"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS"The More Excellent Way Of Love (13:1-13)INTRODUCTION 1. In 1st Corinthians 12-14 Paul discusses spiritual gifts... 1. In chapter twelve he describes the gifts 2. In chapter thirteen he reveals how long they will last 3. In chapter fourteen he provides guidelines for their use in the assembly 2. In the course of his discussion, he proposes "a more excellent way"... a. While encouraging them to desire the better gifts - cf. 1Co 12:31 b. The more excellent way is the way of love - cf. 1Co 13:1-13 [In chapter 13 we find "The More Excellent Way Of Love" carefully and beautifully defined for us. Paul's discourse on love is divided into three parts, the first being...] I. THE NECESSITY OF LOVE A. DESCRIBED BY PAUL... 1. Necessary in the exercise of spiritual gifts - 1Co 13:1-2 2. Necessary in the exercise of great sacrifice - 1Co 13:3 -- Without love, such things are of no value! B. APPLIED BY US TODAY... 1. Without love, any ability we have is of little value (such as teaching, preaching, etc.) 2. Without love, any knowledge we obtain will only hurt us - cf. 1Co 8:1 3. Without love, any service rendered is not pleasing to God - cf. Re 2:1-5 -- Love is truly a necessary virtue! [But what exactly what is love? That leads us to the second part of Paul's discussion of "The More Excellent Way Of Love", in which he describes...] II. THE QUALITIES OF LOVE A. LOVE'S POSITIVE QUALITIES... 1. Suffers longs - endures slights and wrongs patiently and long, like God Himself (Ps 103:8) - B. W. Johnson 2. Is kind - obliging, willing to help or assist - Complete WordStudy Dictionary B. LOVE'S NEGATIVE QUALITIES... 1. Does not envy - is not jealous of what others have or have become - Pulpit Commentary 2. Does not parade itself - does not brag or boast of one's abilities or possessions - Barnes 3. Is not puffed up - swelled with pride and elated with a vain conceit of himself - Gill 4. Does not behave rudely - to behave in an ugly, indecent, unseemly or unbecoming manner (cf. 1Pe 3:8, "be courteous") - The Complete WordStudy Dictionary 5. Does not seek its own - does not seek its own happiness to the injury of others (cf. 1Co 10:24,33) - Barnes 6. Is not provoked - does not fly into a rage, but keeps the temper under control - B.W. Johnson 7. Thinks no evil - puts the best possible construction on the motives and the conduct of others; not malicious, censorious, disposed to find fault, or to impute improper motives to others - Barnes 8. Does not rejoice in iniquity - Does not rejoice over the "vices" of other people; does not take delight when they are guilty of crime, or when, in any manner, they fall into sin. It does not find pleasure in hearing others accused of sin, and in having it proved that they committed it. - ibid. C. LOVE'S POSITIVE QUALITIES (CONT.)... 1. Rejoices in the truth - lit., "with the truth"; truth is personified as is love, and when love sees truth manifested in the lives of others, love greatly rejoices along with it, cf. 2Jn 4; 3Jn 3-4 2. Bears all things - lit., "covers, protects"; but as used by Paul elsewhere, it can also mean to endure, suffer (cf. 1Co 9: 12; 1Th 3:1,5); thus in regards to the sins or failings of others, there is willingness to bear with them patiently - Barnes 3. Believes all things - in regard to the conduct of others, there is a disposition to put the best construction on it; to believe that they may be actuated by good motives, and that they intend no injury; and that there is a willingness to suppose, as far as can be, that what is done is done consistently with friendship, good feeling, and virtue. Love produces this, because it rejoices in the happiness and virtue of others, and will not believe the contrary except on irrefragable evidence. - ibid. 4. Hopes all things - that all will turn out well. This must also refer to the conduct of others; and it means, that however dark may be appearances; how much so ever there may be to produce the fear that others are actuated by improper motives or are bad people, yet that there is a "hope" that matters may be explained and made clear; that the difficulties may be made to vanish; and that the conduct of others may be made to "appear" to be fair and pure. Love will "hold on to this hope" until all possibility of such a result has vanished and it is compelled to believe that the conduct is not susceptible of a fair explanation. This hope will extend to "all things" - to words and actions, and plans; to public and to private contact; to what is said and done in our own presence, and to what is said and done in our absence. Love will do this, because it delights in the virtue and happiness of others, and will not credit anything to the contrary unless compelled to do so. - ibid. 5. Endures all things - bears up under, sustains, and does not complain. Bears up under all persecutions at the hand of man; all efforts to injure the person, property, or reputation... The connection requires us to understand it principally of our treatment at the hands of our fellowmen. - ibid. [The final quality of love introduces us to the third and last section of "The More Excellent Way Of Love"...] III. THE PERMANENCY OF LOVE A. LOVE NEVER FAILS... 1. Love never fails - to fall away, to fail; to be without effect, to cease to be in existence. a. While other endowments of the Holy Spirit must soon cease and be valueless, love would abide, and would always exist. b. The "argument" is, that we ought to seek that which is of enduring value; and that, therefore, love should be preferred to those endowments of the Spirit on which so high a value had been set by the Corinthians. - Barnes 2. Spiritual gifts (e.g., prophecies, tongues, and knowledge) will fail, cease, vanish away - 1Co 13:8-12 a. Such gifts were to reveal and confirm the Word - cf. Mk 16: 19-20; He 2:3-4 b. Once the Word was completely revealed and confirmed, the need for such gifts ceased - cf. 2Ti 3:16-17; 2Pe 1:3; Jude 3 B. LOVE ABIDES... 1. Along with faith and hope - 1Co 13:13a a. Spiritual gifts like prophecies, tongues, and knowledge would cease b. Yet the virtues of faith, hope and love would "abide" (Grk., meno - remain, dwell, continue, tarry, endure) c. Implying a period of time between the cessation of spiritual gifts and the fulfillment of faith and hope 2. Greater than faith and hope - 1Co 13:13b a. We now walk by faith, not by sight - 2Co 5:7 b. We now hope for what is unseen - Ro 8:24-25 c. When Christ comes, the need for faith and hope will be no more! 1) We will then walk by sight, not faith! 2) We will see that for which we eagerly await, and no longer need hope! d. Yet throughout eternity, in the presence of Christ, "love never fails!" CONCLUSION 1. Love is truly "a more excellent way" (1Co 12:31), what Paul describes elsewhere as... a. The fulfillment of the Law - Ro 13:8 b. The bond of perfection - Col 3:14 2. When properly defined and understood, love is also "the way of Christ"... a. For in Paul's description of love, we see a picture of the character of Christ b. As disciples of Christ, we are to walk in the way of love as well - cf. Ep 5:1-2 3. How does our conduct measure up to Paul's description of love...? a. In our dealings with others, whether they be friends or foes? b. Remember, without love, our labor means nothing! Are we committed to walking in "The More Excellent Way Of Love"...?
"Contradictions" Regarding the Ark of the Covenant
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
How does the “20 years” reference in 1 Samuel 7:2 harmonize with the fact that the ark was not brought from Kirjath-jearim until 2 Samuel 6:4—more than 40 years later?
Even though God’s Word can be substantially communicated from one language to another, the translation process is sufficiently complex to the extent that many of the subtleties of the parent language are lost in translation. These subtleties rarely, if ever, involve matters that are critical to the central purpose of revelation. However, apparent discrepancies on minor details can surface that require a careful re-examination of the actual linguistic data of the parent language (in this case Hebrew) in order to dissolve the apparent discrepancy.
