Proclaiming the Good News of the forgiveness
of sin and eternal life to all repentant sinners
by God's unmerited "grace alone" through
"faith alone" in the sinless life and atoning
death of the Lord Jesus "Christ alone".
The sixteenth century rediscovery of Paul's objective message of justification by faith invaded the consciousness of men with a tempestuous fury and changed the course of history. The Protestant movement was founded upon a restoration of the primacy, supremacy and all-sufficiency of justification by faith.
No one would want to contend that the Protestant Reformation completely recovered the purity of faith which existed in the apostolic church. The Reformers did not always agree among themselves. They were not always consistent in every area. And it was inevitable that the church did not all at once abandon every error of the Dark Ages. But in spite of differences and inconsistencies, the Reformers were absolutely united on justification by faith — its objective meaning and its absolute centrality in the Christian faith.
We have already observed that there is a tendency in human nature to gravitate from the objective stance of the gospel to religious subjectivism, to shift the central focus from Christ's experience to Christian experience. This is what happened in the great "falling away" in the early church. And the same evolution has taken place within the Protestant movement.
The Error of the Sects
Even before the Reformers had passed off the stage, different sects began to grow up within the Protestant movement and to break from the founding churches. The sects said that Luther made a good start in reviving the doctrine of justification by faith, but they had the feeling that Luther stood only half way and that they must go on, higher. These sects were generally not without some truth. Often they emphasized something that was neglected by the founding churches of the Reformation. But Luther discerned that they erred on the great charter of Protestantism – justification by faith – and, as far as he was concerned, if this was wrong everything was wrong. "Whoever departs from the article of justification does not know God and is an idolater," wrote Luther. "For when this article has been taken away, nothing remains but error, hypocrisy, godlessness, and idolatry, although it may seem to be the height of truth, worship of God, holiness, etc." — What Luther Says (St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), Vol.11, pp.702-704.
These sectarian teachers did not deny justification as an initiating step in the Christian life. Their error was the old one of relegating justification to something whereby the believer can make a start and then go on to higher things. With them, justification by faith was no longer the center. Their focus was away from Christ's experience to their own, from the objective to the subjective. Luther understood their mentality when he said:
"For people say, Why, this man can preach about nothing but baptism, the ten commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and faith – matters which even the children know nowadays. Why is it that he is forever dinning the same sermon into our ears. Who cannot do this? One must not surely stay forever with the same matter but continue and progress (say the sects). Dear people, you have now heard the self same stuff for so long a time; you must rise higher." — Ibid., Vol.III, p.1268.
In the time of the Reformers, the Munzerites and radical Anabaptists gave great prominence to the work and gifts of the Spirit. Their cry was, "The Spirit! the Spirit!" but Luther replied, "I will not follow where their spirit leads." They were the sixteenth century charismatics.
Then there was Osiander. At first a disciple and colaborer with Luther, he broke from the Reformation teaching on justification by an imputed (outside) righteousness and began to teach that the believer is justified by the indwelling of Christ and His essential righteousness. Both Luther and Calvin recognized that Osiander's teaching was a return, in principle, to the Roman Catholic idea of justification. Some of the sects erred from the gospel in that they tried to go beyond righteousness by faith to seeking a state of absolute sinlessness in this mortal life on earth. The Reformers also recognized that this was actually Roman Catholic perfectionism in new garments.
After the time of the Reformers, the Protestant movement went through the period known as Protestant orthodoxy. Heresies were resisted by careful definition and redefinition of the Protestant faith. Faith tended to become intellectualized; and although some good theology was produced in this period, orthodoxy produced a sterile faith and a dead church.
In Germany, Pietism arose as a reaction against the dead orthodoxy of the Lutheran Church. It cannot be denied that many of the Pietist leaders were earnest, godly men; and their witness did accomplish some good. But the definite tendency of Pietism was to distort the objective gospel with an exaggerated emphasis on experience. Much of the German Pietism recaptured the spirit of the great Catholic mystics and resembled it in its sentimental (even effeminate) Christian devotions.
