Monthly Archives: February 2020

Are we dispensationalists guilty of “limiting God?”

ARE WE DISPENSATIONALISTS GUILTY OF “LIMITING GOD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

In order to maintain their traditional view of “God healed bodies in the past so He is still doing it,” Charismatics (spiritual-gift people) and their sympathizers claim we dispensationalists are “limiting God” and “putting God in a box.” Who are we to tell God He cannot heal the sick? Who are we to tell God He cannot empower today’s Christians to exercise the spiritual gift of tongues? Charismatics default to these arguments when dealing with those individuals who question their beliefs and activities. Are these claims answerable? (Indeed, they are, and we start replying to them by asking two of our own questions. Who are we to tell God He must heal bodies? Who are we to tell God He must distribute the spiritual gift of tongues to us?) Here in this, our special-edition 700th Bible Q&A article, we gladly take this opportunity to respond to these claims in greater detail.

I. ISSUE #1: THE GREAT DELUGE—TO BE REPEATED, OR NO?

Dear friend, we are all familiar with the Bible story of the Great Deluge, the global flood that came in Noah’s lifetime. The historical record is chapters 6-8 of Genesis, the first Book in the canon of Scripture. What we are interested in here is what Almighty God said following that most catastrophic event. Turn to Genesis chapter 9 and read the facts: “[8] And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, [9] And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; [10] And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. [11] And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

“[12] And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: [13] I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. [14] And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: [15] And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. [16] And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. [17] And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”

God thrice promised man in the form of a covenant or agreement: “neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood” (verse 11), “neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth” (verse 11), and “the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh” (verse 15). The rainbow in the sky is the “token” or symbol of that Divine promise (verses 12-13,17). Never again will He flood the entire world with water. (This shows us that it was a global flood—certainly not the regional flood that scoffers allege happened.) God swore to us He will never destroy the planet with another flood and we believe He told the truth.

But… wait… if we extend and apply the aforementioned philosophy of the Charismatics, we have generated a real dilemma here. Remember, never should we limit God. It is wholly inappropriate for us to tell Him He cannot flood the whole world again. After all, He can do whatever He wants. How dare we “put God in a box,” how audacious of us to “limit Him,” by saying He will never cause another global deluge! If He wants to flood the world again, He can. Well, dear friend, as you have probably guessed, much sarcasm was employed here to prove a point. These statements are made in complete rebellion to the revealed Word of God.

Is not Almighty God bound to keep His Word? The fact of the matter is that if He promises to do something, He must do it—or He is a liar. We are not putting God in a box. We are not limiting Him. He has put Himself in a box; He has limited Himself. In faith, we are simply acknowledging what He Himself has said concerning the issue! Likewise, when we say that God is not healing physical bodies today and He is not issuing spiritual gifts today, we are merely repeating what God Himself has said in His Word, the Holy Bible. We will deal more fully with that issue later. For now, we must consider a second matter.

II. ISSUE #2: THE MIDDLE WALL OF PARTITION—UP OR DOWN?

Dear friend, Ephesians 2:11-13 is another clear example of God changing His dealings with man: “[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: [13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Is there not a difference between physical circumcision and physical uncircumcision? Yes, there surely is. There was even a time when Almighty God saw a spiritual significance in being physically circumcised and a spiritual disadvantage in being physically uncircumcised (see Genesis 17:1-27). That is not true today. We would have to not want to see it not to see it.

“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6). “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Galatians 6:15). Again, who are we to “limit God” and “put God in a box?” Why can we say that physical circumcision is not spiritually beneficial today? Because God said so through the Apostle Paul. How can we say that physical uncircumcision is not spiritually detrimental today? Again, because God said it through Paul. God limited Himself. He is bound by His words today not to treat a Jew any differently than He treats a Gentile (non-Jew). The ground is level at the foot of Calvary’s cross.

In the “but now” (Ephesians 2:13), in the “Dispensation of Grace” (3:2), God sees “no difference” between Jew and Gentile. “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:22). “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Certainly, this was not true in time past!

Can God lie? Does He lie? Well, if we are to avoid “limiting God,” then how could we confine His words to the realm of truth? After all, as the Charismatics claim, we cannot put Him in a box! The fact of the matter is Hebrews 6:18 already told us “it [is] impossible for God to lie.” We can therefore “limit Him” because He Himself is limited here. He always tells the truth. He never lies. This is an absolute boundary He does not cross at any time. It appears as though we must “put God in a box” here… lest we make Him out to be a liar!

III. ISSUE #3: WHO IS GOD—HE OR WE?

Make no mistake: God is God. As the Creator, He makes the rules. Sinful human flesh rebels against that fact. Man wants to do what he wants to do! “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6). Like a child defying his parents, man challenges God by creating his own set of rules. He deviates from the path God ordained him at Adam’s creation. At this point, it should be stressed that man’s heart misleads him: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). He thinks he is doing God’s will but he is not. He assumes he is doing right but he is not. The defense mechanisms echo even today: “I am not all that bad. Sure, I make a mistake here and there, but I try to do a good deed here and there to make up for my wrongs. In the end, I think I have something good to offer God.”

