"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Winning The War Over Worry (6:25-34)


Winning The War Over Worry (6:25-34)
INTRODUCTION 1. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus exhorted His disciples to... a. Lay up treasure in heaven (by helping others) b. Keep your eye good (guard what you allow to influence your inner man) c. Make God your Master (and you will not be able to serve another Master) -- Which we examined in the lesson "Gaining Mastery Over Mammon" (Mt 6:19-24) 2. But if we do what Jesus says, what about the future here on earth? a. If we lay up treasure in heaven instead of on earth, how will we provide for our future? b. Where will our physical necessities like food and clothing come from? c. How can we keep from worrying about such things? 3. Jesus' discussion concerning material riches (i.e., "mammon") did not end with verse 24... a. It really continues on to the end of the chapter b. In which Jesus addresses such concerns regarding the future [Beginning with verse 25, Jesus gives several reasons why we should not worry about such things. In so doing, He establishes two important principles that are crucial to "Winning The War Over Worry". The first principle might be stated as...] I. HAVE FAITH IN GOD'S PROVIDENCE A. JESUS TELLS US NOT TO "WORRY"... 1. The word in the original means "distracted" 2. I.e., don't let anxiety about food and clothing distract you from more important things in life (like Martha did - Lk 10:38-42) B. JESUS MAKES FOUR ARGUMENTS WHY WE SHOULDN'T WORRY... 1. Is not life and body more important than food and clothing?- Mt 6:25 a. This is an argument from the GREATER to the LESSER (similar to Ro 8:32) b. Life and body are certainly more important than food and clothing c. Who provides our lives and our bodies? God! a. If He is powerful enough to create life... b. Isn't He also able to provide food & clothing to sustain that life? d. "He who has displayed so great goodness as to form the body, and breathe into it the breath of life, will surely follow up the blessing, and confer the smaller favor of providing that the body be clothed, and that life preserved." (Barnes) 2. Look at the birds of the air, are you not more valuable than they? - Mt 6:26 a. The birds are an example of God's ability to provide 1) Through His providential workings in nature, God provides for their needs 2) This does not mean they do not work for their needs (indeed, they are often very busy, gathering food, preparing nests, caring for their young) 3) But they are not guilty of overdoing a good thing (as the rich fool was in the parable of Lk 12:16-21) b. We are certainly more valuable to God than birds! 1) This is an argument from the LESSER to the GREATER (cf. verse 25) a) If God through His providence provides for their needs, will He not for you? b) A similar argument is found in Mt 10:29-31 2) How are you more valuable than birds? a) You were created in the image of God! b) You were redeemed by the blood of His Son! c. Why, then, let concern over physical needs distract you from what is really important in life? 3. Can you grow simply by worrying? - Mt 6:27 a. This argument illustrates the helplessness of man 1) There are many things in this life which we cannot affect by "worrying" 2) For example, worrying will not make our bodies grow any taller b. The implication of this argument seems to be: 1) "Worrying" about food and clothing cannot guarantee that you will have them tomorrow 2) As victims of "Hurricane Hugo", the "Great Quake of '89" and "Hurricane Andrew" have come to realize 4. Consider the lilies, won't God provide for you also? - Mt 6:28-30 a. Another example of God's ability and willingness to provide 1) Like the argument in verse 26 (the "birds of the air") 2) It is another argument from the LESSER to the GREATER b. Look at how they grow... 1) Without any "toil" whatever on their part, nor any "care" bestowed on them by any human agency 2) Yet their glory surpasses Solomon in all his glory! How? a) Through God's providential care! b) By so ordering the affairs of this life to assure that they accomplish what they were designed to accomplish! c. Will God not much more clothe you? 1) If God is able to so clothe the grass of the field... 2) Is He not ABLE and WILLING to do so for you? a) You who are created in the image of God? b) You who are designed to spend eternity with God? C. IF WE WORRY, WE ARE OF LITTLE FAITH... 1. If we worry about food and clothing, then we are "little faith" - Mt 6:30 2. We have "little faith" in God's... a. Promise to care for us! b. Power to deliver that promise! D. JESUS' SUMMARY CONCERNING GOD'S PROVIDENCE... 1. Don't worry about food and clothing - Mt 6:31 2. People without God (e.g., the Gentiles) naturally worry about these things - Mt 6:32 3. But we have God as our Heavenly Father, and He knows that we need such things! [So we need to develop faith in God's providence, both in His ability and willingness to provide for His children. But the promise of His providence is conditioned upon our willingness to...] II. MAKE GOD'S WILL YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY A. SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD... 1. This is the second key to "Winning The War Over Worry" 2. We must make the will of God the number one priority in your life - Mt 6:33 3. We do this by: a. Serving God instead of "mammon" b. Letting the "lamp" of our body be a "good eye" (i.e., focused clearly on that which is good, true, and righteous) c. Laying up treasure in heaven (by using earthly treasure to help others - Mt 19:21; Lk 12:33-34; 1Ti 6:17-19 4. Do this, and God will provide for your physical needs a. For He is certainly "able" b. And He is certainly "willing" B. DON'T WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW... 1. Today has enough trouble with which to concern yourself - Mt 6:34 a. We are not capable of handling tomorrow's worries 1) We have no control over the future 2) And worrying about the future only distracts us from the duties of the present b. Today's problems are all we are capable of handling without becoming distracted 2. Let tomorrow take care of itself a. By trusting in God! b. By doing God's will today! 3. Let your undivided attention be given to seeking God's rule in your life... a. Make His kingdom the number one priority in your life b. Concern yourself with His righteousness, not your riches CONCLUSION 1. The motto of many is "Don't worry, be happy!"; but Jesus qualifies that motto by saying: "Don't worry, seek God's will first, and you will be happy!" 2. If we take to heart what Jesus says, then our lives will be like homes built on a rock (cf. Mt 7:24-25)... a. No matter what "storms" of life may come our way... b. ...our treasure is in heaven and our Father will provide for us during our earthly sojourn! 3. If we don't heed Jesus' teachings, if we allow ourselves to serve perishable "mammon"... a. Then we must go through life on earth without God's help b. And we have no hope of eternity with God when we die That is why we must "Seek first the kingdom of God..."!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Is the Papacy a Divine Institution? by Moisés Pinedo


Is the Papacy a Divine Institution?

by  Moisés Pinedo

George H. Bush said of him: “When you are in his presence you say to yourself: ‘Here is a great man, a great leader.’ He is a man of liberty, of faith, who suffers every time the Church, or man, is oppressed. He will occupy, with all authority, a privileged position in the history of our time. I am not Catholic, but towards him I feel a deeply profound respect and a sincere affection” (quoted in Mirás, n.d.).

Of whom was the former President of the United States speaking? He was referring to the late Karol Wojtyla, commonly known as Pope John Paul II. Having been considered the “successor of the apostle Peter” for 26 years, and the alleged heir of an endless hierarchical legacy, John Paul II influenced the hearts of many Catholics, as well as many other religious people. He was a representative of the monopolized throne of the Catholic Church—the papacy.

What is the papacy? Is there scriptural basis for this Catholic institution? Did God designate a legacy of “ecclesiastical leaders” on Earth? Apart from what people may think concerning this institution or its members, and apart from any eulogies, blessings, insults, or condemnations that religious people may offer concerning this ecclesiastical order, we must open the pages of the Bible, as well as the pages of history, to analyze whether the papacy (with its long list of members) is a divine institution, or simply a human invention that is unworthy of the religious honor bestowed upon it.


