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Basics For Understanding the Bible

It’s sometimes not as hard as we make it....
This note is not meant to be sarcastic (OK, a little, but delivered good-naturedly) .  Its goal is to get us to start to look at scripture in the context in which we find them. We must remember the 6 things we need to consider in our scripture interpretation.
The PERSON who wrote it The PEOPLE to whom it is written The PLACE it involves The PERIOD (or age) in which it was written The PURPOSE for which it is written The PLAN around which it is written 
We must also take every word literally. This applies to literary techniques such  as figures of speech, hyperbole, sarcasm, parables, etc. That might sound contradictory, but when the text tells us something is a parable, for example, we understand it as such in context of a literal speaker, audience, etc.


God hath spoken, "at sundry times," as well as "in divers manners" (Heb 1:1). And, if we are to understand what He has spoken, we must learn to distinguish, not only the va…

The Revelation - Part 4 - The Seven Stars and The Seven Lampstands

The First and the Last
On our whirlwind tour, we come to the end of Chapter 1. Here, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great God and Savior, sets the stage for the rest of the prophecy.

I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks [lampstands]. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Rev 1:18-20 (KJV)
I purposely chose the King James Version here as I will be addressing a popular teaching among classic dispensationalists based on its wording. Before that, Let's just pause and fall at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have not quoted the entire first chapter, but the Lord Jesus clearly lays out his deity. He is the God of scrip…

The Revelation - Part 3 - God's Timing and Mercy Towards Israel

The Day of the Lord at Hand in the Prophets
We've noted that the Day of the Lord is referenced all through the prophets (Charles Welch writes that "there are no less than 285 references" to the Hebrew Canon in the Revelation). We can't go through all the references, but in light of John repeating its imminency, I just wanted to note one such reference from the Book of Zephaniah.

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God:
for the day of the Lord is at hand:
for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice,
he hath bid his guests.
-Zeph 1:7

Something thousands of years away would not normally be said to be "at hand."  But something can be "at hand" if possible under certain conditions. When Jonah is sent to Nineveh with a warning of destruction in 40 days, he is never told that there is a possibility it might not happen. The overthrow of Nineveh was "at hand" in that it was in the foreseeable future.

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s jo…

The Revelation - Part 2 - Timing and Audience

For a Future People in a Future Age
As we start on the book itself, I want to reiterate that this is somewhat of a panoramic view. There are primarily two reasons for this. First, an in-depth study would require tremendous groundwork in the rest of scripture. Our short studies will hopefully enable us to put a framework to this sometimes intimidating book, allowing further study. Second, since this book is written for a future people in a future age, much of it is speculative. Mind you, it is not blind speculation, but as with those who could not understand the exact meaning of the prophecies of the Lord's first coming until he came and accomplished all, we, too, cannot see all that is depicted in this prophecy in all its clarity.

We do have the advantage of the prophets and guidance from the Lord himself in regard to "the Day of the Lord" (the tribulations and the millennial kingdom, the subjects about which much of this book concerns itself). We can try to make some s…

The Revelation - Part 1 - Figures of Speech

We Must Create a Context Lest We Fall Back on a Pretext
When I was 12 years old, my brother Joe gave me a Bible for Christmas. He had recently become a Christian and I had seen him reading his own bible in his bed just a few feet from mine. He created in me a curiosity. I had seen plenty of bibles in religion class, but we didn't really study them. That is, we never took them down and read them on our own apart from the context of a class or a religious service. We certainly never attempted to interpret the contents. But I started to carry that Bible with me anyway.
As an altar boy, one of my responsibilities was to kneel for hours in front of the monstrance during the annual Eucharistic perpetual adoration (feel free to look that up if you're curious). When we weren't taking our shift kneeling, we were sitting in pews waiting to kneel. During one of those times in waiting, I decided to read the Bible I had received for Christmas. I had heard about the Book of the Revelat…

Our Brothers and Sisters in China and Hong Kong: Suffering and Reward

I had on my heart a desire to start a study on the Book of the Revelation. I am still intent on doing so. And whereas this book is primarily for Israel and certainly specific to an age which is yet to come, we can take some powerful lessons for our own day. We will look at some parallels to the judgments in the Revelation that are found in both the Acts Age and Post Acts epistles (for this current dispensation).

