Ask Steve: Genesis 1-11: Fact or Fiction?

January 28, 2015 12:23 am

















Question: Do you believe that the events described in Genesis 1-11 are historically factual or symbolic? Why?

Answer: The historicity of Genesis 1-11 is often debated by secular humanists, which in turn has influenced the thinking of many evangelicals since the early 20th century. There are two popular thoughts concerning evolution: 1. an unknowable force brought about life through the process of evolution (atheistic evolution), and 2. God used the process of evolution to bring about life as we speak (theistic evolution).

If this is true, then what can be said about the events portrayed in Genesis 1-11? Is the Bible wrong? Or does this section meant to be figurative – verbal expressions are not meant to be taken literally, but are employed to communicate the higher purpose of a story or lesson? Despite what humanists and liberal scholars theorize, I believe Genesis 1-11 is meant to be taken historically, which means that the section speaks about true events that happened at the beginning of world history. There are a few good reasons to support this view.

Genesis 2The first reason is that it is presupposed by the integrity of Scripture. If God exists and He had given His special revelation to us (which is timelessly binding on all humans), then that document (the Bible) can only speak truth, since God is truth (Jn 1:14; 17:17). Genesis 1-11 reveals the historicity of the 7-Day creation account, Adam and Eve, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Some argue that this section of the book is symbolic, or even poetry. However, this theory cannot be verified. The genre of the book of Genesis is historical narrative, which means that the whole book (including Genesis 1-11) is meant to be taken as history. There is also no identifiable difference of writing style between Genesis 1-11 and 12-50 that would categorize one as a totally different genre from another. To deny Genesis 1-11 while affirming the general historicity of Genesis 12-50 is to have a strong anti-supernatural stance (and possibly even a bias against the universal depravity depicted in Gen 1-11). However, if we believe that God exists and is omnipotent, then we should logically conclude that He can perform supernatural deeds, which includes creating the world and even overriding the fixed order of the universe if He so chooses.

The second reason to affirm the historicity of Genesis 1-11 is that it attests to the way that God meant Scriptures to be read and understood for both salvation and sanctification. Psalm 119:130 states, “The unfolding of your word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” The Bible is meant to be understood by even the simplest of people so they can obey it. Its meaning cannot be so esoteric, or be relative according to the times and cultures, that the simple-minded is required to go to a learning institution in order to decipher its meaning. When read based on the normal sense of the language, Genesis 1-11 clearly reveals the historicity of creation, the Fall, the Flood, the long life spans of people, and the Tower incident. This attests to the integrity of the grammatical-historical hermeneutics, which is the method that Christians use to interpret all of Scripture. We come to understand the intended meaning of the Bible by the logical rules of grammar in the text and the historical and cultural contexts in which those words were penned. The result is a Bible that reveals its meaning in the normal, obvious sense, and has principles whose meaning to the original recipients are binding and understood by all generations. In other words, the Bible communicates literal truth, and not allegory (or at least allegory that is not explicitly explained by the authors of the text).

Genesis 3As with other texts or principles in the Bible, Genesis 1-11 has only one meaning and intention, which is to communicate the beginnings of life. This is the way the Israelites in Moses’ time understood this text, since there was no indication from other texts in the Old Testament, New Testament, or apocryphal writings that the Israelites and other biblical figures understood the world to be made through an evolutionary process. To claim that God perfected the world through evolution and hid this truth from Moses (because the evolution concept was too “difficult for them to grasp at the time”) is to cast suspicion on God’s truthfulness and even the Bible’s perspicuity. How likely is it that such important truths are unexplained to godly men like Moses but providentially revealed to God-hating atheists like Charles Darwin? The fact that the theory of evolution has done more damage than good to the cause of the gospel (since it is supported and lived out by many non-believers) is already a serious indicator of its erroneousness.

Even the meaning of the Sabbath in the 4th Commandment is based on the creation account. Because God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th day, the Israelites were expected to honor this creation account as part of their allegiance to Yahweh. The 4th Commandment would have no real meaning apart from the historicity of the creation events. Such a command for the Israelites would be quite mysterious, if not arbitrary.

A third reason to understand Genesis 1-11 is based on empirical observations. Skeptics claim that the world evolved through billions of years, and that there was never such an event as a worldwide flood or the scattering from Babel. Once again, such claims are based on the presupposition that there is no such thing as the supernatural, which includes God and all He is capable of doing. If evolution is true, then life in the world should continually be evolving into a better, more beautiful, and more advanced state. That is not what we see today, as we observe the order and beauty of this world degrading and running out of usable energy. This is the 2nd law of thermodynamics – that all things in the world tend to go from order to disorder, and not the other way around. Just the fact that there are no verifiable evidence that evolution is happening right now, that cells mutate drastically as to change into another species, or that life arises instantaneously from non-life, is an indicator that life must have been come from a first Cause who designed it the world in a certain manner. The Bible reveals that God created everything ex nihilo (out of nothing) (Gen 1), according to its own kind (Gen 1:12; 24), and instantaneously in order to demonstrate His power, glory, and purposes for people. In fact, God revealed this truth to Moses so that the Israelites would understand which God it is that created the world, how He did it, and why He did it so they could understand the truth of God, sin, tribes and languages, and God’s redemptive promises for mankind.

