"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Twelve Apostles (10:1-4) by Mark Copeland

The Twelve Apostles (10:1-4)

 INTRODUCTION 1. Upon what is your faith in Jesus Christ based? a. His miracles? b. His teachings? c. His resurrection from the dead? 2. In reality, our faith is based upon the words of the apostles of Jesus Christ... a. Apart from their gospels and letters, we know virtually nothing about Him b. They are the ones who tell us about His life, miracles, and resurrection 3. Jesus acknowledged that our faith in Him would depend upon their word... a. As indicated in His prayer for us - Jn 17:20 b. The Lord expected us to believe in Him through their word 4. Who are these men upon which our faith is based? a. What does the Bible and history tell us about them? b. Are they credible witnesses that we should believe? c. What is their role in the church of our Lord? 5. In Mt 10:1-4, we find the names of the twelve apostles... a. Matthew lists their names as they were sent on "The Limited Commission" - Mt 10:5-7 b. While Mark and Luke records their names when they were actually appointed as apostles - cf. Mk 3:13-19; Lk 6:13-16 [In this lesson I wish to focus our attention on "The Twelve Apostles", upon whom our faith is based, for whom we should be so grateful. Let's start by taking a closer look at...] I. THE IDENTITY OF THE APOSTLES A. THE FIRST FOUR... 1. Simon, who is called Peter a. Introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew - Jn 1:40-41 b. Given the name Cephas (Peter) by Jesus - Jn 1:42 c. A fisherman, called to follow Jesus along with Andrew - Mt 4:18-20 d. Known for being impetuous; for example: 1) When Jesus walked on the sea - Mt 14:25-29 2) When Jesus foretold His death and resurrection - Mt 16:21-23 3) When Jesus foretold of some who would stumble - Mt 26:31-35 4) When Jesus was arrested in the garden - Jn 18:10-11 e. Known for his failures; for example: 1) Doubting when walking to Jesus on the sea - Mt 14:30-31 2) Denying the Lord three times - Mt 26:69-75 3) Leading himself and others into hypocrisy - Ga 2:11-13 f. But eventually living up to meaning of his given name (a rock) 1) Restored by Jesus after His resurrection - Jn 21:15-19 2) Directing the selection to replace Judas Iscariot - Ac 1:15-26 3) Preaching the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost - Ac 2:14-41 4) Instrumental in the church at Jerusalem during its early years - Ac 3-6; cf. Ga 1:18; 2:1-10 5) The first to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles - Ac 10-11; 15:6-11 2. Andrew, brother of Simon a. A disciple of John the Baptist, he was one of Jesus' first disciples - Jn 1:35-40 b. He led his brother Simon (Peter) to Jesus - Jn 1:41-42 c. A fisherman, called to follow Jesus along with Simon - Mt 4:18-20 d. He introduced some Greeks to Jesus - Jn 12:20-22 3. James the son of Zebedee a. Brother of John - Mt 10:2 b. A fisherman, called to follow Jesus along with John - Mt 4:21-22 c. Perhaps because of fiery temperment (evidenced in Lk 9:52-54), he and his brother
were called "Sons of Thunder" by Jesus - Mk 3:17 d. While seeking glory, they were promised suffering - Mk 10:35-40 e. Indeed, James was the first of the apostles to be killed - Ac 12:1-2 4. John, brother of James a. Called along with his brother, James - Mt 4:21-22 b. Along with brother and father, they were partners with Peter - Lk 5:10 c. Like his brother, he appeared quick to judge others - cf. Lk 9:49,54 d. But he became "the beloved disciple whom Jesus loved" 1) Who sat next to Jesus during the Last Supper - Jn 13:23 2) Who was given charge to care for Jesus' mother - Jn 19:26-27 3) Who was among the first to see the empty tomb - Jn 20:2-8 4) Who recognized Jesus following the resurrection - Jn 21:7 5) Who made a veiled reference to himself as the author of the Gospel of John Jn 21:20-24 -- Of these four, Peter, James and John became "the inner circle" of Jesus' disciples. These three were present when Jesus raised Jairus' daughter (Mk 5:37), witnessed the transfiguration (Mt 17:1),
 and were summoned by Christ for support during His agony in Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-37). B. THE REMAINING EIGHT... 5. Philip a. Called by Jesus, the day after He met Peter and Andrew - Jn 1:43 b. From Bethsaida, home of Peter and Andrew - Jn 1:44 c. He led Nathaniel to Jesus - Jn 1:45-46 d. He with Andrew brought the inquiring Greeks to Jesus - Jn 12:21-22 e. He was the one who asked Jesus, "Show us the Father" - Jn 14:8-9 6. Bartholomew a. He is traditionally considered to be Nathanael, because he is connected to Philip
 in the lists of the apostles in the Gospels - Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:14-16 b. If so, then he was introduced to Jesus by Philip - Jn 1:45-46 c. And was praised by Jesus as having no guile - Jn 1:47-51 d. He lived in Cana, and saw Jesus after the resurrection - Jn 21:1-14 7. Thomas a. He was also called The Twin (Didymus) - Jn 20:24 b. At one point he was willing to die for Jesus - Jn 11:16 c. After the resurrection, he required empirical evidence before he would believe that Jesus was alive - Jn 20:24-25 d. A week later, such evidence was provided - Jn 20:26-28 8. Matthew the tax collector a. Also known as Levi - Mt 9:9; Mk 2:14; Lk 5:27 b. Called the son of Alphaeus, leading some to think he was related to James the son of Alphaeus - Mk 2:14; 10:3 c. Called to follow Jesus from his tax office, and later gave a feast at his home in honor of Jesus - Mt 9:9-13 9. James the son of Alphaeus a. He may be "James the Less", son of Mary (who witnessed Jesus' death, sought to prepare Him for burial, and found the tomb empty) - Mk 15:40; 16:1 b. Other than in the lists of apostles, he is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture 10. Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus a. Evidently the same as "Judas, not Iscariot" (Jn 14:22) and "Judas, brother of James" - Lk 6:16; Ac 1:13 b. He is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture 11. Simon the Cananite (Cananaean) a. Also called "the Zealot" - Lk 6:15; Ac 1:13 b. As such he had been a member of a radical party seeking to destroy Roman rule 12. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot the betrayer a. Judas, of course, would later betray Jesus and hang himself - Mt 26:14-16,47-50; 27:3-10 b. In his place, Matthias was chosen - Ac 1:15-26 c. He had evidently been with Jesus from His baptism until His ascension - cf. Ac 1:21-22 [What an amazing and diverse collection of men upon which to trust the continuation of His mission! Men with personal failings, from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Yet Jesus took this band of men, worked with them for three years, and through them turned the world upside down! Let's now consider what is revealed in Scripture about...] II. THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLES A. AS WITNESSES FOR THE RESURRECTION... 1. Jesus had shown Himself alive through various proofs - Ac 1:1-3 2. Jesus commissioned them to testify concerning Him - Ac 1:8 3. Peter explained that the apostles were to be witnesses for the resurrection - Ac 1:21-22 4. Thus they testified again and again-Ac 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:30-32; 10:39-41; 13:29-31 -- The apostles served the important role of providing historical and legal proof that Jesus arose from the dead, so that our faith in Him might rest on a solid basis! B. AS TEACHERS FOR THE DISCIPLES... 1. Jesus did not reveal all during His earthly ministry - Jn 16:12 2. The Holy Spirit would reveal all the truth, working through the apostles - Jn 16:13-14; cf. 14:25-26 3. Thus the apostles' doctrine became the authority for the church, as commissioned by Jesus - Mt 28:20; Ac 2:42 4. This doctrine they preserved in their writings - e.g., 2Pe 3:1-2 -- Through His apostles, Jesus continues to instruct His church as we continue stedfastly in their teachings! C. AS THE FOUNDATION FOR THE CHURCH... 1. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles, with Christ as the corner-stone - Ep 2:19-22 a. Their eyewitness testimony is the basis of our faith b. Their teaching is basis of our doctrine and practice 2. Their names are even depicted as written on the foundation for the New Jerusalem, which is the Lamb's bride (the church) - Re 21:9-10,14 [To such a small and simple group of men Jesus entrusted the future of His church! Was His trust well-founded? Well, consider what we know from Scripture and tradition concerning...] III. THE DEDICATION OF THE APOSTLES A. IN CARRYING OUT THE GREAT COMMISSION... 1. They were commanded to make disciples of all the nations - Mt 28:19 a. We read of the early work of the apostles in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in the book of Acts b. We can also read Peter's letters to those througout Asia Minor (Turkey) 2. From sources outside the Bible, we are told: a. Peter is thought to have travelled to Rome, and possibly Babylon - cf. 1Pe 5:13 b. Andrew is said to have preached in Bithynia, Scythia,Greece, and among the Parthians c. James the brother of John is said to have preached in India and Spain before he was beheaded by Herod d. John, brother of James, spent time in Patmos, later in Ephesus, and is thought by some to have established the churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia,Laodicea, and Thyatira e. Philip ministered in Phrygia f. Bartholomew is said to have taken the gospel of Matthew to India g. Thomas is also thought to have travelled to India h. Matthew is said to have preached 15 years in Palestine, and then went to Ethiopia, Macedonia, Syria, Persia,Parthia and Medea i. James the son of Alphaeus - little is known of any work outside Jerusalem j. Thaddaeus is said to preached in Syria and Edessa k. Simon the Zealot is said to have preached the gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain l. Matthias is thought to have gone to Damascus -- While much of the above is not known for sure, it does seem to coincide with Paul's statements concerning the spread of the gospel Ro 10:14-18; Col 1:23 B. IN GIVING THEIR LIVES FOR THE LORD... 1. The apostles suffered much for the Lord a. As He warned them - Jn 15:18-20 b. As Paul described in 1Co 4:9-13 2. But they did more than suffer discomfort, in most cases they gave their lives a. Peter - crucified upside down in Rome b. Andrew - imprisoned in Greece, then crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground (from which came the term, St. Andrew's Cross) c. James - beheaded by Herod - Ac 12:1-2 d. John - the only apostle thought to avoid a violent death e. Philip - scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified f. Bartholomew - said to have been placed into a sack and thrown into the sea,
 some say he was crucified g. Thomas - thrust through with a spear in India h. Matthew - said by some to have died a natural death, by others that he died in Ethiopia, being slain with a halberd (pike fitted with an axhead) in the city of Nadabah i. James the son of Alphaeus - stoned by the Jews for preaching Christ j. Thaddaeus - unknown k. Simon the Zealot - suffered martyrdom under Trajan; some think crucified in Britain l. Matthias - said to have been stoned and then beheaded CONCLUSION 1. Do we appreciate the significance of the "supreme sacrifice" these men made? a. Their willingness to suffer and die strengthens the credibility of their testimony b. And what is that testimony? That Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave! -- They were not motivated by money or power; they were compelled by events they could never deny having seen and heard! 2. Through "The Twelve Apostles", we see the power of faith in Christ, transforming... a. Judgmental disciples into apostles of love (e.g., John) a. Political enemies into beloved brethren! (e.g., Matthew and Simon the Zealot) b. Cowards who denied Jesus into confessors who died for Him (e.g.,Peter) 3. In "The Twelve Apostles", we have the basis for faith in Christ,providing... a. The foundation of our faith in Christ through their testimony b. The foundation of our belief and practice through their writings May we who are "built on the foundation of the apostles" (Ep 2:20), never forget these 12 humble disciples who faithfully answered the call of their Lord. May their example inspire us to greater faithfulness in our service to Christ!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Origins and the "Created Kind" Concept by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Origins and the "Created Kind" Concept

