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A preacher’s duty is to declare the Word of God without apology. Admittedly this will cause people to be offended, but then the Word of God itself will be offensive to people of other religions. e.g. Christ saying "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." (John 14:6) will offend people who believe that there are other ways to God.

By its very nature, Christianity is an exclusive religion. We cannot hide this truth from outsiders. If we were to keep silent about this at the beginning, in the hope that later on they would come to see the good points in Christianity and accept it, we would be telling a lie, since the biblical motive is to ultimately get them to deny all other religions.

Tell your friend that the preacher is only declaring what God Himself has said in the Bible. Then encourage him or her to read the Bible for himself or herself to see if this is really so. Your friend may not like this, but if God works in his or her heart, the truth will set him or her free from all previously held false assumptions.

If you are already a member of another B-P Church you do not have to go through our catechism class to transfer membership to Life B-P Church. All you need to do is to write to the pastor of the B-P Church you are from, that you wish to transfer your membership over to Life B-P Church. He will then write to us about it, and we will reply to him to let him know that we have received you into our membership. You will then be sent a form to fill with your particulars for our church records.

No, if a born again Christian dies and is cremated, his salvation is not affected at all. Many courageous saints in time past were burnt at the stake for refusing to deny Christ. They are still saved and will receive new glorified bodies at the resurrection (1 Thess 4:16,17, 1 Cor 15:52-53)

The members of Life B-P Church are encouraged to bury their dead. Although there is no explicit statement from the Bible that categorically declares that we must not cremate or that we must bury only, like some other doctrines, such as the Trinity and Infant Baptism, inferences from the Bible are sufficient to conclude that Christians should be buried after they die.

Some biblical arguments in favour of burial are:
1. All the saints of God in both the Old and New Testaments were buried.
2. God buried Moses Himself (Deut 35: 5,6)
3. Even criminals were allowed to be buried in the Bible (cf. Deut 21:22,23).
4. The Bible teaches that those who commit certain sexual sins are not to die only but shall be burnt with fire (cf. Lev 20:14; 21:9).

Admittedly, these arguments are not conclusive, but is our body not a temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:19)? And after we die did God not promise us a body incorruptible (cf.1 Cor 15:52) at the Second Coming of Christ? As long as the option to bury is still made available in land-scarce Singapore, we, the Bible-Presbyterians in Singapore, are constrained for the above reasons, to bury our dead who have died in Christ.

Baptism is not an option for believers, but a commandment to be obeyed (Matthew 28:19,20). Infant baptism is included in this commandment. It is part of the family covenantal influence which involves the commitment of the parents in bringing up their child in the saving grace of the Lord.

a. The Biblical Basis of Infant Baptism:

The Covenant of Grace that God made with Christ is the means of salvation both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Saints in both the Old and the New Testament times were saved by grace through faith in Christ. In the Old Testament, the sign of the covenant was circumcision. This was required not only of believing adults, but also of male infants, born to believing parents, when they are eight days old. In the New Testament, the sign of the same covenant has been changed to baptism. And again, this is required of believing adults as well as infants (male and female now) born to believing parents.

The relationship between circumcision and baptism is clearly seen in Colossians 2:11,12 - "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." In a real sense therefore, water baptism can be called the "Christian circumcision" just as the Lord’s Day (Sunday) can be called the "Christian Sabbath."

The reason both for infant circumcision and for infant baptism is that the scope of influence and blessing of the Covenant of Grace includes the family of the believer. When God chose Abraham, He did so in order that Abraham may instruct his family in the way of the Lord: "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him." (Gen 18:19) This passage indicates that God had plans for Abraham’s family, and not just for Abraham alone.

In the New Testament, the Covenant of Grace still has reference to the believer’s family and not to the believer alone. In his sermon at Pentecost, the apostle Peter said, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:39). The apostle Paul also stated this principle in 1 Corinthians 7:14 - "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." (This verse, by the way, justifies the baptism of infants even if only one parent is a believer.)

The sign of the covenant (whether circumcision or baptism) is therefore to be applied to the children of believers, in recognition of this principle. The scriptures confirm that the early church applied baptism to the children of believers, in the household baptisms that are recorded. The word which is translated "household" normally included children and servants.

- The family of Lydia: "And when she was baptised, and her household, ..." (Acts 16:15)

- The family of the Philippian jailor: "and was baptised, he and all his, straightway." (Acts 16:33)

- The family of Stephanas: "And I baptised also the household of Stephanas:" (1 Corinthians 1:16)

It must be emphasised however, that infant baptism, does not save the infant. This goes against the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (baptismal regeneration). Whether a child who dies in infancy has been baptised or not, does not decide his salvation. A child that is elected unto salvation will be saved whether or not he or she is baptised (And this applies even to those that die before birth, since they cannot be baptised in the womb.).

b. The Meaning of Infant Baptism

Like infant baptism, adult baptism also does not save (e.g. Simon the sorcerer, Acts 8:13, 23). The adult believer is baptised in obedience to the Lord’s command, because he has already trusted in Christ to save him. His baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace, to publicly confess his faith in Christ.

The adult believer baptises his child also in obedience to the Lord’s command, but the child’s baptism may not be an outward sign of an inward grace, since it is yet uncertain whether the child will indeed receive Christ later on. The adult believer baptises his children to publicly confess his or her resolve to bring them up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.

Like infant baptism, the infant circumcision of the Israelites did not save them. Many of them who were circumcised as infants proved themselves later on to be unregenerate, e.g. Jehoiakim and Judas Iscariot. Those who were saved were those who were circumcised in heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4).

Infant baptism must be followed up with efforts by the parents to bring their children to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that when the children reach the age of understanding (usually about 12 years of age) they will affirm their faith before the Lord and the congregation. He must understand the doctrine of grace, being carefully taught in the catechism class on the Shorter Catechism and profess his faith in Christ publicly.

c. The Benefits of Infant Baptism:

Some allege that infant baptism deprives the child of the opportunity to be edified by being able to decide, for himself or herself, to be baptised in adulthood. One pastor recently said publicly, "My mother let me down by having me baptised as an infant."

Though this reasoning may seem to edify the individual, it overlooks one important fact: that baptism (whether adult or infant) is to be done primarily in obedience to God’s commandment, and not for personal edification.

There are others who feel that infant baptism is evil because it will cause the child to grow up becoming spiritually complacent, thinking that he or she is already right with God, and has no need of faith and repentance. Some who were baptised as infants have become wayward.

But this would only be true if no proper instruction is given by the parents to their baptised children. It is the duty of Christian parents to keep their children from becoming complacent, and to urge them to give true evidence of saving faith and repentance. The fact that there are negative examples does not negate nor nullify the biblical injunction and practice of infant baptism. Since Simon the sorcerer was baptised and was found to be a sinner still should we also discard adult baptism? God forbid.

Infant baptism can be a great blessing to Christian parents. It is a wonderful thing for parents to bring their children before God. By doing so they are reminded that children are indeed God’s gifts to them and that they are entrusted with the important responsibility of nurturing them with prayer, with the Word of God and with their own example.

The willingness of parents to have their children baptised also expresses and strengthens their love for their children. Good parents will always desire the best for their children. In the days of Christ, many brought their infants to Jesus to be blessed by Him and He gladly received them: "Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence." (Matthew 19:13-15)

Many a Christian has testified that the knowledge that his parents had him baptised in infancy has constituted a strong factor in his individual faith and his continued faithfulness in his Christian profession.

So great are the benefits of infant baptism to Christian parents, that even those who do not believe in it (e.g. Baptist churches, that practise believers’ baptism only) practise the dedication of infants, which has essentially the same significance as infant baptism.

No member of the church should get married to a non-Christian, because such marriage is prohibited in 2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

Life B-P Church will not agree to the use of the Lord’s sanctuary for an unequally-yoked marriage ceremony. The Constitution of our church stipulates the following under "Main Practices of the Church":

7.9 WEDDINGS: The solemnisation of marriages between born‑again believers. The groom must be a baptised believer and the bride either a baptised believer or a catechumen (2 Cor 6: 14; Eph 5:21‑33).

As a Christian and covenant head of the household, the father should not condone disobedience to God’s commandments, even if the one disobeying the Lord is his own spouse, son or daughter. Jesus said, "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:37).

If he were to make an exception and participate by giving his daughter’s hand in marriage to an unbeliever, he would become a partaker in her sin (cf. 1 Timothy 5:22; 2 John 11). He would also be implicitly informing the rest of his children that they can also become unequally yoked with his blessings. If it is suggested that such compromise may eventually help to bring the unbelieving partner to Christ, the answer to this is that this act of compromise itself would become a stumbling block to that person’s salvation, for it speaks much louder than any later pleas to turn to the Lord without compromise.

The rest of the family members who are believers should support the father’s decision not to participate in a wedding of disobedience. If this is made known early enough, perhaps the erring son or daughter may be able to see the seriousness of the matter and turn back to obeying God.

Obedience to Christ is not easy when close family ties are involved. But one needs to have the courage to take a stand and not to give anyone the place that only God deserves.

However, such measures should be tempered with Christian love as well. While the unequally yoked union is disapproved of, this disapproval should not lead to disowning the child. Love can be shown by a willingness to be physically present at the wedding without any participation (provided of course, it is only the secular ceremony at the Registry of Marriages and not a service in a heathen place of worship) maintain family ties, assist in setting up a new home, and welcoming the couple on visits back to the parents home. It may be that through such Christian love, the disobedient child may one day repent, and the non-Christian spouse may be led to the Lord. The disobedient child may need the family’s loving support when he or she begins to experience the consequences of his or her disobedience.

We appreciate what you have written concerning the new order where the announcements and welcome remarks to visitors are made at the end of the service instead of in the middle of the service.
 
We would like to assure you that this change in the order or worship was made only after much deliberation and discussion by the Church Session, and with careful attention to the response from our church members. Besides your feedback, we have also received feedback from many other Lifers. Interestingly, the majority prefer the new order, and they made suggestions to fine tune it. For example, some felt that there should be a time for worshippers to meditate on the message just after the 3-fold Amen. This was implemented and now we have a short postlude played by the organist just before the announcements are made.
 
We feel that moving the announcements to the time after the end of the worship service is better for the following reasons:
 
1. The entire worship service should be focused on God. The welcome and announcements are important, but not as important as the worship of God. Hence, the rightful place for the welcome and announcements is after the completion of worship.
 
2. The flow of the worship is disrupted when the welcome and announcements are placed in the middle of the service. The service begins with the opening hymn, opening prayer, responsive reading and another hymn. All this prepares the hearts of worshippers to come into God’s presence to present their prayers and offerings to Him and to hear His Word with minds that are ‘tuned in’ to God. But then, here come the welcome and announcements, causing many to ‘tune out’ as they listen to the announcements and focus on the visitors. Placing the welcome and announcements at the end of the service smoothens the flow of the worship service.
 
3. The Westminster Confession of Faith (which is the doctrinal statement of our church) mentions nothing of announcements as being part of the worship service:


WCF 21:3 - "Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men; and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of His Spirit, according to His will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.


WCF 21:5 - "The reading of Scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching, and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence; singing of Psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ; are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: besides religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner."

(Taken from Chapter 21, "Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day")
 
4. Many Bible-Presbyterian Churches have the announcements after the worship service (e.g. Calvary B-P Church and New Life B-P Church). This is also practised by many other Reformed and conservative Churches.
 
The concern that worshippers may want to get ready to leave before the announcements only applies if the announcements delay the end of the whole service past the expected time. We have made some adjustments so that the announcements will now end at 12:15 pm (for the 10:45 am service), which is the same time that the whole service used to end before the order of worship was changed. Hence no one would feel that they are being held back longer than usual by the announcements.
 
To make visitors feel welcomed to the service, it would be better for this to be done before the service begins, as the visitors arrive, and the deacons and elders greet them personally at the entrance of the church and usher them to their seats. Moreover, since we began having the public welcoming of visitors after the end of our service and giving them a special ‘visitors’ package’, we have noticed that our members have begun to take more initiative to introduce themselves to them and fellowship with them after that. In fact, some visitors recently commented that they felt warmly welcomed by the church. 
 
We believe that the benefits of making this change make it worth implementing, and that with time, as worshippers in our services get used to it, the Lord will use it to enhance their worship experience and draw them closer to Him.

The Lord's Supper is meant to be taken in a reverent manner as it brings us into close communion with Christ. In New Testament times there were some in the church of Corinth who took it in a very disrespectful manner:

1 Corinthians 11:20-22 - When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

Here we can see that some were treating the Lord's Supper like another meal to fill their stomachs or to indulge their appetites. Some of them even started to eat and drink the elements before the Lord's Supper began! (vv. 33,34)

This irreverent partaking of the Lord's Supper was quite obvious in the church and needed to be corrected quickly, before others would begin to do the same thing. Thus God Himself caused those who had persisted in this irreverent behaviour to fall sick and some even died: 1 Corinthians 11:30 - For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

But this was only meant to be a disciplinary measure by God, to correct a wrong behaviour. Thus, it does not mean that those who fell sick and died were not saved. The "condemnation" or "damnation" (v.29) is therefore to be understood only as chastisement (v.32) and not eternal condemnation in hell.

Today, the Lord may not use such measures on those who partake of the Lord's Supper in a wrong manner, because the example of the Corinthians who were severely chastened (now permanently recorded in 1 Corinthians 11) should already be sufficient to warn all Christians to treat the Lord's Supper reverently.

However, Christians today who do not partake in the Lord's Supper in a right manner will be denied of the spiritual blessings that come from taking it in a proper manner. They will probably remain spiritually dry and gain no spiritual benefit from it. The Holy Spirit may also convict them that they have sinned by treating the bread and the cup irreverently.

The Word of God says about marriage:

"Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)

Christians who get married are to understand that they are entering into an institution that was ordained by God, and not by man. Hence it is proper for them to have their wedding in church. There are at least five good reasons for having one's wedding solemnised in the form of a church worship service:

1. The couple should offer thanks to God for bringing them to meet each other and to get to know each other. It is God who providentially provides Christians with their life-partners (Proverbs 19:14 - "House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.").

2. The couple should seek for God's blessing upon their marriage. (Psalm 127:1 - "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.")

3. When Christians take their wedding vows, God is called upon to be the principal witness. (Numbers 30:2 - "If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.")

4. Every Christian wedding held in church serves as a reminder to all those who are present, that marriage is instituted by God as a permanent union between one man and one woman only. It is like a visualised Bible lesson that teaches truths that are being forsaken by the world today.

5. Having a church wedding provides an opportunity for the Christian couple to invite their unsaved friends and loved ones to church, who would normally decline invitations to come for any church worship service. When they come, they have a chance to see what a church service is like (with the singing of hymns, prayer and preaching). This makes it easier for them to come a second time.

In order to partake of the Lord's Supper reverently we can do the following:

1. Preparation of Heart

Since the benefit of partaking the Lord's Supper is a spiritual benefit, we must prepare ourselves spiritually for it. This involves the preparation of your heart. As JC Ryle said, "To enjoy a spiritual feast we must have a spiritual heart, and taste and appetite. To suppose that Christ's ordinances can do good to an unspiritual man, is as foolish as to put bread and wine in the mouth of a dead person. The careless, the ignorant and the wilfully wicked, so long as they continue in that state, are utterly unfit to be communicants¡­.A worthy communicant is one who possesses three simple marks and qualifications - repentance, faith and charity (Love). Does a man truly repent of sin and hate it? Does a man put his trust in Jesus Christ as his only hope of salvation? Does a man live in charity towards others? He that can truly say to each of these questions, "I do," he is a man that is Scripturally qualified for the Lord's Supper." (Practical Religion, pp.148,149) When you partake of the Lord's Supper you can use these three questions to examine yourself.

2. Understand the Meaning of the Lord's Supper

Nothing will be gained from partaking the Lord's Supper if it is done without understanding. For this reason, the minister who conducts the Lord's Supper reads a relevant portion of Scripture, and reminds communicants about the significance of the Lord's Supper in his remarks and prayer before the Lord's Supper, and leads the congregation in singing a hymn. According to JC Ryle, taking the Lord's Supper with understanding can provide communicants with "clearer views of Christ and His atonement, clearer views of all the offices which Christ fills as our Mediator and Advocate, clearer views of the complete redemption Christ has obtained for us by His death on the cross, clearer views of our full and perfect acceptance in Christ before God, fresh reasons for deep repentance for sin, fresh reasons for lively faith."

3. Let Your Soul Respond

When your heart and mind are able to apprehend these things, the next step is to let your soul respond to them. There are at least four responses of the soul in the Lord's Supper:

a. Contrition: The sight of the emblems of Christ's body and blood reminds us how sinful our sin must be, if nothing less that the death of God's own Son could make satisfaction for it, or redeem us from its guilt. It should deepen our repentance.

b. Comfort: The sight of the bread broken and the cup reminds us how full, perfect and complete our salvation is. We are reminded of the enormous price that was paid for our redemption, and that "there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

c. Consecration: The bread and the cup remind us what a great debt of gratitude we owe to our Lord, and how thoroughly we are bound to live for Him who died for our sins. Romans 12:1.

d. Commitment: Every time a believer partakes of the Lord's Supper he is reminded to his commitment to lead a consistent life. It should have a restraining effect upon him against yielding to sin and to the world.

With these three steps in place - preparation of heart for the Lord's Supper, understanding of the meaning of the Lord's Supper and the Responses of the soul during the Lord's Supper, the true Christian will find the Lord's Supper to be a great source of blessing to him, and will look forward to every occasion when the Lord's Supper is served and he can partake of it.

Baptism is a sign of the means by which a believer is saved from sin. Hence it only needs to be done once, to symbolise his entrance into salvation and the beginning of his new spiritual life. When he is saved, he does not need to be saved again and again.

The Lord's Supper is a sign of the means by which a believer is sustained in his new spiritual life. Hence it is done repeatedly, to symbolise the continual nourishment he receives as he grows into the image of Christ.

Since sustenance must come after salvation, a person should first be baptised, and after that he should regularly partake of the Lord's Supper. If a baptised person does not partake of the Lord's Supper, he is symbolically denying himself the sustenance that his new spiritual life needs. If a person takes the Lord's Supper before he is baptised, he is symbolically trying to sustain a spiritual life that does not exist yet.

However if a person takes the Lord's Supper without being baptised yet but he did it in ignorance, there is no harm done at all. In fact, if he has already believed in Christ, he would begin to gain spiritual benefits from the Lord's Supper.

Definition of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)

“Contemporary” means “modern, present-day, fashionable, up-to-date, current, etc. “Christian music” is, well, Christian music. So does Contemporary Christian Music means Christian music that is modern, present-day, fashionable, up-to-date, and current. To a certain extent this statement is true. However, CCM is not just a term to describe present day Christian music; it is a genre of music itself. There is contemporary Christian music that is not Contemporary Christian Music.

CCM is Christian lyrics or words of praise set to the music of the present age, namely rock and its other forms. It is multi-million dollar industry and is hardly distinguishable from the secular rock industry. There are concerts, artists, fan clubs, t-shirts, mugs, etc.

How did CCM come along? CCM started in the 1960s with the Jesus Movement – hippies who had come to believe on Jesus who created Christian music according to the musical styles of the day. The 1960s were a time of great political and social turmoil. Rock music was used to promote political and social propaganda. Big names like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, etc. all contributed to the changes in society. Rock and Roll became synonymous with sex and drugs. There is a song entitled – All I Need is My Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. The Bob Dylan song entitled Mr. Tambourine Man promotes drug abuse. But it was in that environment that people in the Jesus Movement started to compose their own music with their own message to rock music. An important figure in early CCM was Keith Green.

The philosophy of CCM is based on the idea that music is inherently neutral and that the words of praise may be set to these forms of music. CCMers have created their own creed poorly fashioned after the American Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all music was created equal, that no instrument or style of music is in itself evil – that the diversity of musical expression which flows from man is but one evidence of the boundless creativity of our Heavenly Father” (CCM Magazine, November 1988, p 12). However, music is not neutral as we have studied.

Evidence shows that CCM is mostly rock, but it covers every style of music associated with rock. Like rock music, CCM is not easy to define. “There is soft rock, hard rock, folk rock, mood rock, country rock, blues rock, acid rock, punk rock, 50s rock, 90s rock. There is reggae, rap, ska, industrial, and metal – but it is all rock. The same is true of CCM. It is 95% rock music, but it comes in a wide variety of rock styles” (David W. Cloud. Contemporary Christian Music Under the Spotlight. Port Huron: Way of Life Literature).

Issues Involved in CCM

Music Genre

Because of the philosophy of CCM, every CCM artist will write music to his style of music. It has always been this way, however. Wesley, Watts, Crosby, etc all wrote their hymns to musical genres of their day. The Metrical Psalters were written with the meters commonly used in that time as well. However, these musical genres differ from rock. The genre of rock has been seen to be dubious at best in its associations, themes, origins, fruits, etc. Rock is a musical genre that provokes sensuality. It has been seen that music should have a set pattern gleaned from Scriptural principles: Melody, Harmony, Rhythm.

There is some CCM music that contain God-honoring lyrics and dignified tunes, but the majority do not. Compare:

Let Us Pray by Steven Curtis Chapman:

I hear you say your heart is aching, you’ve got trouble in the making; And you ask if I’ll be praying for you please, And in keeping with conventions; I’ll say yes with good intentions, To pray later making mention of your needs; But since we have this moment here at heaven’s door, We should start knocking now, what are we waiting for?

Let us pray, let us pray, everywhere in every way, Every moment of the day it is the right time; For the Father above, He is listening with love, And He wants to answer us, so let us pray.

So when we feel the Spirit moving, Prompting, prodding, and behooving; There is no time to be losing, let us pray, Let the Father hear us saying; What we need to be conveying, Even while this song is playing let us pray; And just because we say the word “Amen” It doesn’t mean this conversation needs to end…

The Holy Ghost Hop by Carmen:

Everybody used to do the twist, the mashed potato and it goes like this; The funky chicken, monkey too. There wasn’t nothin’ they would not do; But there’s a new dance no one can stop, A leap for joy we call the Holy Ghost Hop

Now get ready, hold steady, Don’t deny it, just try it; Be bold now, let it go now, Give the Holy Ghost control now.

Hey all you brothers and you sisters too; Don’t let tradition tell you what to do, Release your worries and your fears; ‘Cause we’ve been hopping in the church for years; If King David was here I know that he would do the Holy Ghost Hop with me.

Philosophy

Big names in CCM have done crossovers. U2, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay, Six Pence None the Richer, etc.

Quotes by Amy Grant:

“I have a healthy sense of right and wrong, but sometimes, for example, using foul, exclamation-point words among friends can be good for a laugh. It seems to me that people who are most adamantly against premarital sex have experienced some kind of pain in their own lives. Like people who say absolutely NO to rock and roll. Chances are it has something to do with a past sadness…” (Ladies Home Journal, December 1985, p 210).

“That’s one reason I started writing songs, because I didn’t want to impose my religion on anyone. This way the audience can sit back and draw its own conclusions…My art and the feeling I am trying to communicate through the songs, it would be silly for me to say, this is who God is; I don’t have any answers” (The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 21, 1984).

“I’m a singer, not a preacher…I’m not looking to convert anybody” (CCM Magazine, January 1989, p. 20).

Quotes by or about Steve Camp:

“I am dedicated to good music whether it’s pop, Christian, gospel, R&B, blues, jazz, classical, rock, or whatever, I just love good music” (MusicLine Magazine, Feb 1986, p 22)

“Though potent, the message [of Steve Camp] never overwhelms or becomes preachy” (MusicLine Magazine, June 1985, p 20)

Quote by Rich Mullins:

“I’m really sick of all this heavy-handed Christianity. Musicians take themselves too seriously. They should have more fun, and they should stop preaching unless that’s what God has called them to. If I want to hear a sermon, I’ll go to church, thank you” (CCM Magazine, April 1987, p 12)

Quote by Michael W. Smith:

“I know if I’m too blatant about my Christianity and talk about Jesus I won’t succeed in the mainstream. But hey, I’m not an evangelist, I’m a singer” (Wall Street Journal, Sept 11, 1991, p 1).

