I. How do we know about God?
A. Through General Revelation
1. The natural world reveals God (Acts 14:15-17; Rom.1:19-23)
2. Human Conscience reveals God (Rom.2:14-16)
B. Through Special Revelation
1. Miracles reveal God.
a. When He extends natural laws (Josh.10:12-14 – sun stood still)
b. When He makes exceptions to natural laws (2 Kings 6 – axehead floated)
2. Fulfilled prophecy reveals God.
a. O.T. (Is.43:28-45; Ezra 1:1-4 – Cyrus predicted)
b. N.T. (Micah 5:2; Matt.2:1 – birthplace of Christ)
3. Jesus Christ Himself reveals God. (Heb.1:1; John 1:18)
4. Scripture as a whole reveals God.
II. Can we prove God’s existence?
A. The Bible generally assumes it rather than proves it (Gen.1:1).
B. The Bible does assert that the natural world demands God’s existence (Ps.19; Is.40:26; Acts 14:17; Rom.1:19 ff).
C. There are several philosophical proofs for God that are sometimes helpful for doubters. These are logical conclusions that are also found in Scripture.
1. Cosmological argument – How could there be anything if there wasn’t a Cause (God) who was Uncaused (Romans 1:20)?
2. Teleological argument – How could there be design in the world if there was no Designer (God - Psalm 19:1-6)?
III. How can we describe God?
God has many perfect characteristics (attributes).
A. God has incommunicable attributes (characteristics belonging only to God).
1. Self-existence (John 5:26).
a. Eternality – Infinite in time (Ps.90:2)
b. Omnipresence – Infinite in space (Ps.139:7-11)
B. God has communicable attributes (characteristics found in a limited degree in man).
1. Attributes of Intellect
a. Omniscience – God knows all things actual and potential (Ps.139:16; Matt. 11:21).
b. All-wise – God acts upon His knowledge to always do what is infinitely best (Rom.11:33-36).
2. Attributes of Emotion
a. God is Love – God is incomprehensibly active for our good (1 John 4:8).
b. Grace – unmerited favor (Eph.2:8)
c. Mercy – concern, compassion (James 5:11)
d. Long suffering – self-restrained when provoked (2 Peter 3:9,15)
e. God is just – God is perfectly righteous and exact in His dealings with man (Ps.19:9).
3. Attributes of Will
a. Omnipotence (Job 42:2) God is able to do anything He wills. He will not do anything against His nature (sin) or anything that is logically self-contradictory.
b. Sovereignty (2 Chron.29:11,12) God is the final authority – the ruler over all the affairs of the universe. He may choose to let some things happen according to natural laws He put in place.
IV. What are God’s names?
God’s names emphasize who He is and what He does.
A. Elohim – This word/name stresses His power, rulership and majesty (Gen.1:1; Is.54:5).
B. El-Shaddai – “God on the mountain” – strength, control and therefore comfort (Gen.17:3; Ps.91:1,2)
C. Adonai – This word/name stresses that He is Lord, Master (Josh.5:14).
D. Jehovah – “I am” – This word/name stresses His changeless self-existence (Ex.3:12).
1. Jehovah-jireh - “The Lord will provide” (Gen.22:14)
2. Jehovah-rapha - “The Lord who healeth”
3. Jehovah-nissi - “The Lord my banner” (Ex.17:15)
4. Jehovah-shalom - “The Lord our peace” (Jud.6:24)
5. Jehovah-ra-ah - “The Lord my shepherd” (Ps.23:1)
6. Jehovah-tsidkenu - “The Lord our righteousness” (Jer.23:6)
7. Jehovah-shammah - “The Lord is present” (Ezek.48:35)
8. Jehovah-Sabbaoth – “The Lord of hosts” Commander of the armies of Israel (1 Sam.17:45)
V. In What Form Does God Exist?
A. God is a “personal” being. God is not human yet He is “person” like man in that He has intellect, emotions and will (see “communicable attributes”). It is in this sense that we are in the “image of God” (Gen.1:26,27; 9:6). He does not share our imperfections but he does share our personal nature. God is not a “force”. He is a personal being.
B. God is a “spiritual” being. God does not consist of any material substance. He is spirit (John 4:24). He has no body.
C. God is a “triunity.” “Trinity” is a term that describes the “threeness” of God. But that is only a partial description. God is also “one” – He is a unified being. So a good term to describe both truths is “Triunity.” “Trinity” may always be the most-used term, but we must understand that biblically “trinity” is really “triunity”.
D. Definition: There is only one God but in the unity of God there are three equally eternal Persons, the same in substance but distinct from each other (Adapted from B.B. Warfield).
1. Errors (Denials of the trinity)
a. There is not one God with 3 natures, roles or qualities.
b. There are not 3 different Gods.
c. The Son and the Holy Spirit are not less than God or creations of God.
2. The “oneness” of God
b. The one God is not divisible into parts – Since God is spirit by nature and not material in composition, He cannot be divided into 3 parts of 1/3 God each. God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit therefore cannot be conceived of any anything less than wholly God in essence.
3. The “threeness” of God. Each of the 3 persons possesses what only God has, so each is fully God.
a. The Father is God.
Rom.1:7 – “God (who is) our Father”
John 6:27 – “the Father (even) God”
b. The Son is God.
1) He possesses incommunicable attributes.
a) Self-existence (Heb.7:3; John 5:26)
b) Immutability (Heb.1:10; 13:8)
d) Eternality (Heb.7:3)
e) Omnipresence (Matt.28:20)
2) He participates in the functions of deity.
a) He created the world (John 1:13)
b) He sustains the world (Col.1:15-17)
c) He forgives sins (Matt.9:1,2)
d) He performs final judgment (John 5:22; Rev.19:16)
3) He receives worship.
a) Of angels (Heb.1:6; Rev.5:12,13)
b) Of men (John 9:38; 20:28; Matt.28:9)
4) He has divine titles.
5) Jesus claimed to be God (John 5:18; 8:24,28,58; 10:30-33).
c. The Spirit is God.
1) Explicit claims (2 Cor.3:17,18)
2) Names and titles of deity
a) Yahweh (Yahweh in Isa.6:1-13 is called Holy Spirit in Acts 28:25.)
b) Spirit of God (Rom.8:9,14; 1 Cor.2:11; 12:3; Eph.4:30)
3) He possesses incommunicable attributes.
a) Self-existence (Rom.8:2)
b) Omnipresence (Ps.139:7 ff)
4) He performs incommunicable works (no one but God can do them).
a) Creation (Gen.1:2)
b) Resurrection (Rom.8:11)
5) Implicit claims
a) Acts 5:3,4 – lie to Spirit equals lie to God
b) 2 Cor.3:17 – “The Lord is the Spirit”
4. The “triuness” of God
a. Old Testament evidence
1) God speaks of Himself with plural pronouns (“us” Gen.1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Is.6:8) and plural verbs (Gen.1:26; 11:7).
2) The “Angel of the Lord” is sometimes clearly “God” yet He is distinct from “God” (The Father). Thus He must be Christ in pre-incarnate human form (Gen.16:7-13; 18:1-21; 19:1-28; Mal.3:1).
3) Other passages clearly distinguish Persons of the Godhead (Father/Lord/Spirit – Isa.48:12,16; LORD/Lord – Ps.110:1).
b. New Testament evidence
1) God is “one” (Eph.4:6; James 2:19)
2) God is “three” (Matt.3:16; 1 Cor.12:4-6; 1 Pet.1:2).
3) God is “three in one” (Matt.28:19 – “In the name (singular) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”).
5. Summary: The doctrine of the trinity (triunity) is “knowable” and “believable” but will never be completely “explainable” by human minds or human words. The mechanics of how triunity exists and functions remains a mystery to us just as the how of the Incarnation (Christ is God and Man) does. We know God is One. We know He is Three. Thus we know the Triunity is true.
Practically, for Christians, we know the triune nature of God was necessary:
I. Inspiration – How did God produce the Bible?
A. Definition: God’s superintending of human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error in the words of the original autographs His revelation to man (Ryrie).
B. Theories of Inspiration
1. Natural inspiration – There is no supernatural element. The Bible was written by great men, who often erred.
2. Partial inspiration – The Bible contains God’s words but must be sorted out (“demythologized”) to find them. Other parts are purely human and may be in error
3. Conceptual inspiration – The thoughts of scripture are inspired but the actual words used are not. There is factual and scientific error.
4. Dictation theory of inspiration – The writers passively recorded God’s words without any participation of their own styles or personalities.
5. Verbal, plenary inspiration – All of the actual words of the Bible are inspired and without error (see definition). This fits the Bible’s description.
C. Defense for verbal, plenary inspiration
1. The Bible claims it (2 Tim.3:16)
2. The Bible describes it.
a. “God-breathed writings (2 Tim.3:16)
b. “Spirit-enabled” writings (2 Pet.1:20,21)
c. God-superintended the writers and writings (2 Pet. 1:21)
d. Scripture describes the “God-Spirit-Man” interaction
1) Zech.7:12 – “The words which the Lord of Hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.”
2) Acts 4:24,25 – “God…who by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David…did say.”
3. God used several methods of inspiration.
a. Direct dictation (Deut. 9:10)
b. Superintending human research (Luke 1:1-4)
c. Spoken revelation (Gal.1:12)
4. Inspiration is “verbal.” The very words are inspired. (1 Cor.2:12,13; Gal.3:16; Matt.22:31-32).
II. Inerrancy – How do we know the Bible is completely true?
A. Definition: “Scripture is without error. It tells the truth.”
B. The problem
1. Inerrancy is an issue because some religious “scholars” have repeatedly redefined such terms as “infallible” to mean the Bible could still have factual historical errors.
2. When inerrancy is not held, one by one certain Bible doctrines (deity of Christ, etc.), historical facts (such as the literal creation), and other biblical views (on issues such as homosexuality or women’s roles) are denied.
C. The Bible claims inerrancy
1. Logical reasoning
a. The Bible is God’s word (Matt.4:4-11).
b. God is always truthful (Titus 1:2; Heb.6:18).
c. Therefore the Bible is completely true (inerrancy).
2. The teachings of Christ
a. Matt.4:4 – “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
b. Matt.5:18 – “the smallest letter or stroke shall not pass away from the law until all is fulfilled.”
c. John 10:35 – “scripture cannot be broken.”
D. Clarification of Inerrancy
1. Inerrancy still allows for approximation, free quotations, figures of speech, language of appearances (“the sun set,” etc.) and different (but not contradictory) accounts of the same event.
2. As inerrantists we acknowledge that there are sometimes “apparent” contradictions but we affirm that with further knowledge the seeming discrepancy would disappear. This is continually the case as archaeology, etc. repeatedly confirms Bible statements. For brief explanations on some “apparent” contradictions see Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, pp. 95-104.
III. Illumination – How does Scripture change lives?
A. Definition: The ministry of the Holy Spirit helping the believer to understand and apply the truth of the Bible (Ryrie).
2. Illumination is the Holy Spirit’s work in believers (1 Cor.2:12-15; Eph.1:18) and not in some mystical function of the words of scripture.
3. In illumination the Holy Spirit will use our study and meditation to not only help us understand scripture but to apply it to our lives.
4. The Bible reader’s accuracy, honesty and spiritual life can all affect the Spirit’s ministry of illumination (1 Cor.3:1-3).
5. The Spirit uses those with the gift of teaching/exhortation to aid in illumination (Eph.4:11-13; Rom.12:7).
IV. Canonicity – How do we know the right books are in the Bible?
A. Definition: The collection of 66 books were properly recognized by the early church as the complete authoritative scriptures not to be added to or subtracted from.
B. Tests of Canonicity
1. Is it authoritative (“Thus saith the Lord”)?
2. Is it prophetic (“a man of God” 2 Peter 1:20)? A book in the Bible must have the authority of a spiritual leader of Israel (O.T. – prophet, king, judge, scribe) or an apostle of the church (N.T. – It must be based on the testimony of an original apostle).