The individual clauses of 1 Samuel 7:2-3 are linked in Hebrew by “waw consecutives” that bring the statements into close logical and temporal connection. The three verbs of verse two are a continuation of the infinitive, which points to the main sentence being resumed in verse three (“and Samuel spoke”). The gist of these grammatical data is that the writer is informing us that after the ark’s capture, the people endured Philistine oppression for the next twenty years. Though all Israel “lamented after the Lord,” He allowed the Israelites to continue their suffering at the hands of the Philistines for 20 years—at which time Samuel called upon the nation to put away its idols.
First Samuel describes the final years of the period of the judges. The reliance upon the ark as a sort of mystical talisman brought swift military tragedy, precipitating yet another period of foreign oppression by Israel’s enemies due to their own apostasy. This period of Philistine preeminence went on for twenty years before the lamentations of God’s people were finally heard. At the end of the twenty years, Samuel called on them to couple their lamentations with genuine penitence (1 Samuel 7:3). When they put away their idolatry (vs. 4), they once again enjoyed the services of the judge (vs. 6), who assisted them in throwing off Philistine oppression by military defeat (vss. 10ff.).
Thus the twenty years refers—not to the total number of years that the ark remained in Kirjath-jearim—but merely to the number of years the ark was in Kirjath-jearim before the Lord chose to hear the people’s lamentations and provide them with intervention through Samuel.
Biologist Uses His Free Will to Reject Free Will
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Anthony Cashmore, biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote an article alleging that human free will does not exist. He wrote: “It is my belief that, as more attention is given to the mechanisms that govern human behavior, it will increasingly be seen that the concept of free will is an illusion” (2010). According to Cashmore, you are reading this article because your genes and your environment have forced you to sit in front of your computer. You are not responsible for your decision to read this article, and, based on your alleged evolutionary history and your environment, you could not choose to be doing anything different than what you are doing now. You are literally a slave to your genes and your environment. As Cashmore wrote: “[A]n individual cannot be held responsible for either his genes or his environment. From this simple analysis, surely it follows that individuals cannot logically be held responsible for their behavior” (2010).
A response to such a bizarre claim is certainly warranted. First, it should be noted that the concept of human evolution is patently false (see Harrub and Thompson, 2003). Any attempt to discard free will based on evolutionary scenarios is doomed to failure. Second, it must be stressed that many in the greater scientific community, who hold an evolutionary bias, admit that human consciousness defies naturalistic explanations (Harrub and Thompson, 2003, pp. 247-428). Third, humans possess inherent qualities unlike anything seen in the animal kingdom. This truth testifies to the fact that humans have been stamped in the image of their divine Creator (Lyons and Thompson, 2002a and Lyons and Thompson 2002b). These are just a few of the concepts that militate against Cashmore’s thesis.
The most damaging line of evidence against Cashmore’s proposition is the way in which he attempts to convince his readers of its truth. His five-and-a-half page article argues that our society should disregard the outdated concept that humans are responsible for their behavior. But if Cashmore is right, then there is no way we can disregard the concept, due to the simple fact that we did not choose it in the first place. If humans are not responsible for their beliefs or behaviors, then the generally held concept of free will, that Cashmore is trying to demolish, is nothing more than an evolutionary, environmental by-product. According to Cashmore’s line of thinking, if we believe in free will at the present, and act on that belief, we are not responsible for it. If he is right, why in the world would he attempt to urge the scientific community to change its mind about free will, if the community does not have the power to change its mind? Why spend time and effort arguing against free will, if your audience does not have the freedom to choose to accept or reject your reasoning anyway? The fatal flaw of the “no free will” argument is that it demands that the person making the argument has the free will to do so, and it tacitly assumes the parties evaluating the argument have the power to accept or reject it.
If Cashmore is right, his genes and environment forced him to write the article. All those who read it were equally compelled to do so, and their conclusions about his writing are preprogrammed responses that cannot be otherwise. So, if anyone disagrees with Cashmore’s thesis, using his line of thinking, that person cannot be said to be right or wrong. The most that can be said is that such a person’s genes and environment led him to a different conclusion than Cashmore’s. Yet the fact that Cashmore is writing a “persuasive” piece of literature belies the reality that his thesis cannot be correct.
It is ironic that Cashmore, in his concluding acknowledgements, thanked his colleagues and those who reviewed his manuscript. Yet if he is right, they were not responsible for their behavior, and they had no choice but to help him. Why thank biological organisms that are just stumbling around their environment without a choice in the matter? That would be like an architect thanking the bricks that made a home possible, or a pilot thanking the air for providing lift for his plane. In reality, Cashmore freely chose to write his article, just as I freely chose to respond to it. You freely chose to read this response, and you can and will freely choose how you respond to it. And it is upon the basis of free will that our divine Creator urges us, as free moral agents, to choose to serve Him and live moral lives (Joshua 24:15).
Cashmore, Anthony (2010), “The Lucretian Swerve: The Biological Basis of Human Behavior and the Criminal Justice System,” PNAS, [On-line], URL: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/02/04/0915161107.full.pdf+html.
Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth about Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002a), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God,’” Part 1, Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/123.
Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002b), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God,’” Part 2, Reason and Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/125.
The Goodness of God and an Eternal Hell
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
How can a “good” God condemn someone to hell forever?
The late Bertrand Russell, a renowned British agnostic, authored a small publication titled Why I Am Not A Christian. One of the reasons he cited for his unbelief was that Jesus Christ taught that there is an eternal hell for the wicked. Russell could not harmonize Christ’s doctrine about hell with the biblical concept of a just and benevolent God; hence, he rejected the teaching of Jesus and inclined toward the belief that there is no God. Russell, who lived a life of reckless abandon, echoed the sentiments of Cain: “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” On that basis, he became a determined opponent of true religion.
The problem of reconciling eternal retribution with the goodness of God has also had a significant impact on the religious world. Many religions, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and the World-Wide Church of God (Armstrongism), have rejected the doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked. Even the churches of Christ have had their advocates of this erroneous viewpoint (cf. Fudge, 1982).
SOME AD HOMINEM ARGUMENTS
An ad hominem (meaning, “to the man”) argument is a type of reasoning employed to focus upon an opponent’s inconsistency. Let us, at the outset of this discussion, utilize such in conjunction with the “no-hell” theory.
First of all, a major premise of the no-eternal-punishment dogma is the notion that such a concept is at variance with true justice. The argument might be framed like this. The Bible speaks of a “just” and “good” God; it also teaches the doctrine of eternal hell. These two positions are mutually exclusive. Therefore, the Scriptures are inconsistent, and cannot be true. We insist, however, that those who thus argue are under obligation to defend their use of the terms “just” and “good.” By whose standard are these character traits to be measured? The critics of the Bible must not be allowed to become “theological dictionaries unto themselves”! Their reasoning is based solely upon their personal ideas of how goodness and justice should be expressed. If it is true that the Scriptures teach that God has appointed eternal punishment for impenitently evil people; and if it is likewise true that the Bible affirms the justice and goodness of Jehovah, then it must follow that eternal punishment is not inconsistent with the nature of God. It is only at odds with some men’s perverted sense of goodness/justice.