Eighteenth century England witnessed a remarkable movement which was also a reaction to the dead formalism of the Church of England. The truth of justification by faith had been largely lost from the church. These were the days of the foxhunting parsons who loved their dogs more than the flock. Moreover, there was a growing working class, unchurched and untouched by an indifferent church. John Wesley was probably the most outstanding man of the eighteenth century in any country in the world. He was one of the most successful itinerant evangelists since Paul. His effect on the whole national life of England (especially on the working class) was so remarkable that some credit his ministry with saving England from a revolution similar to that which engulfed France. (continued)
Those who falsely teach that all men are immortal by nature because humans supposedly have an "immortal soul" or "immortal spirit" which can never die are merely echoing the lie of the Deceiver in the Garden of Eden, "Ye shall NOT surely die". We are told in the word of God that God only has immortality.
1Timothy 6:15 ...who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords 16 who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal.
The saints will have immortality at His coming when "this mortal shall put on immortality" BUT only because we will again have access to the tree of life by God's unmerited grace alone.
1 Corinthians 15:51-57 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 2:7 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
God barred the human family from the tree of life after the Fall. As Genesis 3:22-24 tells us:
"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
2 Timothy 1:10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Read the following quote from Genesis 5:5-20, 25-31. From the meaning of the words high-lighted in red. Do you think that the Lord might be trying to tell us something about what happened to the human family when, as a result of the Fall, it was denied access to the tree of life???
"And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died. And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan: And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died. And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel: And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died. And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared: And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died. And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch: And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died." "And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech: And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died. And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed. And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died."
Now let's look at the New Testament
The young man our Lord raised from the dead in Luke 7 was not called back to this world from a conscious spirit existence in heaven. If this young man had died and gone to the glory of heaven why would it be a blessing to come back to life in this sin-darkened old world?? The fact is that he was raised from the sleep of death, not from a glorious existence in heaven as a "spirit" :
Luke 7:12-15 "Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, 'Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.' And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother."
In a similar account, the young maiden in the gospels who was asleep in death was not called back from a spirit existence in heaven to once again live on this earth. It was the "breath of life" which returned to her body, not a conscious immortal "spirit" or "ghost". While those ignorant of the hope of the resurrection stood about mourning her death, our Lord went to her dead body and took her by the hand and awakened her from her sleep to live again. For the believer, death is merely a sleep from which our Lord shall awaken us:
Luke 8:52 And all were weeping, and bewailing her: but he said, Weep not; for she is not dead, but sleepeth. 53 And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he, taking her by the hand, called, saying, Maiden, arise. 55 And her spirit (pneuma - breath) returned, and she rose up immediately: and he commanded that something be given her to eat. 56 And her parents were amazed: but he charged them to tell no man what had been done.
Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26 "While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, 'My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.' And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land."
Now let's look at how Paul viewed death.
When did he teach that believers shall become immortal? At the moment of death? or at the moment of the second coming of Christ on the Last Day? Notice his counsel to the Corinthian church and how he views death, immortality, and the resurrection on the Last Day. There is not even a hint that Paul looked to go to heaven as a bodiless "spirit". Paul's hope is for the resurrection at the Last Day as the reward of the believer in Christ!!
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (the resurrected believers) in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Corinthian 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.... 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shallall be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ'sat his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for (Greek:huper — concerning, dealing with, referring to) the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for (Greek:huper — concerning, dealing with, referring to) the dead?
In verse 29, Paul is saying that those baptized Christians who have died in the faith would have no hope if the dead rise not. Their hope is in the resurrection, not in a conscious "spirit" existence apart from the body!!!
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. 33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. 35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened (made alive), except it die: 37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It (the body: see verse 35) is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening (life-giving) spirit. 46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
When does the Christian receive the glorified spiritual body? At the resurrection!! Notice that Paul does not say that we will be "spirits" in heaven. He says that we will have a spiritual or heavenly body just as our Lord had a glorified heavenly body after his ascension into heaven to sit on His Father's throne. Paul is NOT even suggesting that we will be merely spirits.
1 Corinthians 15:51 "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raisedincorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:21 "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
2 Corinthians 4:14ff "Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this (body) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life . 5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest (down payment) of the Spirit. 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
When shall we be "present with the Lord"???
