Angels

Q. God created angels first before humans (we know because Satan was already fallen as the serpent). But do we know why He created them? And when?

A. The word “angel” translates the Hebrew word “mal’ak” and the Greek word “aggelos“. The former means “messenger, representative, or ambassador”; the latter also means “messenger, envoy, one who is sent”. As such, we know one primary purpose God created them was to be His messenger, to communicate His will e.g.
Dan 8:16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and He called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.”
• Mt 2:13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
• Lk 1:28 And coming in, he (an angel) said to her (Mary), “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
• Acts 5:20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.”
An angel spoke to Peter and the apostles.

Another reason God created angels was to execute His purposes, including His judgments e.g.
Ps 103:21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will.
• 2 Sam 24:16 When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
• Mt 13:41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,
• Jn 5:4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
• Acts 12:23 And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.

What’s more, they were charged to watch over and serve God’s children e.g.
Ps 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.
• Ps 91:11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
• Mt 18:10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
• Heb 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?

As to when, the Bible did not state explicitly, but there are hints:
Gen 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. The hosts refer to heavenly hosts, or angels.
• Ex 20:11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. “All that is in them” would include angels.
• Job 38:6-7 On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
When God laid the cornerstone of the earth, the morning stars and the sons of God, both referring to angels, were there already to sing and praise.
So the clues point to early in the creation week, but we just can’t be sure.

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I Don’t Believe in God!

Q. “Don’t tell me about your religion. I don’t believe in God.” How would you answer that?

A. There are many ways to approach this. Let’s start by defining what, or who, we mean. The Oxford Dictionary defines god as “the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being”:
• Creator means “a person or thing that brings something into existence”;
• Ruler and source of all moral authority implies, as a minimum, intelligence and goodness; and
• Supreme being means the highest person.

For people who don’t believe in God, even though they may not say it, essentially they are denying:
A creator or First Cause. The Law of Cause and Effect states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. If you trace our physical universe to its beginning, it must be caused by something or someone outside of itself. It cannot cause itself into existence, otherwise it would violate the law of non-contradiction. This is because the universe must exist in order for it to create anything, and it must not exist such that it has to be created. But self-creation requires both to be true simultaneously, and it simply can’t be, otherwise logic breaks down and there is no basis for reasoning. So a transcendent First Cause must pre-exist our universe, whom we call the Creator.
A designer. If you examine our universe, you will observe order (e.g. planetary orbits), symmetry (e.g. structure in organisms), and intricate design such that things work together. Just as a building requires an architect and a painting requires a painter, so this careful design requires a highly intelligent Designer who planned and executed everything.
A person. Not only is the First Cause all-powerful in order to create the universe, and all-knowing to design all living and inorganic matters, He must have personality as we have intellect, emotions, an innate sense of right and wrong (morals), and a will to decide, as that which is created, namely us, cannot be greater than the creator.

So simple logic tells us that an omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), moral being (person) exists, and we call this First Cause Designer God. To say that you don’t believe in God simply tells us that you do not want to accept the evidence, which are plenty. It does not change the fact that God exists, who you can know if you care to find out.

Jacob wrestling with God

Q. In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestled with a man and asked him to bless him, and he changed his name from Jacob to Israel. Who is he? What does it mean?

A. Skeptics laugh at the Bible claiming it is full of contradictions e.g.
V 24-25 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.
• V 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

They say Jacob obviously wrestled with a man according to v 24, for how else can God not prevail against him. But in fact they do not understand and presupposed many wrong ideas.

First let’s observe what the passage said:
V 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
• V 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Jacob obviously knew that his opponent was someone higher than him, for he asked Him to bless him, buy probably did not know His identity until His self-disclosure in v 28, after which he realized that He was God. But didn’t the Bible say no one has seen God? Yes, in:
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 6:46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.

No one has seen God the Father at any time. Who Jacob saw was God the Son, the only begotten God, the One who is from the Father, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, and He allowed Jacob to prevail against Him in order to bless him. There is no contradiction. Skeptics do not know God, and presumed the Bible to be wrong, when actually they are the ones who are in error.

Fourteen

Q. In Jesus’ genealogy in Mt 1:17 there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the deportation to Babylon, and 14 from the deportation to the Messiah. What is the significance of “fourteen” in the Bible?

A. The number fourteen or fourteenth appears 44 times in the NASB. I’ve read authors who are into numerology or gematria proposing fanciful meanings for the number. Just think of the many permutations and combinations of smaller numbers you can put together to equal 14, and you can see how the imagination can run wild very quickly. So I shall restrict myself to biblical citations, and have classified the 44 references as grouped in the Appendix.

The frequency of the references is as follows:
1. Passover 12 X
2. Feast of Tabernacles 9 X
3. Purim 5 X
4. Victory/Defeat 4 X
5. Turning Point 4 X
6. Service 4 X
7. Inheritance 2 X
8. Unclassified 4 X

Passover is the feast instituted the night before God delivered His people from Egyptian slavery. The Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering celebrated the final harvest of olives and fruits and also the start of the civil new year. Many scholars believe it to be symbolic of the Second Coming of Christ, the final ingathering of God’s people. Purim is the feast commemorating the deliverance of the Jews by Esther from a massacre plotted by Haman. All three (26 out of 44 X or 59%) are related to the idea of deliverance and salvation.

The second major idea is that of turning point. There were 4 references to 3 battles which meant victory to the conquerors, but defeat for the captives, a turning point. These are followed by 4 references to turning points of 14 generations, days or years. Altogether 8 out of 44 times or 18% are related to turning points. A third minor idea is that of service or order of ministry, 4 out of 44 X or 9%.

If you are interested in numerology you can search online. I am a historical-grammatical-cultural type and did not spend much time in this topic.

Appendix: Fourteen in the Bible

Angelic Announcements

Q. In Luke 1 the angel Gabriel announced to Zacharias the priest that his wife Elizabeth will bear him a son to be named John. Zacharias doubted and was unable to speak until John was born. Gabriel also announced to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus. Mary also questioned him but was not punished. Why?

A. Both asked a similar question:
Lk 1:18 Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”
• Lk 1:34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

But the thinking behind each is very different.

What do we know about Zacharias from the text? We know that he:
1. was righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord (v6)
2. had no child, his wife was barren, and they were both advanced in years (v7)
3. had been praying for a son (his petition has been heard, v12)
4. asked for a sign (how will I know this for certain v18)
5. looked at his circumstances (I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years v19)
6. did not believe Gabriel’s words (v20)

Although Zacharias was a priest and ought to know better, he did not believe Gabriel’s words.
Lk 12:48b From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
He prayed but did not believe when God answered his petition. He did not accept God’s messenger’s words at face value, but asked for a sign similar to what Gideon did (Jdg 6:36-40). And unlike Abraham who did not waver in unbelief (Rom 4:20), he contemplated his own body and the deadness of Elizabeth’s womb, and he became weak in faith (contrast Rom 4:19).

What about Mary? We know that she:
1. was a virgin engaged to Joseph (v27)
2. was very perplexed at Gabriel’s statement (v29)
3. was puzzled about her conception as she was a virgin (v34)
4. accepted Gabriel’s announcement without further objection (may it be done to me according to your word v38)

Even though she was only a country girl and not as highly trained as Zacharias was, she received the angelic announcement by faith, despite the impossibility of a virgin conception. Her Magnificat showed that her focus was entirely on God, not circumstances:
1. the Lord (v46)
2. God my Savior (v47)
3. He has had regard for His bondslave (v48)
4. the Mighty One, holy is His name (v49)
5. His mercy toward those who fear Him (v50)
6. He has done mighty deeds with His arms, He has scattered (v51)
7. He has brought down rulers (v52)
8. He has filled the hungry (v53)
9. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy (v54)
10. He spoke to our fathers (v55)

This is in stark contrast to Zacharias. No wonder she was blessed and he got his sign of being struck mute.

Heavenly Mansions

Q. John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. Since the mansions are already there in heaven, why did Jesus say “I go to prepare a place”? and Why will there be a need for a new heaven and new earth?

