10 January, 2006


All human beings who have accepted that there is a God, and that the Bible is His revelation to man, need to seriously apply themselves to finding out its basic message. Many of those calling themselves 'Christians' seem to make a poor job of this - a few verses from the New Testament on Sundays, a Bible somewhere in the home that is never opened, dimly remembering a handful of Bible stories. Little wonder that with such a laid-back attitude to God's mighty Word of truth, there is so much confusion and uncertainty in the lives and minds of so many.

On the other hand, there are those with little Christian background who decide to try to figure out the Bible's message, but find that everyone they approach tries to offer them a package deal of doctrines and human philosophies which do not fundamentally reflect the words of the Bible.

The basic message of Scripture has a beauty and strength that only increases after being viewed, and proven, from many different angles. Grasping the real truth of the Gospel as taught in the Bible's pages will affect every part of our lives, leading men and women the world over to properly give glory to God as He intended, both now and for eternity. Every one who finds the truth finds the "pearl of great price", and will know the feelings of Jeremiah for himself: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart" (Jer.15:16). To achieve this, be sure to pray for God's help in understanding the word before you go through each of these studies.

"And now...I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).

The Bible is the Inspired Word of God

"Spirit" means "breath" or breathing, "Inspiration" means "in-breathing". This means that the words which men wrote while under "inspiration" from God were the words of God's spirit. Paul encouraged Timothy not to let his familiarity with the Bible lead him to forget the wonder of the fact that it is the words of God's spirit, and therefore provides all that we need in order to have a true knowledge of God:-

"From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect (complete), throughly furnished (or 'thoroughly equipped') unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

If the inspired Scriptures can provide such a totality of knowledge, then there is no need for some 'inner light' to show us the truth about God. But how many times do people speak of their personal feelings and experiences as being the source of their knowledge of God! If an acceptance in faith of God's inspired word is enough to completely equip someone in the Christian life, there is no need for any other power of righteousness in our lives. If there is such a need, then God's word has not completely equipped us, as Paul promises it will. To hold the Bible in our hands and believe that it really is the Word of God's spirit takes quite some faith. The Israelites were reasonably interested in what God's word had to say, as are many "Christians" today. We all need to carefully reflect on Heb. 4:2:-

"Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them (Israel in the wilderness): but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it".

Instead of rising up to a complete faith in the power of God's spirit/word which is received, it is far more attractive to take a spiritual short-cut: to reason that a power of righteousness suddenly comes upon us, which will make us acceptable to God, rather than having to experience the pain of consciously bringing our lives into obedience to God's word, and thereby letting God's spirit truly influence our hearts.

This unwillingness to accept the huge spiritual power which is in God's word has led many "Christians" to question whether all the Scriptures are fully inspired by God. They have suggested that much of what we read in the Bible was just the personal opinions of wise old men. But Peter effectively disposes of such stubborn reasoning:-

"We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it...above all, you must understand (this is vital!) that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19-21).

We must "above all" believe that the Bible is inspired. This is the foundation clause of the Christadelphian Statement of Faith.

The Writers Of The Bible

A solid belief in the total inspiration of the Scriptures is therefore vital; the men who wrote the Bible were irresistibly carried along by the spirit which inspired them, so that their words were not their own. The Word of God being the truth (Jn. 17:17) and providing rebuke and correction (2 Tim. 3:16,17), it is not surprising that with many people it is unpopular - for truth hurts. The prophet Jeremiah suffered much opposition for speaking forth the words God inspired him with, and so he determined not to record or publicize the words which he was given. But because the writing of God's Word is a result of God's will rather than human desire, he was "carried along by the Holy Spirit" so that he had no choice in the matter. "I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me...Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (Jer. 20:7,9).

Likewise when Balaam was determined to curse Israel, the spirit of God made him speak out a blessing on them instead (Num. 24:1-13 cp. Deut. 23:5).

A surprising number of the men whom God inspired to speak His word went through periods of reluctance to do so. The list is impressive:-
Moses (Ex. 4:10)
Ezekiel (Ez. 3:14)
Jonah (Jonah 1:2,3)
Paul (Acts 18:9)
Timothy (1 Tim. 4:6-14)
Balaam (Num. 22-24)

This all confirms what we learnt in 2 Pet. 1:19-21 - that God's word is not the personal opinion of men, but the result of men being inspired to write down what was revealed to them. The prophet Amos reflected: "The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophecy?" (Amos 3:8). At times Moses lost the sense of his own personality, so strong was his inspiration by God: "All these commandments, which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses.." (Num. 15:22,23); these words were actually said by Moses (v. 17).

Another strand of evidence for this is that the writers of the Bible realized that they did not fully understand the things which they were writing. They "searched" for the correct interpretation - "unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things" which they wrote (1 Peter 1:9-12). The actual words they recorded were not their own interpretation, seeing it was that which they searched for. The following provide obvious examples: Daniel (Dan. 12:8-10); Zechariah (Zech. 4:4-13); Peter (Acts 10:17).

If these men were only partly inspired, we do not have access to the true Word or spirit of God. If what they wrote really was the Word of God,then it follows that they had to be completely taken over by God's spirit during the period of inspiration - otherwise the product would not have been God's Word in purity. An acceptance that God's Word is completely His, provides us with more motivation to read and obey it. "Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it" (Ps. 119:140).

Thus the books of the Bible are the work of God through His spirit, rather than the literature of men. The truth of this is shown by considering how the New Testament refers to the Old Testament writings:

• Matt. 2:5 (R.V. mg.) speaks of how it was "written through the prophets" - God was writing through them. The R.V. margin always uses the word "through" when describing how God wrote by the prophets.

• "The Holy Spirit by the mouth of David spake..." (Acts 1:16.

This is how Peter quoted from the Psalms: cp. Heb. 3:7).

• "Well spake the Holy Spirit by Esaias" (Acts 28:25 - this was how Paul quoted Isaiah). Lk.3:4 speaks of "the book of the words of Esaias" rather than just, 'the book of Isaiah'.

The human authors of the Bible were therefore relatively unimportant to the early Christians; it was the fact that their words had been inspired with the Spirit of God which was important.

The Power Of God's Word

God's spirit referring not only to His mind/disposition but also to the power by which He expresses those thoughts, it is to be expected that His spirit-word is not just a statement of His mind; there is also a dynamic power in that word.

A true appreciation of that power should make us eager to make use of it; any feelings of embarrassment associated with doing so should be overcome by our knowledge that obedience to God's word will give us the power which we need to accelerate out of the small things of this life, towards salvation. Out of much experience of this, Paul wrote:-

"I am not ashamed of the Gospel (the word) of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16).

Bible study and applying it to our lives is therefore a dynamic process. It is quite unrelated to the cold, academic approach of theologians and also to the 'feel-good' Christianity of many churches, whereby a few passages are briefly quoted,but no effort made to understand or apply them. "The word of God is quick (living) and powerful"; "the word of His (God's) power" (Heb. 4:12; 1:3). "The word of God...effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:13). Through the Word, God is actively at work in the minds of true believers, every hour of the day.

We are surrounded by those who have a semi-faith in the Bible as God's word, despite their claims of commitment to Christ. Similarly they claim to believe in God, and yet fail to accept that He is a real person. By denying the total inspiration of Scripture and its supremacy over our personal feelings and convictions, they are denying God's power. The words of 2 Tim. 3:5 come to mind: "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof", i.e. the power of the word of the Gospel.

Our fundamentalism is mocked by the world ("You don't believe it like that, do you?!"), and so was that of Paul and his band of preachers: "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).

Bearing all this in mind, can't we each hold the Bible in our hands with an ever greater measure of respect, and read it with ever more eagerness to understand and obey?

The Attitude of God's People to His Word

A sensitive reading of the Biblical record indicates that the Bible writers not only recognized that they were inspired, but they also treated other Bible writers as inspired. The Lord Jesus is preeminent in this. When Jesus quoted from the Psalms of David, he prefaced this with the words, "David in spirit..." (Mt. 22:43), showing his recognition of the fact that David's words were inspired. Jesus also spoke of Moses' "writings" (Jn. 5:45-47), showing that he believed Moses to have literally written the Pentateuch. The so-called 'higher critical' Christians have doubted whether Moses could write, but the attitude of Christ clearly contradicts their approach. He called Moses' writings "the commandment of God" (Mark 7:8,9). The same group of dishonest doubters claims that much of the Old Testament is myth, but never do Jesus or Paul treat them like that. Jesus spoke of the Queen of Sheba as an accepted historical fact (Mt. 12:42); he did not say, 'As the story goes about the Queen of Sheba...'.

The attitude of the Apostles was identical to that of their Lord. It is epitomized by Peter who said that his personal experience of hearing Christ's words with his own ears was eclipsed by the "more sure word of prophecy" (2 Pet. 1:19-21). Peter believed that Paul's letters were "Scripture" as much as the "other Scriptures", a phrase normally used about the Old Testament writings. Thus Peter saw Paul's letters as being as authoritative as the Old Testament.