Second, no one (skeptic or otherwise) is ready to concede that evil-doers are unworthy of anytype of punishment. It is recognized that no society could survive in such an atmosphere. Should the rapist, the robber, and the murderer be told: “Admittedly, you have done wrong, but we (society) will not punish you for your crimes. That would be unjust.”? Is there anyone who argues that there should be no consequences resulting from criminal conduct? Absolutely not! It is conceded, therefore, that “punishment” is not inconsistent with true justice.
Third, let us take our reasoning one step further. Is it the case that genuine justice can be served even when an evil man’s punishment is extended beyond the time actually involved in the commission of his crime? Do we, for example, in our criminal justice system, ask the murderer: “Sir, how long did it take you to kill your wife?”—and then assign his incarceration accordingly? Would justice be maintained by such an approach? Of course not. Here, then, is the point—true justice, combined with genuine goodness, allows the possibility that a wrong-doer may be required to suffer a penalty that is considerably longer than the duration of his evil. The real issue, therefore, is not punishment per se, or even protracted punishment; rather, it is eternal punishment. The skeptic (or religious materialist) simply wants to tell God how long the penalty is to be! Remember, though, in a system of true justice, the offender is not allowed to set his own sentence!
THE CASE FOR ETERNAL
PUNISHMENT BY A JUST GOD
Since no one ever has returned from the dead to discuss his/her personal experiences, this issue is not one that can be settled by human speculation; rather, it must be decided by divine revelation. When the relevant biblical data are assembled, it will be seen, even from man’s jaundiced viewpoint, that the fact of eternal punishment is not inconsistent with the character of a righteous God. Our case will be set forth in a series of interrelated propositions.
The Nature and Fall of Man
Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), hence, he is a volitional being. He has the power to choose good or evil. Joshua challenged Israel, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Humanity was not programmed to rebel; rather, men have “willed” to reject Heaven’s plan for living upon this Earth (see Matthew 23:37; John 5:40). Man was made upright, but he has generally sought the way of evil (Ecclesiastes 7:29). There are, however, consequences associated with this type of activity.
Sin and the Nature of God
The Bible clearly teaches that God is an absolutely holy Being (Isaiah 6:4; Revelation 4:8), i.e., He is utterly separate from evil. His holiness is demonstrated in numerous narratives in the Scriptures. At Sinai, the chasm between God and sinful Israel was vividly underscored (Exodus 19:12-25). The tabernacle arrangement, with its holy place and most holy place (the abode of God—Exodus 25:22) certainly was designed to instruct the Hebrews relative to Jehovah’s holy nature (Exodus 26:33).
The Lord’s holiness not only suggests that He cannot personally commit sin (James 1:13), but also means that He cannot ignore rebellion as if it had never happened. The prophet Habakkuk declared to Jehovah: “Your eyes are too pure to look upon evil [i.e., favorably—WJ]; you cannot tolerate wrong” (1:13, NIV). God takes no pleasure in wickedness (Psalm 5:4), and those who indulge themselves therein will be recipients of His vengeance (Psalm 11:6,7). The Bible affirms that the outpouring of divine wrath upon the ungodly is, in fact, a “revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).
Sin Separates One from God
When humanity chose to sin, it made the decision to be separated from the holy Creator. The prophet clearly stated that, “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). In biblical parlance, “death” generally denotes a separation of some sort. When the spirit departs the body, the body is dead (James 2:26). Similarly, when a person enters a state of sinfulness, he becomes spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) for, by that act, he has determined to separate himself from God. Remember, this initiation of estrangement was not forced upon us by our Maker; it is totally our responsibility.
Hell—The Ultimate Separation
Inspiration describes the penalty of hell as “the second death” (Revelation 20:14), which suggests that it is the ultimate separation from God. This is forcefully emphasized in several New Testament passages. In the parable of the virgins, those unprepared virgins who “slept” (i.e., died), when awakened by the coming of the Bridegroom, wanted entrance into His presence, but the door was shut, and they were denied that association (Matthew 25:1-13). Unprofitable servants will be “cast out” (Matthew 25:30), and will hear the Lord exclaim: “Depart from me...” (Matthew 25:41). Paul expressed it like this. Those who know not God and who obey not the gospel, “shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This abiding separation from God is but a continuation of the estrangement that the rebel cultivated in this life. The Lord is not responsible for such a reckless decision!
The Dramatic Horror of Separation from God
How is it possible to describe the spiritual state of being banished from the presence of the supreme Being of the Universe? Being alienated from Jehovah is the ultimate experience of horror. It is a separation from everything that is pure and good, everything that is right and wholesome, and everything that makes for joy and tranquility. It is, however, a spiritual experience, and since the human mind operates on the plane of the material, we really are not prepared to appreciate the gravity of such a circumstance. Hence, God has employed appropriate symbolism to describe the agonies of hell.
The spiritual abode of the wicked is a state of pain, trouble, and sorrow (Psalm 116:3). It is characterized by shame and contempt (Daniel 2:2), a realm of affliction (Jonah 2:2). Hell is a place of outer darkness where there is weeping and the gnashing of teeth (Matthew 23:30), indeed a sphere of eternal fire (Matthew 25:41), where the “worm” (a figure for gnawing anguish) does not die (Mark 9:48). The wicked are described as being beaten with stripes (Luke 12:47-48); they are recipients of God’s wrath and indignation; they experience tribulation and anguish (Romans 2:8-9); and they suffer punishment as a manifestation of the Lord’s vengeance (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Hell is a place of utter torment where no rest is ever known (Revelation 14:10-11). While it would not be an expression of responsible exegesis to literalize the figures of speech catalogued above, one never must forget that the symbolism is designed to emphasize the absolute terror of being abandoned by God. Moreover, the figures doubtless do not do justice to the actual reality of this eternal nightmare!
Is the Punishment Eternal in Duration?
As observed earlier, a major objection to the doctrine of hell is its everlasting nature. Must the suffering go on without end? Is it really just for one to be punished forever when he/she has only been devoted to evil for a relatively brief span in time? Consider this question for a moment. Is God just in granting eternal bliss to those who have served Him only temporarily in this world? I never have heard the Lord charged with unfairness in this instance! It must be emphasized again, the issue is not one that can be determined with the subjective reasoning of biased human emotion. The Bible must supply the answer.
The Scriptures explicitly affirm the abiding nature of divine retribution. The shame and punishment of evil people will be everlasting (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46). “Everlasting” literally means “always being.” Note its contrast with “temporal” in 2 Corinthians 4:18. The claim is made, however, that “everlasting” does not always mean that which is of an absolutely unending nature. True, but in all such cases we learn that fact, not from the nature of the word itself, but from additional information in the Scriptures. The context is always the final judge of any word’s meaning. In Matthew 25:46, the “eternal” punishment of the wicked is contrasted with the “eternal” life (i.e., communion with God) of the righteous. Here, clearly, both are unending in duration. Further, Jesus emphasized that in hell, the agony does not cease (Mark 9:48), and John notes that the smoke of the “torment” of hell’s inmates “goeth up” (the Greek present tense stresses continuous action) “for ever and ever” (Revelation 14:11). Compare the duration of the blissful worship described in Revelation 4:8-10.
