Matthew 24 – Part 3

“Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.” – Matthew 24:15-18

“Then let them which be in Judaea” the word ‘Judaea’ in this sense is key. It helps to pinpoint the original context of the instruction that follows, that being the statements regarding the housetop and clothes. The word ‘Judaea’ according to Strong’s concordance Greek Lexicon, as shown below, is in reference to a region of Palestine. Christ was suggesting that once the recognized sign was seen, that being the armies which were to surround Jerusalem as shown in the previous post, then his followers were to flee.

It is interesting to note that Jerusalem was attacked and sieged twice in the years after Christ’s death on the cross. The first was conducted by a Roman general named Cestius, who attacked and surrounded the city. When everything was favorable for him to take it, he and his armies retreated without explanation. The Christians who were living in the areas surrounding Jerusalem and inside the city itself at this time recognized this as the sign Jesus warned about [Luke 21:20-21, Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14] and fled the region into the mountains just as Christ had given instruction. Flavius Josephus, in his book “Wars of Jews” writes of this occurrence regarding Cestius’ retreat. The translators of his book, who are apparently Christian, seemed to also recognize a fulfilment of this particular prophecy in question when it comes to Josephus’ descriptions of the event.

In addition, Josephus also describes soldiers led by Titus planting their ensigns and worshipping them outside of the temple gate. Roman ensigns were known to have an eagle on them, which had some connection to idolatrous worship. The translators of Josephus’ book evidently also recognized in this a fulfilment of the words of Christ found in Matthew 24:15. It is important to keep these historical fulfilments of prophecy in mind, as they help to add context to the phrase “Judaea” found in verse 15.

G2449
Ἰουδαία
Ioudaia
ee-oo-dah’-yah
Feminine of G2453 (with G1093 implied); the Judaean land (that is, judaea), a region of Palestine: – Juda.

“7. It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen; and now Cestius lay all night at the camp which was at Scopus; and as he went off farther next day, he thereby invited the enemy to follow him, who still fell upon the hindmost, and destroyed them; they also fell upon the flank on each side of the army, and threw darts upon them obliquely, nor durst those that were hindmost turn back upon those who wounded them behind, as imagining that the multitude of those that pursued them was immense; nor did they venture to drive away those that pressed upon them on each side, because they were heavy with their arms, and were afraid of breaking their ranks to pieces, and because they saw the Jews were light, and ready for making incursions upon them. And this was the reason why the Romans suffered greatly, without being able to revenge themselves upon their enemies; so they were galled all the way, and their ranks were put into disorder, and those that were thus put out of their ranks were slain; among whom were Priscus, the commander of the sixth legion, and Longinus, the tribune, and Emilius Secundus, the commander of a troop of horsemen. So it was not without difficulty that they got to Gabao, their former camp, and that not without the loss of a great part of their baggage. There it was that Cestius staid two days, and was in great distress to know what he should do in these circumstances; but when on the third day he saw a still much greater number of enemies, and all the parts round about him full of Jews, he understood that his delay was to his own detriment, and that if he staid any longer there, he should have still more enemies upon him.

End notes

(30) There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that “when they should see the abomination of desolation” [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] “stand where it ought not;” or, “in the holy place;” or, “when they should see Jerusalem any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential, compassed with armies;” they should then “flee to the mound conduct than this retreat of Cestius visible during this whole rains.” By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled I siege of Jerusalem; which yet was providentially such a “great to the mountains of Perea, and escaped this destruction. See tribulation, as had not been from the beginning of the world to that time; no, Lit. Accompl. of Proph. p. 69, 70. Nor was there, perhaps, nor ever should be.”–Ibid. p. 70, 71.” – Flavius Josephus, Wars of The Jews, book 2, Ch 19 [with translator’s note] 

“1. AND now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple (24) and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator (25) with the greatest acclamations of joy. And now all the soldiers had such vast quantities of the spoils which they had gotten by plunder, that in Syria a pound weight of gold was sold for half its former value. But as for those priests that kept themselves still upon the wall of the holy house, (26) there was a boy that, out of the thirst he was in, desired some of the Roman guards to give him their right hands as a security for his life, and confessed he was very thirsty. These guards commiserated his age, and the distress he was in, and gave him their right hands accordingly. So he came down himself, and drank some water, and filled the vessel he had with him when he came to them with water, and then went off, and fled away to his own friends; nor could any of those guards overtake him; but still they reproached him for his perfidiousness. To which he made this answer: “I have not broken the agreement; for the security I had given me was not in order to my staying with you, but only in order to my coming down safely, and taking up some water; both which things I have performed, and thereupon think myself to have been faithful to my engagement.” Hereupon those whom the child had imposed upon admired at his cunning, and that on account of his age. On the fifth day afterward, the priests that were pined with the famine came down, and when they were brought to Titus by the guards, they begged for their lives; but he replied, that the time of pardon was over as to them, and that this very holy house, on whose account only they could justly hope to be preserved, was destroyed; and that it was agreeable to their office that priests should perish with the house itself to which they belonged. So he ordered them to be put to death.” – Flavius Josephus, Wars Of The Jews, Book 6, Ch 6

The instruction to flee to the mountains, much like the abomination of desolation, has been recognized by some as having a duel application. The 1st being as noted, where Christ’s followers were to flee to the mountains before the destruction of Jerusalem. The second being for us today, that as we see the garbage of the last days occurring we’re to flee into the mountains. This is a possible conclusion, given the overall context of Matthew 24 surrounding the original question of the disciples. It would especially be applicable as one observes the future fulfilment of the abomination of desolation taking place. At that point, it may be time for God’s people as well to flee into the mountains.

The word “Judaea” however places the instruction of Jesus found in Matthew 24 under a more direct context of the destruction of Jerusalem. This was shown from its Greek meaning to be a region of Palestine, which is certainly not a place that most of us live [unless you happen to be reading this blog post from modern-day Israel/Palestine.] Therefore the instructions with regards to clothing and not taking anything out of your house would logically have this context as well. Note especially that you can draw this point by a comparison with similar instructions found in Luke 21:21-22.

It is interesting to note that the word translated as “clothes” in the King James Version has been translated as “coat” in the ISV, “cloak” in the ASV, and “cloke” again in the RV. All three texts in question have been produced below, along with the Greek meaning of the word which offers some explanation of this. The reality is that the word “Clothes” as found in Matthew 24:17 was referring to perhaps specific articles of clothing, in this sense taking time to secure these items rather than fleeing when time was of the essence. Especially the words “return back” stick out, as the suggestion carried by these words is that the Christian was not to return to acquire anything, but to flee immediately.

“Anyone who’s on the housetop must not come down to get what is in his house, and anyone who’s in the field must not turn back to get his coat.” – Matthew 24:17-18 ISV

“let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out the things that are in his house: and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak.” – Matthew 24:17-18 ASV

“let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out the things that are in his house: and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloke.” – Matthew 24:17-18 RV

G2440
ἱμάτιον
himation
him-at’-ee-on
Neuter of a presumed derivative of ἕννυμι hennumi (to put on); a dress (inner or outer): – apparel, cloke, clothes, garment, raiment, robe, vesture.

The calamity originally foretold, that being the destruction of Jerusalem, was apparently such a situation that time should not have been spent in attempting to acquire things. But instead their flight was to occur immediately. It is probable that as we approach the final events of this earth’s history, Christians may not have time to gather their things together, but instead should simply flee without delay.

It should be noted that similar instructions appear in Luke 17:31-32. Only aspects involving the retrieval of articles of clothing are missing, with instead a warning to “Remember Lot’s Wife.” In Genesis 19:17-26, there is a brief account of this particular story. Lot and his family were told specifically to not look back at Sodom and Gomorrah, neither were they to remain in the plain, but they were to escape for their lives. Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. It is likely that she was still attached to the city, and looked back with the thought or hope of returning. This attachment logically caused this episode with being turned into a pillar of salt.

It should especially be noted that verses 28-30 of Luke 17 add context stating, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is revealed.” Verse 30 especially places these Scriptures into an end times/second coming context. These words of Jesus in verses 31-32, and the statements in Matthew 24:15-18 are both essentially saying “do not turn back for anything when you make your flight.” This would perhaps be the best way to summarize the overall point of the instruction.