“…you’re always going to have those very very conservative people. They say you can’t do this; you can’t do that…you can’t drink, you can’t smoke…it’s a pretty bizarre way of thinking” (The Birmingham News, Feb 1993, p 1B).

Quote by Mark Stuart

“…the only difference [between rock and Christian rock] is the lyrics and then the difference is sometimes subtle…at the basic root, there’s no difference…Christianity is about rebellion. Jesus Christ is the biggest rebel to ever walk the face of the earth…he was crucified for his rebellion. Rock and Roll is about the same thing – rebellion…to me rock and the church go hand in hand” (Pensacola News Journal, March 1998, p 1, 6E).

Quote by Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay)

“The topics we deal with are universal in many ways. And we’re not only singing to Christians, so why would I want to write a song that uses all this language that only Christians would understand? That would be shooting ourselves in the foot. An artist spends most of life in a prison tainted by his experience. Ours is tainted by our experience of being in church and being Christian. Hopefully people who hear us are going to go “Wow! That was a good song!” (Religious News Service, Dec 1997, p 17).

The latest is Singapore’s own Ho Yeow-Sun.

Morality

Divorce rates as well as adulteries in the industry is high. Amy Grant has divorced husband Gary Chapman and is now attached to country singer Vince Black. Michael English, after winning a Dove Award, confessed to having had an affair with another CCMer, and returned his award. Fans insisted he keep the award. Sandi Patti is divorced and says that it has allowed her to write her music more freely without being encumbered with the grief of an unhappy marriage.

Ecumenism

CCM has always been an ecumenical glue, bringing denominations, liberal or conservative, together. CCM music was the music of the massive Key ’73 evangelistic program which was promoted by Billy Graham and many other key Christian leaders. The program brought together Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Roman Catholics. To create such a broad ecumenical unity requires that doctrinal issues be ignored. CCM was also the music of the largest ecumenical charismatic conference of the 1980s. The New Orleans ’87 of four days of Christian rock brought together 40,000 ecumenical-charismatics in attendance. 40 denominations were present and approximately half (20,000) were Roman Catholics.

Gather At the River (20 Contemporary Christian Hits Vol 2):

Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, we don’t agree, we don’t know why / But Jesus prayed that we’d be one, for the sake of God’s own son / Can we put away our differences, lay down our pride, it’s time we start turning the tide.

In 1996, Michael Card (Protestant CCMer) has cooperated with John Michael Talbot (Catholic CCMer) on an album called Brothers. They sing – “There is one faith / One hope and one baptism / One God and Father of all / There is one church, one body, one life in the spirit / Now given so freely for all.” These words to a Catholic mean entirely different things to the Protestant.

Card testified that “doing this project has enabled us to become real friends. And along the way, the DENOMINATIONAL LINES HAVE BECOME REALLY MEANINGLESS TO ME AND TO JOHN TOO.”

John Michael Talbot is a Roman Catholic and Mary devotee who believes in tongues speaking, dreams, and other forms of extra-biblical revelation. He became a lay brother in the order of Secular Franciscans and lives in a hermitage. He stated, “Personally, I have found praying the Rosary to be one of the most powerful tools I possess in obtaining simple, childlike meditation on the life of Jesus Christ. I am also feeling the presence of Mary becoming important in my life…I feel that she really does love me and intercedes to God in my behalf…Music is an extension of my life. When I became a Christian, my music became Christian music. When I became Catholic, my music because Catholic music.”

What About Praise and Worship Music?

We must understand that Praise and Worship Music is still CCM.

Firstly, it is not doctrinally strong and clear – while there are exceptions, they are only that. CCM sings of Jesus and grace and love and salvation, but in such a doctrinally non-specific manner that the modernists can find their Jesus and the Catholics their grace therein.

Secondly, praise and worship music is popular even among unregenerate religious people because it is the same rock music to which this generation is addicted.

Thirdly, praise music is evolving from an ecumenical philosophy of positivism and spiritual neutralism.

Lastly and importantly, praise and worship music has its roots and continues to be largely Charismatic based.

The fruits of the Charismatic movement is ecumenism and apostasy. As Bible-believers we must be discerning and consider whether we should listen to such music. It is not a matter of Why Not? But a matter of Why Should We?

The Bible teaches us that there is only one God (" Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD" Deuteronomy 6:4). But God exists in three persons ("...baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" - Matthew 28:19 - notice that it is "name" and not "names", indicating that there is only one God). Jesus showed that He and the Father are only One God when He said "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). They are related as follows: The Father sent The Son (John 3:16) and the Father and the Son sent the Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26).

1) Biblically, Jesus was not "buried" as in being covered over with earth below ground level. His body was laid in a sepulchre, which is a cave hewn out of rock above ground level with several chambers for placing dead bodies. Hence the body of Jesus was never underground.

1 Corinthians 15:3,4 - "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

John 20:5-7 - "And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself."

2) The tomb in which Jesus was laid was like the tomb in which Lazarus was laid, from which he could walk out (not climb out) when the stone was removed from the entrance:

John 11:38,43,44 - "Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. ...And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes"

3) The word "thapto" that is translated as "bury" in Romans 6:4 ("Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death") simply means to put into a grave, or to entomb, or to honour with funeral rites. e.g.

Matthew 8:21,22 - "And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."

Romans 6:4 can thus be translated: "Therefore we are ‘funeralised’ with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

Hence there is no necessity for a person to be plunged underwater when he is baptised. Baptism is properly administered by sprinkling.

The Holy Spirit is God -- He is not a force (implied by the word ‘what’ you used) as no one can lie to a force ("But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." – Acts 5:3,4 - Notice that in the first part it is ‘lie to the Holy Ghost’ and in the last part it is ‘lie unto God.’)

In short, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is permanent while the filling of the Holy Spirit is not permanent. A believer can be indwelt but not filled with the Spirit. We do not need to seek the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God does this to us once and for all the moment we are saved, and we can never lose it. That is why there is no commandment in the Bible to be indwelt, while there is a commandment to be filled or led by the Spirit.

Let us look at some passages of scripture on the indwelling of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 3:16 – "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" Romans 8:11 – "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." 2 Timothy 1:14 – "That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." In all these verses we notice how Paul simply assumes that Christians are indwelt by the Spirit – i.e. it is stated as a fact that is true of all born-again Christians. Romans 8:9 – "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." It is therefore quite clear that every true believer is indwelt with the Spirit of God.

But now look at passages about the filling of the Spirit: Firstly we see that some believers are described as being ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ Acts 6:3 – "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business." Acts 11:24 – "For he [Barnabas] was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord." Is this filling only reserved for a special elite group of Christians, who serve the Lord well? No, because the command is given to all in Ephesians 5:18 – "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit"

Hence the filling of the Spirit is up to us – ideally we should be filled all the time, but it is possible to lose the filling of the spirit because of the old sinful nature in us. This experience is described by Paul himself in Romans 7:19,20 – "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." Then He mentions how to overcome the flesh, in Romans 8:1,2 – "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

The term ‘walking in the Spirit’ implies an ongoing, daily effort of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit. Cf. Galatians 5:16-18 – "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."

Hence it is clear that being filled with the Spirit, is dependent on the believer’s initiative. We must consciously yield ourselves to the Spirit’s leading and working within us.

We pray to God in all three persons, though prayers are usually addressed to the Father. But it makes no difference to address prayers to Jesus. "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." - Acts 7:59.

John 16:23,24 -- "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full."

Yes, though it has already been shed 2000 years ago, the blood of Jesus still washes away our sins (1 John 1:7 - "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."). An analogy will help to understand this better. If someone signed a will 50 years ago, the will still remains in effect till today and has the power to grant the inheritor the right to inherit the property.

The writers of the books of the Bible said that their books were written by inspiration of God. E.g. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16,17, cf 2 Peter 1:21). Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 2:12,13 -- "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

Peter acknowledged that Paul’s writings were part of the Scriptures inspired by God -- "even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15,16)

Yes, Peter who denied Jesus 3 times was the same Peter who wrote some books of the Bible (ie. 1 Peter and 2 Peter). But unlike Judas, Peter repented of His sin (which was done out of fear for his own life, rather than out of malicious intent, as was the case for Judas’ betrayal) and was restored by Jesus Christ in John 21:15-27). All writers of the books of the Bible were in fact sinners who were mercifully forgiven and cleansed by God (e.g. Isaiah 6:5-7).

 

God is able to do anything - so long as He wills to do it. He will never will to do anything contrary to His attributes of wisdom, holiness, justice, and love.

God can take away the sin of the world now if He wanted to, but that may mean another Great Flood like in the time of Noah, with many deaths and few survivors - since all men are sinners (Romans 3:23). A time is coming when God, in His justice, will execute judgment on the sins of the world and put an end to all suffering. But God, in His love, has deliberately delayed that time, as 2 Peter 3:9,10 tells us -- " The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

Instead of judging the world now for all its sins, God, in His wisdom, has made a powerful plan of salvation that is more effective in taking away sin: By sending His Son to die on the cross for sin. Only people who turn to Jesus Christ can have their sins taken away from their lives, and their hearts are changed so that they will grow to sin less and less. Remember that we are not robots that can be instantly altered. It takes time for moral creatures like us with our own will to repent and change. It would be nice to have our sins taken away immediately so that we can never sin again and would no longer have to struggle with this problem every day. But God, in His wisdom and love, wants His children to go through the process of learning to depend fully and consciously upon Him to overcome sin and temptation.

Paul said in Romans 7:22 -8:2 "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

The remedy we need is found in Galatians 5:16 -- "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."

When God created all things there was no sin. Genesis 1:31 -- "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." But He made man and angels like Lucifer who became Satan [which means the adversary when he rebelled against God’s authority (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28] to have their own free will to choose to obey Him or disobey Him. Sin came into the universe when both Satan and man chose to disobey God on their own will. Hence God did not create sin.

No, Adam and Eve were not apes, but were exactly like all people living today. The fossil evidence that is alleged to prove that man came from apes is not convincing. Some have been proven to be the remains of extinct species of apes; other fossils have proven to be the remains of people who lived a long time ago. There are scientists who have shown that there is no link between man and apes. Only man is created with the image of God in him. All other creatures do not have this image of God which consists of Knowledge, Righteousness and Holiness. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:26,27)

God never makes mistakes. He cannot, since He already knows the future and the outcome of everything. "for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Isaiah 46:9,10)

God does all things with one purpose -- to glorify Himself. Even the Flood was designed to accomplish that purpose. "What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:22-24)

He is both. The title ‘Son of Man’ shows that he is a full human being, like all of us (Hebrews 2:14 -- " Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;") The title ‘Son of God’ shows that he is God Himself -- (read Hebrews 1:5-8)

The Bible clearly tells us that God loves the world (John 3:16,17 - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."). But when God began to reveal his plan of salvation, he began with one man -- Abram (Genesis 12:1-3 -- "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." - Notice that even here, he already revealed His plan to bless all families of the earth.). Out of that man came the Jews, to whom God entrusted all the teachings of Himself and the writings of Scripture. Through them God brought Jesus into the world, as Jesus was a direct descendant of Abraham.

Jesus said - " But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23,24) We are worshipping the right God if we worship Him in spirit (i.e. not thinking of God as being found in some stone idol or physical object) and in truth (i.e. according to the truths about Himself that He alone has revealed to us in the Bible).

Christ has borne the punishment for all the sins of God’s people on the cross at Calvary. If born again Christians have been living in disobedience to God, the difficulty may be a chastisement from God. Chastisement is different from punishment - Chastisement is meted by God out of love with the purpose of drawing the disobedient person back to God (Deut 8:5; Prov 3:12). Sometimes it is difficult for us to tell if God is chastising us or simply testing us. The Bible shows us that Job did not know until everything was over. But one thing we know: "...all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

This is not due to any negligence or inconsistency on the part of God. If our prayers are not answered it may be due to one or more of the following reasons: We ask for the wrong things or for selfish reasons (James 4:3 -- "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."); We are living in sin and disobedience to God and have not repented (Psalm 66:18 -- " If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:"). Sometimes it God answers our prayers but we do not perceive it -- His answer may be: ‘No’ or ‘Wait and be patient’.

The process of testing if for our benefit -- it refines our faith, and draws us nearer to God. (1 Peter 1:7 -- "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:")

God does not ordinarily speak to His people in an audible voice today. Those who claim to see visions of God or hear Him speaking to them all the time may be misled by their own imagination or even by some deception of Satan. God has chosen to speak to His people through His written Word, the Bible. (2 Peter 1:16-19 -- "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:")

When a born again Christian reads the Bible, the Holy Spirit takes the words he reads and personalises it to him. As a result, he becomes deeply convicted that the words he reads are meant for him personally. In this sense, a Christian can say, "The Lord spoke to me."(1 Cor 2:10-16).

Islam was founded about 600 years after Christianity by Mohammed who claimed to be a prophet of God. History reveals that Mohammed knew about Christianity and the teachings of the Bible, since he met Christians in Arabia. That is how much of the teachings of the Bible are also found in Islam. However, Mohammed refused to accept the teaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he is in fact, God Himself. He saw Jesus as being just a prophet of God. He thought that Christians had corrupted the Bible, and made Jesus into God. Mohammed thought that God had called him to correct this corruption and restore the truth. However, by denying the deity of Christ, Mohammed taught that salvation from sin must be earned by keeping the laws of God, which includes circumcision, fasting, praying 5 times a day.

Christians do not practise these things because the Bible teaches us that these laws are meant to show us how sinful we are and how we need to turn to Jesus Christ to save us (Galatians 2:16 -- "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."). Besides, many of the Old Testament laws such as circumcision, animal sacrifice have either been abrogated or fulfilled in Christ. For the born again Christian the two greatest commandments that he should keep as a result of being saved (and not as a means of salvation) are: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matthew 22:37-39)

For Christians, salvation can never be wrought by works. Ephesians 2:8,9 assert this, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

After a born again Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven to see Jesus. "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) Paul said "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."

Although the soul is with the Lord, it does not have a body yet, until the resurrection, when God gives the soul a new and glorious physical body, just like the the body Jesus had after His resurrection. Philippians 3:20,21 -- "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."

As for those who are not saved, their soul immediately goes to suffer in hell upon death. At the resurrection, they also receive new bodies, but only to be cast into the lake of Fire and brimstone to suffer eternal death. Rev 20:13-15 - "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

Paradise and heaven are one and the same, as 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 shows. They are both used in the NT to denote the place where the souls of the saved will go to immediately after death and will live there for eternity (see Revelation 2:7). The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 shows that there is no intermediate state of ‘soul sleep’ (which some cults believe).

The term ‘sleep in Jesus’ is a figurative way of referring to the saints who have died before the rapture. The word sleep is well-known euphemism for death, e.g. Acts 7:60; 2 Peter 3:4. Hence, it should not be taken as a literal sleep. It is a matter of perspective. To us here on earth, it appears that these departed believers are now all ‘asleep’. But to the departed believers themselves they are alive in the presence of the Lord (cf. Mark 12:26,27). Since Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3), we have confirmation that the souls of the OT believers are alive with the Lord.

Those who are truly saved will never lose their salvation. Jesus said in John 10:27-29 - "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand." (see also Romans 8:38,39)

But how can we tell if a person is truly born again? One important way is by the life he leads after salvation. There are many who claim that they are Christians, but they are really not: "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." (Titus 1:16). A true Christian will have a changed life, as God works in him. Though he may occasionally still fall into sin because of the weakness of the flesh, he should become better and better. If he backslides into sin, God will chastise him and bring him back to the path of righteousness.

The first thing that we need to understand is that God does not owe salvation to anyone. The fact that He chose to save some out of so many is already amazing. By right, no one should be saved at all, because all alike are sinners worthy of eternal death (Romans 3:10 - "There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."; Romans 3:23 - "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;")

Secondly, the cause for the condemnation of the lost is not that they had never heard of Christ, but their own sin and rebellion against God. God has given every human being a conscience that shows them right and wrong. (Romans 2:14-15 - "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;")

Thirdly, God is always righteous in judgment. No one can accuse Him of being unfair or unjust (Deuteronomy 32:4 - "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.")

The Bible tells us that a person is saved the moment he turns to Christ for salvation in repentance and faith. (John 5:24 - "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.") He does not need to have time to prove that he is saved by going to church, reading the Bible, serving the Lord, etc. before he is accepted by God. He is already accepted at the moment of conversion. One of the thieves who was crucified with Jesus Christ turned to Him: "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42,43) The thief died soon after that and was never baptised or had opportunities to read the Bible or obey any of God’s commandments. Praise the Lord! Your mother is therefore really saved even though she did not have the opportunity to go to church, etc. due to her illness.

God does not need to rest on the Sabbath day now, because the Sabbath day was made for man (Mark 2:27), not for Him. God’s rest on the first Sabbath was meant to model our rest for one day every week (Exodus 20:20,11). In a sense, God’s rest began on the 7th day after He began creating the heavens and the earth and is still ongoing. By this, we mean that he has ceased from His work of creation. He is still working to maintain what He has created - "My Father worketh hitherto (even until now), and I work" (John 5:17). That God’s rest continues till the present is based on the fact that believers can still enter into His rest - Hebrews 4:3 - "For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into My rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."

The spiritual world is real. There are such things as evil spirits and demons. These are actually fallen angels that rebelled against God together with Lucifer. Sometimes they impersonate dead people and appear as ghosts. They do this in order to perpetuate false beliefs about the afterlife, e.g. the practise of burning joss paper to provide money to those in the underworld, etc. These are just part of the means that Satan uses to keep unbelievers under his power.

Those who claim to have the ability to see things in the spiritual realm have probably sought to see such things, out of curiosity or personal interest. But it is not to their advantage. It only makes people more aware of the presence of spirits and fearful of them. When king Saul sought to consult the spirit of Samuel to know what was in store for him, he was granted his request, but the end result was that he was much worse than before (1 Samuel 28:7-25). Christians should not dabble in the spiritual world or the occult (Deut 18: 10-12), but leave this realm to God alone to handle.

The only way to help those who are demon-possessed is to preach the gospel to them and pray for them. Once they fully accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour, the evil spirit will automatically leave them. Many people have been delivered from demon-possession by turning to Christ for salvation.

Any attempt to cast out the evil spirit without the person’s acceptance of Christ will be futile - "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first." (Matthew 12:43-45)

The ministry of exorcism, like the ministry of miraculous healing, tongues, etc. were given only to the apostles. They are not for the church today. Those who claim to have powers of exorcism are claiming more authority over spirits than they should claim - "Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." (Jude 8,9)

Demons have limited power over Christians, and can only go as far as God permits them to touch Christians (Job 1:11,12). Moving out of the house will only relieve the psychological fear or paranoia of evil spirits for a time. As long as the family members remain non-Christians, the evil spirits (whether the same ones or new ones) can still trouble them wherever they are. ‘Blessing’ the house does not help, because as long as there are non-Christians living there, the evil spirit will always feel free to return back to the house.

This strange teaching is based on a misinterpretation of two passages:

1 Peter 3:18-20

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."

Ephesians 4:8-10

"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)"

Based on this, it is speculated that between the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He descended into hell and preached to the lost souls in hell.

1 Peter 3:18-20, according to Buswell, Hodge, Warfield, etc. means that it was the Spirit of Christ in the days of Noah and through Noah who was preaching righteousness to those who rejected God’s grace, and who as a result of that, are now lost and in prison.

In Ephesians 4:8-10 the phrase ‘lower parts of the earth’ is not a reference to hell (and thus, does not imply that hell is somewhere underground, in the centre of the earth), The term lower parts is to be seen in apposition to the word earth. Hence it means that Christ descended into the lower parts, namely, the earth. It refers to his incarnation as a man.

The wording of the Apostle’s creed has also influenced this misinterpretation, since it states that Christ "descended into Hades". Some thought that this means that Christ went not to hell itself, but merely a holding place ("limbus patrum") for the dead Old Testament saints. He went to preach to them that His work on the cross had accomplished their salvation, and so they could now be released and led to heaven by Him.

John Calvin interprets the phrase in the creed to be a metaphor of the sufferings of Christ on the cross. The Westminster fathers take it to be refering to the state of death that Christ remained in until His resurrection. Both interpretations do not take the phrase literally, to mean that Christ went to a place called Hades.

The canonicity of the books of the Bible was determined as follows:

As the various books of the Bible were written, they were read by believers and recognised by consensus. The Holy Spirit caused them to accept those books which God had inspired (the 66 books that we have in our Bible today) and reject those books which were not inspired by God (e.g. the apocrypha and the spurious gospels).

How do we know what was the consensus of God’s people? Through differences in the way they handled the books. e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls show a difference in the way that the writers quoted from the OT books from the way that they quoted from other books written at the same time.

As for the NT, Tertullian made this statement which represents the thinking of Christians in the 2nd century AD with regard to the Bible: "We Christians are forbidden to introduce anything else on our own authority, or to choose what someone introduces on his own authority. Our authorities are the Lord’s apostles, and they in turn chose to introduce nothing on their own authority. They faithfully passed on to the nations the teaching which they had received from Christ."

How we know that the Bible is complete:

God has defined that the OT prophets (see Deuteronomy 18:20-21) and the NT apostles (see John 16:12-16) are the only legitimate human writers of scripture whom the Holy Spirit will inspire. Ephesians 2:20 - "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" Ephesians 3:5 - "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" 2 Peter 3:2 - "That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour"

These two groups are the only two categories of the "Holy men of God" mentioned in 2 Peter 1:21 - "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The line of OT prophets came to an end about 400 BC. Josephus, declared that the prophets wrote from the days of Moses to Artaxerxes. Josephus also wrote: "It is true our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time." The Talmud remarks: "After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel." Both of these sources testify that Malachi was the last writing prophet of the OT. Hence no one after Malachi can claim that he is a writing prophet.

The line of NT apostles came to an end about AD 90 with the death of the apostle John. What is an apostle? He must be an eyewitness to Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3), and manifest the signs of an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3,4). It is true that the books of Mark, Luke and Acts were not written by an apostle, but these have the authority of the apostles behind them, e.g. Peter for Mark and Paul for Luke and Acts. No one living after AD 90 can claim to be an apostle or have the authority of an apostle because all the apostles of Christ died by that time.

Another evidence that the Bible is complete is the fact that the last few chapters of the last book, Revelation, reflect themes in the first few chapters of Genesis which is the first book. Look at the following:

Subject / Theme
God giveth light - Gen 1:3; Rev 22:5
God’s garden/city - Gen 2:8; Rev 21:10
Tree of Life - Gen 2:9; Rev 22:2
Precious stones - Gen 2:11-12; Rev 21:18-20
River - Gen 2:11-14; Rev 22:1
Marriage - Gen 2:24; Rev 21:2
Satan - Gen 3:3; Rev 20:2
Destruction of Evil - Gen 6:11-13; Rev 19:20,21
Babylon - Gen 11:1-9; Rev 18:1-9

This is not coincidental, but a real testimony to the conclusive nature of the book of Revelation. The same kind of structure can be observed in OT poetry. e.g. Psalm 103 begin and end with the same phrase: "Bless the LORD, O my soul" Therefore, any book that is written after the book of Revelation and claimed to be part of the Bible would violate this intricate structure of God’s revelation!

As for Rev 22:18,19 the argument that it applies to the whole Bible is admittedly tenuous since the words "the words of the book of this prophecy" apply directly to the Book of Revelation alone. Hence it is a warning not to tamper with the book of Revelation. However the same warning is found in Deuteronomy 4:2 – "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (also Deu 12;32). Hence, by analogy, every book of the Bible, which is inspired by God, cannot be tampered with with additions or subtractions. In an indirect sense, additional books purported to be from God, will be doing that, especially if their message nullifies or changes what God has already revealed through the prophets and apostles.

There are some who say that Paul was the replacement for Barnabas and that Matthias who was elected in Acts 1:26 was not a legitimate apostle. Nothing more is mentioned of him.