1 Thessalonians 2:19 "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ?"
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:20-23 "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better."
When will Paul "be with the Christ"?
He answers this in chapter 3:10, 20-21 of Philippians
Philippians 3:10 "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
Philippians 3:20-21 "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
Even a child can see that Paul is not looking for some disembodied "spirit existence" after death apart from a physical body. He is looking and earnestly longing to be "clothed" with his immortal body at the second coming of Christ when Paul would be "present with the Lord". When Paul states that he is willing rather to be "absent from the body", he is referring to his earthly tabernacle so that he might be clothed with his "heavenly" house or tabernacle.
Here are a few more texts to consider regarding how the word of God describes death.
Acts 7:57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (pneuma - breath of life). 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 13:32 And we bring you good tidings of the promise made unto the fathers, 33 that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he hath spoken on this wise, I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David. 35 Because he saith also in another psalm, Thou wilt not give Thy Holy One to see corruption. 36 For David, after he had in his own generation served the counsel of God, fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37 but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Be it known unto you therefore, brethren, that through this man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins: 39 and by Him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
"Spirit" is also used in scripture in the sense of a "life force" or "vitality" or "feelings":
Judges 15:19 But God clave the hollow place that is in Lehi, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore the name thereof was called En-hakkore, which is in Lehi, unto this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
1 Samuel 1:15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I poured out my soul before Jehovah. 16 Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken hitherto. 17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace; and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked of him
1 Samuel 30:11 And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water; 12 And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins: and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights.
1 Kings 10:4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, 5 and the food of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of Jehovah; there was no more spirit in her . 6 And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom.
1 Kings 21:5 But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread? 6 And he said unto her.....
Matthew 26:40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Ephesians 4:20 But ye did not so learn Christ; 21 if so be that ye heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: 22 that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; 23 and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.
Philippians 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit . (ASV)
Philippians 4:23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. (KJV)
"Breath" In the Old Testament as the "Breath of Life":
Psalms 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. 30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created
Job 34:12 Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment. 13 Who hath given Him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world? 14 If He set his heart upon man, if He gather unto Himself his spirit and his breath ;15 All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust . KJV
Job 33:4 The Spirit of God hath made me, And the breath of the Almighty giveth me life.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (nephesh).
Genesis 6:17 And I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters upon this earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is in the earth shall die.
Genesis 7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both birds, and cattle, and beasts, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22 all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life,
1 Kings 17:17 And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath (nesh-aw-maw: wind) left in him. 18 And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? 19 And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. 20 And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? 21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul (Nephesh: life) come into him again. 22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul (Nephesh: life) of the child came into him again, and he revived.
The meaning of "give up the ghost" in the Old and New Testament
When the phrase "give up (or yield up) the ghost" is used in the Old Testament, the word used is "gaw-vah" meaning "to breath out".
Genesis 35:29 And Isaac gave up the ghost (gaw-vah: breathed out), and died (mooth), and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Genesis 25:17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost (gaw-vah: breathed out) and died (mooth); and was gathered unto his people.
Job 10: 18 Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost (gawvah: breathed out), and no eye had seen me! 19 I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.
The use of "gaw-vah" meaning "to breath out" to express death is consistent with the Genesis account of the creation of all living things as having the "breath of life" from God when they are created and given life. Upon death the person gives up this breath of life and "breaths out" his life or as we would say today, "expires", (from the word "expiration" or "exhale")
Genesis 7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died (mooth).
In the New Testament: the writers used the same phrase "give up the ghost" as found in the Old Testament. In translating the phrase into Greek they used the noun "pneuma" as in a breath of air.
Matthew 27:50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost (pneuma - breath or spirit).
John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost (noun: pneuma - breath or spirit).
Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost (verb: "exepneusen" - breathed out)........
The writers of the New Testament also used the Greek word, "ekpsucho" to convey the phrase "give up the ghost" as a synonym of "exepneo". A direct translation into English could be "He so cried out, and His life (psucho) expired". "Self" or "life" (psucho) here used as one's life, person, or being. So it is clear that the phrase "gave up the ghost" did not imply that the person left his body as an immortal spirit able to live on without the body. James clearly tells us this in his epistle
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit (pneuma: breath) is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
When Stephen was murdered by the Jews, the author of Acts is not telling us that Stephen's "immortal soul" left his body and went on to live in heaven. Luke is telling us that as Stephen falls asleep in death, he humbly acknowledges that his life is the gift of God's grace and invites God to receive it back until the resurrection day when Stephen will awake from the sleep of death. All believers who are trusting in the blood of Jesus have their names and lives written in the Lamb's book of life and will live again on the Last Day. God does not forget His own. Their names are written upon His heart. (Luke 10:20b "rejoice, because your names are written in heaven!")
Acts 7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (pneuma). 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge'. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Finally we will briefly examine our Lord's statements regarding "eternal life" and "living for ever".
From the following texts it is clear that eternal life for the repentant believer in Jesus comes at theday of resurrection on the Last Day, not at the day of death!! Christ makes it clear that the believer shall live again, not as a disembodied spirit but as a resurrected person with a glorified body. The Lord tells us that, though we die, yet we shall live; the believer merely sleeps, unaware of the passage of time, awaiting God's tomorrow at the last trump and the voice of the Archangel.
John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day ..... 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day ......50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me .
John 11:21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
We believe that "he who is justified by faith shall live" (Romans 1:17). Repentant sinners who put their faith in the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ are justified freely by God's unmerited grace alone through faith alone in the sinless life and atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ alone and have the forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life and immortality.
Just as repentant believers are reckoned perfectly righteous by faith alone, even so we have the gift of immortality by faith alone. The life and righteousness that we possess now are merely the small down payment of the righteousness and immortal life that we will have "by sight" at His coming.
After the Fall of Adam, a flaming sword hedged the way to the Tree of Life so that Man could no longer eat of its fruit and "live forever". Thus sickness, suffering, and death entered the creation through Adam's sin. But that flaming sword of judgment has pierced our dear Savior's side, so that by the unmerited grace of God the redeemed sons and daughters of Adam will once again eat from the Tree of Life. At the coming of Jesus we shall shout, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?" Death has been swallowed up in victory through the blood of Calvary !!!
And so death for believing repentant sinners is a mere moment of sleep from which we shall arise to be like Him. In a moment — in the twinkling of an eye — we shall put on perfect righteousness and immortality at the Last Trump. Just as in water baptism Christians are "buried" in the likeness of our Lord's death and "arise" in the likeness of His resurrection, even so we who fall asleep in death shall arise on the Last Day to everlasting life through the promise of the resurrection.
Unmasking the false gospel of the "Secrete Rapture", the "Seven Year Tribulation", and restoration of the modern state of Israel since 1948
Is the modern state of Israel the true "Israel" of God?
What determines whether a man is a real son of Abraham?
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. Gal. 6:15-16.
To the Jew it was most important that he could prove he was a son of Abraham, for "to Abraham and his seed were the promises made." Gal. 3:16. The Pharisees were certain of being part of the Israel of God because they could trace their physical descent back to Abraham. John the Baptist declared that they were resting on a false confidence. ". . . think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father," he warned them, "for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Matt. 3:9. Mere physical descent would give them no claim on God and no right to be included in the Israel of God.
Again, the Pharisees said to Jesus, "Abraham is our father." John 8:39. But Jesus denied their confident claim, saying, "It ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." John 8:39. Jesus categorically denied that they were children of Abraham.
When Zaccheus showed by his works that he had the faith of Abraham, Jesus declared, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham." Luke 19:9 RSV Jesus was not saying that Zaccheus was saved because he was a physical descendant of Abraham-for there were many Jews in Palestine who were not saved. Jesus was saying that Zaccheus' faith constituted him a real son of Abraham. The Lord could have said to him, as he said to the repentant woman, "Thy faith hath saved thee . . ." Luke 7:50.
