Monthly Archives: October 2018

What does the Bible say about “ghosts?”

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT “GHOSTS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

With the Halloween season upon us, the topic of ghosts has re-entered the public arena as it does every year. Just so we are clear—to make sure we are following the same line of thought—we must open with the definition of “ghost” as found in The Oxford English Dictionary: “an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.” The word originated from the Old English gast (in the sense ‘spirit, soul’).

Bearing the above definition in mind, are “ghosts” real? Do dead people actually return in some bizarre form and show themselves to us the living? Or, is there some other explanation, such as a natural one? What Bible verses can help us? In this, our special-edition 550th Bible Q&A article, we ask, “For what saith the Scriptures?”

I. A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

Through the centuries, witnesses have reported the following phenomena associated with “ghosts:”

  • Mediums/psychics, Ouija Boards, and the like may be used to “contact” them.
  • Deceased individuals supposedly return to the land of the living to protect their family or friends in times of danger.
  • The “ghost” often haunts (frequents) a “special place”—house, field, bridge, hospital, school, roadway, cemetery, or another area or structure. Some such locales have violent histories (namely, battles and murders).
  • “Fogs,” “mists,” “hazes,” and cold air may accompany “ghostly” visits.
  • Some “ghosts” closely, or wholly, resemble their living counterparts. Other times, they are hideous presences.
  • “Spirits” appear to relay comforting messages such as, “I am now in a better place, so do not worry about me. My suffering is over and now I am happy. I forgive you and I love you. I am going to watch over you. Farewell.”
  • In certain instances, “ghosts” are malevolent (evil)—playfully mischievous or annoying to downright vengeful and terrifying.
  • Allegedly, objects float and/or fly around the room. They may disappear only to inexplicably reappear somewhere else altogether.
  • Luminous orbs or flashes of light may be observed.
  • Strange noises are heard, especially at night—chains rattling, footsteps, whisperings, laughter, dragging, creaking, screaming, banging, wailing, and disembodied voices. Crimes may be reenacted in a “spirit theatre.”
  • Certain people have claimed to levitate (float) during the ordeal.
  • These “ghosts” mysteriously come and go, without warning, some appearing for days, months, or years.

II. A LENGTHY CORRECTION

The Bible declares, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Lost people die and go to Hell. They do not return to visit us on Earth! When Christians leave this physical body, they “are present with the Lord” in Heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8). They do not leave Heaven to come visit us on Earth! This is the standard today in this “the Dispensation of the Grace of God” (Ephesians 3:2). More will be said about dispensational changes later. 

When dealing with “ghostly” tales, what we can never do is argue with what people heard or did not hear, see or did not see, tasted or did not taste, smell or did not smell, and felt or did not feel. It is impossible to access their senses and experience the world using their faculties. Unless we were present during the “ghostly” meeting, we can neither confirm nor deny it from a firsthand perspective. However, the one thing we can say—regardless of what was seen, felt, heard, smelled, or tasted—is that the Bible is right. The deceased do not visit the living, as those departed souls are either in Heaven (Christians) or Hell (everyone else). Then, what was the “ghost?” Obviously, not every “ghost story” can be dismissed as complete fabrication.

The following six issues should be considered when addressing the subject of “ghosts:” (A) Imaginations, (B) Superstitions/Religions, (C) Emotions, (D) Memory, (E) Dreams, and (F) Science and the Natural World. We will treat each issue, not exhaustively, but summarily.

A. IMAGINATIONS

“And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done” (Genesis 8:21).

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21).

Ephesians chapter 2: “[1] And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; [2] Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: [3] Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

Man’s imagination—his creative genius—is naturally perverted because of sin. Satan operates an evil world system that feeds that imagination (see 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 1:4, Luke 4:5-8, et cetera). Point B, superstitions and religions (which we will discuss later), is one segment of that system. Superstitions, and all religions save Judaism, are manmade. As will be noted in point B, ancient peoples used their artistic powers to describe the origin of the natural world and life itself, as well as the existence of assorted “deities” (gods, good and bad) in the spirit world interacting with us. Modern creative people recycle and re-recycle those ideas—adapting them into books, films, and so on. Finally, audiences absorb that information, eventually giving it a new “spin” by combining it with their own life experiences or worldviews.

Friends, while living in reality, fiction can still creep in via our imagination. For example, have you ever “seen” something move in the shadows—when nothing was really there? It is not uncommon to find someone exposed to horror shows as a child who, as an adult, is still fearful of the dark and waiting for “monster” to attack him or her. Do you ever find yourself nervous or easily startled after reading scary literature or viewing frightening images? You are all “hyped up!” See, our imaginations can run wild with us… and superstitions and religions further influence us. Remember, superstitions and religions originated in the minds of imaginative people centuries and millennia ago. This will lead us to point B.

B. SUPERSTITIONS/RELIGIONS

For thousands of years, religion and folklore have attempted to explain things unknown—including “ghostly” visitors. Since these accounts can be ridiculous, there is an appeal to “objective science” and rationale for a “final,” “logical” resolution. (We will get to that in point F. Thank you for your patience.)

According to Genesis chapter 3, religion is man’s oldest “crutch.” If he believed the greatest spiritual lie in the Garden of Eden (that he can sin against God and then “do good” to make up for it—be his own god and formulate his own set of rules), then he is liable to receive every other spiritual falsehood, too! These various and sundry spiritual beliefs permeate every culture. World religions are immensely diverse, having their assorted elucidations of why the world exists and how it works or should work. See Romans 1:18-32, Acts 14:15-17, and Acts 17:22-31. These truths are connected to the Tower of Babel—where the nations willfully abandoned the one true God, the Creator, and worshipped idols (evil spirits or devils) instead (Genesis chapter 11). We need not wonder why the world is so dark and wicked.

