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Is Hell Eternal? A Bible Study

Is Hell Eternal? A Bible Study by Jack Kettler
“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)
In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching about eternal judgment. We will do this under the general heading of annihilationism. There are several subheadings such as soul sleep, conditional immortality, and everlasting punishment.
As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!
“The teaching that after death unbelievers suffer the penalty of God’s wrath for a time, and then are ‘annihilated,’ or destroyed, so that they no longer exist. Some forms of this teaching hold that annihilation occurs immediately upon death.” *
Conditional Immortality:
The view that immortality is given only to those Christians who believe in Christ. The rest are destroyed and do not exist. Some adherents to conditional immortality believe that the wicked will be punished in hell for a period proportional to their sins and then they are annihilated. **
Soul Sleep:
The teaching that when a person dies his soul ceases to exist. On the final judgment day he is brought back to life and judged. This is not a heresy, only an error of interpretation. The Bible is not specific on the condition of the person between death and resurrection. However, there are scriptures that strongly suggest man’s continued self-awareness and continued existence after death (Luke 16:19-31; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Philippians 1:21-23). **
From Scripture:
“And these shall go away into everlasting (αἰώνιον, aiōnion, age-long, eternal) punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (αἰώνιον, aiōnion, age-long, eternal).” (Matthew 25:46)
My comments on Matthew 25:46:
For those arguing for some form of temporal punishment for non-believers citing the Greek word aiōnion, which they say may not be eternal but only age long, I ask for consistency. To be consistent, the advocates of temporal punishment would have to say for believers that life eternal may be only age long or temporal. To argue this is absurd since the same Greek word for everlasting punishment and life eternal is used in the Matthew passage.
The proponents of temporal punishment are committing a fallacy that is known as amphiboly, which comes from the Greek word “indeterminate.” This fallacy is similar to equivocation. Here, the ambiguity results from an inconsistent grammatical misreading. Consequently, since the same Greek word used to refer to both “everlasting punishment” and “life eternal,” it is a biblical conclusion that both believers and non-believers have an eternal/immortal soul.
From the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Matthew 25:46:
46. And these shall go away—these “cursed” ones. Sentence, it should seem, was first pronounced—in the hearing of the wicked—upon the righteous, who thereupon sit as assessors in the judgment upon the wicked (1Co 6:2); but sentence is first executed, it should seem, upon the wicked, in the sight of the righteous—whose glory will thus not be beheld by the wicked, while their descent into “their own place” will be witnessed by the righteous, as Bengel notes.
Into everlasting punishment—or, as in Mt 25:41, “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Compare Mt 13:42; 2Th 1:9, &c. This is said to be “prepared for the devil and his angels,” because they were “first in transgression.” But both have one doom, because one unholy character.
But the righteous into life eternal—that is, “life everlasting.” The word in both clauses, being in the original the same, should have been the same in the translation also. Thus the decisions of this awful day will be final, irreversible, unending. (1)
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:9-11)
From the Pulpit Commentary on Revelation 14:11:
Verse 11. – And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever. Compare the wording of the passages quoted above on ver. 10, especially Isaiah 34:9, 10, “The smoke thereof shall go up forever.” This statement of the eternity of punishment is also in agreement with Luke 16:26 and Mark 9:44. And they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. “No rest,” in contrast with the blessed rest of the saints (ver. 13). Wordsworth says, “Οἱ προσκυνοῦντες τὸ θηρίον is a stronger expression than ‘those who worship the beast;’ it means those whose distinguishing characteristic is that they are worshipping the beast, and persist in worshipping him, even to the end. This characteristic is so strongly marked that they are here represented as keeping it even after their death.” (On the “mark,” see on Revelation 13:16-18.) (2)
My comments on Revelation 14:11:
The “smoke ascendeth up forever and ever,” means that what the fire is burning is never finished burning or what is burning is never burned up. If so, the smoke should cease. Thus, this punishment is endless as evidenced by the fact that the smoke never ends ascending up.
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting (עֹולָ֔ם, o·v·lam, long duration, antiquity, futurity) life, and some to shame and everlasting (עֹולָ֔ם, o·v·lam, long duration, antiquity, futurity) contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)
My comments on Daniel 12:2:
Observations on this passage are virtually the same as the Matthew 25:46. In this passage the same Hebrew word used for everlasting life and everlasting shame and contempt. These two passages are definitive in deciding this debate about eternal life or temporal punishment. It is readily admitted that in Greek and Hebrew that everlasting may be tied to a long age. When you have the same words in the same verse saying everlasting life for believers and everlasting punishment for non-believers, you cannot equivocate and say there are two different usages of the word in the same verse that are coupled together by way of contrast. If one word may mean temporal, the other may also which is nonsense when speaking of everlasting life for the believer.
The next entry is well worth the serious Bible student’s time to carefully consider:
PUNISHMENT, EVERLASTING from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
1. Survival after Death
2. Retribution for Sin
3. Conscious Suffering in Future
1. Old Testament and Jewish Conceptions
2. New Testament Teaching
(1) “Eternal”
(2) Equivalent Expressions
(3) The Last Judgment
3. Teaching of Analogy
1. Universal Salvation
2. Annihilation
3. Second Probation
1. Mystery of the Future
2. Nature of Punishment
3. Range of Divine Mercy
4. Gradation of Punishment
5. God “All in All”
I. Preliminary Assumptions.
(For “everlasting,” where used in the King James Version as the rendering of aionios, the Revised Version (British and American) substitutes “eternal.”) It is assumed in this article that Scripture teaches the survival of the soul after death, the reality of retribution and of judgment to come, and a shorter or longer period of suffering for sin in the case of the unredeemed in the world beyond. Only a few words need be said, therefore, in preliminary remark on these assumptions.
1. Survival after Death:
Whatever view may be taken of the development of the doctrine of immortality in the Old Testament (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT), it will scarcely be doubted that it is throughout assumed in the New Testament that the souls of men, good and bad, survive death (see IMMORTALITY). Two passages only need be referred to in proof:
one, Christ’s saying in Matthew 10:28: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Gehenna); the other, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31: Lazarus is carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; the rich man lifts up his eyes in Hades, being in torments. The whole doctrine of the future judgment in the New Testament presupposes survival after death.
2. Retribution for Sin:
Retribution for sin is a cardinal point in the teaching of both the Old Testament and New Testament. The doctrine of judgment, again, in the New Testament, with Christ as judge, turns on this point. The following passages are decisive:
Isaiah 3:10, 11; Matthew 11:22, 24; 12:41, 42; Romans 2:5, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7, 8, etc.
3. Conscious Suffering in Future:
The conscious endurance of punishment for sin in the future state is already implied in the preceding. The parable of the Rich Man speaks of it as following immediately on death in Hades; all the descriptions of the judgment imply pain and anguish as the result of condemnation (compare Romans 2:5,12). This does not settle the nature or duration of the punishment; but it excludes the idea that physical death is the extinction of being, or that annihilation follows immediately upon death or judgment.
These things being assumed, the questions that remain are:
Is the period of suffering for sin eternal, or is it terminable? May it be cut short by repentance or by annihilation? Is there any final solution of the discord it implies in the universe? It is maintained here that the punishment of sin, in the case of the finally impenitent, is everlasting.
II. Scriptural Support.
The doctrine that the punishment of sin is everlasting is sustained by many plain testimonies of Scripture.
1. Old Testament and Jewish Conceptions:
The doctrine of future punishment is not prominent in the Old Testament, where rewards and punishments are chiefly connected with the present life. In a few passages (Psalms 49:14, 15; 73:18, 19; compare Isaiah 24:21, 22; 66:24), Dr. Charles thinks that “Sheol appears as the place of punishment of the wicked” (Eschatology, 73-76, 156). If so, there is no suggestion of escape from it. In Daniel 12:2 some that sleep in the dust are represented as awaking to “shame and everlasting contempt” (the word for “everlasting” is the usual one, `olam). In the Jewish literature of the century before Christ, “Sheol is regarded,” says Dr. Charles, “as the place of final eternal punishment, that is, it has become hell” (op. cit., 236).
2. New Testament Teaching:
In the New Testament, the strongest language is used by Jesus and the apostolic writers on the certainty and severity of the punishment of sin in the future state, and always in a manner which suggests that the doom is final.
(1) “Eternal.”
The word “eternal” (aionios) is repeatedly applied to the punishment of sin, or to the fire which is its symbol. A principal example is Matthew 25:41, 46, “eternal fire,” “eternal punishment” (kolasis aionios). Here precisely the same word is applied to the punishment of the wicked as to the blessedness of the righteous. Other instances are Matthew 18:8; Jude 1:7; compare Revelation 14:11; 19:3; 20:10. In 2 Thessalonians 1:9, we have, “eternal destruction.” The kindred word aidios, “everlasting,” is in Jude 1:6 applied to the punishment of the fallen angels.
The reply made by Maurice (Theological Essays, 442) that aionios in such passages denotes quality, not duration, cannot be sustained. Whatever else the term includes, it connotes duration. More pertinent is the criticism of other writers (e.g. Cox, Salvator Mundi, 96; Farrar, Eternal Hope, Pref., xxxiv, pp. 78, 197; compare his Mercy and Judgment, passim) that aionios does not necessarily mean “eternal” (according to Cox it does not mean this at all), but is strictly “age-long,” is therefore compatible with, if it does not directly suggest, a terminable period. Cox allows that the term is “saturated through and through with the element of time” (p. 100,), but he denies its equivalence with “everlasting.” The sense, no doubt, is to be determined by the context, but it can hardly be questioned that “the eons of the eons” and similar phrases are the practical New Testament equivalents for eternity, and that aionios in its application to God and to life (“eternal life”) includes the idea of unending duration (compare John 10:28, 29 for express assertion of this). When, therefore, the term is applied in the same context to punishment and to life (Matthew 25:46), and no hint is given anywhere of limitation, the only reasonable exegesis is to take the word in its full sense of “eternal.”
(2) Equivalent Expressions.
The meaning “eternal” is confirmed by the use of equivalent expressions and of forms of speech which convey in the strongest manner the idea of finality. Such are the expressions, “the unquenchable fire,” the “worm” that “dieth not” (Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43-48; compare Matthew 13:42, 50), with those numerous references to “death,” “destruction,” “second death,” on which the advocates of conditional immortality build their arguments for final extinction. Such is the dictum of Jesus:
“He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth (remains) on him” (John 3:36; the opposite of “life” is “perishing,” 3:16); or that in Revelation 22:11, “He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still.” Finality is the note in all Christ’s warnings—“the outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13); “The door was shut …. I know you not” (Matthew 25:10, 12; compare 7:23), as in those of the Epistles (e.g. Hebrews 2:3; 6:6, 8; 10:27, 31; 12:25, 29). Jesus speaks of the blasphemy against the Spirit as a sin which shall not be forgiven, “neither in this world, nor in that which is to come” (Matthew 12:32; not as implying that other sins, unforgiven in this life, may be forgiven in the next), a passage which Mark gives in the remarkable form, “hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29). The Rich Man in Hades found an impassable gulf fixed between himself and Lazarus (Luke 16:26). See GULF. It adds to the terribleness of these sayings that, as before remarked, there is nothing to put against them; no hint or indication of a termination of the doom. Why did Jesus not safeguard His words from misapprehension, if behind them there lay an assurance of restoration and mercy? One may ask with Oxenham, in a reply to Jukes, “whether if Christ had intended to teach the doctrine of eternal punishment, He could possibly have taught it in plainer terms.”
(3) The Last Judgment.
The New Testament doctrine of the last judgment leads to the same conclusion. Two things seem plainly taught about this judgment:
The first, that it proceeds on the matter of the present life—“the things done in the body” (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12); and the second, that it is decisive in its issues. Not a single suggestion is given of a reversal of its decisions in any future age. Such silence is inexplicable if the Scriptures meant to teach what the opponents of this doctrine so confidently maintain.
3. Teaching of Analogy:
In corroboration of this Scriptural view analogy might be pleaded. How constantly even in this life is the law illustrated of the tendency of character to fixity! The present is the season of grace (2 Corinthians 6:2), yet what powers of resistance to God and goodness are seen to lie in human nature, and how effectually, often, does it harden itself under the influences that seem most fitted to break down its rebellion! What likelihood is there that eternity will alter this tendency, or make conversion more easy? Eternity can hardly be thought of as more really a scene of grace than time is for those to whom the gospel has already come. Its characteristic mark is said to be “judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Like the photographer’s bath, may its effect not be to develop and fix existing character, rather than to change it? If so, the state in which judgment finds the soul may be presumed to be one that will remain.
III. Difficulties and Objections–Rival Hypotheses.
What, it will now be asked, of the tremendous difficulties which inhere in this doctrine, with their undeniable effect in alienating many generous minds from it and from Christianity? The lurid rhetorical picturings of the sufferings of the lost, too frequent in the teaching of the past, may be discounted; it is not necessary to go beyond the inexpressibly solemn words of Christ Himself and His apostles. But even with this limitation, does it not seem as if, by this doctrine, a reflection was cast on the righteousness and mercy of God in creating such multitudes of the human race, as, on any showing, are outside the pale of Christ’s salvation–the countless generations of the heathen, with the masses even in Christian lands who have not received or do not obey the light–only to doom them to endless misery? Before attempting a positive answer, it is proper that a glance be taken at the rival theories put forth in alleviation of the difficulty.
1. Universal Salvation:
The most comprehensive solution propounded is that of universal salvation–of a final restitution of all souls to God’s favor and to blessedness. This tempting speculation–for it is no more–advocated by Origen in the early church, by Schleiermacher in the last century, has been urged by many writers in modern times. One of its best known advocates was Samuel Cox, in his book Salvator Mundi. It is noticeable that not a few who favor this theory (e.g. Maurice, Farrar) decline to commit themselves to it as more than a “hope,” and admit the possibility of human souls continuing to resist God endlessly (Maurice, Theological Essays, 476; Farrar, Eternal Hope, Pref., xv, xvi; Mercy and Judgment, I, 485, “In this sense there may be for some souls an endless hell”). It must, however, be evident that, be the number greater or smaller–and who shall give assurance of its smallness?–if there are any such souls, the difficulty in principle remains, and the passages alleged as teaching universal restoration are equally contradicted. The deeper objection to this theory is that, springing, not from real knowledge, but from men’s hopes and wishes, it has, as already shown, the tremendous stress of Scripture testimony against it; nor do the passages commonly adduced as favoring it really bear the weight put upon them. We read, e.g., of a restoration of all things–the same that Christ calls the palingenesia–but, in the same breath, we are told of those who will not hearken, and will be destroyed (Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:21, 23). We read of Christ drawing all men unto Him (John 12:32); but we are not less clearly told that at His coming Christ will pronounce on some a tremendous condemnation (Matthew 7:23; 25:41); we read of all things being gathered, or summed up, in Christ, of Christ subduing all things to Himself, etc.; but representative exegetes like Meyer and Weiss show that it is far from Paul’s view to teach an ultimate conversion or annihilation of the kingdom of evil (compare Meyer on 1 Corinthians 15:21,28 and Ephesians 1:10; Weiss, Biblical Theology, II, 723, 107, 109, English translation). We confess, however, that the strain of these last passages does seem to point in the direction of some ultimate unity, be it through subjugation, or in some other way, in which active opposition to God’s kingdom is no longer to be reckoned with.
2. Annihilation:
The view favored by another class is that of the annihilation of the finally impenitent. The type of doctrine called “conditional immortality” includes other elements which need not here be discussed (see IMMORTALITY). The annihilation theory takes different forms. So far as the annihilation is supposed to take place at death, it is contradicted by the Scriptures which support the soul’s survival after death; so far as it is believed to take place after a longer or shorter period of conscious suffering (which is White’s theory), it involves its advocates in difficulties with their own interpretations of “death,” “destruction,” “perishing,” seeing that in Scripture this doom is uniformly represented as overtaking the ungodly at the day of judgment, and not at some indefinite period thereafter. The theory conflicts also with the idea of gradation of punishment, for which room has to be sought in the period of conscious suffering, and rests really on an unduly narrowed conception of the meaning of the Scriptural terms “life” and “death.” Life is not bare existence, nor is “death” necessarily extinction of being. As said earlier, the language of many parts of Scripture implies the continued existence of the subjects of the divine wrath.
3. Second Probation:
