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Discussions 1

By Jim Roberts


~ Questions & Answers ~

Questions or concerns received by E-mail will be reprinted here along with responses for the benefit of all readers. The identities of those submitting questions or concerns will never be revealed on this website or by anyone connected with BrightWitness.com.

Question:
Why is heaven considered to be such an unknown? Isn't it described rather fully in the book of Revelation?

Answer:
You must be referring to the "Holy City," (the New Jerusalem) as seen by John during his series of visions on the Isle of Patmos. The particular vision of which you speak is recorded in the 21st Chapter of Revelation.

You should remember that the content of Revelation includes a great deal of symbolical phraseology and imagery concerning things which "must soon take place" (Rev.1:1) in the context of John's time.

Look carefully at Rev. 21:9-21 wherein the Holy City or New Jerusalem is "described rather fully," to use your own words. Note what John is seeing. He tells us of jasper, crystal, a high wall, gates, foundations, a measuring rod, gold, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, amethyst, pearls and glass. John also heard certain sounds during this vision. In this passage of Scripture he mentions hearing conversation (the voice of an angel).

How did John know what these things were? Obviously he had seen and heard such things before. Some of these things could be seen in any city, and most of the rest of them in the shops of fine jewelry and gem merchants. Such were (and are) very common to man, having been seen prior to John's time, during John's time, and to this very day. Yet the Bible clearly proclaims that nobody has seen, heard, or even conceived (been able to effectively imagine) what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). When Jesus said, "...I go to prepare a place for you..." (John 14:2-3 NASB), he did not mean Jerusalem or any other place on this earth.

All we know is we've never seen, heard, or imagined in our wildest dreams, what heaven will actually be like. We've used our imagination to great extent, and we haven't even scratched the surface of what God has waiting for those of us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise his Holy Name!

 

Question:
Can a true Christian fall from grace?

Answer:
There is only one kind of Christian…a true Christian. There is no such thing as a “false” Christian. Either one is or is not a Christian by the grace of God and one’s faith in Jesus the Christ.

Some folks claim to be “born again” Christians. When one really thinks about it, that particular identity is a bit misleading, as one cannot be born again without becoming a Christian, and one cannot be a Christian without having first been born again in the context of New Testament truth.    

Many well-meaning individuals, who profess Christianity, are laden with guilt and living in fear of losing their salvation. They have been told that they can “fall from grace,” regardless of their salvation, should they sin and die without being forgiven…again. This twisted interpretation of Scripture represents one of the most damaging forms of man-made doctrine to ever creep into the universal Body of Christ (the Church).

A believer, having been “saved” Sunday and after committing sin on Tuesday, is not “lost” by Wednesday and bound for hell come the following Monday, if they haven’t been forgiven by the subsequent Sunday and thus re-born-again.

Just as Jesus has died and arisen once – for all mankind, so is each believer saved once – for all time. When we become a child of God by virtue of the new birth (having been born from above), nothing and no one can snatch us out of our Heavenly Father’s hand (John 10:29).

Does this mean we become privileged characters and can do as we darn well please and get away with it? Of course not! Nobody mocks God and gets away with it; but rather that one will reap what he or she has sown (Galatians 6:7). Just as an earthly father disciplines the child he loves, so does the Lord discipline and punish whomever he has accepted as a child (Hebrews 12:6). When my father punished me for doing wrong, that form of discipline made me no less his child. So it is with God and his children; a believer is no less God’s child as a result of receiving the Lord’s chastisement for weakening and committing a sin. Salvation is not simply life; on the contrary, it is life eternal.

“Well then,” some might ask, “how do you explain Hebrews 6:4-6, which says: It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss, they are crucifying he Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace?

In this passage of Scripture, the writer of Hebrews is making reference to apostasy, not salvation. Apostasy is the abandonment or renunciation of a religious belief, not “giving back” to God his gift of salvation. How do we know this? We know it because God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). There is no greater gift than that of salvation. Once it is given, it is not taken back.

