What does the Bible say about Heaven?

What does the Bible say about Heaven? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand what the Bible says about heaven.

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence and confessional support for the glorifying of God in how we live.

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

Definition:

Heaven

“Primarily, the essential and immediate dwelling place of God and the eternal home of His people also the place where God most fully makes known his presence to bless.” *

Definition:

Heaven is the dwelling place of God and for those who go there a place of everlasting bliss.

Scripture implies three heavens, since “the third heaven” is revealed to exist (2Corinthians 12:2). It is logical that a third heaven cannot exist without a first and second. Scripture does not describe specifically the first and second heaven. The first, however, apparently refers to the atmospheric heavens of the fowl (Hosea 2:18) and clouds (Daniel 7:13). The second heaven may be the area of the stars and planets (Genesis 1:14-18). It is the abode of all supernatural angelic beings. The third heaven is the abode of the triune God. Its location is unrevealed. (See Matthew 23:34-37; Luke 10:20; and Revelation 22:2; Rev 22:20-21). **

From the Scriptures about Heaven:

“The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.” (Psalms 33:13)

“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.” (Daniel 7:13)

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9)

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Acts 1:11:

“(11) Shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.—So our Lord, following the great prophecy of Daniel 7:13, had spoken of Himself as “coming in the clouds of heaven” (see Note on Matthew 26:64), in visible ‘majesty and glory. Here, again, men have asked questions which they cannot answer; not only, when shall the end be, but where shall the Judge thus appear? What place shall be the chosen scene of His Second Advent? So far as we dare to localise what is left undefined, the words of the angels suggest the same scene, as well as the same manner. Those who do not shrink from taking the words of prophecy in their most literal sense, have seen in Zechariah 14:4, an intimation that the Valley of Jehosophat (= Jehovah judges)—the “valley of decision”—shall witness the great Assize, and that the feet of the Judge shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, from which He had ascended into heaven. This was the current mediæval view, and seems, if we are to localise at all, to be more probable than any other.” (1)

Speaking metaphorically of the city called heaven:

“For he [Abraham] looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.” (Hebrews 12:22)

“And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2)

The Celestial City

1. The goal of Christian’s journey in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; the heavenly Jerusalem.

2. New Jerusalem.

Heaven from Vine’s Expository Dictionary:

Strong’s Number: g3772 Greek: ouranos

Heaven, Heavenly (-ies):

Probably akin to ornumi, “to lift, to heave,” is used in the NT

(a) Of “the aerial heavens,” e.g., Matthew 6:26; 8:20; Act 10:12; 11:6 (RV, “heaven,” in each place, AV, “air”); James 5:18;

(b) “the sidereal,” e.g., Mat 24:29, 35; Mar 13:25, 31; Hebrews 11:12, RV, “heaven,” AV, “sky;” Revelation 6:14; 20:11; they, (a) and (b), were created by the Son of God, Hebrews 1:10, as also by God the Father, Revelation 10:6;

(c) “The eternal dwelling place of God,” Matthew 5:16; 12:50; Revelation 3:12; 11:13; 16:11; 20:9. From thence the Son of God descended to become incarnate, John 3:13, 31; 6:38, 42. In His ascension Christ “passed through the heavens,” Hebrews 4:14, RV; He “ascended far above all the heavens,” Ephesians 4:10, and was “made higher than the heavens,” Hebrews 7:26; He “sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” Hebrews 8:1; He is “on the right hand of God,” having gone into heaven, 1Peter 3:22. Since His ascension it is the scene of His present life and activity, e.g., Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24. From the thence the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, 1Peter 1:12. It is the abode of the angels, e.g., Matthew 18:10; 22:30; cp. Revelation 3:5. Thither Paul was “caught up,” whether in the body or out of the body, he knew not, 2Corinthians 12:2. It is to be the eternal dwelling place of the saints in resurrection glory, 2 Corinthians 5:1. From thence Christ will descend to the air to receive His saints at the Rapture, 1Th 4:16; Philippians 3:20, 21, and will subsequently come with His saints and with His holy angels at His second advent, Mat 24:30; 2Thessalonians 1:7. In the present life “heavens,” is the region of the spiritual citizenship of believers, Philippians 3:20. The present “heavens” with the earth, are to pass away, 2Peter 3:10, “being on fire,” 2Pe 3:12 (see ver. 7); Revelation 20:11, and new “heavens” and earth are to be created, 2Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1, with Isaiah 65:17, e.g.

In Luke 15:18, 21, “heaven” is used, by metonymy, for God.

See AIR.

Notes:

(1) For the phrase in Luke 11:13, see Note on B, No. 2.

(2) In Luke 11:2, the AV, “as in heaven,” translates a phrase found in some mss.

A-1 Adjective Strong’s Number: g3770 Greek: ouranios

Heaven, Heavenly (-ies):

Signifying “of heaven, heavenly,” corresponding to A, No. 1, is used

(a) As an appellation of God the Father, Matthew 6:14, 26, 32, “your heavenly Father;” Matthew 15:13, “My heavenly Father;”

(b) As descriptive of the holy angels, Luke 2:13;

(c) Of the vision seen by Paul, Acts 26:19.

A-2 Adjective Strong’s Number: g2032 Greek: epouranios

Heaven, Heavenly (-ies):

“Heavenly,” what pertains to, or is in, heaven (epi, in the sense of “pertaining to,” not here, “above”), has meanings corresponding to some of the meanings of ouranos, A, No. 1. It is used

(a) Of God the Father, Matthew 18:35;

(b) of the place where Christ “sitteth at the right hand of God” (i.e., in a position of Divine authority), Ephesians 1:20; and of the present position of believers in relationship to Christ, Ephesians 2:6; where they possess “every spiritual blessing,” Ephesians 1:3;

(c) Of Christ as “the Second Man,” and all those who are related to Him spiritually, 1Corinthians 15:48;

(d) Of those whose sphere of activity or existence is above, or in contrast to that of earth, of “principalities and powers,” Ephesians 3:10; of “spiritual hosts of wickedness,” Ephesians 6:12, RV, “in heavenly places,” for AV, “in high places;”

(e) Of the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 6:4;

(f) of “heavenly things,” as the subjects of the teaching of Christ, John 3:12, and as consisting of the spiritual and “heavenly” sanctuary and “true tabernacle” and all that appertains thereto in relation to Christ and His sacrifice as antitypical of the earthly tabernacle and sacrifices under the Law, Hebrews 8:5; 9:23;

(g) Of the “calling” of believers, Hebrews 3:1;

(h) Of heaven as the abode of the saints, “a better country” than that of earth, Hebrews 11:16, and of the spiritual Jerusalem, Hebrews 12:22;

(i) Of the kingdom of Christ in its future manifestation, 2Timothy 4:18;

(j) Of all beings and things, animate and inanimate, that are “above the earth,” Philippians 2:10;

(k) Of the resurrection and glorified bodies of believers, 1 Corinthians. 15:49;

(l) Of the “heavenly orbs,” 1Corinthians 15:40 (“celestial,” twice, and so rendered here only).

Note: In connection with (a), the word “heavenly,” used of God the Father in Luke 11:13, represents the phrase ex ouranou, “from heaven.”

2Strong’s Number: g3321 Greek: mesouranema

Heaven, Heavenly (-ies):

Denotes “mid-heaven,” or the midst of the heavens (mesos, “middle,” and No. 1), Revelation 8:13; 14:6; 19:17.

B-1 Adverb Strong’s Number: g3771 Greek: ouranothen

Heaven, Heavenly (-ies):

Formed from A, No. 1, and denoting “from heaven,” is used of

(a) The aerial heaven, Act 14:17;

(b) Heaven, as the uncreated sphere of God’s abode, 26:13. (2)


Heaven, Heavens, Heavenlies from the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology:

“Heaven” is the created reality beyond earth. “The heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1) circumscribe the entire creation, or what we call the universe. God does not need heaven in which to exist. He is self-existent and infinite. Place is an accommodation of God to his finite creatures. God transcends not only earth, but heaven as well.

“Heaven” designates two interrelated and broad concepts the physical reality beyond the earth and the spiritual reality in which God dwells. Frequently, the word “heaven” appears in the plural. The nearly exclusive word for heaven in the Old Testament, samayim [Iy;m’v], is an intensive plural more literally translated “heights” or “high places.” Jehovah is, therefore, “God most High” (Gen 14:18-20; Psalm 18:13). Of the 284 occurrences of its New Testament counterpart, ouranos [oujranov] (lit. “that which is raised up”), about one-third are plural.

The Physical Heavens. The ancient distinguished between two domains of the physical heaven perceivable by the senses. The immediate heaven is the surrounding atmosphere in which the “birds of heaven” fly (1Kings 21:24). The phenomena of weather occur in the atmospheric heaven, including rain (Deut. 11:11; Acts 14:17), snow (Isa 55:10), dew (Dan 4:23), frost (Job 38:29), wind (Psalm 135:7), clouds (Psalm 147:8, thunder (1Sam 2:10), and hail (Job 38:22). Beyond the atmospheric heaven is the celestial heaven, also called the “expanse” or “firmament” (Gen 1:8). It includes the heavenly lights stars having “fixed patterns” (Jer. 33:25; Nahum 3:16), and the sun and moon (Gen 1:14-16). The fixed character of the celestial heaven has evoked figures of speech to describe it. For example, it has windows (2 Kings 7:2), a foundation (2 Sam 22:8), a gate (Gen 28:17), ends (Deut. 3:43, a remote part (Neh. 1:9), and is like a curtain (Isa 40:22).

God employs the atmospheric and celestial heavens in his self-revelation to human beings. First, the heavens witness that a glorious God exists. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1; Rom 1:19-20). Moreover, the pattern of seasons, yielding life-sustaining food, witness to God before believers.

Second, heaven contains signs establishing God’s promises. The rainbow signifies that God will never destroy the world by a flood again (Gen 9:12-16. The innumerable stars are an object lesson of the abundant way God will fulfill his covenant with Abraham (Gen 22:17; Exodus 32:13; Deut. 1:10; 1 Chron. 27:23; Neh. 9:23).

Third, God displays miraculous signs in the heavens. Fire comes down from heaven, both to judge (Gen 19:24; 1Kings 18:38-39) and to indicate acceptance of a sacrifice (1Chron. 21:26). God provided the Israelites with “bread from heaven” during their wilderness trek (Exodus 16:4). God stopped the sun’s movement (Jos 10:12-13) and used a star to pinpoint the Messiah’s coming (Luke 2:9). He also spoke audibly from heaven on occasion (Gen 21:17; Genesis 22:11 Genesis 22:15; Acts 11:9). Believers look for the return of Christ in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Fourth, the vastness and inaccessibility of heaven are visual reminders of God’s transcendence, God’s other worldliness, however, is a spiritual, not a spacial, fact. When Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, he acknowledged, “the heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you” (1 Kings 8:27).

The Dwelling Place of God. Heaven most commonly refers to the dwelling-place of God. Heaven is where the glory of God is expressed in pristine clarity. The term “glory,” therefore, has popularly been used as a synonym for heaven (Rom 8:18). Actually, God’s glory is above the heavens (Psalm 113:4; 148:13) because it is the sum total of his attributes that are expressed wherever he is present (Exodus 13:21-22; Psalm 108:5; 2Col 3:7-18). In heaven there is a continual acknowledgment of God’s glory (Psalm 29:9). Various figurative expressions identify God’s heavenly abode such as “the highest heaven” (1Kings 8:27), “the heavens” (Amos 9:6), and “his lofty palace in the heavens” (Amos 9:6). Paul speaks of being taken up into “the third heaven” (2Cor. 12:2). Although he does not identify the first two, possible references to the atmospheric and celestial heavens are suggestive.