Today’s writers and filmmakers draw on the above ancient sources for inspiration, incorporating them into their works of art. Such ideas are then introduced into and perpetuated in the modern world through “science fiction,” “horror,” and/or “fantasy” media—television shows, internet websites, films, books, and so on. The audience’s emotions now have something to latch onto, which leads us to point C.

C. EMOTIONS

Let us be honest. No one likes an dull, miserable life. By God’s design, we all desire peace, joy, love, and excitement. This is where our imaginations (remember point A?) can get the best of us, though, so we must exercise great caution. To what lengths (however extreme) will we go to obtain peace, joy, love, and excitement? Jeremiah 17:9 was quite express in its declaration: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” There are two unflattering truths here. The human heart is (1) “deceitful above all things” and (2) “desperately wicked.” Not just “deceitful” but “deceitful above all things!” Not just “wicked” but desperately wicked!” Can you sense the gravity of such realities?

Emotions, already misleading (and having no mind of their own), make us vulnerable—especially in times of difficulty. Now we see why bereaved parents get “ghostly visitations” from their departed children, and grieving spouses experience “spirit appearances” after the death of their significant others. Seeking comfort and peace, their troubled minds resort to points A and B, information that is available to them and is useful in coping with the loss. “Perhaps they can come back to us like in the folktales, the movies, the novels,….” That personal touch makes them feel so good inside. Occasionally, we all want a good thrill, something to really shock us, to awe us. It can be a good or bad surprise. “Ghosts” can do just that—provide a good scare—but they do come at the price of falling for delusions!!

If emotionally-driven people surround us, they can, obviously, influence our emotions. Think of the “power of suggestion,” for instance. Emotional people alert us when entering the “haunted house.” Our experience in the “haunted house” is based on how receptive we are to that warning (believe or doubt). Or, those individuals mourning the deaths of loved ones have already seen and heard media (movies, stories, et cetera) in which deceased people return to visit and comfort the living. They are conditioned, more likely to “see” such an event themselves. Again, just how far will we “follow our hearts” to achieve our perverted goal? Keep reading!

D. MEMORY

Dear friends, the human brain—which we still do not fully understand and will never fully appreciate—has an impressive ability known as memory. We can recall information we acquired (read or heard) just seconds earlier… or even several decades ago. Our past experiences and the people we met in life, for example, can we not still see and hear them in our mind as if we were reliving those moments in real-time? It is as if they are sitting right beside us, speaking to us—although they expired several years ago!

As we would insert and play a CD or DVD in a machine, our brain can “play” audio and video clips from our library of life’s memories. Try this experiment. Close your eyes. Can you not vividly picture a loved one who died 10 years back? Try to remember that person’s voice now. Do you hear it playing in your mind? Perhaps it even sounds like something audible, as if others around you could almost hear it as well? Your brain, in some mysterious way, stored that data and has retrieved it for you! Some memories are more difficult to recover than others, but they are all still there—in the deepest parts of the brain tissue. Every last image and word you have ever seen and heard, they are indeed stored away in your brain! This brings us to point E.

E. DREAMS

Friends, have you ever had a dream that seemed so realistic, and yet it was also nonsensical? How confusing! Maybe you woke and sat up in a panic after a nightmare, drenched in sweat and wondering if what you just experienced was reality. (Also, some life experiences are so traumatic they almost seem like bad dreams.) It can be sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction here, as the transition from wakefulness to sleep is gradual. Disorientation is common in such situations. It takes a while to “fully awaken” or “fully fall sleep.”

Sleep occurs in stages, deepening and then lessening. Non-rapid eye movement (nREM) sleep is followed by rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. That second phase, REM, is where our “life-like” dreams occur. It becomes increasingly challenging to discern where reality stops and dreaming starts. On an average night, we dream for approximately two hours (a quarter of our sleeping time). Potentially, over our lifetime, we can dream for 50,000 hours (six years)! That is a lot of time for our brain to process and mull over assorted thoughts.

As best as we understand it, dreams are simply our brain organizing information that we have acquired in the past (especially the recent past). Think of sorting related documents, putting them into separate folders, and finally arranging them all in a filing cabinet. If we were exposed to superstitions recently (books, movies, stories, et cetera), those will be filed away as well. This loops back to points A, B, C, and D. Our mind takes concepts just learned, finds related notions already stored, and places them in conjunction. A “web” is built, with paths to each point/file, connecting them all together. This system is useful to us when we list associated ideas on a sheet of paper.

When we think of death, for example, we will then think of—loved ones who have died, news articles we have read about death, movies and books that we watched that focused on death, scenes in those movies and books that stressed “supernatural encounters and visitations,” religious ideas we have heard about death, and (of course) our imaginations and emotions assemble that into one “jumbled soup.” We can access this gigantic pool of information and extract what is needed to provide us with entertainment, joy, comfort, and acceptance. Depending on what we seek, the “ghosts” thrill us, relieve us, make us happy, make us feel safe, and so on. In short, our dreams draw on our situation at any moment, and while the dreams feel real, they are not.

F. SCIENCE AND THE NATURAL WORLD

(Before proceeding any further, it should be known that this author is a trained scientist with many, many years of formal scientific training at the university level. He is not to be dismissed as some “scientifically-illiterate, Bible buffoon!”)

Skeptics of “ghosts” and cynics of all spirit beings resort to science to disprove all “supernatural” experiences (their ultimate goal is to disprove God’s existence, freeing themselves from the responsibility of personal sins and their responsibility of believing the Bible!). They are correct in appealing to their five senses for something more reliable than, say, old fables passed on by rumor, in unclear texts, and so on. “Ghosts” may also, in fact, have a natural explanation (not just those discussed in Part II, but forces in the natural world apart from the human body). As Bible believers, we would tend to believe supernatural events as true and of God. However, not all supernatural phenomena are good (they can be lies of Satan, who also works in the invisible realm). Not all supernatural events are of God. Since the Bible—the complete Bible—leads us to a certain conclusion about “ghosts,” it is appropriate for us to dismiss them as something other than visitors from the grave. Where the Bible is silent, science can allow us windows into such phenomena—especially with regards to natural forces.

