What is meant by the term Atonement?

What is meant by the term Atonement? By Jack Kettler

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

Definitions: Atonement or substitutionary atonement

Atonement: To atone means to make amends, to repair a wrong done. Biblically, it means to remove sin. The Old Testament atonements offered by the high priest were temporary and a foreshadow of the real and final atonement made by Jesus. Jesus atoned for the sins of the world (1John 2:2). This atonement is received by faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Man is a sinner (Romans 5:8) and cannot atone for himself. Therefore, it was the love of the Father that sent Jesus (1John 4:10) to die in our place (1Peter 3:18) for our sins (1Peter 2:24). Because of the atonement, our fellowship with God is restored (Romans 5:10). *

What is the substitutionary atonement?

Answer: The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” **

What the Scriptures say along with selected commentary entries:

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

The Pulpit Commentary provides excellent commentary of this passage from Isaiah:

“Verse 5. – But he was wounded for our transgressions. This verse contains four asseverations of the great truth that all Christ’s sufferings were for us, and constituted the atonement for our sins. The form is varied, but the truth is one. Christ was “wounded” or “pierced”

(1) by the thorns; (2) by the nails; and (3) by the spear of the soldier.

The wounds inflicted by the nails caused his death, He was bruised; or, crushed (comp. Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 19:10; Isaiah 57:15. Psalm 72:4). “No stronger expression could be found in Hebrew to denote severity of suffering – suffering unto death” (Urwick). The chastisement of our peace was upon him; i.e. “the chastisement which brought us peace,” which put a stop to the enmity between fallen man and an offended God – which made them once more at one (comp. Ephesians 2:15-17, “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the Law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off;” Colossians 1:20, “Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself”). With his stripes we are healed; rather, we were healed (comp. 1Peter 2:24, “By whose stripes ye were healed”). Besides the blows inflicted on him with the hand (Matthew 26:27) and with the reed (Matthew 27:30), our Lord was judicially scourged (Matthew 27:26). Such scourging would leave the “stripe-marks” which are here spoken of.” (1)

“Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25ESV)

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:12)

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” (Hebrews 13:12)

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Peter 2:24)

Matthew Poole’s Commentary is profitable for 1Peter 2:24:

“Who his own self, not by offering any other sacrifice, (as the Levitical priests did), but by that of himself.

Bare our sins; or, took up, or lifted up, in allusion to the sacrifices of the Old Testament, the same word being used of them, Hebrews 7:27 Jam 2:21. As the sins of the offerer were typically laid upon the sacrifice, which, being substituted in his place, was likewise slain in his stead; so Christ standing in our room, took upon him the guilt of our sins, and bare their punishment, Isaiah 53:4, &c. The Lord laid on him our iniquities, and he willingly took them up; and by bearing their curse, took away our guilt. Or, it may have respect to the cross, on which Christ being lifted up, {John 3:14, 15 Joh 12:32} took up our sins with him, and expiated their guilt by undergoing that death which was due to us for them.

In his own body; this doth not exclude his soul but is rather to be understood, by a synecdoche, of his whole human nature, and we have the sufferings of his soul mentioned, Isaiah 53:10,12Jo 12:27; but mention is made of his body, because the sufferings of that were most visible.

On the tree, on the cross.

That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; another end of Christ’s death, the mortification of sin, and our being freed from the dominion of it, Romans 6:2,6, and being reformed to a life of holiness.

By whose stripes ye were healed; viz. of the wound made in your souls by sin: this seems to relate to the blows that servants might receive of cruel masters, against which the apostle comforts them, and to the patient bearing of which he exhorts them, because Christ by bearing stripes, (a servile punishment), under which may be comprehended all the sufferings of his death, had healed them of much worse wounds, and spiritual diseases, the guilt of their consciences, and the defilement of their souls.” (2)

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2:2)

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

Synonyms for atonement:

Redemption; reparation; amends; expiation; payment; propitiation; recompense; redress; restitution; satisfaction

Propitiation: This means the turning away of wrath by an offering. It is similar to expiation but expiation does not carry the nuances involving wrath. For the Christian the propitiation was the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It turned away the wrath of God so that He could pass “over the sins previously committed” (Romans 3:25). It was the Father who sent the Son to be the propitiation (1John 4:10) for all (1John 2:2). *

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of OT Words on Atone:


A. Verb.

Kâphar (כָּפַר, Strong’s #3722), “to cover over, atone, propitiate, pacify.” This root is found in the Hebrew language at all periods of its history, and perhaps is best known from the term Yom Kippur, “Day of Atonement.” Its verbal forms occur approximately 100 times in the Hebrew Bible. Kâphar is first found in Gen. 6:14, where it is used in its primary sense of “to cover over.” Here God gives Noah instructions concerning the ark, including, “Cover it inside and out with pitch” (RSV). (The KJV translates, “Pitch it within and without with pitch.”)Most uses of the word, however, involve the theological meaning of “covering over,” often with the blood of a sacrifice, in order to atone for some sin. It is not clear whether this means that the “covering over” hides the sin from God’s sight or implies that the sin is wiped away in this process.

As might be expected, this word occurs more frequently in the Book of Leviticus than in any other book, since Leviticus deals with the ritual sacrifices that were made to atone for sin. For example, Lev. 4:13-21 gives instructions for bringing a young bull to the tent of meeting for a sin offering. After the elders laid their hands on the bull (to transfer the people’s sin to the bull), the bull was killed. The priest then brought some of the blood of the bull into the tent of meeting and sprinkled it seven times before the veil. Some of the blood was put on the horns of the altar and the rest of the blood was poured at the base of the altar of burnt offering. The fat of the bull was then burned on the altar. The bull itself was to be burned outside the camp. By means of this ritual, “the priest shall make an atonement [kâphar] for them, and it shall be forgiven them” (Lev. 4:20).

The term “atonement” is found at least 16 times in Lev. 16, the great chapter concerning the Day of Atonement. Before anything else, the high priest had to “make atonement” for himself and his house by offering a bull as a sin offering. After lots were cast upon the two goats, one was sent away into the wilderness as an atonement (v. 10), while the other was sacrificed and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat as an atonement for the people (vv. 15-20). The Day of Atonement was celebrated only once a year. Only on this day could the high priest enter the holy of holies of the tabernacle or temple on behalf of the people of Israel and make atonement for them.

Sometimes atonement for sin was made apart from or without blood offerings. During his vision-call experience, Isaiah’s lips were touched with a coal of fire taken from the altar by one of the seraphim. With that, he was told, “Thy sin is purged [kâphar]” (Isa. 6:7). The English versions translate the word variously as “purged” (KJV, JB); “forgiven” (RSV, NASB, TEV); and “wiped away” (NEB). In another passage, Scripture says that the guilt or iniquity of Israel would be “purged” (KJV, NEB) by the destruction of the implements of idolatrous worship (Isa. 27:9). In this case, the RSV renders kapar as “expiated,” while the NASB and TEV translate it as “forgiven.”

B. Noun.

Kappôreth (כַּפֹּרֶת, Strong’s #3727), “mercy seat; throne of mercy.” This noun form of kapar has been variously interpreted by the English versions as “mercy seat” (KJV, RSV); “cover” (NEB); “lid” (TEV); “throne of mercy” (JB); and “throne” (Knox). It refers to a slab of gold that rested on top of the ark of the covenant. Images of two cherubims stood on this slab, facing each other. This slab of gold represented the throne of God and symbolized His real presence in the worship shrine. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sin offering on it, apparently symbolizing the blood’s reception by God. Thus, the Kappôreth was the central point at which Israel, through its high priest, could come into the presence of God.

This is further seen in the fact that the temple proper was distinguished from its porches and other accompanying structures by the name “place of the mercy seat (Kappôreth)” (1Chron. 28:11). The Septuagint refers to the mercy seat as a “propitiary” (hilasteirion). (3)

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

1Strong’s Number: g2643 Greek: katallage


Translated “atonement” in the AV of Rom 5:11, signifies, not “atonement,” but “reconciliation,” as in the RV. See also Rom 11:15; 2Cr 5:18, 19. So with the corresponding verb katallasso, see under RECONCILE. “Atonement” (the explanation of this English word as being “at-one-ment” is entirely fanciful) is frequently found in the OT. See, for instance, Leviticus, chapters 16 and 17. The corresponding NT words are hilasmos, “propitiation,” 1Jo 2:2; 4:10, and hilasterion, Rom 3:25; Hebrews 9:5, “mercy-seat,” the covering of the ark of the covenant. These describe the means (in and through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His death on the Cross by the shedding of His blood in His vicarious sacrifice for sin) by which God shows mercy to sinners.


A-1 Verb Strong’s Number: g2433 Greek: hilaskomai


was used amongst the Greeks with the significance “to make the gods propitious, to appease, propitiate,” inasmuch as their good will was not conceived as their natural attitude, but something to be earned first. This use of the word is foreign to the Greek Bible, with respect to God, whether in the Sept. or in the NT. It is never used of any act whereby man brings God into a favorable attitude or gracious disposition. It is God who is “propitiated” by the vindication of His holy and righteous character, whereby, through the provision He has made in the vicarious and expiatory sacrifice of Christ, He has so dealt with sin that He can show mercy to the believing sinner in the removal of his guilt and the remission of his sins.

Thus in Luke 18:13 it signifies “to be propitious” or “merciful to” (with the person as the object of the verb), and in Hebrews 2:17 “to expiate, to make propitiation for” (the object of the verb being sins); here the RV, “to make propitiation” is an important correction of the AV, “to make reconciliation.” Through the “propitiation” sacrifice of Christ, he who believes upon Him is by God’s own act delivered from justly deserved wrath, and comes under the covenant of grace. Never is God said to be reconciled, a fact itself indicative that the enmity exists on man’s part alone, and that it is man who needs to be reconciled to God, and not God to man. God is always the same and, since He is Himself immutable, His relative attitude does change towards those who change. He can act differently towards those who come to Him by faith, and solely on the ground of the “propitiatory” sacrifice of Christ, not because He has changed, but because He ever acts according to His unchanging righteousness.

The expiatory work of the Cross is therefore the means whereby the barrier which sin interposes between God and man is broken down. By the giving up of His sinless life sacrificially, Christ annuls the power of sin to separate between God and the believer.

In the OT the Hebrew verb kaphar is connected with kopher, “a covering” (see MERCY-SEAT), and is used in connection with the burnt offering, e.g., Lev 1:4; 14:20; 16:24, the guilt offering e.g., Lev 5:16,18, the sin offering, e.g., Lev 4:20, 26, 31, 35, the sin offering and burnt offering together, e.g., Lev 5:10; 9:7, the meal offering and peace offering, e.g., Ezekiel 45:15, 17, as well as in other respects. It is used of the ram offered at the consecration of the high priest, Exodus 29:33, and of the blood which God gave upon the altar to make “propitiation” for the souls of the people, and that because “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” Lev 17:11, and “it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life” (RV). Man has forfeited his life on account of sin and God has provided the one and only way whereby eternal life could be bestowed, namely, by the voluntary laying down of His life by His Son, under Divine retribution. Of this, the former sacrifices appointed by God were foreshadowings.

B-1 Noun Strong’s Number: g2435 Greek: hilasterion


Akin to A, is regarded as the neuter of an adjective signifying “propitiatory.” In the Sept. it is used adjectivelly in connection with epithema, “a cover,” in Exodus 25:17; 37:6, of the lid of the ark (see MERCY-SEAT), but it is used as a noun (without epithema), of locality, in Exodus 25:18-22; 31:7; 35:12; 37:7, 8, 9; Lev 16:2, 13-15; Num. 7:89, and this is its use in Hebrews 9:5.

Elsewhere in the NT, it occurs in Rom 3:25, where it is used of Christ Himself; the RV text and punctuation in this verse are important: “whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by His blood.” The phrase “by His blood” is to be taken in immediate connection with “propitiation.” Christ, through His expiatory death, is the Personal means by whom God shows the mercy of His justifying grace to the sinner who believes. His “blood” stands for the voluntary giving up of His life, by the shedding of His blood in expiatory sacrifice, under Divine judgment righteously due to us as sinners, faith being the sole condition on man’s part.

Note: “By metonymy, ‘blood’ is sometimes put for ‘death,’ inasmuch as, blood being essential to life, Lev 17:11, when the blood is shed life is given up, that is, death takes place. The fundamental principle on which God deals with sinners is expressed in the words ‘apart from shedding of blood,’ i.e., unless a death takes place, ‘there is no remission’ of sins,” Hebrews 9:22.

“But whereas the essential of the type lay in the fact that blood was shed, the essential of the antitype lies in this, that the blood shed was that of Christ. Hence, in connection with Jewish sacrifices, ‘the blood’ is mentioned without reference to the victim from which it flowed, but in connection with the great antitypical sacrifice of the NT the words ‘the blood’ never stand alone; the One Who shed the blood is invariably specified, for it is the Person that gives value to the work; the saving efficacy of the Death depends entirely upon the fact that He Who died was the Son of God.” *

[* From Notes on Thessalonians by Hogg and Vine, p. 168.]

B-2 Noun Strong’s Number: g2434 Greek: hilasmos


Akin to hileos (“merciful, propitious”), signifies “an expiation, a means whereby sin is covered and remitted.” It is used in the NT of Christ Himself as “the propitiation,” in 1Jo 2:2; 4:10, signifying that He Himself, through the expiatory sacrifice of His Death, is the Personal means by whom God shows mercy to the sinner who believes on Christ as the One thus provided. In the former passage, He is described as “the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.” The italicized addition in the AV, “the sins of,” gives a wrong interpretation. What is indicated is that provision is made for the whole world, so that no one is, by Divine predetermination, excluded from the scope of God’s mercy; the efficacy of the “propitiation,” however, is made actual for those who believe. In 1Jo 4:10, the fact that God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” is shown to be the great expression of God’s love toward man, and the reason why Christians should love one another. In the Sept., Lev 25:9; Num. 5:8; 1Ch 28:20; Psalm 130:4; Ezekiel 44:27; Amos 8:14. (4)

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology – Atonement:


That the Bible’s central message is atonement, that is, that God has provided a way for humankind to come back into harmonious relation with him, is everywhere apparent in Scripture. From the first stories in Genesis to the last visions of Revelation, God seeks to reconcile his people to himself. Atonement, however, cannot be usefully discussed in this way, and translators have settled on it, and its cognate expressions, as a translation for a relatively circumscribed number of nouns and verbs in the Bible.

The Old Testament In the Old Testament atonement, and related phrases, such as sacrifice of atonement, most often translates the Hebrew piel verb kipur [ruPiK] and two related nouns, one, kippurim, found always in the plural and signifying the noun equivalent of kipur [ruPiK], and the other, kapporeth [t,roP;K], meaning the so-called mercy-seat or the place where the sacrifice of atonement happens. These occur with meanings related to atonement around 140 times, almost always in the context of the cults, as a sacrifice for sins and to provide reconciliation to God.

The breadth of the use of the concept in the Old Testament is striking. Atonement is provided for inanimate objects such as a mildewing house, the altar in the temple, the sanctuary (i.e., the Holy of Holies within the Tent of Meeting), the holy place, and the tent of meeting/temple itself. In one place atonement is also provided for an animal, the scapegoat used in the atonement rituals found in Leviticus 16. Sacrifice accomplishes atonement “for sins” in many places, though these passages always mean atonement for people “because of” their sins rather than atonement “on behalf of” sins, as if sins were being personified and therefore in need of redemption. Of course, the majority of all the references are to atonement on behalf of people, either individually or as members of the community of Israel.

Atonement for inanimate objects is found twelve places in the Old Testament: ex 29:36-37; 30:10; le 8:15; 14:53; 16:10, 16, 18, 20; eze 43:20, 26; 45:20. Eleven of these passages refer to cleansing either the tent/temple, one of its rooms, or the altar inside it. The lone exception refers to the cleansing of a contaminated house. In one of the stranger passages of the Law, God instructs Moses and Aaron about the purification rites they are to apply to a house that has “a spreading mildew” and declares that, if a house responds to the treatment, then it can be declared clean (Lev 14:33-53 ). The priest cleanses the house by sacrificing a bird, and dipping cedar wood, hyssop, scarlet yarn, and a live bird in the blood of the dead bird, then sprinkling the blood on the house seven times. He then is to release the live bird into the open fields outside the town. “In this way he will make atonement for the house, and it will be clean” (Lev 14:53).

The entire passage significantly echoes the preceding passage in which a human being undergoes the same investigations and purifications for infectious skin diseases, and it anticipates the important regulations of Leviticus 16 concerning the Day of Atonement, the most important sacrifice of all, when sacrifice is made for the cleansing of the sins of all the people. The point is apparently that the surface of the skin can demonstrate a deeper sickness underneath as can the surface of a house; both need to be cleansed of that deeper sickness as does the human heart of its sin.