Also, the nature of the soul argues for eternal punishment. Consider the following: (a) Man is not wholly mortal, as materialists allege. If such were the case, one man could murder another and completely destroy him. Christ declared, however: “And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). [NOTE: The word “destroy” does not mean annihilation. “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being” (Vine, 1940, p. 302).] One must conclude that the soul is immortal. (b) In one of the Lord’s discussions with the Sadducees, He said that in the resurrection men do not “die anymore: for they are equal unto the angels” (Luke 20:36). It is quite clear that there is something about man that lives forever. (c) When Peter wanted to encourage godliness in Christian women, he suggested that they should be clothed with the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4). It hardly seems appropriate that a corruptible spirit should be clothed with incorruptible apparel. The implication concerning the abiding nature of the spirit is obvious. (d) Jesus said of Judas Iscariot that it would be better for him if he had never been born (Mark 14:21). If that traitor had no existence prior to his commencement as a human being, and if he was to go out of existence at death, why would it have been better had he never been born? The Lord’s statement plainly indicates that Judas’ soul, in a state of torment, would survive the death of his body.
Finally, the nature of the resurrected body demands that punishment for the wicked is everlasting. In 1 Corinthians 15:52, Paul affirms that the dead are raised “incorruptible” (cf. 1 Timothy 1:17, where the term is used of God). Elsewhere we are told that the unjust will be raised (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15), and Christ acknowledged the punishment of both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28). All of these factors lead only to the conclusion that if there is punishment after death at all, then it must be eternal in its duration—unless it can be shown that there is some plan of salvation in that state. And for that view, there is absolutely no evidence at all! In fact, the Bible teaches just the opposite. (a) After death, judgment follows—not a second chance for salvation (Hebrews 9:27). (b) Between the Hadean abode of those who die saved, and those who die lost, “there is a great gulf fixed” (the perfect tense form in the Greek Testament stresses the abiding nature of the separation), and passage from one realm into another is an impossibility (Luke 16:26). Moreover, the rich man in that place of torment acknowledged that his brothers back on Earth needed to make preparation during their earthly sojourn; he knew there was no post-death plan of redemption (see Luke 16:28-31). (c) In the parable of the virgins (Matthew 25:1ff), those who “slumbered and slept” (a figure for dying) in an unprepared condition, awoke (i.e., were raised—Daniel 12:2) in precisely that same state, hence, were forbidden to enter in with the Bridegroom (Christ). There is no opportunity for obedience after death!
Divine Justice is Demonstrated by Equitable Punishment
An added dimension to this study surely must be that of “degrees of punishment.” The Scriptures teach that eternal punishment will be proportionate to what is deserved. Jesus said that in “the day of judgment” it would be “more tolerable” for those pagan cities that had received little spiritual influence, than for those cities which rejected Him in spite of seeing His marvelous deeds (Matthew 11:22-24). In one of His vivid illustrations, the Lord told of a certain servant who behaved himself in an unseemly fashion. When his master came and found him unprepared, he assigned him to punishment. Christ then made this statement: “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” (Luke 12:47-48). Christ indicated that there were varying levels of responsibility when He said to Pilate: “He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (John 19:11). The writer of Hebrews spoke of those who would receive “sorer punishment” (10:29), and James admonished: “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (3:1). Of one thing we may be certain, even in the punishment of those who are evil, the Judge of all the Earth will do what is right (Genesis 18:25).
God’s Goodness Reflected in the Cross
No one—logically and effectively—can argue against the benevolence of Jehovah in the face of the cross. As was observed earlier, the holiness and justice of Deity demands that sin be addressed. Appropriate reward for good and evil is an evidence that “there is a God that judgeth in the earth” (see Psalm 58:10,11). The problem is—how can a just God keep from sending rebellious man to hell? The answer is—through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Paul affirmed, in Romans 3:21-26, that God has shown His righteousness in setting forth Christ to be a propitiation for sin. In this loving act, He preserves His own righteousness, yet, at the same time, He becomes the Justifier of those who, through faith, are obedient to His Son (cf. Hebrews 5:8-9).
When Christ died upon the cross, it was not for any sin that He personally had committed. Though He was tempted in all points like as we are, He had no sin (Hebrews 4:15). When Peter wrote that Jesus “did not sin,” he employed a verbal tense which suggests that the Lord never sinned—not even once (1 Peter 2:22)! Isaiah repeatedly emphasized the substitutionary nature of the Lord’s death when he wrote: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.... Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). When the prophet declared that our “iniquity” was laid upon the Son of God, he employed a figure of speech known as metonymy (one thing is put for another)—in this case, the cause being put for the effect. In other words, God did not actually put our sins upon Christ, but He put the penalty of our wrongs upon His Son at Calvary. Christ bore our “hell” twenty centuries ago. In spite of the fact, therefore, that all sinners deserve to be lost, the Lord has provided a way to “escape the judgment of hell” (cf. Matthew 23:32). Again we stress—no man can argue against the love of God in light of His unspeakable gift at the cross!
When all of the data are gathered and analyzed in balance, the doctrine of eternal punishment is not at variance with the character of the Creator.
Fudge, Edward (1982), The Fire That Consumes (Houston, TX: Providential Press).
Vine, W.E. (1940), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Westwood, NJ: Revell).
Is Jesus Really Michael the Archangel?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Jesus is not God and never claimed to be” (“Should You Believe…?,” 2000). Rather, Jesus can be understood “from the scriptures to be Michael the Archangel” (The Watchtower, 1979, p. 29). “Michael the great prince is none other than Jesus Christ himself,” they allege (The Watchtower, 1984, p. 29). The May 15, 1969 issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower magazine suggested: “There is Scriptural evidence for concluding that Michael was the name of Jesus Christ before he left heaven and after his return” (p. 307). Where is the “scriptural evidence” for such a doctrine? In an article titled “The Truth About Angels” that appears on the official web site of Jehovah’s Witnesses (www.watchtower.org), 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 9 were the only two passages listed as proof that “the foremost angel, both in power and authority, is the archangel, Jesus Christ, also called Michael” (2001).
Michael the archangel is mentioned only five times in the Bible (Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7), and yet never do these passages indicate that he is to be equated with the preincarnate Christ, nor with the ascended Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:16 also alludes to “an archangel,” and, although the name Michael is not mentioned, this is the passage Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently cite as proof of Jesus being the archangel. Concerning the Second Coming of Christ, Paul wrote: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (emp. added). Supposedly, since Jesus is described as descending from heaven “with the voice of an archangel,” then He must be the archangel Michael. However, this verse does not teach that Jesus is an archangel, but that at His Second Coming He will be accompanied “with the voice of an archangel.” Just as He will be attended “with a shout” and “with the trumpet of God,” so will He be accompanied “with the voice of an archangel.” Question: If Jesus’ descension from heaven “with the voice of an archangel” makes Him (as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim) the archangel Michael, then does His descent “with the trumpet of God” not also make Him God? Jehovah’s Witnesses reject this latter conclusion, yet they accept the first. Such inconsistency is one proof of their erroneous teachings about Jesus.
One of the strongest arguments against Jesus being an angel is found in the book of Hebrews. In chapter one, the writer of Hebrews showed the superiority of Jesus over the angelic beings, and contrasted Him with them.
For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.” But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? (1:5-13).