And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” – Matthew 24:19-22

Verse 19 targets those who are pregnant or who are nursing children, hence “them that are with child, and to them that give suck.” A “woe” is pronounced on them that are in this state during the destruction of Jerusalem. Given verse 15, which references “Judaea” [a region of Palestine] the destruction of Jerusalem would be the overall context of this woe or warning.

The statement with regards to the Sabbath which follows is especially interesting. The Christians living in Jerusalem were to pray that their flight was neither in winter, nor on the Sabbath day. The majority of Christians today believe that the Sabbath [that being the 7th Day or Saturday] was nailed to the cross. There is of course no harmony whatsoever with this thinking, and the fact that Jesus instructed his followers to pray that their flight from the destruction of Jerusalem was not to take place on the Sabbath. Such instruction clearly implies an assumption on the part of Christ that it would be kept at this time, and therefore the Christians should pray that they would not have to flee on the Sabbath.

The word “For” in verse 21 suggests that the reason for the previous two passages worth of instruction was that there would be “great tribulation.” It should be noted that the wording of this statement from Christ shares some similarities to a passage in the book of Daniel, which references a “time of trouble.” I’ve underlined both texts below in order to make the striking similarities between these verses stick out.

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” – Matthew 24:21

“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” – Daniel 12:1

In view of the overall context of Matthew 24 from the disciples’ original question, there are two ways in which I would apply verse 21.

  1. To the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
  2. To the time of trouble foretold in Daniel 12:1.

These applications harmonize with the original context of Matthew 24 found in verses 1-3, and the immediate context found in verses 15-16. The logical deduction also is that when the words “Immediately after the tribulation” are used in Matthew 24:29 later on, Jesus had the same period in view. At this point, it should be noted that some Scholars and Bible students have connected this tribulation foretold in Matthew 24 to the 1260 day prophecy which makes an appearance at various locations across the Scriptures. One of which is of course Daniel 7:25. [Stay tuned, posts on this are forthcoming.]

I have no quarrel with those who hold to these beliefs. If you personally hold to this thinking, and can produce sufficient and convincing Scriptural evidence to make your case, it perhaps can be added to the numbered list above of applications for verse 21. If you connect the 1260 days to the tribulation foretold in Matthew I’m open to you making your case in the comments section of this post. But points 1 & 2 in my mind are quite solid and will probably remain. The shared wording between Daniel 12:1 & Matthew 24:15 coupled with the overall context gives too much support for such a position to be reversed at this point in time.

The point arrived at next is the shortening of the days, which appears in verse 22. It is noted that the time of trouble, or “great tribulation” is predicted to be “shortened.” This is done strictly for the salvation of the elect. Evidently the time of trouble is so bad that if it were allowed to continue going on nobody would have salvation because of the intensity of the ordeal. With salvation obviously in view from the phrase “there should no flesh be saved” [unless this statement is targeting the literal preservation of one’s life] the statement in regards to the shortening of days is not a literal shortening [a day going from 24 hours to 6 hours], but instead a statement targeting the overall length of the ordeal.

“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, behold he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” – Matthew 24:23-26

Verse 23 clearly mirrors earlier instruction given near the beginning of the chapter, with regards to those who would claim to be Jesus. [Matthew 24:4-5.] In this sense it seems to be applied to those who would claim to have seen him here or there. Christ here tells us not to believe anyone claiming that Christ is to be found at specified locations here on earth, as though he has already come. In the verses that follow, he goes so far as to target some very specific things, such as the desert or secret chambers.

Evidently this wording implies attempts by the powers of darkness to counterfeit the second coming. Their efforts take on the appearance of showing up here or there, and having been seen at this or that location. But in reality this does not come close to matching the direct manner of the second coming. It should be observed that in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we’re told that he shall “descend from heaven with a shout” with the “voice of the archangel” and the “dead in Christ shall rise first.” 

The event which follows is that “then we which are alive and remain are caught up together with them [being the dead in christ] in the clouds.” Therefore it is logical to conclude that Christ will not touch the ground, that we will not have to go out of our way to some place where he has come secretly [hence “secret chambers”], and that there will not have to be a major effort on our part to go find him. The book of Revelation even goes so far as to suggest that “every eye will see him” [Revelation 1:7.]

The statement which follows in Matthew 24 suggests that false Christs and false prophets shall arise, both of which were warned about in previous passages. They’re described as showing “great signs and wonders”. Then the words which follow are, “insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” The word “great” is an obvious statement of size and intensity, indicating the seriousness of the signs and wonders produced by the false Christs and Prophets. The miraculous phenomenon produced by these persons will be so great that the very elect, if not grounded in Scripture, could be endangered by it.

In the book of Deuteronomy, we’re essentially told that miracles alone are no test as to whether or not some one is a true or false prophet. Matthew 7 provides the test of the fruits, and Isaiah 8:20 admonishes us to test everything by our Bibles. We should not accept the messages of anyone professing to be a prophet unless we’re certain that they pass Scriptural tests of the prophetic office. [Deuteronomy 13:1-4.]

Zero back in on the phrase “great signs and wonders” and “the very elect.” For a moment, contemplate these statements. Most Christians regard some one such as Joseph Smith with a high degree of suspicion. In fact, very few ‘modern prophets’ last long before receiving the title of “false prophet.” Their messages tend to not survive debunking by believers. Yet these prophets foretold by Christ are such a threat at the end of time that “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” The implication is that something much more sinister than old Joe Smith is around the corner, something which Christians of long-standing who’re normally suspicious of anyone professing to be a prophet may be deceived by.

Than it is of the utmost importance that we practice discernment. It starts with us testing those who preach from the pulpit and by us gaining a thorough knowledge of the word. Then when some one comes and tells us something different from the Bible, we may instantly know where they’re in error, when they’ve read a text with Esiegesis, and when something has been taken out of context to support error. Unfortunately, in a previous post I’ve detailed how we as Christians are in trouble in this area.

“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” – Matthew 24:26-28

The flash of lightning is bright, visible, and powerful. It comes with the roar of rolling thunder, making it equally audible. During some thunder storms, I personally have witnessed a bright blue flash penetrate the curtains and windows of my home at night as it lights up the sky. This representation of lightning is obviously meant to convey the idea that the second coming is not a secret, it is not some hidden thing in which Jesus will show up in some guy’s secret chambers, or show up here or there.

It will be loud, visible, audible, and so powerful that everyone will see it. [Revelation 1:7.] Lightning is probably one of the most powerful object lessons from nature Christ could have drawn to paint a proper picture of his second coming. The people who every once in a while appear on the scene claiming to be Christ do not in any way come close to the sheer power of the event, which according to other Scriptures as we will see will rock this earth and strike terror into the hearts of those who do not obey the gospel.

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The next statement of Christ seems cryptic, and not easily understood. What did he mean when he said, “For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together”? The term “eagles” bears some similarities to descriptions found in the book of Revelation, particularly around chapter 19, which is also speaking about the second coming of Christ.

In verses 17-18 specifically, we find statements which help unravel the meaning of Christ’s apparent cryptic language. “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.” – Revelation 19:17-18. 

In these texts the “fowls” [which are birds] are invited to feast on the flesh of kings, captains, mighty men, and horses. The language employed here yet again paints a picture of birds feasting on carrion. This is even verified as you scroll down to verse 21 in which you find the statement, “And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.” – Revelation 19:21

While a sword in the symbolic language of the Scriptures often represents the word of God [Hebrews 4:12], it is clear from other texts of Scripture that the wicked will be slain during the second coming. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, Jesus is described as taking vengeance in “flaming fire” on “them that know not God and obey not the gospel.” This mirrors the way that the man of sin is slain by the “brightness of his coming.” [2 Thessalonians 2:8-9]. The reason behind the ‘super of the birds’ in Revelation 19 and Christ’s illustration of birds feasting upon carrion in Matthew 24 is simple. It is because the wicked will be destroyed at this point, slain and then reserved for their final punishment at a later time.

These texts of Scripture make it clear that there is no universal salvation. The entire world will not be converted before the coming of Christ, as some have taught in times past. But instead those who persistently refuse the gift of salvation offered by Jesus and his death on the cross will eventually be slain at the climax of this earth’s history. The choice that we have is one road or the other.


Part 4 will pick up from verse 29.

