"ACTS OF THE APOSTLES" Chapter Twenty-Two OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To explore Paul's address to the Jerusalem mob 2) To understand how Paul used his Roman citizenship to avoid scourging 3) To observe Paul taken before the Sanhedrin council SUMMARY Paul addressed the crowd as "brethren and fathers" in Hebrew. The mob became very quiet when they heard that. Paul began his defense by providing his background: He was a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia; he was brought up in Jerusalem at the "feet of Gamaliel;" he was taught "according to the strictness of our father's law;" and he was zealous toward God, just like them. Paul added that he had persecuted the Way to the death. He bound and delivered men and women to prison. He acted under the high priest's and elders' authority. Paul called upon their witness for himself. He had received letters from them to travel to Damascus to bring those of the Way back to Jerusalem for punishment. Paul then described the Lord's appearance to him on the road to Damascus. At about noon, a bright light shined around Paul. He fell to the ground. The Lord asked him why he was persecuting Him. The Lord identified Himself as Jesus of Nazareth. Paul asked, "What shall I do, Lord?" The Lord told him to go into Damascus and he would be told what to do. He was led by the hand into Damascus by his companions, because he could not see. Paul then described his obedience to the gospel when taught by Ananias. Ananias came to Paul. He restored his sight. Ananias told Paul that he had been chosen to "know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth." Paul was to be "His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard." Ananias told Paul what to do to be forgiven of his sins. He asked Paul, "Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Next, Paul described how the Lord had sent him to the Gentiles. Paul returned to Jerusalem. He was praying in the temple, and was in a trance. The Lord appeared to him and told him to quickly depart from Jerusalem for the Jews would "not receive your testimony concerning Me." Paul attempted to explain to the Lord that he could make the Jews understand. He responded that the Jews knew of his persecution of those of the Way. He added that he had even consented to the death of Stephen, holding the killer's clothes. The Lord told Paul of His plans for him. Paul was to depart. He was sent far away to the Gentiles. (1-21) The Jews listened until the Gentiles were mentioned. When the Jews heard that he was sent to the Gentiles, they raised their voices, "...he is not fit to live!" They tore their clothes and threw dust in the air. At this point, the Romans prepared to examine Paul under scourging. The Roman commander ordered that Paul be brought into the barracks. The commander wanted to know why they shouted so against Paul. He ordered that Paul should be examined under scourging. The soldiers bound Paul with thongs. Paul asked the centurion standing nearby, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?" The centurion told this to the commander. The commander asked Paul if he was a Roman citizen, and Paul affirmed that he was. The commander then indicated that he had purchased his citizenship at a great price; however, Paul noted that he was a Roman by birth. The soldiers were frightened by this. They were afraid because they had bound a Roman citizen, and they were about to scourge him. (22-29) The commander still wanted to know why he was accused by the Jews. The next day, Paul was released from his bonds. The chief priests and the council were commanded to appear, and Paul was brought before them. (30) OUTLINE I. PAUL ADDRESSED THE MOB (1-21) A. PAUL BEGAN HIS DEFENSE (1-2) 1. Paul addressed the crowd as "brethren and fathers" 2. The mob became very quiet when they heard him speak in Hebrew B. PAUL DESCRIBED HIMSELF AS SIMILAR TO THEM (3-5) 1. Paul's description of himself included: a. He was a Jew b. Born in Tarsus of Cilicia c. Brought up in Jerusalem at the "feet of Gamaliel" d. Taught in the "strictness of our father's law" e. Zealous toward God - like them 2. Paul persecuted the Way to the death a. He bound and delivered men and women to prison b. He acted under the high priest's and elders' authority and witness c. He had received letters to go to Damascus to bring those of the Way to Jerusalem for punishment C. PAUL DESCRIBED THE LORD'S APPEARANCE ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS (6-11) 1. At about noon, on the road to Damascus, a bright light shined around Paul a. He fell to the ground b. He heard Jesus ask him why he was persecuting Him c. The Lord identified Himself as Jesus of Nazareth 2. Paul asked the Lord what he should do a. Paul's traveling companions saw the light but did not hear the voice (or understand it) b. Paul asked, "What shall I do, Lord?" c. The Lord told Paul to go into Damascus and he would be told what to do d. He was led by the hand into Damascus by his companions, because he could not see D. PAUL DESCRIBED HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE GOSPEL WHEN TAUGHT BY ANANIAS (12-16) 1. Ananias came to Paul a. He restored Paul's sight b. Ananias told Paul that he had been chosen to "know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth" c. Paul was to be "His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard" 2. Ananias told Paul what to do to be forgiven of his sins a. He asked Paul, "Why are you waiting?" b. "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" E. PAUL DESCRIBED THE LORD SENDING HIM TO THE GENTILES (17-21) 1. The Lord spoke to Paul a. Paul returned to Jerusalem; he was praying in the temple b. He was in a trance and the Lord appeared to him c. The Lord told him to quickly depart from Jerusalem for the Jews would "not receive your testimony concerning Me" 2. Paul attempted to explain to the Lord that he could make the Jews understand a. Paul responded that the Jews knew of his persecution of those of the Way b. He added that he had even consented to the death of Stephen, holding the killer's clothes 3. The Lord told Paul of His plans for him a. Paul was to depart b. He was sent far away to the Gentiles II. PAUL CLAIMED HIS ROMAN CITIZENSHIP (22-29) A. THE JEWS LISTENED UNTIL THE GENTILES WERE MENTIONED (22-23) 1. When the Jews heard that he was sent to the Gentiles, they raised their voices, "...he is not fit to live!" 2. They tore their clothes and threw dust in the air B. ROMANS PREPARED TO EXAMINE PAUL UNDER SCOURGING (24) 1. The Roman commander ordered that Paul be brought into the barracks 2. The commander wanted to know why they shouted against Paul 3. He ordered that Paul should be examined under scourging C. PAUL NOTIFIED THE ROMANS OF HIS ROMAN CITIZENSHIP (25-29) 1. The soldiers bound Paul 2. Paul asked the centurion, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?" 