A. I will give you the common interpretations, plus my opinion.

1. Mansions or Rooms
NKJV Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
• NIV Jn 14:2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
• ESV Jn 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

This carries the idea of many buildings with lots of rooms, one for each believer. Some commentators refer to the New Jerusalem in Rev 21, with pearly gates and foundations of precious stones. I do not think this is the correct interpretation as our resurrection bodies are not “natural” but spiritual (1 Co 15:42-44). We will not need physical rooms to rest.

2. Resurrection Bodies
The English word “mansions” translates the Greek word mone, which literally means:
• a staying, dwelling, abiding, abode
• to make an (one’s) abode
• metaphorically of God the Holy Spirit indwelling believers.
Mone appears 3 times in 2 verses in the NT:
NASB Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places (twice); if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
• NASB Jn 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Therefore other commentators take this to mean Jesus is going to prepare an imperishable, glorified, powerful, spiritual body (1 Co 15:42-44) for us. This is possible, but does not fit the context. Jn 14:1 begins with Jesus comforting His disciples. Jn 14:4-6 ends with Jesus stating “I AM the way”. Nowhere is the resurrection body in sight in the immediate context.

3. Homes
Still other commentators look at the cultural background in Jesus’ days. Extended families live in and around the patriarch’s home, which is the center of the community. So what Jesus was saying is “there is plenty of room to accommodate all of you, to live together as a loving, tight-knit family.”

Amplified Jn 14:2 In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places (homes). If it were not so, I would have told you; for I am going away to prepare a place for you.
• Living Bible Jn 14:2 There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.

In this interpretation, Jesus was not going away to prepare a physical place, nor a resurrection body, but a home where the family of God dwells together. In general I interpret literally, but allow room for figurative language. I think this fits the context in John 14 about oneness with the Father better, and is my own view.

A new heaven and a new earth is needed because the old heavens and earth will be judged and destroyed:
2 Pet 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people 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 destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

The old heaven and earth were created “good” (Gen 1), but sin brought corruption and futility, and they need to be set free:
Rom 8:20-22 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Hope this explanation helps.

Child’s Faith

Q. Since I was a child, I have always believed in John 3:16 but had no concept of Eph 1:4-7 or 2 Co 5:21. All I knew was that Yahweh is the only true god instead of Buddha. Was I saved as a gentile child?

A. Only God who knows your heart, then and now, can answer your question. However, I can offer a few comments:

1. Being saved depends on your relationship with God, not how much you know:
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 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
• Jn 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
• 1 Jn 5:11-13 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Note that John’s consistent testimony is that:
• Eternal life is in the Son
• Has the Son = Has life
• Does not have the Son = Does not have life.
How do you have the Son? By believing in Him.
What does believe mean? Not intellectual assent, but:
• Trusting that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God or God the Son;
• Obeying the Son to demonstrate that the trust is genuine.
John said nothing about head knowledge, how much theology you know. It’s all about trust, as a child trusts in his/her parents, and depends totally on them for everything. It is a matter of the heart. I’ve heard lectures and read books by unbelieving “theology professors” with several doctorates, but I don’t think they are saved. Now whether you have the simple, complete, faith of a child, only God knows and you know.

2. You quoted Eph 1:4-7 and 2 Co 5:21, both deep truths penned by Paul:
Eph 1:4-7 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
• 2 Co 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Eph 1:4-7 teaches:
1. Election (He chose),
2. Sanctification (holy),
3. Perfection (blameless),
4. Predestination,
5. Adoption,
6. God’s will,
7. Free grace,
8. Redemption,
9. Forgiveness, while
2 Co 5:21 teaches:
10. Jesus as perfect Man (no sin),
11. Substitutionary atonement (to be sin on our behalf),
12. Imputation (righteousness of God).

I doubt any new Christian would have a full grasp of these dozen subjects, yet they are saved the moment they placed their trust in Christ alone and commit to follow Him. Christ gave them the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). I do not mean to belittle theology, but it’s the heart that counts, not the head.