The Heavenly Perspective. God invites human beings to adopt his heavenly perspective. All blessings, whether natural or supernatural, are from God (James 1:17; see John 3:27), who is Creator and Sustainer of the universe (Rom 11:36). Israel rightly regarded rain as a heavenly gift from God (Deut. 28:12). Likewise, drought was a sign of God’s displeasure (Deut. 28:23-24).

The extent to which earthly blessings evidence heavenly approval needs to be conditioned. Job, for example, suffered many things unrelated to his faith and obedience. In Job’s suffering, however, God was orchestrating his sovereign and just purposes from heaven (Job 41:11). Jesus taught that the span of life on earth is severely limited when considering heavenly blessing. When the godly suffer at the hands of the unrighteous, for example, rejoicing is commanded knowing that a great reward in heaven awaits (Matt 5:12). Nevertheless, “Our Father who is in heaven” gives daily bread (Matt 6:11) and “good gifts to those who ask him” (Matt 7:11).

What of those who do not adopt a heavenly perspective? Ecclesiastes, with its theme the meaninglessness of life lived “under heaven” (i.e., from a purely earthly perspective), asks readers to consider that “God is in heaven and you are on the earth” (5:2). Jesus solemnly warned, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 7:21). (The phrase “kingdom of heaven,” found only in Matthew’s Gospel, is a circumlocution for the “kingdom of God” [see 19:23-24, where they are used interchangeably], owing to the Jews’ reticence to utter the holy name of God.) Also, Paul warns that partiality is forbidden even in the case of a master-to-slave relationship, because “both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him” (Eph. 6:9).

Those claiming a heavenly inheritance are required to bring the earthly and the heavenly into alignment. Jesus linked entrance into the kingdom of heaven to repentance (Matt 4:17), humility (5:3; 18:1-4), witness (Matthew 5:10 Matthew 5:16; 10:32; 16:19), obedience (5:19), righteousness (5:20), compassion (Matthew 18:10 Matthew 18:14; 23:13) and stewardship (19:23). Proactively, believers store up treasures (6:20) by being prudent managers of the little and perishable on earth in order to insure the abundant and enduring in heaven (Luke 16:1-13). Either the earthly or heavenly value system will prevail. So, those who pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10) are obliged to live from a heavenly vantage point.

Christ and Heaven. The greatest witness on earth to heavenly glory is Jesus Christ (John 1:14 John 1:18). As the temple was the dwelling-place of God in the midst of Israel, so in a greater way the Incarnate is the dwelling-place of God. The Son uniquely preexisted with the Father in glory (17:5), “come down from heaven” (6:38), was “the bread from heaven” (6:32; see John 6:41 John 6:50 John 6:51 John 6:58) entered into heaven (1Peter 3:22), and ascended far above all the heavens (Eph. 4:10). Christ’s essential oneness with the Father is established in that the Old Testament notion that Jehovah “fills heaven and earth” (Jer. 23:24) is ascribed to Christ (Eph. 1:23; 4:10; Colossians 1:16 Colossians 1:20).

The writer to the Hebrews details the person and work of Christ from a heavenly perspective. Although Creator of heavens and earth (1:10), the Son is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (1:4), mediating for believers (4:14-16). Christ is to be worshiped because God exalted him “above the heavens” (7:26; see Php 2:9-11). His redemptive work is completely efficacious because, unlike the priests of the old economy who ministered in a copy of the heavenly temple, Christ alone was qualified to enter the presence of God in heaven (9:23-24). Believers now “have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (10:19).

The second coming is the terminus ad quem of Christ’s intercessory work in heaven (Acts 3:21). Believers await anxiously for Christ’s coming “from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16) at which time unbelievers will be judged (2Th. 1:7-8). John, looking forward to “that day,” said it was “heaven standing open” (Rev 19:11). The figure of an opening heaven is employed at the revelation given to Ezekiel (1:1), the phenomena surrounding the Lord’s baptism (Mark 1:10), Stephen’s vision of Christ (Acts 7:56), and John’s vision of the apocalypse (Rev 4:1). But it is on account of Christ (John 1:51) and his work (Rev 11:19; 15:5) that the opening of heaven is complete. It is fitting that all manner of celestial phenomena will accompany the opening of heaven. It was a frightful thing for Israel to have the heavens shut and the blessing of God’s physical provision withheld (Deut. 11:17; 2Chron. 7:13; Luke 4:25). How much more terrible is it to be shut out of the kingdom of heaven where there is living water (Matt 23:13; 25:10)?

The Spirit and Heaven. The giving of the Holy Spirit is directly tied to Jesus’ entrance into heaven (Acts 2:33). The Spirit was sent from heaven (1Peter 1:12). He is the heavenly gift (Acts 2:38), a foretaste of the blessings of heaven (John 7:37-39). He is also a guarantee of believers’ future inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14). The writer of Hebrews indicates a relationship between “the heavenly gift,” the Holy Spirit, and the powers of the age to come (6:3-4). When Peter linked the Spirit’s coming with Joel 2:28-32 (Acts 2:17-21), he was saying that the eschatological hope of heaven was near. The “last days” had begun.

Believers and Heaven. Believers have a present and future heavenly status. Presently believers are citizens of heaven (Php 3:20-21) with a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1); their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20). They groan to be clothed with a resurrection body, “a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2Cor. 5:1). It will be a body like Christ’s. The restoration of the image of God in human beings from earthly to heavenly will be complete (1Cor. 15:45-49). The eternal inheritance of future blessings promised by God is secure because it is “kept in heaven” (1Peter 1:4), and because believers are joint-heirs with Christ who has already been glorified (Rom 8:17).

The heavenly future all believers anticipate is the fulfillment of God’s purpose in creating the universe. It will include worship of the type revealed in the Book of Revelation (7:10; 11:16-18; 15:2-4). Worship will involve rehearsing God’s glorious Acts (19:1-2). In addition to ascription of worth, worship will involve service unspecified works done in obedience to God and for God (22:6). Believers are to offer this kind of service to God now (Rom 12:1). In contrast to present suffering, God promises believers that they will reign with Christ in heavenly glory (2 Tim 2:12; see Matt 19:28; Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:6). In heaven believers will have fellowship with God and with each other in a perfect environment (Heb. 12:22-23).

In the Heavenlies. Paul stresses the believer’s solidarity with Christ. Since a believer is “in Christ” and since Christ is in heaven, the believer is “in the heavenlies” (en tois epouraniois). Accordingly, God has blessed the believer “in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). This precise phrase occurs only five times in the New Testament, and only in Ephesians (1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). The believer’s heavenly blessings depend on Christ’s heavenly session (Eph. 1:20) and the spiritual union each believer shares “with Christ” (Eph. 2:6). God does not merely apply the ministry of Christ to believers. He sees believers with Christ wherever he is and he is now in heaven. Believers are commanded to adopt an earthly lifestyle of dying to sin and living to righteousness (Rom 6:4), and to set their minds on the heavenly reality that will soon be revealed in Christ (Col 4:1-4). In other words, believers should live consistently with who, and where, they really are.

Paul indicates, however, that “the heavenlies” are also the realm of spiritual powers. Paul likely is referring to Satan and his demonic host, calling them “rulers,” “authorities,” and “spiritual forces” (Eph. 3:10; 6:12). Although their final defeat is sure (Eph. 1:19-23), believers are called upon to practice an eschatological lifestyle, equipped with heavenly weaponry wielded by those who are “strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6:10). The battles of life are won on earth with heavenly weapons, not earthly ones.

The Consummation. At the final consummation, God will make “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17; 66:22; Rev 22:1). It is “new” (kainos [kainov]) in kind, not merely in time. One may wonder why a new heaven is necessary. One possibility is that the heavens (the plural is employed in Hag 2:6; Heb. 12:6; see also Heb. 1:10; 2Peter 3:7 2Peter 3:10 2Peter 3:12) have been affected by sin inasmuch as they are the place of the activity of evil angels and forces (Matt 24:29; Eph. 6:12). The “new heavens and earth” follow the judgment of Satan (Rev 20:7-10) and the Great White Throne judgment (20:11-15), both of which take place in heaven and will never be repeated. Also, the “new Jerusalem” that John saw “coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2 Revelation 21:10) is a new characteristic of heaven, perfectly suited to extend God’s glory (21:11).

The sharp distinction between heaven and earth will be removed when God makes all things new. The essential feature of the New Jerusalem is the intimate presence of God among his people (21:3; 22:4). Interestingly, there will be no temple, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22). Its magnificence is only hinted at in figurative terms (21:11-22:5). Everything that is not consistent now with this picture of heaven will be done away with (21:4).

The Angels, Satan, and Heaven. “The host of heaven” can refer to the stars (Neh. 9:6; Isa 24:21; 34:4; Matt 24:29), but more frequently in Scripture it denotes angels (1Kings 22:19; Luke 2:13). God warns against worshiping the celestial host (2Kings 23:5; Jer. 19:13; Acts 7:42) as well as the angelic host (Col 2:18). When referring to the angels the term carries a military connotation (Joshua 5:14-15; Dan 4:35). God at times employs angels from heaven to do his bidding. They will be particularly active at Christ’s return (Matt 24:31; 2Thess. 1:7-8; Rev 8:2-10:11). Who can say to what extent angels are active today on earth? The truth might be found in Jacob’s vision of a ladder extending from earth to heaven on which the angels of God ascended and descended (Gen 28:12). Nevertheless, the dwelling-place of angels is heaven (Mark 12:25; 13:32; Luke 2:15), where they worship God (Matt 8:10). The heavenly host rejoice when human beings repent (Luke 15:10; 15:7).

Satan is a fallen angel who apparently had access to the presence of God in heavenly places (Job 1:6-7). If Revelation 12:7-12 looks back to the ministry of Christ, the “casting out” of Satan and his evil angels from heaven occurred when Christ entered heavenly glory (see Luke 10:17-20). Now Satan’s sphere is more limited. He is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) in the process of moving downward in successive stages until he is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10). Bradford A. Mullen (3)

HEAVEN by Archibald Alexander

Heaven is a reality, not seen by eyes of flesh, but made known by revelation, and received by faith.

Heaven is a rest from toil, trouble, temptation, and sin. Such a rest is very desirable, if it were only a sweet sleep; but heaven is more.

It is a state of delightful activity. Every faculty and every affection will find appropriate exercise; and probably latent powers, not needed here, will there be waked into activity—powers suited to the new condition in which the soul exists.

Heaven is full of light; all darkness and doubt are absent. Knowledge will there be clear, and will possess a transforming efficacy; still, knowledge in heaven will be progressive; the pleasure will partly consist in ever learning something unknown before.

Heaven is a region of perfect love; all the heart and mind and strength will be exerted in love. And if the power of loving should, in the progress of the immortal soul, be increased a thousand-fold, all this increased ability will be kept constantly in full stretch by the loveliness and glory of the objects of affection.

Christ is the center of attraction in heaven. From him radiate the rays of divine glory which enliven, attract, and beautify all the innumerable army of worshipers.

Love in heaven is pure, perfect, and reciprocal. He who loves, cannot be satisfied without a return of affection. And the more exalted and excellent the character of the person beloved, the sweeter the sense of his favor. Heavenly joy consists in loving with all the heart, and in being beloved.