Far more important are the references to the atonement of the Tent of Meeting, the temple, the holy place, the sanctuary, and the altar. These take place in the contexts of the ordination of priests (Exod 29:35-37; Lev 8:15), God’s instructions for the building of the eschatological temple in the later chapters of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 43:20 Ezekiel 43:26; 45:20), and the Day of Atonement itself (Leviticus 16:16 Leviticus 16:18 Leviticus 16:20). The need for cleansing the buildings, the altar and the sanctuaries is due to the fact that these are the meeting places of the divine, Holy One with his people. The holiness and purity of God are so emphasized that not only does he and the one who approaches him have to be pure, but even the means of their communication and relationship must be covered by the blood of an atoning sacrifice because of its contamination by sin.

It is perhaps important that this cleansing of inanimate objects, with the lone exception of the house (which seems to serve as an analog to human cleansing), is limited to the house of God and its parts. There is no sense that the world is God’s place of meeting and in need of a cleansing sacrifice of atonement, but rather that the special cultic and covenantal relationship that God has with his people is what is in need of purification. This is not to deny that the world has been infected by sin, just that the particular relationship of redemption that God has with his covenant people is not extended to the whole world, but simply to the people of Israel, and even that is vicarious, that is, through the priests and their cultic duties.

Primary among the objects of atonement in the Old Testament are the people of God, but the means of atonement can vary. Goats, sheep, and birds are listed among the acceptable animals to be sacrificed, but there were also grain, oil, and drink offerings. Ransom money can provide atonement for the lives of the people; God commands at least one census to be made of the people at which each participant pays the same amount to buy his life and the lives of his family from God, who promises no plague will harm them when they do pay (Exod 30:11-16). Significantly, the money is to be used to support the services of the Tent of Meeting, hence tying it to the sacrifice of blood for atonement, if only in a tangential way. The other non animal sacrifices are often equally tied to atonement by blood.

Certainly the most frequently mentioned means of atonement in the Old Testament were the blood sacrifices, dominating the use of the term by constant reference in the books of Leviticus and Numbers. Atonement needed to be made for everything from heinous crimes like idolatry (Num16:47) to mistakes of intent, when the only sin was ignorance or error, not willful disobedience (Num15:22-29).

Perhaps the heart of the Old Testament teaching on atonement is found in Leviticus 16, where the regulations for the Day of Atonement occur. Five characteristics relating to the ritual of the Day of Atonement are worthy of note because they are generally true of atonement as it is found throughout Scripture: (1) the sovereignty of God in atonement; (2) the purpose and result of making atonement; (3) the two goats emphasize two different things, and the burning another, about the removal of sin; (4) that Aaron had to make special sacrifice for himself; (5) the comprehensive quality of the act.

Atonement is clearly the action of God and not of man throughout the Bible, but especially in Leviticus 16. Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu, had been recently put to death by the Lord for disobeying his command by offering “unauthorized fire” before the Lord (Lev 10:1-3). Here God gives Aaron precise instructions concerning how he wants the sacrifices to be made, down to the clothes Aaron is to wear, the bathing rituals in which he is to engage, and the types of sacrificial animals he is to bring. His sovereignty is further emphasized by the fact that the lot is used to choose which goat will be sacrificed and which goat will serve as the scapegoat.

The purpose for the ritual is made very clear in several places. It is to cleanse you “from all your sins” (Lev 16:30). Other passages make it clear that such cleansing results in saving the life of the participant (cf., e.g., Lev 17:11). The restoring of pure relationship is an important result, too, since the atonement is for all “uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been” (Lev 16:16). Thus Israel is reunited in purity to its God by the atoning sacrifice for sins.

The symbolic import of the sacrifices is so detailed that three different actions were necessary to display everything that God apparently intended us to understand about the way he was to deal with sin. The sacrificial death of the first goat showed clearly that the offense of sin requires the punishment of death (Eze 18:4). The sending of the second goat into the wilderness with the sins laid on the top of its head emphasizes that sin will be removed from the person and the community “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). The burning of the sacrifice so that it is consumed shows the power of God over sin, completely destroying it so that it can bother the supplicant no more.

Particularly important for the full biblical picture of atonement as it is found in Christ is the sacrifice Aaron makes for himself and his family (Lev 16:11-14). Everyone, even the high priest, is guilty and needs atonement that can only be provided by God himself. The author of Hebrews emphasizes this point to make clear his doctrine of the purity of Christ as both the true and perfect sacrifice and the true and perfect priest who performs the ritual of atonement (8:3-6; 9:6-15). The Old Testament sacrifices are shown to be but shadows of the real sacrifice of Christ on the cross by the fact of Aaron’s sinfulness; an imperfect high priest cannot offer a true sacrifice, just as the blood of bulls and goats could never truly pay for the offense of human sin or substitute for the shedding of human blood.

Lastly, atonement covers all the sins — intentional, unintentional, heinous, trivial of those for whom it is intended. No one was to enter the Tent of Meeting until the ritual was over because what was taking place there was for the whole of the community of Israel (Lev 16:17), presumably because any interference with the sovereign action of God’s cleansing might bring an impurity into the equation that would nullify the purificatory act. The comprehensive nature of the sacrifice of atonement prefigures the comprehensiveness of the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross, but it limits its effects in the same way the Old Testament limits the effects of its sacrifice on the day of atonement to the people whom God has elected to call his own and them alone.

The New Testament The so-called ransom saying, found in the Gospel of Mark (10:45 ; cf. the parallel saying at Matt 20:28), has been much disputed as to its authenticity, but its theological content is clear. Speaking in the context of the apostles’ dispute over which of them is the greatest, Jesus relates his mission to two things: serving all and giving his life as a ransom for many. Like many of the teachings of Jesus, the saying dramatically extends the answer to an immediate question or problem (that of the selfishness and pride of the apostles) to include something that no one would have linked to that problem (the ransom nature of the cross). The saying of course primarily relates the death of Christ to the metaphor of service; giving his life is the greatest example of servanthood that can be imagined. The fact that his death is also a ransom links the idea of atonement to the servant spirit of the Christ, probably in the light of the famous servant song of Isaiah 53.

The second Gospel passage relating to atonement appears in the eucharistic words of Jesus recorded in all three Gospels (Matt 26:26-29; = Mark 14:22-25; = Luke 22:15-20). At Luke 22:19-20, Jesus asserts that both the bread and the wine symbolize the fact that his death would be “for you” (huper humon [uJpevruJmw’n]), a phrase not found in the other Gospels (though the notion of the blood of Christ being “poured out for many” is found in both Matthew and Mark). The key element linking the passage in all three Gospels to atonement is the sacrificial nature of the language; the poured-out blood is the blood of the lamb of Leviticus 16, sacrificed “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28).

To discuss Paul on atonement is, again, to make a choice between a thorough discussion of Paul’s soteriology and limiting oneself to a discussion of the meaning of hilasterion [iJlasthvrion] in Romans 3:25. Space does not even allow for a full evaluation of the latter in this article. The preponderance of the evidence weighs in favor of a translation that recognizes the background of Leviticus 16 in the crucial passage. Some now argue that Paul intends a quite specific reference to the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant and that hilasterion [iJlasthvrion] should be translated “mercy seat.”

In any case the passage occurs in a clear context of God’s righteous, wrathful judgment against the sins of humankind (Rom 1:18-3:31; cf. esp. 1:18; 2:5) and declares God’s merciful action of atonement on behalf of his people. He takes an action that is rightly called “substitutionary,” putting his Son in our place and so remaining just but also demonstrating his mercy (3:25-26). This shuts out any possibility for humankind to boast of its having saved itself (3:27). Thus the themes of sovereignty, mercy, and comprehensiveness that we saw present in Leviticus 16 are paramount in the mind of Paul too.

The same applies to the rest of the references to hilasterion and its cognates (hilaskomai [iJlasmov], hilasmos [iJlasmov]) in the New Testament. Hebrews 2:17 points squarely at Jesus as the high priests of Leviticus 16 who offers a sacrifice of atonement (hilaskomai [iJlavskomai]) for his brothers and is therefore a merciful and faithful high priest, but who is of course also the very sacrifice he offers, suffering so that he is able to help those who are tempted in their time of need. The oneness both between Jesus and the redeemed and between God and humanity is emphasized by the family metaphor used throughout the context of the passage (Heb 2:10-17). Similarly, in 1 John 2:2 Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement (hilasmos [iJlasmov]) is powerful enough to heal the sins of the whole world and unite it to God, but it is only “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1) who can accomplish this. God’s sovereignty and love in atonement are clearly seen in 1jo 4:10 and cap the New Testament teaching on this essential doctrine: our love for God is not the issue, but rather his for us and it is this love that has both motivated and produced the sacrifice of atonement (hilasmos [iJlasmov]) necessary for healing the relationship of God to man. So the biblical teaching about atonement is summed up: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jo 4:10). Andrew H. Trotter, Jr. (5)

In Closing:

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 11.3:

iii. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them; and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

The confession is saying that the atonement is the means by which a fallen sinner is reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrificial suffering and death on his behalf.

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


1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Isaiah, Vol.10., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 205-206.

2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 907.

3. W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of OT, (Dallas, TX, Thomas Nelson), p. 10.

4. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), pp. 77-78; 895.

5. Walter A. Elwell, Editor, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House), p. 42-45.

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 is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* CARM https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd/a/atonement.html

** https://www.gotquestions.org/substitutionary-atonement.html

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What is meant by the term advent?

What is meant by the term advent? By Jack Kettler

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


Advent: The coming of Christ, used to refer to either his incarnation (first advent), or his future second coming (second advent). Also used in reference to the season of worship (or the period of the church calendar) leading up to and anticipating the celebration of the birth of Christ. *

What is Advent?

The word advent itself means, “arrival” or “an appearing or coming into place.” Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. His first advent would be the Incarnation—Christmastime. **

The English word ‘Advent’ comes from a Latin word ‘Adventus’ that means “coming”.

Gleaning from Strong’s Lexicon:

3952. Parousia — a presence, a coming

Of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: Parousia Phonetic Spelling:

(par-oo-see’-ah) Short Definition: presence, a coming, arrival, advent

1660. eleusis – a coming

A coming. Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: eleusis Phonetic Spelling:

(el’-yoo-sis) Short Definition: a coming, arrival, advent

2015. epiphaneia — appearance

Appearance, brightness. From epiphanes; a manifestation, i.e. (specially) the advent

Of Christ (past or future) — appearing, brightness. See GREEK epiphanes….

3824. paliggenesia — regeneration, renewal

3824 (“renewal, rebirth”) is used twice in the NT referring to: a) the re-birth

Of at Christ’s return (Advent), which inaugurates His millennial kingdom (Mt 19 …

Synonyms for advent:

Advent is a noun signifying the beginning or arrival of something anticipated.

Arrival; coming; appearance, visitation, second coming; Parousia; incarnation.

From the Scriptures and selected commentary evidence:

Frist Advent:

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4)

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers explains this passage from Galatians nicely:

“(4) The fullness of the time.—That which was predetermined in the counsels of God as the right and proper time when the whole course of previous preparation both for Jew and Gentile was complete. Here we have a very clear expression of the conception of religion as progressive, divided into periods, and finding its culmination in Christianity. The phrase “fullness of the time” corresponds to “the time appointed of the father” in Galatians 4:2.

Sent forth—i.e., from Himself; from that station which is described in John 1:1: “The Word was with God.” The pre-existence of the Son is distinctly recognised by St. Paul.

Made of a woman.—Perhaps better translated, born of a woman. There is no allusion here to the miraculous conception. The phrase “born of a woman” was of common use. Comp. Matthew 11:11: “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” So here, the expression is intended to bring out, not the divinity, but the true humanity of Christ.

Made under the law.—Born under law—i.e., born into a state of things where the whole world was subject to law—born under the legal dispensation, though Himself destined to put an end to that dispensation.” (1)

Second Advent:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” (Matthew 25:31 ESV)

“Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming [Advent] of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.” (Acts 7:52)

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

From the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Titus 2:13:

“13. (Php 3:20, 21).

Looking for—with constant expectation (so the Greek) and with joy (Ro 8:19). This will prove the antidote to worldly lusts, and the stimulus to “live in this present world” conformably to this expectation. The Greek is translated, “waiting for,” in Lu 2:25.

that—Greek, “the.”

blessed—bringing blessedness (Ro 4:7, 8).

hope—that is, object of hope (Ro 8:24; Ga 5:5; Col 1:5).

the glorious appearing—There is but one Greek article to both “hope” and “appearing,” which marks their close connection (the hope being about to be realized only at the appearing of Christ). Translate, “The blessed hope and manifestation (compare Note, see on [2533] Tit 2:11) of the glory.” The Greek for “manifestation” is translated “brightness” in 2Th. 2:8. As His “coming” (Greek, “parousia”) expresses the fact, so “brightness, appearing,” or “manifestation” (epiphaneia) expresses His personal visibility when He shall come.

The great God and our Saviour Jesus—There is but one Greek article to “God” and “Saviour,” which shows that both are predicated of one and the same Being. “Of Him who is at once the great God and our Saviour.” Also (2) “appearing” (epiphaneia) is never by Paul predicated of God the Father (Joh 1:18; 1Ti 6:16), or even of “His glory” (as Alford explains it): it is invariably applied to Christ’s coming, to which (at His first advent, compare 2Ti 1:10) the kindred verb “appeared” (epephanee), Tit 2:11, refers (1Ti 6:14; 2Ti 4:1, 8). Also (3) in the context (Tit 2:14) there is no reference to the Father, but to Christ alone; and here there is no occasion for reference to the Father in the exigencies of the context. Also (4) the expression “great God,” as applied to Christ, is in accordance with the context, which refers to the glory of His appearing; just as “the true God” is predicated of Christ, 1Jo 5:20. The phrase occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but often in the Old Testament. De 7:21; 10:17, predicated of Jehovah, who, as their manifested Lord, led the Israelites through the wilderness, doubtless the Second Person in the Trinity. Believers now look for the manifestation of His glory, inasmuch as they shall share in it. Even the Socinian explanation, making “the great God” to be the Father, “our Saviour,” the Son, places God and Christ on an equal relation to “the glory” of the future appearing: a fact incompatible with the notion that Christ is not divine; indeed it would be blasphemy so to couple any mere created being with God.” (2)

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28)

Now for a real gem in theology.

The Personal Advent of Christ by Charles Hodge:

“It is admitted that the words “coming of the Lord” are often used in Scripture for any signal manifestation of his presence either for judgment or for mercy. When Jesus promised to manifest Himself to his disciples, “Judas saith unto Him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John xiv. 22, 23.) There is a coming of Christ, true and real, which is not outward and visible. Thus also in the epistle to the Church in Pergamos, it is said: “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly.” (Rev. ii. 16.) This form of expression is used frequently in the Bible. There are, therefore, many commentators who explain everything said in the New Testament of the second coming of Christ, of the spiritual manifestation of his power. Thus Mr. Alger, to cite a single example of this school, says, “The Hebrews called any signal manifestation of power — especially any dreadful calamity — a coming of the Lord. It was a coming of Jehovah when his vengeance strewed the ground with the corpses of Sennacherib’s host; when its storm swept Jerusalem as with fire, and bore Israel into bondage; when its sword came down upon Idumea and was bathed in blood upon Edom. ‘The day of the Lord’ is another term of precisely similar import. It occurs in the Old Testament about fifteen times. In every instance, it means some mighty manifestation of God’s power in calamity. These occasions are pictured forth with the most astounding figures of speech.”1 On the following page he says he fully believes that the evangelists and early Christians understood the language of Christ in reference to his second coming, as predictions of a personal and visible advent, connected with a resurrection and a general judgment, but he more than doubts whether such was the meaning of Christ Himself. (1.) Because he says nothing of a resurrection of the dead. (2.) The figures, which He uses, are precisely those, which the Jewish prophets employed in predicting “great and signal events on the earth.” (3.) Because He “fixed the date of the events He referred to within that generation.” Christ he thinks, meant to teach that his “truths shall prevail and shall be owned as the criteria of Divine judgment. According to them,” he understands Christ to say, “all the righteous shall be distinguished as my subjects, and all the iniquitous shall be separated from my kingdom. Some of those standing here shall not taste death till all these things be fulfilled. Then it will be seen that I am the Messiah, and that through the eternal principles of truth which I have proclaimed I shall sit upon a throne of glory, not literally, in person, as you thought, blessing the Jews and cursing the Gentiles, but spiritually, in the truth, dispensing joy to good men and woe to bad men, according to their deserts.” It is something to have it admitted that the Apostles and early Christians believed in the personal advent of Christ. What the Apostles believed we are bound to believe; for St. John said “He that knoweth God heareth us.” That the New Testament does teach a second, visible, and glorious appearing of the Son of God is plain: —

1. From the analogy between the first and second advents. The rationalistic Jews would have had precisely the same reasons for believing in a more spiritual coming of the Messiah as modern rationalists have for saying that his second coming is to be spiritual. The advent in both cases is predicted in very nearly the same terms. If, therefore, his first coming was in person and visible, so his second coming must be. The two advents are often spoken of in connection, the one illustrating the other. He came the first time as the Lamb of God bearing the sins of the world; He is to come “the second time, without sin, unto salvation.” (Heb. ix. 28.) God, said the apostle Peter, “shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 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.” (Acts iii. 20, 21.) Christ is now invisible to us, having been received up into heaven. He is to remain thus invisible, until God shall send him at the restitution of all things.

