Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Was John the Baptist really Elijah?" -- My Response

David

I have been hung up the past few weeks on Matthew Chapter 11. Specifically where Jesus references John the Baptist as Elijah. At first it escaped me as being just more of a reference to John being likened to a prophet. As I read more in the commentaries and researched a bit online and YouTube it is more confusing to me.

Some argue that, no John is not Elijah and the proof is in Revelations chapter 10 or 11 (?) when they mention the two prophets. The two are supposed to be Moses and Elijah.

And others are on the side of no because of the fact that Jesus was not accepted by the Jews and therefore Elijah could not have yet returned I believe this was referencing Malachi 3:1

But there are those who argue that indeed Jesus was stating that John was Elijah as stated in Matthew 11:13-15. The argument is that one would have to believe in the events to mark the coming of Jesus and the fact of Jesus' identity.

Anyway I have now gotten over my head on this and would really like your clarity on this subject.

I also want to thank you for your help always. I know I am at a snails pace going through this material but so much seems to be new to me. I appreciate that you are there to bounce questions off of. This means a lot to me sincerely.

Mark 


Hey,

Good question.

Because of 2 Kings 2:11, Jews developed the belief that Elijah was still alive in the heavenly realms. They believed he didn’t die. In Jewish apocalyptic literature, it was common to state that Elijah would return right before judgment (which is evidenced as early as Malachi 4:5, and then appears in later Jewish literature often).

If you read Matthew 11:13-15 at “plain meaning,” which is sometimes the proper way to interpret, then it would mean that Jesus really thought his cousin, John the Baptizing One, was Elijah the prophet.

I’m not sure if I find the “plain meaning” compelling. Why? Because Jesus would have certainly known that John was his cousin, born of his aunt, Elizabeth (in Luke 1). John didn’t come from the heavenly realms…he came from Palestine. Jesus would have played with John at family reunions and religious holidays. They would have grown-up together, you might say. Moreover, Jesus calls John, “John,” almost every single time he’s mentioned. He only calls John, “Elijah,” in one instance.

Moreover, I don’t think anyone believed that John was the actual Elijah, since Elijah was still in the heavenly realms (as made explicit in the so-called “Transfiguration” scene in Mark 9:4).

So, I don’t think Jesus really believed that his cousin was the actual Elijah.

Instead, I believe that Jesus meant that his cousin, John, was functioning like Jews believed Elijah would function. Like Elijah was supposed to call people to repentance (Malachi 4:6), so, too, John does with the Jews. Jesus is referencing John symbolically (though Jews of his time would probably not have understood Elijah’s return symbolically, which is one reason it’s so hard for them to accept it, I think).

Then why not say that? Why say that “he is Elijah” (Matt 11:14) instead of “John is like Elijah”? Because of the force of that language. Jesus also said that a person must eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53), and that his disciples must “hate his father and mother and brother and sister” (Luke 14:26), and on and on. The point is, it was common for Jesus to speak this way. It’s completely appropriate to interpret this saying by Jesus to mean that John is like Elijah in the fact that John acts like Elijah in his role.

And…that reference to Revelation 11 is irrelevant in my opinion. John the prophet didn’t write Matthew, nor seem to consult Matthew in his theology. So, I let Revelation speak for itself, in the language of apocalyptic (which is a whole other issue!).

So, for those “who can accept it” (Matt 11:14), we accept John’s role as the one who prepared the Jews for the Kingdom message of Jesus.

These are my thoughts!

In Christ,
David


"Can Christians play Pokemon Go?" -- My Response

Hi, thank for your time.

There is a hot debate among Christians regarding the game Pokemon Go. Usually one of the concerns that some Christians have against this game is some of the Characters in the pokemon world. Some will say that some characters are demons or spirits based from Japanese folklore or has some connection with the occult. Others have said that every person's situation is different. Every person's heart is different. One person may be able to play a certain game with no ill effects while someone else might play the same game and become obsessed. We must each ask God for wisdom about our individual situations and what is best for us. There is no blanket rule when it comes to playing video games. Therefore perception is required here like certain movies,video games,clothing apparel,etc... Like to hear how other Christians feel about this and how you deal with these issues when there is a disagreement with other Christians? Thank you 


Thanks for the question. I’ve never heard people oppose that game, so this is new to me.

Can Christians be involved with things that are associated with foreign beliefs or religions (like yoga, or Halloween, or certain movies or video games)? The NT gives different responses depending on the what the association does to the Christian. On the one hand, if we are associated with something that causes us to worship other gods, then it should be abandoned. This was called “idolatry.” This is what’s going on in Acts 15:20; 1 Cor 5:11; 6:9; 10:7, 14, etc. However, if we are get involved with something that is associated with other gods/religious ideas, but we do not worship them, then that depends on the person’s conscience. That is, if a person isn’t tempted to worship other gods because of what she’s doing, then it’s OK if your conscience says it’s OK. This is what’s going on in 1 Cor. 8. I encourage you to read those texts for yourself.

So, I think it depends on whether or not playing Pokemon Go causes you to worship other gods or do something immoral. If it doesn’t, I see nothing wrong with doing it based on the New Testament.

