It’s the beginning of a new year and there will be many who will embark upon reading plans designed to guide them in reading through the Bible within a year.
Now, while this is indeed a noble and worthwhile endeavor, I think, all too often, we make the mistake of reading the Bible ‘too’ quickly! In an effort to read the assigned portion or section for the day, we often fail to take the time to actually understand what we are reading. When we read too quickly and too methodically, we often miss the message in the effort to be true to our method!
As an example, I read a passage the other day that caused me to re-evaluate previously held beliefs. It was not a passage I had not read before, in fact, it was one that I had read quite often and one the preacher would call; ‘a familiar passage!’ The passage was Philippians 2:9-11, which reads in the KJV:
“Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Now the thing that arrested me the other day was the realization that most people, myself included, often misquote the passage! The common saying of most is: “That at the name of Jesus, every knee ‘shall’ bow and every tongue ‘shall’ confess! But that IS NOT what the text says! The text doesn’t say ‘shall,’ the text says ‘should.’ There is a substantial difference between shall and should! The word; ‘shall’ is about ‘what is “going” to happen,’ while the word; ‘should’ is about ‘what “ought” to happen.’ Now, while it is indeed true that eventually every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, that is not the point Paul was making!
In the context of passage, Paul was not talking about what was going to happen, but rather Paul was expressing what ought to happen in response to the exaltation of Jesus as Lord! Therefore, when we say ‘shall’ we are, in a sense, postponing Jesus’ exaltation until the end of time, but Jesus will not just be Lord later, Jesus is Lord, NOW! He was recorded as saying in Matthew 28:18 after his resurrection; “All power (the Greek word for power, denotes ‘authority,’ not “might’ or ‘strength’ as we so often erroneously preach it!) is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Paul wrote of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
My point is that, since Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and in earth and he is presently reigning, every knee should presently bow and every tongue should presently confess that Jesus is (not will be, but right now, is!) Lord! However, we miss this fundamental truth when we misquote the passage or otherwise read ‘should’ but think ‘shall.’ As we read the Bible, we should slow down enough to read what it actually says and not what we have been conditioned to ‘think’ it says! Only then will we recognize that often, even the ‘little’ words, like the articles and definite articles; (‘a’ versus ‘the’), conjunctions, such as ‘and’ and ‘or’ can change the meaning of a text! It was only after I slowed down that I recognized the difference between ‘shall’ and ‘should!’
Here’s a thought: Please understand, I am not trying to be unsympathetic or insensitive, but I think it is important that we (the people of God) proclaim biblical truth at all times, especially when someone dies!
Here are some things we (the community of believers) need to quit saying when someone dies because these statements are biblically incorrect and potentially misleading:
1. ‘They earned their wings’ – There are several things wrong with this statement. First, since we are not saved by any works we do, but rather by grace, why would we associate death with ‘earning’ something? What makes God’s grace so amazing is that we don’t deserve it and we can’t earn it! Second – When a believer dies, they are not transformed into angels or given wings! Humans will always be humans and angels will always be angels!
Third- ANGELS DON’T HAVE WINGS! In every occasion of angels appearing on earth in the Bible, they appeared as ‘normal’ men! The only angelic ‘winged’ creatures mentioned in the Bible are the seraphim (Isaiah 6:2, 6) and the cherubim. These creatures are not regular angels, but guardians of God’s throne! The idea that all angels have wings comes from English literature, not the Bible!
2. ‘They have earned their crown’ – Same as in ‘earning their wings.’ Whatever God gives us is because of God’s grace, not because we earn it! The crowns we will receive from God will be ‘rewards’ for our faithfulness, not bonus payment for our work! A careful reading of the Bible will help us to understand the fact that death is an enemy, not a friend! (1 Corinthians 15:26) The only crown given because of death will be to those who died (were killed) because of their faith. In Revelation 2:10, the crown of life will be given to those ‘faithful unto death.’ This is not about people being faithful until they died, but rather about people being faithful to the point that their faithfulness cost them their lives!