3. Is it authentic (consistent with other revelation of truth)?
4. Is it dynamic (life-changing)?
5. Is it received (accepted and used by believers)? (Norman L. Geisler & William Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, pp. 137-144)
C. Formation of the Canon
1. How the Old Testament books were determined.
a. The New Testament refers to Old Testament books as “scripture” (Matt.21:42, etc.).
b. The Council of Jamnia (A.D. 90) recognized our 39 books.
c. Josephus (A.D. 95) indicated that the 39 books were recognized a authoritative.
2. How the New Testament books were determined.
a. The apostles claimed authority for their writings (1 Thess.5:27)
b. The apostle’s writings were equated with O.T. Scriptures (2 Pet.3:2,15,16).
c. The Council of Athenasius (A.D. 367) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) recognized the 27 books in our N.T. today as inspired.
D. The Apocrypha (other books included in the Catholic Bible) is not Scripture.
1. The Apocrypha is never quoted as authoritative in scriptures.
2. Matthew 23:35 – Jesus mentioned that the close of Old Testament historical scripture was the death of Zechariah (400 B.C.) This excludes any books written after Malachi and before the New Testament.
I. The Deity of Christ
A. He possesses incommunicable attributes.
1. Self-existence (Heb.7:3; John 5:26)
2. Immutability (Heb.1:10; 13:8)
3. Infinity: Eternality (Heb.7:3); Omnipresence (Matt.28:20)
B. He participates in the function of deity.
1. He created the world (John 1:3).
2. He sustains the world (Col.1:15-17).
3. He forgives sins (Matt.9:1,2)
4. He performs final judgment (John 5:22; Rev.19:16).
C. He receives worship.
1. Of angels (Heb.1:6; Rev.5:12,13)
2. Of men (John 9:38; 20:28; Matt.28:9)
D. He has divine titles.
E. Jesus claimed to be God (John 5:18; 8:24,28,58; 10:30-33).
F. Other explicit claims (John 1:1; Rom.9.5; 1 John 5:20). Also there are four texts with grammatical forms proving that Jesus Christ = God (2 Thess.1:12; 1 Tim.5:21; Tit.2:13; 1 Pet.1:1 each fit the "Granville Sharp" grammatical rule proving 2 titles describe the same person).
II. The Humanity of Christ
A. He had human intellect. His wisdom "increased" humanly (Luke 2:40,52).
B. He had human emotions.
C. He had human will.
1. He desired not to suffer (Matt.26:39).
2. He determined to go to Jerusalem to suffer obediently (Luke 9:51).
D. He had a human body.
1. He was born physically (Matt.1:18; Luke 2:7).
2. He developed as humans do (Luke 2:40,52).
3. He had human needs.
E. He is called a man.
1. By Himself (Luke 19:10)
2. By others (1 Tim.2:5)
III. The Incarnation of Christ
A. Definition: The incarnation is the means by which the eternal divine Christ took on humanity.
B. Purposes of the incarnation
1. To reveal God to men (John 1:18)
2. To take away sin (Heb.10:5-13)
3. To serve as our high priest before God (Heb.4:14-16)
4. To serve as an example of obedience to God (1 Pet.2:21)
5. To fulfill the Davidic Covenant – The promise of an earthly eternal king in David’s line (Luke 1:31-33)
C. Key evidences for Christ’s incarnation
1. The Virgin Birth
a. Christ was not conceived humanly – Mary was a virgin (Matt.1:18,25; Luke 1:27,34).
b. Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
2. The Kenosis passage (Phil.2:5-11)
a. Jesus was truly God (existed in the "form of God" – 2:6) but He took on true humanity (the "form of a servant" – 2:7).
b. Jesus temporarily relinquished the use of some of His divine attributes (kenosis – "emptied Himself" – 2:7).
1) He chose to do it ("Himself" – 2:7).
2) He did it obediently to provide man’s redemption (2:8).
3) He could still utilize divine attributes: Omniscience (John 2:24); Omnipotence (miracles)
c. He permanently took on a human body.
1) His humanity was real. "form of servant," "likeness of man," "appearance as man" (2:7,8)
2) His humanity remains forever (Acts 1:3,9-11)
IV. The Life of Christ
A. The Chronology of His earthly life
2. The Ministry Years – Age 32-35/36 (A.D. 29 – A.D. 33)
a. The early Judean and Samaritan Ministry (John 2:13 – 4:42)
b. The Galilean Ministry (Matt.4:12 – 18:35; Mark 1:14 – 9:50)
c. The Perean Ministry (Luke 10:1 – 19:28)
3. The Passion Week (including post-resurrection appearances – Matt.21:1 – 28:20; Mark 10:1 – 16:20; Luke 19:29 – 24:53; John 11:55 – 21:25). Age 35/36 (March – April A.D. 33). Note: The dates follow the chronology of Dr. Harold Hoehner, Chronological Aspects Of The Life Of Christ, Zondervan. 1977.
B. The Functions of His earthly life: While on earth Christ fulfilled the functions of Prophet, Priest and King:
1. Christ was God’s Prophet (Matt.13:57; Luke 13:33). Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of the office of prophet as predicted by Moses (Deut.18:15; Acts 3:22-26). He delivered God’s message to man by constant teaching and preaching (Matt.7:29, 11:1 etc.).
2. Christ was man’s High Priest (Heb.4:14-16; 6:20-7:3; 7:26-28; 9:11-14; 10;11-14). As our human High Priest Christ could experience our weaknesses and temptations (Heb.4:14-18). As the sinless Son of God, Christ was the unique High Priest who could offer Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins (Heb.7:26-28; 10:11-14).
3. Christ came as King (Matt.27:11). The prophets and the angel Gabriel predicted that Jesus would come as the King of Israel (Is.9:6,7; Luke 1:31-33). He did (Matt.2:2; 3:2). He came offering the Davidic Kingdom to Israel but they rejected it (Matt.22:1-14). So the kingdom age was postponed (humanly speaking). Some day the many kingdom promises of the Old Testament will be fulfilled in the Millennium after Christ returns to judge the earth (Psalm 110; Matt.25:31; Rev.19:15,16; 20:4,6).
V. The Resurrection of Christ
A. Proofs of Christ’s resurrection
1. The tomb was empty (Matt.18:1-4 etc.). If the body had been stolen by the Romans, they could have produced it to disprove the resurrection (Matt.28:11-15). If the disciples had stolen the body it is impossible that they would have been willing to die for a lie (Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-42; 7:54-60; 12:1,2).
2. Christ appeared numerous time (John 20:11-18; Matt.28:8-10; 1 Cor.15:5; Luke 24:13-32; 36-43; John 20:26-29; 21:1-14; 1 Cor.15:6,7; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:9-12). The sheer numbers of witnesses explains why 2 months later Peter’s claim that Christ was raised were not contradicted (Acts 2:14-42).
B. The Nature of Christ’s resurrection. It was a physical bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39-43; John 20:27). Christ’s resurrection body was not merely a "spiritual" or immaterial body. It was His physical body literally raised and gloriously transformed (John 20:19).
C. The significance of Christ’s resurrection
1. Christ’s resurrection proves the trustworthiness of Christ’s word (Matt.28:6) and of Scripture (1 Cor.15:4; Psalm 16:8).
2. Christ’s resurrection proves the validity of trusting in Christ’s death for salvation ("The gospel" – 1 Cor.15:1-5,14,17).
VI. The Present Ministry of Christ
After His resurrection Christ ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11) where He was exalted once again (Eph.1:20-23; Heb.1:3). He now has numerous functions relating to believers.
A. Christ is building His church (Matt.16:18).
B. Christ is leading His body the Church (Eph.1:22,23; Col.1:18).
C. Christ is praying for believers –
1. He prays for our protection form Satan and sin (John 17:15).
2. He prays for our unity (John 17:20-23).
3. He prays for help in our times of need (Heb.4:16).
4. He prays for our recovery from sin and continues fellowship (1 John 2:1).
D. Christ is involved in answering our prayers (John 14:13,14).
E. Christ gives us strength in difficult circumstances (Phil.4:13).
F. Christ is enabling us to be fruitful in ministry (John 15:1-16).
G. Christ is preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:3).
1. The need for individual salvation is clearly seen in the study of man and sin. The person and nature of Christ the Savior has already been given separate study (See “SURVEY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE – CHRIST”). This study focuses on the work of Christ on the cross and how the benefits of that work are given to man who is in need of salvation.
2. The History of Salvation
In every age God has provided salvation. Prior to the cross it was unknown to man that Jesus Christ would die for their sins. But the requirement for salvation was always to trust in God’s provision for sin – even when that provision was unknown or only pictured as in the sacrificial system. One thing that was always present, however, was the idea of sacrifice.
a. God provided Adam and Eve with a covering of animal skins (Genesis 3).
b. God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice of an animal (Genesis 4).
c. Abraham sacrificed a lamb (Genesis 22).
d. At the Exodus from Egypt, a sacrifice was required (Exodus 12).
e. The Levitical system revealed to Moses centered on animal sacrifice for sin (Leviticus 17:11).
So when Christ came as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), the world was well-prepared by God for the final sacrifice which would permanently atone for man’s sin.
1. Ransom to Satan Theory – Christ died to cancel Satan’s claim on man.
Problem – God didn’t provide salvation to “make a deal” with Satan – a created being.
2. Moral Influence Theory – Christ died to influence people to come to God in repentance.
Problem – We don’t need motivation to repent, we need payment for our sin.
3. Example Theory – Christ died to inspire us to love, faith and obedience.
Problem – Man can’t save himself by those things.
4. Governmental Theory – God set aside His justice to accept Christ’s death as a token sacrifice.
Problem – God’s justice must be totally satisfied.
5. Mystical Theory – Christ’s death somehow transformed the corrupted nature of man.
Problem – Our nature is not mystically transformed and our sin must be punished.
1. Definition: Christ’s death was in our place satisfying God’s righteous wrath toward sin.
a. The key biblical word – Propitiation (“to placate, appease”)
1 John 4:10 – In love God sent Jesus to bear His wrath on sin.
1 John 2:2 – Christ’s death was sufficient to bear God’s wrath on sin for the whole world.
Romans 3:21-26 – By trusting in Christ – the propitiation – we are released from God’s wrath.
b. Other key words and concepts explaining penal satisfaction.
1. Substitution – The sin which Christ bore in His death was not His own but ours.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – “He (God) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.”
Romans 5:6-8 – “Christ died for (huper – “in the place of”) the ungodly/for us
Mark 10:45 – “…and to give His life a ransom for (anti – “in the place of”) many.”
2. Redemption – Sinners are released from the penalty of sin by Christ’s payment for sin.
Mark 10:45 – “… and to give His life a ransom (a payment) for many.”
3. Reconciliation – This is the result of Christ’s death. The enmity was removed between God and man.
Romans 5:10 – “…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His son.”
4. Justification – Believers are legally acquitted of their sin because Christ’s death fully bore their penalty.
Romans 3:24 – “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3:26 – “the demonstration of his righteousness … that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
(adapted from Craig Glickman, Class Notes, Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring 1984)
1. Definition: From eternity past God chose those who would trust in Him for salvation.
2. Scripture – God definitely chose who would believe.
Ephesians 1:4 – “He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
1 Peter 1:2 – “…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
Romans 8:29 – “For whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth.”
1 Timothy 1:9 – “who has saved us…according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”
3. Scripture – Man, however, definitely has a free choice whether or not to believe.
Romans 10:13 – “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
John 3:16 – “…that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”
4. Scripture – God has sovereignly chosen us, yet we have a free will in salvation.
John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
John 6:44 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
Acts 13:48 – “…And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”
5. Three different views of what God’s election in salvation means
a. View #1 – God’s election and foreknowledge is merely “foresight.”
“God simply knew ahead of time who would believe.”
Problems: God’s free choice and sovereign plan is entirely ruled out. Salvation is thus only according to man’s free will. This contradicts the scriptures about election.
b. View #2 – Election was corporate not individual.
“God chose the group – the church. We become elect when we believe.”
Problems: Again, there is no sense of God’s election if God only said there would be a group of saved people and man does all the choosing.
c. View #3 – Election is personal and real.
“God chose the individuals who would believe while it is also true that each person makes a genuine choice to believe or not.”