In Christ,
David


Saturday, October 15, 2016

"What's the difference between temptation and sin? And, can thoughts be sins?" -- My response

David,  In bible study this last week we were talking about anger - study in James on the tongue.  One of the ladies said she only had a problem with anger in her mind, her thoughts.  There was a discussion on "sinning" by thinking.  In the same book where it talks about temptation - let no man say when he is tempted he is tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.  but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown gives birth to death.   having said this,  my thoughts were that temptation is/can be the thoughts of sin, however the actual sin is the action or behavior or the carrying out of the thought (temptation).  So I said let me encourage you - if you only thought of acting in anger but chose not to then you did not sin ( i was clearly in the minority of this view)  If thoughts are sin - what is the difference between temptation and sin? obviously most of the women in the bible study disagreed with me  citing Jesus teaching in Matthew about if a man looks on a woman with lust in his heart he has sinned. What are your thoughts?

Regards,
Angela 


Hey!

That's a great question.

Temptation is the enticement to do wrong. One could translate the same Greek term as “seduce” or “entice.” It’s when a person or an evil force suggests that a person sin.

Yet, defining “sin” is a big issue. In a generalized sense, “to sin” means “to do wrong, offend, to be in error.” Based on every instance of the term in the Bible, it sure seems to me that sinning is only a behavior.

Therefore, I do not think thinking can be a sin. I concur with you. This is certainly true with anger. Controlling our anger is a very righteous thing to do! It’s why we’re supposed to “control our tongue.” Anger is a feeling. (I just preached on this topic: http://fcclawrence.org/resources/sermons/ )

Matthew 5:28 might suggest that a person’s “strong desire for” (which is typically translated, “lust”) is a sin. But, it doesn’t specify if that “strong desire for” is an action (remember, Jesus says when a “person looks upon” – “looking upon” is an action!), a thought, a feeling, or something else. However, even if it does refer to a thought, it’s the only place in the Bible that I can find that suggests one particular thought is a sin. So, it wouldn’t apply to all thoughts at all times as being open to sinning. In any case, I don’t think Jesus really meant that to be understood as a thought equals sin. I’m convinced that Jesus was being hyperbolic. I don’t think Jesus really thought that if a person had a strong desire for someone it really meant the person had an affair. Instead, I think Jesus’s point is that affairs begin within a person’s desire for someone else. Instead of just being on guard for actually having an affair, each person should be on guard about wanting to have an affair in the first place.

My interpretation might be wrong, but I don’t think so.

Those are my thoughts!
David

Monday, October 3, 2016

"Daggum it" -- I lost a podcast listener

Hi Dr.D.
I've been listening to Glimpse of the Kingdom podcast for a while now, and aside from a few theological points I don't agree on I've been enjoying them.  Until I heard you say "dadgum."  Which is slang for God damn.  I really don't appreciate hearing a man of God (or anyone, for that matter) blaspheme.  The proverbial last straw was your "sermon" on Worry, which you said it about three times in the same sentence.  I'm afraid I can't listen to your podcast anymore because of that.  It's really turned me off of your work and made me sad that someone of your education and standing would take God's name in vain.  I feel especially wrong listening as I have small children around while I listen.

Anyway, I wanted to let you know... Just because we are raised hearing certain words and have become accustomed to them doesn't give us the right to use them, whether it's gosh darn, goldang or dad gum it's all derivative of God damn.

Thank you for your time, and blessings to you, Sherri

Regards,
Sherri


Hi Sherri,

I'm sorry to hear that you'll no longer be listening to my podcasts, especially for the reason that you gave.

Actually, "dadgum" is the corruption of "God damn," not "daggum," which is the term that I actually use. In any case, I'm aware of the etymology of the term, "dadgum." However, the origin of a word in no way implies that it's used the same in different times and different cultures. Terms change usage. A "bachelor" originally referred to "young knight," but I don't use the term that way today. "Awful" originally meant, "worthy of awe," but I don't use the term that way today. One could cite copious such examples.

What matters is how I'm using the term in linguistic context. And I have never used the term, "daggum" to mean "May God damn something to hell" (which is what it originally referred to--it was shorthand for a prayer that God condemn/"damn" someone). Instead, I use it in its common Southern US usage, as an exclamation of intense emotion.

Moreover, "God damn" isn't blasphemy in any biblical sense of the term. So, I'm uncertain what you think "blasphemy" means or how it is to be used. In the Bible, to "blaspheme" means "to slander" (e.g., Mark 7:22; Rom 3:8, et al.). When it's used of things relating to God, it means to "slander God's character or activity." It's to claim that something human is divine or visa versa, or that something human claims divine prerogative (e.g., Mark 2:7; 14:64). I have never claimed that a human was divine or that God (the Father) was human. Thus, I am not guilty of blasphemy.

So, I'm uncertain which biblical mandate you think I've violated. I know of none. (And Exod. 20:7 is irrelevant because I'm not mentioning God's name, nor would I ever do such a thing. And if a person were to “use God’s name in vain,” that is certainly not the definition of “blasphemy.”)

Of course I believe that cursing God’s name or using various expletives isn’t Christian. All words should be beneficial for “building up” (Eph. 4:29). It’s just that I don’t share your definition and usage of the term, “daggum,” and never have in my whole life heard it used to mean what you say it means. In the South, no one used it that way where I was from. I respect your view; I just don’t see any reason to hold your view. (I once had a woman very upset with me because I used the term, “crap,” in a sermon, because to her it was a horrible slang term for excrement. Where I was raised it meant, “junk” or “that which is worthless,” or at other times, it was also an exclamation of intense emotion. Nevertheless, because of her own definition, she was upset.)

Thanks for your time! I certainly wish you the best.

I pray God uses you mightily in His Kingdom,
David 

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