It is significant that on the side alike of the advocates of restoration and of those of annihilation (e.g. E. White), refuge from the difficulties is frequently sought in the hypothesis of an extended probation and work of evangelization beyond death. This theory labors under the drawback that, in marked contrast with Scripture, it throws immensely the larger part of the work of salvation into the future state of being. It is, besides, apart from the dubious and limited support given to it by the passage on Christ’s preaching to “the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19, 20); destitute of Scriptural support. It has already been pointed out that the final judgment is uniformly represented as proceeding on the matter of this life. The theory is considered elsewhere.
IV. Nature, Conditions and Issues.
1. Mystery of the Future:
While dogmatisms like the above, which seem opposed to Scripture, are to be avoided, it is equally necessary to guard against dogmatisms of an opposite kind, as if eternity must not, in the nature of the case, have its undisclosed mysteries of which we here in time can frame no conception. The difficulties connected with the ultimate destinies of mankind are truly enormous, and no serious thinker will minimize them. Scripture does not warrant it in negative, any more than in positive, dogmatisms; with its uniformly practical aim, it does not seek to satisfy an idle curiosity (compare Luke 13:23,24). Its language is bold, popular, figurative, intense; the essential idea is to be held fast, but what is said cannot be taken as a directory to all that is to transpire in the ages upon ages of an unending duration. God’s methods of dealing with sin in the eternities may prove to be as much above our present thoughts as His dealings now are with men in grace. In His hands we must be content to leave it, only using such light as His immediate revelation yields.
2. Nature of Punishment:
As respects the nature of the punishment of sin, it cannot be doubted that in its essence it is spiritual. Everything can be adopted here which is said by Maurice and others—“The eternal punishment is the punishment of being without the knowledge of God, who is love, and of Jesus Christ who has manifested it; even as eternal life is declared to be the having the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ” (Theological Essays, 450). The supreme penalty of sin is unquestionably the loss of God’s life and love–the being sinful. Environment, indeed, may be expected to correspond with character, but the hell is one the sinner essentially makes for himself, and, like the kingdom of God, is within. The fire, the worm, the stripes, that figure its severity, are not physical. Even should the poena sensus (were that conceivable) be utterly removed, the poena damni would eternally remain.
3. Range of Divine Mercy:
It is a sound principle that, in His dealing with sin in the world to come, God’s mercy will reach as far as ever it can reach. This follows from the whole Scriptural revelation of the character of God. What may be included in it, it is impossible for anyone to say. It should be noticed that those of whom it is said that they shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on them, are those who “obey not” the truth (John 3:36)–who actively and consciously disregard and oppose it. But all do not belong to this class. It may be assumed that none will be lost who can in consistency with holiness and love be saved. The most germinal goodness, which is the implantation of His own Spirit, God will acknowledge and develop. The problem of undeveloped character may receive a solution we do not wot of with the entrance into the eternal light–not in change of character, but rather, as said before, in the revelation of character’s inmost bent. In this sense, the entrance into eternity may be to many the revelation of a love and grace which had not been understood or appreciated as it should have been on earth, but with which it is in essential kinship. There are at least many shades and degrees of character, and God may be entrusted to take the most just, yet most merciful, account of all.
4. Gradation of Punishment:
The fullest weight must further be given to what the Scripture so expressly says of gradation of punishment, even of the unsaved. It is not the case that the lot of all who fail of the eternal life in Christ is all of one grade. There are the “few stripes” and the “many stripes” (Luke 12:47, 48); those for whom it will be “more tolerable” than for others in the day of judgment (Matthew 11:20, 24). Even “Sodom and her daughters” will be mercifully dealt with in comparison with others (Ezekiel 16:48, 49, 53, 55, 61). There will be for everyone the most exact weighing of privilege, knowledge and opportunity. There is a vast area here for the divine administration on which no light at all is afforded us.
5. God “All in All”:
There remain those passages already alluded to which do seem to speak, not, indeed, of conversion or admission into the light and fellowship of Christ’s kingdom, but still of a final subjugation of the powers of evil, to the extent, at least, of a cessation of active opposition to God’s will, of some form of ultimate unification and acknowledgment of Christ as Lord. Such passages are Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:9-11; above all, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. God, in this final vision, has become “all in all.” Here, again, dogmatism is entirely out of place, but it is permissible to believe that these texts foreshadow such a final persuasion of God’s righteousness in His judgment and of the futility of further rebellion as shall bring about an outward pacification and restoration of order in the universe disturbed by sin, though it can never repair that eternal loss accruing from exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and glory.
Maurice, Theological Essays, “Eternal Life and Eternal Death”; S. Cox, Salvator Mundi; F. W. Farrar, Eternal Hope; Mercy and Judgment; A. Jukes, The Second Death and the Restitution of All Things; E. White, Life in Christ; H. Constable, Duration and Nature of Future Punishment. For: Pusey, What Is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment, H. N. Oxenham, Catholic Eschatology; C. Clemance, Future Punishment; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah, Appendix, xix, “On Eternal Punishment, according to the Rabbis and the New Testament “; The Future Life, A Defence of the Orthodox View, by the Most Eminent American Scholars; S. D. F. Salmond, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality, Book VI; Orr, Christian View of God, lecture ix; Luthardt, Saving Truths (English translations), lecture x. See also the various works on Dogmatic and Biblical Theology. James Orr (3)
J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong article is abridged:
2. The Intrinsic Eternality of the Soul
The second common argument is that once the idea of the intrinsic immortality of the soul (i.e., the conscious person) is set aside as a Platonic intrusion into second-century exegesis, it will appear that the only natural meaning of the NT imagery of death, destruction, fire, and darkness as indicators of the destiny of unbelievers is that such persons cease to be. On inspection, however, this proves not to be the case. For evangelicals, the analogy of Scripture—the axiom of its inner coherence and consistency and power to elucidate its own teaching from within itself—is a controlling principle in all interpretation, and though there are texts which, taken in isolation, might carry annihilationist implications, others can’t naturally be fitted into any form of this scheme. But no proposed theory of the Bible’s meaning that doesn’t cover all the Bible’s relevant statements can be true.
Texts like Jude 6, Matthew 8:12, Matthew 22:13, and Matthew 25:30 show that darkness signifies a state of deprivation and distress, not of destruction in the sense of ceasing to exist.
After all, only those who exist can weep and gnash their teeth, as those banished into the darkness are said to do.
Nowhere in Scripture does death signify extinction; physical death is departure into another mode of being, called sheol or hades, and metaphorical death is existence that is God-less and graceless; nothing in biblical usage warrants the idea that the “second death” of Revelation 2:11; 20:14; and 21:8 means or involves cessation of being.
Moreover, Luke 16:22–24 shows that, as in a good deal of extra biblical apocalyptic, fire signifies continued existence in pain. The chilling words of Revelation 14:10 with 19:20 and 20:10, and of Matthew 13:42, 50, confirm this.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul explains, or extends, the meaning of “punished with everlasting [eternal, aionios] destruction” by adding “and shut out from the presence of the Lord”—which, by affirming exclusion, rules out the idea that “destruction” meant extinction. Only those who exist can be excluded. It’s often been pointed out that in Greek the natural meaning of the destruction vocabulary (noun, olethros; verb, apollumi) is “wrecking,” so that what’s destroyed is henceforth nonfunctional rather than annihilated altogether.
Annihilationists respond with special pleading. Sometimes they urge that such references to continued distress refer only to the temporary experience of the lost before they’re extinguished, but this is to beg the question by speculative eisegesis and to give up the original claim that the NT imagery of eternal loss naturally implies extinction. Robert Peterson quotes from Stott, which he calls “the best case for annihilationism,” the following on the words “And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever” (Rev. 14:11):
The fire itself is termed “eternal” and “unquenchable,” but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which “rises for ever and ever.”
“On the contrary,” Peterson replies, “our expectation would be that the smoke would die out once the fire had finished its work. . . . The rest of the verse confirms our interpretation: ‘There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image.’” There seems no answer to this.
So at every point, the linguistic argument simply fails. To say that some texts, taken in isolation, might mean annihilation proves nothing when other texts evidently do not. (4)
Is immortality of the soul a Greek concept smuggled into the Bible?
Immortality of the Soul by Louis Berkhof – article is abridged:
The historical and philosophical proofs for the survival of the soul are not absolutely demonstrative, and therefore do not compel belief. For greater assurance in this matter, it is necessary to direct the eye of faith to Scripture. Here, too, we must rely on the voice of authority. Now the position of Scripture with respect to this matter may at first seem somewhat dubious. It speaks of God as the only one who hath immortality (I Tim. 6:15), and never predicates this of man. There is no explicit mention of the immortality of the soul, and much less any attempt to prove it in a formal way. Hence the Russellites or Millennial Dawnists often challenge theologians to point to a single passage in which the Bible teaches that the soul of man is immortal. But even if the Bible does not explicitly state that the soul of man is immortal, and does not seek to prove this in a formal way, any more than it seeks to present formal proof for the existence of God, this does not mean that Scripture denies or contradicts or even ignores it. It clearly assumes in many passages that man continues his conscious existence after death. In fact, it treats the truth of the immortality of man very much as it does that of the existence of God, that is, it assumes this as an undisputed postulate.
1. THE DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. The assertion has been made repeatedly that the Old Testament, and particularly the Pentateuch, does not teach in any way the immortality of the soul. Now it is perfectly true that this great truth is revealed less clearly in the Old than in the New Testament; but the facts in the case do not warrant the assertion that it is absent from the Old Testament altogether. It is a well-known and generally recognized fact that God’s revelation in Scripture is progressive and gradually increases in clearness; and it stands to reason that the doctrine of immortality in the sense of a blessed eternal life, could only be revealed in all its bearings after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who “brought life and immortality to light,” II Tim. 1:10. But while all this is true, it cannot be denied that the Old Testament implies the continued conscious existence of man, either in the sense of a bare immortality or survival of the soul, or of a blessed future life, in several ways. This is implied:
A. In its doctrine of God and man. The very root of Israel’s hope of immortality was found in its belief in God as its Creator and Redeemer, its covenant God, who would never fail them. He was to them the living, the eternal, the faithful God, in whose fellowship they found joy, life, peace, and perfect satisfaction. Would they have panted after Him as they did, have entrusted themselves to Him completely in life and death, and have sung of Him as their portion forever, if they felt that all He offered them was but for a brief span of time? How could they derive real comfort from the promised redemption of God, if they regarded death as the end of their existence? Moreover, the Old Testament represents man as created in the image of God, created for life and not for mortality. In distinction from the brute, he possesses a life that transcends time and already contains within itself a pledge of immortality. He is made for communion with God, is but little lower than the angels, and God has set eternity in his heart, Eccl. 3:11.
B. In its doctrine of sheol. We are taught in the Old Testament that the dead descend into sheol. The discussion of this doctrine belongs to the following chapter. But whatever may be the proper interpretation of the Old Testament sheol, and whatever may be said of the condition of those who have descended into it, this is certainly represented as a state of more or less conscious existence, though not one of bliss. Man enters upon the state of perfect bliss only by a deliverance from sheol. In this deliverance we reach the real core of the Old Testament hope of a blessed immortality. This is clearly taught in several passages, such as Ps. 16:10; 49:14, 15.
C. In its frequent warnings against consulting the dead or “familiar spirits,” that is, persons who were able to summon the spirits of the dead and to convey their messages to the inquirers, Lev. 19:31; 20:27; Deut. 18:11; Isa. 8:19; 29:4. Scripture does not say that it is impossible to consult the dead, but rather seems to presuppose the possibility while it condemns the practice.
D. In its teachings respecting the resurrection of the dead. This doctrine is not explicitly taught in the earlier books of the Old Testament. Christ points out, however, that it was taught by implication in the statement, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” Matt. 22:32, cf. Ex. 3:6, and chides the Jews for not understanding the Scriptures on this point. Moreover, the doctrine of the resurrection is explicitly taught in such passages as Job 19:23-27; Ps. 16:9-11; 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2.
E. In certain striking Old Testament passages which speak of the believer’s enjoyment in communion with God after death. These are in the main identical with the passages referred to in the preceding, namely, Job 19:25-27; Ps. 16:9-11; 17:15; 73:23, 24, 26. They breathe the confident expectation of pleasures in the presence of Jehovah.
2. THE DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. In the New Testament, after Christ has brought life and immortality to light, the proofs naturally multiply. The passages that contain these may again be divided into various classes, as referring:
A. To the survival of the soul. A continued existence of both the righteous and the wicked is clearly taught. That the souls of believers survive, appears from such passages as Matt. 10:28; Luke 23:43; John 11:25 f.; 14:3; II Cor. 5:1; and several other passages make it quite evident that the same can be said of the souls of the wicked, Matt. 11:21-24; 12:41; Rom. 2:5-11; II Cor. 5:10.
B. To the resurrection by which the body is also made to share in the future existence. For believers the resurrection means the redemption of the body and entrance into the perfect life in communion with God, the full blessedness of immortality. This resurrection is taught in Luke 20:35, 36; John 5:25-29; I Cor. 15; I Thess. 4:16; Phil. 3:21, and other passages. For the wicked the resurrection will also mean a renewed and continued existence of the body, but this can hardly be called life. Scripture calls it eternal death. The resurrection of the wicked is mentioned in John 5:29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:12-15.
C. To the blessed life of believers in communion with God. There are numerous passages in the New Testament which stress the fact that the immortality of believers is not a bare endless existence, but a rapturous life of bliss in communion with God and with Jesus Christ, the full fruition of the life that is implanted in the soul while still on earth. This is clearly emphasized in such passages as Matt. 13:43; 25:34; Rom. 2:7, 10; I Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:21; II Tim. 4:8; Rev. 21:4; 22:3, 4. (5)
In closing, we can affirm:
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXXII. Of the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead:
I. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption:[1] but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them:[2] the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.[3] And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.[4] Beside these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledges none.
II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: [5] and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever. [6]
III. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor: the bodies of the just, by His Spirit, unto honor; and be made conformable to His own glorious body. [7]
Scripture Proofs
[1] GEN 3:19 in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. ACT 13:36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.
[2] LUK 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise. ECC 12:7 then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
[3] HEB 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. 2CO 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. PHI 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. ACT 3:21 whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. EPH 4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.
[4] LUK 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. ACT 1:25 that he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. JUD 6 and the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 1PE 3:19 by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.
[5] 1TH 4:17 then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1CO 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
[6] JOB 19:26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. 1CO 15:42 so also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
[7] ACT 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. JOH 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 1CO 15:43 it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. PHI 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 946.
2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Revelation, Vol. 22, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 349.
3. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry ‘PUNISHMENT, EVERLASTING,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2501-2504.
4. J.I.Packer, Why Annihilationism is wrong, (Minneapolis, MN: The Gospel Coalition: Oct 7, 2015),
5. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, “Immortality of the Soul,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), pp. 674-676.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

