Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Comparison Chart of the Hevenly Signs Described in the Bible regarding the Sun, Moon and Stars

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

I’ve been trying to figure out where the prophecies in Matthew 24 fit into the flow of end times prophecy in general.  I had a hunch the bit about the “signs in the heavens” might yield a clue.

Therefore, I put together this little chart.  Perhaps someone besi>des myself will find it useful too:


Comparison of Heavenly Signs in the Bible

Download the XLS

Download the compilation of verses in PDF format

Do Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4 Refer to the Same Second Coming?

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Here is an interesting question, “Is the return of Christ described in Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4 the same?”

Passage #1: Paul Describes Return of Jesus in I Thessalonians 4

According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Passage #2: Jesus Describes the Return of Jesus in Matthew 24

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky… They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31)

Here are similarities I see between the two passages:

  1. Both say Jesus comes down from heaven
  2. Both say Jesus appears in the sky
  3. Both refer to Jesus coming with angel(s)
  4. Both refer to a trumpet call
  5. Both refer to a gathering of Believers
    1. Paul says Christians both dead and living will be “caught up”
    2. Jesus more generally says “the elect” are gathered
  6. Both refer to meeting in the atmosphere
    1. Paul says “caught up in the air
    2. Jesus says “gathered his elect from the four winds
  7. Neither passage teach Jesus coming down all the way to earth, only coming in the sky to gather believers
  8. At the beginning of the Thessalonian passage Paul states what he’s about to write next is based on Jesus’ words. This gives futher credence to the two passages referring to the same event.

Where Do Spirits Go After Death?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Spirit Rising

In a previous post we established people have both a body and spirit.  Recapping:

For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return."
(Gen 3:19)

"May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community…” (Numbers 27:16)

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26)

“The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Mark 26:41)

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)

“An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. (1 Corinthians 7:34)

“There is one body and one Spirit… (Eph 4:4)

We know where the body goes after it dies: into the earth to turn back to dust.  But what happens to the spirit? 

“He [Jesus] took her by the hand and said, ‘My child, get up!’  Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.” (Luke 8:54-55)

This girl’s spirit returned at Jesus’ command for her to raise to life from the dead.  But where did her spirit come back from?  Where do our spirits go after we die?  That’s the question of this post…

Here is what Solomon had to say in response to this question:

“The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Eccl 12:7)

So Solomon says the spirit returns to God. 

This begs the question, “Where is God?” 

We know his Spirit is everywhere, but what else do we know?

"Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name…”
(Matthew 6:9)

“And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9)

If the Father is in heaven, and our Spirit returns to God, do all spirits go to heaven?  Apparently not:

“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:5)

Ok, I’ll cut to the initial chase: according to the Bible, spirits go to either heaven or hell when the body dies. 

But there is more to this story… let’s keep digging.

Let me start by asking, “Iis heaven up or down?”  Some verses imply upwards:

"But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matthew 26:64)

He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (Mark 7:34)

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)

“As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” (Mark 1:10)

“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight…

‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:10-11)

Some verses indicate hell is downwards:

“It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.(Matthew 5:22)

“But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.  (Prov 9:18 NASB)

Sheol is a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for where spirits go. 

Strong defines Sheol as: hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates: – grave, hell, pit.

Shortly before Moses died he sang a song wherein he quotes the Lord making a judgment against Israel.  The judgment begins thus:

“For a fire is kindled in My anger,
And burns to the lowest part of Sheol
(Number 32:22 NASB)

This is an interesting verse and implies that in Sheol (the place where all spirits go) fire is burning down at the bottom. 

We know that hell is a place of fire:

“It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. (Mark 9:43)

From these verses (and others) I’m going to make this postulate: in relation to each other, heaven is higher than hell.

This totally fits with the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus too:

"The rich man also died and was buried.  In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away…” (Luke 16:22-23)

The picture you get is this large area where spirits go when they die. This area is called Sheol in the Hebrew and Hades in the Greek.