Human nature has two extremes—asceticism and lasciviousness. The former is the “religious crowd,” those who meticulously observe the rules of piety for the sake of self-discipline. They take great care in denying themselves of worldly pleasures. “We do not drink alcohol, we do not smoke cigarettes, and we do not carouse and commit illicit deeds.” Prayers, fasting, almsgiving, commandments, ceremonies, rites, and rituals mark this course of life. Asceticism promotes human goodness, a way to show God how a human can “self-reform” and “behave.”

The latter is the “loose crowd,” the rough and rowdy bunch. Instead of observing rules as the ascetics, the lascivious crowd has no rules. It is an example of human misbehavior—a complete disregard for order and decency. To the degree the ascetics have “given up” debauched conduct, the lascivious indulge in it. Neither is acceptable to God, for asceticism and lasciviousness alike are but futile attempts to substitute man’s thoughts and works with those of the Lord Jesus Christ. God wants neither self-righteousness (asceticism) nor selfishness (lasciviousness).

Dear friend, Christians need to be careful in that both extremes creep into daily thoughts and behaviors. If we mind the things of the flesh, we will walk after the flesh—and that can result in asceticism, lasciviousness, or both! The Charismatic Movement is a mixture of both. For example, they tend to shy away from profanity, vulgar clothing, and so on (going so far as to forbid women from wearing pants, prohibiting jewelry and makeup, and so on). Yet, chaos and confusion mark their services. Individuals will actually tremor, roll around on the floor, jump and run across auditoriums, raise their voices in “unknown tongues,” and so on. This is a combination of human lasciviousness and human asceticism. It has the appearance of human good: they shout “Praise Jesus!” in a church setting. Yet, it also resembles a drunken party at a nightclub—their “alcohol” being emotions and religious tradition.

Again, it is a tricky situation. Our heart is so sinful that, unless we are walking in the spiritual light that we have (minding the Scriptures we know), we will fall into the trap of opposing God’s will and yet believing we are fulfilling it. For instance, if there is a course of action we want to take, if we desire to adopt a particular view, we can flip through the pages of the Bible and find something somewhere to justify it. It is no secret that people, for centuries, have grabbed verses and taught innumerable outlandish ideas. All cults, sects, and denominations have at least a few Bible passages to support their teachings to some extent. Their doctrinal statements did not just appear out of thin air. Even with a weak biblical foundation, the founders and hierarchies of these groups present quite a convincing case when scouting for new members. Enamored, prospects exclaim and surrender: “It is a group that uses the Bible, so it must be God’s group for me!” (Check Matthew 4:6, where Satan uses the Bible too!)

Dear friend, never should we want to limit God. We, such fallible and weak beings, are unable to do that anyway. However, we can see ourselves as God… and then believe that any limitations placed upon us are actually limitations of God’s work. We are now living in a world of delusions instead of reality. If we are not aware of what God is or is not doing, we cannot accurately judge what is and what is not acceptable. Unquestionably, God behaved a certain way in time past. However, that does not mean He is still working in that same manner today. Before we go around accusing anyone of “putting God in a box” or “limiting God,” perhaps we had better study our Bible and see what restrictions God has placed upon Himself.

Earlier, we saw two examples, two issues, which highlighted how God’s dealings with man have changed. Let us briefly consider a third one. Should we offer animal sacrifices as instructed in Leviticus and Numbers? After all, if God commanded them back then, why will He not accept them today? Once again, should we be “limiting God?” Yet, we remind ourselves we never read anywhere in the New Testament Scripture about animal sacrifices required today. We will have to “limit God” here as well because He has restricted His current dealings with man so they do not involve animal sacrifices. Although God accepted such practices in time past, He does not accept them today.

Here is what religious people want to do. They think that they can draw a box and then make God jump into it. If someone questions their actions, then they are under the impression their critic is “limiting God.” In reality, God has placed restrictions upon Himself—and He will not break His Word in order to cater to the whims of sinful man. Unlike them, He does not value church traditions, denominational systems, and so on. Such is the case with bodily healings and the gift of speaking in tongues. While these are certainly components of a program God once operated, that is the very point—that program is no longer in effect!

IV. ISSUE #4: IN WHICH DISPENSATION DO WE LIVE—LAW OR GRACE?

Dear friend, we would do well to see that, in light of the dispensational change from prophecy to mystery, God has stopped doing things that He once did. The Holy Spirit Himself provides many such examples in the Books of Romans through Philemon, but we will focus on just two of them: physical healing and the gift of tongues.

“Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). How unfortunate that the great Apostle Paul, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, “put God in a box.” Paul was under the impression he—and all other people—no longer had the spiritual gift of healing. He also believed Timothy could not heal himself either. Paul’s advice to use wine as medicine was evidently given under the assumption that no “Divine healing” would be bestowed upon Timothy. The absence of supernatural healing is surely striking here, is it not—especially since Paul performed numerous such miracles throughout his Acts ministry?! In one of the final inspired statements he wrote, Paul penned: “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick(2 Timothy 4:20). Did Paul expect Trophimus to be healed? No. Is there any indication Trophimus was healed after Paul’s departure? No, there is none. Second Timothy was the last Bible Book Paul wrote. (Paul “limited God?!”)