Jesus’ superiority over the angels is seen in the fact that the Father spoke to Jesus as His special begotten Son to Whom He gave the seat of honor at His right hand (1:5,13). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews indicated that God commanded all angels to worship Jesus (1:6; cf. Revelation 5:11-13; Philippians 2:10). Yet, if Jesus were an angel, how could He accept the worship of other “lesser” angels when, according to Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9, angels do not accept worship, but rather preach the worship of God, and no other? Hebrews chapter one is a death knell to the idea of Jesus, the Son of God, being Michael, the archangel. [NOTE: Interestingly, John H. Paton, the most frequently used contributing writer in 1879 of Charles Taze Russel (the founder of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), admitted such when he stated in The Watchtowermagazine near the end of its inaugural year: “Hence it is said, ‘let all the angels of God worship him’: (that must include Michael, the chief angel, hence Michael is not the Son of God)…” (1879, p. 4, emp. added). Sadly, even though Paton rejected the idea of Jesus being Michael the archangel, and even though Russell, The Watchtower's founder and first editor and publisher, allowed such a teaching in the magazine's first year of publication, Jehovah’s Witnesses today hold firmly to the doctrine that Jesus is Michael, the archangel.]
The writer of Hebrews returned to the subject of Jesus’ superiority over angels in chapter two, saying, “He [God] has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (2:5). To whom will the world be in subjection? Scripture indicates that it would be Jesus, “the appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). “All authority” has been given, not to any angel, but to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). All angels, authorities, and powers “have been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22). “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Hebrews 2:8, NIV, emp. added). Jesus, therefore, is not Michael, the archangel, “for it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5, RSV).
One final proof that Jesus is not Michael the archangel actually comes from one of the five passages in which Michael’s name is found in Scripture—Jude 9. According to Jude: “Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ” Whereas Michael would not dare pronounce a railing judgment against the devil (cf. 2 Peter 2:11), Jesus once declared about Satan: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Jesus did not approach the subject of rebuking Satan with the same hesitation as godly angels like Michael. Jesus, as Lord of heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18), boldly called the devil a murderer and liar, and even went so far as to declare that “there is no truth in him.” The Son of God obviously is not Michael the archangel.
I find it extremely puzzling how Jehovah’s Witnesses can conclude that there is no biblical proof of Jesus being deity, and yet at the same time allege that “[t]here is Scriptural evidence for concluding that Michael was the name of Jesus Christ before he left heaven and after his return” (Watchtower, 1969, p. 307, emp. added). Where is the evidence? There is none. Jesus is not Michael the archangel; rather, He is exactly Who the apostle John said He was (John 1:1,14), Who Thomas said He was (John 20:28), and even Who His enemies accused Him of making Himself (John 5:18; 10:33). Jesus is God!
“Should You Believe in the Trinity?” (2000), [On-line], URL: http://www.watchtower.org/library/ti/index.htm.
The Truth About Angels (2001), [On-line], URL: http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/1995/11/1/the_truth_about_angels.htm, originally appeared in The Watchtower, November 1, 1995.
The Watchtower, 1879, November.
The Watchtower, 1969, May 15.
The Watchtower, 1979, February 15.
The Watchtower, 1984, December 15.
“With God One Day is a Thousand Years”?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If I had a dollar for each time I heard someone use this phrase to add thousands of years to the biblical, six-day Creation, I finally might be able to purchase that newer model minivan my wife would love to have. It seems as if whenever there is a discussion of the days of Creation, someone mentions how those days may have been long periods of time. After all, the Bible does say, “With God one day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.” Does this phrase really support the Day-Age Theory as many suggest?
First, the Bible does not say, “With God one day is a thousand years and a thousand years is one day.” The apostle Peter actually wrote: “[B]eloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Peter used a figure of speech known as a simile to compare a day to a thousand years. It is not that one day is precisely equivalent to 1,000 years or vice versa. Rather, within the specific context of 2 Peter 3, one could say that they share a likeness.
What is the context of 2 Peter 3? In this passage, Peter reminded Christians that “scoffers” would arise in the last days saying, “Where is the promise of His [Jesus’] coming?” (vss. 3-4). Peter declared: “[T]he heavens and the earth...are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (vs. 7). Regardless of what the scoffers alleged about the Second Coming, Peter wanted the church to know that “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise [of a return], as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (vs. 9). Sandwiched between these thoughts is the fact that the passing of time does not affect God’s promises, specifically the promise of His return. If Jesus promised to return 1,000 or 2,000 years ago, it is as good as if He made the promise yesterday. Indeed, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” With men, the passing of long periods of time generally affects their keeping of promises, but not with God. Time has no bearing on whether He will do what He said He would do: “a thousand years are like a day” (vs. 8, NIV).
Another point to consider is that Peter used the term “day” (Greek hemera) and the phrase “thousand years” (chilia ete). This in itself is proof that God is able to communicate to man the difference between one day and 1,000 years. (For similes to make sense, one first must understand the literal difference between what is being compared. If there were no difference, then it would be meaningless to use such a figure of speech.) What’s more, within Genesis chapter one God used the terms “days” (Hebrew yamim) and “years” (shanim). Many rightly have questioned, “If a day in Genesis is really a thousand years (or some other long period of time), then what are the years mentioned in Genesis chapter one?” Such a definition of “days” makes a reasonable interpretation of Creation impossible. The facts are: (1) God knows the difference between a day and a thousand years; (2) Peter and Moses understood this difference; (3) their original audience comprehended the difference; and (4) any unbiased reader today can do the same.
Finally, even if 2 Peter 3:8 could be tied to the length of the Creation days (logically and biblically it cannot), adding 6,000 years to the age of the Earth would in no way appease evolutionary sympathizers. A person could add 600,000 years or 600 million years and still not come close to the alleged age of the Universe. According to evolutionary calculations, one would still be 13+ billion years away from the Big Bang and four billion years this side of the formation of Earth. Truly, even an abuse of 2 Peter 3:8 will not help Day-Age theorists.
Abortion and the Ungodly Irrationality Surrounding Unwanted Infants
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
To say that the descendants of Abraham were growing in number is an understatement. According to Exodus 1:7, while in Egypt “the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.” The more the Egyptians afflicted them, “the more they multiplied and grew” (1:12; cf. 1:20). As Jehovah had promised, the “few” had become a “mighty” nation of “many” (Genesis 46:3; Deuteronomy 26:5)—so many, in fact, that the “Egyptians were in dread of the children of Israel” (Exodus 1:12). Even Pharaoh became alarmed to the point that on two different occasions he called for the slaughter of all male Israelite newborns. In an attempt to thwart Divine Providence’s promised growth of Israel (Genesis 12:2; 22:17; 46:3), Pharaoh took it upon himself to call on “all his people” to throw Israel’s neonatal sons into the river (Exodus 1:22). Infanticide ensued. “Drown the Hebrew infants.” “Destroy those abominable babies” (cf. Genesis 43:32). “Feed them to the crocodiles.”
Some 80 years later, God severely punished Egypt for their wrongdoings. He brought ten dreadful plagues upon Pharaoh and all his land (Exodus 7-12). Moses described God’s “great” and “mighty” judgment upon Egypt as “the chastening of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 7:19; 11:2). The psalmist wrote how God “cast on them [the Egyptians] the fierceness of His anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, by sending angels of destruction among them. He made a path for His anger; He did not spare their soul from death, but gave their life over to the plague, and destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt” (78:49-51). Granted, Egypt’s sins were many—from their idolatry, to their mistreatment of the Hebrews, to their refusal to let God’s people leave Egypt—but do not think for a minute that Jehovah had forgotten Egypt’s massacre of Abraham’s innocent descendants. Those precious children were “a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Jehovah had “graciously given” them to Israel (cf. Genesis 33:5). He created them in His own image and gave them life (Genesis 1:26-27; Acts 17:25; Ecclesiastes 12:7)—life that Pharaoh had no right to choose to take from them (only God has that right; see Butt, 2009, 29:89-95).