The historical accounts in Genesis 1-11 is reasonable in many different ways. If there was no God who created the world in 6-days and rested on the 7th, why does the world run on a weekly cycle of 7 days (in which people find it an inclination to typically rest one day from work)? Why is the world created good, but there is evil and suffering in it? Why is there such thing as death and not everlasting life? Can this be explained by the fall of Adam and the consequent curse? Why are there fossil records all over the world, even on mountaintops? Can this be explained by a worldwide flood which speaks of God’s judgment on the sinful world? Why are there flood accounts in many early traditions of Middle Eastern and Asian cultures? Does this point to the ancestors’ familiarity with a global flood, which people kept as an oral tradition from the time of the flood to the Tower of Babel? Why are there various languages in the world? How did they originate (instead of just one language to unite all communication between mankind)? Is this an indication of the historicity of Babel and God’s judgment on the sinful pride of man by creating disunity in language and scattering the people worldwide?

The final reason for the historicity of Genesis 1-11 is the theological issue. If the skeptic’s analysis of Genesis 1-11 is true, then most major doctrines of the Christian faith is distorted. If man was not created by God, but evolved, then who exactly is Adam? Was there really such thing as a fall and entrance of universal sin? If Adam was one of many Neanderthal men who evolved over time, does this mean that only Adam’s line fell into sin while the other Neanderthal were unaffected by sin? Of course, this poses problems to the gospel message and the necessity of Jesus’ atonement on the whole human race. If Adam was not a real person, who is to say that Jesus was real either. If the original man did not fall into sin, then who is to say that we need the righteousness that Jesus provides through His death and resurrection? This would make the Apostle Paul’s theological treatise of Adam and Jesus to be utterly vain (Rom 8:12-20), since they don’t correspond with reality. If the historical creation account were not true, then who is to say that marriage is exclusively between man and women (Gen 2), or that marriage must be lifelong? If the Tower of Babel incident is not historical, then what is the real significance of Pentecost (Acts 2) – an event in which Peter spoke in various world languages that indicated God’s desire to bring together what He once scattered through those same languages?

Much more can be said to prove the legitimacy of Genesis 1-11. But the real issue (for both skeptics and professing Christians) is submitting to the Lordship of Christ. Are you submitting to God’s word and His rule, or are you caving into academic respectability and cultural relevance? Are you desiring to obey God or be a man-pleaser? To deny the historicity of Genesis 1-11 poses theological problems and strikes at the foundation of God’s word. If one gets Genesis (the beginning of the book) wrong, then there is no telling how much more he will get the other parts of the Bible wrong. This is why it is important for Scripture be the interpreter of life’s mysteries, and not the other way around. True science and history will also be validated by the words of Scripture, as many historical discoveries have attested. The problem is not the clarity of Scripture, but sin in men’s hearts, which leads to distrust of God and compromise with the world’s system.

Recommended Resource: The Battle for the Beginning by John MacArthur

Ask Steve: Divorce and Remarriage

January 11, 2015 10:43 pm

Divorce 1











Question: Steve, what is your view of divorce and remarriage? How strictly will you follow this view in practice?

Answer: Divorce and remarriage is a popular, if not touchy, subject in the world today. Societies try to redefine the moral boundaries of divorce and remarriage, as if the standard is entirely based on the person’s emotional preference or life circumstance. However, the Bible has definitive teachings on this matter, which no man can change. Marriage, divorce, and remarriage are defined by God. Therefore, to go against God’s timeless principles as it regards divorce and remarriage would constitute sin – a rebellion against God’s intentional order.

My view on divorce and remarriage is what I believe God’s word teaches about this matter – that it is permissible, but in limited circumstances. The Lord directly states in Malachi 2:16, “I hate divorce.” It is evident since the book of Genesis that God intended marriage between a man and a woman to be lifelong. It is not in God’s desire that marriages end in divorce, especially sinful divorce. Jesus the Son of God affirms this when He answers the Pharisees’ question concerning the legitimacy of divorce: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh…What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt 19:5-6).

However, this does not mean that divorce is not permitted or sanctioned under any circumstance. In the same passage, Jesus provides a helpful commentary on the ancient Mosaic practice of a husband writing a certificate of divorce and sending his wife away (v. 7). Christ explains that Moses did not command or encourage that a husband divorce his wife after her unfaithful act or habit. Rather, Moses merely permitted it as a last-resort response to the spouse’s hardened heart. In other words, divorce (and remarriage) have been permitted by the Lord to accommodate to certain occurrences that happen as a result of living in a fallen, sin-cursed earth. Jesus teaches that a man cannot divorce his wife unless she has committed physical adultery or vice versa (v. 9). A person who divorces his spouse (without the proper biblical reason) and marries another woman is guilty of committing adultery (v. 9), because the marriage pact of the original couple is still divinely intact, no matter if the world separates them by a legal divorce.

Divorce 2Other sections of Scripture comment on the biblical legality of remarriage. Divorce is permitted if an unbelieving, unrepentant spouse wants to separate from the Christian spouse (1 Cor 7:15), although the Christian should attempt to keep the marriage intact if possible, for the sake of God’s design of marriage. In any case, the Christian should not be the one to initiate the divorce from the unbelieving spouse, especially if the unbeliever wants to keep the marriage binding (1 Cor 7:12). As the passage states, “…if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband…”

If the Christian has no choice but to agree to the legal divorce because the unbeliever cannot tolerate the spouse’s faith, then it is permissible for the Christian to let the unbelieving spouse go for the sake of peace in the family (Rom 12:18). In this situation, the Christian can either remain single and devote his life/her life exclusively to the service of Christ (v. 34-35) or he can remarry, but only to another Christian (v. 39-40). In fact, the marrying option was encouraged for widows who continually burn in their desire for a man (1 Tim 5:17), especially if it is evident that they have a greater desire for marriage than an exclusive, full-time service to the Lord in ministry.