3. The centurion told this to the commander 4. The commander verified Paul's Roman citizenship a. He asked Paul if he was a Roman citizen, and Paul affirmed b. The commander indicated that he had purchased his citizenship, but Paul noted that he was a Roman by birth 5. The soldiers were frightened by this - his citizenship a. They were afraid because they had bound a Roman citizen b. They were afraid because they were about to scourge a Roman citizen III. PAUL TAKEN BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN COUNCIL (30) A. THE COMMANDER SOUGHT FOR THE JEW'S ACCUSATION (30) 1. The commander wanted to know why he was accused by the Jews 2. Paul was released from his bonds 3. The chief priests and the council were commanded to appear 4. The commander brought Paul before them (Sanhedrin) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main events in this chapter? - Paul addressed the Jerusalem mob (1-21) - Paul claimed Roman citizenship (22-29) - Paul was taken before the Sanhedrin council (30) 2) When Paul addressed the mob, what caused them to become quiet? (1-2) - He spoke to them in the Hebrew language (2) 3) List the information that Paul used to describe himself? (3-5) - He was a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia (3) - Brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel (3) - Was taught according to the "strictness of our fathers' law" (3) - He was zealous toward God, like them (3) - He persecuted the Way to death, binding and delivering men and women to prison (4) - High priest and elders bear him witness (5) - He received letters from them to bring Christians to Jerusalem to be punished (5) 4) What was the question that Paul heard on the road to Damascus? (6-7) - "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (7) 5) How did the Lord answer Paul's question, "Who are You, Lord?" (8) - "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting." (8) 6) When Paul asked, "What shall I do, Lord?" what was the answer? (10) - "Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do" (10) 7) Why was Paul led by the hand into Damascus? (11) - Paul could not see because of the "glory of that light" (11) 8) Why did Paul have the Damascus road encounter? (14-15) - That he should know His will, see the Just One, and hear His voice (14) - He was to be His witness to all men of what he had seen and heard (15) 9) At this point, did Paul still have his sins? What did he need to do to have them forgiven ("washed away")? (16) - Yes, he still needed to "wash away your sins" (16) - He had to be baptized (immersed) to "wash away your sins" (16) 10) While in a trance in the temple, what did the Lord say to him? (17-18) - "Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me" (18) 11) At what word did the Jewish mob stop listening to Paul? (21-22) - "...I will send you far from here to the Gentiles" (21-22) 12) Why did the commander want to bind and scourge Paul? (24) - So that he might know why they shouted so against him (24) 13) What did Paul ask the centurion, as they were binding him? (25) - Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned? (25) 14) What was the reaction to Paul's question? (26-29) - The centurion told the commander that Paul was a Roman (26) - The commander confirmed that he was a Roman by birth (27-28) - The soldiers became afraid - they had bound and were about to scourge a Roman citizen (29) 15) Who was Paul set before next and why? Was he still bound? (30) - Chief priests and all their council - Sanhedrin (30) - To know for certain why Paul was accused by the Jews (30) - Paul's bonds had been released (30)
"ACTS OF THE APOSTLES" Chapter Twenty-One OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To explore the warnings that Paul received as he journeyed to Jerusalem 2) To review the arrival of Paul in Jerusalem 3) To examine Paul's arrest in the temple 4) To observe Paul's request to address the violent mob as he entered the barracks SUMMARY Paul left the Ephesian elders at Miletus. Paul, Luke and the other traveling companions sailed from Miletus to Cos. From Cos, they sailed to Rhodes, and then on to Patara. At Patara, they caught a ship to Tyre of Phoenicia. The ship passed to the south of the island of Cyprus. Upon arrival in Tyre, they found the disciples and remained with them seven days. The Spirit had indicated to the disciples what awaited Paul in Jerusalem. They told Paul to not go to Jerusalem. Paul continued, the disciples accompanied him outside the city, and they knelt and prayed on the shore. Paul and his companions boarded the ship and departed. They sailed from Tyre to Ptolemais. They greeted the brethren there and remained one day. They then went to Caesarea. Paul and his companions went to Philip's house. He was one of the seven (cf. Acts 6). Philip had four virgin daughters; they prophesied. The prophet Agabus came down from Judea. He took Paul's belt and bound his own hands and feet. This was to indicate that Paul would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles in Jerusalem, as the Holy Spirit revealed. Both his traveling companions and those in Caesarea pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13 NKJV) They then ceased pleading with Paul and asked that the will of the Lord be done. (1-14) Paul and his companions proceeded to Jerusalem. They were accompanied by some of the disciples from Caesarea. They were to lodge with Mnason of Cyprus, who was an early disciple. They then met with the Jerusalem brethren, who met them gladly. The next day, Paul and his companions met with James and the elders to give a description of the "things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry." The brethren glorified the Lord upon hearing these things. James and the elders then expounded to Paul the problem he faced. Many myriads of Jews had believed, and they were zealous for the law. They had been informed that Paul taught Jews, living among the Gentiles, to forsake Moses - that is, not to circumcise their children, nor to keep the customs. They expected these Jewish believers to learn that Paul was in Jerusalem. James and the elders gave Paul a plan - he should accompany the four men who had taken a vow; purify himself; pay their expenses in an effort to show that Paul kept the law (customs) as a Jew. They reiterated (cf. Acts 15) that the believing Gentiles were not subject to the law. (15-25) Paul followed the plan from James and the elders. He took the men and was purified with them. They then entered the temple. Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple. They stirred up the crowd and seized Paul. They cried out charges as James and the elders had expected. Additionally, they charged that Paul had brought Greeks into the temple and had defiled the place. They had seen Trophimus, the Ephesian, with Paul in the city and "supposed" that he had brought him into the temple. The Jews seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple. As they sought to kill him, word came to the Roman commander about the uproar. When the Jews saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander took Paul and bound him with chains. He asked what he had done, but he could not get an answer from the mob. He then took him to the barracks. When they reached the stairs of the barracks, Paul had to be carried due to the violence of the mob. (26-36) Paul asked to speak to the commander. The commander asked him if he could speak Greek. The commander also asked if he was the Egyptian leader of the assassins. Paul replied that he was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, "a citizen of no mean city." Paul then requested to speak to the people. The commander gave Paul permission to speak to the people. Paul then began to speak to them in Hebrew. (37-40) OUTLINE I. WARNINGS TO PAUL AS HE HEADED TO JERUSALEM (1-14) A. THEY SAILED FROM MILETUS TO TYRE (1-3) 1. Paul left the Ephesian elders at Miletus 2. Paul, Luke, and the other traveling companions sailed from Miletus to Cos to Rhodes and to Patara 3. From Patara, they caught a ship to Tyre of Phoenicia a. As they sailed, they saw Cyprus on the "left" (passing south of the island) B. PAUL AND HIS COMPANIONS ARRIVED IN TYRE (4-6) 1. They found the disciples there and remained with them seven days a. The disciples understood through the Spirit what awaited Paul in Jerusalem b. They told Paul not to go to Jerusalem 2. The disciples accompanied Paul and his companions outside the city a. They all knelt down and prayed on the shore b. Paul and his companions boarded the ship and departed C. MORE WARNINGS GIVEN TO PAUL BEFORE ARRIVING IN JERUSALEM (6-14) 1. Paul and his companions sailed from Tyre to Ptolemais a. They greeted the brethren there and remained one day b. The next day, they went to Caesarea 2. Paul and his companions went to Philip's house a. Philip was one of the seven (cf. Acts 6) b. Philip had four virgin daughters; they prophesied c. The prophet Agabus came down from Judea d. Agabus took Paul's belt and bound his own hands and feet; this was to indicate what would happen to Paul, as revealed by the Holy Spirit; he would be delivered to the Gentiles e. Both his traveling companions and those in Caesarea pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem f. Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 21:13 NKJV) g. They ceased pleading with Paul and asked that the will of the Lord be done II. PAUL ARRIVED IN JERUSALEM (15-25) A. PAUL AND HIS COMPANIONS PROCEEDED TO JERUSALEM (15-16) 1. They were accompanied by some of the disciples of Caesarea 2. They were to lodge with Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple B. THEY MET WITH THE JERUSALEM BRETHREN (17-25) 1. The Jerusalem brethren met them gladly 2. Paul and his companions met with James and the elders to give a description of the "things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry" 3. They glorified the Lord upon hearing these things 4. James and the elders expounded to Paul the problem he faced a. Many myriads of Jews had believed b. These Jewish believers were zealous for the law c. They had been informed that Paul taught Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses - not to circumcise their children, nor to keep the customs d. These Jewish believers would learn that Paul was in Jerusalem e. James and the elders gave Paul a plan - he was to accompany the four men who had taken a vow; purify himself; pay their expenses - this was an effort to show that Paul kept the law (customs) as a Jew f. They reiterated (cf. Acts 15) that the believing Gentiles were not subject to the law III. PAUL ARRESTED IN THE TEMPLE (26-36) A. PAUL FOLLOWED THE PLAN FROM JAMES AND THE ELDERS (26) 1. Paul took the men and was purified with them; they entered the temple B. JEWS FROM ASIA SAW PAUL IN THE TEMPLE (27-29) 1. They stirred up the crowd and seized Paul 2. They cried out charges as expected (see notes above) 3. Additionally, they charged that Paul had brought Greeks into the temple and defiled the place a. They had seen Trophimus the Ephesian with Paul in the city b. They "supposed" that Paul had brought him into the temple C. PAUL WAS SEIZED AND THE JEWS SOUGHT TO KILL HIM (30-36) 1. The people seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple 2. As they sought to kill him, word came to the Roman commander of the uproar 3. When the Jews saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul 4. The commander took Paul and bound him with chains; he asked what Paul had done a. When he could not get an answer, he took him to the barracks b. When they reached the stairs, Paul had to be carried due to the violence of the mob IV. PAUL ASKED TO ADDRESS THE MOB (37-40) A. PAUL ASKED TO SPEAK TO THE COMMANDER (37-39) 1. The commander asked if he could speak Greek 2. The commander also asked if he was the Egyptian leader of the assassins 3. Paul replied that he was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, "a citizen of no mean city" 4. Paul requested to speak to the people B. THE COMMANDER ALLOWED PAUL TO SPEAK TO THE PEOPLE (40) 1. The commander gave Paul permission to speak to the people 2. Paul began to speak to them in Hebrew REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main events in this chapter? - Warnings to Paul as he headed to Jerusalem (1-14) - Paul arrived in Jerusalem (15-25) - Paul arrested in the temple (26-36) - Paul