Three thousand six hundred years ago, Egypt was plagued with baby murderers. From the tyrannical king, to all those who assisted him in drowning Israelite infants in the Nile River, Egypt revealed itself as a bloodthirsty country. (Interestingly, the first punishing plague God sent upon Egypt was turning water to blood, while the last was striking down all of Egypt’s firstborn.) Scripture repeatedly affirms that God detests the sin of murder. In patriarchal times, murder was wrong, and punishable by death: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed” (Genesis 9:6). Under the Law of Moses, the prohibition of murder was listed as one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13), and likewise carried a punishment of death (Numbers 35:30). The wisest man who ever lived (aside from Jesus, of course) noted in the Old Testament book of Proverbs: “[T]he Lord hates...hands that shed innocent blood” (6:16-17; cf. 1 Kings 3:12). According to the New Testament, governments have the God-given authority to take away the physical life of murderers (Romans 13:4). Furthermore, impenitent murderers will also “have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). From Genesis through Revelation, God emphasized the sanctity of human life, while simultaneously making clear His hot displeasure with those who disregard it.
CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
In ancient Egypt, only Pharaoh was considered to be like a god, the supposed incarnation of the Sun god, Ra. Pharaoh also was thought to be the sole person who bore “the image of god.” The Egyptian canal digger and the merchant, the taskmaster and the Hebrew slave, all were thought innately inferior because they were not divine image bearers (or so they had been told). Such a designation was not applied to the common man in Egypt, nor anywhere else for that matter. Outside the Bible, archaeologists and historians have never found where mankind in general was said to have been created in the “image” of a particular god. Three Akkadian texts from the Sargonic period of Assyria’s history use the Akkadian cognate of tselem (“image”), but it is employed only in a context where kings are being discussed (Miller, 1972, 91:294-295). The rulers of empires were the sole beings referred to as “images” of gods.
According to the first chapter of the Bible, however, the Creator of the Universe has honored allhumans by endowing them with certain qualities that are intrinsic to His nature. Genesis 1:26-27 describes all mankind with language that previously had been applied only to the supreme rulers of nations:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female
He created them.
Make no mistake: “In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1). [For a discussion of what being made in the image of God means, see Lyons and Thompson, 2002.] Thousands of years after Creation, James warned Christians not to curse men because they “are made after the likeness of God” (3:9, ASV, emp. added). [NOTE: The English verb “are made” (ASV) derives from the Greek gegonotas, which is the perfect participle of the verb ginomai. The perfect tense in Greek is used to describe an action brought to completion in the past, but whose effects are felt in the present.] Although Adam and Eve are the only two humans to have been specially created by God (Genesis 2:7,21-22), all humanity shares the honor of being made in God’s likeness—which is why God condemns murder. Following the Flood, God said, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6, emp. added). Murder is forbidden because man is made in the image of God.
The newborns that Pharaoh drowned in ancient Egypt were Divine image bearers. Likewise, the infants that Herod slew some 1,500 years later also bore the likeness of God (Matthew 2:13-17). They were all 100% human beings. They were not rocks or plants. They were not animals. They were not merely blobs of living tissue. They were humans who had been given living spirits by “the Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9). What’s more, these babies were pure and sinless. They were (by creation) children of God, who had never separated themselves from Him (Ezekiel 18:20; cf. Matthew 18:3-5), and who now live in the afterlife in paradise (cf. 2 Samuel 12:23).
Pharaoh slaughtered infants for population control purposes. Herod butchered babies in hopes of killing the King of kings. These men were wicked rulers who implemented hideous policies and practices. However, what is taking place in America today is no less revolting. The morally inept leadership of the United States, and those who willfully chose to put them into office, are just as guilty as the bloodthirsty, tyrannical baby killers of the past. Why? Because every year in America far more babies are brutally murdered than were killed in Egypt and Palestine in the days of Moses and Jesus.
More than one million innocent, unborn children are slaughtered each year in the United States of America (“Facts...,” 2008). In 2008, Guttmacher Institute reported that “from 1973 through 2005, more than 45 million legal abortions occurred” (“Facts...”). Forty-five million! That is more people than currently reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee...combined. The murder of unborn children has occurred with such frequency since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 that few people ever stop to consider the brutality involved. I recently became aware of one high school student who went to school pregnant, left to have an abortion, then returned to finish the school day. (No, her parents were not informed of her “choice” beforehand.) “Just a casual procedure in a doctor’s office, that’s all it was.”
In truth, there is nothing casual about the slaughter of an innocent child. Have you ever considered what mothers and doctors do in order to abort a baby? (Most abortionists don’t want you to know, much less see, how abortions are performed!) In a murderous abortion procedure called “suction aspiration,” doctors use a knife-like device, and suction from a powerful hose and pump (“29 times more powerful than a household vacuum cleaner”—“Abortion Methods,” 2010), to chop and suck a baby out of the mother’s womb. In the “dilation and evacuation” abortion procedure, doctors actually use plier-like devices to twist and tear four-month-old unborn babies into pieces. Usually this requires crushing the baby’s skull and snapping the child’s spine in order to extract them. When mothers choose to abort their unborn babies who are older than four months, doctors often use a procedure called “saline injection” (i.e., salt poisoning). The strong salt solution that doctors inject through the mother’s abdomen acts as a corrosive and burns the baby inside and out. Normally, the child will suffer for an hour or more before dying. However, in some cases the children survive and are born alive. In most of these instances, they are helplessly left to themselves to die outside the womb. Still, a few have survived and lived to tell their story (see “Gianna Jessen,” 2006). When performing partial-birth abortions doctors normally deliver all of the baby except the head, then puncture the base of the skull with a pair of scissors, before removing the child’s brain with a hollow tube (“Abortion Methods,” 2010). This is sick! This is sadistic! Today’s abortions make Pharaoh’s command to cast the neonatal Israelites into the river sound like compassionate killing. No doubt, the cries of America’s innocent infants are being heard by the Creator. The shed blood of these blameless babies has been witnessed by our holy, just God who “hates...hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:16-17).
THE HUMANITY OF THE UNBORN
Some people believe that unborn humans at various embryonic stages are more animal-like than human. Ernst Haeckel first proposed this idea in the latter part of the 1800s. He insisted that what lived inside a woman during her pregnancy was not human until the latter part of the gestation period. Even though science disproved Haeckel’s ridiculous idea long ago, it is a myth “popular culture has never fully abandoned” (Gould, 2000, 109:44). Sadly, some pro-abortionists still try to comfort themselves by insisting that the human embryo may be going through the stages of our alleged evolutionary ancestors, and thus they supposedly are not really human when aborted (see Jackson, n.d.). Other pro-abortionists seem happy to just take a “leap of faith” and hope that what is inside a pregnant woman is not a living, human being. Still others, like pro-abortion President Barak Obama, claim not to know when an unborn child is fully human. In a Presidential Candidates Forum on August 16, 2008, President Obama declared that knowing when an unborn child deserves human rights is “above my pay grade” (“Saddleback...”). Though the President claims ignorance on the matter, his hypocritical actions speak volumes: he still strongly supports pro-abortion policies. If President Obama truly does not know when an unborn infant deserves human rights, then why is he “a consistent champion” of allowing millions of Americans to mutilate their unborn children (“Women,” 2009)?