The papacy is an ecclesiastic system in which the pope (considered as the successor of the apostle Peter) oversees the government of the Catholic Church as its universal “head” (see Joyce, 1999). Although people may disagree with the basis for the papacy, the truth is that this ecclesiastical order does exist, and thus its existence needs to be explained. Since Catholicism teaches that the basis for the establishment of the papacy is divine and biblical, we must turn to the Bible to verify or refute this teaching.

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” This is the Bible verse to which the Catholic apologist quickly turns in order to defend the establishment of the papacy. Through an arbitrary interpretation of this verse—an interpretation which suggests that Jesus chose Peter, and ultimately his successors, to be the “rock” (foundation) upon which the church would be built—the Catholic Church has built a grand structure with a mere man as its head. But what did Jesus mean in this verse recorded by Matthew? Was He establishing a human hierarchy over the church? Was Jesus declaring that Peter was the “rock” of the church?

Before analyzing this passage, please think about it logically. From the reading of this verse, would anyone, without any preconceived religious idea, understand that Jesus was granting the title of “pope” to Peter? Would anyone arrive at the conclusion that a successive papacy was being established? In fact, absent any Catholic influence, the answer would be an emphatic “No!”

Matthew 16:18 relates an incident that took place in Caesarea Philippi, when the Lord asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13). The disciples answered by reciting the various popular opinions about Jesus’ identity. Then, Jesus, making the question more personal, asked His own disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15, emp. added). To this second question, only the impulsive Peter dared to answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Due to his response, Jesus addressed Peter with the declaration, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (16:18). Consequently, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18 is connected exclusively to Peter’s confession concerning Christ’s deity and not to a future pontificate.

We must also examine the difference between two Greek words used in the text: “You are Peter (petros) and upon this rock (petra) I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). In reference to Peter, the Holy Spirit recorded the Greek word petros—“a detached stone or boulder, or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved” (Vine, 1966, 3:302). In contrast, in reference to the “rock,” the Holy Spirit recorded the Greek word petra, which denotes a solid mass of rock (Vine, 3:302). Furthermore, these two words are in a different gender; the word petros is masculine, while the word petra is feminine (cf. Boles, 1952, pp. 344-345; Coffman, 1984, p. 248). Therefore, petros refers to the Aramaic name Jesus gave Peter (Cephas, John 1:42), while the word used for “rock” (petra) refers to the very foundation of the church, i.e., the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah (cf. Matthew 16:16).

Although these two Greek words clearly show that Peter was neither the foundation nor the head of the church, it still is important to note what Peter himself said about the “rock.” Some Catholics, using their knowledge and speculations about the language of the text, will argue fervently that they understand, better than any other religious person, what Jesus was telling Peter. Nevertheless, if anyone could guarantee a proper understanding of Jesus’ message, it would have been Peter himself, who heard the words of Jesus firsthand.

In his first epistle, Peter, by divine inspiration, used the Greek word lithos to refer to Jesus: “Coming to Him as to a living stone (lithos), rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious.... Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone (lithos), elect, precious’.... ‘The stone (lithos) which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’” (1 Peter 2:4-7). Then, in the following verse (2:8), the apostle interchangeably used lithos and petra—the same Greek word recorded in Matthew 16:18—when he described Jesus as “a stone (lithos) of stumbling and a rock (petra) of offense.” In Acts 4, Peter, speaking again by divine inspiration (vs. 8), said of Jesus: “This is the ‘stone (lithos) which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone’” (4:11). Without a doubt, Peter, more than any religious person of our modern times, conveyed the true meaning of the word used in Matthew 16:18.

We need to determine what the other apostles and early Christians believed concerning the “rock,” the foundation of the church. If Jesus referred to Peter as the “rock,” it is logical to think that this was the “truth” that those closest to Him understood and believed, and not the “truth” that some religious people “discovered” centuries later. The inspired apostle Paul told the Corinthians that the Israelites in the wilderness “all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock (petra) that followed them, and that Rock (petra) was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). How much more clearly could it be stated? Since the Old Testament, the rock referred to Christ, not Peter. In Ephesians 2:20, Paul stated, “[H]aving been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone...” (emp. added). By a study of these passages, it is obvious that the apostles and other Christians of the New Testament knew, believed, and taught that the “rock” referred to Christ, not Peter.

We also must consider Jesus’ teachings concerning the “rock.” In Luke 20:17 (following His parable of the wicked vinedressers), Jesus quoted the words of Psalm 118:22, as Peter did, which describe Him as “the living stone” (lithos). He went on to say, “Whoever falls on that stone (lithos) will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Luke 20:18; cf. Matthew 21:42,44; Mark 12:10). His comments were directed at the Jewish people, particularly the chief priests and scribes who showed disdain toward those sent by God, including the Messiah. These religious leaders knew “He was speaking of them” (Matthew 21:45), and understood that He was referring to Himself as the chief cornerstone that would crush any who disbelieved in Him.

If Jesus prophetically said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18, emp. added), we would expect to find this prophecy’s fulfillment. The biblical evidence shows that the “rock” refers to Peter’s confession of Jesus’ deity, and by extension, to Jesus Himself. Jesus promised that He would build His church on the foundation of Who He is, “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” as described by Peter in Matthew 16:16. In fact, the realization that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah was the striking truth that compelled 3,000 people to believe in Jesus, repent, and be baptized to be part of the church of the Lord (Acts 2:36-47). In Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost, only 50 days after His resurrection, Christ fulfilled His prophecy that “upon this rock” (i.e., the fact that Jesus is God and the Messiah; Matthew 16:16; cf. Acts 2:22-36) He would build His church. On that memorable day, Peter stood before the crowds not to declare himself as the first “pope” of the church, or as the “father” of all believers. Rather, he stood humbly to give honor and acknowledge the deity of the One Who made the church a reality.


There is no biblical basis on which to defend the papacy. To adopt a rock (i.e., a foundation) other than that which is already laid, is to build upon a man-made foundation, which is unstable and one day will collapse. To accept a foundation other than Christ, is to usurp His God-given role as the Head of the church which He bought with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Paul wrote, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11, emp. added).


Boles, H. Leo (1952), The Gospel According to Matthew (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).

Coffman, James B. (1984), Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).

Joyce, G.H. (1999), “Papacy” [“Papado”], [On-line], URL: http://www.enciclopediacatolica.com/p/papado.htm.

Mirás, Eduardo V. (no date), “What do People Say about John Paul II?: George Bush” [“¿Qué Dicen de Juan Pablo II?: George Bush”], [On-line], URL: http://www.aciprensa.com/juanpabloii/dicenjp.htm.

Vine, W.E. (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).

Is the Kingdom Yet to be Established? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Is the Kingdom Yet to be Established?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The average American is aware of the periodic claim that “the end is near.” When Y2K was approaching, outcries of doom, global disruption, and Armageddon were widespread. Hal Lindsey achieved nationwide attention over thirty years ago with his national bestseller, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). A more recent repackaging of the dispensational brand of premillennialism is the popular Left Behind book series (see “The Official…,” 2003). Every so often, a religious figure captures national attention by announcing the impending return of Jesus—even to the point of setting a date—only to fade into the anonymity and obscurity from which he arose when his claim falls flat, but having achieved his “fifteen minutes of fame” (see Whisenant and Brewer, 1989). The sensationalism sells well, and tweaks the curiosity of large numbers of people. Incredibly, this pattern has been repeating itself—literally for centuries!

