three phases or dimensions: strategic, operational and tactical.

This all makes sense but wouldn't operational include Satan revlbellion and not only the seven thousands years of human history? Had Satan not rebelled and we know the Lord knew he will, there would have been no need for Christ's sacrifice. So operationally speaking, wouldn't Satan rebellion period be part of the operational level of this three dimensional phase of the plan of God?

Thank you for your clarifications

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #25: 

He'll be home for a brief visit the end of this month, so we will get a very welcome earful then, I'm sure. As of now, he's in the same job. He just finished up an attempted murder trial. His client didn't make it any easier for him by bragging on Facebook about shooting the other person. It was a hopeless effort, but he did such a good job that some of the jury members afterwards wanted to know if was working for a private firm (since he seemed way too good for a PD).

On your question, you make some good points. I have chosen to focus on human history – not just here but in all my writings – because that is what scripture does. And there is good reason for that too. Jesus became a human being as well as God, not an angel. And this incomprehensibly awesome sharing of Himself with us was not an oversight but the fundamental bedrock of the plan of God. In other words, since we are not a "reaction" but the reason for all the action in the first place (in the divine decrees), keeping that focus in this description is what I have preferred to do.

How are you doing?

I'm keeping you in prayer daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill. I pray you are well.

I was wondering how to explain to those new to the faith, the actual sacrifice GOD paid by sending Jesus into the world. If Jesus died only to be raised again and live in greater glory, which part was the actual cost and sacrifice to GOD. What did Jesus lose in heaven, by coming down to earth to lay his life down in total obedience, if he was raised to life again to rule

Response #26:   

Hello Friend,

Always good to hear from you.

This is an interesting question. The essence of the answer is "much in every way". For one thing, Jesus is God. For another thing, God is "one" in ways beyond human understanding. If I hurt, you may have sympathy or even empathy for me, but you don't really "feel it" the way I do. So the cost is Christ's in terms of His humanity, but His deity and the other members of the Trinity were intimately involved in everything He suffered, and it couldn't have been otherwise. For another thing, we human beings are very limited in every way. Whatever "costs" we incur in this life in doing anything are really very small in comparison to time, history, the size and vast expanse of the universe – even if we suffer the ultimate price for our faith in martyrdom. Because our consciousness and time and bodies are limited, so too is our suffering. Even though we don't see it that way when we hurt, it is true.

But God has perfect consciousness of all things. In fact, of course, nothing could have happened in the first place but for His decree of it. And of course God is so much bigger than the universe, much more so than we have any idea, so much bigger that the word "big" is really insufficient to describe the comparison – because there is no comparison. God could easily and without effort create a google's worth of universes in the blink of an eye, all bigger and more complicated to a google degree than the one which does exist and which even so defies human comprehension.

And yet He made only this one, this one perfect one. Perfect, not so much because of the details (after all, it is tainted now by sin, thanks to creature rebellion and fall, and will need to be replaced in the end), but perfect because it is part of the perfect plan to provide salvation to creatures willing to be saved. And none of that is possible without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

So for another thing, God who is completely self-sufficient, needing nothing at all, in His ineffable grace and mercy provided for our existence and salvation through the sacrifice of Christ. What did that cost? It cost everything (see the link: "The Blood of Christ"). After all, once God had decreed the plan and put it into action, there could be no going back. This is the one universe and the one plan of God. Since there could only be one, for infinite God to be forsaking all other possibilities is some cost indeed, beyond our true ability to appreciate it. And why only one? Because Jesus had to become a genuine human being – God becoming a human as well as God! – for the plan to be implemented. For infinite God, to become a human being is no small thing. Jesus wed Himself to us by agreeing to implement the plan of God – and there is no turning back from that either (praise God!).

(5) You too should have this attitude which Christ Jesus had. (6) Since He already existed in the very form of God, equality with God was [certainly] not something He thought He had to grasp for. (7) Yet in spite of this [co-equal divinity He already possessed], He deprived Himself of His status and took on the form of a slave, [and was] born in the likeness of men. (8) He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even [His] death on [the] cross [for us all].
Philippians 2:5-8

This is cost. And the greatest possible cost, of course, the cost without which there is no plan of God, is the cost of the cross. Our Lord's humanity and deity are wed now into one Person forever. He has two natures, one human and one divine, but He is one, unique, indivisible person. His deity did not help His humanity unduly during the first advent – "to fulfill all righteousness" so that the sacrifice might be pure (Matt.3:15). But that did not shield His deity from what happened on the cross. Make no mistake. The smallest part of the cross is bigger than all human history put together; it exceeds all human and angelic suffering, real or imagined, in that smallest part. Dying for the least sin of the least guilty person was more intense than all the tears and toils of the human race put together throughout history – and Jesus died for every single human sin. That is suffering. Keep in mind that for any single one of us, our sins outnumber the hairs of our head and the sands of the sea shore (sin being rightly understood). And He died for all, for the sins of all. This would not have been possible without Jesus taking on true humanity, because only a human body could bear sin (1Pet.2:24). This would not have been possible without the Holy Spirit facilitating the process (Heb.9:14). This would not have been possible without the Father judging the Son . . . in our place (Is.53:6; 53:10). Cost? There is no greater cost.

Abraham is one of the greatest believers who ever lived, and the proof of that greatness and the making of that greatness is the sacrifice of his one and only son Isaac. We understand, of course, that Isaac was spared at the last moment, that a ram was provided by the Lord in his place, and that this represents what God did for us in Jesus Christ. But it is appropriate to take a moment and consider what it cost Abraham even to contemplate putting his son to bloody death and burning his body. Beyond question, actually doing it would have been worse – a fantastically higher cost (and that is true even though resurrection would follow in the end: cf. Heb.11:19). God the Father did do this for us – and Jesus willingly accepted it. And the "this" – standing judgment for each and every sin – is immense beyond our capacity for understanding at present.

All I can say is that we really have no idea what it cost the Son, the Father, and the Spirit to save us. We only know now that the cost was beyond anything imaginable – and for what? For us. And who are we? Given all that, it is a blessing to know that we will have all eternity to learn to appreciate what we really cannot fully fathom here on earth. For eternity is not long enough to say "thank you" for what He has done for us.

In the Name of the One through whom we have life eternal instead of death and judgment, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who paid for all of our sins.

Bob L.

 

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