The Importance Of Bible Study

“What have you been studying out of your Bible lately?”

To many within Christendom, this would seem an unanswerable question. It is as though some irrefutable argument was thrown at them, and they’re squirming to respond with solid logic. The reason for this is of course obvious, they haven’t been studying their Bibles. Searching the Scriptures seems to be a neglected and forgotten practice in the Churches of today. A variety of reasons are usually cited, from not having the time to not knowing how.

At one time, I had the opportunity of attending a group Bible study at another Church. It was aimed dominantly at young people, and I was invited to it by a couple of friends. Rather than an interactive study as I was typically used to from my own Church, this seemed more like a sermon with some discussion that followed than anything. One of the people who I met from here remarked, “I don’t need to study the Bible. It’s not like it’s a salvation issue!”

Evidently this individual did not consider Bible study to be important enough to be ranked as something effecting their salvation. To this day such a statement causes me to smack my palm against my face as a reaction to what was said by this person. Bible Study is perhaps more important than we as Christians give it credit for, and it does indeed have an impact on our personal salvation.

Without even addressing the act of searching the Scriptures itself, there is the fact that the Bible teaches precisely how to be saved. Thus if a Christian is neglecting to study the Bible, they will not have a correct knowledge of salvation, which would impact their’s in a negative way. Without an understanding of how salvation works, how is it that you’re supposed to be saved? You could literally wind up attempting to earn it by your own good works in spite of passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 6:23, but you would not know about these texts if you had not studied your Bible.

The Scriptures are also a safeguard against deception. To be clear, deception isn’t given to save you. The entire purpose of it is to lead you away from the true path, to cause you to miss the mark so to speak that would lead to God and salvation. Real world examples can be in the form of other religions, such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Can you believe that the teachings of these groups will save the members of their congregations, and that these religions genuinely do lead to God and salvation? If this is in your thinking, you’re probably heading down the path of subjective truth and universalism. Both beliefs are wrong, but you wouldn’t know this unless you had studied your Bible.

The first great deception provides us an example of how error and false teachings are given to trigger the loss of our salvation. Especially when you consider the source of deceptions, as outlined by the Scriptures, and where the first one came from. In fact, we as Christians are in the mess we’re presently in, in which we’re sinners in need of a saviour, because of the first deception and it’s results causing the fall of man.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:1-5

Many of us know where this story goes from here. If you don’t, Genesis 3:6-24 will finish it off for you. Eve and Adam both ate from the tree as a result of these statements of the devil, although according to other Scriptures [“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression” – 1 Timothy 2:14] Adam was apparently not deceived during this whole mess. To an extent, the implication here is that he ate from the tree deliberately. I’m not certain we have the full picture as to why he would do this, but I can make a well-educated guess that it has something to do with Eve. Evidence supporting the fact that the serpent is in fact the devil can be derived from the book of Revelation.

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelation 12:9

A few key points may be gleaned from this incident.

  1. The result of the fall of man, brought on by deception, was the entrance of sin into this world. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death, referencing the loss of one’s salvation. [Revelation 21:8]
  2. The fall of man resulted in Adam & Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden and access to the tree of life being barred, in one sense causing them to lose eternal life. [Genesis 3:22-24, 3:19.]
  3. Deception resulted in the first sin ever committed. Is it not logical to conclude that one purpose of deception is to trigger the commission of sin?

In view of these facts, it should make a bit more sense why the Bible is full of strong warnings about deception, false teachers or teachings, and false prophets. [2 Peter 2:1, Matthew 7:15-20, 1 John 4:1, Matthew 24:23-24, Matthew 24:4-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, 2 Timothy 3:13, Revelation 16:13-14, Deuteronomy 13:1-4.] These things are not brought onto the scene to save you, they’re strictly for the purpose of misleading you so that you will miss the mark and ultimately miss out on eternal life.

The only way to defeat deception is a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. Think of the Bible as a map and a compass. We use these tools to find our way in order to avoid being lost in the wilderness when we go hiking or on long backpacking trips. They help us find direction and determine our position. Imagine for a moment that these instruments have given you the details of where you need to be and go in order to avoid getting lost, but on your journey you come across many who say you’re heading in the wrong direction. There is nothing wrong with either your compass, and your map is accurate. In all reality, they’re the ones taking the wrong route. But you wouldn’t know this unless you checked your map and compass.

When false teaching, teachers, or prophets arise telling you “this is the way”, a thorough knowledge of your Bible enables you to know the correct path in spite of their deception. If it points one direction, and people point another way, in all reality the Bible is correct and they’re wrong. But without studying your Bible you will not be able to detect these things. This is why the Bible gives us the example of the Bereans, who literally checked their “compasses and maps” when they were introduced to fresh concepts to be sure if they were heading in the right direction.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming hither went in unto the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – Acts 17:10-11

The Bereans are termed “more noble than those in Thessalonica” due to the fact that they “searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” As Paul and Silas preached to them, they had a tendency to check their “map and compass” as I stated above to determine if those two were teaching truth, which I would suggest is a part of the reason why they “received the word with all readiness of mind.” This where the phrase “being a Berean” in Christianity originates from, and it is based on their example of checking things out.

Your Bible cannot function as a spiritual map and compass for you, if you are not well conversant with it. Thus if deceptions particularly relating to salvation were to arise, you wouldn’t be able to pick up on it. In such a case, you could more than likely end up losing your salvation, as Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden. Especially if you’re as accepting of passages quoted out of their context as the last post demonstrated many Christians to be.

You are dealing with a foe who is also a thorough Bible student, and who has often quoted texts outside of their context to support his deceptions. You can especially observe this taking place in Matthew 4:5-7, which are passages from which we get the concept of presumption, or simply “tempting God.” Since Christians have demonstrated due to Jacob Dufour’s experiment that many of them cannot pick up on when some one quotes a verse out of context, unless they obtain a thorough knowledge of their Bibles they’re likely to be swept up by the strong current of the devil’s lies. This is not something that Satan does to save you, neither are his deceptions things that you would want to run around believing if you had their true character unmasked.

At this point the reasons mentioned above are usually cited, such as not having the time. The demands of married life can be somewhat understandable, in addition to work. But at the same time there needs to be some questions asked as to whether or not your time is being used wisely. If you were to calculate the amount of time you have in the day in which you’re not working, spending time with family, or sleeping perhaps you would be shocked to find that maybe you have more time for the Bible than you thought.

For instance, how much time after work is spent in front of the television watching movies or some show? In the case of youth, how much time is spent playing video games? These are buttons that need to be pushed in the Christian world, because I strongly believe that many of us have made idols out of entertainment. Our free time is often all-consumed by amusements whereas very little time is spent in the word or in prayer. We neglect these important practices of the Christian life in favor of amusements and suffer the results in a lack of power and discernment in our walk.

When I worked swing shift at a foundry a few years back, I was still able to find time to pray and study my Bible. I would spend breaks and lunch during my shift praying and memorizing Scriptures, and took the time before work to pray and study the word. Theoretically you should have time both before and after whatever job you work and time off from work. This can be in the form of vacation time, holidays, weekends, or simply just days off that some jobs give. How much of this time is spent in your Bible as opposed to on other things? Most people have a tendency to gravitate towards entertainment/amusement first over the Bible during such days.

Reality boils down to the fact that “I don’t have time” is an excuse. You would probably find that at best you have anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour every day in which you could be studying your Bible, or at least memorizing a passage of Scripture. The real reason probably goes back to the previously mentioned entertainment. Idols in the form of movies and video games have created a situation in which Christians would rather engage in these activities than spend time in the word.

Not knowing how to study the Bible is a little bit more legitimate of a reason. I’ve come across some that are fifty-five years old, have been Christians all their lives, and they still do not know how to study God’s word. Many can find the task a little daunting. But I’ve written two posts here and here which deal with this subject in-depth, and should help to resolve that problem. Even then, much of what I learned was through trial and error, sort of jumping in and learning to swim. I had the advantage of naturally being somewhat of an intellectual individual who is analytical in his thinking, but this still demonstrates that you can figure it out if you’re willing to.