2. In many places it is directly asserted that his appearing is to be personal and visible. At the time of his ascension, the angels said to his disciples, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts i. 11.) His second coming is to be as visible as his ascension. They saw Him go; and they shall see him come. In Matt. xxvi. 64, it is said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven;” Matt. xxiv. 30, “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Luke xxi. 27, “Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud.”

3. The circumstances attending the second advent prove that it is to be personal and visible. It is to be in the clouds; with power and great glory; with the holy angels and all the saints; and it is to be with a shout and the voice of the archangel.

4. The effects ascribed to his advent prove the same thing. All the tribes of the earth shall mourn; the dead, both small and great are to arise; the wicked shall call on the rocks and hills to cover them; the saints are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air; and the earth and the heavens are to flee away at his presence.

5. That the Apostles understood Christ to predict his second coming in person does not admit of doubt. Indeed almost all the rationalistic commentators teach that the Apostles fully beheved and even taught that the second advent with all its glorious consequences would occur in their day. Certain it is that they believed that He would come visibly and with great glory, and that they held his coming as the great object of expectation and desire. Indeed Christians are described as those who “are waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor. i. 7); as those who are “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. ii. 13) (it is to them who look for Him, He is to “appear the second time, without sin unto salvation,” Heb. ix. 28); as those who are expecting and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God. (2Pet. iii. 12.) It is a marked characteristic of the apostolic writings that they give such prominence to the doctrine of the second advent. “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.” (1Cor. iv. 5.) “Christ the first-fruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1Cor. xv. 23.) Ye are our rejoicing “in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (2Cor. i. 14.) “He. . . . will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. i. 6.) “That I may rejoice in the day of Christ.” (ii. 16.) “Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (iii. 20.) “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” (Col. iii. 4.) “To wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1Thess. i. 10.) “What is our hope . . . are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (ii. 19.) “Unblamable in holiness . . . at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (iii. 13.) “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord . . . shall be caught up . . . in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (iv. 15-17.) In his second epistle he assures the Thessalonians that they shall have rest, “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven.” (2Thess. i. 7.) The coming of Christ, however, he tells them was not at hand; there must come a great falling away first. Paul said to Timothy, “Keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Tim. vi. 14.) “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2Tim. iv. 8.) The epistles of Peter afford the same evidence of the deep hold, which the promise of Christ’s second coming had taken on the minds of the Apostles and of all the early Christians. He tells his readers that they “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time . . . that the trial of your faith, . . might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1Pet. i. 5-7.) Men are to “give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.” (iv. 5.) “Rejoice that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (verse 13.) “When the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory.” (v. 4.) “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty.” (2Pet. i. 16). The transfiguration on the mount was a type and pledge of the glory of the second advent. The Apostle warns the disciples that scoffers would come “saying, where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” In answer to this objection, he reminds them that the threatened deluge was long delayed, but came at last; that time is not with God as it is with us; that with Him a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. He repeats the assurance that “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein, shall be burned up.” (2Peter iii. 3-10.)

From all these passages, and from the whole drift of the New Testament, it is plain, (1.) That the Apostles fully believed that there is to be a second coming of Christ. (2.) That his coming is to be in person, visible and glorious. (3.) That they kept this great event constantly before their own minds, and urged it on the attention of the people, as a motive to patience, constancy, joy, and holy living. (4.) That the Apostles believed that the second advent of Christ would be attended by the general resurrection, the final judgment, and the end of the world.

As already intimated, it is objected to this view of the prophecies of the New Testament referring to the Second Advent, —

1. That the first advent of Christ is predicted in the Old Testament in nearly as glowing terms as his second coming is set forth in the New Testament. He was to come in the clouds of heaven; with great pomp and power; all nations were to be subject to Him; all people were to be gathered before Him; the stars were to fall from heaven; the sun was to be darkened, and the moon to be turned into blood. These descriptions were not realized by the event; and are understood to refer to the great changes in the state of the world to be effected by his coming. It is unreasonable, therefore, as it is agreed, to expect anything like a literal fulfilment of these New Testament prophecies. To this it may be answered, (1.) That in the Old Testament the Messianic period is described as a whole. The fact that the Messiah was to come and establish an everlasting kingdom, which was to triumph over all opposition, and experience a glorious consummation, is clearly foretold. All these events were, so to speak, included in the same picture; but the perspective was not preserved. The prophecies were not intended to give the chronological order of the events foretold. Hence, the consummation of the Messiah’s kingdom is depicted as in immediate proximity with his appearance in the flesh. This led almost all the Jews, and even the disciples of Christ themselves, before the day of Pentecost, to look for the immediate establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom in its glory. Such being the character of the Old Testament prophecies, it cannot be fairly inferred that they have as yet received their full accomplishment; or that they are now being fulfilled in the silent progress of the Gospel. They include the past and the present, but much remains to be accomplished in the future more in accordance with their literal meaning. (2.) The character of the predictions in the New Testament does not admit of their being made to refer to any spiritual coming of Christ or to the constant progress of his Church. They evidently refer to a single event; to an event in the future, not now in progress, an event, which shall attract the attention of all nations, and be attended by the resurrection of the dead, the complete salvation of the righteous, and the condemnation of the wicked. (3.) A third answer to the objection under consideration is, that the Apostles, as is conceded, understood the predictions of Christ concerning his second coming, in the way in which they have been understood by the Church, as a whole, from that day to this.

2. A second objection to the common Church view of the eschatology of the New Testament is, that our Lord expressly says that the events which He foretold were to come to pass during that generation. His words are, “Verily, I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” This objection is founded upon the pregnant discourse of Christ recorded in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew. It is to be remarked that those chapters contain the answer which Christ gave to three questions addressed to Him by his disciples; first, when the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem was to occur second, what was to be the sign of liii coming; and third, when the end of the world was to take place. The difficulty in interpreting this discourse is, to determine its relation to these several questions. There are three methods of interpretation, which have been applied to this passage. The first assumes that the whole of our Lord’s discourse refers but to one question, namely, When was Jerusalem to be destroyed and Christ’s kingdom to be inaugurated; the second adopts the theory of what used to be called the double sense of prophecy; that is, that the same words or prediction refer to one event in one sense, and to a different event in a higher sense; the third assumes that one part of our Lord’s predictions refers exclusively to one of the questions asked, and that other portions refer exclusively to the other questions.

The rationalistic interpreters adopt the first method and refer everything to the overthrow of the Jewish polity, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the inauguration of the Church, which is to do its work of judgment in the earth. Some evangelical interpreters also assume that our Lord answers the three questions put to Him as one, as they constituted in fact but one in the minds of his disciples, since they believed that the three events, the destruction of Jerusalem, the second coming of Christ, and the end of the world, were all to occur together. Thus Luthardt says: “There are three questions according to the words; but only one in the minds of the disciples, as they did not consider the three events, the destruction of Jerusalem, the second coming of Christ, and the end of the world, as separated chronologically; but as three great acts in the final drama of the world’s history.”2 In this sense our Lord, he adds, answered their inquiries. He does not separate the different subjects, so as to speak first of one and then of another; but he keeps all ever in view. “It is the method,” he says, “of Biblical prophecy, which our Lord observes, always to predict the one great end and all else and what is preparatory, only so far as it stands in connection with that end and appears as one of its elements.”3 Although, therefore, the prophecy of Christ extends to events in the distant future, He could say that that generation should not pass away until all was fulfilled; for the destruction of Jerusalem was the commencement of that work of judgment which Christ foretold.

According to this view, the first method of interpretation differs very little from the second of those above mentioned. Both suppose that the same words or descriptions are intended to refer to two or more events very different in their nature and in the time of their occurrence. Isaiah’s prediction of the great deliverance which God was to effect for his people, was so framed as to answer both to the redemption of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, and to the greater redemption by the Messiah. It was in fact and equally a prediction of both events. The former was the type, and the first step toward the accomplishment of the other. So also in the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah, the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, the spiritual redemption, and the final judgment, are blended together. As, therefore, in the Old Testament the Messianic prophecies took in the whole scope of God’s dealings with his people, including their deliverance from Babylon and their redemption by Christ, so as to make it doubtful what refers to the former and what to the latter event; so this discourse of Christ may be considered as taking in the whole history of his kingdom, including his great work of judgment in casting out the Jews and calling the Gentiles, as well as the final consummation of his work. Thus everything predicted of the final judgment had its counterpart in what was fulfilled in that generation.

The third method of interpretation is greatly to be preferred, if it can be successfully carried out. Christ does in fact answer the three questions presented by his disciples. He told when the temple and the city were to be destroyed; it was when they should see Jerusalem compassed about with armies. He told them that the sign of the coming of the Son of Man was to be great defection in the Church, dreadful persecutions, and all but irresistible temptations, and that with his coming were to be connected the final judgment and the end of the world; but that the time when those events were to occur, was not given unto them to know, nor even to the angels of heaven. (Matt. xxiv. 36.)

If this be the method of interpreting these important predictions, then the declaration contained in Matt. xxiv. 34, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled,” must be restricted to the “all things spoken of, referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the inauguration of the Church as Christ’s kingdom on earth. There is, however, high authority for making h`genea au-th, here and in the parallel passages, Mark xiii. 30 and Luke xxi. 32, refer to Israel as a people or race; in this case the meaning would be that the Jews would not cease to be a distinct people until his predictions were fulfilled.”4 There is nothing, therefore, in this discourse of Christ’s inconsistent with the common Church doctrine as to the nature and concomitants of his Second Advent.” (3)


1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Galatians, Vol.2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 449.

2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1388.

3. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company), pp. 792-800.

“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 is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

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

** https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-Advent.html

Hebrews 9:27-28 – Two Advents of Christ by Charles H. Spurgeon http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols7-9/chs430.pdf

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Biblical grounds for resistance against evil political leaders

Biblical grounds for resistance against evil political leaders by Jack Kettler

Many times in history the Church, Christians have faced persecution. Books have been written on the bravery of Christians facing all manner of persecution and martyrdom. Is it possible to biblically to resist those with evil intentions against you? Alternatively, is passive submission the only option? In this study, it will be explored to see what other kinds of actions are possible. This study will take into account the eschatological development in redemptive history.

Introductory Scriptures:

“Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man;” (Psalm 140:1)

“Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;” (Proverbs 2:11-12)

The main thrust of this study will be how do we know when resistance against the ungodly is justified?

Historically, there are steps as a rule that are required before resistance:

1. Fleeing, Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt (Matthew 2:13–23).

2. Suffering persecution, as in (Matthew 5:11) and Christian martyrdom, Stephen’s speech (Acts 7).

3. Submission to civil authorities, as seen in Paul (Romans 13:1-7) and (1Peter 2:13-17).

Notable examples of the biblical precedent to resist unjust laws:

Exodus 1:15-18 Midwives disobeyed
Daniel 6: 7-9 Daniel disobeys
Chapters Acts 5:29 the apostles disobeyed the Jewish rulers
Revelation 13:13 believers told to resist the mark of the beast

As seen in the numbered and bullet list, there are tensions in Scripture. Eschatological development in redemptive history may provide a solution to these tensions.

Enter an eschatological dynamic:

The terms eschatological dynamic, advancement or development are used to explain the gradual submission of the nations to Christ’s rule in history. See Isaiah 9:7; Psalm 110:1-2; 1Corinthians 15:24-26; Colossians 2:15; and Daniel 2:44.

As to be seen, in this study and the unfolding of history there has been the emergence of Christendom or the nations that embraced biblical law into their legal systems, which recognized Christ as the King and Saviour. This embracing of biblical law by many nations adds an eschatological dynamic to the concept of resistance that is sanctioned by Holy Scripture.

In light of this eschatological dynamic, for example in America, the political rulers are restrained:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – (First Amendment)

Amendment XIV Section 1:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

These amendments and others like it placed a limiting factor on governments in light of the idea that rights come from God and not from a King or politician.

In England for example:

The Magna Carta, which means “The Great Charter,” is one of the most important documents in history as it established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and guarantees the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial. Surely, this is what the Bible teaches.

What is the source of these restrictions placed upon governments? Was it a man’s law or God’s law that restricted rulers? The law of a man is fleeting, whereas God’s law stands eternal.

Greg Bahnsen explains why restrictions are placed upon Kings and governments:

“The civil magistrate cannot function without some ethical guidance, without some standard of good and evil. If that standard is not to be, the revealed law of God, if not, then what will it be? In some form or expression, it will have to be the law of man (or men) – the standard of self-law or autonomy. And when autonomous laws come to govern a commonwealth, the sword is certainly wielded in vain, for it represents simply the brute force of some men’s will against the will of other men.” – Greg L. Bahnsen

Principally, we must remember, God is sovereign. God is in control. We see this in the next passage:

“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings…” (Daniel 2:21)

God sets up kings and removes them by His sovereign power. God will even raise up an evil king to bring judgment upon, and ultimately bringing repentance to His people. We should pray; “O Lord, help us to acknowledge our evil as a nation. Help us to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance.”

What has God required His people to do?

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2Chronicles 7:14)

National repentance and true reformation are required for God to hear our collective prayers. God’s people must humble themselves, pray earnestly for the removal of God’s judgment, and seek him for deliverance.

Scriptural prayers for deliverance and the judgment against evildoers are sanctioned:

“Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness. Her leaders, judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field; Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” (Micah 3:9-12)

“Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against you.” (Psalms 5:10)

“Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man…” (Psalm 140:1)

“When he is judged, let him be found guilty, and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few, and let another take his office.” (Psalms 109:7-8)

“Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.” (Psalms 6:10)

“His trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.” (Psalms 7:16)

“Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.” (Psalms 10:15)

“O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord! Let them vanish like water that runs away, when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.” (Psalms 58:6-8)

“Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!” (Psalms 104:35)

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil.” (Matthew 6:13)

From the above Scriptures, we can conclude as Christians; we have to right to pray privately and publically for the removal of ungodly leaders.

The doctrine of resistance at one level is justified in Scripture when a ruler demands the outright denial of God’s people to worship or follow God’s commandments:

“But Peter and John replied, Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19)

Later in Church history with significant doctrinal development and the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among the nations whose law systems have been formulated upon biblical principles. In light of this, the option of resistance become a viable option. Christian influence has been so strong; many nations have national churches such and the Church of England. Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is the official Church of Russia.

King Alfred, 871 to 886 for example enacted a law code that had a translation of the Ten Commandments into English. God’s law was to be the basis of the law for Alfred’s Christian nation if it wished to have God’s blessings. After the Ten Commandments, Alfred incorporated the fuller Law of Moses Exodus 21:1-23:19, and the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12.

Other nations to one degree or another also incorporated biblical law into the law codes of their nations. Laws against murder, stealing, adultery, bearing false witness, etc., all are rooted in the Ten Commandments; they did not just spring out of nowhere.

Within a nation that had biblical law at the core, this created an entirely different situation than people had under the emperors of the old Roman Empire. The legal systems of Christendom and ancient Rome were entirely different. In a Christian nation, the Church and individual Christians can call a politician to repentance for committing the act of adultery. In ancient Rome and its legal system, calling Nero to repentance for fornication would have been unintelligible.

The thesis in this article is that a nation that has biblical law incorporated into its legal system opens up the option of various forms of resistance and appeal. If a King or ruler curses God, the Church of God can call the ruler to repent. In the infancy of the church, believers submitted to the ungodly to win them to Christ, the true King. Today, in the gospel era, unbelieving rulers are called to submit to Christ and His Word. The call for rulers to submit to Christ is a resurrection truth. There has been an eschatological advancement in history.

Thomas Aquinas notes this advance God’s law over man’s law in history:

“An unjust law is no law at all” – Thomas Aquinas (Rome’s leading theologian of the 2nd Millennium) in short, Aquinas said unbiblical law was not law.

Political leaders are not immune to the following command:

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

It would be informative to consider public oaths in the Christian era:

Oaths made before God using His name involve His divine honor. To swear falsely is to misuse God’s name and in essence, call God a liar.

An oath of office is an affirmation or covenant that a person takes before assuming the duties of the office. Ordinarily, this is a position in government for legislators and civil servants or a church office holder. An oath that is made by calling God as a witness is a religious oath. The only effective way to certify that a candidate’s affirmation is truthful was to put his words before God by way of an oath with his hand upon God’s Word, the Bible.

By calling God as a witness, an oath is a solemn promise made in God’s presence. Significantly when making an oath, the political candidate elect places his left hand on the Bible and raises his right hand toward heaven, and promises to uphold and carry out the duties required in the Constitution of the United States. It should be clear; God is the witness in this covenant! If a man does not believe in God or has no intention of keeping the oath, then he is committing sacrilege.

