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Zechariah, Demon Possession, Marriage,

Spiritual Experiences, and Bible Prophecy

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Question #1: Why do the people in Luke 1:62 have to "make signs" to communicate with Zechariah, when he was clearly MUTE (Luke 1:20) and not necessarily DEAF? Couldn't he just hear the question normally, and then write down his answer? Maybe the priest WAS both mute AND deaf, and the Scripture doesn't directly mention the deafness as a punishment. Any thoughts on this?

Response #1: That is an interesting question. I think that it is safe to infer from Luke 1:20 that only Zechariah's ability to speak was affected. In the Greek, the point is made by Gabriel twice for emphasis. "You will be quiet (Greek, siopao – only refers to speaking), unable to speak (Greek laleo, likewise only of verbal ability)". And the context of verse 22 indicates that Zechariah could understand what people were saying to him, but could only "make signs" to them to indicate what had happened.

However, verse 22 also says that Zachariah remained kophos, a Greek word that refers not only to someone unable to speak, but also occasionally to deafness as well (cf. Matt.11:5). However, given the other evidence, I think it is unlikely that we are meant to understand the word in both senses here. Generally speaking, since kophos can be either one, Greek will usually distinguish to let the reader know which meaning is meant (as in Matt.11:5 "the kophoi will hear"). When both are meant, moreover, two words are sometimes implied (cf. "deaf and dumb" in Mk.9:25). So since he is clearly "dumb", it would be usual Greek practice to specify further if he were also deaf.

Finally, in verse 64, it is only Zechariah's mouth which is opened, with nothing in that verse indicated that he had become deaf.

Zechariah's own use of sign language when he comes out of the temple may provide the clue to the answer. In communicating, we tend to accommodate our approach to those with whom we wish to communicate, especially if there are any barriers. Do our interlocutors speak with an accent? We tend to mimic it. Do they use non-native idioms? We tend to reciprocate. Do they gesticulate? We tend to use our hands to reply. And if their English is very poor, we tend to talk louder and slower. I think that the temptation for anyone to reply to a person who is trying to communicate with us via sign language with our own hand signals in return is probably close to being irresistible, and that may be what is happening here. It doesn't mean that Zechariah couldn't hear them, but faced with a communications hurdle and an animated Zechariah trying to get his point across with gestures, his "listeners" very naturally used gestures in response, even though that was entirely unnecessary.

In our Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dr. Luginbill,

I would first like to thank you for all of your online bible study materials. They have truly been a wealth of knowledge for me. The Lord has truly blessed you and I pray that he continually blesses you. This question may be a bit different from the norm, but I have to get your take on this. I'm a police officer and I responded to a very disturbing call a week ago that still bothers me a little. I responded to an accidental overdose call, which turned out to be anything but the victim was found in a state of extreme mutilation. I still shocked that someone would do such a thing. I've read and studied books on serial and sexual related homicides to see what makes these individuals tick. Psychiatrists and psychologists have studied these individuals and don't seem to come up with answers, if so the answers are from a humanistic view. I look at these individuals from a scriptural and spiritual perspective. I know that demonic possession is very rare these days, but I have a strong feeling that the individuals that commit such acts are under heavy demonic influence. You and I both know that those types of acts aren't normal human behavior. You would have to be without a conscience to do such things. I just want your view on this issue Dr. Luginbill. I'm a Christian and I know that the devil is alive and well in our world. I know people commit such heinous acts all over the world, but it really doesn't hit home until you have to respond to it. Your help in this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time. I pray that the Lord continues to bless and keep you and your ministry.

Response #2:

I'm not sure that demon possession is really all that rare. I think the only thing that we can say about that is that the devil is extremely clever, and that he is getting much more mileage in the west out of the "scientific" mind-set than one which recognizes that there is a supernatural dimension to life (indeed, God is "supernatural" so that this is the most important dimension to life). "Plausible deniability" is a frequently used tool by all who set out to do evil.

I have written about the subject of demon possession as you may already be well aware (see in particular in SR #4 "Satan's World System: Tactical Methodology"). Apart from certain odds and ends, this study contains everything I would wish to say about demon possession which can be set on a sound biblical base. However I would say that there is clearly a trend around the world and even in the west for supernaturalism (inevitably only of the dark and twisted kind) to be in a growth cycle even as hyper-rationalism gains more and more credence in many so-called "Christian" circles (with the only groups that seem to credit the possibility of demon possession and the like being more often than not "wacky", if I may use the technical term). I expect this trend to accelerate as we move ever closer to the end times. As I have suggested in part 3B of the Coming Tribulation series, “Antichrist and his Kingdom”, the beast will most probably make great use of both of these trends (i.e., over rationalizing truth about the supernatural dimension while embracing all false views of it). So I would not be surprised to learn when we are able to ask our Lord about these things face to face that there has actually been a good deal more demon influence, attack, and possession going on than we have any real idea.