Problem & Solution: While we can’t understand how both election by God and the free will of man are simultaneously true, they are both taught by scripture.
6. Examples and Illustrations – We cannot exactly illustrate infinite truth, but perhaps these explanations will help.
Christians experience and accept the combination of God’s sovereign choice and man’s free choice all the time. One example is the time of our death. God determines when we die. Yet our free choice might, from our perspective, determine when we die (choice of road in auto accident, suicide, etc.) Likewise we don’t question that God has determined certain events to occur (who we marry, where we work, etc.) yet we freely made those decisions as well.
7. Logical and emotional barriers to accepting God’s sovereign election.
a. “I can’t accept that someone (my father, mother, relative, friend, etc.) is not elect.”
1) God seems arbitrary and unloving – No, God elects according to love (Ephesians 1:4).
2) God seems unjust – No, it is God’s grace that any are saved (Ephesians 2:8).
b. “I can’t accept as true anything I can’t understand.”
1) We also don’t understand the trinity. We also don’t understand how Christ is fully God and fully man. Yet both are clearly taught and true and accepted.
2) The real struggle we may have is accepting something we can’t control. As God’s creatures we must come to grips with accepting His control and His truth and completely trusting Him to do what’s right.
c. “If God elected some then I don’t need to witness.”
Both election by God and man’s free choice are true. The obvious emphasis in ministry is that people must choose to trust in Christ for salvation or they are lost. And we must tell them. But as we share we can rest in the fact that God is sovereign and all will be saved whom He chose.
We have already discussed that man must choose to come to Christ for salvation. But what exactly is it that a person must do to be saved? How are the benefits of Christ’s death applied to the individual? What decision or choice must be made? These important questions will be answered as we discuss three issues: 1) What is the gospel? 2) What must a person do to be saved? 3) What the gospel is not.
1. What is the Gospel?
a. The content of the gospel is simply that “Christ died for our sin and rose again” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 – His burial proved He died; His resurrection proved He arose). The gospel message is that Christ died and arose to take our punishment for sin and give us eternal life.
b. The response to the gospel needed to be saved is simply, “Put your trust (“believe”) in Christ’s death alone to pay for your sins.”
2. What must a person do to be saved?
The key word in the New Testament describing what one must do to have eternal life is “believe.” The term “believe” means more than believing a fact. It means “trusting in” or “depending on” a fact. It’s one thing to believe that a boat can get you across a lake. It’s another thing to put your trust in that boat and climb in. That’s what “believing in Christ for eternal life” means. In the Bible, “faith” in Christ means the same thing. It’s the noun form of the verb “believe.” Below are some of the key passages teaching that all a person must do to have eternal life is put their trust in Christ alone to pay for their sin.
Other descriptions for “eternal life” you will find in these passages are “salvation, saved, justification, justified.” The word “grace” describes the whole process of God giving eternal life as a free gift – apart form works – to those who believe.
Each of the following passages contains the key terms (faith, believe) to explain what we must do to receive eternal life: John 1:12; 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; 6:40; 6:47,48,51; 7:37,38; Acts 10:43; 16:30,31; Romans 1:16; 3:22; 3:27,28; 5:1; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 2:16; 3:22; Ephesians 1:13; 2:1-10 (esp. 8,9);1 Thessalonians 5:9;1 Timothy 1:15,16; 2 Timothy 3:15; Titus 3:4-7; 1 John 5:11-13;
3. What the gospel is not.
a. Problem – Adding to the gospel (See also Hampton Keathley, Common Assaults on the Gospel, (/article/common-assaults-gospel)
If the gospel message is “Trust in Christ alone to pay for your sins,” then it is corrupting the gospel to add anything to that requirement (Galatians 1:6-9).
1) Trust in Christ and do good works.
No, That is really salvation by works (see Ephesians 2:8,9). If we think good works help to save us, we’re not trusting in Christ alone.
2) Trust in Christ and be baptized.
No, Water baptism is an outward sign after we are saved (Acts 2:41).
3) Trust in Christ and make Jesus Lord of your life.
No. This confuses discipleship (following, obeying and serving Christ) with salvation (trusting in Christ alone). This view is called “Lordship salvation” which holds that to be saved a person must also promise to fully follow Christ.
b. Problem – Confusing the gospel
Well-meaning Christians often use phrases that actually mislead people who need to understand the gospel.
1) “Ask Jesus into your heart” – This is often used with children but it can only confuse them. What does it mean to “ask Jesus into your heart”? The real issues are: I am a sinner, Christ died for my sin and I must trust in Christ alone. That’s what a child must understand and the decision he/she must make.
2) “Make Jesus the Lord of your life”
“Make Christ number one in your life”
These statements actually describe Lordship Salvation (see above). We should submit to the Lordship of Christ (obey His commands), but that’s not the gospel.
3) “Accept Jesus as Savior”
“Receive Jesus as Savior”
These phrases may be all right if they’re understood. Christians may understand them to mean “trust in Christ,” but unbelievers may wonder “How do I accept or receive Jesus?” To Catholics “receiving Jesus” means communion. Never does scripture say to “accept Jesus” and only once does it mention “receiving” Him (John 1:12). And even that reference about the Jews receiving Him is clarified by the expression “believing in His name.”
The question here is “Can a person who has put their trust in Christ for salvation ever lose that salvation?” The Bible’s answer is “no.”
1. They fear that believing in “eternal security” would encourage sin. “If I’m saved no matter what, why not sin more?”
2. They misunderstand some passages that can appear to teach that salvation can be lost.
3. They don’t fully understand that when a person has trusted in Christ’s atonement, God does an irreversible work that does not depend on man’s ability to “keep believing” or to “keep living righteously” (see below).
1. Because God’s plan for an individual’s salvation will be accomplished.
From election to arrival in heaven God’s plan will not be thwarted (Romans 8:30).
2. Because all the things that happen when we trust in Christ depend upon God’s nature, God’s power and God’s promises and cannot be reversed.
a. We are given eternal life (John 3:16, etc.)
It isn’t “eternal” if we can lose it.
If we can’t earn it by works we can’t lose it by lack of works.
c. We become God’s possession.
The Good Shepherd doesn’t lose His sheep (John 10:28-29).
God’s seal can’t be erased (Ephesians 1:13,14).
d. We are “in Christ.”
A part of Christ’s “Body” can’t be taken away (1 Corinthians 12:13).
We cannot be lost after we are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3).
Nothing can separate us from Christ (Romans 8:38,39).
e. All our sins are forgiven (Romans 3:1,23).
All our sins were future when Christ died (They were all paid for). So sinning cannot change the security of our salvation.
f. We become God’s children (John 1:12).
Nothing can reverse a person’s birth.
g. God commits Himself to us forever and unconditionally (2 Timothy 2:13).
“If we are faithless, He is faithful for He cannot deny Himself.”
Which is the proper motivation to obey God?
If we sin we lose Salvation
Obey because Salvation is secure
Illustration: The best motive for pleasing our spouse is appreciation for their commitment to us, not fear that the other will leave us if we make mistakes.
Some passages at first glance may seem to teach that salvation could be lost. Here are two necessary principles to remember:
1. Unclear verses should always be interpreted in light of those which are clear. Since all the above passages clearly teach salvation is secure then the honest Bible student would understand that the problem passages must mean something other than loss of salvation.
2. The problem passages have other reasonable and likely interpretations.
The warning is not that salvation will be lost. Rather, by reverting back to a false system outwardly (Law), the believer is “apostate.” He becomes hardened and will not return to a life of committed obedience. In that sense a person keeping the old rituals as a believer is said to be “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4), “fallen away” and “impossible to renew again to repentance” (Hebrews 6:6) and “sinning willfully…there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrew 10:26).
The issue of “assurance” is related to “eternal security” but different. “Security” is the fact that we can’t lose our salvation. The issue of “assurance” is “How can we be confident that we are saved or that someone else is?”
1. “Lordship Salvation” position – We are assured of salvation by lifestyle.
The basis for evaluating a person’s salvation is, “Does their life show it?”
2. “Free Grace” position – We are assured of salvation simply on the basis of personal faith in Christ?
The only basis of assurance is, “Has a person put their trust in Christ alone to save them?”
1. Based on all we’ve discussed about salvation thus far, salvation is clearly a free gift, apart from works, received by faith alone. Therefore assurance of salvation can be based only on those facts – “Has a person put their trust in Christ?” (not “Have they proved it by their life?”)
2. It is true that believers should have the “fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23), but the very fact that we are told to obey and bear fruit is evidence that some may not. Some Christians indeed evidence the “deeds of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). “Carnal” Christians indeed exist (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). The problem with carnal Christians is that they do in fact live like and look like the unsaved.
1. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20)
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus’ point is simply that false prophets (7:15) can be identified by the results of their life and teaching. Salvation is not the issue. In Luke 6:43-45 Jesus is simply observing that our outward lifestyle reveals our inward character. But the issue is not that lifestyle proves whether a person has trusted in Christ for salvation or not.
2. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26)
Many say this passage means that works prove whether we have genuinely trusted in Christ. Actually the passage contrasts two kinds of Christian lives (a living or dead faith) instead of contrasting believers and unbelievers (See Zane Hodges, Gospel Under Siege, p.19-33 or Hampton Keathley, Common Assaults on the Gospel, /article/common-assaults-gospel).
1. An individual can know he/she is saved only on the basis of whether they are trusting in Christ’s atonement for their sin (1 John 5:11-13). Our “eternal security” gives us “assurance” not our lifestyle.
2. While someone’s lifestyle may give strong clues about their spiritual condition, we can only evaluate if they are really saved based on what they are trusting in – not how they are living.
3. We or some Christians we know may be living in serious sin. But if a person has in fact trusted in Christ they are saved. What is needed is to confess our sin (1 John 1:9) repent and begin to live in the victory that the Spirit provides and God intends. We don’t need to question our salvation; we need to grow in it.
I. The “personhood” of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a personal being just as the Father and the Son. The Spirit is not an impersonal “it” or simply an influence.
A. The Spirit has personal characteristics.
1. He has intelligence (1 Cor. 2:10-11).
2. He has emotions (Eph. 4:30 – “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit”).
3. He has will (1 Cor. 2:11).
B. The Spirit acts in personal ways.
1. He teaches us (John 14:26).
2. He commands (Acts 8:29).
3. He intercedes for us in prayer (Rom. 8:26).
C. The Spirit is described in personal terms grammatically. The Greek word for Spirit (pneuma) is neuter in gender, yet the Bible uses masculine pronouns (“He,” “Him”) to refer to the Spirit (John 16:13-14; 15:26; 16:7-8. To be grammatically correct, personal neuter pronouns (“it”) would be expected.
II. The deity of the Holy Spirit
A. He has the names and titles of deity.
1. Yahweh – What the Lord (Yahweh) said in Is. 6:8-13 is ascribed to the Holy Spirit in Acts 28:25.
B. He possesses incommunicable attributes.
C. He performs incommunicable works (no one but God can do them).
D. He is equated with deity.
III. The Holy Spirit’s role prior to the Church Age
B. He guided and protected Israel (Isaiah 63:10-14).
D. He selectively and conditionally indwelt certain people in the Old Testament (Joseph – Gen. 41:38; Joshua – Num. 27:18; Saul – 1 Sam. 10:9,10; David – 1 Sam. 16:13 etc.). The Spirit’s indwelling was specifically related to enabling someone to do a particular task. The Holy Spirit could cease to indwell a person because of their disobedience. The Spirit left Saul (1 Sam. 16:14). When David sinned he pled that the Spirit not be taken from him (Psalm 51:11).
E. He was the empowering Agent in Christ’s earthly life.
IV. The Holy Spirit’s role in the Church Age
A. He is central in salvation (How people are saved).
2. He convicts the unbeliever of sin (John 16:8-11).
3. He regenerates (saves) the person.
a. He cleanses the person from sin and gives them the new nature (Titus 3:5).
b. As He performs this spiritual “new birth,” the person enters “the kingdom of God” (=eternal life – John 3:3-7, 16).