Apostates are represented by one of the soils or seed-receiving surfaces pointed out in Christ’s famous “Parable of the Sower.” Let’s listen again to the words of Jesus, who said:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and chocked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

Jesus explained the meaning of this parable as follows:

“…When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13: 19-23)

The question we must consider then is – can one who truly believes the gospel of Jesus Christ and accepts his acceptance of them actually fall from the grace of God and lose their salvation?

Let’s look again at Hebrews 6:4-6 which appears above. The word “impossible” is positioned at the beginning of the Greek sentence (Hebrews 6:4), and based on a principle from Greek grammar, indicates that the writer of Hebrews wishes to place emphasis on this term. Elsewhere in Hebrews the same word is used to refer to something that cannot happen. For example, in Hebrews 6:18 we are told that it is impossible for God to lie. In Hebrews 10:4 we’re advised it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, while Hebrews 11:6 makes it clear that it is impossible to please God apart from faith.

Unlike the true Christian who stands with Christ and scorns the shame of the cross, an apostate ultimately stands with those who used the cross to crucify Jesus. Such a person has never really been born again. For them, all things have not become new – the old is not gone – they have not become a new creature in Christ Jesus. The true believer, however, is indeed a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Salvation that can be “lost” by human error is not salvation at all. The salvation won for true believers is for keeps; it is eternal. We can’t get it on our own, and we can’t lose it on our own. It is a gift from God and God does not take back the gifts he has granted.

If you are a true Christian, one who truly confesses with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you are saved and fully trusting in the One…

…who is able to keep you from falling and
to present you before his glorious presence
without fault and with great joy – to the
only God our Savior be glory, majesty,
power and authority, through Jesus Christ
our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!
Amen                                                (Jude 24)

 

Question:
The teacher in my Science class spent an entire week focusing on dinosaurs. Why aren’t they mentioned in the Bible? How could they fit into the ark Noah built?

Answer:
Throughout the Bible, the only animals we find specifically mentioned are those the writers of Scripture deemed significant to human history and geographically-related human economy during biblical times; e.g., sheep, goats, oxen, cattle, horses, donkeys, etc. While the Bible clearly states God created all living things whose natural habitats include land, water, and the air, only a comparative few of the countless species of living things are delineated in scripture. Only broad terms appear in Genesis, such as creeping things, beasts of the earth, winged creatures, and swarms of living creatures in the waters. Recorded in Levitical law are animals considered to be both clean and unclean. Dinosaurs are among a lengthy roster of animals not appearing in biblical content.

Obviously dinosaurs did not significantly impact human history to any extent during biblical times, as there is no record of them found in Holy Writ.

We know from fossil discoveries and scientific studies dinosaurs once existed on Earth. To this day, experts cannot agree on why the dinosaurs ceased to exist. Theories have been presented ranging from asteroids, floods, devastating changes in temperature, loss of food supply, disease, and other suggested causes; yet a solid consensus has not been attained.
There is also disagreement regarding whether dinosaurs became extinct before the existence of man and man’s temporary co-existence with dinosaurs. In the final analysis, we know dinosaurs existed, but we are not certain precisely how, when or why they became extinct.

It is highly doubtful that dinosaurs were on the ark. Why? Because God destroyed mankind, except for Noah and his family, and the numbers of clean and unclean animals and birds among living creatures that God caused to come to Noah for entry into the ark. God’s instructions to Noah concerning the dimensions of the ark were in sync with what God foreknew would be on the ark.

To address your question directly, we can only hypothecate dinosaurs had become extinct prior to the great flood. While some claim they may have perished in the flood itself, that theory conflicts with “LIVING creatures” as noted in the context of Genesis 6:19.

          

Question:
I’ve been a Christian for a relatively short period of time; yet I’ve already encountered numerous interpretations of biblical scriptures. How can I know which interpretation is correct? This is very confusing; shouldn’t the one Bible be interpreted in just one way? Surely the biblical writers didn’t intend to create all this confusion…right?