One feature of the premillennial dispensationalist’s claim is that the kingdom is yet future, and that Jesus is not reigning now, but will commence His reign in His kingdom when He returns in the future to establish it in Jerusalem. However, several passages cannot be harmonized with such a view. First, the Bible teaches that the kingdom exists now, and has existed since A.D. 30. While Jesus was on Earth, He went to Galilee, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15, emp. added). He also stated: “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). In fact, Jesus “has delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). To insist that the kingdom is yet to be established is to fail to recognize that the Bible plainly declares that the kingdom already exists on Earth.

Second, the words “kingdom,” “Israel,” and “church” all refer to the same group of people—i.e., the saved, Christians, the church of Christ, or spiritual Israel. Jesus predicted that He would build His “church” and give to Peter the keys of the “kingdom” (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus did not build one institution and then give Peter the keys to a different institution. Paul told the Galatian Christians: “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. …and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:7,29; cf. 6:16). He told Christians in Rome: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart” (Romans 2:28-29). Spiritual Israel is the church of Christ—that is, the kingdom.

Third, Jesus is reigning now in heaven, and has been since His ascension around A.D. 30. Peter explained that Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22). Daniel predicted over four centuries prior to its fulfillment: “One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). This prophecy was fulfilled at the ascension of Christ: “while they watched, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Jesus returned to heaven where He was given rule over His kingdom (Hebrews 10:12). When He returns a second time, it will not be to reign on Earth. Rather, “[t]hen comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24-25).

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter announced to the gathered crowd that Jesus was reigning at that moment over His kingdom: “God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ.… This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God...” (Acts 2:30-33). Paul made the same point in his letter to the church of Christ in Ephesus: “He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet” (Ephesians 1:20-22). I repeat: the Bible repeatedly affirms that Jesus is reigning and ruling now over His kingdom.

Fourth, Jesus completed His work on Earth and, consequently, has no reason to return to the Earth to do any additional work. He explained to the disciples: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34, emp. added). Shortly before His departure from the Earth, He prayed to the Father: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You gave Me to do” (John 17:4).

Dispensationalists say that Jesus came with the intention to be King, and to set up an earthly kingdom, but that the Jews unexpectedly rejected Him. However, this claim is in direct conflict with the facts. On one occasion, after Jesus fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish—a feat that would constitute a tremendous advantage should war with Rome be forthcoming—John noted that “when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone” (6:15). Here was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to become the physical king that the dispensationalists insist He intended to become. But He refused! Why? He gave the reason to Pilate: “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 dispensational claim that Jesus is coming back to be a king on Earth on a physical throne is the very thing first-century Jews tried to get Him to do—but which He refused to do.

Premillennialists also maintain that the modern nation of Israel is the recipient of various promises made in Scripture, and that it plays a prominent and continuing role in God’s scheme of things. This contention has had a profound impact upon U.S. foreign policy, and in the way people around the world—especially in the Middle East—perceive America. It must surely be a shock for many people to learn that the Bible depicts no such favored status. All people stand on level ground at the foot of the cross of Christ. God is no respecter of persons, and makes no distinctions between people on the basis of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11,28-29; Galatians 3:28). The promises that were made to physical Israel in the Old Testament were fulfilled long ago.

For example, God announced to Abraham that He would give to his descendents (the Israelites) the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1; 15:7). This promise was fulfilled when Israel took possession of Palestine in the fifteenth century B.C. (Joshua 21:43-45; 2 Chronicles 9:26). What so many people today fail to recognize is that Israelites’ retaining the land was contingent upon their continued obedience (Leviticus 18:24-28; Joshua 23:14-16; 1 Kings 9:3-7). The complete and final forfeiture of physical Israel took place in A.D. 70. The reestablishment of national Israel, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple (i.e., the national promises of Deuteronomy 30 and Zechariah 12-14) were literally fulfilled in the returning remnant after the Babylonian captivity (Nehemiah 1:8-10; Isaiah 10:22; Jeremiah 23:3; Ezra 3:1-11).

Many of the Old Testament prophecies that predicted the return of the Jews after captivity were laced with predictions of the coming of Christ to the Earth to bring ultimate redemption. Hence, the national promises were spiritually fulfilled in the church of Christ, wherein both Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. For example, premillennialists are fond of calling attention to the concluding prophetic remarks of Amos: “ ‘On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord who does this thing” (Amos 9:11-12). They insist that the fulfillment of this prophecy is yet future. They say the Temple, which was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans (Matthew 23:37-24:35), will be rebuilt on the Temple platform in Jerusalem (a site currently occupied by the third most holy shrine of Islam—the Dome of the Rock). They say that Jesus will return, set up His millennial kingdom, and reign on a literal throne for a thousand years, incorporating the Gentiles, in addition to the nation of Israel, into His kingdom. On the face of it, this prophecy certainly possesses terminology that fits the millennial interpretation placed upon it.

However, two Bible passages correct this interpretation, and settle the question as to the proper application of Amos’ prophecy. The first is the great messianic prophecy uttered by the prophet Nathan to King David regarding David’s future lineage and royal dynasty (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Nathan declared that God would establish and sustain the Davidic dynasty. Even though he also noted that a permanent form of the Tabernacle (that God refused to allow David to build—2 Samuel 7:1-7) would be built by David’s son (i.e., Solomon), God, Himself, would build David a house (i.e., a dynasty, a kingly lineage). It is this lineage to which Amos referred—not a physical temple building.

The second passage that clarifies Amos’ prophecy is the account of the Jerusalem “conference” (Acts 15). Following Peter’s report regarding Gentile inclusion in the kingdom, James offered the following confirmatory comment: “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written” (Acts 15:13-15). James then quoted Amos 9:11-12. In other words, on that most auspicious occasion, James noted two significant facts that had come to pass precisely as predicted by Amos: (1) after the downfall of the Jewish kingdom, the Davidic dynasty had been reinstated in the person of Christ—the “Son of David” (Matthew 22:42)—Who, at His ascension, had been enthroned in heaven, thereby “rebuilding the tabernacle of David that had fallen down”; and (2) with the conversion of the first Gentiles in Acts 10, as reported on this occasion by Peter, the “residue of men,” or the non-Jewish segment of humanity, was now “seeking the Lord.”

In light of James’ inspired application of it to the integrated church of the first century, the Amos prophecy, like all others in the Old Testament that premillennialists wish to apply to the future, finds ultimate and final climax in the momentous advent of the Christian religion on the planet. The premillennial treatment of prophecy is, in the final analysis, a demeaning and trivializing of the significance of the Gospel, the church of Christ, and the Christian religion as the final revelation from God to mankind. The kingdom is not future; it is here now. All accountable persons would do well to conform themselves to the preconditions that enable Jesus to add them to His kingdom (Acts 2:38,47; 8:12-13,36-38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:30-34; 18:8; 19:5: 22:16).


Lindsey, Hal (1970), The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

“The Official Left Behind Series Site,” (2003), [On-line], URL: http://www.leftbehind.com.

Whisenant, Edgar and Greg Brewer (1989), The Final Shout Rapture 1989 Report (Nashville, TN: World Bible Society).