4. He seals (eternally secures) the person. The presence of the Holy Spirit is the “seal” or guarantee that a person is saved and will remain saved (Eph. 1:13).
5. He baptizes (places) the person into the body of Christ.
a. What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
- It is the Spirit’s work of uniting us with Christ – spiritually identifying us with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5).
- It is the Spirit’s work of incorporating us into the universal church (=the “body of Christ” – all church age believers – 1 Cor. 12:13).
b. When is the baptism of the Spirit?
- Note: Exceptions – On the Day of Pentecost when the church age began, both new and existing believers were baptized by the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 11:15,16). Also in 2 other cases in the early church it seems the Spirit was not given to believers until an apostle was present (Acts 8:14-17; 19:1-6).
B. He is central in sanctification (How saved people grow).
1. He indwells believers.
b. The Spirit indwells believers permanently in this age (John 14:16). (unlike the Old Testament where the Spirit could depart)
c. The Spirit’s indwelling is the basis for His other ministries in believer’s lives. (He teaches/illumines us about scripture – John 16:13; He aids in prayer – Rom. 8:26; He assures us of our salvation – Rom.8:16; He enables us to grow – see “filling” below – Eph. 5:18).
2. He “fills” believers.
- The “filling of the Spirit” describes the crucial work of God enabling the believer to live a transformed life. The only way we grow spiritually is by the empowering work of God (1 Peter 1:3). It is specifically the ministry of the Holy Spirit that gives a Christian the capability of change and growth in righteousness (by the Spirit…” – putting to death the deeds of the body” – Rom. 8:13; the fruit of the Spirit…” – Gal. 5:22, 23).
- Spiritual growth us a issue of control. We are either controlled by our self-centered flesh or by the Holy Spirit who indwells us (Rom. 8:4-11; Gal. 5:16, 17). Ephesians 5:18 describes this controlling/empowering ministry of Spirit as the “filling” of the Spirit. “Filling” is a metaphor (picture) of control. We can be filled/controlled by fleshly desires (like alcohol) or be filled/controlled by the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
- Although it’s the Spirit’s power that is at work, the believer must choose to be controlled/empowered by the Spirit. It is a command to “Be filled” and likewise to “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16). The Spirit’s presence is permanent (indwelling) but we must repeatedly choose to yield to God to experience the Spirit’s transforming power to change and grow us (filling). In actual experience, “walking in the Spirit” or “being filled with the Spirit” means living the Christian life (facing temptations, making decisions, etc.) with a conscious dependence on the Holy Spirit. He is the one who enable us – producing godly “fruits” (Gal. 5:22, 23).
3. He gives spiritual gifts to believers.
b. What are spiritual gifts?
1) Definition: Spiritual gifts are God-given abilities to serve. The Greek word for spiritual gift (charisma) is a form of the word “grace.” So these special abilities are privileges. God graciously enables all believers to serve in spiritual ministry.
2) Spiritual gifts are not particular positions. Youth ministry leader or nursery worker are not gifts although those ministries definitely can put to use spiritual gifts such as teaching, serving, etc.
3) Spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talent (music ability or mechanical aptitude, etc.) although God may often give spiritual gifts that make use of natural abilities. A musician may have the gift of encouragement. An experienced school teacher may have the gift of teaching, etc.
c. How do we get spiritual gifts?
2) The Time – We receive spiritual gifts when we trust Christ as Savior. That’s when we received the Spirit; that’s when we became part of the body of Christ.
3) The Recipients – Each believer has at least one but perhaps several gifts.
d. What is the purpose of spiritual gifts?
1) Spiritual gifts accomplish spiritual ministry that God desires.
2) Spiritual gifts equip others to minister (Eph. 4:12).
3) Spiritual gifts glorify God (1 Pet. 4:11).
e. What are the different spiritual gifts?
1) Some of the gifts listed seem to have been temporary, serving to establish the early church and to verify the gospel to people as Christianity began (Eph. 2:20; Heb. 2:3, 4 – See supplement “The Charismatic Question” for more detail.). The temporary sign gifts included apostleship, healing, miracle-working, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. Also temporary were the word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and prophecy – by which God gave direct revelation to man. These gifts were needed before the New Testament was complete. They were also seemingly the gifts needed to write the New Testament.
2) Gifts that doubtless exist today include teaching, helps (serving), giving, administration (leadership), showing mercy, evangelism, pastor-teacher (shepherding) and exhortation. These gifts are crucial to the ongoing function of the church throughout this age.
f. How do we discover and use our spiritual gift(s)?
1) We should concentrate on meeting needs, not pin-pointing our gifts. Ministry experience may expose unused gifts.
2) We should allow the advice of other mature Christians to guide us into areas of service for which we are suited and away from areas for which we are not.
3) We should not use spiritual gifts as an excuse to avoid certain ministries. Christians are universally told to do some types of ministry (Show mercy – James 2:13; 3:17; Evangelize – Acts 1:8; Exhort one another – Heb. 3:13; 10:25; Give – 2 Cor. 8:7) which are also the specific spiritual gifts of some Christians (Mercy – Rom. 12:8; Evangelist – Eph. 4:11; Exhortation – Rom. 12:8; Giving – Rom. 12:8).
4) We must realize that spiritual gifts do not benefit others automatically.
- We must use our gifts with proper attitudes (Rom. 12:8; 1 Pet. 4:11) and at appropriate times and places (1 Cor. 14:9-12, 22, 23, 40). Otherwise they can be worthless or even harmful to God’s purposes.
V. The Holy Spirit’s role in the End Times
A. In the 7-year Tribulation Period
1. In unbelievers – The Holy Spirit will be instrumental in the salvation of Israelites at the close of the tribulation (Zech. 12:10).
2. In believers – The Holy Spirit will provide special enablement for spiritual tasks as in Old Testament times (Acts 2:17-21).
B. In the Millennium
1. In believers – The Holy Spirit will enable believing Israelites to live righteously (Ezek. 36:27).
2. In Christ – The Holy Spirit will be active in Christ’s righteous rule (Isa. 11:2).
I. The Existence of Angels
A.. The Bible assumes their existence.
1. 34 books (of 66 total) refer to angels.
2. Christ taught their existence (Matt.8:10; 24:31; 26:53 etc.).
B. The Bible describes their creation.
II. The Nature of Angels
A. Angels are personal beings.
1. They have intellect (Matt.28:5; 1 Pet.1:12).
3. They have will (Jude 6).
B. Angels are spirit beings.
1. They exist as spirits – not with material bodies (Heb. 1:14).
a. An angel can be in only one place at one time (Dan.9:21-23; 10:10-14)
b. Although they are spirit beings, they can appear in the form of men (in dreams – Matt.1:20; in natural sight with human functions – Gen. 18:1-8; 22: 19:1; seen by some and not others – 2 Kings 6:15-17).
2. They cannot reproduce (Mark 12:25).
3. They do not die (Luke 20:36).
C. Angels have communicable attributes in a degree greater than man but less than God.
1. They have more knowledge than man (Matt.24:31; Luke 1:13-16) but less than God (Matt.24:36).
D. Angels are organized and ranked. One “archangel,” Michael is named (Jude 9). There are also “chief princes” (Dan.10:13), “seraphim” (Is.6:1-3) and “cherubim” (Gen.3:22-24).
III. The Ministries of Angels
A. They worship God. Angels are continually involved in praising God (Rev.4:6-11) through describing His attributes (Is.6:3) and singing praises (Rev.5:8,9).
B. They ministered to Christ. Angels announced His birth (Luke 1:26-33; 2:13), protected Him (Matt.2:13), strengthened Him (Matt.4:11; Luke 22:43), and explained to men His resurrection (Matt.28:6) and ascension (Acts 1:10,11).
C. They carry out God’s government. Angels are God’s servants (Ps.103:20; Heb.1:7) and messengers (Luke 1:19; 2:8-14). They can be involved in controlling nature (Rev.7:1; 16:3,8,9), nations (2 Kings 19:35), and Satan and demons (Dan.10:13,21; 12:1). They will perform future judgment for God (Matt.13:3a; Rev.15:1; 16:1-21).
D. They protect God’s people. Angels are sent to serve believers (Heb.1:14). They protect the godly (Ps.34:7; Dan.6:20,23), oppose our enemies (Ps.35:4,5) and are specifically assigned as guardians of individuals (Matt.18:10). They are God’s agents in answering prayer (Acts 12:7) even bringing physical provisions (Gen.21:17-20; 1 Kings 19:5-7).
I. The Existence of Satan
A. Seven Old Testament books and every New Testament writer refer to Satan.
B. Jesus referred to Satan (Matt.13:39; Luke 10:18; 11:18).
II. The Personality and Names of Satan
A. Personality – He has intellect (2 Cor.11:3), emotions (Rev.12:17) and will (2 Tim.2:26.
B. Names – He is called Satan, the Devil (slanderer), Lucifer (son of the morning), Beelzebub (Lord of the flies – Matt.12:24), and Belial (lawless – 2 Cor.6:15), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Thess.3:5), the prince of this world (John 12:31), the god of this age (2 Cor.4:4), the prince of the power of the air (Eph.2:2), the accuser of the brethren (Rev.12:10), and angel of light (false light – 2 Cor.11:14), a serpent (Rev.12:9), and a dragon (Rev.12:3).
III. The Nature of Satan
A. He is a created angelic being. He was created as part of the angelic realm (Eph.6:11,12; Ezek.24:18) and was the highest in rank of them all (Ezek.28:12-14).
C. He is a limited creature. He is limited by God (Job.1:12). He is not God’s equal (1 John 4:4). He is not omniscient, omnipotent or infinite in any way. Believers with God’s help can resist him (James 4:7).
IV. The Fall of Satan
A. Ezekiel 28:11-19 is a prophetic lamentation over the “King of Tyre” who is described in language that fits Satan’s fall and not a mere human king. Satan is distinguished form the human ruler of Tyre in 28:2 (“prince/ruler”) and called a “king” in 28:12. Though Tyre had a human “ruler”, Satan was the real “King” behind that wicked kingdom.
B. His attributes – Moral perfection (v.12) Sinless at his creation until his fall (v.15)
C. His appearance – Perfect in beauty (v.12b,13)
1. His privileges – Free access to the garden of Eden (v.12) and to God’s holy mountain (= God’s presence – v.14)
2. His rank – “Cherub” (vs.14,16)
3. His judgment –
a. Cast out of the mountain of God (v.16, cf. Rev. 12:4)
b. Cast to the ground (v.17)
c. Consumed by fire (v.18, cf. Rev.20:10)
D. Isaiah 14:12-15 also seems to describe Satan’s fall. Satan is manifest here by the king of Babylon. As in Ezekiel 28, Satan is pictured here as the real “king” behind the wicked human kingdom of Babylon.
1. The imagery of a “star” and “falling from heaven” (v.12) suggests a supernatural fulfillment. “Stars” (v.12,13) are symbolic of the angelic realm elsewhere (Job 38:6,7; Rev.12:4).
2. The five “I will’s” of vss. 13 & 14 are literally true of Satan and only metaphorically true of Babylon’s king. This ultimate form of pride (“I will be like the Most High” – v.14) fits the New Testament description of Satan’s fall 1 Tim.3:6.
V. The Activity of Satan
Satan is seeking to oppose God’s plan by promoting evil in every way possible.
A. Indirect Activity – He works indirectly through the world (in which he has great freedom and power – John 12:31; 1 John 5:19) and the flesh (Gal.5:19-21). The world, the flesh and the devil are not three separate enemies of the Christian. Rather Satan works through the evil world system (1 John 2:13-15) to exploit the fleshly nature that still wars within us (Rom.7:18; Gal.5:19-21).
Diagram: Norm Geisler
B. Direct Activity – He works directly by deception, temptation, attack and possession.
1. In Christ’s ministry
a. He tempted Christ (Matt.4:1-11).
c. He possessed Judas to accomplish the betrayal (John 13:27).
2. In unbelievers
a. He blinds their minds to hinder their understanding of the gospel (2 Cor.4:4).
b. When the gospel is heard or understood, he tries to hinder its effect (Luke 8:12).
c. He uses persecution (Rev.2:10) and false religions (Rev.2:13) to hinder the effect of the gospel.