As heaven is a society, the members are happy not only in loving their King, but in mutual love. There will exist no envy, nor jealousy, nor apathy. Every soul will be transparent to every other, and all will see that nothing but pure love exists in every heart.

Heaven is a place of peace—sweet peace and uninterrupted harmony; all disturbing elements will be left behind. In the symbolical heavens of the Revelation, we read of wars; but in the heaven where saints and angels dwell and worship, war can have no place. The atmosphere of heaven is exempt from all evil; it is purity itself; all sin and impurity are denied admission into that holy place.

Heaven is a place of song: high affections are expressed in celestial music. O how elevating, how delightful the melodies!

Heaven is an unchanging state. All change is advancement in knowledge, in dignity, in happiness! (4)

From the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Question 86: What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?

Answer: The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls.

Question 90: What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?

Answer: At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and forever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity. And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.

Notes:

1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Acts, Vol.II, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 3.

2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 538-540.

3. Walter A. Elwell, Editor, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), pp. 332-335.

4. Alexander, Archibald – Heaven no date or source info, 4 paragraphs https:// www.gracegems.org/26/heaven.htm

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.thereligionthatstartedinahat.com/

For more study:

* http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM Theological Dictionary https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

*** Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/

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What is a Graven Image?

What is a Graven Image? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand what a graven image is and the implications for making pictures of God.

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence and confessional support for the glorifying of God in how we live.

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

Definition:

Question: What is a graven image?

Answer: The phrase “graven image” comes from the King James Version and is first found in Exodus 20:4 in the second of the Ten Commandments. The Hebrew word translated “graven image” means literally “an idol.” A graven image is an image carved out of stone, wood, or metal. It could be a statue of a person or animal, or a relief carving in a wall or pole. It is differentiated from a molten image, which is melted metal poured into a cast. Abstract Asherah poles, carved wooden Ba’als covered in gold leaf, and etchings of gods accompanying Egyptian hieroglyphics are all graven images. *

Definition:

Graven Image

The context of the “Thou shall not make a graven image” passages is dealing with worship of false things. Exodus 20:4 states that no one is to make an image of what is in heaven, so that you may not worship them or bow down to them (20:5). This is reiterated in Leviticus 26:1. The Deuteronomy passages, contextually, are dealing with the same thing: an admonition against worshipping a false image. God does not want people bowing down before idols and worshiping false gods. **

Synonyms for Graven:

Inscribed, carved, incised, carven, engraved, and etched.

Synonyms for Image:

Likeness, resemblance, depiction, portrayal, representation, statue, statuette, sculpture, bust, effigy, figure, figurine, doll, carving, painting, picture, portrait, drawing, sketch, artist’s impression

Scriptures:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” (Exodus 20:4-5)

Consider Barnes’ Notes on the Bible on Exodus 20:4:

“Graven image – Any sort of image is here intended.

As the first commandment forbids the worship of any false god, seen or unseen, it is here forbidden to worship an image of any sort, whether the figure of a false deity Joshua 23:7 or one in any way symbolic of Yahweh (see Exodus 32:4). The spiritual acts of worship were symbolized in the furniture and ritual of the tabernacle and the altar, and for this end the forms of living things might be employed as in the case of the Cherubim (see Exodus 25:18 note): but the presence of the invisible God was to be marked by no symbol of Himself, but by His words written on stones, preserved in the ark in the holy of holies and covered by the mercy-seat. The ancient Persians and the earliest legislators of Rome also agreed in repudiating images of the Deity.” (1)

Why an image of Christ is impossible theologically:

1. We should not forget the first commandment forbids the worship of any other than the true God. The second commandment flows from this first prohibition.

2. An image cannot capture Christ’s divine and human natures and because this, a picture of Christ especially violates his deity.

3. Exodus prohibits the use of images as an aid in the worship of God.

4. Pictures of Christ have no semblance to the way He actually looked. Christ’s glory cannot be captured in a picture, so they are necessarily inaccurate and false.

As an aside, the Exodus passage does not forbid the making of artwork in general. Painting pictures of your children or wife is okay.

Questions for an artist or promoter of pictures of Christ:

When someone shows you a picture of Christ, ask, who is that? If the person says Christ, follow up by asking if the picture is the product of the artist’s mind or an actual portrait. An actual portrait is impossible. Is the picture is a product of the artist’s mind, or is this image based upon a personal revelation of some kind? If so, this raises a completely new list of questions about private revelations. Is the revelation true or false? If it is from his own mind, is this idolatry?

A mental image of God or the Lord Jesus Christ cannot help but to distort Him. A mental image that becomes a picture is a false image because deity cannot be captured in a picture. Why? Because God in His essence is incorporeal. A false picture is an idol, hence, idolatry.

John Calvin on images of God:

“There are two parts in the Commandment — the first forbids the erection of a graven image, or any likeness; the second prohibits the transferring of the worship which God claims for Himself alone, to any of these phantoms or delusive shows. Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is. There is no need of refuting the foolish fancy of some, that all sculptures and pictures are here condemned by Moses, for he had no other object than to rescue God’s glory from all the imaginations, which tend to corrupt it. And assuredly it is a most gross indecency to make God like a stock or a stone… I do not deny that these things are to be taken connectedly, since superstitious worship is hardly ever separated from the preceding error; for as soon as any one has permitted himself to devise an image of God, he immediately falls into false worship. And surely whosoever reverently and soberly feels and thinks about God Himself, is far from this absurdity; nor does any desire or presumption to metamorphose God ever creep in, except when coarse and carnal imaginations occupy our minds. Hence, it comes to pass, that those, who frame for themselves gods of corruptible materials, superstitiously adore the work of their own hands. I will then readily allow these two things, which are inseparable, to be joined together; only let us recollect that God is insulted, not only when His worship is transferred to idols, but when we try to represent Him by any outward similitude.” (2)

The Ten Commandments — Thomas Watson:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am o jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of then that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.’ Exodus 20: 4-6.

1. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

In the first commandment worshipping a false god is forbidden; in this, worshipping the true God in a false manner.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.’ This forbids not making an image for civil use. Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, It is Caesar’s.’ Matt 22: 20, 21. But the commandment forbids setting up an image for religious use or worship.

Nor the likeness of any thing,’ &c. All ideas, portraitures, shapes, images of God, whether by effigies or pictures, are here forbidden. Take heed lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make the similitude of any figure.’ Deut. 4: 15, 16. God is to be adored in the heart, not painted to the eye.

Thou shalt not bow down to them.’ The intent of making images and pictures is to worship them. No sooner was Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image set up, but all the people fell down and worshipped it. Dan 3: 7. God forbids such prostrating ourselves before an idol. The thing prohibited in this commandment is image-worship. To set up an image to represent God, is debasing him. If any one should make images of snakes or spiders, saying he did it to represent his prince, would not the prince take it in disdain? What greater disparagement to the infinite God than to represent him by that which is unite; the living God, by that which is without life; and the Maker of all by a thing which is made?

[1] To make a true image of God is impossible. God is a spiritual essence and, being a Spirit, he is invisible. John 4: 24. Ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake with you out of the midst of the fire.’ Deut. 4: 15. How can any paint the Deity? Can they make an image of that which they never saw? Quod invisibile est, pingi non potest [There is no depicting the invisible]. Ambrose. Ye saw no similitude.’ It is impossible to make a picture of the soul, or to paint the angels, because they are of a spiritual nature; much less can we paint God by an image, who is an infinite, untreated Spirit.

[2] To worship God by an image, is both absurd and unlawful.

(1) It is absurd and irrational; for, the workman is better than the work,’ He who has builded the house has more honour than the house.’ Heb. 3: 3. If the workman be better than the work, and none bow to the workman, how absurd, then, is it to bow to the work of his hands! Is it not an absurd thing to bow down to the king’s picture, when the king himself is present? It is more so to bow down to an image of God, when God himself is everywhere present.

(2) It is unlawful to worship God by an image; for it is against the homily of the church, which runs thus: The images of God, our Saviour, the Virgin Mary, are of all others the most dangerous; therefore the greatest care ought to be had that they stand not in temples and churches.’ So that image-worship is contrary to our own homilies, and affronts the authority of the Church of England. Image-worship is expressly against the letter of Scripture. Ye shall make no graven image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone to bow down unto it.’ Lev 26: 1. Neither shalt thou set up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth.’ Deut. 16: 22. Confounded be all they that serve graven images.’ Psalm 97: 7. Do we think to please God by doing that which is contrary to his mind, and that which he has expressly forbidden?

[3] Image worship is against the practice of the saints of old. Josiah, that renowned king, destroyed the groves and images.2 Kings 23: 6, 24. Constantine abrogated the images set up in temples. The Christians destroyed images at Baste, Zurich, and Bohemia. When the Roman emperors would have thrust images upon them, they chose rather to die than deflower their virgin profession by idolatry; they refused to admit any painter or carver into their society, because they would not have any carved state or image of God. When Seraphion bowed to an idol, the Christians excommunicated him, and delivered him up to Satan.” (3)

Confessions on Images:

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 49. Which is the second commandment?

A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Q. 50. What is required in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

The Heidelberg Catechism is relevant to the question of images:

Question 96. What does God require in the second commandment?

Answer. That we in no wise represent God by images, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his word.

Question 97. Are images then not at all to be made?

Answer. God neither can nor may be represented by any means; but as to creatures, though they may be represented, yet God forbids us to make, or have any resemblance of them, either in order to worship them, or to serve God by them.

Question 98. But may not images be tolerated in the churches, as books to the laity?

Answer. No; for we must not pretend to be wiser than God, who will have his people taught not by dumb images, but by the lively preaching of his word”

FISHER’S CATECHISM, Selections from Q&A #51

Q. What is forbidden in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment forbiddeth, the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

Q. 1. What are the leading sins forbidden in this commandment?

A. Idolatry and will-worship.

Q. 2. What is the idolatry here condemned?

A. The worshipping of God by images]: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, etc.

Q. 3. What is an image?

A. It is a statue, picture, or likeness of any creature whatsoever.

Q. 4. Is it lawful to have images or pictures of mere creatures?

A. Yes, providing they be only for ornament; or the design be merely historical, to transmit the memory of persons and their actions to posterity.

Q. 5. Can any image or representation be made of God?

A. No; it is absolutely impossible; he being an infinite, incomprehensible Spirit (Isa. 40:18). “To whom will ye liken God? or, what likeness will ye compare unto him?” If we cannot delineate our own souls, much less the infinite God (Acts 17:29). “We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”

Q. 6. What judgment should we form of those who have devised images of God, or of the persons of the adorable Trinity?

A. We should adjudge their practice to be both unlawful and abominable.

Q. 7. Why unlawful?

A. Because directly contrary to the express letter of the law in this commandment, and many other Scriptures; such as, Jer. 10:14-15; Hos. 13:2; and particularly Deut. 4:15-19, 23. “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, (for ye saw no MANNER OF SIMILITUDE on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,” etc.

Q. 8. How is it abominable?

A. As it is a debasing the Creator of heaven and earth to the rank of his own creatures; and a practical denying of all his infinite perfections (Psa. 50:21).

Q. 9. May we not have a picture of Christ, who has a true body?

A. By no means; because, though he has a true body and a reasonable soul (John 1:14), yet his human nature subsists in his divine person, which no picture can represent (Psa. 45:2).