Is the Book of Mormon From God? [Part II] Extended Version by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Is the Book of Mormon From God? [Part II] Extended Version

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the second installment in a two-part critique of The Book of Mormon. Part I appeared in the September issue. Part II follows below, and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended. It is certainly not the intention either of Apologetics Press or the author of this article to insult, demean, or misrepresent Mormons. Nevertheless, multiplied thousands of individuals, who have embraced Mormon doctrine, deserve the opportunity to assess their beliefs in light of the Bible and in anticipation of eternity. We sincerely pray that no reader will take personal affront at what follows, but will simply weigh the evidence and arrive at the truth.]

Outlandish Doctrines

Can Humans Become Gods?

One of the more eye-opening beliefs of Mormonism is the polytheistic notion that humans can become gods. Standard Mormon theology maintains that even God (the Father) and Jesus Christ were once human. They were preceded by other humans who themselves progressed to the status of gods.

Of course, this doctrine was not presented initially by Joseph Smith, but was developed after the production of The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon actually contradicts later Mormon revelation, in that it affirmed in 1830 the biblical doctrine of the oneness of God in three persons, i.e., the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Observe the conversation between Ammon and King Lamoni:

And then Ammon said: “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?” And he said, “Yea.” And Ammon said: “This is God.” And Ammon said unto him again: “Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?” And he said: “Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.” And Ammon said unto him: “The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels.... I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people” (Alma 18:26-30).

Nephi declared: “And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end” (2 Nephi 31:21, emp. added). Amulek contended with the diabolical Zeezrom: “And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God? And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No” (Alma 11:26-29, emp. added).

The Book of Mormon also affirmed that Jesus was God in the flesh:

And now Abinadi said unto them: “I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth” (Mosiah 15:1-4, emp. added).

Even the “three witnesses” to The Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, affirmed monotheism and the oneness of God: “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God” (“The Testimony...,” 1981, emp. added). Joseph Smith affirmed the same thing in the Articles of Faith: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (Pearl of..., 1981, p. 60).

These teachings certainly are in harmony with the Bible. The Bible repeatedly and frequently affirms the doctrine of monotheism and the unity of God: Deuteronomy 4:35,39; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6,8; 45:5; 46:9; Mark 12:29; Romans 3:30; 1 Corinthians 8:4,6; 1 Timothy 2:5. These and many other passages indicate “there is but one infinite Spirit Being, and that within that one Spirit essence there are three personal distinctions, each of which may be, and is, called God” (Lanier, 1974, p. 46). There is only one divine essence (ousia) or nature (phusis)—a solidaric unity—one divine substance in (not and) three persons (prosopa or persona), with each “person” being the subsistence (hupostaseis) of the divine Essence [NOTE: For discussions of the biblical concept of Trinity and its treatment in church history, see Archer, 1982, pp. 357-361; Bickersteth, n.d.; Boles, 1942, pp. 19ff.; Chadwick, 1967, pp. 84ff.; Schaff, 1910, 3:670ff.; Walker, 1970, pp. 106ff.; Warfield, 1939a, 5:3012-3022].

But by 1844, Joseph Smith had begun to advocate a very different understanding of deity—in direct contradiction to The Book of Mormon. He began to promulgate the idea that God had, in fact, previously been a man Himself Who had become exalted, and that all men were capable of the same progression (see Tanner, 1972, p. 163). This shift was expressed formally in the Pearl of Great Price. In the Book of Moses, God is spoken of in the singular throughout. For example: “I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven and the earth upon which thou standest” (2:1). In stark contrast, however, in the Book of Abraham, in a section discussing the same creation event, God is spoken of as “Gods.” For example:

And then the Lord said: “Let us go down.” And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth. ...And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night. ...And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed. ...And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness. ...And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed (4:1,5,18; 5:8, emp. added).

Anyone who is familiar with the King James Version cannot help but be struck with the fact that the author of the Book of Abraham had before him a copy of a KJV and merely paraphrased the text. It is equally apparent that the author “had an axe to grind” in adjusting the text to foist upon the reader the notion of multiple “gods.” In fact, in the 31 verses of chapter four, the term “Gods” is used 32 times. It is used 16 times in chapter 5. Polytheism now so thoroughly permeates Mormonism that one Mormon apostle asserted that humans are the offspring of the union between an Eternal Father and an Eternal Mother (McConkie, 1979, p. 516)!

“Let Us make man”

Separate and apart from the issue of the inspiration of The Book of Mormon, the question must be asked: Does the Bible give credence to the notion of multiple gods? Certainly not! However, various verses have been marshaled in an effort to defend the Mormon viewpoint. For example, on the sixth day of Creation, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). It is alleged by Mormons that the use of the plural in this verse implies a multiplicity of “gods.” However, an examination of the context reveals that the doctrine of the Trinity is being conveyed (see Leupold, 1942, 1:86ff.).

The Holy Spirit was active at the Creation, “hovering over the face of the waters” (1:2). “Hovering” refers to attentive participation (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11). Elsewhere, the Bible makes clear that Jesus also was present at the Creation, in active participation with Deity’s creative activity (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; 2:10). Hence, when God spoke of “Us,” He was referring to Himself and the other two members of the divine Essence [NOTE: Compare “Godhead” (theotes) in Colossians 2:9, “divine” nature (theios) in Acts 17:29 and 2 Peter 1:3-4, and “divinity” (theioteis) in Romans 1:20. The first term (theotes) differs from the third term (theioteis) “as essence differs from quality or attribute” (Thayer, 1901, p. 288; cf. Vine, 1966, pp. 328-329; Warfield, 1939b, 2:1268-1270)]. Some (e.g., Archer, 1982, p. 74) have suggested that God was including the angels in the “us,” since “sons of God” sometimes can refer to the angels (e.g., Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; cf. Psalms 29:1; 89:6), and “sons of God” can be shortened to “God” while still referring to angels (e.g., compare Psalm 97:7 with Hebrews 1:6, and Psalm 8:5 with Hebrews 2:7,9). In either case, the fact remains that the Bible presents a consistent picture that there is only one God, and that this divine essence includes three—and only three—persons.

“Ye shall be as gods”

Another verse that has been brought forward to substantiate Mormon polytheism is the comment made on the occasion of Adam and Eve being tempted to eat the forbidden fruit: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5—NKJV). The King James Version says, “ye shall be as gods.” Four points of clarification are in order on this verse. In the first place, Satan made this statement—not God. Satan’s declarations are never to be trusted, since he is “a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).

In the second place, the uncertainty conveyed by the various English translations in their differing treatment of the verse (i.e., whether “God” or “gods”) is the result of the underlying Hebrew term elohim. This word is not to be confused with Yahweh, the formal name for God throughout the Old Testament. Elohim is a generic term used some 2,570 times in Scripture, and generally refers to the one true God, but also is used to refer to pagan gods, and even can refer to human judges or rulers (e.g., Exodus 4:16; 7:1; 21:6; 22:9,28) and, as noted previously, to angels (Harris, et al., 1980, 1:44-45; Miller, 2008, pp. 114-115). Though the word is plural in form, it is used in both the plural and singular sense [cf. “face” (panim—Genesis 50:1; Exodus 34:35) and “image” (teraphim—1 Samuel 19:13)]. English shares a similar phenomenon with its plural nouns like “deer,” “seed,” “sheep,” and “moose.” The same form is used, whether referring to one or many. Hebrew, like most other languages, matched the number (whether singular or plural) of verbs and adjectives with the noun. In the case of elohim, with only rare exception, the verbs and adjectives used with it are either singular or plural in conformity with the intended meaning (Ringgren, 1974, p. 272). Fretheim noted that its use in the Old Testament for Israel’s God is “always with singular verbs” (1997, 1:405; cf. Archer, 1982, p. 74).

Some Hebrew scholars maintain that the plural form used to designate the one true God is the pluralis majestatis or excellentiae (the plural of majesty), or the plural of intensification, absolutization, or exclusivity (e.g., Fretheim, 1:405; Gesenius, 1847, p. 49; Harris, et al., p. 44; Mack, 1939, 2:1265; Reeve, 1939, 2:1270), although others question this usage (e.g., Grudem, 1994, p. 227; Jenni and Westermann, 1997, p. 116). In the case at hand, Satan was tempting Eve with the prospect of being like God—Whom she knew, and from Whom she (or at least her husband) had received previous communication (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:3). She knew nothing of other “gods”—pagan or otherwise. Since the term elohim occurs 58 times in the first three chapters of Genesis and is consistently rendered “God,” and since Satan himself used the term earlier in the same verse, as well as four verses earlier (vs. 1), to refer to the one God, no contextual, grammatical, or lexical reason exists for rendering it “gods” in verse five. In fact, most of the major English translations properly render it “God” (e.g., NKJV, ASV, NASB, NIV, RSV). [NOTE: See also the discussion in Clarke, n.d., 1:50, who noted that the ancient Syriac version rendered the term correctly].

Third, elohim in this verse has an attached prefix (Biblia Hebraica, 1967/77, p. 4)—what Hebrew scholars call an “inseparable preposition” (Weingreen, 1959, p. 26). In this case, the prepositional prefix is the 11th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the kaph, and means “like” or “as.” Satan was not saying that Eve would become God or a god; He was saying she would become like God. Francis Bacon noted in his Historia Naturalis: “For we copy the sin of our first parents while we suffer for it. They wished to be like God, but their posterity wish to be even greater” (as quoted in Church, 1884, p. 207, emp. added).

This realization brings us to a fourth point: the context stipulates in what way Eve would become like God. In the very verse under consideration, an explanatory phrase clarifies what Satan meant: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (emp. added). This meaning is evident from subsequent references in the same chapter. When they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew...” (vs. 7, emp. added). God commented: “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil” (vs. 22, emp. added). In other words, Adam and Eve became like God in the sense that they now were privy to a greater breadth of awareness, understanding, and insight:

They now had a sufficient discovery of their sin and folly in disobeying the command of God; they could discern between good and evil; and what was the consequence? Confusion and shame were engendered, because innocence was lost and guilt contracted (Clarke, p. 51).

As Keil and Delitzsch summarized: “By eating the fruit, man did obtain the knowledge of good and evil, and in this respect became like God” (1976, 1:95, emp. added).

God of gods

A third attempt to substantiate the Mormon doctrine of plural gods is the use of various verses from the Bible that speak of God being a “God of gods.” For example, on the occasion of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the “Song of Moses” declared: “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?” (Exodus 15:11, emp. added). Forty years later, in his stirring challenge to the Israelites to be firm in their future commitment to God, Moses reminded them: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (Deuteronomy 10:17, emp. added). During the days of Joshua, some of the Israelites exclaimed: “The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, He knows” (Joshua 22:22, emp. added). These verses, and many more in the Bible, speak of “gods” in such a way that a cursory reading might leave one with the impression that the Bible teaches that “gods” actually existed. However, one cannot really study the Bible and come away with that conclusion. The Bible presents a thoroughgoing monotheistic view of reality. It repeatedly conveys the fact that “gods” are merely the figment of human imagination, invented by humans to provide themselves with exemption from following the one true God by living up to the higher standard of deity. Humans throughout history have conjured up their own imaginary gods to justify freedom from restriction and to excuse relaxed moral behavior.

Consequently, all verses in the Bible that use the term “gods” to refer to deity (with the exception of the one God) are referring to nonexistent, imaginary deities that humans have invented. When God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, the very first one said: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Liberal higher critics of the Bible (like Wellhausen) have alleged that this dictum advocated only monolatry (exclusive worship of Yahweh) rather than actually denying the existence of other gods. However, distinguished professor of Old Testament languages, Gleason Archer, maintains that “this construction of the words is quite unwarranted” (1974, p. 235). Many additional passages clarify the point. For example, the psalmist declared: “For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods” (Psalm 96:4, emp. added). One might get the impression from this verse by itself that the psalmist thought that “gods” actually existed. However, the next verse sets the record straight: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens” (vs. 5, emp. added). The Hebrew word for “idols” (elilim) means “of nothing, of nought, empty, vain” (Gesenius, p. 51). Notice carefully the contrast the psalmist was making. The people made their gods; but the one true God made the heavens (i.e., the Universe). The genuineness, reality, and greatness of God are placed in contrast to the people’s fake, nonexistent gods who could not make anything. Archer concluded: “This passage alone...demonstrates conclusively that the mention of ‘gods’ in the plural implied no admission of the actual existence of heathen gods in the first commandment” (1974, p. 236). As God Himself announced: “They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God” (Deuteronomy 32:21, emp. added).

The denunciation of the Israelites for conjuring up false gods—pretending that such actually existed, rather than devoting themselves exclusively to the one and only God—reached its zenith in the eloquent preaching pronouncements of the Old Testament prophets. Elijah treated the notion of the existence of gods in addition to the one God with sarcasm and forthright ridicule (1 Kings 18:27-29). The idea of multiple gods would have been laughable, if it were not so spiritually serious (cf. Psalm 115:2-8). The people on that occasion finally got the point, for they shouted: “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” (vs. 39).

Likewise, the reality of monotheism was pure, well-defined, and single-minded for Jeremiah. He frequently chastised the people by accusing them of following gods that were, in fact, “not gods” (2:11; 5:7; 16:20). Isaiah was equally adamant and explicit:

You are My witnesses, says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God. Indeed, before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it? (43:10-13, emp. added; cf. 37: 19; 40:18-20; 41; 44:8-24).

Over and over, Isaiah recorded the exclusivity of the one true God: “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me” (45:5, emp. added); “There is no other God” (45:14, emp. added); “I am the Lord, and there is no other” (45:18, emp. added).

The New Testament continues the same recognition of the nonexistence of deities beyond the one God Who exists in three persons. Paul reminded the Galatian Christians of their pre-Christian foolish belief in other deities: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods” (4:8, emp. added). By definition, the “gods” that people claim actually exist are not gods. In his lengthy discussion of whether Christians were permitted to eat foods that had been sacrificed to pagan deities, Paul clarified succinctly the Bible position on the existence of so-called gods:

Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is only one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:4-6, emp. added).

In this passage, Paul declared very forthrightly that idols, and the gods they represent, are, in fact, nonentities. The RSV renders the meaning even more clearly: “We know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one” (emp. added).

Of course, Paul recognized and acknowledged that humans have worshipped imaginary, nonexistent, “so-called” gods in heaven (like Greek mythology advocated) and on Earth (in the form of idols). He used the figure of speech known as “metonymy of the adjunct,” where “things are spoken of according to appearance, opinions formed respecting them, or the claims made for them” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 597; Dungan, 1888, p. 295; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). He spoke of “gods” as if they existed, simply because many people of his day had that opinion. But Paul knew “there is no God but one.” As Allen observed: “The gods (i.e., the so-called divine beings contemplated by the pagans) represented by the images did not exist. ...[T]hey were nothing as far as representing the deities envisioned by the heathen” (1975, p. 98, emp. added; cf. Kelcy, 1967, p. 38; Thomas, 1984, p. 30).

Paul continued his discussion of idols two chapters later, and again affirmed the nonexistence of any deities besides God: “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?” (1 Corinthians 10:19). For Paul, it was technically permissible for a Christian to eat food that had previously been used in a pagan ceremony as an offering to a “god.” Why? Because such “gods” did not, and do not, actually exist—except in the mind of the worshipper (cf. 8:7-8)! Thus, the food used in such ceremonies was unaffected. However, the person who really thinks there are “gods,” and who then worships these imaginary “gods,” is, in actuality, worshipping demons (10:20). Paul said there are only two possibilities: “But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (10:20-21). Paul envisioned no class of beings known as “gods.” There is only the one true God, and then there are the demons and forces of Satan (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:15-16). This bifurcation of the spiritual realm (i.e., God versus Satan and his forces) is the consistent portrait presented throughout the Bible. The Bible simply admits no knowledge or possibility of “gods.”

“Ye are gods”

A final passage that is alleged to support the notion of “gods” is the statement made by Jesus when the Jews wanted to stone Him because He claimed divinity for Himself:

The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”?’ If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came...do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”? (John 10:33-36).

Mormons allege that Jesus here endorsed the notion that men can become “gods.” But, of course, Jesus did no such thing. On this occasion, He appealed to an Old Testament context to deflect the barb of His critics. Psalm 82 is a passage that issued a scathing indictment of the unjust judges who had been assigned the responsibility of executing God’s justice among the people (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16; 19:17-18; Psalm 58). Such a magistrate was “God’s minister” (Romans 13:4) who acted in the place of God, wielding His authority, and who was responsible for mediating God’s help and justice (cf. Exodus 7:1). In this sense, they were “gods” (elohim)—acting as God to men (Barclay, 1956, 2:89). Hebrew parallelism clarifies this sense: “I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High’” (Psalm 82:6, emp. added). They did not share divinity with God—but merely delegated jurisdiction. They still were mere humans—although invested with divine authority, and permitted to act in God’s behalf.

This point is apparent throughout the Torah, where the term translated “judges” or “ruler” is often elohim (e.g., Exodus 21:6; 22:9,28). Take Moses as an example. Moses was not a “god.” Yet God told Moses that when he went to Egypt to orchestrate the release of the Israelites, he would be “God” to his brother Aaron and to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:16; 7:1). He meant that Moses would supply both his brother and Pharaoh with the words that came from God. Though admittedly a rather rare use of elohim, nevertheless “it shows that the word translated ‘god’ in that place might be applied to man” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.). Clarke summarized this point: “Ye are my representatives, and are clothed with my power and authority to dispense judgment and justice, therefore all of them are said to be children of the Most High” (3:479, emp. in orig.). But because they had shirked their awesome responsibility to represent God’s will fairly and accurately, and because they had betrayed the sacred trust bestowed upon them by God Himself, He decreed death upon them (vs. 7). Obviously, they were not “gods,” since God could and would execute them!

Jesus marshaled this Old Testament psalm to thwart His opponents’ attack, while simultaneously reaffirming His deity (which is the central feature of the book of John—20:30-31). He made shrewd use of syllogistic argumentation by reasoning a minori ad majus (see Lenski, 1943, pp. 765-770; cf. Fishbane, 1985, p. 420). “Jesus is here arguing like a rabbi from a lesser position to a greater position, a ‘how much more’ argument very popular among the rabbis” (Pack, 1975, 1:178). In fact, “it is an argument which to a Jewish Rabbi would have been entirely convincing. It was just the kind of argument, an argument founded on a word of scripture, which the Rabbis loved to use and found most unanswerable” (Barclay, 1956, p. 90).

Jesus identified the unjust judges of Israel as persons “to whom the word of God came” (John 10:35). That is, they had been “appointed judges by Divine commission” (Butler, 1961, p. 127)—by “the command of God; his commission to them to do justice” (Barnes, 1949, p. 294, emp. in orig.; cf. Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3; Luke 3:2). McGarvey summarized the ensuing argument of Jesus: “If it was not blasphemy to call those gods who so remotely represented the Deity, how much less did Christ blaspheme in taking unto himself a title to which he had a better right than they, even in the subordinate sense of being a mere messenger” (n.d., p. 487). Charles Erdman observed:

By his defense Jesus does not renounce his claim to deity; but he argues that if the judges, who represented Jehovah in their appointed office, could be called “gods,” in the Hebrew scriptures, it could not be blasphemy for him, who was the final and complete revelation of God, to call himself “the Son of God (1922, pp. 95-96; cf. Morris, 1971, pp. 527-528).

This verse teaches the exact opposite of what Mormons would like for it to teach! It brings into stark contrast the deity—the Godhood—of Christ (and His Father Who “sanctified and sent” Him—vs. 36) with the absence of deity for all others! There are no other “gods” in the sense of deity, i.e., eternality and infinitude in all attributes. Jesus verified this very conclusion by directing the attention of His accusers to the “works” that He performed (vs. 37-38). These “works” (i.e., miraculous signs) proved the divine identity of Jesus to the exclusion of all other alleged deities. Archer concluded: “By no means, then, does our Lord imply here that we are sons of God just as He is—except for a lower level of holiness and virtue. No misunderstanding could be more wrongheaded than that” (1982, p. 374). Indeed, the Mormon notion of a plurality of gods is “wrongheaded,” as is the accompanying claim that humans can become gods.

It is unthinkable that the consistent prohibition of polytheism and idolatry throughout the Bible would or could give way to the completely contrary notion that, as a matter of fact, many gods do exist, and that these gods are merely exalted humans who now rule over their own worlds even as God and Christ rule over theirs. It is likewise outlandish—and contradictory—that humans would be required to worship God and Christ—while being banned from worshipping these other gods. The fact of the matter is that “historic Hebrew is unquestionably and uniformly monotheistic” (Mack, 1939, 2:1265). The same may be said of historic Christianity. To think otherwise is pure pagan hocus-pocus—“a mere creation of the imagination, a mere matter of superstition” (Erdman, 1928, p. 78, emp. added).

Baptism for the Dead

Another troubling, yet prominent, Mormon doctrine is the “ordinance” of baptism for the dead. The doctrine is alluded to several times in Doctrine and Covenants. Mormons allege that, for many people who have lived, water baptism was not available, or they died before learning about “the true gospel and baptism by the proper priesthood authority” (Primary 5: Doctrine...,” 1997, p. 193). For those people who would have received the Gospel, been baptized, and lived righteously if they had been given the opportunity, God instituted “proxy” baptism in which Mormons are baptized “vicariously” on their behalf: “We can do for these people what they cannot do for themselves” (p. 193), thus enabling them to be in the “celestial kingdom” (D&C 127:7). As one of the Council of the Twelve stated: “With proper authority an individual [can] be baptized for and in behalf of someone who...never had the opportunity. That individual [can] then accept or reject the baptism, according to his own desire” (Packer, 1975, p. 97). D. Todd Christofferson, of the Presidency of the Seventy, explained that “Today’s expansive construction of temples across the world has as one of its primary purposes to provide the place where ordinances essential to salvation may be performed for those who, in life, were not privileged to receive them” (2000, p. 9).