It would seem as though Paul knew the frail, dying condition of any and every human body. Lost and saved alike, non-Christian and Christian, we are all under the curse of sin. Bodily sickness is inevitable. Romans 8:18-25 comments: “[18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. [19] For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. [20] For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, [21] Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. [23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [24] For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? [25] But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

What Paul hoped for, what his expectation was, was not a temporary healing of a physical body that would die anyway. He looked forward to a resurrection—commonly called the Rapture—wherein these ailing bodies would be exchanged for eternal bodies. You can also look at 1 Corinthians chapter 15 for more information, but, here, we will see Paul’s second epistle to Corinth.

We read in 2 Corinthians: “[4:16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. [4:17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; [4:18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. [5:1] For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [5:2] For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: [5:3] If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. [5:4] For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. [5:5] Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. [5:6] Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: [5:7] (For we walk by faith, not by sight: ) [5:8] We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

The Holy Spirit guiding his mind and pen, Paul spoke of these physical bodies—the “outward man”—as “perishing” (4:16). As one brother said long ago, “All the ‘healing’ claims aside, the death-rate is still one apiece!” The Greek word rendered “perish” is “diaphtheiro,” used of the moth that “corrupteth” (eats) clothing and other transitory possessions in Luke 12:33. Our bodies are likewise being consumed with the passage of time—the aging process is diminishing our vigor and strength. It is depressing, but rather than deny it, Paul had the Divine mindset to overcome the despair. “Yes, this old body of flesh and blood is indeed headed for a cemetery plot, but, with every passing day, the spiritual body inside is becoming stronger and more vigorous!” Ephesians 3:16 says of Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Ephesus, “That he [Father God] would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” Until our physical bodies are redeemed, we patiently waiting for bodily resurrection, we enjoy a spiritual healing like nothing else!

V. ISSUE #5: WHAT IS OUR PREFERENCE—TEMPORARY PHYSICAL HEALING OR ETERNAL SPIRITUAL HEALING?

“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). “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Friend, as we study and come to a greater and greater awareness of God’s Word, as we believe what we read, it gives the Holy Spirit more and more control of our thoughts and lives. This leads to spiritual health—the “inner man” or “inward man” maturing, strengthening. Read 1 Timothy 6:3: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness….” The Greek word for “wholesome” is “hygiaino,” which obviously gave rise to our English term “hygiene.” Christ’s words to us through the Pauline Epistles, Romans through Philemon, can heal our soul to the degree the healing miracles cured physical bodies in Bible days.

Notice: “And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole [hygiaino] need not a physician; but they that are sick” (Luke 5:31). Here is spiritual healing. The word is employed now for physical healing: “And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole [hygiaino] that had been sick” (Luke 7:10). The “sound” doctrine of the Scriptures rightly divided can lead to spiritual healing, strengthening, health: “For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound [hygiaino] doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:10-11).

“Hold fast the form of sound [hygiaino] words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). “But speak thou the things which become sound [hygiaino] doctrine:…” (Titus 2:1). “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound [hygiaino] doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). Here is the spiritual health that sound Bible doctrine actually produces: “This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound [hygiaino] in the faith;…” (Titus 1:13). “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound [hygiaino] in faith, in charity, in patience” (Titus 2:2).

Of course, “sound [hygiaino] doctrine” is said to be that which the professing church will disregard. Second Timothy chapter 4 says to this point: “[1] I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; [2] Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. [3] For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; [4] And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

Did you catch verse 3? There are those who follow their “own lusts” or personal desires—spiritual lasciviousness! How do these people operate? Tossing out sound Bible doctrine—that which promotes spiritual health or integrity—they embrace “fables.” Such stories become the basis for their teaching, morality, and so on. Certainly, the “healing testimonies” of the modern Charismatic Movement fit right in here! Such storytellers do not know what God is doing today (as found in Paul’s epistles—our earlier comments), but they certainly want to go back to what God in the previous dispensation (healing miracles and the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues). Walking by sight and not faith, they look for signs and wonders. Instead of emphasizing spiritual health, they stress physical healing. They have not learned Romans chapter 8, and 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5!

VI. ISSUE #6: WHAT SHALL WE CHOOSE TO HEAR—THE WORD OF GOD, OR THE TONGUES OF MEN?

Charismatics will tell us that one of the signs of the Holy Spirit working is when individuals speak in a “heavenly tongue,” some ecstatic utterance. They point to Acts chapter 2, obviously, as their main proof text: “[1] And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. [2] And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. [3] And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

First Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 are also used to defend this practice of tongue-talking (although, upon closer inspection, most of chapter 14 is actually ignored). The fact of the matter is that chapter 13, sitting in the middle, attaches a major condition to spiritual gifts: “[8] Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

Even if we were to adopt the erroneous view that the gift of tongues will cease once we get to Heaven (Heaven and the Lord’s coming absent from this context!), that itself is an embarrassing admission that God does not always do the same thing forever. If God never changes, then, by the Charismatics’ own claim, He will always (without end!) issue the gift of tongues and that would render 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 meaningless. Even in Heaven there would be the gift of tongues! Remember, as the anti-dispensationalists claim, “Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). So, we are now forced to believe the gift of tongues will never, ever pass away. It never ceased after Acts, and it will never terminate—even in Heaven. (Which even Charismatics do not believe!) Do you see how dangerous this gets, friend? If we do not recognize God limiting Himself, we open ourselves to all sorts of possibilities. Nothing in the Bible will mean anything. Scripture will become destructive rather than edifying.

