Monthly Archives: October 2014

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

What should be the Bible believer’s attitude of Halloween? Some Christians say that it is a harmless, fun-filled holiday for children to enjoy themselves; other Christians vehemently disapprove of its observance because of its pagan and secular elements. In this Bible study, we will evaluate Halloween from the historical and Biblical perspectives, and let our readers come to their own conclusion as to what they should do about Halloween.

ORIGIN OF HALLOWEEN

According to the “Halloween” article of The World Book Encyclopedia:

“Halloween developed from an ancient pagan festival celebrated by Celtic people over 2,000 years ago in the area that is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and northwestern France. The festival was called Samhain (pronounced SOW ehn), which means summer’s end. The festival marked the beginning of the dark winter season and was celebrated around November 1. In the 800’s, the Christian church [the Roman Catholic Church] established a new holiday, All Saints’ Day, on this date. All Saints’ Day was also called All Hallows’. Hallow means saint, or one who is holy. The evening before All Hallows’ was known as All Hallows’ Eve, or as it came to be abbreviated, All Hallow e’en. This name was eventually shortened to Halloween.”

The New Encyclopædia Britannica says in its article “Halloween:”

“Halloween had its origins in the festival of Samhain among the Celts of ancient Britain and Ireland. On the day corresponding to November 1 on contemporary calendars, the new year was believed to begin. That date was considered the beginning of the winter period, the date on which the herds were returned from pasture and land tenures were renewed. During the Samhain festival the souls of those who had died were believed to return to visit their homes, and those who had died during the year were believed to journey to the otherworld. People set bonfires on hilltops for relighting their hearth fires for the winter and to frighten away evil spirits, and they sometimes wore masks and other disguises to avoid being recognized by the ghosts thought to be present. It was in those ways that beings such as witches, hobgoblins, fairies, and demons came to be associated with the day. The period was also thought to be favourable for divination [fortune-telling] on matters such as marriage, health, and death. When the Romans conquered the Celts in the 1st century CE, they added their own festivals of Feralia, commemorating the passing of the dead, and of Pomona, the goddess of the harvest.”

Thus, we see that secular history confirms that there is nothing Scriptural about Halloween—in fact, Halloween is anti-Scriptural. Halloween originated in non-Christian cultures, and is founded on superstition and spiritism (communication with the dead). There really is nothing Christian about Halloween. Let us now briefly look at the elements of Halloween and what they signify.

ELEMENTS OF HALLOWEEN AND THEIR MEANINGS

During Halloween-time, we observe a variety of morbid elements on display: jack-o’-lanterns, haunted houses, skeletons, black cats, witches, and ghosts, to name a few. Activities include trick-or-treating and bobbing for apples. Do you ever wonder why these elements are associated with Halloween, and what they symbolize? The World Book Encyclopedia answers in its “Halloween” article:

  • “Trick-or-treating. It was once common for people to leave food out on a table as a treat for spirits believed to be about on Halloween. In England, people went house-to-house souling—that is, asking for small breads called soul cakes in exchange for prayers. In some areas of the United Kingdom and Ireland, people went mumming (parading in masks) on many holidays, including Halloween. Groups of masked adults would go door-to-door asking for food and drink in return for a performance or song. Dressing in costume and asking for food or money was done in England on Guy Fawkes Day (November 5).”
  • “Jack-o’-lanterns are hollowed-out pumpkins with a face cut into one side. Most jack-o’-lanterns contain a candle or some other light. People in Scotland and Ireland once carved out large beets or turnips to use as lanterns on Halloween. After this custom reached America, pumpkins began to be used. The jack-o’-lantern originally represented spirits present in the dark, or souls released from Christian [Roman Catholic] purgatory. According to an Irish legend, jack-o’-lanterns were named for a character named Jack, who could not enter heaven because he was a miserly, bad-tempered man. He could not enter hell either, because he had tricked the devil several times. As a result, Jack had to walk the earth forever with only a coal from hell to light his lantern.”
  • “Fortunetelling methods that developed in Europe hundreds of years ago became an important part of Halloween rituals and celebrations. In Ireland, objects, such as a coin, a ring, and a thimble, were baked into a cake or other food. It was believed that the person who found the coin would become wealthy. Whoever found the ring would marry soon, but the person who got the thimble would never get married.”
  • “Halloween magic is also associated with foods, such as apples and nuts. In one fortunetelling game, a young woman would peel an apple in one long paring and throw it over her shoulder. People believed it would land in the shape of the initial of the man the woman would marry. Halloween’s connection with apples and nuts is ancient, and Halloween was sometimes referred to as Nutcrack Night or Snap Apple Night. Today, some people use fortunetelling techniques, such as tarot cards or palm reading, to predict the future on Halloween.”
  • Halloween symbols. In the 1500’s and 1600’s, people in Europe believed that the devil made witches do evil deeds. Over the centuries, people came to imagine that witches—and sometimes their animal companions, often black cats—rode through the night sky on Halloween. Throughout the ages, superstitious folk thought that fairies and ghosts could be asked for help casting spells or seeing into the future on Halloween. These supernatural creatures were not always friendly, and people sometimes carried turnip lanterns carved with grotesque faces to keep them away. In Scotland, people lit huge bonfires on hillsides to drive away evil spirits. For centuries in Europe, people remembered the dead at All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 2) with bonfires. Although bonfires are less common on Halloween today, people still mark the night with candles burning in jack-o’-lanterns. In addition, although most people do not believe in ghosts or witches, these supernatural beings remain symbols of Halloween.”
  • “Samhain. Scholars know little about ancient Celtic religious rituals, festivals, and celebrations. Many believe the festival of Samhain to be the beginning of the Celtic year. At Samhain, farmers brought livestock in from summer pastures, and people gathered to build shelter for winter. During this time of reunion, new laws were made, stories were told, and they celebrated the season with bonfires and feasting. The festival also had religious significance, and people burned fruits, vegetables, grain, and possibly animals as offerings to the gods. In ancient Celtic stories, Samhain was a magical time of transition when important battles were fought and fairies cast spells. It was a time when the barriers between the natural world and the supernatural were broken. The Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living at this time. During Samhain, the living could visit with the dead, who they believed held secrets of the future. Scholars believe that Halloween’s association with ghosts, food, and fortunetelling began with these pagan customs more than 2,000 years ago.”
  • “All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. Many of the customs of the pagan Celts survived even after the people became Christian [Roman Catholics?]. In the 800’s, the [Roman Catholic] church established All Saints’ Day on November 1. About two hundred years later, it added All Souls’ Day on November 2. This day was set aside for people to pray for friends and family who had died. People made many of the old pagan customs part of this Christian holy day. Some people put out food for their ancestors, or they left a lantern burning in the window so that ghosts could find their way home for the night. Through the years, various regions of Europe developed their own Halloween customs. In Wales, for example, each person put a white stone near the Halloween fire at night and then checked in the morning to see whether the stone was still there. If it was, the person would live another year.”
  • “Halloween in the United States. Many early American settlers came from England, and they brought various beliefs about ghosts and witches with them. In the 1800’s, many immigrants from Ireland and Scotland arrived in the United States and introduced their Halloween traditions. Other groups added their own cultural influences to Halloween customs. For example, German immigrants brought a vivid witchcraft lore.”

The New Encyclopædia Britannica” says the following about “Halloween:”

“In the 7th century CE Pope Boniface IV established All Saints’ Day, originally on May 13, and in the following century, perhaps in an effort to supplant the pagan holiday with a Christian observance, it was moved to November 1. The evening before All Saints’ Day became a holy, or hallowed, eve and thus Halloween. By the end of the Middle Ages, the secular and the sacred days had merged. The Reformation essentially put an end to the religious holiday among Protestants, although in Britain especially Halloween continued to be celebrated as a secular holiday. Along with other festivities, the celebration of Halloween was largely forbidden among the early American colonists, although in the 1800s there developed festivals that marked the harvest and incorporated elements of Halloween. When large numbers of immigrants, including the Irish, went to the United States beginning in the mid 19th century, they took their Halloween customs with them, and in the 20th century Halloween became one of the principal U.S. holidays, particularly among children.”