According to Mormonism, this ritual may only be done in a Mormon temple:

For this ordinance belongeth to my house.... For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me (D&C 124:30,33, emp. added).

The baptisms must be duly recorded and meticulous records kept:

And again, I give unto you a word in relation to the baptism for your dead. Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning your dead: When any of you are baptized for your dead, let there be a recorder, and let him be eye-witness of your baptisms.... And again, let all the records be had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my holy temple, to be held in remembrance from generation to generation, saith the Lord of Hosts (D&C 127:6,9, emp. added).

Consequently, the LDS Church in Salt Lake City maintains the most extensive genealogical records in the world (cf. Petersen, 1980, p. 34).

Despite the teaching of proxy baptism in Doctrine and Covenants, The Book of Mormon forcefully teaches that the eternal destiny of those who reject the truth while in the body is fixed at death, with no possibility of repentance after death:

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.... I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doeth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world. For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked (Alma 34:32-35; see also 42:4,13,28; Helaman 13:38; 2 Nephi 9:24-25,27; Mosiah 2:36,39, emp. added).

Not only do Mormon scriptures contradict each other on the doctrine of baptism for the dead, the doctrine most certainly contradicts what the Bible teaches from beginning to end. Many passages eliminate the possibility of post-earthly life conversion/salvation by stressing the singular necessity of responding obediently to God in this life:

  • “When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of the unjust perishes” (Proverbs 11:7).
  • “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
  • “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

When the rich man died and entered into the hadean realm, his spiritual condition was cinched, based strictly upon his behavior while on Earth. When he expressed his desire to be assisted with his tormented condition, Abraham responded:

“Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:25-26, emp. added).

Observe that Abraham made clear that the rich man’s predicament was permanent and could not be altered. When this reality became apparent to the rich man, his thoughts immediately turned to his brothers on Earth and a strong desire to prevent their coming to his location:

Then he said, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31).

Observe that Abraham’s response to the rich man proves that no offer of proxy baptism is available in the afterlife. Abraham surely would have indicated its availability to both the rich man and his brothers. Instead, Abraham demonstrates the only means for a person to be saved in eternity: hearing and obeying God’s Word while still on Earth. We have only this life in which to make our decisions, and when we leave this life, we have no further opportunities to repent (cf. John 8:24).

1 Corinthians 15:29

But doesn’t the Bible speak of “baptism for the dead”? Yes, it does, in Paul’s discussion of the resurrection: “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” Does this verse teach that people who are alive on the Earth can be baptized, and the efficacy of that baptism then be offered to those who already have died and are in the spirit realm? Referring to this very verse, Mormon President Howard Hunter affirmed:

Latter-day prophets have told us that baptism is an earthly ordinance that can be performed only by the living. How then can those who are dead be baptized if only the living can perform the ordinance? That was the theme of the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Corinthians when he asked this question: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29) (1995, p. 2).

But this verse is not teaching proxy baptism as practiced by the Mormons. At least four adequate explanations exist that avoid contradicting the rest of the Bible.

First, “dead” refers to the “old man of sin” (Romans 6:6). We are baptized for the dead in the sense that we are baptized in water to eliminate the dead man of sin. Hence Paul was asking why one would be baptized to eliminate the old man of sin in anticipation of eternal acceptance if the resurrection will not be forthcoming.

Second, “dead” refers to the world of lost souls—those who are spiritually dead. “They” refers to the apostles and “baptism” refers to the baptism of suffering that the apostles endured in order to make known the Gospel to the world (alluded to in passages like Mark 10:38-39, Luke 12:50, Acts 9:16, and 1 Corinthians 4:9). Thus Paul was asking why the apostles would subject themselves to the baptism of suffering, in behalf of the spiritually dead people of the world if, in fact, no one has hope of the resurrection.

Third, “they” refers to those who are baptized in water on the basis of the preaching and teaching done by those who had since died. In other words, why would a person obey the command to be baptized, and thereby have hope of life beyond the grave, if the one who taught the person to be baptized has since died and will not be raised from the dead?

Fourth, Paul was using the logical argument form known as argumentum ad hominem—an argument based upon what men were doing at that time and with which the readers would be familiar. The Corinthians were familiar with people who practiced an immersion for the benefit of the dead. He used the third person pronoun “they” as opposed to “you” or “we.” New Testament baptism would have been referred to in the first or second person. This tactic of referring to what outsiders were doing (without implying endorsement) to make a valid spiritual point was used by Paul on other occasions (e.g., Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12).

These four possible interpretations each have contextual evidence to support them. None of the four contradicts any other Bible doctrine, as does the Mormon spin on the passage. What is critically important is that we not miss Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 15. He brought up the subject of “baptism for the dead” for one reason: to reaffirm the reality of the resurrection. Christians were being drawn into the destructive heresy that the general resurrection is fictitious. In a setting where he ardently defended the actuality and centricity of the resurrection, he advanced two questions. If the resurrection and end-time events are not to occur, then “why are they baptized for the dead?” and “why do the apostles stand in jeopardy every hour?” (vss. 29-30). He wanted the Corinthians to face the fact that many things Christians do have meaning only if resurrection is an anticipated and ultimate objective. If when we die, that’s it—no future conscious existence—why take risks living the Christian life as the apostles frequently did? If this life is all there is, forget Christianity and live it up (vs. 32). But resurrection is coming! So do not live this life indulging the flesh and mingling with those who will influence you to do so (vs. 33). Live righteously, and get your mind straight in view of your knowledge of the coming resurrection (vs. 34). In other words, the reality of the resurrection has a direct bearing on how a person lives while in the body on Earth, since his spiritual status is made permanent at death, and that condition will be brought forward at the resurrection. This verse provides no corroboration of the Mormon doctrine of vicarious baptism.

1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6

Mormon President Joseph F. Smith claimed that on October 3, 1918, while pondering in his Salt Lake City room, he opened his Bible to 1 Peter chapters 3-4. Having read 3:18-20 and 4:6, he claims he received a vision explaining that the verses referred to Jesus initiating the preaching of the Gospel, via the righteous dead, to other deceased persons in the spirit world, so that they might receive baptism enacted on their behalf on Earth (D&C 138; cf. Smith, 1971, p. 2; see also the remarks by Spencer Condie, one of the 70 (2003, p. 26).

Does 1 Peter 3:18-20 teach that Jesus descended into the spirit realm and preached to deceased people? Proper exegetical analysis, with a close consideration of the grammar, will clarify the passage. First, the preaching referred to was not done by Jesus in His own person. The text says Jesus did the preaching through the Holy Spirit: “the Spirit, by whom...” (vss. 18-19, emp. added). [NOTE: Observe that “My Spirit” in Genesis 6:3 is equivalent to “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ” in Romans 8:9.] Other passages confirm that Jesus was said to do things that He actually did physically through the instrumentality of others (cf. John 4:1-2). Paul said Jesus preached peace to the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:17), when, in fact, Jesus did so through others, since He, Himself, already had returned to heaven when the first Gentiles heard the Gospel by Peter’s mouth (Acts 15:7). Similarly, Nathan charged King David: “You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Samuel 12:9), when, in fact, David had ordered it done by another. Elijah accused Ahab of killing Naboth, using the words, “Have you murdered and also taken possession?” (1 Kings 21:19), even though his wife, Jezebel, arranged for two other men to accomplish the evil action. So the Bible frequently refers to someone doing something that he, in fact, did through the agency of another person.