Q. 10. Why ought all pictures of Christ to be abominated by Christians?

A. Because they are downright lies, representing no more than the picture of a mere man: whereas, the true Christ is God-man; “Immanuel, God with us” (1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 1:23).

Q. 11. Is it lawful to form any inward representation of God, or of Christ, upon our fancy, bearing a resemblance to any creature whatsoever?

A. By no means; because this is the very inlet unto gross outward idolatry: for, when once the heathens “became vain in their imaginations, they presently changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into images made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-23).

Q. 23. Is it lawful, as some plead, to have images or pictures in churches, though not for worship, yet for instruction, and raising the affections?

A. No; because God has expressly prohibited not only the worshipping, but the making of any image whatsoever on a religious account; and the setting them up in churches, cannot but have a native tendency to beget a sacred veneration for them, and therefore ought to be abstained from, as having, at least, an appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22).

Q. 24. May they not be placed in churches for beauty and ornament?

A. No: the proper ornament of churches is the sound preaching of the gospel, and the pure dispensation of the sacraments, and other ordinances of divine institution.

Q. 25. Were not images of the cherubim placed in the tabernacle and temple, by the command of God himself?

A. Yes: but out of all hazard of any abuse, being placed in the holy of holies, where none of the people ever came; they were instituted by God himself, which images are not; and they belonged to the typical and ceremonial worship, which is now quite abolished.

Quotes:

“The beauty of the person of Christ, as represented in the Scripture, consists in things invisible unto the eyes of flesh. They are such as no hand of man can represent or shadow. It is the eye of faith alone that can see this King in his beauty. What else can contemplate on the untreated glories of his divine nature? Can the hand of man represent the union of his natures in the same person, wherein he is peculiarly amiable? What eye can discern the mutual communications of the properties of his different natures in the same person?” – John Owen

“Those who make pictures of the Savior, who is God as well as man in one inseparable person, either limit the incomprehensible Godhead to the bounds of created flesh, or confound his two natures like Eutyches, or separate them, like Nestorius, or deny his Godhead, like Arius; and those who worship such a picture are guilty of the same heresy and blasphemy.” – Philip Schaff

“The Bible presents no information whatever about the personal appearance of Jesus Christ, but it does teach that we are not to think of him as he may have appeared “in the days of his flesh,” but as he is today in heavenly glory, in his estate of exaltation (2 Cor. 5:46). Inasmuch as the Bible presents no data about the personal appearance of our Saviour, all artists’ pictures of him are wholly imaginary and constitute only the artists’ ideas of his character and appearance. … [Liberals] inevitably think of Jesus as a human person, rather than thinking of him according to the biblical teaching as a divine person with a human nature. The inevitable effect of the popular acceptance of pictures of Jesus is to overemphasize his humanity and to forget or neglect his deity (which of course no picture can portray). In dealing with an evil so widespread and almost universally accepted, we should bear a clear testimony against what we believe to be wrong.” – Geerhardus Vos

“Thou shalt not make any likeness of anything” for use in worship. This categorical statement rules out not simply the use of pictures and statues, which depict God as an animal, but also the use of pictures and statues, which depict him as the highest created thing we know­ as human. It also rules out the use of pictures and statues of Jesus Christ as a man, although Jesus himself was and remains man; for all pictures and statues are necessarily made after the “likeness” of ideal manhood as we conceive it, and therefore come under the ban which the commandment imposes.” – J.I. Packer

“The Second Commandment teaches us how we are to worship. We are to worship God only as He had commanded us to worship him. Anything that man devises, invents, or imagines corrupts the true reverence and worship of God. This commandment is frequently violated when Christians have pictures of Jesus. When it is said that they are legitimate because they are not used in worship, we reply that they are not legitimate because one cannot have a proper thought of feeling with respect to Christ other than that of reverenced and worship”. – G.I. Williamson

“Pictures of Christ are in principle a violation of the second commandment. A picture of Christ, if it serves any useful purpose, must evoke some thought or feeling respecting him and, in view of what he is, this thought or feeling will be worshipful. We cannot avoid making the picture a medium of worship. But since the materials for this medium of worship are not derived from the only revelation we possess respecting Jesus, namely, Scripture, the worship is constrained by a creation of the human mind that has no revelatory warrant. This is will-worship. For the principle of the second commandment is that we are to worship God only in ways prescribed and authorized by him. It is a grievous sin to have worship constrained by a human figment, and that is what a picture of the Saviour involves.” – John Murray

“Closely akin to the use of images is that of pictures of Christ. And these, we are sorry to say, are often found in Protestant as well as Roman Catholic churches. But nowhere in the Bible, in either the Old or New Testament, is there a description of Christ’s physical features. No picture of Him was painted during His earthly ministry. The church had no pictures of Him during the first four centuries. The so-called pictures of Christ, like those of Mary and the saints, are merely the production of the artist’s imagination. . . . No picture can do justice to his personality, for he was not only human, but divine. And no picture can portray his deity. All such pictures are fatally defective. . . . For most people the so-called pictures of Christ are not an aid to worship but rather a hindrance, and for many they present a temptation to that very idolatry against which the Scriptures warn so clearly.” – Loraine Boettner

Notes:

1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Exodus, p. 73.

2. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Exodus, Volume II (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp.108-109.

3. Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Banner of Truth), pp. 59-60.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/blasphemy-blaspheme.html

** CARM Theological Dictionary https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

*** http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

The Second Commandment by Thomas Watson I. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/classics/ten_second.html

Images of Christ a Violation of the Second Commandment http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/others/images.html

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A magic rock, a hat, Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon

https://youtu.be/qSrsSU8NXMw Click on the link to watch the video

I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.*

* David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Missouri: 1887) p. 12.

David Whitmer is listed inside the Book of Mormon as one of the three witnesses to its authenticity.

The Religion that started in a Hat: a Reference Manual for Christians who Witness to Mormons is a clear presentation of Mormon beliefs and a thoroughly biblical apologetic that assists Christians in speaking intelligently with Mormons in defense of Christian orthodoxy. In A Reference Manual for Christians who Witness to Mormons you will learn:

  • Why do some Mormons teach that it is theoretically possible for the Mormon god’s power to disintegrate and their god cease to be god?
  • Learn how Joseph Smith used a magic rock placed in a hat to see illuminated letters which became the Book of Mormon instead of translating the writings from golden plates he claimed came from an angel.
  • Learn the scriptural terms omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence are terms that cannot be reconciled with Mormon theology.
  • Learn a biblical answer and response to the Mormon practice of Baptism-for-the-dead that misinterprets 1 Corinthians 15:29.
  • Learn about an explosive eschatological sexual-logistical math problem for Mormon theology’s celestial corporeal-finite gods that cannot be answered.
  • Are the indigenous Indians of North and South America related to the Hebrew people as claimed by the Book of Mormon? Learn how recent DNA research completely disproves the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
  • Learn why some Mormons teach that Jesus was married, had children, and that Mormon founder Joseph Smith was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ.
  • Most importantly in this work, there are positive presentations or statements regarding the Christian view of Scripture, God’s sovereignty, the Eternal Priesthood of Christ, and the unfolding of covenantal redemptive history. And much more…

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat.

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The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark

The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark

By Douglas J. Douma
Published by WIPF & Stock
Reviewed by Jack Kettler

Brief Bio:

Douglas J. Douma received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, an MBA from Wake Forest University, and a master of divinity from Sangre de Cristo Seminary. He and his wife currently reside in western North Carolina.

What others are saying about this book:

“Gordon H. Clark was one of the most significant Christian thinkers of the 20th century. Through numerous books and effective classroom teaching at more than four institutions of higher education, he influenced several generations of scholars, especially in Presbyterian and Evangelical circles. Biographer Douglas Douma has skillfully woven distinctive elements of Clark’s philosophical and theological thought through this thoroughly researched account of his life, including his activity as a churchman, revealing much about American Presbyterian history. His narrative also interestingly captures much of the humanness of Gordon Clark, the man.” – Dr. William S. Barker, Professor of Church History Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary

“Dr. Cornelius Van Til was absolutely correct when he stated that “. . . Clark” was an “. . . outstanding Christian Philosophers of our time.” How can anyone disagree with Dr. Van Til’s assessment of Dr. Gordon H. Clark? In this book on the life of Gordon H. Clark, you have the factual events that drove a wedge between Clark and Van Til. Even today, the heart of the issue is hidden beneath years of misunderstanding. This is the definitive book on Clark’s life, researched and documented by Doug Douma. A must read by laymen, students, pastors, and professors who love Reformed Christian Philosophy and Apologetics.” – Kenneth Gary Talbot, President, Whitefield Theological Seminary and College

A review starting with the chapter layout:

Chapter 1 The Presbyterian Heritage of Gordon Clark
Chapter 2 Gordon Clark’s Intellectual Influences
Chapter 3 Gordon Clark and the Formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Chapter 4 Gordon Clark at Wheaton College
Chapter 5 The Origins of Presuppositionalism
Chapter 6 Origins of the Ordination Controversy
Chapter 7 The Arguments of the Ordination Controversy
Chapter 8 The Continued Controversy and Its Results
Chapter 9 The Butler University Years (1945–1973)
Chapter 10 Four Theological Contributions of Gordon H. Clark
Chapter 11 “Clark’s Boys”
Chapter 12 Persons, the Trinity, and the Incarnation
Chapter 13 Gordon Clark’s Later Years
Appendix A: Life Timeline of Gordon H. Clark
Appendix B: Notes
Appendix C: Studies of the Doctrine of The Complaint
Bibliography

As the chapter listings, indicate the story of Gordon H. Clark in this book by Douglas Douma is a thorough and ample biography of a great man of God. It has been a privilege to know, one of Dr. Clark’s grandsons and great-granddaughters.

Regrettably, this review will be limited and will focus on what is known as “The Clark-Van Til ordination controversy as covered in Chapters 6-8 and Appendix C.”

In this reviewer’s opinion and from personal experience, an essential part of the book involves the complaint against Clark’s ordination in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The epicenter of the debate was about the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God.

The reader is encouraged to read the whole book to appreciate Dr. Clark’s contribution to Christ’s Church. It has been enormous and will continue to be so.

The Theological Issues involved in the complaint against Clark’s ordination:

“There were four theological topics addressed in The Complaint and The Answer, summarized by the following titles: 1) The incomprehensibility of God, 2) The relationship of the faculty of knowledge to other faculties of the soul, 3) The relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and 4) the Free Offer of the Gospel. A fifth topic, however, related to each of the others, was Clark’s alleged rationalism.” (110)

“The incomprehensibility of God the theological portion of the complaint centered on the first of the four issues, the incomprehensibility of God. More time and discussions were spent on this point during the controversy than perhaps on all of the other points combined. Both parties agreed that God is incomprehensible—that man can never fully and exhaustively know God. The issue between the two parties, rather, was over how man’s knowledge relates to God’s knowledge.” (110)

The Complaint against Clark argued, “we dare not maintain that his knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point.” (112)

The Complaint declared, “Because of his very nature as infinite and absolute the knowledge which God possesses of himself and of all things must remain a mystery which the finite mind of man cannot penetrate” (112).