Finally, remarriage is legitimate if the spouse dies. As Romans 3:3 says, “So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.” In this case, the spouse is freed from the spiritual liabilities and penalties of God’s law in marriage, since the statutes of marriage are only binding for this life. Marriage is not intended to go into eternity, but ends at death. The purpose of marriage is that it points to a greater reality: Christ. The picture of marriage is ultimately fulfilled in the final marriage between Christ (the groom) and the church (the bridge) (Eph 5:26-27; Rev 19:9). In fact, the entire gospel (man’s salvation and union with Christ) explains the mystery behind the human institution of marriage.

Divorce 3Why is there such thing as marriage in the world? Why is marriage supposed to be between man and woman? Why is marriage supposed to be lifelong? Why does marriage involve festivities? Why is marriage exclusive, in which partners cannot seek other “loves” outside of the two-party union? Because it is modeled on the future covenant between Christ and the church. The picture on earth is a type that points to the future heavenly reality. We see God’s faithfulness to the elect in that those who are saved by faith will not fall away from His forgiving grace, no matter how much Christians have sinned after their justification. In other words, Christ does not “divorce” or cast off those whom He has elected and justified. We see the picture of the marriage in heaven between Christ and the church (Rev 19:9), in which Christ promises to be their God, and they His people, forever.

This is the reason why marriage is to be permanent. Marriages cannot be broken because a husband is “bored” with his wife, desires a more compatible mate, or even because of constant conflicts or domestic abuses. “Irreconcilable differences” does not fit the biblical permission for divorce. Remarriage is only permitted when the spouse is unfaithful, dies, or the unbelieving partner leaves. Other reasons for remarriage are not permitted in the Bible.

Some dilemmas typically arise with these mandates. One of the prevalent reasons that people divorce is incompatibility or domestic abuse. Many see this as a legitimate reason to divorce. However, the Bible does not entertain this reason. The principles in Scripture are timeless and do not change based on unique circumstances. If a wife is suffering abuse from her husband, the most appropriate course of action is to seek biblical counseling for the marriage and/or enter into a period of separation (not divorce) from her husband for safety’s sake. She is to pray that the Lord would bring her husband to saving faith or repentance from his actions. If he repents, then reconciliation and healing takes place. If he does not repent and files for divorce (which demonstrates that he might not truly be a believer), then she is not obligated to remain with him. Remember, the Christian should not be the one to sin and initiate the divorce, but to do what is right and trusting in the Lord’s providence.

Another popular situation involves a person who becomes Christian after he has been divorced from his wife. Should he pursue reconciliation with his wife? What if she is an unbeliever? Though the man’s past sins (including unjust divorce) have been forgiven through his salvation in Christ (Acts 2:38; Col 1:14), he should still do what most honors the Lord and upholds the testimony of the gospel message. He is free to remarry another Christian woman, but he should seek to reconcile with his wife if it is possible. Even if she is an unbeliever, it is more appropriate to first pursue marriage amendments with her. If that reconciliation is not possible because she adamantly declines or she has remarried and/or started a new family with another person, then the Christian is under no obligation anymore in God’s law to pursue reconciliation with the former spouse (1 Cor 7:15), but is free to remarry. This same principle applies in the case of newly converted Christian women attempting to seek reconciliation with her unbelieving husband.

Another question that is typically asked, “Should I keep the marriage intact even if my adulterous wife genuinely repents?” Even though adultery provides the legitimate grounds for divorce, we must keep in mind that God’s intention from the very beginning is that marriages remain intact, since He hates divorce. Therefore, if an adulterous spouse genuinely repents from his/her actions, it is better to forgive, pursue reconciliation, and keep the marriage together. I say this not only for the peace of the family (including the children), but because such display of grace and mercy brilliantly captures the grace that Christ shows to His church (even when we sin in multiple ways against Him everyday, some of which includes idolatry).

Since Christ promises to commit to Christians until the end, so should we toward our spouse, even in severe times of conflicts. The preservation of the marriage, in the spirit of love, testifies to the grace that God provides for marriage, and is a sound testimony to the gospel itself. We love our wives and serve them selflessly (despite their difficulties) because Christ loved us (despite our daily disobedience to Him). We stay with them to the very end because Christ promises to be with His church to the very end.

My convictions regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage impacts how I teach this principle and counsel others who are not living out the biblical guidelines concerning divorce and remarriage. Because these principles are grounded in God’s revealed will, it will be the basis for which I conduct marriages and remarriages. It will be the standard for which I advise couples concerning divorce.

Recommended Resource: God, Marriage, & Family by Andreas Kostenberger

Ask Steve: What Characterizes a Great Theologian?

January 4, 2015 5:46 pm



Currently Reading:

Uneclipsing the Son

by Rick Holland

Category: Christian Living

2011, Kress Biblical Resources





Question: Steve, I am slowly becoming familiar with such great church theologians as Clement, Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Martin Lloyd Jones? Can you explain to me what characterizes a great theologian (in contrast to a poor one)?

Answer: Theology comes from the Greek word theos (God) and logia (words, oracles, sayings). Theology is basically the study of God, which includes the study of man, life, purpose, and other importance doctrines of the Christian faith. A theologian is a man who is involved in the science of spiritual studies. He not only understands the things of God, but skillfully teaches it and knows how to apply it.

Because all Christians are commanded to know the truth of Scripture in order to grow in Christlikeness, we are all called, to some degree, to be theologians. We should make it a life’s mission to study the things of God in order to know and obey Him. However, there are Christians who are theologians vocationally (whether pastor, writer, or professor) and become of major influence to the Christian community, and even church history, in understanding who God is and what He requires of us. He seeks to make the entire Bible known to us so that we can better understand the depth of God’s word.