3. In believers
a. He tempts believers (to pride – 1 Chron.21:1-8; to materialism – John 2:15; James 5:1-7; to immorality – 1 Cor.7:5; to lie – Acts 5:3; to discouragement – 1 Pet.5:6-10; to be unforgiving – 2 Cor.2:10,11 etc.).
b. He hinders the ministries of believers (1 Thess.2:18; Rev.2:10).
c. He promotes false teaching among believers (1 John 4:1-4).
d. He promotes anger, bitterness and division (Eph.4:26,27; 2 Cor.2:5-11). Note: See the supplement – “Satanic Activity and Spiritual Warfare” for more information on how Satan and his demons work and how we must respond.
I. The Existence and Nature of Demons
A. Their Creation – God created demons as part of the angelic realm originally (Col.1:16).
B. Their Fall –
1. The evidence – It is clear that Satan has a following of like beings (“Prince of the demons” – Matt.12:24; the Devil and his angels – Matt.25:41). Demons are described throughout the Scriptures (Dan.10:10-20; Matt.10:1; Eph.6:12).
2. The time – At the fall of Satan, many angels followed him in that rebellion (demons are fallen angels). A third of the angelic host seem to have fallen with Satan (Rev.12:4 – the imagery of Satan as a “dragon” and angels/demons as “stars”).
C. Their Nature –
1. Demons are by nature the same kind of spirit beings as angels. They are personal, intelligent beings.
2. Demons are morally wicked (“unclean spirits” – Matt.10:1; “evil” – Luke 7:21; “wickedness/darkness” – Eph.6:12).
a. They are deceitful (1 Tim.4:1-3; 2 Cor.11:13-15).
b. They are immoral (Gen.6:4; Jude 6,7).
3. Demons are invisible but also able to appear (Satan – Zech.3:1; Matt.4:9.10; Demons – Rev.9:7-10; 16:13-16).
4. Demons have great intelligence. They knew Christ’s identity and power (Mark 1:14,34; 5:6,7). They know their own future judgment (Matt.8:28,29). They can attempt to predict the future (Acts 16:16). They’re knowledge is not infinite. They learned it through thousands of years of experience and observation.
II. The Activity of Demons
Demons are involved in carrying out Satan’s evil plans (2 Cor.11:15). What Satan is said to be doing (see above) is their work directly.
A. Demons promote idolatry (Lev.17:7; Deut.32:17; Ps.106:36-38). This activity is blatant in primitive cultures.
B. Demons are active in hindering the spiritual progress of believers every way they can (see Satan’s activities). They are deliberate and organized in these attempts (Eph.6:10-12).
C. Demons promote false teaching (1 Tim.4:1).
D. Demons can possess and afflict people (see supplement).
E. Demons promote selfishness and division in the church (James 3:13-16).
Fred Dickason, Angels, Elect and Evil. Chicago: Moody Press, 1975.
I. The Origin of Man
A. The importance of Special Creation:
If man evolved as a product of chance (as evolutionists teach), then the ideas of sin and salvation really make no sense. If there was no supernatural origin, then why would there be a supernatural destiny (salvation in heaven)? (If random fate caused a man to be, then random fate must determine a person’s character.) In fact, an eternal destiny for man after death would be no more likely that dogs or dandelions living eternally if evolution were true. Only if man was uniquely created by God and in God’s image does it make sense that man is accountable (sin) and has a destiny (salvation or judgment). The real motive behind the evolutionary theory, it seems, is to eliminate the need for God and His revelation about sin and salvation.
B. The Fact of Creation
1. Presuppositions of Creation
a. The existence of God. The bible assumes the existence of God (Gen.1:1 – although it is also “provable” by various logical arguments – Psalm 19; Rom.1:19 ff. See the handout “Does God Exist?”).
b. The eternality of God. For God to create He must Himself exist prior to anything else. The eternal nature of God answers the nagging question that evolution cannot, “How can something come to be when there was nothing?”
c. The reliability of scripture as God’s Word. The way we know about the creation of man and the world is through the scriptures which God revealed. At least seventeen times in Genesis 1 and then throughout scripture, God is said to be the creator.
2. The Process of Creation. “By faith we understand that the world was made at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3, NIV). The all-powerful God created something out of nothing (sometimes called ex nihilo). But then God did use previously created materials to form the bodies of living things (Gen.2:7,18-22).
3. The Time of Creation. Two other views of creationists are presented here in addition to the literal six-day view of creation.
a. The Gap Theory
1) Genesis 1:1 – An original perfect creation of all things (except man).
2) A gap of undetermined time during which Satan fell, a flood and the Ice Age destroyed life, thus creating the fossil record.
3) Genesis 1:2 and following – Six days of “re-creation” including Adam and Eve.
1) The suggested arguments from the biblical text are weak (See Ryrie, Biblical Theology, p.183,4).
2) The view arose about the same time as modern geology, seeming to be merely an attempt to harmonize Genesis and geology.
b. The Day-Age Theory
2) Perhaps the six “days” of creation were long indefinite periods of time rather that 24 hour days.
1) The view seems to minimize the creative power of God; as if He needs more time to do something so great as creation.
2) This view also seems to first accept uniformitarian geology and then try to harmonize scripture to that.
c. The “literal six-day” or “young earth” view
1) The most normal understanding of the six days of creation are that they were literal 24-hour solar days.
2) The cataclysmic global flood of Genesis 6-8 is responsible for the geological record (See Whitcomb, Genesis Flood, The Early Earth and Dillow, The Waters Above).
3) God created the world with “apparent age.” Plants, animals and man had some appearance of age when God made them. So it’s not surprising that the rest of the universe has “apparent age.”
4) Our earth could be as “young” as 6,000 years old (4000 B.C.) according to the chronologies of Genesis (and confirmed by the scientific research of creationists).
5) This view of the earth as “young” instead of “billions and billions” of years old is very different than most modern scientific theory. But the view is nonetheless scientifically sound. The Institute for Creation Research and other academic associations have produced many materials supporting the biblical view of creation versus evolution – a study which goes beyond the scope of this brief outline.
II. The Nature of Man
A. What does it mean to be in the “image of God?” Man is said to be made in the “image of God” (Gen.1:26,27). Only with a view of special creation by God could this be possible.
1. We reflect God in personality. We reason (intellect), feel (emotion), and choose (will).
2. We reflect God in function. Gen.1:26 connects the ideas of sharing God’s image with sharing His rule or sovereignty over creation.
3. There is perhaps some sense in which we reflect God in form. Although God is spirit and not body (John 4:24), our physical form was designed by God as appropriate means of reflecting Him. Even in our eternal state we will fellowship with God in our transformed “spiritual” yet physical body (1 Cor.15:44).
4. Conclusion – The fact that man can communicate and fellowship with God and even reflect God’s moral character (when regenerated – 2 Peter 1:4), indicates perhaps the real depth of man sharing God’s “image.”
B. How many parts are we? Christian theologians have much discussed whether man is essentially 2 parts (Material and Immaterial) or 3 parts (Body, Soul and Spirit). Here are the basic arguments plus a third moderating position.
1. Dichotomy view (2 parts)
a. Only the distinction between our material and immaterial features are indisputable.
b. “Soul” and “Spirit” are sometimes used interchangeably in the Bible (Job 27:3).
c. God gave only the “soul” at creation (Gen.2:7).
d. Jesus said the “Body” plus the “Soul” equals the whole person (Matt.10:28).
2. Trichotomy view (3 parts)
a. Hebrew 4:12 seems to teach that “soul and spirit” can be “divided.”
b. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 describes man as “spirit, soul and body.”
c. The “spirit” seems to be that part of man which relates to God (our spiritual being) and is regenerated, while the “soul” is that which relates to man (our emotional being).
3. Multi-faceted view. It may well be that the argument is somewhat unnecessary and that both views reflect truth about man’s nature. We are at least material and immaterial. Our immaterial includes features such as soul, spirit, heart, conscience and will. In some cases these features are perhaps truly distinguishable (soul and spirit) while other times the features overlap (spirit, heart, conscience). See Charles Ryrie, Survey of Bible Doctrine pp.104-107 for more discussion of this third view.
III. The Fall of Man
A. The literal reality of the fall. The Fall of Man (the entrance of sin into humanity) was a specific historical event. Adam and Eve were real people (Matt.19:3-5). They committed a particular sin (Genesis 3). That sin affected all of mankind (Rom.5:12-21).
B. The test (Genesis 2:15-17). Adam and Eve were clearly told the privileges of their home in the Garden of Eden and the prohibition: they were not to eat of one certain tree. There was no other temptation in the garden. There was simply a single choice to obey or disobey God.
C. The temptation (Genesis 3:1-5). Satan chose to appear in an animal form – a serpent (Even today he usually does not want to be seen or known as he really is.). His approach was to first question God’s goodness (“Has God said, you shall not eat…” – 3:1). Then he blatantly denied God’s justice – that there were consequences for sin (“You surely shall not die” – 3:4).
D. The sin (Genesis 3:6). When Eve had listened to the serpent and doubted God’s words, she saw and desired the fruit and ate it. She then furthered Satan’s temptation by giving Adam the fruit. He also listened, doubted, saw, desired and then ate. This sin was unique in that they sinned without having a sin nature. They sinned only by choice. The rest of mankind is now sinful by nature and by choice.
E. The results of the Fall
1. On the Serpent (3:14). The serpent was condemned to crawl (3:14). All the animal kingdom in fact was affected by the Fall (Rom.8:20).
2. On Satan (3:15). Satan’s kingdom would forever be opposed (“enmity”) by Eve’s godly descendants (believers). Christ (a descendant of Eve) would deal the death blow to Satan (“head”) on the cross, although Satan was allowed to cause Christ to suffer (“heel”). This verse is the first revelation of the gospel in the Bible.
3. On Eve and women (3:16). Women would 1) always have pain in childbirth, 2) struggle with the desire to rule over her husband (see “desire” 4:7) and yet, 3) be in a supportive rather than ruling role. The New Testament confirms these effects (1 Cor.11:3; 14:34: Eph.5:24,25; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1,5,6).
4. On Adam and men (3:17-19;23,24). The ground was cursed so that sustaining life would require difficult and painful labor (3:17-19a). Man would now die (3:19b) and Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden (3:23,24).
5. On the human race (3:7,8). Mankind experienced a sense of guilt (“made a covering” 3:7) and a loss of fellowship with God (“hid themselves” 3:8). Sin also brought death upon the race – both physical and spiritual (Eph.2:3; Rom.5:12).
A. Definition – What is sin? Sin is any violation of the perfect holiness of God.
1. 1 John 3:4 – “Sin is lawlessness”
2. Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
B. The origin of sin – How did sin begin?
1. Sin did not begin in God, He cannot sin (James 1:13)
C. Inherited Sin
- Inherited sin is simply “the sinful state into which all people are born” (Ryrie). We have a constant bent toward sin.
- Inherited sin is also called the “sin nature” (it affected our entire being), and it is called “original sin” (emphasizing that Adam’s sin caused the corrupted nature we each inherit).
- “Total depravity” is a related term expressing our total lack of merit in God’s sight. Total depravity does not mean we are as “bad” as we can be but that we are as “bad off” as we can be because we all have a totally sinful nature.
- Psalm 51:5 “…in sin my mother conceived me.”
- Ephesians 2:3 “…by nature children (objects) of wrath”
3. Penalty. The penalty of inherited sin is spiritual death. Man is born spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:3) and will be eternally separated from God in hell if our sinful condition is not remedied (Revelation 20:11-15).
D. Imputed Sin
“Imputation” means putting to someone else’s account that which may or may not be his (Robert Lightner, Sin, The Savior and Salvation, p.33)
The “imputation of Adam’s sin to mankind” means that Adam’s first sin was rightfully charged to the account of every other person. Someone may protest that it doesn’t seem fair that others are charged with what Adam did. But the Bible teaches that since all were “in Adam” we all unconsciously participated in Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12; cf. Hebrews 7:9,10).
