Blessing becomes Curse?

Proverbs 27 14 d

Q. What is the meaning of Prov 27:14 “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be reckoned a curse to him”?

A. Blessing is a good thing, but can turn into a curse when it is done:
• with a loud voice i.e. in an inappropriate manner, &
• early in the morning i.e. at the wrong time.

The Amplified Bible expands the verse as:
He who blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him [for it will either be annoying or his purpose will be suspect].
The JFB Commentary has “excessive zeal in praising raises suspicions of selfishness.”

Both the manner and timing of a blessing, not just the content, are important. We need to watch not just what we say, but how and when we say it.

Begotten not Made

begotten 2

Q. The Nicene Creed said “Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father”. Doesn’t that say the Father begats the Son and is therefore superior? Wouldn’t that mean the Son had a beginning and was created?

A. No. The Nicene Creed’s declaration on the person of Christ states:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.

The Creed specifically asserts that Christ is:
• The only Son of God i.e. there is none other;
Eternally begotten i.e. without beginning or end;
• True God, just as the Father;
• Not made i.e. not created;
• Of one Being with the Father i.e. same essence.
Skeptics and cults misconstrue the word “begotten”. To understand what the Creed means we need to go back to the NT.

“Begotten” translates the Greek adjective monogenes, which means “single of its kind, only“. It was used of only sons or daughters, and of Christ denoting Him as the only begotten Son of God. The word monogenes appears 9 times in 9 verses, 5 of which referred to Christ:
Jn 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
• Jn 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
• Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
• Jn 3:18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
• 1 Jn 4:9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

You can see immediately that John wanted to point out not only is Jesus Christ the only begotten Son, single of its kind, He is also the only begotten God. As the Word He was God who co-existed with the Father from the beginning and created all things:
Jn 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Skeptics and cults are therefore totally misinformed and sadly mistaken.

Ancient Boundary?

Proverbs 22 28 b

Q. What does Prov 22:28 “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set” mean?

A. First, let’s find out what other passages have to say about “ancient boundary”:

Prov 23:10 Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless,
• Deut 19:14 You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess.
• Deut 27:17 Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark. …
• Job 24:2 Some remove the landmarks; they seize and devour flocks.

The meaning becomes obvious immediately. Boundary markers are stones or stakes set up by people to mark his property’s boundary, separating his from that of his neighbor’s. They identify the property for future generations. To move the marker is tantamount to theft, seizing other’s property for oneself, and considered a very serious offense. The principle is “you shall not steal”, honoring other’s property rights.

Kept from the Hour of Testing

Rev 3 10 d

Q. What does Revelation 3:10 mean and is it talking to the church in Philadelphia or to end-time Christians?

A. First, the immediate context is Rev 3:7-13, the message to Philadelphia. John was writing to a church in his days, not one over two thousand years in the future. So of course he was talking to the church in Philadelphia, although the message also applies to end-time Christians.

Second, the text:
Rev 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Most scholars agree that the “hour of testing” coming upon the whole world refers to the Great Tribulation. But what exactly does “keep you from the hour” mean?

Those who believe in a pretrib rapture argue that since Jesus will keep the church from the hour of testing, not just the testing itself, He must snatch them away before tribulation begins, to avoid the time period altogether. Others note that the context is perseverance (v 10) and “hold fast” (v 11). Therefore the Lord’s keeping should mean protection as the church goes through the testing, because if they had been raptured away, then endurance would not be necessary.

Which is correct? There are precedents of both modes of protection in Scripture:
• Escape prior to judgment e.g. the angels whisking Lot’s family away before He rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19).
• Protection through the hour of testing e.g.
o Noah’s family in the ark during the Flood (Gen 7),
o The Israelites during the plagues (Ex 8:22-23; 9:4-7, 25-26; 10:23; 11:5-7; 12:12-13)
o Those with the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev 7:3, 9:4).
While we note that the latter is more prevalent and indicative of God’s pattern, the frequency of occurrence by itself is not definitive.

What about the historical and grammatical context? Although I subscribe to futurism (the view that most prophecies regarding the end times are still future) and not preterism (the view that some or all of the prophecies concerning the last days have already been fulfilled in the first century), I do believe the meaning to the original recipients holds significance to twenty-first century readers. How the Lord kept first century church of Philadelphia should inform us how He would keep the end times Philadelphian church, because His promise was first to the former and only secondarily to the latter. Was the first century church physically removed from the hour of testing, perhaps hidden in the wilderness? There is no historical evidence to that effect.

Grammatically, both “you have kept” and “I also will keep” translate the same Greek verb tereo, which means to attend to carefully, take care of:
• to guard,
• metaphorically to keep one in the state he is,
• to observe,
• to reserve to undergo something.

The Lord will keep the church the same way the church has kept the word of His perseverance. How did the church keep His word, by escaping or by persevering? By enduring through the trial, not by hiding.

Secondly, pretrib commentators argue that “keep from the hour of testing” really means “keep out of the hour of testing”, because the word “from” translates the Greek preposition ek which really means “out of”. I disagree because while “out of” is a legitimate translation, it is only one amongst several possibilities. ek appears a total of 921 times, which the KJV translates using the following:
of 366X
• from 181X
• out of 162X
• by 55X
• on 34X
• with 25X
• misc. 98X

Which is the proper translation really depends on the context or syntax. If ek is used as a preposition referring to a place, “out of” is a proper translation. However, if ek is used to qualify time, then “from” is the proper translation. In Rev 3:10 ek qualifies time, so “from” is the better translation, which is what almost all translations have done, despite pretrib commentators’ assertion otherwise.