There are oaths, which call for God’s intervention, such as; “I swear to tell the truth, so help me God.” It should be noted, to swear to tell the truth with God as a witness is a religious oath even if made in a civil setting. To perjure oneself, or go against God, would place the violator of the oath before God, awaiting His judgment.

In America, all members of Congress are required to take the following oath before assuming elected or appointed office. Five U.S.C. 3331:

“An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services shall take the following oath: ‘I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.’” (Emphasis mine)

Again, it should be noted that this oath references in context (hand on the Bible) the God who is revealed in the Bible as a witness to the oath.

What are the implications of this?

“From the day of the Declaration . . . they (the American people) were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of The Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct.” – John Quincy Adams (July 4, 1821)

“If the judge does not represent God’s Law order, he is ultimately a political hack and hatchet man whose job it is to keep the people in line, protect the establishment, and, in the process, to feather his own nest. Ungodly judges are to be feared and hated: they represent a particularly fearful and ugly form of evil, and their abuse of office is a deadly cancer to any society.”- R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1, p. 613.

“The more a power departs from God’s Law, the more impotent it becomes in coping with real offenses, and the more severe it becomes with trifling offenses or with meaningless infractions of empty statutes which seek to govern without moral authority and with reason.”- R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1, p. 620.

“While man has never seen, heard, touched, smelled, nor tasted God’s invisible laws, he has observed their effects through the blessings resulting from man’s obedience and the curses from disobedience. At the heart of the common law was a Biblical definition of law. One of its great expositors, Sir William Blackstone, noted that God, as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, created the rules of action that all creation was bound to obey.” – Herbert W. Titus, from Biblical Principles of Law

Against this background of public oaths, the resistance of Church leaders when dealing with political tyranny can be justified.

At an earlier time in history, this thinking was in kernel form and developing.

Consider Scottish Presbyterianism’s spiritual leader:

“Although I never lack the presence and plain image of my own wretched infirmity, yet seeing sin so manifestly abounds in all estates, I am compelled to thunder out the threatenings of God against the obstinate rebels.” – John Knox

In Lex Rex, (the law is king) Samuel Rutherford another Presbyterian argued that the law is above the king because it is founded on the Law of God. If the king disobeyed God’s law then the king was to be disobeyed. Rutherford argued that the civil authorities are fiduciary figures, meaning that they hold authority in trust for the people. If they violate that trust, the people have a legitimate recourse to resistance.

Rutherford recommended increasing the levels of resistance as a remedy for individuals:

1. by self-defense by protest or legal action;

2. by a flight where possible; then only

3. By use of force in self-defense.

Because God’s law is above civil rulers, we have the right to say, “The emperor has no clothes.”

John Knox said, “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”

Consider The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women by John Knox. The First Blast published in 1558 was prompted by the murderous activities of Mary Tudor, a Roman Catholic who succeeded to the throne of England.

Mary Queen of Scots told him that God expected subjects to obey their ruler. Knox replied that subjects did not have to obey a ruler who was ‘ungodly.’

Knox was building on biblical law:

Knox was undoubtedly right that we do not have to obey an ungodly ruler. Today, would he have thundered out the threatenings of God today against our obstinate covenant lawbreakers? The answer would be yes! Is there a place for a Jeremiah like figure in modern history? Are Christians called to be Jeremiahs when it comes to public wickedness?

Does submission to the governing authorities mean that believers and the church must keep silent in the face of public evil by these same governing authorities? Was John Knox in violation of what Paul is teaching in Romans 13:1-7 and 1Peter 2:13-17?

If so, this contradicts the centuries of redemptive history wherein the nations are brought progressively under the submission of the Lord Jesus Christ as seen in Psalm 2 and following:

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

“The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” (Psalm 110:1-2)

“And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:33)

“Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1Corinthians 15:24-26)

“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15)

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)

There is an eschatological advancement in history:

Now, the rulers of nations must submit to the Lord Jesus Christ and His law. Citizens must hold their rulers faithful to God’s law. The lawbreaking politician has no basis for his resistance to God’s law. The Christian citizen has every right to challenge and resist ungodly laws. Romans 13:1-7 and 1Peter 2:13-17 still command God’s people. Christians are to be model citizens and pray for civil rulers. However, with the law of God law built into the legal system of modern nations numerous options have opened up the rights of resistance and appeal, which are enshrined into modern law codes. Christians are not in violation of Peter or Paul’s instructions when forming legal associations to resist and fight public wickedness.

Can an ungodly ruler forfeit their power by an unrepentant violation of God’s Law?

What saith, the prince of exegetes?

“For earthly princes lay aside their power when they rise up against God and are unworthy to be reckoned among the number of mankind. We ought, rather, to spit upon their heads than to obey them.” – John Calvin (Commentary on Daniel, Lecture XXX Daniel 6:22)

“If they (government authorities) command anything against Him (God), let it go un-esteemed. And here let us not be concerned about all the dignity which the magistrates possess.” – John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion

What is interposition?

Interposition denotes to the right of the states to safeguard their liberties from fed gov violation that are believed to be treacherous or unconstitutional. This concept of interposition is rooted in biblical law. It is similar to nullification. The states created the fed gov, not the other way around, so they have the upper hand legally.

For example, the doctrine of interposition is taught throughout the book of Judges:

“For if there are now any magistrates of the people, appointed to restrain the willfulness of kings…I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of kings, that, if they wink at kings who violently fall upon and assault the lowly common folk, I declare that their dissimulation involves nefarious perfidy, because they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they have been appointed protectors by God’s ordinance.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter XX, par. 31, pp. 1518-1519.

Calvin here denounces the failure of leaders to implement interposition at the local level in the strongest terms. He is calling for the “magistrates of the people” to refuse obedience to the lawless king and not to “wink” at him as in the twentieth century where many of the German people blindly followed the orders of Hitler.

How this idea of interposition became a factor in the War for Independence:

“There is ever, and in all places, a mutual and reciprocal obligation between the people and the prince…If the prince fails in his promise, the people are exempt from obedience, the contract is made void, the rights of an obligation of no force.” -Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos written in 1579, author unknown

When politicians break God’s laws, they break their contract with the people, and the contract becomes canceled.

For example, in modern law, a contract can become voidable under the following circumstances:

The terms of the contract were breached
The contract is fraudulent (omitting or falsifying facts or information, or the intention to not carry out the promise in the contract)
Misrepresentation occurs (a false statement of fact)

A politician who promises to obey God and does not invalidates his contract with the people as an elected representative because of (a false statement of fact). Modern legal contracts are rooted in biblical law.

The passages in Romans 13:1-7 and 1Peter 2:13-17 must not be ignored, but there are considerations in the face of public wickedness considering that biblical law that is the cornerstone of the legal systems of many modern nations. This fact provides for the right of appeal and resistance. Remember the oath of Congressmen and government employees as see above. These oaths are contracts or covenants. Failure to keep the contract invalidates it, and the people are free from giving recognition and submission to the political leader.

Conventional thinking in the early American colonies:

“[W]e conceive that as the magistrate hath his power from God, so undoubtedly he is to improve it for the honor of God.” – Nathaniel Morton, Secretary of Plymouth Colony

Consider the thoughts of one New England pastor from a time when public office holders, seriously acknowledged the God of the Bible:

“It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors, God’s ministers. They are more properly the messengers of Satan to buffet us. No rulers are properly God’s ministers, but such as are just, ruling in the fear of God. When once magistrates act contrary to their office, and the end of their institution; when they rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare; they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen. So that whenever that argument for submission, fails, which is grounded upon the usefulness of magistracy to civil society, (as it always does when magistrates do hurt to society instead of good) the other argument, which is taken from their being the ordinance of God, must necessarily fail also; to person of a civil character being God’s minister, in the sense of the apostle, any farther than he performs God’s will, by exercising a just and reasonable authority; and ruling for the good of the subject.…. When magistrates rob and ruin the people, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare, they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.” – Jonathan Mayhew (1720 – 1766), Congregational minister at West Church in Boston

Civil disobedience is required when the government’s laws or commands are in direct violation of God’s laws and commands.

For example, a Christian will still attend worship services even in the face of direct commands of lawless politicians not to do so. A tyrannical decree for Christians not to meet for worship may mean meeting in secret, in houses, in the forest. God’s command outweighs the command of a man.

Submission to governing authorities cannot possibly mean the Church and individual Christians must remain silent in the face of public wickedness.

For instance, contemporary evangelical leader, James Dobson, calls the president to repent for his support of baby killing at the national prayer event.

Some of Dobson’s comments:

“I believe in the rule of law,” he said, but “I will not pay the surcharge for abortion services. … To pay one cent for the killing of babies is egregious to me, and I will do all I can to correct a government that lies to me about its intentions and then tries to coerce my acquiescence with extortion.” So, he concluded, “come and get me if you must, Mr. President. I will not bow before your wicked regulation.”

Dobson was in the right with the Bible in his hand figuratively speaking, called out public wickedness. Dobson was acting in the same biblical manner as John Knox and John Calvin.

As mentioned, what about the passage in 1Peter where we are instructed to submit to every authority. Are there qualifications or limits in this passage?

Some have argued yes. For example:

The American colonists read 1Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority,” and saw the phrase “for the Lord’s sake” as a condition for obedience.

The reasoning ran thus:

“If the authority was unrighteous and passed unrighteous laws, then following them could not be a righteous thing. In other words, one cannot obey a wicked law “for the Lord’s sake.” The Duty of Christian Subjects, TO EXECUTE JUDGEMENT, Upon Criminal Magistrates; As Maintained by the Presbyterian Reformer, John Knox, in a debate with Secretary Lethington.

Consider another recourse for citizens whose rulers who break God’s laws or go beyond their jurisdiction:

“A civil ruler only operates legitimately in those things over which he has jurisdictional authority. He cannot claim that because he is a king that whatever he does is the result of his office. An elected official that lies, cheats, steals, and murders are not doing God’s will in his civil capacity. He can and should be called to account.” Is It Unbiblical to Protest Against Unrighteous Governments? By Gary DeMar

To understand this, who would think that the governor of New York could levy a tax upon citizens of another state? The point is that there are obvious limits to the jurisdiction of politicians. Likewise, in the American War for Independence, the English parliament had no jurisdiction to tax the colonies. Today it is common knowledge that the English parliament cannot tax Canada or Australia, nations that are historically under the crown.

Thoughts to provoke deeper thinking:

“So long as we consider finance, industry, trade, agriculture merely as competing interests to be reconciled from time to time as best they may, so long as we consider ‘education’ as a good in itself of which everyone has a right to the utmost, without any idea of the good life for society or for the individual, we shall move from one uneasy compromise to another. To the quick and simple organization of society for ends which, being only material and worldly, must be as ephemeral as a worldly success, there is only one alternative. As political philosophy derives its sanction from ethics and ethics from the truth of religion, it is only by returning to the eternal source of truth that we can hope for any social organization, which will not, to its ultimate destruction, ignore some essential aspect of reality. The term ‘democracy,’ as I have said, again and again, does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike––it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God) you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.” – T.S. Eliot

“If no divine law is recognized above the law of the State, then the law of man has become absolute in men’s eyes–there is then no logical barrier to totalitarianism.” – Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today

“We must realize that the Reformation world view leads in the direction of government freedom. But the humanist world view with inevitable certainty leads in the direction of statism. This is so because humanists, having no god, must put something at the center, and it is inevitably society, government, or the state.” – Francis Schaeffer

“No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions. The Christians had that absolute in God’s revelation.” – Francis Schaeffer

In closing, resistance to Tyrants against the backdrop of biblical law:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“It must be recognized that in any culture the source of law is the god of that society.” – R. J. Rushdoony

“If no divine law is recognized above the law of the State, then the law of man has become absolute in men’s eyes–there is then no logical barrier to totalitarianism.” – Greg L. Bahnsen

“When the government engages in the involuntary transfer of wealth, that’s nothing more than legalized plunder. There is nothing noble or laudatory about it. It is contemptible, evil and profoundly wrong.” – Frederic Bastiat

“If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God.” – Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto

“Be not intimidated… nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.” – John Adams

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

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 is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study, contrarian books on unlimited submission to unrighteous rulers:

* Is It Unbiblical to Protest Against Unrighteous Governments? By Gary DeMar https://americanvision.org/…/is-it-unbiblical-to-protest-a…/

Matthew J. Trewhella, The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government

Gordan E. Runyan, Resistance to Tyrants: Romans 13 and the Christian Duty to Oppose Wicked Rulers

Timothy Baldwin, Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission, 2nd Ed.

By the Pastors of Magdeburg, The Magdeburg Confession: 13th of April 1550 AD. The Magdeburg Confession is the first known document in the history of man to formally set forth the Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates. The Lesser Magistrate Doctrine teaches that when a superior authority makes unjust laws or decrees, the lesser authority has a God-given right and duty to resist those unjust laws or decrees.

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

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What are Demons?

What Are Demons? By Jack Kettler

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


Demon: A fallen angel that assists Satan in the opposition of God. Demons are evil (Luke 10:17-18), powerful (Luke 8:29), and under the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24-30). They recognized Christ (Mark 1:23-24) and can possess non-Christians (Matthew 8:29). *

Demons: What does the Bible say about demons?

Demons are fallen angels, as Revelation 12:9 indicates: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Satan’s fall from heaven is symbolically described in Isaiah 14:12–15 and Ezekiel 28:12–15. When he fell, Satan took some of the angels with him—one third of them, according to Revelation 12:4. Jude 6 also mentions angels who sinned. So, biblically, demons are fallen angels who, along with Satan, chose to rebel against God. **

From the Scriptures about demons:

“Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils (demons).” (Psalm 106:37)

From Strong’s Lexicon on the Hebrew:

To demons לַשֵּֽׁדִים׃ (laš·šê·ḏîm)

Preposition-l, Article | Noun – masculine plural

Strong’s Hebrew 7700: 1) demon

“So the devils (demons) besought him, saying, if thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” (Matthew 8:31)

From Strong’s Lexicon on the Greek:

daimón: a demon Original Word: δαίμων, ονος, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine Transliteration: daimón

Phonetic Spelling: (dah’-ee-mown)

Definition: a demon Usage: an evil-spirit, demon.

“Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, we adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” (Acts 19:13)

From Strong’s Lexicon on the Greek:

Evil πονηρὰ (ponēra)

Adjective – Accusative Neuter Plural

Strong’s Greek 4190: Evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful.

Spirits πνεύματα (pneumata)

Noun – Accusative Neuter Plural

Strong’s Greek 4151: Wind, breath, spirit.

“But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils (demons), and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils (demons).” (1Corinthians 10:20)

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Ephesian 6:12 we read:

“We wrestle not, not only, or not principally.

Against flesh and blood, men, consisting of flesh and blood, Matthew 16:17 Galatians 1:16.

But against principalities, against powers; devils, Colossians 2:15: see Ephesians 1:21.

Against the rulers of the darkness of this world; either that rule in the dark air, where God permits them to be for the punishment of men; see Ephesians 2:2: or rather, that rule in the dark places of the earth, the dark minds of men, and have their rule over them by reason of the darkness that is in them; in which respect the devil is called the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and the prince of it, John 14:30. So that the dark world here seems to be opposed to children of light, Ephesians 5:8.

Against spiritual wickedness; either wicked spirits, or, emphatically, spiritual wickednesses, for wickedncsses of the highest kind; implying the intenseness of wickedness in those angelical substances, which are so much the more wicked, by how much the more excellent in themselves their natures are.

In high places; or heavenly, taking heaven for the whole expansum, or spreading out of the air, between the earth and the stars, the air being the place from whence the devils assault us, as Ephesians 2:2. Or rather, in for about heavenly places or things, in the same sense as the word rendered heavenly is taken four times before in this Epistle, Ephesians 1:3,20 2:6 3:10; being in none of them taken for the air; and then the sense must be, that we wrestle about heavenly places or things, not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, with powers, &c.

Objection. The Greek preposition will not bear this construction.

Answer. Let Chrysostom and other Greeks answer for that. They understood their language best, and they give this interpretation.” (1)

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (demons).” (1Timothy 4:1)

From The Pulpit Commentary on 1Timothy 4:1:

“Verse 1. – But for now, A.V.; saith for speaketh, A.V.; later for the latter, A.V.; fall away for depart, A.V. The Spirit saith expressly (ῤητῶς), only here in the New Testament, and very rare in classical Greek. But the adjective ῤητός, in the sense of something “laid down,” “definite… expressly mentioned,” is common. It was, doubtless, on account of these prophetic warnings of a falling away from the faith, that the apostle gave the preceding heads of Christian doctrine in such a terse and tangible form, and laid such a solemn charge upon Timothy. (For examples of these prophetic utterances, see Acts 11:28; Acts 13:2; Acts 20:23; Acts 21:11; 1Corinthians 12:8; 1Corinthians 14. ’30, 32, etc.) Shall fall away (ἀποστησονται). So St. Paul says (2Thessalonians 2:3) that the day of Christ will not be, “except the falling away (ἡ ἀποστασία) come first” (comp. Hebrews 3:12). The faith, objective (see 1Timothy 3:9 and 16, note). This “falling away” is to take place ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς, not, as in the R.V., in “later times,” but as in the A.V., “the latter times.” The adjective ὕστερος is only found here in the New Testament. But in the LXX. (e.g., 1Chronicles 29:29; Jeremiah 1:19; Jeremiah 27:17, LXX.), ὕστερος means “the last”” as opposed to “the first.” And so the adverb ὕστερον always in the New Testament (see Matthew 4:2; Matthew 21:37; Matthew 26:60; or more fully ὕστερον πάντεν, 22:27). Here, therefore, ἐν ὑστεροις καιροῖς is equivalent to ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις (Acts 2:17) and ἐν ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις (2Timothy 3:1; comp. James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 3:3; Jude 1:18). It should be observed that in all these passages there is no article. Giving heed (προσέχοντες); as in ver. 13; in 1Timothy 1:4; Titus 1:14; Acts 8:6, and elsewhere. Seducing spirits (πνεύμασι πλάνοις). Such were the “lying spirits” who deceived (ἠπάτησαν) Ahab to his destruction (2Kings 22:22). Πλάνος, seducing, is not elsewhere found in the New Testament as an adjective (see Matthew 27:63; 2Corinthians 6:8 2John 7, in all which places, however, it is almost an adjective). The idea is “causing to wander,” or “go astray.” St. John warns his people against such deceiving spirits (John 4:1-6). He calls them generically πνεύμα τῆς πλάνης, “the spirit of error.” Doctrines of devils; i.e. teachings suggested by devils. So the unbelieving Jews suggested that John the Baptist had a devil (Luke 7:33), and that our Lord himself had a devil (John 7:20; John 8:48, 52; John 10:19).” (2)

“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils (demons) also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19)

From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:

A-1 Noun Strong’s Number: g1142 Greek: daimon

Demon, Demoniac:

“A demon,” signified, among pagan Greeks, an inferior deity, whether good or bad. In the NT, it denotes “an evil spirit.” It is used in Mat 8:31 mistranslated “devils.”

Some would derive the word from a root da–, meaning, “to distribute.” More probably it is from a similar root da–, meaning, “to know,” and hence means “a knowing one.”

A-2 Noun Strong’s Number: g1140 Greek: daimonion

Demon, Demoniac:

Not a diminutive of daimon, No. 1, but the neuter of the adjective daimonios, pertaining to a demon, is also mistranslated “devil,” “devils.” In Act 17:18, it denotes an inferior pagan deity. “Demons” are the spiritual agents acting in all idolatry. The idol itself is nothing, but every idol has a “demon” associated with it who induces idolatry, with its worship and sacrifices, 1Cr 10:20, 21; Rev 9:20; cp. Deuteronomy 32:17; Isa 13:21; 34:14; 65:3, 11. They disseminate errors among men, and seek to seduce believers, 1Ti 4:1. As seducing spirits they deceive men into the supposition that through mediums (those who have “familiar spirits,” Lev 20:6, 27, e.g.) they can converse with deceased human beings. Hence the destructive deception of Spiritism, forbidden in Scripture, Lev 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:11; Isa 8:19. “Demons” tremble before God, Jam 2:19; they recognized Christ as Lord and as their future Judge, Mat 8:29; Luke 4:41. Christ cast them out of human beings by His own power. His disciples did so in His Name, and by exercising faith, e.g., Mat 17:20.

Acting under Satan (cp. Rev 16:13, 14), “demons” are permitted to afflict with bodily disease, Luke 13:16. Being unclean they tempt human beings with unclean thoughts, Mat 10:1; Mar 5:2; 7:25; Luke 8:27-29; Rev 16:13; 18:2, e.g. They differ in degrees of wickedness, Mat 12:45. They will instigate the rulers of the nations at the end of this age to make war against God and His Christ, Rev 16:14.


B-1 Verb Strong’s Number: g1139 Greek: daimonizomai

Demon, Demoniac:

Signifies “to be possessed of a demon, to act under the control of a demon.” Those who were thus afflicted expressed the mind and consciousness of the “demon” or “demons” indwelling them, e.g., Luke 8:28. The verb is found chiefly in Matt. and Mark; Mat 4:24; 8:16, 28, 33; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22; Mark 1:32; 5:15, 16, 18; elsewhere in Luke 8:36; and John 10:21, “him that hath a devil (demon).”

C-1 Adjective Strong’s Number: g1141 Greek: daimoniodes

Demon, Demoniac:

Signifies proceeding from, or resembling, a demon, “demoniacal;” see marg. of Jam 3:15, RV (text, “devilish”). (3)

Can a Christian be demon possessed? See below for link.

Not to fear:

“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.” (1John 4:4)


1. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Ephesians, Vol. 3. (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 679.

2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, 1Timothy, Vol.21., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 68.

3. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, (Iowa Falls, Iowa, Riverside Book and Bible House), p. 283-284.

“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 is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics

** https://www.gotquestions.org/demons-Bible.html

Satan Disarmed, Sin Forgiven, Soul Alive by John Piper https://www.desiringgod.org/…/satan-disarmed-sin-forgiven-s…

Can a Christian be demon possessed? https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-demon-possessed.html

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What Are Angels?

What Are Angels? By Jack Kettler

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


Angels: Angel means messenger. Angels are created (Psalms 148:2; Psalm 148:5; Colossians 1:16), non-human, spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14). They are immortal (Luke 20:36), innumerable (Hebrews 12:22), invisible (Numbers 22:22-31), sexless (Matthew 22:30), and do the will of God (Psalms 103:20). These angels have a ministry to believers. They guide (Genesis 24:7; Gen 24:40), protect (Psalms 34:7), and comfort (Acts 27:2; Act 27:24).

There are good angels (Genesis 28:12; Psalms 91:11) and bad angels (2Peter 2:4; Jude 1:1:6). The only angels mentioned by name are Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; Dan 9:21), Michael (Daniel 10:13, 21; 112:1), and Lucifer (Luke 10:18). Michael is always mentioned in the context of battle (Daniel 10:13) and Gabriel as a messenger (Luke 1:26). Of course, Lucifer, who became Satan, is the one who opposes God.

Angels were originally created for the purpose of serving and carrying out the will of God. The fallen angels rebelled and became evil angels. Satan is such an angel (Isaiah 14:12-16; Ezekiel 28:12-15). *

Angels: God created two sorts of personal beings: angels (from the Greek term meaning “messenger”) and human beings. There are many angels (Matt. 26:53; Rev. 5:11). They are intelligent moral agents, without bodies and normally invisible, although they are able to show themselves to men in what appears as a physical form (Gen. 18:2-19:22; John 20:10-14; Acts 12:7-10). They do not marry, and are not subject to physical death (Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:35-36). They can move from one point in space to another, and many of them can congregate in a tiny area (Luke 8:30, where the reference is to fallen angels).

The Scriptures honor all holy angels as glorious creatures. They are called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1) and “mighty ones” (Psa. 29:1). They are said to be radiant and powerful (Isa. 6:1-4; 2Thess. 1:7; 1Pet. 3:22; 2Pet. 2:11; Rev. 15:8) even forming the victorious army of God (Exod. 14:19). Yet, Scripture also points to the honor and splendor of being holy human beings. The Psalmist said we were made “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Psa. 8:5), which is an honorable position. Yet, the apostle Paul noted that this would not be the final order between angels and humans. He told the Corinthians that when Christ returns we will “judge the angels” (1Cor. 6:3). The human race – the image of God – will one day rule over not only the earth and its creatures but also the angels. **

From the Scriptures about angels:

“Bless the LORD, ye his angels that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” (Psalm 103:20)

From the Geneva Study Bible on Psalm 103:20:

“Bless the LORD, ye his angels that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

In that we, who naturally are slow to praise God, exhort the angels, who willingly do it, we stir up ourselves to consider our duty and wake from our sluggishness.”

From Strong’s Lexicon:

“All His angels

מַלְאָ֫כָ֥יו (mal·’ā·ḵāw)

Noun – masculine plural construct | third person masculine singular

Strong’s Hebrew 4397: 1) messenger, representative 1a) messenger 1b) angel 1c) the theophanic angel”

“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.” (Luke 1:30-31)

From the Geneva Study Bible on Luke 1:30-31:

“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

So the Hebrews said, saying that those men have found favour who are in favour.

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.”

From Strong’s Lexicon:


ἄγγελος (angelos)

Noun – Nominative Masculine Singular

Strong’s Greek 32: From aggello; a messenger; especially an ‘angel’; by implication, a pastor.”

Regarding the Angel of the Lord:

“And it came to pass that night that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (2Kings 19:35)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on 2Kings 19:35 and the angel of the LORD:


(35) And it came to pass (in) that night.—This definition of time is wanting in the parallel text; but it is implied by the phrase in the morning (Isaiah 37:36; 2Kings 19:35). The night intended can hardly be the one which followed the day when the prophecy was spoken (see 2Kings 19:29). The expression “in that night,” may perhaps be compared with the prophetic “in that day,” and understood to. mean simply “in that memorable night which was the occasion of this catastrophe.” (Theuius sees in this clause an indication that the present section was derived from another source, probably from the one used by the chronicler in 2Chronicles 32:20-23. Reuss thinks this confirmed by the fact that neither the prediction in 2Kings 19:7, nor that of 2Kings 19:21-34, speaks of so great and so immediate an overthrow.)

The angel of the Lord went out.—the destroying angel, who smote the firstborn of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12-13; Exodus 12:23), and smote Israel after David’s census (2Samuel 24:15-17). These passages undoubtedly favour the view that the Assyrian army was devastated by pestilence, as Josephus asserts. Others have suggested the agency of a simoom, a storm with lightning, an earthquake, &c. In any case, a supernatural causation is involved not only in the immense number slain, and that in one night (Psalm 91:6), but in the coincidence of the event with the predictions of Isaiah, and with the crisis in the history of the true religion:

“Vuolsi così colà dove si puote

Ciò che si vuole; e più non dimandare.”

In the camp of the Assyrians.—Where this is was not said. That it was not before Jerusalem appears from 2Kings 19:32-33; and the well-known narrative of Herodotus (ii. 141) fixes Egypt, the land of plagues, as the scene of the catastrophe. “Of the details of the catastrophe, which the Bible narrative is content to characterize as the act of God, the Assyrian monuments contain no record, because the issue of the campaign gave them nothing to boast of; but an Egyptian account, preserved by Herodotus, though full of fabulous circumstances, shows that in Egypt, as well as in Judea, it was recognized as a direct intervention of Divine power. The disaster did not break the power of the great king, who continued to reign for twenty years, and waged many other victorious wars. But none the less it must have been a very grave blow, the effects of which were felt throughout the empire, and permanently modified the imperial policy; for in the following year Chaldea was again in revolt, and to the end of his reign Sennacherib never renewed his attack upon Judah” (Robertson Smith).

And when they arose early.—The few who were spared found, not sick and dying, but corpses, all around them. (Comp. Exodus 12:33: “They said, we be all dead men.”) (1)

From Strong’s Lexicon:

The angel

מַלְאַ֣ךְ (mal·’aḵ)

Noun – masculine singular construct

Strong’s Hebrew 4397: 1) messenger, representative 1a) messenger 1b) angel 1c) the theophanic angel

Of the LORD

יְהוָ֗ה (Yah·weh)

Noun – proper – masculine singular

Strong’s Hebrew 3068: Jehovah = ‘the existing One’ 1) the proper name of the one true God 1a) unpronounced except with the vowel pointings of H0136

Regarding Archangels:

“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” (Jude 1:9)

From Matthew Poole’s Commentary regarding an Archangel:

“Michael the archangel: either this is understood of Christ the Prince of angels, who is often in Scripture called an Angel, or of a created angel; and that either:

1. One of the archangels: Daniel 10:13, Michael is called one of the chief princes, which though the word archangel be not found in the plural number in Scripture, may well imply a plurality of them; for what is one of the chief princes among the angels, but an archangel? Or:

2. A principal angel, or one that is chief among others.

When contending with the devil; it may be meant either of Christ contending with the devil, as Matthew 4:1-25, in his temptation, and Zechariah 3:1,2, and Revelation 12:7; or rather, of Michael, a created angel.

He disputed about the body of Moses:

1. If Michael the archangel be meant of Christ, then the body of Moses may be taken figuratively, for that body whereof the Mosaical ceremonies were shadows, Colossians 2:17, i.e. the truth and accomplishment of the law given by Moses; that accomplishment was to be in Christ, who is represented by Joshua, Zechariah 3:1-10: him Satan resists in the execution of his office, and by him strikes at Christ, whose type he was, and whom he afterward opposeth in the execution of his office, when he was come in the flesh. Or:

2. If we take Michael for a created angel, which agrees best with the parallel place in Peter, then the body of Moses must be taken properly, (as most take it), and the dispute seems to be: Whether Moses’s body should be so buried as to be concealed from the Israelites? Deut. 34:6, it is said God buried him, (which might be by the ministry of Michael the archangel), and that no man knoweth of his sepulchre. The devil opposeth the angel, desiring to have the place of his burial known, that in after-times it might be a snare to that people, and a means to bring them to idolatry. And this seems very probable, if we consider what work the devil hath made in the world with the bodies of saints and martyrs, and how much idolatry he hath brought in thereby. This passage Jude, most probably, had (as was observed in the argument) from some known tradition among the Jews, the truth of which we are now sure of, because certified here concerning it.

Durst not bring against him; or, could not endure, (as the Greek word is often taken among profane writers), or find in his heart, not from fear of punishment, but by reason of the holiness of his own nature, and to give an example to us. And this sense agrees to the scope of the place, whether we understand it of Christ, or of a created angel, Hebrews 12:3 1Peter 2:23.

A railing accusation: see 2Peter 2:11.

But said, The Lord rebuke thee; i.e. put thee to silence, restrain thy insolence, hinder thy design, &c.: hereby the angel refers the cause to God.” (2)

Regarding Cherubim:

“Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” (Ezekiel 28:14)

From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Cherub:

“14. Anointed cherub—Gesenius translates from an Aramaic root, “extended cherub.” English Version, from a Hebrew root, is better. “The cherub consecrated to the Lord by the anointing oil” [Fairbairn].

covereth—The imagery employed by Ezekiel as a priest is from the Jewish temple, wherein the cherubim overshadowed the mercy seat, as the king of Tyre, a demi-god in his own esteem, extended his protection over the interests of Tyre. The cherub—an ideal compound of the highest kinds of animal existence and the type of redeemed man in his ultimate state of perfection—is made the image of the king of Tyre, as if the beau ideal of humanity. The pretensions of Antichrist are the ulterior reference, of whom the king of Tyre is a type. Compare “As God … in the temple of God” (2Th 2:4).

I have set thee—not thou set thyself (Prov. 8:16; Ro 13:1).

Upon the holy mountain of God—Zion, following up the image.

in … midst of … stones of fire—In ambitious imagination he stood in the place of God, “under whose feet was, as it were, a pavement of sapphire,” while His glory was like “devouring fire” (Ex 24:10, 17).” (3)

Regarding Seraphim:

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain, he covered his face, and with twain, he covered his feet, and with twain, he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers regarding Seraphim from Isaiah:

“(2) Above it stood the seraphims . . .—it is noticeable that this is the only passage in which the seraphim are mentioned as part of the host of heaven. In Numbers 21:6, the word (the primary meaning of which is the burning ones) occurs as denoting the fiery serpents that attacked the people in the wilderness. Probably the brazen serpent which Hezekiah afterwards destroyed (2Kings 18:4) had preserved the name and its significance as denoting the instruments of the fiery judgments of Jehovah. Here, however, there is no trace of the serpent form, nor again, as far as the description goes, of the animal forms of the cherubim of Ezekiel 1:5-11, and of the “living creatures” of Revelation 4:7-8. The “burning ones” are in the likeness of men, with the addition of the six wings. The patristic and mediaeval distinction between the seraphim that excel in love, and the cherubim that excel in knowledge, rests apparently on the etymology of the former word. The “living creatures” of Revelation 4:7-8, seem to unite the forms of the cherubim of Ezekiel with the six wings of the seraphim of this passage. Symbolically the seraphim would seem to be as transfigured cherubim, representing the “flaming fire” of the lightning, as the latter did the storm-winds and other elemental forces of nature (Psalm 104:4).” (4)

Angels are not to be worshiped:

“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

Rarely does one find an entry as detailed as the following.