But I think that it may be better to say that there were the 12 apostles, plus some other apostles recognised by the church, which includes Paul. Acts 15:5,7 seems to imply that the term "The twelve" is a subset of "The apostles" - "And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles."

Who are these other apostles besides Paul? Two of them may have been James, who was the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), and Barnabas (Acts 14:14). Paul calls himself the least of all the apostles (1 Cor 15:8,9)

There are two important qualifications of an apostle:

1. Must have been an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1 - Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus and presumably learned all about the life, death and resurrection of Christ by direct revelation. Christ appeared to his brother, James, according to 1 Cor 15:7. Barnabas was presumably among the more than 500 who saw the resurrected Christ in 1 Cor 15:6).

2. Must have the signs of an apostle (Paul had these - 2 Cor 12:12; Acts 14:3 shows that Barnabas was also able to perform miracles, like Paul.)

If a person had one qualification but not the other, he could not be called an apostle. E.g. Philip was able to perform signs, but he was not an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 8:5,6). There may have been many among the 500 who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, but who did not have the signs of an apostle.

Thus when the Bible talks of "The apostles" it is sometimes referring just to the 12 who were His original chosen disciples, plus Matthias who replaced Judas. At other times it may be referring to a larger group, which included Paul, Barnabas and James the brother of Christ.

They were created before man. Job 38:6,7 – "Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" The term ‘morning stars’ and ‘sons of God’ (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1) refer to angels who witnessed the acts of creation by God. Man did not see these things, since they were all made by the time he was made. Man is therefore of lower rank than the angels (Psalm 8:5) who are powerful immortal beings. But man will one day in his resurrected state, be like them (Matthew 22:30).

The term "angel of the Lord" is found altogether 68 times in the Bible (56 times in the OT and 12 times in the NT). In most of the verses where the term is found (both in the OT and NT), the term may refer to any angel that was sent by the Lord to bring a message to someone (e.g. 2 Kings 1:3,4) or to execute God’s will (e.g. 1 Chronicles 21:15). However, there are some OT passages where the ‘angel of the Lord’ is God Himself. E.g. Genesis 22:11,12,15-17; Genesis 31:11,13; Exodus 3:2,4; Judges 13:20. We cannot take every instance of the mention "Angel of the Lord" as referring to God or Christ. Those that are revealed to be God in the OT are probably the preincarnate appearances of Christ (Micah 5:2 – "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.") but none of the Angel of the Lord appearances in the New Testament are like that, because Christ was already incarnated.

We believe that Christ’s atonement was sufficient for all, but efficient only for the elect.

It is correct to say that Christ died to save only the elect, when the context is the design and intention of the atonement, and not its sufficiency.

The Arminians believe that Christ’s atonement was designed and intended to save the whole world but only those who believe are saved. This position is wrong because when an atonement is made for anyone his sins can no longer be held against him. The penalty for all his sins has already been fully paid. If that person has to pay it again in hell, then there would be a double payment for the same sins. So the atonement of Christ could only have paid for the sins of the elect, not for the sins of the non-elect. Matthew 1:21 says, "...for He shall save His people from their sins." The term ‘his people’ here refers to the elect. Ephesians 5:25 – "...even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." Again the term ‘church’ demarcates a group of people, not the whole world.

But the value of Christ’s atonement is infinite, so that if hypothetically, God had elected every sinner who ever lived, Christ’s atonement would still have been sufficient to pay for all of them. No sinner is lost because of an insufficient atonement. This sufficiency is stated in 1 John 2:2 – "And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Therefore the atonement is sufficient for all.

First we must consider what is true of all three persons in the Trinity: The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarises it as follows: "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth." What is true about God is true about each person in the Trinity. God is eternal. Therefore Father is eternal, Son is eternal, Spirit is eternal, etc. All three persons are equal (cf. John 5:17,18; 10:30) but there are functional differences:

The Father is mentioned first, followed by the Son, and then the Holy Spirit. (John 14:28 – "If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.", 16:14 – "He [the Holy Spirit] shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.", 5:19 – "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."). This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a lesser God than Jesus and that Jesus is a lesser God than the Father. Or that one is less important than the other.

Functionally, God the Father is the Source from whom all things originate. God the Son is the Word or wisdom, and God the Holy Spirit is the Power, executing the will of God. These functions can be seen in creation (1 Cor 8:6 – "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.", Gen 1:2 – "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.").

And salvation (1 Pet 1:2 – "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.") The Father elected us to salvation from the before foundation of the world, The Son provided the atonement that saves us, and the Spirit Calls us through the preaching of the Word. When we pray – we pray to the Father, through the Son, by means of the Holy Spirit.

However, the distinctions are not absolute and there is some overlap. E.g. Which Person of the Trinity abides in the believer? – The Holy Spirit; God the Son – John 14:20 "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." (cf. Gal 2:20); God the Father – "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." In whose name do we baptize? Acts 2:38 says "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." But Matthew 28:19 says, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"

Sanctification is the work of the Spirit (as seen in 1 Pet 1:2) and yet in Jude 1:1, it is God the Father who sanctifies! ("Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called"). Awhile ago we said that prayer is directed to God the Father, but one prayer in the Bible is not addressed to the Father, but to the Son – Acts 7:59 – "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Hence, there definitely is some overlap in functions and roles. How much? – Not for us to say or to measure. Remember: That it is beyond man’s ability to completely understand or analyse God, the way he might analyse anything in this world. We should simply accept what the Bible says about Him.

The main difference it is spirit baptism that saves, not water baptism. The moment a person is born again, he or she is spiritually baptised. 1 Corinthians 12:13 – "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." After a person is spiritually baptised, he should be baptised with water as well to confess that he now believes in Christ. In infant baptism however, water baptism comes before spirit baptism, because it is usually later on that the child is born again. But there was one exception – e.g. John the Baptist (Luke 1:15 – "he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.") He was born again before he was even born!

Water Baptism is one of the two sacraments ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ to be practised by the church, which are: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Of these, baptism is only done once, to initiate the new believer into a church. Salvation is not the purpose of water baptism – many people have this mistaken idea, because it is taught by the RC church and some cults – e.g. Central Christian church. See 1 Corinthians 1:17 – "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." If baptism is required for salvation, Paul would not have said that.

The thief who died on the cross next to Christ was not baptised, and yet he was saved. (Luke 23:42,43 – "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."). The Bible teaches that baptism is only an outward sign of an inward grace (cf. Wedding ring – the outward sign of the invisible marriage bond). It distinguishes Christ’s disciples from the rest of the world, and comforts them. If an adult who is not saved goes through water baptism, that water baptism is no use to him. Therefore what matters most is the unseen spirit baptism that is done by God.

The OT Jewish Laws provided salvation only as far as the Jews believed in God’s provision of the Messiah for their salvation. The Laws were designed to make them aware of their sin and need for salvation, and the sacrifices prescribed in the Law made them look forward to the final sacrifice God would provide for them, to take away all their sins. There are ample prophecies in the OT about the coming Messiah and many godly Jews in the time of Christ were looking forward to seeing Him.

E.g. Simeon, in Luke 2:5-27 – "And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law."

Besides Simeon, there was also Anna, a prophetess in the Temple who recognized Jesus as her Messiah, "And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." (Luke 2:38).

As Jesus was growing up, there were probably many other godly Jews, who like Simeon and Anna, were waiting for their Messiah and His salvation, but who unlike Simeon and Anna, they were ignorant that He had already come. As long as they still had this hope and desire, they were saved. But when Jesus began His public ministry, the news about Him would have reached most of the Jews living in Palestine. That would then determine who were saved and who were not among them. Those who were saved would readily confess that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:13-17 – "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.")

1 Peter 2:7,8 – "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."

Therefore, from the time that Jesus’ ministry became known among the Jews (and not the completion of the canonical Bible), their response to him determined whether or not they were saved. Those who heard about the Jesus and sought to know Him and follow Him would be saved – as God would draw them toward Him. Those who responded to the news with indifference, were not. How about those living far outside Israel who never got to hear the news even after Christ had ascended up to heaven? – They would be saved if they were like Simeon and Anna in desiring the Messiah to come. But since godly Jews would take the trouble to visit the Temple at Jerusalem every year for the feasts of Passover and Pentecost, it is likely that they too would have received the news about Jesus (cf. Pentecost in Acts 2:5,6 – "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.")

Today, the news of Jesus is common knowledge to most Jews. And yet they still reject Him. This is due to the ‘blindness’ that God has placed on them (Romans 11:25).

Three of them are named: the Crown of life (Rev 2:10, James 1:12), the Crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4), and the Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). The idea of crowns was taken from the athletic contests and they were actually prizes that were awarded to athletes in New Testament times. In those days people took part in sporting events like the present day Olympic games. But unlike the Olympic games, participants in these games who performed better than all their other competitors in athletic events, did not receive gold silver or bronze medals. What they received were special wreaths or garlands woven from leaves, and they wore these on top of their heads.

Different kinds of leaves were used to make the ‘crowns’ in different areas. The crown worn by the victors in the Olympic games was made of leaves of the wild olive; in the Pythian games, of laurel; in the Nemean games, of parsley; and in the Isthmian games, of the pine. The Romans bestowed the "civic crown" on him who saved the life of a citizen. It was made of the leaves of the oak tree. Our Lord Jesus Christ was also crowned when he died on the cross, but one that was woven with thorns, not leaves, in order to mock him rather than to honour him.

And the whole concept of the crowns that the New Testament writers wrote about was actually derived from these wreaths, since the Christian life is like a long distance race. When we are discouraged we can look into God’s Word and be motivated to press on when we understand that there are wonderful prizes waiting for us at the end of the race: the crown of righteousness, the crown of life and the crown of glory.

The Crown of Righteousness – According to 2 Tim 4:8 Paul knew that he would get this crown, and it would be his reward for having fought the good fight, finishing his course and having kept the faith. He says that this crown will also be given to all who love the appearing of the Lord Jesus.

The Crown of Life – According to James 1:12 this crown is given to those who love God and because of that, they endure severe trials in life -- "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." Since trials often endanger a person’s life, the crown of life becomes a fitting reward for them.

The Crown of Glory – According to 1 Peter 5:1-4 this crown is given to elders in the church who are faithfully feed and oversee the flock of God. "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." (1 Peter 5:4). Since they resisted the temptation to use their authority to seek glory for themselves, the crown of glory becomes an appropriate reward for them.

But what exactly are all these crowns? Are they real, literal material crowns, an ornamental head-dress like the special wreaths worn by victors in the ancient games? I think that are probably not: They must be better than that. What will be the use of having a special beautiful shining crown to wear in heaven when our physical appearances do not really matter any more over there?

The crowns are best understood to be referring to real and wonderful rewards that we will truly enjoy in heaven. Some have suggested that the reward is actually found in the name of the crown. E.g. The crown of righteousness is righteousness. The crown of life is life itself, and the crown of glory is glory. Cf. Hebrews 2:9 – "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour;. . .."

Question: We can understand righteousness and glory as rewards. But what’s so great about having life as a reward when we will have eternal life? Life can be defined as the ability of an entity to interact with the things around it. When a living thing dies, it loses all ability to interact with its environment. The supreme level of life comes from having the ability to interact with God Himself, with the One who is the ultimate source of all life. We experience life in its fullest meaning only when we can more fully know, love, and fellowship with the infinite, eternal God.

When life is seen and understood in these terms, then we can understand why the crown of life is such a great reward to strive for. What we are being promised by God is the blessedness of experiencing a much deeper, and a much closer relationship with Him that will satisfy our souls to the fullest. In heaven, everyone who is saved may not be enjoying the same level of closeness and intimacy with God. Some will be granted the special privilege of being closer to God than others. This is why the mother of James and John asked Jesus to grant that her two sons may sit next to Him in heaven. (Matthew 20:20-22).

One more interesting point about what the rewards may be: Isaiah 28:5 -- "In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people," Do you see here what the crown of glory is? It is the Lord Himself.

This suggests that the crowns have to do with God Himself and not something apart from Him. Perhaps some may be disappointed to know this because we have been thinking of heavenly rewards more in terms of valuable material assets like those we are used to receiving in this world like gold, property, houses, and cars. But if we desire to obtain special prizes at the judgment seat of Christ, then let it be for no other reason than the fact that the prizes will in some very special way bring us much closer to God. Our Lord is the best reward, the best prize we should be looking forward to in heaven!

This is a difficult question to answer. I have thought quite long about it, and I must admit that I do not have the answer to it. We will probably know only when Christ returns.

Let me just present the problems of finding an answer to this question. There are few of them. The first is that since with regards to the rapture we take either a pre-tribulation or mid-tribulation position, then after the rapture there will be no Christians left on earth for the duration of either 7 years or 3.5 years. And then there might be some who come to know Christ as a result of the tribulation (There was even a film made of these ‘tribulation saints’ some years ago – they formed an underground church that suffered a lot under the Antichrist.) But they also suffer the full brunt of the wrath of God that is vented against the world of the Antichrist in the seven vial judgments. The question is that when these tribulation saints die, what happens to their bodies? While the saints who are already raptured are enjoying the marriage supper of the lamb, receiving their rewards at the bema seat, when will these ‘tribulation saints’ get their new resurrection bodies and their belated rewards? The Bible is silent.

One way around this is to say that there will be no tribulation saints at all. The time of grace is already past. The Holy Spirit has been removed from the world (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Thus no one will be called into God’s kingdom during the tribulation. All who are left behind are ‘condemned’ so to speak. And yet there must be a possibility of salvation to take place during that time, because some prophecies tell us that Israel will turn to the Lord during this time. According to Zechariah 12:20, they will look upon Him whom they have pierced and weep for what they did to Him. The Jews will be revived during the years of tribulation and will realize that Jesus Christ whom they crucified was actually their messiah! Romans 11:25 tells us that all Israel shall be saved after the fullness of the Gentiles have come in.

This means that there will be at least some Jewish tribulation saints. So we are back to the question: what happens to them if they die believing in Christ? Some may suggest that they will be glorified instantly to join the rest of the saints – as latecomers. Imagine a Jewish Christian shot to death and immediately his body resurrects! Others suggest that there will be a special resurrection for them just at the end of the tribulation when Jesus descends the clouds with the saints. They will resurrect and immediately join the armies of saints coming with the Lord. Will there be a second rapture then of those Jewish Christians who did not die?

Another problem: What happens after Christ begins to rule on earth during the millennium? If people are born during the millennial kingdom and they are saved, and then they die, where will they go? We know that as glorious and changed as the millennium will be, death will still be existing. Isaiah 65:20 tells us that though people will live much longer during the millennium, they will still have to die – "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed." So what will happen to them when they die? Will they join the resurrected saints and reign with Christ on earth? In that case we will have an interesting situation of believers who die during the millennium and they just pass on from life on earth in a corruptible body to eternal life on earth in a resurrected body!

Because there are so many difficulties and questions related to the resurrection of believers who die after the rapture and no answers, some have opted to do away with the literal interpretation of the scriptures and believe in the amillennial view where everything will take place at the same time: resurrection of believers, and unbelievers all at the same time, and no more need for two or three or more resurrections! While that may simplify things and "solve" this problem, we need to ask if it is a valid solution, since it means spiritualizing away many specific prophecies of the Bible. And since every prophecy of scripture that has been fulfilled has been fulfilled literally, we have no reason to believe that the rest of the prophecies will be fulfilled spiritually.

I believe that the premillennial view we hold is the right one, even though I do not have the answers to these questions. These things are not revealed to us and therefore we do not need to know. But rest assured, one day all things that are unknown will be made known. So let us be patient to wait for that day!

Those who are saved will not have their sins mentioned any more. Hebrews 10:17 – "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." This is a quotation from the prophecy Jeremiah made of the New Covenant – "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:34) The New Covenant is unconditional – Hence the forgiveness is not conditioned upon the confession of the sins and iniquities.

Some think that there is an accounting for sins for believers based on Matthew 12:36-37 – "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." I believe that the judgement here refers to the GWT judgment for unbelievers, and not to the judgment seat of Christ.

There is however an accounting we must give, as mentioned in Romans 14:10-12 – "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." The context of this passage is not of sin, but rather the true motives for the things that we have done (see vv.2-5 – we have no right to judge each other’s motives). Whatever good works we have done will be assessed by Christ who can see the motives behind them. Wrong motives would only reduce their value.

The Bema judgment is an assessment of our works to see whether we are deserving of rewards or not. It will be like the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). But the question comes that at the end of the parable of the Talents the last servant was cast into the outer darkness and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In order to understand what this outer darkness and gnashing of teeth is, let us look at another parable – the Parable of the Marriage feast in Matthew 22:2-14. Toward the end of the parable there was a man at the feast who did not have a wedding garment – "And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This man who did not have the wedding garment is cast into the very same place where the third servant of the Parable of the Talents was cast. Now, in the wedding parable it is clear that the man who did not have the wedding garment represents those who are unsaved but who try to get into God’s Kingdom. In those days, the host would actually provide the wedding garment to his invited guests. This guest had apparently refused to wear the garment provided by the host. This aptly symbolizes salvation that is given to us by God’s grace.

If anyone tries to get into God’s kingdom without receiving God’s offer of salvation, he may be able to fool men, but he cannot fool God. (see also Matthew 13: 42,50; 24:46 - hypocrites)

Coming back now to our Parable of the Talents, we can now see that the place of Outer Darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth is not anywhere in heaven, but rather a description of eternal punishment in Hell. Hence the Parable of the Talents is not so much a description of what happens at the Bema Judgment, but of the faithfulness that is required of God’s People. And those who are not faithful may turn out to be false disciples who will be shocked to face the GWT judgment instead of the Bema judgment!

Interesting question but no satisfying answer can be given until we see it! Based on sanctified imagination: The glorified ones will be immortal, sinless and will rule the world with Christ. They will be able to do things that Christ in His resurrected body was able to do – e.g. appear and disappear, walk, talk, eat. (Question of where they will live - in their mansions in heaven? I.e. Like Christ they can travel freely between heaven and earth) The living ones will be subject to them, but will continue to be capable of sin and under the curse of death, although they will live longer (Isaiah 65:20).

a. Hades designates the realm of the dead, sometimes without any distinction of whether it is heaven or hell. E.g. Acts 2:31 – "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell [hades], neither his flesh did see corruption." It also used to designate the place of eternal torment (i.e. Gehenna) where unsaved sinners go to immediately after death – Luke 16:23 – "And in hell (Hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."

b. Hell (Gehenna) designates a place of fiery torment. E.g. Mark 9:43,44 – "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (cf. Isaiah 66:24).

c. Bottomless Pit (abyss) designates a holding place for the plague of locusts that were released in the fifth trumpet judgment. It also seems to be the abode of demons (Luke 8:31 – ‘the deep’), of Satan (who is called "Apollyon" – Destroyer - the angel of the bottomless pit, 9:11), and of the Antichrist (11:7: 17:8). It later becomes the place where Satan is imprisoned for 1,000 years (20:1,3)

d. Lake of Fire and brimstone designates the final place of fiery torment for all unbelievers (20:14,15; Matthew 25:41) as well as for Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet (20:10). It is different from the earlier abode of the dead (Hades, 20:14).

All Christians are in the process of learning how to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbour as themselves. It may be difficult now for you to love those who have done wrong unto you. But if you want to please the Lord and obey Him, ask Him to help you to forgive them, and even to love them. Jesus set the perfect example for us. When He was on the cross he prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

As a Christian, you must understand that you can only love those who are against you through Christ enabling you to do it. On your own, you will not be able to do it. But keep looking to Him for help and you will soon find the willingness and changed attitude in your heart toward them. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)

Your salvation remains the same and does not change whether or not you love everybody. However as long as you do not do what God wants you to do, you may not feel at peace with yourself and with God. The Holy Spirit of God within you will keep on reminding you about this. You may even lose the assurance of salvation and feel, "Maybe I am not saved" as long as you do nothing about it. In 2 Peter 1:5-10, God’s Word tells us-- "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:"

Because of research made in prenatal life, it is virtually agreed by all that human life begins at conception. Once the ovum is fertilized a new person that bears God’s image has come into being and he or she has the right to live. (Psalm 139:14-16). By the 6th week of pregnancy the new person is already able to think and experience pain. The Bible records that John the Baptist rejoiced over being visited by the mother of Jesus by leaping in his mother’s womb at the 6th month of pregnancy.

All of this means that abortion, or the killing of an unborn child is sinful and morally wrong. It may not be considered as cold-blooded murder, because the mother who wants an abortion does not know the unborn child yet and usually does not deliberately seek its life out of hatred, but it does violate the sanctity of human life, and is deserving of some punishment.

But is there any situation where abortion is not immoral? Historically Protestants have made one exception: the life of the unborn can be taken when a continued pregnancy would put the mother’s life in jeopardy. This is justified on the basis of self-defense and also on the basis of choosing the lesser of two evils. Due to rapid developments in medical science however, this situation has become very rare.

The other exception that is sometimes considered is when the pregnancy is a result of rape. In this case the new life did not originate form the mother’s choice at all. But this does not remove the unborn child’s right to life. The unborn child is not the attacker but is in fact the second victim who should not receive capital punishment for his father’s crime.

Once again however this situation is extremely rare. A study of 20,000 rape cases in a certain country recorded no pregnancy. Because of physical and emotional factors, pregnancy following rape is very rare. Many women who wanted an abortion in the 3rd month onwards have falsely claimed to have been raped, when they were not. Because this loophole has given them the opportunity to seek abortion without the social stigma attached to it.

The vast majority of abortions however, does not fall under these two exceptions, but are motivated by the desire for their own economic and social well-being. Most women who abort are not married and do so to avoid the shame of being an unwed mother and the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy. They are just like king David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and this act ultimately led him into murdering Bathsheba’s husband in order to protect his reputation -- in trying to cover up one sin, those who abort commit a sin far worse than the first one!

There are some married mothers who abort because they have found out that the unborn child is handicapped or not of the desired sex. A pregnant woman who undergoes amniocentesis might be disappointed to find out that the child has Down’s syndrome, or lacks an arm or a leg. And they think that the child’s life will be miserable, so they justify abortion as mercy killing. But physical or mental handicap does not necessarily mean a life not worth living. And besides that, a handicapped fetus also has a right to life. So abortion is still wrong in such cases.

Is there an alternative to abortion? Yes, if the mother is willing to face the consequences her past choices and make sure that the child is wanted either by herself or by others who stand in line waiting to adopt children. A mother who does not abort but goes through with the pregnancy will at least live with a clear conscience, and the consolation that she has helped to bring a new life into the world.

Ecclesiastes 2:16-18 "I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."

In these verses Solomon describes his sojourn into the deep waters of philosophy. He sought to investigate the value of human wisdom, and also what advantages wisdom had over madness and foolishness. And Solomon’s mind amassed so much wisdom that according to 1 Kings 4, he was wiser than all men, he invented 3000 proverbs, composed 1005 poems, and he was able to give lectures on any subject, including botany and zoology. Kings, queens and philosophers came from far and near just to hear Solomon speak and they were astounded by the wealth of his knowledge of these things and of philosophy.

About 400 years later, the Greeks began to develop philosophy into a science. Then from Socrates down to 20th-century thinkers like Bertrand Russel and Jean Paul Sartre, have devoted their lives to trying to determine what constitutes the good life for humans both as individuals, and as social and political beings. This resulted in a whole series of different schools of philosophy: Some adopted Platonic ideas. Others applied Aristotelian principles. Some were Stoics, some were Skeptics and others were Epicureans. The 17th century brought Rationalism and Empiricism, and later on, Hegelianism, Pragmatism and Existentialism came on the scene. In the east there were philosophers like Confucius, Mencius and Lao-Tzu.

Volumes and volumes of books have been written on philosophy. And Solomon himself tells us about this endless but futile pursuit when he wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:12 -- "of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." Isn’t it significant that Solomon, the greatest philosopher who ever lived on this earth tells us that philosophy has very little value, and that it brings grief and sorrow instead of happiness? Instead of accomplishing what it set out to do, namely to determine what constitutes the good life, the pursuit of philosophy has left mankind more confused than ever, and nowhere nearer to attaining the good life.