3. ‘They are watching over us now!’ ‘They are our guardian angels now!’ – For one thing, as stated before, humans are not transformed into angels when they die. In addition, the Bible describes the state of deceased believers as ‘resting from their labors.’ Could or would they honestly be at rest if they were tasked with the job of ‘watching over us?’ God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirt, along with a detachment of angels are already watching over us! The help of our deceased loved ones is not needed!
4. ‘It was just God’s will.’ ‘God took him/her/them’ – Death is never God’s will! Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). The ONLY reason people die is because of sin! (Not necessarily because of that individual’s sin, but because of the Fall of Adam. Genesis 2:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 26) Death was not part of God’s original intent! In fact, the blessed hope of the Bible is the Resurrection! In the Resurrection, believers will live again, not in Heaven, in a spiritually disembodied state (the state of dead believers now) but on the new earth in glorified physical bodies! (Revelation 21-22). It is not God’s will for people to get sick and die! It is not God’s will for people to be killed in accidents or murdered! We need to quit saying this!
Didn’t mean for this post to be so long! But if we seek to comfort people in their bereavement, the only real comfort is in the truth of God’s word, not in our erroneous interpretations of God’s word!
writer; Jude, who was commonly known as the half-brother of Jesus, wrote to his
readers: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common
salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the
faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:4 ESV) Like Jude,
I felt it necessary to write about the resurrection as the forgotten victory because
of the many erroneous theological ideas surrounding death that are currently
popular among many who are supposedly of faith.
I present my contentions, let it be known that this is not an attempt to be
judgmental or condescending, but rather I write in an effort to promote the biblical
concepts that were delivered to the saints of old! Sadly, too much of what is
being passed off as ‘biblical’ around many Christian circles and churches today
is actually current cultural concepts in biblical façade!
not long ago, I observed a funeral service in which, before the closing of the
casket, a crown was placed upon the head of the deceased! The theme of the
minister’s message was that, after battling sickness, disease, and the many struggles
of life, the dearly-departed had now gained the victory through death! The
preacher said that although the person had battled cancer, they were now victoriously
healed because they had a brand new body in Heaven! Now, that’s sounds
encouraging and even comforting, but is it biblical? Well. . . .not exactly!
Let me show you what I’m talking about!
all, contrary to what is commonly preached and believed in most Christian
churches, the Bible DOES NOT teach that our permanent dwelling will be in the
Heaven where God dwells! Now, the Bible DOES teach that those who die in the
Lord are immediately in the presence of the Lord! Jesus said to the repentant
thief on the cross: “Today, you shall be with me in paradise!” (Luke 23:43) The
Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:8, talks about being absent from the body and
being present with the Lord. Therefore, biblical evidence suggest, our
loved-ones who have died in the Lord are presently with the Lord. However, even
though they are with the Lord, they are not complete, they are not whole! Why?
Because they are in a dis-embodied spiritual state! Their spirits are with God,
but their bodies (the part of them that was sick, suffering, cancer-ridden,
etc.,) are in their graves!
Sure! The Apostle Paul said: “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:1 NASB) But the point that many miss is the fact that, that body is not received immediately after death! No! According to the Scriptures, we will not get our ‘new’ bodies until the Resurrection and the Resurrection will not occur until Jesus comes again! Consider another passage that is often read at funerals, but we miss the full message of it: In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Apostle Paul writes: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (KJV)
this so you can see what I’m trying to say. The believers in Thessalonica were anxiously
awaiting the Lord’s return. However, there were believers among them who had
already died and those who remained were concerned that those who had died
would miss the Lord’s coming. Paul wrote this section of the letter to assure them
that those who had died would be caught up to meet the Lord just like those who
are alive at his coming.