There are a few factors that characterize a great theologian:

Integrity. As with any vocation in the Christian faith, a great theologian must be one who is a man of God. He must be saved and filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18). The filling of the Holy Spirit is the means by which He is experiencing great sanctification, which leads to a life of holiness. If the man is continually grieving the Holy Spirit and is living a debauched lifestyle, he does not qualify as a great theologian, no matter how much he knows. The man whom God uses in this field must be an exemplary theologian who not only teaches theology, but does theology with his life.

Knowledge. A great theologian must have a near encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and key doctrines of Christianity. Because a theologian is essentially a teacher of God’s word gifted to the local and/or universal church (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11), he must be able to understand the word of God, explain its meaning, and apply it to everyday life. A theologian should have the gift of knowledge (1 Cor 12:28), or else he would be bereft of the ability to know Scripture enough to explain and teach it.

Accuracy. A great theologian must have a truthful understanding of what the Bible says. Even if the theologian errs in minor or undeveloped parts of Scripture (ex. the destination of OT saints before Christ, the exact timing or nature of the kingdom of God), he must be able to discern all the major teachings of Scripture, which includes soteriology, ecclesiology, missiology, and, to some degree, eschatology. In other words, a great theologian should have the gift of discernment (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor 2:14), distinguishing between truth and error as much as possible, in order to be a good teacher of God’s word.

Insight. A great theologian has deep insights into the word of God. He does not merely restate what the Bible says or make general observations about God or the matters of the Christian faith. The great theologian understands the theology behind passages or verses in the Bible. He understands the original languages, cultural and historical contexts, and divine principles of the passage based on careful exegesis, and exposits it skillfully in order that we better understand the word of God. A great theologian can exposit a text and articulate doctrine that clearly explores, defines, and defends the Christian faith. A great theologian’s exploration of the Bible is profoundly deep but understandable, thought provoking but not esoteric, unique but not heretical, brilliant and not dull.

Defense. A great theologian defends the Christian faith against attackers, from both the secular world and professing evangelicalism. In other words, a great theologian is also an apologist. Studying and understanding Scripture theoretically leads the theologian to understand truth and error. Scripture commands the teacher of God to rebuke error and defend the faith (2 Cor 10:5; Jd 1:3), since the devil seeks to destroy the Christian faith, especially through distorting God’s truth. There are many Christians who teach God’s love, the beauties of salvation, and the benefits of Christian living, yet hardly speak on the dangers of heretics and compromise with the world. A great theologian does not ignore the world and the church’s battles. In fact, most of the doctrines we hold to this day (ex. Trinity, total depravity, justification by faith) were defined by great theologians who stood for the integrity of God’s word in the midst of concerted efforts to distort it.

Response. A great theologian is able to produce work that elicits response. I do not mean a response to the theologian’s great talent, but a response to the word of God. Does the theologian’s work cause men to love God more? A theologian can state facts or systematic theology of the Bible, but these things alone do not necessarily transform men or cause them to want to worship God. The question is, Does it cause believers to worship the Lord better because of a deepened understanding of men’s sin, the gospel of Christ, and the consummation of God’s plans for history? If the theologian’s work does not compel Christians to seek God in salvation or sanctification based on the greatness and wonders of God’s character, then he is not a great theologian. A great theologian’s work will influence many towards spirit and truth worship (Jn 4:24), and is usually used by other Christians in their teaching ministry or personal devotions.

These are some of the few main attributes of a great theologian. Authors, life inspiration teachers, pastors, and seminary professors may know much about the Bible and obey it, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a great theologian. In fact, there are many in the last 2,000 years of church history who were characterized as theologians. But there are theologians in the past and present who are known for teaching false doctrines (especially in core issues of the Christian faith), do not have an accurate understanding of Scripture, attack the trustworthiness of Scripture instead of defending it, and do not elicit a response of obedience for and awe of God from the audience. However, a great theologian will do as the commands teachers to do (understand the faith, explain the faith, defend the faith, exhort in the faith, and live out the faith).

This is what characterized fine theologians of the past like Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, Thomas Aquinas, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, George Whitefield, and what characterizes great theologians of the present like J.I. Packer, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Norman Geisler, and John Piper.

The Doctrine of Hell: Eternal, Annihilation, or Restoration?

December 29, 2014 2:03 am

Hell 3









Question: What is the biblical teaching about hell? Is it never, forever, of just for a while? Who is it reserved for?

Answer: The doctrine of hell is one of the most difficult ones to fathom. It is so unimaginable and frightening that it has caused many liberal Christians (and even some conservatives) and heretical groups (ex. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses) to redefine this teaching according to their preference and reason. However, hell is one of the most important doctrines in Scripture because it is directly related to the gospel message. Any tampering, miscommunication, or misunderstanding of this teaching is a serious offense to God’s revealed word, and may even reveal a professing Christian to be a false teacher, if not a false convert.

The debated question concerning the duration of hell is, “Is it never, forever, or just for a while?” Based on the grammatical-historical (literal) method of interpreting Scripture, the most obvious answer is that is it forever. Eternal. The Old Testament, the New Testament, and the greatest theologians in church history attest to this view of hell, not because it is the most emotionally preferred or pleasurable view, but because it is evident in accordance with the perspicuity of Scripture. The Bible speaks clearly and understandably on this issue. Although the eternal nature of such torment is hard to fathom (as is other concepts in the Bible such as the Trinity, God’s unconditional election), it does not make it any less true. We must humbly accept the reality of this truth, and use it as a platform for urgent evangelization of the lost.