There is only one kind of knowledge that can enable us to have happiness and attain the good life: and that is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, who is described by the Apostle Paul as the "Wisdom of God." According to Colossians 2:3, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ. Therefore, if you want to have true wisdom, and one that leads to a real, deep and lasting happiness and peace, you must seek to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

The OT does teach monogamy: The story of the creation of the first two human beings reveals monogamous marriage as the expression of the will of God. If polygamy was God’s plan, He would have created Adam and Eve, and Mary and Jane and Susan, etc. The ‘one flesh’ principle of Genesis 2:24 cannot make sense in the context of polygamy. Polygamy first appeared in the reprobate line of Cain, when Lamech took two wives.

The image of a monogamous marriage was in the minds of those prophets who represented Israel as the one wife chosen by the one and only God, Jehovah (and later on in the minds of the apostles who represented the church as being the bride of Christ). From the time of the Return from exile onward (536 BC) there is no reference to polygamy among God’s people to be found in any of the post-exilic books of the Old Testament. Malachi 2:14,15 - "Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth."

By Christ’s time monogamy was the rule among the Greeks and Romans as well as among the Jews, and Christ’s affirmation of the "one flesh" principle of marriage (which makes sense only in a context of monogamy) found ready acceptance among His countrymen (Matt 19:5-6). The apostle Paul stated that a church office bearer must be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). If the higher standard required of leaders by God excluded polygamy, it could hardly be viewed as ideal.

While polygamy was contrary to God’s intention and ideal, nevertheless, because of what Christ called "the hardness of men’s hearts" (Matthew 19:8) it was ENDURED by God - especially in the case of a king whose dynasty would fail if he produced no son by his first wife. A state of civil war might well ensue from such a situation, with resulting bloodshed and disruption to the state. In Ancient Near Eastern cultures monarchs often had a large harem of wives and concubines as a display of their greatness. Perhaps David and Solomon were "following the trend of the times." But there is implicit disapproval from God on the kings’ polygamous marriages in Deuteronomy 17:17 - "Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away"

In almost every case of polygamy described, there is a resulting situation of family strife, jealousy, unhappiness and spiritual failure. Jacob’s wives quarrelled with one another for his love and favour even though they were sisters. In David’s case: the rivalry between his sons by different wives caused them to kill one another. In Solomon’s case: it led to his own downfall into idolatry (1 Kings 11:3). Elkanah’s one wife was considered as a "rival" or adversary by the other, who "used to provoke her sorely, to irritate her . . ." (1 Samuel 1:6). No husband has the capacity to love all his wives fully and equally, and no wife has the capacity to receive a rival to the husband’s affection and attention.

Monogamy is best!

The love that Christians have for the person they marry must be subject to their love for God. If a Christian marries someone who does not love God, then he is loving that person more than he loves God. God requires us to love Him first, and then to love our husband or wife. God also commands Christians to marry only Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14 - "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?") It would be wrong to love anyone more than God, even one’s husband or wife. Even if a Christian marries a Christian, he still must be careful to love God more than he loves his wife.

There are various degrees of love. This fact is recognised by all. A man who is married must love his wife. If he has children, he loves each child. If his parents are living, he also loves them. And if he has very close friends, he would also love them. But the degree of love he has for each of them may not be all the same. If all of the people he loves are in danger at the same time - who would he help first? And who would he help last? The fact that he helps all of them shows that he still loves them all.

Therefore when the Bible says ‘love thy neighbour’ - Yes, the Christian’s love for Christians (whom he is naturally closer to) would be different from his love for non-Christians, but it is a difference of degree.

People naturally have more love for those who share the same views, beliefs and attitudes as they have. Although Christians also love non-Christians, they have to be careful that their love for non-Christians must not make them compromise their own views, beliefs and attitudes, or else they may be drawn away from God by non-Christians.

To love God is more important than to love one’s neighbour. Jesus said: "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Mark 12:28-31)

Therefore, there is a priority that Christians must keep: I must love God first, and then love my neighbour. If my neighbour loves God like I do (e.g. other Christians), there is no problem. But if my neighbour does not love God, there may be a problem, especially when he wants me not to love God, but to become just like him. That neighbour may love things that God hates and he wants me to love him enough to love these things as well. He may say "If you don’t love the things I love, how can you say that you really love me?" or "If you love God whom I don’t love, how can you say that you really love me?" Then my love for God must come first. I can still love that neighbour, but now that love must necessarily be limited. I must first try to convince that neighbour to love God. If he responds well and loves God like I do, then I have no limitations to loving him. But if he refuses to love God after all my efforts to persuade him, then my love for him will have to be limited.

It would be a sin if a person looks lustfully at them. The difference is in the manner of looking. In a culture where nakedness is common, the people who grow up in such an environment may have a higher threshold of temptation to lust than those who live in an environment where nakedness is prohibited. I think that a missionary who is brought up in the latter type of environment will have problems initially when he goes to the former type of environment. But as he gets used to it, he may be able to look without lust. What he can do, if he anticipates problems, is to pray hard for grace to overcome the lust. He may have to consciously focus his eyes away from where the eyes are prone to wander - perhaps by concentrating on looking just at the heads of the people there all the time, and not at their bodies.

Tribes that are naked have varying standards of morality. Some have been known to be extremely immoral. But others seem to have better standards. They are usually found in the equatorial regions where the hot climate makes it less needful to cover oneself up. Most of them have a minimal standard of modesty. E.g. the Palawanos at one time wore G-strings to cover their shame. Anything less than that would be unacceptable in their culture and would provoke their own people to lust and sin.

Someone may then argue then, that theoretically, nakedness can become an acceptable norm in modern society and there would be no lust and no sin, just like in these tribes. But this is not true, because modern society does not have the natural simplicity of the tribal people. Modern civilised living is complicated with a much more influences, history and culture than those who live in a tribe roving the forests. I do not think that nakedness can ever become morally acceptable in a civilised environment because of this.

Lack of confidence in making decisions is not sinful. Sometimes we make decisions where we are not sure what the outcome will be and we wonder if it is the right decision. E.g. career, life partner, buying a flat, having a child. There is nothing sinful in being unsure of these kinds of decisions. But this can lead to sin if we allow those unsure feelings to make us fear, worry too much and to doubt God’s goodness to us. When you are unsure about any decision, the best thing to do is to pray, asking God to give you wisdom (James 1:5 – "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.") and to keep you from making the wrong decision. After you have prayed, use whatever wisdom God has given you to make the best choice, and then just leave the outcome of the decision to God, trusting that He has answered your prayer. What is sinful is to do things that are contrary to one’s conscience or knowledge of God’s Word.

The prohibition of marriages between brothers and sisters is found in Leviticus 18:6-9, together with prohibition of marriages with other family members and close relatives. These prohibitions still apply to Christians, since the apostle Paul disciplined a member of the Corinthian church for marrying his widowed step-mother (1 Corinthians 5:1) and he called this relationship an immoral one. Today, such relationships are known as incest, and are disapproved by the public.

However, in the times before Moses, there was some tolerance for such marriages. e.g. the children of Adam and Eve probably had to marry each other, since there was no one else for them to marry. Hence Cain and Seth must have married their own sisters and had children by them. God permitted this only at the beginning, out of necessity. As more and more people lived on earth, there was no more need for this practice, and hence it became sinful for anyone to marry his own sister.

Today, it is also known that incestuous relationships bring the problem of genetic defects and retarded children. This is due to the genetic depletion that has taken place over hundreds of generations since the time of Adam and Eve. Many different types of genes have been lost due to death and disease. The total number of gene types in the world today is much less than the total number of gene types that existed in the world at the beginning. This is true not only of human beings, but of animals as well. Hence any species that goes through a few generations of ‘inbreeding’ i.e. marrying within its own family, will soon manifest serious weaknesses, mental and physical problems.

This is the result of the Fall. It would not be true today if man had not sinned, because death and disease would not have depleted the genetic pool. In the first few generations, brothers and sisters could marry and have children without worrying about their children being retarded or abnormal, because their genes were perfect. Now, our genes are not so perfect. This may be the reason why God now disallows close marriages and wants us to consider them as immoral. It is for our own good.

If the customer wants the interior designer to work together with a Fengshui expert or to read Fengshui textbooks and apply its principles, then the designer should decline the job. But if the customer himself makes all the specifications to the designer according to his study of Fengshui, then it would be all right for the designer to accept, because it would be just like working for any other customer according to their own whims and fancies.

I agree with you completely that every movie has negative values because they are produced by sinful men, and that we need discernment when viewing anything on TV or at the movies. I preached on this just a few months ago during our worship service.

Our concern would be primarily for children, since they do not know yet how to exercise discernment. And sometimes even adults who accompany them, not having seen the show before, may only discern that a show has negative value after viewing it for a while and the only thing they can do then is to walk out of the cinema and not mind the loss of the money spent on their tickets.

Thus it is helpful to publish any warnings from other Christians about negative values that are a known about movies that are currently being shown, so that people won’t have to waste their money on them.

A better option is to recommend that Christians do not go to cinemas to watch movies at all, and exercise discernment when watching movies on videotape, VCD or TV shows. The problem of cinema entertainment is that the viewer has no control whatsoever over what he (and his children who are with him) sees on the cinema screen. Much of the advertisements contain unwholesome images that can stick in the child’s mind. An even if a ‘good’ movie is being watched in the cinema, there may be some shots of other shows that are going to be screened soon, and these may be bad.

In contrast, watching a ‘good’ movie at home gives the adult viewer control to cut out advertisements, change the channel or even stop viewing the show altogether without loss if it is discovered that the show is actually bad. An adult can also preview a videotape or VCD to evaluate its material before the children watch it.

We would encourage Christians to buy or borrow good wholesome videos, VCDs and DVDs, and even to get those that are produced by Christians and which teach good biblical values. There are some Christian media ministries that distribute such material.

Now, while all movies have some negative values, some, like Harry Potter have much more of it than others. Witchcraft and occultism are portrayed as good things. The greater the potential harm, the more urgently we need to warn people about it. And especially when the movie is very popular among children like this one. It may lead them to experiment with the occult world. Some who experiment with occultism by using Tarot cards, the Ouija board, or role playing games like ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ have been known to get trapped in the occult world. We should watch out for the devil’s devices (I Thess 5:22).

All believers should be using their spiritual gifts in the church (cf. 2 Timothy 1:6 - "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands"). Not to do so would be the sin of neglecting the spiritual gift (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14 - "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.") So to answer your first question - Yes, each believer should discover his spiritual gift and use it well.

But for the second question, the answer is that the Christian is doing nothing wrong or unwise if he serves in areas where he is not gifted. There is no prohibition concerning areas of God’s service, except those prohibiting women from usurping the man’s authority. Those who are not gifted for a particular ministry may have to serve in that particular ministry, simply because of his availability and the lack of willing helpers. He may relinquish that ministry when someone else who is gifted for it is found.

There are also areas of service where all believers are to serve, even though they may not necessarily be gifted for them. E.g. evangelism. Even though there is the spiritual gift of an evangelist, all of us must still be witnessing to people around us whenever there is opportunity. Another example is the gift of Faith. All of us are called to exercise faith. But those who have this gift are able to exercise it more effectively than others.

There is nothing sacred about animal life since they are not made in God’s image. They don’t have souls and their existence ends at death. There is therefore no biblical warrant to prohibit man’s use of technology on animals, except to attempt to crossbreed two entirely different species of animals (e.g. cat and dog) to create a new one (see Leviticus 19:19). Jacob did some selective breeding which received God’s blessings (Genesis 30:37-43) but it was limited within the same species.

Animal cloning does not violate the ‘after their kind’ principle of Genesis 1:25. In fact some creatures do reproduce asexually or by a natural cloning process (e.g. the phenomenon of parthenogenesis in bees and other insects).

I don’t see anything wrong with transplanting animal organs to save a person’s life. It is the same as slaughtering a pig or cow to eat its flesh. Getting an organ transplant from a living and willing human person whose life is not taken by the loss of the organ, or from a brain-dead person is also all right as no human life is taken at all. But when a human embryo has to be created from a person’s cell by cloning, that human embryo must be regarded as a person, for it has the potential to develop into a full-grown person under the right conditions. It is not just a mass of tissue. It is not right to treat it the same way that animals are treated.

A premonition is a feeling that something is going to happen before it actually does. This is oftentimes subjective. Sometimes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, e.g. if the person who has the premonition that he is going to fail his driving test, performs badly in his test as a result of it. Although some people have reported that their premonitions came true, what is not reported are the many premonitions that did not come true, and that turned out to be false.

Some people have bad dreams and they firmly believe that this dream will come true. I have had my share of such dreams, which for a while made me worry if they will come true. But I realised later on, that they do not mean anything at all. They are merely the result of our worst fears working on our minds.

The Bible does not speak directly on the subject of premonition, but it emphasises that our faith should always be based on the revealed word of God, and not on our subjective feelings. E.g. Elijah felt so fearful of Jezebel when she sought for revenge, that he fled to Mt Horeb. He should have trusted in God to defend him against her. But he trusted his feelings which kept convincing him that Jezebel will succeed in having him killed. Simon Peter denied Christ three times because he was convinced by his subjective feelings that he would probably be arrested and executed with Christ if his identity was known.

I think that premonitions may sometimes be used by Satan to convince people that they can be like God. It is God’s prerogative alone to know the future, or secrets of the spiritual realm. Everyone wants to know the future. But God alone knows the future. Instead of consulting God, they try to consult someone who can tell them what the future will be. If we believe that our premonitions are correct, we would be usurping God’s prerogative. Isaiah 46:9,10 - "for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure."

There is no requirement for us to fast, but a Christian may fast when: a. He is seeking God’s guidance for an important matter (e.g. Acts 13:2); b. He is about to start an important undertaking that requires God’s enablement (e.g. Acts 13:3; Esther 4:16); c. The church calls for a fast in times of danger and national disaster (2 Chronicles 20:3). Fasting does not ‘expedite’ God’s answer to prayer! It is meant to express our sincerity in seeking after God and wanting to do His will. Any fasting that seeks after benefits for oneself is not acceptable to God (e.g. Zechariah 7:5,6; Isaiah 58:3-7).

I am aware of Satanic symbols such as the inverted pentagram. Christians should not identify themselves with Satan, and hence should refrain from wearing such things or using them as decorations in their homes. Even if something is not overtly Satanic, but related to superstitious practices and idol worship, they should not be used. E.g. I have seen a Christian home where an upside down Chinese character ‘Fu’ was prominently displayed in the living room. It would lead non-Christian visitors to think that Christians believe in the power of such ‘talismans’ to ward off evil and bad luck.

However, I think we should be careful not to carry this to an extreme. Some time ago, one of our dollar bills in Singapore had a picture of a dragon on it, and some were saying that Christians should not use those bills at all, as it is Satanic. Someone called me this past week saying that her husband had bought a videotape documentary on snakes in the Amazon. She had protested, saying that the snake is a symbol of Satan. I explained to her that snakes are God’s creatures, like all other animals, and only the snake used by Satan in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve had anything to do with him.

As for the Merlion, this is the first time I have ever heard that it has anything to do with Satan. There is no mythology that I know of, behind the Merlion. It was invented in the ‘70s by the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board as their emblem, and I think it was based on two ideas: Singapore is named after the lion (Malay: Singa) because of the legend that an Indonesian Prince saw a lion (probably a tiger) when he landed on this island. The fish body of the Merlion was derived from the fact that Singapore is an island nation surrounded by water. Perhaps it was also an adaptation of the famous ‘Little Mermaid’ of Denmark that has remained as Denmark’s tourism symbol to this day, based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen.

What the statue of liberty is to the U.S. and the Maple leaf to Canada, the Merlion is to Singapore. Therefore I do not think that Christians should refrain from having objects with the Merlion in their possession.

As you mentioned, there are two views on this. The first which is predestination in marriage, means that there is only one person in the world that God has chosen for a Christian to marry, and it is his/her duty to find that person if he is to be in the perfect will of God.

Some years back someone wrote a book challenging this view, and proposing that there is not just one person that a Christian can marry to be in the perfect will of God, but several, who meet all the biblical criteria for Christian marriage. The Christian can therefore choose to marry anyone within this ‘pool’ and still be in the perfect will of God.

I tend to take the first view, based on my understanding of the eternal decree of God as given in our Westminster Confession of Faith. However, I would also include that finding that person whom God has chosen for a Christian to marry is not left entirely to that person alone, but God will providentially guide the circumstances for him/her to meet and get to know the person well enough to make an informed decision to marry that person. The Christian must apply biblical criteria to determine if that person is truly God’s choice for him.

I feel that this view provides the best security for marriage. If rough spots are encountered in marriage life, the Christian will not doubt whether the person he married was the right one. He will take it as part of God’s sovereign will for him to press on through the rough spots together and resolve them, since he is convinced that God has chosen this person for him for a good purpose. He will also trust in God’s enablement to help him.

Matthew 19:9 - "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."

The exception made in this verse is for fornication – i.e. if the wife has slept with another man. To remarry for any other reason is to commit adultery. If the wife is a Christian – Find out what happened to the eloped wife. If she has slept with or married someone else, then remarriage is permissible. If she has died, remarriage is permissible. But if she is still alive and has has not married someone else nor slept with another man, the husband cannot remarry. Instead he should try to love her enough to win her back. In fact even if she has committed fornication, the husband can still decide to forgive her and win her back – e.g. Hosea, who brought Gomer back, instead of putting her away and marrying another.

But if the wife is not a Christian, then 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides one more exception where remarriage is permitted – desertion by an unbelieving spouse, with or without fornication. "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases." The term ‘not under bondage implies that the husband who has been desserted by the unbelieving wife can now remarry. But once again, this should be done after all efforts have been made to win back the unbelieving spouse.

(Assuming that he has not eloped.) In any marriage, divorce should not be seen as the first course of action but as the last. If the husband wants to continue to be unfaithful, the wife should first confront him about his actions, and if he is a Christian, she should appeal to the Biblical commandments he has broken – adultery, unfaithfulness to vow made before God. If he refuses to listen to the scriptures she should threaten to make his unfaithfulness known to others, so that they can get involved as objective witnesses. Very often the shame of having one’s sins revealed beyond the home may be enough to make the husband change his mind and behaviour.

If he still refuses to repent, but continues to sleep with other women, she should carry out her threat and bring a mature Christian to help as a witness to the wrongdoing and persuade the husband to repent of his infidelity.

If this does not work, she can then seek the church to deal with the husband – He should be excommunicated, as an example to all believers to show the seriousness of this sin. This would be an appropriate time for her to move out and live separately. The church would know that she is not the guilty party and show love and care for her.

If even excommunication does not make the husband repent, she can then divorce him. Matthew 18:17 – "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Even if the husband does not want a divorce, she can sue for a divorce. She would not be sinning against God, because Matthew 19 already states that divorce from a believer is permissible on grounds of fornication.

Anything that usurps the prerogatives of God breaks the first commandment. Take for example God’s prerogative to save. If we place our trust in anything or anyone else but God to save us, protect us or deliver us when we are in trouble, we also violate the first commandment. For example, the Chinese use of the "pak-kwa", carrying talismans in pockets; reciting certain formula prayers (as if the words themselves have magical power); and asking for help from a certain patron saint. When these prayers are answered, who gets the thanks and the glory?

Another prerogative that is God’s alone is His prerogative to receive all glory. (see Isa 42:8) If we give credit to someone or something else for what God has done, we break the first commandment. For example: Attributing a blessing from God to good fortune or to luck. Some people who do not want to appear religious before their friends will substitute the word God with something else. E.g. Thank goodness! or thank heavens! Let us avoid doing this.

All of these are forbidden because it is God’s prerogative alone to disclose the future or make known secrets of the spiritual realm. Those who seek supernatural knowledge about the future from any source but God are usurping this prerogative. We as Christians ought to have nothing to do with them – not even for amusement or out of curiosity – as they violate the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3)

In obedience to the second commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" we should not keep idols in the house, not even as decorative objects. They should not be stored away in some cupboard or sold to an antique dealer. They must be destroyed together with all the joss sticks, joss paper, and other paraphernalia (Deuteronomy 7:5). As long as the idols are not destroyed there is always a possibility that they will fall into hands that will worship them again.

Some Christians who are antique collectors or dealers should take note of this. If something has been made as an object of worship no matter how priceless or valuable it is, you are not to keep it in your shop or home. Not because it can have any power on you, but because it is an abomination to God (2 Corinthians 6:16,17).

Chinese funeral rites are very closely linked to ancestor worship, with bowing and offering incense to spirits. Bowing is only a sign of respect only if the person or thing one bows to can bow back. Anyone who sees a Christian participating in Chinese funeral rites will probably think that he is endorsing the religious element of the funeral.

No, he should not, because no matter what he thinks, those around him are likely to interpret it as an endorsement of offering food to idols. However, if he ate it unknowingly and was told later on about it, no harm is done, and he should really not feel guilty about it ( 1 Corinthians 10:25-33)

Some Chinese festivals are linked to idol or ancestor worship. It is not enough to say that a Christian is free to participate if he himself has no religious feeling in the matter. He may participate only when others see in his participation no endorsement of the religious element. However, many Chinese festivals, like Chinese New Year have become so secularized especially here in Singapore, that no one would see any endorsement of Chinese religion in our participation. But religious festivals like Vesak day and Ching Ming are clearly out for the Chinese Christian. And perhaps if you happen to visit to some remote province in China during a certain festival season and detect that it has a significant religious element, you should refrain from participating in it.

The problem with this view is that the Israelites were commanded to swear by the name of their God (Deut 6:13; 10:20) and it was considered praiseworthy (Ps 63:11). The apostle Paul often said "God is my witness" and at least took one oath (Rom 1:9, 1 Thess 2:5, 10). God Himself takes oaths and swears by His own name (Heb 6:13). In James 5:12, James was speaking not against oath-taking, but against oath-breaking. Many promises were made, but few were kept. This was a bad situation, and God’s people were not to follow this. People should be able to trust whatever we say. We should not have to constantly swear in God’s name to prove that what we are saying can be trusted (Matthew 5:37). But whenever we are required by the authorities to affirm the truth of what we say by swearing, we should willingly oblige.

Christ says (in Mat 12:36) that we must give account for every idle word that we speak. In Eph 5:4 Paul says that "jesting" should be left out of our speech. But the context shows that what he meant was dirty jokes or impure speech. Humor is good but we must be careful to maintain purity and wholesomeness. Humor should never be used to hurt another person, and Humor should never be irreverent to God. Our Lord Jesus Himself used some humor at times. e.g. He nicknamed James and John the "Sons of Thunder."

Some say ‘yes’ it’s alright, since God understands that I need to make a living. But if God can make an exception for me, can He not also make the same exception for everyone else who needs to make a living? The main issue here is: who comes first: God? or my job? Isn’t God the One who gives me the ability to work and provides a job for me? If so, can I not trust Him to provide another job for me, one which will enable me to honor Him on the Lord’s Day?

However, there are some jobs where the nature of the work itself demands some work on a Sunday, e.g. if you are a doctor, or policeman or soldier, or a bus driver. If all of these would refuse to work on Sundays, there would be chaos all around. So they come under works of necessity. They are exceptions. And I know of some very busy Christian doctors who are still very faithful in keeping the Lord’s Day whenever they can.

Even those who are under extreme work conditions can still keep the Lord’s day, even though in a limited way. In the early church a large proportion of the Christians were actually slaves, who had no day of rest. They met for worship at first in the evening, after work on Sunday. But soon a decree made this illegal. Then they met before dawn on Sunday, and many of them had to meet in secret in underground caves called catacombs. If those slaves had such zeal to keep the Lord’s day despite their employment restrictions, how much more should all of us be willing to keep the Lord’s day.

Those of us who run our own business where we are employers or proprietors should have no difficulty keeping the Lord’s Day. If we are afraid that our business will suffer if we do not open our shop on Sunday, then listen to what God says in Malachi 3:10 "Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

It is very easy to become legalistic about things like these, and once again each person has to come to his own conviction what he should do or not do on the Sabbath day, or else he will do them grudgingly or become unecessarily judgmental of others, like the Jews rabbis and Pharisees.