In addition to the components of imagination, superstition/religion, emotions, memory, and dreams, there may be a natural-world explanation for “ghosts”—the wind blowing, squeaky hinges on doors, a structure sagging under its own weight due to gravity, some natural light phenomenon, a building settling on its foundation, minor earthquakes, subsidence (sinking of land), and so on. These noises could produce auditory data that the brain then “reads something into” (go back to points A, B, C, D, and E). Think of supposed “familiar shapes” in cloud formations. Our brain tries to make sense of the random orientation of water vapor droplets, but, of course, we are “connecting the dots” (inserting visual data that is not explicitly there). We attempt to find comprehension in sounds as well—listening for phonemes (distinct speech sounds) when there are none to be heard (as in a whistling breeze, rumbling, sneezing, coughing, et cetera).

This last point was mentioned with one overall goal in mind. We need not fear scientists who boast that they have “disproven the Bible” or “all things supernatural and spiritual are figments of imagination” simply because they have found no credible evidence of true ghosts (namely, life after death, those who have experienced death and returned to provide details). They can brag that our existence ceases after physical death, since they have never meet genuine spirits of any deceased souls. It makes no difference whatsoever to us; no more difference that one who crows the color purple does not exist because he cannot hear it! God’s Word to us, the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon, make it clear that the dead (while physically separated from us) are very much alive in the spirit world (believers in Christ are in Heaven and all else are in Hell). We do not have to see them, just like we do not have to see God Himself to know He exists. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We believe the Bible, and that is that!

This author can hear the objections, “Brother Shawn, but were not people raised from the dead in the Bible?” “Do you not believe in miracles?” “Were there not angelic appearances in Bible days?” “Did not the apostles assume they saw a ghost on the Sea of Galilee?” “Was it not King Saul who desired dead Samuel to commune with him at the witch’s séance?” He would be quite happy to reply!

III. BUT WHAT ABOUT THESE VERSES?!

What about when King Saul visited the witch of Endor and conjured up dead Samuel’s soul from the spirit world? First Samuel 28:7-15: “[7] Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. [8] And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. [9] And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? [10] And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. [11] Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. [12] And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. [13] And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. [14] And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. [15] And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.”

In time past, when the battle was focused on the Earth, and (visible) supernatural experiences were common, various spirits did materialize. These were either good angels (God’s servants) or devils (evil angels). Evil spirits could be summoned, especially with witchcraft (Saul consulting the witch of Endor). (Although it is highly important to note that God was very displeased with Saul, as evidenced by Deuteronomy 18:9-14. He seems to have lost his life because of it, shortly after, in battle.) There were various gods ascending, evil spirits, the witch said in 1 Samuel 28:13. The spirit world was set up differently back then than it is today. We do not read about anything like this occurring in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. There is no such visible spirit activity in this the Dispensation of Grace, although there is certainly an invisible spiritual battle today in the invisible heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16). Since God changed His dealings with man, Satan changed his dealings as well. Satan works through evil doctrine, false teaching, an invisible realm today (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

When the disciples saw the Lord Jesus walking on water, they thought He was a spirit. After all, no ordinary man could do what He was doing! Matthew 14:26: “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Mark 6:49). Whatever the disciples were looking for (the Greek word is phantasma, or phantasm—a ghost), they were certainly not looking for Christ! It is not important that they supposed Him to be a ghost. The point is that He was not a ghost at all, but rather a flesh-and-blood person like us! If it really were a ghost here, that would be a whole different matter entirely. We are not interested in assumptions but rather facts. The fact is that He was not a ghost.

Could “ghosts” be angels?, someone may ask. Well, let us try Acts 12:15, “And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.” Peter was released after an angel visited him. When Peter now stands at the door of some believers, they assume him to really be “his angel.” Guardian angels would appear to people in Bible days (just as one had appeared to Peter in prison earlier in the chapter). Yet, again, like Matthew 14:26 above, Peter as an “angel” here is a wrong assumption. It was a flesh-and-blood man. (We will say a little more about angels shortly.)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Dispensational Bible study is the key to answering “but what about” verses. The spirit world operated differently in Bible days than how it functions today. Almighty God was working in physical manifestations—angelic appearances, dreams, miracle healings, raisings from the dead, and so on. Since God did them in time past, He must be doing them today, right? No! They did not have a complete revelation from God. We, however, do (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 1:23-27). We have a complete Bible, whereas they did not. Whenever someone says “God never changes dealings with man,” that is a flat-out lie. There was a time when there was no Bible at all for man, and now we have a whole Bible. Such two facts cannot be confused unless we wanted to confuse them! Furthermore, hese miracles were in connection with Israel, as “the Jews require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22). Such signs are not for us because we are not Jews!

God deals with us differently in this the Dispensation of Grace, so we should not be looking for extra-biblical (outside of the Bible) communications from any spirit creatures. Hence, (and pay close attention here!!!) we read in Colossians 2:18: “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,….” Angels are not appearing to us today. (Modern versions and their underlying Greek text remove the word “not,” whereas our King James Bible has it. There is certainly a difference between “yes” and “no!!”) Whatever people are witnessing today as “supernatural visitations” (angels, ghosts, “Jesus,” “God,” whatever) the Bible says they are not realistic. It is something in the mind, a hallucination, an emotional upheaval, and the like. We are not really seeing them in the material world. It would certainly not be the God of the Bible either. Sinful man (operating under Satan’s evil world system) is the author of such activities.

IV. CAN CHRISTIANS EXPERIENCE “GHOSTLY” PHENOMENA?

Yes, they could, actually. A Christian woman (this author knows her testimony—she is saved) once told him personally how, while there was nothing visual, she heard behind her the voice of a relative who had died many months earlier. The voice called out her name. How vivid and crisp that voice was, but she turned around to see no one there. This author would not doubt that she “heard” something, but was it really that loved one speaking? Was it an audible voice? Based on what this author knows from the Bible about the condition of the dead (in Heaven or Hell), he would say no. The deceased person was not speaking. So then, what was it, you ask?