One of the real problems may rest in the fact that there are hordes of people in our age who do not like reading. In all reality, if this is you I would say you’re going to have to overcome this in the case of your Bible. This is because the idea that searching the scriptures has no impact on your salvation is a false teaching, the Bible has a major impact in the transformation of your character, and you more than likely will be swept up with the current of Satan’s deceptions otherwise. You do not need to spend time diving into a reading list which is 144 books long like myself, but I cannot stress enough how important it is than you get into your Bible. It is probably the most important book that you will ever read.

I would go so far as to say that reading the word isn’t enough. Simply studying it isn’t enough either. You need to thoroughly examine it and apply its teachings to your life. You can study the Bible as one studies the sciences, but it will not be of any value unless you’re living up to teaching of the Scriptures. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” – James 1:22

If you catch the importance of Bible study, than my appeal to you is to spend at least one hour every day, whether before or after your job, searching the pages of holy writ. Use the methods outlined in my other posts, and perhaps leave a few comments about the effects on your walk with God.

Contend For The Faith

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” – Jude 1:3

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” – 1 Peter 3:15.

Apologia

This Greek word is the source of our word “apologetics”, which means a defense of the faith. The word here used in the Bible as “Apologia” in the Greek under the term “answer” as it appears in 1 Peter 3:15 means “A verbal defense, speech in defense, a reasoned statement or argument.” This is of course according to Thayer’s Greek dictionary. Being the branch of theology which focuses on a defense of the faith, you would think that Christians might see this to be more important.

An effective defense of the faith requires a person to be studious. I would suspect you would have to read works that have been written answering charges, take the time to research what others have done in this branch of theology, learn what the different logical fallacies are, and spend the time answering attacks on the faith. I’ve run into too many who consider this to be a waste of time. Some of the reasons cited are the idea that you should spend your time studying the truth, and often an illustration of how “they” don’t spend time studying the counterfeit dollar in order to spot the fakes but instead study the genuine.

Comments which imply that people think apologetics is about arguing with others are occasionally made. Then others will still say they don’t have the time to spend in studying into something which isn’t true. We then start to wonder why it is that our youth sometimes leave the churches in droves, and it is so hard to answer the charges of atheists. I know that some in my church have struggled to answer questions which relate to God’s existence. Challenging questions like “who made God” and “why does he allow evil” are the stumps which Christians of different faiths have a tendency to trip over, including the issue of “why Did God command Genocide?”

I’ve had an interesting experience in this area myself. So much so that I would say my encounters with opposition to the Christian faith have been quite insightful. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity for door to door work. Knocking on doors is a very rich experience, in which you gain an intimate understanding of evangelism and what kinds of attitudes exist in the world. A friend of mine once said that, “you’re getting the whole gambit.” I’ve met all kinds of people knocking on doors, and have enough experiences where I could probably write a book chronicling my story.

But I learned something very important when I was beating on doors. Upon occasion, an atheist answered the door. From these people I have been told I’m following a ridiculous path, that my testimony is an example of a coincidence, that there is no God because if he existed he wouldn’t allow evil, that God himself must be evil because of apparently messed up things in the old testament, and that he cannot be real because they’ve found alien skeletons on the moon. I think the attack I’ve heard the most is, “who made God?”

While this was discouraging at first, it drove me to study into apologetics. I have to admit that I have much to learn. But I’ve discovered that the question of “who made God” is a lot like the controversy surrounding Arianism, in which those who’re into false theology claim that Christ is a created being. If God was made than he obviously isn’t God, and thus the question cancels itself out. Alien skeletons on the moon is of course a laughable argument. But this is all beside the point. We as Christians need to know why we believe what we believe.

An argument often used by Atheists is that if you were born in some other country, you would be a part of a different religion. Thus it is claimed that you have been brain washed into accepting your current beliefs, that in applicable cases you’re only following it because your family has, and so on. We need to know why we believe what we believe as Christians, and not find ourselves going to a particular church because our parents always went to it. There is a real need to study into these matters. We often however do not study these things, and thus we’re left defenseless when the arguments of the atheists start pouring in.

We need to be able to respond to some of the attacks on Christianity which exist in our day. We should also understand that it isn’t a denial of faith to be able to explain why you believe in God, as this would be living up to some of the Biblical commands, and the early Christians had apologists in their ranks. Studying into Church History is sufficient to reveal that they had to deal with attacks against Christianity as well. They contended for the faith, responding to these charges at a time when they were also experiencing fierce persecution.

Today we don’t see the importance of this. More likely we don’t want to touch it because it involves the word “study.” If Apologetics requires research and studying, some of the masses who don’t like to read or barely get into their Bibles more than likely wouldn’t touch that branch of theology. Perhaps the thought that enters into their mind is that they should leave it to Ken Ham or Ravi Zacharias. Thus they don’t bother to touch it. This is like leaving evangelism to your pastor.

There are several reasons for why we need to consider the importance of apologetics. One of them is that Christianity is under attack from all directions. There are assaults on the trustworthiness of the Bible, the existence of God, and his character. It comes in a variety of forms from Evolution to the question of why there is an apparent command of Genocide in the Bible. Some of these questions can be very perplexing if you’re confronted with them. While the older people of the Church may be able to dismiss such questions easily, the youth could have their faith completely destroyed. Hence it doesn’t cut it simply to teach Bible stories without providing ample evidence upon which for them to base their faith anymore.

Christianity is also under attack in the form of cults that have arrived upon the scene who wrap themselves in the garments of sheep. The Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are examples of groups which fit this description. In view of so many attacks from external sources, I think it would behoove you study into the matter. A defense of Christianity is a needed thing, especially if you expect the Youth to stay in the Church.

But alongside them we have internal assaults in the form of heresies around almost every corner, and a mass amount of lay people who are not practicing discernment. Without exaggerating the seriousness of the situation, I would say that there is a spiritual war that is raging out there, and we as Christians are often busy posting things on Facebook like “post amen and God will bless you with such and such.” But as the video below demonstrates, some of us can’t even pick up on when something is quoted outside of its context.

Jacob Dufour is honestly some one I know almost nothing about. In the video he claims to be a Christian filmmaker. I’ve never seen any of his movies. This YouTube video is about as close as it gets to me watching something produced by him, and I stumbled across it because a friend of mine on Facebook shared it on their timeline. In turn I shared it on mine, because ultimately the message of this video is something that we as Christians need to see and consider. Thus it wound up in this post, as I thought it was very fitting with the subject in question. But because I do not know if everything he produces is Biblical, I thus will not say that I endorse all of it. If you watch anything of his in the future, do so with the very same critical eye that he admonishes you to have.

This video displays an overall lack of discernment, and perhaps even Bible study, on the part of the majority of Christian laypeople. What is worse is one of the individuals whom he was conversing with claimed to be a pastor, and mistook the quotation cited [which was originally from the devil as you saw], as being “our Lord Jesus.” Apologetics helps with the external assaults, but when the battle involves heresies floating around within the Church, especially in the form of prosperity gospel trash, you will need discernment. In fact, this video would cause me to go so far as to say that we’re in trouble. Why is it that I say this?

  1. A quotation which was taken out of context was accepted as truth because it sounded nice and inspirational.
  2. It stands to reason that if almost 97% of Christians conversed with were duped by a quote taken out of context as a simple experiment to see if they were serious, than they would likely be deceived on a more regular basis. Therefore they may accept all kinds of heresies as truth just because a quote was taken out of context to support it and it sounded “inspirational.”
  3. This was a statement taken straight from the mouth of Satan while Jesus was tempted. If Christians were duped by this, what will they do when the deceptions of the last days are multiplying around them? [2 Thessalonians 2:8-9, Revelation 16:13-14, Matthew 24:4-5.]

Christians really are in trouble, and especially at a time in which the battle for the faith thickens around us. Scanning through the WordPress reader, at times I’ve come across some blogs that have been produced by other Christians who’re an inch away from leaving the faith. Some of the earlier blogs I found when I started this ministry were by people expressing doubts about the truthfulness of the Bible and the existence of God. A friend of mine from the Bible college I went to suggested one of them was taking a bite out of “secular humanism.” They were definitely heading in the direction opposite of belief in God, as the title for their blog gave this suggestion. I battled back and forth with the person over Conditional Immortality in their blog comments for a time, not realizing that there was no way on earth they would listen to me. It was sad, because I was drawn into the fray over the fact that a part of the reasoning behind their doubts about God’s existence was the issue of an eternally burning hell.