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Sin, what is it? A Bible Study

Sin, what is it? A Bible Study by Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)
In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching about sin. What is it? How is it defined?
As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!
Definitions from two sources:
Any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature. *
Sin is anything that is contrary to the law or will of God. For example: if you lie, you have sinned. Why? Because God has said not to lie (Exodus 20:16). If you do what God has forbidden, then you have sinned. In addition, if you do not do what God has commanded, you sin (James 4:17). Either way, the result is eternal separation from God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is lawlessness (1 John 1:3) and unrighteousness (1 John 5:17). Sin leads to bondage (Romans 6:14-20) and death (Romans 6:23).
Paul, in the book of Romans, discusses sin. He shows that everyone, both Jew and Greek, is under sin (Romans 3:9). He shows that sin is not simply something that is done, but a condition of the heart (Romans 3:10-12). In Ephesians Paul says that we are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Yet, “while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). **
From Scripture:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)
From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on 1 John 3:4:
4. Sin is incompatible with birth from God (1Jo 3:1-3). John often sets forth the same truth negatively, which he had before set forth positively. He had shown, birth from God involves self-purification; he now shows where sin, that is, the want of self-purification, is, there is no birth from God.
Whosoever—Greek, “Everyone who.”
Committeth sin—in contrast to 1Jo 3:3, “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself”; and 1Jo 3:7, “He that doeth righteousness.”
Transgresseth … the law—Greek, “committeth transgression of law.” God’s law of purity; and so shows he has no such hope of being hereafter pure as God is pure, and, therefore, that he is not born of God.
For—Greek, “and.”
Sin is … transgression of … law—definition of sin in general. The Greek having the article to both, implies that they are convertible terms. The Greek “sin” (hamartia) is literally, “a missing of the mark.” God’s will being that mark to be ever aimed at. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” The crookedness of a line is shown by being brought into juxtaposition with a straight ruler. (1)
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Romans 3:20:
Therefore; i.e. Seeing the Gentiles, by the law of nature, and the Jews, by the written law, are thus subject to the judgment of God; and seeing no one is able to fulfil the law, and satisfy for the breach of it; therefore, &c.
By the deeds of the law; he means the moral law, and not the ceremonial law only or chiefly; even that law that forbids theft and adultery, as Romans 2:21,22, and concupiscence, as Romans 7:1-25; and by which, as this text says,
Is the knowledge of sin; to which Gentiles as well as Jews are obliged, and by which therefore they are condemned.
No flesh; a common synecdoche: see Genesis 6:3, 12, and elsewhere. The same with no man living, in the psalmist; especially being depraved with original corruption, which is called flesh in Scripture.
Be justified in his sight; or be discharged in the court of heaven: the phrase is taken from Psalm 143:2, see annotations there.
For by the law is the knowledge of sin: lest any should think that the law hereupon is useless, he goes on to show its use, but a quite contrary one to what they intended. It convinceth us of our guilt, and therefore is far from being our righteousness, Romans 7:7 1 Corinthians 15:56. (2)
“Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15)
From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Romans 4:15:
Because the law worketh wrath, Not the wrath of man, though that is sometimes stirred up through the prohibitions of the law, to which the carnal mind of man is enmity, but the wrath of God the law is so far from justifying sinners, that it curses and condemns them; and when it comes into the heart and is let into the conscience of a sinner, it fills with terrible apprehensions of the wrath of God, and a fearful looking for of his judgment and fiery indignation:
for where no law is, there is no transgression; (r); a sort of a proverbial expression: had the law of Moses not been given, there was the law of nature which sin is a transgression of; but the law of Moses was added for the better discovery and detection of sin, which would not have been so manifest without it, and which may be the apostle’s sense; that where there is no law, there is no knowledge of any transgression; and so the Ethiopic version reads the words, “if the law had not come, there would have been none who would have known sin”; but the law is come, and there is a law by which is the knowledge of sin, and therefore no man can be justified by it; since that convinces him of sin, and fills him with a sense of divine wrath on account of it. (r) Caphtor, fol. 10. 1. (3)
Digging deeper, From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words on sin:
A-1 Noun Strong’s Number: g266 Greek: hamartia
Sin (Noun and Verb):
Is, lit., “a missing of the mark,” but this etymological meaning is largely lost sight of in the NT. It is the most comprehensive term for moral obliquity. It is used of “sin” as
(a) a principle or source of action, or an inward element producing acts, e.g., Rom 3:9; 5:12, 13, 20; 6:1, 2; 7:7 (abstract for concrete); Rom 7:8 (twice), Rom 7:9, 11, 13, “sin, that it might be shown to be sin,” i.e., “sin became death to me, that it might be exposed in its heinous character:” in the clause, “sin might become exceeding sinful,” i.e., through the holiness of the Law, the true nature of sin was designed to be manifested to the conscience;
(b) a governing principle or power, e.g., Rom 6:6; “(the body) of sin,” here “sin” is spoken of as an organized power, acting through the members of the body, though the seat of “sin” is in the will (the body is the organic instrument); in the next clause, and in other passages, as follows, this governing principle is personified, e.g., Rom 5:21; 6:12, 14, 17; 7:11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 25; 8:2; 1Cr 15:56; Hbr 3:13; 11:25; 12:4; Jam 1:15 (2nd part);
(c) a generic term (distinct from specific terms such as No. 2 yet sometimes inclusive of concrete wrong doing, e.g., Jhn 8:21, 34, 46; 9:41; 15:22, 24; 19:11); in Rom 8:3, “God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” lit., “flesh of sin,” the flesh stands for the body, the instrument of indwelling “sin” [Christ, pre-existently the Son of God, assumed human flesh, “of the substance of the Virgin Mary;” the reality of incarnation was His, without taint of sin (for homoioma, “likeness,” see LIKENESS)], and as an offering for sin,” i.e., “a sin offering” (so the Sept. e.g., in Lev 4:32; 5:6-9), “condemned sin in the flesh,” i.e., Christ, having taken human nature, “sin” apart (Hbr 4:15), and having lived a sinless life, died under the condemnation and judgment due to our “sin;” for the generic sense see further, e.g., Hbr 9:26; 10:6, 8, 18; 13:11; 1Jo 1:7, 8; 3:4 (1st part; in the 2nd part, “sin” is defined as “lawlessness,” RV), 1Jo 3:8, 9; in these verses the AV use of the verb to commit is misleading; not the committal of an act is in view, but a continuous course of “sin,” as indicated by the RV, “doeth.” The Apostle’s use of the present tense of poieo, “to do,” virtually expresses the meaning of prasso, “to practice,” which John does not use (it is not infrequent in this sense in Paul’s Epp., e.g., Rom 1:32, RV; 2:1; Gal 5:21; Phl 4:9); 1Pe 4:1 (singular in the best texts), lit., “has been made to cease from sin,” i.e., as a result of suffering in the flesh, the mortifying of our members, and of obedience to a Savior who suffered in flesh. Such no longer lives in the flesh, “to the lusts of men, but to the will of God;” sometimes the word is used as virtually equivalent to a condition of “sin,” e.g., Jhn 1:29, “the sin (not sins) of the world;” 1Cr 15:17; or a course of “sin,” characterized by continuous acts, e.g., 1Th 2:16; in 1Jo 5:16 (2nd part) the RV marg., is probably to be preferred, “there is sin unto death,” not a special act of “sin,” but the state or condition producing acts; in 1Jo 5:17, “all unrighteousness is sin” is not a definition of “sin” (as in 1Jo 3:4), it gives a specification of the term in its generic sense;
(d) a sinful deed, an act of “sin,” e.g., Mat 12:31; Act 7:60; Jam 1:15 (1st part); Jam 2:9; 4:17; 5:15, 20; 1Jo 5:16 (1st part).
(1) Christ is predicated as having been without “sin” in every respect, e.g., (a), (b), (c) above, 2Cr 5:21 (1st part); 1Jo 3:5; Jhn 14:30; (d) Jhn 8:46; Hbr 4:15; 1Pe 2:22.
(2) In Hbr 9:28 (2nd part) the reference is to a “sin” offering.
(3) In 2Cr 5:21, “Him… He made to be sin” indicates that God dealt with Him as He must deal with “sin,” and that Christ fulfilled what was typified in the guilt offering.
(4) For the phrase “man of sin” in 2Th 2:3, see INIQUITY, No. 1.
A-2 Noun Strong’s Number: g265 Greek: hamartema
Sin (Noun and Verb):
Akin to No. 1, denotes “an act of disobedience to Divine law” [as distinct from No. 1 (a), (b), (c)]; plural in Mar 3:28; Rom 3:25; 2Pe 1:9, in some texts; sing. In Mar 3:29 (some mss. have krisis, AV, “damnation”); 1Cr 6:18.
(1) For paraptoma, rendered “sins” in the AV in Eph 1:7; 2:5; Col 2:13 (RV, “trespass”), see TRESPASS. In Jam 5:16, the best texts have No. 1 (RV, “sins”).
B-1 Adjective Strong’s Number: g361 Greek: anamartetos
Sin (Noun and Verb):
“Without sin” (a, negative, n, euphonic, and C, No. 1), is found in Jhn 8:7. In the Sept., Deu 29:19.
C-1 Verb Strong’s Number: g264 Greek: hamartano
Sin (Noun and Verb):
lit., “to miss the mark,” is used in the NT
(a) Of “sinning” against God,
(1) By angels, 2Pe 2:4;
(2) by man, Mat 27:4; Luk 15:18, 21 (heaven standing, by metonymy, for God); Jhn 5:14; 8:11; 9:2, 3; Rom 2:12 (twice); Rom 3:23; 5:12, 14, 16; 6:15; 1Cr 7:28 (twice), 1Cr 7:36; 15:34; Eph 4:26; 1Ti 5:20; Tts 3:11; Hbr 3:17; 10:26; 1Jo 1:10; in 1Jo 2:1 (twice), the aorist tense in each place, referring to an act of “sin;” on the contrary, in 1Jo 3:6 (twice), 1Jo 3:8,9, the present tense indicates, not the committal of an act, but the continuous practice of “sin” [see on A, No. 1 (c)]; in 1Jo 5:16 (twice) the present tense indicates the condition resulting from an act, “unto death” signifying “tending towards death;”
(b) Against Christ, 1Cr 8:12;
(c) Against man,
(1) A brother, Mat 18:15, RV, “sin” (AV, “trespass”); Mat 18:21; Luke 17:3, 4, RV, “sin” (AV, “trespass”); 1Cr 8:12;
(2) In Luke 15:18, 21, against the father by the Prodigal Son, “in thy sight” being suggestive of befitting reverence;
(d) Against Jewish law, the Temple, and Caesar, Act 25:8, RV, “sinned” (AV, “offended”);
(e) Against one’s own body, by fornication, 1Cr 6:18;
(f) Against earthly masters by servants, 1Pe 2:20, RV, “(when) ye sin (and are buffeted for it),” AV, “(when ye be buffeted) for your faults,” lit., “having sinned.”
C-2 Verb Strong’s Number: g4258 Greek: proamartano
Sin (Noun and Verb):
“To sin previously” (pro, “before,” and No. 1), occurs in 2Cr 12:21; 13:2, RV in each place, “have sinned heretofore” (so AV in the 2nd; in the 1st, “have sinned already”). (4)
Now, a Classic Sermon on Sin:
What is Sin? A Sermon by Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., of Dingwall, Scotland:
“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” — Psalm 51:4.
He had acted to the injury of his own soul, he had offended, by his conduct, those who feared the Lord, and by his evil example he had encouraged the ungodly to continue in sin; but yet he says, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.” Viewing his conduct as sin, he thinks only of its being against God. It might bring misery on himself, it might bring grief to the hearts of the godly, and it might encourage others to continue to act the part of suicides, but his conduct he regarded as sinful only as it was “against” God.
1. It was against the law of God. Associating the law with God, how venerable it seemed to his eyes, opened as these were, to behold the glory of Jehovah, as Lawgiver and Judge; how awful seemed to him the guilt which was involved in the breach of such a law; and how impossible escape from the law’s penalty appeared to him as he thought of the omnipotence, faithfulness, and justice of Him who was Judge of all, unless mercy came to him with a free pardon through atoning blood. One may transgress the law of his country, and his offence never be discovered; or even if it be discovered, he may not be convicted of the crime; or by some miscarriage of justice the execution may not follow the passing of the sentence. But in none of these ways can, under His government, any transgressors of the law of God escape. Sinner, seek to realise this. Have done with dreaming of being able to sin with impunity while the eye that is “as a flame of fire” is on you, while the sword of divine justice is wielded by the Almighty, and while it is impossible for God to lie. Either life, through the righteousness of Christ being placed to your account, or death, as the wages of your sin, is the only alternative to you, and to me, and to all. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law,” and “the soul that sinneth shall die.”
2. Sin is against the will of God. Not merely against what was the will of God, but against what, at the moment when the sin is committed, is the will of God — against a present volition of the will of God bearing authoritatively on the transgressor, and in opposition to what he is about to do, or is doing. There is many a law on the Statute Book of our nation the very existence of which is unknown to our Sovereign, and which cannot be regarded as an intended expression of her will; and we must not think of a transgressor of our laws as acting in opposition to a present exercise of the Queen’s will bearing on him individually. But do not approach so to conceive of the relation in which God stands to His own law, and to those by whom that law is broken. His will is ever active in volitions which accord with the claims of His commandments, and bears according to the law’s demands on each individual, always and everywhere. Because of this there must be in every act of sin a collision with the will of God, the Most High, “whose name is holy.” Think of the weak worm dashing himself against the will of Jehovah, as, swayed by enmity, he ventures to transgress His law, which is “holy, and just, and good.” Friend, do not conceive of God as like yourself, and one to be trifled with, as if He could forget your sin; and do not imagine that such collisions with the will of God can take place with impunity though “sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily.” The will of God, now expressed in the form of law, shall soon and surely be expressed in a providence by which you shall be utterly and eternally overwhelmed.
3. Sin is rebellion against the authority of God. The authority of God as our Lawgiver — His right to reign — rests on what He is in the infinite excellence of His being and glory. He, because of what He is, is entitled to be Lord over all — to bring His will in the form of law to bear on each rational being whom He hath created, whether their place originally was heaven or earth. There is rebellion against authority thus founded and asserted, in every transgression of His law, and this cannot be without a denial of His right to reign, without an attack on His throne. How fearful sin is as implying — necessarily implying — this! And there cannot be rebellion such as this that does not imply a claim on the part of the transgressor to the place which necessarily and eternally belongs to the Most High. The rebelling will of the creature makes this demand. He raises himself throne wards, in his meanness and loathsomeness, and requires that Jehovah should give place to him. “Who is the Lord that He should reign over us?” is the mad shout that reaches the ear of God from the hearts of all transgressors of His law; and, as they demand for themselves the sovereignty which is God’s, they ask, “Who is Lord over us?”
4. Sin is against the name of God. There can be no sinning that does not cast dishonour on the moral glory of Jehovah. He demands perfect love to Himself, because of what He is in the infinite loveliness of His moral character. His claim for love rests on what He is in the infinite beauty of His holiness. On this the eye of His omniscience ever rests, and to this He “is,” and must be “love.” And through this love to Himself He is “blessed forever” in the enjoyment of Himself. And He cannot have this knowledge of, this love to, and this enjoyment of, Himself, and act righteously as the supreme Governor, without demanding love to Himself from all rational beings. One who did not necessarily make such a demand could not reasonably be worshipped. And there is goodness as well as authority in such a claim. If to Himself His love to Himself is the source of such blessedness, what can be more surely good than to demand love to Him from His creatures, who shall never fail to find that through love to Him satisfying blessedness shall flow into their hearts from “the fountain of living waters.” But whichever of the Ten Commandments you break, you cannot do so without refusing this love to God. You cannot break any of the commandments of the second table of the law without refusing such love to God as would be expressed in submission to His authority. For He requires with equal authority love to your neighbour as love to Himself. To refuse this expression of love to Him is blasphemously to declare Him unworthy of what He demands, though His right to be loved rests on what He is in the infinite glory of His moral character. But there can be no negative feeling towards the holiness of God. If there is not love to it as the spring of action in the heart, there must be enmity. In every unconverted man there is nothing but the flesh, and the minding of the flesh is enmity against God. Think of God beholding, loving, and rejoicing in, His own infinite beauty, and at the same time having before His eye the creature of His hand turning away from and hating Him because His name is holy, and expressing in his transgression of His law his enmity to what He so infinitely loves and enjoys. How marvellous is the patience of God with thee, who wast observed by Him thus dishonouring His glorious name in every one of all thy countless transgressions!
5. Sin is against the being of God. God cannot be without being infinitely great and infinitely holy. His greatness is the basis of His right to issue a law, and His holiness is the basis of His claim for love. His law demanding obedience in love rests on His unchangeable majesty and loveliness. It is entrenched within His being. You cannot assail that law without an attack on God. You cannot rise against the throne without setting yourself against the existence of God. Every sinner is, in intent, a Deicide. And in every “carnal mind” there is positive enmity to the very being of God. This may not be a reality in your consciousness, but it is the root of all your action in transgressing the law of God. Roots are usually hidden, and why is this “root of bitterness” undiscovered by you? It is because you keep so far away from God that you have no opportunity of discovering how you are affected towards Him. But if you were pressed by the law’s claims, and overwhelmed by the terrors of its curse, if you were left for a season without any conscious hope of “escape from the wrath to come,” and at the same time were persuaded that there can be no withdrawal of these demands and terrors, till the justice of the unchangeable and Eternal God was satisfied, then would you find in your consciousness the stirring of an enmity to God, whose cry is, “Let there be no God.” How fearful the consciousness of this! And how bitter the remembrance of this when the glory of Jehovah was so revealed to you, and the riches of His pardoning mercy, that, while having hope in Him, you went forth in loving desire after Him! But whether you are conscious of this enmity towards the very being of God or not, of all the sin in your action this is the root in your heart.
1. Mark well the difference between considering sin in its bearing on God, and viewing it merely in its bearing on yourself. For this indicates the difference between a true and a counterfeit conviction of sin. You may be much afflicted by a sense of the danger to which you have exposed yourself by sinning, and from that danger you may be most intensely anxious to escape. To secure a sense of deliverance from death what would you not do, what not sacrifice of carnal indulgence, what not suffer that would be penance to the flesh? But there is no such view of sin before your mind as constrains you to justify God in condemning you to death, as persuades you that there can be no hope for you unless the name of God, which you dishonoured, shall be glorified, as shuts you up to the cross of Christ as the only channel through which pardoning mercy can flow out from God to you as a sinner, or as enables you to have any right conception of the grace to which alone you may hopefully appeal. Only the man who heartily confesses “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight,” can heartily add a vindication of divine justice such as we have in the words, “That Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest,” can honestly cry for the application of atoning blood, or can make a guileless appeal to the loving-kindness and mercy of the Lord.
2. Almost all religious errors spring from defective views of sin, as these are the result of defective views of God. In these days it is becoming common to ignore all divine attributes but love, and so to conceive of divine love as something utterly inconsistent with His righteousness and holiness, and as therefore requiring the removal of all impressions of these which the revelations of the Old Testament and the true doctrine of the cross are fitted to produce. And all relations between God and men, such as are indicated in Scripture, are kept out of sight, and for all these there is substituted a supposed relation of universal fatherhood on the part of God, the faith of which is all that is required to make men safe and happy. Towards this is the drift of religious thought in these days, though only in a few instances as the position indicated been reached. Against this rationalised scheme of grace all would do well to be on their guard. It may for a season act as a sedative, but just as surely it will act as a deadly poison. Know God, and know sin as against Him, and attain to some acquaintance with the mystery of the cross, then the plausible sophistries of rationalistic teachers will fail to draw thee aside from “the old paths” in which the fathers walked with God.
3. Only a heart in which there is love to God can be duly affected by viewing sin as against Him. Only from such a heart can true repentance flow. Let your prayer then be, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (5)
The above sermon is abridged and was preached to the Free Church congregation in Dingwall, Scotland in 1883.
Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. [38]
[38] Leviticus 5:17. And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
In closing, we can affirm:
Sin is defined in the Bible as a transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). It is missing the mark of God’s Holy Standards. When we sin, we sin against God Himself.
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1504.
2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 488.
3. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 92.
4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 1045-1047.
5. Rev. John Kennedy, D.D., What is Sin? A Sermon, 1883, Dingwall, Scotland.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:
** CARM theological dictionary
**** Reformed answers
Man as the image of God by Louis Berkhof…/berkhof/systematic_theology.html…
The Original State of Man by A. A. Hodge
St Augustine Confessions:
At one time I heard a quote that a person was not truly educated if they have never read Augustine’s Confessions.

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The Image of God in man

The Image of God in man By Jack Kettler

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

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching about mankind being created in God’s image. How does man show this image? Is it physical, or spiritual?

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!
Definitions from two sources:
Image of God:

(Or, for the lovers of Latin, imago Dei.) A phrase used in scripture in reference to humankind as created by God and as distinguished from other creatures. Throughout history, there have been many different ideas as to what it means to be created in God’s image, but the bottom line is that in some way (or ways), human beings are like God and represent him. *
Image of God:

Man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). The image of God is generally held to mean that people contain within their nature elements that reflect God’s nature: compassion, reason, love, hate, patience, kindness, self-awareness, etc. Though we have a physical image, it does not mean that God has one. Rather, God is spirit (John 4:24), not flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). **

From Scripture:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:26-31)

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:7)

“And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Corinthians 15:49)

In regards to the 1 Corinthians 15:49 passage, consider:

The Image of God in Man by Abraham Kuyper
“As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” — 1 Cor. xv.49.
One more point remains to be discussed, viz., whether the divine image refers to the image of Christ.
This singular opinion has found many warm defenders in the Church from the beginning. It originated with Origen, who with his brilliant, fascinating, and seducing heresies has unsettled many things in the Church; and his heresy in this respect has found many defenders both East and West. Even Tertullian and Ambrose supported it, as well as Basil and Chrysostom; and it took no less a person than Augustine to uproot it.
Our Reformed theologians, closely following Augustine, have strongly opposed it. Junius, Zanchius and Calvin, Voetius and Coccejus condemned it as error. We can safely say that in our Reformed inheritance this error never had a place. .
But in the last century it has crept again into the Church. The pantheistic philosophy occasioned it; and its after-effects have tempted our German and Dutch mediation theologians to return to this ancient error.
The great philosophers who enthralled the minds of men at the beginning of this century fell in love with the idea that God became man. They taught not that the Word became flesh, but God became man; and that in the fatal sense that God is ever becoming, and that He becomes a better and a purer God as He becomes more purely man. This pernicious system, which subverts the foundations of the Christian faith, and under a Christian form annihilates essential Christianity, has led to the doctrine that in Christ Jesus this incarnation had become a fact; and from it was deduced that God would have become man even if man had not sinned.
We have often spoken of the danger of teaching this doctrine. The Scripture repudiates it, teaching that Christ is a Redeemer from and an atonement for sin. But a mere passing contradiction will not stop this evil; this poisonous thread, running through the warp and woof of the Ethical theology, will not be pulled from the preaching until the conviction prevails that it is philosophic and pantheistic, leading away from the simplicity of Scripture.
But for the present nothing can be done. Almost all the German manuals now used by our rising ministers feed this error; hence the widespread prevalence of the idea that the image in which man was created was the Christ.
And this is natural. So long as it is maintained that, even without sin, man was destined for Christ and Christ for man, it must follow that the original man was calculated for Christ, and hence was created after the image of Christ.
For evidence that this deviates from the truth, we refer theologians to the writings of Augustine, Calvin, and Voetius on this point, and to our lay-readers we offer a short explanation why we and all Reformed churches reject this interpretation.
We begin with referring to the many passages in Scripture, teaching that the redeemed sinner must be renewed and transformed after the image of Christ.
In 2 Cor. iii.18 we read: “We all are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”; and in Rom. viii.29: “That we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son”; and in I Cor. xv.49: “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” To this category belong all such passages in which the Holy Spirit admonishes us to conform ourselves to the example of Jesus, which may not be understood as mere imitation, but which decidedly means a transformation into His image. And lastly, here belong those passages that teach that we must increase to a perfect man, “to the stature of the fullness of Christ”; and that “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Hence believers are called to transform themselves after Christ’s image, which is the final aim of their redemption. But this image is not the Eternal Word, the Second Person in the Trinity, but the Messiah, the Incarnate Word.1 Cor. xv.44 furnishes the undeniable proof. St. Paul declares there that the first man Adam was of the earth earthy; i.e., not only after the fall, but by creation. Then he says that as believers have borne the image of the earthy, so they will also bear the image of the heavenly, i.e., Christ. This shows clearly that in his original state man did not possess the image of Christ, but that afterward he will possess it. What Adam received in creation is clearly distinguished from what a redeemed sinner possesses in Christ; distinguished in this particular that it was not according to his nature to be formed after Christ’s image, which image he could receive only by grace after the fall.
This is evident also from what St. Paul teaches in — 1 Cor. xi In the third verse, speaking of the various degrees of ascending glory, he says that the man is the head of the woman, and the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God. And yet, having spoken of these four, woman, man, Christ, God, he says emphatically, in ver.7, not as might be expected, “The woman is the glory of the man, the man the glory of Christ,” but, omitting the link Christ, he writes: “For the man is the glory of God, and the woman the glory of the man.” If this theory under consideration were correct, he should have said: “The man is the image of Christ.”
Hence it is plain that according to Scripture the image after which we are to be renewed is not that after which we are created; the two must be distinguished. The latter is that of the Triune God whose image penetrated into the being of the race. The former is that of the holy and perfect Man Christ Jesus, our federal Head, and as such the Example [Dutch, Voorbeeld; literally, an image placed before one. — Trans.], after which every child of God is to be renewed, and which at last he shall resemble.
Hence Scripture offers two different representations: first, the Son who is the image of the Father as the Second Person in the Trinity; second, the Mediator our Example [Voorbeeld, image put before one], hence our image after which we are to be renewed; and between the two there is almost no connection. The Scripture teaching that the Son of God is the express image of His Person and the image of the Invisible, refers to the relation between the Father and the Son in the hidden mystery of the Divine Being. But speaking of our calling to be renewed after the image of Christ, it refers to the Incarnate Word, our Savior, tempted like as we are in all things, yet without sin.
Mere similarity of sound should not lead us to make this mistake. Every effort to translate Gen. I.26, “Let Us make man in or after the image of the Son,” is confusing. Then “Let Us” must refer to the Father speaking to the Holy Spirit; and this cannot be. Scripture never places the Father and the Holy Spirit in such relation. Moreover, it would put the Son outside the greatest act of creation, viz., the creation of man. And Scripture says: “Without Him was not anything made that was made” (John i.3); and again: “Through Him are created all things in heaven and on earth.”
Hence this “Let Us” must be taken either as a plural of majesty, of which the Hebrew has not a single instance in the first person; or as spoken by the Triune God, the Three Persons mutually addressing each other; or the Father addressing the two other Persons. A third is impossible.
Supposing that the Three Persons address each other; the image cannot refer to the Son, because, speaking of His own, He cannot say, “Our image,” without including the other Persons. Or suppose that the Father speaks to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; even then it cannot refer to the image of the Son, since He is the Father’s image and not that of the Holy Spirit. In whatever sense it be taken, this view is untenable, outside the analogy of Scripture, and inconsistent with the correct interpretation of Gen. I.26.
To put it comprehensively: If the divine image refers to the Christ, it must be that of the Eternal Son, or of the Mediator, or of Christ in the flesh. These three are equally impossible. First, the Son is Himself engaged in the creative work. Second, without sin there is no need of a Mediator. Third, Scripture teaches that the Son became flesh after our image, but never that in the creation we became flesh after His image.
The notion that the divine image refers to Christ’s righteousness and holiness, implying that Adam was created in extraneous righteousness, confounds the righteousness of Christ which we embrace by faith and which did not exist when Adam was created, and the original, eternal righteousness of God the Son. It is true that David embraced the imputed righteousness, although it existed not in his day, but David was a sinner and Adam before the fall was not. He was created without sin; hence the divine image cannot refer to the righteousness of Christ, revealed only in relation to sin.
In our present sad condition, we confess unconditionally that even now we lie in the midst of death, and have our life outside of ourselves in Christ alone. But we add: Blessed be God, it shall not always be so. With our last breath we die wholly to sin, and in the resurrection morning we shall be like Him; hence in the eternal felicity our life shall be no more without us, but in us.
Wherefore, to put the separation which was caused only by sin, and which in the saint continues only on account of sin, in Adam before the fall, is nothing else than to carry something sinful into Creation itself, and to annihilate the divine statement that man was created good.
Wherefore we admonish preachers of the truth to return to the old, tried paths in this respect, and teach in recitation-hall, pulpit, and catechetical class that man was created after the image of the Triune God. (1)

Another Important Scripture:
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” (Colossians 3:10)

From the Pulpit Commentary on Colossians 3:10:
Verse 10. – And having put on the new (man), which is being renewed unto (full) knowledge, after (the) image of him that created him (Ephesians 4:23, 24; Ephesians 2:15; Romans 6:4; Romans 7:6; Romans 8:1-4; Romans 13:12-14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 1:9; Colossians 2:2, 3; Genesis 1:26-28; Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 12:10; 1 Peter 1:16; Romans 8:29). New (νέος) is “young,” “of recent date” (compare the “once,” “but now” of vers. 7, 8; also Colossians 1:5-8; 1 Peter 2:1, 2). Whose birth was well remembered, and which presented so vivid a contrast to the “old man with his deeds.” “Being renewed” (ἀνακαινούμενον, derived from the adjective καινός) sets forth the other side of this newness, its novelty of quality and condition (compare “newness of life,” Romans 6:4). And this participle is in the present tense (continuous), while the former is in the aorist (historical). So the notions are combined of a new birth taking place once for all, and a new character in course of formation. In Ephesians 4:23, 24 these ideas are in the same order (see Trench’s ‘Synonyms’). “Full knowledge” was one purpose of this renewal, the purpose most necessary to be set before the Colossians. The nature and objects of this knowledge have been already specified (Colossians 1:6, 9, 27, 28; Colossians 2:2, 3, 9, 10: comp. Ephesians 1:18, 19; Ephesians 3:18, 19; Philippians 3:8-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; and on ἐπίγνωσις, see note, Colossians 1:6). “After (the) image” is clearly an allusion to Genesis 1:26-28; so in Ephesians 4:24 (“after God”). It is adverbial to “renewed,” not to “knowledge.” Man’s renewal in Christ makes him what the Creator at first designed him to be, namely, his own image (compare note on “reconcile,” Colossians 1:20). Chrysostom and others take “Christ” as “him that created,” in view of Colossians 1:15, 16; but then it is said that all things “were created in… through… for Christ,” not absolutely that Christ created them. But “the image of God after which” man was created and is now recreated, is seen in Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 1:18). (2)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:
1 Strong’s Number: g1504 Greek: eikon
Denotes “an image;” the word involves the two ideas of representation and manifestation. “The idea of perfection does not lie in the word itself, but must be sought from the context” (Lightfoot); the following instances clearly show any distinction between the imperfect and the perfect likeness.
The word is used
(1) of an “image” or a coin (not a mere likeness), Mat 22:20; Mar 12:16; Luke 20:24; so of a statue or similar representation (more than a resemblance), Rom 1:23; Rev 13:14, 15 (thrice); 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4; of the descendants of Adam as bearing his image, 1Cr 15:49, each a representation derived from the prototype;
(2) of subjects relative to things spiritual, Hbr 10:1, negatively of the Law as having “a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things,” i.e., not the essential and substantial form of them; the contrast has been likened to the difference between a statue and the shadow cast by it;
(3) Of the relations between God the Father, Christ, and man,
(a) Of man as he was created as being a visible representation of God, 1Cr 11:7, a being corresponding to the original; the condition of man as a fallen creature has not entirely effaced the “image;” he is still suitable to bear responsibility, he still has Godlike qualities, such as love of goodness and beauty, none of which are found in a mere animal; in the Fall man ceased to be a perfect vehicle for the representation of God; God’s grace in Christ will yet accomplish more than what Adam lost;
(b) Of regenerate persons, in being moral representations of what God is, Col 3:10; cp. Eph 4:24;
(c) Of believers, in their glorified state, not merely as resembling Christ but representing Him, Rom 8:29; 1Cr 15:49; here the perfection is the work of Divine grace; believers are yet to represent, not something like Him, but what He is in Himself, both in His spiritual body and in His moral character;
(d) Of Christ in relation to God, 2Cr 4:4, “the image of God,” i.e., essentially and absolutely the perfect expression and representation of the Archetype, God the Father; in Col 1:15, “the image of the invisible God” gives the additional thought suggested by the word “invisible,” that Christ is the visible representation and manifestation of God to created beings; the likeness expressed in this manifestation is involved in the essential relations in the Godhead, and is therefore unique and perfect; “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” Jhn 14:9. “The epithet “invisible.”… Must not be confined to the apprehension of the bodily senses, but will include the cognizance of the inward eye also” (Lightfoot).
As to synonymous words, homoioma, “likeness,” stresses the resemblance to an archetype, though the resemblance may not be derived, whereas eikon is a “derived likeness” (see LIKENESS); eidos, “a shape, form,” is an appearance, “not necessarily based on reality” (see FORM); skia, is “a shadowed resemblance” (see SHADOW); morphe is “the form, as indicative of the inner being” (Abbott-Smith); see FORM. For charakter, see No. 2.
2 Strong’s Number: g5481 Greek: charakter
Denotes, firstly, “a tool for graving” (from charasso, “to cut into, to engross;” cp. Eng., “character,” “characteristic”); then, “a stamp” or “impress,” as on a coin or a seal, in which case the seal or die which makes an impression bears the “image” produced by it, and, vice versa, all the features of the “image” correspond respectively with those of the instrument producing it. In the NT it is used metaphorically in Hbr 1:3, of the Son of God as “the very image (marg., ‘the impress’) of His substance.” RV. The phrase expresses the fact that the Son “is both personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to, Him of whose essence He is the adequate imprint” (Liddon). The Son of God is not merely his “image” (His charakter), He is the “image” or impress of His substance, or essence. It is the fact of complete similarity which this word stresses in comparison with those mentioned at the end of No. 1. In the Sept., Lev 13:28, “the mark (of the inflammation).”
“In Jhn 1:1-3, Col 1:15-17; Hbr 1:2, 3, the special function of creating and upholding the universe is ascribed to Christ under His titles of Word, Image, and Son, respectively. The kind of Creatorship so predicated of Him is not that of a mere instrument or artificer in the formation of the world, but that of One ‘by whom, in whom, and for whom’ all things are made, and through whom they subsist. This implies the assertion of His true and absolute Godhood” (Laidlaw, in Hastings’ Bib. Dic.).
Note: The similar word charagma, “a mark” (see GRAVEN and MARK), has the narrower meaning of “the thing impressed,” without denoting the special characteristic of that which produces it, e.g., Rev 13:16, 17. In Act 17:29 the meaning is not “graven (charagma) by art,” but “an engraved work of art.” (3)

The Image of God by Gordon H. Clark
IMAGE OF GOD. See also fall of Man; Imitation of Christ. The image of God in man is asserted but not precisely explained in Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6; I Cor. 11:7, and James 3:9. Something of an explanation comes in Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24, where one may infer that the image consists of knowledge or rationality and righteousness or holiness, from which proceeds dominion over the creatures. Romans 8:29 confirms this by describing salvation as a process of conforming the predestined saint to the image of Christ.
Other passages also, such as Heb. 2:6-8 with its appeal to Ps. 8, and Acts 17:26-29, are examples and contribute at least implicitly to the doctrine. When, too, empirical philosophers deny innate ideas, inherited corruption, and a priori forms of the mind, Rom. 2:15 and Ps. 51:5 give the Biblical reply.
To avoid error, one must note that the image does not consist in man’s body. First, animals have bodies but were not created in God’s image. Second, God is spirit and has no body; for which reason idolatry is sin (Rom. 1:23).
Man is not two images, as a fanciful exegesis would interpret image and likeness in Gen. 1:26. Note that likeness is not repeated in Gen. 1:27. Nor can the single image be divided into parts. Dominion over the creatures is not an extra part, but one of the functions of unitary rationality. Not even morality is a second part, as if knowledge and righteousness are two components. Righteous action is a function of the unitary image. In fact, the unitary image is not something man has: the image is man. “Man is the image and glory of God” (I Cor. 11:7).
The reason some theologians have asserted a duality in the image, rather than the unity of the person and the plurality of his functions, is the occurrence of sin. Since Adam remained Adam after the fall, these theologians thought that some part of the image had been lost. Unfortunately this view allows the remaining part of man to be untouched by sin and so conflicts with the doctrine of total depravity.
Although sinful men, especially very sinful men, do not seem to be God’s image, these men could not sin unless they were. Sin presupposes rationality and voluntary decision. Sinning always starts in thought. Adam thought, incorrectly, but nevertheless thought that it would be better to join Eve in disobedience than to obey God and be separated from her. Sin has interfered with but does not prevent thought. It does not eradicate the image but causes it to malfunction. Responsibility (q.v.) depends on knowledge. Animals cannot sin and are not morally responsible because they are not rational or intellectual creatures. Therefore man remains the image of God even after the fall.
The image must be reason or intellect. Christ is the image of God because he is God’s Logos or Wisdom. This Logos enlightens every man that comes into the world. Man must be rational to have fellowship with God. II Peter 1:2-8; 2:20; 3:18 emphasize knowledge and state that the means through which God grants us all things that pertain to life and godliness is theology- our knowledge of him. This idea is important for the late twentieth century when the dialectical theologians deny the image of God in man, calling God Totally Other, or define image ridiculously as the sexual distinction between man and woman (Karl Barth), and insist that God cannot put his “truth” into language, thus denying that the Scriptures are revelation and even reducing them to false pointers to something unknowable.
Secular objections to the image of God in man can be based only on a general non-theistic philosophy. Evolution views man as a natural development from neutrons and protons, through plants and animals, until in Africa, Asia, and the East Indies human being emerged. Therefore evolution cannot insist on the unity of the human race as Christianity does in Acts 17:26.
Evolution as an explanatory principle must apply to the mind as well as to the body. There can then be no divine image, no eternal principles, no fixed truth or logic. The mind operates only with the practical results of biological adaptation. Reason is simply a human method of handling things. Earlier man had and future man will have other forms of logic. The syllogism called Barbara is valid now but will become a fallacy after a while.
If this be so, that is, if evolutionists have used evolutionary logic in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in order to sustain their theory, then their arguments will prove fallacious in the next evolutionary advance and evolution will then be a fallacy.
The Biblical doctrine alone makes eternal truth possible (and “truth” that is not eternal is not truth). Reason makes possible both sin and fellowship with God. Sin has caused a malfunctioning of man’s mind, but redemption will renew men in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, so that in heaven we shall no longer make mistakes even in arithmetic. GORDON H. CLARK (4)

Does the image of God in man mean that God has a body?
No, because God is omnipresent, meaning, He is fully present everywhere.

From Scripture, God’s Omnipresence is seen in the following verses:
“But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee: how much less this house which I have built!” (2 Chronicles 6:18)
“Wither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Psalms 139:7)
“Thus Saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1)
“Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24)
If God has a corporeal finite body, it would be a logical contradiction and rejection of God’s omnipresence. See *****

Additional support from Scripture that God does not have a body:
In the next two passages, Jesus says:
“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39)
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

In closing:

Reformed Confessions on man in God’s image:
Belgic Confession (1561):
14. We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will, agreeably to the will of God. But being in honour, he understood it not, neither knew his excellency, but willfully subjected himself to sin, and consequently to death, and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed; and by sin separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to corporal and spiritual death. And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he hath lost all his excellent gifts, which he had received from God, and only retained a few remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed into darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not: where St. John calleth men darkness.

Heidelberg Catechism (1563):
Q. 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
A. By no means; but God created man good, and after his own image, in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him.
Q. 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?
A. Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image; that so we may testify by the whole of our conduct our gratitude to God for His blessings, and that He may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith by the fruits thereof; and that by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

Canons of Dordt (1618-1619):
III/IV: 1. Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy; but revolting from God by the instigation of the devil, and abusing the freedom of his own will, he forfeited these excellent gifts; and on the contrary entailed on himself blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, became wicked, rebellious, and obdurate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.
III/IV: R: 2. [The Synod rejects the errors of those] Who teach that the spiritual gifts, or the good qualities and virtues, such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these, therefore, could not have been separated therefrom in the fall.

Westminster Confession (1646):
4:2. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

Westminster Larger Catechism (1647):
Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man out of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.

Notable quote:
William Perkins: “The image of God is nothing else but a conformity of man unto God whereby man is holy as God is holy: for Paul saith, Put on the new man, which after God, that is in God’s image, is created in righteousness and holiness. Now I reason thus: Wherein the renewing of the image of God in man doth stand, therein was it at the first; but the renewing of God’s image in man doth stand in righteousness and holiness: therefore God’s image wherein man was created at the beginning, was a conformity to God in righteousness and holiness.” (Works, vol. 1, pp. 150-151)

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

1. Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, ‘IX. The Image of God in Man.’ (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing, reprinted 1979), pp. 242-246.
2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Colossians, Vol. 20, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 151.
3. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 576-578.
4. Gordon H. Clark, in Baker’s Dictionary of Christian Ethics. Carl F.H. Henry, ed. Washington D.C., Canon Press, 1973). Encyclopedia 55. Image of God (typed)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:
** CARM theological dictionary
**** Reformed answers
Man as the image of God by Louis Berkhof…/berkhof/systematic_theology.html…
The Original State of Man by A. A. Hodge

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Heresy, what does the Bible say?

Heresy, what does the Bible say? By Jack Kettler

“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)
In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching about heresy. What is it? How to avoid it?