asked to address the mob (37-40) 2) Sailing from Miletus, list the cities passed through prior to Tyre? (1-2) - Miletus to Cos, to Rhodes, to Patara, to Tyre (1-2) 3) On which side of the ship did they pass Cyprus? What direction would that be? (3) - Left; ship passed to the south of Cyprus [see map] (3) 4) What was the common request made of Paul at Tyre and Caesarea? (4-12) - Not to go up to Jerusalem (3) 5) What two groups made this common request of Paul in Tyre and Caesarea? (4-12) - The local disciples asked in Tyre (4) - The local disciples and Paul's traveling companions in Caesarea (12) 6) What was Paul ready to do in Jerusalem? (13) - Not only ready to be bound, but even to die for the Lord (13) 7) When Paul would not be persuaded, what did the brethren say? (14) - "The will of the Lord be done" (14) 8) What did Paul tell James and the elders? How did they react? (18-20) - Those things God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry (19) - They glorified the Lord (20) 9) What had the Jewish believers been informed about Paul? (20-21) - He taught all the Jews among the Gentiles to forsake Moses (21) - He told them not to circumcise their children (21) - He told them not to walk according to the customs (21) 10) What was the plan suggested to Paul? What was this to accomplish? (22-24) - Take the four men who have taken a vow; be purified with them; pay their expenses (23-24) - The things they had been informed of were "nothing," and that Paul walked orderly and kept the law (24) 11) Had James and the elders changed their position regarding the letter written to the Gentiles in Acts 15? (25) - No; they reiterated the points of the letter (25) 12) Where were the Jews from that saw Paul in the temple? How did they stir up the people? (27-28) - Jews from Asia (27) - They cried out that Paul taught men everywhere against people, the law, and the temple; they claimed he brought Greeks into the temple and defiled it (28) 13) Who did the Jews "suppose" Paul brought into the temple? (29) - Trophimus, the Ephesian (29) 14) What did the mob do to Paul? (30-32) - They seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple (30) - They sought to kill him (31) - They were beating him (32) 15) When the commander heard of the uproar, what did he do? (31-34) - He took soldiers and centurions and ran to them (32) - The commander took Paul and had him bound with chains (33) - He asked who he was and what he had done (33) - He commanded that he be taken to the barracks (34) 16) What did the soldiers have to do at the stairs? Why? (35) - The soldiers had to carry Paul (35) - Because of the violence of the mob (35) 17) When Paul asked to speak to the commander, what two questions did he ask Paul? How did Paul respond? (37-39) - Can you speak Greek? (37) - Are you not the Egyptian, the leader of the assassins? (38) - I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you to permit me to speak to the people (39) 18) With the commander's permission, in what language did Paul speak to the people? (40) - Hebrew (40)
London Terrorists, Violence, and the Quran
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
For the second time within two weeks, Muslim terrorists have targeted innocent Londoners in an incessant desire to strike out at alleged enemies (Fleming, 2005). British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed the perception of many of the people of the world when he said that such acts by Islamic terrorists should not reflect negatively on Britain’s large Muslim population. In fact, he insisted: “We know that these people act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as we do” (“Hunt Intensifies...,” 2005, emp. added).
This almost irrational refusal to link terrorism with Islam is apparently widespread even among mainstream Muslims. For example, the secretary-general for the Muslim Council of Britain pointed to “alienation” and “segregation” as among the potential incentives for Islamic suicide bombers (Manji, 2005, p. 78). Nevertheless, some Muslims appear a little more willing to entertain the possibility that perhaps Islam and the Quran are responsible for the terrorists’ behavior: “For too long, we Muslims have been sticking fingers in our ears and chanting ‘Islam means peace’ to drown out the negative noise from our holy book. Far better to own up to it” (Manji, p. 78).
Own up to it, indeed. It may well be true that the vast majority of Muslims disapprove of the wanton acts of violence by Islamic terrorists. But the Quran—the holy book of Islam that 1.3 billion Muslims believe to be the word of God—is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. Difficult to believe? Then read for yourself the following sections of the Quran from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things inretaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah2:190-194, emp. added).Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse that killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fightbecause they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah 22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explained the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! theycannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horsestethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, and let them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you” (Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even inself-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword(2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is thesubmission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into the entire world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder the Muslim terrorists who perpetrated the London bombings, America’s 9/11, and many similar incidents over the years, manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis, Brits, and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... Andthose who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. Whatthough ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.
Fleming, Sam (2005), “London Subway Targeted by Terrorists; No Casualities,” Bloomberg Media, July 21, [On-line], URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000087&sid=ac0iyqgLFnBI&refer=top_world_news.
“Hunt Intensifies for London Terrorists” (2005), Fox News, July, 7, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,161840,00.html.