Again, Jesus greeted Nathaniel with the salutation, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" John 1:47. The word "indeed" signifies a true, or real, Israelite. Jesus therefore declared that a real Israelite is a man "in whom is no guile." According to Psalm 32, the guileless man is not a sinless man but the man who honestly continues to confess his sinfulness and who finds forgiveness at the hand of a merciful God. St. Paul cites Psalm 32 and shows that this guileless man (the Israelite "indeed") is the man who is justified by faith (see Rom. 4:1-8).
The clear teaching of Jesus about the real Israel of God is found also in the epistles of His great apostle. Could words be clearer than the following?:
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Rom. 2:28-29.
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed by called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. Rom. 9:7- 8.
. . . even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. Gal. 3:6-7.
And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal. 3:29.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. Gal. 6:15-16.
Christ the Seed of Abraham
God made promises to the seed of Abraham. The Jews are still waiting for God to carry out His promises to them, and more amazing, many Christians are now waiting for God to carry out His promises to the Jewish nation as the seed of Abraham. This is what happens when people read the Old Testament without the light and interpretation of the New Testament.
Now let us get two simple facts straight once and for all:
1. God made promises to Abraham's seed (Gal. 3:19 ).
2. Christ is the Seed of Abraham. ("Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of One, And to thy Seed, which is Christ.") This is why Christ is called the Mediator of the covenant. It is only by Him, in Him and through Him that God carries out any of His promises to Abraham.
The Seed of Abraham is Jesus Christ. It includes all who are in Christ and excludes all outside of Christ. So the apostle affirms:
". . . if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Gal. 3:29.
When the apostle declares, "And so all Israel shall be saved . . ." (Rom. 11:26 ), he is certainly not teaching us that every member of the Jewish race will be saved. But the seed of Israel shall be saved - that is to say, all those who are in Jesus Christ - and not one shall be lost.
Neither Jesus nor Paul is speaking in mere allegories when they tell us who are the children of Abraham. They are telling us who are real children of Abraham. Abraham was justified by faith and therefore became the father of Israel . All who are justified by faith are real children of Abraham (Gal. 3:8). The Seed of Israel is Jesus Christ. He is also the "King of the Jews." If a man is related to Jesus Christ, who can deny that he is a real Jew according to the Scriptures? For those who believe in Jesus Christ are born again (1 John 5:1), and they actually partake of the nature of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4).
The Gentile Church Not a Separate Identity
The Judaisers at Galatia were contending that the Gentiles had to become children of Abraham by means of certain changes in their flesh. The apostle Paul did not dispute the necessity of Gentiles becoming part of the Israel of God. Indeed, "all Israel shall be saved," and only Israel - for as Jesus said, "salvation is of the Jews." John 4:22. The apostle refuted the wrong method of trying to incorporate the Gentiles into the Israel of God. His message was clear: Abraham was justified by faith, and every Gentile who is justified by faith becomes a son of Abraham (Gal. 3:8). The promises were made to the seed of Abraham, and Christ is that Seed. Therefore, all who are truly baptized into Christ are in Christ and are part of Abraham's seed (Gal. 3:28 , 29). Those who have become new creatures by faith in Jesus and walk according to the rule of faith are "the Israel of God." Gal. 6:15,16.
Gentiles who believe the gospel become "fellow heirs" with the faithful Jews. They do not make up a separate body, but they become ".fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel ..." Eph. 3:6. The Gentiles, "being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them [the Jews], and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree . . . " Rom. 11:17 . Once "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel , and strangers from the covenants of promise," the Gentiles are "made nigh by the blood of Christ." Eph. 2:12-13. Being now children of Abraham, part of the commonwealth of Israel and partakers of God's promises to Israel , believing Gentiles make up "the house of Israel " to whom the new covenant promise is given:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people . . . Heb. 8:10.
The Israel of God are all those who are in Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham, the King of the Jews, the One to whom the promises were made. And in Jesus Christ all national distinctions are broken down. ". . . there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek . . ." Rom. 10:12 ."... ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal. 3:28. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism . . ." Eph 4:4-5. Therefore, in the things of the gospel any national distinctions deny the reality of the atonement of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14 -17) and are a Judaising perversion of the New Testament message.