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


The Bible speaks of things reproducing “after their kind.” What does the biblical word “kind” indicate?


Today, most creationists take the view that variation and speciation can occur only within created kinds. These kinds appeared for the first time in the creation week, and have since colonized the Earth. For land-dwelling animals, modern representatives would have to be the descendants of the kinds carried on the ark (Genesis 6:17; 8:17-19).

However, there is no consensus on the biological definition of kind, or the criteria for grouping animals within a kind. Some creationists equate the term with a particular taxonomic level higher than species, such as genus or family. Most, however, avoid such comparisons altogether. Byron Nelson wrote:

The “kinds” of Genesis refer not to the “systematic” species identified by men, but to those natural species of which the world is full, which have power to vary within themselves in such a way that the members of the species are not all exactly alike, but which, nevertheless, cannot go out of the bounds that the creator set (1967, p. 4).

In 1941, Frank Marsh coined the term “baramin”—a compound of the Hebrew words bara (“created”) and min (“kind”). He suggested that the nearest equivalent to the created kind would vary, depending on the greatest taxonomic level at which two organisms could interbreed (1976, p. 34). For example, while there are several species of cattle and bison, they probably belong to the same kind because they all can interbreed (Marsh, 1976, p. 31).

The differences of opinion, and the apparent flexibility in the idea, have given anticreationists cause for criticism. Joel Cracraft complained:

The “created kind” is the unit of creation event just as the species is the unit of evolutionary change. Consequently, if the concept of “created kind” cannot be defined so that it can be used to interpret and investigate nature, then it is of little or no importance for the growth of knowledge (1983, p. 169).

However, the same sort of criticisms leveled at kinds also can be turned on the species concept, which is neither well defined nor objective. First, the widely held biological species concept “holds that a species is a population of organisms that can at least potentially breed with one another but that do not breed with other populations” (Rennie, 1991). Unfortunately, two populations may not breed because they are isolated geographically. This may lead to taxonomic splitting, by which taxonomists give two different names to populations that could interbreed if given the chance. Practically speaking, very few species undergo extensive cross-breeding experiments before classification to test their reproductive isolation. Hybridization is another problem. Two seemingly distinct plant species may cross to produce fertile hybrids.

The potential for taxonomic splitting is especially acute in the fossil record, where it is impossible to apply the biological species concept. Instead, paleontologists tend to define species on their morphology alone. However, the soft parts of an organism rarely are preserved, and the identification must rest almost entirely on hard parts (e.g., bones, teeth, etc.). Any evolutionary relationships drawn from such studies are necessarily limited (Major, 1991).

Second, the species idea often takes on a definite evolutionary connotation. As we have already seen, Cracraft claims that the species is “the unit of evolutionary change” (1983, p. 169). He wants to replace the biological species concept with his own phylogenetic species concept, mainly because he is not satisfied with any definition that ignores alleged evolutionary relationships. Cracraft’s concept defines a species as “the smallest recognizable cluster of individuals that share a common pattern of ancestry” (Rennie, 1991).

The created kind concept can hold its own against these definitions. It proposes that a kind will consist of populations that can interbreed, while still allowing room for variation. If implemented systematically, the concept would reveal barriers or discontinuities between created kinds. “In order to make this evidence of creation available,” Kurt Wise has suggested, “there is a serious need for creation biologists to create, adopt, and employ a reproducible method of flagging identifiable phyletic discontinuities” (1990, 2:354). Creationists, like Wise, are continuing their work on kinds. In the meantime we face a taxonomic system encumbered with evolutionary presuppositions.


Cracraft, Joel (1983), “Systematics, Comparative Biology, and the Case against Creationism,” Scientists Confront Creationism, ed. Laurie R. Godfrey (New York: W.W. Norton), pp. 163-191.

Major, Trevor (1991), “Problems in the Interpretation of Variation Within the Fossil Record,” Creation Research Society Quarterly, 28:52-53, September.

Marsh, Frank L. (1976), Variation and Fixity in Nature (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press).

Nelson, Byron (1967), After Its Kind (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship).

Rennie, John (1991), “Are Species Specious?,” Scientific American, 265[5]:26, November.

Wise, Kurt P. (1990), “Baraminology: A Young-Earth Creation Biosystematic Method,” Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, July 30-August 4, 1990, ed. Robert E. Walsh (Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship), pp. 345-360.

Only True Christianity is Defensible by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Only True Christianity is Defensible

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Recently I was involved in a very productive discussion with two atheists. They were in their early thirties, intelligent, and extremely well spoken. We arranged the meeting to discuss why they had chosen to adopt atheism, and reject God and Christianity. In the course of the two-hour discussion, it became clear that many of their complaints about “Christianity” were legitimate. In fact, I heartily agreed with a host of their lengthy refutations of, and rebuttals to, “Christianity.” Lest I mislead the reader, however, let me explain. Notice that I have put in quotation marks the “Christianity” against which they railed, because the term demands qualification. Much of the “Christianity” that so incensed these young men involved gross misrepresentations of God and heinous misinterpretations of the Bible. For instance, during the discussion, one of the men explained that if, according to John Calvin’s views, God arbitrarily chose some people to be saved and some to be lost, regardless of their choices, then God would be unjust. He explained this point in detail for several minutes. After listening attentively to his astute refutation of Calvinism, I completely agreed with him, but noted that Calvinism is not true Christianity. It seemed that since Calvinism had been so inseparably bound-up in many “brands” of “Christianity” to which this young man had been exposed, he was taken aback that any “Christian” would so readily agree with his assessment of its evident flaws.

The discussion with these men, coupled with a critical reading of the atheistic community’s primary authors, has impressed upon my mind the fact that skeptical writers have a knack for exposing pseudo-Christianity for the error that it truly is. Unfortunately, skeptics often use the pseudo-Christianity and misinterpretations of the Bible that they so adequately debunk as straw men that they insist represent true Christianity. In truth, they certainly do not. It is a useful study, however, to notice several areas of biblical misinterpretation and un-Christian beliefs that skeptics have correctly identified as flawed.


In 2006, David Mills authored a book titled Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism. Much of the material in that book is incorrect. But chapter six, titled “Can Genesis Be Reconciled with Modern Science?” has some trenchant things to say about those who claim to believe the Bible but try to bend its interpretation to jibe with modern evolutionary findings. At the beginning of the chapter, Mills stated:

According to Genesis, God made Adam and Eve on the sixth day of Creation Week. The Genesis genealogies then detail the exact ages at which Adam and his male descendants “begat” their own male offspring. The New Testament books of Matthew and Luke [NOTE: Matthew and Luke actually do not give ages—KB] then continue the genealogy from David to Jesus, again specifying the age at which each male descendent “begat” the next generation. Since we have a fixed “historical” time period for Jesus’ birth, creationists thereby calculate that the heavens and Earth were created by God in the year 4004 B.C. Earth, therefore, is only 6000 years old by biblical chronology. [NOTE: Although Mills is correct about the general age of 6,000 years, the chronology is not so precise as to nail down the exact date of 4004 B.C.—KB.] Despite widely divergent viewpoints, creationists and evolutionary biologists agree on a crucial fact: Six-thousand years is insufficient time for evolution to have produced the complex life-forms we observe on Earth today.... A 6000-year-old Earth means therefore that Genesis and the Theory of Evolution are forever irreconcilable (p. 137).

Mills further noted:

If Earth’s history began with Creation Week, and if Genesis provides an accurate historical record, then Earth had no prehistoric eras, no prehistoric peoples, and no prehistoric animals. Dinosaurs walked the Earth only a few thousand years ago, side-by-side with modern man (p. 141).

Mills went on to write: “If creationists now wish to abandon their historical position and acquiesce to an ancient Earth, then I applaud their progress. But it is a farce to maintain that Genesis never really demanded a young Earth since the genealogies were always intended as metaphors” (p. 148, emp. added).