Romans 5:12 – “Therefore just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
Grammatically the expression “all sinned” does not refer to our individual sins or our sinful nature. It means that all sinned when Adam sinned (cf. Romans 5:18). That’s imputation. We are each held responsible.
1. Penalty. Imputed sin caused physical death. Each person’s physical death was sealed and certain ever since Adam sinned (“death spread to all men because all sinned” – Romans 5:12). Our sin nature does not cause physical death but spiritual (Ephesians 2:3). Individual sins do not cause physical death (Infants die). Imputed sin caused our physical death.
Summary Comparison Between Inherited and Imputed Sin
(Adapted from Charles Ryrie)
E. Personal sin
1. Definition: Personal sin is any thought or attitude, act or failure to act, that violates God’s standard of perfect holiness.
- James 3:2 “We all stumble in many ways”
- Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
3. Penalty. The unbeliever’s sins prevent him from having fellowship (a personal relationship) with God until he is saved. The believer as well loses the enjoyment of fellowship with God when he lives with sins unconfessed (1 John 1:9). Note: Personal sins are obviously related to inherited sin and imputed sin. Personal sins are the visible and “knowable” expression of our inherited sin nature and imputed sin. Personal sins are how a person knows he has a sin problem.
F. The Remedies for sin (see also next section “Salvation”)
The righteousness of Christ is “imputed” to us (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This takes place when we trust in Christ (Romans 3:21,22).
- Unbelievers – The death of Christ (Ephesians 2:13)
- Believers – The death of Christ
- Trust in Christ (above)
- Confess Sin (1 John 1:9)
G. Sin in the life of a Christian
1. The reality of sin in the believer. Christians still have the sin nature (Romans 7:14-25; especially 7:17,20,21,23). Believers have both the sin nature and the new nature (Romans 8:10; Ephesians 4:22-24). The old nature is not “eradicated” (destroyed) in this life. That is why we continue to commit personal sin (1 John 1:8).
2. The consequences of sin in the life of a believer. Sin in our life will interrupt the joy of our relationship with God. Persisting in sin may bring God’s discipline (Hebrew 12:5-11), even sickness and death (1 Corinthians 11:30; James 5:19,20; 1 John 5:16). Excommunication from the local church is necessary for some sin (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5).
3. The remedy when believers sin.
- The remedy when we sin as a believer is to simply confess our sin (1 John 1:9). “Confess” literally means to “agree with” God about that sin. If we still defend the sinful thought or act in any way, we have not confessed.
- True confession produces a desire to change. But even if we sin the same way again, the solution is again confession.
- Confessing sin is a major truth of the Christian’s life. Confession brings the cleansing Christ provided (1 John 1:7). Positionally, all sin is already forgiven, but we claim and experience that forgiveness by confession. The joy of fellowship with God is then restored. The Holy Spirit is then free to “fill us” and change us (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:22,23; Romans 8:13 – see notes on the “Holy Spirit”).
I. The Nature of the Church – What is it? The church exists in two forms:
1. Christ promised to form the Church (Matthew 16:18).
2. The Holy Spirit “baptizes” – places people into the “body of Christ,” which is the universal church (1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27). This function of the Holy Spirit began at the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 11:15-18).
B. A local church: A group of believers in this age meeting regularly and organized biblically to do God’s will. (Examples: Romans 16:1,3-5,14-16).
II. The Purpose of the Church – What are we supposed to do?
Introduction: The purpose(s) of the local church are derived by looking at New Testament commands given to the disciples (who were the “foundation stones” of the church – Ephesians 2:20) and other instructions given to individual churches or church leaders.
A. Central Passage – “The Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19,20)
– Matthew 28:19 & 20 (and the similar “commissions” in Mark 16:15; Luke 24:45-47 and Acts 1:8) are central to the church’s purpose. They were spoken by Christ, the Head of the church (Matthew 28:18). They were spoken to the first leaders of the church (Matthew 28:16). And these words were spoken at the crucial time just after Christ arose and before He ascended.
– Matthew 28:19 & 20 is examined here because it is the most comprehensive of the “commission” passages.
1. The Command – “Go and make disciples”
a. These two words combine to make a single command that describe what we, the church, are to be doing. (“Go” is a participle and some prefer to translate it “going.” But its position in the sentence before the command makes it grammatically linked to “make disciples.” Thus it is probably meant as a double command – “Go and make disciples.”).
b. “Go” means that we must take the initiative. Evangelism is required to accomplish the task of disciple-making.
c. “Make disciples” means “make followers, learners.” This seems to include the entire process of helping a person understand the gospel of salvation through Christ and then to help them grow as a Christian. The church (every person in it) is responsible for carrying out this command. Every ministry in a church must be part of the process of disciple-making.
2. The Means – “Baptizing, Teaching”
- How are disciples made? It’s more than just sharing the gospel. When a person trusts in Christ as Savior, he/she has just begun to be a disciple. These two words explain the means by which Christians grow as disciples.
a. “Baptizing” – Public identification with Christ
- This refers to water baptism, since it is the disciples who are doing it. Water baptism in the New Testament follows salvation and publicly shows our identification with Christ. This is a necessary step in disciple making. In fact one does not find an unbaptized believer in Scripture after the church begins (Acts 2:41, etc.). Baptism will be discussed more under “Ordinances.”
b. “Teaching” – Learning the scripture for the purpose of applying it
- The teaching of God’s Word is with the goal that people obey it (“teaching them to observe” = do).
2 Timothy 3:15-17 – “know the Holy Scriptures” -----> “reproof, correction, training”
2 Timothy 4:2 – “Preach the Word” -----> “reprove, rebuke, exhort”
James 1:22 – “doers of the Word and not hearers only”
B. A local church purpose statement
- A local church is responsible to carry out, among its people and in areas of influence, the purposes that God has for the universal church. Baptizing is one part of that responsibility (to be discussed). The rest of the church’s purpose involves teaching the Word of God to accomplish various goals. The following is a suggested purpose statement of a local church.
STATEMENT: To Glorify God by Reaching people with the gospel, Building them in their relationship with God and Involving them in God’s plan (RBI).
To “Glorify God” is the overall purpose. The Bible says " Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV). In other words, any effort of a church must serve not to promote itself but God’s greatness.
However, a local church should seek to glorify God in the following ways:
God has provided the way so that a person can go to heaven and know it. Christ died to pay for our sin. We can go to heaven if we place our trust in Christ’s death for us (John 3:16). That truth is central to why a church exists. A church must effectively present the Gospel in various ministries and train others to do so personally. Part of the task includes taking that message around the world through missionaries.
But once a person is reached with the Gospel, God obviously has more in mind for their life…
“Building” refers to the spiritual process of God bringing the growth and change that we need in our lives. How can a church help to encourage that work of God?
Worship – We exist not for our benefit, but God’s glory. So worship must please God by giving God the credit He deserves for His greatness. God cannot “grow” us without an intimate relationship with us. Personal and group worship encourages us to develop that relationship with God.
Instruction – The food we need to grow spiritually is God’s Word the Bible (I Peter 2:2). That’s why Bible teaching must be central in a local church. A church must provide biblical truth that each person needs and even more importantly to encourage people to study God’s Word themselves.
Fellowship – Real spiritual growth requires more than just information. It requires relationships. God has designed that believers need one another to grow. It is through the frustration and diversity of relationships with people that God can best bring us to maturity. So it is essential to have ministries that go beyond a worship service. Personal interaction lets us in on the struggles, joys of other Christians and gives us an opportunity to support each other.
Sometimes people in churches assume that ministry is the job of paid professionals – the pastors and staff. It’s not. God has called every believer to be involved in ministry. He has given every person certain “spiritual gifts” – supernatural abilities to serve/help others in some way. Instead of leaders doing most of the ministry, their real role is to equip people for ministry (Ephesians 4:11,12). Ministry is not an issue of mere duty. It’s a matter of gratefully using the gifts/abilities God gives us.
III. The Ordinances Of The Church
A. Common questions about ordinances/sacraments
1. What is an ordinance?
An ordinance is a physical ritual prescribed by Christ to illustrate a spiritual reality (sacrament = sacred sign).
2. How many ordinances should be practiced?
Some believe there are up to seven.
Most Protestants believe there are only two (Lord’s Supper and baptism). Why?
- Only these two are specifically prescribed by Christ and clearly practiced by the early church.
- Only these two symbolize the saving work of Christ.
3. What do they have to do with a person’s salvation?
B. Water Baptism
1. Definition: The use of water to symbolize outwardly the inner spiritual change that took place when we trusted Christ as Savior.
2. The Model: Baptism was commanded by Christ and practiced by the early church.
a. Christ commanded the disciples to “Go and make disciples” by means of “baptizing” and “teaching” until “the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19,20).
3. The Meaning: Baptism symbolizes what happened when we were saved.
a. It symbolizes the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration (making us spiritually new – Titus 3:5). = “I am a Christian.”
- Water (ritual) baptism is administered by others outwardly after we’re saved (Acts 8:3).
b. It symbolizes our new life of union with and identification with Christ (Romans 6:3-11). = “I intend to live like a Christian.”
4. The Method: Immersion in water anytime after conversion seems most appropriate.
b. New Testament examples of baptism are done immediately after a person is saved (Acts 2:41; 8:12,36-38; 9:18; 10:47,48; 16:14,15,33; 18:8). So when a person is saved and realizes the significance of baptism, it would seem to be the right time.
c. Young children who are saved might wisely wait until they understand the significance of baptism. There is no biblical support for baptizing infants with water.
C. The Lord’s Supper
1. Definition: The regular use of the bread and cup to symbolically commemorate with other believers the saving work of Christ on the cross.
2. The Model: Christ initiated it at the Last Supper.
a. Christ gave the final two elements of that passover meal a new significance to be practiced after His death (Luke 22:7-20).
b. This ordinance is a command (“Do this” – 1 Corinthians 11:24,25) to be practiced regularly (“as often as” – 1 Corinthians 11:25,26) throughout this church age (“proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” – 1 Corinthians 11:26).
3. The Meaning: The Lord’s Supper is a memorial to Christ’s saving work on the cross.
4. The Method:
a. The early Church’s form
- The love feast (a shared meal – 1 Corinthians 11:20-22)
- The elements (a shared loaf and cup – 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).
- Done weekly as the church gathered (“breaking of bread” – Acts 20:7,11).
b. The basic function required
The Lord’s Supper should be practiced regularly by churches using similar symbols with the identical significance Christ gave them.
IV. The Structure of the Church
The church is not merely an organization. The universal church, as we have seen, is an “organism.” That is, the church is first of all a living spiritual unit – the body of Christ. But on a local level, churches must be organized to do God’s will. This discussion will survey the various views of church structure and make some biblical observations.
A. Major views of church structure
1. The hierarchical view – This view holds that the authority in local churches rests in “bishops” who oversee several local churches. The bishops then have authority over local ministers who they ordain and appoint, who in turn have authority over the congregation.
a. Roman Catholics, state churches (church of England, etc.), the Episcopal Church hold this view. Many other denominations also rely to some extent on authority from above and outside of the church.
b. Proponents use passages such as Acts 15:13ff; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 8:23 to support the view. Those passages describe how the apostles gave authority to others (Timothy, Titus, etc.). But never was that authority said to be passed on further.
2. The federal view – This view is also called “elder rule” because that’s where the authority lies. Elders receive authority by being elected from the congregation or being appointed by fellow elders.
a. Presbyterians and Reformed groups hold this view (although they are organized on a denominational level as well). Many independent churches also follow this form to a large degree.
3. The congregational view – This view holds that the congregation holds final authority on all matters. The pastor and other leaders are elected by the congregation to teach and lead but the congregation has authority over them.
a. To a greater or lesser degree most Protestant churches have some elements of the congregational view. Some churches (Independents, Baptists and others) adhere to it very strictly.
b. Proponents point to the fact that only Christ is above the congregation as “Head” of the church (Ephesians 5:23). They also point to the priesthood of believers (Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5-9) and references to matters handled by the congregation (deacons selected – Acts 6:5; discipline – 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, etc.).