Paul said in Romans 14:5-6 -- "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it." and in v.13 we are warned: "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way."

In dealing with these questions we must never lose sight of the purpose of these Sabbath day observances: they are supposed to free us from the daily work routine of life so that we will be able to spend quality time with the Lord and for the Lord.

Some may have no choice but to do things like washing and ironing on the Lord’s Day, particularly if they only have one or two sets of clothes to wear. E.g. in countries where people are poor, some have to wash clothes everyday or else they would have nothing to wear. But if we do not live within such difficult constraints, we should try our best to free ourselves from having to do washing and ironing on the Lord’s Day because our attention should be diverted away from mundane things of life toward God and our glorious heavenly hope.

Although obedience is called for, this does not mean we cannot persuade them to change their minds on non-moral issues. Loving persuasion can be a big help if parents are willing to listen. But as long as we are dependent on them for our livelihood, we still have to obey them, if they refuse to be persuaded. But once we have our own job and become responsible for our own lives, parents must allow us to assume full responsibility for choosing a marriage partner, vocation, or investment in life. When a person is married he leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. Marriage indicates that the couple is now independent of their parents’ control, and though they should still respect the counsel of their parents, neither should they feel compelled to obey everything the parents dictate on non-moral issues. "Much grief and marriage failure come from the sinful interference of parents in their children’s married life and the sinful acceptance of that interference on the part of the married son or daughter" (McQuilkin).

There is nothing in the Scripture either in direct command or in principle that prohibits the use of contraceptives by married couples. The Roman Catholic Church takes a very strong position against birth control by artificial means, because the church teaches that the primary purpose of marriage is the generation of children. While we find no biblical grounds to take such a stand, we should be careful about which method of family planning we use. Any method that prevents conception from taking place is all right. But any method that terminates conception is morally sinful and it breaks the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill".

a. Artificial Insemination: There are two types -- Using the husband’s sperm does not violate the marriage bond, but using an unknown donor’s sperm does. Because the father is not involved at all in the process, he may not feel completely at ease about calling the baby his own. When the child grows up and learns that the one he called ‘father’ is not his real father at all and that his father is just a $50-dollar test-tube of sperm imagine the sense of insecurity he will feel.

b. In-Vitro Fertilization: Once again there are two types -- using husband’s sperm (no moral problems in this) or using donor’s sperm (this violates the marriage bond).

c. Surrogate Motherhood. For mothers who cannot conceive because of a defect in their womb and so rents someone else’s womb to bear her child. This still introduces a third party into the reproductive process. It reminds us of what Sarah did when she was not able to conceive, she got Hagar her handmaid to sleep with her husband and have a child on he behalf (same principle as surrogate). The fact that God did not accept the son that was born showed His disapproval of this method.

Our conclusion is that surrogate motherhood is not an option and neither are artificial insemination or IVF if a donor’s sperm or ovum is used. The only ethical means that an infertile Christian couple may use is artificial insemination or IVF with both sperm and ovum coming from the couple themselves.

Some claim that it is unethical for Christian couples to go for any artificial methods at all, because they say that if a couple is infertile, they should take it as God’s will for them not to have children at all. In answer to that, it must be stated that technological advances have enabled man to exercise dominion over things that he has never been able to control before. One could say, it is wrong to fly in an airplane. Why? If God had meant us to fly, He would have created us with wings. Since he did not give us wings, it is not His will for us to fly. Secondly, these methods are not 100 % successful. There is still a significant factor of uncertainty in them. E.g. IVF -- a couple may have to try many times before it works. Success still depends on God’s sovereign control. Besides these artificial methods which are still costly in terms of time and monry, there are also other options for those who are childless:

a. Adoption.
b. Trusting God to overcome the problem.
c. Accepting their childlessness as God’s purpose for them and using it to make themselves more available for God’s Kingdom.

It depends on the prognosis. If detected early, cancer can be cured, and it is my duty to seek treatment, just as we should seek treatment for any disease. But if the cancer has progressed to a stage when hope of being restored is very slim, and treatment is very costly, it would not be wrong for me to cast myself on the Lord to dispose my case according to His divine will, rather than to struggle on for some hope of healing.

If I am being kept alive by a machine, can I request that the machine be turned off? I believe it is not sinful if there are biblical motivations behind it. Further treatment would prolong my suffering of agony. I long to be with Jesus and Jesus is calling me home. Further treatment would burden my family with crushing financial loads. New advances in medicine have made it possible to keep terminally ill patients ‘alive’ for a long period of time, but often at great expense to the family -- we call this "extraordinary means".

The most difficult question is what if the person going through suffering is not ourselves but a loved one, who is in a coma, and cannot decide for himself? Does the family have the right to decide for them and withdraw treatment? If there is no hope that the person may ever regain consciousness, and if the condition is judged by several reliable doctors to be irreversible, incurable and hopeless those who are responsible for the dying person should feel no guilt if extraordinary life-sustaining efforts are withdrawn. Of course we would still want to continue ordinary treatment for the dying, that is treatment to make the patient’s death as painless and comfortable as possible, which includes providing food, water, warmth, pain-control, and normal care. But there is no moral obligation to prolong artificially a truly terminal patient’s irreversible and imminent process of dying. But if there is a possibility that the person may recover or regain consciousness such a decision should be withheld.

While we do not object to the cessation of extraordinary means of prolonging life under these carefully defined conditions, we must object to euthanasia for any reason. We reject active euthanasia because it is the same as killing a person. Even if person himself requests to be administered with a lethal drug to hasten death, it would violate the 6th commandment to comply. Any doctor who assists a patient to end his life at the patient’s own request is going against God’s law. The doctor would no longer be fulfilling his commitment to healing and curing, but would now function as an executioner.

There are those who hold that it is wrong for the Christian to participate in war because they claim that all war is wrong (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses). But the Bible speaks of God as a God of war, the Lord of armies (hosts). The New Testament tells us that the final great war will be waged by Christ Himself. Therefore waging war is not always immoral. In fact all believers are involved in spiritual warfare. Military officers always seem to appear in the Bible in a favorable light, e.g. Cornelius, and in instructions for them, never are they told to leave military service.

Though most wars are not justifed there are wars that are. When the nation calls upon a Christian to use military force to defend it in a just war, he should participate in it. These are wars fought only for defensive reasons. All aggressive or offensive wars are condemned, except perhaps for preventive aggression. God no longer has a chosen people whom He sends into war by direct revelation (c.f. Israel conquering Canaan). The only legitimate intention for war is to secure peace for all involved. Neither revenge nor conquest nor economic gain nor ideological supremacy are justified. War is to be a last resort, entered upon only when all negotiations and compromise have been tried and failed.

The gay movement claims that being a homosexual is not sinful because it is due to inborn genetic traits that one cannot be held responsible for. But medical research has failed to find any evidence for this. It is now known today that it is a socially learned response. The Scriptures give us the complete picture: it is the result of man’s depraved sinful nature interacting with a sinful social environment. Homosexuality violates God’s design in marriage: He made Adam and Eve, male and female, and married them. It undermines what God has ordained to be the basic unit of society: the family. It brought God’s fiery judgment upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). In the Mosaic law those guilty of homosexual sins were to be put to death. It is a sign of society’s turning away (apostasy) from God (Romans 1:26-27). There are no exceptions to this. All homosexuals who refuse to repent and change their ways are outside of God’s kingdom and under His great wrath.

What to do if you have been a homosexual and want to put things right? Repent. Choose to reverse your condition. It can be done, especially with the power of the Holy Spirit. Many have successfully changed after conversion, and become normal Christians with families.

Those who advocate such change say, "This is my body, this is my life: I have the right to do whatever I like with it." But if we are in Christ, the Bible says that our lives are no longer our own but God’s. Only He has the right to change us. And since He made us what we are now – male or female – it must be His intention for us to be that way and to remain that way. God never makes mistakes. To change one’s sex by an operation is in effect saying to God, "Oh God, you made a mistake, and now I have to correct it for you." Let us learn to be content with what God has endowed us with, and make the best use of it for His glory. Wanting to be what we are not given by God to be is also the sin of covetousness.

No, it is not all right if God is excluded from it and the motivation is just to get rich and prosperous. (Mat 6:31-34; James 4:13-15; see the Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:16-21). God hates the attitude of independent, self-glorifying ambitious planning and striving, to make a name for oneself -- cf. Tower of Babel.

But it is all right if our plans are made in submission to God’s master plan and has God’s glory as its ultimate goal. (Prov 3:5,6; Psa 37:4,5; Prov 16:9). Let God be the one to promote us up the corporate ladder, and not vie for it ourselves (Ps 75:6,7). E.g. Jabez (1 Chron 4:10).

Saving itself is a good habit that should be cultivated (Proverbs 30:25 - "The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer."). There is nothing immoral about putting money in the bank to collect interest. (Some say it is not earned by work, and so is wrong) In the parable of the Pounds, the nobleman rebuked the lazy servant: "Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?" (Luke 19:23)

But the extreme of hoarding (as a miser does) is wrong (Ecclesiastes 5:13-15). How do we draw the line? We must strike a good balance. Saving as a protection against future adversity is acting in unbelief, but saving as a provision for future known needs is acceptable. Savings or insurance for what might prove crippling loss through common accidents or fire can be made in faith, but any attempt to protect against all potential hazards in life is futile as well as unbelieving (Larry Burkett).

Remind him about the item. Perhaps the failure to return it is due to some careless negligence. If he still does not repay, do not bring him to court as this would be a bad testimony (1 Corinthians 6:1, 6-7 - "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? … But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers…") If the matter cannot be settled within the fellowship of believers, then don’t pursue the issue further. Permit yourself to be defrauded rather than to bring disrepute on Jesus’ name. Write off his debt and remember, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

Litigation against an unbeliever or an impersonal corporation however, may be legitimate for believers, so long as the law of love for neighbour (Christian or non-Christian) is not violated and so long as justice is served with integrity.

In any war both sides recognize that deception is one of the best weapons of war, and a person takes a risk by trusting the enemy. One example of this is the soldier’s use of camouflage to deceive the enemy as to his whereabouts. Truth must always be given to whom it is due, but it may not be given to whom it is not due, such as an enemy who may plan to use that truth for evil purposes. In the wars that the Israelites fought against the Canaanites, Joshua was instructed by God to set up an ambush on the city of Ai, and this is one of the deadliest forms of deception.



However the deliberate telling of lies when one is questioned is never justified, even in war time. Hence, if a soldier is captured and interrogated as to the whereabouts of the rest of his batallion, it would not be right for him to give a false location to throw the enemy off the trail. He should rather keep silent and refuse to say anything rather than to tell the truth (which would jeopardise the lives of his fellow soldiers) or to tell a lie (which would jeopardise his testimony as a Christian, and the integrity of his conscience before God).

How about Rahab the harlot? Did she not lie to the men sent by the king of Jericho to search for the Israelite spies? (Joshua 2:1-6) Does the saving of the spies’ lives not make her lie necessary? Looking at the passage again, one will find that her lie may not have been needed at all, since she had already taken the precaution to hide the spies with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. The king’s men may not have bothered to search among the stalks of flax if they searched her house. But Rahab, fearing the worst and perhaps wavering in her infant faith in God to protect them, told a lie to ensure that the soldiers would not even begin to search her house. Even though the desired result was achieved, the end does not justify the means that she used. It is important to note that Rahab was praised by God not because of her lie but because of her faith in Him which worked by receiving the spies into her house (Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25).

A soldier who is a Christian need not worry about situations where it may be difficult to maintain his moral integrity without endangering innocent lives or the lives of his fellow soldiers. He can trust the Lord to give him the wisdom to answer or act at that moment. Jesus said in Mark 13:11 - "But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost." Some have testified of surprising results from doing that in a wartime situation - the danger was avoided without compromising moral integrity.

No, because that is often the first step toward addiction. Many alcoholics started just by drinking on social occasions. They never thought they would become addicted to it. God’s Word says in Proverbs 23:31-33 "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." Besides this, if we say that we are strong enough to resist addiction, we still set a bad example for others who may not be as strong as we are, and who will fall into alcohol addiction because they followed us.

Some try to justify drinking by showing that Christ drank wine and also performed the miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast. But the study of the background to these passages in Scripture will reveal that wine was the common mealtime beverage of that time and that it was diluted up to 200 parts of water to one part of wine. In fact it was considered barbaric to drink wine that was undiluted or mixed with only an equal amount of water.

The only way to avoid alcohol-influenced thinking, speaking or behaviour and to avoid addiction is not to take the first drink. The production, sale and use of beverage alcohol is incompatible with biblical principles. Christians should have no part in them. If you own a shop or restaurant, be sure that no alcohol is sold or consumed in it. In the U.S. about 10,000 murders occur each year in situations involving alcohol. Alcoholism also leads often to suicide and crime. Thousands die each year from liver cirrhosis - a condition caused by alcohol consumption.

Gambling is a social evil that has promoted covetousness and ruined many lives and even whole families. It ranges from playing with one-armed bandit coin machines, to games like mahjong, and poker to betting on horses, buying four digits, or buying Singapore Sweep tickets. Christians should totally abstain from any form of gambling, even if it is legal, because of its harmful effects:

1. It is addictive. In 1 Corinthians 6:7 the Bible says, "all things are lawful, but I shall not be brought under the power of any."

2. It causes people to lose sight of reality. Gamblers live in a dream world of riches. Hoping for that unreal ‘chance of a lifetime’ to fall into their lap. All their problems will be solved, if they strike it rich.

3. It makes people believe that luck rather than hard work is the way to prosperity. It goes against the Christian work ethic.

4. It causes people to become intensely self-centered. Nothing else matters to them except the indescribable thrill of risking one’s assets to make some gain. It leads to getting rather than giving as a way of life.

5. It often draws people into a life of dishonesty and sin. Gamblers often resort to borrowing money, cheating, stealing and embezzling funds to feed their habit.

6. It results in families destroyed by poverty. The parent who gambles becomes so caught up with gambling that he becomes unable to feel for others. He gambles late into the night instead of spending time with his family who needs him. He sells off the house and other family securities, and destroys the lives of his loved ones.

Speculating on the stock, currency or property market is also a form of gambling, as it has the same risks involved. There is nothing wrong however with investing in shares just as a means of getting dividends from a long-term investment. No speculation is involved in this.

The important element in gambling is the taking of risk. The one who gambles risks his assets on a speculated result, in the hope of getting gains for himself. If the speculated result does not occur, he loses whatever he has risked. There is no gambling involved when there is no risk of loss. Speculating on the stock, currency or property market can result in huge capital losses. Therefore it is a form of gambling.

In contrast to this, investing more in certain shares because of certain incentives offered - like the chance to win a car or household equipment in a "lucky" draw - does not result in the loss of capital. The capital is still retained, although in a different form. The only difference is that less dividends may be received than if the investment had been made in other kinds of shares. But there are still overall gains in long term investments whether large or small.

It is a common trend in our competitive environment, for the same incentives to be offered by almost any commercial establishment, e.g. car salesmen, supermarkets, Internet service providers and mobile phone operators. Each tries to win the market by offering chances to win something in a "lucky" draw.

A Christian who chooses to buy a product from a certain vendor because he gets a chance to win something, is not gambling. But if he does this despite knowing that the product is inferior to another of a different brand (but with no such incentive offered), he is not exercising good stewardship of his resources. Good stewardship requires us to make good use of all the material resources that God has entrusted to us, to get good value for money.

Sometimes the choice may be between two brands which offer equally good value for money. Then there is no harm for the Christian to choose the brand that offers the best incentives for buying its product.

Firstly, it is without a doubt that the Gospel will be offensive to anyone who hears it, some to a greater degree than others.  The reason for this is because men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).  The very message of the Gospel is that God loves sinners that he sent Christ to die on behalf of them; but people will find that message offensive because they do not like to acknowledge themselves as sinners.  So witnessing is an offensive task by nature.  The word "to witness" in Greek is martureo, from which we get the English word "martyr."  Martyrs are killed for preaching the Gospel - for witnessing, because the act is offensive.  So there is no remedy for the offensiveness of the Gospel - rather, we preach and bear all reproaches and persecutions for Christ’s sake.  But in preaching the Gospel; wisdom, tact, and finesse also play a part.  We watch for every opportunity to preach the Gospel, and such opportunities abound.  And when we witness, we should ask of God wisdom to use the right words, understanding of the person’s needs, how to assess the situation, to be warmly received, etc.  Remember that Christ has sent us out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16), so we must be blameless in this respect, to minimize any offensiveness contributed by us (such as being a bad testimony and a stumbling block).  But the offensiveness of the Gospel we must never minimize, lest we preach a muted Gospel.

Concerning persistence, an important principle is found in 2 Timothy 4:2 where it is exhorted that we preach the word in season and out of season.  This means that we are not to cease to minister the Gospel.  However, we must also understand that witnessing is a process.  More often than not, a person who hears the Gospel for the first time will not believe.  It often takes time and many seasons of preaching.  Evangelism, you could say, is like the agricultural process.  In agriculture, the early rains soften the ground.  This is followed by tilling, where the ground is prepared for the next step, which is sowing.  This is followed by late rains and cultivation where the small seedling grows into a sapling which eventually matures enough for harvesting.  So likewise, the Gospel may have to be preached many times before the person is finally harvested and saved.  This takes patience and prayerfulness, especially if the unbeliever is a parent.  One way of witnessing is through Christian literature.  Recommended books include Josh McDowell’s "More Than a Carpenter," Robert Laidlaw’s "The Reason Why," and Frank Morrison’s "Who Moved the Stone?"  Other means of witnessing to folks of an older generation is to have their peers preach them the Gospel - such as older church members or by the Minister conducting a home visitation.

Another important principle is also found in Matthew 10:14 which exhorts witnesses to shake off the dust of their feet if they are not received.  This means that if there is persistent and chronic rejection of the Gospel by the unbeliever, the witness is to leave that person alone.  God will deal with that person in good time as the Gospel seed has already been planted.

Concerning how to minister to an unbeliever involved in the occult, one must realize that the person knows no better.  There is no life nor light in him - he is only doing what comes naturally to him in his sinfulness and blindness.  The only way to minister to such a person is to minister the Gospel to him, and yes, the Gospel will be offensive; but it is the only means by which the person will be rescued from the occult.  Do remind your friend that the Living and True God clearly forbids the consultation of spirits.  Mediums receive their knowledge from such evil spirits who seek to destroy man and ensnare him in darkness.  Remind your friend too, that many mediums are charlatans, who by their keen knowledge of and experience with human behavior, victimize those who are in need - those who are willing even to seek out a medium.  Use this as a platform for witnessing - to spur the unbeliever to examine why he has to seek advice from a man and minor spirits when he can go directly to an Almighty God who knows all things, even the number of hairs on a person’s head.  Watch for every opportunity to preach the Gospel.

Although there is a Christian cult that advocates vegetarianism (The Seventh Day Adventists) there is no biblical basis for it. God sanctioned the consumption of animal meat just after the flood, on the condition that the blood is drained from the meat before consumption: Genesis 9:3,4 - "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."

Unlike man, animals are not made in the image of God. They have no afterlife. They live by instinct, not by moral choices. They do not sin. They merely cease to exist after death. This is why the sixth commandment that God gave, "Thou shalt not kill" is applicable only to the taking of human life, not animal life.

While we should not mistreat animals (Exodus 23:5; Proverbs 12:10), cause them unnecessary suffering (Deuteronomy 25:4), or kill them unnecessarily, e.g. for sport (Jonah 4:11), we can kill animals to eat their meat. As for the slaughtering of animals for meat, in local abbatoirs the animals are killed by applying high voltage current to their heads. It is very quick and merciful.

If we were to follow the vegetarian’s reasoning of not killing out of respect for life, to its ultimate conclusion, we should watch out before taking any step when we walk, just in case there may be a worm or an ant about to be stomped upon! We should also not spray insecticide or destroy a hornet’s nest. Would vegetarians disinfect their hands with antiseptic solutions? Even amoeba and bacteria may be considered as animal life. The fact is, we do kill a lot of animal life everyday. Those who feel good about not eating animal meat are therefore not very consistent. They have a zeal which is misdirected, and not according to knowledge.

Many who are idol worshippers however, refrain from consuming meat for a different reason: because of their belief in reincarnation. They believe that killing an animal may be taking the life of a creature who may be a human being in a previous life or future life. The Bible teaches that all creatures are only born once and die once physically. There is no rebirth. Hebrews 9:27 - "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."

Having said that, there is nothing wrong with a Christian wanting to go on a full or partial vegetarian diet for health reasons. E.g. to avoid consuming animal fat which tends to be saturated and high in cholesterol. But such a Christian should not condemn those who do not follow his diet. Romans 14:2,3 - "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him."

When a person accepts Jesus as Saviour, he is automatically made a member of the Church which is the Body of Christ. This universal Church is mentioned in Ephesians 5:22,23, and membership in it is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:27. But at the same time, the Scriptures recognise the existence of local churches (Acts 8:1; 11:22; Romans 16:1, Colossians 4:15; Acts 14:23). Each local church is to carry out discipline of its members, and at times this discipline may include excommunication (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:4-13; Matthew 18:17). The act of putting a person out of the church implies that there is a defined group of local believers that one can be either in or out.

Each local church is also responsible to appoint its own church leaders from among its own members, following the criteria given in the Scriptures. In Acts 6:3 the local church in Jerusalem was told to "look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business." This phrase ‘looking out among you’ implies that the candidates for church leadership were to be selected from a defined group of local believers.

Moreover Hebrews 13:17 says "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." This implies that there is a defined group of believers that the leadership is accountable for, and those who are in the group are hence responsible to obey the leadership and submit to them. (see also Hebrews 13:7,24)

From the above, we can understand that membership in a local church is essential for every believer, even though he may already be a member of the universal church. It is not essential for salvation, but it is essential for obedience to the whole counsel of God ("Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you", Matthew 28:20). Therefore I think it is wrong to say that local church membership is something man-made, or that it is something that came later in church history. The early church had its own way of defining local church membership for the purpose of discipline and church government.

It is the duty of every believer to be a member of a local church, and he should be careful to choose a church that is faithful to the Word of God, and not be a member of an apostate church (Revelation 18:4 - "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.")

If a Christian does not want to register as a member of a local church, it is very probable that he is not aware of the above teaching from the Bible, or not convinced of it. If he is aware of the above points but still does not want to register, then it must be asked, Why does he not want to register? Does he not recognise that local churches and church leadership are instituted by God? Is he perhaps motivated by a desire to be free from submission to all authority, including church authority? If he submits to Christ’s authority, should he not also submit to the authority that Christ has given to local church leadership?

Serving in a local church is actually a privilege. But with privilege, there comes responsibility. It is wrong to say "I accept the privilege, but not the responsibility." If a person who is not a member of a local church serves in it in any way he likes, but his service is not done well, or even done in a wrong manner, how can the church leaders correct him? Not being a member, he can say to them "You have no authority to correct me." It is therefore not healthy for a Christian who has been serving in a local church to refuse to be a member of that church.

I would understand why a Christian may want to serve for a short time in a church before becoming a member of it. He may still be seeking God’s will on whether this local church is the right one for him, and his ability to serve in it may be one of the factors affecting his decision. But once a Christian is satisfied that the church he is in is a valid Christ-instituted local church where he can worship God and serve Him with his spiritual gifts, he should not delay accepting church membership and submitting himself to the local church leadership.

It must be admitted that God’s Word does not speak explicitly on this matter. But Jesus did say in Luke 18: 16 – “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” And King David expressed confidence that he will see his deceased infant son in heaven one day, 2 Samuel 12:23 – “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

But beyond these few statements and some good and necessary inferences that we can make from Scripture, there is a definite limit upon what we may legitimately say on this matter. To say more than this is to venture into the unknown. There are some who speculate that all infants who die in infancy are automatically saved because it is claimed that they are all innocent and have no sin. But the Scriptures teach the sober truth that we are are already sinners not only from birth, but even from the moment of conception, even though no actual sins have been committed yet. David testified in Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

This sinful nature can be seen even in the behaviour of newborn babies – you can see how quickly they learn how to get their mummies and daddies to respond to their griping and crying. And so even one who is still in a state of infancy is a sinner in need of salvation, and if he dies, there is no automatic salvation for him. And so we must be careful not to speculate on this matter or else we may end up believing things that are not scriptural at all. We may even end up teaching a new method of salvation – by dying in infancy! This is why the only thing that the Westminster Confession ventures to say about this matter is that “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word.” (WCOF Chapter X, para 3)

All that is stated here is that by the same divine election that we have been saved, those who are incapable of hearing the Gospel can also be saved. It does not go on to speculate how this happens, or how many of such persons are elected to salvation, whether they include only the infants of Christian parents or also those of non-Christian parents. All those whom God elects are ultimately saved, and their salvation is wrought by God only through Jesus Christ alone.

But what is good for us to know out of all this, is that because according to the Scriptures, salvation is completely wrought by the sovereign work of God, God is still able to save those who die in infancy and those who are retarded. Their incapacity poses no barrier to God’s work of salvation. That puts them on the same level as everyone else. And this gives us hope to comfort others and also ourselves if have loved ones in such a state – a child who dies in infancy or is born with some abnormality which makes him mentally handicapped. Let us do our best for them, knowing that God can save them. Pray for them, communicate Christ to them as simply as we can, and leave the rest up to God.

And actually, we too before we were saved, were just like them and not very different from them. We too were incapable of responding to the Gospel of Christ. Jesus said, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” If God had not worked in your heart, and drawn you to Christ, you would not be saved today!

What you need to do is to take a step of faith and trust God that the church He has led you to attend is the one that He wants you to settle in. If you are still unsure if this is the church He wants you to settle in, then ask Him in prayer. As you earnestly seek to do His will to serve Him in a local church, He will show you what His will for you is. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in this matter.

Objectively, you can find out  if the church is teaching the right doctrine, if it is based fully on the Scriptures, if its leaders and members are trying their best to practise what the Bible teaches, if souls are being saved, and lives are being changed.

The doctrine of divine providence teaches us that nothing ever happens by chance (Romans 8:28). He has a purpose for everything that has happened to you, including the turbulence that you have experienced in the church split. One possible purpose is to teach you to put your confidence in God and not in man (see Psalm 118:8). Please do not attend a church just because you like its pastor or elder. You will probably be disappointed. They are at best fallible undershepherds, accountable to Christ, who is the infallible Great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20). Let your loyalty be only to Christ!

There is no perfect church on earth. Even in New Testament times, the apostles had to deal with problems that come from doctrinal and personality issues (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:11,12; 3:3; 11:18; Galatians 5:14,15; Philippians 1:15; 2:3; 4:1,2; 1 Timothy 6:3,4; James 4:1). Sometimes, even the apostles themselves were involved in such contentions (Acts 15:37-39; Galatians 2:11-14).

There has been an increase in disagreements and splits affecting many Bible-believing churches in recent years. I believe that it is because Satan is hard at work knowing that he has little time left before Christ’s second coming. He is very skilled at sowing tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:25-30) and sowing discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:19).

You can overcome your discouragement and disillussionment by looking at all that is happening from God’s perspective. He is still on the throne and He is in control. He allows church problems and splits to happen for reasons that are best known to Him. It may be part of his purification process (Ephesians 5:25-27). On our part, we have to do our best to be faithful in our responsibilities, not allow the flesh to reign, and to be mindful of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

(from a Christian sister’s perspective)

I was blessed by a sermon entitled, "Wanted: Women who are gentle, modest and quiet" by Steve Marquedant. I was enlightened by some of the points that he brought up about women’s dressing. Let me share it with you.

1 Peter 3: 3 & 4 talks about outward and inward beauty. All of us want to look good but how far are we willing to go? Is being fashionable and trendy so very important to us?

Let’s consider 2 points to dressing modestly.

1. Consider the culture that we live in.

We have to face the fact that different ages do see things differently. Different cultures too have different views and customs. What is absolutely scandalous in one culture is perfectly acceptable in another. However, there are certain things we should never accept even if the culture accepts it.

2. Consider the appropriateness of the dressing.

It’s not only about what you wear but also how you wear it and what you will be doing in it. Some attire is only good for standing around and looking good. Any movement such as bending or even sitting will reveal certain portions of the body that should not be revealed! We constantly see our young ladies pulling their t-shirts or skirts to try to elongate them or adjusting collars, sleeves and tops to try to cover up more. Why do we have to do that? Is it not because we feel uncomfortable and uneasy in our clothes?  Can we honestly say that we are not aware that we are not as appropriately dressed for church as we should be?

From the sermon, I found two very practical pieces of advice that can guide us if we have a willing spirit that wants to please God in the way we dress.

1. Ask your father/husband/male mentor for his opinion

If you want an honest answer as to whether you are modestly dressed, ask the male fraternity around you – father, husband, male mentor, peers – people whom you know cares for you and will give you an honest answer. Who better to ask than a man because only a man knows how men think. If you think about it logically, which man wants a woman or lady whom he cares about - whether a wife, daughter or friend – to look like someone who has loose moral values or who come across as someone whom you can have liberty with. My daughters and I can testify to the effectiveness of this as the only male in our family ensures that we are dressed in a manner that is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.

Through one of my conversations with some young men in our church regarding the young ladies in our church, I was quite taken aback when I was informed that “there are some girls whom you can only go out with and have fun but they aren’t the ones you would choose for your wife!” So, you see, the young men in our church do have a fairly good idea what qualities they would want in their future wife.

We are not talking about having our dressing controlled or restricted such that you come to church looking frumpy or prudish or old-fashioned. You can come to church looking stylish without being immodest or outlandish.

2. Don’t judge a book by its cover<BR>
How many times have people told you not to judge a book by its cover? But if you think about it, that phrase is not entirely true. Look at the covers of some books such as romance or horror stories or fashion or lifestyle magazines. Sometimes you don’t need to read them to know what is inside the pages.

The way we dress is our choice. It’s what we put on to show others. It’s what we want people to see and to identify us as. When ladies go shopping for clothes, you can frequently hear them say, “Oh, I can’t wear that, it’s just not me!” We each have an idea of how we want to look and what we are going to wear. Look at your group of friends. Do you dress in a similar manner? Or do you all dress differently? Interestingly, there is a tendency for people who dress in a similar manner to hang out together.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. When we do something that is out of the norm such as dye our hair green or dress in an outlandish manner, we basically aim to get a reaction from others. We either want to shock or surprise (depending on whether they are the parents or peers) the people around us. We want to provoke a reaction – it was a provocative action – one that expects a reaction from others. Is that what we want to do in church? Dress in a manner that will provoke a reaction from the people around us?

In the sermon, I learn to look beyond the words “outward adornment” in 1 Peter 3:3 which refers to women adorning themselves to look good. Instead focus on why we so painstakingly put so much effort to “adorn ourselves”. We “adorn ourselves” on purpose and with purpose. This means that we choose to and willingly dress in that manner. Let us be reminded in 1 Peter 3: 4 that the inner self should shine forth and not be dominated by the outward self or outward image.

Is it not true that our outward appearance is usually a manifestation of our inner self? It is however not the only way that we judge others. We also judge others by the way they look and the things they say. These are the only ways that we can judge others – their outward self - because we can’t judge their inner self – what is in their heart. We can only get to know someone better across time and sometimes we are pleasantly surprised that they are not as bad as we had initially thought. But do we want others to have a wrong idea of us in the first place?

I can only conclude that it’s not about what we can wear but what we should wear. No one can force you into clothes that you don’t want to wear. Some parents have given up and allowed their children to go to church in whatever they want to wear as long as they go to church. Is your going to church dependent on how good you look? It has to do with the state of your heart. How do we see the heart? It’s through our actions and conduct. It’s not about dressing for vanity sake or to please your parents. It’s about dressing in a manner that is pleasing to God. If you love God and have God in your heart, you will know what is the right thing to do. Your manner of dressing will show your reverence and respect for the sanctity of worship in church. May we all strive to do that which is pleasing to our Lord Jesus who has done so much for us and asks so little of us. Amen. (Note: This answer was written by sister Tan Poh Yok)

Your research has been done before by a bishop called Ussher, and he also arrived at the same date for creation you arrived at - about 4000 BC. However, this chronology assumes that there are no gaps or overlaps. Creation scientists and theologians (e.g. Morris and Whitcomb) now agree that this assumption is incorrect.

In biblical language, the word "son of" may mean "descendant of" (e.g. Matthew 1:1), and "begat" may mean "ancestor of". A comparison of the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 with the same records found in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles shows that some generations have been left out (e.g. Matthew 1:11 - "Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren" - leaves out Jehoiakim, who was the father of Jechonias cf. 1 Chron 3:15-17). (e.g. 2 - In Matthew 1:8 - three names have been omitted between Joram and Uzziah: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah). The purpose of these genealogies is simply to trace the lineage of a person particularly through certain key persons in his lineage.

Other examples of ‘gaps’: Exodus 2:1,2 gives the impression that Moses was the firstborn son of the Levite man and woman. But we realise later on that he was the third child, after Aaron and Miriam.

Since there are gaps in the genealogies of the Bible, the date of creation would be pushed earlier than 4000 BC. Comparisons with archaeological findings and records have led many Bible scholars (conservative ones) to estimate a date of 10,000 B.C.

You may be interested to compare Luke 3:36,37 with Genesis 11:11-14. Luke has an addition person "Cainan" between Arphaxad and Salah. He is missing from Genesis 11. Hence, there must be gaps in Gen 11.

I think that the best view to take is that ‘sons of God’ here refer to the godly line which consisted of the descendants of Seth. The daughters of men refer to the ungodly line, who consisted of the descendants of Cain. In the previous two chapters you would notice that there are distinctions between these two lines. Enoch who was from Seth’s line, walked with God. By contrast, Lamech, from Cain’s line (Gen 4:23), was a bigamist and a murderer.

It is clear from 6:3 that a new situation arose that caused sin to increase in the world and caused God to decide to punish the world with a flood. This background favours the view that the problem that sparked the increase of sin was compromise by the godly line through intermarriages with the ungodly line.

You are right in saying that the term ‘Sons of God’ though used for angels in other Bible passages, cannot be referring to angels here, because angels do not marry and begat children (Mark 12:25). In addition since this event became the cause for judging the world of mankind, not the angels, ‘sons of God’ here does not refer to angels. If they were angels, what should follow is a description of God’s judgment on these fallen angels.

The view that it refers to a human ungodly line helps to explain why Israel was given such great warnings against intermarriage with ungodly nations.

What Abraham did was wrong and he admitted in in Genesis 20:11-13. And what Abimelech did was also wrong as he had taken Sarah against her will. Thus Abimelech was punished and had to make restitution to Abraham (v.14-16). Though it is not stated in the text, Abraham probably confessed his sin of lying to God and offered sacrifices.

As for Jacob, at the time that he deceived his father, he did not know God yet in a personal manner. His life was ruled by his own selfish desires. As a result, he had to face the consequences of his own sins. By deceiving his father, he had stolen his brother’s blessings. This incurred his brother’s wrath against Jacob, leading to his having to leave home. But God was gracious to reveal Himself to Jacob after this. Through this, and subsequent events, Jacob was gradually changed from his selfish ways to become a god-fearing man.

God does not favour people because they do the wrong things, but despite the fact that they do them. His favour alone enables them to change and do the right things.

Not necessarily so, because Balaam’s ass was also able to talk (Numbers 22:28-30) and that took place long after the Fall. In the case of Balaam’s ass, it spoke only for a brief period because God supernaturally used it to rebuke Balaam. It spoke no more after that and there has never been any record of an ass talking since then. The same thing probably happened in the Garden of Eden, but this time it was Satan who opened the mouth of that serpent to enable it to speak.

The identification of that particular serpent with Satan is found in Revelation 12:9. This does not mean that all serpents are agents of Satan. Christ was pre-figured by a brass serpent that God commanded Moses to make (John 3:14).

Sarai was wrong to obey Abram in this instance because it is morally wrong to tell a lie. As a result of her sin, she was taken away from her husband against her will, and nearly made part of Pharaoh’s harem (Genesis 12:15). Hence she suffered the consequences of her wrong submission to her husband, as much as Abram suffered the consequences of his own sin.

One clear instance where we can see that God holds the wife accountable for a sin she committed as a result of submitting to her husband’s command is Sapphira, the wife of Ananias (Acts 5:1-10). Like Abram, Ananias told his wife to tell a lie. Sapphira obeyed her husband, and as a result of this she was struck dead like her husband. Her submission did not save nor protect her from bearing the full awful consequences of her lie.

In the case of Sarai and Abram, God could have easily and rightfully allowed them both to suffer the consequences of their own sins. The fact that He intervened by stopping Pharaoh from marrying Sarai, does not mean that He honoured their actions. It was only by God’s undeserved grace and mercy that Sarai was saved, and that Abram was spared from losing his wife.

Therefore, whenever a person who has authority over us commands us to do something that is morally wrong we should not carry out the command. We should never think that only the authority will bear the blame for the wrongdoing and that we are absolved from blame because all we did was to submit. The image of God that He has given us is able to tell right from wrong (although it is now corrupted by sin), and He requires us to use that ability well and not just submit ourselves blindly to any authority. God has also given us His Word and He expects us to apply it.

This applies to government authority (Acts 4:19, 5:29), parental authority (Ephesians 6:1) and the husband’s authority (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18). To obey a human authority more than God’s authority is to break the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3)

Exodus 4:21 – “And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” (also in 7:3)

The hardening here refers to a condition of being unreasonably obstinate, unyielding and resistant against God. In all there are 10 places where the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart is ascribed to God (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). This seems to indicate that Pharaoh had no choice in the matter and thus he cannot be blamed for what he did.

But it must be stated that Pharaoh hardened his own heart in another 10 passages (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15) and that he alone was the agent of the hardening in the first sign* and in all the first 5 plagues (his period of grace). Not until the 6th plague was it stated that God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9:12) and even after that, Pharaoh still continued to harden his own heart after the 7th plague. He had therefore reached the point of no return after the first 5 plagues, and after that God ensured that Pharaoh would receive the judgment he deserved by hardening his heart.

Hence in Exodus 4:21 and 7:3, God, being all knowing, was predicting what He would do to Pharaoh’s heart from the 6th plague onward, in response to Pharaoh’s act of hardening his own heart first.

(*The translation of Exodus 7:13, which records Pharaoh’s response to the first sign, as “And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart…” is inaccurate. A better translation is “And Pharaoh’s heart became hard…”)

Whenever God chooses to harden a person’s heart, it is done in response to the person’s own rebellion and sin. And it is designed to bring the person’s own judgment on him. Hence God’s hardening is always consistent with His justice. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart can be related to the principle laid down in Romans 1:18-28, that God deals with those who reject the revelation of Himself in nature and history (and in Pharaoh’s case also in miracles) is to abandon them to still greater excess of sin and its consequences.

Another example: Genesis 15:16 – “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” This describes the people of Canaan who continued to commit sins of idolatry, moral perversion, etc. until the time that God brought Israel to Canaan, when their sins would be full and they would have exceeded their period of grace and be ripe for God’s judgment.

Joshua 11:19-20 tells us how the judgment finally came on them – “There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.”  Instead of trying to make peace with the Israelites (knowing what God had done for them) all the Canaanite cities except for Gibeon chose to make war with them. This was because God had judicially hardened their hearts against making peace, so that they would rush headlong to their own deserved destruction.

Exodus 4:24-26 – “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.”

The ‘him’ that the Lord sought to kill was Moses. Moses became very ill and almost died while staying at the inn. This is why it was Zipporah had to perform the circumcision, and not Moses.

O.T. Allis explains: “This incident is best understood as indicating that Moses had failed to circumcise the baby [Eliezer] before leaving home.  This may have been due partly to haste and preoccupation with the mission which had been given him.  But it was more probably due to Zipporah’s objection to the performance of the rite.  Whether she had objected in the case of Gershom, we do not know.  Here at the inn, when she realized that Moses’ life was in danger and apparently felt that she was responsible, she performed the rite herself, but evidently with great reluctance (as is shown by her words, twice repeated, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me”).  Whatever the reason, Moses had sinned in failing to perform the covenant rite which was required of every Israelite under penalty of death (Genesis 17:13,14) The incident caused Zipporah to return with the children to Midian.  She did not rejoin him until he later returned with the Israelites to Horeb (18:1-6)

Since 35 centuries have passed since the plagues took place, the land of Egypt has already recovered long ago from their adverse impact. Thus, the current conditions in Egypt do not manifest any effects of the plagues at all. However there are other indications from Egyptian history and archaeology that the plagues had an impact on Egypt.

According to Egyptian records, the Pharoah of the Exodus, Amenhotep II, had a son who became Pharoah, but it was not his eldest son.  The question is, What became of his eldest son?  Could he have been the son that died in the tenth plague?

Egyptian history records a noticeable decline in conquest and trade after the reign of Amenhotep II. Perhaps the losses sustained through the plagues and through the destruction of 600 war chariots in the Red Sea meant that it would take some years to rebuild the army so that Egypt could embark on conquest again. The decline in trade indicates an economically depressed period, and this would be expected if Egypt had nothing left to trade after the plagues had destroyed everything.

The next Pharoah, Amenhotep III (1410 – 1377 B.C.) had his hands full with a rising discontent within Egypt, a turmoil related to the ascendancy of one god or the other.  His son, Amenhotep IV (1377-1358 B.C.) settled the matter by originating a monotheistic religion which revolutionized Egyptian theology and also made an indelible political impact.  He called this new god, Aton. Since each of the 10 plagues symbolised the defeat of an Egyptian god, the Egyptians would naturally lose confidence in them after the plagues, and be willing to accept changes to their religion.

Exodus 11:5 – “And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.”

The word ‘firstborn’ in these verses refer only to the first male offspring, because of the following reasons:

a.  The purpose of the 10th plague was stated in Exodus 4:22,23 – “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.”

b. Only males could be used as the Passover lamb to protect the home. Exodus 12:5 – “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.”

c. The Hebrew word for firstborn used in these verses is ‘bekor’ which is masculine in gender. The feminine form of the word is ‘bekiyrah’ which is used only in Genesis 19:31-37 for the firstborn daughter of Lot, in Genesis 29:26 for Leah, the firstborn daughter of Laban, and in 1 Samuel 14:49 for Merab, the firstborn daughter of Saul.

d. Because the firstborn of Israel were saved, the Israelites were to devote their firstborn to the Lord. However, only the males were thus devoted and redeemed: Exodus 13:15 – “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.” (see also Exodus 34:20; Numbers 3:43-45)

This implies that Egyptian families that had no male children suffered no deaths in the 10th plague! But why were only the firstborn sons targeted in the 10th plague? This is due to the fact that the firstborn son was considered to be the father’s ‘beginning of strength.’ (Genesis 49:3; Psalm 78:51; 105:36) The firstborn son inherited a double portion of his father’s estate (Deuteronomy 21:16,17) while the other sons received a single portion each.

Daughters received no portion. However in cases where a man had no sons but daughters, his daughters would inherit equal portions of their father’s estate. (Numbers 27:7,8).

The male lamb for the Passover was killed by having its blood shed. On the 14th day of the 1st month of the head of the family would slit the throat of the lamb and collect its blood. The blood was then smeared on the lintel and posts of the front door.

This corresponds with the way that Jesus Christ was killed on the cross – by the shedding of His blood (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7 – “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”. Cf. John 1:29, 36).

The significance of dying by the shedding of blood is that this alone can atone for a man’s sins. Leviticus 17:11 – “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”  (cf. Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:2; 1 Peter 1:18,19)

The firstborn of Egypt died as God’s judgment on their sins. However, in the 10th plague the firstborn of Israel would also have died because they were just as guilty of sin as the Egyptians. It was only by having a substitute to die for them that the firstborn of Israel were saved. The lamb’s blood on the doorpost and lintel meant that a death had already taken place in the house and so the angel of death passed over that house.

Exodus 12:10 – “And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.”

Nothing is mentioned in the Bible as to why this had to be done, but the following may be some possible reasons for doing this:

a) It was a special meal that must not be profaned because it is holy and points to Jesus Christ. For other daily meals, leftovers could be preserved and kept for later consumption, but not in this one. (cf. Exodus 23:28; 29:34; Leviticus 17:15-17; 22:29,30 for similar laws applied to other offerings)

b) It was an illustration of the necessity of accepting God’s provision for our salvation before it is too late for us to do so. “It was to be eaten immediately, not deferred till morning, v. 10. To-day Christ is offered, and is to be accepted while it is called to-day, before we sleep the sleep of death.” (Matthew Henry)

Some scholars have tried to calculate the duration of the plagues by finding correspondences of the plagues with natural phenomena in Egypt, e.g. the flooding of the Nile river. This led them to conclude that their total duration was about 9-12 months. However natural phenomena cannot explain all the features of the plagues, and would also give Pharaoh and the Egyptians more reason to doubt their divine origin.

If we use only the data that is provided in the Bible, the only instances when time duration is mentioned in the ten plagues are found in:

Exodus 7:25 – “And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.” (the time interval between the beginnings of the 1st and 2nd plagues)

Exodus 10:22 – “And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days” (The duration of the 9th plague)

If we were to take each plague as lasting about 5 days (which is the average of the above two figures), and multiply them by 9 we would end up with 45 days. The 10th plague was exceptionally short (1 day) because of its severity and the instant response it produced from Pharaoh. However it was preceded by 4 days of preparation (cf. 12:3 and 12:6).

Hence the estimated duration from the beginning of the 1st plague until the day Pharaoh let the Israelites go is about 50 days.

Moses did not request for the permanent departure of the Israelites from Egypt, but just for a temporary leave of absence. This was done with the purpose of making the request modest, so that Pharaoh’s refusal would become more unreasonable. If he refused even such a modest request as a temporary leave of absence of a few days, how would he respond if the request was for a permanent departure?

Since God is all-knowing, He already knew that Pharaoh would reject the request for a 3-day leave of absence. But God had determined to prevail against him until Pharaoh himself would yield and command the Israelites to leave Egypt permanently! This would then be a powerful display of God’s power over the greatest kings of the earth.

Look at the following changes in Pharaoh’s concessions:

a. (After the 4th plague) “Do not leave, but sacrifice here” (8:25)

b. “You may leave, but do not go too far” (8:28)

c. (After the 7th plague) “You may leave, but only the men.” (10:10,11)

d. (After the 9th plague) “You and your children may leave, but your animals must remain behind.”  (10:24)

e. (After the 10th plague) “Get out, you, your children and your animals, and be gone!” (12:31,32)

1st and 2nd Samuel was probably written first by Samuel, and when he died, the prophets Nathan and Gad continued to write the history of Israel and added it to his book. That is why 1 Chronicles 29:29 tells us "Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer" According to the Talmud, the first 24 chapters of 1 Samuel were written by Samuel himself (1 Samuel 25:1 reports his death) and the rest of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel was the work of Nathan and God (Baba Bathra 15a).

The question concerning Saul’s status has been debated by many Bible students for centuries and has never been fully resolved. There are those who say that Saul could not have been saved because his sinful actions betray an unregenerate heart. But if a person’s actions at a latter part of his life are an indication of his salvation, then King Solomon was also probably not saved. The OT historical books record that in his mature years, he went astray from God, had many wives, worshipped idols and when he knew that Jeroboam had been appointed to replace him, he even sought to kill him (see 1 Kings 11:40). And yet, it is likely that Solomon did repent toward the end of his life and was saved. The book of Ecclesiastes is probably a testimony of this.

Solomon was a god-fearing king when he first began. The Lord appeared unto him in a dream and he asked for wisdom. He prayed a very wonderful prayer to dedicate the Temple that he built for the lord. Despite that, he backslided badly into sin and started off the trend of compromise in his kingdom that eventually brought them into captivity.