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Manji, Irshad (2005), “When Denial Can Kill,” Time, 166:78, July 25.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).
Born Among History
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
How do we know that the New Testament is not a book of myths and lies? How can people born 1,900 years this side of its completion have total confidence in the New Testament’s accuracy? What is it that causes so many of us to believe in the truthfulness of this book?
One thing that makes the New Testament such a unique work is how many times the events recorded therein are verified by other independent historical witnesses. Repeatedly, history has shown itself to be an ally, rather than an enemy, to the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament. As a person reads through these books, he will find names of kings and queens, governors and priests. He will read of cities and villages, and sometimes even learn of the roads and passageways that connected them. The New Testament was born among historical people, places, and events, which allows twenty-first-century readers opportunities to inquire about its trustworthiness.
Consider just one example. As a non-Christian reads through the New Testament book of Acts, he comes to the account where Herod is addressing a group of people from Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:20-23). In verses 21-23, he reads:
So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.
Perhaps the person reading this account begins struggling with whether or not “this whole Christian thing is for me,” and whether there is any evidence that corroborates the information found in the New Testament. How much more open to the truth of God’s Word might this skeptical gentlemen be if he could come in contact with the vast amount of historical data that supports the facts found therein? In this particular case, he might find it very helpful to learn that a well-educated, first-century Jewish historian by the name of Josephus gave a detailed account of Herod’s death in his work, The Antiquities of the Jews (18:8:2). Notice how the two accounts stand side by side.
- Where Luke wrote that Herod was “arrayed in royal apparel,” Josephus wrote that “he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful.”
- Where Luke wrote that “the people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!,’ ” Josephus mentioned that “his flatterers cried out…that he was a god; and they added, ‘Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.’ Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.”
- And finally, where Luke recorded: “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died,” Josephus wrote: “A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, ‘I whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life….’ [H]is pain was become violent…. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.”
Although the accounts of Luke and Josephus were written independently, regarding the death of Herod they agree in all of the essentials.
Acts 12:20-23 represents only one of many examples in Scripture where secular history upholds its reliability. Over the past 1,900 years, the Bible has been examined more critically than any other book in the world, and yet it repeatedly is found to be historically accurate. Such accuracy surely gives the skeptic something important to consider in his examination of Scripture.
Josephus, Flavius (1987 edition), Antiquities of the Jews, in The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, transl. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Atheism: Contradictory at Best, Hideous at Worst
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Many atheists often describe certain things as being “deplorable,” “atrocious,” or “wicked.” Arguably the most famous atheist in the world in 1976, atheistic philosopher Antony Flew, confessed that the Nazis committed real, objective moral atrocities during the 1930s and 1940s when they slaughtered six million Jews (Warren and Flew, 1976, p. 248). Many atheists admit that it would be morally wrong to rape a woman or to sexually abuse and torture a four-year-old child. Richard Dawkins, the most recognized atheist in the world today, has even boasted that someone who does not believe in evolution may be “wicked” (1989).
Such recognition by atheists of anything being morally wrong begs the question: How can an atheist logically call something atrocious, deplorable, wicked, or morally wrong? According to atheism, we are nothing but matter in motion. We allegedly evolved from rocks and slime over billions of years. We supposedly arose from animals—living organisms that have no sense of morality. Animals eat their young, kill their mates, and steal the food of any animal from which they can successfully take it—whether friend, foe, or family member. Atheists allege that “we are animals…. We like to think of ourselves as elevated above other creatures. But the human body evolved” from animals (Marchant, 2008, 200:44, emp. added). Thus, the fact is, as Dr. Thomas B. Warren concluded in his debate with Antony Flew, “[T]he basic implication of the atheistic system does not allow objective moral right or objective moral wrong” (1976, p. 49).
Atheistic philosopher Jean Paul Sartre summarized godlessness well when he said, “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist” (1961, p. 485, emp. added). If atheists refuse to admit that real moral objectivity exists, then they are forced to admit that when the Jews were starved, gassed, and experimented on “like the animals” they supposedly were (cf. Marchant, 2008), the Nazis did nothing wrong. If human life really is as worthless as bacteria (as atheist Eric Pianka said naturalism demands), then there would be nothing truly wrong with systematically spreading the ebola virus for the purpose of eliminating 90% of the human population, which Dr. Pianka suggested needed to happen in order to save the Earth (see Mims, 2006). Atheists who theoretically take atheistic evolution to its logical conclusion, are forced to admit what Dan Barker acknowledged in his debate with Kyle Butt in February 2009: that, if need be, he would rape millions of girls to save the rest of humanity (Butt and Barker, 2009, pp. 33-36). After all, if we are nothing but advanced ape-like creatures, and “our male ancestors became ancestors in part because they conditionally used rape,” then, as evolutionist Randy Thornhill confessed, “rape is evolutionary, biological, and natural” (2001; cf. Thornhill and Palmer, 2000)—a sickening thought.
Atheists can say, “We don’t like that,” or “We would never do that,” but they can never logically say that something is objectively wrong or right. If they do, they are making a self-defeating statement. They would be contradicting the very naturalism they espouse. If they actually admit that for atheism no objective standards for “good” and “evil” can exist, then rape could just as well be right, while a virtue like bravery could be bad. Either way, atheism loses. It is either contradictory, and thus self-defeating, or it is too horrible for even the most contemptible to contemplate.