Please also see this recently posted e-mail response: "Spiritual Warfare"

Please do write me back about any of the specifics above. This is not the most detailed answer I've ever given, but along with the information in the links above it is about as far as I can go from what I know from scripture.

Thanks for your encouraging words! May God protect you in your work.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hello Robert,

Thank you for your prayers about my "marriage matters"! I have at least some good news - I don't need the engagement ring any more! I'm trying to make fun, to comfort and cheer up myself, but I'm more than a little upset. Our relationship foundered over my putting of my ministry in front of her. What I really understand now is that I need a partner who is "crazy for Jesus" first and foremost. This woman, on the other hand, lives for "the American dream" first and foremost. I just hope God has spared for me someone better.

Response #3: 

I am very sorry to hear about your disappointment, but as you relate the story it seems that God has been looking out for you in this matter, and that it is all for the best. Believe me when I say that I understand how hard such things are. It is not easy to do what God wants you to do when the price is high. So you are certainly to be commended for putting the Lord and His work first in your life. I know that the Lord rewards those who have this attitude and follow through on it, come what may.

I understand what you are saying about the "American dream" mentality. Materialism is certainly a problem here in the US, but in my observation of the world and human history, we are not unique. It is just that the more one has, the more one wants (cf. Eccl.5:10). Lust has no limits or boundaries.

I will leave you with two thoughts. The first is on marriage in general. It is quite clear from scripture that "happiness on earth", while it does sometimes fall to the believer's lot, is not the reason why we are here. A friend of mine (not an American) once remarked that in his view "God wants everyone to have a good life". I think rather that God wants everyone to be saved (though few will be), and that God wants everyone who is saved to be spiritually productive (though few will be). In other words, the Lord's definition of a "good life" is not at all necessarily what ours would be from the worldly perspective. We have to be flexible and malleable to His will, even when, and indeed especially when, it is not what we would have chosen. He knows best. So if I were to guess, I would guess that if and when you do find "Mrs. Right", it will most likely be after you have given up looking for her yourself.

The second thought I would like to leave you with is that materialism in this country does not stop at the church door. In fact, in my view, it is impossible to disentangle it from most church movements and denominations here, especially the more “successful” ones (from the human way of evaluating these things, anyway). That is why I have little to do with them. What is the purpose of a church? If it is not to teach the Word of God and thereby to encourage and promote spiritual growth, then there is little point, at least as far as pleasing Jesus Christ is concerned. And you don't need music for this; you don't need a building; you don't need massive numbers and organization (not that there is anything inherently wrong with any of these things). What you do need is a pastor-teacher who is willing to spend the long, painful, often seemingly unrewarded hours studying, preparing and teaching, in spite of the fact that most people are not going to respond. What most people want is a large building, a great music program, massive growth, short "inspiring sermons", circus and hoopla. I can understand how in looking at US contemporary Christianity all of these things would appear wonderful and seductive (especially as they are accompanied by seemingly endless resources). But it is not the garden of Eden, trust me. In fact, it may be closer to the Abyss.

Best wishes on the continued success of your ministry. Keep teaching the Word, "in season and out of season".

In the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

I realize that God speaks to people in different ways, same Spirit, different methods. How does one know that Gods Spirit has or is speaking to one? In my own experiences I have found at certain times upon reading scripture, and then meditating, thinking upon it, or upon Gods overall plan that the experience usually will start with warm fuzzy feelings in the heart, which is followed by a watering of the eyes, and I experience tears, tears of joy. I believe that this is God's Spirit speaking to me, to my heart. Please comment, and could you share your experiences?

Response #4:

I would say that from your description our experiences in experiencing the Word of God in the power of the Spirit are very similar. I would observe, moreover, that in my personal experience the deeper I have been privileged to delve into the Word of God the more profound these experiences have become. I think that it is scripturally undeniable that the closer we come to the Lord, the more satisfying and powerful our experience of Him becomes as well (cf. Jer.30:21b). Where I would differ with most contemporaries is in the idea that such "experiences" can be "worked up" through certain forms of worship activities, whether legitimate or illegitimate, or otherwise manufactured in the short run. In my experience, observation, and understanding of scripture, there is absolutely no substitute whatsoever for the diligent, daily reading, study, contemplation, and application of scripture. Along with a dedicated prayer life and committed service to the Lord, this is the only way forward when it comes to serious spiritual growth and the highly rewarding spiritual experiences which accompany that growth.