Answer:
Though it’s unfortunate, what you are experiencing is quite common among Christians, regardless of their tenure in the universal Church. There are several basic reasons at the root of this situation. For example, some Christians interpret the Bible due to denominational dogma. Others will interpret in accordance with the views of clergypersons and teachers they admire. Still others tend to interpret as the result of books they have read, written by touted scholars or theologians. Such books usually consist of in-depth, focused studies, topical discussions in print, or general commentaries.

There is a pair of terms that is bounced off the walls of seminaries and schools of theology on a regular basis. These terms are “exegesis” and “eisegesis,” the latter of which you usually will not find listed in a conventional dictionary. Each term reflects a method of arriving at scriptural interpretation.

“Exegesis” denotes the attempt to determine the historical significance and context, as well as the life setting contained within a particular verse of scripture. Once these factors are determined, truth can be extracted from the verse.

“Eisegesis” often neglects the reaching of such determinations and instead injects experiential theology into the interpretive equation. As individual experiences can differ widely, various interpretations are manifested, giving rise to considerable interpretive dissention.

So, we see modern evangelicals accusing liberal Protestants of applying eisegesis, while mainline Protestants accuse fundamentalists of practicing eisegesis. In the midst of this are Roman Catholics accusing all Protestants of being engaged in eisegesis, because they don’t interpret scripture according to the Holy Tradition of the institutionalized church. To top it off, scholars don’t always agree on what actually constitutes eisegesis. As a result, much is often read into scripture that is not really there and the author’s intent is, therefore, up for grabs and at the whim of individual readers and the mercy of their interpretations.

Despite what you’ve just read, most Bible readers agree on the central themes or teachings found in the Scriptures. Even unbelievers, upon reading the Bible, can identify its primary message.

Where we get into trouble is when we bring our pre-learned notions into our reading of the Bible, and then insist upon making scripture align with our own preconceived, interpretive thoughts and ideas. By doing this, we can certainly produce erroneous results, but we can hardly blame scripture for those results; especially if we are striving to make the Bible proclaim what we want it to say.

If we look closely at the majority of principal denominations, we discover they don’t differ because of division on the main teachings of the Bible or Christianity, but rather they were initially established due to differences over various ancillary points of doctrine, and certain ethnic, cultural or social conflictions.

Before reading any portion of the Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and to grant you understanding. If you feel you have any preconceived notions about scriptural interpretations, ask the Holy Spirit to help you “unlearn” those notions in lieu of leading you into all truth. Remember, the Bible is written for all mankind. The Holy Spirit is here with us to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to guide us into all truth. The teaching ability of the Spirit of Truth is absolutely awesome. Tap into it…avail yourself of it…call on Him to teach you. Thus, you will be able to rely on YOUR interpretation of Scripture, having been tutored by the Spirit of God.

 

Question:
My friend’s father says Jesus Christ never really existed. What can I say to her?

Answer:
Well, you certainly can’t say anything derogatory or insulting about her father; not if you hope to retain her friendship. Rather than trying to “prove her father wrong,” I suggest you simply concentrate on dealing with your friend’s level of belief concerning this issue. There have always been doubters with respect to the existence of certain historical figures or events.

For example, there are those who claim there was never a Roman Official by the name of Pontius Pilate; that his name only appears in the New Testament and nowhere else.  This, of course, is pure nonsense. While it is true there is no known record of Pilate’s parents or his specific date of birth, we know Pilate existed because he was appointed procurator of Judea in A.D. 26 by the Roman emperor, Tiberius. Pilate remained in that office until A.D. 37. In those days a “procurator” was a “prefect” or “provincial governor.” In other words, Pontius Pilate was a man of considerable authority.