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), The Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist?(Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Dawkins, Richard (1989), “Book Review,” The New York Times, section 7, April 9.
Marchant, Jo (2008), “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are,” New Scientist, 200:44-45, October 18-24.
Mims, Forrest (2006), “Dealing With Doctor Doom,” The Citizen Scientist, www.sas.org/tcs/weeklyIssues_2006/2006-04-07/feature1p/ index.html.
Sartre, Jean Paul, (1961), “Existentialism and Humanism,” French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre, ed. Leonard M. Marsak (New York: Meridian).
Thornhill, Randy (2001), “A Natural History of Rape,” Lecture delivered at Simon Fraser University, March 16, http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/3925/Readings/Thornhill_on_rape.pdf.
Thornhill, Randy and Craig T. Palmer (2000), A Natural History of Rape (Cambridge: MIT Press).
Warren, Thomas B. and Antony Flew (1976), The Warren-Flew Debate (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Are There Degrees of Punishment and Reward?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Will there be degrees of reward in heaven? Similarly, will there be degrees of punishment in hell?
Any topic relating to the specific nature of man’s ultimate, eternal abode should be of great interest to all accountable people, since every human eventually will inhabit eternity (see Thompson, 2000a, pp. 33-39; 2000b, pp. 41-47; 2000c, pp. 49-55). It is not surprising, then, that questions of what conditions will be like in the afterlife often occupy our thoughts. Whenever questions of spiritual import are under consideration—as they are when discussing the destiny of the soul—the only reliable source of information must by necessity be the One Who is the Originator and Sustainer of the soul. God, as Creator of all things physical and spiritual (Genesis 1:1ff.; Exodus 20:11), and Himself a Spirit Being (John 4:24), is the ultimate wellspring of the soul (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The Bible, then, as God’s inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), must be the preeminent authority on this subject. It therefore is to Holy Writ that we must turn to answer any question about eternity.
DEGREES OF ETERNAL REWARD
First, it is important to note that every faithful follower of God eventually will receive an eternal reward. Writing in the book of Revelation, the apostle John described in striking language the destiny of the righteous when this world finally comes to an end: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.... He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (21:3,7, RSV). Earlier, John had encouraged his readers with these words: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). John’s coworker, the apostle Paul, referred to those who had served Jesus faithfully as “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). The writer of the book of Hebrews spoke of Christ as having become “unto all them that obey him, the author of eternal salvation” (5:9).
Second, it is equally important to realize that every saint will be rewarded “according to his deeds.” Matthew wrote: “For the son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds” (16:27). Paul used practically identical words in Romans 2:5-7: “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works.” Such a concept was taught even in Old Testament times. Solomon wrote: “If thou sayest, ‘We knew not this,’ doth not he that weigheth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth he not know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12).
Parables from the mouth of the Lord similarly demonstrate that every person will be judged according to his or her deeds. The parable of the pounds, recorded in Luke 19:11-27, is a perfect example.
A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called ten servants of his, and gave them each ten pounds, and said unto them, “Trade ye herewith till I come.” But his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, “We will not that this man reign over us.” And it came to pass, when he was come back again, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants, unto whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. And the first came before him, saying, “Lord, thy pound hath made ten pounds more.” And he said unto him, “Well done, thou good servant: because thou wast found faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” And the second came, saying, “Thy pound, Lord, hath made five pounds.” And he said unto him also, “Be thou also over five cities.” And another came, saying, “Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I kept laid up in a napkin: for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that which thou layedst not down, and reapest that which thou didst not sow.” He saith unto him, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I am an austere man, taking up that which I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow; then wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank, and I at my coming should have required it with interest?” And he said unto them that stood by, “Take from him the pound, and give it unto him that hath the ten pounds.” And they said unto him, “Lord, he hath ten pounds.” I say unto you, that unto every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.
After reading this parable (and the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30), it is clear that certain individuals receive—and thus are responsible for—more pounds/talents than some others. The faithful servant who soundly invested ten pounds was awarded authority over ten cities. The second servant also was recompensed in proportion to the degree with which he fulfilled his responsibility to the master. He wisely invested five pounds, and in return was given authority over five cities. There is no reason to disbelieve, then, that had the third servant been equally faithful, he, too, would have been rewarded commensurate with his investment (which likely would have been authority over one city). This parable, then, teaches the following: (1) all of God’s servants are blessed with varied abilities; (2) all who are faithful stewards of the ability with which they have been endowed will obtain a reward; and (3) God’s stewards will be rewarded based on what they accomplished with the abilities that were entrusted to them. [This is not to say, of course, that heaven is “earned” by any human works (see Thompson, 1999, pp. 47-49). Ephesians 2:8-9 states unequivocally that salvation is a free gift of God, not something bestowed because of any human merit. Rather, the works done in the here and now provide for the Christian an eternal weight of glory—a weight that differs from person to person (2 Corinthians 4:17).]
If believers are to be judged according to their works (Matthew 16:27; 25:31-46; Revelation 20:12), it logically follows that those with the greatest responsibility can expect the strictest judgment. Indeed, the Good Book teaches exactly such a principle. Jehovah charged the prophet Ezekiel:
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die,” and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thy hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; and thou hast delivered thy soul (Ezekiel 3:17-21).
What an awesome and terrifying responsibility that ancient preacher and prophet was given. Millennia later, James offered this warning: “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (James 3:1).