The fact is, common sense, science, and Scripture all show that an unborn embryo/baby is a living, human being. Do nonliving beings hiccup, suck their thumbs, or respond to touch, pain, cold, sound, and light? Of course not. Yet unborn babies do all of these things (see “Fetal Development,” 2003). They have a beating heart and a working brain. They are, beyond any doubt, living, human beings! Only the cold, callous heart would think otherwise. [For information on life beginning at conception, see Major, 1995.]
Although she recanted her views about abortion several years ago, relatively few people know that “Jane Roe,” the pseudonym that Norma McCorvey assumed as the lead plaintiff in the infamous Roe v. Wade case, no longer supports abortion. After over 20 years of supporting the pro-abortion platform, McCorvey suddenly began opposing abortion and has been for several years now. Why did this pro-abortion poster child become pro-life? What led to her change in thinking? Why does she now adamantly oppose the slaughtering of innocent unborn babies? According to McCorvey, the “straw that broke the camel’s back” came while she was working in an abortion clinic and was instructed to enter a room where aborted fetuses were kept. Her assignment was to count the body parts of an infant that had just been aborted—to make sure the doctor had retrieved the entire baby from the mother’s womb. McCorvey, who had previously worked in at least three other abortion clinics, stated, “I went back to the parts room, and I looked at this tiny little infant, and I freaked” (as quoted in McGrew, 2002, emp. added). “Jane Roe,” the woman who symbolized a woman’s right to have an abortion (i.e., Roe v. Wade), was forced to look upon the body parts of an aborted “fetus” and became convinced that it was a human being. Why? Because it looked like a human being. Unborn babies look like humans beings because they are human beings!
When Samuel Armas was a 21-week unborn baby, USA Today photojournalist Michael Clancy snapped what arguably would become the most famous pre-natal photograph ever. On August 19, 1999, Dr. Joseph Bruner, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, performed spina bifida surgery on Samuel while he was in utero. During the surgery, Samuel, who was only about half way through the normal gestation period, was pictured with his tiny hand resting on one of the doctor’s fingers. Samuel was born 15 weeks later. When Samuel’s surgery was first reported more than 10 years ago, many eyes were opened to the preciousness and humanity of early unborn children (for more information, see Miller, 2009). More recently, however, another baby, who further testifies to the humanity of unborn children, captured the headlines. Her name: Amillia Sonja Taylor. She was born on October 24, 2006 in south Florida. What makes Amillia so special? Doctors believe she “spent less time in the womb than any other surviving infant” (“Florida Baby...,” 2007). Amillia’s mother, Sonja, carried Amillia for less than 22 weeks. At delivery, she was only 9½ inches long and weighed less than a can of soda. But, she was a living human being. Four months later, Amillia weighed 4½ pounds, was 15½ inches long, and was almost ready to go home for the very first time (“Doctors Extend...”). Two years later, she was a healthy toddler (“Amillia...”).
Amillia did not turn into a human 15 to 18 weeks later—when most babies are delivered—she wasa human at 22 weeks, had been human since she was conceived, and deserved rights like any other human. She was not lifeless matter—a mere blob of tissue. She was not a plant. She was not an animal. She was a living, growing human being. Millions of “Samuel Armases” and “Amillia Taylors” have been brutally mutilated on the holy grail of a “woman’s right to choose.” How can anyone look at pictures of an unborn child such as Samuel Armas, or a 10-ounce baby such as Amillia Taylor, and come to the conclusion that at 22 weeks old they are not human beings?
Consider some things that science has discovered about unborn babies in the first trimester of a mother’s pregnancy.
Day 22—heart begins to beat with the child’s own blood, often a different type than the mother’sWeek 5—eyes, legs, hands begin to developWeek 6—brain waves detectable; mouth, lips present; fingernails formingWeek 7—eyelids, toes form; nose distinct, baby kicking and swimmingWeek 8—every organ in place; bones begin to replace cartilage, fingerprints begin to formWeeks 9 and 10—teeth begin to form, fingernails develop; baby can turn head, frownWeek 11—baby can grasp objects placed in hand; all organ systems functioning; the baby has fingerprints, a skeletal structure, nerves, and circulationWeek 12—the baby has all of the parts necessary to experience pain, including the nerves, spinal cord and thalamus (“Diary of an Unborn Baby,” n.d.).
In addition to the support that common sense and science give for the living humanity of unborn children, Scripture is equally clear on the subject. Seven hundred years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah said of himself: “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name” (49:1, emp. added). Similarly, several years later, the prophet Jeremiah spoke of how the Lord knew of him in utero: “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations’” (Jeremiah 1:5, emp. added). The Creator of life has testified through inspiration that He views pre-born infants as living, human beings—real people whom He calls, sanctifies, and ordains. Had the mothers of Isaiah and Jeremiah aborted them, they would have been unlawfully taking the lives of precious children.
God made this equally clear in the Law of Moses. In fact, he specifically addressed the life and value of an unborn child in Exodus 21:22-23. He informed Moses: “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life.” Notice how God equates the life of all humans—both the unborn and the already born: “life for life,” He said. If God did not view a “premature” baby as a living human being, then one could not take “life for life.” Rather, it would be more like “a living human for a blob of matter.” But unborn children are not merely blobs of tissue; they are lovely, living, human beings (cf. Miller, 2004).
When the angel Gabriel informed Mary about the pregnancy of her cousin, Elizabeth, the angel of God said that she had “conceived” (Luke 1:36). Conceived what? What was inside of Elizabeth? A mass of meaningless matter? A non-living non-human? An animal evolving into a person? What had Elizabeth conceived? Gabriel informed Mary that Elizabeth had “conceived a son.” What’s more, when Mary went to visit Elizabeth prior to the births of John the Baptizer and Jesus, Luke, the physician, called the unborn baby in Elizabeth’s womb a “babe,” and even noted that he “leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41,44). Luke used this term (Greek brephos) at least four other times. Twice he used it in reference to Jesus lying in a manger after His birth (Luke 2:12,16), once when referring to young infants whose parents had sought the Lord’s blessings (Luke 18:15), and once in reference to the babies that Pharaoh had exposed in ancient Egypt (Acts 7:19; cf. Exodus 1:22).
In each of these cases, brephos refers to children, to boys and girls, to sons and daughters—to living human beings whom the psalmist said are fearfully and wonderfully made, formed, and woven by Almighty God (139:13-16). Man should be careful tampering with Jehovah’s creation whom He fashions in His image!
AMERICA, ABORTION, AND THE ABSURD
Mommas Can Murder, But Daddies Can’t?
Few things enrage a community more than finding out that a pregnant woman has been murdered. Towns struck with such an atrocity often rise up and declare that justice must be served: “Violators should be charged with two counts of murder, not just one.” In recent times, men committing such heinous crimes have been charged with double murder. From Missouri to California, from Ohio to Utah, prosecutors have been pushing for maximum penalties by charging men, who allegedly have killed their pregnant wives (or girlfriends), with two counts of murder. Just last year, a California man was convicted of murdering both a mother and her unborn baby after he brutally stabbed the mother (and child) repeatedly with scissors (Ertelt, 2009).
It is encouraging to know that our judicial system has seen fit to prosecute those who murder unborn babies, and to make the guilty pay the highest penalties allowed. In these situations, our judicial system has treated the unborn baby as he/she really is—a human being. “A person guilty of murdering an unborn child is guilty of murdering a person.” This is what we are being told over and over again by those who seek to charge men, who take the lives of a woman and her unborn baby, with double murder.