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!
Definitions from two sources:
Heresy: An erroneous teaching, especially on issues of significance to salvation, requiring true Christians to divide from those who hold or teach it. *
Heresy: A doctrinal view that deviates from the truth, a false teaching. We are warned against it in Acts 20:29-32 and Philippians 3:2. Heresies include teachings that Jesus is not God and that the Holy Spirit is not a person (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, The Way International), that men may become gods (Mormonism), that there is more than one God (Mormonism), that Jesus lost His divinity in hell and finished the atonement there, and that good works are necessary for salvation (all cults say this), to name a few. **
From Scripture:
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1)
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)
Scriptural warnings:
“For there must be also heresies among you that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:19)
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1–6)
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling.” (1 Timothy 1:3–6)
What to do about heresy?
“A man that is a heretick after the first and second admonition reject.” (Titus 3:10)
From the Pulpit Commentary on Titus 3:10:
Verse 10. – Heretical for an heretick, A.V.; a for the, A.V.; refuse for reject, A.V. Heretical (αἱρετικόν); only here in the New Testament, not found in the LXX., but used in classical Greek for “intelligent,” i.e. able to choose. The use of it here by St. Paul is drawn from the use of αἵρεσις for “a sect” (Acts 5:17; Acts 15:5; Acts 24:5, 14; Acts 26:5; Acts 28:22; 1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20; 2 Peter 2:1), or the doctrines taught by a sect. The heretic is one who forsakes the truth held by the Church, and chooses some doctrine of his own devising (αἵρεσις). The tendency of such departures from the doctrine of the Church to assume more and more of a deadly character, and to depart wider and wider from the truth, gave to the name of heretic a darker shade of condemnation in the mouth of Church writers as time advanced. But even in apostolic times some denied the resurrection (2 Timothy 2:11, 12); others denied the Lord that bought them (2 Peter 2:1); and there were some who were of the synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9); so that already an heretical man, drawing away disciples after him, was a great blot in the Church. Admonition (νουθεσία); as 1 Corinthians 10:11; Ephesians 6:4. After a first and second admonition refuse (παραιτοῦ); see 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 5:11. It does not clearly appear what is intended by this term In 1 Timothy 5:11 it meant refusing admission into the college of Church widows. If these had been persons seeking admission into the Church, or ordination, it would mean “refuse them.” Vitringa (Huther) thinks it means “excommunication.” Beza, Ellicott, Huther, Alford, etc., render it “shun,” “let alone,” “cease to admonish,” and the like. (1)
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
her’-e-si, her’-e-si (hairesis, from verb haireo, “to choose”): The word has acquired an ecclesiastical meaning that has passed into common usage, containing elements not found in the term in the New Testament, except as implied in one passage. In classical Greek, it may be used either in a good or a bad sense, first, simply for “choice,” then, “a chosen course of procedure,” and afterward of various schools and tendencies. Polybius refers to those devoting themselves to the study of Greek literature as given to the Hellenike hairesis. It was used not simply for a teaching or a course followed, but also for those devoting themselves to such pursuit, namely, a sect, or assembly of those advocating a particular doctrine or mode of life. Thus, in Acts, the word is used in the Greek, where the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) have “sect,” “sect of the Sadducees” (Acts 5:17), “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). In Acts 26:5 the Pharisees are called “the straitest hairesis (sect).” The name was applied contemptuously to Christianity (Acts 24:14; 28:22). Its application, with censure, is found in 1 Cor. 11:19 m; Gal 5:20 margin, where it is shown to interfere with that unity of faith and community of interests that belong to Christians. There being but one standard of truth, and one goal for all Christian life, any arbitrary choice varying from what was common to all believers, becomes an inconsistency and a sin to be warned against. Ellicott, on Gal 5:20, correctly defines “heresies” (King James Version, the English Revised Version) as “a more aggravated form of dichostasia” (the American Standard Revised Version “parties”) “when the divisions have developed into distinct and organized parties”; so also 1 Cor. 11:19, translated by the Revised Version (British and American) “factions.” In 2 Pet 2:1, the transition toward the subsequent ecclesiastical sense can be traced. The “destructive heresies” (Revised Version margin, the English Revised Version margin “sects of perdition”) are those guilty of errors both of doctrine and of life very fully described throughout the entire chapter, and who, in such course, separated themselves from the fellowship of the church.
In the fixed ecclesiastical sense that it ultimately attained, it indicated not merely any doctrinal error, but “the open espousal of fundamental error” (Ellicott on Tit 3:10), or, more fully, the persistent, obstinate maintenance of an error with respect to the central doctrines of Christianity in the face of all better instruction, combined with aggressive attack upon the common faith of the church, and its defenders. Roman Catholics, regarding all professed Christians who are not in their communion as heretics, modify their doctrine on this point by distinguishing between Formal and terial Heresy, the former being unconscious and unintentional, and between different degrees of each of these classes (Cath. Encyclopedia, VII, 256 ff). For the development of the ecclesiastical meaning, see Suicer’s Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus, I, 119-23. H. E. Jacobs Bibliography Information (2)
From the book Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present:
The word “heresy” . . . is the English version of the Greek noun hairesis, originally meaning nothing more insidious than “party.” It is used in this neutral sense in Acts 5:17, 15:5, and 26:5. Early in the history of the first Christians, however, “heresy” came to be used to mean a separation or split resulting from a false faith (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). It designated either a doctrine or the party holding the doctrine, a doctrine that was sufficiently intolerable to destroy the unity of the Christian church. In the early church, heresy did not refer to simply any doctrinal disagreement, but to something that seemed to undercut the very basis for Christian existence. Practically speaking, heresy involved the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ—later called “special theology” and “Christology.” Harold O. J. Brown (3)
From the modern work, A Biblical Guide to Orthodoxy and Heresy by Robert Bowman:
Looking over these warnings from Scripture, we may classify heresies into six major categories:
1. Heresies about revelation – teachings that distort, deny, or add to Scripture in a way that leads people to destruction; false claims to apostolic or prophetic authority.
2. Heresies about God – teachings that promote false gods or idolatrous distortions of the true God.
3. Heresies about Christ – denials of His unique Lordship, His genuine humanity, His true identity.
4. Heresies about salvation – teaching legalism or licentiousness; denying the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection; and so forth.
5. Heresies about the church – deliberate attempts to lead people away from the fellowship of true Christians; utter rejection of the church.
6. Heresies about the future – false predictions for which divine authority is claimed; claims that Christ’s return has taken place; and the like.
Note that errors in any one of these six categories tend to introduce errors into the other five. Take, for instance, the heretical view held by many groups that the church became totally apostate in the early centuries and thus had to be “restored” in the last days. This doctrine implies (1) that Scripture is not a sufficient revelation, but needs supplementing or “explaining” by some authoritative teacher or publication. It also almost always serves as a basis for rejecting the early church’s views of (2) God and (3) Christ. Since the Reformation is rejected as falling short of the needed restoration, (4) the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith is likewise rejected. And the doctrine of a restoration comes to dominate the group’s views of (5) the future, as it requires them to view many or most biblical prophecies about the future as finding fulfillment in their own group.
We find then that an error in any area of doctrine can affect every other area. Therefore, although heresies tend to fall directly into one or more of these six major categories, heresies can in fact occur on virtually any doctrinal subject. For example, someone who teaches that angels should be worshipped is teaching a heretical view (Col. 2:18), even though the subject matter is angels. This is because worship of any creature completely cuts the heart out of any confession of God as the one God.
Nor should it be thought that the New Testament gives us a complete catalogue of all possible heresies. In our day there are literally thousands of clever distortions of Christian theology that deserve the label heresy, and they can be seen as such apart from being explicitly anticipated and identified as heretical in the Bible. The Bible teaches us what is absolutely essential, enunciates principles as to what is basic to sound Christian faith and what is nonessential, gives us a wide variety of examples of heresies, and expects us to exercise discernment in evaluating new and controversial teachings when they surface.
Furthermore, it must be realized that as the church progresses through history and deepens its understanding of Scripture, heresies in general are becoming more subtle, more deceiving, more easily mistaken for authentic Christianity. (4)
Names of ancient heresies, most of which are in existence today sometimes known under different names:
Sabellianism; Docetism; Monophysitism; Adoptionism; Nestorianism; Arianism; Socianism; Donatism; Pelagianism; Gnosticism and Manicheanism.
For example, Arianism is promoted today by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some elements of Gnosticism is seen in Mormon theology.
Trinitarian Heresies:
Modalism (i.e. Sabellianism, Noetianism and Patripassianism)
Taught that the three persons of the Trinity as different “modes” of the Godhead. Adherants believed that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not distinct personalities, but different modes of God’s self-revelation. A typical modalist approach is to regard God as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Spirit in sanctification. In other words, God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in different eras, but never as triune. Stemming from Modalism, Patripassianism believed that the Father suffered as the Son.
Tritheism confessses the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three independent divine beings; three separate gods who share the ‘same substance’. This is a common mistake because of misunderstanding of the use of the term ‘persons’ in defining the Trinity.
Taught that the preexistent Christ was the first and greatest of God’s creatures but denied his fully divine status. The Arian controversy was of major importance in the development of Christology during the fourth century and was addressed definitely in the Nicene Creed.
Taught that Jesus Christ as a purely divine being who only had the “appearance” of being human. Regarding his suffering, some versions taught that Jesus’ divinity abandoned or left him upon the cross while other claimed that he only appeared to suffer (much like he only appeared to be human).
Taught that while Jesus was endowed with particular charismatic gifts which distinguished him from other humans but nonetheless regarded Him as a purely human figure.
Taught that that the Holy Spirit is a created being.
Taught that Jesus was born totally human and only later was “adopted” – either at his baptism or at his resurrection – by God in a special (i.e. divine) way.
Taught that Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are components of the one God. This led them to believe that each of the persons of the Trinity is only part God, only becoming fully God when they come together.
George Gillespie, a Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly explains what heresy is:
“I conceive that these six things do concur to make a heresy:
1. It is an error held by some minister or member of a church; I mean either a true church, or an assembly pretending and professing to be a true church; for both Peter and Paul, where they foretell that heresies were to come, 2 Pet. 2.1; 1 Cor. 11.19, they add ἐν ὑμῖν, among you, i.e., among you Christians; so, Acts 20.30, Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things. Therefore, the Scriptures gives not the name of heretics to those who are altogether without the visible church, but it calleth such by the names of heathens or unbelievers, or they that are without, or the like.
2. It is an error voluntarily and freely chosen, both in the first invention or broaching of it (which is proper to the heresiarchs), and in the maintaining of it or adhering to it (which is common to all heretics). This I collect from the very name which the Scripture gives to it; for αἵρεσις comes from αἱρέομαι, I choose. Therefore, we give not the name of heretics to such Christians as are compelled, in time of persecution, to profess such or such an error, which, peradventure, were a formal heresy, if voluntarily and without compulsion professed. They ought, indeed, to die, and to endure the greatest torments, before they profess what they know to be an error; but this their sin is not properly called heresy, for an heretic doth freely and voluntarily hold that which is his error. And, in this respect and consideration, Tertullian thinks that an heretic is said to be αὐτοκατάκριτος, condemned of himself, Tit. 3.11, because he hath of himself chosen that which doth condemn him.[2] The Apostle there hath commanded to reject an heretic. If I reject him (might one say) then I lose him, I destroy his soul. Nay (saith the Apostle), his perdition is of himself, for he hath chosen his own ways, and his soul delighteth in his abominations. This interpretation is much surer and safer than to say that a heretic is called αὐτοκατάκριτος, or self-condemned, because he goes against his own light, and against the principles received and acknowledged by himself; which sense is accompanied with many dangerous consequences.
3. It is such a choosing of error as is accompanied with a rejecting of truth. A heretic puts light for darkness, and darkness for light; good for evil, and evil for good; he chooseth error as truth, and refuseth truth as error. They that give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, do also depart from the faith, 1 Tim. 4.1; resist the truth, 2 Tim. 3.8; and turn away their ears from the truth, 2 Tim. 4.4; their course hath a terminus a quo as well as ad quem.
4. It is an error professed and maintained, and which, by that means, becomes a scandal and snare to others. For although there may be heresy (as well as other kinds of sin) lurking and hid in the thoughts, yet that belongs to God’s judgment only, not to man’s. The heresies which are spoken of, 1 Cor. 11.9, are certainly known, and apparently discriminative, even among men. And heretics are scandalous persons, to be avoided and rejected, Rom. 16.17; Tit. 3.10; which could not be except their errors were known.
5. It is an error contradictory of some chief and substantial truth, grounded upon, or, by necessary consequence, drawn from, the Holy Scripture. There was never yet any heretic in the Christian world who contradicted that which is literally and syllabically in Scripture. The most damnable heretic will offer to subscribe to the Scripture instead of a confession of faith, who yet will not subscribe to all truths which necessarily follow from the words of Scripture. But I call not every error heresy, which is contrary to any consequential truth grounded upon Scripture. As the Scripture reckons not all who sin to be workers of iniquity, so it reckons not all who err to be heretics. Although there is not any sin or error in the true nature of it venial, yet every sin is not a gross and heinous sin, and every error is not heresy. Heresies are mentioned as greater evils than schisms, 1 Cor. 11.18, 19, which could not be so if every error were a heresy.
6. It is an error factiously maintained, with a renting of the church, and drawing away of disciples after it, in which respect Augustine said, Errare potero, hæreticus non ero,—I may err, but I shall not be a heretic. Heretics are deceivers and seducers, who endeavour to pervert others and to overthrow their faith, 2 Tim. 3.13; Acts 20.30; 2 Tim. 2.17, 18; Rom. 16.17-19; 2 Pet. 2.2. All known and noted heretics are also schismatics, who make a rupture, and strengthen their own party by drawing after them, or confirming unto them disciples and followers (in so much that αἵρεσις often used for a sect, as Acts 5.17; 15.5; 24.5; 26. 5). For this cause the Donatists were condemned as heretics, without imputation of heresy to Cyprian. And, O strange turning about of things (saith Vincentius Lirinensis, Advers. Hæret. Cap. 11), the authors of the same opinion are judged catholic, but the followers heretics; the masters are absolved, the disciples are condemned; the writers of these books are the children of the kingdom, but hell shall receive the assertors or maintainers. This last ingredient which is found in heresy is hinted by the Arabic interpreter, 1 Cor. 11.19, where he joineth schisms and heresies, as was noted before; and, indeed, in the original, the particle καὶ, and the rising of the speech, sets forth heresy as carrying schism with it in its bosom. I believe, saith the Apostle, in part what I hear of your schisms, for there must be also heresies, i.e., both schisms and somewhat more. Calvin, Institutes. Lib. 4, cap. 2, sect. 5, makes the breaking of church communion, and the making of a rent, a thing common both to heretics and schismatics: for heretics break one band of church communion, which is consent in doctrine; schismatics break another, which is love, though sometimes they agree in the like faith.
From all which scriptural observations, we may make up a description of heresy to this sense: Heresy is a gross and dangerous error, voluntarily held and factiously maintained by some person or persons within the visible church, in opposition to some chief or substantial truth or truths grounded upon and drawn from the holy Scripture by necessary consequence.
Heresy is a gross and dangerous error, voluntarily held and factiously maintained by some person or persons within the visible church, in opposition to some chief or substantial truth or truths grounded upon and drawn from the Holy Scripture by necessary consequence.”
[2] Tertull. de Præscrip. Advers. Hæret. Hæreses dictæ græca voce ex interpretatione electionis, quia quis sive ad instituendas sive ad suscipiendas eas utitur. Ideo et sibi damnatum dixit hæreticum: quia et in quo damnatur sibi elegit. (5)
In conclusion, we can say, heresy is the departure from the Scriptures on a points of salvific importance. Doctrinal confessions are important helpful constraints for assistance in maintaining an orthodox understanding of Scripture.
One of the best ways to detect theological errors, is to be completely conversant with theological truth. In banking, tellers can detect counterfeit bills by being at home and familiar with the real currency. This is the challenge for believers, if you are knowledgeable in Christian orthodoxy, the error of heresy can be detected without difficulty.
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Titus, Vol. 21, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 45-46.
2. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘HERESY'” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 1377.
3. Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), p. 2. Bowman,
4. Robert M., Jr., Orthodoxy & Heresy: A Biblical Guide to Doctrinal Discernment, Part two, (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Publishing, 1992), p. 3.
5. George Gillespie, A Treatise of Miscellany of Questions, (Published by Mr. PATRIK GILLESPIE, Minister at GLASGOVV.EDINBURGH, Printed by GEDEON LITHGOVV, Printer to the University of EDINBURGH), Chapter IX.-What is meant in Scripture by the word Heresies, and how we are to understand, that there must be Heresies for making manifest the Godly partie, or those that are approved, I Cor. 11.19.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:
** CARM theological dictionary
**** Reformed answers
A Biblical Guide To Orthodoxy And Heresy by Robert M. Bowman
A Survey of Heresies…/onsite/heresies.pdf
Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics…/survey-finds-american-christian…/
See Confessional Documents as a Reformed Hermeneutic
Edward A. Dowey Jr., The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997) Vol. 79, No. 1, Presbyterians, Polity, and Confessional Identity (SPRING 2001), pp. 53-58 Published by: Presbyterian Historical Society Stable URL:

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Hell, what the Bible say?

Hell, what does the Bible say? By Jack Kettler

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

In this study, we will look at the biblical teaching about Hell and corresponding words associated with the final judgment. We will not delve into other issues like soul sleep or annihilationism.

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!

Definitions from two sources:

The place of eternal punishment for the wicked. *

Hell is the future place of eternal punishment of the damned including the devil and his fallen angels. There are several words rendered as Hell: Hades – A Greek word. It is the place of the dead, the location of the person between death and resurrection. (See Matthew 11:23; Mat 16:18; Acts 11:27; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18; Rev 6:8). Gehenna – A Greek word. It was the place where dead bodies were dumped and burned (2 Kings 23:13-14). Jesus used the word to designate the place of eternal torment (Matthew 5:22; Mat 5:29-30; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5). Sheol – A Hebrew word. It is the place of the dead, not necessarily the grave, but the place the dead go to. It is used of both the righteous (Psalms 16:10; Psa. 30:3; Isaiah 38:10) and the wicked (Numbers 16:33; Job 24:19; Psalms 9:17). Hell is a place of eternal fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 19:20). It was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41) and will be the abode of the wicked (Revelation 22:8) and the fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4). **

From Scripture:

“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20)

“And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12)

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42)

“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 22:13)

“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:42-48)

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:19–31)

“These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” (2 Peter 2:17)

“Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (Jude 1:13)

“And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.” (Revelation 9:2)

“And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.” (Revelation 9:11)

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:10–15)

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Matthew 13:42:

And shall cast them into a furnace of fire, Not a material, but a metaphorical one; denoting the wrath of God, which shall fall upon wicked men, and abide upon them to all eternity: which is sometimes called hell fire, sometimes a lake which burns with fire and brimstone; and here a furnace of fire, expressing the vehemency and intenseness of divine wrath, which will be intolerable; in allusion either to Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, or as some think, to the custom of burning persons alive in some countries; or rather, to the burning of chaff and stubble, and the stalks of any unprofitable things that grew in the field (f), for the heating of furnaces, and is the very language of the Jews, who used to compare hell to a furnace; so Genesis 15:17 is paraphrased by them (g),
And behold the sun set, and there was darkness; and lo! Abraham saw until the seats were set, and the thrones cast down; and lo! “Hell”, which is prepared for the wicked in the world to come, “as a furnace”, which sparks and flames of fire surrounded; “in the midst of which”, the wicked fell, because they rebelled against the law, in their lifetime.
Which is expressed in much the same language, and conveys the same ideas as here; and no wonder is it that it follows,
there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth; declaring the remorse of conscience, the tortures of mind, the sense of inexpressible pain, and punishment, the wicked shall feel; also their furious rage and black despair,
(f) Misn. Sabbat. c. 3. sect. 1. & Maimon, & Bartenora in ib. (g) Hieros. Targum in Genesis 15.17. (1)

Hell and words associated with the final judgment:

Apollyon – Abaddon
The Valley of Hinnom
Fire and brimstone
Bottomless pit
Outer darkness
Place of torment
Furnace of fire
Lake of fire
Everlasting fire

GEHENNA from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

ga-hen’-a (geenna (see Grimm-Thayer, under the word):