Here is plain truth. The gift of tongues ceased when the Bible canon was completed just after the close of the Acts period some 2,000 years ago. Exactly as 1 Corinthians chapter 13 predicted, partial knowledge gave way to complete knowledge. Limited preaching gave way to complete preaching. We have all revelation from God now—otherwise, the Bible is incomplete, and we fall into the heretical trap of “continuing inspiration.” This is the same idea that led to the Book of Mormon, the supposed “sequel” to the Bible. Various other cults equate their founders’ writings with Scripture, failing to realize God stopped issuing new revelation to man 20 centuries ago. Again, God limited Himself by saying He has nothing further to say. We have the entire will of God already manifested in the Holy Scriptures. We either believe that, or we do not! (If we do not recognize God limiting Himself here, we will always be adding to the Bible!!)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 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:…” (Ephesians 1:8-10). If we understand that God’s revelation to man has ceased, then we are simply recognizing God’s own words on the subject. He has limited Himself, and is bound by that Word not to keep dispensing new revelation. There is no “hidden will of God.” With Paul’s revelation written in Romans through Philemon, all has been disclosed! Or, if we prefer, we can limit our spiritual health and understanding by ignoring the verses just presented.

VII. CONCLUSION

Try as we might, friend, we can never limit God. Furthermore, as passionately as we may attempt, we can never force God to do something He is not doing. He is God; we are not; that is that! While we can “fake” it for a while, we can never replace God’s work (either what He did in the past or what He is currently doing). Dispensationalists understand God’s revelation to man and work with man changes through time, as we move in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. If we disregard these dispensational boundaries, we have an agenda of doing whatever we want to do with the intention of blaming God for the consequences of our folly.

Would it be appropriate for us to say that God is not planning to flood the whole world again? It would be wholly disrespectful of us to tell God what He can and cannot do. Yet, we are not telling Him that. He is telling us what He will not do. We do not have to fear another global flood. After all, God Himself made that very promise. Would we be telling the truth if we said God sees a spiritual advantage to being a Jew and a spiritual disadvantage to being a Gentile? No, we would be lying. What was once true concerning God’s dealings with man is no longer true. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile today. All in Adam are equally lost, and all in Christ are equally saved.

“We cannot limit God. We cannot put Him in a box! If He healed sick bodies then, He is still doing it now! If His Spirit moved people to exercise the gift of tongues then, He is still doing it now! Jesus never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” Considering all that we have discussed now, will we continue with this soggy, worn-out, now disproved argument? If we retain that mentality, knowing what we have already discussed in this treatise, then we have exposed ourselves as promoters of mere spiritual lasciviousness. We are doing what we want, without any boundaries. We have now also made God appear to be operating without any self-imposed limitations. His actions are no longer predictable or understandable. Spiritual darkness creeps in—and we have limited ourselves in seeing greater light from His words!

Is not God bound to keep His Word? If He promises to do something, He must do it or He is a liar. We dispensationalists are not putting God in a box. We are not limiting Him. By making promises and writing them down in the Holy Bible, He has put Himself in a box. He has limited himself. We are simply acknowledging what He Himself has said about His own work. Will you disagree with Him, friend? When we say that God is not healing physical bodies today and He is not issuing spiritual gifts today, we are merely repeating what God Himself has said in the Scriptures.

Furthermore, we rather disrespect God when we try to force Him to do things He is no longer doing. We rather limit God when He wants to have us focus on the inward man but we show more interest in perpetuating this outward man with healing miracles. Rather than emphasizing His written Word, the completed Bible, we are looking for more supernatural communication. The spiritual gift of tongues is just one of many such “experiences” that replace Bible study and sound Bible doctrine in Charismatic assemblies. “I do not care what the Bible says! I know what I saw and I know what I felt, and I want more!” Such people have limited themselves to have a limited understanding of God’s purpose and plan for the Dispensation of Grace and the Church the Body of Christ! Here is one self-limitation they do not realize… yet, they will accuse us dispensationalists of “limiting God?” Ridiculous and tragically ironic!

Also see:
» Was the Apostle Paul a false prophet?
» “But, what if I do not accept the Bible’s authority?”
» “If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant?”

Who are the “vipers” of the New Testament Scriptures?

WHO ARE THE “VIPERS” OF THE NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Who exactly are these “vipers,” and why are they so called?

  • Matthew 3:7: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
  • Luke 3:7: “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
  • Matthew 12:34: “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
  • Matthew 23:33: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”

“Vipers” is, of course, metaphorical. These are flesh-and-blood humans like us, not cold-blooded reptiles with forked tongues and scaly bodies. (Surely, we are using common sense here, right?) Yet, a figure of speech does not detract from the truth being conveyed in the Scripture. For example, our English expression, “He is a snake,” is non-literal and carries the idea of “treacherous; an insidious enemy.” A related idea is, “She is a snake in the grass.” This appellation denotes someone who feigns friendship, an opponent who pretends to be an ally. Another similar English idiom is, “to nourish a viper in one’s bosom”—to befriend a person who proves to be treacherous. Again, metaphorical language in the Bible does not deny a literal truth underlying the expression. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says the following concerning these “vipers” (Greek, “echidna”) of the New Testament Scriptures: “cunning, malignant, wicked men.”