Angel from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

an’-jel (mal’akh; Septuagint and New Testament, aggelos):

I. Definition and Scripture Terms.

The word angel is applied in Scripture to an order of supernatural or heavenly beings whose business it is to act as God’s messengers to men, and as agents who carry out His will. Both in Hebrew and Greek the word is applied to human messengers (1Ki 19:2; Lu 7:24); in Hebrew it is used in the singular to denote a Divine messenger, and in the plural for human messengers, although there are exceptions to both usages. It is applied to the prophet Haggai (Hag 1:13), to the priest (Mal 2:7), and to the messenger who is to prepare the way of the Lord (Mal 3:1). Other Hebrew words and phrases applied to angels are bene ha-‘elohim (Ge 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1) and bene ‘elim (Ps 29:1; 89:6), i.e. sons of the ‘elohim or ‘elim; this means, according to a common Hebrew usage, members of the class called ‘elohim or ‘elim, the heavenly powers. It seems doubtful whether the word ‘elohim, standing by itself, is ever used to describe angels, although Septuagint so translates it in a few passages. The most notable instance is Ps 8:5; where the Revised Version (British and American) gives, “Thou hast made him but little lower than God,” with the English Revised Version, margin reading of “the angels” for “God” (compare Heb. 2:7,9); qedhoshim “holy ones” (Ps 89:5,7), a name suggesting the fact that they belong to God; `ir, `irim, “watcher,” “watchers” (Da 4:13,17,23). Other expressions are used to designate angels collectively: codh, “council” (Ps 89:7), where the reference may be to an inner group of exalted angels; `edhah and qahal, “congregation” (Ps 82:1; 89:5); and finally tsabha’, tsebha’oth, “host,” “hosts,” as in the familiar phrase “the God of hosts.”

In New Testament the word aggelos, when it refers to a Divine messenger, is frequently accompanied by some phrase which makes this meaning clear, e.g. “the angels of heaven” (Mt 24:36). Angels belong to the “heavenly host” (Lu 2:13). In reference to their nature they are called “spirits” (Heb. 1:14). Paul evidently referred to the ordered ranks of supra-mundane beings in a group of words that are found in various combinations, namely, archai, “principalities,” exousiai, “powers,” thronoi, “thrones,” kuriotetes, “dominions,” and dunameis, also translated “powers.” The first four are apparently used in a good sense in Col 1:16, where it is said that all these beings were created through Christ and unto Him; in most of the other passages in which words from this group occur, they seem to represent evil powers. We are told that our wrestling is against them (Eph. 6:12), and that Christ triumphs over the principalities and powers (Col 2:15; compare Ro 8:38; 1Co 15:24). In two passages the word archaggelos, “archangel” or chief angel, occurs: “the voice of the archangel” (1Th 4:16), and “Michael the archangel” (Jude 1:9).

II. Angels in Old Testament.

1. Nature, Appearances and Functions:

Everywhere in the Old Testament, the existence of angels is assumed. The creation of angels is referred to in Ps 148:2, 5 (compare Col 1:16). They were present at the creation of the world, and were so filled with wonder and gladness that they “shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Of their nature, we are told nothing. In general, they are simply regarded as embodiments of their mission. Though presumably the holiest of created beings, they are charged by God with folly (Job 4:18), and we are told that “he putteth no trust in his holy ones” (Job 15:15). References to the fall of the angels are only found in the obscure and probably corrupt passage Ge 6:1-4, and in the interdependent passages 2Pe 2:4 and Jude 1:6, which draw their inspiration from the Apocryphal book of Enoch. Demons are mentioned (see DEMON); and although Satan appears among the sons of God (Job 1:6; 2:1), there is a growing tendency in later writers to attribute to him a malignity that is all his own (see SATAN).

As to their outward appearance, it is evident that they bore the human form, and could at times be mistaken for men (Ezekiel 9:2; Ge 18:2, 16). There is no hint that they ever appeared in female form. The conception of angels as winged beings, so familiar in Christian art, finds no support in Scripture (except, perhaps Da 9:21; Re 14:6, where angels are represented as “flying”). The cherubim and seraphim (see CHERUB; SERAPHIM) are represented as winged (Ex 25:20; Isa 6:2); winged also are the symbolic living creatures of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:6; compare Re 4:8).

As above stated, angels are messengers and instruments of the Divine will. As a rule they exercise no influence in the physical sphere. In several instances, however, they are represented as destroying angels: two angels are commissioned to destroy Sodom (Ge 19:13); when David numbers the people, an angel destroys them by pestilence (2Sa 24:16); it is by an angel that the Assyrian army is destroyed (2Ki 19:35); and Ezekiel hears six angels receiving the command to destroy those who were sinful in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9:1,5,7). In this connection should be noted the expression “angels of evil,” i.e. angels that bring evil upon men from God and execute His judgments (Ps 78:49; compare 1Sa 16:14). Angels appear to Jacob in dreams (Ge 28:12; 31:11). The angel who meets Balaam is visible first to the ass, and not to the rider (Nu 22:1-41 ff). Angels interpret God’s will, showing man what is right for him (Job 33:23). The idea of angels as caring for men also appears (Ps 91:11 f), although the modern conception of the possession by each man of a special guardian angel is not found in Old Testament.

2. The Angelic Host:

The phrase “the host of heaven” is applied to the stars, which were sometimes worshipped by idolatrous Jews (Jer. 33:22; 2Ki 21:3; Zep 1:5); the name is applied to the company of angels because of their countless numbers (compare Da 7:10) and their glory. They are represented as standing on the right and left hand of Yahweh (1Ki 22:19). Hence God, who is over them all, is continually called throughout Old Testament “the God of hosts,” “Yahweh of hosts,” “Yahweh God of hosts”; and once “the prince of the host” (Da 8:11). One of the principal functions of the heavenly host is to be ever praising the name of the Lord (Ps 103:21; 148:1 f). In this host, there are certain figures that stand out prominently, and some of them are named. The angel who appears to Joshua calls himself “prince of the host of Yahweh” (Jos 5:14 f). The glorious angel who interprets to Daniel the vision which he saw in the third year of Cyrus (Da 10:5), like the angel who interprets the vision in the first year of Belshazzar (Da 7:16), is not named; but other visions of the same prophet were explained to him by the angel Gabriel, who is called “the man Gabriel,” and is described as speaking with “a man’s voice” (Da 9:21; 8:15 f). In Daniel, we find occasional reference made to “princes”: “the prince of Persia,” “the prince of Greece” (Da 10:20). These are angels to whom is entrusted the charge of, and possibly the rule over, certain peoples. Most notable among them is Michael, described as “one of the chief princes,” “the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people,” and, more briefly, “your prince” (Da 10:13; 12:1; 10:21), Michael is therefore regarded as the patron-angel of the Jews. In Apocrypha Raphael, Uriel and Jeremiel are also named. Of Raphael it is said (Tobit 12:15) that he is “one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints” to God (compare Re 8:2, “the seven angels that stand before God”). It is possible that this group of seven is referred to in the above-quoted phrase, “one of the chief princes”. Some (notably Kosters) have maintained that the expressions “the sons of the ‘elohim,” God’s “council” and “congregation,” refer to the ancient gods of the heathen, now degraded and wholly subordinated to Yahweh. This rather daring speculation has little support in Scripture; but we find traces of a belief that the patron-angels of the nations have failed in establishing righteousness within their allotted sphere on earth, and that they will accordingly be punished by Yahweh their over-Lord (Isa 24:21 f; Ps 82:1-8; compare Ps 58:1 f the Revised Version, margin; compare Jude 1:6).

3. The Angel of the Theophany:

This angel is spoken of as “the angel of Yahweh,” and “the angel of the presence (or face) of Yahweh.” The following passages contain references to this angel: Ge 16:7 ff–the angel and Hagar; Ge 18:1-33–Abraham intercedes with the angel for Sodom; Ge 22:11 ff–the angel interposes to prevent the sacrifice of Isaac; Ge 24:7,40–Abraham sends Eliezer and promises the angel’s protection; Ge 31:11 ff–the angel who appears to Jacob says “I am the God of Beth-el”; Ge 32:24 ff–Jacob wrestles with the angel and says, “I have seen God face to face”; Ge 48:15 f–Jacob speaks of God and the angel as identical; Ex 3:1-22 (compare Ac 7:30 ff)–the angel appears to Moses in the burning bush; Ex 13:21; 14:19 (compare Nu 20:16)–God or the angel leads Israel out of Egypt; Ex 23:20 ff–the people are commanded to obey the angel; Ex 32:34 through Ex 33:17 (compare Isa 63:9)–Moses pleads for the presence of God with His people; Jos 5:13 through Jos 6:2–the angel appears to Joshua; Judges 2:1-5–the angel speaks to the people; Judges 6:11 ff–the angel appears to Gideon.

A study of these passages shows that while the angel and Yahweh are at times distinguished from each other, they are with equal frequency, and in the same passages, merged into each other. How is this to be explained? It is obvious that these apparitions cannot be the Almighty Himself, whom no man hath seen, or can see. In seeking the explanation, special attention should be paid to two of the passages above cited. In Ex 23:20 ff God promises to send an angel before His people to lead them to the promised land; they are commanded to obey him and not to provoke him “for he will not pardon your transgression: for my name is in him.” Thus, the angel can forgive sin, which only God can do, because God’s name, i.e. His character and thus His authority, are in the angel. Further, in the passage Ex. 32:34 through Ex. 33:17 Moses intercedes for the people after their first breach of the covenant; God responds by promising, “Behold mine angel shall go before thee”; and immediately after God says, “I will not go up in the midst of thee.” In answer to further pleading, God says, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Here a clear distinction is made between an ordinary angel, and the angel who carries with him God’s presence. The conclusion may be summed up in the words of Davidson in his Old Testament Theology: “In particular providences one may trace the presence of Yahweh in influence and operation; in ordinary angelic appearances one may discover Yahweh present on some side of His being, in some attribute of His character; in the angel of the Lord He is fully present as the covenant God of His people, to redeem them.” The question still remains, Who is theophanic angel? To this many answers have been given, of which the following may be mentioned: (1) This angel is simply an angel with a special commission; (2) He may be a momentary descent of God into visibility; (3) He may be the Logos, a kind of temporary preincarnation of the second person of the Trinity. Each has its difficulties, but the last is certainly the most tempting to the mind. Yet it must be remembered that at best these are only conjectures that touch on a great mystery. It is certain that from the beginning God used angels in human form, with human voices, in order to communicate with man; and the appearances of the angel of the Lord, with his special redemptive relation to God’s people, show the working of that Divine mode of self-revelation which culminated in the coming of the Saviour, and are thus a fore-shadowing of, and a preparation for, the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Further than this, it is not safe to go.

III. Angels in New Testament.

1. Appearances:

Nothing is related of angels in New Testament, which is inconsistent with the teaching of Old Testament on the subject. Just as they are specially active in the beginning of Old Testament history, when God’s people is being born, so they appear frequently in connection with the birth of Jesus, and again when a new order of things begins with the resurrection. An angel appears three times in dreams to Joseph (Mt 1:20; 2:13, 19). The angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, and then to Mary in the annunciation (Lu 1:1-80). An angel announces to the shepherds the birth of Jesus, and is joined by a “multitude of the heavenly host,” praising God in celestial song (Lu 2:8 ff). When Jesus is tempted, and again during the agony at Gethsemane, angels appear to Him to strengthen His soul (Mt 4:11; Lu 22:43). The verse which tells how an angel came down to trouble the pool (Joh 5:4) is now omitted from the text as not being genuine. An angel descends to roll away the stone from the tomb of Jesus (Mt 28:2); angels are seen there by certain women (Lu 24:23) and (two) by Mary Magdalene (Joh 20:12). An angel releases the apostles from prison, directs Philip, appears to Peter in a dream, frees him from prison, smites Herod with sickness, appears to Paul in a dream (Ac 5:19; 8:26; 10:3; 12:7 ff; Ac 12:23; 27:23). Once they appear clothed in white; they are so dazzling in appearance as to terrify beholders; hence they begin their message with the words “Fear not” (Mt 28:2-5).

2. The Teaching of Jesus about Angels:

It is quite certain that our Lord accepted the main teachings of Old Testament about angels, as well as the later Jewish belief in good and bad angels. He speaks of the “angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30), and of “the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). According to our Lord the angels of God are holy (Mark 8:38); they have no sex or sensuous desires (Mt 22:30); they have high intelligence, but they know not the time of the Second Coming (Mt 24:36); they carry (in a parable) the soul of Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom (Lu 16:22); they could have been summoned to the aid of our Lord, had He so desired (Mt 26:53); they will accompany Him at the Second Coming (Mt 25:31) and separate the righteous from the wicked (Mt 13:41, 49). They watch with sympathetic eyes the fortunes of men, rejoicing in the repentance of a sinner (Lu 15:10; compare 1Pe 1:12; Eph. 3:10; 1Co 4:9); and they will hear the Son of Man confessing or denying those who have confessed or denied Him before men (Lu 12:8 f). The angels of the presence of God, who do not appear to correspond to our conception of guardian angels, are specially interested in God’s little ones (Mt 18:10). Finally, the existence of angels is implied in the Lord’s Prayer in the petition, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth” (Mt 6:10).

3. Other New Testament References:

Paul refers to the ranks of angels (“principalities, powers” etc.) only in order to emphasize the complete supremacy of Jesus Christ. He teaches that angels will be judged by the saints (1Co 6:3). He attacks the incipient Gnosticism of Asia Minor by forbidding the, worship of angels (Col 2:18). He speaks of God’s angels as “elect,” because they are included in the counsels of Divine love (1Ti 5:21). When Paul commands the women to keep their heads covered in church because of the angels (1Co 11:10) he probably means that the angels, who watch all human affairs with deep interest, would be pained to see any infraction of the laws of modesty. In Hebrews 1:14 angels are (described as ministering spirits engaged in the service of the saints. Peter also emphasizes the supremacy of our Lord over all angelic beings (1Pe 3:22). The references to angels in 2Peter and Jude are colored by contact with Apocrypha literature. In Revelation, where the references are obviously symbolic, there is very frequent mention of angels. The angels of the seven churches (Re 1:20) are the guardian angels or the personifications of these churches. The worship of angels is also forbidden (Re 22:8 f). Specially interesting is the mention of elemental angels—“the angel of the waters” (Re 16:5), and the angel “that hath power over fire” (Re 14:18; compare Re 7:1; 19:17). Reference is also made to the “angel of the bottomless pit,” who is called ABADDON or APOLLYON (which see), evidently an evil angel (Re 9:11 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “abyss”). In Re 12:7 ff we are told that there was war between Michael with his angels and the dragon with his angels.

IV. Development of the Doctrine.

In the childhood of the race, it was easy to believe in God, and He was very near to the soul. In Paradise, there is no thought of angels; it is God Himself who walks in the garden. A little later, the thought of angels appears, but, God has not gone away, and as “the angel of Yahweh” He appears to His people and redeems them. In these early times the Jews believed that there were multitudes of angels, not yet divided in thought into good and bad; these had no names or personal characteristics, but were simply embodied messages. Till the time of the captivity the Jewish angelology shows little development. During that dark period they came into close contact with a polytheistic people, only to be more deeply confirmed in their monotheism thereby. They also became acquainted with the purer faith of the Persians, and in all probability viewed the tenets of Zoroastrianism with a more favorable eye, because of the great kindness of Cyrus to their nation. There are few direct traces of Zoroastrianism in the later angelology of the Old Testament. It is not even certain that the number seven as applied to the highest group of angels is Persian in its origin; the number seven was not wholly disregarded by the Jews. One result of the contact was that the idea of a hierarchy of the angels was more fully developed. The conception in Dan of angels as “watchers,” and the idea of patron-princes or angel-guardians of nations may be set down to Persian influence. It is probable that contact with the Persians helped the Jews to develop ideas already latent in their minds. According to Jewish tradition, the names of the angels came from Babylon. By this time the consciousness of sin had grown more intense in the Jewish mind, and God had receded to an immeasurable distance; the angels helped to fill the gap between God and man.

The more elaborate conceptions of Daniel and Zechariah are further developed in Apocrypha, especially in 2Esdras, Tobit and 2Macc.

In the New Testament, we find that there is little further development; and by the Spirit of God its writers were saved from the absurdly puerile teachings of contemporary Rabbinism. We find that the Sadducees, as contrasted with the Pharisees, did not believe in angels or spirits (Ac 23:8). We may conclude that the Sadducees, with their materialistic standpoint, and denial of the resurrection, regarded angels merely as symbolical expressions of God’s actions. It is noteworthy in this connection that the great priestly document (Priestly Code, P) makes no mention of angels. The Book of Revelation naturally shows a close kinship to the books of Ezekiel and Daniel.

Regarding the rabbinical developments of angelology, some beautiful, some extravagant, some grotesque, but all fanciful, it is not necessary here to speak. The Essenes held an esoteric doctrine of angels, in which most scholars find the germ of the Gnostic eons.

V. The Reality of Angels.

A belief in angels, if not indispensable to the faith of a Christian, has its place there. In such a belief there is nothing unnatural or contrary to reason. Indeed, the warm welcome which human nature has always given to this thought is an argument in its favor. Why should there not be such an order of beings, if God so willed it? For the Christian the whole question turns on the weight to be attached to the words of our Lord. All are agreed that He teaches the existence, reality, and activity of angelic beings. Was He in error because of His human limitations? That is a conclusion, which it is very hard for the Christian to draw, and we may set it aside. Did He then adjust His teaching to popular belief, knowing that what He said was not true? This explanation would seem to impute deliberate untruth to our Lord, and must equally be set aside. So we find ourselves restricted to the conclusion that we have the guaranty of Christ’s word for the existence of angels; for most Christians that will settle the question.