The Clarkian or more appropriately the biblical response to the above two complaints:

“In critiquing Van Til’s theory of analogy, Clark argued that if God’s knowledge has no point in common with ours, then we know nothing that is true, for God knows all truths. Therefore, Clark believed, Van Til’s theory of analogy resulted in skepticism. In The Answer, his argument for this conclusion is presented: “The Presbytery wishes to suggest that if man does not know at least one truth that God knows, if man’s knowledge and God’s knowledge do not coincide in at least one detail, then man knows nothing at all. God knows all truth, and if man’s mind cannot grasp one truth, then man’s mind grasps no truth. Far from being a test of orthodoxy, this test imposed by The Complaint is nothing else than skepticism and irrationalism.” (114)

Clark falsely labeled a rationalist:

“The Complaint listed theologians who had wrestled with these doctrines and then argued that “there is a problem that has baffled the greatest theologians of history. Not even Holy Scripture offers a solution. But Dr. Clark asserts unblushingly that for his thinking the problem has ceased being a problem. Here is something phenomenal. What accounts for it? The most charitable, and no doubt the correct, explanation is that Dr. Clark has come under the spell of rationalism.” (117)

Clark and observer Herman Hoeksema respond to the charge of rationalism:

“In fact, Clark later called paradox a “charley horse between the ears” and said the fear of “being too logical” was a “fear without a corresponding danger.” At the time of the controversy, Herman Hoeksema of the Protestant Reformed Church wrote on the alleged rationalism of Clark in his denomination’s publication The Standard Bearer. He wrote, “There is here, indeed, something that is more than amazing, that is really unbelievable, that almost might be catalogued as another paradox: the phenomenon that theologians accuse a brother theologian of heresy because he tries to solve problems!” Hoeksema then rhetorically asked, “Is it really rationalism to attempt to bring Scripture in harmony with itself?” (127)

The complainants lose their case against Clark’s ordination:

“That assembly [1946] upheld the ordination of Dr. Gordon H. Clark by a vote of nearly two to one.” (135)

“Referring to The Complaint as it relates to the Westminster Confession, the report concluded, “Our committee is of the opinion that [The Complaint] requires the Presbytery of Philadelphia to exact a more specialized theory of knowledge than our standards demand.” (137)

A great tragedy:

“After the “Clark Case” was officially resolved in Clark’s favor, the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary turned their attention to those who had supported Clark.” (138)

The faculty of Westminster’s action against Dr. Clark’s supporters was sad and unfortunate.

The result of the heavy-handedness against Dr. Clark’s supporters, the OPC suffers departures:

“The departure of so many ministers and congregations from the already small OPC, and along with them much of the evangelistic zeal, essentially ended any likelihood of the denomination becoming a noticeable numerical presence in the American Christian landscape. This fracturing of the church left the OPC weak.” (154-155)

Evidence that the complainants were in error:

The complainants reversed a key definition in their complaint, which revealed the weakness of the complaint.

“The Complaint was sent out to the church. In a key paragraph it read: Since certain expressions used in the Complaint have been understood as skeptical in character and since the Complaint cannot disavow all responsibility for producing such misunderstandings of its intent, we gladly affirm that, when the objects of knowledge are contemplated, human knowledge does have contact with the objects of divine knowledge within the compass of the divine revelation, and that within that sphere of revelation the objects of knowledge as such are the same for God and man. This admission was a far cry from The Complaint’s original statement that “We dare not maintain that [God’s] knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point.” In fact, the admission that “the objects of knowledge as such are the same for God and man” is nothing other than a complete reversal of the original position.” (160-161)

Why did the complainants change key wording in the original complaint?

“It seems the complainants felt the weight of Clark’s criticism that their position results in skepticism, and in the wake of this critique modified their position. This modification was made in two ways: (1) a changed definition of “content” and (2) an acceptance of a “point of contact” which at the start of the controversy had been categorically denied. In order to maintain that their position in fact did not entail skepticism, it is evident that the complainants changed their definition of “content” in the time between The Complaint (1944) and the majority report in 1948. The majority report explained “content” as distinct from “object.” The majority report read, “It is not with the objects of knowledge the Complaint is concerned but with the difference between the character of God’s understanding and man’s understanding even when the same object is contemplated.” (158)

John Frame, who served on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary and was a founding faculty member of their California campus analysis of the specific dispute over the incomprehensibility of God by the complainants, is valuable:

“Van Til so obviously misunderstood Clark on these points that John Frame wrote, “I must say that I find this criticism of Clark quite preposterous,” and “Again, I am rather shocked at Van Til’s distortion of Clark’s position.” Frame concludes, “It would have been more helpful if Van Til, like the Report, had straightforwardly conceded Clark’s point that there is such common meaning.” (162)

Note: Although Van Til was not directly involved in the complaint, his supporters brought Van Til’s philosophical beliefs into the complaint.

In Appendix C, Douma clarifies some crucial points in the controversy.

Who was more faithful the theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith?

“The Answer, page 9, says: “Dr. Clark contends that the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God as set forth in Scripture and in the Confession of Faith includes the following points: 1. The essence of God’s being is incomprehensible to man except as God reveals truths concerning his own nature; 2 The manner of God’s knowing, an eternal intuition, is impossible for man; 3. Man can never know exhaustively and completely God’s knowledge of any truth in all its relationships and implications; because every truth has an infinite number of relationships and implications, these must ever, even in heaven, remain inexhaustible for man. 4. But, Dr. Clark maintains, the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God does not mean that a proposition, e.g. two times two are four, has one meaning for man and a qualitatively different meaning for God, or that some truth is conceptual and other truth is non-conceptual in nature.” (253)

“The Complaint says, “we dare not maintain that his knowledge and our knowledge coincide at any single point” (italics theirs). Note well that the complainants are not content to say that God’s knowledge differs from man’s in certain ways, such as in its extent and in its mode. They insist that there is no point of contact whatever. Not a single point. With this I heartily disagree. Far from denying that there is a single point of coincidence, I maintain that there is an area of coincidence. That area includes, “David was king of Israel,’ and ‘Jesus was born at Bethlehem,’ and several other items. These are the points where God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge coincide. The propositions mean to the man who knows them, to the man who grasps their meaning, exactly what they mean to God, although God, as was said knows implications of these propositions that man does not know; but the truth itself is the same for man as it is for God. If a man does not grasp God’s truth, he grasps no truth at all, for there is no other truth than God’s truth. God knows all truth. And if a man grasps any truth at all, since it is God’s truth, that truth is a point or even an area of coincidence.

The propositions mean to the man who knows them, to the man who grasps their meaning, exactly what they mean to God, although God, as was said knows implications of these propositions that man does not know; but the truth itself is the same for man as it is for God. If a man does not grasp God’s truth, he grasps no truth at all, for there is no other truth than God’s truth

The Complaint, on the other hand, makes the truth God has qualitatively different from the ‘truth’ man has. There is not a single point in common. Whatever meaning God has, man cannot have. And since the Bible teaches that God has all truth, it must follow on the theory of the Complaint that man has no truth. The theory of the Complaint is therefore skepticism.” (259-260)

In conclusion:

This controversy pitted two theological and philosophical giants against each other – Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til. During this whole time of the complaint and beyond, there has never been any evidence that Dr. Clark and Van Til had any personal animosity towards one another personally.

This book is highly recommended, and it should be in every theological student’s library.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

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What does the Bible mean when it says partaking of the divine nature in 2 Peter 1:4?

What does the Bible mean when it says partaking of the divine nature in 2 Peter 1:4? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand what partaking of the divine nature means. Does this mean we can become a god? What does the term deification used in Easter Orthodoxy mean?

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence and confessional support for the glorifying of God in how we live.

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

Definition:

Deification

Question: “What is deification in the Eastern Orthodox Church?”

Answer: Deification or theosis, according to Eastern Orthodoxy, is a process by which one becomes “one with God,” and this is seen as the goal of the Christian life. This unity with God is a mystical concept that is often misunderstood by Western thinkers. The Eastern Orthodox Church is staunchly Trinitarian, and the term deification should not be misunderstood to imply that a human being can actually become God or a god, nor does this amount to pantheism. It is said that man cannot become one with God in His essence, but he can become one with His energies. Love, for instance, is a divine energy, and it is possible for the believer to be fully united and overcome by God’s love. *

Definition:

Deification

Theosis is the belief, mostly found within the Eastern Orthodox Church that Christians can experience a union with God and become like him so much that they participate in the divine nature. This concept is also known as deification. Theosis does not mean that they become Gods or merge with God but that they are deified. They participate in the “energies” of God with which he reveals himself to us in creation. But, these Christians are said to not participate in God’s essence. Furthermore, this deification does not mean that a person stops sinning or no longer struggles with sin. Instead, theosis is a mystical union with God that proceeds throughout the person’s life and culminates in the resurrection of the body. Some have said that this is equivalent to sanctification as taught in the Western churches. **

Scriptures:

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible regarding 2 Peter 1:4 carefully unpacks “partakers of the divine nature”:

“That by these – Greek, “through these.” That is, these constitute the basis of your hopes of becoming partakers of the divine nature. Compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Partakers of the divine nature – This is a very important and a difficult phrase. An expression somewhat similar occurs in Hebrews 12:10; “That we might be partakers of his holiness.” See the notes at that verse.

In regard to the language here used, it may be observed:

(1) That it is directly contrary to all the notions of “Pantheism” – or the belief that all things are now God, or a part of God – for it is said that the object of the promise is, that we “may become partakers of the divine nature,” not that we are now.

(2) It cannot be taken in so literal a sense as to mean that we can ever partake of the divine “essence,” or that we shall be “absorbed” into the divine nature so as to lose our individuality. This idea is held by the Buddhists; and the perfection of being is supposed by them to consist in such absorption, or in losing their own individuality, and their ideas of happiness are graduated by the approximation which may be made to that state.

But this cannot be the meaning here, because:

(a) It is in the nature of the case impossible. There must be forever an essential difference between a created and an uncreated mind.

(b) This would argue that the Divine Mind is not perfect. If this absorption was necessary to the completeness of the character and happiness of the Divine Being, then he was imperfect before; if before perfect, he would not be after the absorption of an infinite number of finite and imperfect minds.” (1)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on 2 Peter 1:4 correctly see the phrase “partakers of the divine nature” as escaping corruption, or sanctification:

“Ye might be partakers. — Better, become partakers. Rheims, “be made.” This idea of close relationship to God and escape from corruption is found in 1Peter 1:23. The change from the first person plural to the second is easy enough both in Greek and English: by it what is true of all Christians is applied specially to those whom the writer is addressing. We have a similar change in 1Peter 1:3-4; 1Peter 2:21; 1Peter 2:24.” (2)

Partake, Partaker – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

Partake, Partaker

[A-1, Noun, G2844, koinonos]

An adjective, signifying having in common (koinos, “common”), is used as a noun, denoting “a companion, partner, partaker,” translated “partakers” in Matthew 23:30; 1 Corinthians 10:18, AV (See COMMUNION, B); 2 Corinthians 1:7; Hebrews 10:33, RV (See COMPANION, No. 2); 2 Peter 1:4; :partaker” in 1 Peter 5:1. See PARTNER.

[A-2, Noun, G4791, sunkoinonos]

denotes “partaking jointly with” (sun, and No. 1), Romans 11:17, RV, “(didst become) partaker with them” (AV, “partakes”); 1 Corinthians 9:23, RV, “a joint partaker,” i.e., with the Gospel, as cooperating in its activity; the AV misplaces the “with” by attaching it to the superfluous italicized pronoun “you;” Philippians 1:7, “partakers with (me of grace),” RV, and AV marg.; not as AV text, “partakers (of my grace);” Revelation 1:9, “partaker with (you in the tribulation, etc.),” AV, “companion.” See COMPANION.