Those who suggest that God will reward every saint equally often appeal to the parable that Christ presented in Matthew 20:1-15 for support of their position. There, the Lord told of a certain landowner who was in need of workers to assist him in his vineyard. The man went to the marketplace to find laborers and, when he had located some men, agreed to pay them a denarius each. About the third hour, he went to the market again in order to seek additional laborers. He went out twice more and then, at the eleventh hour, he found still more men to help. This last group worked only one hour, and yet when the end of the day arrived and all the men lined up to be paid, those “eleventh-hour” workers received their wages first—a full denarius. The rest of the men were given equal dues. When the master finally got to the laborers he had hired first thing that morning, he gave them the same amount he had given everyone else. Those “first-hour” workers were outraged! The very idea that they—who had been hired first and worked longest—should receive the same recompense as those who worked only one hour, was more than they could handle. The text in Matthew says that “they murmured against the householder” (vs. 11). But the man who had hired them responded simply: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” (vss. 13-15).
Those who teach that God will reward each of His faithful followers equally suggest that the denarius in this parable represents eternal life (see, for example: Wright, 1980, 122:531; Coffman, 1974, p. 307), and since every worker received a denarius, the implication is that there can be no “degrees” of reward. This, however, cannot be what the parable is teaching. In his commentary on the book of Matthew, renowned biblical scholar R.C.H. Lenski explained why.
Those who think that the denarius is eternal life, of course, regard the evening as the final judgment or the hour of death. Even in this verse this cannot be the sense, for eternal life is never earned by any man’s work. The combination of a)po/ with do/j (di/dwmi) means “give what is due.” Eternal life is never due anyone either at the time of its first bestowal in conversion or at the time of its full enjoyment when the believer enters heaven (1943, pp. 772-773, emp. added).
If this parable were speaking about final judgment, it would indeed provide a cogent argument for the equality of each person’s eternal reward. But is the parable addressing final judgment and eternal rewards? No, it is not. In Matthew 20:11 the text clearly indicates that the ones who worked all day “murmured against the householder.” In regard to those who did so, H. Leo Boles commented that “they were envious; their eyes were evil” (1952, p. 400). But the Scriptures make it clear that there will be no envy in heaven (Revelation 21:27). Lenski correctly observed: “Here, it ought to be plain, the possibility of making the denarius equal to eternal life is removed. The thought that a saint in heaven may murmur against God is appalling” (p. 775).
In addition, the master of the vineyard commanded the workers who labored in the field all day: “Take up that which is thine and go thy way” (vs. 14, emp. added). Lenski rendered the phrase, “Take up thine own and be gone,” and then observed:
This lord is done with him. And this is the climax of the parable. This u(/page [be gone] cannot mean, “Go and be content with thy wages!” It is exactly like the imperative found in 4:10, and always means to leave, cf., 8:13; 19:21.... This is a man who works in the church for what he can get out of the church. He has what he worked for—and nothing more. He is treated exactly as the hypocrites are who are mentioned in 6:2,5: “Verily, I say unto you, They have received their reward!” i.e., are paid in full.... Those who will learn nothing about divine grace even when they are working in the church will finally be left without this grace; those who are set on justice and refuse to go beyond it shall finally have justice (p. 777).
If we interpret the parable to mean that the master of the vineyard represents God, and the denarius represents eternal reward, how, then, are we to interpret the fact that those who worked all day received a denarius, but were sent away from the master of the vineyard? Can such a view be squared with Paul’s word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17—“And so shall we ever be with the Lord”?
If this parable is not discussing final judgment (and it is not), and if the denarius does not represent eternal life (and it does not), what, then, is the point of the parable? It appears that Christ was instructing His Jewish listeners about the Gentiles’ place in the Kingdom—a topic that, as we learn from later New Testament writings, became somewhat controversial among first-century Christians. The late Guy N. Woods, former editor of the Gospel Advocate, wrote concerning Christ’s discussion:
It is possible, indeed probable, in the minds of many scholars that it was delivered to show that the Gentiles, who came in at “the eleventh hour,” would enjoy in the kingdom (soon to be established when these words were uttered) the same privileges as the Jews who had been the favored and chosen people of the Lord for many centuries. Though last in point of invitation, they were to become first through their acceptance of, and dedication to, the gospel; whereas, the Jews, through their rebellion and disbelief, would be cut off (1976, p. 231, parenthetical comment in orig.).
Numerous conservative biblical commentators have suggested exactly such a view, including Adam Clarke (n.d. 5:194-197) and H. Leo Boles (1952, pp. 400-401). One writer by the name of Watts put it like this:
It is not the design of this parable to represent the final rewards of the saints at the day of judgment, but to show that the nation of the Jews, who had been called to be the people of God above a thousand years before, and had borne the burden and heat of the day, i.e., the toil and bondage of many ceremonies, should have no preference in the esteem of God above the Gentiles, who were called at the last hour, or at the end of the Jewish dispensation (as quoted in Woods, 1980, 122:532).
While the parable of the laborers established that all who are deserving (Jew or Gentile) would inherit a reward, it also emphasized God’s grace. As Lenski remarked:
The warning represented in this parable suggests our responsibility. If we close eye and heart against grace, no matter how high we stand in the church or how much we work, we shall lose life eternal (1943, p. 781).
But what of the denarius? What does it represent, if not eternal life? Lenski concluded—correctly, we believe—that the denarius represents the blessings one receives here on Earth by being a member of the Lord’s church.