Paul said that when Christ returns, he will bring with him those ‘which sleep in Jesus.’ (v.14) But then he also says in verse 16, that the dead in Christ shall rise first! But wait a minute! I thought those who ‘sleep in Jesus’ and the ‘dead in Christ’ were the same people? So, how can Jesus bring those who sleep in him, with him when he comes, if those same people shall first rise from the grave before those who are alive are changed? If those who sleep in Jesus and those who will rise from the grave are the same people, how can they be in different places (with Jesus in Heaven and in the grave) at the same time?
Well, when Jesus comes, he will bring the disembodied spirits of the saved with him and their mortal remains will be raised immortal from the grave! The Bible calls this; the First Resurrection! It is at that point that victory over death will be achieved! No! The believer does not gain the victory over death at death; the believer will gain victory over death at the Resurrection!
Now, this raises
another interesting question: If Heaven, in a disembodied state (the present
state of those who have died in Christ) is indeed our ‘home’ or ultimate
destination, then what is the purpose of the resurrection? I’ve always heard that
the purpose of the resurrection will be so that we might be judged for the things
we have done in the body. But think about it; the Bible says the angels will be
judged and they don’t have mortal bodies as we have, so having a mortal body is
not a necessary perquisite for judgment! So, what is the purpose of the
resurrection? The purpose of the resurrection is so that body and spirit might
be re-united, so that we might live as we were originally created to live!
And how were
we originally created to live? Well, according to the Genesis account, humanity
was made from the earth to have stewardship-dominion overthe earth
and to be sustained by the earth! When Adam fell, he didn’t fall from Heaven;
he fell from the state that God had created him! Thus if the salvation plan of
God is about restoration (by definition, restoration is a bringing back to a former
position or condition), then Heaven cannot be our permanent dwelling because Heaven
is not where we were originally created to live!
The only way for people go to Heaven is through death! And the only reason for the existence of death is because of sin! The Bible says; the wages of sin is death! And since sin and death were not part of God’s original intent and they are the only reasons people leave this world and go to another place, then in addition to what the Scriptures declare explicitly, implicit logic requires us to conclude that being in Heaven in a dis-embodied state was not God’s original intend for our eternal or ultimate destiny!
What sense would it make for God to go through all of the trouble of making a physical-world, making man as a spiritual-physical being to live and exercise authority in that physical world only to completely abandon that plan and opt for man to live permanently in a purely spiritual state in Heaven after man messed up? That makes absolutely no sense at all! In fact, such a notion actually implies that God was so short-sighted that man’s sin caught God completely off-guard, proving God as incapable of finishing what God had started, making it necessary for God to implement an alternative plan for man to live eternally in Heaven as a dis-embodied spirit instead on earth as a spirit-physical being as God had originally planned!
But the GOOD
NEWS the Bible shares is that God had made provisions for Adam’s sin, even before
Adam was created! The GOOD NEWS of the Bible is that God’s original intent will
ultimately be realized! With all of our doctrines and traditions, we’ve made
complicated, what is actually quite simple! The Bible, from Genesis to
Revelation, is the story about a kingdom given, a kingdom lost, and a kingdom
regained! It’s the story of a good creation that went bad, but is being and
will be ultimately restored!
Theologians call Adam’s sin in the garden; The Fall! Man ‘fell’ from the state God had created him! The consequence of that fall was and is death! What is death? Death is, in a sense, an unnatural separation! Physical death is the separation of the spirit-soul from the physical body! I call it ‘unnatural’ because it is not God’s original intent; death perverts and subverts the way God originally intended for man to exist! We often cite in marriage ceremonies what Jesus said: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!” Well, in a sense, that’s exactly what death does! Death separates (body and spirit) what God originally joined together! Paul said of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (KJV) The resurrection will be the destruction of death! The resurrection will be God joining back together what death had put asunder!