I therefore conclude that Rev 3:10 means the Lord will guard and keep the church from and through the hour of testing, NOT take it out of the hour. Hope this helps.

Who is Restraining the Antichrist?

2 Thes 2 6-7 a

Q. In 2 Thessalonians 2: 6-7, who is holding the Antichrist back that when he steps out of the way, the Antichrist will be revealed?

A. Many possibilities have been proposed. Let’s first observe the passage:
2 Thes 2:6-7 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

Notice v 6 says “what restrains him now”, neuter gender. The first “him” refers to “the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction” in v 3, the “lawless one” in v 8. Therefore some suggest the “what” to be:
• the Roman state with its emperor,
• the Jewish state,
• the principle of law and government,
• Paul’s missionary work,
• the restraining ministry of the Spirit through the church.

However, v 7 says “he who now restrains” and “he is taken out of the way”, masculine gender. The noun “Spirit” is neuter gender, but the Bible uniformly uses “He” to describe the Holy Spirit. Therefore others suggest the “he” to be the Spirit:
Jn 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

Which is correct? Let’s examine the options in turn.

• Government, whether Roman, Jewish, or the principle of law, can restrain human evil, but are powerless to restrain supernatural or spiritual evil. They can even be used as instruments to carry out the evil schemes of Satan and the Antichrist, so they can’t be the restrainer.
• Paul’s missionary work had certainly advanced God’s Kingdom and overthrown the kingdom of darkness wherever it went, but that was nearly two thousand years ago, and the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed. So it can’t be the restrainer either.
• Pretrib proponents use these verses to argue for the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. This is a faulty inference because they overlook the fact that the church is the bride of Christ, feminine, and not neuter nor masculine:
o 2 Co 11:2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.
o Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

The only option left is the Holy Spirit, who can certainly restrain the Antichrist as He is omnipotent. But the passage says both neuter (v 6) and masculine (v 7) gender. How can both be true? The Spirit’s restraining ministry would fit, though not through the church (feminine). The ultimate restrainer is the Spirit (He), while the mediate means is His restraining ministry (it).

One question remains. In what sense is the Holy Spirit taken out of the way, since He is omnipresent? In the sense that “taken out of the way” simply means He “lets go”, “releases the restraint”, or “steps aside”, not complete removal. Contrary to what pretrib supporters say, this actually argues against them. Even if the church were raptured, God is still on earth as He is everywhere:
Ps 139:7-8 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

The interpretation above does not presume pretrib which read suppositions into the text as if they were conclusions. Hope this helps.

God’s Training

God's training 1

Q. Everyone talks about discipleship but what should we really be trained in? Evangelism? Leading bible study? Praying? Is there a scriptural curriculum? What is the goal? How do we know whether we’ve done our job?

A. All the subjects you mentioned (witnessing, studying the bible, prayer), along with worship and fellowship should form part of a new believer’s basic follow-up. They contribute to the new Christian’s growth and balanced development. Having said that, the Bible does specify a few things we should be trained for, the process, and the desired end results:

Goals:
2 Sam 22:35 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 18:34 He trains my hands for battle, …
• Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle;
• Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
• Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

In the OT God trained David for battle. We apply this to NT times and today to spiritual battle, more specifically to discerning good and evil, and training for righteousness. These are particularly important in the last days when people reject the truth and lose their moral compass.

Process:
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

The training process involves applying God’s word from spiritual infancy. This requires discipline and practice over the long haul. There are no short cuts and quick fixes. The prevalent classroom method is not the best approach. On-the-job training is much more effective.

End-Result:
Luke 6:40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.
The desired end-result is that the disciple will be like his Master Teacher. Conformity to the image of Christ is the standard by which we ought to be measured, not completion of number of courses or obtaining a certificate or diploma. In this sense our job is never done this side of heaven.

God’s Calling

God's call 18

Q. What does the Bible say about God’s calling? Does God call us to do specific things? If yes, where does our freedom to choose come in?

A. The Bible has a lot to say about our calling, with respect to both our salvation and service.

Regarding salvation:
1 Co 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, …
• 2 Tim 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace …

And concerning service:
“the word of the LORD came” to His prophets e.g. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Haggai, Zechariah etc.
• Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

For service, the call could be specific, as in the examples cited above, or general e.g. the Great Commission (Mt 28:19, Mk 16:15, Lk 24:47, Jn 20:21, Acts 1:8).

The calling does not depend on how good or bad we are, and is irrevocable, but those called are required to make certain about the calling, and live up to it:
1 Co 1:26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;
• Rom 11:29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
• 2 Pet 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
• Eph 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
• 2 Thes 1:11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,

What happens to our freedom to choose? We still have it, within the limits God gave us:
Deut 1:26 Yet you were not willing to go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God;
• Isa 30:15 For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” But you were not willing,
• Mt 23:37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

God gave us a choice and we can freely choose to obey or disobey. However, when we disobey we have to pay for the consequences of disobedience ourselves.