Remember, as we discussed in Part II, our memory is a powerful faculty. It is quite easy to hear in our minds the voices of people we knew throughout our life. We can picture them in our minds as though they were still living. Believe it or not, your brain has recorded your entire life. This author says this based on the statements of a neurosurgeon (brain surgeon). As mentioned earlier, we have embedded in our memory every image we have ever seen, every book we have ever read, and every conversation we have ever heard! These memories are difficult to access, but they can be recovered. The Christian lady, without being aware, summoned that thought of her deceased relative and she “heard” a “mental recording” of what the relative said while alive. That person’s death was still fresh on her mind, and her mind (sinful) tricked her. As per God’s design, the human brain is a very powerful organ, but sin has corrupted it. This author doubts we will ever be able to fully comprehend the mental capabilities God furnished us with!

Many, many years back, this author had a supernatural experience. A hideous face appeared on a mirror in his parents’ bedroom. Exactly how it formed there he could not determine. It was not drawn with a marker or etched with a blade, but was like a faint residue of some type. He and his mother both saw it, but his father said he did not. They wiped it away with a cloth and never saw it again. What could be a logical explanation for this? In reality, he and his parents had watched a horror movie earlier that week! He and his mother had been conditioned to such “supernatural” events with the film, whereas his father (although he watched the film) had not become engrossed in it as they had. They were all saved (members of the Body of Christ) at the time but they did not have any sound Bible doctrine. They were still stuck in denominationalism and superstition. It seems likely that this author and his mother were trying to “make sense” of something imprinted on the mirror. Perhaps they had a greater imagination than his father?

When this author was a small boy, he visited a local “haunted” antebellum (pre-Civil War—150-plus years old) plantation house. Despite its violent history, he did not recall seeing or hearing anything abnormal. Over a year ago, he toured another “haunted” Louisiana plantation mansion. While some visitors and staff have experienced strange sights and sounds over the years, nothing bizarre occurred while he was there. He simply was not open to that influence. His mind and heart did not entertain such notions. And, of course, he had matured in sound Bible doctrine to guard himself against Satan’s distractions anyway.

A Christian lady contacted this author long ago about constantly seeing an “evil spirit” at her bedside. There may have been mental illness on her part, although he cannot say for sure. However, it is interesting that she claimed the spirit was at her bedside of all places. In other words, she may have been dreaming, or in some dream-like state, and just did not realize it. As he listened to her, she showed herself to be so denominationally minded, tossed to and fro with all sorts of wild ideas. Her preacher had even given her a prescribed prayer to utter to make the spirit go away. This author gave her some Bible passages to read and believe, and never heard from her about it since! Whatever the outcome, he does not know.

V. CONCLUSION

We do not have all the answers, but we can say some things with absolute certainty or reasonable certainty. A “ghost” is generally defined as “an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.” Each “ghostly” experience is different, so to reduce all as the result of a single cause is short of the truth.

On the authority of the Holy Bible, though, we know that ghosts are not the dead returning to visit the living. When we “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we do not read about angels appearing to us, or any deceased loved ones visiting us or speaking to us. Verses can be twisted and confused, but the rightly divided Bible simply cannot be used to support the idea of “walking by sight” today. Contrariwise, God says we walk by faith and not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)! Whatever can be said about “ghosts,” the God of the Bible is not involved.

What happened in time past, when the battle was focused on the Earth, and supernatural experiences were common, various spirits did materialize. We are not under those conditions today. These were good angels and evil angels (devils). Evil spirits could be summoned, especially in the case of witchcraft. Think of King Saul visiting the witch at Endor to conduct a séance—various gods ascending, evil spirits coming out of the center of the Earth. The Apostles saw exorcisms during Christ’s earthly ministry. Evil spirits would literally flee from the bodies of the afflicted. Good angels appeared to people in Bible days. These angelic visitors certainly had the semblance of people—namely, men and not women (see Mark 16:5, Acts 1:10, Revelation 21:17, et cetera)!

“Ghosts” can result from a number of factors. Such a situation seems to originate from one factor, or any combination of the following factors with respect to the human body—(A) Imaginations, (B) Superstitions/Religions, (C) Emotions, (D) Memory, and (E) Dreams. Sin has corrupted our imagination—both individually (one human) and corporately (humanity). Satan operates an evil world system that feeds that imagination. These imaginations fabricate various superstitions and religions, as well as books and films on the “supernatural.” Since we are emotional creatures, and emotions are deceitful, they can cause our hearts to be “receptive” to practically any notion—no matter how far-fetched it is. People seeking comfort, thrills, joy, and love will imagine their departed family and friends returning to them for one last goodbye. They want to feel safe and at peace, so they will imagine deceased loved ones promising to protect them. Films, religion, superstition, books, all play into this experience of seeing “the supernatural.” Memories from real-life—people’s voices and faces—can be played in the mind, especially as a way to console and cope with their loss. Our mind will use all of this information to present a quite realistic “movie.”

What we consider “ghosts” today may be physical phenomena, explainable or unexplainable at present. The wind can whistle, old houses can creak and settle. Culture influences our imaginations to attribute these sounds and behaviors to “ghosts.” Horror movies and terrifying books have conditioned us to associate those noises with ghostly activities. Superstitions and religions are the foundation of a region’s folklore, remember. We must also face the reality that some people are outright faking “hauntings,” staging scenes and rigging props simply to gain attention, generate revenue with tours and interviews, write and sell books, et cetera. There is a possibility of mental illness. However, not everyone is faking or lying, and not everyone is mental ill!! It may be an overactive imagination, an emotional weakness, and so on. Even hallucinations—as with prescription or illegal drug use—seem quite real.