Who is hell reserved for? It’s interesting to note that hell was originally created for Satan and the fallen angels (Matt 25:41). Their act of defiance against a holy, infinite God brought about not only their exile from heaven (Ezek 28:17-19), but future punishment in eternal hell, with no hope of redemption or parole. That is what sin – which is an abominably infinite offense against God – deserves. Likewise, this is the punishment that awaits guilty humanity. They, like angels, have been made with an understanding of God’s law (right and wrong) and are held accountable as moral agents for their course of action. Mankind will also spend eternity in hell with the fallen angels. However, mankind is different in that they are made uniquely in God’s image. This is one of the reasons that God decreed in His plan to redeem some from the penalty of their sin, while the rest will die in guilt and be the recipients of God’s justice, which testifies to the glory of His righteous character.Hell 2

The concept of hell is implied in a few places throughout the Old Testament, but given full light in the New Testament due to progressive revelation. The Hebrew word Sheol has often been noted by biblical scholars as referring to hell (a.k.a. the abode of the dead) (Deut 32:22; Ps 88:3; Isa 7:11). However, this is not a definite reference to hell, because Sheol at times refers to merely the physical grave that people go into when they pass away (Job 10:21; Eccl 9:2-3; Ps 89:48). The Old Testament does make two good references that point to the reality of hell, both of which are found in prophetic passages.

The first one is in Isaiah 66:24, which speaks about Jerusalem’s future when Christ sets up His millennial rule on earth. The verse reads, “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.” This prophecy clearly explains the nature of God’s future punishment on the guilty – that they will suffer non-stop punishment. “Their fire will not be quenched” is the exact phrase that Jesus used to describe the duration and horrors of postmortem judgment on sinners (Mk 9:48).

The second reference is found in Daniel 12:2, which speaks about the resurrection of all mankind in the last days. The verse reads, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” The word of Daniel prophesies of eternal life for the saints, but eternal damnation for the reprobates. What exactly does “everlasting disgrace and contempt” mean? If Isaiah 66:24 is not enough to qualify this description, many passages in the New Testament do just that.

Jesus Himself was the most prominent preaching concerning the topic of hell. He preached about it more than eternal heaven. He preached about it more than any other topic in His ministry, because it is directly related to why He came to earth, which is to die as the penal substitution for the believing in order that they be saved from their sins, which result in the just punishment of eternal hell.Hell 1

Jesus presents hell graphically as a place of undesirable torment. It is described as fiery (Matt 5:22), where the worm never dies (Mk 9:48), and a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 8:12). Although some claim that these descriptions are merely figurative, it does not downplay the horrors of hell in anyway. Even if by chance Jesus was using figurative language, and not speaking about the objective sights and experiences of hell, His descriptions make it crystal clear that it is not a place that anybody wants to go. It is a destination to be avoided at all costs, which is shows how costly Christ’s sacrifice was and how important it is to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers.

Finally, Jesus presents hell as eternal (Matt 3:12; 25:41; 2 Thess 1:9). Some Christians try to argue otherwise. Annihilationists believe that sinners suffer temporary in hell before going out of conscious existence, while restorationists believe that the guilty will ultimately be restored to eternal fellowship with God, with hell serving as a type of temporary purgatory. However, the case for these two views are weak and without much clear biblical support in contrast to the more lucid statement by both Jesus and the apostles concerning the eternal nature of the unbeliever’s afterlife. Even looking at the nature of Gehena in Matthew 5:22 (which unorthodox Christians have used to debunk the literalness of eternal hell) is actually a solid case for the eternity of hell. Gehena (the Valley of Hinnom) was a valley southwest of Jerusalem. It was a valley used to burn refuse from Jerusalem, in which the fire burned day and night continually. Jewish apocalyptic literature even deemed this valley as the entrance to hell, later hell itself (4 Ezra 7:36). Jesus used this imagery as the perfect metaphor for hell – the eternal fiery judgment that unbelievers, or the refuse of humanity, will face if they die in their sins.

The last, and most potent, argument for everlasting punishment is found in Revelation 20:11-15. This prophetic passage speaks about the coming Great White Throne Judgment, when all who die in their sins will be judged by the ultimate Judge of the Universe and cast into the lake of fire forever, where the smoke of the inhabitant’s torment goes up forever and ever (Rev 20:10). This event is God’s ultimate solution for dealing with sin once and for all. It is cast away forever while the sons of righteousness dwell with God in His holy habitat of the new earth forever (Rev 22).

The eternality of hell is the most biblically supported view, which I hold to. I don’t believe in the eternity of hell because I enjoy the thought of people suffering for all eternity. If I truly had it my way, I would much rather go with the annihilationist view of hell. But I cannot do this as a Christian because God’s word does not teach such a thing. The perspicuity of Scripture (Ps 119:130; 2 Tim 3:16-17) makes the message of salvation and Christian living obvious to every person on earth (so they are without excuse), although that doesn’t mean that every doctrine is easy for me to grasp or digest. Nevertheless, I must trust in it with utmost humility, with the faith such results will bring the most glory to God and testify of His eternal attributes.

It is important to get this doctrine right. Distorting the teaching of hell does a major disservice to the sacrifice of Christ, the high cost of the gospel, and what is really at stake in the life and soul of an unbeliever. It gives sinners a false sense of complacency concerning their eternal fate, as well as a low regard for the seriousness of their sin and the majesty of God’s righteous law. At many times, the eternality of hell versus the temporary or non-existent nature of hell could really make the difference in man’s decision to come to faith in Christ, if not come to the right gospel.