Another blog that I found spoke about how there is no evidence to back Christianity up. The writer was going so far as to say that the “faith once delivered to the saints” was entirely fictional, and that learning this was a heart wrenching experience for them. It is saddening to come across something like that, but it can be directly charged to a neglect of study on the part of Christians. We not only do not study our Bibles or neglect to fact check those who quote something out of context, but we neglect an important branch of theology that would have us prepared to deal with such situations!

It is high time for us as Christians to awaken from our slumber. We need to be like the bereans, and we need to know why we believe what we believe. We cannot be the lukewarm pew warmers that some have been. There is a real need right now for us to be awake, especially if we genuinely believe that we’re approaching the final days of this earth’s history.

How To Study The Bible – Part 2 “Tools Of The Trade”

As the Christian begins studying the Bible, they might take notice of certain tools that are available to them. Examples are websites such as those listed underneath the links section of this blog. Others have been mentioned in the previous post, such as the Concordance and E-sword. All of these things have a tendency to enrich one’s study of God’s word.

While the Christian is beginning to get acquainted with these resources, temptation can come upon them. One might think, “how could there possibly be any temptation connected with a tool to help with Bible study?” The answer is that some of these tools actually come with dangers and pitfalls. There are ways in which a Concordance for instance may be misused, through for example a misreading of the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries which a Concordance comes equipped with. The tool allows for problems in both directions, but should not be tossed in the garbage solely on this grounds alone.

Before addressing the Concordance however, it is important to call the Christian’s attention to something known as Bible Commentaries. A Bible Commentary is book or set of books where a man, usually a theologian or pastor, has written about a series of texts or large sections of the Bible. The purpose of Bible Commentaries are literally what the name implies, to give an exhaustive commentary on the Scriptures, unraveling or explaining the meaning of verses. In a general sense the books are filled with the interpretations of the individuals who have written the books, which may or may not necessarily be correct.

The danger inherent in Bible Commentaries is found in the fact that they are an uninspired source of information. Using a Bible Commentary is almost the exact same thing as asking the person sitting in the pew next to you to interpret the text for you, or going to your pastor for all of the answers. One might even go so far as to equate the usage of Bible Commentaries with asking the theologians of your particular denomination about a verse. To clarify, these conversations are not necessarily inherently wrong to have in and of themselves. The problem is when you as a Christian become reliant on asking these individuals or consulting a Bible Commentary rather than studying the text for yourself.

In order to understand the potential problems that this might cause, let us for a moment take a trip back through time. Imagine for a moment that you are a young Jew, living in Palestine during the time of Christ. Jesus has just come to you to reveal himself as the Messiah. Let us imagine for a moment that he has even shown you Scriptures, proving exactly who he is, and shown you a miracle or two. Excited but still somewhat skeptical, you then go to the Pharisees and ask them about these experiences. The very first thing they tell you is that he is some kind of a false prophet, probably demon possessed [as the Jews actually did accuse him of this at one time, see John 8:52], and that everything he says is wrong. Now let us imagine that you come to the conclusion that they are probably right, since they are the leaders and theologians in the Church.

The problem with this picture is that this actually was Jesus Christ, the Messiah. You wound up missing the boat and rejecting Christ because you listened to the so-called ‘theologians’, instead of checking things out for yourself. Christians do this with their pastors more often than not, and the same has been done with Bible Commentaries. It is plausible that the Scriptures could introduce you to some concept which draws you closer to the Lord and has revealed his will to you, yet as you check a Bible Commentary on the verse you all of the sudden find that the person who wrote the commentary has given a completely different meaning to the text, or they have passed it by as dark or obscure.

Worse yet, you might find the individual’s interpretation to be completely erroneous. The fact that Bible Commentaries are uninspired documents creates a situation in which you are likely to adopt the opinions of whoever wrote the books, their theological errors, and whatever dogmas and creeds which they hold to. Therefore blindly accepting whatever materials are found in these books is not the very best policy for Bible Study.

There are several Bible passages which are applicable to this situation that warn against similar behavior. All of them may be seen below. They should be considered in the light of this situation. This is especially since many Christians have a tendency to be wholly reliant either on their Pastor or a Bible Commentary for the true interpretation of Scripture. Christians should remember that you do not have to be a Pastor or Theologian to interpret a passage of Scripture, and that the Bible is it’s own expositor. We are not a part of the Church in the Middle Ages, in which only the clergy could interpret the Bible and therefore the Bibles were kept from the people. You do not need an education from a seminary to figure out the meaning of a Bible text, neither should you rely on some one who has one.

“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” – Psalm 118:8-9

“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” – Psalm 146:3-4

“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” – Jeremiah 17:5

“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” – Proverbs 14:15

The first of these passages states that it is better to trust in God than in men. The next states directly that we should not put our trust in men, specifically princes are listed. There is also a curse pronounced on those who trust in men and “maketh flesh” their arm, followed by a warning to not believe every single word of a person blindly but to check it out for yourself. Yet complete reliance on a Bible Commentary would cause a Christian to be walking contrary to all of these Bible passages, and is akin to putting one hundred percent trust in your Pastor.

In view of all of these texts, consulting a Bible Commentary should not be our first move when studying a passage of Scripture. Again this would be akin to asking some one in the pews next to you to unravel the meaning for you, rather than studying it for yourself. In which case your beliefs are then based off of whatever their opinions or conclusions are and not the Bible. In view of this fact, it is important to mention that there are great Bible expositors of the past who have discarded Bible Commentaries entirely and began searching the Scriptures with nothing but their Bible and a Concordance. This is an excellent course of action for those who are just getting acquainted with their Bibles.

Somewhat related to Bible Commentaries are Bible Dictionaries. There are very good Bible Dictionaries for the Christian to use, one being the King James Dictionary. You can find this on Blue letter bible. This particular resource is invaluable for understanding the old/archaic english used all over the King James Version of the Bible. If you study from the King James, you might find this to be an awesome resource which could enhance your study of the Scriptures. The main issue however with most Bible Dictionaries is that they contain the theology of whatever Church or Theologian published them to the public, whether it is true or false. Therefore I would give them a similar treatment as Bible Commentaries, ensuring that you do not wholly rely on them when coming to a conclusion or studying a concept.

At this point in our journey, we now turn our attention back to the Concordance. This tool comes equipped with Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. This is because the Bible was originally written in these two languages, the old testament having been written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. These dictionaries are an excellent tool, allowing the Bible student to study a word used in a passage in the original language in which it was written. I have personally found that it comes in handy when you run into an old english word which you do not understand, or terms are used that are not clear on the surface.

Below are two passages of Scripture. The first verse uses the term “oblation.” This is an old english word, the surface meaning of which is not clear, as not many use this term today. With a word like this in the King James Version of the Bible you have two options, either you can look it up in a King James Dictionary or you can consult the original meaning of the word using the Hebrew Dictionary attached to your concordance. In the case of this word, both might give you an equally clearer meaning of the statement used. The other passage uses words like “Raca” and “Thou Fool”, which are very strange words on the surface. In addition to the verses, I have produced the meaning of some of these words from the Concordance.

“And if thou bring an oblation of a meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil.” – Leviticus 2:4

H7133

קֻרְבָּן קָרְבָּן

qorbân qûrbân

kor-bawn’, koor-bawn’

From H7126; something brought near the altar, that is, a sacrificial present: – oblation, that is offered, offering.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” – Matthew 5:22

G4469

ῥακά

rhaka

rhak-ah’

Of Chaldee origin (compare [H7386]); O empty one, that is, thou worthless (as a term of utter vilification): – Raca.

G3474

μωρός

mōros

mo-ros’

Probably form the base of G3466; dull or stupid (as if shut up), that is, heedless, (morally) blockhead, (apparently) absurd: – fool (-ish, X -ishness).

I have learned by experience that the result is formatted first with the definition of the word, and then the various ways in which it is translated across the Bible. In this case the word “oblation” means “something brought near the alter, that is, a sacrificial present.” The word “offering” comes to mind as one reads the texts. This is one way the word is actually translated, and is a thought that seems to fit given the definition. The word “offering”, although not the same Hebrew word, is even used in the verse. You could even theoretically use Leviticus 2:4 as it stands to define the word “Oblation” as an offering, given the wording of the passage.