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT HALLOWEEN

While the Bible does not use the term “Halloween,” God’s Word surely speaks against its associated activities: witchcraft, necromancy (communication with the dead), celebration of spiritual darkness, and devil worship. The LORD God had a very serious command as to how the nation Israel should deal with witches: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). We read His commandments to Israel in Leviticus 20:27: “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”

In Deuteronomy 18:9-14, JEHOVAH told Israel before she went into the Promised Land: “[9] When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. [10] There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination [witchcraft], or an observer of times [astrology], or an enchanter [magician], or a witch. [11] Or a charmer [one who casts spells], or a consulter with familiar spirits , or a wizard, or a necromancer [raises the dead]. [12] For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. [13] Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. [14] For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.”

The LORD declared in Micah 5:12: “And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers:” Clearly, God wanted Israel, His earthly people, to have no part in Satan’s policy of evil. He did not want them to mingle with witches, spiritual darkness, and so on.

What does God want for us, the Church the Body of Christ, His heavenly people, in this the Dispensation of Grace? Galatians 5:20 refers to witchcraft as a “work of the flesh” (verse 19), something that opposes the “fruit of the [Holy] Spirit” (verses 22 and 23).

In Ephesus, the Apostle Paul was able to evangelize many people. Acts 19:19 indicates that these people were formerly pagans who were also Satan worshippers: “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver [~US$6.4 million!].” The Ephesians were notable for their magic spells, but once they had trusted in Jesus Christ, the Bible says they literally burned their magic (spell) books! Witchcraft and the occult should have no part in our lives as Christians. God has separated us unto Himself. We should not be fellowshipping with devils (see 1 Corinthians 10:19-23).

WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?

There is no law in the Bible, “Thou shalt not celebrate Halloween.” Yet notice 1 Corinthians 10:23: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Although they are not explicitly forbidden, we should avoid the activities that are inconsistent with our identity in Christ Jesus. What we need to be most careful of is not to associate with secular observances that cause us to send “mixed messages to the lost world.” If we as Christians associate with dark or evil-looking celebrations, does that convey God’s wisdom and Word to the lost world? Is God’s Word honored when we claim to believe it but we do not let it impact our lives?

Our purpose here has been to enlighten you about Halloween so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding Halloween, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13).

Let us use this dark, “death-filled” time of year—a time when people are most open to “spiritual things”—to share the wonderful news of the new life we have in Christ, and the new life that they can have in Jesus Christ, too, if they trust Him alone as their personal Saviour. This is the wonderful Gospel of the Grace of God, and it alone is the life-giving message that lost people need to hear—at Halloween and every other time!

NOTE: My own research about Halloween yielded too much information to be reproduced in its entirety here. The reader is greatly encouraged to search the internet to learn more about Halloween’s history, and not take this author’s word for anything.

Also, please see our Bible study “Impressionable Minds and Effectual Doctrine,” which goes into greater detail about how our young people need to guard their minds against Halloween’s associated pagan beliefs and practices. You may also enjoy our “Arrayed in Hypocrisy” Bible study, which discusses how Satan’s ministers wear ingenuous disguises—these are the “monsters” of Scripture.

Also see:
» How does Satan operate today?
» Where in the Bible did God give Satan domain over the Earth?
» Did God create evil? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

How does Satan operate today?

HOW DOES SATAN OPERATE TODAY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“My question is about Satan and his ‘abilities’ today. I know people in biblical times were possessed with demons… but why and how? And then, is Satan able to possess bodies today? He is not omniscient, but what are his limitations in influencing people today? Can he know our thoughts, can he physically hurt us, does he fly, change his form (human body, animal, object)? And then once he is bound for 1000 years, he is set free for a season. Why? Will that mean he could harm the kingdom on earth?”

Thank you for these questions. While much could be said about each topic, thus forming several individual Bible study articles, I think it best to briefly answer your inquiries one-by-one in a single “short,” concise article. Let us search the Scriptures for the answers.

DEVIL POSSESSION

“I know people in biblical times were possessed with demons…but why and how? And then, is Satan able to possess bodies today?” We will look at this issue first.

If you have ever read through the Bible from cover to cover, you likely noticed that there is a “spike” of devil possessions beginning with Jesus’ earthly ministry—little is said about devils (evil spirits) operating in and through people in the Old Testament Scriptures. In the books of Matthew through John, we read of several instances of devil possession and exorcism. Satan was actively opposing the establishment of God’s earthly kingdom. The Devil knew that as long as he possessed Jews, as long as he controlled Jews, the Holy Land would be defiled, Israel could not be God’s people in the earth, and God could not use Israel for His purposes (that is, to establish His earthly kingdom through them).

One prophecy associated with Jesus Christ’s earthly kingdom is that there will be no evil spirits in the land (on the Earth, but particularly in the Holy Land). Zechariah 13:1-2 says: “[1] In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. [2] And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.” Satan is the chief of evil spirits, and all of the evil spirits will be removed from Earth and confined in the bottomless pit during that 1000-Year Reign of Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:1-6). (More on this later.)

The way that Jesus Christ demonstrated that He was Messiah/Christ was to cast out devils, a confirmation of the kingdom being at hand, to validate the Gospel message He Himself was preaching and the Gospel He was commanding His apostles to preach (Matthew 10:7-8). Luke 8:1 says, “And it came to pass afterward, that [Jesus] went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him….” Jesus said in Matthew 12:28, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.”

Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39 involves the Gadarene, a devil-possessed man who lived a most bizarre lifestyle. You are strongly urged to read these passages on your own; I can only briefly summarize those verses here. The Gadarene lived amongst tombs, he howled, cut himself with stones, wore no clothes, and had bursts of amazing strength that enabled him to break chains. Notice how Jesus addressed the unclean spirit in the Gadarene, “What is thy name?,” and how the spirit responded, “My name is Legion: for we are many” (Mark 5:9). There were actually many unclean spirits within this man, so his condition was very serious. Verse 10 is particularly noteworthy: “And he [the unclean spirit] besought him [Jesus] much that he would not send them [all the unclean spirits possessing the Gadarene] away out of the country.” Again, the unclean spirit admitted that they (the other unclean spirits) preferred to stay in the land of Israel. If Jesus was to cast them out of the man, they at least wanted to possess the swine of the land. Those unclean spirits knew the torments of hell, and they did not want to be thrown into it! In the companion verse, we read: “And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep” (Luke 8:31).

Understandably, these evil spirits did not want to go to hell, but why do they want to stay in Israel’s land? Why did not want to be sent “out of the country?” Pay attention to how that chief evil spirit addressed Jesus as “thou Son of God most high” (Luke 8:28) and “thou Son of the most high God” (Mark 5:7). The title “most High God” implies “possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19,22). Satan originally desired to be “like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14)—the Devil wants to rule heaven and earth. In order to prevent Jesus Christ’s kingdom from being established on earth, Satan had possessed the nation Israel (which was to be God’s chief nation on earth; Exodus 19:5,6; Deuteronomy 7:6,7; Isaiah 2:1-4; et al.). Why did these unclean spirits not want to leave the land of Israel? As per Satan’s command, these devils knew that their job was to maintain strongholds—or footholds—in Israel, that God’s earthly kingdom not be set up. Hence, Jesus Christ told apostate Israel, “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20). The Gadarene was a picture/symbol of the nation Israel in satanic bondage, and Messiah Jesus was proving to Israel that he could deliver them from spiritual/satanic/sin’s bondage.