Gehenna is a transliteration from the Aramaic form of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, “valley of Hinnom.” This latter form, however, is rare in the Old Testament, the prevailing name being “the valley of the son of Hinnom.” Septuagint usually translates; where it transliterates the form is different from Gehenna and varies. In the New Testament the correct form is Gee’nna with the accent on the penult, not Ge’enna. There is no reason to assume that Hinnom is other than a plain patronymic, although it has been proposed to find in it the corruption of the name of an idol (EB, II, 2071). In the New Testament (King James Version margin) Gehenna occurs in Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,15,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. In all of these it designates the place of eternal punishment of the wicked, generally in connection with the final judgment. It is associated with fire as the source of torment. Both body and soul are cast into it. This is not to be explained on the principle that the New Testament speaks metaphorically of the state after death in terms of the body; it presupposes the resurrection. In the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) Gehenna is rendered by “hell” (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT). That “the valley of Hinnom” became the technical designation for the place of final punishment was due to two causes. In the first place the valley had been the seat of the idolatrous worship of Molech, to whom children were immolated by fire (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6). Secondly, on account of these practices the place was defiled by King Josiah (2 Kings 23:10), and became in consequence associated in prophecy with the judgment to be visited upon the people (Jeremiah 7:32). The fact, also, that the city’s offal was collected there may have helped to render the name synonymous with extreme defilement. Topographically the identification of the valley of Hinnom is still uncertain. It has been in turn identified with the depression on the western and southern side of Jerusalem, with the middle valley, and with the valley to the E. Compare EB, II, 2071; DCG, I, 636; RE3, VI.
Geerhardus Vos (2)

Hell from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

Topical Bible outline for “Hell.”
1. The Word in the King James Version:
The English word, from a Teutonic root meaning “to hide” or “cover,” had originally the significance of the world of the dead generally, and in this sense is used by Chaucer, Spenser, etc., and in the Creed (“He descended into hell”); compare the English Revised Version Preface. Now the word has come to mean almost exclusively the place of punishment of the lost or finally impenitent; the place of torment of the wicked. In the King James Version of the Scriptures, it is the rendering adopted in many places in the Old Testament for the Hebrew word she’ol (in 31 out of 65 occurrences of that word it is so translated), and in all places, save one (1Co 15:55) in the New Testament, for the Greek word Hades (this word occurs 11 times; in 10 of these it is translated “hell”; 1Co 15:55 reads “grave,” with “hell” in the margin). In these cases the word has its older general meaning, though in Lu 16:23 (parable of Rich Man and Lazarus) it is specially connected with a place of “torment,” in contrast with the “Abraham’s bosom” to which Lazarus is taken (Lu 16:22).
See a list of verses on HELL in the Bible.
2. The Word in the Revised Version:
In the above cases the Revised Version (British and American) has introduced changes, replacing “hell” by “Sheol” in the passages in the Old Testament (the English Revised Version retains “hell” in Isa 14:9,15; the American Standard Revised Version makes no exception), and by “Hades” in the passages in the New Testament (see under these words).
See the definition of hell in the KJV Dictionary
3. Gehenna:
Besides the above uses, and more in accordance with the modern meaning, the word “hell” is used in the New Testament in the King James Version as the equivalent of Gehenna (12 t; Mt 5:22,29; 10:28, etc.). The Revised Version (British and American) in these cases puts “Gehenna” in the margin. Originally the Valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, Gehenna became among the Jews the synonym for the place of torment in the future life (the “Gehenna of fire,” Mt 5:22, etc.; see GEHENNA).
See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.
4. Tartarus:
In yet one other passage in the New Testament (2Pe 2:4), “to cast down to hell” is used (the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)) to represent the Greek tartaroo, (“to send into Tartarus”). Here it stands for the place of punishment of the fallen angels: “spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits (or chains) of darkness” (compare Jude 1:6; but also Mt 25:41). Similar ideas are found in certain of the Jewish apocalyptic books (Book of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, Apocrypha Baruch, with apparent reference to Ge 6:1-4; compare ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT).
On theological aspect, see PUNISHMENT, EVERLASTING. For literature, see references in above-named arts. And compare article “Hell” by Dr. D. S. Salmond in HDB. (3)

Hades from the Dictionary of Theological Terms:

The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol. Sheol is translated in the AV “hell,” “grave,” and “pit,” while Hades is ten times translated “hell,” and once “grave.”
There has long been controversy over the exact import of the words. There are two views among Bible believers.
Divided Hades View
W. E. Vine expresses what is now perhaps, the most common view: “Hades [is] the region of departed spirits of the lost (but including the blessed dead in periods preceding the ascension of Christ)… It corresponds to ‘Sheol’ in the OT.… It never denotes the grave, nor is it the permanent region of the lost; in point of time it is, for such, intermediate between decease and the doom of Gehenna. For the condition see Luke 16:23–31.
“The word is used four times in the Gospels, and always by the Lord, Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; it is used with reference to the soul of Christ, Acts 2:27, 31; Christ declares that He has the keys of it, Rev. 1:18; in Rev. 6:8 it is personified, with the signification of the temporary destiny of the doomed; it is to give up those who are therein, Rev. 20:13; and is to be cast into the lake of fire, ver. 14” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Usual Reformed View
Reformed theologians usually take a very different view. They reject the theory of a divided Sheol or Hades and hold that the Scriptures nowhere warrant our locating paradise in Hades. W. G. T. Shedd summarizes the arguments for the Reformed position as follows:
Sheol Means a Punitive Evil. “That Sheol is a fearful punitive evil, mentioned by the sacred writers to deter men from sin, lies upon the surface of the OT, and any interpretation that essentially modifies this must therefore be erroneous.”

Sheol Often Means Hell. Sheol signifies the place of future retribution.

“1. This is proved by the fact that it is denounced against sin and sinners, and not against the righteous. It is a place to which the wicked are sent in distinction from the good.” Then follows a long list of texts: Job 21:13; Ps. 9:17; Prov. 5:5; 9:18; 23:14; Deut. 32:22; Ps. 139:8; Prov. 15:24; Job 26:6; Prov. 15:11; 27:20. In these last three references, destruction is in the Hebrew Abaddon. Shedd argues that since Abaddon is the Hebrew word for Apollyon who is “the angel and king of the bottomless pit” (Rev. 9:11), the use of Sheol in these texts proves that it denotes hell. “There can be no rational doubt, that in this class of texts the wicked are warned of a future evil and danger. The danger is that they shall be sent to Sheol.”
“2. A second proof that Sheol is the proper name for Hell, in the OT, is the fact that there is no other proper name for it in the whole volume—for Tophet is metaphorical, and rarely employed. If Sheol is not the place where the wrath of God falls upon the transgressor there is no place mentioned in the OT where it does.”
Shedd finds it “utterly improbable” that there should be such silence, when the final judgment is so clearly announced.
“3. A third proof that Sheol in these passages, denoted the dark abode of the wicked and the state of future suffering, is found in those OT texts which speak of the contrary bright abode of the righteous, and of their state of blessedness.”
Shedd then argues that paradise cannot be placed as a part of Sheol: “There is too great a contrast between the two abodes of the good and evil, to allow them to be brought under one and the same gloomy and terrifying term Sheol.” Again he lists proof texts: Ps. 16:11; 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Isa. 25:8; Prov. 14:32.
4. As a fourth proof that Sheol signifies the place of future retribution, Shedd cites its inseparable connection with spiritual and eternal death. This is true of Hades, as it is used in the NT (Prov. 5:5; Rev. 20:14).
Sheol Often Means the Grave. But, Shedd argues, Sheol has another significance: “Sheol signifies the ‘grave’ to which all men, good and evil alike, go down. That Sheol should have the two significations of hell and the grave, is explained by the connection between physical death and eternal retribution. The death of the body is one of the consequences of sin, and an integral part of the penalty.… As in English, ‘death’ may mean either physical or spiritual death, so in Hebrew, Sheol may mean either the grave or hell. When Sheol signifies the ‘grave,’ it is only the body that goes down to Sheol. But as the body is naturally put for the whole person, the man is said to go down to the grave, when his body alone is laid in it … When the aged Jacob says, ‘I will go down unto my (dead) son mourning’ (Gen. 37:35), no one should understand him to teach the descent of his disembodied spirit into a subterranean world. ‘The spirit of man goeth upward and the spirit of the beast goeth downward’ (Eccl. 3:21).”
Shedd cites the following texts to prove that Sheol signifies the grave: 1 Sam. 2:6; Gen. 44:31; Job 14:13; 17:13; Num. 16:33; Ps. 6:5; Eccl. 9:10; Hos. 13:14; Ps. 88:3; 89:48. He goes on, “Sheol in the sense of the ‘grave’ is represented as something out of which the righteous are to be delivered by a resurrection of the body to glory, but the bodies of the wicked are to be left under its power. Ps. 49:14, 15; 16:10; Hosea 13:14. St. Paul quotes this (1 Cor. 15:55), in proof of the blessed resurrection of the bodies of believers—showing that ‘Sheol’ here is the ‘grave,’ where the body is laid and from which it is raised.”
Objections to Idea that Sheol Means Grave. Shedd seeks to answer some of the objections to his last point. He argues that Psa. 16:10 and Acts 2:31 use soul to mean body and points out that in Lev. 19:28; 21:11; 22:4; Num. 6:6; 19:11, 13; Hag. 2:13, the Hebrew word nephesh, “soul” is translated properly by “dead body.” He also remarks that Acts 2:31 proves that Psa. 16:10 uses Sheol as he has argued because, “Acts 2:31 asserts that ‘David spake of the resurrection of Christ,’ … but there is no resurrection of the soul. Consequently it is the body that David speaks of.”
Hades Means Hell and Grave. What has been said of Sheol holds good for Hades. Mostly, it signifies the place of torment, and in three places (Acts 2:27, 31; 1 Cor. 15:55) it signifies grave.
In reply to the objection that Sheol and Hades cannot mean grave because there are other words for grave—Hebrew qeber and Greek mnemeion—Shedd replies, “Grave has an abstract and general sense, denoted by Sheol, and a concrete and particular, denoted by qeber. All men go to the grave, but not all men have a grave.… These remarks apply also to the use of Hades and mnemeion.” (All quotations from Shedd’s The Doctrine of Endless Punishment.)
Summary of Differences

Basically then, there are two views current among Bible believers. We may summarize their differences:

1. The first places paradise (at least until Christ’s resurrection) as a compartment of Sheol or Hades. The second denies this and says the location of paradise in the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2, 4) is the only location given in Scripture, with no hint of its ever having been located anywhere else.
2. The first emphasizes that Sheol refers generally to the region of the departed spirits (as does Hades until the resurrection of Christ). The second repudiates this and holds that “hell” is the proper translation.
3. The first holds that Sheol and Hades never mean grave. The second is equally adamant that in certain texts it does.
4. The first holds that the souls of the wicked and of the righteous both went to Sheol in the OT period (and in the NT until the resurrection of Christ). The second holds that in the OT only the souls of the wicked went to Sheol and that the saints went to heaven—as Elijah, upon his translation, did. In this particular aspect of the dispute, the upholders of the divided Hades view point out that Samuel “came up from the earth” (1 Sam. 28:7–20). Those of Shedd’s persuasion answer that this does not change the plain statement of Prov. 15:24 and that Samuel is represented as coming up from the earth “because the body reanimated rises from the grave” (Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 2:602). Furthermore, in the entire narrative, Sheol is not once employed.

Doctrinal Implications:

There are many doctrinal issues hanging on the view adopted. According to the first view, Christ’s soul descended into Sheol/Hades. Upholders of this view give differing reasons for His descent and speak of various activities while He was there. Most, however, say it was to proclaim His victory and to lead out the saints from paradise into heaven.
Shedd’s position denies such a descent into Sheol/Hades by Christ to preach or proclaim anything. He says that if such a doctrine were true, it would form a fundamental part of the gospel, on a par with the incarnation, and it is inconceivable that it should be so completely passed over in the great dogmatic statements of faith in the NT. Jesus’ cry on the cross, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” Shedd takes to be conclusive evidence that He did not go to any underworld of departed spirits, for “the hands of God” could not be taken as a description of any place but heaven.
One reason for opposing “grave” as a translation of Sheol or Hades is the use the self-styled Jehovah’s Witnesses (see Russellites) make of such a belief. They say Sheol always means “the grave” and nothing more. However, Shedd’s view, with its strong emphasis on Sheol as a place of dreadful punishment, poses arguments that the Jehovah’s Witness sect can never answer.
After observing so many differences of opinion, it is worth noting that both parties hold Sheol/Hades to be a place of disembodied spirits. As the eternal blessedness of the believers in heaven is to be enjoyed by the entire man, including the body, so the eternal damnation of the sinner in hell is to be endured by the entire man, including the body. Thus Hades will give up the dead which are in it and, reunited with their bodies, they will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:13, 14).
See Descent into Hell; Intermediate State. (4)

HELL by R.C. Sproul

We have often heard statements such as “War is hell” or “I went through hell.” These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.

Hell is trivialized when it is used as a common curse word. To use the word lightly may be a halfhearted human attempt to take the concept lightly or to treat it in an amusing way. We tend to joke about things most frightening to us in a futile effort to declaw and defang them, reducing their threatening power.

There is no biblical concept more grim or terror-invoking than the idea of hell. It is so unpopular with us that few would give credence to it at all except that it comes to us from the teaching of Christ Himself.

Almost all the biblical teaching about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. It is this doctrine, perhaps more than any other that strains even the Christian’s loyalty to the teaching of Christ. Modern Christians have pushed the limits of minimizing hell in an effort to sidestep or soften Jesus’ own teaching. The Bible describes hell as a place of outer darkness, a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal separation from the blessings of God, a prison, a place of torment where the worm doesn’t turn or die. These graphic images of eternal punishment provoke the question, should we take these descriptions literally or are they merely symbols?

I suspect they are symbols, but I find no relief in that. We must not think of them as being merely symbols. It is probable that the sinner in hell would prefer a literal lake of fire as his eternal abode to the reality of hell represented in the lake of fire image. If these images are indeed symbols, then we must conclude that the reality is worse than the symbol suggests. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. That Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols.

A breath of relief is usually heard when someone declares, “Hell is a symbol for separation from God.” To be separated from God for eternity is no great threat to the impenitent person. The ungodly want nothing more than to be separated from God. Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.

No matter how we analyze the concept of hell it often sounds to us as a place of cruel and unusual punishment. If, however, we can take any comfort in the concept of hell, we can take it in the full assurance that there will be no cruelty there. It is impossible for God to be cruel. Cruelty involves inflicting a punishment that is more severe or harsh than the crime. Cruelty in this sense is unjust. God is incapable of inflicting an unjust punishment. The Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right. No innocent person will ever suffer at His hand.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of hell is its eternality. People can endure the greatest agony if they know it will ultimately stop. In hell there is no such hope. The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment is eternal. The same word is used for both eternal life and eternal death. Punishment implies pain. Mere annihilation, which some have lobbied for, involves no pain. Jonathan Edwards, in preaching on Revelation 6:15-16 said, “Wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.” (John H. Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell [Orlando: Ligonier Ministries, 1991], 75.)

Hell, then, is an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief. Understanding this is crucial to our drive to appreciate the work of Christ and to preach His gospel.


1. The suffering of hell is beyond any experience of misery found in this world.
2. Hell is clearly included in the teaching of Jesus.
3. If the biblical descriptions of hell are symbols, then the reality will be worse than the symbols.
4. Hell is the presence of God in His wrath and judgment.
5. There is no cruelty in hell. Hell will be a place of perfect justice.
6. Hell is eternal. There is no escape through either repentance or annihilation.

Biblical passages for reflection: Matthew 8:11-12, Mark 9:42-48, Luke 16:19-31, Jude 1:3-13, Revelation 20:11-15. (5)

Westminster Confession, Chapter 32:

Of the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead with scriptural proofs.

I. The bodies of men after death return to dust and see corruption;a but their souls, (which neither die nor sleep,) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them.b The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies;c and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.d Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the scripture acknowledgeth none.
a Gen. 3:19; Acts 13:36.
b Luke 23:43; Eccl. 12:7.
c Heb. 12:23; 2 Cor. 5:1,6,8; Phil. 1:23 with Acts 3:21 and Eph. 4:10.
d Luke 16:23,24; Acts 1:25; Jude ver. 6,7; 1 Pet. 3:19.

II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed:e and all the dead shall be raised up, with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.f
e 1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51,52.
f Job 19:26,27; 1 Cor. 15:42-44.

III. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.g
g Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29; 1 Cor. 15:43; Phil. 3:21.

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Matthew, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 645.
2. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘ GEHENNA,’ “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 1183.
3. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘Hell,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), p. 1371.
4. Alan Cairns, In Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International 2002), pp. 169-171.
5. R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, (Wheaton, Illinois, Tyndale House, 1992), pp. 285-287.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
And at:


Jonathan Edwards SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD…/…/pdf/edwards_angry.pdf

Hell a PDF by Jonathan Edwards, C H Spurgeon, Edward Donnelly, J C Ryle

Recommended Books

Death and the Afterlife Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1984). ISBN: 0871234335 (paperback edition 076422686X). “For readers seeking a scholarly, thorough discussion of the biblical doctrine of death and the afterlife, this volume will provide the answer. It is one of the most extensive and scholarly discussions of the subject which has come to the attention of this reviewer. Morey has covered a wide range of research and holds solidly to conservative orthodox theology on the reality of heaven, hell, and life after this life. The book deals with biblical terms relating to the subject, such as spirit, soul, body, Sheol, Gehenna, and eternal punishment. The second half of the book is an apologetic for the biblical teaching on the subject of death and a defense of scriptural teaching as opposed to liberal views of annihilationism and universal salvation. Comprehensive indexes and an extensive bibliography support the conclusions of the author.” –J. F. Walvoord.

William G. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1986). ISBN: 0851517544. Reprint of the original edition of 1885. “The rejection of the doctrine of Endless Punishment cuts the ground from under the gospel. Salvation supposes a prior damnation. He who denies that he deserves eternal death cannot be saved from it so long as he persists in his denial. If his denial is the truth, he needs no salvation. If his denial is an error, the error prevents penitence for sin, and this prevents pardon. No error, consequently, is more fatal than that of Universalism. It blots out the attribute of retributive justice; transmutes sin into misfortune, instead of guilt; turns all suffering into chastisement; converts the atonement work of Christ into moral influence; and makes it a debt due to man, instead of an unmerited boon from God. No teaching is more radical and revolutionizing, in its influence upon the Christian system. The attempt to retain the evangelical theology in connection with it is futile.”

John H. Gerstner, Repent or Perish: With a Special Reference to the Conservative Attack on Hell (Ligonier, Pennsylvania: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990). ISBN: 187761114X.

John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? (Darlington, United Kingdom: Evangelical Press, 1993). ISBN: 0852343035.

Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1995). ISBN: 0875523722.

Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004). ISBN: 0310240417. Contributors include Douglas J. Moo, J.I. Packer, Gregory K. Beale, Daniel I. Block, Sinclair B. Ferguson, R. Albert Mohler, and Robert Yarbrough.

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Grace and Mercy

Grace and Mercy by Jack Kettler

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

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In this study, we will look at both Grace and Mercy. Are these two words synonymous? Are they defined differently? If so, what are the distinctions?

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!

Definitions from two sources:

God’s unmerited favor toward the undeserving and ill-deserving; God giving sinners better than they deserve. *

That perfection of God whereby he is good “toward those in misery and distress.” *

Grace is unmerited favor. It is God’s free action for the benefit of His people. It is different than Justice and Mercy. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. In grace we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, we do not deserve. But because of God’s love and kindness manifested in Jesus on the Cross, we receive the great blessing of redemption.
Grace is God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. Grace rules out all human merit. It is the product of God that is given by God, because of who He is not because of who we are. It is the means of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are no longer under the Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). (See 1 Corinthians 15:11; Romans 5:2; Rom 5:15-20; 2 Corinthians 12:9; and 2 Corinthians 9:8). **

Mercy is the act of not administering justice when that justice is punitive. Because of our sinfulness we deserve death and eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; Isaiah 59:2), but God provided an atonement for sin and through it shows us mercy. That is, He does not deliver to the Christian the natural consequence of his sin which is damnation. That is why Jesus became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21) and bore the punishment due to us (Isaiah 5345). It was to deliver us from damnation. (Compare with justice and grace.)
God saved us according to His mercy (Titus 3:5) and we can practice mercy as a gift (Romans 12:8). “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). **

Question: What is the difference between mercy and grace?

Answer: Mercy and grace are often confused. While the terms have similar meanings, grace and mercy are not the same. To summarize the difference: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy. ***

Grace from Scripture:

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)

Romans 11:6 from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

And if by grace, then is it no more of works, Upon election, being called “the election of grace”, the apostle forms an argument, showing the contrariety and inconsistency of grace, and works, in that affair; proving, that it must be by the one or the other: and if by the one, then not by the other; and that these two cannot be mixed and blended together in this matter. If election is “by grace”, as it certainly is; for no other reason can be given why God has chosen one, and not another, but his own sovereign pleasure, or that free favour and unmerited love, with which he loves one and not another; and not because they are better, or had done or would do better things than others; “then it is no more”, or not at all, for it never was “of works”, was not influenced by them, does not arise from them, for it passed before ever any were done; and those that are done aright spring from it, and therefore could never be the rule and measure, causes, motives, and conditions of it; otherwise grace is no more grace; for “Grace (as Austin has long ago observed) is not grace, unless it is altogether freed;”’ it will lose its nature, and ought to change its name, and be no more called or reckoned grace, but a due debt; and a choice of persons to salvation should be thought, not to be what God is free to make or not, but what he is obliged to, as a reward of debt to men’s works: but if it be of works, then it is no more grace; if election springs from, and depends upon the works of men, let no man ascribe it to the grace of God; for there is nothing of grace in it, if this be the case: otherwise work is no more work; that will free gift: but these things are contrary to one another; and so unalienable and unalterable in their natures, that the one cannot pass into the other, or the one be joined with the other, in this or any other part of man’s salvation; for what is here said of election, holds true of justification, pardon of sin, and the whole of salvation. The Ethiopic version applies it to justification. (1)

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

Mercy from Scripture:

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Lamentations 3:22 from Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

Mercy is nothing else but love flowing freely from any to persons in misery, and differs from compassion only in the freeness of the emanation. It is not because God had not power enough utterly to have consumed us, nor because we had not guilt enough to have provoked his justice to have put an end to our lives, as well as to the lives of many thousands of our countrymen, but it is merely from the Lord’s free love and pity to us in our miseries. If God had not a blessing in store for us, how is it that we are captives, and not slain as many others were during the siege? (2)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us…” (Ephesians 2:4)

Grace – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1, G5485, charis]
has various uses,
(a) objective, that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard; it is applied, e.g., to beauty, or gracefulness of person, Luke 2:40; act, 2 Corinthians 8:6, or speech, Luke 4:22, RV, words of grace” (AV, “gracious words”); Colossians 4:6;
(b) subjective,
(1) on the part of the bestower, the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds, graciousness, loving-kindness, goodwill generally, e.g., Acts 7:10; especially with reference to the Divine favor or “grace,” e.g., Acts 14:26; in this respect there is stress on its freeness and universality, its spontaneous character, as in the case of God’s redemptive mercy, and the pleasure or joy He designs for the recipient; thus it is set in contrast with debt, Romans 4:4,16, with works, Romans 11:6, and with law, John 1:17; See also, e.g., Romans 6:14,15; Galatians 5:4;
(2) on the part of the receiver, a sense of the favor bestowed, a feeling of gratitude, e.g., Romans 6:17 (“thanks”); in this respect it sometimes signifies “to be thankful,” e.g., Luke 17:9 (“doth he thank the servant?’ lit., “hath he thanks to’); 1 Timothy 1:12;
(c) in another objective sense, the effect of “grace,” the spiritual state of those who have experienced its exercise, whether
(1) a state of “grace,” e.g., Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 5:12; 2 Peter 3:18, or
(2) a proof thereof in practical effects, deeds of “grace,” e.g., 1 Corinthians 16:3, RV, “bounty” (AV, “liberality”); 2 Corinthians 8:6,19 (in 2 Corinthians 9:8 it means the sum of earthly blessings); the power and equipment for ministry, e.g., Romans 1:5; Romans 12:6; Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:2,7.
To be in favor with is to find “grace” with, e.g., Acts 2:47; hence it appears in this sense at the beginning and the end of several Epistles, where the writer desires “grace” from God for the readers, e.g., Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; in this respect it is connected with the imperative mood of the word chairo, “to rejoice,” a mode of greeting among Greeks, e.g., Acts 15:23; James 1:1 (marg.); 2 John 1:10,11, RV, “greeting” (AV, “God speed”).
The fact that “grace” is received both from God the Father, 2 Corinthians 1:12, and from Christ, Galatians 1:6; Romans 5:15 (where both are mentioned), is a testimony to the deity of Christ. See also 2 Thessalonians 1:12, where the phrase “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” is to be taken with each of the preceding clauses, “in you,” “and ye in Him.”
In James 4:6, “But He giveth more grace” (Greek, “a greater grace,” RV, marg.), the statement is to be taken in connection with the preceding verse, which contains two remonstrating, rhetorical questions, “Think ye that the Scripture speaketh in vain?” and “Doth the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) which He made to dwell in us long unto envying?” (See the RV). The implied answer to each is “it cannot be so.” Accordingly, if those who are acting so flagrantly, as if it were so, will listen to the Scripture instead of letting it speak in vain, and will act so that the Holy Spirit may have His way within, God will give even “a greater grace,” namely, all that follows from humbleness and from turning away from the world. See BENEFIT, BOUNTY, LIBERALITY, THANK.
Note: The corresponding verb charitoo, “to endue with Divine favor or grace,” is used in Luke 1:28, “highly favored” (marg., “endued with grace”) and Ephesians 1:6, AV, “hath made … accepted;” RV, “freely bestowed” (marg., “enduced.”).
[2, G2143, euprepeia]
“comeliness, goodly appearance,” is said of the outward appearance of the flower of the grass, James 1:11. (3)

Merciful (Adjective, and Verb, to be), Mercy (Noun, and Verb, to have, etc.) – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

Merciful (Adjective, and Verb, to be), Mercy (Noun, and Verb, to have, etc.)
[A-1, Noun, G1656, eleos]
is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it. It is used
(a) of God, who is rich in mercy, Ephesians 2:4, and who has provided salvation for all men, Titus 3:5, for Jews, Luke 1:72, and Gentiles, Romans 15:9. He is merciful to those who fear him, Luke 1:50, for they also are compassed with infirmity, and He alone can succor them. Hence they are to pray boldly for mercy, Hebrews 4:16, and if for themselves, it is seemly that they should ask for mercy for one another, Galatians 6:16; 1 Timothy 1:2. When God brings His salvation to its issue at the Coming of Christ, His people will obtain His mercy, 2 Timothy 1:16; Jude 1:21;
(b) of men; for since God is merciful to them, He would have them show mercy to one another, Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; Matthew 23:23; Luke 10:37; James 2:13.
“Wherever the words mercy and peace are found together they occur in that order, except in Galatians 6:16. Mercy is the act of God, peace is the resulting experience in the heart of man. Grace describes God’s attitude toward the law-breaker and the rebel; mercy is His attitude toward those who are in distress.”* [* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 340,341.]
“In the order of the manifestation of God’s purposes of salvation grace must go before mercy … only the forgiven may be blessed … From this it follows that in each of the Apostolic salutations where these words occur, grace precedes mercy, 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4 (in some mss.); 2 John 1:3’ (Trench, Syn, xlvii).
[A-2, Noun, G3628, oiktirmos]
“pity, compassion for the ills of others,” is used
(a) of God, Who is “the Father of mercies,” 2 Corinthians 1:3; His “mercies” are the ground upon which believers are to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, as their reasonable service, Romans 12:1; under the Law he who set it at nought died without compassion, Hebrews 10:28;
(b) of men; believers are to feel and exhibit compassions one toward another, Philippians 2:1, RV “compassions,’ and Colossians 3:12, RV “(a heart) of compassion;” in these two places the word is preceded by No. 3, rendered “tender mercies” in the former, and “a heart” in the latter, RV.
[A-3, Noun, G4698, splanchnon]
“affections, the heart,” always in the plural in the NT, has reference to “feelings of kindness, goodwill, pity,” Philippians 2:1, RV, “tender mercies;” See AFFECTION, No. 2, and BOWELS.
Note: In Acts 13:34 the phrase, lit., “the holy things, the faithful things (of David)” is translated, “the holy and sure blessings,” RV; the AV, following the mss. in which the words “holy and” are absent, has “the sure mercies,” but notices the full phrase in the margin.
[B-1, Verb, G1653, eleeo]
akin to A, No. 1, signifies, in general, “to feel sympathy with the misery of another,” and especially sympathy manifested in act,
(a) in the Active Voice, “to have pity or mercy on, to show mercy” to, e.g., Matthew 9:27; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 17:15; Matthew 18:33; Matthew 20:30-Matthew 20:31 (three times in Mark, four in Luke); Romans 9:15-Romans 9:16, Romans 9:18; Romans 11:32; Romans 12:8; Philippians 2:27; Jude 1:22-Jude 1:23;
(b) in the Passive Voice, “to have pity or mercy shown one, to obtain mercy,” Matthew 5:7; Romans 11:30-Romans 11:31; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 2 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Peter 2:10.
[B-2, Verb, G3627, oikteiro]
akin to A, No. 2, “to have pity on” (from oiktos,””pity:’ oi, an exclamation, = oh!), occurs in Romans 9:15 (twice), where it follows No. 1 (twice); the point established there and in Exodus 33:19, from the Sept. of which it is quoted, is that the “mercy” and compassion shown by God are determined by nothing external to His attributes. Speaking generally oikteiro is a stronger term than eleeo.
[B-3, Verb, G2433, hilaskomai]
in profane Greek meant “to conciliate, appease, propitiate, cause the gods to be reconciled;” their goodwill was not regarded as their natural condition, but as something to be earned. The heathen believed their gods to be naturally alienated in feeling from man. In the NT the word never means to conciliate God; it signifies
(a) “to be propitious, merciful,” Luke 18:13, in the prayer of the publican;
(b) “to expiate, make propitiation for,” Hebrews 2:17, “make propitiation.” That God is not of Himself already alienated from man, See John 3:16. His attitude toward the sinner does not need to be changed by his efforts. With regard to his sin, an expiation is necessary, consistently with God’s holiness and for His righteousness’ sake, and that expiation His grace and love have provided in the atoning sacrifice of His Son; man, himself a sinner, justly exposed to God’s wrath (John 3:36), could never find an expiation. As Lightfoot says, “when the NT writers speak at length on the subject of Divine wrath, the hostility is represented, not as on the part of God, but of men.” Through that which God has accomplished in Christ, by His death, man, on becoming regenerate, escapes the merited wrath of God. The making of this expiation [(b) above], with its effect in the mercy of God
(a) is what is expressed in hilaskomai. The Sept. uses the compound verb exilaskomai, e.g., Genesis 32:20; Exodus 30:10, Exodus 30:15-Exodus 30:16; Exodus 32:30, and frequently in Lev. and Num. See PROPITIATION.
[C-1, Adjective, G1655, eleemon]
“merciful,” akin to A, No. 1, not simply possessed of pity but actively compassionate, is used of Christ as a High Priest, Hebrews 2:17, and of those who are like God, Matthew 5:7 (cp. Luke 6:35-Luke 6:36, where the RV, “sons” is to be read, as representing characteristics resembling those of their Father).
[C-2, Adjective, G3629, oiktirmon]
“pitiful, compassionate for the ills of others,” a stronger term than No. 1 (akin to A, No. 2), is used twice in Luke 6:36, “merciful” (of the character of God, to be expressed in His people); James 5:11, RV, “merciful,” AV, “of tender mercy.”
[C-3, Adjective, G2436, hileos]
“propitious, merciful” (akin to B, No. 3), was used in profane Greek just as in the case of the verb (which see). There is nothing of this in the use of the word in Scripture. The quality expressed by it there essentially appertains to God, though man is underserving of it. It is used only of God, Hebrews 8:12; in Matthew 16:22, “Be it far from Thee” (Peter’s word to Christ) may have the meaning given in the RV marg., “(God) have mercy on Thee,” lit., “propitious to Thee” (AV marg., “Pity Thyself”). Cp. the Sept., 2 Samuel 20:20; 2 Samuel 23:17.
[C-4, Adjective, 448, aneleos / anileos] “unmerciful, merciless” (a, negative, n, euphonic, and A, No. 2, or C, No. 3), occurs in James 2:13, said of judgment on him who shows no “mercy.” (4)

Grace (χαρις) From Berkhof’s Systematic Theology:

The Biblical Use of the Term “Grace.” The word “grace” is not always used in the same sense in Scripture, but has a variety of meanings. In the Old Testament we have the word chen (adj. chanun), from the root chanan. The noun may denote gracefulness or beauty, Prov. 22:11; 31:30, but most generally means favour or good-will. The Old Testament repeatedly speaks of finding favour in the eyes of God or of man. The favour so found carries with it the bestowal of favours or blessings. This means that grace is not an abstract quality, but is an active, working principle, manifesting itself in beneficent acts, Gen. 6:8; 19:19; 33:15; Ex. 33:12; 34:9; I Sam 1:18; 27:5; Esth. 2:7. The fundamental idea is, that the blessings graciously bestowed are freely given, and not in consideration of any claim or merit. The New Testament word charis, from chairein, “to rejoice,” denotes first of all a pleasant external appearance, “loveliness,” “agreeableness,” “acceptableness,” and has some such meaning in Luke 4:22; Col. 4:6. A more prominent meaning of the word, however, is favour or good-will, Luke 1:30; 2:40, 52; Acts 2:47; 7:46; 24:27; 25:9. It may denote the kindness of beneficence of our Lord, II Cor. 8:9, or the favour manifested or bestowed by God, II Cor. 9:8 (referring to material blessings); I Pet. 5:10. Furthermore, the word is expressive of the emotion awakened in the heart of the recipient of such favour, and thus acquires the meaning “gratitude” or “thankfulness,” Luke 4:22; I Cor. 10:30; 15:57; II Cor. 2:14; 8:16; I Tim. 1:12. In most of the passages, however, in which the word charis is used in the New Testament, it signifies the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, affected through the agency of the Holy Spirit. While we sometimes speak of grace as an inherent quality, it is in reality the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fulness of Him who is “full of grace and truth,” Rom. 3:24; 5:2, 15; 17:20; 6:1; I Cor. 1:4; II Cor. 6:1; 8:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:5, 8; 3:7; I Pet. 3:7; 5:12. (5)

Mercy; Merciful from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

mur’-si, mur’-si-fool (checedh, racham, chanan; eleos, eleeo, oiktirmos): “Mercy” is a distinctive Bible word characterizing God as revealed to men.
In the Old Testament it is most often the translation of checedh, “kindness,” “loving-kindness” (see LOVINGKINDNESS), but rachamim, literally, “bowels” (the sympathetic region), and chanan, “to be inclined to,” “to be gracious,” are also frequently translated “mercy”; eleos, “kindness,” “beneficence,” and eleeo, “to show kindness,” are the chief words rendering “mercy” in the New Testament; oiktirmos, “pity,” “compassion,” occurs a few times, also oiktirmon, “pitiful,” eleemon, “kind,” ‘compassionate,’ twice; hileos, “forgiving,” and anileos, “not forgiving,” “without mercy,’ once each (Heb 8:12; Jas 2:13).
(1) Mercy is (a) an essential quality of God (Ex 34:6-7; De 4:31; Ps 62:12, etc.); it is His delight (Mic 7:18,20; Ps 52:8); He is “the Father of mercies” (2Co 1:3), “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), “full of pity, and merciful” (Jas 5:11); (b) it is associated with forgiveness (Ex 34:7; Nu 14:18; 1Ti 1:13,16); (c) with His forbearance (Ps 145:8, “Yahweh is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great lovingkindness”; compare Ro 2:4; 11:32); (d) with His covenant (1Ki 8:23; Ne 1:5), with His justice (Ps 101:1), with His faithfulness (Ps 89:24), with His truth (Ps 108:4); mercy and truth are united in Pr. 3:3; 14:22, etc. (in Ps 85:10 we have “Mercy and truth are met together”); (e) it goes forth to all (Ps 145:9, “Yahweh is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works”; compare Ps 145:16, “Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing,” the Revised Version margin “satisfiest every living thing with favor”); (f) it shows itself in pitying help (Ex 3:7; Ezr 9:9 f), supremely in Christ and His salvation (Lu 1:50,54,58; Eph. 2:4); (g) it is abundant, practically infinite (Ps 86:5,15; 119:64); (h) it is everlasting (1Ch 16:34,41; Ezr. 3:11; Ps 100:5; 136:1-26 repeatedly).
(2) “Mercy” is used of man as well as of God, and is required on man’s part toward man and beast (De 25:4; Ps 37:21; 109:16; Pr. 12:10; Da 4:27; Mic 6:8; Mt 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”; Mt 25:31-46; Lu 6:36, “Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful”; Lu 10:30 f, the Good Samaritan; Lu 14:12-16; Jas 3:17).
(3) In the New Testament “mercy” (eleos, usually the Septuagint translation of checedh) is associated with “grace” (charis) in the apostolical greetings and elsewhere. Trench points out that the difference between them is that the freeness of God’s love is the central point of charis, while eleos has in view misery and its relief; charis is His free grace and gift displayed in the forgiveness of sins–extended to men as they are guilty; His eleos (is extended to them) as they are miserable. The lower creation may be the object of His mercy (eleos), but man alone of His grace (charis); he alone needs it and is capable of receiving it (Synonyms of the New Testament, 163 f).
(4) From all the foregoing it will be seen that mercy in God is not merely His pardon of offenders, but His attitude to man, and to the world generally, from which His pardoning mercy proceeds. The frequency with which mercy is enjoined on men is specially deserving of notice, with the exclusion of the unmerciful from sonship to the all-merciful Father and from the benefits of His mercifulness. Shakespeare’s question, “How canst thou hope for mercy rendering none?” is fully warranted by our Lord’s teaching and by Scripture in general; compare especially the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Mt 18:21-35).
(5) As the rule, the American Standard Revised Version has “lovingkindness” for “mercy” when checedh is used of God, and “kindness” when it is used of men in relation to each other. “Compassion” (translation of racham) is also in several instances substituted for “mercy” (Isa 9:17; 14:1; 27:11; Jer. 13:14; 30:18), also “goodness” (translation of checedh referring to man) (Ho 4:1; 6:6). W. L. Walker (6)

Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 87:

Q: What is repentance unto life?
A: Repentance unto life is a saving grace,1 whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin,2 and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ,3 doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God,4 with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.5

1. Acts 11:18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
2. Acts 2:37-38. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
3. Joel 2:13. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
4. Jeremiah 31:18-19. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.
5. 2 Corinthians 7:11. For behold this selfsame thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. Psalm 119:59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.