[A-3, Noun, G3353, metochos]

See FELLOW, No. 3, PARTNER.

[A-4, Noun, G4830, summetochos]

“partaking together with” (sun, “with,” and No. 3), is used as a noun, a joint partaker, Ephesians 3:6, RV, “fellow partakers” (AV, “partakers”); in Ephesians 5:7, RV and AV, “partakers.” (3)

Additional Scriptures:

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

“But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)

“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

“And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:10)

“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” (Hebrews 3:1)

“For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10)

Q. What do these Scriptures have in common?

“partakers of the divine nature” – 2 Peter 1:4

“the renewing of your mind” – Romans 12:2

“he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” – 1 Corinthians 6:17

“put on the new man” – Ephesians 4:24

“your life is hid with Christ in God” – Colossians 3:3

“put on the new self” – Colossians 3:10

“partakers of the heavenly calling” – Hebrews 3:1

“partakers of his holiness” – Hebrews 12:10

Answer:

Partakers of the divine nature and the other highlighted scriptural phrases mean nothing more than the believer is joining with Christ in the sanctification process. Furthermore, this connection with God seen in the above passages is spiritual. This connection with God does not make a man into a god.

Confessional support from the Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 35:

Q: What is sanctification?

A: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, 1 whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, 2 and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.3

2. Ephesians 4:23-24. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Putting on the “new man” is saying the same thing as “partakers of the divine nature.” We should compare scripture with scripture rather than reading into the text twenty-first-century anachronisms.

A Contextual Contemporary Commentary on 2 Peter 1:3-4:

“1:3–4

The transition from the preceding verse (v. 2) to these two verses is abrupt. The word knowledge gives the passage continuity, but the construction of verse 3 causes a break with the salutation. Perhaps the writer deleted a clause that would make the transition smooth between the two verses. Deletion of a clause is not uncommon in Greek manuscripts. If we include such a clause, we can bridge the gap between verses 2 and 3. For example, “We are receiving God’s grace and peace,

[because]

his divine power has given us everything we need.”

An alternative is to take verse 2 as the salutation and the next verse as the beginning of the letter proper, and indicate a definite break between them. Then we accept verses 3 and 4 as part of a lengthy thought with verses 5–7. But the words for this very reason (v. 5) do not lend themselves as a natural transition. Taking the simple rule of thumb, “Take Greek as it comes,” I prefer to see verse 3 as a continuation of the message that the salutation conveys and thus supply a short clause to introduce verse 3.

3. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Some translations, including the New International Version, omit the first Greek word in this verse. The versions that translate this word have the reading according as (KJV), seeing that (NASB), as (NKJV), or for (MLB). These translators use it as a bridge between the salutation (v. 2) and this verse.

a. “His divine power has given us everything we need.” To whom is Peter referring when he writes, “his divine power”? Commentators have different opinions. Some say that this is a reference to God, but that the pronouns him (“knowledge of him”) and his (“his own glory”) relate to Christ. Others say that Peter is thinking of Christ; first, because Jesus is mentioned in the preceding text, and second, because the entire epistle is an exposition of Jesus’ deity (e.g., see v. 1). Perhaps we can say that in this verse Peter fails to present a clear distinction between God and Jesus and, therefore, that we ought to refrain from being dogmatic.

The words divine power describe “the godhead and everything that belongs to it.” They are an example of the Hebrew fondness for using a circumlocution to avoid mentioning the name of God. Because of his divine power, God has given us everything we need. This is an amazing statement! In fact, in this introductory verse of the epistle we encounter a wonderful cheerfulness. Peter exclaims that he and the readers are the recipients of untold blessings; the word everything sums up this idea.

b. “For life and godliness.” Observe that God has granted and continues to grant us “everything for life and godliness.” He wants us to live in harmony with his Word by honoring, loving, and serving him. Eternal life is not an ideal that becomes reality when we depart from this earthly scene. On the contrary, we possess eternal life through our daily exercise of living for God and our fellow man. By obeying God’s will in our lives we practice godliness and experience the possession of eternal life.

c. “Through our knowledge of him who called us.” Peter tells the readers of his epistle that God grants them everything they need to enjoy life in his service. He indicates that God grants his gifts liberally “through our knowledge of him.” Once again Peter speaks of knowledge (see v. 2) and informs us that God makes his gifts available to us when we come to know him. Knowledge is a basic concept in Peter’s epistle.

The question is whether the phrase knowledge of him applies to God or to Christ. If we understand the pronoun to refer to Christ, then we have to conclude that the word us refers to the apostles. But the pronoun us in the first part of verse 3 is all-inclusive, for Peter speaks of himself and the readers. Should we interpret the pronoun to apply only to the apostles and not to the readers, we would negate the statements on equality within the church, which Peter teaches by implication in the first two verses of this epistle. We expect, however, that Peter is consistent in the use of this pronoun. Accordingly, we understand the word him to point to God and not to Christ. John Calvin observes that Peter “makes God the author of this knowledge, because we never go to him except when called.” God has called us, through Christ, to salvation (compare Rom. 8:28, 30; 1 Peter 1:15; 2:9; 5:10). And last, in the broader context of this chapter, Peter once more mentions the calling of the readers; he writes, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (v. 10).

d. “By his own glory and goodness.” The act of calling us is a demonstration of God’s own glory and goodness. These two characteristics are highly personal; the adjective own modifies both terms. Moreover, the two terms, although in a sense synonymous, differ. We are able to observe glory with our eyes (compare John 1:14), and we become aware of goodness (praise) with our minds and hearts. Conclusively, God reveals his essential being through visible glory and he displays his goodness in his deeds.

4. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

We see a correlation between verses 3 and 4 whereby the author is clarifying his message. Here is the parallel:

His divine power

has given us

everything we need

for life and godliness

through our knowledge

of him who called us by his

own glory and goodness.

Through these

he has given us

his very great and precious

promises,

so that through them

you may participate

in the divine nature,

having escaped the corruption

in the world caused by

evil desires.

Note also the cross-shaped configuration of some of the parts: “his divine power” (v. 3) corresponds with “in the divine nature” (v. 4), and “glory and goodness” (v. 3) is the antecedent of “through these” (v. 4). From another point of view, the conclusion of verse 4 contrasts with the last line of the preceding verse: “the corruption in the world” is the opposite of “glory,” and “evil desires” is antithetical to “goodness.”

a. “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises.” To whom does the pronoun he refer—to God or to Christ? Scripture teaches that God has given his people numerous promises, but also Christ has promised his followers that he will return (1:16; 3:4, 9). Because Peter is not specific in distinguishing between God and Christ, we ought to refrain from restricting the meaning of the pronoun.

The promises themselves are an important part of this verse, for Peter describes them as “very great and precious.” Observe that he uses the superlative form to depict these promises. With the perfect tense he has given, he implies that God not only has given these promises to us but also has fulfilled them in the person and work of Christ.

b. “So that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” Peter needs an additional clause to tell us what God’s purpose is in giving us these promises (compare 1 Peter 2:9). He informs us that through these promises we share God’s nature. Although this statement lends itself to many interpretations, we ought to notice how precisely Peter has chosen his words. He says that we participate in God’s nature, not in God’s being. He has chosen the term nature because it indicates growth, development, and character. The expression being, by contrast, points to essence and substance. We can never participate in God’s essence, for we are and remain human beings who have been created by God. What Peter discloses is that we share God’s holiness, which we experience through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (see 1 Cor. 6:19). What, then, is God’s purpose in making us share in his nature? In the words of Calvin, “Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.”

Peter borrows the term divine nature from the philosophical vocabulary of the Greeks. To refute his opponents (see 2:1) he employs their terminology but gives the words a Christian meaning. Greek philosophers taught that man who is living in a corrupt world of physical pleasure must become like the gods. They advised their followers to share the divine nature. Peter resorts to using the same expression, “participate in the divine nature.” But whereas the philosophers took their point of departure in man and claimed for him a share in the nature of the gods, Peter views our sharing of God’s nature in the light of God’s promises. “There is a world of difference between these two concepts. The first is humanistic and reflects the vaulted self-appraisal of natural man. The other is Christian and exalts the gracious provision of God.”

Through the promises in Christ, we obtain God’s holiness. God has called us into the sphere of holiness in which we have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). By fixing our thoughts on Jesus, we share in the heavenly calling and in Christ himself (Heb. 3:1, 14).

c. “And escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Already in his life, the believer participates in God’s divine nature by reflecting his virtues. He shuns sin and evil because he knows that he belongs not to the world but to God (John 17:14–18; also compare 1 Thess. 5:22; James 1:27). Surely, when he leaves this earthly scene and participates in eternal glory, he fully displays God’s nature. While on earth, he lives in the world even though he is not of the world. He has “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; also see Col. 3:10; Heb. 12:10; and 1 John 3:2).

Doctrinal Considerations in 1:4

A skilled communicator expresses himself in the language of the people he addresses; he uses their vocabulary and idioms to identify with his audience. But as he employs their terminology, he is completely free to proclaim his own message.

Peter selects a phrase that was current in the Hellenistic world of his day: “participate in the divine nature.” Even though Peter avails himself of Hellenistic terminology, he does not teach a Hellenistic view of man, which advocated escape from this material world because of its corruption. “Peter is careful to define the nature of the corruption he has in mind, i.e. corruption that is in (en) the world because of (en) passion. There is a deliberate avoidance of the concept that the material world is itself evil.” Peter, therefore, teaches not the doctrine of Hellenistic philosophers who reason from man’s perspective. Instead, he presents God’s revelation, in which God calls man to have fellowship with him. In short, not man but God takes the initiative.

Greek Words, Phrases, and Constructions in 1:3–4

Verse 3

ὡς—omitted in some translations, this particle performs the functions of introducing a genitive absolute construction: δυνάμεως (power) and δεδωρημένης (perfect middle participle from δωρέομαι [I give, present, bestow]). Verse 3, however, lacks a main verb, which perhaps has been deleted in the transition from verse 2 to verse 3. Notice that the perfect tense of the participle indicates a past action that has lasting effect for the present.

θείας—this adjective, meaning “divine,” occurs also in verse 4 and in Acts 17:29, where Paul uses it in his address to Athenian philosophers. It appears frequently in Hellenistic writings, “probably because its very broad usage gave it a polytheistic or pantheistic flavor.” We assume that both Paul and Peter accommodated themselves to the vocabulary used by their audiences. Jewish Christians who lived in a Hellenistic environment were acquainted with this word.

ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ—the Majority Text and Textus Receptus have the reading διὰ ξδόης (through glory), which has the support of some ancient manuscripts. Bruce M. Metzger comments that the majority of the Editorial Committee of the United Bible Societies edition preferred the reading ἰδίᾳ δόξῃ because it is “more likely that διά would have been written by mistake for ἰδίᾳ than vice versa; and ἴδιος is a favorite word with the author of 2 Peter, occurring six other times in three chapters.”

Verse 4

μέγιστα—as an adjective in the superlative degree, it is emphatic in the sense of “very” or “exceedingly.”

γένησθε—the aorist subjunctive from the verb γίνομαι (I become, am) expresses the process that occurs in regard to a believer’s sanctification. The aorist is constative.

ἀποφυγόντες—from the verb ἀποφεύγω (I escape), this active participle in the aorist tense denotes single occurrence. As a compound, the participle governs the genitive case without a preposition.” (4)

Notes:

1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 2 Peter, p. 4718-4719.

2. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 2 Peter, Vol.3, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 444.

3. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 833-834.

4. Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, Peter and Jude, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 245-250.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/

** CARM Theological Dictionary https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

St. Athanasius: “God became man so that men might become gods.” What did Athanasius mean by this? Was he promoting an early form of Mormonism where a man can become a god? Athanasius was explaining theosis. Eastern Orthodoxy uses the term deification or theosis. What do the Orthodox mean by this?

An Eastern Orthodox view on this:

Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature
http://ww1.antiochian.org/c…/theosis-partaking-divine-nature

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The Intolerance of Tolerance

The Intolerance of Tolerance
By D. A. Carson
Published by Eerdmans
Reviewed by Jack Kettler

Brief Bio:

D. A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois. Some of his other books are: The Gagging of God, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, The God Who Is There, Christ and Culture Revisited.

What others are saying about this book:

“Thoughtfully shows how tolerance has morphed into a pervasive insistence that no one should hold firm convictions. . .. Not to hear and heed Carson is to enter a nightmarish world in which zeal to discern truth is replaced by zeal to keep anyone from claiming anything is really true.” -Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary

“Carson shows the structural flaws and inconsistency of modern tolerance and its fixation on opposing traditional Christianity. . .. The Intolerance of Tolerance is not a political jeremiad so much as a call for Christians to fight for the value of truth.” – Christianity Today

A Must Read Book!

To call this book a must read is an understatement! In this book, Dr. Carson helps the reader to understand the insanity we are watching coming from colleges campuses and the culture at large.

Carson does an extraordinary job surveying philosophical ideas with special attention to postmodernism and its failure to account for absolutes. Chapter One deals with The Changing Face of Tolerance. There is a historic or older form of tolerance that has worked quite well in society, keeping disagreements from spinning out of control, resulting in violence. An older form of tolerance would be the Jewish prohibition of eating pork. A Jewish person, while not eating pork, would not try and stop others from eating pork as is the case with Muslims and their demands that everyone conforms to their practices.

Chapter Two deals with examples of the new tolerance and its adherents demanding the removal of Christian clubs from college campuses because the Christian club will not allow non-Christians to hold leadership positions or refusing to change their doctrinal standards. Carson provides many examples of this that spans many organizations such as banks, cities, schools. Thankfully, most of the examples cited are eventually overturned in the courts.

Carson documents what is unique to the new tolerance is the enforcers of this so-called tolerance is that the enforcers do not believe in absolutes except the absolute that there are no absolutes. This self-refuting contradiction held by the enforces does not bother them. The new tolerance that has permeated most sections of society. In Chapter Four, Worse Than Inconsistency, Carson deals with extreme accusations leveled people holding unpopular positions.

Chapter Five, The Church and Christian Truth-Claims is particularly important for contemporary Christians. With the state and federal courts abandoning their commitment to fidelity to the Constitution, Christian businesses are being attacked for not violating their beliefs by making cakes for homosexuals. Churches are now in the crosshairs of the new watchers and enforcers. The new watchers and enforcers are governed by nothing but their own feelings and what they take as self-evident without proof is right.

As the Scriptures declare: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Chapter Seven, Tolerance, Democracy, and Majoritarianism is particularly instructive. In short, Democracy and majoritarian schemes have never provided much protection for minorities.

A few quotes are in order:

“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state – it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.” – John Witherspoon

“It is a logical absurdity to equate democracy with freedom in the way that mainstream political philosophers and commentators typically do. A system where individuals and minorities are at the mercy of unconstrained majorities hardly constitutes freedom in any meaningful sense.” – Keith Preston

“One-man-one-vote combined with “free entry” into government-democracy–implies that every person and his personal property comes within reach of-and is up for grabs by everyone else: a ‘tragedy of the commons” is created.” – Hans-Hermann Hoppe

The Heresy of Democracy with God by Rousas John Rushdoony [From Chalcedon Position Paper No.6] is an excellent and complements Dr. Carson’s insights into the dangers of majoritarianism.

In conclusion, Dr. Carson leaves the reader with Ways Ahead: Ten Words in the final chapter with strategies to defend ourselves and respond to the new tolerance which in reality is extremely intolerant. This extreme new intolerance and its adherents are capable of all manner of evil. The wicked fruits of these are being increasingly seen throughout all of society.

I highly recommend this book and it should be in every concerned Christian’s library.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

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What does the Bible say about Blasphemy?

What does the Bible say about Blasphemy? By Jack Kettler

In this study, we will seek to understand what word blasphemy means.

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, commentary evidence and confessional support for the glorifying of God in how we live.

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)

Definition:

Question: What is blasphemy? What does it mean to blaspheme?

Answer: To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is a verbal or written reproach of God’s name, character, work, or attributes. *

Definition:

Blasphemy; Speaking evil of God or denying Him some good, which we should attribute to Him. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is stating that Jesus did his miracles by the power of the devil (Matthew 12:22-32) and is an unforgivable sin (Mark 3:28-30). Blasphemy arises out of pride (Psalms 73:9; Psalms 73:11), hatred (Psalms 74:18), injustice (Isaiah 52:5), etc. Christ was mistakenly accused of blasphemy (John 10:30-33). **

Words that are synonymous with blasphemy:

Desecration, heresy, abuse, execration, impiety, imprecation, indignity, profanity, profaning, sacrilege, scoffing, swearing, cursing, reviling, railing

Blasphemy refers to defamatory, injurious, or abusive speech against God or against sacred things:

Examples:

· Taking God’s name in vain is blasphemous

· Mocking the God of the Bible is blasphemous

· Expressions such as “For God’s sakes or heavens sake,” and other derivations such as “Gee,” “Gosh,” and “doggone it,” and many others like these are blasphemous

· Denying that God exists is blasphemous

· Committing idolatry is blasphemous

· Diminishing God’s Word by disobeying it is blasphemous

· Desecration of a church is blasphemous

· Worshipping false gods is blasphemous

· Practicing divination is blasphemous

· Reducing God to a human level is blasphemous

Scriptures on Blasphemy:

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)

“And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)

“And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:16)

“But the person who acts defiantly, whether native or resident alien blasphemes the LORD. That person is to be cut off from his people.” (Numbers 15:30 CSB)

“Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD, Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed Me by acting treacherously against Me.” (Ezekiel 20:27)

“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31 ESV) Note: The readers of the KJV will notice against the Holy are italicized and not in the Greek text. The KJV translators added these two words. Spirit is a far better translation of πνεύματος (pneumatos) than ghost is.

John Calvin on Matthew 12:31 and blasphemy against the Spirit:

“Therefore, I say to you. This inference ought not to be confined to the clause immediately preceding, but depends on the whole discourse. Having proved that the scribes could not blame him for casting out devils, without opposing the kingdom of God, he at length concludes that it is no light or ordinary offense, but an atrocious crime, knowingly and willingly to pour contempt on the Spirit of God. We have already said, that Christ did not pronounce this decision on the mere words, which they uttered, but on their base and wicked thought.

All sin and blasphemy. As our Lord declares blasphemy against the Holy Ghost to be more heinous than all other sins, it is of importance to inquire what is the meaning of that term. Those who define it to be impenitence may be refuted without any difficulty; for it would have been in vain and to no purpose for Christ to say, that it is not forgiven in the present life. Besides, the word blasphemy cannot be extended indiscriminately to every sort of crimes; but from the comparison which Christ makes, we shall easily obtain the true definition. Why is it said that he who blasphemes against the Spirit is a more heinous sinner than he who blasphemes against Christ? Is it because the majesty of the Spirit is greater, that a crime committed against him must be punished with greater severity? Certainly that is not the reason; for as the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9) shines in Christ, he who pours contempt upon him overturns and destroys, as far as it lies in his power, the whole glory of God. Now in what manner shall Christ be separated from his Spirit, so that those who treat the Spirit with contempt offer no injury or insult to Christ?

Already we begin to perceive, that the reason why blasphemy against the Spirit exceeds other sins, is not that the Spirit is higher than Christ, but that those who rebel, after that the power of God has been revealed, cannot be excused on the plea of ignorance. Besides, it must be observed, that what is here said about blasphemy does not refer merely to the essence of the Spirit, but to the grace which He has bestowed upon us. Those who are destitute of the light of the Spirit, however much they may detract from the glory of the Spirit, will not be held guilty of this crime. We do not maintain, that those persons are said to pour contempt on the Spirit of God, who oppose his grace and power by hardened malice; and farther we maintain, that this kind of sacrilege is committed only when we knowingly endeavor to extinguish the Spirit who dwells in us.

The reason why contempt is said to be poured on the Spirit, rather than on the Son or the Father, is this. By detracting from the grace and power of God, we make a direct attack on the Spirit, from whom they proceed, and in whom they are revealed to us. Shall any unbeliever curse God? It is as if a blind man were dashing against a wall. But no man curses the Spirit who is not enlightened by him, and conscious of ungodly rebellion against him; for it is not a superfluous distinction. that all other blasphemies shall be forgiven, except that one blasphemy which is directed against the Spirit. If a man shall simply blaspheme against God, he is not declared to be beyond the hope of pardon; but of those who have offered outrage to the Spirit, it is said that God will never forgive them. Why is this, but because those only are blasphemers against the Spirit, who slander his gifts and power, contrary to the conviction of their own mind? Such also is the import of the reason assigned by Mark for the extreme severity of Christ’s threatening against the Pharisees; because they had said that he had the unclean spirit; for in this manner they purposely and maliciously turned light into darkness; and, indeed, it is in the manner of the giants, as the phrase is, to make war against God.

But here a question arises. Do men proceed to such a pitch of madness as not to hesitate, knowingly and willfully, to rush against God? For this appears to be monstrous and incredible. I: reply: Such audacity does indeed proceed from mad blindness, in which, at the same time, malice and virulent rage predominate. Nor is it without reason that Paul says, that though he was

A blasphemer, he obtained pardon, because he had done it ignorantly in his unbelief,
(1 Timothy 1:13 😉

For this term draws a distinction between his sin and voluntary rebellion. This passage refutes also the error of those who imagine that every sin which is voluntary, or which is committed in opposition to the conscience, is unpardonable. On the contrary, Paul expressly limits that sin to the First Table of the Law; and our Lord not less plainly applies the word blasphemy to a single description of sin, and at the same time shows, that it is of a kind, which is directly opposed to the glory of God.

From all that has been said, we may conclude that those persons sin and blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, who maliciously turn to his dishonor the perfections of God, which have been revealed to him by the Spirit, in which His glory ought to be celebrated, and who, with Satan, their leader, are avowed enemies of the glory of God. We need not then wonder if for such sacrilege there is no hope of pardon; for they must be desperate who turn the only medicine of salvation into a deadly venom. Some consider this to be too harsh, and betake themselves to the childish expedient, that it is said to be unpardonable, because the pardon of it is rare and difficult to be obtained. But the words of Christ are too precise to admit of so silly an evasion. It is excessively foolish to argue that God will be cruel if he never pardon a sin, the atrocity of which ought to excite in us astonishment and horror. Those who reason in that manner do not sufficiently consider what a monstrous crime it is, not only to profane intentionally the sacred name of God, but to spit in his face when he shines evidently before us. It shows equal ignorance to object, that it would be absurd if even repentance could not obtain pardon; for blasphemy against the Spirit is a token of reprobation, and hence it follows, that whoever have fallen into it, have been delivered over to a reprobate mind, (Romans 1:28.) As we maintain, that he who has been truly regenerated by the Spirit cannot possibly fall into so horrid a crime, so, on the other hand, we must believe that those who have fallen into it never rise again; nay, that in this manner God punishes contempt of his grace, by hardening the hearts of the reprobate, so that they never have any desire towards repentance.” (1)

False accusations of blasphemy:

“Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7)

“The Jews answered him, saying, for a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:33)

If it had been any other man, it these accusations would be correct. In the case of Jesus, it is not, because He is true God.