Within the book of 1 Peter itself, Peter already had made reference to the fact that the Spirit of Christ “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:11). But it was the prophets who did the actual speaking, according to verse 10. Then, again, in chapter 4, Peter stated that “the gospel was preached also to those who are dead” (1 Peter 4:6). Here were individuals who had the Gospel preached to them while they were alive (“in the flesh”), and who responded favorably by becoming Christians. But then they were “judged according to men in the flesh,” i.e., they were treated harshly and condemned to martyrdom by their contemporaries. At the time Peter was writing, they were “dead,” i.e., deceased and departed from the Earth. But Peter said they “live according to God in the spirit,” i.e., they were alive and well in spirit form in the hadean realm in God’s good graces. The contextual point of the passage is that no matter what happens in this life to deter a person from being right with God, he or she can, in fact, obey the Gospel and, hence, be in the proper spiritual condition upon leaving this life and entering into the spirit realm.

Second, when did Jesus do this preaching through the Holy Spirit? Notice in verse 20, the words “formerly” (NKJV) and “when”—“when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” So the preaching was done in the days of Noah by Jesus via the Holy Spirit Who, in turn, prompted Noah’s inspired preaching (2 Peter 2:5).

Third, why are these people to whom Noah preached said to be “spirits in prison”? Because at the time Peter was writing the words, that is where those people were situated. Those who were drowned in the Flood of Noah’s day descended into the hadean realm, where they continued to reside in Peter’s day. This realm is the same location where the rich man was placed (Luke 16:23), as were the sinning angels (“Tartarus”—2 Peter 2:4). However, Jesus did not go to that “prison” or “Tartarus.” He said He went to “Paradise” (Luke 23:43). [NOTE: For a discussion of the hadean realm see Miller, 2005, 4[1]:1-R, and Miller, 2003.]

Fourth, why would Jesus go to Hades and preach only to Noah’s contemporaries? Why would He exclude those who died prior to the Flood? What about those who have died since? Since God is no “respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11), Jesus would not have singled out Noah’s generation to be the recipients of preaching in the spirit realm.

Fifth, what would have been the content of such preaching? Jesus could not have preached the whole Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel includes the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:4). However, at the time the alleged preaching was supposed to have occurred, Jesus had not yet been raised!

Here, perhaps, is the most important consideration: The notion of people being given a second opportunity to hear the Gospel in the afterlife is an extremely dangerous doctrine that is counterproductive to the cause of Christ. Why? It naturally and inevitably makes people think they can postpone their obedience to the Gospel. Yet the Bible consistently teaches that no one will be permitted a second chance. This earthly life has been provided by God for all human beings to determine where they wish to spend eternity. That is, in fact, the whole point of earthly existence. Each individual chooses his or her eternal abode based solely upon personal conduct in this life. Once a person dies, his eternal destiny has been fixed. He is “reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4; cf. vss. 9,17), and then he is given his unending (“everlasting”) eternal abode—either ongoing, permanent punishment or perpetual life with God (Matthew 25:46; cf. Revelation 20:10-15). His condition will not and cannot be altered—even by God Himself (Luke 16:25-26; Hebrews 9:27). Indeed, according to the Mormon “Book of Moses” (8:16-30) in the Pearl of Great Price, Noah declared the Gospel to his contemporaries for a lengthy period (“Noah continued his preaching...” [vs. 23]), yet the people persisted in their rejection of the Gospel. Why, then, would God offer them a second chance in the spirit world? The answer is that the God of the Bible would not do so, while the god of Mormonism would.

Hebrews 11:40

Another passage that has been marshaled in an effort to give biblical credence to the doctrine of proxy baptism is Hebrews 11:40. Mark Peterson, a member of the Council of the Twelve, explained:

When visitors have gone from room to room prior to the dedication of these temples, explanations have been given concerning the work done there. Always a center of interest is the baptismal font. In each of the temples this font rests upon the backs of twelve stone or bronze oxen, following in this, as in other particulars, the pattern given by the Prophet Joseph Smith as he instituted temple building in his day under the direction of the Lord. Why is there a baptismal font in the temple? Cannot people be baptized anywhere? The living, yes. But the font in the temple is for vicarious baptisms performed in behalf of the dead. Baptism for the dead? Is that a Christian doctrine? In the Epistle to the Hebrews we read about the forefathers of the faithful and then the author declares “that they without us should not be made perfect” (Heb. 11:40), showing that there is a definite relationship between the salvation of the living and the dead (Peterson, 1980, emp. added).

Mormon exegesis of the Bible leaves much to be desired. A simple perusal of the context of Hebrews 11 demonstrates that the writer hardly had Mormon vicarious baptism in view.

The central purpose of Hebrews was to provide Hebrew Christians with encouragement not to revert to the inferior system of Judaism to which they were habituated, but to remain firm in their commitment to Christ and His new covenant: “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). Hence, the Hebrews writer was simply pointing out that all persons who lived on Earth prior to the advent of the Gospel and the Christian religion are ultimately dependent on the blood of Christ and the propitiation it provides. Referring to Jesus, Paul explains: “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed” (Romans 3:25). All who lived prior to the sacrifice of Christ could be saved only in anticipation of that atoning act, as pre-planned by deity in eternity (Revelation 13:8). In that sense, “they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:40, NKJV). This verse is actually employing the figure of speech known as metonymy of the effect, in which the effect is put for the cause producing it (see Bullinger, 1898, p. 560). In this case, the effect (“us,” i.e., we Christians—those who are the beneficiaries of the completed system of salvation) is mentioned in place of the means of salvation—the same means that enables those prior to the Cross to be saved as well—via the atoning sacrifice of Christ. In his 1880 commentary on Hebrews, Robert Milligan summarized the point:

The phrase “without us” may therefore be taken as equivalent to without the religion which through Christ we now actually enjoy.... [A]s the ancients were not, and could not, be perfected without the cleansing efficacy of his blood, it may be truthfully said, that they were not perfected “without us” and the “better thing” which we by the grace of God now actually enjoy (p. 335, italics in orig.).

Indeed, this passage has absolutely nothing to do with an alleged vicarious role enacted by living Mormons in behalf of the deceased. The idea is preposterous, completely foreign to the book of Hebrews, and in conflict with the entire scheme of redemption as worked out through centuries of human history and reported to us on the pages of the Bible.


An honest and humble appraisal of these and many other discrepancies should create great concern in the heart of one who believes Mormon documents to be inspired. Many criticisms have been leveled against the Bible over the centuries, yet have been answered decisively (e.g., Lyons, 2003; Lyons, 2005; Archer, 1982; Haley, 1977). If The Book of Mormon were from God, it, too, could be defended and its divine authenticity substantiated. However, the lack of adequate explanations to clarify such problems compels the honest individual to conclude that The Book of Mormon and other Mormon scriptures do not derive their origin from the God of the Bible.


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