B. Determining a biblical view of church structure
1. Who has authority in local church matters?
- None of the above views is the only true biblical view. There is a clear biblical evidence for elements of elder rule and congregational rule. This discussion seeks to understand how both the congregation and the elders were meant to function in terms of authority.
a. The apostles had authority in the 1st century.
1) They appointed elders (Acts 19:23).
2) They settled doctrinal disputes (Acts 15).
3) They established churches (Paul).
b. Elders had the highest authority after the apostolic age.
1) Paul put elders in charge in churches (Acts 14:23).
2) Paul told Titus to appoint elders (Titus 1:5).
3) The church is told to obey its spiritual leaders (Hebrews 13:17).
5) “Ruling” was one role of elders (2 Timothy 5:17).
c. The local church as a unit had authority.
1) They selected deacons (Acts 6:3-5).
2) They sent Paul and Barnabas to help settle a doctrinal dispute (Acts 15:2,3) and then confirmed, with the other elders, how the issue should be settled (15:22).
1) A biblical view would seem to include elements of elder rule and congregational rule. The apostles had authority over local churches but they never established a system of hierarchical rule.
2) The model for church government must come from scripture not from examples of civil government. (ie. The church is not to be a democracy just because America is.) The goal of church decision-making is not to determine the will of the majority but to determine the will of God.
3) God has designed His spiritual “organism” – the church – to be led by spiritually qualified leaders (see qualifications). They do indeed direct the church’s ministry toward God-given goals. Spiritual leaders are initiators.
4) The congregation as a whole was gathered to decide on some very significant issues (see above) so it seems that a local congregation today would also be involved in weighty matters.
5) Each church has to decide how much decision-making is done at the leadership level and what is done at the congregational level. Some issues are of such a nature that it would be unwise to involve the whole congregation. Some issues are of such a nature that it would be unwise not to involve the whole congregation. But godly qualified leadership is key. When spiritual leaders have courage to lead and sensitivity to the needs of the congregation, God is free to produce harmony and effective spiritual ministry.
2. Should churches organize above the local church level?
- This discussion concerns the issue of whether churches should function together as denominations or as autonomous (self-governing) independent churches.
a. Biblical information and example
1) The apostles coordinated group efforts to meet the financial needs of the poverty-stricken Jerusalem church – (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15). Also, Paul was supported by several churches, although each church made their own decision about giving (Philippians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9; 12:13).
2) When the church at Antioch experienced a doctrinal conflict about what was required of Gentiles to be saved, the church asked for help from the spiritual leaders at Jerusalem. Their decision solved the problem (Acts 15).
1) The early church examples of financial cooperation and mediation of a conflict are good models of how like-minded churches can help each other.
2) These examples do not, however, establish a structure of authority. Churches were designed by God to have the gifts and leadership they needed to function on their own (1 Corinthians 1:7). Denominations can certainly function in a biblical way in accomplishing God’s purposes, while many believe that independent, autonomous churches are closest to the biblical model, and best able to do the unique ministry God gives them in a local area.
3. Should churches have formal membership?
a. Biblical information and example
There is no clear biblical example of church membership so it would be wrong to argue strongly that it is necessary. Christians were, however, identified with a particular church (“There were added 3,00 souls” – Acts 2:41; “The church in their house” – Romans 16:5; etc.; “The brethren with them” – Romans 16:14).
Formal membership seems to be somewhat cultural. In the early church setting there was only one church in an area. Believers attending there were a recognized part of it. In our modern proliferation of churches, having official membership rolls helps a church function orderly. Members are those who agree on the doctrine, the purpose and the philosophy of the church. And thus they can more likely make wise and unified decisions. For the individual, church membership gives a spiritual identity and definite spiritual accountability.
V. The Leaders of the Church
1. Who were they?
Sometimes they are called “elders” (Greek – presbuteros), a term that emphasizes the qualification of spiritual maturity needed. Sometimes they are called “overseers” (Greek – episcopos), a term that emphasizes their function of leading. The terms are used interchangeably of the same men (Acts 20:17,28).
2. What are an elder’s qualifications?
“Above reproach “ – no cause for just criticism
“Husband of one wife” – monogamous fidelity, not divorced
“Temperate” – self-control
“Prudent” – wise decision-maker
“Respectable” – orderly, organized
“Hospitable” – willing to share his home
“Able to teach” – can communicate spiritual truth
“Not given to wine” – not addicted
“Not pugnacious but gentle” – patient, not violent
“Uncontentious” – not insistent on rights, peaceable
“Free from the love of money” – not greedy or “in it for the money”
“Manages his household well…children under control” – discipline, peace and order at home
“Not a new convert” – to avoid pride
“Good reputation with outsiders” – has the respect of unbelievers
“Not self-willed” – genuine concern for others interests, not just his own
“Not quick tempered” (self-explanatory)
“Loves what is good” – can discern what is spiritually beneficial
“Just” – law-keeping himself and fair with others
“Devout” – avoids sin and is committed to God
“Hold fast the faithful Word” – knows doctrinal truth
3. What are an elders duties?
b. “Be an example to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Consciously models and disciples others in the Christian life.
e. “Rule” (1 Timothy 5:17). This means to direct the church’s affairs.
4. How many elders should there be in a church?
No number is given. There are, however, clear examples that leadership in the local church is shared by a plurality of elders. It is always elders (plural) in Antioch (Acts 14:23), in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2; 20:18), in Ephesus (Acts 20:17,28), in Philippi (Philippians 1:1), in Crete (Titus 1:5), and in all the churches who received the epistles of James (James 5:14). And Peter (1 Peter 5:1). The human tendency is one-man leadership. The biblical model is leadership shared by elders. Each elder will have different gifts and roles and some will be more visible, but the responsibility must be shared (providing there is more than one man qualified to be an elder). There is tremendous advantage to shared wisdom and responsibility.
1. Who are they?
The word “deacon” actually means “servant” and can be used of any servant (Ephesians 6:21; 1 Corinthians 3:5, etc.). But in Acts 6:1-6 a group of men were officially designated as servers/deacons for a specific physical need in the Jerusalem church. Later, Paul used the word “deacon” in the official sense of a church office and described their qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13). So it seems that deacons are formally established as church officers. They are to assure particularly that the physical needs of the church body are met.
2. What are a deacon’s qualifications?
“Good reputation” – same as elder
“Spiritual” – men who consistently walk in the Spirit’s control
“Wise” – same as elder
“Dignified” – same as elder
“Not double-tongued” – honest, not telling conflicting stories
“Not addicted to much wine” – same as elder
“Not fond of sordid gain” – parallel to elder
“Holding to the mystery of the faith” – parallel to elder
“Beyond reproach” – same as elder
“Husband of one wife” – same as elder
“Good managers of their children and household – parallel to elder
- Also, deacon’s wives must be “dignified, not malicious gossips, temperate and faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11). These are probably “deacon’s wives” and not “deaconesses” since their qualifications are found in the middle of the deacon’s qualifications. Also, Phoebe (Romans 16:1), is called a “deaconess” or “servant” and not an officially designated officer.
3. What are a deacon’s duties?
There is only the general indication that deacons serve to meet physical needs to free up other spiritual leaders to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). But that does not limit deacons. They have spiritual qualifications and may have other spiritual gifts for significant personal ministry. One deacon, Philip, was an outstanding evangelist and preacher (Acts 8:4-8; 21:8). Stephen, another deacon, is noted for his faith and his preaching (Acts 6:5; 6:8-7:60).
1. Approximately one-fourth of the Bible was prophetic when it was written. Some of it has been fulfilled already. (Daniel foretold the kingdoms of Persia, Greece and Rome. David , Isaiah, Micah and others predicted the birth, life and death of Christ, etc.) But prophecy is obviously a major portion of scripture. Much of it remains unfulfilled as yet.
2. This brief study attempts to lay out the ground rules of interpreting Bible prophecy and to deal with some of the major passages and events.
3. This study will be aided by the use of the following chart.
I. Key principles for understanding Bible prophecy
A. Interpret prophecy in a normal, literal way.
1. Incorrect – The Allegorical Method
The alternative to a literal interpretation of prophecy is “allegorizing.” This view holds that often the real fulfillment of prophecy is not literal but rather some deeper “spiritual” meaning. For example, this view would say that the Millennium (Revelation 20:2,4,6,7) is not a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth in the future but rather it is the “spiritual” rule of Christ on earth now.
2. Correct – The Literal Method
If God’s Word says something about the future, it will literally happen. There may be symbols in the prophecy, but the symbols are predicting literal truth (see below).
B. Understand some basic ground rules
1. Symbols – Symbols represent a literal truth. For example, God gave Daniel a symbolic vision of 4 beasts (a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a “dreadful” beast – Daniel 7). An angel told him they represented 4 kingdoms. It’s clear now they referred to the consecutive kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.
2. Compare a prophecy with other prophecies – By comparing similar prophecies the meanings become more clear. For example, by comparing Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4 and Matthew 24:15, we know that the “Abomination of Desolation” is when the Anti-Christ will break a peace promise to the Jews in the middle of the 7-year Tribulation and will demand to be worshipped. One passage alone doesn’t always tell the whole story.
3. Varied time element – Future events are not always in the future tense. For example, “Unto us a Son is born, etc.” (Isaiah 9:6). Isaiah spoke in the present tense but we know it refers to the birth of Christ which was then in the future. Another caution is that sometimes a prophecy may run together several events without specifying that time gaps will divide them (see Isaiah 11:1-4 – Christ’s 1st and 2nd comings).
4. Double fulfillment – Some prophecies have 2 distinct fulfillments. For example, Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled by the birth of a child in 744 B.C. as a sign to King Ahaz as well as by the birth of Christ in 5 B.C. (Matthew 1:23).
C. Distinguish between Israel and the church
1. God made some remarkable promises to Israel about their future.
Davidic Covenant – God promised a “new covenant” time when Israel would have a changed heart of devotion to God and their sin would be forgiven (Jeremiah 31:31).
2. Some believe that these promises will not be fulfilled literally to the nation of Israel. They believe that because of Israel’s repeated disobedience God has now somehow “spiritually” transferred these promises to church age believers. But each of the key covenants (promises) were unconditional in nature. They were God’s promise and they had no strings attached.
3. A person’s view of whether God’s many promises will actually be fulfilled to the nation of Israel leads to several very different views of the future.
a. The literal view – Premillennialism
The Millennium (Revelation 20:1-9) is when Christ will reign over Israel on earth and the Old Testament promises will be literally fulfilled. This view (diagrammed below) is “pre-millennial” because Christ returns before the millennium begins.
b. The non-literal views
This view deals with the many unfulfilled promises to Israel in different ways. The millennium is not interpreted literally. Two major views of the millennium have arisen.
By following the normal literal interpretation of scripture (which is basic to understanding all of the Bible), we arrive at a premillennial view of the future. Therefore, we have a basic timeline sketch:
God began something special with Israel in the Old Testament (Genesis 12). He will complete His plan for them (Romans 9-11 is the key New Testament passage teaching this truth). We today live in the interval between God’s special dealings with Israel (Romans 11:1,25).
God said Israel would return to the land (Isaiah 11:11,12). The “Zionist” movement of Jews returning to Israel since 1897 seems to be significant preparation for the “end times” scenario. In 1947 Israel became a recognized state. In 1967, in the 6-day war, Israel gained 4 times as much land as before including Jerusalem. The continued conflict in the Middle East seems to be the mere beginning of the key role that the Bible says Israel will have during the coming Tribulation and Millennium. Before the 20th century, postmillennialists and amillennialists could scoff at the idea of a literal Israel receiving its Old Testament promises. Today those promises look more and more realistic. (Note: We should be careful not to say, however, that Israel is actually fulfilling Old Testament prophecy yet. It’s still the church age. Israel is coming back in unbelief and not in recognition of the Messiah. That’s later. But God is “putting the props in place.”)
II. The “70 weeks” of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27)
Introduction – The prophecy of the “70 weeks” of Daniel 9:24-27 are significant because it can explain the existence of the church age as a “parenthesis” between the two parts of God’s plan for Israel. Sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy were fulfilled literally. The 70th week will be also but it hasn’t been fulfilled yet. So we live in the gap between those fulfillments. The prophecy of the “70 weeks” also lays an Old Testament foundation for the major emphasis in Revelation on the 7-year Tribulation (see below).