Regarding those who attempt to compromise the literal nature of Genesis and accept both the Bible and evolution, Mills wrote: “Citing the Day-Age theory, these Great Pretenders make believe that Genesis actually describes an ancient Earth. The purpose of this pompous intellectual charade is to allow the Great Pretenders to ‘have it both ways’—imagining themselves to be both religious and scientific at the same time” (p. 151). In what sounds exactly like a young Earth apologist’s writings, Mills then commented: “In seeming anticipation and preemptive rebuttal of the Day-Age theory, however, the Book of Genesis itself provides a clear and specific definition of Creation Week...‘the evening and the morning’ were a day—a literal 24-hour day” (p. 151).

Mills is exactly right in regard to the fact that a compromise of the Genesis account of Creation is indefensible and illogical. He does an excellent job of showing that the special pleading needed to warp the text of Genesis into agreement with modern evolutionary ideas cannot stand critical scrutiny. He concludes correctly that: “A 6000-year-old Earth means therefore that Genesis and the Theory of Evolution are forever irreconcilable” (p. 137). Those who compromise the text of Genesis in an attempt to force it to agree with modern evolutionary teachings have gotten it wrong, and would do well to listen to Mills’ criticism of their inaccurate interpretation.

Unfortunately, Mills leaves his critical thinking at the doorstep of his correct assessment that the Bible and evolutionary theory are irreconcilable. He incorrectly reasons that the Bible has been wrong all along and that evolution is the true creative agent of our planet. We have shown repeatedly that such simply cannot be the case (cf. Jackson, et al., 2008), and Mills and other atheists would do well to apply the same critical thinking to the false evolutionary theory as they so aptly apply to indefensible compromises of the biblical text.


Many people who consider themselves Christians today have accepted the idea that humans are born with a sinful nature. These religious people believe that sin can be inherited from one’s ancestors, and that every human, even infants, deserve death due to their inherently sinful nature. The Bible, however, nowhere teaches such a doctrine. Thus, when atheists and skeptics seize on this false interpretation of Scripture, they correctly insist that such a teaching would manifest a contradiction in the nature of the God of the Bible.

Christopher Hitchens, in his discussion of Christ’s death on the cross, wrote:

Furthermore, I am required to believe that the agony was necessary in order to compensate for an earlier crime in which I also had not part, the sin of Adam.... Thus my own guilt in the matter is deemed “original” and inescapable. However, I am still granted free will with which to reject the offer of vicarious redemption (2007, p. 209, italics in orig.).

Hitchens correctly concluded that such an idea “negates the moral and reasonable idea that the children are innocent of their parent’s offenses” (p. 99). Richard Dawkins weighed in on the idea as well: “The sin of Adam and Eve is thought to have passed down the male line—transmitted in the semen according to Augustine. What kind of ethical philosophy is it that condemns every child, even before it is born, to inherit the sin of a remote ancestor?” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 251, emp. added).

Hitchens, Dawkins, and numerous other atheistic writers correctly conclude that a god who condemns children because they inherited their ancestors’ sins would be an unjust being unworthy of worship. The biblical portrait of God, however, is not of such a cruel, unjust being. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The Bible points out in unambiguous terms that children do not inherit the sins or guilt of their ancestors. The prophet Ezekiel wrote: “The one who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (18:20). It has been shown repeatedly and beyond doubt that the Bible never indicates that children inherit sin or guilt from their parents (Butt, 2004), nor do children ever suffer any type of spiritual punishment as a result of the sins of their parents (Butt, 2003). While it is the case that children often suffer physical consequences of their parents’ wrong choices, such as when a drunken father abuses his children, it is not the case that those children bear any of the father’s spiritual guilt or inherit any of their parents’ sin.

One can completely understand why the skeptical community would be aghast at a being who would cast innocent babies into hell as punishment for the sins of their parents. Yet, a correct interpretation of the Bible shows that such is not the case. While it is sad that many religious people have falsely taught such a view, their false teaching on the subject, and the skeptics’ acceptance of that false teaching as a correct interpretation of the Bible, cannot be used as a legitimate weapon to impugn the character of the God of the Bible.


It is unfortunate for Christianity that some who call themselves Christians completely misunderstand the basic concept of faith. For many in Christendom, faith is a warm feeling in their hearts when they have failed to find adequate evidence to justify their beliefs. Modern dictionaries have done much to engrain this false definition of faith into modern Christianity. For instance, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary states that faith is “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof” (1988). The American Heritage Dictionary gives as a primary definition of faith: “belief that does not rest on logical or material evidence” (2000, p. 636). The idea that faith is a warm, fuzzy feeling divorced from logical thinking and separated from all “material evidence” does not coincide with what the Bible actually says about faith (cf. Sztanyo, 1996). As Sztanyo correctly noted: “There is not a single item in Christianity, upon which our souls’ salvation depends, that is only ‘probably’ true. In each case, the evidence supplied is sufficient to establish conclusive proof regarding the truth of the Christian faith” (1996, p. 7).

The false view that faith is “a leap in the dark” without adequate evidence provides the skeptical community plenty of fodder for their atheistic, anti-Bible cannons—and rightly so. If believing in God, or the divine inspiration of the Bible, or the deity of Jesus Christ is not established by rational, logical evidence, then those ideas are as unworthy of belief as the unprovable ideas of atheism and evolution. Knowing the inconsistency of such a false definition of faith, Sam Harris wrote: “In fact, every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable. This put the ‘leap’ in Kierkegaard’s leap of faith” (Harris, 2004, p. 23, italics in orig.). Christopher Hitchens, building on the “leap of faith” idea, opined:

Actually, the “leap of faith”—to give it the memorable name that Soren Kierkegaard bestowed on it—is an imposture. As he himself pointed out, it is not a “leap” that can be made once and for all. It is a leap that has to go on and on being performed, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary (2007, p. 65).

In his analysis of religion, Richard Dawkins quipped: “The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification” (2006, p. 23, emp. added). Because of his belief that biblical faith is belief without rational justification, Dawkins concluded: “We believe in evolution because the evidence supports it, and we would abandon it overnight if new evidence arose to disprove it. No real fundamentalist would ever say anything like that” (p. 283). What Dawkins really means to say is that no fundamentalist who has adopted the concept that faith does not depend on rational justification would abandon his or her belief if evidence were provided to the contrary. But if his definition of faith is wrong, then he is incorrect to conclude that those who believe in God, the divine inspiration of the Bible, and the deity of Christ would not alter their views based on the evidence. In fact, according to a proper definition of biblical faith, it is only because of the rational justification and logical evidence available that true Christians hold to their beliefs.