Acts of blasphemy:

“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4)

“Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29)

“And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” (Revelation 13:6)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words on blasphemy:

A-1 Noun Strong’s Number: g988 Greek: blasphemia

Blaspheme, Blasphemy, Blasphemer, Blasphemous:

either from blax, “sluggish, stupid,” or, probably, from blapto, “to injure,” and pheme, “speech,” (Eng. “blasphemy”) is so translated thirteen times in the RV, but “railing” in Mat 15:19; Mar 7:22; Eph. 4:31; Col 3:8; 1Ti 6:4; Jud 1:9. The word “blasphemy” is practically confined to speech defamatory of the Divine Majesty. See Note, below.

See EVIL SPEAKING, RAILING.

B-1 Verb Strong’s Number: g987 Greek: blasphemeo

Blaspheme, Blasphemy, Blasphemer, Blasphemous:

“To blaspheme, rail at or revile,” is used

(a) in a general way, of any contumelious speech, reviling, calumniating, railing at, etc., as of those who railed at Christ, e.g., Mat 27:39; Mar 15:29; Luke 22:65 (RV, “reviling”); Luke 23:39;

(b) of those who speak contemptuously of God or of sacred things, e.g., Mat 9:3; Mar 3:28; Rom 2:24; 1Ti 1:20; 6:1; Rev 13:6; 16:9, 11, 21; “hath spoken blasphemy,” Mat 26:65; “rail at,” 2Pe 2:10; Jud 1:8, 10; “railing,” 2Pe 2:12; “slanderously reported,” Rom 3:8; “be evil spoken of,” Rom 14:16; 1Cr 10:30; 2Pe 2:2; “speak evil of,” Tts 3:2; 1Pe 4:4; “being defamed,” 1Cr 4:13. The verb (in the present participial form) is translated “blasphemers” in Act 19:37; in Mar 2:7, “blasphemeth,” RV, for AV, “speaketh blasphemies.”

There is no noun in the original representing the English “blasphemer.” This is expressed either by the verb, or by the adjective blasphemos.

See DEFAME, RAIL, REPORT, REVILE.

C-1 Adjective Strong’s Number: g989 Greek: blasphemos

Blaspheme, Blasphemy, Blasphemer, Blasphemous:

“Abusive, speaking evil,” is translated “blasphemous,” in Act 6:11, 13; “a blasphemer,” 1Ti 1:13; “railers,” 2Ti 3:2, RV; “railing,” 2Pe 2:11.

See RAIL.

Note: As to Christ’s teaching concerning “blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit, e.g., Mat 12:32, that anyone, with the evidence of the Lord’s power before His eyes, should declare it to be Satanic, exhibited a condition of heart beyond Divine illumination and therefore hopeless. Divine forgiveness would be inconsistent with the moral nature of God. As to the Son of Man, in his state of humiliation, there might be misunderstanding, but not so with the Holy Spirit’s power demonstrated. (2)

An excellent theological dictionary article on blasphemy:

Blasphemy

Definition. In English “blasphemy” denotes any utterance that insults God or Christ (or Allah, or Muhammed) and gives deeply felt offense to their followers. In several states in the United States and in Britain, blasphemy is a criminal offense, although there have been few prosecution in this century. In Islamic countries generally no distinction is made between blasphemy and heresy, so that any perceived rejection of the Prophet or his message, by Muslims or non-Muslims, is regarded as blasphemous.

The biblical concept is very different. There is no Hebrew word equivalent to the English “blasphemy,” and the Greek root blasphem- [blasfhmevw], which is used fifty-five times in the New Testament, has a wide meaning. In both Testaments the idea of blasphemy as something that offends the religious sensibilities of others is completely absent.

The Old Testament At least five different Hebrew verbs are translated “blaspheme” in English translations. Translators choose “blaspheme” when, for instance, the verbs “curse” (qalal [l;l’q]), “revile” (gadap), or “despise” (herep) are used with God as the object. No special verb is reserved for cursing or insults directed at God.

However, to curse or insult God is an especially grave sin. It can be done by word or by deed. There is little distinction between the sinner who deliberately abuses the name of the Lord (Lev. 24:10-16), and the one who deliberately flouts his commandments (Num. 15:30-31). For both, the death penalty is prescribed. Similarly, the prayer of the Levites in Nehemiah 9 calls “awful blasphemies” all that Israelites did when they made the golden calf (9:18).

David’s flagrant sin with Bathsheba may be called a blasphemy (2 Samuel 12:14), but a more likely translation is that David has “made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt” (NIV). Instead of testifying by lifestyle to the character of the Lord, David’s action confirms the blasphemous belief of the nations that the Lord is no different from any other national god.

The New Testament. The Greek root blasphem- [blasfhmevw] can be used of strong insults thrown at other people (Mark 15:29; Acts 13:45; Eph. 4:31; 1 Peter 4:4), or even unjust accusations (Rom. 3:8), but it is more usually used of insults offered to God (e.g., Rev. 13:6; 16:9). Jesus is accused of blasphemy for pronouncing forgiveness and for claiming a unique relationship with God (Matt. 26:65; Mark 2:7; John 10:33).

Jesus picks up the Numbers 15 passage about blasphemy in his famous saying about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10). Numbers 15:22-31 distinguishes between unintentional sin committed in ignorance (for which forgiveness is possible), and defiant sin, called blasphemy, for which there is no forgiveness. Jesus teaches that the blasphemy for which there is no forgiveness is that against the Holy Spirit; all other blasphemies, particularly those against “the Son of Man,” may be forgiven. Insults thrown at “the Son of Man” may be forgiven because they are committed in ignorance of who he really is: his heavenly glory does not appear on earth. But to ascribe obvious manifestations of the Spirit to the devil’s agency is a much more serious offense not committed in ignorance.

This downgrading of the significance of blasphemy against Christ marks an important difference between Christianity and Islam. Whereas Muslims are bound to defend the honor of the Prophet, for Christians Jesus is the one who says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Rom. 15:3; quoting Psalm 69:9). He deliberately accepts the vilification of others and prays for the forgiveness of those who insult him (Luke 23:34). In this, he sets an example for Christians to follow. According to Peter (Peter 2:19-25), they must accept insult and blasphemy without retaliation, as he did.

There is only one kind of blasphemy that Christians must resist: the blasphemy they will bring on themselves if they cause a fellow believer to stumble through the thoughtless exercise of their freedom (Rom. 14:15-16; 1 Cor. 10:28-30). Stephen Motyer (3)

Westminster Longer Catechism Q. 111-114. The Scriptural proofs are in brackets, and highlighted in yellow. The disciple of Scripture is encouraged to look up the proof texts:

Q. 111. Which is the third commandment?

A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. [Exodus 20:7]

Q. 112. What is required in the third commandment?

A. The third commandment requires, That the name of God, his titles, attributes, [Matthew 11:9; Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalm 29:2; Psalm 68:4; Revelation 15:3-4] ordinances, [Malachi 1:14] the Word, [Psalm 138:2] sacraments, [1 Corinthians 11:24-25, 28-29] prayer, [1 Timothy 2:8] oaths, [Jeremiah 4:2] vows, [Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-6] lots, [Acts 1:24, 26] his works, [Job 36:24] and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, [Malachi 3:16] meditation, [Psalm 8:1, 3-4, 9] word, [Colossians 3:17; Psalm 105:2, 5] and writing; [Psalm 102:18] by an holy profession, [1 Peter 3:15; Micah 4:5] and answerable conversation, [Philippians 1:27] to the glory of God, [1 Corinthians 10:31] and the good of ourselves, [Jeremiah 32:39] and others. [1 Peter 2:12]

Q. 113. What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?

A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God’s name as is required; [Malachi 2:2] and the abuse of it in an ignorant, [Acts 17:23] vain, [Proverbs 30:9] irreverent, profane, [Malachi 1:6-7, 12; 3:14] superstitious [1 Samuel 4:3-5; Jeremiah 7:4, 9-10, 14, 31; Colossians 2:20-22] or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, [2 Kings 18:30, 35; Exodus 5:2; Psalm 139:20] ordinances, [Psalm 50:16-17] or works, [Isaiah 5:12] by blasphemy, [2 Kings 19:22; Leviticus 24:11] perjury; [Zechariah 5:4; 8:17] all sinful cursings, [1 Samuel 17:43; 2 Samuel 16:5] oaths, [Jeremiah 5:7; 23:10] vows, [Deuteronomy 23:18; Acts 23:12, 14] and lots; [Esther 3:7; 9:4; Psalm 22:18] violating of our oaths and vows, if lawful; [Psalm 24:4; Ezekiel 17:16, 18-19] and fulfilling them, if of things unlawful; [Mark 6:26; 1 Samuel 25:22, 32-34] murmuring and quarrelling at, [Romans 9:14, 19-20] curious prying into, [Deuteronomy 29:29] and misapplying of God’s decrees [Romans 3:5, 7] and providences; [Ecclesiastes 8:11; 9:3; Psalm 39] misinterpreting, [Matthew 5:21-22] misapplying, [Ezekiel 13:22] or any way perverting the Word, or any part of it; [2 Peter 3:16; Matthew 22:24-31; 25:28-30] to profane jests, [Isaiah 22:13; Jeremiah 23:34, 36, 38] curious or unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; [1 Timothy 1:4, 6-7; 6:4-5; 20; 2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:9] abusing it, the creatures, or anything contained under the name of God, to charms, [Deuteronomy 18:10-14; Acts 19:13] or sinful lusts and practices; [2 Timothy 4:3-4; Romans 13:13-14; 1 Kings 21:9-10] the maligning, [Acts 13:45; 1 John 3:12] scorning, [Psalm 1:1; 2 Peter 3:3] reviling, [1 Peter 4:4] or any wise opposing of God’s truth, grace, and ways; [Acts 13:45-46, 50; 4:18; 19:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; Hebrews 10:29] making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; [2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 23:14; Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16] being ashamed of it, [Mark 8:38] or a shame to it, by unconformable, [Psalm 73:14-15] unwise, [1 Corinthians 6:5-6; Ephesians 5:15-17] unfruitful, [Isaiah 5:4; 2 Peter 1:8-9] and offensive walking, [Romans 2:23-24] or backsliding from it. [Galatians 3:1, 3; Hebrews 6:6].

Q. 114. What reasons are annexed to the third commandment?

A. The reasons annexed to the third commandment, in these words, The Lord thy God, and, For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain, [Exodus 20:7] are, because he is the Lord and our God, therefore his name is not to be profaned, or any way abused by us; [Leviticus 19:12] especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment; [Ezekiel 36:21-23; Deuteronomy 28:58-59; Zechariah 5:2-4] albeit many such escape the censures and punishments of men. [1 Samuel 2:12, 17, 22, 24; 3:13]

Notes:

1. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries Volume XV1 Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 73-77.

2. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 123-124.

3. Walter A. Elwell, Editor Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), p. 67.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.thereligionthatstartedinahat.com/

For more study:

* Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/blasphemy-blaspheme.html

** CARM Theological Dictionary https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd.html

http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

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