In closing, some additional Scriptures on God’s gracious actions:

“And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6)

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you and heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” (Psalm 65:4)

“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)

“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” (John 5:21)

“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16:14)

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in heavenly with Christ, (by grace ye are saved ;)” (Ephesians 2:1, 5)

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

After reading these Scriptures, the reader will have noticed the words and phrases in these passages such as “circumcise” “give” “put” “opened her heart” “gives life” “ordained” “he made alive” and “you hath He quickened.” These verses teach that God’s gracious action is responsible for our conversion, not our works.

As we saw from the passage from Ezekiel, the prophet taught that we had hearts of stone before our conversion. Also, the apostle Paul teaches that we were slaves in bondage to sin. We must conclude that God’s gracious actions for us are real. We are saved by grace, God’s unmerited favor, and God mercifully turned away His wrath from us that are in Christ Jesus.

Grace and mercy are not the same. We can say that mercy is: God not punishing us for our sins and grace is God blessing us when we do not deserve it. Hence, grace is God’s unmerited favor, and mercy is our deliverance from God’s righteous judgment.

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 309.
2. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 655.
3. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 499-501.
4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 732-735.
5. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing, 1949), pp. 426-27.
6. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘Mercy and Merciful,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2035-2036.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America for forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
And at:


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God’s Mercy by Thomas Watson

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Idols and Idolatry

Idols and Idolatry by Jack Kettler

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

In this study, we will look at Idols and Idolatry. What is an Idol? What is Idolatry? How to guard against it.

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical evidence, commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. May God be glorified always!

Definitions from two sources:

The worship of false gods; the worship of the one true God by images; the worship of the one true God conceived as less than He is; the giving of honor due to the one true God “to some of His creatures or to some invention of His creatures;” the valuing of anything or anyone more than the one true God.. *

Idol, Idolatry:
An idol is a representation of something in the heavens or on the earth. It is used in worship and is often worshiped. It is an abomination to God (Exodus 20:4). Idolatry is bowing down before such an idol in adoration, prayer, or worship. In a loose sense, idolatry does not necessitate a material image or a religious system. It can be anything that takes the place of God: a car, a job, money, a person, a desire, etc. Idolatry is denounced by God at the beginning of the Ten Commandments and is considered a form of spiritual fornication. **

From Scripture:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6)

The Pulpit Commentary on Exodus 20:3:

Verse 3. – Thou shalt have. The use of the second person singular is remarkable when a covenant was being made with the people (Exodus 19:5). The form indicated that each individual of the nation was addressed severally, and was required himself to obey the law, a mere general national obedience being insufficient. No one can fail to see how much the commands gain in force, through all time, by being thus addressed to the individual conscience. No other gods before me. “Before me” literally, “before my face,” is a Hebrew idiom, and equivalent to “beside me,” “in addition to me.” The commandment requires the worship of one God alone, Jehovah – the God who had in so ninny ways manifested himself to the Israelites, and implies that there is, in point of fact, no other God. A belief in the unity of God is said to lie at the root of the esoteric Egyptian religion; but Moses can scarcely have derived his belief from this source, since the Egyptian notions on the subject were tinged with pantheism and materialism, from which the religion of Moses is entirely free. Outwardly the Egyptian religion, like that of the nations of Western Asia generally, was a gross polytheism; and it is against polytheistic notions that the first commandment raises a protest. (1)

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.” (Romans 1:21-24)

Comments from the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Romans 1:21:

21. Because that, when they knew God—that is, while still retaining some real knowledge of Him, and ere they sank down into the state next to be described.
they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful—neither yielded the adoration due to Himself, nor rendered the gratitude which His beneficence demanded.
but became vain—(compare Jer. 2:5).
in their imaginations—thoughts, notions, speculations, regarding God; compare Mt 15:19; Lu 2:35; 1Co 3:20, Greek.
and their foolish—”senseless,” “stupid.”
heart—that is, their whole inner man.
was darkened—How instructively is the downward progress of the human soul here traced! (2)

Idol – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1, G1497, eidolon]
Primarily a phantom or likeness (from eidos, “an appearance,” lit., “that which is seen”), or “an idea, fancy,” denotes in the NT
(a) “an idol,” an image to represent a false god, Acts 7:41; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Revelation 9:20;
(b) “the false god” worshipped in an image, Acts 15:20; Romans 2:22; 1 Corinthians 8:4, 1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Corinthians 10:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:21.

“The corresponding Heb. word denotes ‘vanity,’ Jeremiah 14:22; Jeremiah 18:15; ‘thing of nought,’ Leviticus 19:4, marg., cp. Ephesians 4:17. Hence what represented a deity to the Gentiles, was to Paul a ‘vain thing,’ Acts 14:15; ‘nothing in the world,’ 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:19. Jeremiah calls the idol a ‘scarecrow’ (‘pillar in a garden,’ Jeremiah 10:5, marg.), and Isaiah, Isaiah 44:9-Isaiah 44:20, etc., and Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:18-Habakkuk 2:19 and the Psalmist, Psalms 115:4-Psalms 115:8, etc., are all equally scathing. It is important to notice, however, that in each case the people of God are addressed. When he speaks to idolaters, Paul, knowing that no man is won by ridicule, adopts a different line, Acts 14:15-Acts 14:18; Acts 17:16, Acts 17:21-Acts 17:31.”* [* From Notes on Thessalonians, pp. 44, 45 by Hogg and Vine.] (3)

Idolatry – Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

[1, G1495, eidololatria]
Whence Eng., idolatry, (from eidolon, and latreia, “service”), is found in 1 Corinthians 10:14; Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:5; and, in the plural, in 1 Peter 4:3.

Heathen sacrifices were sacrificed to demons, 1 Corinthians 10:19; there was a dire reality in the cup and table of demons and in the involved communion with demons. In Romans 1:22-Romans 1:25, “idolatry,” the sin of the mind against God (Ephesians 2:3), and immorality, sins of the flesh, are associated, and are traced to lack of the acknowledgment of God and of gratitude to Him. An “idolater” is a slave to the depraved ideas his idols represent, Galatians 4:8-Galatians 4:9; and thereby, to divers lusts, Titus 3:3 (See Notes on Thess. by Hogg and Vine, p. 44). (4)

Idolatry from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

i-dol’-a-tri (teraphim, “household idols,” “idolatry”; eidololatreia): There is ever in the human mind a craving for visible forms to express religious conceptions, and this tendency does not disappear with the acceptance, or even with the constant recognition, of pure spiritual truths (see IMAGES). Idolatry originally meant the worship of idols, or the worship of false gods by means of idols, but came to mean among the Old Testament Hebrews any worship of false gods, whether by images or otherwise, and finally the worship of Yahweh through visible symbols (Ho 8:5-6; 10:5); and ultimately in the New Testament idolatry came to mean, not only the giving to any creature or human creation the honor or devotion which belonged to God alone, but the giving to any human desire a precedence over God’s will (1Co 10:14; Ga 5:20; Col 3:5; 1Pe 4:3). The neighboring gods of Phoenicia, Canaan, Moab–Baal, Melkart, Astarte, Chemosh, Moloch, etc.–were particularly attractive to Jerusalem, while the old Semitic calf-worship seriously affected the state religion of the Northern Kingdom (see GOLDEN CALF). As early as the Assyrian and Babylonian periods (8th and 7th centuries BC), various deities from the Tigris and Euphrates had intruded themselves–the worship of Tammuz becoming a little later the most popular and seductive of all (Eze 8:14)–while the worship of the sun, moon, stars and signs of the Zodiac became so intensely fascinating that these were introduced even into the temple itself (2Ki 17:16; 21:3-7; 23:4,12; Jer. 19:13; Eze 8:16; Am 5:26).

Topical Bible outline for “Idolatry.”

The special enticements to idolatry as offered by these various cults were found in their deification of natural forces and their appeal to primitive human desires, especially the sexual; also through associations produced by intermarriage and through the appeal to patriotism, when the help of some cruel deity was sought in time of war. Baal and Astarte worship, which was especially attractive, was closely associated with fornication and drunkenness (Am 2:7-8; compare 1Ki 14:23 f), and also appealed greatly to magic and soothsaying (e.g. Isa 2:6; 3:2; 8:19).

Sacrifices to the idols were offered by fire (Ho 4:13); libations were poured out (Isa 57:6; Jer 7:18); the first-fruits of the earth and tithes were presented (Ho 2:8); tables of food were set before them (Isa 65:11); the worshippers kissed the idols or threw them kisses (1Ki 19:18; Ho 13:2; Job 31:27); stretched out their hands in adoration (Isa 44:20); knelt or prostrated themselves before them and sometimes danced about the altar, gashing themselves with knives (1Ki 18:26,28; for a fuller summary see EB ).

See a list of verses on IDOLATRY in the Bible.

Even earlier than the Babylonian exile the Hebrew prophets taught that Yahweh was not only superior to all other gods, but reigned alone as God, other deities being nonentities (Le 19:4; Isa 2:8,18,20; 19:1,3; 31:7; 44:9-20). The severe satire of this period proves that the former fear of living demons supposed to inhabit the idols had disappeared. These prophets also taught that the temple, ark and sacrifices were not essential to true spiritual worship (e.g. Jer 3:16; Am 5:21-25). These prophecies produced a strong reaction against the previously popular idol-worship, though later indications of this worship are not infrequent (Eze 14:1-8; Isa 42:17). The Maccabean epoch placed national heroism plainly on the side of the one God, Yahweh; and although Greek and Egyptian idols were worshipped in Gaza and Ascalon and other half-heathen communities clear down to the 5th or 6th century of the Christian era, yet in orthodox centers like Jerusalem these were despised and repudiated utterly from the 2nd century BC onward.

See the definition of idolatry in the KJV Dictionary
See also the McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia.
Wm. Wake, A Discourse concerning the Nature of Idolatry, 1688; W.R. Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites; E.B. Tylor, Primitive Culture; J.G. Frazer, Golden Bough (3 vols); L.R. Farnell, Evolution of Religion, 1905; Baudissin, Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte; Beathgen, Der Gott Israels u. die Gotter der Heiden, 1888.
Camden M. Cobern (5)

In closing, a great sermon on Idolatry:

Idolatry Condemned

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.—1 John 5:21

John has, in this epistle, written much concerning the love of Jesus, as well he might, for he knew more about that love than any other man knew. And yet, when he had written concerning love to Jesus, he was moved to an intense jealousy lest by any means the hearts of those to whom he wrote should be turned aside from that dear Lover of their souls who deserved their entire affection. And, therefore, not only love to them, but also love to Jesus made him wind up his letter with these significant words, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”…

First, keep yourselves from worshipping yourselves. Alas, how many fall into this gross sin! Some do it by indulgence at the table. How much of eating, and especially of drinking, is there which, correctly speaking, is nothing better than gluttony and drunkenness! There are professing Christians who perhaps never are regarded as intoxicated, yet they sip and sip and sip until, if they do not lose the control of their brain, they cause observers to raise the question whether they ever had any at all. It is almost a pity for some professing Christians that they can thus indulge themselves at home…It is a scandalous thing when there is such a sin as this in the Church of God…I urge all of you, beloved, to see to it that you offer no sacrifices to gluttony nor pour out libations to Bacchus. For if you do, you prove that you are idolaters worshipping your own bellies and that God’s love dwelleth not within you.

There are others who worship themselves by living a life of indolence. They have nothing to do, and they seem to do it very thoroughly. They take their ease, and that is the main thing in which they take any interest. They flit from pleasure to pleasure, from show to show, from vanity to vanity, as if this life were only a garden in which butterflies might fly from flower to flower, and not a sphere where serious work was to be done and all-important business for eternity was to be accomplished. Worship not yourselves by trifling as these indolent people do.

Some worship themselves by decorating their bodies most elaborately. Their first and their last thought being, “What shall we wear?” Fall not into that idolatry.

Then there are some people who make idols of their wealth. Getting money seems to be the main purpose of their lives. Now it is right that a Christian man should be diligent in business. He should not be second to anybody in the diligence with which he attends to the affairs of this life. But it is always a pity when we can be truthfully told, “So-and-so is getting richer every year, but he has got stingier also. He gives less now than he gave when he had only half as much as he now has.” We meet occasionally with people like the man who, when he was comparatively poor, gave his guinea; but when he grew rich, he only gave a shilling…

Some worship the pursuit which they have undertaken. They give their whole soul up to their art or their particular calling, whatever it may be. In a certain sense, this is a right thing to do; yet we must never forget that the first and great commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mat 22:37). This must always have the first place.

Let me here touch a very tender point. There are some who make idols of their dearest relatives and friends. Some have done this with their children. I remember reading a story of a good man who seemed as if he could never forgive God for taking away his child. He sat in a Quakers’ meeting, bowed down and sorrowful, and his time of deliverance came when a sister rose [and] uttered these words, “Verily, I perceive that children are idols,” and then resumed her seat. Such a message as that is often needed; yet it is a pity that it should be. Make no idol of your child or your wife or your husband; for by putting them into Christ’s place, you really provoke Him to take them from you. Love them as much as you please—I would that some loved their children, their husbands, or their wives more than they do—but always love them in such a fashion that Christ shall have the first place in your hearts.

The catalogue of idols that we are apt to worship is a very long one…It would take me a very long while to make a list of the various forms which the idolatry of the heart will take. But in a sentence let me say to you: remember that God has a right to your whole being. There is nothing, and there can be nothing which ought to be supreme in your affections save your Lord. And if you worship anything or any ideal whatever it may be, if you love that more than you love your God, you are an idolater; and you are disobeying the command of the text, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”…

I would say to you, beloved, in closing my observations upon this point: in the matter of your faith, be sure to keep yourselves from the idol of the hour. Some of us have lived long enough to see the world’s idols altered any number of times. Just now, in some professedly Christian churches, the idol is “intellectualism,” “culture,” “modern thought.” Whatever name it bears, it has no right to be in a Christian church, for it believes very little that appertains to Christ. Now I have some sort of respect for a downright honest infidel, like Voltaire14 or Tom Paine.15 But I have none for the man who goes to college to be trained for the Christian ministry, and then claims to be free to doubt the deity of Christ, the need of conversion, the punishment of the wicked, and other truths that seem to me to be essential to a full proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Such a man must have strange views of honesty. And so has the minister who goes into a pulpit and addresses people when he knows that he does not believe any of the doctrines that are dearer to them than their own lives. Yet, the moment he is called to account for his unbelief, he cries out, “Persecution! Persecution! Bigotry! Bigotry!” A burglar, if I found him outside my bedroom door and held him till the policeman came, might consider me to be very bigoted because I did not care to have my property stolen by him and because I interfered with his liberty. So, in like manner, I am called bigoted because I will not allow a man to come and assail from my own pulpit the truths which are dearer to me than my life. I am quite willing to give that man liberty to go and publish his views somewhere else and at his own expense. But it shall not be done at my expense nor in the midst of a congregation gathered by me for the worship of God and the proclamation of the truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures. Keep yourselves from this idol of the times; for it is the precursor of death to any church that gives it admittance…

Believe me, my brethren, that the Church of Christ, if not the world, shall yet learn that the highest culture is a heart that is cultivated by divine grace; that the truest science is…Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and that the greatest thought and the deepest of all metaphysics are found at the foot of the cross; and that the men who will keep on simply and earnestly preaching the old-fashioned gospel, and the people who will stand fast in the old paths are they who will most certainly win the victory. When those who are sailing in a frail bark, which they or their fellow-sinners have constructed, without a rudder, without a pilot at the helm, shall drift away and be dashed to pieces upon the rocks, they who trust in the Lord and have Him as their Pilot shall be kept clear of the rocks on which others have made shipwreck and shall be safely steered into the haven of peace and there be at rest for ever. (6)

Westminster Shorter Catechism on Idolatry with Proof Texts:

Q. 45. Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. [119]
119] Exodus 20:3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Deuteronomy 5:7. Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

Q. 46. What is required in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly. [120]
[120] 1 Chronicles 28:9. And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever. Isaiah 45:20-25. Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? Who hath told it from that time? Have not I the LORD? And there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. Matthew 4:10. Then saith Jesus unto him, get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Q. 47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A. The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, [121] or not worshiping and glorifying, the true God as God, [122] and our God; [123] and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone. [124]
[121] Psalm 14:1. The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
[122] Romans 1:20-21. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
[123] Psalm 81:10-11. I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
[124] Ezekiel 8:16-18. And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. Romans 1:25. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Q. 48. What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
A. These words before me in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God. [125]
[125] Deuteronomy 30:17-18. But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. Psalm 44:20-21. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; shall not God search this out? For he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Ezekiel 8:12. Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.

“Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14)

“Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.” – John Calvin

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:21)

“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)


1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Exodus, Vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 131.
2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1142.
3. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “Idol,” (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 573-574.
4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “Idolatry,” (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 574-575.
5. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, “Entry for ‘Idolatry,’” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 1447-1448.
6. Charles Spurgeon, from a sermon delivered, at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Lord’s-Day Evening, Sept. 6th, 1874.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at:

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes:

** CARM theological dictionary
And at


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