When Dawkins states, “Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don’t have to make the case for what you believe” (p. 306), he manifests his lack of knowledge of what biblical faith is. Biblical faith is based completely and solely on truth and reason, as the apostle Paul succinctly stated in Acts 26:25. The prophet Isaiah underscored this fundamental truth about biblical faith when He recorded God’s invitation to the Israelites: “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (1:18). Luke, in his introduction to the book of Acts, pressed the point that Jesus’ resurrection was attested by “many infallible proofs” (1:3). For one to believe in the resurrection requires faith, based on infallible proofs.

Sam Harris wrote: “It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail” (Harris, 2006, p. 67). Harris’ accusation is justified when it is applied to false religions, and to those who attempt to defend Christianity without providing a logical, rational justification for their belief. But his allegations, and similar sentiments from Dawkins, Hitchens, and other atheists, are wholly inadequate to attack true, biblical faith. Sadly, too many self-proclaimed Christians open the door for the skeptical community to bash Christian “faith,” when, in reality, the “faith” that is being destroyed was never biblical in the first place.


It is often the case that “Christianity” is abused by modern skeptics due to the tendency of many in Christendom to claim that the Holy Spirit continues to work miracles today just as He did during New Testament times. Atheist Dan Barker wrote about the time that he was thrown out of “Peter Popoff’s ‘miracle’ rally” (1992, p. 291). Barker wrote that Popoff “grabbed a woman’s head, deliberately mussed up her hair, shook her and pronounced her healed” (p. 293). During Popoff’s healing antics, Barker noted, “The audience punctuated his ‘healings’ by loudly speaking in tongues, raising their arms, shaking, crying, and hollering ‘Amen,’ ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ and ‘Hallelujah!’ It had the feel of one of those professional wrestling matches on TV” (p. 293).

Barker’s assessment of the event was, “It was comical; and it was sad. The man was practicing medicine without a license, raising false hopes and endangering lives. (Many of his believers have discarded medicine or cancelled doctor’s appointments.) I remember having participated in meetings just like this when I was a full-gospel evangelist, and I was ashamed” (p. 294). Barker’s caustic assessment of Popoff’s “faith healing scam” is accurate in many ways. As Barker admitted, he at one time in his past participated in many false-healing events, and thus he knows the inherent dishonesty involved in such deceptive shenanigans. Here again the skeptical community has logically and correctly concluded that such faith healings are not valid. As David Mills wrote: “If God has the power to miraculously cure others (though invariably in a vague and uncertain way), why doesn’t God ever help amputees?” (2006, p. 161).

Mills is right to surmise that if the miraculous power that was available during the time of the apostles is still available today, as many Christians erroneously teach and believe, then miracles that can be empirically verified like the healing of amputees should be documented. After all, even the enemies of the apostles had to admit that the miracles worked by the apostles were empirically verifiable: “For indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16).

In truth, the skeptical community does an excellent job of showing that such “faith healing” events are emotionally charged frenzies that do not produce legitimate medical results. The problem arises, however, when the skeptical community tries to lump all Christians into this mold, or attempts to use these verifiably false miracles to discount the possibility of any type of miracle at any time in history. The fact of the matter is, the Bible predicted that the miraculous power that was available to the apostles would come to an end, and would not continue throughout the ages until modern times (Miller, 2003). Furthermore, it has been repeatedly and definitively shown that such false miracles sustain no argumentative value against the historical legitimacy of true miracles recorded in the Bible, such as the resurrection of Christ (Butt, 2002).


Mortimer J. Adler once stated, “Christianity is the only logical, consistent faith in the world” (as quoted in Sharp and Bergman, 2008, p. 288). Unfortunately, the truth of his statement is often obscured by the copious, false philosophies and inaccurate biblical interpretations that masquerade as Christianity. Calvinism, theistic evolution, inherited sin, misdefined faith, and a belief in modern-day miraculous healings are just a few of the obstacles standing in the way of a proper understanding of New Testament Christianity. To this list could be added hundreds of similar ideas fraught with error such as the unscriptural concepts of purgatory, limbo, modern-day Divine inspiration, the perseverance of the saints, and a plethora of ridiculous “predictions” supposedly rooted in the biblical text of Revelation. Those who genuinely wish to defend the validity of New Testament Christianity must be willing and able to assess the writings of modern skeptics, separating the wheat from the chaff. By acknowledging the mistakes that are inherent in false concepts of “Christianity,” the honest-hearted truth seeker can be led to see that such foibles and errors do not mar authentic, defensible Christianity.


American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.

Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion).

Butt, Kyle (2002), “Jesus Christ—Dead or Alive?” Reason & Revelation, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/121.

Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?” http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2255.

Butt, Kyle (2004), “Do Children Inherit the Sins of the Parents?” http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2543.

Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin).

Harris, Sam (2004), The End of Faith (New York: W.W. Norton).

Harris, Sam (2006), Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).

Hitchens, Christopher (2007), god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: The Twelve).

Jackson, Wayne, Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt (2008), Surveying the Evidence (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking and Holy Spirit Baptism—A Refutation,” Reason & Revelation, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2569.

Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).

Sharp, Doug and Jerry Bergman, eds. (2008), Persuaded by the Evidence (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).

Sztanyo, Dick (1996), Faith and Reason (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1988), (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster).

One Second After Death by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


One Second After Death

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

We human beings find it very easy to live life as if we will be here forever. We occasionally come face to face with death when a friend or loved one passes away. But the essence of daily living is such that it is easy to ignore the reality of death and the certainty of existence beyond the grave. It is essential that we go to the Bible and find out what will happen to each one of us—one second after death.

The Bible teaches that human beings are composite creatures. We possess a fleshly body that is composed of physical elements made from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). This physical body is animated by a life force or life principle that we share in common with the animal kingdom (although, in the Genesis creation account, a distinction seems to be made between animals and man in the direct source of this life principle (Genesis 1:20-21,24; 2:7). In any case, the Scriptures also teach that human beings are unlike the animals in that humans also possess a spiritual dimension that transcends the body and physical life on Earth.

God places within each prenatal person at conception a spirit that makes each individual a unique personality. Zechariah 12:1 observed that God “forms the spirit of man within him.” Our spirits are what makes each one of us a distinct entity, a person that will survive physical death and live on immortally throughout eternity.