Some old english words such as “wherefore”, “ought”, or “unto” do not necessarily have helpful Hebrew or Greek definitions attached to them, and if you struggle with these words I personally recommend either using a King James Dictionary such as the one previously mentioned, or looking them up on the internet [I have done this in some cases and found the definition for old english words like “Unto”].

I will now draw your attention to the words “Raca” and “Thou Fool” found in Matthew 5:22. Note that one is defined as a term of utter vilification, and the other is defined as “dull or stupid, as if shut up, that is, heedless (morally) blockhead, (apparently) absurd.” Both of the definitions given make these terms sound like insults or general hurtful remarks thrust at a person. This gave me the impression that this passage is addressing the statements you might throw at some one in moments of anger, especially since the passages that follow speak of making reconciliation with your brethren in the Church. In this case, this is an example of how a Greek dictionary attached to a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible can enhance some of your studies of God’s word.

These tools can help you unravel confusing words, such as “Raca” and “Thou Fool”. It can even enhance your understanding of what the passage is saying to a certain extent. However one needs to use these tools with caution. There is a right way and wrong way to use these dictionaries. The video below produces an outstanding example of one way in which a Christian can fall into error using this tool if they are not careful. Even following closely beside this problem is the way the definition is set up. As previously noted, you are given the definition of a word and then the way it is translated. Sometimes multiple definitions for one word are given. The Bible Student should always check the context of a passage when they are confronted with this situation to avoid inserting the wrong meaning of a word. Remember that as lay people, most of us are not Greek and Hebrew scholars, neither do we need to be to understand God’s Word.

Another point to take into consideration is that you should avoid consulting the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries first to find the answers as to what the overall meaning of a text is. You should always seek to compare Scripture with Scripture before consulting this tool. In spite of these potential draw backs, I do not advocate discarding this resource, but instead using it very carefully and prayerfully.

Next I want to draw your attention to resources such as E-Sword. Much of the features of E-Sword were dwelt upon in the previous post. We already know that it is complete with a powerful Bible search engine that allows you to control the complete range of the search, whether it is just focused on one book or several books of the Bible. E-sword also comes with features such as a verse analyzer, which examines words in any given verse. It can be set to have a range from one passage in the beginning of a book all the way to the end of a book, and it essentially tells you how many times certain words are used across a book of the Bible or in just a few verses.

According to the program’s built-in user guide, this can help you determine the importance of a word. The tool itself seems handy, and is worth calling your attention to, even though I have not personally used it much in my experience of studying with E-sword. E-sword is also equipped with a split-screen function, allowing you to study at least two verses at once from different books of the Bible. This is very handy for when you have a Bible which has a lot of chain references and you want to look something up without leaving your present position in the Bible.

There is also a Gospel harmony tool, which takes all of the Gospels and shows all of the accounts of the same event. This is something I see coming in handy if one wants to study the varying descriptions of last day events normally found in Matthew 24 across different Gospels. An even cooler feature is it’s built in concordance. Obviously the function of a physical Concordance in finding verses is virtually replaced by the Bible search engine. However E-sword comes with the Greek & Hebrew words built right in. All one has to do is click a button to see Strong’s numbers, which then allow you get the definitions if you hover your mouse over them or click them. You can also download a KJC or “King James Concordance”, which just like a regular Concordance gives you a list of every verse that uses a particular word across the Bible in the same fashion as does a physical Concordance.

The draw back with E-Sword is some of the resources available for download. It seems a lot of Bible programs are made with a philosophy of study which involves an emphasis on consulting Bible Commentaries, something already dwelt upon at length in this article. There are Bible Commentaries and Dictionaries available for download with E-Sword that I would use with caution for the same reasons already dwelt upon, in addition to resources I would not put entire reliance upon if not avoid entirely, such as the Apocrypha [which is uninspired] or the writings of the early Church Fathers. At some future time, a post will be given surrounding some of these writers from the early centuries of Christianity. For the time being it will suffice to say “use and read with extreme caution”, as some of them advocate the worship of the stars, have been known to mix Christianity with Greek Philosophy, and had some weird pagan ideas creeping into their doctrinal thinking.

Some might think this impossible considering these were the early Christians, but remember warnings from Paul concerning this matter, and the fact that even today heresies creep into the Church. In the book of Acts we find the following statements. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” – Acts 20:29-31. In view of this fact, it is important to read with caution.

In conclusion, it is my hope that all of these tools will be helpful in your study of God’s word. I hope also that you find the following videos helpful as you begin to study the Bible.

How To Study The Bible – Part 1

“What on earth do I do with this?” The new believer in Christ often may ask, as a Bible is slapped in their hands. First introductions to the Scriptures can be an intimidating experience. Some who have been freshly converted to the faith may not enjoy the task of reading, and therefore find Bible Study to be difficult if not boring. Others may experience problems in finding the time to sit down and read their Bibles. Perhaps their jobs or families have become so demanding on their time, that it is difficult to make time to study the Bible.

While these problems may confront the new believer, more often than not the task of trying to figure out how to study the Bible is daunting, difficult, and even discouraging. The new believer may wander the Church, asking numerous believers how to study the Bible. It is unfortunate that the individual in this position is most often met with statements such as, “there is no real method to study” or “just read it.” These answers of course do not answer the question, “How do I study the Bible?” Even more discouragement might be met in asking the pastor, as they might simply just respond by handing you Bible Studies that you might go through, without actually teaching you to study.

There is an old saying which holds true to this scenario. If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life. Giving packets of studies without teaching the person to study for themselves obviously doesn’t answer the question either. Yet the new believer in Christ might be even more discouraged when they are confronted with the various books of the Bible. Their mind might be filled with questions like, “which one do I start in?” Or they may feel intimidated by all sixty-six books of Scripture, from the various historical books right on down to the book of Revelation.

Still more difficult is the cryptic symbolism found throughout many places in Scripture. One might find themselves asking, “what on earth does this mean?” It can leave one feeling confused, discouraged, and not really wanting to bother reading it because of their lack of understanding. With all these facts in mind, how exactly is the new believer to study their Bible? This seems a good question that not a lot of Christians know how to answer. Perhaps this is one possible reason that the Bible is neglected by so many Christians, even ones of long standing.

In spite of all the challenges and discouragement the new believer may face in this area, they are not to be discouraged. There are Christians, including the present writer of this article, who have learned much about this topic. I speak from experience when I say that it is possible to gain an understanding of Scripture through diligent study and the reception of wisdom from above. It is my hope that some of the things which I have learned by experience and been taught by others will be of aid to you in your own search of the Scriptures.

With that said, one has to consider what the true objective of the question is. Many Christians overlook the fact that the one who asks how to study the Bible is really seeking for methods of interpretation. They are after the means by which they can unravel the meaning of a passage. The new believer wants to know how to dig into the word of God. Telling them to “just read it” doesn’t answer their question or really give them what they are looking for.

I speak from experience when I say that the Bible is a deep book. It may be read from one cover to the next and yet the person completely misses the point. Unless one stops to think about what the word of God is saying, they may not be able to apply the passage to their life. Speed reading is obviously not the very best policy when attempting to study one’s Bible. One may skip over powerful and convicting statements in their efforts to speed read through the Bible in a whole year. In contrast the person who studies one passage until they understand it’s relation to their life and salvation has gained more than the speed reader, and the resulting outward changes will likely be seen.

Than it is therefore important to go very slowly, taking one verse at a time and digesting each thought presented until you have achieved complete understanding. Yet this is not the first step to take in seeking to study the Bible. One of the first things to consider when approaching the Bible is your attitude. Are you approaching the Bible to vindicate your own opinions or prove some doctrinal point? Are you studying the scriptures to find evidence of your preconceived opinions or traditions? If you approach the Bible with this type of thinking, you will wrest the Scriptures every single time.

You will be likely to force meaning upon passages which they do not have or remove them from their context. One can produce all of the disconnected utterances in the world to prove whatever point they want, yet this does not prove them correct, or make their methods of interpretation right. It is important to approach the Bible with a teachable attitude. I would advise you to come to the Bible without a single bias. Be prepared to lay aside all opinions, doctrines, traditional teachings, or the sayings of theologians. Leave these things at the door of investigation and see what the word of God teaches for yourself, and if any of these things do not line up with the Scriptures abandon them.

