Sunday, June 26, 2016

Did Jesus Descend Into Hell?

Unfortunately, many Christians these days believe this false doctrine. When I was in Bible college, we were taught that Paradise was a compartment in hell, separated by a gulf from hades, that part of hell where the lost are sent. Their primary "proof text" was Ephesians 4:8-10, which reads: "Therefore it says, 'WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.' (Now this expression, "He ascended," what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)" Other passages cited with strained interpretation have been Matthew 12:40; Acts 2:27; Romans 10:7; and 1 Peter3:18-20 and 4:6.

Sometimes, even the account of the rich man and Lazarus is cited (Luke 16). An obvious problem should immediately be evident to the reader. Angels reside in heaven. Why would angels carry Lazarus to a compartment in hell? Paradise is a part of heaven; hades is a part of hell. A pagan underworld containing both paradise and hades, both the happy and the miserable, does not exist. There is no such place. The intermediate state for the saved is heaven without the body and the final state for the saved is heaven with the body; the intermediate state for the lost is hell without the body and the final state for the lost is hell with the body.

The clause "He descended into Hell" was interpolated into the Apostle's Creed in the fourth century. In its original form, the Apostle's Creed read thus: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose again from the dead." The addition of this clause has its stimulant in mythology. The personal and local descent of Jesus into hell would have been one of the great cardinal facts connected with the incarnation, falling into the same class with the nativity, the baptism, the passion, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. Less important facts than these are recorded, but none of the Gospel writers says a single thing about Jesus' so-called descent into hell? The total silence of the four Gospels is fatal to this false doctrine, which has mythology at its root.

Since being interpolated into the Apostle's Creed, it was necessary to find support for it in Scripture. This clause found its way into later creeds as well. Since that time, Christians have desperately tried to back this from Scripture. The account that Scripture gives of the exaltation of Jesus always begins at His resurrection. Such a transaction as the one contained in this clause, and the eisegetical interpretation of Ephesians 4:8-10 and other random verses, would not have been passed over by the Gospel writers in their Gospels. Were the Old Testament saints held in some kind of limbo, in some kind of purgatory, until Jesus finally came to Earth and died on the cross? No, of course not! This teaching is rooted entirely in mythology.

Origen, in his second Dialogue Against Marcion, said that "as paradise is the residence of the just, so hades is the place of punishment for sinners." Crysostom in his Homilies on Dives and Lazarus asks and answers, "Why did not Lazarus see the rich man, as well as the rich man is said to see Lazarus? Because he that is in the light does not see him who stands in the dark; but he that is in the dark sees him that is in the light." Augustine, in his letter to Euodius, wrote, "It is not to be believed that the bosom of Abraham is a part of hades. How Abraham, into whose bosom the beggar was received, could have been in the torments of hades, I do not understand. Let them explain who can." Gregory of Nyssa wrote, "This should be investigated by the studious, namely, how, at one and the same time, Christ could be in these three places: in the heart of the earth, in paradise with the thief, and in the 'hand' of the Father. For no one will say that paradise is in the places under the earth, or the places under the earth in paradise; or that those infernal places are called the 'hand' of the Father." Cyril of Alexandria in On the Departure of the Soul said, "The innocent are above, the guilty below. The innocent are in heaven, the guilty in the abyss. The innocent are in God's hands, the guilty in the devil's." These quotes agree with the testimony of Scripture: "The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from sheol beneath" (Prov. 15:26). Paradise is not, and was not ever, in hell, compartmentalized from hades by a gulf. The word chasma (χασμα) denotes more commonly a vertical space—not a lateral one.