In one quick paragraph, we summarize: Without a doubt, there is an emotional aspect to “ghosts.” People want comfort, thrills, attention, joy, et cetera. There is the mental aspect. We have precious life memories that can be accessed at any time. Dreams access those memories, and make them more vivid. Popular culture—science fiction, along with fantasy and horror media—has conditioned us to look for spirits visiting us from beyond the grave (whether in dreams or real-life). The religious aspect—human nature is religious—and the imagination aspect—human nature is creative—all blend together to form our perception of experiences. If we are too engrossed in culture, and too shallow in Bible understanding, there is no limit to how far we will go to achieve our desires.

Also see:
» Does the Bible teach that mental illness is really devil possession?
» Do people become angels when they die?
» How can a loving God send people to hell forever?

Why does Peter start with Samuel in Acts 3:24?

WHY DOES PETER START WITH SAMUEL IN ACTS 3:24?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Why does Peter start with Samuel in Acts 3:24? “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.”

Firstly (and obviously), Samuel was a prophet. Turn to 1 Samuel 3:20, “And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD.” Also, 1 Chronicles 29:29: “Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer,….” (“Seer” is an archaic term for “prophet”—1 Samuel 9:9.) Paul preached in Acts 13:20: “And after that he [God] gave unto them [Israel] judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.”

While it is true that there were prophets prior to Samuel—God using men prior to Samuel to speak for Him (Adam, Noah, Enoch, Moses, Joshua, et cetera)—Samuel was the first to hold the office of the prophet. As seen in Acts 13:20, Samuel was the last of the Israel’s judges (he appeared after the Book of Judges closed). He anointed Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. David is a preview of Jesus Christ and His reign.

Secondly, Samuel is the first prophet in the order of the prophets. That is, he begins the prophets as in the Bible phrase “the law and the prophets.” (“The Law” is Moses’ writings, the Bible’s first five Books, Genesis through Malachi. The Books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth follow; 1 and 2 Samuel come after. Samuel, obviously, appears in 1 Samuel. Joshua, Judges, and Ruth are overwhelmingly history. Samuel is history but also conveys a great deal of prophecy, especially as related to Israel’s Messiah-King Jesus.)

  • Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
  • Matthew 22:40: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
  • Luke 16:16: “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.”
  • John 1:45: “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
  • Acts 13:15: “And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
  • Romans 3:21: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;….”

Acts 3:24-26: “[24] Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. [25] Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. [26] Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Indeed, “the Law and the Prophets” announced Messiah’s eventual arrival in Israel.

Also see:
» Who are the “prophets” of Romans 16:26?
» Are there modern-day apostles and prophets?
» Why did Jesus forbid others from preaching that He was Christ?

How was Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world?”

HOW WAS JESUS “THE LAMB SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The phrase appears a solitary time in the King James Bible—Revelation 13:8. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” When attempting to understand a verse, it always helps to look for other verses containing similar words or phrases. Scripture should be compared with Scripture; after all, every verse is related to at least one other verse. This method of cross-referencing increases the likelihood of exegesis (interpreting the text as Almighty God intended) and minimizes the possibility of eisegesis (interpreting it to fit our own biases and preconceived ideas).

We find something similar in 1 Peter chapter 1: “[19] But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: [20] Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, [21] Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.”

Long before Adam was created and placed on the Earth, long before he sinned in the Garden of Eden, long before Calvary’s crosswork was ever accomplished to undo the damage of sin, that crosswork had already occurred in the mind of the triune Godhead. Jesus Christ’s destiny was predetermined long before He ever became a man, and long before there ever was a creation. Nothing in His earthly life occurred fortuitously; even His miraculous birth and graphic death were in the Godhead’s eternal plan! “Lo, I come to do thy will,” Messiah Jesus, quoting Psalm 40, told His Father at His incarnation (Hebrews 10:7-9). If you read verses 10-22 of Hebrews chapter 10, you will see the cross!!

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—in their omniscience (all-knowledge)—could actually look into the future, down the corridor of time, to see that the Son would suffer and die on Cavalry’s cruel cross. All three Persons would cooperate to work to that end. It was all settled fact in Heaven before it even came to pass on Earth. Notice the Apostle Peter’s astounding sermon delivered in Acts chapter 2: “[22] Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: [23] Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: [24] Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.”

NOTE: We are pleased to (at last) unveil our new five-part Bible study video series! The theme is Israel’s covenants. I hope and pray that you will be edified, encouraged, and enlightened by these 5 1/2 hours of study! Click here to enjoy them on YouTube! 🙂

Also see:
» What is a “daysman?”
» What does God mean, “I am Alpha and Omega?”
» Why is Jesus Christ called “The Word of God?”

Can we date Paul’s Acts epistles?

CAN WE DATE PAUL’S ACTS EPISTLES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Many years ago, very early in this author’s ministry, he asked an older preacher friend if it were possible to date Paul’s Acts epistles using the Book of Acts. (The author had heard that it was feasible, but he did not know any specifics.) To his surprise, the preacher discouraged him with the following disclaimer: “There is nothing in those writings to indicate when they were written.“ Years later, however, the author learned that that simply was not true: internal information allows us to match some of his epistles with chapters in Acts. Frankly, that preacher was either lazy and did not care, or he (like many) was too unfamiliar with the Bible to know any better. In this article, we will demonstrate how we can determine the chronological order of the Pauline Acts epistles.

PURPOSE

Why do this? Chronologists often disagree as touching numerical years. Therefore, some Bible students prefer to date Paul’s earliest epistles by using chapters of Acts as benchmarks. In other words, it is much easier to establish where a Pauline Acts epistle was written in relation to Acts (as in, chapter 20) than to establish its absolute year (for example, A.D. 55). Human calendars are simply too ambiguous concerning such ancient history, but the Word of God is a sure basis for timelines. Dates based on Scripture are much more reliable than human reckoning of time.