The next step in this process is to pray. If you neglect prayer, it doesn’t matter what methods of interpretation you use. You will still be liable to wrest and misinterpret statements in Scripture. The only way to avoid this is not only to approach with the correct attitude, but to pray before you start. Ask for the aid of divine guidance, for God to open the Scriptures to you. There are several promises in the Bible which you can apply to your own experience in studying the word, and which you may present in prayer before beginning your study. They may be found below.

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” – John 16:13

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:” – John 15:26

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26

The first verse uses the cryptic phrase “Spirit of Truth”. In order to see exactly what that is, one need only look at the connection between all three passages. The middle verse defines the spirit of truth as the “Comforter”, which is defined as the “Holy Ghost” by John 14:26. The Holy Ghost is also known in Christian circles and in the Bible as the Holy Spirit, thereby making the term “Spirit of Truth” another name for the Holy Ghost. The passage from the fifteenth chapter of John helps to establish this fact, while the other two passages are the promises which are most applicable to your study of the Bible.

The first statement suggests that when the “Spirit of Truth” is come, he will “guide you into all truth.” This means that one function of the Holy Ghost is to reveal the truth to you, and the other passage obviously states that he will teach you all things. This means that the Holy Ghost is somebody you want helping you with Bible Study. If you put the two passages together, he will guide you into the true meaning of Scripture and teach you what verses actually mean! This kind of aid may be received through prayer, as can be shown especially by a reading of Luke 11:9-13. This means that if you start your Bible Study out with earnest prayer for the aid of the Holy Spirit, you will more than likely be met with better results from your study. You will be much more likely to come forth from your study with the true meaning of the text.

Let us imagine that after this step, the new believer turns to the book of John. They begin in the very first passage. Immediately it seems their heart sinks. Why one might ask? The reason being, they are immediately confronted with nothing other than the very first passage of John, which has a very cryptic appearance. The verse reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1. “Word” is used a great many times in this first passage to the point where one is left scratching their head in confusion, wondering if any part of the Bible will ever make sense.

However there is absolutely no need to become discouraged. The Bible is full of statements that are very cryptic in their appearance. This does not in any way mean that they cannot be understood. After all, with those two promises from this very same book in regards to the Holy Ghost, how is it that something cannot be understood? If the Spirit teaches you all things, the idea that you cannot understand the Bible is absurd. Therefore the beginner Bible Student is not to become discouraged.

Yet this passage furnishes us with sufficient evidence to back up that which was earlier stated. Cryptic statements found in the Bible, such as this one, are practically screaming that you should stop and examine them. Speed reading from here forward would cause one to completely miss the thought found in this passage. Therefore it is important to stop and examine the text.

Then from this point forward, your next move is observation. It is key to pay attention to all of the details taking place in any given text. This can help in the process of unraveling the meaning of any given verse. With John 1:1 we learn details such as the fact that the word was in the beginning, that the word is with God, and the Word itself is in fact God. John 14:26 is shown below as an example of how far attention to detail can go.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26

From this verse, we learn that that the Holy Ghost is the comforter. We can also see that the Holy Ghost is defined as a “he”, making the Holy Ghost a person. Sometimes words can have huge theological implications, so it is important to pay attention and watch everything that is going on in a verse. Looking at all of the details eliminates focusing in on only half of a text, so be sure and read the entire passage rather than focusing on small snippets. The rest of the verse tells us that the Holy Ghost will bring all things to our remembrance and teach us all things. The end of the passage says, “whatsoever I have said unto you.” Whoever this mysterious person is, it is office of the Holy Ghost to bring what they have said to our remembrance. We’re left with a very important point and question as we look at the details of this text. Just who exactly is doing the talking?

If one were to scroll up in their Bibles to the twenty-third verse of the fourteenth chapter of John, they would learn just who in the twenty-sixth passage is talking. “Whatsoever I have said unto you” is a phrase which is spoken by Jesus. To make this fact much more clear, three passages which occur before John 14:26 have been produced below. They teach us very clearly that there is no change in individuals talking from verse twenty-three on down to twenty-six, therefore making the statement “whatsoever I have said unto you” a reference to the sayings of Jesus. Therefore it is the office of the Holy Ghost to bring whatever Jesus has said to our remembrance.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. ” – John 14:23-25

This fact raises an important point. Details can be found in the context. Everything surrounding a passage has a bearing on the meaning of a verse. Watch for a change in persons talking, a swap of subject, words that link passages together, or details that unravel the verse. As shown by the above texts, something as simple as who is doing the talking can have an important bearing on the meaning of a passage. This can also mean the difference between wresting a text outside of it’s true meaning and coming to a proper understanding of it. Passages isolated from their context is the means by which individuals fall into error. Strange theological ideas can be conjured by isolating passages and phrases and putting one’s own spin on them, making it very important to read a passage in it’s original connection.

A verse-by-verse study of the Scriptures is not eliminated by employing such methods. This in fact only creates a situation in which one needs to examine everything happening surrounding a verse. As for the case of John 1:1, with the text as the very first passage of the book obviously nothing is occurring before the verse. One is more than capable however of looking ahead to determine if anything in the next few verses provides clues as to what the text is talking about.

Supposing nothing is found in the texts that are ahead which unravel it, what is the next move? From here, asking yourself questions about a Bible verse can be a helpful method of unraveling a text. The goal is to attempt to answer them from the Bible. Your questions should target the details of the passage, especially those which remain in obscurity. Therefore one of the most obvious questions you can ask at this point is, “What is the word?” You could also ask yourself, “What is the beginning?” Still another good one is, “What does it mean for the word to be with God?”

The task of attempting to answer these questions from Scripture can be daunting, even seemingly impossible for the new believer. Those who are not completely acquainted with their Bibles would not know how to search for texts which provide the answers for other texts. How is the new believer to answer any questions they may have from the Bible? There is a tool called a concordance, and this in fact is the answer.

A Concordance is like an exhaustive compendium of words used in the Bible. It is a super thick text book composed of every single word used in Scripture. It is arranged alphabetically, making things fairly easy to find. A Bible Student could take “word” from John 1:1, look it up in the Concordance, and find themselves confronted with a complete list of every verse across the Scriptures which uses the word “word.” This would allow you to trace the phrase all across the Bible. You should be able pick these up at most Christian book stores.

However the physical concordance may seem scary. One could spend hours thumbing through the super thick text book before they eventually land on what they’re looking for. Electronic versions are available totally free of charge. They can be used from any one of the links found on this site. In addition, E-sword [which is a Bible program] contains a powerful search engine which has the same functions as a concordance. It is even far superior to a physical concordance, as it will allow you to trace out complete sentences, phrases, or multiple words across the Bible. You can even narrow your search range to only target specific books of the Bible.

I personally recommend E-sword, as it’s search capabilities will greatly speed up the process of searching the Bible. The next step for the beginner Bible student from here is to take a concordance or Bible search engine, and search out answers for the questions that he or she asked. If they asked what the Word is, than their next move would be to type “word” into the search engine. The student is then to trace out the phrase or word until it’s meaning is literally explained. If the explanation does no violence to the main text as it stands, and makes perfect sense, you have found the correct meaning. If not than you need to look again.

If the search range on E-sword is set from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible student is confronted with six hundred seventy-five verses. At first this fact can seem a little scary. However it may be helpful to the beginner Bible Student to set the range to focus first on the book you are already studying, allowing you to get a rapid survey through every passage in the book of John which uses the phrase “word.” If you don’t find anything in the book you are presently studying which answers your questions, you can then widen your search to include the rest of the Bible. Narrowing your search results in this fashion can help you more rapidly land on the correct passage that explains the verse you are studying.

Focusing the search range on just the book of John would cause the Bible student to come across an interesting passage fourteen verses down from John 1:1. The verse reads, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14. It should be obvious that, given this is in the same chapter of the book of John, this is most likely talking about the same “Word.” Although the meaning is not clear on the surface, the fact that it is in the same connection as the first verse should make it abundantly clear that an examination of this passage will unravel at least a portion of the other verse.