In the lower area spirits reside in flames and torment while in the upper area spirits reside in clouds and peace. 

So it would appear heaven literally sits on top of hell, with the two areas visible to each other and even communicable with each other (though the latter phenomena may be unusual). 

In the New Testament there are three words used for the location of the afterlife where souls go:

  1. geenna (hell) used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment (used 12 times in the NT)
  2. ouranos (air, heaven, sky) the sky; by extension heaven (as the abode of God); by implication happiness, power, eternity; (used 284 times in the NT)
  3. hades (grave, hell) properly unseen, that is, “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls (used 11 times in the NT)

I want to focus on the word “Hades,” the Greek word that refers to the place I mentioned above: to wit, a large area where departed spirits are kept. 

Quickly recapping what we know so far: within this open place called Hades there is an up and a down.  Towards the bottom is fire and is called “hell” (or geena) whereas towards the top is a place called "heaven” (auranos).  “Hades” then is an all-inclusive word that includes both heaven and hell. 

All spirits go to Hades.  According to the Bible, when I die my Spirit will go to Hades.  Either to the top part or the bottom part.

It is important to note that spirits in Hades will not be able to travel between heaven and hell (that is, up and down).  This is what Abraham said in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man:

“But Abraham replied… ‘between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’” (Luke 16:26)

Let’s go ahead and look at that entire story:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.

At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.

In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side…

Let me cut in here and say I think it’s interesting that right after Jesus says the rich man died and was buried he says he’s in hell in torment.  For one thing this is a strong argument for people still having consciousness after death. 

Furthermore, I feel that by the way Jesus is telling this story he is alluding to the fact that hell is downward (by pointing out the rich man was buried and next directly shows up in hell) and heaven is upward (by not mentioning the beggars burial but rather emphasizing he was directly carried by angels – whom we generally think of as flying beings – to heaven).

Continuing…

So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’"

(Luke 16:19-31)

Notice that nothing was said about spirits not being able to return to earth. 

In fact, the rich man asks that Lazarus be sent back to earth to warn his brothers. 

Abraham doesn’t respond with, “Naw, that’s impossible,” but rather implies through his answer it was possible, but wouldn’t result in any good.

I think if Lazarus had been allowed to come back to earth he would have been given a body as well, because in every instance of someone coming back to earth from the grave in the Bible (and I can think of at least 7 examples) they also came back with a body, not as a spirit alone (except for one example I just thought of: Samuel’s spirit called back by the witch of Endor).

If a soul were allowed to come back to earth from the grave, I suggest it would be a soul from heaven, not from hell.  I base this on several observations:

  1. in all the rare instances in the Bible of  humans coming back to earth from the grave, they were Holy people
  2. those in hell are being punished as captives while those in heaven presumably have greater freedom

I think of an example from my time in the classroom setting: sometimes a note had to be run to the office.  I remember asking, “Who would like to take this note to the office?” and everyone’s hand would shoot up in excitement. 

Now I had to pick someone.  Would I pick the kid sitting in the back corner for misbehaving or one of the well behaved kids?  The answer is obvious.

Similarly, perhaps the Rich Man (who presumably knew more about the rules surrounding such requests than myself) understood he wouldn’t be allowed out of hell so didn’t even bother asking.  Instead, he asked that someone from heaven be sent back to earth to warn his brothers. 

The fact he asked Lazarus be sent might imply he still looked down on him as a servant, a nobody.

Did you catch that there were six brothers? Lazarus and five others? Numerology throughout the Bible is consistent. Six is the number of man, and these brothers appeared to be selfish men, not faithful God-followers.

Notice the word used for hell in this story:

“In hell [Hades], where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away…” (Luke 16:23)

Why did Jesus use the Greek word Hades here in this story instead of the common word for hell, geena? 