There are some sobering thoughts in scripture in regard to the Lord's examination of our service. Surely, the gift of eternal, immortal resurrection life is indeed a gift. It was fully secured in the death, burial (lack of decay in the tomb), and glorious conquering of death in resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But all of us shall have our service and lives examined beyond that.

It may come as a shock to some, but the Great White Throne judgment is not for unbelievers. It is a judgment of service and loyalty for those in a coming age. We must abandon the tradition of …

A Reluctant Post on the King James Bible Version

Here is a link to a previous short study on the names of God which may help in how we approach names and titles in scripture and in our English Bibles: LINK

KJV-Onlyism
There are far too many Christians (and I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt) who spend day and night arguing that the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is inerrant and inspired in its entirety. That argument falls apart with just the first two verses in Genesis.

This obsession leads them into finding supposedly secret Satan-worshiping in the other English versions. They particularly hate the NIV. What I'm about the do in addressing just one fantastic accusation against the NIV is to use their own reasoning. I do this a lot in my general apologetic work (I do it with my own reasoning), so I just continue that methodology here.

One KJV-Only site pointed to the NIV's use of "Morning Star" in its translation of Isaiah 4:12. This title is give by the Lord Jesus Christ to himself in Rev 22:16. T…

A Fresh Look at "How Great Thou Art"

We have covered the topic of hymns and the use of music in Christendom before. The overarching goal is to have us treat songs as we do everything that comes our way. That is, we need to filter all through doctrine. We've also noted the role of music. Its primary function is not to take the place of teaching, but rather to supplement teaching and for praise (Psalm 150; etc.).

I have nothing against the hymns. There are many hymns I love and cherish. If you follow this blog, you know I was raised in a conservative Catholic diocese and parish. We had hymns, many (most?) of which contained dangerous heresy. So the word "hymn" does not absolve us of the duty to test all things.

We've seen in our studies on this topic how some hymns used historically in Evangelical or Fundamental Christendom can also contain terrible error. We compared some hymns to certain contemporary Christian songs as examples of why doctrine is what matters. We also revealed how the trappings surround…

Israel and the Resurrection

We've looked at Israel in God's Plan in recent studies. We've seen that Israel has a future role to fulfill. The New Covenant with the House of Judah and the House of Israel.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah."

-Heb 8; Jer 31

We also looked at how the plan includes the promises to David and the ‘sure mercies [blessings] of David' (Acts 13:34). These blessings are connected to that covenant.
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure blessings of David. -Isaiah 55:3
So what does this have to do with the resurrection? I didn't point this out in our recent study, but notice the context of the blessings.

And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the [Jewish] fathers. God has fulfilled this for us [Jews] their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is al…

Our 200th Study - The Importance of Making Distinctions

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I started writing out my personal studies in 2003. It started with the Book of Romans. I was puzzled as to why Paul seemed to go back and forth addressing Jewish believers and then Gentile believers. I was trying to work through the "grafting in" in chapter 11 along with the threat of being "cut off" in the same chapter, aimed at Gentile believers only.

You [Gentiles, v.13] will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. -Rom 11:19-22
I believe I had written out about 11 pages when I realized there was still a piece missing. I could never close the "Acts 2 Church" loop. I continued …

The Immediate Return of the Lord in the Acts and Now

We have recently looked at the Plan of God for the ages. No matter where we fall on the details or the order, one element is beyond contradiction: Israel will one day have all the promises to her fulfilled. These promises are all through the New Testament. Israel is specifically mentioned and the promises and covenant are looked at as being yet future. If we do not see Israel and distinct from the Body we will make a mess of Bible study. There is a Kingdom coming to Israel (Acts 1:6). It will be "restored to Israel."

One of the distinguishing marks of the Lord's earthly ministry and the Acts Age is the continued references to the closeness of the kingdom. It was "nigh" and "at hand" after "a little while" and "soon," as "the ends of the ages are come."  Some who were "alive"  would be "caught up" in the clouds upon his return. Some were expecting to "be changed." All because "the judge s…