Ephesians 4:8-10 is speaking about Jesus' incarnation. The Apostle argues that the ascent of Jesus presupposes a descent. Jesus ascended back where He descended from. Heaven. 1 Peter 3:18-20 is speaking of the Spirit of Christ preaching through Noah to the disobedient people who lived before the flood. It is not speaking of Jesus' soul in hell, seeing as how He committed His soul into the hands of the Father (Luke 23:46). Does the Father now reside in hell? 1 Peter 4:4-6 is speaking of those who were not yet dead when the gospel was preached to them, since the purpose of this preaching was "that they might be judged according to men in the flesh." This could only occur during their life on Earth. What good would preaching to the dead spirits do? They made their choice. They are in hell. They cannot repent and so be saved. Acts 2:27 needs to translate hades as grave, seeing as how that is what is meant according to the context: "nor allow your holy one to undergo decay." The body decays in the grave. The soul does not decay in hell. Matthew 12:40 is speaking of the grave, too. In the grave, He was in the "heart of the earth," even as Tyre was in the "heart of the sea," though very near the shore (Ezek. 25:4). Romans 10:7 is speaking of raising Jesus from the dead. It is an Old Testament quote (as are several of the others) and needs to be examined in the context of the Old Testament usage.

For a more thorough dealing with this issue, please see Dogmatic Theology by William G. T. Shedd, pages 831-862; Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge, book 2, pages 615-625; Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof, pages 340-343; Systematic Theology by R. L. Dabney, pages 823-825; Outlines of Theology by A. A. Hodge, page 439; Systematic Theology by John Brown of Haddington, pages 323-324; Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, pages 586-594; Christian Theology by Millard Erickson, pages 791-794.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Protestant's Bible

Many Protestants today cling to and argue in favour of the Authorized Version (King James Bible), completely ignorant as to its origin, its history, or their own ancestors. The King James Bible is an Anglican/Church of England Bible. The lineage of Anglican/Church of England Bible translations began with the Great Bible of 1539, also known as the "Chained Bible" because it was chained to the pulpit. It was the first legally authorized Bible in English. Realizing its deficiency, being translated from the Latin Vulgate rather than the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and abhorring the Protestant's English Bible, the Church of England commissioned the Bishops' Bible of 1568. Even this version could not claim to be strictly translated from the original languages since translation practices varied from book to book, and comparison with the Great Bible seems to reveal very little in the way of revisions in the Apocrypha and other areas. The translators of the 1611 Authorized Version were instructed to use the 1602 edition of the Bishops' Bible as their basis, although careful examination of the 1611 Authorized Version reveals that its translators were influenced more by the Geneva Bible than any other English version (as 90% of the text is identical with it). After the 1611 Authorized Version, the Revised Version of 1885 (w/ Apocrypha, 1895) was the first, and remains the only, officially authorized and recognized revision of the King James Bible in Britain. The Revised Version then lead to the Revised Standard Version of 1952 (w/ Apocrypha, 1957) and the New Revised Standard Version of 1989, which contains much heresy.

So there you have it. The English Bible translation lineage of the Anglican Church/Church of England:
Great Bible → Bishops' Bible → Authorized Version (KJV) → Revised Version → Revised Standard Version → New Revised Standard Version

The greatest irony of history is that Protestants of all denominations today embrace the King James Bible even though it is not a Protestant Bible—it is an Anglican/Church of England Bible. Protestants today who cling to and argue in favour of the King James Bible, their own ancestors were persecuted by it and wanted nothing to do with it. Most Protestants have never heard of the Bible of their own heritage: the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible precedes the Authorized Version by 51 years!

The Geneva Bible was the "Bible of the Protestant Reformation" and the Bible of choice for English speaking Christians for over 150 years. It is the only Bible ever able to outsell and exceed the popularity of the King James Bible, until its printing ceased in 1644. The New Testament was first published in 1557, with the entire Bible following in 1560. Between the years 1557 and 1644, there were at least 144 editions of the Geneva Bible printed. The eloquence and beauty of the English language was influenced more by the Geneva Bible than by anything else. William Shakespeare quotes from the Geneva Bible hundreds of times in his plays. The Geneva Bible was the Bible of the Puritans and the Pilgrims. It was not only the first Bible taken to America, brought over on the Mayflower, but it was also the Bible upon which America was founded. Most early American colonists who were fleeing from the religious persecution of the Church of England wanted nothing to do with the King James Bible of the Anglican Church. Probably because it was a government publication, sanctioned by the government. It is interesting to note that the Geneva Bible was produced under the severe religious persecution of the Roman Catholic Queen "Bloody" Mary Tudor, and later the Geneva Bible was taken to America by those fleeing the religious persecution of King James, the Church of England, and the King James Bible (being forced upon the people as the only acceptable Bible to own). Not much has changed in that regard, seeing as how KJV-Onlyists continue to try and force others to use the KJV, claiming that it is the only acceptable Bible in the English language.