Recommended Resource: Hell Under Fire by Christopher W. Morgan

No One Beyond God’s Reach

December 24, 2014 11:47 pm

Today I came across an incredible testimony of how Living Waters’ has impacted this man’s life, and the difference that biblical evangelism can make (in contrast to the water-downed “gospel” message that is being taught in so many churches in the US. Truly mind boggling: 

Letter of Appeal to Todd Friel: An Analysis of the new Biggest Question DVD

December 23, 2014 8:59 pm

Todd Friel

The Biggest Question (by Wretched Radio) is a short film known for presenting one of the clearest, most straight forward presentation of the gospel. Just recently, Wretched released a new version of The Biggest Question, which, in Todd Friel’s observation, is suppose to be a better version than the already stellar original. This DVD can be found at, in the store section. 

Having heard this, I was excited for this project. I thought that the new version would perhaps improve on some of the minor issues with the first one by Todd, Kirk Cameron, and R.W. Glenn, and be an even more ideal, if not powerful, documentation of the gospel message to unbelieving receivers of the DVD. I remember when I saw the original Biggest Question for the first time last year at a church Bible study, I was blown away. It was, without a doubt, the greatest explanation of the gospel message, which covered everything from God’s attributes to an in depth discussion of repentance and faith. It even had a surprisingly helpful explanation of sanctification, which I had never seen in any evangelism DVD. All of these factors caused me to start giving out The Biggest Question DVDs to unbelievers, replacing the DVDs I used to buy from Living Waters (most specifically The Greatest Gamble).

I got my new Biggest Question DVD (by Friel, Ray Comfort, E.Z., and Voddie Baucham) in the mail and watched it immediately. However, this new version did not have the same impact on me than the original. In fact, I felt curiously umoved by the new version. It wasn’t, by any means, bad. It was a sound explanation of the gospel with great insights and exhortation to the unbeliever, but it just didn’t have that same sense of awe factor that I felt when I watched the original for the first time last year. The new version is pretty much a butchered down version of the original, with less heart and soul.

Biggest QuestionNow I’m going to analyze the pros and cons of both versions. The new Biggest Question has some features that were better than the original. For one, the production value was better. I’m speaking about the sets, and even the opening sequence that asked the question, “Why do we…” The opening was better not so much because of the questions, but because it introduces the film in a way that does not seem overtly “Christian” from the get go. The original version had Todd starting out with the question, “You went to church as a child, but quite frankly, not a whole lot of it made sense.” This was one of the features that could have been changed in the original, because if I were an atheist or even a Jew, I would automatically stop the movie because I know it is was going to proselytize me. The new version improves on this in that it starts the light dim before turning it up moments later instead of identifying the viewer as a former churchgoer, which is not true of some people.

The new version is also better than the original in its exposition of God’s Law and justice. Ray Comfort does the same explanation than Kirk, but adds the powerful verse of 1 Corinthians 6:9 to it. E.Z.’s explanation of God’s coming justice is also convicting and thought provoking. The ending exhortation for the audience to come to repentance and faith is also a highlight of this new version, which is more direct and clearly communicates the application of the gospel for an unbeliever. And finally, the new version contains both the English and Spanish, which makes it easier to give out instead of having to buy two separate DVDs.

However, the pros of the new version pretty much end here. Many features of the original were lost in the making of the new version. One of the best features of the original was the video montages (“O Sacred Head,” the doctor interview concerning the crucifixion, the “you are not too dirty” sequence, and the excellent “Jesus, I Love Thee” video). These video illustrations are what added emotional depth to this film. Without it, all we have in the new version is an endless series of lectures, each taking their turn. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it just doesn’t seem to communicate the depth and story quite like the original. The original was a little more creative and inspiring in this department, whereas the new version felt like it was merely going through the motions. Even the presentations by Voddie Baucham (an excellent preacher and theologian) seemed passive compared to the excitement and clarity of R.W. Glenn’s presentation in the original.

Biggest Question 2The explanation of the gospel, along with the illustrations and theological insight, seemed more interesting in the original. Some of these include Kirk Cameron’s illustration of sacrificial atonement and God’s kindness when he spoke about the adopted boy in Washington D.C., Todd’s explanation of Rahab the prostitute, and R.W. Glenn’s explanation of the cross (“done religion versus do religion,” the doctrine of imputed righteousness which results in one not having to feel like he is “better or worse” than others), which definitely hit home in a way that was somewhat missing in the new version. In a nutshell, the original version’s explanation of the atonement, propitiation, imputed righteousness, and repentance was more interesting in the original than in the new. It was also a little easier to follow. Voddie Baucham’s use of terms like “federal headship” and “active and passive obedience” can really fly over the heads of unbelievers who may not know what these terms mean. I can understand these because I am a Christian and a seminary student, but most people do not.

This is not to say that the original version is not without its cons. One of the feedbacks I’ve heard regarding the original is that it is a bit long. The new version capitalizes on this (although I think by cutting it down to 27 minutes, it is a bit too short now). The original version could have easily curtailed the discussion of Jesus’ beating and crucifixion, the false views of “accepting Jesus” (which the new version did wonderfully), and the discussion on the meaning of sanctification (because unbelievers are not quite to the point where they should be taught about sanctification. They need to be saved first). However, these quibbles are pretty minor compared to the overwhelming pros of the original.

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings about the new version. I suppose God will still use it to accomplish His purposes (since it is the gospel that is the power of God onto salvation, Rom 1:16), but I don’t think the film is as convicting, interesting, and moving as the original. Even the ending of the new version (“Why? Why would you reject it?”) with the closing soundtrack left me feeling clueless as to what to think of the gravity of the message I heard, in contrast to the inspiring close of the original.

It’s unfortunate that we may never see the original distributed again, partly because of the R.W. Glenn incident. But my appeal to Mr. Todd Friel and Wretched radio is, if possible, have the original available as an option or remake the new version so it contains the wonderful elements that made the original so good. Because as of right now, it is a good gospel DVD, but not a great gospel DVD. I don’t think I would have felt the same way about the Biggest Question had the new version been screened in my Bible study last year. I probably would have continued to buy the Greatest Gamble DVDs. 