As we will see, the Pauline Books, Romans through Philemon, are not ordered in the Bible chronologically. That is, the Apostle wrote them in an order different from the table of contents at the beginning of our Bible. Romans was not his first epistle, and Philemon was not his last. The 13 Pauline epistles are deliberately arranged as such because the Holy Spirit edifies the saint from Romans (basics) all the way to Philemon (maturity). Paul wrote his first six epistles during Acts—Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians. These six are the focus of our present study. Friend, be aware that there will be much verse comparison, but it will be highly profitable. You probably will not grasp this material the first time around—or even the second, third, or fourth—but you keep at it until you do understand!

GALATIANS

Galatians is the Book whose corresponding chapter in Acts is most difficult to pinpoint. The epistle’s very nature nonetheless demonstrates that it was written after Acts chapter 15 (comparable to Galatians chapter 2). Paul visited the region of Galatia—not a city, please note, but a territory—in Acts chapters 13 and 14. Antioch in Pisidia (13:14), Iconium (13:51-52), and Derbe and Lystra (14:1-24) are all in the vicinity of Galatia (modern central and southern Turkey). Paul traveled through Galatia a second time in Acts 16:6-7, and a third time in Acts 18:22-23. Galatians 4:13 seems to indicate that Paul has already visited Galatia at least twice. In fact, he has just left Galatia (Galatians 1:6). All this data places Galatians as being written between the 16:6-7 visit and the 18:22-23 visit. For simplicity’s sake, we will say Galatians was penned in Acts chapter 17 (certainly no later than chapter 18). Exactly where Paul was when he wrote Galatians is unknown, but that makes no difference.

NOTE: Was Galatians written first, or was 1 Thessalonians? There is often difference of opinion. This author’s personal belief—which you can accept or reject—is that Galatians was Paul’s first inspired writing. After all, Galatians is the most convincing Book to defend his Gentile apostleship as separate and distinct from Peter and the 11, and it delineates how the grace message is not to be confused or combined with legalism (Law-keeping, Judaism). Surely, God the Holy Spirit would have wanted this information codified as soon as possible. Galatians, therefore, was likely the first inspired epistle of Paul.

1 & 2 THESSALONIANS

Paul visited Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-9. According to 1 Thessalonians 2:17, Paul has just departed the city (Acts 17:10 explains why). In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, he refers to his unlawful beating and illegal imprisonment at Philippi (Acts 16:19-40). He has already passed through Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1), which historically occurred in Acts 17:15–18:1. From Athens, Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2), and Timothy has since returned to Paul (verse 6). Timothy and Silas are both with Paul as per 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1, corresponding to Acts 18:5 (cf. Acts 17:15). Timothy departed from Paul in Acts 19:22, making it impossible for 1 and 2 Thessalonians to be written anytime after. First Thessalonians was penned in Acts chapter 18, while Paul was in Corinth. Second Thessalonians was written shortly after, but again, no later than Acts 19:22 when Timothy left Paul. Both Thessalonian epistles were written before the two Corinthian epistles.

1 & 2 CORINTHIANS

The two Corinthian epistles, like Romans (below), are the easiest to date because they track Paul as he heads to Jerusalem with the collection for the poor Jewish kingdom saints. He first came to Corinth in Acts 18:1-18. He writes that he has already baptized the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:14-16 cf. Acts 18:8). First Corinthians (16:8,19) claims that it was written from Ephesus in Asia (technically, Asia Minor). The riot at Ephesus (Acts 19:22–20:1) is suggested in 1 Corinthians 16:9. In Acts 19:22, Paul sends Timothy to Macedonia (northern Greece), whereas Corinth is in southern Greece (Achaia). First Corinthians 4:17 and 16:10-11 indicate that Timothy is approaching Corinth. Paul intends to pass through Macedonia according to 1 Corinthians 16:5, which he does in Acts 20:1-2 while making his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:3-4). Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus may have been the couriers who brought Paul’s first inspired epistle to Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:17). Paul departed Ephesus in Acts 20:1, meaning that 1 Corinthians was penned in the final moments of chapter 19 (perhaps 20:1).

As for 2 Corinthians, Timothy was with Paul (1:1). This would be after Acts 19:22 when Timothy left Paul and returned. Paul visited Macedonia followed by Greece (Acts 20:1-2). Thessalonica and Philippi are in what the Bible calls “Macedonia” (modern northern Greece), and Corinth and Athens are in what Scripture terms “Greece” (technically southern Greece, Achaia—2 Corinthians 1:1). Paul penned 2 Corinthians between his visit to Macedonia and stop in Greece/Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:16 and 8:1). Macedonia is roughly where Paul wrote 2 Corinthians (2:13, 7:5, 8:1, 9:2). Titus brings to Paul news from Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 12:18); note that Titus’ name never appears in Acts. The Macedonians have just given donations to Paul (2 Corinthians 8:1-5), meaning 2 Corinthians was written before the Book of Romans (cf. Romans 15:25-27). Second Corinthians 1:8 speaks of the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:22–20:1). Paul is heading to Judaea/Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 1:16; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). He arrives in Jerusalem in Acts 21:17, after which 2 Corinthians could not be written. Second Corinthians 2:13-14 correlates with Acts 16:8-10. In light of all this, 2 Corinthians, therefore, was written during the timeframe of Acts 20:2-3.

ROMANS

As with the two Corinthian epistles (above), Romans is easy to date because it is Paul’s final epistle before he reaches Jerusalem. He arrives in Jerusalem in Acts 21:17. According to Romans 15:25-31, he has just collected donations from Achaia (Corinth) and Macedonia (Thessalonica). Romans 16:23 says Gaius is Paul’s host; Gaius is from Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14). Romans 16:23 is also indicative that Paul is in Corinth, for Erastus is chamberlain of Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20). Paul visited Corinth three times (2 Corinthians 13:1), and Romans was written on his third trip. Phebe was the courier of the Book of Romans (16:1-2). She is a member of the church at Cenchrea; Cenchrea was Corinth’s eastern port/harbor. Romans was written after 2 Corinthians (cf. Romans 15:25-31), for Paul had already collected from Achaia (Corinth). Romans was penned in Acts 20:2-3, after he wrote 2 Corinthians.