There are many allusions in Acts, the Epistles and Revelation to the Gospels (e.g. cp. Acts 13:51; Mt. 10:14), indicating not only that they were all inspired by the same Spirit, but that the Gospel records were treated as inspired by the New Testament writers. Paul in 1 Tim. 5:18 quotes both Dt. 25:4 (in the Old Testament) and Lk. 10:7 as "Scripture". Paul hammers home the point that his message was from Christ, not himself (Gal. 1:11,12; 1 Cor. 2:13; 11:23; 15:3). This was recognized by the other apostles; thus James 4:5 quotes Paul's words of Gal. 5:17 as "Scripture".

God "has spoken" to us in Christ; there is therefore no need for any further revelation (Heb. 1:2). It can be observed that the Bible alludes to other inspired writings which are now not available (e.g. the book of Jasher, the writings of Nathan, Elijah, Paul to Corinth, and John's third Epistle implies that John had written an unpreserved letter to the church which Diotrephes had refused to obey). Why have these writings not been preserved for us? Evidently because they were not relevant to us. We can therefore rest assured that God has preserved all that is relevant for us.

It is sometimes claimed that the New Testament books were gradually accepted as being inspired, but the fact that the Apostles treated each other's writings as inspired surely disproves this. There was a miraculous Spirit gift available to test whether letters and words which claimed to be inspired really were so (1 Cor. 14:37; 1Jn. 4:1; Rev. 2:2). This means that the inspired letters were immediately accepted as inspired. If there was any unguided human selection of what went into our Bible, then the book would have no authority.

02 January, 2006

The Problem With "Demons"

Many religions purpose that demons are the servants of the devil. Many people seem to think that God gives us all the good things of life, and the devil and his demons give us the bad things, and take away the good things which God gives us.

The Bible clearly teaches that God is the source of all power, and that He is responsible for both the good things and the bad things in our lives:-

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things", Isaiah 45:7;
"Evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem", Micah 1:12;
"Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Amos 3:6.
"I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God ( the Hebrew word for 'god' really means 'power') beside Me" Isaiah 45:5;
"Is there a God beside Me? yea,there is no God; I know not any",
"The Lord He is God; there is none else beside Him" Deuteronomy 4:35.

Therefore when we get trials, we should accept that they come from God, not blame them on a devil or demons. Job was a man who lost many of the good things which God blessed him with, but he did not say, "These demons have taken away all God gave me". No; listen to what he said:-

"The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord", Job 1:21;
"Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" Job 2:10

Once we understand that all things are from God, when we have problems in life we can pray to God for Him to take them away, and if He does not, we can be assured that He is giving them to us in order to develop our characters and for our good in the long run:-

"My Son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth He (not demons!) chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons" (Hebrews 12:5-8).

God is also recorded as being a "jealous" God. God gets jealous when His followers start believing in other gods, if they say to Him, 'You are a great God, a powerful God, but actually I believe there are still some other gods beside You, even if they are not as powerful as You'. This is why we cannot believe that there are demons or a devil in existence as well as the true God. This is just the mistake Israel made. Much of the Old Testament is spent showing how Israel displeased God by believing in other gods as well as in Him. We will see from the Bible that the "demons" people believe in today are just like those false gods Israel believed in.

Demons Are Idols
In 1 Corinthians, Paul explains why Christians should have nothing to do with idol worship or believing in such things. In Bible times people believed demons to be little gods who could be worshipped to stop problems coming into their lives. They therefore made models of demons, which were the same as idols, and worshipped them. This explains why Paul uses the words "demon" and "idol" interchangeably in his letter:-

"The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with demons...if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake..." (1 Cor.10:20,28). So idols and demons are effectively the same. Notice how Paul says they sacrificed "to demons (idols) and not to God" - the demons were not God, and as there is only one God, it follows that demons have no real power at all, they are not gods. The point is really driven home in 1 Cor.8:4:-

"As concerning ...those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol (equivalent to a demon) is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one". An idol, or a demon, has no existence at all. There is only one true God, or power, in the world. Paul goes on (vs.5,6):-

"For though there be that are called gods...(as there be gods many and lords many, [just as people believe in many types of demon today - one demon causing you to lose your job, another causing your wife to leave you, etc.]) But to us (the true believers) there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things (both good and bad, as we have seen from the earlier references)".

Further proof that people in New Testament times believed demons to be idols or 'gods' is found in Acts 17:16-18; this describes how Paul preached in Athens, which was a "city wholly given to idolatry", therefore worshipping many different idols. After hearing Paul preach the Gospel, the people said, "He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange (i.e. new) gods (demons): because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection". So the people thought that "Jesus" and "the resurrection" were new demons or idols that were being explained to them. If you read the rest of the chapter, you will see how Paul goes on to teach the truth to these people, and in v. 22 he says, "Ye are too superstitious" (literally: devoted to demon worship) and he explains how God is not present in their demons, or idols. Remember that God is the only source of power. If He is not in demons, then demons do not have any power because there is no other source of power in this universe - i.e. they do not exist.

Old Testament 'Demons' Were Idols
Going back to the Old Testament, there is more proof that "demons" are the same as idols. Dt. 28:22-28, 59-61 predicted that mental disease would be one of the punishments for worshipping idols/demons. This explains the association of demons with mental illness in the New Testament. But let it be noted that the language of demons is associated with illness, not sin. We do not read of Christ casting out demons of envy, murder etc. It must also be noted that the Bible speaks of people having a demon/disease, rather than saying that demons caused the disease. It is significant that the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) used the word 'daimonion' for "idol" in Dt. 32:17 and Ps. 106:37; this is the word translated "demon" in the New Testament. Psalm 106:36-39 describes the errors of Israel and likens the idols of Canaan to demons:-

"They (Israel) served their idols; which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and daughters unto demons, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan...Thus they were defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions".

Quite clearly demons are just another name for idols. Their worship of demons is described by God as worshipping their "own works...their own inventions" because their belief in demons was a result of human imagination; the idols they created were their "own works". So those who believe in demons today are believing in things which have been imagined by men, the creation of men, rather than what God has taught us.

Deuteronomy 32:15-24 describes just how angry God gets when His people believe in demons: Israel "lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they Him to anger. They sacrificed unto demons, not to God; to gods whom they knew not... whom your fathers feared not...And He (God) said, I will hide My face from them...for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities...I will heap mischiefs upon them"

So God describes demons as the same as idols, abominations, and vanities - things which are vain to believe in, which have no existence. Believing in demons shows a lack of faith in God. It is not easy to have faith that God provides everything, both good and bad, in life. It is easier to think that the bad things come from someone else, because once we say they come from God, then we need to have faith that God will take them away or that they are going to be beneficial to us ultimately.

New Testament Demons
But some may ask: "How about all the passages in the New Testament which clearly speak about demons?"

One thing we must make obvious right away: the Bible cannot contradict itself, it is the Word of Almighty God. If we are clearly told that God brings our problems and that He is the source of all power, then the Bible cannot also tell us that demons - little gods in opposition to God - bring these things on us. It seems significant that the word "demons" only occurs four times in the Old Testament and always describes idol worship, but it occurs many times in the Gospel records. We suggest this is because, at the time the Gospels were written, it was the language of the day to say that any disease that could not be understood was the fault of demons. If demons really do exist and are responsible for our illnesses and problems, then we would read more about them in the Old Testament. But we do not read about them at all in this context there.

To say that demons were cast out of someone is to say that they were cured of a mental illness, or an illness which was not understood at the time. People living in the first century tended to blame everything which they couldn't understand on imaginary beings called 'demons' (this belief was carried forward for centuries when "witches" were burnt at the stake for supposedly bringing death and evil to people and communities). Mental illness was hard to understand with their level of medical knowledge and so the people spoke of those afflicted as 'demon possessed'. In Old Testament times, an evil or unclean spirit referred to a troubled mental state (Jud.9:23; 1 Sam.16:14; 18:10). In New Testament times, the language of evil spirit/ demon possession had come to refer to those suffering mental illness. The association between demons and sickness is shown by the following: "They brought unto him(Jesus) many that were possessed with demons: and He cast out the spirits with His word...that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet (in the Old Testament), saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:16,17). So human infirmities and sicknesses are the same as being possessed by "demons" and "evil spirits".

People thought that Jesus was mad and said this must be because He had a demon - "He hath a demon, and is mad" (John 10:20; 7:19,20; 8:52). They therefore believed that demons caused madness.

Healing The Sick
When they were healed, people "possessed with demons" are said to return to their "right mind" - Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35. This implies that being "possessed with demons" was another way of saying someone was mentally unwell - i.e. not in their right mind.

Those "possessed with demons" are said to be "healed" or "cured" - Matthew 4:24;12:22;17:18 - implying that demon possession is another way of describing illness.

In Luke 10:9 Jesus told His 70 apostles to go out and "heal the sick", which they did. They returned and said, v. 17, "even the demons are subject unto us through Thy name" - again, demons and illness are equated. Sometimes the apostles cured people in the name of Jesus and here we have an example of this (see also Acts 3:6; 9:34).

The Language Of The Day
So we see that in the New Testament it was the language of the day to describe someone as being possessed with demons if they were mentally ill or had a disease which no one understood. The contemporary Roman and Greek cultural belief belief was that demons possessed people, thereby creating mental disease. Those 'Christians' who believe in the existence of demons are effectively saying that the contemporary pagan beliefs in this area were perfectly correct. The Bible is written in language which people can understand. Because it uses the language of the day does not mean that It or Jesus believed in demons. In the same way in English we have the word "lunatic" to describe someone who is mentally ill. Literally it means someone who is "moon struck". Years ago people used to believe that if a person went out walking at night when there was a clear moon, they could get struck by the moon and become mentally ill. We use that word "lunatic" today to describe someone who is mad, but it does not mean that we believe madness is caused by the moon.

If these words were written down and re-read in 2,000 years' time - if Jesus had not returned - people might think we believed that the moon caused madness, but they would be wrong because we are just using the language of our day, as Jesus did 2,000 years ago. Similarly we describe a certain hereditary disorder as "St. Vitus's Dance" which is neither caused by "St. Vitus" nor "dancing", but in using the language of the day we call it "St. Vitus's Dance". It is evident that Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th; yet the present writer still uses the term 'Christmas day' when speaking of that day, although I do not believe that we should keep that day as a celebration of Christ's birth. The names of the days of the week are based upon pagan idol worship - e.g. 'Sunday' means 'the day devoted to worshipping the sun'; 'Saturday' was the day upon which the planet Saturn was to be worshipped, Monday for the moon, etc. To use these names does not mean that we share the pagan beliefs of those who originally coined our present language. 'Influenza' is likewise a term in common use today; it strictly means 'influenced by demons'.

Jesus' miracles clearly demonstrated that the power of God was absolute and complete, unbounded by the superstitions of men concerning so-called 'demons'. Those who believe that the New Testament records of 'demons' prove that such beings do actually exist are duty bound to accept that lightning is actually a huge serpent (Job 26:37). This is surely a powerful point; there must be a recognition that the Bible uses the language of the day in which it is written, without necessarily supporting the beliefs which form the basis of that language. We have shown our own use of language to be similar. The Bible does this in order to confirm the kind of basic truths which we considered in Studies 6.1 and 6.2 - that God is all powerful; He is responsible for our trials; sin comes from within us - all these things can be made sense of by appreciating the greatness of God's power to save. The so-called 'higher critics' are constantly unearthing links between the language of Scripture and the beliefs and conceptions of the surrounding cultures in which the Bible was inspired and recorded. These are understandable, once it is understood that the Bible uses language which may allude to local beliefs, but does so in order to make the point that Yahweh, the only true God, is far greater than the petty beliefs of men which would have been known to those who first read the inspired words, fresh from the prophet's mouth.

With this in mind, it is surprising how many examples can be found in the New Testament of the language of the day being used without that language being corrected. Here are some examples:-

- The Pharisees accused Jesus of doing miracles by the power of a false god called Beelzebub. Jesus said, "If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out?" (Matthew 12:27). 2 Kings 1:2. clearly tells us that Beelzebub was a false god of the Philistines. Jesus did not say, 'Now look, 2 Kings 1:2 says Beelzebub was a false god, so your accusation cannot be true'. No, he spoke as if Beelzebub existed, because he was interested in getting his message through to the people to whom he preached. So in the same way Jesus talked about casting out demons - he did not keep saying, 'actually, they do not exist', he just preached the Gospel in the language of the day.

- Acts 16:16-18 are the words of Luke, under inspiration: "a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of Python met us". As explained in the footnote in the Diaglott version, Python was the name of a false god believed in during the first century, possibly the same as the god Apollo. So Python definitely did not exist, but Luke does not say the girl was 'possessed with a spirit of Python, who, by the way, is a false god who does not really exist...'. In the same way the Gospels do not say that Jesus 'cast out demons which, by the way, do not really exist, it is just the language of the day for illnesses'.

- Lk. 5:32 records Jesus saying to the wicked Jews: "I came not to call the righteous...". He was inferring, 'I came not to call those who believe they are righteous'. But Jesus spoke to them on their own terms, even though, technically, he was using language which was untrue. Lk. 19:20-23 shows Jesus using the untrue words of the one-talent man in the parable to reason with him, but he does not correct the wrong words the man used.

- The Bible often speaks of the sun 'rising' and 'going down'; this is a human way of putting it, but it is not scientifically correct. Likewise illness is spoken of in the technically 'incorrect' language of 'demons'. Acts 5:3 speaks of how Ananias deceived the Holy Spirit. This, actually, is an impossibility, yet what Ananias thought he was doing is spoken of as fact, even though it was not.

- There are many Biblical examples of language being used which was comprehensible at the time it was written, but is now unfamiliar to us, for example, "skin for skin" (Job 2:4) alluded to the ancient practice of trading skins of equivalent value; a male prostitute is called a "dog" in Deut. 23:18. The language of demons is another example.

- The Jews of Christ's day thought that they were righteous because they were the descendants of Abraham. Jesus therefore addressed them as "the righteous" (Mt.9:12,13), and said "I know that ye are Abraham's seed" (Jn.8:37). But he did not believe that they were righteous, as he so often made clear; and he plainly showed by his reasoning in Jn.8:39-44 that they were not Abraham's seed. So Jesus took people's beliefs at face value, without immediately contradicting them, but demonstrated the truth instead. We have shown that this was God's approach in dealing with the pagan beliefs which were common in Old Testament times. Christ's attitude to demons in New Testament times was the same; his God-provided miracles made it abundantly plain that illnesses were caused by God, not any other force, seeing that it was God who had the mighty power to heal them.

- Paul quoted from Greek poets, famous for the amount of unBiblical nonsense they churned out, in order to confound those who believed what the poets taught (Tit.1:12; Acts 17:28). What we are suggesting is epitomized by Paul's response to finding an altar dedicated to the worship of "The Unknown God", i.e. any pagan deity which might exist, but which the people of Athens had overlooked. Instead of rebuking them for their folly in believing in this, Paul took them from where they were to understand the one true God, who they did not know (Acts 17:22,23).

- Eph.2:2 speaks of "the prince of the power of the air". This clearly alludes to the mythological concepts of Zoroaster - the kind of thing which Paul's readers once believed. Paul says that they once lived under "the prince of the power of the air". In the same verse, Paul defines this as "the spirit (attitude of mind) that...worketh" in the natural man. Previously they had believed in the pagan concept of a heavenly spirit-prince; now Paul makes the point that actually the power which they were formally subject to was that of their own evil mind. Thus the pagan idea is alluded to and spoken of, without specifically rebuking it, whilst showing the truth concerning sin.

- Acts 28:3-6 describes how a lethal snake attacked Paul, fastening onto his arm. The surrounding people decided Paul was a murderer, whom "vengeance suffereth not to live". Their reading of the situation was totally wrong. But Paul did not explain this to them in detail; instead, he did a miracle - he shook the snake off without it biting him.

The miracles of Jesus exposed the error of local views, e.g. of demons, without correcting them in so many words. Thus in Lk. 5:21 the Jews made two false statements: that Jesus was a blasphemer, and that God alone could forgive sins. Jesus did not verbally correct them; instead he did a miracle which proved the falsity of those statements.

- It was clearly the belief of Jesus that actions speak louder than words. He rarely denounced false ideas directly, thus he did not denounce the Mosaic law as being unable to offer salvation, but he showed by his actions, e.g. healing on the Sabbath, what the Truth was. When he was wrongly accused of being a Samaritan, Jesus did not deny it (Jn. 8:48,49 cp. 4:7-9) even though his Jewishness, as the seed of Abraham, was vital for God's plan of salvation (Jn. 4:22).

Even when the Jews drew the wrong conclusion (wilfully!) that Jesus was "making himself equal with God" (Jn. 5:18), Jesus did not explicitly deny it; instead he powerfully argued that his miracles showed him to be a man acting on God's behalf, and therefore he was NOT equal with God. The miracles of Jesus likewise showed the error of believing in demons. Christ's miracle of healing the lame man at the pool was to show the folly of the Jewish myth that at Passover time an angel touched the water of the Bethesda pool, imparting healing properties to it. This myth is recorded without direct denial of its truth; the record of Christ's miracle is the exposure of its falsehood (Jn. 5:4).

- 2 Pet.2:4 talks of wicked people going to Tartarus (translated "hell" in many versions). Tartarus was a mythical place in the underworld; yet Peter does not correct that notion, but rather uses it as a symbol of complete destruction and punishment for sin. Christ's use of the word Gehenna was similar (see Study 4.9).

Do Demons Really Cause Illnesses?
Everyone who believes demons exist has to ask themselves the question: "When I am ill, is it caused by demons?" If you think the New Testament references to demons are about little gods going round doing evil, then you have to say "yes". In that case, how can you explain the fact that many diseases blamed on demons can now be cured or controlled by drugs? Malaria is the classic example. Most people in Africa believed until recently that malaria was caused by demons, but we know that malaria can be cured by quinine and other drugs. Are you then saying that as the demons see the little yellow tablets going down your throat they become frightened and fly away? Some of the diseases which Jesus cured, which are described as being the result of demon possession, have been identified as tetanus or epilepsy - both of which can be relieved by drugs.

A friend of mine comes from a village just outside Kampala in Uganda. He told us that people used to believe malaria was caused by demons, but once they saw how the drugs controlled it so easily, they stopped blaming the demons. However, when someone had cerebral malaria (causing serious mental illness) they still blamed the demons. A doctor came from the nearby town and offered them strong anti-mal drugs as a cure, but they refused because they said they needed something to fight demons, not malaria. The doctor returned later and said, "I have a drug which will chase away the demons"; the sick person eagerly took the drug, and became better. The second tablets were just the same as the first ones. The doctor did not believe in demons, but he used the language of the day to get through to the person - just like the "Great Physician", the Lord Jesus, of 2,000 years ago.

01 January, 2006

What the Bible Says about "The Trinity"

According the the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia, the Trinity is defined as follows:
"...in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another...the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God. In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent."

For over 15 centuries, the trinity has been the banner doctrine of mainstream Christianity. Even as Protestant groups enjoyed free access to the Bible and the freedom to break cleanly from Catholicism, almost all have chosen to retain doctrine of the trinity. And this despite the fact that the trinity flies in face of two of the Bible's clearest and most absolute teachings:

God is One.
Jesus died.

The Oneness of God was the defining belief that took Abraham from Ur, the pillar on which was built the nation of Israel. "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Dt. 6:4) It is impossible to be more clear and concise: God is one. Yet the trinity purports that God is one, yet three. Biblically, the doctrine of the trinity fails for the following reasons:

1. The doctrine is entirely absent from the Old Testament. It makes no sense for God to insist for 3000 years that He is One, then backtrack and reveal that He is in fact three. (The doctrine of the Trinity wasn't established until 300AD)

2. Biblically, God the Father and Jesus are distinct. Paul states clearly in I Cor. 8:6 that "for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and for whom we exist...".

3. In the Bible, "God" and "the Father" are interchangeable terms; "Jesus" and "God" are not. In fact, Jesus calls the Father his God in John 20:17. Paul reiterates this in many places, such as Eph. 1:17 and II Cor. 11:31.

4. All throughout scripture there is a clear hierarchy between Jesus and God, with the Father always acknowledged as supreme. For this reason, Jesus and God cannot be "co-equal" as some state.

5. The Holy Spirit isn't mentioned in any of the heirarchies.

6. It is evident that at least during Jesus' ministry (and tradition says he never ceased to be God), there were two distinct wills at work - the will of God and the will of the flesh (John 5:30).

7. The words "trinity", "God the Son" and "God the Holy Spirit" do not appear in the Bible.

8. God is all-knowing. Jesus learnt.

9. No man has seen God. Jesus was seen by hundreds of people.

10. Neither Paul nor Jesus ever taught the concept of the Trinity.

11. The term "one substance" (as used by Trinitarians to explain the unity of the Godhead) wasn't a part of the Greek language durng the time the New Testament was being written. Paul himself would have been confused by this term.

12. Jesus was "made a little lower than the angels" (Hebrews 2:9). If Jesus and God are co-equal, this verse in Hebrews is a logical impossibility.

13. God requires that believers worship him. Jesus never asked his followers to worship him.

14. In Matthew 28:10, Jesus calls his followers "brothers". Are we "children of God" or "brethren of God"?

15. Matthew 3:17 - What is the value of God indicating his pleasure in Christ if Christ was Himself? And what had Christ supposedly achieved here, if he was God and it was impossible for Him to sin or do wrong?

16. Psalm 89:26 is a Messianic Psalm. In it, God says "...I will make him (Jesus)…”. If Jesus pre-existed, this verse doesn't make sense as he would already have been "made".

17. 1Ti 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." An obvious distinction between God and Jesus and an obvious distinction of ongoing roles and authority.

18. Mat 24:36 "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." If Jesus is God, why doesn't he know when he's going to return to earth?

19. John 8:17-18 Jesus quotes from the law the necessity that evidence, to be valid, must be agreed upon by two witnesses. Jesus states that the two witnesses are himself and God. Two, not one. If Jesus were God, there was only one witness, and if Jesus says there are two, then he and God are not one.

20. God is immortal. Jesus died.

21. Contrary to popular misconception, the words 'echad' and 'yachid' are not a sufficient defense of evidence of the Trinity in the OT (specifically, "The Lord our God is a bunch of Gods" vs. "The Lord our God is one God" Deut. 6:4). The Hebrew word "one" in itself has no special. The compound noun in the sentence defines whether "one" is plural (one bunch of grapes) or singular (one language filled the earth).

And here we touch upon our second main point: Did Jesus die?

The unanimous answer is that yes, of couse he did. However, have you seriously stopped to consider the undeniable fact of the immortality of God, and what that means? It means that God cannot die. Death and immortality are mutually exclusive characteristics.

If Jesus died, he cannot be God, for God cannot die.
If Jesus is God, he cannot have died, for God cannot die.

Think about this for a moment...

Also consider the temptation of Christ. The Bible emphatically states in many places (ie Heb. 4:15) that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. But if Jesus is God, this creates another set of contradictions:

1. Temptation without the possibility of falling to sin is meaningless.
2. If Jesus is God, it was impossible that he sin, and it makes no sense to say he was tempted.

The essence of Christ's humanity rests in these two points: that he was tempted and that he died. In this is everything by which we identify ourselves with him, and relate through him to God. Both death and temptation to evil are absolutely remote from God. If God could be tempted and die, what need would there be of a mediator (as Christ is referred to as being)? If God could be tempted and die, He would be just like us.

The Trinity, resting on its' age and tradition in the Christian world, attempts to bring Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit into one person. This is an incorrect Biblical teaching that stands in the way of those who would come to God in spirit and in truth, seeking reconciliation and redemption through Christ. When a doctrine takes the most simple relationship to understand, and twists into something incomprehensible, you have to start asking questions.

The Problem With The "Devil"

Let’s face it: we all know the devil very well. There is a bit in all of us that secretly envies the success of our neighbors. It’s that bit that suspects that every one is out for himself, that no one is to be trusted, that the only way to get ahead is to be a better hustler than the next guy. It’s that bit that looks out for number one that desires luxury instead of contentment, power instead of fellowship, and glory instead of caring. There is bit in all of us that leads us to sin against God and each other.

Without the perverse thoughts that arise from that devilish bit within us, no external temptation would be able to get a hold on us long enough to be a temptation. James says, every man is tempted by his own desires, which then lead on to sin (James 1:14-15). Jesus makes it clear that only a man’s own thoughts can truly defile him (Mark 7:20-23) and those thoughts come from within. Every one of us knows how true that is. That sensuous, willful bit in all of us is what the Bible is talking about, when it tells us about the Flesh (Galatians 5:19), about the World (1 John 2:16), and the ‘old man’ (Colossians 3:9). And as it happens, it’s what the Bible is talking about when it tells us about the Devil.

The Devil You Know?
It may come as a surprise, but the devil in the Bible is not at all what most churches teach. Isn’t there an evil archangel, whose rebellion in heaven failed? Isn’t there the ruler in Hell, a commander of demons, a tormentor of lost souls? In a word: no. None of these popular notions is taught in the Bible, though some of the imagery is drawn from Biblical sources. In fact, in the Bible the devil is never mentioned in connection with Hell; and the only passage that connects him with demons (as Beelzebub) was used to disprove the Pharisaical idea of a devil in control of demons (Matthew 12:27-28).

Most of what one hears about the devil comes from literature outside the Bible, such as ‘Faust’ and ‘Paradise Lost,’ which in turn draw on medieval legends. As a representation of the perversity and destructiveness of human nature, the devil is a wonderful literary device: it’s easy to see why story-tellers over the ages have used this character, and why stories about the devil have always been popular. But a Christian must look to the Bible, not to the works of men.

The Word ‘Devil’ in the Bible
There are two main words that are used in the Bible to talk about the great enemy. The word “devil” is primarily a New Testament word. In the original language of the New Testament, Greek, the word is diabolov, diabolos, from which we get our English word “diabolical.” The word means an accuser or a slanderer; and it is translated that way when it clearly refers to people (2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3).

The other word often used in the New Testament is ‘Satan.’ This is actually an Old Testament Hebrew word that has been taken whole (transliterated) into the New Testament. In Hebrew, ‘Satan’ means an opponent or adversary and it is usually translated that way. In the New Testament it is used as a name. In the Old Testament, ‘Satan’ appears as a name in only two places, one in the book of Job and one in Zechariah, neither of which provides much support for the common perception. For example, the latter case:

Satan in Zechariah
In about 500 B.C., Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Joshua the priest led a large company of Jews from Babylon to restore the temple in Jerusalem. Their story is told in the first six chapters of the book of Ezra. Zechariah prophesied in this time to encourage the people to finish building the temple (Ezra 5:1; Zechariah 1:1). Zechariah’s prophecy is a series of visions filled with symbolic images about the work of God to establish his temple and his holy city Jerusalem. The vision in Zechariah chapter 3 is one of these visions. In it the prophet sees Satan standing at the right hand of Joshua in the presence of the angel of the LORD. Satan is there, the prophet says, to accuse or oppose Joshua. It is important to notice that the position of Satan here is essentially the same as in the book of Job: his only power is to bring accusations against a man whom the LORD would favor. Joshua is wearing soiled robes, symbolic of sin; the angel commands that he be reclothed in rich garments and a clean miter, symbolic of the favor he would now enjoy. This vision corresponds to the judgment recorded in Ezra 6:6-10. The enemies of the Jews had accused them before the king of Persia, to stop their righteous work; and for many years they were unable to make any progress. But the angel of the LORD worked with the king of Persia, and he rebuffed the enemies of God’s people, granting them the king’s favor and help. The temple was rebuilt quickly, and Joshua presided there before the LORD.

Besides the historical setting of the prophecy, there is evidence elsewhere in the Bible that this interpretation is sound. Jude, in verse 9, tells us it was Michael who rebuked Satan, though he is not mentioned in the account in Zechariah. But another vision about the restoration of the Jews and the temple, in Daniel 10, indicates that Michael was working to influence the king of Persia at that time. So the angel that rebuffed the Jews’ accusers would have been Michael, just as Jude says. Together, these writers confirm the conclusion that the vision in Zechariah 3 is about the edict in Ezra 6. Satan in Zechariah’s vision – the Adversary – refers to the peoples surrounding the Jews, who were motivated by an attitude, a state of mind that led them to oppose this great work of God.

Satan in the New Testament
In two places in the Old Testament we have seen the name Satan applied symbolically to people whose actions and thoughts were motivated by that bit of the devil we all have. This same pattern holds in the New Testament. In Matthew 16:23, Jesus addresses Peter as Satan, because his mind is opposed to the things of God. Was Peter really Satan? Yes, in that he was moved by that bit within him that wanted to avoid the hardship that can come with obedience. In Acts 5:3 Peter suggests that Ananias was inspired by Satan to deceive the Holy Spirit, then in verse 9 he indicates that Ananias concocted the plan with his wife Sapphira. Was either Ananias or Sapphira really Satan? In this case, they both were. These two were motivated by that bit we all have in us, that desires to have praise of men, but not to trust in God.

The reader is strongly urged read the New Testament references to Satan with this suggestion in mind. Satan will be shown to be a symbolic name, showing us how people are motivated by the mind of the flesh, or by love of the world, or other thoughts contrary to the will of God. The Bible has portrayed human nature in this way as a literary device, to help us see clearly just how dangerous this enemy is.

The Tempter of Christ
Another place where this can be seen is in the temptation of Christ. In this passage the devil is shown engaging the Lord Jesus in a conversation, and actually leading him about from place to place. And, after all, this is Jesus we’re discussing here! How could he possibly be tempted by the thoughts of the flesh, as we are?

Yet, in the letter to the Hebrews we find that the susceptibility to temptation was vital to Christ’s role as high priest:

“For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, RSV)

What does the verse mean: “in every respect… tempted as we are”? As we have already seen, every man is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:14). If Jesus did not know the whisperings of that bit of the devil within all of us, his temptations could not have been anything like ours. And he could never have been the perfect High Priest he has become. This is what happened for forty days in the wilderness.

Take a moment to go to the Bible and read Luke 4:1-13 or Matthew 4:1-11. As you read, ask yourself this simple question: what is really happening? For example, did Jesus actually go along with the devil to the top a high mountain in order to be tempted? Did he actually go along with the devil to a pinnacle of the temple in order to be tempted? It is clear enough that the high mountain, with its view of all the kingdoms of the world, is not real: there is no such mountain. And if Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days he could not really have been atop the temple in Jerusalem. So several details in the text are impossible as a report of fully physical events.

But, if this record is really a symbolic picture of Christ overcoming the temptations of his own flesh, it all works. Our Lord did not hang around with the devil; he did not follow a known super-villain on two long excursions for the purpose of being tempted. Rather, he was taken in thought, by his own thoughts, to consider his course as the beloved Son of God. He would refuse to use his miraculous powers to relieve his own hunger, but would attend to the word of God and rely on the Father to provide. He would refuse to use his powers to compel the people to recognize him as the Son of God, but would tend to the ministry his Father had appointed him. He would refuse to take power before the Father’s good time. In the mind’s eye, it is possible to see all the kingdoms of the world from a high mountain. In the imagination, it is possible to be on the pinnacle of the temple, even when you’re really in the desert.

Also notice the context of the entire event. The temptations occurred immediately after Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17), immediately after Jesus received limitless power. Isn’t that in itself a convincing testimony of the presence of a human, internal temptation? For example, by analogy, when is a teenager most sorely tempted to break the speed limit on the roads? Isn’t it immediately after they have received a brand new incredibly fast car? Jesus was a human man, albeit one that never forsook his Father’s will, and he received the Holy Spirit of God without limit (John 3:34). How revealing it is of the human condition that the temptations arrived immediately subsequent.

The devil that tempted Christ in the wilderness was the same devil that tempts us to misuse God’s gifts: that evil bit inside us that opposes the Lord’s purpose for us. Jesus was after all tempted in just the same way we are, yet without sin. He overcame the devil, not only in the desert, but at every turn (notice Luke 4:13 -- it came back later!).

The Devil at Work
The works of the devil are also described in the New Testament as works of the flesh, and of sin. Its arsenal includes deception (Romans 7:11), fear (Hebrews 2:14-15), and envy (James 3:14). All the things that are at enmity with God in the world (1 John 2:16) arise not from some outside source, but from the heart of each person.

Paul describes people who have fallen into the devil’s snare as opposing themselves (2 Tim 2:25-26). He writes of internal warfare between the flesh and the spirit (Romans 7:23; Galatians 5:17). James tells how that internal warfare spills out and erupts into warfare between brothers (James 4:1). All these are descriptions of human nature in all its fearfulness, viciousness, and sensuality. To the disciples of Christ, the children of God, this is the enemy: this is the one who accuses them before God. The enemy declares they are not righteous, not worthy of God’s favor; he says every thing he can to stop the work of God in his children, to keep them from finishing the temple they are laboring to build (2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19).

The Serpent
One last figure that must be considered in connection with the devil and Satan is the serpent of Genesis 3.

Take a moment to read through the account of Eve’s temptation in Genesis 3:1-6. What is described is pretty straightforward, if a little odd. There was a snake talking to the woman. A very subtle snake, as verse 1 points out, but a snake nonetheless. What does the serpent actually do? He suggests to the woman that God is holding out on her and her husband, that the fruit would be good for them, that God’s law was not true. The woman then convinces herself that this is a good idea, eats, and takes some to her husband.

Where is the devil, then? It is not necessary, and not helpful, to read in a supernatural villain here: the bare facts are enough. The snake, in so few words, brought doubt and suspicion where before there had been acceptance and obedience. He actually suggested to Eve that she break faith with God, and that God had not acted faithfully with her. He led an innocent into sin.

The reader knows full well it does not require any great power, any supernatural wickedness, to do the terrible things the serpent did in just a few cunning words. All it takes is an agile mind (Genesis 3:1) with no understanding of the ways of God. But the effects of that lie are with us to this day. That sinful bit of within us all is quite capable of doing the same thing; not only within ourselves, but also between us, leading others into sins they may never have considered on their own. Surely there is no greater evil than this, to lead an innocent person to break faith with God.

We have considered the Biblical accounts of Satan and the devil in light of human experience. The devil is found in a great number of literary works outside the Bible simply because it is such a powerful literary device, a representation of all that is wicked and deceitful in the human heart. The Bible uses this figure in exactly the same way. Attempts to make the devil more than a literary device (a device showing us the worst in human nature) inevitably founded on the simple test: what actual events are described in this story? In using this figure, the Bible helps us to focus on the fact that this bit of wickedness within us is a real and deadly enemy, capable of destroying our own lives and many others around us. We need to realize that we are the source of our own temptations and failings and we cannot blame someone else for the evil things we do. We cannot run away from this wickedness. Instead we must resist it (James 4:7) and overcome it, if we are to survive.

What does the Bible REALLY say about the existence of the Devil?
Read here about the "Source of Evil"
Read here about "Lucifer"
Read here about "Demons"

The Source of Evil

The World is Not as God Intends
It is impossible to read the Bible, and not realize the world is not now as God intends. In the beginning, God made the world “very good” (Genesis 1:31). He set every living thing in its place; and man, the crown of his creation, he appointed to care for his special place, the garden in Eden. God has decreed that the world will once more conform to his intent, as he described through the prophet Isaiah:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

One does not need to be unusually perceptive to see that the world of today is nothing like the creation God first established, or the goal He described in Isaiah. Where the world at the beginning was only good, and the world at the end will be safe and peaceful for all, today the world is a sad mixture of beauty and good, mingled with danger, tragedy and grief. Alongside the joys of life we find war and oppression, disease and crippling, treachery, pollution, death, drought, natural disasters and daily pressures that drive many to despair. If man has filled the Earth and subdued it, it is also true that “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7)

What happened that there is so much evil in the world? If the world is not as God intended, why did it go wrong? Some say an enemy is causing all the trouble. Others say God just walked away and let the world fall into its current state. As we will see God has definitely not abandoned his creation and while there is an enemy, it is not the one of whom most people think.

Two Kinds of Evil
It will be helpful to divide the evils in the world into two broad categories. Both are called “evil” in the Bible, but the natures of the two classes are very different. One category comprises the destructive forces of the natural world: drought, flood and earthquake would fall into this group. People are affected by these things but generally they have no part in causing or preventing them. The other category of evil contains moral or spiritual wrongs: oppression, treachery and war may be classified here. These things happen only if people do them.

1. Man the Source of Evil
Much of this second category of evil in the world is obviously the work of man, either as the result of fearfulness, stupidity or wickedness. In this category fall wars and killing, robbery, fraud, abandonment, adultery, hatred and suchlike. Indeed, many of the evils we classify as natural disasters are actually incurred at man’s hand: droughts in Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia were made much worse when wicked men made hunger a weapon in their wars. The exact source of all those evils is described in the Bible. James writes:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:13-18)

Notice in James’ reasoning that God cannot be responsible for tempting man to do evil. God is above all consistent (see Malachi 3:6, for example). He has expressed his will by bringing His children to life in the word of truth. He cannot also be the source of temptation and sin, since these are contrary to the word of truth. Instead, man’s lusts alone are the source of his temptations, sins, and death.

Jesus reinforces this thought, making it very clear that the heart of man is the source of all these evils:

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.’ ” (Mark 7:20-23)

With verses such as these clearly indicating the source of evil is actually man himself, one might wonder: Wasn’t Jesus tempted forty days by the Devil? (Matthew 4) How could that be if he was a perfect man? Jesus’ temptation does not contradict these previous verses. Rather, Jesus’ example shows that temptation need not lead to sin: ultimately each of us is fully responsible for our own actions. Jesus says the source of all the wickedness that defiles a man is his own heart. Ultimately, Jesus’ example proves that we don’t have to act on these wrong impulses.

Another example illustrating evil coming from the heart of man was shown in the Garden of Eden. Though Eve was tempted by the serpent, and though the serpent is punished for his part in the transgression, Eve and Adam are both cursed as well, and banished from the Garden, because of their sin. The Bible makes it plain that, though the serpent put the idea into Eve’s head, it was her own desires that resulted in sin:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6)

There are other times in the Bible when a tempter is named, but not blamed. This may seem unfair until it is realized that the fault for wrongdoing truly lies in the sinner himself. Ananias and Sapphira were believers in the first days of the church in Jerusalem.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:1-3)

This is an odd question indeed! How would Ananias know why Satan acted in this way? The following verses clear up the problem: When Sapphira, Ananias’ wife, comes in not knowing what has happened to her husband, the conversation continues:

Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” (Acts 5:9)

The true source of their lie, by which they thought to deceive Peter and God, was their own thoughts: they had agreed together and together they were punished. “Satan” in this case indicates their own desire to appear more generous than they really were. They had devised the plan, they alone were punished for it. In the same way for ourselves, we all are personally responsible for our own sins whether we accept the blame or not; whether we acknowledge or not that the evil thought arose from our own desires.

2. God the Source of "Evil"
But of course not all the troubles in the world are the fault of man, are they? We’ve already mentioned earthquakes, droughts, disease and the like – events the insurance companies like to call “acts of God.” Are they really acts of God?

Many of the things we think of today as evil, or as disasters, are presented in the Bible as God’s work: the Flood of Noah’s day annihilated the population of the Earth. God’s judgments on Egypt, and his commandment to Israel to drive out all the Canaanites, certainly were not “good” for those nations. God is, in this sense, the source of the evil that came on the enemies of his people. In the Bible, “evil” often means calamity or hard circumstances; and in more than one place the Bible describes God as bringing such things about (Isaiah 45:7-9, Amos 3:6). More than that, the Bible makes it clear He is the only living God, and therefore the only god among all the nations who can do either good or evil (Isaiah 41:23, 24; 45:7). Amos goes so far as to say that no evil can come upon a city unless the LORD has done it (compare Amos 3:6 with Psalm 127:1). Other ancient peoples believed in many gods, who could have arguments and wars among themselves, who could be overruled by more powerful gods, who could act remarkably like foolish humans. To such peoples, the word “god” could refer to any supernatural being. So, when the God of Israel declares to all the nations that there are no other gods, he does not mean only that there is no god comparable to himself: he means there is none at all, who can do good or evil contrary to his will.

God in Control
God’s control of natural forces is absolute. What is more, the evil that men do is also subject to his oversight. The prophets agree that the Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar were able to conquer Judah and Jerusalem because God appointed them to do so (Jeremiah 27:6). Yet the wickedness of Babylon was not overlooked, and God reserved special punishment for that nation because of their cruelty in executing his judgment:

“Sit in silence, go into darkness, Daughter of the Babylonians; no more will you be called queen of kingdoms. I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance; I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy. Even on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke.” (Isaiah 47:5-6)

Because of their cruelty, pride and superstition, God condemns Babylon to oblivion.

Of course God is equally capable of frustrating the evil works of wicked men, when he chooses. Recall that he delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3), and Daniel from the den of lions (Daniel 6).

No Other Source of Evil
What then of the Devil, called Satan? Is he not a great supernatural force of evil, opposing God and leading his people into sin and damnation? For the purposes of this article we will note only that Satan, along with all wicked men, has only such power as God allows him. As a character in the book of Job, Satan is expressly given power to afflict Job (1:12; 2:6). Even so, the book does not say that Satan actually did the things that brought Job low, and every reference to the evil that Job endured names God, not Satan, as the one who afflicted him (e.g. 2:10; 42:11). Whatever Satan is, in the book of Job he is no great force, either of evil or of good, supernatural or otherwise. He has no power at all contrary to God’s will: all he can do is talk.

Devils, or demons, are a special case. In the Old Testament they are hardly mentioned at all, and never are they exorcised by any of the prophets or priests. The New Testament mentions demons in connection with symptoms that in today’s medical terms would be psychological or chronic disorders. For instance, the demon called Legion would today be diagnosed as a schizophrenic, a psychological disorder with symptoms such as auditory hallucinations (voices) and delusions of persecution. The demon that afflicted the lunatic boy in Matthew 17 would today be called epilepsy. Today these disorders are treated with drugs and other therapies, with degrees of success varying from marginal to complete. It is evident that a supernatural being is not subject to control by such means: so there is nothing supernatural about these disorders. But, the people of the day termed these evils demons, and it suited the Lord to treat them as such. In fact, the same power that drove out demons also healed withered hands (Luke 6:6-8). The word of Christ is effective to dispel all the afflictions of man: “be ye whole,” “be ye cleansed,” “depart from him.” The lesson of all these healing acts is no evil can stand against Christ, whether physical, spiritual, or psychological.

The entire natural world is under God’s control, and all the evil acts of wicked men are subject to His overruling will. So also the Son of God exercises control over the wind and the waves, over every affliction of mankind, over opponents and over false doctrines of men, and over demons. By his word all these evils are dispelled.

The World God Intends
We are left then with two sources of evil that the Bible describes have changed the world from the unblemished goodness in which it was created and which God intends. One is the wickedness of humans, and all the terrible things that arise from that source. The other is God himself, controlling and judging all the peoples of the Earth by means of both natural and human events. The pictures the Bible shows us of a purified world to come, freed from the wickedness of man, can come true only when God intervenes to suppress the evil deeds of wicked men. This he has promised to do when he establishes his Kingdom, with Christ himself ruling as king. In such a world, the evil arising from men’s pride, avarice or cowardice will be held in check. No seducer will be allowed serpent-like to deceive the people, calling what is evil, good (Isaiah 5:20-21) and there will be ready instruction in the way of life (Isaiah 30:20-21). In the course of this Kingdom, all opposition to God will be eliminated until, in the very end, even death will be abolished (1 Corinthians 15:21-26). And then the judgments of God against such wickedness will be complete. Then the scripture will be fulfilled:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

In that day we will truly be able to see the world as God fully intended it, a world where the wicked desires of men’s hearts will no longer ruin the beauty of God’s creation.

The Place of Reward: Heaven or Earth?

The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?

The Resurrection
The Bible emphasizes that the reward of the righteous will be at the resurrection, at the coming of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16). The resurrection of the responsible dead will be the first thing Christ will do; this will be followed by the judgment. If the 'soul' went to heaven at death there would be no need for the resurrection. Paul said that if there is no resurrection, then all effort to be obedient to God is pointless (1 Cor. 15:32). Surely he would not have reasoned like this if he believed that he would also be rewarded with his 'soul' going to heaven at death? The implication is that he believed the resurrection of the body to be the only form of reward. Christ encouraged us with the expectation that the recompense for faithful living now would be at "the resurrection" (Luke 14:14).
Again the point must be driven home that the Bible does not teach any form of existence apart from in a bodily form - this applies to God, Christ, Angels and men. At his return, Christ "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil. 3:20,21). As he now has a literal bodily form, energized purely by Spirit rather than blood, so we will share a similar reward. At the judgment we will receive a recompense for how we have lived this life in a bodily form (2 Cor. 5:10). Those who have lived a fleshly life will be left with their present mortal body, which will then rot back to dust; whilst those who in their lives have tried to overcome the mind of the flesh with that of the Spirit "shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:8) in the form of a Spirit-filled body.

There is ample further evidence that the reward of the righteous will be in a bodily form. Once this is accepted, the vital importance of the resurrection should be apparent. Our present body clearly ceases to exist at death; if we can only experience eternal life and immortality in a bodily form, it follows that death must be a state of unconsciousness, until such time as our body is re-created and then given God's nature.

The whole of 1 Corinthians 15 speaks in detail of the resurrection; it will always repay careful reading. 1 Cor. 15:35-44 explains how that as a seed is sown and then emerges from the ground to be given a body by God, so the dead will likewise rise, to be rewarded with a body. As Christ rose from the grave and had his mortal body changed to an immortalized body, so the true believer will share his reward (Phil. 3:21). Through baptism we associate ourselves with Christ's death and resurrection, showing our belief that we, too, will share the reward which he received through his resurrection (Rom.6:3-5). Through sharing in his sufferings now, we will also share his reward: "Bearing about (now) in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10). "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit" (Rom. 8:11). With this hope, we therefore wait for "the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23), through that body being immortalized.

This hope of a literal bodily reward has been understood by God's people from earliest times. Abraham was promised that he, personally, would inherit the land of Canaan for ever, as surely as he had walked up and down in it (Gen. 13:17). His faith in those promises would have necessitated his belief that his body would somehow, at a future date, be revived and made immortal, so that this would be possible.

Job clearly expressed his understanding of how, despite his body being eaten by worms in the grave, he would, in a bodily form, receive his reward: "My redeemer liveth, and...shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body ("after my skin is destroyed", R.A.V.), yet in my flesh (or bodily form) shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another: though my reins be consumed within me" (Job 19:25-27). Isaiah's hope was identical: "My dead body shall...arise" (Isa. 26:19).

Very similar words are found in the account of the death of Lazarus, a personal friend of Jesus. Instead of comforting the man's sisters by saying that his soul had gone to heaven, the Lord Jesus spoke of the day of resurrection: "Thy brother shall rise again". The immediate response of Lazarus' sister Martha shows how much this was appreciated by the early Christians: "Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (John 11:23,24). Like Job, she did not understand death to be the gateway to a life of bliss in heaven, but, instead, looked forward to a resurrection "at the last day" (cp. Job's "latter day"). The Lord promises: "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father...I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44,45).

The Judgment
Bible teaching concerning the judgment is one of the basic principles of the one faith, which must be clearly understood before baptism (Acts 24:25; Heb. 6:2). Frequently the Scriptures speak of "the day of judgment" (e.g. 2 Pet. 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17; Jude 6), a time when those who have been given the knowledge of God will receive their reward. All these must "stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom. 14:10); we "appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:10) to receive a recompense for our lives in a bodily form.

Daniel's visions concerning Christ's second coming, included one of this judgment seat in the form of a throne (Dan. 7:9-14). The parables help to flesh out the details somewhat. That of the talents likens it to the return of a master, who calls his servants and assesses how well they have used the money which he had left them (Matt. 25:14-29). The parable of the fishermen likens the call of the gospel to a fishing net, gathering all kinds of people; the men then sat down (cp. the judgment sitting) and divided the good fish from the bad (Matt. 13:47-49). The interpretation is clear: "At the end of the world the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just".

From what we have seen so far, it is fair to assume that after the Lord's return and the resurrection, there will be a gathering together of all who have been called to the Gospel to a certain place at a specific time, when they will meet Christ. An account will have to be given by them, and he will indicate whether or not they are acceptable to receive the reward of entering the Kingdom. It is only at this point that the righteous receive their reward. All this is brought together by the parable of the sheep and goats: "The Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory (David's throne in Jerusalem, Luke 1:32,33): and before him shall be gathered all nations (i.e.people from all nations, cp. Matt. 28:19): and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you" (Matt. 25:31-34).

Inheriting the Kingdom of God, receiving the promises to Abraham concerning it, is the reward of the righteous. Yet this will only be after the judgment, which will be at Christ's return. It is therefore impossible to receive the promised reward of an immortalized body before Christ's return; we therefore have to conclude that from the time of death until the resurrection, the believer has no conscious existence at all, seeing that it is impossible to exist in any form without having a body.

It is a repeated Biblical principle that when Christ returns, then the reward will be given - and not before:

"When the chief Shepherd (Jesus) shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory" (1 Pet. 5:4 cp. 1:13).

"Jesus Christ...shall judge the quick (living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom...a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day" (2 Tim. 4:1,8).

At Messiah's return in the last days, "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth (cp. Gen. 3:19) shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame" (Dan. 12:2).

When Christ comes in judgment, those "in the graves...shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:25-29).

"I (Jesus) come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12). We do not go to heaven to get the reward - Christ brings it from heaven to us.

Jesus bringing our reward with him implies that it has been prepared for us in heaven, but will be brought to us on the earth at the second coming; our "inheritance" of the land promised to Abraham is in this sense "reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" of Christ's coming (1 Peter 1:4,5).

Appreciating this enables us to correctly interpret a much misunderstood passage in John 14:2,3: "I (Jesus) go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you (cp. the reward "reserved in heaven"), I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also". Jesus says elsewhere that he will come again to give us our rewards (Rev. 22:12), and we have seen that these will be given at his judgment seat. He will reign on David's throne in Jerusalem "for ever" (Luke 1:32,33). He will spend eternity here on earth, and where he will be - in God's Kingdom on earth - there we will also be. His promise to "receive you unto myself" can therefore be read as a description of our being accepted by him at the judgment. The Greek phrase, "receive you unto myself", also occurs in Matt. 1:20 concerning Joseph "taking unto himself" Mary as his wife. It therefore does not necessarily refer to physical movement towards Jesus.

As the reward will only be given at the judgment on Christ's return, it follows that the righteous and wicked go to the same place when they die, i.e. the grave. There is no differentiation made between them in their deaths. The following is proof positive for this:

Jonathan was righteous but Saul wicked, yet "in their death they were not divided" (2 Sam. 1:23).
Saul, Jonathan and Samuel all went to the same place at death (1 Sam. 28:19).
Righteous Abraham was "gathered to his people" , or ancestors, on death; they were idolaters (Gen. 25:8; Josh. 24:2).
The spiritually wise and foolish experience the same death (Ecc. 2:15,16).
All this is in sharp contrast to the claims of popular 'Christianity'. Their teaching that the righteous immediately go to heaven at death destroys the need for a resurrection and judgment. Yet we have seen that these are vital events in God's plan of salvation, and therefore in the Gospel message. The popular idea suggests that one righteous person dies and is rewarded by going to heaven, to be followed the next day, the next month, the next year, by others. This is in sharp contrast to the Bible's teaching that all the righteous will be rewarded together, at the same time:

The sheep are divided from the goats at the judgment, one by one. Once the judgment has finished, Christ will say to all the sheep assembled on his right hand,

"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you" (Matt. 25:34). Thus all the sheep inherit the Kingdom at the same time (cp. 1 Cor. 15:52).

At "the harvest" of Christ's return and judgment, all those who have laboured in the Gospel will "rejoice together" (John 4:35,36 cp. Matt. 13:39).

Rev. 11:18 defines "the time of the dead, that they should be judged" as the time when God will "give reward unto Thy servants...the saints...them that fear Thy name" - i.e. all believers together.

Hebrews 11 is a chapter listing many of the righteous men of the Old Testament. Verse 13 comments: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises" made to Abraham about salvation through entering God's Kingdom (Heb. 11:8-12). It follows that at their death, these men did not, one by one, go off to heaven to receive a reward. The reason for this is given in vs. 39,40: They "received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect". The delay in granting their promised reward was because it was God's plan that all the faithful should "be made perfect" together, at the same moment. This will be at the judgment, at Christ's return.

The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?

Apart from the above reasons, any who still feel that heaven rather than earth will be the location of God's Kingdom, i.e. the promised reward, need to also explain away the following points:

The 'Lord's Prayer' asks for God's Kingdom to come (i.e. praying for the return of Christ), whereby God's desires will be done on earth as they are now done in heaven (Matt. 6:10). We are therefore praying for God's Kingdom to come on the earth.

"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5) - not '...for their souls shall go to heaven'. This is alluding to Psalm 37, the whole of which emphasizes that the final reward of the righteous will be upon the earth. In the very same location that the wicked had enjoyed their temporary supremacy, the righteous will be recompensed with eternal life, and possess this same earth that the wicked once dominated (Ps. 37:34,35). "The meek shall inherit the earth...Such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth...The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever" (Ps. 37:11,22,29). Living in the earth/promised land for ever means that eternal life in heaven is an impossibility.

"David...is both dead and buried...David is not ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:29,34). Instead, Peter explained that his hope was the resurrection from the dead at Christ's return (Acts 2:22-36).

Earth is the arena of God's operations with mankind: "Heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's, but the earth hath He given to the children of men" (Ps. 115:16).

Rev. 5:9,10 relates a vision of what the righteous will say when they are accepted at the judgment seat: "(Christ) hath made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth". This picture of ruling in God's Kingdom on earth is quite removed from the vague conception that we will enjoy 'bliss' somewhere in heaven.

The prophecies of Daniel chapters 2 and 7 outline a succession of political powers, which would finally be superseded by the Kingdom of God at Christ's return. The dominion of this Kingdom would be "under the whole heaven", and would fill "the whole earth" (Dan. 7:27; 2:35 cp. v. 44). This everlasting Kingdom "shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High" (Dan. 7:27); their reward is therefore eternal life in this Kingdom which is to be located on earth, under the heavens.

What the Bible says about the "Immortal Soul"

The Truth About the Nature of Man
The best starting place for any questions about the nature of man is from the record of the first man's creation. In Genesis 2:7 we read: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

From this we learn that man's basic element is dust and this is what compromises his body. This body is lifeless without the "breath of life" which is given from God. It is this which animates the body and makes it into a "living soul". Genesis puts forth the simple equation:

Dust + Breath of Life = A Living Soul

Look at each of these terms as they apply to the nature of man:

That man is dust and that he returns to dust at his death is obvious from what God tells Adam later on in Genesis 3:19, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

There have been many men in the Bible who have recognized this fact such as Abraham in Genesis 18:27, "And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:" and Job in Job 10:9, "Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?"

It is important to keep in mind that our bodies are made of dust and that they return to dust when we die. It should change our whole attitude before God because he is our maker. He has formed us and given us life, and he can take it away. God is the only source we can look to for life and immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).

Breath of Life
The Hebrew words for "breath of life" are "neshema chay" which is also termed the spirit or "ruach" of God (see Genesis 7:15,22). The breath or spirit of life is what gives life and therefore we find that when the scriptures speak of death it is when the breath or spirit of God is taken away.

Job 34:14-15 "If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit (RUACH) and his breath (NESHEMA); All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust."
Psalms 104:29 "Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath (RUACH), they die, and return to their dust."
Ecclesiastes 12:7 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (RUACH) shall return unto God who gave it."

Living Soul
The Hebrew word for "living soul" is "nephesh chay" and interestingly enough the first usage of the word is applied to animals in Genesis 1:20-21, "And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life (CHAY), and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature (NEPHESH CHAY) that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

It is also used that way in Genesis 1:27 and 2:19. These verses tell us that both man and beast have something in common which is the breath or spirit (see Gen. 7:21-22) which makes them a living soul. Once we know this then the verse in Ecclesiates 3:18-20 becomes quite clear, "I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath (RUACH); so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again."

This is very plain. Physically man is not above the beast. They are both made of the dust, they have the same type of breath or spirit which is given by God, and they are all living souls, but when God withdraws his breath they both return to the dust. One thing IS different though between man and beast. Man is the only one to have been made in the "image and likeness" of the Elohim (Gen. 1:27). This gives him the ability to be a partaker in the promises of God and to attain unto eternal life which is the gift of God. For proof of this compare Psalm 49:20 and 2 Peter 1:3-4 and it is seen that the knowledge of God and his ways is what distinguishes us from the beasts.
In summary, we have seen that the word "living soul" is used both of man and of beasts and could be described in the following way,

NEPHESH - A body made of dust that is animated by the breath or spirit of God. This breath makes it alive and thus it is "nephesh chay" or a living soul. Without this breath the soul, body or life is dead (Ezekiel 18:4) and the body returns back to dust.

The Immortal Soul
The Hebrew and Greek words which are translated 'soul' in the Bible ('Nephesh' and 'Psuche' respectively) are also translated in the following ways:


The 'soul' therefore refers to the person, body or self. The famous 'Save Our Souls' (S.O.S.) clearly means 'Save us from death!' The 'soul' is therefore 'you', or the summation of all the things which make up a person. It is understandable, therefore, that many modern versions of the Bible (e.g. the N.I.V.) rarely use the word 'soul', translating it instead as 'you' or 'the person'.

The animals which God created are called "moving creatures...every living creature" (Gen. 1:20,21). The Hebrew word translated "creature" here is 'nephesh', which is also translated 'soul'; for example in Gen. 2:7: "...and man became a living soul". Thus man is a 'soul', just as the animals are 'souls'. The only difference between mankind and animals is that man is mentally superior to them; he is created in the physical image of God (Gen. 1:26; see Study 1.2), and some men are called to know the Gospel through which the hope of immortality is opened up to them (2 Tim. 1:10).

In regards to our fundamental nature and the nature of our death, there is no difference between man and animals as says Ecc. 3:19,20. The inspired writer of Ecclesiastes prayed that God would help men to appreciate this hard fact, "that (men) might see that they themselves are beasts" (Ecc. 3:18). It is therefore to be expected that many people will find this fact hard to accept; indeed, it can be humiliating to realize that by nature we are just animals, living out the same instincts of self-preservation, survival of the fittest and procreation. The N.I.V. translation of Ecc.3:18 says that God 'tests' man by making him see that he is just an animal; i.e. those who are humble enough to be His true people will realize the truth of this, but those who are not will fail this 'test'.

The philosophy of humanism - the idea that human beings are of such supreme importance and value - has quietly spread throughout the world during the twentieth century. It is a considerable task to clear our thinking of the influence of humanism. The plain words of Ps. 39:5 and Jer. 10:23 help: "Man at his best state is altogether vanity" and "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps"

One of the most basic things which we know is that all human bodies - indeed all "living creatures" - eventually die. The 'soul', therefore, dies; it is the exact opposite of something which is immortal. It is not surprising that about a third of all uses of the words translated 'soul' in the Bible are associated with the death and destruction of the soul. The very fact that the word 'soul' is used in this way shows that it cannot be something which is indestructible and immortal:

• "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Eze. 18:4).

• God can destroy the soul (Matt. 10:28). Other references to souls being destroyed are: Eze. 22:27; Prov. 6:32; Lev. 23:30.

• All the "souls" that were within the city of Hazor were killed by the sword (Josh. 11:11; cp. Josh. 10:30-39).

• "...every living soul died" (Rev. 16:3; cp. Ps. 78:50).

• Frequently the Law of Moses commanded that any "soul" which disobeyed certain laws should be killed (e.g. Num. 15:27-31).

References to the soul being strangled or snared can only make sense if it is understood that the soul can die (Prov. 18:7; 22:25; Job 7:15).

• "None can keep alive his own soul" (Ps. 22:29).

• Christ "poured out his soul unto death" so that his "soul", or life, was made an offering for sin (Isa. 53:10,12).

That the 'soul' refers to the person or body rather than some immortal spark within us is shown by the majority of verses in which the word occurs. Some obvious examples are:-

• "The blood of the souls" (Jer. 2:34).

• "If a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing...if he do not utter it...if a soul touch any unclean thing...if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips" (Lev. 5:1-4).

• "O my soul...all that is within me...Bless the Lord, O my soul...Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things" (Ps. 103:1,2,5).

• "Whosoever will save his life ('soul') shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life ('soul') for my sake...shall save it" (Mark 8:35).

This is proof that the soul does not refer to any spiritual element within man; here, 'soul' (Greek 'psuche') just means one's physical life, which is how it is translated here.

• Num. 21:4 shows that a group of people can have one "soul". The "soul" therefore cannot refer to a spark of personal immortality within each of us.