Once again, this is not intended to be a harsh rebuttal of the efforts in putting together the new version (because I am giving them out to unbelievers as we speak). Just a suggestion for Mr. Friel concerning the merits of the original. Because if I were an unbeliever, I probably would be more impacted and be willing to consider the gospel through the presentation of the gospel through version one.

Your friend, Steve

Exhortations to the Children of Hope: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 Sermon

December 18, 2014 12:45 am



Currently Reading:

Lifelines for Tough Times: God’s Presence and Help When You Hurt

by Mike Fabarez

Category: Christian Living

2014, Harvest House





Here is a sermon titled Exhortations to the Children of Hope, which I think is probably my best sermon yet (in terms of clarity, content, and practicality). I hope this message is beneficial and edifying for you: 

That Time of Year (Again)

December 6, 2014 10:19 pm



Currently Reading:

Charismatic Chaos

by John MacArthur

Category: Theology / Christian Living

1993, Zondervan





When you see decorations like these in public places, you know it’s that time of the year again. Christmas. These sights just make me happy. I wish it could last all year.

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” – Luke 2:10-12


Ask Steve: What is Truth?

November 30, 2014 10:15 pm



Currently Reading:

What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics

by R.C. Sproul

Category: Theology

1997, Baker Books





Question: Steve, can you define truth and explain how we can know it?

Answer: Shortly before Jesus’ crucifixion, Christ engaged in a brief conversation with Pontius Pilate about the nature of His identity and mission on earth. Pilate asked Jesus, “So you are a king?” Jesus replied, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” To this, Pilate comments sarcastically, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:33-38)

The question “What is truth?” has been a matter of debate through the ages. It is still an issue now in a postmodern era, which does not believe in absolute truth and error. The idea of real, defined truth is under attack because of society’s ever-increasing tendency to promote tolerance amidst different religions, ideologies, philosophies, and lifestyles. It appears that the only thing we can know for sure is that there is no such thing as absolute truth. No doubt, this statement is itself an absolute statement claiming truth.

Truth 1

Is there truth and can we know it? We certainly can. We know it not only because Scripture says so and demonstrates it (through Christ), but also because it is seen in every aspect of life (physics, chemistry, biology, morals, mathematics, etc). It is important to establish this idea of absolute truth, because without it, a person lives in delusion. He lives a misguided life. But most importantly, his eternal welfare is on the line.

Before I explain what truth is, it is best to have a discussion on what truth is not. Truth is not pragmatism. It is not what best works or what is most efficient and productive in a given situation, whether it involves vocation or relationships. Truth is not what makes feel people good. Just because people enjoy doing drugs, eating like a glutton, living a sinful heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle, or participating in a feel-good religion does not make it right or true. Truth is not simply our own personal beliefs. It is not subjectivism. We can sincerely believe that no harm will come to us when we cross a street with racing cars or that a futile vaccine can actually cure our deadly disease. But it does not change the reality of what will inevitably happen because of our choices. Truth is not what the majority of the population believes. A majority of the people can believe that slavery and racial genocide is right, but it doesn’t make it true. A majority of the people can believe that abortion and homosexual marriages are right, but it doesn’t necessarily make it true. Truth is not defined by a particular person’s stance or beliefs, such as the Pope, Oprah Winfrey, or the President of the United States. Truth is also not measured by intention. Someone may have good intentions for murdering a particular person (for the cause of a greater good). But that doesn’t make his actions, or the principle behind it, right or true.

So what is truth? Truth is whatever corresponds to reality. It is simply what is real and defined. It is the way it is, regardless of what one thinks about it or tries to redefine it. Truth is unchanging. It is absolute. It affects all people and sectors of life. No one or nothing is excluded. Therefore, anything that contradicts what is true is false and erroneous. As it regards morality, the opposite of truth is evil and sin.

Truth 2

In order for truth to be defined, real, and objective, it must be based on a transcendent source. Otherwise, there can be no such thing as truth, because every man would define what is right and wrong. No one can claim monopoly on truth. However, if there is an author of life who has designed and instituted fixed laws that govern the universe, as well as morality, ethics, and social relationships, then there exists truth. That source is God, who is author and definer of truth. He is the ruler, canon, and standard. In essence, God is truth.

John MacArthur provides a solid definition of truth as it relates to God: “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God.” Dr. MacArthur also accurately describes the origins of truth when he states: “The one most valuable lesson humanity ought to have learned from philosophy is that it is impossible to make sense of truth without acknowledging God as the necessary starting point.”

Because God created and sustains the world with fixed laws of nature (Gen 1; Col 1:16; Heb 1:3), there is such thing as truth. Because God operates in the moral realm by implanting His law into the hearts of all men (Rom 2:14-16), there is such thing as truth. Because there is truth, there is also falsehood. It is true that reptiles can never have dog offspring. It is true that 2 + 2 can never equal 5. It is true that the current orbit of Jupiter stops space material (like asteroids) from bombarding and destroying life on earth. To think otherwise would be ludicrous, because it has no basis in reality. The same applies to morality. God has a real code for human conduct, which governs the earth as much as the laws of nature timelessly govern the cosmos. Murder will always be wrong. Kindness will always right. Adultery will always be wrong. Marital faithfulness will always be right. Lying will always be wrong. Truthfulness will always be right. Covetousness will always be wrong. Gratitude will always be right.

Where do we find this standard of truth? It is in God’s word. It is in the Bible. The Bible is the revelation from God Himself concerning His being, character, attributes, and will. Man must come to it in order to learn how to be reconciled to a holy God and to live in a way that is pleasing in His sight. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Furthermore, He says of the Father, “…Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and all-sufficient word of God which alone guides people in how they are to conduct themselves in life, as the Creator and Author intended.