God is forming the Church the Body of Christ today, a people to use for His glory in the heavens. God is not forming an earthly people, Israel, and He is not trying to reclaim Earth (He did that in the past before our dispensation, and He will do that after our dispensation). Satan knows that the battle today is not really focused on the earth, but on God’s purpose and plan for the heavens. Thus, Satan has adjusted his tactics; Satan attacks the Body of Christ instead of Israel today. While the Apostle Paul never talks about devil possession in his epistles, and the Holy Spirit through him never instructs us to exorcise anyone, he does warn about satanic deception (more on this later).

WHAT ABOUT SATAN AND “SHAPESHIFTING?”

We will now look at your question, “Can Satan change form—like turn himself into a human, an animal, or an object, etc.?” When Satan appeared to Eve back in Genesis chapter 3, he took on the form of a handsome man, someone who physically and verbally captivated Eve. To cause her to eat the forbidden fruit, Satan used enticing words and placed Eve under some kind of spell, for 1 Timothy 2:14 says Eve was deceived. The same kind of language—“bewitched”—is used to describe Satan utilizing false religion to deceive people (Galatians 3:1). When Scripture refers to Satan as a “serpent” (Genesis 3:1), it describes his nature, not his physical appearance; Eve having a conversation with a literal reptile-snake seems unlikely. Paul wrote that Satan was a “serpent” in the sense of subtilty, sneakiness, trickery (2 Corinthians 11:3-4; cf. Revelation 12:9). Even today, we use the metaphor “snake in the grass” to describe “a treacherous or deceitful person.”

The only few other accounts I recall in Scripture where Satan personally appeared before someone was in Job chapters 1 and 2, Matthew chapter 4 (companion passage is Luke chapter 4), Jude 9, and Revelation 12:7-10. Scripture does not give us any description of how Satan physically looked in these passages. What we should know is that Satan is a spirit creature; he was seen only when he wanted himself to be seen (as with Eve, or with Christ). Besides Eve and Jesus Christ, I know of no others who personally met Satan in some type of physical body.

Nothing in Paul’s epistles warns us to be aware of physical satanic appearances; the way Satan operates today is by using false doctrine, invisible operations (to be discussed in our next section). The Scriptures affirm that Satan can and does “transform himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15); his nature and works can and do appear very innocent, very godly, albeit they are counterfeit and deceptive. Just as Satan’s “ministers of righteousness” misled people in time past, so they do today. During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ had more rebukes for Israel’s religious leaders than for any other one group. Satan is a very shrewd individual; someone who knows how to operate and avoid being discovered most of the time. The Devil still uses corrupt religious leaders, people whose spiritual wickedness is rarely detected.

WHAT ARE SATAN’S LIMITATIONS IN INFLUENCING PEOPLE TODAY?

These are not clearly delineated in Scripture, but here is what the Scriptures say about that matter….

The Devil used a false prophet to attempt to physically hinder the Apostle Paul from reaching a Gentile with the Gospel (see Acts 13:6-12). Satan used a mysterious “thorn in the flesh” to discourage Paul and physically disrupt God’s ministry through him (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We will see more about this later.

Primarily, Satan’s goal is to use false religion (works-religion), counterfeit miracles, counterfeit Bible versions, false brethren, false ministers, et cetera, to influence (deceive) people, whether saved or lost. The Devil wants to distract people away from God’s truth for today. Recall how he distracted Eve and the Galatians!

The Holy Spirit through Paul warned in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4: “[3] But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. [4] For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” The way Satan operates today is to use non-dispensational Bible study, to make us focus on the Gospel that Paul did not preach, to make us focus on the Jesus Christ whom Paul did not preach, and to make us focus on the spirit that Paul did not preach.

Satan wants us to ignore the Jesus Christ whom Paul preached, “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25-26; 2 Corinthians 5:16), and instead focus on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, which was not to us Gentiles (Romans 15:8; cf. Matthew 15:24). Satan wants us to ignore the “spirit”/attitude/viewpoint of the grace of God that Paul preached (Romans 6:14-15; Romans 8:15), and instead observe the “spirit” of the Law as means of Christian living (Galatians 3:1-3). Satan wants us to ignore the Gospel of God’s Grace of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, and cause us to believe some other Gospel for salvation (such as Acts 2:38).

Colossians 2:8 says, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Satan will use philosophy, church tradition, and secular “wisdom” to mislead us. We must be careful! Rather than dispensational Bible study, these very systems/schools of religious are often used in most churches and Bible colleges to “explain” (confuse) the Bible.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, speaking of his current ministry serving the Lord Jesus Christ at the Apostle of the Gentiles, and admitting how he had given up his prior ministry (as a lost man, the Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus) of serving Satan in a corrupt Judaistic system: “[1] Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; [2] But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” Even today, there are people in religion who “walk in craftiness,” those “handling the word of God deceitfully.” May we not be fooled!

Colossians 2:18 warns, “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind….” Satan wants us to focus on angels instead of Jesus Christ—such is the case of “angelic appearances,” “apparitions,” “Holy Ghost encounters,” and all the other supernatural phenomena religion often discusses today. Again, we must be careful! Idolatry can take even the subtlest forms, but the student grounded in God’s Word rightly divided will withstand such duplicity.

And 1 Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;…” Satan has preachers (“spirits,” as in voices, speaking; see 2 Thessalonians 2:8 for an example) who speak “doctrines of devils.” Verses 3-5 talk about forced celibacy for religious purposes and abstaining from certain meats/foods for religious purposes as being “doctrines of devils.” These would be some of the teachings Satan would advocate.

Finally, we look at 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: “[3] But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: [4] In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Satan blinds people by having them focus on works-religion instead of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. They really believe they can do enough religious works of measure up to God’s standard of righteousness. All they are really doing is causing themselves to be under a curse, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written [Deuteronomy 27:26], Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). “The law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15). James 2:10 summarizes, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

The major disadvantage of a performance-based acceptance system—“do good and God will bless you”—is that you have to perform 100 percent perfectly to be blessed of God, and sin always makes us fall short of absolute righteousness. Jesus Christ came to “redeem us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree…” (Galatians 3:13). The Lord Jesus came to die for our sins, to die in our place, to receive the curse that we sinners deserve. He took our punishment, that when we trust in Him and His finished crosswork alone, we can have His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21)!

Paul’s advice to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:24-26, is how we escape Satan’s trap of religious deception: “[24] And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” We are to acknowledge that Paul is our apostle (Romans 11:13). Our doctrine, duty, walk, and destiny as members of the Church the Body of Christ are in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. These are words of God to us. We study all of the Bible, for it is all God’s Word; but, God’s Word to and about us is Romans through Philemon.

The Scriptures say some Christian women had “already turned aside after Satan” (1 Timothy 5:15) by not heeding the doctrine presented in the earlier verses (which see for yourself).

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles [schemes, tricks] of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). We have only mentioned some of Satan’s schemes against we need to guard ourselves! Again, we need to have a constant dispensational approach to Scripture, a continual contemplation on those verses of the Word of God rightly divided. This is how we guard ourselves from Satan’s error and our spiritual ruin.

CAN SATAN KNOW OUR THOUGHTS?

No. Nowhere in the Bible do we read about Satan knowing our thoughts.

CAN SATAN PHYSICALLY HARM US?

Satan himself is not trying to harm us physically; his main goal is to harm us spiritually. Sinful people (unbelievers), those who cooperate with Satan, are very antagonistic toward Jesus Christ and His Word, and those sinners are more than willing to do Satan’s bidding. Throughout the book of Acts, Satan physically attacked the Apostles of Israel, and the Apostle Paul and his ministry associates, by having unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles imprison them, beat them, kill them, discredit their message, discourage them, et cetera (see Acts chapters 4, 5, 7, 9, 12-14, 16-19, 21-25, and 26). Paul makes reference to being hindered from visiting the Roman believers (Romans 1:13) and Satan hindered Paul from visiting the Thessalonian Christians at least twice (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Satan might have accomplished this by using corrupt political and/or religious leaders.

Again, what Satan mostly concentrates on is trying to harm us spiritually, whether Christians or lost people. Satan’s main goal was to destroy Israel, and he would do that by using false religion, pagan idolatry, corrupt priests and prophets, et cetera. Even today, we have to be vigilant concerning his “wiles” (schemes); he will attack us with false doctrine as he did regarding Israel of old. This is why Christendom is so confused!

See Romans 8:35-39, where it asks, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Satan is an individual who will use difficult circumstances to cause us to believe God does not love us.

Satan will also use the spirit of bitterness and/or an unforgiving spirit to divide and conquer Christians; he tried to do that in Corinth, which Paul warned against. See 2 Corinthians 2:10-11: “[10] To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; [11] Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” While Satan will not physically harm us, he can use a bitter spirit to cause us to physically harm others! “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

DOES SATAN FLY?

The Scriptures say that Lucifer (the name of Satan before his fall) was “the anointed cherub” that covered God’s throne in the third heaven (Ezekiel 28:14,16). Cherubim (plural) are spirit creatures that have wings—Lucifer was the fifth cherub around God’s throne, but after his fall, only four cherubim remained around God’s throne (see Ezekiel 1:5-28; Ezekiel 10:1-22; Revelation 4:6-9). In the first and second chapters of Job, we read about when the angels (“sons of God”) presented themselves to God (for accountability). The Bible says that Satan came in among them and told God that he had been “walking to and fro in the earth” (Job 1:7; cf. Job 2:2). Obviously, Satan and the angels are meeting God in outer space, and Satan surely has the ability to travel between Earth and extraterrestrial locations. Keep in mind that Satan is a spirit creature, so he cannot be seen with human eyes—he exists in a dimension outside of ours. Spirit creatures (both God’s angels and Satan’s angels) have the ability to travel in ways we cannot fully understand (they are not bound by speed, time, space, et cetera).

SATAN AND THE MILLENNIUM

From time immemorial, humans have blamed the Devil whenever they have committed evil deeds. “The Devil made me do it” is a common excuse sinners use to shift the blame to someone other than themselves. As mentioned earlier, one of the prophecies associated with Jesus Christ’s earthly kingdom is that there will be no evil spirits in the land (on the Earth). Please re-read Zechariah 13:1-2: “[1] In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. [2] And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.” Satan and all of the other evil spirits will be confined in the bottomless pit during that 1000-Year Reign of Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:1-6). Mankind will see that he is still opposed to God, and does not need Satan’s influence to sin; mankind’s flesh commits enough sin on its own without having the Devil “tempt” it.

Why is Satan released after the 1000 years? Interesting question! Revelation 20:7-10 will shed some light on the subject for us: “[7] And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, [8] And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. [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. [10] And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

Those who will be born during the 1000-year kingdom will not have (as of yet) made a clear decision to follow Jesus Christ or to follow Satan. In order to fully exercise the free will of those future generations, God will loose Satan at the end of the Millennium to see who will follow him to his doom and who will remain faithful to Jesus Christ. It is the same reason why Satan was allowed to exist in the first place—God did not destroy Satan when he fell into sin but rather permitted Satan’s lie program to fit into His plan of allowing man’s free will. With Satan active, mankind has a person to follow, another plan to follow (Satan’s), a plan other than the God of the Bible and His plan for creation.

As we just read in Revelation 20:7-10, once Satan deceives and gathers the nations around the city of Jerusalem (at the end of the 1000-Year Reign of Christ), fire comes down from heaven and devours him and his armies. Satan is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Satan will not really harm the kingdom; in His wisdom, the Lord God will use Satan to purge the kingdom of unbelievers, so that only believers remain and go into the New Heaven New Earth.

Dear reader, I hope that now you better understand Satan and his policy of evil as it relates to us today. Again, while much could be said, I trust this will whet your appetite to search and see for yourself—do not take it from me.

Also see:
» Why does God let Satan exist?
» Where in the Bible did God give Satan domain over the Earth?
» Why do the wicked prosper? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Could you please clarify Ephesians 2:18-22?

COULD YOU PLEASE CLARIFY EPHESIANS 2:18-22?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“If the church began [with] Paul’s conversion why is it that in Ephesians 2:18-22 the apostles were included in the Body of Christ? The words ‘fellow citizens’ show that other believers are included. And aside from that, Ephesians 2:13-14 tells us that the body was created at the cross & through the death of Christ on the cross.” Thank you for these great questions; let us see what the Holy Spirit says in His Holy Word.

Before commenting, we should read Ephesians 2:18-22: “[18] For through him [Jesus Christ] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. [19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Firstly, you made a good observation in remarking that Ephesians 2:19 has the phrase “fellowcitizens with the saints.” The noun “fellowcitizens” would refer to us (members of the Church the Body of Christ), while the noun “saints” would be those who were saved unto eternal life prior to us. Those saved prior to the beginning of the Church the Body of Christ would be the members of Israel’s believing remnant—Israel’s 12 apostles, and all the other members of her “little flock” (Luke 12:32), all Jews who had trusted Jesus as Messiah-King. However, redeemed Israel and the Body of Christ are two separate entities; they are all citizens of the kingdom of God of the Bible, but they still belong to two unique bodies of believers.

The Bible says we Gentile Christians “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). We Gentiles used to be cut off from the God of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-12), but now, we who were far off are made nigh (near) to God by Jesus Christ’s shed blood at Calvary (Ephesians 2:13). According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, we are made nigh to Father God by the Holy Spirit placing us into the Church the Body of Christ (whose formation is discussed in Ephesians 2:13 onward into chapter 3, verse 11). The purpose of God forming the Church the Body of Christ is revealed elsewhere in Paul’s epistle to Ephesus.

Let us read Ephesians 1:9-10: “[9] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” God had a will, a purpose, in creation, but He did not reveal “the mystery [secret] of His will” until the Apostle Paul. In other words, prior to Paul, God only made known some of His will; God had a secret will that He did not reveal until Paul. This secret will involved a secret family of God, another aspect of His kingdom. (We will discuss this more later.)

With Paul’s ministry and the completion of God’s revelation to man through Paul, we learn that Father God wanted His Son Jesus Christ to head the governments of heaven and earth. This goes back to the first verse of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) and is cross-referenced in Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 3:15, and Colossians 1:20. We will take some time to look at Ephesians 3:15 and Colossians 1:20.

Colossians 1:16-20 explains: “[16] For by him [Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”

Currently, Satan has defiled heaven (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12) and earth (2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4) with sin. Satan wanted to rule heaven and earth, he wanted to be “like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14); he wanted to be “possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19,22). Overall, God wants to form two agencies—two groups of His children—to restore His authority in heaven and earth, to have Jesus Christ glorified in heaven and in earth, to combat and subdue the rebellion that Satan has caused in heaven and in earth. We should view Ephesians 3:15 in this light.

Please note Ephesians 3:14-15 now: “…the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named….” God’s kingdom, God’s household, God’s family is made up of people in heaven and people on earth (refer back to Ephesians 2:19). God’s kingdom—the realm over which He rules—can be divided into two bodies, the nation Israel and the Church the Body of Christ. Israel is God’s earthly people (Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5; Revelation 5:10) and the Church the Body of Christ is God’s heavenly people (2 Corinthians 5:1; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6-7; 2 Timothy 4:18). All believers in the Scriptures—whether Adam (those saved before our dispensation), or those saved during our dispensation, or those Christians saved after our dispensation—they are all members of God’s family (otherwise they would be lost, part of Satan’s family). However, only those saved in our Dispensation, the Dispensation of Grace, are members of the Church the Body of Christ. To those prior to the Apostle Paul, God revealed information about His earthly family (that would be the nation Israel). To Paul, God revealed information about His heavenly family (that would be the Church the Body of Christ). This is how we should view Ephesians 1:9-10.

To make the 12 apostles of Israel a part of the Body of Christ would get rid of the nation Israel. The nation Israel and the Church the Body of Christ will always remain separate entities. Israel will always be made of Jews only, whereas the Church the Body of Christ is made up of neither Jews nor Gentiles but people who are “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). God will always have a people to rule in heaven for His glory and a people to rule earth for His glory. There is always the necessity of the division between heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1), so there must always be a division between God’s heavenly people (the Church the Body of Christ) and God’s earthly people (the nation Israel). These are some basis conclusions that dispensational Bible study leads us to form.

Now, we move on to your question about when the Church the Body of Christ was formed.

THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST BEGAN BY THE CROSS, NOT AT THE CROSS

While it is definitely true that Jesus Christ’s shed blood makes the Church the Body of Christ possible (Ephesians 2:13), the Church the Body of Christ did not begin at Calvary. In fact, we still see the Jew and Gentile distinction after Calvary—after Calvary, there is still the distinction between Jew and Gentile (see Luke 24:47; Acts 2:5,14,22,29,36; Acts 3:25-26; Acts 5:30-31; et cetera). Remember, according to Ephesians 2:11-12, if there is a distinction between Jew and Gentile, it is not the Body of Christ, and it is not God’s current dealings with mankind.

Please do not misread Ephesians 2:16 as some do: “And that he might reconcile both [Jew and Gentile, verses 11-12] in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” It was by the cross—not at the cross—that God formed the one new man. The Body of Christ is dependent upon the crosswork of Jesus Christ, but it did not begin at the cross. The distinction—the animosity—between Jew and Gentile was not settled until after Calvary, not at Calvary.

We read in Galatians 5:6: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” And Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”

The Holy Spirit through Paul wrote those two above verses, but they were not true in time past, prior to the Body of Christ. They are true today, but they were not true prior to Paul; the distinction between Jew and Gentile existed before Paul’s conversion and ministry. However, God has now rescinded that distinction. There is no mistake in the Bible—it is just a change in program. It did matter to be a Jew in time past, for Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry was to Jews only (Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Acts 2:22; Romans 9:5; Romans 15:8). Today, there is the “new creature,” the “one new man,” the Church the Body of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:15), and in the Body of Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:28).

WHO ARE THE “APOSTLES AND PROPHETS” OF EPHESIANS 2:20 AND EPHESIANS 3:5?

In order to blur the glaring distinctions between Paul’s ministry and Peter’s ministry, between Israel’s believing remnant and the Church the Body of Christ, it has been postulated that we are built on the ministries of Israel’s 12 apostles. Ephesians 2:20 is believed to teach such a doctrine. It is asserted that Ephesians 3:5 says that the 12 apostles had the same revelation from God that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to the Apostle Paul. Before we assume anything, we need to look at the verses, especially within their contexts.

We return to Ephesians 2:18-22: “[18] For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. [19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

We read a parallel passage in Ephesians 3:1-6: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [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; [6] That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”

In order to shed light on these two passages, we need to simply look at chapter 4 of Ephesians: “[8] Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. [9] (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? [10] He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) [11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”

Ephesians 4:11 says that these would be apostles and prophets Paul wrote of were ordained after Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven. This could not be Peter and 11 because they were ordained before Jesus Christ even died, some three years before He ascended into heaven. Regarding the “apostles and prophets” of Ephesians 2:19-22 and Ephesians 3:1-6, these would not be Israel’s apostles and prophets (as some alledge), for even the Apostle Peter did not understand everything in Paul’s doctrines (2 Peter 3:15-16). The apostles and prophets of Ephesians 2:20 and Ephesians 3:5 are those apostles and prophets associated with Paul’s ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:6; Acts 14:14; 1 Corinthians 12:10,28-29). These apostles and prophets were members of the Body of Christ—not the nation Israel—and they were instrumental in God forming the Church the Body of Christ. These apostles and prophets associated with Paul’s ministry spoke the grace doctrines of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, before they were written down in a completed Bible (see Ephesians 4:11-13). The apostles and prophets are not the foundation; Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, is the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11). The apostles’ and prophets’ preaching Jesus Christ “according to the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25-26), the message they preached about Jesus Christ, is the foundation on which we are built—Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, buried to put away our sins, and raised again to justify us before Almighty God (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 4:24-25).

The ascended Lord Jesus Christ revealed the doctrines first to Paul, and then the Holy Spirit used Paul to reveal the doctrines to everyone else (including us). Peter and the 11 learned of Paul’s special ministry and the wisdom committed to Paul by listening to Paul preach in Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 5.

You should pay close attention to Galatians 2:6-9: “[6] But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: [7] But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; [8] (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: ) [9] And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”

Through Paul’s writing and preaching ministry, the Holy Spirit manifested the grace doctrines. We find those doctrines recorded in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.

CONCLUSION: THE PURPOSE OF THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST (NOW AND IN THE AGES TO COME)

We read again in Ephesians 2:20-22: “[20] And [we] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Having briefly discussed our corporal purpose in chapters 1 and 2 (which we did briefly earlier), and he will do so further in chapter 3, the Apostle Paul reminds us that God’s will for us before He installs us to serve Him in the heavenly places, is to put us His Holy Spirit within us (that happens at the moment of salvation from sins unto eternal life, and this indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to function as God’s children, and by faith we work with Him to accomplish His will).

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” And again, 2 Corinthians 6:16: “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Finally, 2 Timothy 1:14: “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” Today, God the Holy Ghost will use the Bible verses (grace-oriented doctrine, especially Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon) that we study and believe, to fill us with Jesus Christ’s life.

Galatians 2:20 tells us all about the Christian life: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” And Philippians 1:21: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Finally, Colossians 3:4: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” A parallel passage is found in Philippians chapter 1: “[9] And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; [10] That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. [11] Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” It is by the Holy Spirit Himself that Jesus Christ Himself will produce in us good works. This, not us striving in religious works, is the key to victorious Christian living!

But, this life of Jesus Christ in us is not just meant to operate during our brief lifetime on planet Earth. God the Father’s plan is to use us forever for the purpose for which He created us in Christ Jesus—it goes well, well, well beyond this earthly life. Once we leave this planet, God has a whole new realm of operation for us to function (which is why we need new bodies; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Philippians 3:20-21). This is best understood by examining some more basic principles of right division, dispensational Bible study.

We briefly mentioned that the Bible’s first verse says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). As we stated earlier, God needs a body of individuals to execute His will in both realms (originally, these agencies were angels and mankind, respectively). When Lucifer/Satan polluted heaven with sin, and when Adam joined Satan and corrupted earth with sin, God began His two-fold plan to restore heaven and earth to Himself. Most of the Scriptures discuss God creating the nation Israel to function as His earthly people, but what about His restoration of the heavenly places? Like we stated earlier, God kept His plan for restoring heaven a secret until the Apostle Paul’s ministry (Ephesians 3:1-11).

Again, God already had the nation Israel’s believing remnant as His people, but that was just part of His will. Why is God forming the Church the Body of Christ? God the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:19-22 and its context: “[19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Now, God has revealed His secret will—heaven’s restoration (Ephesians 1:9,10). In Paul’s epistles alone, Romans through Philemon, we learn that God is currently creating a body that will fulfill His will in heaven (as Israel will fulfill His will in earth; note Matthew 6:10). God is forming the Body of Christ to be His dwelling-place, a body through which His life is to be lived now and forever (Ephesians 2:21,22)! Just as Jesus Christ will live His life in and through Israel on earth (Jeremiah 31:33,34; Matthew chapters 5-7; John 1:12; 2 Peter 1:3,4; et cetera), our grand reunion with our deceased brothers and sisters in Christ in heaven is just the beginning of God’s will for heaven.

God wants to fill us with His life now, and in the heavenly places, it will still be His life (albeit without our sinful flesh in the way, and the context will be the whole universe, not just earth like today!). Just imagine a local church assembly free from all doctrinal error and all sin. Via us, God will fill all of heaven with the life of His Son, Jesus Christ, and it will truly be a family enterprise, one that will literally transcend the endless ages to come!

Also see:
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?
» What is dispensational Bible study?
» Are we all God’s children?

Why did God ask where Adam was?

WHY DID GOD ASK WHERE ADAM WAS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Bible critics enjoy selecting puzzling Bible verses and quoting them at the Christian in hopes of silencing God’s child. Genesis 3:9 is one such example, and, in this study, we would be quite eager to explain why an omniscient God asked a question as to Adam’s whereabouts.

In the opening verses of Genesis chapter 3, we read about Satan seducing Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Deceived by his smooth talking, she relents, and then gives the fruit to Adam who willfully follows his wife in her rebellion against the LORD’S instructions.

The Bible says in Genesis chapter 3: “[6] And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. [7] And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. [8] And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. [9] And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? [10] And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. [11] And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? [12] And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. [13] And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

We want to focus on verse 9, “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” The LORD God knew where Adam was, so why did He ask that question? Again, Bible critics often stumble over this verse and claim it is silly for God to be inquiring about Adam’s whereabouts. The scoffer overlooks two valuable pieces of information; this seemingly awkward verse contains doctrine that only a Bible believer can notice and appreciate.

Firstly, by asking, “Adam, where art thou?,” the LORD was prompting thoughts in Adam’s mind. Upon hearing God’s voice, Adam immediately thought, “I should be fellowshipping with Him. I should be right by His side, but look at me, fearful and hiding amongst the trees! My relationship with Him is severed!”

Secondly, nothing is hidden from God’s sight: God in His omniscience knew exactly where Adam was hiding and why he was hiding: “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). By asking, “Adam, where art thou?,” the LORD is bringing Adam to the place of accountability. Adam is forced to confess that he is hiding from God because he has blatantly disobeyed God’s commandment: he has eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so as any sinner does, he hides from the holy God of creation. As the Lord Jesus Christ said in John 3:17-21: “[17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. [18] He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [19] And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. [20] For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. [21] But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

God asked Adam and Eve four questions in Genesis 3:8-13, questions whose answers He knew—He asked them all to bring Adam and Eve to accountability. We want to briefly look at these four questions and how God prompted answers from Adam and Eve, to cause them to realize just what they had done:

  • QUESTION #1 (to Adam): “[9] And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”
  • PROMPTED ANSWER (Adam’s reply): “[10] And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
  • QUESTIONS #2 & #3 (to Adam): “[11] And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”
  • PROMPTED ANSWER (Adam’s reply): “[12] And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”
  • QUESTION #4 (to Eve): “[13a] And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?”
  • PROMPTED ANSWER (Eve’s reply): “[13b] And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

Is it not interesting that the scoffer asks about the first question, but never bothers to see the other three questions? The point is that God asked not one, but four questions, to which He already knew the answers. Again, He was doing this for the sakes of Adam and Eve, not for Himself. Even today, we all (even the Bible critics) ask questions to which we already know the answers: “Why did you take this from me?” “Who gave you permission to leave?” “Why is it so dark in here?” Usually, we do not ask these questions to elicit information; we ask these questions to prompt the other individual to think of the current situation (theft, unruliness, darkness) and provoke them to make an attempt to resolve the matter (apology, obedience, turn on a light!).

To conclude this study, I cannot pass up the opportunity to ask my own set of related questions. Today, the sinner cannot be saved from God’s wrath until he or she comes to the point where Adam did—the sinner must come to understand his or her lost condition. It is not until one realizes he or she is dead in sin (“hiding in the bushes from God”), that salvation from that hell-bound course can be received. Dear reader, are you in Christ? Have you trusted the Lord Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for your sins? Or, are you in Adam? Are you like Adam, hiding from God due to broken fellowship with your Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ? In Adam? In Christ? “Where art thou,” dear reader?

Also see:
» If God exists, then why is there suffering? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Was God “bored” before creation?
» Was God unfair to punish us for Adam’s sin? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Does Matthew 19:27-28 prove Judas is in heaven?

DOES MATTHEW 19:27-28 PROVE JUDAS IS IN HEAVEN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Honestly, this is a most thought-provoking question, one I have never heard others discuss and a view I have never before considered. This inquiry encouraged me to study the Bible for myself, and it yielded the following article. Let us look at Matthew 19:27-28 and see if we can shed some light on it. To the Scriptures!

The Bible says in Matthew 19:27-28: “[27] Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? [28] And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

If one were to argue that Judas died a saved individual, that he was someone who departed this world having a right standing before God, this would probably be the primary text that he or she would use. Jesus Christ certainly indicated that only 12 individuals would sit on 12 thrones in order to judge the 12 tribes of Israel. However, notice how Jesus Christ never actually singled out Judas Iscariot by name as one of these individuals. For example, Jesus did not say, “You twelve will sit on twelve thrones….” The Bible never says, “Jesus said unto the twelve apostles, Ye will sit on twelve thrones….” “The twelve” was frequently used in Scripture to include Judas (Matthew 26:20; Mark 4:10; Mark 6:7; Mark 9:35; Mark 10:32; Luke 18:31; John 6:67), but we do not see such language in Matthew 19:27-28; this leads us to conclude that Judas was not included in this promise. Moreover, Scriptural evidence indicates that Judas died and went to hell. (That topic, for sake of brevity, cannot be discussed in this study. For more information, see our Bible study linked at the end of this article.)

What concerns us here is the meaning of Matthew 19:27-28 with respect to Judas. Since the Bible suggests that Judas did not go to heaven, who was that twelfth individual that Jesus Christ made reference to in these verses?

Between the time period of Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven (Acts chapter 1) until the Holy Ghost came down to Earth on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2)—a period of roughly a week—Peter knew from the Scriptures that some man had to fill Judas’ now-vacant apostleship. There had to be twelve apostles to sit on twelve thrones, and with Judas now expired, someone had to be selected. Let us read from Acts chapter 1:

“[15] And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) [16] Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. [17] For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. [18] Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. [19] And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. [20] For it is written in the book of Psalms [Psalm 69:25], Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and [Psalm 109:8] his bishoprick let another take. [21] Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, [22] Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. [23] And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. [24] And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, [25] That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. [26] And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

In order to occupy Judas’s bishoprick, his replacement had to meet two conditions (verses 21 and 22): firstly, the man had to have been a follower of Jesus Christ from John’s water baptism (Matthew chapter 3), and secondly, he had to be a follower of Jesus all the way up to His ascension into heaven (Acts chapter 1). To wit, Judas’ replacement had to have witnessed the entire earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. This makes sense, since only one who saw Jesus’s ministry and resurrection firsthand could serve in the capacity of being God’s witness of that ministry and resurrection. Only two men met these conditions—Joseph Barsabas Justus, and Matthias. By the casting of lots, God revealed His will to the 11 apostles; it is clear that God Himself wanted Matthias to replace Judas. “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD” (Proverbs 16:33). “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,…” (Acts 1:24). Contrary to popular belief, the Lord Himselfnot Peter—selected Matthias beforehand; the method whereby the apostles discovered the Lord’s selection was by the casting of lots.

With all that said, we understand that when Jesus spoke of 12 men sitting on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel in His earthly kingdom, there were more than 12 people present in the audience of Matthew 19:27-28. In fact, we read in verse 26 that Jesus’ “disciples” are present—that would include more than just His “apostles.” Matthias would have been among the crowds when Jesus spoke of Israel’s 12 thrones and 12 princes sitting on those thrones. It is my conviction that Jesus was speaking to Matthias and Peter and the 10, not Judas, when He uttered the words of Matthew 19:27-28 and Luke 22:30.

Also see:
» Who was Judas’ replacement—Matthias or Paul?
» Did Judas die a saved individual?
» Was Judas literally Satan incarnate? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Where in the Bible did God give Satan domain over the Earth?

WHERE IN THE BIBLE DID GOD GIVE SATAN DOMAIN OVER THE EARTH?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Thank you for this question. If our answer is to be one of faith, we need to look at pertinent verses in the Holy Bible, and then we need to believe those verses.

On the sixth day of creation, after God created terrestrial (Earth-based) animal life, Genesis 1:26-28 says: “[26] 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. [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Please pay special attention to the above bolded phrases that demonstrate God’s purpose for man. Why did God place man (Adam) on the Earth? The Bible says that the human race was to be God’s chief creation in the Earth. In other words, God appointed Adam (the first man) to be king of the Earth, and Eve his wife was to be queen of the Earth. Adam and Eve were to be God’s representatives, His rulers, in the Earth; as the angels carried out God’s will in heaven, Adam and Eve were to “have dominion” over the earth, to “subdue [earth],” to “have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Sometime before God created mankind on Earth, He created spirit creatures (angels) to function in the heavenly places. One of these angelic-like creatures—which is actually called a “cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14,16)—was named “Lucifer” (Isaiah 14:12), and Lucifer wanted to glorify himself instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lucifer wanted to be “like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14): he wanted to be “possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19,22), and he desired the praise that the Lord, the Creator, alone deserved. This creature fell into sin, and was re-named “Satan” (Hebrew for “adversary”): Satan became God’s chief enemy (Ezekiel 28:11-19). Once Satan polluted heaven with sin, he moved toward infiltrating the Earth with sin, rebellion against God.

Satan knew that, in order to control the Earth, he would first have to take that power from God’s human race. We read in Genesis chapter 3 how Satan deceived the first woman (with Adam voluntarily following his wife into the trap) into believing and following his lie program first begun in the heavens:

“[1] Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? [2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: [5] For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. [6] And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. [7] And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”

It was in Genesis chapter 3 that Adam relinquished his crown to Satan; Satan gladly assumed dominion over the Earth in Genesis chapter 3. Romans 5:12 continues, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned….” Satan’s policy of evil succeeded in involving Earth: Adam willfully gave up his divinely-ordained earthly dominion. So, God gave man the dominion over the Earth; when man willfully sided with Satan, man became controlled by Satan and sin, and through fallen man, Satan gained power over the Earth. Consequently, Satan dominates the world’s political, religious, social, economic, and educational systems. Hence, the Bible talks about “this present evil world” (Galatians 1:4). Satan is called “the god [or ruler] of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Bible says in 1 John 5:19, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Ephesians 2:2 speaks of the evil “course of this world.”

We need to notice what Satan told Jesus during His temptations. The Bible relays the narrative in Matthew 4:8-9: “[8] Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; [9] And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Luke 4:5-7 is the comparative passage: “[5] And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. [6] And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. [7] If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”

Did you notice how Satan offered to give the world’s kingdoms to Jesus? The Lord Jesus, knowing full well that Satan had dominion over the Earth, never argued with him. He knew that Satan was controlling this world system, and that the only way to restore the world system to God was, not to bow down to and worship Satan, but to die for man’s sins. In hindsight, we see how the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary is now the means whereby God will restore heaven and earth to Himself (more on this later).

Satan is currently usurping God’s authority in the Earth. Hence, Jesus Christ said in John 18:36: “Jesus answered, 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’ kingdom was “not of this world” in the sense that His kingdom was one from God rather than one from Satan. The Lord Jesus’ kingdom would not originate from the evil world system that is presently operating on Earth and in the heavens.

The book of Job describes Satan’s activity in the Earth. We read in Job 1:6-7: “[6] Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. [7] And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” And again, we read in Job 2:1-2: “[1] Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. [2] And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Walking denotes ownership; Satan admits to God that he is active on planet Earth, “going to and fro in the earth… walking up and down in it… going to and fro in the earth… walking up and down in it” (notice we read that expression twice, indicating a prolonged action, not just a one-time motion). This is significant, since we read in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour….” Satan is active on planet Earth, and he will especially be doing this in the future—when he is banned from outer space and confined to Earth (Revelation 12:7-10)!

Colossians 1:16-20 tells us the good news: “[16] For by him [the Lord Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: [17] And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. [19] For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; [20] And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (God will give the heavens to us, the Church the Body of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:1; Ephesians 1:3,20-23; Ephesians 2:6-7; Colossians 3:1-2; 2 Timothy 4:18]—currently, Satan has polluted the heavens [Job 15:15; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12]. He will give the earth over to redeemed Israel [Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5; Revelation 5:10]—remember, currently, Satan has polluted Earth).

Thankfully, one day, God will remove Satan from the Earth. The Bible says when Jesus Christ will return at His Second Coming, He will bind all evil spirits (Zechariah 13:1-2). He will then usher in His 1000-year reign on the planet, Israel’s earthly kingdom, the kingdom He originally wanted to establish with Adam (when God Himself, Jesus Christ, dwells with man on the Earth). According to Revelation 20:1-10, Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit during that millennium, and then released to tempt the new generations of people born. Once that is accomplished, God will rain fire down from heaven to consume Satan and his minions, confining them forever in the lake of fire and brimstone!

“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)—the best is yet to come, and, in the end, Jesus Christ will not have to worship Satan to get Earth’s kingdoms!

Also see:
» Why does God allow Satan to exist?
» Can you answer my questions about Satan’s current operations? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What is Satan’s “policy of evil?”
(LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

Does 1 Corinthians 15:11 disprove dispensational Bible study?

DOES 1 CORINTHIANS 15:11 DISPROVE DISPENSATIONAL BIBLE STUDY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In this study, I, a Bible-believing dispensationalist, will gladly address 1 Corinthians 15:11, a verse religionists use to deny dispensational Bible truths. Beloved, we should not and do not fear God’s truth; we eagerly teach, defend, and believe it. However, we must first read it… within its context. Anything else is “vain jangling,” empty chatter, worthless speech.

Anti-dispensationalists use various and sundry Bible verses in order to salvage traditional Bible interpretation. Lest the denominational doctrine—the church tradition—be lost, religious people openly rebel against God’s Word rightly divided. They look for any verses that even seem to hint at supporting a church tradition, and then they will immediately quote those verses. They might not understand what God is doing today, they may not understand how to be saved from their sins or where to find their doctrine in the Bible, but they certainly know what Bible verses to use to support their denomination and they quickly quote them. Such a mishandling of Scripture is sure to cause misery in this life, and unavoidable accountability to God in the next! Beloved, may we be ever so careful with God’s precious Word and the precious souls we impact with it.

Years ago, on social media, I noticed a “familiar name” posting anti-dispensational-Bible-study comments in a “religious forum.” What a strange incident! While still professing to be a “grace Bible teacher,” this person had already abandoned a local grace church, had already begun his own church, and had already launched a campaign to discourage people from using dispensational Bible study! In this particular instance, he was using 1 Corinthians 15:11, claiming that dispensationalists ignored it because it disproved their position. In his mind, the verse taught that Peter and Paul preached the same Gospel message (Galatians 1:23 is similarly misused as well), and he also argued that Peter had preached to Paul’s converts in Corinth. He completely ignored the context of the verse he was quoting. Such pathetic ignorance, such reckless words, especially since this man spent many years in a right-division grace church! Here, dear friend, I will gladly look at 1 Corinthians 15:11, and I will rejoice in its truth. I do hope that you can rejoice with me in the simplicity of God’s Word.

After outlining the Gospel of the Grace of God—“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” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—Paul begins his argument for the validity of Christ’s literal, physical, visible resurrection. He does this because some of the Corinthians were claiming that Jesus Christ did not arise from the dead. Verse 12 tells us: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?The 58 verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 address the necessity of Jesus’s resurrection, with the concluding verses examining our future resurrection (commonly called “the Rapture,” when all members of the Body of Christ are redeemed physically, whether bodily resurrected [from the deceased in Christ] or bodily transformed [for the living in Christ]). Thus, the general context of 1 Corinthians 15:11 is the doctrine of bodily resurrection, especially that of Jesus Christ. This is the first key to understanding the meaning of the verse in question.

We want to now examine the verses that precede 1 Corinthians 15:11 to get a more in-depth grasp of the thought-flow of the discussion. After mentioning Jesus’ resurrection in verse 4, Paul lists the witnesses of that resurrection: “[5] And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: [6] 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. [7] After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. [8] And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. [9] For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. [10] But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. [11] Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”

Our current discussion involves the last verse, “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” Having just read the previous verses, we know that the pronoun “I,” of course, is referring to the Apostle Paul; the pronoun “they” obviously signifies the 12 apostles of Israel mentioned in verses 5-7 (“Cephas,” “the twelve,” “James,” “all the apostles”); and the pronoun “ye” applies to the Corinthian believers. But, is 1 Corinthians 15:11 saying that Peter and Paul preached the same Gospel message? Does 1 Corinthians 15:11 mean that Israel’s 12 apostles preached that alleged “one Gospel” to the Corinthians? (While space does not permit an exhaustive explanation here, there are plenty of Bible verses that clearly distinguish Peter and Paul’s messages; please refer to our Bible study linked at the conclusion of this article. Here, in this study, we are focused on the question of the preaching of Peter and Paul as it relates to 1 Corinthians 15:11).

WHAT EXACTLY WERE PETER AND PAUL PREACHING IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15:11?

As noted earlier, Peter and Paul had two separate Gospel messages (again, this involves many verses to consider, so please see our study linked at the end of this article for more information). Still, there were some similarities between what Peter preached and Paul preached: they both preached Jesus Christ (Peter—Acts 2:22-38 et al.; Paul—Acts 13:23-41 et al.), they both preached He was the Son of God (Peter—Acts 3:26 et. al; Paul—Acts 9:20 et al.), they both preached He died for sins (Peter—1 Peter 1:18-19 et al.; Paul—1 Corinthians 15:3 et al.), and they both preached He resurrected (Peter—Acts 3:15 et al.; Paul—Acts 17:31 et al.). But, the meanings of these doctrines were different in those separate programs; stated another way, the specific implications of these doctrines with respect to the prophetic and mystery programs, were different. Considering the fact that 1 Corinthians 15:11 is situated in the Bible’s great resurrection chapter, what do you suppose Peter and Paul would be preaching together in verse 11? “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” It is not difficult to understand. Peter and Paul both preached Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

Whether it was Paul preaching the resurrection of Christ, or any of Israel’s apostles preaching the resurrection of Christ, the doctrine of physical resurrection was being preached (simply put, dear readers, that is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:11). Again, the preaching of Christ’s resurrection was not exclusive to Paul’s ministry, but it had one meaning in Israel’s program (her apostles’ preaching) and another meaning in our program (Paul and his associated apostles’ preaching). In light of the chapter, Paul was arguing that many people had witnessed Christ’s resurrection firsthand, and these witnesses were preaching Christ’s resurrection, so the Corinthians should not doubt that Jesus literally arose from the dead. They were to accept Jesus’ resurrection as a true, literal, historical event; in fact, they could even go interview firsthand many of the 500 witnesses (they were still living at the time)!

Regarding Israel’s program, the Bible quotes the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:29-32: “[29] Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. [30] Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; [31] He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. [32] This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” The Apostle Peter and the 11 apostles of Israel preached that Jesus Christ was raised again to sit on David’s throne. Peter witnessed the resurrection of Christ firsthand, and he preached it (1 Corinthians 15:5,7).

When it comes to our program, the Apostle Paul preached in Romans 4:24-25: “[24] But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; [25] Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” The Apostle Paul preached Jesus Christ was “raised again for our justification,” resurrected to give us a right standing before God. Never once did Paul make reference to Jesus Christ being raised to sit on David’s throne. Paul met the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and he preached Christ’s resurrection as well (1 Corinthians 15:8).

Israel’s apostles, particularly Peter, preached Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 2:24-32; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 10:40; 1 Peter 1:3,21; 1 Peter 3:18,21). Paul preached Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 13:30-37; Acts 17:3; Acts 25:19; Acts 26:23; Romans 1:3-4; Romans 4:24-25; et al.). Again, Christ’s resurrection was preached by both Israel’s apostles and Paul and apostles associated with his ministry, but the overall meaning of Christ’s resurrection differed in each program and message.

IS 1 CORINTHIANS 15:11 SAYING THAT ISRAEL’S TWELVE APOSTLES PREACHED IN CORINTH?

As I noted earlier, someone once attempted to use 1 Corinthians 15:11 to say that Peter and the 11 preached in Corinth. This individual desired to undermine Paul’s special ministry, to make Paul’s ministry the same as Peter’s ministry. Still, this individual and those who agree with him are on shaky theological ground, because they do not have one verse to support their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:11!

Save for Cornelius (Acts chapter 10), the Bible is clear that Peter had no ministry to Gentiles. In Acts chapter 15 (companion passage of Galatians chapter 2), Peter himself learned that he had no ministry to Gentiles anymore; he gathered that Paul was now God’s man to reach the lost Jews and lost Gentiles. Peter was not preaching to any Gentiles after Acts chapter 10, and there is nothing in Scripture to indicate Peter or any of Israel’s other apostles ever visited Corinth. The Scriptures actually indicate the opposite: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Galatians 2:9).

According to this verse, Apostles Peter, James, and John (Acts chapter 15 onward) confined their ministry to the “circumcision” (Israel’s believing remnant), and they agreed that Paul and Barnabas would go to the “heathen” (lost Jews and lost Gentiles). This is important because Paul first visited Corinth in Acts chapter 18. This we see the 1-Corinthians 15:11-quoting-anti-dispensationalist was duplicitous, wresting the Scriptures to his own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16). By Acts chapter 15, Apostles Peter, James, and John had already confined their ministry to Israel’s little flock; Paul did not preach in Corinth until Acts chapter 18! Had Peter already converted the Corinthians, Paul would have no reason to preach 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 to them!

“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” is not referring to Peter and the 11 preaching to the Corinthians, but rather Peter and 11 preaching Christ’s resurrection in general. The point Paul is making here is Christ’s resurrection; it is not a defense of the ministry endeavors of the 12.

CONCLUSION

In summary, what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 15:11 is that both he and Israel’s apostles preached bodily resurrection as a true doctrine, and the Corinthians originally accepted/believed that doctrine as true in the form of the Gospel of Grace (Jesus died for our sins, buried, and resurrected; verses 3-4). Unfortunately, verse 12 says that some Corinthians were then misled to deny bodily resurrection (probably due to the pagan culture around them that denied it). Paul simply defended the doctrine of bodily resurrection by affirming that both he and Israel’s apostles preached it as true, and so they the Corinthians needed to embrace it as true, too.

Dear friends, before we attempt to defend a denomination, we need to remember that we should be loyal to God’s Word, the Holy Bible, and not try to undermine its layout by haphazardly selecting and quoting verses simply because they appeal to us. It will save us much heartache and misery if we not rob ourselves of the Bible’s clarity and enjoyment. After all, only God’s words will remain forever (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33)—denominational systems and the traditions of men will pass away!

Also see:
» Does not Acts 15:11 disprove dispensational Bible study?
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?