The Geneva Bible is the Bible of firsts. It was the first Bible to add numbered verses to each chapter of Scripture for easy reference and memorization; it was the first Bible to use cross-references; it was the first Bible to translate the Old Testament directly from the Hebrew; it was the first Bible to use easier-to-read Roman-Style Typeface rather than Gothic Blackletter-Style Typeface; and it was the first "study Bible," containing extensive commentary notes in the margins. It was because of these commentary notes that King James feared for the loss of his own kingdom and thus commissioned the translation of the Authorized Version. He believed that several of these notes were "seditious" and undermined the authority of the monarchy, and if people could hold him accountable to God's Word, he would no longer be able to rule tyrannically by "Divine Right." For example, the marginal note for Exodus 1:19 indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct to disobey the Egyptian rulers. Essentially, the Geneva Bible ended the age of kings. So popular was the Geneva Bible, that its commentary notes were even added to 17th and 18th century KJVs.

Certain editions of the Geneva Bible dated as "1599" are known as the "Bastardized Geneva" or the "Pirated Geneva" because the Apocrypha has been omitted from them. These editions were apparently produced during the 1630s-1640s in Amsterdam, where everything was legal (and still is to this day), and given a false date in case they were caught. In England, it was apparently illegal to produce a Bible that did not contain the Apocrypha.

In 2006, Tolle Lege published a new edition of the 1599 Geneva Bible that retains the Elizabethan English of "thee," "thou," and "-eth," but with updated spelling. It would be great to see an updated version of the first printing of the Geneva Bible from 1560. Until then, any Protestant seeking a copy of their own Bible in Elizabethan English can pick up a copy of this one. It is a welcomed replacement to the Anglican/Church of England Authorized Version (King James Bible).

The Geneva English Bible: The Shocking Truth

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Contrast Between Faith and Works

Just to make things clear, I am not, nor have I ever been, associated with the Roman Catholic Church. All my blog entries dealing with the subject of Sola Fide are the result of studying Scripture and letting the Bible speak for and interpret itself, asking the question, "What do the Scriptures teach?"

The following is a list of verses about being justified (declared righteous before God) by faith apart from works of the Law. These verses are frequently cited in support of the doctrine of Sola Fide. Most Christians seem to ignore the "of the Law" portion of these verses, mistakenly lumping all "works" together as bad, thereby stirring up the mud in order to cloud the water and effectively confuse the issue. But this issue needs to be cleared up.
"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one." Romans 3:28-30

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." Romans 4:5

"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 10:4

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." Romans 11:6

"Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified." Galatians 2:16

"I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." Galatians 2:21

"Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Galatians 3:5-6

"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith." Galatians 3:24

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works [of the Law], that no one should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

"And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." Philippians 3:9
What is the contrast we are seeing from the above passages? Is it a contrast between faith and works? No, it is not. It is a contrast between faith and works of the Law. This much should be plainly evident from careful observation of the above passages. Everywhere that Paul speaks of faith and works of the Law, he is addressing Jews who seek to obtain salvation by keeping the Law. This has nothing to do with what James is talking about because he is not talking about works of the Law. James is talking about an entirely different type of works.

Matt Slick has said, "If we see that the Scriptures exclude works in any form as a means of our salvation, then logically we are saved by faith alone." That is a conclusion drawn from an assumption, and it is false. What we see from the above passages is an exclusion of works of the Lawnot of works in any form. For example, those verses certainly do not address good deeds, which are another form of works.

Can good deeds fall into the same error as works of the Law? Of course. If anyone thinks they can obtain salvation by doing good deeds,  they are sorely mistaken. Salvation is in, through, and from Christ Jesus alone. Good deeds are what the Christian was created unto. A Christian should perform good deeds because of his/her salvation—not in order to obtain it. Otherwise, it is like the Jews trying to obtain salvation by keeping the Law.

There are three key truths we can pull together in order to get a clearer understanding:
  1. "A man is justified by faith APART FROM works of the Law" Romans 3:28
  2. "A man is NOT justified by the works of the Law BUT through faith in Christ Jesus" Galatians 2:16
  3. "A man is justified by works, and NOT by faith alone" James 2:24
Works of the Law has effectively been eliminated as having any role in our salvation. The Law did not exist until roughly 300 years after Abraham. So the question we need to answer is, what kind of "works" was Abraham performing that justified him with his faith? While James does address good deeds in connection with our faith, Abraham was not performing a good deed when he prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. So good deeds cannot be the answer because good deeds can fall into the same error as works of the Law. Works of the Law are legalistic, while good deeds can become legalistic.

You see, salvation is a gift. If you are doing anything as a means of obtaining salvation, then salvation is no longer a gift. If you are saved by faith, then you can boast in your faith, which means you have effectively turned faith into a salvation by works. Faith is a gift as well. Salvation comes by grace. Our salvation is in, through, and from Christ Jesus alone. We are not saved by our faith, and we are not saved by our works. But faith and works (Faith In Action) do play an integral part in our salvation—together. We are saved by the grace of God. We are saved by Christ Jesus. The focus should never be taken off of Jesus.

James 2:22 is key: "You see that [Abraham's] faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, [his] faith was perfected/completed." Faith alone, in and of itself, by itself, is dead (James 2:17, 26), useless (James 2:20), and imperfect/incomplete (James 2:22). Clearly, we see faith plus works. But what sort of works? Works of the Law? Nope! Good deeds? Nope! Then what? It is what I have taken to calling Faith In Action. If you examine every instance of faith found in the Bible, whether salvational or otherwise (like Peter believing he could walk on water), careful examination will reveal "works" alongside that faith. These kinds of "works" must be present with faith. The two work together. They are inseparable.

Imagine: You are hanging from a ledge, about to fall and hurt yourself. I come beneath you and say, "Let go of the ledge and I will catch you." If you merely believe (faith alone) that I will catch you, but do nothing, your faith means absolutely nothing. It is dead, it is useless, it is imperfect/incomplete, and it is in vain. You MUST let go (works) of the ledge in order to perfect/complete your faith. By doing so, your faith and works are working together.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Is the Great Commission For All Christians?

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
Was this commission given to all Christians? There are certain Christians out there who seem to think so. If that is the case, then every Christian has the authority to baptize whomever they wish, whenever and wherever they wish, including their own children. But as I understand it, baptism can only be administered by someone ordained to do so. Like a pastor or a missionary.

This commission was, however, given to the Apostles. As appears in several of Paul's letters, there are different gifts for different members of the body of Christ. To say that every Christian should be following the commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is no different than saying every Christian ought to speak in tongues. It is unrealistic and it is unbiblical. Some have the gift of preaching, some have the gift of teaching, some have this gift, some have that gift. Some might have several gifts, but no one has every gift and no one has no gift at all. And every Christian is not expected to have every gift.

In Matthew 10:5-15 and Luke 9:1-11, Jesus commissions the twelve. Later, in Luke 10, Jesus sends out the 70 or 72 in pairs (depending on the manuscript or translation you look at). Out of the multitudes that followed Jesus, there were several hundred true believers. Yet, Jesus did not send each and every one of them out. Why do you suppose that is? The commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is given to the remaining 11 Apostles (because Judas was no longer with them, having hanged himself). Examine the context of verse 16 and you will see that this is so.

