Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Millennium and the Pit (the Abyss) in Isaiah 24


The Millennium doctrine of Revelation 20 seems strange to many Christians because a specifically one thousand year future period is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.  Yet a future time in which the Messiah will rule on this earth is a common prophetic theme.  It’s only the length of this period of time that isn’t mentioned elsewhere.  But the prophets foretold not only the coming reign of the Messiah.  They also mentioned other details of the Millennium teaching long before the time of the New Testament.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Generation of Generations


There are many beautiful expressions in the Bible that slip by translators for one reason or another.  One of these is the phrase “a generation of generations” (dor dorim).  Most translate it “through all generations” or something similar.  This does capture the idea in a general sort of way.  But as Jesus taught, in God’s Word even the smallest letter and stroke of the pen is important (Matt. 5:18).  In fact, this simple expression captures an amazingly beautiful insight into the resurrection:  that the final generation of mankind will be a single generation made up of many generations.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Baptism for the Dead?

An early Christian baptistery in the shape of a cross.

“Else what will those being baptized for the dead do?  If in fact the dead are not raised, why indeed are they being baptized for them?” (1 Cor. 15:29)

Q:  I noticed that this verse says something about baptizing for the dead. What does that mean? –Tammie H.

A:  The short answer is that nobody knows for sure.  The long answer is that they were probably being baptized for believers who had died before they were baptized.*  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hell, Hades, and Gehenna: A List of Verses


Confused about hell?  It’s no wonder.  Most English translations, and many other languages, use one word, "hell," to translate the names of two radically different places: Hades and Gehenna.  They couldn’t be more different:  one is spiritual, the other physical; one is temporary, the other eternal.  So how can we get these two straightened out?  We’ll start with a short description of each one, and then list all the verses where they appear, so you’ll know exactly what the Bible is talking about.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jesse Tree/Advent Calendar Bible Verses

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, or whether you celebrate Jesus’ birth in December or not, it’s good to occasionally look back at the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) and be reminded of what an awesome event it was.*  More than just a cute baby born in Bethlehem, he was the Messianic Son of David, the fulfillment of prophecies stretching back through the ages to the Creation itself. 

* December 25th first became the date for the celebration of Jesus’ birth in the 4th century.  Before this, January 6th was the date of celebration.  The connection between December 25th and January 6th is still marked by the festal period known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.  The New Testament itself doesn’t mention the date of Jesus’ birth.  

Beginning in the Middle Ages (10th cent.), Christian art expressed the anticipation of Jesus’ coming with the Jesse Tree.  This was a symbolic tree or vine that represented the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 that the Messiah would be “a branch…from the stump of Jesse.”  The spreading branches represented Jesse’s descendants, the ancestors of Jesus listed in the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3.  The prophets that prophesied his coming were also often shown, as in the illuminated manuscript shown here.  (For more pictures, see the Wikipedia article Jesse Tree).* 

* This led to the idea of representing one’s ancestry as a tree, resulting in the idea of a family tree.

In recent years, the tradition has started of putting up a Jesse Tree in the weeks before Christmas and hanging on it symbols of Jesus’ ancestors and the prophets that prophesied his birth.  This is usually done during the month of December, with a new symbol being added each day accompanied by a Scripture reading.  This is an improvement over many Advent calendars because it includes the prophecies and events all through the Bible that point to Jesus’ birth.  This makes it more clear to children and others why this birth is so extremely important.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree?

A fig tree in early spring.

Early one spring morning, just before Passover, Jesus walked with his disciples up the Mt. of Olives toward Jerusalem (Matt. 21:18).  They followed the same trail on which he had ridden a donkey the day before surrounded by enthusiastic pilgrims, the day Christians call Palm Sunday.*  But on this, the next morning, there is no mention of crowds.  It seems they had not yet reached the campsite on top of the hill where many pilgrims were gathered for Passover.  Instead, they were still passing the quiet orchards on the far side of the Mt. of Olives, near the small village of Bethphage.** 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Who is the Antichrist?


The Antichrist has been one of the most popular figures of endtimes speculation for more than a thousand years.  Yet many of the commonly-held teachings about the Antichrist were developed long after the time of the Bible.  What does the Bible itself teach about the Antichrist? 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is the Law of Moses for Everyone?

The Ascent to Mt. Sinai

Many groups have appeared recently teaching that every believer must obey the Law of Moses.  The whole Bible is God’s Word, right?  So therefore, they say, every Christian should obey the whole Bible.  Sounds convincing, doesn’t it?  They often refer to Num. 15:16:  “There will be one law (torah) and one legal decision for you and for the stranger (ger) who is staying as a stranger among you.”  Since the Hebrew word torah can refer to the whole Law of Moses, and since “stranger” (ger) refers to non-Jews, this verse can certainly appear to say that the Law (the Torah) of Moses is for every believer, even for non-Jews.

But if it were really that simple, why did this become a subject of controversy in the New Testament?  Why did the first generation of believers call a council to deal with it in Acts 15?  Why did the apostle Paul get upset when Gentile believers began to obey the Law of Moses?  “You are released [estranged, divorced] from Messiah, whoever is made righteous by Law; you have forfeited grace” (Gal. 5:4).  There must be more to it than that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dinosaurs in the Bible


What are all those strange creatures in the Bible?  Some of them are dinosaurs!  Our web teaching on "Dinosaurs in the Bible" has been improved and expanded with new verses from the apocrypha, a new in-depth analysis of Job 40-41, links to early Christian dinosaur art, and more!  Thanks to our reader Dean M. for motivating this rewrite.  Click here to visit the page on our website.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Psalm 97 and the Return of the Messiah


Most of us think of prophecy as something coming in the future.  So in our Bibles, Old Testament prophecies are translated in the future tense.  What else could they be?  But the writers of the Hebrew Bible had a different view of prophecy than we do.  When they wrote prophecy, they used a verb form most often used for past events.*   Why would they do that?  It seems that the most important thing about prophecy for them was not that it was coming in the future, as we think of it, but that it was something completed, fixed and finished in the mind of God—God said it, and that finishes it—even though the fulfillment might be far in the future.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Did Jesus Believe in the Millennium?

The modern portico on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Jesus likely debated the Sadducees in a similar location in the ancient and much larger portico of Herod's Temple.

The Millennium doctrine—that the righteous will reign with Messiah for a thousand years—is one of the most disputed teachings of the New Testament.  A problem for some is that it appears to spring up out of nowhere in the book of Revelation (Rev. 20), a book filled with many puzzling symbols.  This has made it easy for many to neglect or even to reject this important expectation of the Early Church.  But did Jesus himself believe in the Millennium? 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Does the Bible Condone Slavery?

An Egyptian slave camp at the mines of Timnah.




A topic I often encounter on the internet is that the Bible and Christianity are evil because they condone slavery.  To prove the point, they bring up and quote verses from the Bible that regulate slavery (such as Ex. 21:1-11, Lev. 25:44-46) or that counsel slaves to be submissive to their masters (such as Eph. 6:5-9, Col. 3:22-25).  Do these verses tell us that God is in favor of slavery and is therefore evil?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Valley of Jezreel in Prophecy

A view of the Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel

Hosea 1 tells of the awesome importance of the Jezreel Valley both in prophecies already fulfilled and others that will be fulfilled in the future.  What will happen here, and how are these things connected with God’s plan and our future? 
 

Friday, May 10, 2013