A. Overview chart
B. Explanation of the “70 weeks” (Daniel 9:24-27)
a. Daniel was in captivity in Babylon.
b. The kingdom of Babylon had been taken over by the Medes (Daniel 5:30 cf. 9:1).
d. He fasted and prayed to find out what God would do next (Daniel 9:3-19).
e. An angel appeared with the answer (Daniel 9:20 ff).
2. Verse 24 - “70 weeks” = a period of time in which 6 things will take place
a. “finish transgression” – Israel will stop forsaking God
b. “end of sin” – Their sin will be judged (The end of Judah’s 70-year captivity accomplished these first 2.)
c. “atonement for iniquity” – Christ’s death on the cross
d. “bring in everlasting righteousness” – The righteous millennial kingdom begins
e. “seal up vision and prophecy” – Prophetic signs cease (Millennium)
f. “anoint holy place” – The holy place restored (Millennium)
What are the 70 weeks?
Literally the word “weeks” is “sevens.” But the question remains whether a “seven” is seven “days” or seven “years.” Seventy “sevens” of days would equal 15 months. That doesn’t fit the prophecy at all. But seventy “sevens” of years equals 490 years. That we will see fits the prophecy precisely.
How long are the years?
Daniel is figuring in terms of “prophetic years.” That means years which are 360 days long. The Jews did not use 365 day solar years. Actually they used 12 lunar months of about 29 days each (which required adding an extra month occasionally). Sometimes that was rounded off to 360 day years as in the flood chronology (150 days = 5 months – Genesis 7:11,24; 8:3,4). In Revelation it is clear that 360 day years are used because 1260 days = 42 months = 3 years (Revelation 13:4-7; 12:13,14; 12:6). Likewise Daniel uses 360 day years.
3. Verse 25
The starting point of this prophecy is “the decree to rebuild Jerusalem.” This refers to King Artaxerxes’ decree on March 5, 444 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8). The ending point of the prophecy is “until Messiah the Prince.” This refers to Christ’s Triumphal Entry on March 30, A.D. 33. Daniel says that will take 69 (7 = 62) “weeks” of years. It comes out to the day (69 x 7 x 360 = 173,880 days)! The 483 “prophetic years” (or 476 solar years plus the 25 days between March 5 and March 30) is the exact time from Artaxerses’ decree until the Triumphal Entry.
4. Verse 26 - “after the 62 weeks” (after the 7 also)
a. “Messiah cut off” – Christ crucified
b. “people of the prince to come will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (temple)”
“people” = Romans
“prince” = Antichrist – head of a revived Roman Empire (In A.D. 70 the Romans destroyed Jerusalem)
- The 70th week doesn’t follow immediately. Why? Because at least these 2 things happened after the 69th week (v.26) and before the 70th (v.27).
- There is a time gap between the 69th and the 70th week. (v.24-26 – History) (v.27 – Future)
- The rapture will end the time gap and God’s program for the Jew will continue in the seven-year Tribulation.
5. Verse 27
“he” – the prince that is to come – Antichrist
“covenant” – a treaty
“with the many” = the Jews; the 70 weeks prophecy has to do with the Jews.
“one week” = 7 years
“but in the middle” – Antichrist will break the treaty he made allowing Jews in the Tribulation religious freedom after 3 1/2 years.
“until a complete destruction” – The destruction of the Antichrist by Christ’s own judgments in the last half of the tribulation and at His coming in judgment at the end (cf. Matthew 24:27; Revelation 19:11-16).
The first 69 weeks were literally fulfilled.
We today live in a time gap between the 69th and 70th weeks. This is the church age.
We can be certain that the 70th week – the 7-year Tribulation – will be literally fulfilled as well.
III. The Rapture
The rapture is Christ’s return to take believers to heaven with Him. Pretribulationalism is the view that this event may occur at any moment (imminent). Thus it is before (pre) the 7-year Tribulation. The key passages teaching about the rapture are John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
The word “rapture” is not in the Bible except that it comes from that Latin word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 translated in English as “caught up.” So the “rapture” describes well the event of Christ returning to catch up living and dead church age believers to take them to heaven.
A. John 14:1-3 - The expectation of the rapture is based on the explicit promise of Christ. “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to Myself.”
1. The rapture is for all church age believers, dead or living.
“We shall not all sleep (die) but we shall all be changed (transformed bodies at the rapture – see below), (15:51).
2. The rapture will bring an instantaneous change.
“The dead will be raised imperishable” – a glorified body (15:52).
“and we (living believers) will be changed” – a glorified body (15:52).
1. Christ will personally return. “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven” (4:16).
2. Church age believers who have died will be raised. “The dead in Christ shall rise first” (4:16).
3. Church age believers who have not died will be “raptured” – physically taken to heaven. “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (resurrected believers) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17).
4. We will be together with the Lord and with believing loved ones. “And then we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:17,18; cf. 4:13).
1. The rapture is the next prophetic event to take place. We do not know when it will happen. The expectation of Paul was that it could happen at any time.
2. Some premillenialists disagree. They say that the rapture will not be before the tribulation but some other time. A supplement, “The Rapture Debate” (by the present author) is available for a discussion of the issue and support for the “Pretribulational rapture” position.
IV. The Tribulation
The Tribulation is the 7-year period time in which God brings intense judgment upon the world. But at the same time God is bringing unbelieving Jews to turn to Christ as Savior. Both the judgment and salvation aspects occur throughout the 7-year span but both aspects culminate in the return of Christ at the end. He will destroy unbelievers in judgment (Revelation 19:11-21) but will rescue the many Jews who turn to Him (Zechariah 12:1-10).
B. The Beginning of the Tribulation
The Tribulation period officially begins when the Antichrist (also called the “man of sin” or the “beast” – the leader of a 10-nation confederation – Daniel 7:23-25) makes a treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27). The treaty is evidently a peace treaty in which the 10-nation confederation and Israel become allies and Israel is promised protection to reestablish the rituals of Judaism (Daniel 9:27).
The rapture will have occurred just before this – closing the church age. The “gap” between Daniel’s 69th & 70th week must be complete before the “70th week” begins.
C. The First 3 years of the Tribulation
1. Israel in the first 3 years
a. Israel will have relative peace in the first 3 years (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
b. During those years 144,000 Jews will be “sealed” (Revelation 7:1-8). Perhaps this means they will be saved and “protected” by God to serve as evangelists.
2. The World in the first 3 years
a. God will bring terrible judgment upon the world through natural and personal means (The six seal judgments – Revelation 6).
b. God will judge the king of the North.
c. Key passage – Ezekiel 38,39
Ezekiel 37 – Israel is restored as a nation and prospers.
Ezekiel 38 & 39 – Gog and Magog (= Russia geographically 38:2) and other allies (Turkey, Iran, North Sudan, Libya geographically – 38:5) plan to plunder Israel’s wealth (38:8-13). But God plans to glorify Himself (38:14-16). He does that by destroying the northern power (38:17-39:8).
D. The Midpoint of the Tribulation
2. Two “witnesses” serve the Lord with a unique ministry of prophecy and miraculous judgments (Revelation 11:3-6). After 3 years their ministry is complete and they are killed by the antichrist (11:3,7-10). They are then raised by God and ascend to heaven in full view of the world (11:11-13).
E. The Last 3 years of the Tribulation
1. Israel in the last 3 years
b. The effect of the ministry of the 144,000 is that there are a multitude of tribulation martyrs (believers) from every racial and geographic group (Revelation 7:9-17).
c. The World in the last 3 years
e. Politically the major world powers are in turmoil. The tribulation period climaxes with a series of battles which are called the “campaign” of Armageddon (Revelation 16:14). The movements are traced on the supplemental Tribulation Chart.
F. The End of the Tribulation – Christ’s Return
1. In the political aspect of Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation He destroys and judges all of Israel’s enemies (actually all unbelievers) as He returns (Zechariah 12:1-9; 14:1-4; Revelation 19:11-18).
2. The spiritual aspect of Christ’s return concerns Israel, who will be in desperation physically (militarily). The “sign of the Son of Man” (Christ) will appear (Matthew 24:29-31). As Christ then fights for Israel, they will turn to Christ in mass and believe in Him. God will pour out a “spirit of grace and supplication” (Zechariah 12:9-10a) and they will acknowledge Christ as their Savior/Messiah (Zechariah 12:10b cf. Ezekiel 37:14; 23-28). This begins the fulfillment of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Romans 11:26,27).
V. The Millennium
Revelation 20:1-6 tells us that the Millennium is a literal 1,000 year period of time in which Satan is bound (20:2,3) and Christ rules (20:4). This is a literal kingdom with Christ on the throne. It is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant which promised such a king and kingdom (2 Samuel 7:16). It will also fulfill the spiritual promises of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33) and the physical promises of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:18).
B. Significant Issues
1. What is the purpose of the Millennium?
a. Like every other dispensation (Age of the Law, Age of Grace, etc.), God’s purpose is to test fallen humanity. The Millennium is the final dispensation. There will be ideal circumstances (see below). Christ will be visibly present and Satan will be bound (Revelation 20:1-6). Yet when Satan is released at the end of the 1,000 years, he will be able to quickly gather masses of people from all nations to fight Christ (Revelation 20:7-10). So man is proven a failure again.
b. The other major purpose of God is to fulfill His promises to Israel. They will be God’s privileged people in ideal circumstances (see below).
c. Who will live on earth in the Millennium?
The millennium, according to Old Testament prophecies, will be enjoyed by literal Jews in normal human bodies (Isaiah 65:23; Jeremiah 30:20; Zechariah 10:7,8). Who are these Jews? They are the same people who turn to Christ as Messiah at His return at the end of the Tribulation (Zechariah 14:1-11, 16-21). Jesus urged those future Jews who will live in the Tribulation to flee and hide so that they will survive (Matthew 24:13, 16-22). The people who are “left” after the judgment of Christ (Matthew 24:41) are those who begin the Millennium in the normal bodies and populate the earth.
2. Where will church age believers be?
Since the rapture and resurrection have occurred we will already have glorified resurrection bodies. In that new state we don’t need the testing of the Millennium. We’re already righteous (1 John 3:2). The Millennium on earth is designed for God to bless the Jews, not the church. We will be in “heaven” – specifically in the “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:1-27:5; “The bride, the wife of the Lamb” – 21:9,10. A the supplemental chart, “How Eternity Begins” is available by the present author).
C. Government in the Millennium
3. Everyone on earth will know of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9). There will be no atheists even among the rebellious unbelievers.
4. Gentile nations will serve Israel. Christ the king will not tolerate any oppression of Israel (Isaiah 49:22-26).
D. Conditions in the Millennium
1. The land will “blossom like a rose” (Isaiah 35:1,2)
2. The animals will be at peace with each other (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25).
3. Sickness and deformity will be gone (Isaiah 33:24; 35:3-6).
5. Life spans will no longer be limited as they are now. Sin will be the reason why people die (Isaiah 65:19,20).
VI. The Eternal State
A. What is the eternal state?
In one sense the “eternal state” begins for a believer when he or she dies. A
church age believer is “with the Lord” immediately upon death (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). The next stage of our eternal state is when we are resurrected and receive glorified bodies. For church age saints this happens at the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Old Testament saints and Tribulation martyrs are resurrected at Christ’s return (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-6). During the millennium on earth, resurrected saints are really in their eternal state already (“The New Jerusalem” – Revelation 21:1-22:5). Millennial believers evidently enter the eternal state after the millennium is over (Revelation 22:1-5,14).
In brief the eternal state is the condition that will apply to believers throughout eternity. It is “heaven.” The following section describes those conditions.
B. What is the eternal state like?
2. It’s a life of rest (Revelation 14:13).
4. It’s a life of serving God (Revelation 22:3).
5. It’s a life of joy (no pain, death or tears – Revelation 21:4).
6. It’s a life of satisfaction (“water of life” – Revelation 21:6; 22:17).
8. It’s a life of worship (Revelation 7:9-12; 19:1-6).