Please see the link:

"An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit."

In the Lord who bought us, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dear Dr Luginbill,

Yesterday, I was surfing the net for articles on the hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and came across a site, explaining how these two hurricanes are part of a bible prophecy. What is your opinion about bible prophecies and is it safe for one to believe in bible prophecies. I am asking you as I trust your opinions/ judgments (whatever one can call it).

I also came across a site of a certain Mr. X claiming that God told him the following:

“One can only be saved through Holy Spirit baptism and your attendance at church and water baptism means absolutely nothing! Holy Spirit baptism is a spiritual event and not a carnal event such as a water baptism, and only comes to them that God has deemed to receive it”.

He then gives Matthew 7:21-23 to proof this. I would really like to hear what your opinion is about this.

Response #5: 

Bible prophecies are indeed true, but they truly mean what they mean, not necessarily what someone may say they mean. For example, many people have applied the prophecies of the book of Revelation in particular to all manner of historical events in the past - but, with the exception of the letters to the seven churches, none of the prophecies of the Apocalypse have yet taken place. So, yes, I do believe in Bible prophecy, very much so, but I don't believe automatically in what every "Tom, Dick, and Harry" (as we say in the states) may say about a particular prophecy. There is much deception abroad in the world today (not to mention poor scholarship), and it is prophesied to become much worse before the Lord returns (e.g., 1Tim.4:1-5). To get specific, since you ask about the recent hurricanes, Revelation 8:5 gives us very clearly the first supernatural sign of the Tribulation, and while we do have a great earthquake along with thunder and lightning, there is nothing about storms. Luke 21:25-31 does talk about the "roaring and tossing" of the sea, but the signs therein described are focused upon anticipation of the Second Advent, not the beginning of the Tribulation. In fact, there are no signs of the Tribulation per se that can be clearly identified as meaning with certainty that the Tribulation is imminent before it actually begins (see the link: "Signs of the Coming Tribulation").

That said, it is certainly true that nothing happens apart from the wisdom and plan of God. The severe suffering caused by any natural catastrophe should therefore be considered from that perspective (see the link: "Do recent catastrophes have a divine origin?").

On the question of Mr. X's views, I would say first of all that while I am unable to (and, indeed, unauthorized to) say whether someone else is receiving direct oral communication from God, I can say with authority that if that is the case, then what the person says will line up completely with the Bible. In other words, since we have the Bible, we don't have to worry overly about what someone may say that God has told them, since if God really told them [whatever], it will be the same as we know from the Bible anyway (and if it is not, then God is not the source).

That said, I would certainly agree that water baptism is not necessary for salvation nor is church attendance or membership - salvation is by grace, not works, and through faith in the Person and work of the Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ (Eph.2:8-9). Indeed, depending upon the circumstances or works such as water baptism and church attendance has at least the potential to do more harm than good if, for example, one is relying upon water baptism for salvation instead of faith in Christ, or if one is receiving non-biblical teaching from the particular "church" they are attending (an all too common thing these days).

However, I would differ with him in what is present "between the lines" in this quote you have sent me. Every true Christian has the Holy Spirit (1Jn.4:13; cf. Matt.3:11). Moreover, the baptism of the Spirit has two aspects: 1) "with the Spirit" = we have the Spirit in us (cf. Jn.14:17), and 2) "by the Spirit" = we are made one with Christ, become part of His body and bride to be through the Spirit's ministry of baptism (cf. Rom.6:1-8). We receive the Spirit when we believe in Jesus, and all who believe in Jesus are included in this baptism (Rom.8:9).

As to Matthew 7:21-23, I cannot see how these verses prove anything about any of this, one way or the other. But I suspect that Mr. X means to say that those of us who have not had an emotional tongues-speaking experience after salvation are not really saved. My apologies if I have mis-read the argument, but if this is indeed what he is trying to say, I would vociferously disagree. The ministry of the Spirit based upon the universal baptism of the Spirit is indeed blessed and essential for our spiritual life and growth – but it does not necessarily have to take the forms of emotional excess with which it is sometimes associated (cf. 1Cor.14:40). Indeed, I would argue that most such demonstrations do the Spirit and His true ministry a great dis-service (cf. 1Cor.14:33).

Please see the following links for more on this:

        Baptism and Following Jesus

        Is water baptism required for Christians today?

        Foot-washing, Bitter Herbs, Baptism, and Borrowed Faith.

        The baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from speaking in tongues.

        An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

        Sin, Baptism, and the Book of Revelation.

        Does baptism play a role in being born again?

        How important is baptism?

Yours in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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