Truth 3

Although the Bible speaks important truths concerning science, geography, and history, it speaks ultimately of man’s main problem (sin) and where the solution is (Christ). Every man needs to heed the message of Scripture because it reveals the way of salvation. That is the ultimate truth that men need to hear – that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and eternal life (Jn 3:16; Jn 14:6; Acts 4:19). There is no other way to salvation, or even proper worship life, other than through Jesus Christ. Therefore, other religions, and their teachings concerning salvation, are false and even dangerous. There is no such thing as “all roads lead to Rome.” It is salvation either through Jesus Christ, or no salvation. This is truth, according to God’s word.

Is this saying that there is no truth apparent anywhere in other religions, philosophies, or ideologies? No. There is true statements and teachings in other sources. Buddhism teaches that suffering is bad and needs to be rid off. That is true. Islam teaches that there is only one God, and men need to worship God. That is true. However, the only reason these observations and convictions are true is that they are based on what God has revealed in His general revelation, which every person on earth has access to. The whole world knows that there is a Creator who designed the world and empowers life (Rom 1:18-20). The world knows that there is a real moral law that governs human behavior, which is apparent in social relationships and government statutes (Rom 2:14-16). This general revelation testifies to God so people are without excuse on Judgment Day, yet the truths apparent in general revelation do not save people or make their paths straight. That can only be done through God’s special revelation, which is in the Bible. Thus, things in life are true in so long as they do not contradict what God has revealed in Scripture. And the most important truth which men must heed is the message of salvation.

Truth is God, and He reveals Himself in Scripture, which is the source of truth (Ps 119:60; Prov 30:5). Men ignore, distort, and malign this truth everyday because of their sinful, depraved nature. If they were without sin, then they would come to God in humble, true worship. However, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18), and they will be justly judged by the Creator someday, being held accountable to what God has already shown them in general revelation (and maybe even special revelation). That is why it is important to discover truth and to respond to it before it is too late.

Recommended Resource: The Truth War by John MacArthur

Book Review: Jesus, Continued by J.D. Greear

November 28, 2014 12:14 am

Jesus Continued

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is ever present, but at most times misunderstood, unfelt, and sometimes ignored. Is having the Spirit inside you better than having Jesus beside you? This is the discussion of J.D. Greear’s new book, Jesus, Continued, which is a Christian living book that deals with this important and much needed topic in pneumatology. The aim of Greear’s book is to discover the Holy Spirit and to reconnect with Him in a biblical, yet vibrant way. It is a book about both knowing the theology of the Holy Spirit as well as a proper relationship with Him that leads to Him unleashing His power through a Christian’s life.

Greear begins by first discussing the Spirit’s lack of power, and sometimes presence, in the life of the Christian and church. That is the aim of Part One, which describes the problem, and the reason why the author writes this book. The Holy Spirit is described as an Advocate (Jn 15:26), a Teacher (Jn 14:26), and one who convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8). The author describes how the Spirit’s ministry is so important to the life of a Christian. He is not only a down payment of the Christian’s eternal salvation, but also the agent of sanctification in a believer’s life. He helps the Christian grow in His salvation and uses Him effectively in the Great Commission. However, His power is curiously missing in many Christians’ lives. He is misrepresented and misrelated to. The author teaches that the Spirit and the Word of God (The Bible) must go hand-in-hand. The Spirit uses the word to sanctify the believer (pg. 25). Without the word, there is no power in the believer’s relationship with God or mission in the world, but only a misguided sense of mysticism and subjectivism.

Greear explains how a Christian sees the Holy Spirit’s ministry at work, which is the main theological discussion of the book. He works in the gospel, first and foremost. Without the gospel, there is no salvation. There is no Spirit working in a believer’s life. Then there is the word of God (Scripture), the believer’s spiritual gifts, the corporate church, and our everyday circumstances. The author ends by discussing how the believer seeks and takes hold of a vibrant relationship and leading of God the Spirit, which is through the word, prayer, and repentance (pg. 14).

Jesus, Continued is a solid book that speaks about the Holy Spirit’s ministry and how to best benefit from the Spirit’s work in your life. Because of that, it is both theologically informative and highly practical in a believer’s life. That is one of the book’s main strength. It identifies the problem (Part 1), explains the solution (Part 2), and gives application of the solution (Part 3). The author does not shy away from speaking about issues concerning the Holy Spirit, and provides practical guidelines on how to commune properly with the Spirit. The book is commendable in how it does not glorifies charismatic theology (since it speaks about many of the misconceptions and fanaticism of the movement). At the same time, it is a not a book that praises hyper-cessationism as well. Greear believes that the Holy Spirit works in miraculous ways now like He did during the apostolic period. Even though his definition of cessationism is not totally accurate (He claims that cessationism believe in the cessation of all modern day miracles, when this is not the case. Cessationism believes in the cessation of sign gifts by individuals, not miracles themselves), he nevertheless paints the sign gifts in ways that do not cater to the subjective and emotion driven whims of charismatic theology. He compares everything the best he can to Scripture, demonstrating the guidelines and caution surrounding the sign gifts in our times.

This is a book that I would recommend for reading if you not only want to grow closer to God, but also understand what it takes to excel as a man of God in ministry, and in the pursuit of the Great Commission. Like I said, it is biblical and practical, one that every person will benefit from.

Note: I received this book as a complimentary copy from I was not obligated to write a good review, but only my honest opinion. 


This book was reviewed by Steve Cha, author of Hollywood Mission: Possible: