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Frequently Asked Questions - New Testament

FAQs - New Testament

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.

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