The idea of snakes in Scripture finds its origin in Genesis chapter 3: “[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…. [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 compare this to 2 Corinthians 11:3: “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” (cf. Ephesians 4:14). Also, Revelation 12:9: “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Finally, Revelation 20:2: “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,….” The “serpent” of Genesis chapter 3 was Satan himself—pretending to be a friend but nothing more than a sneaky enemy. Likewise, the Lord Jesus Christ addressed the Israeli religious leaders in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” In other words, they are working in tandem with Satan. They are his children because their spirit is united with him—but looks are deceiving because they appear godly (see Matthew chapter 23)!

Ephesians chapter 2 says of lost people, including Israel’s unbelieving religious leaders during Christ’s earthly ministry: “[1]…. 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.”

Now, we turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 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 uses works-religion to blind and confuse individuals even now. This was true of Israel’s religious leaders 20 centuries ago during Christ’s earthly ministry. It was true of Cain back in Genesis chapter 4, for apostate religion is what drove Cain to kill his brother Abel! “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Apostate religionists murdered God’s other prophets throughout the Old Testament—and the adherents of this corrupt religious system eventually put Christ on the cross as well (Luke 11:45-54)! They all hid under the guise of religion; their piety was faked. Pretending to love the Bible and claiming to worship God, they rejected God’s Son and crucified Him in rank unbelief. They were “vipers” indeed!

SUPPLEMENTAL: THE APOSTLE PAUL AND THE VIPER

Considering what has gone before, we now understand the Apostle Paul’s bizarre encounter with a literal snake in the opening verses of Acts chapter 28.

“[1] And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. [2] And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. [3] And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. [4] And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. [5] And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. [6] Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”

Why did the Holy Spirit deem it essential to include this in the record of Scripture? We must remember the purpose of the Book of Acts. It is not, as commonly assumed, a book of doctrine; rather, Acts is the record of God being just or fair in temporarily setting aside apostate national Israel. The unbelieving Jewish religious leaders that so vehemently opposed Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry are still rebelling against Him—that is, His Apostles—during the Acts period. Whether the 12 Apostles during the first half of Acts, or the Apostle Paul during the latter half, Israel refuses to listen to any and all of these men filled with the Holy Spirit.

First Thessalonians chapter 2 thus remarks: “[14] For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judæa are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: [15] Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: [16] Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”

The nation Israel fell back in Acts chapter 7, when she stoned God’s spokesman Stephen. She is fallen at the time of 1 Thessalonians 2:16 (written around Acts chapter 18, for Paul visited Thessalonica in chapter 17). Another passage to consider here is Romans chapter 11, penned in the opening verses of Acts chapter 20: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

Again, Israel fell in Acts chapter 7, and she diminished until the close of the Acts period. Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle in chapter 9, his ministry overlapping with Israel’s fading. If we go back to the literal viper latching onto Paul’s hand in chapter 28, we see a picture of apostate Israel attacking him throughout the Acts period. His unbelieving countrymen plotted to arrest and kill him many times over a period of 30 years. Yet, Almighty God would not let him be destroyed. Even during dangerous and seemingly hopeless circumstances, Paul’s ministry continued. The viper—though venomous—could not annihilate God’s apostle of the Gentiles. Unbelieving Israel, under Satan’s control, under the Serpent’s influence, was unsuccessful in stopping the Gospel of Grace from spreading worldwide! Unharmed Paul, shaking off the viper into the fire, depicts God’s Apostle throwing off apostate Israel into the fires of Divine judgment. Paul’s provoking ministry to Israel—his Acts ministry—terminates at the end of that chapter.

Also see:
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» What about snake-handling?
» What about the “talking snake” in Genesis 3?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Who were “the strong bulls of Bashan?”
» Is Israel “fallen,” or not? Is Israel “cast away,” or not?

Did God “forget” to create Eve?

DID GOD “FORGET” TO CREATE EVE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

When God created the animals, He made them male and female. The Bible’s language is that male and female animals came into existence simultaneously. Adam, however, was created alone. Why?

Genesis chapter 2 relates the matter: “[7] And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. [8] And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man [alone!] whom he had formed. [9] And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil…. [15] And the LORD God took the man [alone!], and put him [alone!] into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. [16] And the LORD God commanded the man [alone!], saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: [17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

“[18] And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. [19] And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. [20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”

Here is one way this passage is handled. The LORD God noticed lonely Adam and confessed a fault: “Oops, I was so busy making him that I forgot to make Eve!” Surely, this is most ridiculous. How could the omniscient (all-knowing) Creator God not foresee the problem in making a single person? Adam’s first moments alive were spent without another person present. It was only later that Eve was created. Why did God wait to form Eve, instead of making Adam and Eve a pair right from Adam’s very beginning?