God is working everything out to fulfill His original intent! His original intent was not for us to be with Him in Heaven, but rather for Him to be with us on Earth! He was originally ‘with us’ when He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day! He was ‘with us’ in the person of Jesus; the Immanuel! He is ‘with us’ today in the person of the Holy Spirit! And one day, He will be with us as He originally was! For I read the Apostle John’s Revelation: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and hewill dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:1-5 KJV) [bold italicize mine]
Yes! The victory that is most often forgotten on funeral occasions is the victory of the resurrection! In speaking of this victory, the Apostle Paul said the same things to the Corinthians that he said to the Thessalonians: “Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:51-55 CSB17)
When you go to court to testify or to be sworn-in as a witness, you are asked to solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! Some years ago, the popular columnist; Paul Harvey would tell news and special-interest stories. The stories were always good and interesting, but the one thing that distinguished the show was the fact that Harvey would only tell half of the story before having a commercial break! After the commercial break, he would then tell the rest of the story!
Much of what I am hearing today in the church-world, in personal conversations, in ‘gospel’ music, and in social media reminds me of the court-room and the Paul Harvey shows: People are promoting ‘half-truths’ as the whole truth and are not waiting until after the commercial breaks to hear the rest of the story! As a result, there is a lot of bad theology being offered that is actually detrimental to wholesome spiritual development and true biblical faith!
Let me give you a few examples: Many are familiar with or have heard of Romans 8:28, which says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJ). Taken by itself, this verse seems to simply imply that if I love God and are called according to His purpose, everything that happens to me; the good, the bad and the ugly, is working together for good! That sounds fine, but the question that begs to be asked that most people don’t ask is: What is good? Well, Paul actually answers that question in the very next verse, where he continues his thought by saying: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29 NKJ). The complete thought is that all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) work together for good to those who love God (and by the way, according to Jesus in John 14:21-24; to love God is to obey God!) and the ‘good’ is that they might be conformed to the image of Jesus! In other words, in the life of the one who loves God, all things are working together for the purpose of shaping and molding that person to be like Jesus! Now, the Bible also says that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). In Genesis, we discover that man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Therefore, for the believer, everything is working together for the good, and the good is that the believer might be conformed to the image he/she was originally created to be; the image of God! The good is ‘to be like Jesus’ and to be like Jesus is to be like God originally created us to be! So, to only read and seek to apply Romans 8:28 without reading Romans 8:29 is to miss the purpose of all things working together for the good!
Another horrendous example of this same exegetical error is found in the treatment of 1 Corinthians 2:9, where the Apostle Paul wrote: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” ( KJV). Paul adapted Isaiah 64:4, which says: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him” ( KJV). Oh! I can’t tell you how many songs I’ve heard or how many sermons I’ve heard, based on this verse, promoting the idea that the things God has prepared for those who love him are unimaginable! But most people would be surprised to know that was NOT the idea Paul was trying to get across! In the next verse; 1 Corinthians 2:10, Paul said: “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (KJV). Do you see that? Do you see how serious this is? When we say, preach, sing, and declare that eyes haven’t seen and ears haven’t heard what great things God has prepared for them that love him, we are NOT telling the truth! Why? Because Paul also said: “But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit!” I think part of the problem is that when most people read the Bible, their understanding is influenced by chapters and verses instead of by thoughts! The original biblical writers did not write using chapters and verses, those were added later on to help us find their thoughts! So, as we read the Bible, we must remember that a verse is not always a complete thought and the end of a chapter doesn’t necessarily mean the complete end of a conversation.
Now, I need you to read carefully at this point because I’m about to address something that is very egregious, but most who are doing it don’t even realize it! The idea of believers having the ability to ‘speak things into existence’ IS NOT BIBLICAL! That’s mystical, New Age, thinking! Let’s look at the ‘one’ verse where this idea comes from. Paul wrote in Romans 4:17: “As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He is our father in God ‘s sight, in whom Abraham believed– the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist” (CSB17). Note that Paul said that it is God who gives life to the dead! Paul said, it is God who calls things into existence that do not exist! In the Genesis account, the Hebrew word for God’s creative act is ‘bara.’ In all of Scripture, this word is only attributed to God! Only God can create something out of nothing! Man doesn’t have to power to ‘create,’ we only have the power to procreate and recreate! We cannot, nor is there really a need to ‘speak it into existence’ because everything we need is already in existence! We just need to learn how to use faith to bring to bear what God has already created and promised!