There are some who take pride in their literal interpretation of the things of prophecy, especially Old Testament prophecy. No sound Bible scholar will deny that the Bible should be read in its historical-grammatical sense or that "literal wherever possible" is a good rule. But many prophecies of the Old Testament cannot be taken with strict literalness. The stone of stumbling to both houses of Israel was not a literal stone but Jesus Christ. Malachi's Elijah was not literally Elijah but John the Baptist. Many more examples could be given, but our point is this: How would we know the true interpretation without the New Testament? Does not the gospel determine our use of the Old Testament?
Besides, a crass literalness is in keeping with the method of interpretation employed by the Pharisees. When Jesus gave a non-literal application to the Messianic prophecy about delivering the captives, they were angry. They refused to have anything to do with His spiritual kingdom, which could be seen and entered only by those who were born again. When Jesus spoke of destroying the temple and raising it up again, they insisted on giving His words a literal meaning. Jesus even had to rebuke his disciples for taking literally his warning, " . . . beware of the leaven of the Pharisees . . . " Matt. 16:11. Because they thought Jesus spoke about literal bread, He asked, "Do ye not yet understand . . .?" Matt. 16:9.
The New Israel
Just as the Bible presents an old covenant and a new covenant, so it presents an old Israel and a new Israel. The old Israel was constituted under the twelve tribes named after the twelve sons of Jacob. When Jesus chose twelve apostles, He was taking steps to constitute the Christian church. Yet why did he deliberately choose twelve apostles? And why did the apostle James address the church as "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad"? James 1:11. It was because the New Testament church, comprised of Jews and Gentiles, constituted the new Israel of God.
When Christ died on the cross, national distinctions were ended. The old national religious economy was as extinct as the old covenant. Henceforth the Christian church, founded on the teachings of the twelve apostles, would be the new Israel , the inheritor of all the promises and responsibilities of Israel of the Old Testament.
Abraham was justified by faith (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3). Just as Abraham had two sons — Ishmael and Isaac — so there were always two classes of Jews. Not all were true sons of Abraham. The prophets frequently referred to the faithful remnant, who were the real children of Abraham.
Finally, at the time of the apostles there was a saved "remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 9:27 ; 11:5). This remnant were those who welcomed their Messiah and were justified by faith in Jesus. God's word had not failed (Rom. 9:6). These alone were the lineage of Isaac, and the rest were counted as Ishmaelites - illegitimate children. All Israel - that is, all who were justified by faith - would be saved according to God's promise, which could never fail (Rom. 11:26 ). And all from among the Gentiles who would believe on Christ and be justified by faith would become children of Abraham. There is one way of salvation, one body, one faith, one baptism. Christ is the Seed of Abraham. The promises of God are by Him, to Him, through Him and in Him. He is the Elect One (Isa. 42:1), and the chosen people are those who are chosen in Him (Eph. 1:4)
For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. 2 Cor. 1:20.
Those wishing a thorough documentation of these facts should obtain a copy of Dave MacPherson's The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin (Heart of America Bible Society, Inc., 5528 Lydia St. , Kansas City , Mo. 64110 ).
Part 1: Justification by Faith—the Key to Biblical Clarity
Is the Bible clear and easy to understand? Has the proliferation of divisions within the Protestant movement proved that the Reformers were too optimistic in affirming the clarity of the Bible? If it is clear, why are so many professed Christians so incredibly ignorant of the Bible?
When the Reformers contended that the Bible is clear and easy to understand, they did not mean that it is comprehensively clear. Obviously, there are difficulties and mysteries about certain parts of the Bible that may never become clear in this life. Neither did the Reformers close their eyes to the fact that men of scholarship and mental acumen had failed to understand the Bible. But what they did mean was that the Bible is essentially clear when seen in the light of the great Reformation doctrine of justification by faith.
The formal principle of the Reformation (the Bible alone) and the material principle of the Reformation (justification by faith in Christ alone) stand together. If one is lost, so is the other. Said Luther:
If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time. . . . it alone makes a person a theologian. . . . For with it comes the Holy Spirit, who enlightens the heart by it and keeps it in the true certain understanding so that it is able precisely and plainly to distinguish and judge all other articles of faith, and forcefully to sustain them. - What Luther Says, ed. E. Pass (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), Vol.2, pp. 702-714, 715-718.