Adam and Eve were both created on the sixth day, but Adam was created first and Eve was created later that same day. By the time of the seventh day, the Sabbath Day, all of God’s creative work was finished (Genesis 2:1-3). Chapter 2, serving as a review, concludes as touching the sixth day: “[21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; [22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. [23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [24] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. [25] And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

Bible skeptics, or those approaching the Scripture from an immature perspective, will wonder how God could create Adam but “accidentally” forget to place Eve with him. Such is no accident! The arrangement was for Adam’s benefit. It was to reinforce in him the understanding that there was more to his life than his own existence. He should be living for another! Adam could see all the animals with their mates, but he was by himself. Again, he should be living for another! Once God formed Eve and brought her to Adam, then Adam learned firsthand the lesson he would not have known otherwise. Human existence—especially marriage—is not about isolation. We are social beings for a reason.

If we look at life in the Godhead, we will see the absence of selfishness. The three Members of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—live for the benefit of the other two Persons. For example, the Son was submissive to His Father’s will rather His own will: “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36). Jesus Christ went about doing His “Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). The Son said, “I honour my Father” (John 8:49). “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself” (John 14:10). “It is my Father that honoureth me” (John 8:54). “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). “For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2), Father God said of the words the Holy Spirit wrote. The Son said of the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of truth… shall not speak of himself… He shall glorify me” (John 16:13-14).

Genesis 1:26-28 asserts that the Creator God designed mankind to function in a similar capacity. This is the idea of man being made in God’s image, after God’s likeness: “[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.”

Of course, Adam did not walk in that selfless identity, thereby leading to the Fall of man into sin. Today, with the entrance of sin, we behave selfishly. Man is not about living for others; alienated from the life of God, he is all about living for self. Rather than worrying about God forgetting something (which He did not), it is more important we recognize that we have forgotten the lesson God taught Adam using Eve.

Also see:
» Why did God ask where Adam was?
» Did Adam die or did he not die in Genesis 3?
» Could you explain 1 Timothy 2:15?

Why is Jesus called “the Son of Man?”

WHY IS JESUS CALLED “THE SON OF MAN?” DOES THAT MEAN HE WAS A MERE MAN, AND NOT GOD?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The title appears some 210 times in the Holy Bible. Just under half of those occurrences—93 to be exact—are God addressing the Prophet Ezekiel himself. One verse applies it to Daniel the Prophet (8:17). Most of the instances of “the Son of Man” concern the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Occurring 81 times in the Books of Matthew through John, it is actually His preferred self-designation. Why is Jesus called “the Son of Man?” Does that mean, as sometimes assumed, that He is not God? What is the significance of the appellation, especially as it relates to Jesus Christ?

Of course, at the bare minimum, the expression “the Son of Man” highlights one’s humanity. Certain Bible passages make this apparent, especially those in Ezekiel and Daniel (as stated earlier). Moreover, “man” and “son of man” are nearly synonymous in Isaiah 56:2; Jeremiah 49:18,33; Jeremiah 50:40; and Jeremiah 51:43. (There is a subtle difference, and we will delineate it in this study.) The term is also applied to a human when being compared to Almighty God. Let us look at a few sample verses.

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). “How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?” (Job 25:4-6).

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help…. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:3,5). “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith” (Ecclesiastes 1:13). “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass” (Isaiah 51:12).

Two key Bible passages identify the significance of the title “Son of man.” The first is Psalm 8: “[1] O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. [2] Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. [3] When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; [4] What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

“[5] For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. [6] Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: [7] All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; [8] The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. [9] O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”

“Son of man” is associated with God appointing mankind—Adam and his children (us)—as His king or ruler over the Earth. It is man functioning in accordance with God’s will for him. We compare this to Genesis 1:26-28, the final day of the Creation Week before the first Sabbath: “[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.”

The Book of Hebrews provides us with even more light. Read chapter 1: “[1] God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, [2] Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; [3] Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; [4] Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. [5] For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? [6] And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. [7] And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

“[8] But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. [9] Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. [10] And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: [11] They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; [12] And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. [13] But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? [14] Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”

Now, Hebrews chapter 2, the second passage: “[5] For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. [6] But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? [7] Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: [8] Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. [9] But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. [10] For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the writer of Hebrews applied Psalm 8 to the Lord Jesus Christ. What Adam and his children failed to do because of sin, Jesus Christ will do for Father God’s glory. In the Garden of Eden, Adam handed over to Satan his political authority in the Earth (Genesis chapter 3). Satan thus boasted of his earthly power: “Again, the devil taketh him [Jesus] up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matthew 4:8-11).

Here is a great Bible theme: just as Adam is the federal head of the human race (leading to condemnation), so Christ is the federal head of a new human race (leading to justification). Read all of Romans chapter 5. See 1 Corinthians 15:45-47, which also compares Christ and Adam: “[45] And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. [46] Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. [47] The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.” It is expected that, in order to head the new human race, Jesus Christ’s humanity or relation to Adam must be stressed (although He is certainly God as well—verse 47 in a King James Bible, unlike the modern English versions, says He is “the Lord [JEHOVAH God] from heaven”).

Again, Jesus Christ will accomplish what sinful Adam refused to do. Christ will reign in the Earth for Father God’s glory, functioning as Father God’s King of the Earth. Read Daniel chapter 7: “[13] I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. [14] And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Here is Jesus Christ approaching the throne of Father God, the Father anointing Him as King. This loops back to Hebrews chapter 1 (which also ties together Psalm 2, Psalm 45, Psalm 104, Psalm 97, Psalm 110, and so on). This will all occur at Christ’s Second Coming in Revelation chapter 19, Christ actually reigning in chapter 20.