There are many more, but these are just a few examples of the many current popular theological ‘boo-boos’ that are being made! Often, these errors are the results of a lack of diligent Bible study and application of logic. Oh! How much more are the words the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé; Timothy, applicable to us in this day! “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. And their teaching [will devour; it] will eat its way like cancer or spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:15-17 Amplified Bible).
ever witnessed or been a party to this scenario? You’re in a church service or
at a conference and the speaker is giving a word of prophecy that goes something
like this: “I decree and declare that this is your season to be blessed!
Whatever you’re going through right now, the Lord told me to tell you that it
is over! Your time of suffering is over! Your time of being the tail and not
the head is over! Now, turn to your neighbor and tell them; ‘My time of suffering
is over! My day of victory is here!”
Well, this sounds well and good, but there are some fundamental problems with ‘blanket’ declarations or prophecies such as the one I just described. First of all, when a speaker is speaking to a congregation of people, any and all broad declarations made similar to the ones I just described are always based on an assumption! The speaker assumes the people he or she is speaking to are in a position to receive what they say God is giving them! But more often than not, that is not the case! Let me show you what I’m talking about! It doesn’t matter what the prophecy may be, if a person is not in right-relationship or fellowship with God, they are not in a position to receive the blessing! For instance, if a person is living in known and open unrepentant sin; they are not eligible to receive the blessing! How can God bless mess? This is the main problem I have when people make blanket declarations; it gives a sense of false hope because usually the speaker does not express the conditions of the blessing!
Conditions of the blessing? Yes! Most blessings, particularly the ones that most people crave and the ones many ‘prophet-profits’ espouse, have conditions attached! I heard a choir singing about the fact that we are blessed in the city and we are blessed in the field! However, the biblical passage from which that song is derived says: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.” (Deuteronomy. 28:1-3 KJV) Do you see the condition? The passage does indeed say that Israel would be ‘blessed in the city and blessed in the field,’ but only ‘if’ they were careful to diligently hear and obey all of the commandments! Most of the promises of God contain an ‘if-then’ condition: If we obey, then God will bless! If we are in right-relationship or right-fellowship, then God will do this or do that! Even salvation is an ‘if-then’ condition! Romans 10:9 says: That ‘if’ thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, (then) thou shalt be saved.” (KJV) People say that God is a ‘forgiving God,’ but even God’s forgiveness is conditional! In order for God to forgive us, we must repent (turn from, forsake, change our mind) from the wrong offense! If we don’t do that, God will not forgive! Jesus also said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”(KJV) So, if we want forgiveness, then we must be forgiving!
would like to suggest that many of the ‘blanket prophecies’ that are being
declared are blankets with holes! The prophecy may or may not cover you! Here’re
another insight to consider: Let’s just supposed the prophecy is that the Lord
is going to immediately bring you out of a certain bad situation. But, it could
be that you’re in that situation because of some foolish decisions you made and
the Lord may choose not to immediately deliver you from your ‘mess’ because He
wants you to have time to learn the message (lesson). So you hear the prophecy
and you think your day of deliverance is near, when in fact, it might be awhile!
countless factors you should consider before you accept a blanket declaration
as being from the Lord. Although it might be a blanket-declaration, it might
not cover you because of the ‘holes’ in your life! It might not be for
everybody, just some! Therefore, be leery of prophets, profits, and others, who
are quick to utter blanket decrees and declarations, because more often than
not, those decrees and declarations are blankets with holes!