The visible activity of angels has come to an end, because their mediating work is done; Christ has founded the kingdom of the Spirit, and God’s Spirit speaks directly to the spirit of man. This new and living way has been opened up to us by Jesus Christ, upon whom faith can yet behold the angels of God ascending and descending. Still they watch the lot of man, and rejoice in his salvation; still they join in the praise and adoration of God, the Lord of hosts, still can they be regarded as “ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation.” John Macartney Wilson (5)


1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 2Kings, Vol.3, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.182-183.

2. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Jude. Vol. 3. (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 945.

3. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 710.

4. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol.4, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.432-433.

5. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for “ANGELS,” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 132-135.

“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: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics

** Angels at http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/40882

Can angels be spirit guides?

Popular Angels and the Occult by: The John Ankerberg Show https://www.jashow.org/artic…/popular-angels-and-the-occult/

What are spirit guides? Should Christians consult spirit guides? https://www.gotquestions.org/spirit-guides.html

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What is Prayer?

What is Prayer? By Jack Kettler

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical, and commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. This study is a continuation of a previous study on heaven.


Prayer: from Question 178, Westminster Larger Confession is an offering up of our desires unto God,[1] in the name of Christ,[2] by the help of his Spirit;[3] with confession of our sins,[4] and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.[5] *

1. Psa. 62:8: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

2. John 16:23: “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

3. Rom. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

4. Psa. 32:5-6: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah 6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.” Dan. 9:4: “I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments….”

5. Phil. 4:6: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Prayer: is a privilege and an obligation of the Christian where we communicate with God. It is how we convey our confession (1John 1:9), requests (1Timothy 2:1-3), intercessions (James 5:15), thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), etc., to our holy God. We are commanded to pray (1Thessalonians 5:17). Some personal requirements of prayer are a pure heart (Psalms 66:18), belief in Christ (John 14:13), and that the prayer be according to God’s will (1 John 5:13). We can pray standing (Nehemiah 9:5), kneeling (Ezra 9:5), sitting (1Chronicles 17:16-27), bowing (Exodus 34:8), and with lifted hands (1Timothy 2:8). **

Types of prayer:

The prayer of faith in James 5:15 from Matthew Poole’s Commentary:

“And the prayer of faith; i.e. proceeding from faith; the cure is ascribed to prayer, the moral means, and standing ordinance, not to the anointing, which was but ceremonial and temporary; and to faith in prayer, to show that this remedy was effectual only when faith (requisite to the working of miracles) was active, viz. in a certain persuasion that the sick person should be healed.

Shall save the sick; restore to health, (if God see it fit, and the health of the body be good for the soul), Mark 10:52 Luke 7:50 18:42.

And the Lord shall raise him up; the elders pray, but the Lord raiseth up, being prayed to in faith.

Raise him up; the same as saving before, only the word seems to respect the sick man’s lying upon his bed, from which he riseth when he is healed, Mark 1:31.

If he have committed sins; if he have by his sins procured his sickness; or, those sins for which particularly God visits him with sickness; sin being often the cause of sickness, Matthew 9:2 John 5:14 1 Corinthians 11:30, though not always, John 9:2.

They shall be forgiven him; God will take away the cause as well as the effect, heal the soul as well as the body, and prayer is the means of obtaining both.” (1)

Public prayer on Acts 1:14 from Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

“14. Continued with one accord—knit by a bond stronger than death.

In prayer and supplication—for the promised baptism, the need of which in their orphan state would be increasingly felt.

And Mary the mother of Jesus—distinguished from the other “women,” but “so as to exclude the idea of her having any pre-eminence over the disciples. We find her with the rest in prayer to her glorified Son” [Webster and Wilkinson]. This is the last mention of her in the New Testament. The fable of the Assumption of the Virgin has no foundation even in tradition [Alford]. With his brethren—(See on [1935] John 7:3).” (2)

Closet or Private Prayer on Matthew 6:6 from Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

“Enter into thy closet – Every Jewish house had a place for secret devotion. The roofs of their houses were flat places, well adapted for walking, conversation, and meditation. See the notes at Matthew 9:2. Professor Hackett (“Illustrations of Scripture,” p. 82) says; “On the roof of the house in which I lodged at Damascus were chambers and rooms along the side and at the corners of the open space or terrace, which constitutes often a sort of upper story. I observed the same thing in connection with other houses.” Over the porch, or entrance of the house, there was frequently a small room of the size of the porch, raised a story above the rest of the house, expressly appropriated for the place of retirement. Here, in secrecy and solitude, the pious Jew might offer his prayers, unseen by any but the Searcher of hearts. To this place, or to some similar place, our Saviour directed his disciples to repair when they wished to hold communion with God.” (3)

The prayer of supplication on 1Timothy 2:1 from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

“Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.—Many attempts, some of them not very happy ones, have been made by grammarians and commentators to distinguish between these terms, each of which denotes prayer. On the whole, it may be assumed that the Greek word translated “supplications” signifies a request for particular benefits, and is a special form of the more general word rendered “prayers.” The third expression in the English version translated “intercessions” suggests a closer and more intimate communion with God on the part of the one praying. It speaks of drawing near God, of entering into free, familiar speech with Him. The Greek word suggests prayer in its most individual, urgent form. The fourth term, “giving of thanks,” expresses that which ought never to be absent from any of our devotions, gratitude for past mercies. Archbishop Trench remarks how this peculiar form of prayer will subsist in heaven when, in the very nature of things, all other forms of prayer will have ceased in the entire fruition of the things prayed for, for then only will the redeemed know how much they owe to their Lord. The word Eucharist is derived from the Greek word used in this place—eucharistia—for in the Holy Communion the Church embodies its highest act of thanksgiving for the highest benefits received.” (4)

The prayer of thanksgiving and praise on Philippians 4:6 from The Pulpit Commentary:

“Verse 6. – Be careful for nothing; rather, as R.V., in nothing be anxious. Μέριμνα is anxious, distracting care. St. Paul does not wish his converts to be careless, but to be free from that over-anxiety about worldly things, which might distract their thoughts from the service of God, and hinder their growth in holiness. Comp. 1 Peter 5:7, where the apostle bids us cast all our care (μέριμνα) upon God. The thought of the Lord’s nearness should lead us both to be forbearing in our relations to others, and also to keep ourselves free, as far as may be, from worldly anxieties. “He careth for us.” But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. “Curare et orare,” says Bengel, “plus inter se pugnant quam aqua et ignis.” In everything; in each emergency, little or great, as it arises, pray; cultivate the habit of referring all things, great or small, to God in prayer. The two words rendered “prayer” and “supplication” προσευχή and δέησις) occur together also in Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1 and Ephesians 5:5. The first has been defined by Chrysostom and others as prayer to obtain a good; the second, prayer to avoid an evil Better, perhaps, as most modern commentators, προσευχή is the general word, covering the idea of prayer in its widest meaning; while δέησις is a special act of supplication for some particular object of need (see Trench, ‘Synonyms of the New Testament,’ sect. 51.). With thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the necessary accompaniment of prayer; it ought never to be absent from our devotions; it springs out of that holy joy which St. Paul so constantly sets before us in this Epistle as the bounden duty of Christians. St. Paul himself is an example of constant thanksgiving. All his Epistles, except those to the Galatians, 1Timothy, and Titus, open with a thanksgiving. In the dungeon at Philippi, he and Silas “prayed and sang praises unto God” (Acts 16:25). Our requests, the things for which we ask, are to be made known unto God; πρὸς τὸν Θεόν before God, in the presence of God, by prayer, the general converse of the soul with God; and by supplication, direct petitions for the supply of our necessities. Indeed, he knows our necessities before we ask; but we are encouraged to make them known before him, as Hezekiah took the letter of Sennacherib and spread it before the Lord.” (5)

Comments on Corporate prayer on Matthew 6:9-13 from Corporate Aspects of the Lord’s Prayer:*

“Jesus often took a small group of disciples with him when he went off to pray. Before he was transfigured, “he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28). He took his disciples to watch and pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-38). To this very day, Jesus calls his disciples to come away in small groups to pray, for wherever two or three come together in his name, he is right there with them (Matt. 18:20).

Since Jesus has commanded us to pray together, we should pray in our homes. Roommates should pray together—daily if possible, but at least weekly. Parents should pray with their children at mealtimes, at bedtime, and throughout the day. Husbands and wives should pray together about the needs of their household.

Christians should also pray together in small groups. Home Bible studies and fellowship groups are sometimes considered a recent development in the life of the church. Yet wise Christians have never been satisfied to worship only once a week. They have always gathered during the week for prayer. The first apostles went to the temple to pray. The apostle Paul held house meetings in all the churches he planted. Even under persecution, Christians met in places like the catacombs to pray. Societies of men and women were organized for prayer throughout the Middle Ages. During the Reformation, pastors met together for Bible teaching and prayer. Many of the Puritans formed house groups. In short, Christians have always met regularly to pray with their brothers and sisters. If prayer meetings were good for people like Peter, Lydia, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), they will be good for you, too. One of the things that makes the church a community is the fact that believers pray together.

Since the Lord’s Prayer is a family prayer, we not only pray with one another, we also pray for one another. In the last three petitions, we do not pray for ourselves, primarily, but for the whole church.


When we say, “Give us today our daily bread,” we are praying for our daily provision. We are asking God to meet the material needs of our brothers and sisters. This is why church bulletins often mention who is in the hospital, or what a missionary needs, or which family needs help moving. It is also why small groups spend time sharing personal prayer requests. When Jesus taught us to pray, he taught us to pray for the needs of the family.

Praying for a brother or a sister is one sign of spiritual maturity. Imagine a very demanding little boy. Every day he asks his parents to feed him breakfast, to find his shirt, to tie his shoes, to take him to the park, to give him a snack, and to do a hundred other things for him. Then one day the boy makes a request, not for himself, but for his little sister. He says, “Dad, can you help my sister? She climbed up on the dresser and she can’t get down.” The boy’s father will be touched by his son’s concern for another family member. In the same way, our Father in heaven wants us to ask for daily provision for our brothers and sisters.


We are also to pray for our daily pardon, which is what we do when we say, “Forgive us our debts.” Some sins are private sins. They are committed by an individual within the privacy of the heart. While every Christian needs to confess his or her own personal sin, other sins are corporate sins. They are committed by nations, cities, churches, or families. They are no one’s fault in particular, but they are everyone’s fault in general. God thus holds us responsible, not only for our individual sins, but also for the sins of our group. That is why so many of the great heroes of the Old Testament—Daniel, for example (Dan. 9:4-19), and Ezra (Ezra 9:5-15)—confessed the sins of the entire nation.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we confess not only our individual sins, but especially the corporate sins of the church. What are the prevailing sins of your church? Pride? Envy? Hypocrisy? Prejudice? Greed? These are the kinds of sins which require corporate repentance. As a general rule, the Holy Spirit does not come in his reviving power until a church confesses its sins as a church.


Finally, when we say, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we pray for our daily protection. As a pastor, I often offer this kind of prayer on behalf of our congregation: “Some of us will be tempted to sin today, Lord. Keep us from falling! Provide a way of escape! Save us from sin and from Satan!”

Daily provision, daily pardon, daily protection—these are the things we ask for in our family prayer. By praying these things for one another, we strengthen our family ties. As Cyprian once explained:

Before all things, the Teacher of peace and the Master of unity would not have prayer to be made singly and individually, as for one who prays to pray for himself alone. For we say not “My Father, which art in heaven,” nor “Give me this day my daily bread;” nor does each one ask that only his own debt should be forgiven him; nor does he request for himself alone that he may not be led into temptation, and delivered from evil. Our prayer is public and common; and when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.” (6)

The prayer of consecration on Romans 12:1 from The Essentials of Prayer by Edward M. Bounds:

“Consecration is much more than a life of so-called service. It is a life of personal holiness, first of all. It is that which brings spiritual power into the heart and enlivens the entire inner man. It is a life, which ever recognizes God, and a life given up to true prayer.

Never is he to be contented till he is fully, entirely the Lord’s by his own consent. His praying naturally and involuntarily leads up to this one act of his.

Consecration is the voluntary set dedication of one’s self to God, an offering definitely made, and made without any reservation whatever. It is the setting apart of all we are, all we have, and all we expect to have or be, to God first of all. It is not so much the giving of ourselves to the Church, or the mere engaging in some one line of Church work. Almighty God is in view and He is the end of all consecration. It is a separation of one’s self to God, a devotement of all that he is and has to a sacred use. Some things may be devoted to a special purpose, but it is not consecration in the true sense. Consecration has a sacred nature. It is devoted to holy ends. It is the voluntary putting of one’s self in God’s hands to be used sacredly, holily, with sanctifying ends in view.” (7)

Intercessory prayer on 1Samuel 12:23 from The Pulpit Commentary:

“Verse 23. – God forbid, Hebrew, ‘Far be it from me.’ That I should sin… in ceasing to pray for you. In no character of the Old Testament does this duty of intercessory prayer stand forward so prominently as in Samuel (see ver. 19); nor does he rest content with this, but adds, I will teach you the good and the right way. This was a far higher office than that of ruler; and not only was Samuel earnest in discharging this prophetic office of teaching, but he made provision for a supply of teachers and preachers for all future time by founding the schools of the prophets.” (8)

Imprecatory prayers on Psalm 79:6 from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

“Pour out thy wrath upon the Heathen that have not known thee,…. Who had poured out the blood of the saints like water, and therefore it was a righteous thing with God to pour out the cup of wrath in his hands, and cause them to drink the dregs of it: these words, though they are in the form of an imprecation, yet regard not private revenge, but public justice, and the honour of God; and, besides, may be considered as a prophecy of what would be, and particularly of God’s pouring out the vials of his wrath on the antichristian states; who, though they profess Christianity, are no other than Heathens, and have no spiritual and serious knowledge of Christ:

and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name; but upon their idols of gold, silver, brass, and stone, on the Virgin Mary, angels, and saints departed; for these, besides the kingdoms of Babylon, Syria, and Rome Pagan, are the kingdoms of the ten kings, that gave their kingdoms to the beast, and committed fornication, i.e. idolatry, with the whore of Rome; see Revelation 17:2, these words are referred to in Jeremiah 10:25 and also the following.” (9)

Pastoral prayers on Philemon 1:4 from Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

“I thank my God – That is, for what I hear of you.

Making mention of thee always in my prayers – See a similar declaration respecting the church at Ephesus, Ephesians 1:16. It would appear from this that Paul, in his private devotions, was in the habit of mentioning churches and individuals by name. It would seem, also, that though he was a prisoner, yet he somehow found opportunity for secret devotion. And it would appear further, that, though encompassed with many cares and sorrows, and about to be put on trial for his life, he did not forget to remember a Christian brother though far distant from him, and to bear him on his heart before the throne of grace. To remember with affectionate concern these churches and individuals, as he did, Paul must have been a man of much prayer.” (10)

Prayers of Forgiveness Luke 11:4 from The Pulpit Commentary:

“Verse 4. – And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. Unforgiving is unforgiven. Nothing apparently more easy to frame with the lips, and to desire intensely with the heart, than this petition that the Father would forgive us our sins, only, in praying the prayer, how many forget, or at least slur over, the condition of that forgiveness – a condition they impose themselves! We forget the ten thousand talents as we exact the hundred pence, and, in the act of exacting, we bring back again the weight of the great debt on ourselves. And lead us not into temptation. The simple meaning of this concluding petition in St. Luke’s report of the prayer is, ‘Thou knowest, Father, how weak I am; let me not be tempted above that I am able.’” (11)

In closing, a fine summation of prayer:

Prayer from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

“prar (deesis, proseuche, (enteuxis; for an excellent discussion of the meaning of these see Thayer’s Lexicon, p. 126, under the word deesis; the chief verbs are euchomai, proseuchomai, and deomai, especially in Luke and Acts; aiteo, “to ask a favor” distinguished from erotao, “to ask a question,” is found occasionally): In the Bible “prayer” is used in a simpler and a more complex a narrower and a wider signification. In the former case it is supplication for benefits either for one’s self (petition) or for others (intercession). In the latter, it is an act of worship, which covers all soul in its approach to God. Supplication is at the heart of it, for prayer always springs out of a sense of need and a belief that God is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). But adoration and confession and thanksgiving also find a place, so that the suppliant becomes a worshipper. It is unnecessary to distinguish all the various terms for prayer that are employed in the Old Testament and the New Testament. But the fact should be noticed that in the Hebrew and Greek aloe there are on the one hand words for prayer that denote a direct petition or short, sharp cry of the heart in its distress (Ps 30:2; 2Co 12:8), and on the other “prayers” like that of Hannah (1Sa 2:1-10), which is in reality a song of thanksgiving, or that of Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, in which intercession is mingled with doxology (Eph. 3:14-21).

1. In the Old Testament:

The history of prayer as it meets us here reflects various stages of experience and revelation. In the patriarchal period, when `men began to call upon the name of the Lord’ (Ge 4:26; compare Ge 12:8; 21:33), prayer is naive, familiar and direct (Ge 15:2 ff; Ge 17:18; 18:23 ff; Ge 24:12). It is evidently associated with sacrifice (Ge 12:8; 13:4; 26:25), the underlying idea probably being that the gift or offering would help to elicit the desired response. Analogous to this is Jacob’s vow, itself a species of prayer, in which the granting of desired benefits becomes the condition of promised service and fidelity (Ge 28:20 ff). In the pre-exilic history of Israel prayer still retains many of the primitive features of the patriarchal type (Ex 3:4; Nu 11:11-15; Jg 6:13 ff; Jg 11:30 f; 1Sa 1:11; 2Sa 15:8; Ps 66:13 f). The Law has remarkably little to say on the subject, differing here from the later Judaism (see Schurer, HJP,II, i, 290, index-vol, p. 93; and compare Mt 6:5 ff; Mt 23:14; Ac 3:1; 16:13); while it confirms the association of prayer with sacrifices, which now appear, however, not as gifts in anticipation of benefits to follow, but as expiations of guilt (De 21:1-9) or thank offerings for past mercies (De 26:1-11). Moreover, the free, frank access of the private individual to God is more and more giving place to the mediation of the priest (De 21:5; 26:3), the intercession of the prophet (Ex 32:11-13; 1Sa 7:5-13; 12:23), the ordered approach of tabernacle and temple services (Ex 40:1-38; 1Ki 8:1-66). The prophet, it is true, approaches God immediately and freely–Moses (Ex 34:34; De 34:10) and David (2Sa 7:27) are to be numbered among the prophets–but he does so in virtue of his office, and on the ground especially of his possession of the Spirit and his intercessory function (compare Eze 2:2; Jer. 14:15).

A new epoch in the history of prayer in Israel was brought about by the experiences of the Exile. Chastisement drove the nation to seek God more earnestly than before, and as the way of approach through the external forms of the temple and its sacrifices was now closed, the spiritual path of prayer was frequented with a new assiduity. The devotional habits of Ezra (Ezr 7:27; 8:23), Nehemlab (Ne 2:4; 4:4,9, etc.) and Daniel (Da 6:10) prove how large a place prayer came to hold in the individual life; while the utterances recorded in Ezr 9:6-15; Ne 1:5-11; 9:5-38; Da 9:4-19; Isa 63:7 through Isa 64:12 serve as illustrations of the language and spirit of the prayers of the Exile, and show especially the prominence now given to confession of sin. In any survey of the Old Testament teaching the Psalms occupy a place by themselves, both on account of the large period they cover in the history and because we are ignorant in most cases as to the particular circumstances of their origin. But speaking generally it may be said that here we see the loftiest flights attained by the spirit of prayer under the old dispensation–the intensest craving for pardon, purity and other spiritual blessings (Ps 51:1-19; 130:1-8), the most heartfelt longing for a living communion with God Himself (Ps 42:2; 63:1; 84:2).

2. In the New Testament:

Here it will be convenient to deal separately with the material furnished by the Gospel narratives of the life and teaching of Christ and that found in the remaining books. The distinctively Christian view of prayer comes to us from the Christ of the Gospels. We have to notice His own habits in the matter (Lu 3:21; 6:12; 9:16,29; 22:32,39-46; 23:34-46; Mt 27:46; Joh 17:1-26), which for all who accept Him as the revealer of the Father and the final authority in religion immediately dissipate all theoretical objections to the value and efficacy of prayer. Next we have His general teaching on the subject in parables (Lu 11:5-9; 18:1-14) and incidental sayings (Mt 5:44; 6:5-8; 7:7-11; 9:38; 17:21; 18:19; 21:22; 24:20; 26:41 and the parallels), which presents prayer, not as a mere energizing of the religious soul that is followed by beneficial spiritual reactions, but as the request of a child to a father (Mt 6:8; 7:11), subject, indeed, to the father’s will (Mt 7:11; compare Mt 6:10; 26:39,42; 1Jo 5:14), but secure always of loving attention and response (Mt 7:7-11; 21:22). In thus teaching us to approach God as our Father, Jesus raised prayer to its highest plane, making it not less reverent than it was at its best in Old Testament times, while far more intimate and trustful. In the LORD’S PRAYER (which see). He summed up His ordinary teaching on the subject in a concrete example which serves as a model and breviary of prayer (Mt 6:9-13; Lu 11:2-4). But according to the Fourth Gospel, this was not His final word upon the subject. On the night of the betrayal, and in full view of His death and resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand, He told His disciples that prayer was henceforth to be addressed to the Father in the name of the Son, and that prayer thus offered was sure to be granted (Joh 16:23-24,26). The differentia of Christian prayer thus consists in its being offered in the name of Christ; while the secret of its success lies on the one hand in the new access to the Father which Christ has secured for His people (Joh 17:19; compare Heb. 4:14-16; 10:19-22), and on the other in the fact that prayer offered in the name of Christ will be prayer in harmony with the Father’s will (Joh 15:7; compare 1Jo 3:22 f; 1Jo 5:13 f).

In the Acts and Epistles, we see the apostolic church giving effect to Christ’s teaching on prayer. It was in a praying atmosphere that the church was born (Ac 1:14; compare Ac 2:1); and throughout its early history prayer continued to be its vital breath and native air (Ac 2:42; 3:1; 6:4, 6 and passim). The Epistles abound in references to prayer. Those of Paul in particular contain frequent allusions to his own personal practice in the matter (Ro 1:9; Eph. 1:16; Php 1:9; 1Th 1:2, etc.), and many exhortations to his readers to cultivate the praying habit (Ro 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Php 4:6; 1Th 5:17, etc.). But the new and characteristic thing about Christian prayer as it meets us now is its connection with the Spirit. It has become a spiritual gift (1Co 14:14-16); and even those who have not this gift in the exceptional charismatic sense may “pray in the Spirit” whenever they come to the throne of grace (Eph 6:18; Jude 1:20). The gift of the Spirit, promised by Christ (Joh 14:16 ff, etc.), has raised prayer to its highest power by securing for it a divine cooperation (Ro 8:15, 26; Ga 4:6). Thus Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit.” See PRAYERS OF CHRIST. J. C. Lambert (12)

Quotes on prayer:

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther

“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” – Charles Spurgeon

“Prayer delights God’s ear; it melts His heart; and opens His hand. God cannot deny a praying soul.” – Thomas Watson

“God tolerates even our stammering, and pardons our ignorance whenever something inadvertently escapes us – as, indeed, without this mercy there would be no freedom to pray.” – John Calvin


1. Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 881.

2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1083.

3. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Matthew, Vol.1, p. 104.

4. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 1Timothy, Vol.3, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p.184.

5. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Philippians, Vol.20., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p.156.

6. *This article has been excerpted from Phil Ryken, When You Pray: Making the Lord’s Prayer Your Own, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000; reprinted 2006), p. 43-45.

7. E.M. Bounds, Our High Calling, On Prayer, vol. 2 (Dublin, California, First-Love Publications), p. 77-78.

8. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, 1Samuel, Vol. 4., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 210.

9. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 918.

10. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Philemon, and Vol.3, p. 4063.

11. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Luke, Vol.16, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 301.

12. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor, Entry for “PRAYER,” “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, reprinted 1986), pp. 2430-2441.

“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: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

For more study:

* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/

** CARM theological dictionary https://carm.org/dictionary-hermeneutics

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What is Heaven?

What is Heaven? By Jack Kettler

As in previous studies, we will look at definitions, scriptures, lexical, and commentary evidence and confessional support for the purpose to glorify God in how we live. This study is a continuation of a previous study on heaven.


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

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

From the Scriptures on heaven:

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19)

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

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

From the Pulpit Commentary on Acts 1:11:

“Verse 11. – Looking for gazing up, A.V.; this for this same, A.V.; was received for is taken, A.V.; beheld him going for have seen him go, A.V. In like manner; i.e. in a cloud. The description of our Lord’s second advent constantly makes mention of clouds. “Behold, he cometh with clouds” (Revelation 1:7). “One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13; and so Matthew 26:64; Luke 21:27, etc.). We are reminded of the grand imagery of Psalm 104:3, “Who maketh the clouds his chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the wind.” It may be remarked that the above is by far the fullest account we have of the ascension of our Lord. St. Luke appears to have learnt some further particulars concerning it in the interval between writing his Gospel (Luke 24:50-52) and writing the Acts. But allusions to the Ascension are frequent (Mark 16:19; John 6:62; John 20:17; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 4:8, 9; Philippians 2:9; Colossians 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:22, etc.). With reference to Zeller’s assertion, that in St. Luke’s Gospel the Ascension is represented as taking place on the day of the Resurrection, it may freely be admitted that the narrative in the Gospel does not mark distinctly the interval of time between the different appearances and discourses of our Lord from the day of the Resurrection to that of the Ascension. It seems to group them according to their logical connection rather than according to their chronological sequence, and to be a general account of what Jesus said between the Resurrection and the Ascension. But there is nothing whatever in the text of St. Luke to indicate that what is related in the section Luke 24:44-49 took place at the same time as the things related in the preceding verses. And when we compare with that section what is contained in Acts 1:4, 5, it becomes clear that it did not. Because the words “assembling together with them,” in ver. 4, clearly indicate a different occasion from the apparitions on the day of the Resurrection; and as the words in Luke 24:44-49 correspond with those in Acts 1:4, 5, it must have been also on a different occasion that they were spoken. Again, the narrative of St. John, both in the twentieth and the twenty-first chapters, as well as that of Matthew 28:10, 16; Mark 16:7, precludes the possibility of the Ascension having taken place, or having been thought to have taken place, on the day of the Resurrection, or for many days after, so that to force a meaning upon the last chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel which it does not necessarily bear, and which places it at variance with St. Luke’s own account in the Acts (Acts 1:3; 13:31), and with the Church traditions as preserved by St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. John, is a violent and willful transaction.” (1)

Additional Scriptures on heaven:

“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55ESV)

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, and house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2Corinthians 5:1)

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

“But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16)

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

From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Revelation 21:2:

“And I John saw the holy city… The same with the beloved city in Revelation 20:9 the church of God: sometimes the church militant is called a city, of which the saints are now fellow citizens, governed by wholesome laws, and enjoying many privileges; but here the general assembly and church of the firstborn, or all the elect of God, are intended, the whole body and society of them, being as a city, compact together; called holy, not only because set apart to holiness by God the Father, and their sins expiated by the blood of Christ, or because he is made sanctification to them, or because internally sanctified by the Spirit of God, which now is but in part; but because they will be perfectly holy in themselves, without the being of sin in them, or any spot of it on them: and John, for the more strong ascertaining the truth of this vision, expresses his name, who saw it, to whom God sent his angel, and signified to him by these Apocalyptic visions what should be hereafter; though the name is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions:

new Jerusalem; the church of God, both in the Old and New Testament, is often called Jerusalem, to which its name, which signifies the vision of peace, agrees; it was the city of the great King, whither the tribes went up to worship; it was a free city, and a fortified one: the Gospel church state in its imperfection is called the heavenly Jerusalem, and the Jerusalem above, which is free, and the mother of all; and here the church in its perfect state is called the new Jerusalem, where will be complete peace and prosperity; and which is called new, because it has its seat in the new heaven and new earth: the inhabitants of which will appear in their new and shining robes of immortality and glory; and to distinguish it from the old Jerusalem, and even from the former state of the church; for this will be “the third time” that Jerusalem will be built, as say the Jews, namely, in the time of the King Messiah:

coming down from God out of heaven; which designs not the spiritual and heavenly original of the saints, being born from above, on which account the church is called the heavenly Jerusalem; but a local descent of all the saints with Christ from the third heaven into the air, where they will be met by living saints; and their bodies being raised and united to their souls, they will reign with Christ in the new earth: and this is

the building which the Jews say God will prepare for the Jerusalem which is above, “to descend into:”

prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; Christ is the husband, or bridegroom, and the church is his spouse, and bride; and in these characters they will both appear at this time, when the marriage between them will be consummated: and the church may be said to be prepared as such, when all the elect of God are gathered in, the number of the saints is perfected; when the good work of grace is finished in them all, and they are all arrayed in the righteousness of Christ: and to be “adorned”, when not only they are clothed with the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation, and are beautified with the graces of the Spirit, but also with the bright robes of immortality and glory. The phrase is Jewish, and is to be read exactly as here in the book of Zohar (t).” (2)

Digging deeper from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words Heaven:

Shâmayim (שָׁמֶה, Strong’s #8064), “heavens; heaven; sky.” This general Semitic word appears in languages such as Ugaritic, Akkadian, Aramaic, and Arabic. It occurs 420 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew.

First, shâmayim is the usual Hebrew word for the “sky” and the “realm of the sky.” This realm is where birds fly. God forbids Israel to make any “likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air” (Deut. 4:17). When Absalom’s hair caught in the branches of a tree, he hung suspended between the “heaven” and the earth (2 Sam. 18:9). This area, high above the ground but below the stars and heavenly bodies, is often the locus of visions: “And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem” (1Chron. 21:16).

Second, this word represents an area farther removed from the earth’s surface. From this area come such things as frost (Job 38:29), snow (Isa. 55:10), fire (Gen. 19:24), dust (Deut. 28:24), hail (Josh. 10:11), and rain: “The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained” (Gen. 8:2). This realm is God’s storehouse; God is the dispenser of the stores and Lord of the realm (Deut. 28:12). This meaning of shâmayim occurs in Gen. 1:7-8: “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven.”

Third, shâmayim also represents the realm in which the sun, moon, and stars are located: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night …” (Gen. 1:14). This imagery is often repeated in the Creation account and in poetical passages. Thus the “heavens” can be stretched out like a curtain (Ps. 104:2) or rolled up as a scroll (Isa. 34:4).

Fourth, the phrase “heaven and earth” may denote the entire creation. This use of the word appears in Gen. 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Fifth, “heaven” is the dwelling place of God: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Ps. 2:4; cf. Deut. 4:39). Again, note Deut. 26:15: “Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel…” Another expression representing the dwelling place of God is “the highest heaven [literally, the heaven of heavens].” This does not indicate height, but an absolute—i.e., God’s abode is a unique realm not to be identified with the physical creation: “Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is” (Deut. 10:14). (3)

How do we get to heaven?

Belgic Confession, Article 26: The Intercession of Christ

Article 26: The Intercession of Christ

We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, “Jesus Christ the righteous,”[63] who therefore was made human, uniting together the divine and human natures, so that we human beings might have access to the divine Majesty. Otherwise, we would have no access. But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between himself and us, ought not terrify us by his greatness, so that we have to look for another one, according to our fancy. For neither in heaven nor among the creatures on earth is there anyone who loves us more than Jesus Christ does. Although he was “in the form of God,” Christ nevertheless “emptied himself,” taking “human form” and “the form of a slave” for us; [64] and he made himself “like his brothers and sisters in every respect.”[65] Suppose we had to find another intercessor. Who would love us more than he who gave his life for us, even though “we were his enemies”? [66] And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as much of these as he who is seated at the right hand of the Father, [67] and who has “all authority in heaven and on earth”? [68] And who will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son? So, the practice of honoring the saints as intercessors in fact dishonors them because of its misplaced faith. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused.

We should not plead here that we are unworthy—for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith. Since the apostle for good reason wants us to get rid of this foolish fear—or rather, this unbelief—he says to us that Jesus Christ was made like “his brothers and sisters in every respect, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest” to purify the sins of the people. [69] For since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who are tempted. [70]

And further, to encourage us more to approach him he says, “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tempted, as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace, to help in time of need.” [71]

The same apostle says that we “have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus.” “Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith….” [72]

Likewise, Christ “holds his priesthood permanently….Consequently, he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” [73]

What more do we need? For Christ himself declares: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” [74] Why should we seek another intercessor?

Since it has pleased God to give us the Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave him for another—or rather seek, without ever finding. For, when giving Christ to us, God knew well that we were sinners.

Therefore, in following the command of Christ we call on the heavenly Father through Christ, our only Mediator, as we are taught by the Lord’s Prayer, being assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in his name.

63 1 John 2:1; 64 Phil. 2:6-8; 65 Heb. 2:17, 66 Rom. 5:10; 67 Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3; 68 Matt. 28:18; 69 Heb. 2:17; 70 Heb. 2:18; 71 Heb. 4:14-16; 72 Heb. 10:19, 22; 73 Heb. 7:24-25; 74 John 14:6


1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Acts, Vol.18., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 3.

2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Revelation, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 454-455.

3. W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of OT, (Dallas, TX, Thomas Nelson), p. 298-299.4.

“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. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

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