Like Solomon, Saul also started out well. The Lord sanctioned his appointment to be the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 9:13; 10:1,24). 1 Sam 10:9 indicates a possible work of God of regeneration in Saul - "And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day." This was followed by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the next verse. Saul sought to do God’s will as a king - When he heard news that a tribe of Israel in Gilead was oppressed he was filled with righteous indignation and received the Holy Spirit’s power to deliver the tribe. 1 Samuel 11:6 - "And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly." And he humbly attributed his success to God, v.13 - " And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel."

But like Solomon, Saul in his latter years, fell into disobedience and sin. Because of this, he lost the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and his condition became worse (16:14). When God appointed David to replace him, he sought to kill him. Although Saul disobeyed God, there were some moments when he still showed some degree of goodness and repentance in him. e.g. 1 Samuel 14:17-21; 26:21,25. There is no record that Saul repented of all his sins and was restored at the end of his life. One can only guess that perhaps just before he died on the battlefield, he finally realised the folly of his sins and repented, but knowing that it was too late to save the situation, he sinned by taking his own life.

Now here is the problem. Was Saul’s spiritual experience in the earlier part of his life genuine? If it was, then he must have been saved. Was Saul still saved at the end of his life? If he was not, then he must have lost his salvation. This conclusion however, would contradict the rest of the Scriptures which teach that salvation can never be lost. Besides, as we have seen in the case of Solomon, it is possible for a true believer to backslide and become disobedient to God.

Our God is a God of love, and also a Holy and Just God. Although He loves man, He cannot tolerate sin. It is sin that brings God’s judgment. There are people who imagine that a God of love cannot condemn sinners to die eternally in hell, and some even believe that a God of love cannot allow disasters like earthquakes to kill and hurt so many people, if He really is in control of the elements. How could a God of love send a great Flood to kill all except for 8 people? They conclude that a God who does these must be cruel.

Firstly: The Bible informs us that God is not cruel. He takes no delight in seeing sinners suffering in hell. Ezekiel 18:31,32 - "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."

Lamentations 3:32-36 - "But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. To crush under His feet all the prisoners of the earth, To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not."

In the Book of Jonah, we see how merciful and caring God is even for little children: Jonah 4:10,11 - "Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand [i.e. children]; and also much cattle?"

Secondly: The Bible tells us that every man deserves punishment for sin (Romans 6:23; 3:23). Infants are not innocent, because, even though they may not have committed sin, they are already born in sin - they have inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12) and the sinful nature from their parents. Psalm 51:5 - "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." As a father of two children, I can testify that babies begin to show their sinful nature at a very early age. No one has to teach them how to sin. It is natural for them.

Thirdly: The Bible shows us that God’s judgments are not meted out indiscriminately, but always in proportion to the offence. E.g. in the case of the Amalekites, the cause of the judgment is found in Exodus 17:8-16 and Deuteronomy 25:17-19. The Amalekites were cruel to launch a surprise attack on the Israelites from behind. The ones traveling at the back of the Israelite camp that marched to Sinai were the lame and elderly, who could not keep up with the rest. They massacred these helpless people and they "feared not God." Hence the punishment they received was fully deserved by them.

The same is true with all the heathen nations that God commanded Israel to kill. They were being judged by God for their awful sins. In fact, God gave them time to repent but they did not do so. He endured and tolerated their sins until they were ripe for judgment.

The amazing thing about God’s love is that it is shown to us even when we are deserving of judgment. Romans 5:7,8 – "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." We must tell the unbeliever that it is only when we understand God’s wrath against sin that we can understand God’s love for unworthy sinners.

This word occurs 71 times the book of Psalms and 3 times in the book of Habakkuk. It is a musical term (meaning ‘lift up’) probably showing an accentuation, a pause or an instrumental interlude. They and other annotations (e.g. Higgaion, "meditation" – Ps 9:16;), in Psalms are the equivalent of the musical terms in our hymnals like "chorus" or "refrain" or "softly" (Hence we should just skip them in responsive reading). The purpose they serve today is to remind us that the psalms were originally songs that were sung in the Temple worship, and that we should incorporate singing to the Lord in our church worship. The annotations in the text are part of the original text. Those found in the titles of the psalm may have been added later. These titles are useful as they provide information on the authorship, tunes, historical background and instruments of the psalms. However, as there is considerable variation in the titles between various texts of the book of psalms (e.g. the Septuagint), it is likely that the titles were meant only as a guide, and not intended to be part of the inspired word.

The word "strength" here is used figuratively for praise. This can be verified by the way that Christ quoted this verse. Matthew 21:16 - "And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?"

The psalm means that God in His sovereignty can even use little children and babies to bring glory to Him and to silence those who are against Him, as was fulfilled in Christ’s triumphal entry (Matthew 21:15).

We should be careful not to read more into the word ‘lend’ than it means. This passage of scripture sets the righteous man in contrast to the wicked. V.21 says that, "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again" showing that he is interested in getting all the time. In contrast the righteous, according to v.27, is "…ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed." showing that he is more interested in giving and being generous rather than in taking or getting from others. Other passages of Scripture must be read to understand whom the righteous should lend money to. Jesus warned his disciples "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16). Even the early church was to use certain criteria to determine if someone should receive financial support – 1 Timothy 5:8 – "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." Christians should not be naive, allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous men. Hence we should be wise and discerning whom we lend money to. If they are taken in by someone who borrows from you for the first time with no intention of returning the money (as I have experienced) they can comfort themselves with the words of Christ, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." To lend again to a brother who still owes you funds, does not help him but feeds his sinful habit of borrowing (1 Timothy 5:22 – "neither be partaker of other men’s sins"). Tell him, I will lend you only if you pay back what you still owe me.

Praise is very closely associated with worship, but cannot be said to be synonymous.  Praise is translated from the Hebrew "Hallal", which means to glory, boast, rage, commend, and celebrate.  So it has the idea of speaking of the goodness of God and the boasting thereof.

Worship is translated from the Hebrew "Shachach", which literally means to bow down.  It was a physical work they did.  That is why, when we see the concept of worship in the Old and New Testaments, we see the works of the people towards God, their sacrifices, their prayers, and their praises.  These were considered acts of worship.  However, it was not just in their acts, but also in their attitudes.  Many times in the Old Testament, God, through His prophets often scolded His people, asking them why they had brought their sacrifices to Him and why they did their good works when their hearts were uncircumcised and hardened.  Hence, we know that worship is not just seen by a worshiper’s works, but by his attitude.  Physical and spiritual posture before God is worship.  The physical gesture of bowing down signifies awe and self-negation, as the worshiper recognizes the surpassing majesty and worth of his Creator.  He ascribes glory to God; and true worship only occurs when a true vision of God’s glory is recognized by the worshiper as in the case of Isaiah.  Hence, our worship is nothing until we have a true attitude of worship which is attained when we have a true understanding of God.  Even our attendance of church or church activities might be seen as abominable by God, because we do not have right attitudes.  The English word “worship” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word worthship, which comes from two words – “worth” and “shape.”  In a sense, we shape our behavior and our attitude according to the worth of the object we revere and love.  We all have role models, idols, and people whom we respect, and the way we act in front of them shows the kind of reverence we have for them.  This is, in fact, worship to a certain extent.  That is why the Bible tells us not to have respect of persons or regard the face of a person – to show no favoritism, because this is a kind of worship.

So worship is a much bigger concept than praise alone, and embodies not only the physical manifestations of but also the heart manifestations of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, supplication, dedication, and obedience.

Since praise is a part of worship, the question may then be rephrased as "Can we praise God with trumpets, dance, etc in our worship?" If we have the organ and piano, as most churches do, why would it be so wrong to have a trumpet or harp in worship?  Does not Psalm 150 instruct us to do so?  The answer is not so simple.

Psalm 150 instructs its readers to praise the Lord with tambourines, dance, and organs alongside the permitted Temple instruments.  The organ in Psalm 150 (so KJV) is a wind instrument of between 7 - 10 pipes.  Does this then mean that the Israelites were supposed to worship God in the temple with all these instruments contrary to what had been laid down in the Law?  Not at all.  There is a need to understand the context of this passage.  Firstly, the psalm does not tell us to praise God in this manner in the temple.  The phrase "Praise God in his sanctuary" does not mean the sanctuary of his temple.  It must be seen as a parallel to "praise him in the firmament of his power."  It does not refer to his earthly temple but to the temple of the entire universe - "his sanctuary" may be described as God’s "mighty expanse" or "mighty heavens."  In other words, this psalm is calling for the worship of God in every area of life.  This is seen in verse 4 where it instructs believers to praise God in the dance (done during harvest and like festivals) and in Psalm 149:6 to praise God in war.  Hence, Psalm 150 is not telling us that we must praise God with all these instruments in the temple, but as the Israelites had their festivals for harvest and victory marches, whenever they played these instruments there, they were to do it unto the Lord.  Stringed instruments (which were forbidden in the temple) were used in family worship, (cf ps 144) and tambourines were used during harvest occasions (cf ps 81).  So that would be the principal context of the Psalm.

However, since the church is not Israel, must we adhere to OT instruction not to have a myriad of instruments in the church?  Furthermore, the organ is comprised of many instrument sounds; are we then, if we cannot use the trumpet and other instruments, to shut off those stops and only restrict ourselves to only a few instruments?  Again, the answer is not so simple.  Firstly, there is no regulation that the modern church must only use the organ and the piano.  Secondly, there is also no regulation that the modern church cannot use the trumpet or the guitar either.  But the standard set by God in the Old Testament should remain in this New Testament Gospel Age - that musical instruments must never be allowed to rival or overwhelm worship, hence it is best that they should be modest in character and limited in number.  We must remember that worship is importantly a spiritual act done out of a penitent heart with reverence, and hence will appropriately manifest itself outwardly; it is not the number of instruments that enhance worship.  So in the end, there is nothing seriously wrong with having many instruments, but it is the motive behind it and its propriety.  Psalm 150:6 tells us that "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord."  This verse reminds us that instruments themselves cannot be a channel of praise - only things that have breath can worship, only living souls can praise the Lord.

So Psalm 150 does not instruct us to praise God with many instruments in church, but gives a wider instruction - that whatever we do, we ought to praise God.  So the question should not be "can we praise God with many instruments in worship?" but "why would we want to praise God with many instruments in worship?".  After all, as it was seen, it is not commanded that we do so.  Worship comes from the heart, and if we feel that we must have more instruments to make worship or praise better, then there must be something seriously wrong with our worship, and that ultimately speaks of the worshiper’s heart.  Can we worship without instruments?  Of course we can, since worship comes only from the heart of the believer.  So why do we have instruments like the organ and the piano?  It is because they are employed in worship services to aid in congregational singing - that the tempo and pitching would be preserved.  Even in many congregations that do not employ musical instruments, a pitch pipe or tuning fork is employed to ascertain the first note.  So that is simply the function of instruments in the worship of God, nothing grander than that.

To begin with, it must be emphasised that David was not a vindictive person. As a man of God, David did have the capacity to forgive those who offended him, and who did wrong to him. There were probably many people that David forgave, e.g. King Saul, for pursuing him in the wilderness (1 Samuel 26:11,18-21), and Absalom, for attempting to take over his reign by force (2 Samuel 18:32,33). However, there were certain offences that were committed not only against David personally, but which constitute rebellion or treason against his rightful authority as King of Israel. In such cases, David’s judgment was no longer a personal act of unforgiving vengeance, but a righteous act of protecting the integrity of his God-given authority as king over God’s people.

Joab’s judgment was due to him for his evil murdering of two generals, Abner (2 Samuel 3:27) and Amasa (2 Samuel 20:10), in times of peace. Joab slew Abner to take revenge on him for killing his brother, Asahel, in battle (2 Samuel 2:22,23). But in doing this, Joab had broken the safe-conduct that King David had promised to Abner when Abner came to see him in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:20,21) and thus damaged the King’s integrity. Joab slew Amasa (his own cousin, 1 Chronicles 2:16,17) because he was jealous that King David had put Amasa in command of the armies of Israel instead of him when dealing with Sheba’s rebellion.

Joab was clearly a dangerous man in David’s ranks, but he also happened to be David’s nephew (1 Chronicles 2:13-16) and a brave soldier who had also served David loyally and faithfully as a military general (1 Chronicles 27:34) and won many battles for him. Thus David did not give Joab the judgment he deserved for his crimes, and the most that he ever did against Joab was to curse him (2 Samuel 3:29). This inaction does not mean that David had acquitted Joab. It only means that he had deferred Joab’s judgment.

When David’s reign was coming to an end, Joab showed his true colours by taking sides with Adonijah, who was not David’s nor God’s choice to be the next king of Israel (1 Kings 1:5-7). Although Adonijah’s attempt to take the throne did not succeed, Joab had clearly shown that he could not be trusted. Perceiving that Joab would be a threat to Solomon’s reign, David gave Solomon the instruction to act wisely against Joab in 1 Kings 2:5, by giving him his long-delayed judgment (1 Kings 2:31-33)

As for Shimei, he was a relative of King Saul, and he had a personal grudge against David for taking away the kingdom away from Saul. At the time that Absalom rebelled against King David, and David had to flee to the east, Shimei, thinking that David was now being judged for what he had done to Saul, came out to publicly curse and insult David (2 Samuel 16:5-8) in the sight of all the Israelites who were with David. David did not react against this act of high treason, even though he could have done so. Without justifying Shimei’s act, he saw it as being allowed by God for a divine purpose (2 Samuel 16:11,12).

However when Absalom died in battle and David returned back to Jerusalem victorious, Shimei quickly came to apologise to David and begged him to spare his life (2 Samuel 19:16-20). Although David could have justifiably sentenced him to die, he chose not to do so, not because he forgave Shimei, but because he did not want his return to kingship (and the joyous mood of the people) to be marred by Shimei’s death (2 Samuel 19:22,23). Besides, Shimei had brought a thousand Benjamite tribesmen with him to meet David and welcome him back to Jerusalem. It would have been grossly inappropriate for David to slay the leader of this welcoming party! David therefore acceded to Shimei’s request and swore not to kill him.

However, David knew that Shimei’s apology was insincere, and that he had only made it out of selfish fear for his own life. Deep in his heart, Shimei still resented David for taking away Saul’s reign (Actually it was God who gave David Saul’s kingdom). Such disguised disloyalty in a person would naturally make him a threat to King Solomon’s reign. Shimei would probably turn against Solomon if the opportunity ever presented itself. Since Solomon was not bound by David’s oath to spare Shimei’s life, he was able to give him the judgment he deserved.

Although Solomon was given the charge to deal with Shimei, he acted wisely by testing Shimei’s loyalty first. He only meted out judgment to him when Shimei failed the test (1 Kings 2:36-46).

What happened to Joab and Shimei offers a good lesson to all of us. God’s judgment against unrepentant sinners may be defered but never denied. Perhaps if Joab had truly repented of his sins and shown himself to be truly loyal to David, David might not have instructed Solomon to take his life.

As for Shimei, his "repentance" was only superficial and only to preserve himself. True repentance for our sins should stem from selfless and full agreement with God about the horror of our sins and what they deserve. Perhaps if Shimei had repented and come to David before Absalom’s death instead of after, things would have been quite different for him.

Some people have dreams and they firmly believe that this dream will come true. I have had my share of such dreams, which for a while made me think that they are sent from God and will come true. But I realised later on, that they do not mean anything at all. They are merely the result of the things that we have on our minds. Research has shown that dreams facilitate the emotional resolution of the problems that one is facing in life.

Hence it is not wise to pay too much attention to your dreams. Ecclesiastes 5:7 – “For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.”  The word ‘dream’ is found 123 times in the Bible, but we notice that 95% of the occurences of the word are found the OT. There are only 8 instances when it is used in the NT. That itself should tell us that dreams were being phased out by God, since Christ has now come.

In the days of the OT and NT, God did use dreams to speak to men, but they were actually more than ordinary dreams. They were visions. Numbers 12:6 – “If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.”

A night vision or vision of the night, is the same as a dream. Job 33:15,16 – “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,” (cf. Daniel 7:1 – “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed”; also Daniel 4:5) Hence the difference between a vision and a dream from God is that the first occurs when one is awake, and the other occurs when one is asleep. But both are just as vivid and can be recalled clearly to the very last detail (unlike our usual dreams which are forgotten). Sometimes the same vision or dream occurred several times (e.g. Acts 10:10-16 – Peter’s vision occurred thrice).

All that was only in the times before God’s written Word was given to us. When you meet with others for Bible study and fellowship don’t spend much time discussing the dreams you dreamed last night and what they could mean, because they probably do not mean anything. We should not pray to the Lord, “Please appear to me in a dream” or “Please reveal your will to me when I dream tonight” since we already have the scriptures to read and know God’s will and the Holy Spirit to lead us with His inner prompting. To go back to dreams is to reject the Scriptures and insult God. Please remember this: Don’t rely on dreams, but on God’s Word.

Now that we have God’s Word, we can use that to judge any vision or dream that people claim to have received from God. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 – “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” In fact the verses after that state that such a dreamer is to be executed.

Jeremiah 23:25,26 – “I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart.” Hence we should be careful whenever someone comes to you and says that he has received a dream from God and the content of it is different from what God has revealed in His word. You can ignore it.

Theologians usually make a distinction between two kinds of decrees of God: Efficacious and Permissive. Efficacious decrees are those which cause those events which God has determined to effect through His own immediate agency. In other words, whatever God Himself directs to happen will certainly happen. Permissive decrees are those which cause those events which God has determined to allow to depend on free agents to effect. In other words there are certain events that God just permits to happen.

Now, the distinction between efficacious and permissive decrees although important, has no relation to the certainty of the events. All events included in the purposes of God are equally certain, whether He has determined to bring them to pass by His own power, or simply to permit their occurrence through the agency of His creatures.

What is the use then of making this distinction, since it makes no difference to the certainly of the events? The helpful thing about making this distinction is that it helps to solve a moral problem: It helps us to answer the commonly asked question of who bears the final blame for evil and sin. Since God’s decrees comprehend everything, then they must also include man’s sins. Does this make Him morally responsible for these sins? Can a non-believer stand before God’s Judgment seat one day and say “God, you have no right to punish me for my sins, because you had already included them in your decrees from the beginning of time.”?

The answer to this perplexing question is a definite NO, because God is not the immediate cause of the sin. Sin comes under God’s permissive decrees and not His efficacious decrees and therefore He cannot be charged with sin. The Scriptures emphasize over and over again that God, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. So when anyone sins, he does it entirely out of his own selfish motives and inclinations, and not because he thinks that God has decreed that he would commit sin. Some things God purposes to do; others He permits to be done. He purposes good, He permits evil. He is the author of one, but not the other.

At the point that Nebuchadnezzar received the interpretation of the dream, God would have withheld his judgement if he had repented of his sins. This is implied in Daniel’s advice in v.27 – “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.”

The king did not repent of his sins but persisted to the point that the judgement was meted out to him a year later (vv. 29-31). By this time it was too late for Nebuchadnezzar to repent.

What Daniel saw in his vision was only a visible representation of God, also known as a theophany. God was not always represented by the same form. E.g. when he called Moses He was represented by a burning bush (Exodus 3); To Ezekiel, He was represented as a man riding on a divine chariot. Thus there is no fixed form of God, and each form is only meant to teach us certain truths about God. E.g. He appeared as the Ancient of days to Daniel to teach that unlike worldly rulers and kingdoms that last only for a short time, God has always been ruling from eternity past.

These visible representations of God are only a ‘similitude’ of Him. Numbers 12:8 – “With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold…” Jesus said in John 4:24 – “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” In Colossians 1:15 and 1 Timothy 1:17 He is called ‘the invisible God.’ Hence it is wrong for anyone to represent God in any physical form.

This verse is given as a contrast to verse 11 (“I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.”) When each of the first three Gentile kingdoms fell, they were not totally destroyed. Each was absorbed into the next kingdom which conquered them and continued to exist as part of the new expression of Gentile world dominion.

In that sense the Babylonian, Medo-Persian  and Greek kingdoms would continue to live for the entire period of time that God appointed for Gentile world dominion. By contrast, the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) would be totally destroyed in its fall. It would not be made part of the kingdom of Christ on earth.

When God destroys the last Gentile empire, that judgment would also be the end of the 3 earlier empires as well (cf. Daniel 2 – when the stone crushed the feet of the statue, the entire image was destroyed with including the parts representing the three earlier empires.)

He was probably an angel (cf. Geneva Bible notes) cf. v.10 – “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.”

Although the angel’s name is not given, he could have been Gabriel, the angel who speaks to Daniel in Daniel 9:21 – “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.”

cf. Daniel 8:15-16 – “And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.  And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.”

Many believe that this refers to the revived Roman Empire which will be a confederation of nations rather than one empire. Perhaps the present European Union is the precursor to this. The little horn refers to the Antichrist, who will arise out of this confederation and become its ruler. Which nation does the Antichrist comes from? No one knows, though some believe that he must have Jewish blood in him because of Daniel 11:37 – “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers.”

a.  Not all the 6 things stated in v.24 are accomplished yet.

1.  Finish the transgression (not accomplished) – This refers to the end of Israel’s rebellion against God and it will only the accomplished at Christ’s Second Coming.

2.  Make an end of sins (not accomplished) – This refers to the time when Israel will meet the God’s standard as His nation. It will only be accomplished when Christ’s kingdom on earth is inaugurated.

3.  Make reconciliation for iniquity – accomplished at the crucifixion of Christ.

4.  Bring in everlasting righteousness – accomplished at the crucifixion of Christ

5.  Seal up the vision and prophecy (not accomplished) – This refers to the fulfillment of all the prophecies concerning God’s kingdom, and it will be accomplished only when Christ’s kingdom on earth is inaugurated.

6.  Anoint the most Holy (not accomplished) – Referring to the Millennial Temple’s innermost chamber. This Temple will be built only after Christ’s Second Coming. (Ezekiel 40-44)

b.  The death of Christ and the destruction of the Temple are at least 40 years apart.

Daniel 9:26 – “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, [AD 30] but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. [AD 70]”

c.  Many prophecies in the OT have unspecified time intervals in them. E.g. Christ’s birth and Christ’s millennial reign on earth in Isaiah 9:6 – there is a time interval of at least 2,000 years between them:

Isaiah 9:6 - “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

This is a difficult passage to interpret, and there are many differing interpretations of it. I think that the key concept is that of changes that come when a transition occurs from one phase of God’s plan to the next. Christ had just identified John the Baptist (in v.10) as being the forerunner of the Messiah, foretold in Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1. In v.13 he also identified him with ‘Elijah’ whom Malachi prophesied would return before the coming of the ‘great and dreadful day of the Lord’ (Malachi 4:5).

Hence, the appearance of John the Baptist signaled the transition to the Messianic era, the time when God’s Kingdom would advance much faster and further than it had ever done before, the time when the Gentiles would come into the Kingdom in great numbers.

I do not think that it refers to the violence suffered by the OT prophets, because the wording of v.12 indicates that the violence begins from the days of John the Baptist. Rather it seems to indicate violence that begins after the time of the OT prophets, i.e. in the times of John and Baptist and Jesus Christ.

Who then are the ‘violent’ who take it by force? One possible interpretation is that spiritual warfare really intensified during the time of John the Baptist and of Christ (before He resurrected). That may explain the many instances of demonic possession recorded in the gospels when Christ had to cast out demons. Satan was hard at work, trying his best to prevent Christ from carrying out His work and ministry, and attempting to snatch the kingdom of heaven by force. But his efforts failed when Christ died and rose again, and all power (authority) was given to Christ in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18). Satan still works today, but as a defeated enemy, who has received the deathblow at the cross.

Another possible interpretation is to take the ‘violent’ as men, e.g. the Pharisees, Saducees, etc. who opposed Jesus (who represents the kingdom of heaven). Hence their efforts to oppose, arrest and crucify Christ would constitute the violence suffered by the kingdom of Heaven. John the Baptist himself (who also represents the kingdom of heaven) was arrested and executed by a violent man, king Herod.