Perhaps Jesus did so because he was telling a story of both heaven and hell.  Therefore, we could rewrite it as, “In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham who also was in Hades, far away”

Jesus’ main point in this story was that in the afterlife (in the location called Hades) some spirits will be suffering while others comforted, all based on their decisions in this life.

Here is another example of Hades used in the NT:

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)

We often think of both heaven and hell as having gates, and perhaps they do, but this verse states at least Hades has gates. 

Gates for heaven or hell are never mentioned in the Bible (except for the New Heaven which has 12 gates of pearl).

The Bible says the gates to Hades have keys.  Guess who carries around the keys?

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for      ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18)

The last time the word Hades is used in the Bible tells us it will be destroyed:

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.  If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14-15)

In conclusion, spirits go to Hades after death.  There they wind up either below in fire or above in heaven, depending on the result of their judgment.

Prophecies of Jesus Regarding Himself in Mark

Monday, July 4th, 2011

“Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, ‘Prophesy!’” (Mark 14:65)

Ironically, Jesus had prophesied a number of things.  Here are some I’ve noticed as I’ve been studying through Mark:

Jesus Prophecies His Death and Resurrection 3x

“He then began to teach them [his disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31-32)

“He said to them [his disciples], ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” (Mark 9:31-32)

“Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law.  They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.  Three days later he will rise.’”  (Mark 10:32-33)

Death and Resurrection Prophecies Fulfilled

Did all these prophecies happen?

The third prophecy is most detailed, Jesus predicted several very specific events. Let’s see if they all happened: 

  1. “The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law”
    1. Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared.  With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.” (Mark 14:43)
  2. “They will condemn him to death”
    1. Trial before Sanhedrin: “’You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They all condemned him as worthy of death. (Mark 14:64)
    2. Trial before Pilate: “’What shall I do, then, with the one you call the King of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them. ‘Crucify him!’ they shouted… [Pilate] had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:12-15)
  3. “[They] will hand him over to the Gentiles”
    1. “Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision.  They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.” (Mark 15:1)
  4. “[The Gentiles] will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.”
    1. “[Pilate] had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace… again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him.  Then they led him out to crucify him.” (Mark 15:16-20)
  5. “Three days later he will rise.”
    1. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, just as he told you.’ (Mark 16:2-7)

Yes, everything happened just as Jesus said. 

Tell His Disciples AND Peter

Why do you think the angel said, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter to go ahead to Galilee”?  Why did the angel put that, “and Peter” on the end? 

Well, if the women had told the disciples that Jesus had told them to tell “the disciples” something, what do you think Peter would have thought? 

Peter was so ashamed of his behavior he probably would have looked down, kicked the dirt and thought to himself, “Yeah, well, I’m sure Jesus wasn’t including ME when he said ‘the disciples,’ he just meant all the OTHER guys.  You can just lump me in there with Judas.”

But the message was, “Tell the disciples AND Peter to go ahead to Galilee.”  When Peter heard that, he would have known all was well, that Jesus wanted HIM. 

This is just a very small touch, but it is indicative of how God works: he pays attention to detail. 

One interesting thing is that this detail is only mentioned in Mark.  It is thought that Mark wrote down the life of Jesus as he had heard it from Peter directly.  Mark and Peter worked together. 

Jesus Makes Further Prophecies on the Mount of Olives

Notice under point #5 above how the angel said Jesus was going ahead of them into Galilee where they would see him?  And the angel added, “Just as he told you.” 

When did Jesus tell them that?  Well, back on the Mount of Olives before he went to the Garden.  At that time Jesus made three prophecies:

#1 "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written:

   ‘I will strike the shepherd,
       and the sheep will be scattered.’

#2 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."

Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not."