The denarius paid at evening constitutes the temporal blessings connected with our Christian profession and work, and these blessings are made ours already during the entire time that we work. Every one of us gets his denarius; every one enjoys the same temporal benefits that are connected with life in the church. They come to the new convert exactly as they do to the old, to the preacher as well as to the [member], to the child as well as to the octogenarian (p. 772).
REASONS FOR UNEQUAL REWARDS
Lending credence to the idea that Jesus’ parable in Matthew 20 is not discussing equality of eternal rewards is the fact that the Bible plainly depicts certain people being awarded a unique and distinguished position in heaven. Revelation 15:3 notes that in heaven “they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” Surely none of us would be so bold as to suggest that the hosts of heaven will sing a song about us as they do about Moses. Furthermore, in Revelation 21:14 John wrote that “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” While we recognize the somewhat figurative nature of certain terms employed by John, the principle nevertheless remains: the apostles ultimately will occupy a place of greater preeminence in the heavenly abode. Also, Luke 16 portrays Abraham as having more prominence and authority in the afterlife than Lazarus. Consider also Mark 10:40, wherein James and John asked the Lord to allow them to sit next to Him in glory—one on His right side and one on His left. Jesus replied: “To sit on my right hand or on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared.” Some glorified beings (whether angelic or human) will occupy a place of distinction beside the Savior—a unique and special place reserved solely for them.
Some have argued against the idea of differing rewards by claiming that heaven will be perfect, and that something perfect can be neither improved nor diminished. However, Jesus observed that “even so there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more [joy] than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7, emp. added). In at least some sense, then, joy in heaven can differ in degrees. The principle of degrees of heavenly reward—which is taught quite plainly in Scripture—should motivate every Christian to “work while it is yet day, for the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4).
DEGREES OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT
But if there are degrees of reward in heaven, will there likewise be degrees of punishment in hell? Yes indeed. On several occasions, when speaking of eternal torment, the Bible mentions those who will suffer to a lesser or greater degree. And each time such a reference occurs, the punishment is proportionate to the opportunities missed. Those who are blessed with numerous opportunities to obey the gospel and still reject it will receive greater condemnation than those who have little or no occasion to accept Christ. Jesus echoed this sentiment in His rebuke to the inhabitants of the cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin.
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades: for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerablefor the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee (Matthew 11:21-24, emp. added).
Jesus offered this censure to those Jewish cities where He had done much of His preaching, and where, on occasion, He even had performed miracles. The citizens of those towns had more opportunity to accept the Messiah than many others living around them, yet they persisted in their rejection of Him. On the other hand, the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon—renowned for their wickedness—would receive a lesser punishment at the Day of Judgment for the simple reason that they had been deprived of direct exposure to Christ’s message and miracles. All were to endure punishment, for all had rejected God’s law. But it would not be equal punishment. The writer of Hebrews further emphasized this point when he addressed the “sorer punishment” that was to befall those who had “trodden underfoot the Son of God” (10:29). Notice also Peter’s stinging statement regarding the terrible fate that awaits unfaithful, backsliding Christians:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first (2 Peter 2:20-21, emp. added).
If Peter’s statement teaches anything, it teaches degrees of punishment.
But perhaps the most convincing argument for the concept of degrees of punishment derives from Jesus’ parable of the wicked servant, as recorded in Luke 12:42-48.
And the Lord said, “Who, then, is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that servant shall say in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming,’ and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the unfaithful. And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more” (emp. added).
The meaning of the last section of this parable is inescapable. All the wicked will be punished; however, those limited in their opportunities to learn about Christ will be punished “with fewer stripes” than those who knew the truth and obeyed it not.
Does the Bible teach degrees of reward in heaven? Yes, it does. Does it also teach degrees of punishment in hell? Yes, it does. The good news, of course, is that heaven’s offer of salvation is open to everyone (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). No one has to go to hell. When Christ was ransomed on our behalf (1 Timothy 2:4), He paid a debt He did not owe, and a debt we could not pay—so that we could live forever in the presence of our Creator (Matthew 25:46). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). Nor should we. As one writer put it: “No one who has been snatched from the burning himself can feel anything but compassion and concern for the lost” (Woodson, 1973, p. 32). As we discover the hideous nature of our sin, we not only should desire to save ourselves “from this crooked generation” (Acts 2:40), but we also should be passionate about warning the wicked of their impending doom (Ezekiel 3:17-19).
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Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury).
Coffman, Burton (1974), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Abilene, Texas: ACU Press).
Kurfees, M.C., ed. (1921), Questions and Answers by Lipscomb and Sewell (Nashville, TN: McQuiddy).
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Thompson, Bert (2000a), “The Origin, Nature, and Destiny of the Soul—Part III,” Reason and Revelation, 20:33-39, May.
Thompson, Bert (2000b), “The Origin, Nature, and Destiny of the Soul—Part IV,” Reason and Revelation, 20:41-47, June.
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Woods, Guy N. (1980), “Editorial Note” accompanying an article by Cecil N. Wright, “Are There Degrees of Reward and Punishment in Eternity,” Gospel Advocate, 122:531-532, August 21.
Woodson, Leslie (1973), Hell and Salvation (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Wright, Cecil N. (1980), “Are There Degrees of Reward and Punishment in Eternity,” Gospel Advocate, 122:531-532, August 21.