If these statements by Luther are correct—and we believe they are—this means that there is one great reason why the Bible is not clear in today's church. We have lost sight of the truth of justification by faith! Let this central biblical message be restored to its right place, and the Bible will become essentially clear. (Continued)
Unmasking the roots of the "Ecumenical Movement" and the Protestant evangelical drift back to Roman Catholicism
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. —Rom. 4:5.
Christianity is absolutely unique in that it proclaims the gospel of the God who justifies the ungodly. Many from within the church have tried to soften the blow of this scripture and to take away its force.
It was the Reformation which revived the Pauline message of God's grace—a grace which accepts the unacceptable. All Christians believe that Christ died for the ungodly. But many will not accept that God justifies—declares righteous at His tribunal—the man who in himself is not righteous but full of all sin.
Of course, this raises the question of the righteousness of God's verdict. After all, did not God instruct the judges of Israel that they should justify only the righteous and condemn the wicked? (Deut. 25:1). How is it that a Judge who is supremely just can justify the ungodly?
Paul's answer is in the doctrine of imputed righteousness. While it is true that the believer is every whit a sinner in himself—and will in this life continue to fall short of God's glory (Rom. 3:23)—God imputes to him the righteousness of Jesus. It is on this basis that God can declare him righteous and treat him as if he were actually righteous.
The Reformers did not hesitate to talk about this "as if" element of the divine jurisprudence. The doctrine of Christ's substitutionary work demands it. (He was treated as if He were a sinner.) The doctrine of imputed righteousness demands it. (The sinner is treated as if he were the One who lived that sinless life and died on the cross.) Listen to how boldly Luther and Calvin affirmed this "as if."
Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say: "Mine are Christ's living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did." — Luther's Works , American ed. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press; St. Louis: Concordia, 1955 - ), Vol.31, p.297.
This is the inevitable confession of a man who believes in substitution and imputation.
For if righteousness consists in the observance of the law, who will deny that Christ merited favor for us when, by taking that burden upon himself, he reconciled us to God as if all had kept the law.— Institutes , Bk. 2, chap. 17, sec. 5.
We define justification as follows: the sinner received into communion with Christ, is reconciled to God by his grace. While cleansed by Christ's blood, he obtains forgiveness of sins, and clothed with Christ's righteousness as if it were his own he stands confident before the heavenly judgment seat. — Ibid ., Bk. 3, chap. 17, sec. 8.
The "as if" is the inevitable result of believing in the gospel of salvation by substitution and imputation.
Rome fought this concept bitterly. She maintained that God could not declare a man to be righteous unless he was personally righteous; otherwise God would appear to be a liar. From that day to this, Roman Catholic scholars—whether Bellarmine, Newman or Hans Kung—will not accept what even Kung caricatures as "a pasted on 'as if' righteousness." The Reformation defenders replied that if Rome were correct, no one could be justified in this life, for no one is sinless or can be called righteous if the verdict has to rest on his own experience.
The justification of the ungodly through the imputed righteousness of Christ does not mean that God's verdict is a fiction which is based on no reality. Before God, Christ's atonement is a reality which is all-sufficient. It does not need to be supplemented by any other reality. God's verdict of justification is not grounded on any reality within the believing sinner. This is the rock of offense on which Rome stumbled. But not only Rome. It is a rock of offense within Protestantism too. There is the continual temptation to base the meritorious ground of God's verdict of justification upon some reality or moral quality within the believer rather than upon the sinless life and atoning death of Christ that is imputed (reckoned) unto the repentant sinner. This really means injecting something of the subjective element of sanctification into justification, which immediately corrupts the doctrines of both justification and sanctification.
"And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. .... but the wise shall understand." Daniel 12:12
Antiochus Epiphanes was not and never was a fulfillment of Daniel. This was the traditional interpretation of the Pharisees of Christ's day, but they were completely wrong about the restoration of the temple by the Maccabees as being the fulfillment of the "restoration of the temple".