In the writings of Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus and Roman senator and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Pontius Pilate is mentioned a number of times including being credited with constructing an aqueduct to bring water into Jerusalem from cisterns near Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. A riot ensued when it was discovered Pilate had funded the project with monies from the Temple treasury. Pilate’s name has also been found inscribed on ancient water piping unearthed by archaeologists.

There are some today who say the Holocaust never happened. To those of us who lived through World War II, this is one of the most ridiculous claims of modern times. The Holocaust is thoroughly documented for the entire world to see. As a boy, I can remember seeing the atrocious images of victims pictured in LIFE Magazine and on the newsreels shown in movie theaters. While serving with the United States Army in Germany some thirteen years after that war, the subject was still being discussed among the people there. It is a matter of record and cannot be disputed.

There are even some who claim that man’s visit to the moon was a hoax. They have no proof of this; yet their claim is voiced. Despite the proof of Pilate’s existence, the Holocaust and man’s reaching the moon, some continue to disbelieve the facts.

So, it is not surprising that many people today claim Jesus Christ never existed. I must be blunt and just come out and say these people are completely ignorant of the facts. The New Testament is not a fairy tale; it is a collection of twenty-seven separate historic documents, all written during the first century A.D. The source of the content of these documents was those who actually witnessed their events.

The existence of Jesus is confirmed in the writings of Flavius Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, III) and Publius Cornelius Tacitus (Annals, XV, 44). In addition, the Roman historian, Seutonius, mentions Jesus in his writings (Life of Claudias 25.4 and Lives of the Caesars, 26.2), as well as Pliny the younger (Epistles, X.96). Therefore, to say the only ancient writings about Jesus are limited to the Bible, is simply a statement made in error.

Jesus Christ has literally altered the path of mankind. No other person in the history of this world has so awesomely impacted the past, present and future of every man, woman, boy and girl living during the past two thousand years. He is God incarnate in the flesh, and he laid the foundation for our salvation on the cross at Calvary.

To deny his existence and fail to believe in him, is to reject that salvation and leave oneself no way of escaping the ultimate judgment of Sovereign God Almighty! 

 

Question:
Which is the Best Version of the Bible?

Answer:
This is a fairly common question and I have heard it asked of pastors and teachers since I was a boy. Over the years I have heard responses that demonstrate a preference for nearly every version in existence. Through it all I’ve had to ask myself, how can the Word of God be so varied and so separated; so differing and so non-absolute. How can it have evolved into something so segmented that men might choose one “version” of it over all the others?

      Then one day the Holy Spirit inspired writings of the Apostle John finally showed me what I should have recognized all along; the Word of God is not the Bible, regardless of which version may strike one’s fancy. The Word of God is Jesus the Christ, the Creator of everything everywhere, who was with God in the beginning and who, in fact, is God. (John 1:1-14.) Instead of worshiping our favored version of the Bible, we should be worshiping the Father in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4:42)

      Take a hard look at most of the Christian denominations today – how many demonstrations of the power of the Holy Spirit do you see connected with them? Are they not comprised in great part of man-made dogma? Is there not an overabundance of symbolism? Do you not see much dead formality, endless repetition, and a great lack of spiritual godliness and vital salvation? Do they not promote their selection of translations? Man-made traditions that are not only void of God’s power but also at odds with God’s purpose are virtually useless in the establishment of His kingdom. In fact, such traditions can serve as a roadblock to it.

      The Body of Christ is not necessarily made up of various denominations or organizations that remain divided over so many issues, which insist upon majoring in the minors, and that stubbornly hold to their interpretive preferences. On the contrary, the Body of Christ is made up of individuals who have faith in Jesus Christ and who, by the grace of God, have received the new birth; the Holy Spirit leads them.

      What about you – are you led by the Holy Spirit? Are you following Jesus or a man-made denominational agenda? Is the power of the Living God evident in your life and in your congregation?

      I believe the best translation of the Holy Bible for YOU is whichever one helps most to conform YOUR life to the image of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who will lead you into all truth and in so doing; He will transform into light whatever Bible version you happen to be holding in your hand! 

 

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