Yet another possible interpretation is that the violent are the common people who when they saw John the Baptist and Jesus, and the miracles performed, got excited and thought that the political messianic kingdom was about to begin, and so they wanted to launch a violent rebellion, overthrow the present government and crown Christ as king of Israel. John 6:14,15 - "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, He departed again into a mountain himself alone." (cf. Acts 1:6).

The truth is that the kingdom of heaven is spiritual, not a political one yet. It is a kingdom of Christ dwelling and ruling in the hearts of men. Violence is not the means that God will use to establish His kingdom (as Liberation theology advocates). Christ explained the true nature of the Kingdom of heaven in the parables of the kingdom (Matthew 13) in order to correct this prevalent misconception.

It is hard to say which of these views is the right one. We will know the answer one day, when we see Christ!

1. Many have held that this verse refers to the Transfiguration, the very next section in both Matthew and Mark (Matt 17:1-5). There are just 2 problems with this: The transfiguration took place only 6 days later, and what Jesus said "will not taste death" seems to imply something in the distant future. Secondly it is not entirely clear how the Son of Man comes in His kingdom (Matt) through this event, especially since v.27 already mentions His second coming.

2. Others take this to refer to the Resurrection of Jesus or to Pentecost. This view also faces the difficulty that even these events are still not far off enough to warrant the phrasing "some standing here which shall not taste death."

3. Others interpret this verse as referring to the Second Coming and explain that "some who are standing here" refers not to those then standing there, but to the final generation, prophetically foreseen, who will be raptured rather than resurrected. This means that the words were calculated to be misunderstood by the disciples.

4. Some take the phrase "the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" symbolically, referring to the rapid multiplication of disciples and the mission to the Gentiles. Some of those standing there would live to see Jesus’ Gospel proclaimed throughout the Roman Empire and a rich "harvest" (cf. 9:37-38) of converts reaped for Jesus Messiah.

I think that the best view is the transfiguration – because it fits into the context.

All that the Bible says in Matthew 17:3 is that "And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him." This is not the only time when a deceased Old Testament person appeared. Luke 16:23 – "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame."

Since it is unlikely that Abraham was in a resurrected state in this appearance, it is also unlikely that Moses was in a resurrected state. So in the transfiguration what the disciples saw was the disembodied spirit of Moses. The body of Moses is still in the ground, awaiting the resurrection of the saints (Deuteronomy 34:5,6 records that the Lord buried Moses in a valley in the land of Moab – if it was God’s will for Moses to be resurrected earlier than others, why bury him?) After all angels are also spirits without bodies (Hebrews 1:14), and yet men can see them appear.

"Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." Some on the basis of vv.38 and 39 which speaks of those who were taken away by the Flood, claim that those who are taken away in vv.40-42 must then be the ones who are judged. The comparison with the days of Noah however, is not given to specify who are taken away, but the suddenness of the event. The people were doing their normal routine right up till the point of the Flood. Thus when Christ comes people will also be doing their normal routine right up till the time of the ‘taking away’. We believe that the taking away here is the Rapture, and not the second Coming (cf. v.31 – "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."). This time, the ones who are left behind are the ones who will have to go through the judgment (unlike in the Flood)!

Yes, it means that some dead believers were miraculously resurrected. This was one of the signs that Jesus was truly the Son of God, since it was his death and resurrection that brought about these amazing events.

The question we would ask is whether the resurrection of these believers was to the same kind of bodies they had before (just like the resurrection of Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, and Jairus’ daughter) who all eventually died again; or the resurrection to the same body that Jesus had - in which case they would not die any more but go to heaven after appearing to many.

1 Corinthians 15:22-26 may shed some light on the order of resurrections: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

This passage tells us that there are at least three resurrections to new bodies:

1. Christ the firstfruits
2. They that are Christ’s at His coming
3. All the rest of the dead

Based on this, I would be more inclined to believe that these saints who were resurrected when Jesus died, died later on. They were like Lazarus. Because if they had the same body that Jesus had, they would have preceded him and been the firstfruits rather than Christ. But Christ’s resurrection body was clearly the first of its kind, unlike all who were raised from the dead before Him.

In Mark 5:19, the instruction was given to the demoniac who lived in a Gentile region called Decapolis. In Mark 5:43, the instruction was given to the family of Jairus, who was the synagogue leader at Capernaum, in Galilee a predominantly Jewish area. The Gentiles would not seek to kill Jesus on hearing the news of the demoniac’s deliverance, but the Jews would (cf. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they sought to put Him to death, John 11:53 – "Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death."). Since it was not yet time for Jesus to die, the truth has to be kept from the Jews until the right time. In Mark 8:26, the blind man was healed at Bethsaida was also in Galilee. In Mark 8:30 the disciples were instructed to tell no man that Jesus was the Messiah. Luke 8:48 is the parallel passage of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:43)

The genealogies in Genesis 5, 11 and Luke 3 are not meant to be comprehensive. This explains why Cainan was left out in Genesis 11. In biblical language, the word "son of" may mean "descendant of" (e.g. Matthew 1:1 - "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."), and "begat" may mean "ancestor of".

A comparison of the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 with the same records found in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles shows that some generations have been left out (e.g. Matthew 1:11 - "Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren" - leaves out Jehoiakim, who was the father of Jechonias cf. 1 Chron 3:15-17). (e.g. 2 - In Matthew 1:8 - three names have been omitted between Joram and Uzziah: Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah).

The purpose of these genealogies is simply to trace the lineage of a person particularly through certain key persons in his lineage.

Other examples of ‘gaps’: Exodus 2:1,2 gives the impression that Moses was the firstborn son of the Levite man and woman. But we realise later on that he was the third child, after Aaron and Miriam.

This is not an easy verse to understand, but a few points will help us to arrive at the best way to understand it:

a. V.28 is limited in scope to all messengers from God, e.g. the prophets in the Old Testament. All the prophets of the Old Testament only foretold the coming of God’s kingdom (see Matthew 3:2). John the Baptist was more than a prophet, since he was the forerunner of Christ (vv.26,27). In fact he was the greatest among the prophets of the Old Testament (v.28), because he had the distinct privilege of announcing Christ’s arrival. But he still belonged to the Old Testament.

b. God’s Kingdom was manifested on earth when Christ dwelt on earth and died to make an atonement for sin. The messengers that came after the inauguration of God’s kingdom had the greater privilege than those who came before it. Their gospel message of salvation through faith in Christ is more important than the message of the Old Testament prophets.

c. "He that is least in the Kingdom of God" refers to the apostles (cf. Luke 10:23,24). They are more blessed that the prophets because they had the privilege of seeing Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and of being personally sent by Jesus Christ to proclaim this message. The apostles were the authority behind the whole New Testament.

Hence this verse does not mean that we Christians are greater than John the Baptist, but that the apostles of Christ were greater than him. Why was this point so important? So that people would listen to the word of the apostles rather than to John the Baptist (cf. Acts 19:1-5).

Whenever we speak on interpretations about prophecies concerning the Last Days, there is always a tentative element in them. We cannot speak with 100 % certainty. So the following is probably what the passage means:

The context of the passage begins in v.20 when the Pharisees asked Christ when the Kingdom of God will come. In His answer, Jesus stressed that the coming of His kingdom will be known by the whole world (v.24, not a secret coming), and unexpected by the world (vv.26-29) and sudden (vv.31-36).

Verses 34-36 describes a sudden removal of people while they are in the midst of routine activity. This refers to the rapture of believers living at the time of Christ’s return. They are taken to meet the Lord at his coming (cf. Matthew 24:31, 40-42). Notice that reference is made in the preceding verses to the days of Noah and the days of Lot. In both of these historical events those who were taken away were saved, and those who were left behind were destroyed. It is reasonable to conclude that the ones who are taken away in vv.34-36 are believers.

Verse 37 is the reply that Jesus gave when asked "Where, Lord?" This may be its meaning: "Just as you do not find a fallen body by wandering over the desert, but by looking first to the sky, so do not go from place to place searching for the Son of Man. Rather, look to the heavens." (Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Book II, pp. 387-388).

I think that the hour does not refer to a particular pin-point moment in time, but rather, a gradual transition. This is the way to explain the enigmatic phrase "the hour cometh and now is". The 3½ year ministry of Christ culminating in His death and resurrection, was a process of God’s revelation through His Son.

Hebrews 1:1,2 - "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds."

In fact, the ending point of the hour’s coming may even be in AD 70 when the Temple was destroyed, and then it would not longer be feasible to worship God at the Temple. Luke 21:6 - "...the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Another place where the same phrase is found is John 5:25 - "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." Once again, it is not a pin-point moment, but a gradual revelation. The hour began to come when Christ was on earth and raised the dead (e.g. Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, etc.) but it will culminate in the time when Christ will raise all believers who have died at His return.

The context of v.25 begins at v.21 - "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." The "raising up the dead" in turn is part of the "greater works than these" in v.20, which refer to the miracles of Jesus (since Jesus has just raised up the paralytic from his paralysed state, vv.1-16). Hence, it must be a visible miracle of raising not those who are spiritually dead, but the physically dead. There is no visible outward manifestation of the quickening of believers at the point of conversion.

Another clue that the spiritually dead are not referred to in v.25 is that in v.24 the hearing is in the present, and the life that those who believe receive are regarded as already being theirs from the moment they believe. They have already passed from death to life. But in v.25 the hearing is in the future tense and the life is still a future thing - "when the dead shall hear... shall live." The question is why would Jesus at all have to say "the hour is coming..." if in v.24 the hour has already come?

But why then did Jesus add the words "and now is" in v.25 when talking about something in the future? Perhaps He was referring to the miracles of raising the dead that He performed (e.g. Lazarus, in John 11) where the dead were raised at His Word. These miracles were a kind of preview to the great and final miracle of the resurrection where Christ will raise the dead en masse (vv.28,29).

None of the other sons of Mary believed in Jesus (John 7:5) until after He resurrected from the dead (e.g. James in 1 Corinthians 15:7; and Jude in Jude 1:1; cf Mark 6:3,4). From John 19:25,26 only 5 women and 1 man stood at the cross and that man was ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ (i.e. John). As Jesus wished his grieving mother to be taken home and not go through the anguish of watching her son die, He instructed John to take her to his own home. John was related to Jesus – he was actually his cousin.

That John’s mother’s name was Salome is an inference from Mk. 16:1 and Mt. 27:56; for the third woman who is said to have accompanied the two Marys to the tomb is designated Salome by Mark, and ‘the mother of Zebedee’s children’ by Matthew. Salome is usually regarded as the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus, because in Jn. 19:25 four women are said to have stood near the cross, the two Marys mentioned in Mark and Matthew, the mother of Jesus, and his mother’s sister. Thus John was a cousin of Jesus on his mother’s side.

It refers both to the earthly kingdom and the millennium. The key word here is the word "restore". It refers to the Messianic expectation of the Jews that Israel would be ruled once more by their own king, who is of the line of King David. Cf. Isaiah 9:6,7 – "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."

This will not be merely a spiritual kingdom, but a real political kingdom on earth, since Daniel 2:44 tells us – "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." (cf. Daniel 11:27; Isaiah 2:2-4; Rev 11:15) The kingdoms mentioned in this vision refer to great political empires in world history – Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Daniel understood God’s kingdom to be the one that will replace all these kingdoms on earth.

And this kingdom will last a thousand years – i.e. in the millennium. In Rev 19, Christ descends from heaven to earth to do battle with the nations on earth (Rev 19:15,19). Then Christ reigns a thousand years. At the end of that thousand years, Satan is permitted to go forth into the world to gather the nations to battle once again (Rev 20:8,9). Hence the thousand-year reign of Christ is on earth, not in heaven.

But some people claim that God’s kingdom is spiritual, or is in heaven, not on earth. E.g. Luke 17:29,21 – "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."

The Jews could not understand what Jesus meant here. They were all expecting the inauguration of a visible political kingdom, with the overthrow of their Roman overlords and the restoration of the throne of David. But the present reign of Jesus is His reign in the hearts of men, not on a visible throne in some grand capital city. He did not come in His first coming to set up a political kingdom yet. And Christ taught a series of parables in order to correct their of God’s kingdom. We call them the "kingdom parables" and include the parable of the sower, the wheat and the tares, the dragnet, the mustard seed, the leaven, the hid treasure and the pearl of great price.

But while Christ made it clear that the kingdom of God at present is to have this spiritual, non-political character, this does not mean that there will not be a time later on when God’s kingdom will assume a political character. Let us look now at what Jesus said in John 18:36 Christ had said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." Jesus said this against the allegations by the Jews that He was planning to overthrow the Romans and restore the political kingdom of Israel. I want you to observe the important word "now" It adds a time element to His statement and makes an important difference. Why did Christ add it in? I believe that it means that there will be a time when Christ’s kingdom will be of this world.

Simon was not a true believer. At the beginning, this sorceror seemed to repent and sincerely believe in Christ, and so Philip baptized him. But later on we learn that he actually had ulterior motives for becoming a Christian. Simon was greatly impressed by the signs and wonders he saw Philip and the apostles performing. These wonders were apparently more spectacular than his own magic tricks which he, as a sorcerer had been using to gain respect and honour from the people. He was therefore interested in getting the power to do what they did and to bestow the Holy Spirit on whoever he wills. Because of this, Peter rebuked him and Simon begged Peter not to let God’s judgment fall on him.

Church history proves that he was not truly converted. Irenaeus, an early church father, tells us that after this event, Simon the sorcerer became the first great heretic and cult group leader of his time. He eventually twisted the Gospel and led many Christians astray by his teachings, even claiming that he, like Christ, was God incarnate. He deceived many, because of his counterfeit conversion experience, and his counterfeit teachings. Therefore the prayer he requested in v.24 was not answered: "Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me."

Although vv.2,3 tell us that he was "A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him…" his knowledge of God was still insufficient for him to be saved. E.g. when Peter came, he bowed down to worship Peter (v.25). These verses do however show that Cornelius was in a very receptive condition to God’s Word. The word ‘devout’ here means that he was a pious or religious man, and unlike his idol-worshipping fellow countrymen, he and his family was seeking only one God. God was working through this receptive condition to bring him and many other Gentiles to the saving knowledge of Christ.

When I read this account I am reminded of a story I heard from a veteran missionary, concerning a primitive tribe in the Philippines whose chief had a dream that God would send a man to them shortly who would bring them a book, and that they must listen to all that was written in this book. So the chief related his dream to the whole tribe and they waited for the man to come. And true enough, an American missionary soon arrived and taught them the Scriptures and the missionary was so amazed that all the villagers listened to him so attentively and were converted so easily. Later on the village chief told him about the dream, and He praised the Lord for preparing the ground for him! The Lord sometimes uses doors like this to open up a whole new field for harvest!

The important thing to note is that it was not only Cornelius who was saved in this whole episode but all his kinsmen and close friends who were there as well. Cornelius was merely the instrument that God used to bring them to hear the Gospel from Peter and be saved. At that time, the barrier between Jew and Gentiles was great. The Jews despised the Gentiles and considered them to be unclean. But of all the Gentiles in Israel, Cornelius was probably the one that Jews respected most, because he loved their nation. Most Roman centurions would look down in contempt upon the Jews, but not Cornelius. Here was a man who was willing not only to welcome a Jew into his house, but would even bow down to him, ready to absorb whatever he said.

I therefore believe that Cornelius was saved at the same time when the rest who were in his house were saved – when they heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them by the Apostle Peter. The exact point seemed to be when Peter reached the part of his message that reveals how a person may be redeemed – in v.43 "through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." At that moment, they believed in Christ and were saved. The Holy Spirit not only indwelt them, but also filled them at that moment. The speaking in tongues was a sign, not so much to Cornelius, but to Peter and the Jews who were him him, that these Gentiles were saved and should therefore be baptized immediately.

God had planned all this in order to demonstrate that the Gospel was now going forth to the Gentiles. This second outpouring of the Spirit was needful in order for Peter to convince the church at Jerusalem that God wanted them to include Gentiles in their outreach from then onward (Acts 11:15,17 – "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning….Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?")

Acts 10:4,31 – "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God…. Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God."

The words ‘memorial’ and ‘rememberance’ both have the idea of something that has received God’s attention. In other words Cornelius was being assured that his pious efforts were not futile. His desire to seek after the true and living God was fruitful, as God was now going to reveal Himself to him and his family. The words do not mean that the prayers and alms of Cornelius had saved him. They only assured Cornelius and he was on the right track, and must now obey God further, if he was to know God and obtain salvation.

What Peter said of Cornelius in 10:34,35 is also worth our study – "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." When seen in the larger context of the whole New Testament, this verse cannot be made to teach that a person is saved by his own good works. Remember that Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us – "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." The point that Peter was emphasizing in v.34,35 is that "God is no respecter of persons" – He saves people of every nation, and there will be people in every nation in whom God will work, and bring to salvation.

Paul was referring to what Jesus taught His disciples about marriage when He was on earth. E.g. in Matthew 19:3-12 (Cf. 1 Cor 7:10 – "yet not I but the Lord"). This teaching was not exhaustive as it did not cover all aspects of marriage, e.g. what to do if only one partner in the marriage is converted while the other is not. Hence Paul had to rely on direct revelation from God to write on this. Although he wrote "But to the rest speak I" and "I give my judgment" he wrote it as an apostle. Therefore the promise of Christ that the apostles’ teachings and writings would be infallible apply here (John 16:12,13). These words are therefore just as inspired and as authoritative as the rest.

This is the most difficult verse to interpret in the Pastoral Epistles! It is definitely not teaching that women can go to heaven by giving birth. Various interpretations:

a. The word "save" here means "preserve" or "keep safe" and hence the verse is speaking of the blessing of having a smooth and safe delivery if women are godly (Moffatt).

b. Childbearing and motherhood fulfils the divinely appointed design for women. By accepting these things women would save themselves "from becoming a prey to the social evils of the time and would take her part in the testimony of the local church." (Vine)

c. The childbirth referred to is that of Christ, because of the definite article (lit. "in the childbearing"). Thus Christian women are saved because a woman gave birth to the Saviour who died for their sins. This is perhaps connected to Genesis 3:15 – the seed of the woman. (This interpretation is preferred).

Hebrews 6:4-6 is a warning passage meant for a church where there are both genuine and false Christians. Just as in churches today, there were Christians who appear to have received Christ, been baptised, etc. but are still not born again, i.e. they were still in a pre-converted state (and hence, not saved). It only becomes known that they are not saved when they apostatise from the faith (c.f. parable of wheat and tares, Matthew 13;24-30; 1 John 2:19).

In Hebrews 6:4-6 those who sin are identified with God’s people and even participate in a preliminary way in the experiences of believers. The sin which they stand in danger of is apostasy. This is a hard hearted deliberate rejection of the sacrificial work of Christ as applied by the Holy Spirit. The result is final rejection by God. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish true believers from these who are only in a pre-converted state and in danger of apostasy. The true believer, however, will PERSEVERE. (Therefore, Once saved, forever saved). And this is what we are called upon to do.

Question: How do we know if we are in danger of being like those who sin in Hebrews 6:4-6? 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" Ask yourself:

1. Do you have the inward witness of the Holy Spirit? (Romans 8:16)

2. Has your life changed since you became a Christian? (2 Corinthians 3:18; 5:17)

All born again Christians still face temptations and fall into sin. The old sinful nature sometimes manifests itself. No Christian can ever reach a stage in development when he will become totally sinless. (Romans 7:19-24). If any person claims to have no sin he violates 1 John 1:8. Christians must keep on walking in the Spirit to subdue the old sinful nature ("the flesh" - Galatians 5:16). If he is truly born again, he should gradually sin less and less (as he becomes more and more like Christ) but will never become absolutely sinless.

No it is not meant to be taken literally. It means that there is no mention given in Genesis 14 about Melchisedek’s genealogy and yet his priesthood was fully recognised by Abraham who paid tithes to him. Every priest in Israel had to be able to trace their ancestry to Aaron in order to serve as a priest. All who had no traceable record to Aaron were disqualified from the priesthood. Like Melchisedek, Christ is not from Aaron’s line, but He is a priest.

The words ‘neither beginning of days nor end of life’ in v.3 is also to be interpreted the same way -- There is no record in Genesis 14 or elsewhere about Melchisedek’s origins, i.e. when he was born and when he died. This is unusual but it does not mean that Melchisedek was eternally existing. (Some who take this literally arrive at the conclusion that Melchisedek must therefore be Christ himself in a pre-incarnate appearance). It is unusual that the Book of Genesis which records the beginning and end of so many important people, did not do this for Melchisedek, who was of greater stature than Abraham.

Because of these missing information concerning Melchisedek, the author of Hebrews uses him as a type of Christ - "made LIKE unto the Son of God." (which clearly implies that he could not have been Christ Himself). Christ’s priesthood is eternal and not dependent at all on genealogy. These are typified in Melchisedek’s no record of beginning and ending and no record of father or mother.

We can’t tell exactly, because there isn’t sufficient data. All we can say is that it will begin after the Antichrist demands worship from the whole world, which may be anytime within the first half of the 7 years.

The mark of the beast will be one of the four means used to get everyone to worship the Antichrist. The first is the False Prophet (vv.11,12) The second is signs and wonders (by the false prophet v.13, and also by Antichrist - 2 Thes 2:9, and the counterfeit resurrection). The third is the threat of being killed by the image of the beast (v.15), and the fourth and most comprehensive means is through economic sanctions, i.e. the mark of the beast.

Rev 14:9,10 shows the connection between the worship of the beast and the mark of the beast – "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God,…"

They won’t be in Hades. The only ones in Hades are those who die. There is no indication that all unbelievers will die at the battle of Armageddon. If all die, there will be no people on earth left for Christ to rule over! But Rev 19:15 says that when Christ comes to do battle "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."

Perhaps some may get the idea that the whole world will be annihilated from v.18 – "That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great."

The word all here is not quantitative but qualitative, as can be seen in the rest of the sentence – both free and bond, both small and great – i.e. all kinds of men who come to make war with Christ. Another verse is Rev 19:21 – "And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." The remnant here does not refer to all unbelievers but to the kings of the earth and their armies that had gathered to fight Christ. The vast majority of the world will still be alive after Armageddon. There will also believers – e.g. the Jews who turn to Christ only when they see Him return to save them from the Antichrist. We can imagine that many non-Jews who may believe in Christ then, as well as during the millennium.

Despite Christ visibly ruling on earth there will still be unbelievers during the millennium. This is why Satan can still succeed in bringing the nations against Christ to launch one final rebellion (20:8). This final rebellion will be stopped by God, and then followed by the Great White Throne Judgment - 20:11,12 – "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God"

We notice that there is no mention of anyone who is still living after the end of the millennium. One way to explain this is that at the final rebellion, God will destroy not only the armies of the nations that come against Jerusalem, but also the whole world – cf. 20:9 – "And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." And 2 Peter 3:10 – "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

 

The Bible gives no answer to this, and God’s ways are always higher than our ways. But perhaps we can venture to guess that it is for the purpose of showing the true colours of the unbelievers who live during the millennium. Their latent rebellious nature will not be expressed until Satan tempts them to express it. When their true colours are revealed, God will then be justified in bringing judgment upon them.

In Bible history, God allowed an evil spirit to trouble king Saul and bring about his downfall (1 Kings 16:14-23), and also allowed an evil spirit to tempt the wicked King Ahab to go to battle in order to have him killed on the battlefield.

martyrs are included among those who reign, but they are not all who reign. Those who reign are all the redeemed, since Rev 5:9,10 says "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." Confirmation is found in Daniel 7:18,27.

God is just, and He will show the unbeliever the cause of his damnation – because of his works, which fall short of the glory of God. Before the grace of God came, we too were all destined to face the great white throne judgment and the same damnation, since our works also fall short of the glory of God. But we praise God that He has shown grace to us by snatching us up to escape the great white throne judgment.

This is also a mystery to us that we will know one day. Perhaps in our new resurrected bodies we would be able to shuttle freely between the new heaven, the new earth and the New Jerusalem! Or perhaps we will all have our assigned places (depending on the rewards of the Bema judgment) – some in heaven and some on earth. The Holy city may be at the center, suspended between heaven and earth.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10