CONCLUSION

Using Scriptural data, we can say the following about Paul’s Acts epistles:

  1. Galatians (written Acts chapters 17/18) — penned in ?
  2. 1 Thessalonians (written Acts chapter 18) — penned in Corinth
  3. 2 Thessalonians (written Acts chapter 18) — penned in Corinth
  4. 1 Corinthians (written Acts chapters 19/20) — penned in Ephesus
  5. 2 Corinthians (written Acts chapter 20) — penned in Macedonia
  6. Romans (written Acts chapter 20) — penned in Corinth

SUPPLEMENTAL: PAUL’S PRISON EPISTLES

While Paul was under house arrest in Rome during the two years following the Acts period (Acts 28:30-31), he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. (Luke penned the Book of Acts here.) Paul was released for some time, writing 1 Timothy and Titus during that free period. Recaptured, he was imprisoned in a dungeon in Rome. There, Paul penned a final epistle to Timothy; the Roman government put him to death shortly thereafter (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

  • Ephesians — sent by Tychicus (6:21-22) — penned in Rome
  • Philippians — sent by Epaphroditus (2:25,28-29) — penned in Rome
  • Colossians — sent by Tychicus and Onesimus (4:7-9) — penned in Rome
  • Philemon — sent by Onesimus (verses 10-17) — penned in Rome
  • 1 Timothy — ?
  • Titus — sent by Tychicus and/or Artemas? (3:12) — penned en route to Nicopolis (3:12)
  • 2 Timothy — sent by ? — penned in Rome (1:17) — **Paul’s farewell**

Also see:
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» Were there two imprisonments of Paul, or just one?
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during Acts?

Is it sinful for women to wear makeup?

IS IT SINFUL FOR WOMEN TO WEAR MAKEUP?

by Shawn Brasseaux

A preacher of a bygone day said, “It is a sin for some women not to wear makeup!” Dear friends, comedy aside, we open the Bible and let the Holy Spirit teach us.

The passage frequently appealed to in this regard is 1 Timothy chapter 2: “[9] In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; [10] But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” Does God’s Word forbid women from having braided hair, gold and pearl jewelry, and expensive clothing? Of course not! We must respect the context. The Holy Spirit leads Christian women to behave in a particular way, just as He does with Christian men (verse 8). More specifically, these instructions relate to individual conduct within the local church (but, of course, it extends to the home and beyond).

God instructs Christian women to “adorn themselves in modest apparel.” Simply put, they are to decorate or make themselves attractive with decent or proper clothing. Beauty is not a sin, but vanity and vulgarity are. While this author is not a woman, and does not think like a woman, he can at least read Bible verses and repeat what God says on the subject. It behooves him to be a little graphic here. Certain parts of the human body need to be kept secret; breasts and behinds should be adequately covered. Publically parading one’s body in underclothes is also inappropriate—whether men or women. Since the Fall, physical nudity is of Satan; the devil-possessed man, once naked, put on clothes after Jesus performed the exorcism (Luke 8:27,35). God took bare Adam and Eve and clothed them with animal skins (physically) and the shed animal blood (spiritually) (Genesis 3:7,21).

“That women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety….” Some people are not embarrassed to “show everything they have” on television, the internet, and in public spaces. This is the opposite of the “shamefacedness” God expects Christian women to have. “Sobriety” is the renewed mind, proper thinking, brought about by sound Bible doctrine. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). It is not wise to “advertise” (or flaunt) our bodies—otherwise we bear a striking resemblance to prostitutes!!

“But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” Go back to the beginning of the passage to get the flow: “[9] In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; [10] But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” If we profess to worship the God of the Bible, to know Him personally and serve Him individually, then it is only suitable or proper that our lives reflect His principles. Instead of striving to excessively decorate the outward man with showy materials—pretentiousness—the Christian lady should concentrate especially on good works. It is not a sin for a woman to make herself attractive (braided hair, jewelry, nice clothing), provided that she keeps her priorities straight. Good works are of far greater eternal value than these mortal bodies that will go to the grave if the Lord continues to tarry. Makeup, jewelry, and gorgeous wardrobes are not a substitute for good works. Flamboyant clothing, flashy attire, and eye-catching raiment make a woman the center of attention. This is completely unacceptable. She gains a reputation, not for being a testimony of good works, but rather a billboard for evil works!

Unfortunately, legalists (strict Law-keepers in denominationalism) have used 1 Timothy 2:9 as an excuse to be “goody-goody” in their attempt to be modest. In their system, a woman’s bare ankle is a spiritual crime; she must be covered from head to toe, arms and legs fully covered. Her hair is not cut but wrapped, she wears no makeup, she has no jewelry, and yet she participates in a religious system where God’s grace is so thoroughly disregarded. God will not accept this (works-religion) behavior any more than He will the nudist’s! Dear friends (especially dear sisters in Christ), notice well the good works Christian women should decorate their lives with above all else.

“Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work” (1 Timothy 5:10).

“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:3-5).

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:11-15).

Also see:
» What is “shamefacedness?”
» Should women speak in church? May they ask questions?
» Should Christian women wear head coverings?

“O ye of little faith?”

“O YE OF LITTLE FAITH?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The expression appears four times in the King James Bible, but what does it mean for someone to be of “little faith?” If we examine these references, God’s Word will define it for us.

We start by taking a quick glance at the passages:

  • Matthew 6:30: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
  • Matthew 8:26: “And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”
  • Matthew 16:8: “Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?”
  • Luke 12:28: “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

To avoid any initial misunderstandings, we pause here to comment that one either has faith, or one does not have faith. A woman is either pregnant or she is not. She cannot be “a little pregnant.” It is likewise impossible for us to be “a little alive”—we are either living or we are dead!! There is no way to be “a little saved” or “a little unsaved:” someone is either saved/justified, or lost/damned. Similarly, faith (namely, belief or trust) cannot be measured in degrees. Either we trust or we do not trust. So, then, what of the expression, “O ye of little faith?”