Applying some of the earlier steps, one might notice that this verse is stating that the word “was made flesh” and “dwelt among among us.” John 1:1 already defined the word as God. If you put the pieces together as you pay close attention, this means that John 1:14 is saying that God dwelt among us. Another detail is that when the verse says “and we beheld his glory” it is obviously still talking about the “Word”, given the same connection. Still a more striking detail is found when the statement says “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” All of these details furnish you with subject matter for the search engine.

Tracing out the word “begotten” produces only twenty-four texts, so you do not have many verses to wade through at this point. Out of the first twelve texts, only three use the phrase “begotten” in the same way that John 1:14 does. One of those three texts is the very verse in question, therefore eliminating it. The two verses remaining are John 1:18 and John 3:16. Both of them are reproduced below.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” – John 1:18

Both of these passages attach the phrase “begotten” to the word “Son”, and imply that the only begotten of the Father is most likely the Son of God. Therefore if one determines who the Son of God is, one has found the meaning of the term “Word.” Searching the phrase “Son of God” produces one hundred and eighty-two verses. Paying close attention to them, you might notice that your Bible search engine [in this case we are using E-sword as an example] is giving you all of the passages that use all of the words you typed in. Therefore a lot of the content in the results has no bearing on what you are looking for. My recommendation at this point is to skim over things rapidly until you come across something that actually literally explains the phrase “Son of God.”

The Bible Student eventually lands on a passage in Matthew. The verse reads, “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” – Matthew 8:29. This verse is defining Jesus as the Son of God. We may therefore conclude that the only begotten son of God is Jesus Christ, making the only begotten of the Father Jesus, and making Jesus “the Word” mentioned in John 1:1.

This brings an important principle to mind. Whenever you come across a cryptic statement in the Bible, remember that it can always be explained by some other portion of the Bible. Comparing one Scripture with another is a practice which can always help to unlock Bible verses that you are confused about. The use of a concordance or Bible search engine makes this much easier than it sounds, and eliminates the need for having a complete knowledge of everything the Bible says in order to compare one verse with another.

In addition, these tools allow you to follow yet another important principle. A sound approach for Bible Study is to line up everything the Bible says about any given topic before coming to a conclusion about a doctrinal point. Neglecting to do this causes an individual to miss the complete doctrinal picture. You cannot gain a full understanding of the Bible’s overall teaching about a subject from one or two verses, or even half of a verse, when the rest of the Bible disproves whatever fallacious conclusions one might draw from snippets.

As you begin to apply these methods, you may want to take notes. E-sword comes with built in note-taking software. The built-in abilities of E-sword are just like any other word processor, with changeable fonts, bullet points, and the ability to make numbered lists. An especially cool feature of the program is the ability to format any Scripture reference you type into the note taking editor as a link back to that verse and a “tool tip”, to where when you hover your mouse over the reference a speech bubble containing the entire verse will appear. All of these abilities massively come in handy when studying the Bible.

Some of you may prefer something which you can hold in your hand. This means one hundred page spiral ring or composition notebooks will be your best friend. Taking notes will allow you to focus in on the details more easily, underlining or circling key phrases and words and noting all of the observations you make. I would even suggest writing down your questions, and any passages which answer them, as well as whatever your final conclusion as to what the passage means is.

At this point it is prudent to give a word of caution. Your objective in studying the passage is not to find or write down what the text means to you, but to unravel the actual meaning of the text and apply it to your life. Another word to define what coming up with what the text means to you is Eisegesis. This is a negative thing which often causes people to go off into error, and is therefore something you want to avoid. Eisegesis is defined as reading something into a text which is not there, or forcing a meaning on a verse which it doesn’t have. A good example would be taking Daniel 7:4 and applying the Lion in the verse to Belgium without proving it from the Bible.

Others have taken Bible passages and reapplied them, giving them a new meaning which they did not originally have or convey. The reapplication of prophecies which have been fulfilled in the past might be another good example of Eisegesis. This is also a pitfall with Bible Study that you want to avoid. As you study through prophecy, a good point to note is that sometimes the Bible gives you the proper interpretation immediately after giving you a specific dream or vision. If that is the case, than interpreting the text as anything other than what it gave you is doing violence to the Scriptures.

You will also want to make sure that you apply figurative terms correctly. As you run into cryptic phrases and statements in the Scriptures, it can be tempting to apply figures anywhere in the Bible. Let us hypothetically suppose that you have just discovered that trees represent people in prophecy. You then turn your Bible to Genesis and you read about the tree of life in Genesis 3. We have produced the passages in mind below. Read them carefully and then think about applying the hypothetical symbolism mentioned to the verses.

“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:22-24

If you think about it, reading these passages with the hypothetical symbolism really doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. You would be reading this passage as literally saying, “and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the people of life, and eat, and live for ever.” When you stumble across a figurative term in the Bible, remember that it doesn’t apply to every single verse across the Scriptures. In order to further deduce whether or not one should be applying figurative terms to whatever is taking place in the text, it is important to identify the type of literature in the Scriptures.

A good example would be prophecy vs literal history. In the case of Genesis, the entire book is literal history. You would run into much the same in the book of Exodus. Unless you are dealing with what is known as typology, which is a subject for a later time, generally you are not going to find something prophetic in stories that are to be read literally. Neither will you find anything allegorical among them. It is usually only those who wish to get around doctrines taught in the Bible or those who lack in faith who interpret historical books as allegorical.

Parables can be interpreted in this way, and there are a number of ways in which they may be identified. The first is that generally they are spoken by Jesus, usually beginning with the phrase “there was a certain man” or “a certain man”. Another way that you can spot them is through a statement which directly says that they are parables, an example of which is “Hear another parable” or “And then he spoke in parables.” You can also spot them by the fact that they are spoken in dialog by some one, as well as through their obvious fictional content, one example being talking trees found in Judges 9.

In like manner prophecy generally has similar identifying features. It usually takes the form of dreams or visions, which are always identified as such with a “I’m going into vision now” or “then so and so had a dream” type statement. Their content usually is the most cryptic, and sometimes appear to violate the simple laws of nature on the surface. An example of this is found in Revelation 12, in which the Bible describes a woman standing on the moon and clothed with the sun.

“And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” – Revelation 12:1-3

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelation 12:9

Obviously I have never seen a dragon with seven heads and ten horns, therefore this is meant to be taken in a symbolic sense. Note that later the Bible gives you the interpretation of the symbol used, telling you that the dragon is Satan. Since literal verses do not use this kind of language, or a secondary interpretation is not given, it should be relatively easy to discriminate between the symbolic and the literal in Scripture. With this discrimination, you should be able to pick out when to apply the meaning of figures and when not to. Especially in the case of Genesis should you consider avoiding doing that, as this is where some strange theological ideas are generated from.

At this point, let us say that the the beginner Bible Student still is unable to figure out the meaning of a Bible verse. Scary as that thought may sound, I have in fact encountered this phenomenon. In spite of all my efforts to search around, I have at times struggled with attempting to unravel the meaning of a passage. This happens to the best of us, and is something which will actually enrich your experience in studying the word. The reason being is that it will drive you to your knees in prayer, where you will earnestly plead with God for the true meaning of the passage until he answers you. I can speculate that the Scriptures were designed to do this very thing in order to generate a relationship between you and God, where you are placed in a position of having to diligently inquire in prayer about a text or difficulty.

This experience is likely to have a humbling effect on you. If you come to the Bible with your intellectual pride, depending wholly on yourself or your own abilities to figure out what passages mean, you are likely to have your pride laid in the dust. The rich experience of studying the word is likely to create in you a dependence on God alone for interpreting the Bible. Therefore you should not be discouraged because you come across a text or two that you don’t understand in spite of all your best efforts. It is times like those for which the Bible itself actually offers you a solution, which may be found in all of the promises below.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5

“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” – Mark 11:24

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26

The first verse is self-explanatory. It simply states that if you ask, God will liberally impart to you wisdom. With that in mind, you basically have no reason to be discouraged by the cryptic symbolism of the Bible, especially that which you find in the book of Revelation. The second verse is virtually stating that whatever you want, if you ask in prayer while believing, God will give it to you. While there are some conditions to this verse as will be discussed at a later time, this passage most definitely applies to the situation in question. The third verse has already been examined, but you can conclude from it that since the office of the Holy Spirit is to “teach you all things”, he will aid you with passages you are struggling over if you just ask and believe.

It is my hope that the new believer in Christ would find these methods helpful as they begin to search the word.