It was the Apostles who were first commissioned to disciple, baptize, and teach. As they appointed elders in certain areas, they would have ordained them to do the same. Not every convert they converted was to turn around and go do the same. I am gifted more in the areas of apologist and theologian. I am not an evangelist, nor do I have the gift of evangelism. I do not go up to complete strangers and start talking to them about the Gospel out of the blue, nor do I deliberately bring it up in casual conversation. When I am talking to people, if the subject comes up in one form or another, then I have no problems addressing it in the context it is in, be that answering questions of faith, sharing my faith, defending the faith, or whatever. But I keep it on topic as it came up. If they start opening it up further, then I will address that as well. But I do so in a way that shares the truth with them, leaving the results up to God. I do not try to force more and more information upon them in hopes of getting a conversion. That is what far too many Christians are doing wrong, thinking the conversion and the results are up to them.

If you think I am somehow being disobedient to the Lord, well, then that definitely is your own opinion. If that command was given to all Christians, then when I have children I can baptize them whenever and however I want, without the need for a church. Like I said, as I understand it, baptism can only be administered by someone who was ordained to do so. Every Christian might be a missionary of sorts in their own right, like parents to their children, etc., but every Christian is not commanded to go into the world and be the type of missionary Paul was. You have to be called of God for it, and you have to have a gifting.

Each member of the body of Christ needs to learn what their specific gift(s) is/are, and use it/them in accordance to where God has placed them. The gifts of the Spirit are meant for the edification of the body of Christ.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Walking Dead

When the Christian looks around him/her at the people of this world, they see The Walking Dead. Why? Because the majority of the people you see are dead in their sins and will spend eternity in hell separated from God. The world should be offended to hear such truth, and if they had half a brain about themselves they would do something about it by repenting, confessing their sins, placing their trust and faith in Christ for the salvation of their souls, and being obedient children growing in holiness. But the world does not care for their own souls let alone the souls of their children. They go through their life essentially telling their friends and family, as well as their own children, "Go to hell!" Many Christians have the same attitude (Myself included at times, unfortunately, because, like Moses, I am not eloquent of speech.). They know the people around them are perishing and will spend eternity in hell separated from God, but they say nothing. If you saw a blind man walking toward the edge of a cliff, would you not yell and scream to get his attention so as to keep him from walking over the edge? So ought you not to do something more profound with the multitudes that you know are headed to hell on a greased pole?

The modern Christian likes to spout his/her concept of Christian love and yet they are the worst and most guilty when it comes to those who refuse to witness to and evangelize the unsaved. So much for their "love." Everything that comes out of their mouth is "love, love, love, love, love," and yet when it comes to the millions who are perishing in their sins, these professing "Christians" have no love to give or show because they do not know the God Who is love. They have no realistic concept as to what love is or what it looks like, but regurgitate the imitation thereof that they have dubbed "love." These people talk up a storm about "love" but have no clue what real love is or looks like and fail to walk in it. If you are going to talk about Christian love, you had best be putting it into practice yourself or else shut your hypocritical mouth.

I am not afraid to tell it like it is. It is my prayer that the things I write would bring conviction to those who call themselves Christians (as they sometimes do even for myself). I do not hide from the truth but write it unwaveringly because even the conviction I feel needs to submit to and conform to the truths of Scripture. I do not get to pick and choose what I want to agree with and believe, and neither does any other Christian. If you are a genuine Christian, your heart will desire to conform to the truths of God no matter what it may cost you. The reason why most people "take offense" is because what they really feel is properly called conviction! And you ought to feel convicted by the truth. The reason people feel "offended" by the truth is because they do not have the truth!

Remember, Christian, every person you see today is more than likely one of The Walking Dead. They do not know Christ. They are dead in their trespasses and sins. They are destined for eternity in hell. Are you going to remain silent and essentially scream at the top of your lungs, "Go to hell!!!," or are you going to warn them of the precipice they are about to drop off? If you say nothing when you know you should, know that their blood is on your hands. Do not believe me? Read Ezekiel 3:16-21. Everywhere you look, Christian, you are seeing The Walking Dead. What are you going to do about it?