#3 “I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today–yes, tonight–before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." (Mark 14:27-30)

Were these three prophecies fulfilled?  The answer is yes:

#1: “Then everyone deserted him and fled.” (Mark 14:50)

#2: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene… afterward Jesus appeared in a different from to two of them while they were walking in the country… later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  (Mark 16:9-14)

Where were the 11 when Jesus appeared to them while they were eating?  Mark doesn’t tell us, but Matthew adds another note to this story:

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.”  (Matthew 28:16-17)

#3: “But he denied it… Again he denied it…  He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don’t know this man you’re talking about."

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times."

And he broke down and wept.” (Mark 14:68-72)

Jesus’ Word is Trustworthy

There is a lot more prophecy regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Especially in the Old Testament.  Maybe I’ll do a post on that some other time. 

The main thing I took away from this study was that when Jesus says something, it happens. 

Jesus was trustworthy about predicting his own future.  And Jesus predicted other future events which have yet to happen. In light of his trustworthiness, I believe they will happen too.

Do Women Work Harder Than Men? And Other Gender Issues.

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I’ve heard 2/3rds of the world’s manual labor is done by women.  A quick search on Google didn’t substantiate this fact, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

From my unofficial observations, women DO work harder than men.

If you believe the creation account as given in the Hebrew Old Testament, the first woman was created after the first man, and was designed as a complementing partner, an excelling helper.  Of course, this implies Adam NEEDED help, which he most certainly did, as all men have since. 

In Romans 16 the Apostle Paul gives his greetings to a number of co-laborers.  I put together a list comparing the ratio of men to women he mentioned, with the descriptive title he gave for each:

Notes from Romans 16

So Paul mentions six women and only two men.  One of the men (Aquila) was a husband to one of the women (Priscilla) and between the two men mentioned, neither were commended for working hard.  On the other hand, four of the women were listed as "hard workers."  And Paul said one of the ladies (Mary) worked VERY hard.

I’ve noticed women can be such wonderful workers in their own right they don’t always see need for men.  The reality is, the Bible teaches, both men and women are happiest when playing the roles they were designed for.  Ladies seem capable of performing either role with ease, whereas many guys seem to struggle with their own.

Backing up, from my understanding of Holy Scripture, men and women do have equal worth, but different roles.  Biblical New Testament Christianity clearly ascribes gender equality amongst Believers:

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  (Galatians 3:28)

And the Bible also states men and women have the same destiny, a belief which would differ greatly from other religions such as Islam:

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." (1 Peter 3:7)

I can hear it now, "Sexist! How could Peter say women are weaker?!"  It may not be politically correct to say, but in certain respects (most obviously physically, and perhaps that’s the only category), women are weaker: on average and also in the extremes.  For instance, height:  The average American woman is 5′-4", whereas the average American man is 5′-9.5". (source for height demographics

And when we go to the extreme, the same trend holds.  The world record for bench pressing is held by Ryan Kennelly, who has lifted 1,075 pounds.  The female world record for bench pressing is Becca Swanson, who’s pressed 600 pounds.  Granted, I personally can only bench about the weight of the bar, and these folks are probably on steroids, but my point is that, in general, the average man is stronger physically than the average woman. 

So I don’t think we should roll Peter under the bus for his observation.  Especially since it was written 2,000 years ago when political correctness wasn’t all the rage.

What is more amazing is the second part of his statement, where Peter unabashedly recognizes men and women have the same destinies: both are heirs together of the promise of life.  And both will be judged equally by the same standards at the judgment seat of Christ.  Positionally, the Bible teaches men and women are equal.

In our society today, I see gender lines blurry at best and non-existent at worst.  In July 2010,  Newsweek ran an article entitled, Women Will Rule the World.  It listed the following stats:

In the US, women…

  • …outnumber men in the attainment of college degrees by 20 percent
  • …hold 89 percent of all bank accounts
  • …made 83 percent of all consumer purchases last year
  • …represented 72 percent of class valedictorians last year

Nature abhors a vacuum.  Men vacated and women filled.  Or women invaded and men fled.  Not sure which.  Either way, I say it’s no time for women to stand back; rather, it’s HIGH time for men to step forward. 

What do you think?