But wait a minute! How can an unborn child be considered a human being in one situation (when a man takes the life of a woman and her baby), but then, when a pregnant woman wants to take the life of her unborn child, the baby becomes an “appendage” of the mother’s body? “The baby is not a human being, just an extra lump of tissue that the mother can discard at will.” If the father intentionally kicks a baby while in the mother’s womb, killing the child, he likely will be sentenced to prison, or possibly to death (and rightly so—Genesis 9:6). On the other hand, if a mother goes to an abortion clinic and pays a doctor to insert an instrument into her uterus literally to pull and shred the baby into pieces, snapping the spinal cord, and crushing the skull, she has done nothing illegal.
How, in the name of common sense, can our courts rule that when a woman takes the life of her own child, “it is a choice,” but when someone else takes that life, “it is murder”? Such reasoning makes no sense. Abortion-rights activists, at least, are consistent in this regard. As Heather Boonstra, senior public policy associate at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, stated: “The law cannot hold both that a pregnant woman is two persons and at the same time allow her to have an abortion” (as quoted in Simon, 2001).
Inhumane to Kill Dogs, but not Humans?
In August 2007, many people, including myself, were disappointed to learn that a well-known professional football player (Michael Vick) plead guilty to sponsoring, financing, and participating in the brutal sport of dog fighting. Vick even admitted that he was partly responsible for hanging and drowning a number of dogs that did not perform well in certain “test” fights (see United States v. Michael Vick). For his crimes, Vick was sentenced to 23 months behind bars, most of which were served in a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
I certainly believe that Vick’s actions (i.e., the drowning of dogs, etc.) can be described as appalling and somewhat sadistic. What’s more, he knowingly participated in a sport which has been outlawed in every state in America. He deserved some kind of punishment for his actions. But, we must recognize that Vick’s acts were done against animals. Though dogs may be “man’s best friend” (and I happen to love dogs), they still are just animals—not humans. They are every bit as much an animal as cows, crows, chickens, deer, monkeys, horses, and pigs.
How absurd, inconsistent, and immoral is the United States’ judicial system when a person must serve nearly two years in prison for fighting, hanging, and drowning animals, yet,
if a woman slaughters a 22-week-old unborn human, she supposedly is blameless. The fact that doctors in the United States can legally rip unborn babies to pieces, chop them up with knife-like devices, or puncture their skulls with a pair of scissors before sucking out their brains, is atrocious. Are we to believe that Vick’s actions against dogs were “inhumane,” but what happens to approximately one million innocent, unborn babies every year in America is not? What could be more inhumane than willfully, selfishly, arrogantly, and brutally taking the life of a human—one of God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6)? Baby murderers freely walk the streets of America every day, but dog fighters are jailed for inhumane acts—against animals? How absurd!
if a woman slaughters a 22-week-old unborn human, she supposedly is blameless. The fact that doctors in the United States can legally rip unborn babies to pieces, chop them up with knife-like devices, or puncture their skulls with a pair of scissors before sucking out their brains, is atrocious. Are we to believe that Vick’s actions against dogs were “inhumane,” but what happens to approximately one million innocent, unborn babies every year in America is not? What could be more inhumane than willfully, selfishly, arrogantly, and brutally taking the life of a human—one of God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6)? Baby murderers freely walk the streets of America every day, but dog fighters are jailed for inhumane acts—against animals? How absurd!
Don’t Pollute the Planet with Babies?
More than 3,500 years ago, Pharaoh observed that the children of Israel were growing and multiplying so rapidly that he became fearful of problems such a large number of slaves might cause. Exodus chapter one makes clear that Pharaoh gave two separate execution orders upon Israel’s newborn sons because of what he perceived as an overpopulation problem. Sadly, such “reasoning” is still used today.
In 2006, evolutionary environmentalist Dr. Eric Pianka was named the Distinguished Texas Scientist of the Year. At his award ceremony in Beaumont, Texas, attendee Forrest Mims reported how Pianka
began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it’s too late. Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.... His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population is airborne Ebola (Ebola Reston), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years (Mims; cf. Butt, 2008).
Most people find Dr. Pianka’s suggestions insane. Who in his right mind would propose spreading airborne Ebola around the planet for the purpose of reducing the world’s population? Ridiculous? Before dismissing Texas’ 2006 “Distinguished Scientist” as a raving lunatic, consider a more palatable form of population reduction.
In 1977, Paul and Anne Ehrlich and John Holdren (who currently serves as President Obama’s “science czar”) penned a book titled: Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment. In the book, Holdren and the Ehrlichs assert that “there exists ample authority under which population growth could be regulated.... [U]nder the United States Constitution, effective population-control programs could be enacted” (p. 1280). What kind of “population-control programs” exactly? They specifically noted: “compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion,” which “could be sustained under the existing constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger society” (p. 1280, emp. added). Is there really much difference between the Pharaoh of Exodus one and President Obama’s science czar (cf. Matthew 5:21-22; 15:18)?
The United Kingdom’s Daily Mail ran a story a few years back about a woman (Toni Vernelli) who “terminated her pregnancy in the firm belief she was helping save the planet” (as quoted in Courtenay-Smith and Turner, 2007, emp. added). According to Vernelli, “Having children is selfish.... Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases, and adds to the problem of over-population” (2007). Vernelli indicated her desire to “save the planet—not produce a new life which would only add to the problem.” She went on to describe procreation as “something negative” and claimed that there were many others with similar planet-saving ideas. The Daily Mail concurred, saying, “Toni is far from alone” (2007).
Thirty-one-year-old Sarah Irving was in complete agreement with Vernelli. “[A] baby,” she said, “would pollute the planet.... [N]ever having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do” (2007, emp. added). Sarah and her fiancé Mark Hudson told the Daily Mail, “In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child.... It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth” (emp. added). In the minds of environmentalists and atheists, including Freedom from Religion’s President Dan Barker, murdering unborn children can be considered “progress” and a “blessing” (see Barker, 1992, p. 135; see also Barker and Rankin, 2006), while bringing children into the world may be “negative” and “morally wrong.”
Some 2,700 years ago, the prophet Isaiah warned of those “who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter...who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (5:20-21). Sadly, Isaiah’s description of the ungodly fits America to a tee. In this country, we call unbridled lust “love,” we describe immodest apparel as “stylish,” we refer to homosexuals as being “gay,” and baby murderers we call “pro-choice”—protectors of “women’s rights.” (Whatever happened to children’s rights?)
What will become of those who “call evil good, and good evil”? What is God’s reaction to those who “rejoice in iniquity” rather than truth (1 Corinthians 13:6)? Isaiah spoke of God’s judgments and punishment:
Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them, and the hills trembled. Their carcasses were as refuse in the midst of the streets (5:24-25).
According to the psalmist, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (9:17).
Both the Bible and history teach us that God does not tolerate wicked, bloodthirsty nations forever. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven. He raised a mighty army to punish the wicked inhabitants of Canaan (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12). He sent “angels of destruction” upon Egypt, and gave them “over to the plague, and destroyed all the firstborn” (Psalm 78:49,51). What will be America’s fate? If our “Christian” country’s murderous methods do not cease, what can we expect? We can expect that God will severely judge our nation in this life, while individually rendering “each one according to his deeds” in the afterlife (Romans 2:5-10). In the meantime, may our longsuffering Savior grant Christians the courage to “take up the whole armor of God” and “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:13,10).
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