A number of Hebrew and Greek words are used in the Bible to identify various facets of our beings (e.g., nephesh, ruach, neshamah, leb, and basar in the Old Testament and psuche, pneuma, nous, soma, and sarx in the New Testament). These words are somewhat fluid, and are used in a variety of ways—sometimes interchangeably, sometimes in contradistinction to each other. They are translated by many different English words (e.g., “soul,” “spirit,” “breath,” “wind,” “heart,” “mind,” “self,” “body,” “flesh,” et al.). It is a mistake to seize upon a passage where “soul” refers to the entirety of a person’s being and conclude that man does not possess a spirit that is distinct from his animated body. Some religious thinkers tend to limit the Hebrew word ruach (soul or spirit) to an impersonal vital power that becomes individualized only in the nephesh (whole person). Thus, it is claimed that the soul or spirit cannot exist independently of the body, so that when the “life force” exits the body, the person ceases to exist.

But, by avoiding human philosophies and focusing solely upon the Bible, we learn that each person possesses a conscious spirit that ultimately leaves the body and exists separately from it in the spirit realm. For example, Genesis 35:18 states: “[I]t came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died).” The author of the book of 1 Kings wrote that Elijah prayed, “let this child’s soul come into him again...and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:21-22). Psalm 86:13 says, “You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”

The Bible defines “death” as “separation”—not “extinction.” Physical death occurs when the spirit exits the body. James 2:26 notes: “[F]or as the body without the spirit is dead.” In other words, the separation of one’s spirit from one’s body results in physical death. Spiritual death, on the other hand, entails separation from God due to sin. So “death” involves the idea of separation—not extinction or unconsciousness.

A clear depiction of existence beyond death is seen in Luke 16:19-31. Some argue that this section of Scripture is a parable, which is incorrect since the story does not contain the usual indicators of parabolic discourse. However, even if the passage were a parable, a parable is not a fairy tale. Bible parables parallel true-life situations to teach a basic lesson of truth. They draw from reality and that which people understand as actual earthly existence and genuine conditions in order to drive home a spiritual point. After reading Luke 16:19-31, observe the following textual details:

  1. Both men are said to have died.
  2. Wherever Lazarus went, angels were used to transport him there.
  3. The rich man was buried.
  4. The rich man was in hades.
  5. The rich man was being tormented in flames.
  6. The rich man could see and recognize Lazarus and Abraham.
  7. Abraham referred to the rich man’s former existence as “your lifetime.”
  8. Abraham made clear that their respective locations were irreversible.
  9. The rich man’s brothers were still occupying his father’s house on Earth.
  10. The Law of Moses was still in effect.
  11. The rich man’s plea to send Lazarus to his living relatives would require Lazarus to return “from the dead” (vs. 30) and to “rise from the dead” (vs. 31).

The term translated “hell” in Luke 16:23 is the Greek word hades, and is not to be confused with the word gehenna. “Gehenna” is found twelve times in the New Testament, and refers to the place of eternal, everlasting punishment—the “lake of fire” where Satan, his angels, and all wicked people will be consigned after the Second Coming of Jesus and the Judgment. So gehenna is hell. “Hades,” on the other hand, occurs ten times in the New Testament, and always refers to the unseen realm of the dead—the recepticle of disembodied spirits where all people who die await the Lord’s return. At that time, our spirits will be reunited with our resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).

Luke 16 shows us that hades contains two regions. One is referred to as the “bosom of Abraham” (which simply means “near” or “in the presence of ” Abraham—cf. John 1:18). The other region in hades is described as tormenting flame. Every other passage in the New Testament that refers to hades harmonizes with this description of the intermediate realm of the dead where the deceased await the resurrection and judgment.

For example, while fastened to the cross, Jesus told the thief, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise is of Persian derivation, and means a “garden” or “park.” Where was it that Jesus and the thief went on that very day? Certainly not to extinction! Extinction would not be “paradise”! They did not go to the grave together. The thief was not placed in the tomb with Jesus, and the tomb certainly would not be a “paradise.” Nor did Jesus go to heaven, for in John 20:17 after His resurrection, Jesus reassured Mary that He had not yet ascended to the Father. So where is “paradise”? Where did Jesus and the thief go after dying on the cross? Where had Jesus been for those three days between His death and resurrection?

Peter gave the answer to that question in his sermon in Acts 2 when he quoted Psalm 16. Acts 2:27 states that God would not abandon Christ’s soul in hades nor allow Christ to undergo decay. So while Christ’s body was placed in a tomb for three days, Christ’s spirit went to hades. Peter argued that David, who penned the 16th Psalm, was not referring to himself. How do we know? David’s body was still in the tomb (Acts 2:29). David’s spirit was still in the hadean realm because Peter also said that David had not yet ascended into heaven (Acts 2:34). Acts 2, by itself, proves that a person does not go straight to heaven or hell when he dies, and that a person does not become extinct, cease to exist, or pass into a state of unconsciousness at death.

Jesus previously predicted that His death and entrance into the Hadean realm would not prevent Him from accomplishing His divine purposes. Matthew 16:18 reads: “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.” In other words, though He would die on the cross, though His body would be placed in the tomb, and though His spirit would descend into hades, nevertheless, the gates of hades would not prevent Him from coming back out of hades (i.e., resurrection) and then setting up the kingdom a few days later in Acts 2. At that time, Peter and the apostles employed the “keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:19) with the help of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus (Acts 2:33).

It was through Jesus’ death and subsequent departure from hades that Jesus rendered powerless “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26,54-57). Jesus’ personal victory over death and the Hadean realm explains why He could declare in Revelation 1:18—I am He who lives; and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of hades and of death.”

While Jesus, the thief, and Lazarus went to the paradise portion of hades, the rich man went to the unpleasant area which included torment and flame. This is the same region of hades, referred to in 2 Peter 2:4, where angels who sinned were committed by God. The term that Peter used was tartarosas, or Tartarus, and is described as “pits of darkness” where they are “reserved for judgment.” The parallel in Jude 6 speaks of these angels as having abandoned their proper place and having failed to keep their own domain. They are depicted as existing in “everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” This region of the Hadean realm must also be in view in Moses’ allusion to the anger of God which kindles fire that “shall burn to the lowest part of Sheol” (Deuteronomy 32:22)—sheol being a general Hebrew equivalent of the Greek hades.

Notice what will happen to this intermediate receptacle of spirits. In Revelation 20, beginning in verse 11, we are presented with a portrait of the final judgment before the great white throne of God. Everyone who has ever lived will be there. Verse 13 says that “death and hades” will be cast into the lake of fire. That means that hades will be cast into hell. The unseen realm of the dead, where conscious spirits reside until judgment, will have served its purpose, and all people who have ever lived will then be consigned to one of two places: heaven or hell.

“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). “[I]t is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). Paul referred to the occasion “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Look carefully at the word “everlasting.” Does the human spirit exist beyond physical death and the grave in a conscious state? Or, at death, does the soul cease to exist in a state of “soul sleep”? Does a person’s consciousness become extinct? Is the soul annihilated at death? The Sadducees denied the existence of the spirit realm. According to Acts 23:8, they denied the immortality of the soul, believing in “neither angel nor spirit.” Josephus stated that the Sadducees believed that “souls die with the bodies” (18:1:4). There are religious groups today who teach the same thing.

In Luke 20, Jesus showed the fallacy of such thinking by showing that when Moses was at the burning bush in Exodus 3, God declared Himself to be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At the time God made that statement, the bodies of those three patriarchs had been in the grave for hundreds of years. Yet Jesus concluded: “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Luke 20:38). That proves that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—though separated from their physical bodies—were still in existence. They were not extinct. They would one day be reunited with their bodies in the resurrection.

Many other passages indicate the perpetuation of conscious spiritual life beyond physical death. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of the souls of those who had been martyred for the Christian cause. They are depicted as spirits—not bodies—who are conscious, who are aware of the means by which they were killed, and who knew that their blood had not yet been avenged.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul described an experience that he, or someone he knew, had in the “third heaven.” The “third heaven” in scriptural thought is the spirit realm where God and other celestial beings reside (Deuteronomy 10:14; 26:15; 1 Kings 8:27,30). It often is referred to as the “heaven of heavens”—a Semitism wherein the genitive is used for the superlative degree—meaning the highest or ultimate heaven (cf. “Song of songs,” “King of kings,” “Lord of lords”). The “first heaven” is the Earth’s atmosphere—the “sky”—where the birds fly (Genesis 1:20; 8:2; Isaiah 55:10; Luke 13:19). The “second heaven” is “outer space”—where the Sun, Moon, and stars are situated (Genesis 15:5; 22:17; Deuteronomy 4:19; Nahum 3:16). Twice Paul stated that he was not certain whether the person described was “in the body, or out of the body” (vss. 2-3). That proves that Paul acknowledged the possibility of the spirit of a human being existing in a conscious state apart from the body. To say that the spirit ceases to exist at death makes Paul imply what is not true.

Both accounts, of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, and the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, prove that conscious existence continues after the death of the body. Hebrews 12:23 speaks of “the spirits of just men made perfect”—a reference to deceased saints who remained faithful to God during their life on Earth, but who had since passed into the spirit realm. That passage makes no sense if “spirits” refers to the wind or breath of a person. These people were like Stephen in Acts 7:59 who, as life was being stoned from his body, said to the Lord whom he could see in the heavens: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” If “spirit” is simply the life force of the body that goes extinct the moment it no longer animates the body, then Stephen was speaking out of ignorance to think that he had a spirit that could be received by Jesus.

The Bible frequently speaks of the ultimate state of both the good and the wicked as being “eternal.” For example, read Hebrews 6:2 which speaks of “eternal judgment,” or 2 Thessalonians 1:9 which speaks of “eternal destruction,” or Revelation 20:10 where Satan will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and tormented there “day and night forever and ever.” Jude 7 speaks of those who will suffer “the vengeance (punishment) of eternal fire.”

Matthew 18:8-9 identifies the fire of hell (gehenna) as “everlasting fire.” The parallel passage in Mark 9:43 states that this fire “shall never be quenched.” Mark 9:48 states that hell is a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” The image is taken from Isaiah 66:24, and is unquestionably intended to make the point that the fire of hell will be unquenchable—always burning, yet never consuming.

In His description of the final Judgment in Matthew 25:46, Jesus used the same word aionion (eternal) to refer to the respective conditions of both the good and evil people who inhabited the Earth. If eternal punishment is not “eternal,” then life eternal is not “eternal” either. The word “punishment” clearly implies pain that is inflicted. Listen to Peter, who said, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9). The same word is used to refer to the punishment that the apostles narrowly avoided in Acts 4:21.

Some say the word “destroy” (or “destruction”) means “annihilation” (or “extinction”). They go to a passage like Matthew 10:28 where Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” They insist that “destroy” in this passage means “annihilation.” But that cannot be. For if physical death inflicted by one’s fellowman brings extinction and unconsciousness of the soul, what is there to fear from God? Why would Jesus say there is no need to fear other people—who can take your physical life? For in taking your physical life, they also would cause your soul to be annihilated, in which case they have as much power as God, and the comparison that Jesus makes is no comparison at all. If the soul dies with the body, then he who kills the body kills the soul, too.

The parallel passage in Luke 12:4-5 makes this point even clearer. Luke wrote: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He hath killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” If physical death brings annihilation of the soul, then it is ridiculous to speak of casting the soul into hell after killing the body.

In addition, the Greek term that underlies our English word “destroy” does not mean “annihilation.” W.E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, explained: “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being” (1966, p. 302). He cited Matthew 10:28 as an example, as well as John 17:12 where Judas, who had not yet hung himself, was called the “son of perdition.” Obviously, Judas was not extinct or annihilated. But he was destroyed in the sense that he lost spiritual well-being. He had perished spiritually.

Lexicographer Joseph H. Thayer agreed with this assessment when he said that “destroy” in Matthew 10:28 means “to devote or give over to eternal misery” (1901, p. 64). Albrecht Oepke commented on the meaning of destroy: “definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades” (Kittel, 1:396).

What must be concluded from these passages of Scripture? God gives people this life on Earth to prepare their spirits for their eternal abode. When a person dies, his or her body goes into the grave, while the conscious spirit enters the Hadean realm to await the final Judgment. At the Second Coming of Christ, all spirits will come forth from hades and be resurrected in immortal bodies. All will then face God in judgment, receive the pronouncement of eternal sentence, and then be consigned to heaven or hell for eternity. Listen closely to the inspired words of the apostle Peter:

Therefore, since all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? ...You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being lead away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:11-12,17-18).

[NOTE: For an audio sermon on this topic, click here.]


Josephus, Flavius (1974 reprint), “Antiquities of the Jews,” The Works of Flavius Josephus, transl. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Kittel, Gerhard (1964), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Thayer, J.H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1977 reprint), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

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

A Faint Star Flames & Falls by Jim McGuiggan


A Faint Star Flames & Falls

O SOMEWHERE, somewhere, God unknown,
Exist and be!
I am dying; I am all alone;
I must have Thee!
God! God! my sense, my soul, my all
Dies in the cry:
Sawest thou the faint star flame and fall?
Ah! It was I.