It is also important to note that, when Jesus presented Himself to Israel as her King—as Earth’s King—Israel refused Him. She preferred to have Satan continue ruling her! “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). “And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Matthew 8:20 is the first occurrence of the title in the New Testament Scriptures. The term appears one final time in the Bible in Revelation 14:14: “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.” Notice again the “crown,” His right to reign as King!

We will now look at various other supplementary verses to reinforce our understanding thus far. Remember, the term “Son of Man” as touching Jesus Christ deals with His governmental authority, His Kingship, His political power or might, His God-given right to be Ruler over creation.

  • Matthew 13:41: The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;….”
  • Matthew 16:27-28: “[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. [28] Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
  • Matthew 19:28: “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.”
  • Matthew 24:30: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
  • 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:….”
  • Matthew 26:64: “Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
  • Mark 13:26: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”
  • Mark 14:62: “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
  • Luke 21:27: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
  • Luke 22:69: “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
  • John 1:51: “And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
  • John 5:27: “And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”
  • Acts 7:56: “And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Lest there be any misunderstanding, we close with an important remark. Never should we suppose that Jesus calling Himself “the Son of Man” is in any way a denial of His Deity. He is both “the Son of God” and “the Son of Man”undiminished Deity and full humanity. Actually, He used the term “the Son of Man” in the very same sentence He claimed to be God in human flesh. “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8). “Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28). “And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Luke 6:5). The Greek word for “Lord” here is “kurios;” the Hebrew equivalent is “Jehovah” (“LORD” of the Old Testament). Even as the Son of Man, Jesus also claimed to be the JEHOVAH God who created everything and then rested on that first Sabbath Day (Genesis 2:1-3)!

Also see:
» Did Jesus ever claim to be God?
» Why is Jesus Christ called “the Word of God?”
» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?

Is “Abiathar” a mistake in Mark 2:26?

IS “ABIATHAR” A MISTAKE IN MARK 2:26?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in 1 Samuel chapter 21: “[1] Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? [2] And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. [3] Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.

“[4] And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. [5] And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. [6] So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.”

About 1,000 years later, Christ Jesus comments in Mark chapter 2: “[25] And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? [26] How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?” It certainly seems bizarre that Jesus spoke of a High Priest named “Abiathar” instead of the High Priest Ahimelech. Was He mistaken? No. (By the way, the parallel passages of Matthew 12:3-4 and Luke 6:3-4 do not name any priest. Variations in the Bible are a mark of strength not weakness. There is no “conspiracy” among its writers to try to make everything the same. Verbatim language would be grounds for suspicion.)

Let us first establish the link between Ahimelech and Abiathar. Ahimelech was High Priest at the time of 1 Samuel chapter 21 (our opening passage). Abiathar was one of Ahimelech’s sons. Read chapter 22, especially verses 9-23 (cf. 21:7). Once King Saul hears of Ahimelech helping David, Saul mercilessly executes Ahimelech and all his priestly brethren and sons in Nob! “And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David” (1 Samuel 22:20). Abiathar survives the genocide and becomes an ally of David.

After David becomes King of Judah, he appoints Abiathar as High Priest. “And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David” (1 Samuel 30:7). “And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, and Joel, Shemaiah, and Eliel, and Amminadab” (1 Chronicles 15:11). “And unto Abiathar the priest said the king [Solomon], Get thee to Anathoth, unto thine own fields; for thou art worthy of death: but I will not at this time put thee to death, because thou barest the ark of the LORD God before David my father, and because thou hast been afflicted in all wherein my father was afflicted” (1 Kings 2:26).

The Bible contains no error in Mark 2:26. When Jesus called Abiathar “high priest” here, it is not to say that He thought Abiathar was High Priest at the time of 1 Samuel chapter 21. Abiathar was certainly not High Priest yet. Still, David eventually appointed Abiathar to be High Priest, and this connection is likely what Jesus is underscoring. It is no different from us saying, “United States President George Washington was born and grew up in Virginia.” Of course, we are not implying Washington was president as a newborn infant (no, he was 57 years old when he assumed the presidency!). We are commenting in retrospect, Washington having already served as president. In Mark 2:26, Jesus is speaking of Abiathar in the sense of review: Abiathar has already functioned as High Priest (and that was during David’s reign, David and Christ closely associated). “In the days of Abiathar the high priest” is best understood as “in the lifetime of Abiathar the high priest” (true) as opposed to “when Abiathar was high priest” (erroneous, factually incorrect—which the Bible never said anyway).

Also see:
» Does Matthew 1:8-9 contain errors?
» Is Matthew 2:23 a mistake?
» Is Matthew 27:9 a mistake?

What ever happened to Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather?

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JOSEPH, JESUS’ STEPFATHER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Honestly, we do not know how Joseph’s life ended. Although his name appears in 16 verses, the Bible says little about him as an individual. Here are the few established facts.

HE LIVED IN NAZARETH (NORTHERN ISRAEL)

  • Luke 2:39: “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”

HE WAS SON OF JACOB, SON-IN-LAW OF HELI

  • Matthew 1:16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
  • Luke 3:23: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,….” (Heli was Mary’s father, so Joseph was Heli’s son in the sense of son-in-law.)

HE WAS A BELIEVER IN ISRAEL’S GOD; MARRIED JESUS’ MOTHER, MARY; AND TOOK GOOD CARE OF HER AND YOUNG JESUS

  • Matthew 1:16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
  • Matthew 1:18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Matthew 1:19: “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.”
  • Matthew 1:24: “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:….”
  • Luke 2:16: “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”
  • Matthew 2:13: “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”
  • Matthew 2:19: “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,….”
  • Luke 2:33: “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.”
  • Luke 2:43: “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.”

HE WAS A SON OF DAVID (LEGAL HEIR TO DAVID’S THRONE)

  • Matthew 1:20: “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Luke 1:27: “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”
  • Luke 2:4: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: )….”

HE WAS A CARPENTER, AND FATHERED SEVERAL BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN WITH MARY AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH

  • Matthew 13:55-56 is stated concerning Jesus: “[55] Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? [56] And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?”
  • Mark 6:3 is also stated concerning Jesus: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.”

HIS NAME AS PART OF JESUS’ EPITHET
A few verses about Joseph are his name appearing as a title of Jesus:

  • Luke 4:22: “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?”
  • 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.”
  • John 6:42: “And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?”

HIS LATTER YEARS

As we saw, Joseph was quite active during Jesus’ childhood (Matthew chapters 1 and 2, Luke chapters 1 and 2). He was a good provider and guardian of young Jesus. However, he himself never appears during Jesus’ adulthood and earthly ministry. His name is mentioned in passing, or as a title of Jesus, but his physical absence in key passages is surely striking. For example, Mary and her children appear in Matthew 12:46-50, she is present at Calvary’s cross in John 19:25-27, but there is nothing about Joseph. She last appears in the Bible in Acts 1:14—and again, without Joseph.

What could explain Joseph’s absence in these cases? While not explicitly stated in Scripture, one common idea is that he died during the 18-year period between Luke 2:41-52 (Jesus age 12) and Luke 3:23 (Jesus around age 30). The last historical reference to Joseph is when Jesus was 12 years old. Beyond this, he is not found in the Scriptural record.

How old was Joseph? It is frequently assumed he was much older than Mary—even perhaps married before with children. This “advanced age” idea is then used to bolster the death explanation described in our earlier remarks. However, such a position may not be warranted, as Joseph may have simply died at a young age. In this culture and time, Jewish boys married at ages 15-18; girls were engaged around 13-15 years old and were married in about a year. These were likely the ages of Joseph and Mary when we first meet them in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2. Using this information, we can estimate they would have been near age 50 at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is a cultural assessment, not explicitly stated in Scripture either.

One final note is worth our consideration. Joseph may have very well been alive throughout Christ’s earthly ministry and beyond. The Holy Spirit may have intentionally left out Joseph—not because he was deceased—but because He was concerned with underscoring Jesus’ Heavenly Father (God) as opposed to His earthly (legal) father.

Also see:
» What is the real “Immaculate Conception?”
» Did little boy Jesus know He was going to die on Calvary?
» Did Mary, Jesus’ mother, have a sister also named Mary?

Who were the “Herodians?”

WHO WERE THE “HERODIANS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The English word is a transliteration of the Greek “Herodianoi.” Only appearing by name thrice in the Holy Bible, who are the “Herodians?” “For what saith the Scriptures?”

We look at the three verses in a cursory manner (we will consider them in detail later):

  • Matthew 22:16: “And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.”
  • Mark 3:6: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”
  • Mark 12:13: “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.”

While an enigmatic group, their name suggests they support “Herod” (King Herod the Great, the infamously-cruel king of Matthew chapter 2, and/or his sons and grandsons who ruled after him—collectively, the Herodian dynasty). The Herodians are a political faction not a religious one… although they are united with Israel’s religious leaders in their hatred of Jesus Christ! Beyond this, it is a matter of conjecture as to who the Herodians precisely are.

The most likely explanation is that the Herodians detested direct Roman rule and preferred simply an Israeli kingdom presided over by King Herod Antipas (ruler of Galilee during Christ’s earthly ministry—see Luke 3:1 and Matthew 14:1). In Mark 8:15, the Lord issues the following warning: “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” This reference to “Herod” is evidently the condemnation of the false teaching of the Herodians. They are secular or worldly, focused on politics and are associated with political corruption; therefore, Jesus cautions His disciples not to fall into this trap of evil doctrine.

Let us return to Matthew chapter 22: “[15] Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. [16] And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. [17] Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? [18] But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? [19] Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. [20] And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? [21] They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. [22] When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

For sake of comparison, we read Mark chapter 12: “[13] And they send unto him [Jesus] certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. [14] And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? [15] Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. [16] And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. [17] And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” 

Did you see how the Herodians appear in the context of debating governmental affairs? In this case, they want to know whether or not Jesus supports paying taxes to the Roman emperor. The Herodians evidently loathe the idea, which lends credence to the idea that they abhor Roman rule. Then again, they do not want King Jesus Christ reigning over them either. They prefer the Idumean (Gentile) King Herod! So, the Herodians conspire with the Pharisees to bring about Jesus’ destruction or death. “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6)!

Also see:
» Who are the “lawyers” in Scripture?
» Who were the “strong bulls of Bashan” standing before Christ’s cross?
» Who are the “three shepherds” of Zechariah 11:8?