INCIDENT #1: ISRAEL’S PHYSICAL BLESSINGS

Matthew 6:30: “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Luke 12:28: “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

The context (Matthew 6:24-34; Luke 12:13-30) is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking to His disciples who worry about their physical needs being met. Materialism is inappropriate for them. Rather than having partial knowledge of what God is doing with them, they should have more knowledge. He thus issues this doctrine to show them more of God’s plan for them. If they are willing to give up their earthly possessions to follow Him, He will take care of them financially (cf. Matthew 6:32-34; Luke 12:31-34; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:31-37; Acts 11:27-30; Revelation 12:6,14; Revelation 13:16-18; Micah 7:14-15; Matthew 6:11; cf. Exodus 16:1-36; Psalm 78:11-31). Dire circumstances, even destitution, should not distract or discourage them; they are to stick by His Word and He will see them through their hardships (especially during the end times, the reign of the Antichrist)!

INCIDENT #2: THE STORM AT SEA

Matthew 8:26: “And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.”
Compare that to Mark 4:40, the parallel passage: “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”
Finally, contrast that with Luke 8:25, the other parallel verse: “And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

“O ye of little faith?” “How is it that ye have no faith?” “Where is your faith?” These appear contradictory on the surface; however, when we think critically, they show themselves to be complimentary. The disciples’ faith or trust was in their circumstances (the storm) rather than God’s Word. Jesus had already told them that they would reach the other side—as in, not even a storm will stop them or kill them!!

Consider Luke 8:22: “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.” In verses 23-24, they panicked, behaving as though they would sink and drown in the tempest. How could they die? Earlier, the Lord had told them they would reach the opposite shore! They should have trusted Him, but they were sidetracked, and merited His scolding.

Where was their faith, their focus? Not in God’s Word but on their troubles! Hence, “no faith” (as in, no faith that God accepts). Their “little faith” was nothing but a limited or faulty understanding of what God was doing with them!

INCIDENT #3: BEWARE OF FALSE DOCTRINE

Start at the beginning of Matthew chapter 16: “[1] The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he [the Lord Jesus Christ] would shew them a sign from heaven. [2] He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. [3] And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? [4] A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

“[5] And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. [6] Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. [7] And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 

“[8] Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? [9] Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? [10] Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? [11] How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? [12] Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

What is the matter? The disciples’ understanding is distorted. They are thinking in terms of physical things (tangible leaven in actual food) when, in fact, Jesus was speaking about spiritual issues (leaven in a figurative sense, false teaching spreading as yeast causes the entire lump of dough to rise). As the companion passage will prove, the disciples have little comprehension of what God is doing and saying yet again.

Turning to Mark chapter 8: “[17] And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? [18] Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember? [19] When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. [20] And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. [21] And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?”

Had the disciples been receptive to God’s Word revealed earlier, they would have perceived the latter spiritual truths. Alas, since they were not walking in the light they had, they stayed in the dark! This is true in all three incidents.

CONCLUSION

“O ye of little faith” is not that they believed God a little bit. It is not that their trust was a “speck” when it should have been mountain. No, rather, they understood God’s Word a little bit. They had grasped such a small amount of, or had limited insight into, what Almighty God was saying to them and doing with them. Instead of holding fast His Word, they began to look at circumstances (distresses and distractions) through the eyes of human speculation. They had no adequate basis for faith—genuine faith. Disregarding God’s Word to them, doubting it, they trusted in their surroundings and the Lord Jesus Christ was displeased. Beloved, how easy it is to fall into that trap even today! Dear friend, let us walk by faith in God’s Word to us, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon. Otherwise, we will be like the disciples of old, confused in and blind to the things of God. 🙂

Also see:
» Has God’s Word failed?
» How should we pray for people enduring natural catastrophes and other tragedies?
» What does it mean to “mind earthly things?”

How many angels will be with Jesus Christ when He returns?

HOW MANY ANGELS WILL BE WITH JESUS CHRIST WHEN HE RETURNS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

While the exact number is unknown to us, the Bible still provides us clues as to how many angels will accompany the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming.

  • Deuteronomy 33:2: “And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.”
  • Jude 14-15: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

At minimum, “ten thousands” is 20,000 (or 10,000 times two). To aid our comprehension, God the Holy Spirit in His written Word groups these angelic soldiers into multiples of 10,000. Just how high that number goes, though, is anyone’s guess. For example, there could be millions of angels in the army that Jesus Christ will lead at His Second Coming. Whatever the exact number, these are “the armies of heaven” of Revelation 19:14. Also pertinent to our study is Psalm 68:17: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.” There are at least 20,000 “chariots of God,” which would indicate there are at least 20,000 angels to drive those chariots! And, just remember, one angel slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36)!!

By the way, the word “saints” confuses people in this context. It is not a reference to Christians here but rather the set-apart, or sanctified, nature of God’s angels. They are the holy angels, “holy” being synonymous with “sanctified,” as opposed to Satan and his angels (cf. Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7,9).

  • Matthew 25:41: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:….”
  • Revelation 14:10: “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:….”
  • 1 Timothy 5:21: “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.”
  • Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
  • Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:….”
  • Mark 8:38: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Luke 9:26: “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”

You will notice that we answered the question as related to the Second Coming (that is, for Israel). Now, we will reply to it as concerning Christ’s coming for us (the Church the Body of Christ) at the Rapture. Only one angel is said to be present at the Rapture, and he is an “archangel” or head-angel (presumably this is Michael, as he is the only “archangel” identified in Scripture—see Jude 9). “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Also see:
» Do people become angels when they die?
» Who are the “saints” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13?
» Did God give angels free will as He gave to mankind?