A tormented soul (Frederick Myers) wrote that many years ago.

Paul says Christians war against principalities and powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual hosts of wickedness in invisible realms and are in dire need of protection by God (Ephesians 6). He himself in that section confesses a desperate need for prayers on his behalf, armored or not.

And what of those who have not accepted God’s full protection? Those of whom our Blessed Savior said: “They don’t know what they’re doing”?
What can, what will, we do for them…for them?




What follows repentance and immersion in water? According to the apostle Peter, forgiveness of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit follows repentance and baptism. On the Day of Pentecost Peter preached Jesus as Lord and Savior and then told them to repent and be baptized.

Acts 2:36-38 "Therefore let the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." 37 Now when they heard this , they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.(NKJV)

What follows believing that Jesus is Lord and Christ, repentance, and water baptism? The answer is forgiveness of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38 And Peter replied, "Each one of you must turn from sin, return to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; then you also shall receive this gift, the Holy Spirit.(TLB-The Living Bible)

What follows repentance and water baptism?
Acts 2:38........for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (EXB-The Expanded Bible)

Acts 2:38 .......so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God's gift, the Holy Spirit.(GNT-Good New Translation)

Acts 2:38......for the remission of sins, and you ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.(KJV)

Forgiveness from sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit follows faith, repentance, and immersion in water.

What is the correct distinction between the Old and the New Covenants? by Roy Davison


What is the correct distinction
between the Old and the New Covenants?

Many wrong practices and doctrines are based on a misunderstanding of the difference between the Old and the New Covenants.

The Old and the New Testaments together form the Holy Scriptures. All Scripture is necessary: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

This does not mean, however, that everything in the Scriptures applies to us as law. Noah was commanded to construct a boat to save his family. His example of faith and obedience is edifying for us, but we do not have to build a boat!

Through Moses, God gave a law to Israel. We can learn much from that law. But it was never given to the church of Christ as a law.

In the first century this point was clarified. Some Jews wanted to obligate non-Jews to keep the law of Moses. “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question” (Acts 15:1, 2).

The same idea was advanced by certain ones at Jerusalem: “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses’” (Acts 15:5).

Peter refuted this: “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (Acts 15:7-11).

Notice that this applies to all disciples, not just to the Gentiles. Christians are not obligated to keep the law of Moses because it is a yoke that no one can bear.

What then is the value of the Old Testament for Christians? “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

Although the Old and New Testaments together form the Scriptures, the New Covenant supersedes and replaces the Old Covenant. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught many things that are different from the law of Moses. At the same time He emphasized that He was not against the law. The Old Testament had its function in God’s plan. Jesus came to fulfill the old law and bring a new one. Although the law was replaced, that was not a ‘destruction’ because the Old Testament foretold its own replacement!

In Hebrews, Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted as proof that the Old Covenant has been replaced: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,’ says the LORD. ‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ says the LORD: ‘I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:6-13).

Jesus did not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill their predictions. Anyone with true respect for the law of Moses would also accept Jesus and become a Christian. But hypocrites who did not respect the law would also not accept Christ (See John 1:45; 5:45, 46).

In our time, many unchristian practices and doctrines are supported with passages from the Old Covenant: the establishment of central ecclesiastical organizations; the maintenance of a separate priest class; the use of candles, incense and musical instruments in worship; the observance of the Sabbath and the obligation to give a tenth, to mention a few. None of these practices have been given to the New Testament church. But people who want to do such things, or to bind them on others, refer to passages in the Old Testament in an arbitrary manner to support their ideas. I say ‘in an arbitrary manner’ because to be consistent they would have to do everything required under the Old Covenant, but they of course do not want to do that.

Some claim that the ten commandments in the Old Testament still apply as law for believers, even though the rest does not. Their argumentation is: “What? May we murder and steal and commit adultery?” Many are deceived by this superficial argument, but it is not valid.

The ten commandments no longer apply as law because in the doctrine of Christ they are completely superseded. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus demands much more of us than the ten commandments. He not only forbids murder and adultery, but also the causes, hate and lust (Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28).

Paul wrote that the ten commandments have been replaced by something much better: “But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious” (2 Corinthians 3:7-11). The ten commandments, engraved on stones, were a ministry of death that had to disappear. Christ brought something better.

The gospel of Christ encompasses all fundamental, unchangeable values of the ten commandments. Christians certainly may not steal or murder. But they avoid this because of their love for God and fellowman, not just because there is a command: “You shall not kill”.

Certain externals in the ten commandments are not included in the New Covenant. A Christian has not been told, for example, that he may not make a statue; he has been told not to worship idols. According to the ten commandments, however, one may not even make a statue.

Nor is the Sabbath command applicable under the New Covenant: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17).

Although we can learn much from the Old Testament (the Old Testament helps us understand the New), we now live under the New Testament, a covenant of grace.

We are not under the law of Moses, This is stated many times in the New Testament. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:14, 15). “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another - to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4). “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24, 25). “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14, 15).

It is important to know when the New Testament went into effect. “For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives” (Hebrews 9:16, 17). Thus, the New Testament took effect after the death of Christ.

Jesus Himself lived under the Old Covenant: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5). This means that many things in the four Gospels still relate to the Old Covenant, although Jesus, in anticipation, also taught many things that are part of the New Covenant. If we use our discernment, we can distinguish between the two.

By overlooking the distinction between the old and the new covenants in the Gospels, certain false doctrines are advanced. Some teach, for example: “Jesus kept the Sabbath, we must do the same.” Jesus also kept the Passover and worshipped in the temple. Must we follow these examples? Of course not. The Sabbath, the Passover and the temple service were part of the Old Covenant. Some have claimed that Jesus’ teaching about divorce does not apply to us because He spoke before the New Covenant took effect. From the text it is clear, however, that Jesus was not teaching the law of Moses (his teaching was completely different). He was presenting His own teaching that is part of the new covenant.

All the Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testaments, are useful for our instruction. But we do not now live under the law of Moses or the ten commandments. The gospel of Jesus Christ applies to us; we serve God under the New Covenant.

What did God say from heaven when Peter’s words indicated that he placed Jesus on a par with Moses and Elijah? “Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ - because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!’” (Mark 9:5-7).

Let us make a correct distinction between the Old and the New Covenants. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1, 2). Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive